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Our correspondent in Turkey, Tayfun Hatipoğlu, reports on the recent General Election.
THE VICTORY OF THE RULING AK PARTY in Turkey’s parliamentary elections on 1 November must be understood in the context of earlier elections on 7 June which removed the AK Party’s majority in Parliament. This shocked the ruling party and panic set in as they saw the possibility of their removal from power.
In ‘normal’ parliamentary democracies, governing parties often go into opposition. In Turkey, the Islamic AK Party is aiming to transform the country permanently in its own likeness. Like an octopus, it has been spreading its tentacles into every aspect of economic, social and political life and slowly suffocating all opposition. It has built up a huge membership of five million members for whom it provides a variety of economic and social benefits paid for out of massive corruption. The government is reputed to levy an illegal 20% tax on all significant government contracts. This is then funneled partly into ministers’ own personal bank accounts, and partly into party-controlled religious foundations who distribute it to sections of the population to ensure their political support.
All this is coming from a party which put cleaning up corruption at the very centre of its appeal and whose very name – AK means white – was designed to symbolise a party with clean hands which would bring government corruption to an end! Fear of exposure and retribution for this corruption explains the desperation of the government to stay in power at all costs. With all the opposition parties committed to putting the President and AK Party ministers on trial, loss of government office would not only lead to the imprisonment of the AK Party elite but to the dissolution of the party itself.
To win the rerun election President’s Erdogans’ circle decided on a brutal and cynical nationalist strategy, to capture the votes of the right wing nationalist MHP, while at the same time smearing the left wing Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) with the ‘terrorist’ label. Evidence indicates that it was President Erdogan’s intelligence agency that arranged for Isis members to carry out the bombing of a pro-HDP press conference of young socialists in Suruç on 20 July, killing 33 and injuring over a hundred. This was followed three days later by the killing of two policemen in the east of Turkey which the government eagerly blamed on the Kurdish military organisation, PKK, but is more likely to have been the action of government agent provocateurs. This was used as the pretext for launching – the very next day – a long planned military operation against the Kurds, by air in northern Iraq and on land across the east of Turkey.
Then in early September hundreds of HDP offices across Turkey were attacked by organised crowds and burned in a co-ordinated action, with police looking on and refusing to intervene. Then in October came the bombing in Ankara of a peace rally of mainly pro-HDP supporters, killing over a 100 with another 400 injured.
Clearly, the various bombings at pro-HDP rallies and the burning of their offices around the country were aimed at provoking the HDP’s supporters into major clashes with the police, leading to the arrest of leading figures. This would have allowed the pro-government media to paint the party even more as a terrorist movement and stop them reaching over the 10% barrier, giving the AK Party the two thirds majority it needed to introduce their all-powerful presidential system. Fortunately, the HDP leadership were well aware of this and strenuously held back its supporters from walking into the government’s trap. Sadly, the same could not be said for the PKK whose big military reaction to the attacks on it played straight into the governments hands, helping it succeed in its phoney war and in winning the elections.
The 1 November election result has only strengthened the confidence of the President and his party. Emboldened by the success of their murderous strategy, the AK Party leaders are bent on vengeance against all who oppose them, seeing the election result as a green light to go further in its mission to take over all aspects of society.
Fear and gloom has descended on intellectuals and creative people, some of whom have already started to leave the country. People feel that through his actions this year Erdogan has carried out a civilian coup and will systematically create a personal dictatorship in the coming years. Turkey may continue to hold elections, but if all critical voices are silenced then such elections will no longer offer any opportunity to change things or to hold the government to account.
» For more information, see turkish-elections-nationalism-and-terror-take-country-closer-to-dictatorship
The situation in Lesvos gets bleaker. Thousands of refugees continue to arrive daily.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has been asked for months for warming tents on the beach to help children and babies in hypothermic states. Nothing has arrived. There is virtually no humanitarian response from European institutions, and those in need rely on the good will of volunteers for shelter, food, clothes and medical assistance. Groups such as UNHCR and the Red Cross do little to help thousands of immigrants arriving daily on the island of Lesvos. The rescues are done by locals, volunteers, the Hellenic coastguards and Greek fishermen. The waters around this Greek island have become a graveyard this year for hundreds of people, including children and infants, seeking safety in Europe.
