Although the bloody military dictatorship of September 12 - which was portrayed as a mild military regime in the West - has begun to dissolve with time, its legacy continues today. [Note: September 12 refers to the date in 1980 when the military took power in Turkey - Ed.] For example, the code of laws installed by the military junta is still in force, although some amendments to the constitution have been made recently.
The present political regime is military-police rule veiled by a parliament which is full of reactionary and nationalist deputies. And you can still find traces of the despotic way of administration, inherited from the Ottoman Empire, in the present political structures of the state, in today's modern Turkey. The most striking example of this is the weight of the army in political and economical life, which is completely different from the situation in the Western European countries. An army-big business institution, OYAK, which is managed by generals, is one of the biggest monopolies in the country. This monopoly owns two large banks and also has a monopoly of the car industry (Turkish Renault which is a joint company with French Renault). The National Security Council, dominated by the general stuff of the army, is still dominant in politics.
Torture against arrested political prisoners is a systematic part of political life in Turkey. The prohibitions on unions introduced by the September 12 military regime are still in force today. Another important fact besides all these is that the military-despotic aspect of the Turkish state has been strengthened more and more during the period of the national liberation struggle of the Kurdish people in the Turkish part of Kurdistan.
During this war waged by the Turkish army against Kurdish national resistance, twenty thousand Kurds have been killed, ten thousand have been put in jail, thousands have been tortured, hundreds of thousands of Kurdish peasants have been forcibly evicted from their homelands and their villages have been burned. Forced to migrate to the big cities, these people have been condemned to unemployment and hunger. The prisons are still centres of torture and the political prisoners are forced to resort to hunger strikes and death fasts to gain just the most elementary rights. And they are massacred in the prisons, which are burned, demolished and bombed by the armed forces of the state. In short, Turkey, which is advertised as a "paradise" by tourist companies, is just the opposite as regards its political regime.
After the handing over of Abdullah Ocalan to Turkey in February 1999 and the weakening of the PKK, the Turkish army general staff has had a new political target: "the threat of reaction" which means Islamic fundamentalism. The Welfare Party led by Necmettin Erbakan, which was seen as the most dangerous element was closed down, after having risen to the position of first party in the elections and having taken part in the coalition government as the majority partner in the second half of the 1990s. The intervention of the military, who closed down the party that had won the elections, has been called the "covered coup" of February 28, 1997. The Virtue Party, which was built as the extension of the Welfare Party after its closure, has also faced the same fate and Necmettin Erbakan has been banned from politics. The radical Islamic elements which were fostered by US capitalism during the cold war years with petrodollars flowing out of Arab countries, are now regarded as a threat, because neither the American nor the Turkish big bourgeoisie needs them anymore. And now, because they do not want an Islamic focus of power, such elements have been liquidated from both economic and political life by the army and secular and pro-Western organisations of monopoly capital.
Although the pro-European section of the bourgeoisie see joining the EU as the only solution (and although this approach is correct from the point of view of the bourgeois) the region in which Turkey is situated is pregnant with new developments. Turkey is now in an economic crisis never seen before. Unemployment is growing at an incredible rate. Because this crisis has broken out at a time when the capitalist world economy is in a recession, it is not easy for Turkish capitalism to overcome the crisis in the short term. The repercussions of the continuation of the crisis in social and political spheres will be political instability and bitter class struggles.
As a result of long years of persecutions and prohibitions, the working class is still disorganised even at the trade union level and also it has not overcome its fear of the military-police side of the bourgeois regime. Due to the trade-union bashing policy of the bourgeoisie, the rate of trade union membership has declined to around 7%. This means a total number of approximately 1,300,000 union members, including the membership of the public employees' unions which totals about 400,000 (who do not have the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike). Among them the biggest union confederation, Türk-Is, has 650,000 members. DISK (Confederation of Revolutionary Workers' Unions) was a big union confederation before the military coup of 1980 and then lost its strength and has become a small confederation, for it was closed under the military regime and its officials and thousands of its members were arrested. Now it has 120,000 members. Hak-Is, which has an Islamic political orientation, has 100,000 members.
