The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

More than 300 Deaths in the Soma Mine—Not an Accident, but a Crime

May 26, 2014

This was translated from an article appearing in the May 23rd, 2014 edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

According to the official figures, 301 workers died in the mining accident in the Soma coal mines in Turkey on May 14th. Four days after the initial explosion, Alp Gürkan, owner of the conglomerate that rents the mine from the government in exchange for regular royalty payments, held a press conference with three managers.

At the conference, they said: “We still do not know how the accident happened. There is no negligence of ours in this incident.” The bosses, for whom workers are no more than simple tools of production, have the nerve to say: they know nothing, only that they are not to blame.

These workers died as a direct result of the conditions under which they make profits for the bosses. The miners had issued many clear warnings in the days before the accident. There was every indication that the managers pushed beyond the limits of safety. Instead of taking the necessary precautions, these bosses forced the workers to continue production. They even introduced new methods of work organization under the pretext that production was not fast enough. While the amount of coal dust continued to grow, the operators injected ever greater amounts of oxygen into the mine. All that was needed to set it off was a spark, which inevitably happened, causing the catastrophic loss of life.

In the earliest days after the explosion, the politicians and the supposed experts all declared that the mine was among the best, most modern, and safest, though since then, they have changed their story somewhat to add that this was not the case for some of the smaller subcontractors involved. The shameless bosses even showed the media the pitiful changing rooms they offer to the workers, daring to declare that they resemble “luxury hotels.”

The miners’ friends and loved ones waited for days at the entrance to the mine or at the hospital doors. The surviving miners showed their anger in protests. The government’s only response was repression—police fired on them with water cannons, and arrested some. However, Alp Gürkan continues to walk around as freely as before, as if nothing had ever happened! (Meanwhile three of his managers were detained.)

Of course—he’s the boss, a boss who, at the same time that the workers were dying in the mines, met with the government ministers who saw no problem in clearing him of all responsibility. He knows that the politicians, the laws, and the government with its police and all its officials work for him and others like him. These capitalists have thousands of ties with the highest government figures and with the most important politicians. Gürkan is simply among those who can smile to themselves and say “It’s all mine,” when thinking of workers’ lives and of the wealth accumulated from their sweat.

Even for work as hard and dangerous as mining, these bosses are contemptuous of human life. They only take measures to boost productivity. Two years earlier, these same bosses changed the so-called “Law on Workers’ Health and Safety” to the “Law on Workplace Health and Safety.” The government was giving the bosses a law better corresponding to their wishes, and the government has even bragged a great deal about knowing how to work with the bosses’ representatives. It speaks the truth.

The wealth that 5,000 miners produced under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions can end up in the hands of just one man, and he can use it according to his wishes—that is the logic of this system. If the workers’ voices had been heard, this money could have gone toward assuring their safety and protecting their health. Instead, this boss used it to build a skyscraper in Maslak, a wealthy neighborhood in Istanbul. This skyscraper is so luxurious that the money used to build just one of its floors would have been enough to save the lives of all the miners. This society grants him the right to do exactly that. And this is why what happened in the Soma mine on May 14th was no accident. It was a crime, plain and simple.