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The Future of Democracy Can Not Be Left To Capitalist Governments!

Widening of Democracy Depends on Workers’ Struggle

Echoes of 12 September Constitutional Referendum are still alive as the debate continues.

Undoubtedly, the majority of the working masses showed their will for change.

This is a clear fact independent from the intentions of the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) and capitalists.

Working masses demand a widening of democracy.

However, it must be strongly underlined that democracy cannot be left to the goodwill of any fraction of the bourgeois class.

AKP and the capital groups around it are playing “the democrat” not because they are so but because they want a bigger portion from power. In order to push their opponents back, they strive to get the support of the working masses. This is the reason for partial democratic enhancements. But these changes are not enough!

One of the constitutional changes ensured the right of “collective bargaining” for the public servants though they are still deprived of the right to strike. Public servants will also have the right for legal recourse over disciplinary punishments.

The constitutional ban on general strikes, solidarity strikes and politically motivated strikes has been lifted. Another clause which used to ensure to put the responsibility of physical damages due to strikes on the striking unions has been lifted. Another amendment has provided the public servant pensioners the right of utilising the “collective agreement” between the public servants and the state.

Let us emphasize once more: These are all positive, but not enough! The restrictions on workers’ organising remain. The constitution, which was made by the fascist military coup of 12 September 1980, is still effective in its general framework.

On the other hand, it requires changes on the labour law and other laws to put the partial constitutional enhancements into effect.

What is more important is to achieve an unrestricted freedom of unionization, strike, speech and association.

It is right at this point that the unions should act with a sense of duty.

Unions must attach importance to the amendments such as abolition of the ban on general strikes, solidarity strikes and politically motivated strikes and the other positive changes on the one hand and they must, on the other hand, respond with a general campaign to clear away the remaining restrictions in the law.

Unions cannot waste time whining and leave the future of democracy to capitalist governments.

Unions, being workers’ organisations, have no right to keep their mouths shut and stay passive!

In order to make the constitutional amendments effective and escalate the struggle for free unionization of working class, workers must be pulled into struggle for a new constitution.

Empty speeches of union bureaucrats who cling to the top of our unions are the last thing we want to hear!

Unions must take action as soon as possible!

We workers must fight for putting an end to any anti-democratic practices and also for the removal of any restrictions against the working class getting organised.

We must demand workers’ committees prepare the labour law and we must fight to put this into the constitution.

Bosses consists a different class whose benefits are different from ours. We must fight for our own class interests!

Let us look at our history of struggle: Capitalists and their governments do not grant rights for the sake of their love for workers! 3 examples from Turkey:

In 1946, following the transition to the multiparty system, workers were permitted to establish unions. But there was no right of collective bargaining and no right to strike. However, militant unionists and workers did not care the bans. Beginning with the motto “rights are not given but won”, 1963 Kavel struggle reached the victory and obliged the government to recognize the right of collective bargaining as well as the right to strike. From then on, this clause would be called “Kavel Clause”.

NETAŞ strike, which took place in the aftermath of 1980 coup, is a similar example. After 1980, the people who evaded the fight used to complain all the time about the constitution saying: “A strike is impossible under these laws.”

But the laws are not decisive in themselves.

It is not the law that sets workers in motion.

What sets workers in motion is to be organised.

And bans cannot be wiped out without struggle.

Conscious of this fact and challenging the bans of 12 September, workers and unionists went on strike.

Having lasted 93 days, NETAŞ strike succeeded and made a big influence.

It played a central role in dispelling working class’ despondency caused by 12 September.

Another example is public servants’ resistant struggle for unionization despite the ban during the 90’s.

Only through struggle workers have won, used and protected their rights.

Theoretically, joining a union is a legal right for every worker. However, this year we have seen workers of UPS, Rimaks, Mutaş, Çel-Mer, Çizmeci Gıda with many others getting fired just because they used this legal right. This means, even to utilize our rights we have to fight.

Therefore the AKP government, who introduced the constitutional amendments for its own benefit, would not agree for the workers’ rights of its own accord. Moreover, at present, they are trying to deprive workers of their severance pay on bosses’ demand. And there are other attacks down the line.

To push back the attacks on the working class, to widen democracy, to open up the way to rights and freedoms, to remove political bans as well as the bans on unionizing, to raise the voice for a new labour law prepared by workers’ committees, we must escalate the struggle.

Our unions are to shoulder big responsibilities as unionized and non-unionized workers need to be pulled into struggle for these demands. Unions to mobilize!

15 October 2010