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Germany: Prohibitions against Erdogan?

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The Turkish president Erdogan's verbal attacks on EU politicians are getting more and more bizarre, says the CDU vice-president Klöckner. Comparing the German chancellor to the Nazis was very wide of the mark, unlike the open racists and the right-wing populists, she is not calling for a new "cultural struggle" against Islam.

Merkel, like the majority of the German political establishment, leaves the banning of election events to local politicians or administrative officials. She does not want to go as far as Holland's “cosmopolitan” head of the government, Rutte, who “tamed” Geert Wilders during the elections by himself prohibiting Turkish politicians from entering the country. In any case, Turkey and Erdogan are still needed to enforce the interests of German imperialism and to secure the external borders of fortress Europe.

Therefore, the official line is not to respond to the “provocations” of Erdogan! They hope that, after the referendum in Turkey, the whole thing will blow over and the situation will return to “normal”. After all, our “partner” Turkey “needs us” at least as urgently as “we” need him.

There is certainly something to this. Turkey is ultimately a country dominated by imperialist powers, especially the US, which is trying to strengthen its regional position by taking advantage of the current instability in the whole Middle East. For that, a show of strength is necessary as the regime tries to use the tensions between the US, the EU and Russia to expand its own scope and influence.

The fact that Turkey is freeing itself from the influence of the US and leading EU powers like Germany and is strengthening relations with Russia is the rational core of concern for the leading circles of German imperialism and the EU.

Undoubtedly, Erdogan is also “only” trying to strengthen his hand, since the Turkish regime and, above all, the economy, depends ultimately on good relations. The economy of the country has expanded during the last decade, but this has been built on credit. Even today, unemployment is above 10 percent. Continued “success” will be dependent on international capital flows and the economically rather fragile Russian imperialism will surely not be a great deal of help here.

Conversely, Germany and the EU need Turkey for their racist refugee policy and the closure of borders. The country is also an important investment location and market for German goods, not least for weapons, and a gateway to influence in the Middle East.

This, of course, does not concern the right-wing populists of Europe. They want “consistent racism” and they do not want migrant workers and refugees, certainly not if they become “integrated”. At most, they will tolerate exploited labour, stripped of any rights, which has to leave the country as soon as a contract is completed. If we look at the “proposals” of Le Pen, Wilders, Petry, Strache or Orban, Erdogan's comparisons with the Nazis are not so “bizarre”. It is not a matter of whether the “humanitarian” EU will allow inhuman camps for refugees and murderous border regimes, they have existed for years now.

The “social centre” parties, like the Christian Democratic Union, CDU, the SPD, the Greens, see, at most, only “exceptional cases” of lapses in democracy within the EU but feign great concern about the situation in Turkey. The abolition of democratic rights, freedom of speech and expression, rule by decree and so on are quite intolerable – except in France, which has just extended the state of emergency, or Poland where democratic rights are under threat. Equally, the surveillance state is being expanded across Europe, and Theresa May wants to ban Scotland from voting on whether to remain in the “United Kingdom”.

These hypocrites are, however, determined to address the issue of “democracy” in Turkey, a country outside the EU. While they are indignant at the nationalist agitation of Erdogan, they are advised to remain “prudent” by those who want to oppose the right-wing populists, the agitators, in the EU. So, in Germany, while the restriction of democracy in Turkey is being deplored, the Kurdish resistance movement and the Turkish radical left are further criminalised and banned. A repeal of the PKK ban? Certainly not, according to the Ministry of the Interior, in the end one has to continue the fight against “terrorism”. In line with this mendacity, since early March, the symbols of the Syrian-Kurdish PYD and the self-defence forces of Rojava, YPG / YPJ, have been banned at demonstrations.

All this shows how wrong are all those, including politicians like Wagenknecht of the Left Party, who join in the chorus of calls for the prohibition of Turkish politicians visiting Germany. They are not taking forward the fight against Erdogan and the further strengthening of his power, but they are calling on the German state and the EU to act as an arbitrator, a guardian of “democracy”. A ban on events by the pro-Erdogan campaign could quickly turn out to be a means of banning his opponents and the actions and meetings of left and democratic forces, a political own goal.

