ANKARA – Turkish courts have made the decision to prosecute Onur Erem after Erem published an interview with well-known international Trotskyist commentator Tariq Ali after Ali called Erdoğan a “tin-pot dictator”. Future investigation of Ali is possible, but clearly the importance of this case lies not in the legal questions, but in the power struggle within Turkish Trotskyism.
Assessments of the situation from the various sides of this struggle were ready at hand. Erdoğan himself mentioned the case of Tariq Ali at the G-20 meeting in Antalya. In his speech Erdogan suggested that the recent terror in Europe was a result of “capitalism’s greed” and proceeded to denounce Ali as a traitor to permanent revolution. He said: “Look at this person. What does he want? Who does he think he is? Look at the world situation today. Mursi and I were carrying the flag of permanent revolution together, but now Mursi has been brought down by the Stalinist Sisi. Yes, Sisi! Yes, so I am the last one standing, surrounded by enemies.
“I thought Ali was on our side in this. After all, he is a Muslim, and therefore a Turk. We are both Turkish Trotskyists and therefore naturally comrades and brothers. But clearly, his class background as the son of a rich Pakistani family led him to betray our movement.” The chairman of Turkey’s biggest holding by far, Ali Koç, rushed to the assistance of his leader: “Capitalism creates poverty and terror. It has to go. Degenerate bourgeois like Tariq Ali will go down together with capitalism.”
Reactions within Turkey were mixed. Turkish IST affiliate DSİP issued a statement saying: “We understand that Ali is not a supporter of our sister party in the UK, the SWP, which already makes him suspect. However, we did not think he would go as far as denouncing our president as a dictator, which would put him in the same category as Stalin and therefore completely unacceptable. We call on Ali to renounce his statement. If he does, we hope that our president will reconsider his intentions, as the movement for permanent revolution should not be split in such dire times.“
A protest note came from the HDK in a joint statement: “Seriously? We say things much worse on a daily basis, providing a much deeper understanding of the AKP regime. Why give such importance to Tariq Ali? By this standard, thousands, if not millions of members of the various organisations which make up the HDK should’ve been arrested in the past few months.”
A short message to Ali was sent from the KCK in the Qandil Mountains: “Heval Tariq, please ignore all the slander and attacks. We wouldn’t have gotten anywhere if we had listened to the naysaying of our enemies. We see that you are serious, so we invite you to join our ranks to take up the armed struggle. We leave it up to you whether you would prefer to fight against ISIS or the Turkish state.”
One of the first international reactions came from Alexis Tsipras, a columnist for a pro-AKP newspaper who splits his free time between his hobbies of being Prime Minister of Greece and being the chief critic of the Prime Minister of Greece: “I really think this is not the time for this. As I recently wrote in one of my columns, we have to cooperate on the central issues of our time. I would be willing to mediate between the two camps. I recommend as a compromise that Erdoğan will condemn his own policies, while Tariq Ali will come to Turkey and encourage Turkish citizens to vote for the AKP.”