Today's legal left parties have not set up relations with the working-class movement and the unions on a mass scale, as the legal socialist party at the time of TIP or the illegal TKP did in the past. The leadership of the TKP, which has strong historical roots, experienced a similar bourgeoisification process as the ruling Soviet bureaucracy, and behaving like businessmen with an unprofitable company they closed the TKP in 1991 and finished the "job".
There are five parties on the left in Turkey worth mentioning: HADEP (People's Democratic Party) formed in 1994, IP (Workers' Party) formed in 1994, SIP (Socialist Power Party, now changed its name to Communist Party of Turkey) formed in 1995, ODP (Freedom and Solidarity Party) formed in 1996, and EMEP (Party of Labour) formed in 1996. Except for HADEP, the biggest of them won only around 0.7% in the last general elections. ODP (Freedom and Solidarity Party), built primarily by the tired and renegade ex-leftists after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with the assertion that they would unite the left and regenerate the experience of the TIP, appears to be an ineffective and disorganised party today. HADEP (People's Democratic Party) was formed by Kurds, and won 4 percent all over Turkey in the last general elections in April 1999, thanks to the votes they won from Kurdistan in the last general elections. Although they won 90% in some parts of Turkish Kurdistan they are not represented in the parliament, because political parties must win at least 10% of the total votes to be able to enter the parliament.
On the other hand, there has never been a Western type social-democratic party in Turkey because of the great differences in the process of capitalist development in Turkey, and thus in its history, in relation to the West European countries. We must remember that in this country the one-party dictatorship of the bourgeois republic lasted a quarter of a century. As a matter of fact, many political formations came out of the Republican People's Party, which was the official state party during the period of the one-party dictatorship. Dependant on the development of capitalism and the working class in Turkey, there have been some attempts to form social-democratic parties by those political circles which desired to follow the example of the European countries. Factions coming out of the official state party, the People's Party, attempted to organise these so-called social-democratic parties from above. The party of today's Prime Minister, Ecevit, the Democratic Left Party, which is now in a coalition government with the Nationalist Movement Party, the party of Turkish fascism, is an offspring of the People's Party. And they are now even going further than the fascists' ("grey wolves") Nationalist Movement Party.
And today's People's Party under Deniz Baykal's leadership has become smaller and smaller with the never-ending faction struggles, and is an ineffective party. These parties don't have historical ties with the union movement of the working class as the social-democratic and socialist parties in Europe do, and are not organised on that basis. For such reasons, the political conditions in Turkey are very different from those in Europe in many respects.
A General Appraisal
Economic crisis, relations with the EU and finally the developing events after September 11 put their stamp on Turkey's agenda in 2001. Depending on the US plans for the Middle East and Afghanistan, Turkey has been put forward as a favoured country. There is no doubt that Turkey has strengthened its hand in the post-September 11 international conjuncture thanks to the US. As a powerful NATO member in this region, Turkey's position can never be neglected by West European countries, a position which the US is trying to reinforce politically by means of the EU and economically by means of the IMF. For some American commentators, Turkey is expected to be one of the pillars of the Pax Americana in the Middle East. On the other hand, the impression is given by the US and the EU (under pressure from the US) that there might be a joint agreement between Turkey and Greece on the question of Cyprus.
We must point out that all these developments do not mean that the crisis in which Turkey is engulfed can be solved in the short term and a relatively stable period of history can be opened. This is because the crisis is not unique to Turkey, it is rooted in the world capitalist system and is a very serious one. Depending on the new conflicts triggered by the world-wide economic crisis of capitalism and the conflicts of interest between the various capitalist countries, Turkey is pregnant with a number of new developments and political crises. But one thing is clear: the bourgeois regime is lined up with US imperialism. This arouses hopes amongst Turkish bourgeois circles of the possibility of a recovery in the economy sooner than expected thanks to US support. It goes without saying that the recovery they are hoping for will be of no use to the working class and the labouring masses who are carrying the burden of this crisis. Because it is very possible that any short-term revival will be followed by new and more acute periods of crisis.
