Interview with Güneş Gümüş on Presidential Elections and United Front
On behalf of the Sosyalist Gündem (Socialist Agenda) we interviewed Güneş Gümüş, leader of Socialist Labourers Party, on the united front of the socialist left and the presidential elections. Güneş Gümüş answered the questions about how socialists should build a partnership and the political line of this struggle to downgrade AKP.
Sosyalist Gündem: With the help of the State of Emergency, the democratic rights in Turkey are being suspended while the dictatorial regime is fortifying its position with the Afrin issue. All of this is directly related to the electoral process. In this difficult period, the efforts of socialists to act together or at least to debate seem to be accelerated. What would you like to say about socialist in this regard?
Güneş Gümüş: We may call these efforts are for debate rather than acting together. We are being pushed into a corner. Also there is a plan for making our presence felt in the presidential elections. Unfortunately, we cannot talk about any mass mobilization which we are urgently in need of or any plans in order to build that mobilization. What draws the attention is the lack of energy in the groups that come together. The pessimistic attitude is apparent. In fact, we might mention dozens of left-socialist groups in paper but there is not much of a group that are actively fighting in the struggle. This is the point that needs our attention. The socialist, who share the concern for the active struggle, must come together and organize the mobilization.
Sosyalist Gündem: Can you please talk more in details about the mobilization you mentioned?
Güneş Gümüş: From the mobilization, we mean working day and night in order to organize strong campaigns. We are talking about a state of vigilance. Socialist parties and groups definitely have physical power to do this. If we manage to come together; develop more contact with the public with effective campaigns, appropriate and realistic means and methods, there will be a serious moral rise for the progressive forces. Energetic work, appropriate demands and slogans, unity and cooperation should be put forward. These are what we need and what mobilization should be. The pessimism will diminish in time as the millions of socialists who feel suffocated by AKP see their capacity in the field. The address and the tools are necessary for this struggle and let’s face it, there is no such tool or address at the moment. It is no surprise that the large masses that are likely to join the struggle are passive, drifting into desperation and demoralisation. On the contrary, the Struggle Front of the Socialists would become a hope if it makes its case visible. In other words, this period is actually providing new opportunities. Difficult processes create challenging alternatives and we don’t have the luxury to be mediocre for survival. Socialist can take the advantage of the crises in which Turkey. Yet, if you don’t have a plan for exit and if you are a pessimist, you could drag down the others around you. We can observe this situation in the KESK example. Unfortunately, this is exactly the case of the dominant actors in the socialist left.
Sosyalist Gündem: About the “Struggle Front of the Socialists”, how comprehensive might this front become due to the current situation of inactiveness and perspective differences? Can the desired effect be achieved somehow?
Güneş Gümüş: An alliance that works hard would attract all the attention and be the address in people’s mind as a natural consequence for those who want to join the struggle, even though the alliance is not so wide and comprehensive; this is due to the huge vacancy in the struggle field. In a short period of time, those who do not participate in this alliance will lose. Eventually the expansion of the alliance will be brought to the agenda. In other words, the alliance does not necessarily need to be very comprehensive at first if the struggle is carried on.
Sosyalist Gündem: What kind of an alliance should socialists unite? The idea of gathering for a party roof has always been a widespread idea, so in what ways does the platform of struggle that you put forward differ from Birleşik Haziran Hareketi (BHH) (United June Movement)?
Güneş Gümüş: The idea of socialists getting united under a roof obviously has always been demanded. However, the truth of the case is a little different. Groups that call themselves as socialists have critical differentiations in theory, politics and practise (for instance, on the Kurdish issue.) And when this party faces the first problem, it would be just a matter of time for the united party to disperse. We actually experienced such things. You know that ODP has been in the process of disintegration, leaving a lot of frustration and disappointment behind. It was obvious from the start as two and two was four. That is to say that some separations are necessary. The key point here is to walk different paths yet to be able to strike together. There is no sense in pursuing such a project without taking these experiences into consideration, and there is no such reality out there.
