“Not only has the AKP never rejected the established order based on ethnic, denominational and class discrimination, it has also always used the Turkish-Sunni identity to fortify its power in accordance with changes in the political climate,” writes Özgür Müftüoğlu for Yeni Yaşam.
The ‘established order’ of Turkey was founded on the principle of creating a national bourgeoisie (a capitalist class) as the means for economic development, in accordance with the resolutions of the İzmir Economic Congress, which declared that the republic would adopt a capitalist system. This principle had been inherited from the Union and Progress movement and was considered a prerequisite for the establishment of a nation-state, and has been loyally maintained, though subject to certain modifications when required by the transformative dynamics of capitalism. The ‘national’ aspect of this principle involves the existence of a Sunni-Turkish identity.
From the first decade of the 20th century the existence of the Armenians, Ottoman Greeks and Kurds [in Turkey] have been denied in the context of this principle, and in time the denial was extended to include the Alevis. This denial has also been accompanied by policies of eradication. Thus a nationalism based on discrimination against all ethnicities, religions and denominations that are not Sunni-Turkish has always been one of the pillars of the established order. Another pillar is the denial of the identity of a working class, a policy required by the ‘bourgeois’ character of the national bourgeoisie that the established order sought to create. The myth of a ‘classless and castless society’, repeated frequently during the first years of the republic, and the more recent one about ‘all being in the same boat’ are merely expressions of this.
In the 99 years of the republic, almost all political parties represented in the parliament, no matter whether they participated in governments or not, have adopted these basic principles of the established order. The exceptions are the the TİP [Turkish Workers’ Party] of the 1960s, and the HEP [People’s Labour Party], the DEP [Democracy Party], the HADEP [People’s Democracy Party], the BDP [Peace and Democracy Party] and finally the HDP [Peoples’ Democratic Party]. These parties have been able to break through all attempts to obstruct them, and achieve representation in the parliament despite rejecting the established order. However, all but the HDP were banned, and their officials and members faced trial and imprisonment.
Not only has the AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party] never rejected the established order based on ethnic, denominational and class discrimination, it has also always used the Turkish-Sunni identity to fortify its power in accordance with changes in he political climate. It has always facilitated capital’s exploitation of both labour and natural resources by means of its repression of all social opposition, taking all fields of life under its domination to enforce a nationalist and conservative way of life. While repression has increased under the authoritarian regime built under the so-called Presidential Government System, the financial resources of maintenance for the whole society have been used by state institutions to make the bourgeoisie richer, leaving the people poorer.
The AKP, which was brought to power as the political force to adopt the neoliberal structural integration program after the 2001 crisis, and which has been loyal to the policies imposed by international bodies of capitalism during its 20-year rule, further embraced the policy of the established order of ethnic, denominational and class discrimination when social problems caused by the neoliberal policies started threatening its rule. However, since both the neoliberal policies and the authoritarian rule required by the established order have accelerated the economic collapse and aggravated social problems, the AKP and its partner the MHP [the Nationalist Movement Party] have begun losing social support.
Two groups of opposition have emerged against the autocratic order represented by the AKP and the MHP. The People’s Alliance of the CHP [the main opposition Republican People’s Party], the Iyi Party (a centre-right party founded by breakaways from the MHP) and some other small nationalist-conservative parties is one of these groups. This alliance defends an ‘Enhanced Parliamentary System’ against the Presidential Government System set up in the last four years by the AKP. Its criticism of the AKP is mostly based on the assertion that the AKP has ‘failed to adopt to the recent conditions of capitalism (the capital accumulation regime)’. As the alliance has no objection to the ethnic, denominational and class discrimination of the established order, it offers no alternative other than the promise to do the same as the AKP, but better.
The other opposition group is the ‘Democracy Alliance’, which consists of the HDP, which is currently facing an indictment for its dissolution due to its rejection of the established order, and other left-wing and socialist parties and groups who have joined in talks in response to a call by the HDP. Standing against the established order that engenders hostility between peoples, delivers labour and natural resources into the hands of capital for boundless exploitation and imposes a nationalist-conservative way of life, is in itself a significant move and deserves support. But ‘concrete solutions’ to the problems of broad sections of society that have been impoverished, deprived of social security and left to starve, whose forests, rivers and seas have been destroyed and whose rights are routinely violated as part of the discrimination they face, need to be produced urgently.
In brief: As long as the People’s Alliance does not place itself outside the borders of the established order that was built on generating hostility between peoples and denying the social existence of workers, it can never be expected to bring democracy, peace and justice, or a solution to hunger, poverty and unemployment. On the other hand, the Democracy Alliance, formed by those who reject the established order, is promising not only as an election alliance, but in terms of the prospect for a joint arena for struggle after the elections.