March 12, 2008
Dr. Nurşen Gürboğa
COMPULSORY LABOR REGIME IN THE ZONGULDAK COAL FIELD: THE RPP PATERNALISM AND PETITIONS OF THE ZONGULDAK PEOPLE, 1940-1947
The Second World War marks a specific sub-period of history for the Zonguldak coal field. The nationalization of coal mining under state full ownership and the establishment of the compulsory labor regime and Soil Product Tax intensified coercive presence of the state in each and every part of daily life in the basin. The compulsory labor was one of the most coercive instruments by means of which the state disciplined the mine labor and ensured an adequate labor supply to the coal pits. The strategic importance of coal in war time compelled the state to impose compulsory labor largely on men residing in Zonguldak province. The rotational work system in the mines drew regularly male labor from the villages. The practice endangered agriculture-based subsistence economy of the villagers and increased burden on women and children as well. The mine workers and their families suffered from the state's forced purchasing of their part of agricultural products as well.
Along side coercive practices, the state appealed to practices aiming at creating consent among the people of the basin. The Republican People’s Party established an intense communication with the basin people through its central and local branches. As a part of ruling strategy, these channels performed various functions such as surveillance, social control and legitimacy construction. The party was able to penetrate and control the discontent of the people and to construct a paternalist image among the people, who began to perceive the party and the policies of the government unjust and coercive. The RPP’s ruling strategy became instrument of struggle against the state’s coercive practices. The villagers and laborers turned this ruling strategy to opportunity to negotiate their living and working conditions. They appropriated key components of the language of the state, such as duties, rights, legal, illegal, just, unjust, and imposed on them their shared experiences under the compulsory labor regime. Hence, the notion of citizenship became the key by means of which the compulsory workers defended their rights as workers and as peasants.