The earthquakes in Turkey: A fundamental fracture – “Where is the state?”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Sochi, Russia, September 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE/Vladimir Smirnov/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool)

By the Labour Party (EMEP) — Turkey.

On February 6, two successive earthquakes, of 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude, occurred in the south-eastern city of Kahramanmaras, Turkey, affecting a large area and turning many cities, towns and villages into rubble. In provinces such as Hatay and Adiyaman and districts such as Elbistan, Nurdagi, Islahiye, Samandagi and Defne, almost nothing was left intact. The loss of life has officially passed 50,000, but it is thought to be 4-5 times higher.

The catastrophe, with its magnitude and impact, not only fractured fault lines, but also caused a political fissure with a social basis.

With its devastating results, the disaster affected the whole country, not only because of kinship ties, but also due to the common sympathy emerging from the consciousness of solidarity and a shared concern as the country sits on earthquake zones. Those who were old enough and in good health mobilized to collect and deliver aid, and everybody donated what they could.

The relief effort and people-to-people solidarity crossed borders and spread to all continents. The people of Turkey embraced the relief and rescue teams from all over the world, especially from Greece and Armenia which have been historically presented as “enemies,” with feelings of friendship and fraternity. On behalf of our working class and our people, we convey our gratitude to the working class and peoples of the world and progressive, revolutionary organizations, especially our sister organizations, for their support.

While the people from all over Turkey and the world rushed to the aid of the earthquake victims, it was hoped that the state would also come to their aid, but it did not. After the earthquake, the state institutions did not show up and left them alone with the destruction, so the earthquake-stricken people themselves ran to the rubble with their bare hands, with cries of help coming from all sides, hoping to rescue their desperate relatives, neighbors and strangers. From the morning of February 6 onward, volunteers from all over the country tried to reach the region for help. Central Anatolia, like most of the earthquake region, was under snow and people were stranded on the roads. From the second day onward, those who could reach the region, in their increasing numbers and organization, took over the rescue work and the sheltering and feeding of the survivors.

The social and political fracture began at this point. However, the formation of the conditions for that has been going on long before.

Before the earthquake: The state, what it did and did not do, and the people

It is impossible to avoid an earthquake but the statements of scientists and the ongoing debates since the 1999 Marmara Earthquake have taught everyone that the damage and loss of life can be prevented, or minimized at least.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was apparently aware of this, and two and a half months before the earthquake, at a drill he said, “It is in our hands to prevent loss of life and property in earthquakes,” and continued:

Thanks to the preparations we have made in the light of the lessons we have learnt from the painful experiences of the past, we no longer hear the cries of our citizens in any disaster asking ‘Where is the state?’

However, after the recent earthquakes everyone asked precisely that question, as nothing has been done to minimize the loss of life and damage to property, always taking refuge in the religious belief that “earthquake is fate, we cannot escape from it” or “God takes the life He gives.” Yet, it is obvious that it has nothing to do with faith and piety; the state must take precautions. It is no coincidence that Japan escapes more severe earthquakes with no harm, and the only explanation for the loss of tens of thousands of lives in Turkey is the failure of the state to do its part.

It is common knowledge in Turkey that when cities, houses and workplaces are built, the danger of earthquakes is overlooked. The director of the Istanbul Observatory said after the earthquake that “the decision makers were not to blame.” Yet it is not the individuals who build their own houses who are to blame, as implied by this director, but the construction companies and contractors, the municipalities and the state with its central power.

Construction is mostly done by monopolized construction companies and contractors. As construction amnesties are frequently issued, it is possible to start construction even without a permit. Areas that are not suitable for construction can also be opened to development by “paying the price.” For this reason, one building after another was erected on undeveloped areas such as the seaside, stream beds, swampy areas, etc. Construction companies and contractors do not want to employ civil engineers or geological engineers to cut costs; instead they resort to using the signatures from their diplomas to make everything look official. They bypass the municipality’s inspection with bribes, and obtain occupancy permits in the same way. Regardless of which party is in power, municipalities and development departments – with some exceptions – are happy with this arrangement and this is how “business” is done. These methods are used not only by private construction companies and contractors, but also by the public institution, TOKİ, which was set up to build social housing.