The state and the EU are not neutral institutions in this debate, certainly not the “guardians” of democracy. They are pursuing their own economic and geo-strategic interests in Turkey and the Middle East. Therefore, we have to reject not only the demand for travel bans but also those for sanctions against Turkey, which would most likely lead to an intensification of the dispute over a redivision of the Middle East.

Erdogan and the prohibitions

Despite all the displays of indignation by the Turkish government, the prohibition of ACP events actually plays into Erdogan's hands. At the moment, he is interested in a verbal escalation, because then the vote on the constitutional changes, whose real content is dictatorial powers for the president, can be presented as a national referendum on “Turkey”, “Islam” and the racist impositions of the West. The fact that many Turks have fallen for Erdogan's demagogy and “victim posing” is the result of the daily racial oppression experienced by millions of people in Europe and of imperialist exploitation.

Erdogan needs this demagogic aggravation because, despite his control over the media, the war against the Kurdish population, the dismissal of hundreds of thousands, he cannot be certain that he will win the referendum. The nationalist, ultra-reactionary agitation, the invocation of the “Ottoman Empire”, the terrorisation of the opposition by the police and his own gangs make it clear that the vote is about giving plebiscitary legitimacy to a dictatorship masked by parliamentary camouflage.

The AKP is not a fascist party, and the regime is also not fascist, but neither is it a “normal” religious, conservative bourgeois party. It is a right-wing populist party, which serves as an extension of the regime into society, in particular the rural population and the petty bourgeoisie, which organises them for mass mobilisations, and has departments for intimidating the opposition, the left and the workers' movement.

A “yes” in the referendum would undoubtedly represent a further step towards the consolidation of this regime, at the head of which a “strong man”, a “Bonaparte”, who appears to rise above the classes and their “special interests” must stand so that the interests of the Turkish bourgeoisie, above all the factions that are particularly close to him, can be served. In order to secure his rule, "peace" would not return even after a victory, because he would continue his strategy of tension, blaming all problems on an internal or external enemy, the Kurds, the conspiracies of Gülen, against which the “democratically” legitimised president must proceed with all harshness.

A “no” in the referendum would be a blow to these intentions. At the same time, it would exacerbate the political confrontation in Turkey, since it is unlikely that the ACP would accept such a result.

What to do?

The workers' movement and the left should take the following political line:

Firstly, instead of calling for bans on Turkish politicians, we should support the NO campaign of the Kurdish and Turkish left. It is important and correct that this has not merged with the campaigns of the nationalists or reactionaries, but is led independently. This support, however, should not be uncritical of the policy of the Turkish and Kurdish left and the liberation movement. Supporting this campaign, of course, means organising and supporting meetings and demonstrations against the ACP campaign.

Secondly, this activity should be combined with the demand for lifting the ban on the PKK and all other Kurdish and Turkish organisations in Germany and the EU.

Thirdly, we call for the end of the EU-Turkey deal and the opening of the borders for the refugees, their right to work, freedom to choose their place of residence in the EU and full citizenship rights. We also call for the abolition of all entry restrictions for people from Turkey, in particular the introduction of visa-free travel.

Fourthly, we must stand for the ending of arms deliveries to Turkey and the withdrawal of all German troops from that country.

The government and racists do not want the conflict in Turkey to spill over into “our country” and at the same time support the Turkish government, not least by oppressing the opposition to it in Germany. Their prohibitions are directed only superficially against Erdogan, in reality they are imposed twice as harshly against left and democratic forces, which are not supposed to be politically active.

This hypocrisy is alien to us. The fight against dictatorship, for democratic rights and the national self-determination of the Kurdish people, also affects us, the left and the workers' movement in Germany and other countries. We are partisan. We support the struggle of the left and the working class in Turkey. Therefore, our answer to Erdogan, Merkel and Rutte is: Full democratic rights for all migrants and refugees! Support the NO campaign! Build a solidarity movement with the Kurdish movement, the democratic opposition and the workers' movement in Turkey!