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A World for the Many

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is key to the fight against Turkey’s brutal Erdoğan regime. But its struggle is also about building a different kind of world order.

Flags for the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in Gaziantep, Turkey in 2015. Halkların Demokratik Partisi / Flickr

Greetings and solidarity from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), from our jailed former leaders and deputies alongside thousands of party activists, and our exiles in Europe and elsewhere, one of whom — former MP İbrahim Ayhan — we recently lost after a heart attack in Hewler, Iraqi Kurdistan where he could not receive timely and adequate medical care.

In spite of all the losses, the difficulties, the setbacks, and the mounting tyranny in Turkey, one-man rule has failed to subjugate the country’s social and democratic forces. After three years of emergency rule the HDP has managed to protect its popular support in Kurdistan and extend its bases in Turkey’s industrial and commercial hubs including Ankara, İstanbul, İzmir, Adana, Mersin, and Antalya, winning 11.4 percent of the vote in June’s general election.

We are keeping up the fight, continuing our resistance, and also restructuring for further struggles. We stand as a solid example of the viability of a joint social and political movement bringing together diverse trends of the Kurdish and Turkish peoples. It represents a significant base for the fight for democracy and social change. We are here to offer our solidarity with your struggles and learn from your particular experiences of fighting against our common adversaries.

It is an honor to share the floor with Jeremy Corbyn, whose resolute and outspoken leadership has guided Britain’s labor movement to reclaim its genuine meaning and substance. This has helped resurrect the hope of workers, youth, and intellectuals that “a world for the many, not the few” is possible.

We are seeing rising optimism and courage among Britain’s working classes; a hope that is haunting the suburbs, the sweatshops, the dockyards, the streets of Britain after all the years of negligence, despair, and cynicism under the Right’s corrupt and arrogant leadership. Labour’s call is received by the “many.”

And it is also an honor to share the floor with working-class leaders and activists for social justice — Jacqui, Bonnie, and Naomi — who have been relentlessly striving to make this possibility a reality from within the “capitalist castle”: in Britain, the United States, and Canada. Your efforts are felt, your call is heard, and your message is received and echoed in other parts of the world: in Turkey, in Kurdistan, in Palestine, in Latin America, and throughout the Global South. It is answered with increased resistance against neoliberal austerity programs and imperialist domination: now we can confidently repeat, from this floor, the motto of the people of Liverpool “You’ll never walk alone!”

The theme “A world for many, not the few” presents a great opportunity to launch a new initiative working for an organized and international cooperation of the Left and democratic forces, against the capitalist world order.

As extensively explained in Jeremy Corbyn’s address to the United Nations, the great impasse of the global capitalist development is evident in the unequal distribution of wealth and power; in the global ecological meltdown (“climate change”); in the exodus from the Global South (the so-called “refugee crisis”); and in wars caused by the use of unilateral military action and intervention, rather than diplomacy and negotiation, to resolve disputes and change governments.

These phenomena altogether bring about a “planetary crisis,” an existential crisis directly emanating from the capitalist system itself. This crisis cannot, therefore, be resolved from within the system and by the governments who represent corporate interests and are responsible for the effects we are now seeing, thus producing a total “crisis of humanity.”

The law of “uneven and combined development” brings together, within each national economy as well as in the world economy as a whole, both elements of advanced capitalism and outdated economic and social relations. This means that in the twenty-first century, the working classes are once again subjected to the working and living conditions of slavery and serfdom, even within hi-tech housing or mining facilities. At the same time, riot police and armies are equipped with robotic weaponry in order to suppress workers’ protests and occupy overseas lands.

Two stark examples: it was reported in the news yesterday (September 22) that as far back as the 1980s, the two oil giants Exxon and Shell were already aware that if oil consumption continued at the same pace, CO2 levels would double their preindustrial level by 2060, and that this would push the planet’s average temperatures up by about 2°C over current levels. Shell predicted that this would happen even earlier — by 2030. They predicted an increase in “runoff, destructive floods, and inundation of low-lying farmland.” “The changes may be the greatest in recorded history,” they said.

Yet, despite these predictions becoming established facts, they still continue oil extraction in order to supply the capitalist economy. US president Donald Trump has nonetheless declared the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, while the Turkish government echoes Trump that “they will not ratify the accord” because they do not pollute as much as other countries have done. In Turkey or in Britain, the motto of the capitalist class and capitalist state remains as it has been, since the birth of capitalism: “Après moi, le déluge!” (“After us, the flood”).

The second example is the parallel between London’s Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 and Turkey’s Soma mine disaster in 2014. The Grenfell Tower fire caused the deaths of at least seventy-two people and at least seventy others were injured. In the Soma coal mine in western Turkey, 301 miners lost their lives after the mine collapsed following a fire.

In Grenfell, despite all outward appearances and the supposedly smart systems in place, residents packed into a tower in full neglect of necessary safety precautions. In Soma, though the mine had the most up-to-date conveyor systems for transferring coal from the mine, the workers were forced to work without any breaks for hours, as in the mines of the eighteenth century, and without any early fire-alarm warnings. In Grenfell, the system treated its working-class inhabitants with the same neglect with which Turkey’s authorities treated the workers in the Soma coal mine. In each case, working-class people were condemned to deadly suffocation, whether in their homes or workplaces. The reasoning was the same: cut costs to beat the law of falling profits. Soma is London; London is Soma.

As we are passing through the fiftieth year of the 1968 uprisings — the last great upsurge of the global revolutionary movement — we have many reasons to expect a second knock on the door. For unless all countries combine to overcome this crisis, there may not be a world, or at least a humanity left to change it. Rosa Luxemburg had warned at the dawn of the twentieth century: “Socialism or barbarism!” All the issues we are discussing here were raised already by the call of the ’68 movement, with its heady mix of human imagination, revolutionary determination, hope, and anger as millions rose up against capitalism. It is high time that we reconsider both the merits and failings of the revolutionary practices of that period.

It is wonderful to see the Labour Party, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, reject all the illusions and the fetishes imposed by the corporate media, school, and the capitalist establishment. Labour instead encourages popular debate around the quest for a viable way out of capitalist exploitation, indeed for all of the world.

In the 1970s, a genuine Liverpudlian, John Lennon, criticizing the impact of mass culture on the working classes, observed that “a working-class hero is something to be.” Since the ebb of the 1968 revolutionary tide, both the working class and its heroism has undergone constant change and today “a working-class hero” could be anybody who dares to stand up against capitalism, against any form of alienation and exploitation. The anti-capitalist movement of the twenty-first century embraces all the oppressed of the earth: the working classes, farmers, women, precarious workers, domestic workers, oppressed peoples, oppressed identities, the permanently unemployed surplus population . . .

We are a specific part, a phase, a moment in the combined history of humanity, raised on the shoulders of the working classes. All our individual stories, as depicted in the poetry of Nazim Hikmet, boil down to a common dream:

“To live, free and single like a tree but in fraternity like a forest — this longing is ours”