Monthly Archives: July 2007

Whither the Irish Left

Mick Hall
EU.

There are important lessons for the Irish Left to learn from the outcome of the recent General Election in the south of Ireland. Not least if the left is to build support and gain momentum at the Ballot box, it must offer its core electorate policies that give hope to Society and especially those within it who are less well off economically. The Left need to collectively draw up a program that advocates re-unification, greater freedom’s and democratic accountability, full employment, fairness in the work place, a sustainable environment; affordable homes, and a re-distribution of wealth which brings to an end the massive chasm that has opened up between the wealthy and the majority of the Irish people during Bertie Ahearn’s period in office.

The fact that during the election campaign the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams told the electorate that if asked, SF were willing to enter into a coalition with the governing party Fianna Fail; and the Green Party to its shame actually did so. Means that for the time being these two parties have sadly chosen a road few leftist are willing to tread, the more so as FF were clearly unwilling to make any real concessions to potential coalition partners from the left. Hopeful given time and a new leadership SF and the Greens will come to see the error of their ways and return to the Leftist tradition of Connolly, Mellows, O’Donnell and others who have struggled to unite the Republican left with its natural allies the working classes and the socialist and libertarian left.

However it is simply not enough for the left to continuously harp on about the Fianna Fail led government’s maladministration, as important as this is, for come the next general election we will still not be in a position to offer the electorate a real and practical left alternative.* Thus it is imperative the Republican and socialist left and its natural allies look to the future and move forward by creating a vehicle which will challenge the powers that be in both of the political jurisdictions of Ireland. Of late things have begun to look a little more hopeful. The open wounds that many left republicans have suffered due to Mr Adams capitulation to the representatives of Capital, whilst not healing have at least stopped festering. Left Republicans are beginning to understand it is for them to re-build a political movement to represent the Irish working classes and in the immediate future members of SF must look after their own consciences.

The group of republicans in the north who went under the banner of Concerned Republicans during the kerfuffle over SF’s acceptance of the PSNI has already begun the fight back by establishing the Republican Network for Unity. In the Statement announcing the formation of the new organization, veteran Republican activist Danny McBrearty said, whilst accepting there were still thorny issues between republicans, given good will and trust these can be resolved. He went on to point out that on the plus side there were “vast resources of skills and experience exist[ing] within [republican] communities, we are confident that these can be tapped in to and channelled into progressive political actions.” **

In the southern State, éirígí, an organization that originated within Dublin SF has caught the imagination of many leftists and left republicans. It strategy is very similar to that of RNfU, Brian Leeson a leading member recently wrote an article for the éirígí web site entitled Rebuilding The Republican Movement in which he posed the question whether “the traditional ‘party/army’ model of a republican ‘movement’ best serve our collective struggle now and in the coming years or do we need to develop an alternative, new, model upon which to build opposition to the British occupation?” *** For raising this issue Brian must be given enormous credit for it is of great importance if Irish Republicanism is to move beyond being a fringe organization, that only comes into its own at times of enormous political tension and crises.

The fact is the political and social circumstance that would make an armed republican struggle viable are not likely to occur in the foreseeable future; and even if this were not so, does anyone truly believe that given the titanic effort and sacrifice the ‘long war’ generation of Irish Republicans put into their insurgency, that the ‘just one more heave with an honest leadership’ strategy could gain legs.. Thus left Republicans must look beyond the traditional post 1916 organizational methods. After all James Connolly never saw his alliance with the progressive wing of the bourgeoisie, out of which Óglaigh Na hÉireann emerged as being permanent, yet this has been the basic platform that left republicans have tied themselves into since it first emerged in 1916. It has to be said in recent times it has looked more like a straight jacket than a vehicle to achieve a 32 County Socialist Republic.

If one looks at the political space in both jurisdiction within Ireland, there is a gaping hole to be filled on the Left and the situation demands that Left Republicans and the socialist and libertarian left come together and jointly fill it. Whether it is reunification, opposition to Neo-liberal economics and the Neo-cons who are its political cheer leaders, US/UK military adventures abroad, State run Health Care, Education, Pensions, Infrastructure and the widening gap between economically rich and poor, the left have very few real political differences.

Yet by ourselves alone we must face the fact that the left does not have the numbers to mount a real fight back against those who represent Capital politically and are willing to inflict the worst excesses of Neo-liberal economics upon the Irish working classes. The situation demands that we on the Left enter into a United Front of left organizations and individuals. As to the name whilst not a member of Eirigi that name seems fine by me as it is both a break from the past and means in English Rise Up, but that decision would be for the comrades who formed the United Front.