Like many other villages on the island’s north eastern flank facing Turkey, Molyvos has found itself on the front line of the greatest migration crisis facing Europe since World War 2. Nearly 800,000 people have made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean this year so far and more than 3,400 people have died or gone missing trying to reach Europe, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
The xenophobic, anti-Muslim hypocrisy of the EU is laid bare. They claim that a population of 500 million can’t afford to absorb 2% of its own population yet they take it for granted that Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey will take in millions of refugees without question. But there is more and worse to come as Europe begins to feel the impact of its foreign policy of destabilising other people’s countries for its economic gain.
Eric Kempson, English sculptor and resident on the Greek island of Lesvos since 1999 recently addressed a conference organised by Positive Action in Housing. Below we publish an edited extract from his speech:
IN THE LAST THREE MONTHS, we have had 250,000 people. I’m going to take you back one week and tell you what’s happened. On Tuesday 27 October, an old metal ferry grounded about 30 metres out, and the sea was rough. But on this ferry were 250 people – women, children and babies. Every day we are making decisions as volunteers out there, so we got an old boat, put a rope on it, one of us went out, attached the rope to the ferry and we were passing people down off the ferry onto the boat, ten at a time, and getting them back to shore. We got everyone back and they took the ferry down into another harbour, and it promptly sank. If the ferry had sunk at sea we would have lost a lot more people. That day 120 boats came in, 6,000 people.
Wednesday morning (28 October) was one of the worst days we have had. A boat crashed into the rocks about 50 metres out, and the sea was very rough. One of us went out to the rock and put a rope on it and we got the volunteers in a line, 15 metres out and we brought everyone in, and halfway through bringing them in the boat caught fire. Lucky enough, it was just diesel, black smoke. It was bad enough but it panicked a lot of people, but we got everyone in. That morning one of the volunteers had a two year old die in his arms, and a five year old girl. We didn’t have enough oxygen.
Later that evening at 6pm, there was a call for every medic to get themselves to Molyvos Harbour – we’ve got a lot of doctors from all round the world with big hearts helping us for nothing. They’re just volunteers. When I got there it was absolutely insanity – fishing boats were bringing people in, coastguards were bringing people in, and they were laid out on the harbour, and there were doctors pumping people. I was getting clothes off the wet men and I looked round and there were four lots of doctors around me, pumping small babies, and out of the four babies, only one made it.
Wednesday we had approximately 80 boats, 4,000 people. Thursday 29 October, we had eight boats sunk out at sea. We had approximately 60 boats – 3,000 people. Friday, 28 bodies washed up on Petra beach, women, children, men; 60 boats, 3,000 people came in on Friday. On Four boats sank, we rescued every one. Saturday morning, eight bodies washed up on my beach – four children, four adults. We ran the situation for five months, just me, my wife, and my daughter. Now, we have another 160 volunteers from Norway, England, Scotland, Denmark, Netherlands, from all over. I was out on the dirt tracks and two ambulances came across the top there. It said ‘Glasgow Cares’ across the side of them. They were a group of lads and they bought these ambulances to bring across to give to us.
In the North we feed everyone. The UNHCR and aid agencies don’t feed them, we feed them. The UNHCR came in about a month ago and stuck a tent on a bit of land we managed to get from a really nice guy. At one time we didn’t have any buses. Everyone had to walk 65km through the summer 40 degrees heat, thousands of women and children. It looked like something out of World War 2.
Unbelievable. And UNHCR was there all the time watching these people suffer, day in, day out, and doing nothing. At one stage there, I went to clean the toilets in Karatepe, 65 km from my house. Doctors Without Borders took over the site, said they’re going to run it, publicised it, asked for donations – but they can’t clean the toilets for two months.
When I got back to Molyvos, I bumped into 220 Afghans. They hadn’t eaten for three or four days, they’re in soaking wet clothes, so I rang my wife and another guy, a volunteer, to get some clothes and pampers and stuff, biscuits, anything we can get, and a tourist came and helped us. Anyway, we were there for about three hours, we got everyone stabilised, got all the children into dry clothes. France 24’s reporter was there and I said to him I’ve been in Karatepe cleaning the toilets, there’s no one there, there’s no organisations there, there’s no manager in the camp, they’re just dropping the refugees outside, they’re living in filth. I said, where’s the UNHCR? This is the biggest aid agency in the world, they have an office here, why aren’t they doing something? And the reporter said to me, Eric, they’re over there in the restaurant eating fish and drinking wine and they’ve been there for three hours watching you.
