A call for united struggle for a Constituent Assembly
We discussed the call for a Constituent Assembly with EMEP Chairperson Selma Gürkan. Gürkan says 'Our proposition is for a democratic constitution.'
Labour Party (EMEP) General Administrative Committee (GYK) called for a democratic constitution and a Constituent Assembly against the ‘one man, one party dictatorship’. EMEP Chairperson Selma Gürkan discussed the declaration of 18 May with our newspaper. Stating that the call was for wide sectors of the public and primarily for the working class, labour-occupational organisations, she said “This is also a call for a united struggle.”
Your party called for “uniting our forces for a democratic constitution and a Constituent Assembly.” What necessity gave rise to this call?
Even if we were to leave aside other sections of the public, parties and groups outside the parliament; there are four parties in the parliament. However, the latest constitutional change has been achieved with the consensus of AKP and a wing of MHP (Nationalist Peoples Party). We claim that constitutional change cannot occur under these conditions. Our proposal is a change in the constitution that observes the needs of all sectors of the public and one that is reached through an inclusive process that involves them. Furthermore, the current constitution is that of by the coup of September 12  and is anti-democratic in all aspects. We think the process of formulation is as significant as the content and for this reason call for a Constituent Assembly.
'REPRESENTATION THAT DEFENDS THE WORKING CLASS AND THE RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE'
What kind of structure will the Constituent Assembly you propose have?
The Constituent Assembly proposed is not limited to the Parliament. We are talking of a mechanism that includes other parties, labour and occupational organisations, thinkers, universities, professional experts, religious and environmental organisations, women’s organisations and initiatives and the youth; one where a broader discussion can be had. Constituent Assembly is defined within this framework.
You could say that “currently unions are involved and they are in a position of partnership with the government on determining legislation.” We are not talking about a partnership of this sort. We are talking about real representation to defend and protect the rights and freedoms of working class. Initiatives set up by the workers themselves, as well as trade union organisations can be a part of this mechanism. Hence, we are talking about a Constituent Assembly that includes different layers and sections of society. All that is needed is the purpose to achieve a solution; we can find a method for establishing the assembly afterwards. What they tried to establish with the referendum was a political regime where power was concentrated in the hands of the President, the state of emergency (OHAL) is normalised/legitimised, the country is run through the instructions -decrees- of an individual. The government is now trying to coordinate this. Hence, today in Turkey: politicians are prosecuted for political activity; journalists are tried for reporting on the news; workers that demand their rights are penalised. For example, a union official can be forbidden to go within 100 metres of where he does his job of organising workers.
Co-chairs and MPs of HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) are imprisoned following the removal of their immunity. Why? Because they spoke at the despatch box. CHP (Republican People’s Party) faces various accusations when exercising their opposition. Our party carries out varied activities to reach the working class, but we are prevented from distributing leaflets and brochures, posting posters and holding meetings with workers and the public. Putting all of this aside, even the ‘No’ wing of MHP are prevented from political activity. How are we to do politics in the current situation? Only the ruling party and its leader are allowed political activity! The ruling party will have all the legislative, executive and judicial powers but opposition is not permitted! Demands for rights and freedoms are forbidden! This is what the government wants. Such a political regime can only be named a dictatorship, fascism. Ours is also a call to prevent its prosperity in these lands.
Who did you invite to the Constituent Assembly?
I must state that we know it is not possible with just a call. This is a call for a common struggle to all political party and organisations that demand democracy, defend and fight for rights, freedom and peace; including all from social democrats to socialists. A call to organisations of workers, women’s organisations and the youth. It is also a call to all citizens.
'WORKING PEOPLES ARE THE TARGET OF OHAL AND KHKS'
President Erdoğan and government officials are claiming that OHAL and KHKs are in effect to fight against the “terrorist organisation” and that they have no adverse effects on the public. What do you say?
Let’s take the ‘Turkish Wealth Fund’ as an example: What has this law got anything to do with terror or terrorist organisations? How is this legal arrangement, which will eradicate olive groves of 170 million trees, linked to “fight with terror”? How is banning strikes by glass, metal, aviation and tea sector workers linked to “fight with terrorism”?
We know that the only way to silence the opposition of the people and to suppress demands for rights and freedoms is to cling to the pretext of “fight with terror.” They did this in the past, they are doing it now. How can OHAL conditions and KHKs (emergency decrees) not have any impact on daily life? Banning of strikes and demonstrations, removal of freedoms of thought and expression, stealthy increases in consumer goods prices, etc. have all taken place in this period. OHAL and KHK conditions interfere with the lives of workers.
Your GYK called for a struggle for the removal of OHAL conditions and repealing of KHKs.
