Turkey: Interview with Fatih Mehmet Macoglu “The people have the right to govern”

Dersim is a district in the Kurdish East of Turkey. Fatih Mehmet Macoglu is mayor of the sub-district of Dersim, Ovacik, and candidate for mayor of Dersim in the next elections on March 31. The policies he has implemented, like free transportation, neighborhood assemblies and agrarian cooperatives, have made him well known national and internationally as the “communist mayor”.

The election is in dispute between Macoglu´s candidature -supported by his Federation of Socialist Assemblies (SMF), of Maoist tendencies, the Turkish Communist Party (TKP), and other left groups- and the Democratic Party of the People (HDP), led by Kurdish nationalism. While most Kurds are Sunni and most Alevis are Turkish, in Dersim, the majority of the population is Kurdish Alevi, and have a long history of resistance against the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. Macoglu has broadened his base of support by cutting across ethnic, cultural and religious identity divisions with a class oriented proposal based on the necessities of workers and the poor.

The Anticapitalist Network joined a delegation of the Socialist Workers Party (SEP) of Turkey, which traveled to Dersim to critically support Macoglu´s campaign. We interviewed the candidate, whose words we share below.

How do you evaluate your mandate in Ovacık? What have you achieved and what challenges are left?

We didn’t just achieve something very extraordinary. I mean, we only said that education, health and food should be free and cultural identities should be protected, while imperialist capitalism says the exact oppose. It has been said that they should all be paid and that this is normal. Capitalism oppresses minorities, the peoples; it imposes monolithic opinions on them that should be changed and people should have the right to speak their languages, their cultures. And they say that socialists defending them as rights are utopian. Ovacık showed that another mandate for life is possible. The Ovacık experience proves that the youth, the women, the workers and the peasants can govern. It is not only a matter of agricultural cooperative. The people themselves organized the production processes. They carry out ecological agriculture, protecting nature. We socialists, defend that the peoples, the laborers, should govern themselves through their own organizations. Opposed to the capitalist model, people can take the advantage of their production. We believe that the socialist model should be organized everywhere against capitalist exploitation. The humble project that we have been running in Ovacık aims to achieve this at the local level. Now I am a candidate for the Dersim Municipality. We want to spread this experience, not only Dersim, but to the whole country. What we have been doing here is supported by the people. But the capitalists and the government is uncomfortable with this. Thus, they try to manipulate the election campaign in Dersim. They are uncomfortable because they know that people in Dersim are leftist and they have the power to win. The poor, the women, will show that a world in which everybody is equal is possible. We are fighting for this. We believe that our experience here inspires hope in the whole country, which is under a one-man dictatorship.

What do you propose for Dersim? What do you think you can achieve if you win?

Dersim is only a small province in Turkey, which is only a part of the world. We should analyze the concrete situation of our region, and act according to the needs, economic structure and demands of the province. Ovacık is a project specific to the region; we cannot propose the same for everywhere else. Dersim has capacity for agriculture, husbandry, tourism; Dersim has a different culture, Alevi people live here. The women, the youth and other oppressed sectors of society should be given priority. This is not difficult. The most essential thing for our project are the popular assemblies we organize. A city that is governed by popular assemblies is possible when people demand this. I believe this is the most important thing.

How is the campaign going?

We have great popularity. We must visit more than ten thousand houses. We started organizing house meetings every afternoon with dozens of men and women. They ask questions and raise their demands actively at the meetings. Urban questions, economic problems, and unemployment are discussed. The level of participation in the meetings is increasing day by day.

The electoral race has turned into a race between two parties (HDP and TKP).Twenty days ago, the race had started with four parties. Now, our popularity and political power pushed the others out of the race in reality. I think we will win.

What is your analysis of the political situation in Turkey? What possibilities are there for the socialist left?

Capitalism has failed everywhere. It cannot govern; it is in crisis everywhere. Socialists should unite and take the advantage of the crisis, should gain popularity among the masses. This is an opportunity: it opens the way for the politics that can unite the oppressed, the women, the poor, the youth, and different sectors of the society. The only thing capitalism can do is oppress the people, organize wars, manipulate the political crisis. This is valid everywhere: Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and also Turkey. Turkey is only a part of the world. We want to change the world. We, the people, have the right to govern this district, this province, this country and the world. All the communists, socialists and democrats of the world should cooperate. Our hope is not limited to our local experience. Our hope is for all the peoples of the world.