Ana SayfaInternationalWho is Umut-Sen of Turkey? What does Umut-Sen do?

Who is Umut-Sen [The Union of Hope] of Turkey? What does Umut-Sen do?

Umut-Sen [Umut Sendikası/The Union of Hope] is an entirely independent socialist organization with members and local representatives spread across Turkey and beyond. Established in 2008, Umut-Sen exclusively supports worker-to-worker organizing (worker-led protests and strikes, and independent labor unions). Taking a clear position against bureaucratic, hierarchical, and yellow unionism that explicitly or implicitly sides with companies, Umut-Sen thus acts as a trade union focal point. The support with which Umut-Sen provides workers takes several forms, such as: political and organizing advice; campaigning and social media management; translation; fundraising from individuals for long-term protests and strikes. The organization does not have a legal entity, which helps its members to better protect their independence and networks. In order to remain independent, Umut-Sen does not seek nor accept funding from international donors, or civil society funders. This way, the organization eschews reciprocal relationships that inevitably curb the forms of resistance that are adopted by workers and other oppressed communities.

Umut-Sen members also participate in search and rescue and other relief efforts on the ground after each disaster in Turkey by supporting workers to mobilize their skills. Two recent examples are the life-saving search and rescue work performed by mineworkers who mobilized in collaboration with Umut-Sen members in the aftermaths of the 2020 Aegean Sea earthquake and the February 6, 2023 twin earthquakes.

While supporting workers as they organize against capital, establish their independent unions, and take control of all decision-making processes, Umut-Sen adopts the horizon of revolution, avoiding the non-materialist positions of bureaucratic syndicalism or workerism. Remembering—and reminding the workers—that unions are a means and not an end, Umut-Sen constantly refreshes its historical analysis of the existing conditions to adapt its strategies to the reality of the day.

Umut-Sen aims to encourage and help prepare proletarians of all sectors, ethnic and racial origins, religions, sects, genders, sexual orientations, and levels of education to self-organize and lead themselves to the revolution in due time. Rejecting traditional trade union norms, the organization takes seriously the flexible organizing models that emerge from transformations in the composition of the working class. Umut-Sen draws its praxis from the historical materialist approach and its strength from consistent proximity to the daily experiences of workers. Umut-Sen members—including independently unionized workers in many sectors—work towards legal, political, and intellectual empowerment of the working class and the wageless, informal laborers through its working groups/collectives—currently in the fields of law, social media, ecology, urban studies, propaganda, and publishing.

Umut-Sen acts on the fact the working class has a historically accumulated power to bring a revolution into being. Under the current conditions in Turkey, Umut-Sen’s goal is to build a nationwide focal point for resistance, organizing and solidarity in order to empower workers against the processes of imperialism and the tactics of the nationally and locally entrenched occupying actors. The horizon of revolution is thus not limited to the workplaces—it includes all fields of operation and geographies in which imperialist powers, in collaboration with nation-states, design the present and the future of the people and the planet for further capital accumulation. Therefore, while rejecting liberal identity politics that shift the focus from structures of exploitation and domination to supposedly static identities, Umut-Sen also supports the subjects of struggles against systematic capitalist and imperialist attacks on the environment, access to clean water, food security, health services, and education. This is because, to prepare for a holistic class war, it is crucial for Umut-Sen to shape its strategies, forms of organizing, and forms of communication with the subjects of a struggle, based on an in-depth understanding of the local terrain and local ways of life.

Today, we are confronted with claims of the “end of history” and the disappearance or the irretrievable dispersion of the proletariat, which have been put forward through Western-oriented academic and political debates since the 1980s. The reality, however, shows us that the historical changes in processes of production are not just shifts in modes of production, but include the relocation of heavy and labor-intensive industries to the Global South, Indigenous lands, and countries such as Turkey and Mexico that are at the boundary between ‘North’ and ‘South.’ For instance, the replacement of the manufacturing sector by finance, IT and service sectors in the West is not a mere economic transition, but a reflection of the relatively new geographical division of production and consumption that is adopted by global capital and imperialist powers.

Turkey has been intensely affected and subsequently reshaped by the introduction and consolidation of this geographical division of production and consumption, and of the “global flexible production” model. Many companies in Turkey act and produce as subcontractors of multinational corporations while the peoples of Turkey become increasingly more dependent on imported energy and goods. This has proletarianized the peasantry, lowered wages, accelerated processes of production at the expense of occupational safety and health, and dramatically increased debt bondage as well as the numbers of workplace deaths and cases of disablement.

Umut-Sen thus invites anyone who is committed to building a working class to join the fight. Members work to achieve this goal through supporting worker-to-worker organizing, supporting trade unions, and forming a nationwide focal point for other types of anti-imperialist political organizing. To do so, Umut-Sen embraces a sense of passion, stubbornness and endurance that will outlive its current members.

We will not wait for an abstract, idealized revolution that imagines the ‘worker’ as a static identity, independent from their historical-material conditions. We will continue to encourage the proletarian sectors to prepare themselves for the revolution by walking beside them (not in front of or behind them), offering support in any way we can, learning to organize together, and both failing and winning together case by case, village by village, basin by basin, factory by factory, and office by office. We are building a revolutionary movement based on worker power and on self-built democratic organizations of workers. And we will grow as a mole under the ground, a tiger in the forest, and an eagle in the sky—always aspiring to what seems impossible within capitalism and imperialism.

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