ABSTRACT

The TEKEL (Tobacco and Alcohol Monopoly of Turkey) workers’ resistance took place in a period when the repression of social opposition was paving the way to despair. Although the austerity policies that put the burden of the 2007 economic crisis on the working poor had fueled opposition through broad social movements throughout the world, in Turkey such mass-based action was yet to come (Karaağaç and Kaya 2010). The TEKEL workers’ action first emerged in December 2009 as a protest against a law regulating the precarization of public employees—that is, Section C of Article 4 of the Public Employees’ Law, commonly known as 4/C. 1 Then, as part of a more fundamental stand against privatization, it sparked a more comprehensive opposition to neoliberalism. 2 More than 6,000 TEKEL workers occupied downtown Ankara (the capital city) in their self-made nylon tents for 78 days in the winter of 2009–2010, opening a space for hope for certain social groups in Turkey. The national and international support from different grassroots organizations and social opposition groups, extended to the resistance by TEKEL workers, pointed at the will and necessity to shake off despair. The distinctive features of the TEKEL workers’ resistance have been much debated, yet subsequent, seemingly bigger, events in the recent political history of Turkey (such as the Gezi Resistance in the summer of 2013; the powerful emergence of the left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in late 2013; bloody sabotages against HDP and other organized left-wing organizations, starting in July 2015 following HDP’s electoral success in June 2015; and the plotted coup d’état of July 2016, following state of emergency and decree laws) paused the discussions on the significance of the TEKEL resistance. In this chapter, with the intent to revise and reinitiate these discussions, I look at the TEKEL resistance from a long-neglected angle of the theory of the public sphere: the proletarian public sphere.