Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Letter to Turkey: “Stay strong my comrade Mehmet”

By Nikos Mottas.

The powerful and destructive earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on Monday brought memories from the 17 August 1999 earthquake (7.6 magnitude earthquake) in Turkey's Kocaeli province, causing approximately 18,000 deaths. 

Two days later, on 19 August, the front page (photo) of the party newspaper of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) “Rizospastis” was reading: “Stay strong my comrade Mehmet”. It was an article written by journalist Pavlos Rizargiotis, emphasizing on the proletarian solidarity expressed by the workers and the people of Greece towards their neighbors. Freely translated, the article, a magnificent sample of internationalist solidarity, was the following:

Stay strong my comrade Mehmet
Here I am, my brother Mehmet. You called me in the dawn, when you felt the trembling of the Earth. Its from the neighbor that someone asks help when something bad happens. I heard you like a dream while sleeping. I woke up. My neighbor is in danger. I was frozen watching you buried in the rubble and fighting to save yourself. I will help you. The sea between us unites us; it doesn't separate us. Nothing separates us. We both know it. 

Be courageous, my arkadaş Mehmet. Wipe your tears. Tighten your heart. Stand up. Hold tight. Find the strength to bury your dead ones and to support the other victims. Try to rebuild your life. Prepare to take revenge on those who locked you in the “hollow buildings”, thus leaving you vulnerable to the vibrations of the angry, destructive earthquake and helpless in times of great need.  

You are a worker, my comrade Mehmet and the worker is strong. He rides out the storm. Turkey expects you to rebuild the ruined homes more firmly, to turn the machines on so that the demolished factors will work again. To produce goods, to create wealth, to ensure a better tomorrow for the Turkish people, to improve the lives of the poor, the weak, the downtrodden, the lives of all people. 

I know you are angry, my friend Mehmet. You are angry with Ecevit who never cared for you and when you were suffering and needed him he didn't show up, asking Allah to help you. I'm also angry with Simitis. He is never seen either when our worker is in danger and asks his help. And don't believe him when he says that he is with you in your suffering. He only “gets along” with Ecevit. It is our duty, our people's benefit, to help each other and live in peace”.

If you change the names of the then leaders of Turkey and Greece, Ecevit and Simitis respectively, with the current ones, Erdogan and Mitsotakis, the article remains extremely timely, underlining the common fate of the people in both sides of the Aegean who have nothing to divide but, on the contrary, share the same sufferings and must fight together against the capitalist exploitative system.

Today, there is the Turkey of a handful of monopolies- modern sultans- which are exploiting the wealth produced by the Turkish people, as well as the Turkey of the poor neighborhoods from Istanbul to Gaziantep, of the labor unions, of the Turkish communists who struggle in very adverse conditions. On the other side of the Aegean, there the Greece of the wealthy large industrialists and shipowners, as well as the Greece of the workers, of the strikers, of the poor strata.

The actual meaning of the Greek-Turkish friendship will never be expressed by any bourgeois political leader. This meaning was expressed, in a unique way, by the great communist poet Nazim Hikmet 71 years ago, in his letter to his "Greek brothers": “The people of Turkey and Greece give a totally different meaning to the Greek-Turkish friendship. For them, the friendship means a common struggle for the freedom of their homeland. For national independence, for the happiness, in order to be able to taste side by side in the fraternal table of friendship, the bread and the olives of their own country.” 

* Nikos Mottas is the Editor-in-Chief of In Defense of Communism