The Mayonnaise Effect: Global Inspiration from Gezi

  • January 13, 2014

City & Commons

If there is one lesson that foreign revolutionaries can take from the Gezi uprising, it must be this: political determination counts. Keep on stirring!

End of May. 2 am. Taksim. Hundreds of thousands of people are pushing barricades, resisting to various varieties of tear gas and police brutality. One protester testifies: “There was a moment I could not breathe because of the tear gas. I ran away to find a medical point. There, the volunteers treated me with some anti-acid liquids. Then I went back to see what was left of the protest. It was as if nothing had changed. I was replaced by those who were in the back. And now, I was replacing those who couldn’t breathe any more. This lasted until early morning.”

One can write an infinite number of articles on the questions “Why?” and “How?”. One can analyze the unlawful practices of the government that keeps thousands of political prisoners in jail waiting for their accusation documents to be prepared. One can analyze the Kurdish issue, the Alawite issue or the Armenian issue. One can analyze the imperialistic policies of the AKP government with respect to Syria. One can analyze how the AKP declared war on all ecosystems through an integrated strategy combining GMOs, coal power plants, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants and giant urban transformation projects. One can analyze the Islamization of society and of politics through an extensive transformation of the education system, through bans and restrictions on alcohol consumption, and through sexist and discriminative discourse against women and LGBT individuals. One can analyze the violations of labor rights, prohibitions of May 1 celebrations, or the systematic introduction of precarious employment and privatizations.

I find all of the above issues rather “local”. Not that it is a bad thing, nor that it would be irrelevant to the çapulers outside of Turkey. Yet, I was searching for a universal that could be inferred from the uprising, an aspect that could be directly applied to other struggles, a lesson for all that would not rely on a shaky analogy of historical experiences. I am not arguing against learning from other experiences in an indirect way. I am just not qualified to explain any of the above issues in a comprehensive way, nor am I capable of describing the right mixture of the above problems in the composition of the uprising. The question I am trying to pursue is the following: If there is only one thing our international comrades could learn from the uprising in Turkey, what would that be?

Mayonnaise as a Universal?

I think there is an essential point that could inspire revolutionaries around the world — I call it the mayonnaise effect.

Wikipedia states that “mayonnaise is made by slowly adding oil to an egg yolk, while whisking vigorously to disperse the oil.” You should not add too much oil because you could spoil the mayonnaise. However, you should be very patient during whisking. It is very curious to note that the best mayonnaise is obtained by patient repetition of a single act: to slowly add oil while whisking. As any experienced cook would testify, this is not the same as being stubborn. You are following a recipe, you are not just repeating a habit. Moreover, there is a clear way of realizing that you overdid it: it becomes butter, and one of very bad quality.

We – the Turkish revolutionaries – were protesting nuclear power projects. We were arrested because we published articles criticizing the government’s oppressive policies. We were detained while speaking out against the introduction of religious discourse in elementary schools. We were attacked by gas bombs while blocking the highway in the direction of coal power plant construction areas. We were beaten by cops in our demonstrations against the government’s policies in Syria. The revolutionaries in Turkey were determined to fight for the emancipation of society, to fight for a better world. We were always there, confronting the state apparatus in the shape of riot police and gas canisters, fighting for the rights of the people. Sometimes we were a few hundred, sometimes thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands. But mostly, hundreds.

Does it sound familiar?

The initial campers at Gezi were also a few hundred. They were attacked by police on the first day, but they returned the next day. The police retaliated and once again they returned, multiplying their numbers. It was on the third police attack — in which tents and all material were burned to the ground — that something unexpected happened: everyone came. A total of 4 million people in resistance. More than 8.000 were wounded, including 100 head traumas and 60 heavy injuries and five to nine deaths, depending on how you count. Yet the country was shouting: “This is just the beginning. The struggle continues.” Turkish society realized its power. It was the mayonnaise effect in action. The wavelengths matched, and we became millions.