Moreover, those who have seen the rubble, especially the earthquake victims, do not believe that the construction was done properly or the foundations were laid strongly, with buildings lying on their sides or collapsed as they are, with walls torn like paper. The ruins reveal that proper iron and concrete mix was not used.

When the state fails to prevent the wrongdoing and becomes part of it, the authorities’ “defense” for what had happened as “fate” and blaming “fate” instead of taking precautions no longer fools anyone.

There were times when this worked in the past. Deaths in the mines were called “fate”… So were the forest fires that could not be extinguished because of lack of equipment as well as the high-speed train “accidents” when the tracks were not maintained and signalling was not completed… The “saturation point” was reached with the loss of life in the pandemic, floods and earthquakes. Especially the earthquake victims who lost their relatives cannot be consoled or convinced anymore by blaming “fate” as they see properly constructed buildings remained intact in the earthquake while others turned into rubble.

Here, the state is not only directly involved in the crime but it is also the conductor of the orchestra of the people who were involved in the wrongdoing.

Greedy, corrupt construction companies and contractors and corrupt municipalities, regardless of the party in power, who grant construction licenses for unsuitable ground and give occupancy permits without inspection are all to blame. And it was not possible this time for the state to get away with blaming a few contractors.

Starting in 1984, construction amnesties were granted 9 times, most of them during the Erdoğan-AKP (Justice and Development Party) governments, and unauthorized and unsupervised buildings were deemed “habitable” by granting licenses. The amnesties were not issued by the contractors or municipalities, but by the state, with official announcements and the signatures of the Council of Ministers and the President. That is, the state has blatantly led the people to live in buildings that would become their graves. The total number of buildings that had been given the “green light” with amnesties but collapsed in the earthquake is 294,000. The people, especially the earthquake victims, are not fools; they know that these amnesties were issued for money (as there is a down-payment for the license) and votes.

Moreover, some risky areas have been declared risk-free by the state. For example, in Iskenderun, in February 2022, one year before the earthquake, some areas were taken off the list of “risk areas” by a presidential decree. There was no explanation as to why, but the areas that were declared “risk-free” are now categorized as “rubble” with hundreds of people trapped under it. The President has taken many lives with one decree.

There is also the issue of what the state did not do.

An example that proves the state’s role in the disaster is the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Report published by the Hatay Governorate in 2021. The report stated that in the event of a 7.5-magnitude earthquake in the region from Maras to Hatay, many buildings built on soft grounds would collapse, and that state institutions were not ready for this disaster scenario. Due to the precautions not taken until February 6, the earthquake has been screaming “I am coming to get you” for a long time.

Another example is the report released by AFAD, Disaster and Emergency Management, two months ago. The organization had predicted “a scenario of two consecutive earthquakes” in Maras. Scientists have also been warning about the stress accumulated in the region, and predicting an earthquake. However, the state did not take the slightest precaution in the region. On the contrary, we later learnt that the budget of AFAD, which was supposedly established to combat disasters, was reduced from 12.1 billion TL in 2022 to 8 billion in 2023. It is unclear where this money was spent, apart from the salaries, travel allowances and subsistence payments of AFAD executives.

After the 1999 earthquake, an earthquake tax was imposed and the AKP government made this tax permanent. To date, 37 billion dollars have been collected but no “preparations” have been financed with the “earthquake tax” although Erdoğan talked about them 2.5 months ago. The public knows that. Moreover, in 2011 Mehmet Simsek, Erdoğan’s former finance minister, had confessed saying, “The money collected as earthquake tax goes to the health service, roads, railways, airlines, farmers and education.

After the earthquake, the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization announced that there were more than 50,000 buildings with severe damage that needed to be demolished immediately, in addition to tens of thousands of buildings that had turned into rubble. The state has not lifted a finger to renovate or reinforce these buildings, which are now clearly not earthquake-resistant. Yet with only a fraction of the money collected through the earthquake tax, it would have been possible to completely renovate the damaged buildings. With 37 billion dollars, all damaged or unstable buildings not only in the earthquake zone but all over Turkey could have been renovated and 300,000 earthquake resistant buildings could have been constructed. Even if they could not calculate the details, everyone knows that the state could have done this but it has not. People also see that palaces were built with dual roads, thousands of executive cars and dozens of airplanes were bought, but their houses had not been reinforced.