Sosyalist Gündem: There is also the idea proposed by the People’s TKP (Communist Party of Turkey) for recreating the TİP (Workers Party of Turkey) of the 1960s into today.
Güneş Gümüş: TIP was an outcome of special historical conditions. The parliamentary left line that it represented was successful to some extent in special circumstances, yet TIP came to a deadlock as the class struggle in the world and Turkey got intensified. In this sense TIP was desperate; because it was falling behind of the developments. The important point was how the socialist configuration would be formed after TIP. The questions were who would be the next leader and which policies the leadership would adapt to. In the following period, not Stalinism but the class revolutionism was abandoned. Serial separations and fundamental ideological problems drove the socialist left to the defeat of September 12th. In short, a party (TIP) which was formed under specific circumstances of the 1960s and overshadowed by the subsequent events cannot respond to the needs of the present-day special conditions.
Sosyalist Gündem: What about the BHH model for this moment?
Güneş Gümüş: Of course, BHH is more compatible with the current circumstances in terms of its form, that is to say, the organizational form in which socialist left acts together. However, the problem lies in the functioning and the context. And the main problem with the functioning is unwieldiness. The other problem is the bureaucracy. Unfortunately, the mentality is designed to do nothing and also not letting others who actually want to do something. In other words, there is no chance for you to accelerate even if you wish to do so. After all, very little work has been done although there have been numerous meetings, forums etc. mostly attended by middle aged people. Then they complained about the average age of the participants. But why would young generation come to these meetings? There is neither anything to do nor any excitement at all! For sure, the youth wouldn’t attend just to hear similar pessimistic analyses. What you end up with would be elderly people who are interested in politics.
Sosyalist Gündem: What is the problem of BHH in terms of its context?
Güneş Gümüş: The lack of excitement, disbelief, pessimism and unwieldiness… These are all related to the context. The context of the BHH is based on secularism and the defence of the republic against AKP. These discourses are the aged rhetoric of the CHP and other nationalists. Today, Halk TV is the champion of this discourse. Also, this point of view was the official state policy during the February of 28th. It is noteworthy that the SIP (Party of Socialist Power) which is now the current TKP supported the February 28th. The components of BHH should reckon with their recent past. It is not surprising that the secularist, republican, October 29th rhetoric is not producing any dynamism despite its wide supporter base. On the contrary, this rhetoric serves to the cultural polarization that AKP revived. The fundamental point that separates socialist from the nationalists or liberals is the struggle for social equality. In my opinion, this shouldn’t be difficult to realize: the poor millions do not have a serious concern for secularism. Approaching the labourers from another perspective is an obligation. Yet, BHH’s mentality is gathering their neighbourhood first. This is an unfortunate point of view. In other words, they don’t have enough faith in workers-labourers, so they focus on those who are already sensitive to secularism. Okay but how do you plan to change the course of events if you abandon the workers? We cannot protect secularism unless we separate the workers from AKP. This point of view surely ends up in engaging with CHP. The matter is the class struggle. We need to alter the form of construction of socialist politics in Turkey. Today, we have deep cultural polarizations: Alevis, secularists, Kurds, Turkish nationalists, conservatives. In Turkey which is separated and polarized into communities, we as socialists must alter our agenda and the subjects that we focus on. We cannot say that labourers are not struggling just by looking at the workplace resistances recently. There are millions who have trouble making a living. Youth is suffocating in futurelessness. However, we don’t have the address for the labour politics. It is the source of our current problems.
Sosyalist Gündem: What about the struggle for democratic rights?
