Turkish socialist: 'Join the fight for the working class'


Turan Ertekin, an activist in the Turkish community and Socialist Alliance member, came to Australia in 1980.

"The [Turkish] military government destroyed all political parties and communist organisations and closed down a lot of the unions. Many of our comrades were arrested by the military coup", Ertekin told Green Left Weekly.

"[After the coup] I decided to leave Turkey to survive and continue the struggle. As Marx said, 'the working class doesn't have any country because the working class is international'", he said.

Ertekin is continuing the fight for socialism by standing as one of three Socialist Alliance candidates in the Moreland local council elections in Melbourne on November 29.

Ertekin started working at the Ford Broadmeadows vehicle plant shortly after arriving in Melbourne. "Socialists should work with the working class on the shop floor. It's no good just going outside and talking about socialism without doing anything practical to help working people", he explained.

In 1981, Ertekin joined the historic Ford Broadmeadows strike. The workers were on the picket line for three months. "We didn't win much of a wage increase but the workers learned a lot of things. They understood that they have power when they stick together to fight against the enemy. That's a very good lesson."

Shortly after arriving in Australia, Ertekin joined the Union of Australian and Turkish Workers (UATW). It had two aims: to carry out solidarity work with the Turkish working class and to be a bridge into the Australian working class.

Ertekin explained the second aim: "There are many ethnic groups in Australia, but most of them are only thinking about their ethnic issue. These organisations should also have a connection to the working class, because if you don't … join the fight for the working class in Australia, you will never sort out the ethnic issue, and you will never sort out the workers' problems."

The UATW amalgamated with Victorian Labour Association to form the Anatolian Cultural Centre, which is supporting the Socialist Alliance's election campaign.

Ertekin said, "we should organise and unite together, no matter which background people are from".

"If people don't do anything and don't organise, they don't get anything", he continued. "That's why we need a socialist organisation in Australia. The only alternative to the capitalist system is the socialist system.

"That's why the Socialist Alliance is very close to me. [It] tries to defend and organise working-class people. Socialist Alliance has opened the door for all different people."

"I am happy to stand for the Socialist Alliance", said Ertekin, "because we will be putting forward a socialist alternative. That's important because many people think that there are only two parties — Liberal and Labor.

"I am opposed to both parties because Labor and Liberal are politically not much different. Both parties defend the capitalist system. I believe that the Socialist Alliance is the only alternative … because it is only the Socialist Alliance that defends the working-class issues and defends the community and fights for that."

Ertekin said that climate change has been an issue in Australia for many years, "but the Liberal and Labor parties never put forward the sorts of projects that could sort [it] out. They ignore it. There is the money to fix climate change.

"Liberal or Labor both send the troops overseas to Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor. How many billions of dollars do they spend on war instead of spending $1 billion to stop climate change?", he asked.

"We have to use the elections to get people thinking. We need to explain to people how the system works and that the major parties can't fix the problems. We need leadership and a party. We want people to join the Socialist Alliance", Ertekin said.

"The financial crisis is all over the world now. The Australian government says that we won't be affected by the crisis … but Australia is already affected. Many companies like Ford have announced that they want to reduce the [amount of] workers. Why do they always start by cutting workers and never cutting the other side?

"The budget surplus is our money. It should be spent on infrastructure, climate change, health, education. But the government will spend very little of it on these things and give it to the banks instead."