Was it a few trees, was it the Turkish Spring, or was it a nationalist reflex? Attempts to label and appropriate the surplus value created at Gezi Park in Istanbul demonstrate that it will indeed be very difficult to subsume the mass of energy generated there under existing perceptional categories. The reason why I prefer using the term “surplus value” is not to come up with a new categorization; on the contrary, I am only trying to suggest a few reasons why the Gezi resistance, perceived as an “eruption” or “overflow” in many minds, cannot be appropriated by any group in particular.
In Marx’s analyses, surplus value is what remains after workers produce the minimum that meets their own vital needs. Society’s lifecycle is sustained through this surplus. Surplus value meets not only individual, but also public needs. The latter are different since satisfying needs that exceed and/or absorb the capabilities and wants of the individual is the condition sine qua non of societal life. Production of such public goods and services as infrastructure, health, and education that are ideally open to all is possible when the state appropriates and nationalizes this surplus. In capitalist societies, however, inequalities in the distribution of the means of production prevent the common ownership of surplus value. The bourgeoisie appropriates the surplus because it controls capital. Only the proletariat is productive, but the surplus value generated is made to meet all societal needs and feed all segments of society. And in societies that have moved into the neoliberal stage of capitalism, privatization of public services leads to almost complete ownership of the surplus value by the private sector. The state’s transfer of natural resources (such as rivers, seeds, biological diversity that have not yet been commodified, but do play a role in production as inputs) to private investors results in the further diminution of the commons. This magnifies the inequality and injustice in the distribution of the societal surplus.
You might wonder what this analysis has to do with the Occupy Gezi movement. My summary response that takes care to avoid economic reductionism, would be the following: The surplus value we call “Gezi” has created an excess of meaning, praxis, and publicness that exceeds the individuals who participated in the events. The more a societal surplus is collectivized, the more likely it is to say that the surplus is produced by “nobody” (since it is produced by “everybody”). Similarly, the Gezi resistance is not produced by “anybody” (and therefore “everybody” can take possession of it), since it does not fit under any given group, ideology, or category. I contend that this is the reason why Gezi continues to be a source of diversified energy.
For example, for the past month, many have been wondering “who” the protestors at Gezi were. The question itself indicates a desire to assign an “identity” to “anybody”, thereby rendering it recognizable, knowable, and hence controllable. The general belief, including that of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is that Gezi was occupied by the “youth.” The “youth” is what remains after first discarding “the marginals” and “the illegal organizations” (as Erdoğan calls them). The “youth” then becomes the “subject” of the Gezi protests by being identified as the “90’s generation.” Some observers call this the “Y generation,” composed of individualist, apolitical, and technology-addicted students. Ill-intentioned partisan politicians and media (those siding with the governing AKP) go out of their way to deny the subjecthood of this “anybody” and to draw instead the portrait of an emotional and decadent youth manipulated by ideological and political interests. More in-depth analyses prefer to separate the organized and unorganized constituents of Gezi from the revolutionaries and soccer fans at the perimeters and front lines. The latter have experience in resisting police forces, and hence, the “naive” youth who came to Gezi out of purely environmental concerns owe their endurance to them. The “who” is thus diversified and attains an approximate identity. Yet in various other neighborhoods of Istanbul, in Tuzla, in Gazi, on Bagdad Street, or in almost every city in the country, there are hundreds of thousands of “anybodies” whose motives are not really known, but who assume different roles according to the place and the hour of the day, from playing pots and pans to confronting the police.
Apart from police brutality and vengeful discourses of the establishment, another manifestation of the desire to appropriate the surplus value created at Gezi, either by labeling or categorizing it, is the symbolic war that has been going on relentlessly for the past month. Every declaration by government circles discloses a determination to control the excess energy spreading from the park and to subordinate this to the interests of the ruling party. I think the establishment senses that the symbolism produced by the Gezi resistance is a “surplus” or an “excess,” but it is not able to truly comprehend it. The contradiction between qualifying the uprising as “a concern for a few trees” and simultaneously as “an international plot” from day one onwards is a clear sign of this. Pathological causality chains that run from “love of trees” to “hatred of Erdoğan,” from the “28 February coup” to “foreign countries that are jealous of Turkey’s economic success” perfectly expose the subconscious of the ruling party. The fear that this subconscious attempts to suppress in spite of sensing it—or rather, the fear that it attempts to suppress because it senses it—stems from the prospect of never being able to control the excess pouring out of this resistance. Waging a war of symbols, harboring a grudge even against banners and posters, smashing red carnations under police boots, and fetishizing a public square are also clear enough signs. The establishment is desperately clinging on to the fantastic hope that the war can be won by covering up, distorting, defiling, or effacing the symbols.
Nonetheless, the government is not alone in the race to appropriate this symbolic surplus. For those among the constituents of the Gezi resistance coming from a leftist heritage, this surplus value heralds “revolution”—or at least corresponds to a fury and energy that must be channeled towards that goal. The social democrats and professional organizations in the Taksim Solidarity group are searching in the surplus a way to legitimize the reasonable demands of the public. Many others are defending the country, preventing the national resources from being sold to foreigners, or owning up to the mission Mustafa Kemal Atatürk has set for them. Feminists take the opportunity to correct the patriarchal language of the graffiti, posters, and slogans. LGBTT individuals wave their banners and enjoy the joy of chanting, “So what if we’re fags? Get used to it, we’re everywhere!” right in front of the soccer fans. The protest movement is making some groups visible, or turning some into the “who”s of the future.