Whatever the designs and expectations of the big imperialist powers have about the region, events have their own logic. Do the imperialist experts, who are preparing strategic plans concerning the Balkans, the Middle East and Eurasia, know what kind of repercussions these developments abroad will have internally, and how they will affect the domestic class struggle? When we look at history we see that the answer to this question is a big "No!"
The US administration seriously puts forward Turkey as a model as it is a secular country despite its overwhelming Moslem population. Bush invited Ecevit to the US to meet him on January 16. According to high level American sources, September 11 opened up new prospects for Turkey, but at the same time brought new responsibilities. These circles consider that the Turkish administration must be more active for "peace and stability" in the Middle East. It is said that Ankara, which showed what it could do in Central Asia and the Caucasus after September 11, must take on a role in the "stability" of the Balkans. It is not difficult to guess that what the imperialist powers call "stability" actually means new instability. But, as money is the only god of the capitalists, the Turkish ruling class understands these appeals to "taking on roles" as they get new foreign credits and are happy.
Economic Crisis and its Repercussions
One of the fundamental problems of the Turkish economy, being a middle-level capitalist country, is the problem of debt. Turkey's foreign debts amount to $150 billion despite its GDP being only $145 billion as of 2001. Therefore the Turkish lira is strongly dependent on the dollar and in a weak position against it. As with other similar countries, the convulsions in world markets affect Turkey in the first instance. Accordingly, when the signs increased that things were going to get bad in the world economy at the end of 2000 crises broke out both in Argentina and Turkey.
Because of the tendency towards recession in the world economy, the hot money in pursuit of more profits moves around the stock exchanges all over the world, and it had visited Turkey too before it left after making its juicy profits. As the economy of Turkey is more sensitive compared with the advanced capitalist countries, it is extremely affected by these kinds of entries and exits of capital. Both before and after the November 2000 crisis there was already a "fixed exchange rate" policy in Turkey. It has been the number one prescription for bringing down inflation, suggested by the IMF for a long time. But when a second and more severe crisis broke out in February 2001 they changed the exchange rate regime. IMF officials suggested the change to a "fluctuating exchange rate", saying that the Turkish currency was overvalued against the dollar owing to the currency policy carried out before the crisis. Putting this suggestion into practice resulted in an immediate 40% devaluation of the Turkish currency. Subsequently, the rate of devaluation reached effectively 150% and now it is fluctuating around 120%. Obedient Turkey's demands for additional credits were not refused as was the case in Argentina. Thus Turkey, unlike Argentina, was not obliged to announce a "moratorium".
The IMF has also suggested that the officials of Argentina give up the "currency board" and pass to a fluctuating exchange rate. But the Argentinean administration did not agree to high inflation rates and refused this suggestion. Then the IMF officials suddenly discovered that "Argentina had been financed more than was needed" and "the credits had been looted". For that reason, the IMF refused the demand of Argentina for new credits, and then the latest crisis broke out. Comparing Turkey and Argentina, economics experts say that Argentina experienced, with a delay, what Turkey experienced between November and February.
The crises of November 2000 and February 2001 have really shaken Turkey to its foundations. There have been about 150,000 closures and 1.5 million redundancies. The effects of the crisis on the financial sector were severe. Twenty banks have been taken over by the Insurance Fund; 40,000 employees in the banking sector have been dismissed. It is said that the banks, which have been taken over by the Fund had lost half their capital. The economy of Turkey shrank by 8.5% in 2001. The inflation rate has reached 90%. Now the Turkish economy is in a second stagflation - deeper than the first one in 1994. Additional credits were needed to pay back the debt instalments scheduled according to IMF prescriptions, and there was a pessimistic mood among the bourgeois economists on whether this credit could be found.
Then came September 11 and Turkey has started to be groomed as a country supported by the US in the situation created by the US war against Afghanistan. The impression they are trying to portray is that we have entered into a new period and this is an attempt to revive the economy by means of psychological factors, despite the fact that there is no concrete positive development yet. IMF specialists say that Turkey has the potential to be a focus of power in the region, but they suggest at the same time that to be able to activate this potential the economic reforms (such as the strengthening of the banking system, completion of privatisation, ensuring an effective public administration) must be accomplished. It is said that Turkey could do much with an inflation rate at EU levels, although it means kidding oneself when one is reminded of the inflation rate of 2001 bordering on 90%. Declaring that EU membership would also strengthen Turkey, the US administration is giving the impression that it will back Turkey in this.