The question all of us on the Left need to ask, is not what our preferred outcome would be, but what are the needs politically of the Irish working classes, both north and south? Even at a glance it is clear that the situation demands that the WC has honest, principled leftist representation within the nations Parliamentary forums and local councils. The fact that some Irish workers are amongst the lowest paid in western Europe and the gap between rich and poor increases in the north and south by the day is partly due to this absence of left political representation. Which gives the political representatives of Capital a free reign to exploit and plunder at will.

As to working within the British northern assembly I have no doubt this will be a thorny issue, but if leftists and republicans do not put a peg on their noses and enter this mockney parliament, others will; and their purpose will be to betray the workers they claim to represent by doing their masters bidding. Of course there could be no question of entering Stormont to govern the six counties, the purpose of left representatives being there should both be defensive; and to politically blast away the very foundations of the charade of democracy that Stormont is and has always been.

Many on the Left within other European States have already acted on left unity. In Germany the remnants of the Socialist Unity Party which became theParty of Democratic Socialism after the fall of the Berlin wall, has merged with members of the anti capitalist movement and the left wing of the SPD to create the Left Party, [Die Linke] similar Left mergers have also happened in Italy, Greece, Spain, Turkey and a number of other European nations.

An umbrella organization has been formed by these organizations to represent them internationally, the European Left Party. [ELP] To date there is no affiliate to the ELP from Ireland, thus there is an opportunity if the membership wishes it for any left United Front Party that might emerge within Ireland to slot in as an affiliate to the ELP.****

* The same is true about the SF/DUP coalition at Stormont.

** http://lark.phoblacht.net/DMCB070707.html

*** http://www.eirigi.org/latest/latest040707.htmprescient

**** http://www.european-left.org/news/latest_news/index_html

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Ufuk Uras first ‘Left Socialist’ to return to the Turkish Parliament in 38 Years’


Mick Hall
EU.

Ufuk Uras, head of the Socialist Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP), who was elected to Parliament as an independent candidate from Istanbul’s first electoral district, was certified officially as an MP on Thursday.

After registering as an MP, Mr Uras declared he is the first socialist deputy to be elected to the Turkish Parliament in 38 years, since deputies Behice Boran and Mehmet Ali Aybar of the Turkey Workers’ Party, (TİP) he added
“We socialists have broken our run of bad luck. In the period ahead we need to expand the support base of the left. In other words, we will work to fill the gap vacated by the Republican People’s Party [CHP] leader Deniz Baykal on the left of Turkish politics, and to promote a restructuring of the left.”

Mr Uras expressed his belief that leftist deputies could make a serious difference; something he said would become conspicuous once Parliament convenes. “I am very positive about this Parliament. For the first time all colors of society are reflected in Parliament. For the first time we will have the opportunity to confront the fundamental questions of society. It is important to take permanent steps on issues such as the democratic and political solution of the Kurdish question. I think this Parliament is one that can take those steps and resolve concrete problems. We will form a will that does not create problems, but rather one that solves problems. You will see the results of having a socialist deputy in Parliament after 38 years. We will start showing the extent of what we have lost in the past 38 years.”

He said his electoral success was made possible by support from all the colors of the left, including the Alevi movement, the political Kurdish movement, the socialists and environmentalists. “We are thinking of formulating this model as one that is directed to Turkey as a whole.”
Uras did not specify whether he would join the parliamentary group of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), but he said he would be open to cooperation with the DTP, recalling that the party had supported him as an independent candidate.

It is clear from Ufuk Uras election along with that of the 26 independent candidates representing the Kurdish people and Movement that there has been a blossoming of democracy in Turkey that has not been seen for some time. Much of the credit for this must go to the AK Party leader and Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. For not only has his period in office gradually reinserted into the public consciousness that not all politicians are corrupt on the make shysters. It has also help create that half inch of space which does not normally exist under governments of the right, that allows politics, the arts and civil society to burst forth, create, grow and think the unthinkable.

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Democratic Deficit at Heart of Turkish Democracy.


We who live in Democratic and open societies tend to take the electoral process for granted, people who within living memory have been at the sharp end of political violence and authoritarian government treat their Democratic Rights and responsibilities in a less cavalier fashion. For they understand only to well the true value of a democratic system, despite being perfectly aware of its shortcomings.

The Turkish people fall into this category; thus they take their democratic responsibilities very seriously, as they demonstrated on Sunday 23rd July, when approx 42 million of them voted in the Turkish General Election. The Western media had portrayed the election campaign as being the battle of the veil, a fight between the secular parties and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of outgoing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Not only was this analysis far to simplistic, but it totally misunderstands the type of political party the AK Party is, which is something I will return to in the coming weeks.