Probably the only group that didn’t participate in this race was the Kurds. They neither rejected nor tried to appropriate the symbolic surplus value, but preferred to stand by in-between. Just as they preferred to position themselves neither inside nor outside the Gezi Park, grouping right above the steps leading from Taksim Square to the Park, but remaining at the edge of the green area...
Gezi did not produce only symbolic surplus value, however. Until the day the park was occupied by the police, it also produced a commonality shared by all those who lived there or who went there every day and assumed primary or secondary roles in the management of daily life. This commonality was probably not fully understood by those who just came to visit Gezi or to wave flags at Taksim Square. Nevertheless, it played a major role in ensuring the continued presence of many others who turned the park into living quarters. This wasn’t a surplus value produced or controlled by any of the constituents of the resistance individually. Now that the Occupy Gezi movement has taken on different directions through “Standing Men,” red carnations, and public forums, now that we catch our breath and look back, we are able to see that this experiment was not merely symbolic. Gezi was also a tangible experimental ground pointing to the possibility of weaving a different communality, an alternative economy, and a distinctive ethical and communicative consciousness.
The disappearance of money at Gezi enabled running the choirs of everyday life through voluntary labor, deployed not according to the principles of reciprocity as in the market, but according to a desire for solidarity. Or maybe the causality was the other way around: the desire and need for cooperation caused the disappearance of money and prompted the production of surplus value through voluntary labor. The result was the same in either case. Although the forms of manual labor required for daily routines (such as forming lines to pass heavy packs of bottled water to storage areas, cooking food, determining needs, or sweeping the floor) all involved some kind of organization, they were mostly undertaken through spontaneous shifts. This communal life must have created such a desire to contribute in even those who came to Gezi just for “touristic” purposes that anyone who grabbed a plastic bag and a pair of gloves would walk around the different sectors of the park asking the resistors if they had any garbage. Similarly, there were many volunteers who saw to satisfying the demand for nicotine by walking around the park with a box in their hands, shouting, “Drop in some cigarettes if you have any extra; take some cigarettes if you need any.” Artistic and intellectual activities such as concerts and open lectures were offered by anyone interested and without expecting anything in return. Countless tangible services by countless volunteers—such as helping out at the infirmary, feeding stray animals, forming an organic vegetable patch, painting signs and posters, setting up acoustics and lighting systems, or making and distributing tea to nearby tents—were all executed without any institutional oversight, rules, administrators, or corporate executives. Everyone at the park was either a de facto laborer or a potential one. And everyone could either appropriate the surplus value produced, or could at least potentially claim it. Both the labor and the value belonged to everybody, and hence to nobody. Or viewed the other way round, neither the labor nor the surplus value was anybody’s in particular, and hence belonged to everybody.
That is why it was imperative for the government to destroy the Gezi commune. The surplus value generated there incorporated a power and capability that could offer an alternative to the politically centralized, ideologically conservative, and economically neoliberal AKP rule. What terrified the government, what challenged its plans and reflexes, was this tangible community’s resistance to being appropriated by state apparatuses. That is why the government (in addition to waging a war of symbols) deployed the police and the judiciary to siege Gezi, exploited religious values by propagating untruthful claims, imposed an outright censure on the “penguin media,” and let loose stick-bearing AKP supporters to beat protestors as part of its strategies to quash this uprising.
The government is trying to confront the tangible endurance of “anybody” who opposes it through equally tangible instruments of death. However, “everyone” who is empowered, subjectified, and made visible by a collective power that includes and/or exceeds each individual’s capabilities and preferences continues to confront the government each new day.
 My take is that Marx`s analysis of the creation of surplus value includes, but is not limited to the money form. Breaking down surplus value into some of its components would complicate a simpler analysis: surplus value is not only about exchange values extracted from commodified labor-power, but also a form of power that produces and reproduces social and political relations in addition to economic relations. Its accumulation in the form of capital buys labor-power (as a use value), but it also buys influence, literally speaking. It is invested in such social utilities as the media or in infrastructural projects, which are commodified but may also become pure social utilities through transfer of public tax money to corporations to subsidize costs and/or tolls. In short, surplus value is a social relation.
 This refers to the ultimatum issued by the National Security Council in 1997 against the governing coalition on grounds that the secular principles of the republic were being threatened. Refah, one of the parties in the coalition, was the ultra-conservative predecessor of the ruling AKP.
 Translator’s note: After the occupation of the park by the police, a new type of silent and non-violent protest was developed as men and women started standing at the squares of the city for hours, looking at a Turkish flag.
 Translator’s note: In memory of those who died in the uprising.
 Translator’s note: CNN-Turkey was broadcasting a documentary on the mating habits of penguins as Gezi was being assaulted by the police.
[An earlier version of this article was published on 25 June 2013 on BIA ("Independent Communication Network"). The link to that version can be found here. This article was translated from Turkish by Şevket Günter.]