Güneş Gümüş: For sure, the struggle for democratic rights is needed. Labour-centred does not necessarily mean skipping the struggle for democratic rights. Socialist Laborers Party (SEP) is not proposing a childish class reductionism. It shouldn’t be interpreted as such a comic cartoon. In other words, class struggle does not mean being limited to a narrow economic struggle. Of course, detained journalist will be defended; of course action will be taken for women’s right and of course against chauvinist hysteria resulted from the Afrin and similar war agendas. Yet, all of these can be combined in a “we cannot live on” campaign, for instance. The labour struggle might address every cultural group and create its own dynamism… It involves the demands that affect the lives of millions rather than defending the status quo. This is the only alternative that could pinch AKP into a corner. This is the starting point of class centred socialism. There is actually not much to say.
Sosyalist Gündem: Selin Sayek Böke and Ilhan Cihaner in CHP have been using the labourers discourse more lately. What would you like to mention about it?
Güneş Gümüş: In fact, the pointer clearly shows the labour-centred policy. Like many commentators, Böke and Cihaner began to emphasize this against AKP. However, it needs to target the capitalist exploiters and blood suckers who were revived by AKP and rapidly got rich, in order to differ from bourgeoisie ‘my workers, my peasants’ discourse. If Böke and Cihaner cannot do so, they will not be able to distinguish themselves from Kılıçdaroğlu and his close circle, Aykut Erdoğdu, Canan Kaftancıoğlu, Veli Ağbaba. In short, being a defender of the labour means being against the bosses for the sake of class struggle. It is Kılıçdaroğlu’s way to claim to address them both. And this is a deadlock again. I would recommend you the article of V. U. Arslan on sosyalistgundem.com regarding this topic.
Sosyalist Gündem: What would you like to say about the presidential elections?
Güneş Gümüş: It is important for socialists to not skip the critical presidential elections, yet of course we cannot rely on it. The socialists have to be in a constant enthusiast struggle. What will happen after the election? Before the Referendum on 16th of April, the left did a good job for one or two months. What about later? There was no significant work. This could be done in November 2019 elections as well. So we have 20 months ahead us. These 20 months should not be wasted. However, the main groups who lack the energy barely include the electoral topic into their agendas. These groups might hold meetings for months while the country is on the edge of disaster.
Sosyalist Gündem: Do you have a suggestion for a common candidate for the socialists? There will also be a candidate of HDP, and why is there a need for a socialist name?
Güneş Gümüş: The class struggle always needs an alternative on the left of HDP. That is also the case in presidential election. HDP is a part of the cultural polarization we talked about. Of course, it is necessary to be in solidarity with the HDP against the state oppression, yet the issue is to be able to remain on the independent socialist line. Regarding the common candidate of the socialists, our suggestion is Fatih Maçoğlu, the major of the Ovacık. Maçoğlu has presented a strong profile for the large masses as a communist major with a labour centred discourse. We believe that he would cause tremendous excitement and dynamism. Since strong campaign will be required to overcome the serious obstacles such as the 100.000 signatures and notary expenses, Maçoğlu is tailored for this kind of a campaign. This could be the best answer of Maçoğlu to the obstacles that AKP dictation created for him.
Sosyalist Gündem: Is it possible to say that the situation is not really promising for the socialists?
Güneş Gümüş: Yes, it is. But this is not new. It has been our problem for many years. The socialist left has been in crises for many years. The socialists didn’t even bother going into the roots of the crises, let alone to overcome it. We feel more suffocated with this crisis as it is impossible to survive with the usual mediocre performances at the moment. The socialist left must undergo a renewal process. It will not be possible to go forward without changing the shell. This fact is crystal clear now. On the other hand, the situation is not hopeless since we have faith in this country. This land is fertile in terms of raising up new revolutionaries. As long as this is the case, everything can change in the broadest sense. SEP is a candidate to lead the socialist left into a structural transformation with its solid and sound cadre from young generation. It takes time. Yet it is our goal that we work day and night for. We believe we will succeed, so the period we are in does not lead us to any pessimism. On the contrary, it excites us. Because we know difficult times provides challenging alternatives.