The state did not take precautions and was not organized against possible earthquakes. After the 1999 earthquake, some regions and roads were declared as “Earthquake Recovery Zones” where no buildings could be built, but all of them were sacrificed later to profit and greed. In the rescue and relief operations organized in the provinces hit by the earthquake, it was seen that the places marked as “Earthquake Assembly Points” were not big enough for the earthquake victims. As a result of the greed for rent and profit, it is now almost impossible to find green areas in cities. Moreover, there are no tents, logistics or the required equipment in the designated areas. While most of the victims trapped under the rubble died from hypothermia, those who survived the quake were also left exposed to the freezing cold at minus 8-10 degrees at night.

The cry of earthquake victims: ‘Where is the state?’

The earthquake was a disaster for AFAD, Disaster and Emergency Management, as an institution. The AKP, on ideological grounds, disbanded the old rescue organization and replaced it with AFAD and, as with other state institutions, filled it with people close to them, who were not even remotely involved in earthquake preparedness and rescue work. People in general and especially the earthquake victims have experienced the uselessness of AFAD, the lack of coordination and organization skills and poor capacity to produce solutions. AFAD was not present in the earthquake zone for the first three days.

The problem is not, as the bourgeois opposition argues, just the incompetence of AFAD and its lack of initiative, waiting for orders from the “one man;” the state’s indifference, inadequacy, unpreparedness, lack of coordination and organization, and inability or incompetence in the face of earthquakes do not only stem from lack of skills and the one-man mentality.

The main reason behind these problems is class-based: accumulated state revenues, including the earthquake tax and the unemployment fund, have been put at the service of capital, especially monopoly capital. The problems and demands of monopoly capital, not the people, have always been at the center of the state’s attention. The state, with all its resources, has directed all its material and moral endeavors towards the growth of the monopolies, and the people’s problems have always been ignored with reckless indifference. The state is not simply insensitive to issues such as workplace safety, forest fires, pandemics or earthquakes, where the people are the direct victims; it is a bourgeois dictatorship organized to safeguard the continuation of the conditions of exploitation and to meet the needs of capital from the very beginning. For this reason, it was unprepared and did not stand by the people or rush to their aid.

The AKP government and the state did not trust the people and their initiatives, fearing that popular initiatives and solidarity could potentially lead to a political rift; thus, it tried to prevent them. People died under the rubble because the heavy equipment operators who rushed to help could not find the machinery needed. This equipment could have been taken out of Organized Industrial Zones, integrated plants, factories and ports and put into the service of the people, but they were not. Planes and ships that should have been directed to the earthquake area were kept waiting in fleets. So were the military units, because no orders were given.

The roads blocked by snow could not be opened in two days, delaying the aid to the region. Those who rushed to help were stranded on the roads. The transportation problem went on much longer in the earthquake zone, and some inner-city side roads were still closed on the tenth day. Hatay Airport was also inoperable due to the destruction of the runways. Yet scientists and professional organizations had objected earlier to the location of the airport on the grounds that the land was unsuitable in case of possible disasters. Search and rescue teams and relief supplies could not be transported by air. “Golden hours” after the earthquake were wasted due to these problems.

The problem of roads and transport, which is the responsibility of the state, was the beginning of the political rift. Since the privatization of road construction, roads became unusable after a short while due to incompetence and theft of materials in pursuit of profit, while the State Highways Administration has been downsized to the point where it could no longer keep up with the work. AFAD, Disaster and Emergency Management, on the other hand, was not prepared to intervene in times of disaster!

