International Notes: Secularism in Turkey takes another hit

August 13, 2020
International Notes: Secularism in Turkey takes another hit


Turkey: Communists blast Erdoğan’s Re-conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque

Turkey’s two largest communist parties have both blasted the decision of the right-wing government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to re-convert the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a functioning mosque. The magnificent building, which dates to 537 A.D., was originally the main Christian cathedral of Constantinople (Istanbul), capital of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. In 1453, after the city was captured by the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Mehmed II, it was converted into a mosque. Then in 1934, the building was secularized and turned into a museum open to all visitors regardless of faith. But at the beginning of July, the conservative Islamist government of Turkey announced that the secularization order had been rescinded again, and Hagia Sophia is a mosque once more.

In reaction, the Turkish Communist Party (TKP) said that “canceling the decision of the cabinet of 1934 also meant negating the progressive values of the bourgeois revolution of 1923 [which established the current republic in the place of the Ottoman monarchy].” The TKP sees the emphasis on religion as a cover for advances by the bourgeoisie against the Turkish working class, especially given the disastrous economic straits in which the workers find themselves due to the pandemic.

Likewise, the Turkish Labor Party, EMEP, which is also a communist party, stressed the same points. It also noted that Erdoğan’s right-wing forces lost the last municipal elections in Istanbul, adding that “Istanbul is always owned by its worker population and will remain so.”


Belgium: Workers’ Party pushes petition to make rich pay costs of the crisis

The Belgian Workers’ Party, one of two communist parties in that country, has initiated a petition drive to impose a “corona tax” on the super wealthy to deal with the health and economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The introduction to the petition says that it’s not the job of the heroes of the coronavirus struggle to pay the costs. “The government wants to make the workers pay” for the costs of the crisis . . . this is unacceptable. Every evening, we applaud the caregiving personnel and the innumerable heroes who make our society work every day. And are those heroes of the coronavirus the ones who should pay for the crisis? Out of the question!”

The petition demands the institution of a wealth tax of 5% of all fortunes in Belgium worth more than 3 million euros.


India: Communists demand government back off on school curriculum changes

The Communist Party of India (CPI) has joined other progressive forces in that country including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), in denouncing the imposition of a new school curriculum by the right-wing government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both communist parties point out that the government violated the law by imposing the new system without going through the process of parliamentary approval.

The CPI statement also denounces the failure to take the federal nature of India’s governing institutions into account, thereby creating an excessive level of centralization. The plan is also dangerous because it focuses everything on satisfying the capitalist market demand for labor. Privatization is encouraged, teaching jobs will not be permanent, and the promise of high-quality education for all citizens will be undermined. The CPI demands that the government back off this unilateral measure and subject its proposals to a proper parliamentary debate.


Brazil: Communist governor riding high in the polls

A public opinion poll taken July 21–25 shows that the communist governor of the important state of Maranhão (population 6.5 million) is overwhelmingly popular among the state’s residents. The poll showed an approval rate of 67% for Governor Flávio Dino of the Communist Party of Brazil, and a disapproval rate of only 29%. The survey was carried out by Extra/TV Difusora, which polled 1,406 people.

The poll also asked which official had done the best job in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Fifty-five percent said Governor Dino had done the best job, and only 20% said that Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s right-wing president, had done so, while another 15% credited their town officials. Dino’s approval rating is in sharp contrast with that of most other major Brazilian politicians lately.

Image: DavideGorla, Creative Commons (BY 2.0).


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