The big capitalists of Turkey consider September 11 as a lucky turning point for Turkey. According to these considerations it seems that US support is now high, the relations with the IMF are going well, and the obstacles on the process of entry into the EU have been lowered. For this reason the bourgeois commentators are not pessimistic about Turkey, differing from those commenting on Argentina. They say that the IMF will give new additional credits of $10 billion to Turkey in 2002 (but at the same time there is a total back payment of $6.5 billion). And also they are optimistic because the devaluation of the Turkish currency increased the exports of Turkey from $27.2 billion in 2000 to $31 billion in 2001. It is said that there will be a recovery and growth of 4%.
In fact, the "reform" and "restructuring" programs that are imposed by the institutions of international capital are in conformity with some of the needs of Turkish capitalism. For us, the most important thing to be noted is to correctly interpret the measures taken for getting out of the crisis. The crisis of capitalism does not cause the ruin of the bourgeoisie as a whole. On the contrary, the crises can be overcome thanks to the swallowing up of the weak by the powerful. Of course we do not forget that the crises that have been overcome prepare more devastating ones. The real burden of the crisis is put on the shoulders of the working class and the other labouring masses. Thus the meaning of the prescriptions of the imperialist institutions is obvious for the working class: cutting public expenditure, more job losses because of accelerated privatisations, cutting the gains of social security, decreasing wages and so on and so forth.
Argentina and Turkey are similar to each other in terms of heavy foreign debts, bitter IMF prescriptions and most importantly military coups that dominate their political history. The foreign debt of Argentina whose population is 36 million is $154 billion. The figure is about $150 billion for Turkey whose population is 67 million. The unemployment rate is 25%, while in Argentina it is said to be 18%. GDP per capita has decreased from $3,000 to $2,150. Corruption, political degeneration, etc, is in full swing. For example the wages of MPs in Argentina are 30.8 times the minimum wage while in Turkey the figure is 33 times. The minimum wage is $113 in Turkey.
There is another important debate on the crises, which is the reaction of the labouring masses to the effects of the crises. Popular spontaneous outbursts, street actions, widespread looting of the markets, etc, following big economic crises are rare in the history of Turkey - unlike Argentina. Therefore an understanding reflected in the proverb "hit the back of the neck of our people and take their morsel out of their mouths" from the Ottoman times is widely accepted in Turkey. Although expressed in a black humour style, it is unquestionable that the systematic repression that has been carried out since very ancient times has been a very important factor in making people feel terrorised.
After the February 2001 crisis there were actions of shopkeepers in various Turkish cities in April. At first sight it was thought that days of action had started, just like in Argentina now. But those actions were in general provoked by right-wing organisations to overthrow the government. They were suppressed by the state security forces in a short time. Public opinion was silenced by threats of a military coup. And since the trade union movement was taken under control with the help of the top union bureaucracy, there has not been much unrest in the labour movement. One of the basic factors that makes the working class silent is the fear of losing their jobs under the conditions of this deep crisis and rising unemployment. As Marx pointed out, the "auxiliary industrial army" is suppressing the demands of the "active industrial army".
There is a complete abyss between the image of Turkey being portrayed abroad and the reality. In the image portrayed abroad Turkey has been passing laws of compatibility required by the EU and a process of relative democratisation is under way. But in reality the workers are not yet free from the repressive measures installed by the military regime of September 12. To give an example: the number of those subjected to torture in 2001 increased by 50% and the number of those who were tried for their beliefs increased 8-fold in comparison to 2000. Even a small ordinary demonstration of people for the purpose of protesting against the increase in natural gas prices was violently suppressed by the security forces.
In this important period of capitalist crisis, which should have the effect of radicalising the labouring masses, the labour movement is unfortunately in a state of serious disorganisation. The Turkish working class has been hit and weakened heavily since the 1980s because of the severe repressive conditions, which have still not yet been overcome. While the rate of unionisation was 19.5% in 1988, the figure is 9% now because of the operations of de-unionisation.