Thus, the earthquake zone could only be reached at the end of the second day. For the first three days, and in some places on the 4th and 5th days, there was still no trace of AFAD, and only volunteers and voluntary aid organizations were present in the whole region. It was they who tried to respond to the earthquake victims’ cry for help and especially for heavy machinery. In almost all collapsed buildings, these cries could be heard from under the rubble, tearing the hearts of those who did hear them, but the volunteers could not intervene and were overwhelmed for the lack of machinery to lift large concrete blocks. So the “golden hours,” the first three days, were spent without AFAD and tens of thousands of people could not be rescued. This was witnessed by all the people of the region and the cry of “where is the state?” was uttered by everyone.

In the areas that AFAD was able to reach after the first three days, it was another disaster of disorganization and lack of coordination. Yet no other state institution undertook this task either: the state had not made the slightest preparation, did not coordinate and organize earthquake response and rescue work with any of its institutions.

Even on the 10th day of the earthquake, there was still no phone reception in many parts of the region, and the state also blocked social media by narrowing the bandwidth in order to prevent criticism on social media. This happened at a time when communication was of vital importance for the coordination and rescue efforts. There was an outcry against the telecom companies with high subscription payments. As the state did not supervise these companies and make it compulsory to ensure communication, it also received its share of the reactions. Even worse was that these companies sent invoices on the second day of the earthquake despite the lack of reception.

AFAD, in addition to not engaging properly in relief and rescue activities itself, tried to take control of the ongoing effort by preventing the work of volunteers, blocking roads and confiscating aid supplies sent by cars and trucks. It created obstacles for the volunteer rescue teams rushing to the region from other parts of the country and abroad. Some international rescue teams which were told that they did not have “permission” had to go back. With this attitude, AFAD did not support the earthquake victims but hindered the existing rescue efforts.

The “sole authority” and centralization of decision-making, organization and work was considered to be a task of the state; thus, starting with the President at the top, AFAD and other state institutions insisted on AFAD being at the helm, with no toleration of voluntary organizations or the municipalities under the management of the opposition. The relief work of revolutionary parties and organizations was not only obstructed but was also subjected to police persecution. Efforts to provide temporary shelter and tents were blocked, with AFAD declaring that no other organization could deliver tents to those in need and that it alone would provide and distribute tents. Weeks after the earthquake, there are still tens of thousands of earthquake victims who do not even have a tent for shelter.

Not only the opposition-led institutions, but also the institutions and facilities that the state could easily mobilize and involve in rescue work, such as miners, were not mobilized. Yet the miners from Soma, Uşak and Zonguldak reached the disaster zone by their own means and saved many lives, and many more could have been saved if the miners had not been kept waiting at the airports for a long time due to permission problems or lack of coordination.

The disempowered and corporatized Red Crescent, which used to stock tents and tried to deliver aid to the disaster area quickly, was caught red-handed selling tents to voluntary organizations and donating clothing and foodstuffs to export companies.

The army, which was heavily involved in the rescue operation after the Marmara earthquake in 1999, and was known to be skilled, trained, prepared and organized, this time was not dispatched for the first few days. During the so-called “fight against the coup plotters” following the 2016 coup attempt, its organization for disaster response and rescue operations was disbanded. Nevertheless, with its training and organizational skills, it could have saved many lives, but it was not mobilized.

The Defense Minister responded to criticism with the following questions: “Who will guard the border, who will stay in Syria? Are we going to evacuate Syria or Iraq?” This was a confession of how the AKP’s Neo-Ottomanist proactive foreign policy approach left the people defenseless in the face of disasters. This recklessness has also led to questioning why the multiplying resources allocated to armaments are not used for the fight against disasters. The importance of a policy of peace towards neighbors was proved once again but at the cost of thousands of lives. And the reaction of the people of the region and across Turkey to the fact that the military was not there for them in time of need was an important factor deepening the crack that appeared with the question “Where is the state?

The military was kept out of the rescue operations, but on the second day of the earthquake, a state of emergency was declared in 10 cities in the earthquake zone, with effects felt throughout the country. The state, which was invisible in the region especially in the first three days of the earthquake, said “here I am” with the state of emergency, followed by its usual prohibitions, police violence and tyranny. Detentions and arrests of people labelled as “looters” began. One of the accused was a woman over 70 years old. Another was Ahmet Guresci, who was detained by the gendarmerie in Hatay’s Buyukburc neighborhood and tortured to death at the police station because he objected to the detention of his brother, who was accused of “looting.” It was claimed that he killed himself by “banging his head against the wall.”