Whilst the Turkish Army Generals and most opposition parties claimed a vote for AKP was a vote for the introduction of Sharia Law at some time in the future. The Turkish people in their wisdom thought otherwise when they returned Mr Erdoğan and his party to government Office with an increased majority, with 46.3% of the vote which means they will have 340 seats in the new Grand Assembly. [Parliament]

Only two other parties managed to pass the 10% threshold which it is necessary to pass to enter Parliament, the Kemalist Republican Peoples Party (CHP) 20.68% –111 seats and the far right MHP 14.28%–71 seats.

What conclusions can one briefly draw from the outcome of this elections, firstly Neo-liberal economics in Turkey if not defeated has had some manners put on it. All of the Parties who will enter the new Parliament supported to one degree or another an extension of the Welfare State, especially health care, state education and infrastructure. Indeed those parties like ANAP- ANAVATAN who led the Neo-liberal charge in Turkey from the mid 1980s onwards and there recent incarnations the Democratic Party [DP] and Young Party failed to pass the threshold, gaining a miserable 8% of the vote between them. If you take into account that the predecessors of these parties ruled Turkey for much of the mid 1980s-90s and at times there members held both the Prime Ministership and Presidency then one gets an idea of the scale of their defeat.

Another welcome outcome of the 2007 election is that the pro Kurdish Democratic Society Party [DTP] will be represented in the new Parliament . Due to the inability of a minority party to pass the 10% threshold, the DTP leadership decided to stand as independent candidates who are not covered by this rule. They were extremely successful gaining 26 seats thus there will be a sizable DTP faction with the new Assembly.

In the south east of Turkey it was the DTP indies and the AK Party which swept the board. In the mainly Kurdish region of Diyarbakir all ten seats where shared equally between the AK Party and the DTP indies. Which should the incoming AK government find the courage, offer a means for them to enter into negotiations with the Kurds to bring the PKK insurrection to an end once and for all.

Whilst the independent lefts academic Baskim Oran failed to gain a seat, Ufuk Ufa the former leader of the Freedom and Solidarity Party [ODP] an alliance of socialist and libertarian organizations was more successful gaining a seat as an Indie in Istanbul. 46 women will sit as MPs in the new Parliament which is twice as many os the old Assemble.

On the down side there is little doubt this wave of independent candidates testifies to the democratic deficit at the heart of the Turkish electoral system, by this I mean the ten per cent threshold. The incoming parliamentarians and Government must act to reduce it to at the very least to 5%, as it is in many EU countries.

The Turkish Daily News pointed out that the centre right parties DP and GP jointly polled 8.39%, which is approx 1.9 million voters, equal to the population of Slovenia and means in reality that number of Turkish people have been all but disenfranchised. It is impossible not to conclude that despite the increasingly strong heart beat of Turkish democracy, this short fall is a national scandal which must be rectified at the earliest opportunity.

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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan returned to office.


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party [AKP] claimed victory in Turkey’s General Election, the party is expected to take 342 seats in the new Parliament, with the opposition centre left Republican People’s Party taking about 20 percent of the vote, and the far right Nationalist Action Party gaining almost 15 percent. Independent candidates including those close to the Kurdish DTP look like getting between 20-25. The official count will not be made public by the electoral authorities until the 27 July.

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European Greens Briefing Paper Claims CHP-MHP Coalition would spell Disaster

As the July 22 general elections draw ever closer, political groups in the European Parliament (EP) are assessing the different outcome scenarios of the election and the likely fallout. The Greens of the EP, who strongly support Turkey’s bid for European Union membership, believe a coalition between the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) would be disastrous in several ways.

In a briefing paper to the group seen by Today’s Zaman, the Greens argue that the worst possible outcome of the polls would be a CHP-MHP coalition, although it is underlined that many pundits see it unlikely. “In such an event, the political crisis would be total for a longer time span, not just in Turkey but also in relations with the EU,” says the briefing paper.

Dubbing the CHP a “state party,” the paper strongly criticizes its stance vis-à-vis Turkey’s fundamental problems. On the Kurdish issue, the CHP is accused of being under the control of the military. “Under the leadership of the military, the nationalists, the CHP and sections of the left see any demand, even merely to use the Kurdish language, as a first step towards separatism and making concessions to terror,” says the paper, while labeling the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), liberals and some leftist groups as the parties representing viable alternatives.

