While in Istanbul last week I participated in a march and demonstration by the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP) on Dec. 9 to launch a campaign to link grassroots community organizations to a broader program for social and political change in Turkey. The march of hundreds of ODP members of all ages, some of them families with children, was a peaceful event though the chants were militant. "Let us live like human beings. Take the government's hands off the people," was one. And periodically the marchers shouted, "Revolt!"
When the marchers had assembled in one of the city's many squares, ODP Co-Chair Alper Ta? spoke, explaining the campaign. Ta? talked about the need to end the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and to create a genuinely democratic Turkey. This would be done, he said, through the campaign to build grassroots organizations in local communities throughout the country. The community organizations would take up local issues, and the party would link them to the broader agenda of democracy and socialism. (To understand more about the ODP's motivation in launching its most recent campaign see the concluding declaration of the Charter Congress held in October.)
The crowd took up the campaign slogan: "Let's Demolish AKP Order and Build a New Turkey." The ODP hopes to "demolish" the AKP regime of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an which has been in power for eleven years by building a democratic mass movement for socialism. The Freedom and Solidarity Party (Özgürlük ve Dayani?ma Partisi—ODP) is a mass, socialist party of 100,000 members that places itself in the tradition of Devrimci Yol (Revolutionary Path), an earlier Marxist party that rejected both the Soviet and Chinese Communist models. That party was crushed after the military coup of September 12, 1980. More than 30,000 were jailed and many subjected to torture. ODP publishes a daily newspaper, BirGün with a circulation of 6,000.
The ODP committed to fighting for democracy and socialism, including workers control, full civil liberties, full religious freedom and the total separation of church and state, full equality for Kurds and other ethnic groups, the rights of women and of gays and lesbians. (See the party's World Report for 2012, the Turkish government "has not prioritized human rights reforms since 2005, and freedom of expression and association have both been damaged by the ongoing prosecution and incarceration of journalists, writers, and hundreds of Kurdish political activists." In November, Amnesty International condemned the Turkish authorities for the killing of two civilians.
The ODP pledges to continue the struggle against repression and for democracy in Turkey.