Erdoğan’s coalition partner, the fascist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli, did not set foot in the earthquake zone for 15 days but he declared those who asked the question “Where is the state?” as “dishonorable” and “traitors.” However, it was the people of the region who asked that question, who mostly supported the AKP-MHP partnership in the 2018 elections. They tried to overcome the problem by provoking racism and targeting “Syrians,” blaming them for the looting. Thus, they tried to deflect the people’s anger against the state by fueling the division between the Turkish people and the Syrian refugees. Yet, the earthquake also hit Syria and the Syrian refugees in Turkey were among the earthquake victims trapped under the rubble.

Those who lived in the earthquake region saw that the state, with its military and police, had come to the region not for search and rescue operations, but to “restore order” with its powers, strengthened by the State of Emergency, to shoot, arrest, and most of all silence and suppress the earthquake victims who cried out “Where is the state?

From the 4th and 5th day onward, when it was able to organize itself, another element of the state’s negative presence and image in the region had become clear: its effort to “exonerate” itself. On the 11th night after the earthquake, Orhan Tatar, AFAD’s General Director for Earthquake and Risk Reduction, said the following on a TV broadcast, which enraged those watching the rescue operations on TV, especially the earthquake victims: “There is no such thing as being late. Whatever the response to a disaster should be, this was done from the first moment. Within 5 minutes, all institutions of the state were present here.” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stated the same thing, saying, “The Armed Forces were there from the first minutes.” However, everyone knows that these claims are blatant lies. So much so that when collecting aid abroad for the earthquake victims, many Turkish people and people from other nations asked where the aid was going to and donated only when they learnt that “it would not be sent to the state institutions such as AFAD.”

The same man, Tatar, again on TV on the 10th day of the earthquake, shamelessly said, “There is no more rubble that contain live victims underneath. The removal of the dead and the debris has started.” Ongoing search and rescue operations soon proved him wrong and many more people were rescued, even on the 13th day. In many places, the people waiting by the rubble where their relatives were still underneath were preventing the “clean-up” operations with construction machinery.

AFAD embarked on the “clean-up” work regardless of whether there were any survivors underneath or not. Even the rubble removal was contracted out to companies favored by Erdoğan, and tens of thousands of people, dead or alive, were left at the mercy of the diggers.

Another negative action of the state was to launch a terrible donation campaign for the earthquake victims. The campaign was organized in a joint broadcast of TV channels and donors participated by phone and pompously advertised themselves and their companies with promises of donations. In contrast was the extraordinary sensitivity of the children who donated their pocket money or the content of their piggy banks, and the working people who made small donations by cutting down on their food, which was an exemplary people-to-people solidarity. However, the campaign organized by the state was a show of banks, monopolies and favored construction companies.

The big donors were state institutions and especially publicly-owned banks. For example, the Central Bank donated 30 billion Turkish Lira (TL) and its president shamelessly announced that this money would be deducted from the profit balance sheet for 2022.

As a state institution, the Central Bank was already transferring its profits to the Treasury. Now the money was going to the Treasury again, but this time it was called a “donation.” Other publicly-owned banks such as Ziraat, Halk, Vakiflar also “donated” billions of dollars to the campaign. Their status was similar to that of the Central Bank. Moreover, Article 54 of the Banking Law stipulates that “the amount of donations that can be made by banks in a financial year cannot exceed 4 per thousand of the bank’s equity” and sets a limit. However, the so-called donations of these banks were far above this limit, and this was remedied by a decree of Erdoğan changing the provision of the law.

Another abomination was that one day after M. Cengiz, one of the monopolist crony contractors known as the “Gang of 5,” made a “donation” of 3 billion TL, he received an even larger amount in “incentives” for the investment to be made by one of his companies, Eti Aluminium, by presidential decree dated February 16. The incentives included a 100% tax reduction and a payment of 50% of the electricity costs for 10 years. In addition to all this, it is common knowledge that Cengiz’s tax debt of 300 million dollars from 2005-2009 had been cancelled and that he had received 19.7 billion TL worth of state tenders in the last 11 years.