In the new term, KHKs will be replaced by Residential decrees. The President already has wide-ranging powers regarding declaration of OHAL. Then again, President Erdoğan already stated that he will not abandon OHAL. We say that if he is to argue for a new constitution, the construction of this constitution needs to rest on a democratic foundation. OHAL needs to be removed for this to happen and KHKs need to be reversed in their entirety.
If we look at the KHKs issued to date; thousands of associations, tens of radios, television stations, newspapers and magazines have been shut down. Hundreds of thousands of people have been sacked. We were speaking to a worker that lost her public-sector job; looking to work in the private sector, in a job not in her field. When she applies for a job, a ‘grey’ warning comes up; a field identifying her as a worker sacked through a KHK has been created on her profile. The employer says “I cannot employ you because I cannot afford the consequences.” This is a single example but we know all that were sacked and their entire families are abandoned to starvation. The government is responsible for the 37 suicides to date.
'THE SCORE WITH THE COUP CAN ONLY BE SETTLED THROUGH DEMOCRATISATION'
The parliamentary commission on the attempted coup of 15 July published its report six month after the coup. What can you say about this much-discussed report?
Many unanswered questions that arose since the beginning still persist; we cannot say that the report answers those. This commission has attempted even to link CHP to the coup, by producing fake documents. How is it that in 650-page report there is no mention of the responsibility of AKP; in power for the last 15 years, in partnership with the mentioned organisation? The statements given by the Chief of General Staff and the Undersecretary of the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) increase distrust regarding the attempted coup. It is clear that they did not act on intelligence. You claim to have the strongest army and government in NATO but cannot act on intelligence received 9 hours before the start of the attempted coup. It seems they have taken some action; they made deals with and removed some of the cliques from within the coup and let the rest proceed. We must clearly state that deaths of 250 people could have been prevented. Primarily Erdoğan and the AKP leadership and all those accountable for the coup, their roles and crimes should be exposed and a detailed investigation must be carried out. A real settling of the score can only be possible through investigating and changing the system that led to the attempted coup, through democratisation. But AKP is rebuilding the regime with reactionism.
'FUNDS WILL CONTINUE FLOWING TO CAPITAL'
Especially after the referendum, many steps and arrangements have been introduced by the government in an attempt to remove workers’ rights. Severance pay has also been discussed. What does this mean for workers?
Every day for 24 hours, on 32 channels, government officials deny that the government is targeting workers’ severance pay; this is a big lie. Just as the unemployment fund was used as a resource for employers and a political tool reinforcing policies of the government; the targeting of severance pay will be used the same way. We know that this fund, created by reductions in pay-outs to workers, will create a resource for the government and capital. On this issue, the unions are committing a historical crime. They muddy the waters by saying “30 days is our red line.” Let’s assume the government give in on ‘30 days’ and transferred severance pay to the fund; is this a gain for workers? On the contrary, it is snatching of their gains of 100 years. It is a grave injustice. Wherever we go, we try to inform workers about this.
There is also the possibility of the removal of job security of public sector workers?
We do not think that this discussion on job security is considered independent of the issue of severance pay. We need to consider the capital offensive in its entirety. They attack workers’ rights, severance pay, retirement and their right to safety. It is an offensive aimed to remove the collective solidarity network of the working class and the mechanisms that give them power to be a collective class. The country is on the edge of an important threshold. It is a period where even the remaining scraps of rights and freedoms are removed and a ‘one man, one party dictatorship’ is built. Hence, the struggle for democracy by labour forces and the public has to be unified.
'THE WORKING CLASS NEEDS TO ACHIEVE UNITY'
Strikes at Şişecam have been banned. Collective bargaining in the metal sector will commence soon. What should the working class do in this period?
The working class gained valuable experiences from last year’s storm in the metal sector. In light of these experiences, glass workers are now downing tools for periods of one, one and a half hours. Ability of the working class to establish unity is the important thing here. The class has been so divided, due to polarisation policies by the government, that it needs to overcome this division. Unions, acting as real worker organisations, have to adopt workers’ demands and fight for their rights. If they are non-unionised, workers need to organise for their own unity. Migration has become a very hot issue due to the war in Syria; this unity also needs to include all migrant workers. Workers also need to unify their demands with public-sector workers.
WE CAN WIN IF FORCES OF LABOUR AND PEACE UNITE
Libertarian policies have again been replaced with security policies on the Kurdish issue; lives are lost. What is the cost of insistence on war policies for peoples of Turkey? How should workers approach this issue?
We have been listening to this story for 70-80 years. We also know that a resolution will not be forthcoming through of denial and destruction. Erdoğan’s statements such as “They will lose 10 for every one we lose” are neither statesmanlike nor humane. We will not get used to deaths and deadlock. The solution can only be real peace that meets the equal citizenship and political status demands of the Kurdish people. We know the government will not exhibit any reason or conscience to achieve this. We can win this if we mobilise a joint democratic struggle to include forces of the people, of peace and of the workers.