We have NGOs coming in all the time. They take photographs of women and children and they promise me the earth and we never see them again and you go on the internet and they’re advertising, showing these photographs, and they’re just taking money. They’re con-artists.
The abuses going on: the Turkish coastguards go round and round the dinghies, trying to get up a wave of water and they sink the dinghies. One boat slices dinghies and when refugees go in the water, they pick them up and they go back to Turkey as heroes because they rescued these people. The latest one is sick. They are throwing out a cable on the boat, electric cable, and they put a current down it. I saw a burn on a baby’s arm from this cable. And they use water cannon to fill the boats with water and sink them.
The abuses from Turkey have got worse because the EU governments have given Turkey 3 billion euros to hold these people back. We are losing a lot more people now because of this decision, because they come overnight. They don’t want to come during the day because the Turkish coastguards will sink them. I had a boat come in last week and it was their fifth attempt and they’d been sunk three times by the Turkish coastguards. Paying the government to persecute is against the Geneva Convention, written to help people like this. And we have the EU going against it with complete impunity. It’s disgusting. The solution to this – I don’t know, I’m a wood carver. But I do know that bombing Syria is wrong, because a lot more people are going to die. There needs to be a political solution.
POSITIVE ACTION IN HOUSING is making Lesvos the focus of its campaigning in 2015- 16. We are appealing for 200 volunteers with medical skills over the age of 25, to travel to Lesvos for any length of time from now until March 2016 to help save lives. We have so far recruited 73. Winter is approaching. People on the ground are worried about greater loss of life as Syrian and Afghan refugees attempt the dangerous sea crossings under cover of darkness using ever more dangerous routes to avoid the Turkish coastguards. We especially need doctors to go out in November and December and January. We will link you up with professional teams and contacts on the ground.
Volunteers can sign up at:
To give a donation to the European Refugee Crisis Appeal – Lesvos, go to:
The Tory motion…and Cameron’s “plan”
That this house notes that ISIL poses a direct threat to the United Kingdom;
Link to the plan document: PM-Syria-Plan
“I would like to thank the Prime Minister for providing an advance copy of his remarks. After the despicable and horrific attacks in Paris a fortnight ago the whole House will, I’m sure, agree that our first priority must be the security of Britain and the safety of the British people.
“So when we consider the Prime Minister’s case for military action in Syria, the issue of whether what he proposes strengthens – or undermines – our national security must be front and centre stage.
“There is no doubt that the so-called Islamic State group has imposed a reign of terror on millions in Iraq, Syria and Libya. All that ISIS stands for and does is contrary to everything those of us on these benches have struggled for over generations.
“And there is no doubt that it poses a threat to our own people.
“The question must now be whether extending the UK bombing from Iraq to Syria is likely to reduce, or increase, that threat and whether it will counter, or spread, the terror campaign ISIS is waging in the Middle East.
“With that in mind, I would like to put seven questions to the Prime Minister.
“First, does the Prime Minister believe that extending air strikes to Syria – which is already being bombed by the US, France, Russia and other powers – will make a significant military impact on a campaign which has so far seen ISIS gain, as well as lose, territory?
“Does he expect it will be a war-winning strategy? And why does he think other members of the original coalition – including the Gulf States, Canada and Australia – have halted their participation?
“Second, is the Prime Minister’s view that the air campaign against ISIS-held areas can be successful without ground forces?
“If not, does he believe that Kurdish forces or the relatively marginal and remote Free Syrian Army would be in a position to take back ISIS-held territory if the air campaign were successful?
“Is it not more likely that other stronger jihadist and radical Salafist forces would take over?
“Third, without credible or acceptable ground forces, isn’t the logic of an intensified air campaign mission creep and western boots on the ground? Can he today rule out the deployment of British ground forces to Syria?
“Fourth, does the Prime Minister believe that UN security council resolution 2249 gives “clear and unambiguous authorisation” for UK air strikes?
“And what coordinated action with other UN member states has there been under the terms of the resolution to cut off funding, oil revenues and arms supplies from ISIS in the territory it currently holds?
“And in the absence of any coordinated UN military or diplomatic strategy, does he believe that more military forces over Syria could increase the risks of dangerous incidents, such as the shooting down of a Russian military aircraft by Turkish forces this week?
