On December 12th, 2018, some of Struggle for a New World’s writers attended a solidarity event in New York City for Max Zirngast. Max Zirngast is an Austrian journalist, political scientist, and socialist who has been studying and organizing in Turkey for several years. While there, he has been heavily involved in participating in and reporting on the struggle of the peoples of Turkey for democracy and human rights. At the event were two speakers from Turkey, as well as a US speaker, all of whom knew Max Zirngast personally from his work on and in Turkey, and from his outreach to socialists in other countries. In their respective talks, a consistent thread emerged: the fact that Max’s cases is not about an individual socialist, but about the much broader trends they represent.
Guney Isikara, a PhD in Economics at the New School, spoke at length about the process of Max Zirngast being taken into custody by anti-terror police and imprisoned in a maximum security prison, without even a shred of evidence implying anything that might reasonably be considered “terrorist activity” being produced.
Instead, this academic and journalist working on Turkish politics was questioned at length on why he owned so many books on Turkish politics. Finally, he was accused of membership in the TKP/KIVILCIM, an organization which a 2012 Turkish court case determined did not even exist. The real reason for his arrest was Max Zirngast’s personal political activism, entirely of a legal and peaceful nature, and his writings of political analysis, written together with Guney Isikara, for Jacobin Magazine.
Isikara emphasized that his Jacobin co-writer’s case was receiving more international solidarity and attention because of Zirngast’s national origins, but that the arbitrariness and clear political motivations behind the imprisonment were the same as with the many other political prisoners in Turkey, from the HDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, to other journalists such as Adil Demirci.
The next two speakers, from the CUNY Graduate Center, Yasemin Yilmaz and Daniel Barry, spoke about the broader historical context in Turkey and the world. Yasemin Yilmaz emphasized that while foreign observers might consider that a crisis in democratic legitimacy had emerged during the post-Gezi crackdowns in Turkey, that the regime of censorship and repression under Erdogan had existed from the first days of his attempts to consolidate power, and indeed had roots stretching back decades through the many coups in Turkish history. Daniel Barry emphasized the importance of international solidarity due to the interconnectedness of the ruling classes and their victims in the capitalist world system. He noted that while an Austrian political prisoner in a Turkish prison might seem a foreign cause to many US readers, that current trends in the US and around the world mean that anyone who takes a similar principled stance against the system could one day soon be a victim of such repression, and the importance of unity and solidarity against this.
Struggle for a New World’s writers were glad to attend this event and learn more about Max Zirngast’s case, and to stand in solidarity with a socialist political prisoner. We demand his immediate release from his imprisonment by the Turkish state, and seek contact and collaboration with others who are inspired by his cause.
We are inspired by solidarity between writers, academics, and journalists, who speak out for truth against the ideological apparatus of the ruling classes. Max Zirngast is a shining example of this revolutionary stance that intellectuals can take, and an internationalist spirit that we were glad to see amplified in New York City, thousands of miles away. Let us all be a voice for Max Zirngast, and expose the bogus charges against him as nothing more than punishment for honest political activity as a journalist and a socialist.
As Max Zirngast stated simply and defiantly in court: “I am a socialist, I defend universal values.” His commitment to the defense of these universal values and his work as a journalist reporting on the realities that the Turkish state wants to keep concealed from the outside world are the clear reason for his imprisonment. Let us not abandon such heroes, but bravely take up their cause and expose those same realities that all ruling classes want concealed. We must see Max Zirngast free, and we call on our readers to join the campaign to support him, as his friends and the New York City Democratic Socialists of America did. The Free Max Zirngast Solidaritätskampagne website contains more information on his case and what you can do to support him, and we encourage everyone to be in touch with them today.
#FreeMaxZirngast! Free all political prisoners!
– Struggle for a New World editorial collective