In Turkey the legal framework of union organisation is very tight. Thus they try to obstruct the initiatives of the working masses for economic struggle with a series of bans at the very beginning. For example, it is forbidden by the labour laws to install a workplace union. Without recruiting at least 10% of the workers in a sector a union does not have the right to represent the workers. The unions of public employees, which have hundreds of thousands of members, have neither the right to strike nor to bargain collectively.
Developments on the road to the EU
Turkey's road to Europe has passed through various stages. Turkey became a member of NATO in 1952 and was taken into the waiting room of the EEC in 1963. It became a member of the customs union in 1995 and an official candidate to the EU in Helsinki in 1999.
The relations between Turkey and the EU are chequered. After the end of the war in Turkish Kurdistan, Turkey's membership seemed quite imminent for a time; the year 2004 was pronounced as the year in which it would achieve membership. But because of the opposition of the anti-EU elements to the "laws of compatibility" required by the EU there occurred some problems and the process slowed down. There was even an atmosphere of "let's forget this issue altogether" as a result of the pressures from reactionary circles and the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party), one of the main forces of opposition to the changes in the September 12 Constitution (installed by the military regime). The year 2000 and the beginning of 2001 passed with a complete uncertainty. And finally in March 2001 the National Security Council discussed this "elusive problem" in one of its meetings. A package of changes, including some "laws of compatibility" required by the EU, called the "National Programme" was accepted at the meeting. Although it has been said that this program prepared the way for the EU and the reforming of the political and economic structure of Turkey altogether, it was a lie. For example there was no trace of concrete steps to the solution of the Kurdish and Cyprus questions in the programme. In short, the "National Programme" could neither satisfy the expectations of the EU nor the pro-EU liberal circles in Turkey. Therefore, though it has been said that the "road to Europe" is now open, the expectations for the date of membership were delayed from 2004 to 2010.
At the Laeken summit in December 2001 an EU report defined Turkey as a "country whose prospects of starting the negotiations for full membership are getting near." This attitude is appraised as a promising development by the pro-EU circles. Especially the decision of the EU to include Turkey into the European Convention along with other candidates, is interpreted as a possibility of sooner-than-expected membership.
In fact Turkey has gone quite far on the basis of capitalism after September 12. In the period of the military regime in which wages were frozen and worker's rights were suppressed, the Turkish bourgeoisie created an environment in which there were no dissenting voices for some period of time. Thanks to this, it accomplished many transformations in the direction of integration with world capitalism. As a result of a process of "structural change" reflecting this transformation, there appeared some changes in the attitude of big capital on some matters. As for the Kurdish question, for example, there emerged some voices demanding a solution in the direction of political liberalisation among pro-European bourgeois circles. But during the Kurdistan War there was an attempt to silence such voices, especially on the part of the Generals and those who were profiting from the war.
After the end of the war the political atmosphere in Turkey began to change, albeit slowly. Although the repressive measures inherited from the military regime still continue to exist, now the organisation of big capital, namely TUSIAD, stands for integration with the EU and wants a transformation. And yet this organisation was actively involved in the preparations of the military coup (September 12, 1980) to overthrow the parliamentary regime. Now, however, they have supported the "democratisation" package on the basis of the Copenhagen criteria and have forced the government to accept the package. With this pressure, parliament passed many bills in a short period of time.
Even those layers among the Turkish ruling circles who seem to oppose the EU (and who, for example, insist on a 'non-solution' of the problem of Cyprus), are not completely against the EU anymore. Their opposition is rather against the tempo and the changes within the country. Therefore what they really want is to let the process go on without any terms being imposed by the EU. This is the attitude that the MHP, one of the partners of the coalition government, and for instance they put stress on the Kurdish question. The reactionary circles cry out: "we will be broken up and divided." The MHP is still resisting the abolition of the death penalty, the right of the Kurdish people to have education in their mother language and broadcasting in Kurdish and is hindering the legislative changes. As for Cyprus question, the reactionaries have accused those who are standing for a softening of Turkey's position of "selling out Cyprus" and have advocated the annexation of the Turkish part of Cyprus.