“Fifth, how does the Prime Minister think an extension of UK bombing would contribute to a comprehensive negotiated political settlement of the Syrian civil war, which is widely believed to be the only way to ensure the defeat of ISIS in the country?
“Sixth, what assessment has the Prime Minister been given about the likely impact of British air strikes in Syria on the threat of terrorist attacks in the UK?
“And what impact does he believe an intensified air campaign will have on civilian casualties in ISIS-held Syrian territory and the wider Syrian refugee crisis?
“Finally, in the light of the record of western military interventions in recent years, including in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya does the Prime Minister accept that UK bombing of Syria could risk more of what President Obama called ‘unintended consequences’ – and that a lasting defeat of ISIS can only be secured by Syrians and forces from within the region?”
Syria Emergency Motion at Labour Party Conference
Conference notes the evidence of an increased Russian military build-up in Syria; the announcement of talks between US and Russian military leaders aimed at avoiding the risk of clashes in Syria on Friday, 18th September; the meeting between the Israeli PM and Russian President in Moscow on Monday, 21st September, focused on preventing accidental conflict between their forces in Syria; and the growing international diplomatic effort to achieve a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria.
Conference also notes the likelihood that David Cameron will seek House of Commons support to extend UK participation in the bombing of Iraq to Syria in the near future.
Conference believes the Parliamentary Labour Party should oppose any such extension unless the following conditions are met:
Conference believes that only military action which meets all these objectives, and thus avoids the risk of repeating the disastrous consequences of the 2003 war in Iraq and the 2011 air campaign intervention in Libya, can secure the assent of the British people.
THE JOHN MCDONNELL COLUMN
I RECENTLY GAVE A SPEECH AT IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON in which I outlined Labour’s New Economic plan – our long term and sustainable alternative to the Conservatives’ narrow austerity dogma, which risks placing the future health of our economy in jeopardy. The state of the economy, the changing world of work, and the new technologies available to us, caused me to reflect on my own experiences of work and the technological revolution of the time.
Looking back at it now, I think about the possibilities available to us then. There were skilled jobs available for the millions who, like me, didn’t go straight to university. There was generous access to courses at local FE colleges and free education for those who did go to university. On modest means, a young person could buy a house.
After all the advances we have made, I find it frankly amazing that so many things that we took for granted back then are likely to be unattainable for future generations. Wages for the under-30s have been decimated since the financial crisis, and are still 10% below their 2010 level.
Indeed, this government seems engaged in an all-out assault on the young. Not only is “generation rent” being frozen out of the housing market, with home ownership in many parts of the country out of the reach of the millions whose parents are unable to help with a deposit, the government is now restricting Housing Benefit for young people. Meanwhile, social housing is almost a distant memory, and the insecurity of private renting means upheaval and uncertainty for a majority.
We live in a society increasingly characterised by instability, insecurity and a pervasive sense of flux. It was this new and, in many ways, inimical landscape that formed the backdrop to Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader. Jeremy was elected leader of the Labour Party by an overwhelming majority of members and supporters on the basis of a programme that rested on three pillars.
The good society that I think most of us envisage is one that is free, democratic, prosperous, environmentally sustainable, safe and secure, and based upon the values of fairness, equality and social justice. It is a society in which everybody has the ability to develop their talents and enjoyment of life to the full. Given the travails of life in Tory Britain, it is not surprising that this vision had such broad appeal. But how do we realise it? This is the question that I, and the Labour Party, have to answer.
Unlike the Tories, a Labour government would not fall into the trap of short-termism. We would meet the challenges of the future by harnessing the technological opportunities of the present. The UK has so much untapped potential. At the moment we are failing to invest in the skills and technologies that will create the secure, high-wage, productive economy that we want and need if we are to prosper in the long term.
Meeting the challenges of the future requires a state that can think and act strategically. We need to ensure that we exploit the opportunities available to us in a way that creates, and does not restrict, opportunities for workers. To facilitate this, we must re-establish a system of worker participation in management, and rethink our corporate tax regime to give businesses an incentive to invest wisely. A Labour government would also work to meet the EU target of spending 3% of GDP on Research and Development by 2030.
Modern Britain can be a challenging place. But a challenge is also an opportunity. If we are to create the prosperous and fair society we all wish to see, it is an opportunity we must have the courage to grasp.
John McDonnell is MP for Hayes and Harlington and Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and of the Labour Representation Committee
Susan Press, Chair Calder Valley CLP (personal capacity), reports on the by-election in Oldham.