Yet the earthquake victims who are trying to survive under extraordinarily difficult conditions and the people in general who are condemned to semi-starvation could not even imagine how those people and companies donating billions were able to make such huge amounts of money. And this “donation show” fueled their anger. They were devastated once again, seeing the enormous gap between themselves and those who ostentatiously donated billions. With the obvious answer to the question of how all this money was made and on whose backs, the comparison between the fortified houses of those that could withstand the strongest earthquakes and their own houses, which turned into the graves of their family members, hit their hearts.

The monopolies that put on a donation show on the TV channels were given tax relief. The “Short-Time Working Allowance” which came to the aid of the bosses during the pandemic is being implemented again after the earthquake. The ban on dismissal of workers in the earthquake region is bypassed by the Short-Time Work Allowance. Workers who participated in the rubble removal are threatened with dismissal or wage cuts on the grounds that they had exceeded three days absence. Representatives of the bosses’ organizations even told employers in other regions not to employ workers from the earthquake zone. Loss of labor was intolerable to them and the workers were not more valuable than machines!

Political fracture must not fall victim to spontaneity

There is no doubt that the recent earthquakes have caused a political fracture, especially for the people of the earthquake-stricken region, but also for the entire population. The state has been exposed and in the perception of the people it has also been buried under the rubble. Although this state of things still needs to be studied further, one can say that regardless of their ideological inclination people have seen and recognized the state in its clarity, with all that it has and has not done, and the question “Where is the state?” has become the decisive question of the post-earthquake period.

The state-glorifying consciousness or the average perception of the people, which the rulers feed with nationalism and pump the rhetoric of “the father state,” “our state,” constantly in the mosques, barracks, schools and the media, has been etched into their subconscious, but it has been shaken by the absence of the state and the loss of lives caused by this. The state left the people on their own and all alone in the face of grave destruction. The earthquake victims witnessed their loved ones’ cries for help from under the rubble gradually fading away, and while they could do nothing, they put the state which did not extend a helping hand to the test. The people cursed the capitalist order, which allows everything to be bought and sold with money, the order that gave way to the houses that have become graves for their families, with unsupervised contractors, construction permits and amnesties for irregularities. They also cursed the state, which was not present in time of need, before and after the earthquake. Moreover, the state was put to the test not only with its absence but also with its presence, when it first came to the region in the form of a state of emergency and appeared to attack the people of the region on the grounds of looting. The AFAD hindered the aid and rescue efforts of volunteer individuals and organizations, including our party, but also even a month later, it did not provide earthquake victims with the most basic necessities such as temporary shelters, toilets, etc.

The working people, who were brutally abandoned to “herd immunity” during the pandemic, were pushed into the arms of hunger, poverty and death after the earthquake.

The fracture was first seen in emotions: it was not just lamentation but included political connotations linked with those responsible for the deaths in the earthquakes. It was not abstract but concrete – especially in perception; everything is concrete and is shaped by the concrete. This was also the case with the rupture and it was only natural that the fissure had primarily to do with the team currently running the state. So the initial reactions focused on a reckless Erdoğan/AKP government, with no interest in the people and their problems, which paved the way for the massive destruction by fueling greed for profit. It always sided with capital, and transformed the state into a one-man regime, with incompetent institutions as a result of cronyism. In the eyes of the people the Erdoğan government was clearly responsible for what had happened, and the bourgeois opposition with its municipalities went to the earthquake zone and extended a helping hand to the people.

However, the reactions did not only target the Erdoğan/AKP government; the fracture had an impact beyond that. For example, the fact that the army did not help the earthquake victims, even though the government blocked its path to doing so by changing the law, was considered a minus point for the state. Moreover, contractor companies were left unregulated not only by the AKP municipalities but by all. It was not just the AKP issuing construction permits or just the AKP deputies voting for construction amnesties in parliament. Also, through their day-to-day relations with a central or local governing body, everybody is aware of the unequal relation between the rulers and the ruled, and how they are ignored. People have come to this conclusion through their own experiences, though it is still “raw” and needs to be processed.