Also the top officials of the biggest confederation of unions, Türk-Is, are taking the side of those elements within the ruling class who fear a relative democratisation. The top bureaucrats who have clung to their seats for a long time, thanks to the military regime, know well that a transformation in the country will mean they too will be replaced. Thus they are waving the flag of nationalism whilst hiding themselves behind the false rhetoric of anti-imperialism - as is always the case in this country under circumstances like this. And some allegedly left anti-imperialists are supporting this kind of rhetoric causing confusion.
A considerable section of the workers think that joining the EU might bring at least a relative improvement. They say that, because of the extremely bad conditions they are in now, they would rather have a Turkey which at least accepts the ILO criteria and European standards of workers' rights.
For us, the defence of the interests of the working class cannot be based on choosing between "a national capitalism" and "a capitalism integrated with world capitalism". If a capitalist Turkey integrated into the EU is regarded as a salvation for the working class, then it is a gross distortion of reality. We are against it. But our position cannot be limited to choosing between capitalist alternatives. We say on the one hand that integration is inherent in capitalism, and also that in an oppressive country like Turkey isolation cannot be any better. And on the other hand we persistently stress that the emancipation of the working class depends on overthrowing capitalism altogether.
The liberal left who consider that the possibility of creating a social democratic alternative in Turkey is linked to integration with Europe, persistently defend joining the EU. Since the blockage in politics following September 12 has not yet been overcome, the social-democrat intellectuals think that the process of integration with the EU will at least overcome this blockage. Their view can be summed up as: "Turkey will either be an authoritarian Middle Eastern state with its "extraordinary" political, social and trade union rights or it will turn her face towards the contemporary standards. The deadline for this choice is nigh."
The Question of Cyprus
Turkey, as a member of NATO, could veto the demand of the planned European army to automatically use NATO military assets. This was a trump card held in reserve by the Turkish government. Turkey used this trump card and as a result the attitude of the EU has somewhat softened. In turn, the Turkish administration (i.e. the government and the general stuff of the army) removed its veto on ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy). After that, Denktas (the President of Northern Cyprus) who seems to oppose launching a process of negotiations in Cyprus has been persuaded and pushed towards the table.
Of course, the coming to the fore of the question of Cyprus in this way was not solely dependent on EU-Turkey relations. More important is the role given to Turkey as a member of NATO from the standpoint of US designs for the Middle East and Afghanistan. According to these plans Cyprus as a whole is to be used as a military base, both by the US and the EU. The formula of "United States of Cyprus" which was pronounced during the recent Denktas-Klerides meeting is known to come from the US.
The question of Cyprus had previously created tension between the partners of the coalition government. Whilst ANAP (Motherland Party) has taken a compromising stance in line with the EU, the DSP (Democratic Left Party) and MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) insisted on a nationalist line and on a 'non-solution' basis supporting Denktas. But after the involvement of the US (both on the level of Turkey and the EU), positions changed. Hence the Denktas-Klerides meeting. And the air has changed after that meeting.
In Cyprus both the Greek and the Turkish speaking communities want to live in peace, without the provocations of Turkey and Greece. In fact the majority of people in Turkey also are tired of this Cyprus problem. Here, too, the Turkish people are in favour of a peaceful solution and against the provocations of the government and the fascist parties like MHP. Therefore, as the liberal media stresses, the idea that joint entrance of the Northern and Southern parts of Cyprus will be beneficial for Turkey is attracting a greater and greater audience.
For us, this problem is a direct extension of the debate on whether to join the EU. Therefore, we can never accept that a nationalist stance should be taken for the sake of opposing the designs of the imperialist powers. Workers in Northern Cyprus prefer a united Cyprus, even on the basis of EU, rather than the intervention of Turkey. Especially because the period following the September 12 military coup and the subsequent isolation have not been good for them at all. Turkey's intervention has brought nothing but oppression and poverty to them. The proclamation of "Northern Cyprus Turkish Republic" on November 15, 1983 has done nothing but render Northern Cyprus fully dependent on Turkey. This part of island has been degraded to a level in which Mafia and black money hold sway and the means of subsistence of the people have dried up. Denktas, who had formerly been the deputy prosecutor of the British colonial rule, has been playing the role of governor of a colony of Turkey on the island for some 27 years and resorting to intrigues to silence his opponents.
