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Putschist Generals and Other Perpetrators of the 12 September 1980 Coup to the Dock!

32 years ago Turkey woke up to a dark September morning. On 12 September 1980 the military junta seized power in a fascist coup. During the period of fascism that lasted 3 years all political parties, associations, workers’ organisations were closed, union activities were stopped, DISK (Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions) was closed, union leaders and officials were put on trial. Hundreds of progressive university members were fired. The most severe violence was used against socialist movement and Kurds. Within one month following the coup more than 41 thousand people were arrested and later this number rose to more than 650 thousand. Tens of thousands of revolutionaries and Kurds were put into prisons and severely tortured. Supreme Military Court approved 124 death sentences and 50 of them were immediately executed. Socialism and revolutionaries were sought to be isolated by a systematic smear campaign full of slanders and lies. Society was intimidated by repression and forced into disorganisation and atomisation. Education system was permeated with chauvinism and militarism leading to crippling of the brains of new generations.

The fascist power, after levelling the way in the interests of capital, thus accomplishing its duty, left its place to another extraordinary bourgeois regime, a Bonapartist regime, with Kenan Evren as president and Özal prime minister. The new regime was built on the new constitution prepared by the military junta. The junta made it approved by the people through scare campaigns and intimidation in a referendum in 1982. And there were other laws accompanying the new constitution which was permeated with a fascist mindset. This new legal framework brought severe restrictions on fundamental liberties such as freedom of speech, of protest, of association, of getting unionised, of staging strikes, of doing collective bargaining, and so on. In practice all these legal restrictions meant that the liberties were non-existent. Since then this constitution and other laws have been amended in many ways, but its essence has remained. Most of the institutions and organs brought by the fascist regime and this constitution remained.

The capitalist order in the leadership of generals, with blood on their hands, drove their tanks over the working people. The fascist regime terrorised society. Hundreds of thousands of people were arrested, tens of thousands of people tortured, thousands of revolutionaries, vanguard workers and unionists were put in prison, thousands of people had to leave the country, and tens of revolutionaries were killed in gallows.

As the fascist generals and other authorities of the time placed a provisional article into the 1982 constitution setting a shield of immunity for them, they could not have been tried for 32 years. The provisional article was at last abolished in a referendum in 2010 September. So there was no constitutional barrier for their trial now which has been demanded by socialists for about 30 years. After the referendum, many socialists, democrats and victims of 12 September opened court cases against the putschists. And from the beginning UID-DER has taken its place in this collective initiative and pursued the cause. There have been many events and demonstrations in which UID-DER actively took part for the last 2 years to demand immediate trial of the putschists and that the trial should not be limited only to the junta leader and its members.

Eventually a court case is opened for the 2 living members of the fascist 12 September junta (Kenan Evren, head of the General Staff, and Tahsin Şahinkaya, Commander of the Air Forces) for “forcibly abolishing the constitutional order”. The first hearing of the trial was in Ankara in 4 April. While the two fascist generals who are both over 90 did not attend the hearing on the pretext of sickness, there were thousands of people in front of the courthouse protesting the 12 September coup.

In the early hours of the day the constituents of the “Platform for the Trial of 12 September” gathered in front of the courthouse. As one of the constituents of the Platform, UID-DER was there whole day with a banner “Putschist Generals and other Perpetrators of the 12 September to the Dock”. UID-DER members also chanted the slogans “The strings of fascists are pulled by capital” and “Abolish the laws enacted by the coup, try all putschists”.

From the top of a bus in front of the courthouse many speeches were given by socialists, Kurds and workers. They told the trauma caused by the 12 September fascism and condemned the coup and its perpetrators. A representative from UID-DER also gave a speech:

Today the two fascist generals of capital will be in the dock at least in appearance. But other perpetrators of 12 September are not in the dock yet. It should not be forgotten that the chief responsible for fascism is the monopoly capital! And it is the working class to call the system of monopoly capital to account! The working class should never forget the persecution used against it and what it lost by the coup!

There was a strong working class movement vis-à-vis the bosses before the 12 September. Workers were organised in unions, democratic mass organisations and socialist parties. They did not bow down before the bosses’ impositions, but they got united and fought back by using their power coming from production. They were able to hold their heads high based on their rightful pride out of their organisation. Broad working masses sought social change. There was a struggle for a world without exploitation. And the class of bosses sought to strengthen the capitalist order of exploitation, stop the process of social change, smash the organisation and pride of workers. This is what 12 September coup was for.

The capitalist order in the leadership of generals, with blood on their hands, drove their tanks over the working people. The fascist regime terrorised society. Hundreds of thousands of people were arrested, tens of thousands of people tortured, thousands of revolutionaries, vanguard workers and unionists were put in prison, thousands of people had to leave the country, and tens of revolutionaries were killed in gallows.

The fascist regime took revenge from workers and socialists on behalf of monopoly capital: trade unions, socialist organisations, democratic mass organisations were closed. Bosses did not want an organised society. They did not want disobedient people fighting for their rights and seeking a social change. They wanted the wheel of exploitation to turn without a slightest obstacle. Halit Narin, the head of the bosses’ union (TISK), was cheerful when he said: “now it’s time for us to laugh”. Vehbi Koç, the richest boss of Turkey, sent grateful letters to fascist Kenan Evren and thanked him for bringing workers into line.

A repressive regime through and through was built by the 12 September fascist coup. The economic and social gains of the working class were dealt a heavy blow. Having lost its organised power the working class could not stop the attacks of the bosses. It is the 12 September fascism that levelled the road for today’s rampant de-unionisation, insecure and unsafe working conditions, rampant work accidents, deaths and injuries, lengthened working hours, diminished purchasing power of the working class, and so on. The chief responsibility lies with the capitalist order, especially TUSIAD, the core organisation of the biggest Turkish bosses. Therefore, putting the two hangmen of capital to trial is not enough!

For this trial to become a genuine trial:

The following must be called to account: The bosses’ organisations like TUSIAD which brought 12 September fascism to power; the generals and other military officials who organised the coup; the executers of the regime and torturers!

The constitution of 12 September must be totally discarded!

All restrictions on the working class organisation must be ended!

All restrictions on democratic rights and freedoms must be lifted!

One must be sure that unless it is closely followed and put a pressure in an organised way, the trial of Kenan Evren and Tahsin Şahinkaya will not be more than a showcase. AKP has got no genuine intention of calling the putschists to account! AKP and the bourgeois in general should never be permitted to present the trial of these two fascist generals of capital as the calling of 12 September to account!

The working class should never, and won’t, forget what was done to it!

We will not forget those Halit Narins: He who laughs last, laughs best!

We will not forget Koçs!

We will not forget putschist executioners!

We will not forget torturers!

Sooner or later, the working class will call 12 September fascism and capital to account!

The trial is going on. And UID-DER will be a close follower of the trial to the end and keep fighting for bringing all those responsible for the coup into account.

UID-DER (The Association of International Workers Solidarity)

29 March 2012

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