You see the connection, right? Consider the 15M in Spain, which mobilized up to 8 million protesters in 2011-’12. Consider the Que Se Lixe a Troika! in Portugal, where on March 2, 2013, some 1.5 million people (almost 15% of the population) marched against austerity measures. Consider Tahrir square in Egypt. Consider São Paolo in Brazil. These have all (at least) one thing in common: no one, including the protesters, was able to answer the question “Why now?”. Why did the uprising in Turkey not begin one month before, when a historical theatre building near Taksim was shut down to be transformed into a shopping mall? Why did it not begin a couple of weeks before, when the third bridge project in Bosphorus was announced to destroy millions of trees in the north of Istanbul? Why not on May Day?

One may analyze the reasons, the dynamics and the consequences of the uprising in Turkey. One may try to figure out why the government never tried to soothe the protests, why the battle in Ankara continued without a single day of ceasefire for more than three weeks. One may indeed learn a lot about how fascism operates. But if there is one thing our international comrades can learn from the uprising in Turkey, it is the mayonnaise effect — the importance of political determination. You simply have to keep on stirring. We were not as aware of it before the uprising as we are now.

What Is Not Universal

It goes without saying that the massive protests in Spain, Portugal, Egypt, Turkey, Brazil or in any other country did not yield similar results. In the language of this article, the universality of the mayonnaise effect does not imply the universality of the mayonnaise itself. Depending on the given conditions, your ideological perspective and your political priorities, you may be aiming at an insurrection, massive peaceful demonstrations, an increase in self-managed practices, a multiplied public interest in radical left politics, or any weighed combination of all of these and perhaps more. As long as we have tools to spot the failure of our methods, we shall never give up because of the hegemonic ideology’s propaganda of “marginalization”. Yes, we are marginals – for a while.

In other words: as long as we can distinguish sour butter from mayonnaise, we shall not get discouraged when someone tells us that our whisking is in vain, that we will never get the mayonnaise, that they also tried when they were young (or even, that someone else tried it already). Yes, we don’t have the mayonnaise – yet. I am in no condition to comment on whether Gezi was a failure or a success for any particular political organization. Yet I am confident that it was a success for radical leftist ideals in general. Gezi is a showing example — not only to the protesters and the general public, but also to the government and the ruling class — that political determination works.

We shall never give in, we shall never give up!



Reflections on the Gezi Uprising

1. Editorial
Gezi and the Spirit of Revolt

2. Rüzgar Akhat
Gezi: Losing the Fear, Living the Dream

3. Dilan Koese
Revolt of Dignity: Gezi and the Global Legitimation Crisis

4. Burak Kose
The Culmination of Resistance Against Urban Neoliberalism

5. David Selim Sayers
Gezi Spirit: The Possibility of an Impossibility

6. Cagla Aykac
Strong Bodies, Dirty Shoes: An Ode to the Resistance

7. Stephen Snyder
Gezi Park and the Transformative Power of Art

8. ROAR Collective
The Sultan Is Watching: Erdoğan’s Lust for Power

9. Yasemin Acar & Melis Ulug
The Body Politicized: The Visibility of Women at Gezi

10. Elif Genc
At Gezi, a Common Voice Against State Brutality

11. Erkan Gursel
Sarisuluk’s Story: A Family Fighting for Justice

12. Beatrice White
Cracking Down on the Press: Turkish Media after Gezi

13. Matze Kasper
To Survive, the Gezi Movement Will Have to Compromise

14. Mark Bergfeld
Beyond the Hashtags? Gezi and the AKP’s Media Power

15. Emrah Güler
Is Social Media Still the Way to Resist in Turkey?

16. Lou Zucker
Reclaim the Urban Commons: Istanbul’s First Squat

17. Christopher Patz
From Madrid to Istanbul: Occupying Public Space

18. Sinan Eden
The Mayonnaise Effect: International Inspiration from Gezi

19. Mehmet Döşemeci
Superman, Clark Kent, and the Limits of the Gezi Uprising

20. Editorial
Beyond Gezi: What Future for the Movement?


Sinan Eden

Sinan Eden is an Izmir-born student of mathematics at the University of Lisbon, Portugal. He has a special interest in ecology movements, and none whatsoever in capitalism.

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