If the working class had really been conscious and organised then the alternatives they are dealing with would not have been the existing ones. Because the workers from both parts of Cyprus are not presented with a socialist alternative, they consider that there are only the following two alternatives: "A Cyprus united on the basis of the EU?" or "A divided Cyprus that keeps going on the basis of interventions from Turkey and Greece?" Our task is to show them that those are not the only alternatives and that the welfare of the workers of all Cyprus depends on their struggle against capitalism. The true and realistic solution for the working class is to establish a socialist federation embracing the whole of Cyprus. Moreover, because the fate of the Cypriot revolution depends on the revolutions in Greece and Turkey, our aim should be that of building a wider socialist federation including Turkey and Greece.
The Middle East and US-Turkey Relations
It is common knowledge that after September 11 US imperialism has been in search of new targets to attack, just like a rabid dog. It is being debated which country is the next in line after Afghanistan. Iraq and Somalia have been mentioned and there are many rumours about this. The US does not seem to have yet been able to convince her Western allies of the need to attack Iraq. The Bush administration uninterruptedly says it will spread the war against terrorism. Yemen, Sudan and Somalia are driven into turmoil.
Turkey was uneasy for she was aware of the troubles that would come out of an intervention against Iraq. But since she is in trouble economically she could not put up much resistance against the USA and some changes in her attitude have been observed. Now the American press have revealed that Turkish officials secretly told the American authorities: "If you carried out an operation against Iraq, we could permit you to use our bases." But there are some hesitations among Turkish bourgeois circles. It has been said that relations between Turkey and Iraq are at their highest level for years and that the commercial relations are developing. Yet, as the Turkish proverb says, "you should not refuse to give a chicken to those that will give you a goose." In the Gulf War big capital backed the president Ozal who followed this policy. But the expectations expressed in this proverb were not borne out. However, an intervention against Iraq would not be seen as being against the interests of big capital, despite the fact that it has the potential to inflame the Kurdish problem, because the Turkish bourgeoisie has always dreamed of getting a share of the Northern Iraq oil fields.
On the other hand, it is difficult for the Turkish bourgeoisie to take a clear stance on Israeli-Palestinian relations. Turkey, who had good relations with Palestine for a period, in recent years has developed its relations with Israel, under the influence of its Big Brother, the USA. But the interests of Turkey in this unstable region necessitate multidimensional relations with various Arab countries. Therefore Turkey would not want to break her relations with Palestine altogether. Turkish rulers are very keen on giving the impression of being a big state which wants to play a sub-imperialist role under the patronage of the big imperialist powers and that is a factor in the balance of forces. Because they want to create a strong Turkey which invests in various countries in the region, they abstain from giving one of the sides a blank cheque.
For Turkey to undertake new roles in the region, hand in hand with US imperialism, would mean new adventures, the consequences of which are in fact unpredictable. Such an attempt would provoke a reaction on the part of neighbouring Arab countries and also the formation of new alliances against Turkey. Turkey, which has an overwhelming Moslem population, in striving to play war games in the region as the USA's little brother, would sow the seeds for serious conflicts both internally and externally.
Afghanistan and US-Turkey Relations
For Afghanistan to become a state, the military and police forces must be established and trained after the war. Now Turkey is being groomed and is said to be the best country that can do this. There is widespread propaganda here that the role to be undertaken by Turkey goes beyond providing soldiers for the international force. Turkey is already seeking to rebuild the infrastructure of Afghanistan and companies are making contracts.
In fact the US has had a plan for a long time to maintain dominance within the balance of forces in Eurasia. Brzezinski, the notorious strategist, wrote in his book "Big Chessboard", that the most important strategic reward of the 21st century would be to establish control over Eurasia. To be able to stay as a hegemonic power in the region, despite the growing influence of China and Russia, the US is imposing new alliances between the big states of the region. Thus Turkey is also given an important strategic role. The plans that are being put into practice after September 11 must be assessed within this context. Eurasia is in fact a very important region, because this super-continent accounts for 75% of the world population, and it contains 65% of the known energy resources and is very rich in mineral resources.
