[Marxism] Gezi at One: Rethinking the Legacy of the Protests

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jun 7 05:50:56 MDT 2014

This is a paradox for the opposition: the central government leaves 
almost no space for political action outside of itself, yet efforts to 
capture the center result in an impoverished and polarized politics. A 
few men in Ankara make decisions in every imaginable public matter, from 
urban zoning and mining licenses to the intensity of police violence and 
the appointment of prosecutors; therefore, the opposition’s efforts to 
build a broad coalition to defeat those few men make sense. However, 
from a tactical point of view, an oppositional politics that is obsessed 
with the AKP and Erdoğan seems doomed to fail. This is not to say that 
the opposition should stop denouncing the violence, corruption, and 
institutional decay under the AKP; the government’s increasing control 
over the judiciary and the media mean that vocal opposition is needed 
more than ever. However, politics should not be only or primarily about 
what Erdoğan and his entourage say or do.

What needs to be done, then? One of the unforeseen consequences of Gezi, 
and perhaps its chief achievement, was that authorities lost their 
agenda-setting power, at least temporarily. The protesters were one step 
ahead of the game because their activism gave birth to new ideas about 
what the city should look like, how public space should be understood, 
and how political agency can be asserted. As the police were outnumbered 
on the streets, so were the politicians—government and opposition 
alike—outwitted in the face of new demands and modes of activism. Even 
as the police forced people out of major squares under threat of lethal 
violence, the activist energy shifted to public forums where local and 
national priorities could be discussed freely. However, the power of 
initiative slowly switched back to government politicians—ironically, as 
a result of graft and police brutality. More death and corruption meant 
more mourning and protest, which meant more polarizing statements by 
Erdoğan and more death, which meant more publicity and agenda-setting 
power for the government, and so on. It is the power of initiative that 
should be reclaimed.


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