WITHIN DAYS OF THE SHOCK ANNOUNCEMENT of Michael Meacher’s death, only months after winning Oldham West and Royton with a 14,738 majority, the race began for his replacement as Labour candidate.
Potential candidates had only days to submit CVs and selection by the threestrong NEC panel was – as ever – a brutally swift process. One of the first to declare was centrist Oldham council leader Jim McMahon OBE – from the off, the hot favourite given his local track record in the community. The ‘freeze date’ rules also meant that only party activists with more than six months membership would make up the electorate. An early shot across the bows by former Stafford PPC Kate Godfrey, who has spent a lot of time on social media criticising the new Corbyn leadership, came to nothing.
The final shortlist included local candidates McMahon and Mohammed Azam, a former Oldham councillor and NEC member on the CLGA slate. Christian Aid worker and ex-PPC Jane East, who failed to win nearby Colne Valley in May, was another contender. The fourth was ex-MP Chris Williamson, narrowly defeated in Derby North by just 41 votes and one of Jeremy Corbyn’s most vocal supporters. Given the timescale, it was always going to be a long shot that a left candidate would stand a chance of winning the selection – especially as there were two left candidates. There were rumours that Williamson would withdraw – which in hindsight might have been a wise move. With little time, and despite support from the unions and grassroots and coverage in the Morning Star, he was eliminated in the first run-off with a mere 17 votes.
Jim McMahon won overwhelmingly, with 232 votes to Azam’s 141. This is already being spun as a ‘defeat’ for the left by the Blairite rump of ‘moderates’ but it reflects more the clear desire by the CLP to go with a safe pair of hands – and a local candidate who stood the best chance of seeing off the UKIP threat from John Bickley.
It is already clear that the result will be seen by a hostile media as a clear indicator of Jeremy Corbyn’s support nationally. Neighbouring CLPs and activists will therefore be doing their utmost to ensure the seat is retained by Labour on December 3 – even if another candidate might have been our preferred choice in maintaining Meacher’s legacy in the seat he had held since 1970.
» Labour’s campaign centre for Oldham West and Royton is at The Humdinger pub, 227 Middleton Road, Chadderton, Oldham OL9 6JR and it is open every day from 9.30am until 7pm.
Jon Lansman reports on the launch of a new movement to advance Jeremy Corbyn’s agenda both within the Labour Party and beyond.
When Jeremy Corbyn entered the race to be Labour’s leader, we didn’t expect to win. From the outset we planned to build a new movement that would campaign for the policies and values Jeremy supported, which we believed were necessary for Labour’s survival as an alternative to the Tories, long after the contest was over. We also hoped to use the campaign to build up a database to organise the left more effectively in future.
We’ve now launched Momentum: the social movement that Jeremy promised in his campaign for a new politics, for peace, justice and equality. Within hours of its launch, we had 12,000 likes on Facebook and over 7,000 Twitter follows.
Momentum will campaign for Labour victories in 2016‘s elections. It will back Labour’s campaign to register voters to minimise the effect of the Tories’ immoral, self-interested attempt to gerrymander the forthcoming boundary commission.
It will campaign in communities and workplaces against evictions and for rent controls and against benefit caps. It will fight alongside trade unions and also campaign inside the Labour Party to make it the truly democratic organisation we need, rooted in communities and workplaces.
In the launch email, signatories Richard Burgon, Katy Clark, Clive Lewis, Becky Long-Bailey and Kate Osamor said, “Momentum will be our grassroots network to continue the work we have begun:
We have every intention of making this a democratic movement. In the short term, we will be organising meetings of supporters across the country – many are already happening. They will determine their own local priorities and all we ask is they are inclusive and broad as was Jeremy’s support in the leadership election.
Momentum will have several roles. There will be an internally-focused Labour Party element which will need to organise within the policy process and for democratic reform. It will work with established left organisations and will have a steering group drawn from those components.
There will also be a more outwardly focused social movement, seeking to involve the widest possible range of people in local, workplace and national campaigns. Not everyone will be willing to join the Labour Party right now but they will want to work together with us to advance Jeremy‘s agenda.
Help the campaign grow. Like Momentum’s page on Facebook and share it with your friends. Follow Momentum on Twitter. Email your friends and get them to sign up. And please donate to Momentum – it isn’t going to be bankrolled by supermarket owners or global corporations.