Bourgeois commentators state that the US wants to contain the influence of Iran over the region, particularly over the Central Asian republics, which can develop under the disguise of Islamic fundamentalism. They say that the US needs the help of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. This plan is said to be also supported by Russia - for the time being - as a counter-balancing force to Iran in the region. But at the same time it is also a known fact that China will come up against such an alliance, and besides the support that will be given to Pakistan it will provoke the hostility of India. For us, this process which would operate on the basis of conflicts between rival powers and of temporary equlibriums is bound to disintegrate at any moment, and is pregnant with big convulsions. Every move towards any alliance in the region will sow the seeds of future conflicts. Moreover, a rapprochement of Turkey, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia under the patronage of the US, would also arouse new reactions in Arab countries.
But from every point of view, the conduct of the US and its aggression after September 11 does not seem to be a short-term tactic. With the economic crisis, the imperialist states that coexist in rivalry to each other all over the world, need to expand their spheres of influence. The tendency of expansionism originates out of the inner mechanisms of the capitalist system itself. This was especially the case with US imperialism, which was in need of strengthening its position and maintaining and reinforcing its recently-shaken hegemony in those areas where Russia and China had been making headway. September 11 was the excuse for this. If September 11 had not taken place, US imperialism would have had to create another excuse.
We have to stress that the essence of expansionism in the era of imperialism is different from the era of colonialism. In the imperialist era, the mechanism of establishing hegemony in a region is not annexations or colonial governors, but creating a sphere of influence under the control of the concerned imperialist state. Nobody wants to lose his hegemony in a situation of fierce rivalry between the big powers. That is why the US wants to position itself in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa. She wants to establish governments under her control in these regions and also plans to install a political structure in her own interests. And then she wants to create markets, exporting capital to these poor areas. But this cannot be a process without convulsions, and the conflicts will not stop in the short-term. In the last analysis what is decisive is the mutual balance of forces between imperialist states who want to take part in the game. Therefore the US cannot achieve everything that she would wish to impose. So, the course of the process depends on settling accounts between imperialist powers sometimes around the negotiating table, sometimes in regional wars.
The US plans to involve Turkey in its plans, as she has a secular army, which is considered to be a guarantee against fundamentalism. Moreover, by giving some support to Pakistan and "Westernising" her a little, the US wants to establish its hegemony in the region. If the US manages to achieve this, it then wants to be able to tell the European imperialist states that "you cannot play games in this region without me." On the other hand, Islamic fundamentalism has now become a problem for the United States in the changed conditions (the Iranian Revolution, the collapse of the USSR), although they had formerly fostered it as part of their "green belt" project. Thus Turkey is now chosen as the pilot country to get rid of Islamic fundamentalism. In line with this, the general staff of the army announced a memorandum against Islamic fundamentalism on September 28, 1997. As a result of this 'covered coup', the biggest Islamic party (Welfare Party) in Turkey, which was in then in office, was removed from office and then closed down.
According to the World Bank, Turkey is at the heart of Eurasia. They say that Eurasia will be a dynamic market and Turkey will be the only future gateway to the biggest market of the 21st century and that Turkey will be the regional centre of production and it will also be at the centre of a wider market extending from the Pacific in the east to the Atlantic in the west. These can be interpreted as delusions of an organism gripped by a crisis if we look at the present situation in the world economy. But we must not forget that capitalism does not collapse automatically because of its crises. Capitalism will always find a way out of the crisis unless the working class overthrows this world capitalist system. But at what cost?
We know that the world capitalist system, which moves through cycles of crises, tries to overcome big crises with wars, repression and reactionary regimes that mean incredible suffering for the masses. But we must add that the convulsive periods in world history have also been the womb of revolutions. When we look at the workers' movement in our country, it may seem a little bit less organised and backward compared to its class brothers in some other countries. And it does not yet seem to have recovered from its weariness, as a result of long years of systematic repression. But who knows what the processes ahead of us are pregnant with? And can we know everything in advance? But one thing we do know well: just as the history of the world bourgeoisie is full of crises, the history of the working class is full of surprises!