However, just as one cannot imagine any spontaneous development, it is possible that emotions and attitudes may calm as the heat of the devastating earthquake is absorbed. When everyone is left to its own devices, one can expect a certain cooling down and a quiet enduring.

Moreover, the state and its ardent defenders will not be idle. Some of them, like Erdoğan and Bahceli, will try to heal the wounds of the state, not of the people, by military and police power, threats, bans and fear, while others will try to heal those wounds under the guise of benevolence.

The government is trying to block all opposition from politics and criticism by trying to make the earthquake disaster “above politics.” Shouting the slogan “the Government should resign,” one of the most democratic rights, was subjected to investigations for terrorism. The protests organized by tens of thousands of fans in the stadiums during the football matches of the most popular teams were used as justification for mass detentions. Press statements were banned in cities including Istanbul, blockades and police detentions became routine. While this was happening, Omer Celik, the AKP spokesperson, shamelessly said, “We are on ground zero as the Cumhur (People) Alliance. Both the AK Party headquarters and the MHP headquarters sent deputies to the concerned regions.”

The government and its supporters initially tried to respond to the reactions by focusing on those who were rescued alive from the rubble; when this was not enough they added the rhetoric of “fate” and tried to whitewash themselves with the propaganda that the country had faced the “Disaster of the Century” and a massive devastation; thus the inadequacies in the official rescue and relief work. Considering what the people have been going through, it is very hard for these efforts to succeed but the appeasement trials will not be completely ineffective. As part of this, some religious sects have been using AFAD tents in certain regions with their own logos, to distribute food and make propaganda.

The bourgeois opposition rushed to help the earthquake victims but the state’s ranking is at the top of their list, too. They do not want to see the state harmed in any way; they try to limit the blame to the ruling AKP, and justify the state by pointing to this bad team as the source of all evil. They try to get away with it by blaming the “incompetence” of AFAD, the failure of the military to participate in rescue operations, and the issuing of the construction permits and amnesties on the AKP and Erdoğan, as if they did not support it themselves.

Moreover, we did not face earthquakes only under the AFAD or the one-man regime of the religious AKP. In 1999 and before, we experienced the Erzincan, Varto, Bingöl, Adana earthquakes. This country was not ready for any of them. It is true that the AKP has “raised the bar” with its religiousness and one-man regime, but in the capitalist order, the people and their problems have never been taken care of; all workers’ deaths, massacres in the shape of mining accidents, forest fires and earthquakes have always come unprepared. In every period which created incompetence, there has been insensitivity and a hostile attitude of excluding and ignoring towards the people and their problems. An example of this same attitude is the so-called “Consensus Text on Common Policies,” the program of the bourgeois opposition, which is based on meeting the demands of capital, but not of the people, especially the workers. The defense of the state propaganda, which asserts that there is nothing wrong with the state or its order, that the blame lies solely with Erdoğan and the one-man mentality that has ruled the state for some time – even if it is true that the recklessness of those who hold the reins of power today has multiplied the destructive consequences of the earthquake – is surely expected to have a certain calming effect.

All major and effective social, natural, political and military upheavals create the ground for political fractures. Great crises and wars are like this. The world wars, for example, caused serious upheavals with serious consequences. In addition to the bloodshed on the fronts, it is known that the destruction, hunger and devastation caused by wars lead to revolutions. However, in order to make use of the fracture created or will be created by the crisis or war, one needs the presence of those who are ready to take the walk and wage an effective struggle. The earthquake caused a political rupture. Even if it is still open to interpretation and distortion, the assumption that the state is not “our father” or “our state” has been widely perceived by the public. But there is a great need for the organization of the struggle and for those who can systematize it and use it to pave the way for the people and their power.

The fact that the people have taken a significant step in this direction by trying to heal their own wounds with rescue and relief work and that there has been a great show of people-to-people solidarity shows that a step has been taken. However, it will not be enough if this remains the only step. It is not easy, but what needs to be done is to continue walking on this path, to work for the lesson “this state is useless for anything positive,” which has left its mark on the hearts of the people, to become permanent and to work for it to become conscious and organized.

Categories: International, Turkey

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