The paper criticizes the AK Party as well, on the grounds that it did not make itself clear in terms of its stance on Turkey’s secularism. “The AK Party, which unexpectedly came to shoulder governmental responsibility, had and still has a well-founded criticism of Turkey’s authoritarian secular system yet failed to develop any ideas on how it might be reformed once in power”.

The Greens underline that they are not happy with the EU approach towards Turkey’s accession process. “The EU now plays virtually no role in the ongoing election campaign. Or if it does, it is a purely negative role. The election of Sarkozy in France has merely reinforced this mood. It is virtually impossible to get optimistic views about the EU across since any comment made by European politicians, however well-intentioned, are invariably misinterpreted. Consequently, virtually all European politicians in favor of Turkish integration are staying well out of the election campaign: Hence the field is left almost entirely clear for opponents of Turkish membership whether in Turkey or EU,” says the paper.

20.07.2007, Zaman.

SELÇUK GÜLTAŞLI, BRUSSEL.

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Latest Poll Points to Three Parties in the New Parliament


Recent poll suggests three parties in Parliament,
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will make it to Parliament after Sunday’s elections, according to a recent poll, plus approx 25 independents, including MPs who are close to the Kurdish Party the DTP.

The survey, conducted by the Genar Research and Consultancy Company, aimed to take the pulse of the people as the countdown begins to the big day.
According to the survey, conducted on 3,524 individuals over the age of 18 from 26 towns, the AK Party will get 39.8 percent of the vote, followed by the CHP at 21 percent and the MHP at 13.3 percent. The total percentage of the vote the independents will take is 7.7 percent, the survey suggested.

Some 12.6 percent said they were still undecided. A majority of respondents said the recent crisis in the presidential election — where Parliament overwhelmingly voted for the AK Party nominee in the first round only for it to be canceled by a somewhat dubious Constitutional Court decision — had worked in favor of the government party.

The findings of the poll showed that the number of votes on the left hadn’t increased overall. The pollsters said the polarization of society during the presidential election process had worked in favor of the CHP and the MHP as well. However, the report introducing the findings said the alliance of the Democratic Left Party (DSP) and the CHP had not really had a significant effect. “In light of all these evaluations, we can say that the CHP will remain the main opposition party,” it said.

The poll suggests that the MHP faces no risk of staying under the 10 percent threshold barrier as they did at the last general election.

Some 1.4 percent of respondents who said they would vote for the AK Party said they still had some reservations, followed by a 1.2 percent of such voters among CHP supporters and 2.1 percent for MHP supporters. Genar also calculated the possible seat situation in Parliament after the elections. The AK Party is expected to have at least 297 deputies, the CHP 125 and the MHP would have at least 75 deputies. There would be at least 25 independent deputies, the poll found.

The considerable sum of 80.1 percent of respondents said they would certainly vote in the elections, while only 6.2 percent said they were not going to vote.

19.07.2007

First published in the Turkish daily newspaper Zaman.

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Professor Baskın Oran may be a first time candidate but determined to defend the rights of those who have been ignored or alienated – the Kurds, the Alevis, the gypsies, the gays among others. The first-time candidate is adamant about being a powerful voice in Parliament but expresses himself surprised at how many people are now supporting his campaign

GÜL DEMİR and NIKI GAMM
ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News

  An academic who postponed retirement to stand for a seat in Parliament, Baskın Oran has begun to capture the interest of the public in Istanbul as the national elections approach. Oran was catapulted to nationwide attention this year when he was accused of insulting Turkishness under controversial Article 301 that covers freedom of speech and expression. Until then Oran was not particularly well-known outside academic circles although he has published extensively on minorities, nationalism, foreign policy and globalization. He taught political science at Ankara University where he earned his credentials by being dismissed three times following the 1980 military coup. In short he had a normal academic career that one would expect of a leftist. Intellectuals who were left-leaning have embraced him completely and even more so after he formally declared his candidacy.

  Oran is running as an independent. The Constitution stipulates that parties must get 10 percent of all votes to get representation in Parliament. The goal of this regulation is to encourage the development of a stable government and a two-party system but it does not take into account the small political parties that might get less than 10 percent of the vote. These parties are barred from Parliament. However, this time some parties, and in particular the pro-Kurdish Democratic Social Party (DTP), decided they would encourage and support independents for whom there is no barrage limit. Their sympathies are known and which political party supports them. All in all an interesting concept and we will see how it works at election time.
  The DTP, a pro-Kurdish leftist party, has put its weight behind independent candidates and initially supported Oran. However, it then decided it would be better to support its own chairman in Istanbul. In Oran’s case the years of lecturing on political science in the university and the many books and articles he has written tell in his favor. His interest in minority groups led him to chair the Prime Ministry’s Minority and Cultural Rights Sub-Committee and its Human Rights Advisory Council. He prepared its report on minorities that turned out to be quite controversial, relating out briefly the history of the term “minority” in the Ottoman Empire and how this definition affected Turkey’s relations with the outside world and especially the European Union. He proposed that the Turkish Constitution be rewritten on the basis of freedom, plurality and democracy for those who wanted to speak their own language and preserve their own culture.
A powerful voice, a citizen’s duty:

  The suggestion that he run for Parliament came as a shock to him and his wife since they were planning on retiring to Bodrum where he would write books. It turned their lives upside down when he finally decided to run because he still sees himself as an academic rather than a politician. He has found however that his wife is one of his greatest supporters and offers him good advice on everything from clothing to voice tone. An attractive blonde, she is usually at his side during rallies and marches.

  The first-time candidate is adamant about being a powerful voice in Parliament but expresses himself surprised at how many people are now supporting his campaign. He also says he is going this not out of intellectual bravery but because he believes it is a citizen’s duty. Referring to the independent candidates in the upcoming election, Oran attributes the fact that people have become more willing to run and to speak out to the effect of the changes made to harmonize Turkish legislation with that of the EU.

  Suddenly Baskın Oran has become one of the new names catching people’s attention in a field where the same people run over and over again and get elected over and over again, where people keep their holds on the party they represent even after they have been defeated several times. The reference is to the Republic People’s Party (CHP) In the west if a political party keeps losing, its leader resigns, but not in Turkey.
  People actually are tired of listening to people who have no real answers to offer and they are doubtful about voting for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) that has been in power with a comfortable majority since the last election in 2002. When asked why he had not joined any political parties, he openly said that he couldn’t work with any of the parties in Parliament or with any of the current party chairman. He pointed out that the people don’t choose the candidates, the party chairman does.

  Oran knows the prison and court system from his own experience but it has not damped down his sense of humor. A video on his life is filled with quiet humor. Academic career must be good for public speaking. Knows how to catch and hold people’s attention. If you can keep a class of young 20s something interested, you can keep a crowd of interested people at attention.

  This man with short gray hair, gray beard and moustache and glasses has given a different air to the election in Istanbul Second District: Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş, Alibeyköy and Sarıyer. His people fan out from a small office in Beyoğlu and have a small stand on İstiklal Street outside the Benetton store where they hand out pamphlets. But he has also embraced the Internet with zest and his website includes everything from a video biography and the more traditional curriculum vitae, his schedule, what the media has said about him, selections from his writings including the “Minority Report” and matters of interest.
  
What others think:
  Oran has the support of writer, Yaşar Kemal, who has already said that he will vote for him, noting that in previous elections he did not really have a good answer but now he felt he did. Author Adalet Ağaoğlu is not only going to vote for Oran but she is busy recruiting others to vote for him as well.
  Writer Mehmed Uzun of Kurdish origin tells of how very happy he is to know that the Kurds can participate in the election through independent candidates. He went on to describe Oran and Mehmet Ufuk Uras as the voice of Turkey.
  Emine Uşaklıgıl is a member of the Baskin Oran electoral campaign. He sees Oran’s getting into Parliament as an opportunity for Turkey. “He is intent on protecting human rights, rule of law and democracy and developing these. Oran is preparing to be the voice of all of us in Parliament.” She stresses, however, that he needs money for his campaign and, of course, votes.
  David Tonge is the managing director of IBS Research & Consultancy and a former Financial Times journalist. He says of Oran: “His scientific output is impressive for its range and for his willingness to lift the veil on those awkward corners of modern Turkish history, the use and abuse of nationalism in state building in Turkey, the treatment of minorities in Turkey and their property, the Kurds, and what he calls the two taboos, Cyprus and the ‘Last Taboo,’ the problems of Turkish public opinion on the ‘Armenian Issue.’”

  Regarding Oran’s candidacy, Radikal writer Neşe Düzel says that it is a protest against today’s political structures because in his own words he sees himself as “a spokesman for those who have been alienated, rejected, restricted, silenced, pained, had their self-confidence destroyed, or been threatened by the paranoia that Turkey will be broken up as by the Treaty of Sevres. Alevis, Kurds, minorities, gypsies, women, the young, girls who cannot enter universities with head scarves, workers, those not represented by unions, unemployed, homosexuals, transvestites, the starving, the handicapped, environmentalists. All these seek to raise their voice through e-mail groups and meetings. It is important that their voices are heard in the Assembly.”
  So if Baskın Oran wins a seat in Parliament this month, the public can certainly be sure that he will bring fresh life to that August governing body.

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