Interview with V.U. Arslan on Erdogan’s Regime | OKDE-Spartakos*
*This interview is made by OKDE-Spartakos (Greece)
1.What are the developments in Turkey since the summer coup and until now?
Even in the night of the coup Erdogan started to celebrate the chances after the failed coup by saying“This is a gift of God”. After the coup, with manifested State of Emergency approximately 100.000 public officers dismissed (most of them are teachers, polices, members of military and judiciary) on the ground that they are Gulenist. 60.000 public officers suspended. With the executive orders that cannot be prosecuted, the government made thousands of people’s lives miserable without any questioning, without taking any statement. Many of these people have no connection with Gulen Movement –even governmental resources accept it- State of Emergency was prolonged three more months. Thousands of people were arrested on the ground of being a member of “terrorist Gulen sect”, the leader cadres and important names had already fled abroad.
It was quite clear that the target of Erdogan was not only Gulenists. Erdogan by announcing he will start a war against the PKK partisans, he started to attack Kurdish opposition. In this context, on the one hand, approximately 10.000 teachers suspended by linking to PKK (most of them were reinstated after three-month suspension), on the other hand, government appointed trustees to lots of municipalities of HDP including Diyarbakır. HDP leader Demirtaş and other 11 HDP MP’s and many mayors of HDP were arrested. Moreover , Kurdish media organs were closed down and the attacks against Kurdish movement are going on. On the other hand, socialists especially the ones that are close to HDP,became targets of these attacks. Also, the leftist academicians who criticize the military operations in Turkish Kurdistan that cause the destruction of cities, were dismissed. They received death threat and rest of them have to live with the threat of dismissal.
Kemalist newspaper Cumhuriyet‘s writers are also in prison as the other 138 journalists.
On the one side, state of emergency creates the favorable situation to attack worker’s rights. Rental worker practice or the attacks like the abolition of the job security of public officers passed into life without any legislation process: executive orders in practise abolished job security and any kind of legal rights of the working class. Working class does not have the organized power to resist against these laws and suffer from deteriorating living conditions that is the result of the economic crisis.
Media which is very effective on the creation of public opinion is almost under the control of Erdogan completely. Contrarian voices has a place in social media yet thousands of salaried AK-trolls (the social media trolls of AKP) are making campaigns. Many of the opponents of the Erdogan regime that share sharp criticism to Erdogan on social media are arrested under allegations of “insulting the President”.
Erdogan wants to deceive society with new Ottoman deliriums and Islamist-Turkist propaganda. While Erdogan follows a pitiless policy against Kurds and socialists both in Turkey and in Rojava, the reason for being a separate party of MHP (fascist party) does not exist anymore.
Inside MHP, Meral Akşener who has much more potential electorally and has the ability to become a leader of the party and a danger for Erdogan, was kicked out of the party with coup excuse. Therefore, existing MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli pays back by opening presidency path to Erdogan. Most likely, referendum will come up in April for voting presidency that makes “one-man regime” to gain legalization.
2.Which has been the strategy of the bourgeois class about the coup? Have parts of it supported the rebellion and which have been always loyal to Erdogan?
Firstly I should clarify the dynamics of the coup to explain the power struggle inside dominant class and their international allies. Two wings of political Islam in Turkey has made their way to the top of the power apparatus through different and long paths. One of them is Gülen Movement with an ambitious leader Fethullah Gülen, a religious cult that has strong ties with USA and the other is Erdoğan’s AKP that is the revised version of classical Islamist “National Vision Movement”. The Gülen Movement having strong ties with all former political governments in Turkey, aims to overtake the power by cadre placement over the strategic positions in the state apparatus such as police, intelligence, education, judiciary, army. Gülen cult which created success-oriented teachers “army” using deficits in education and dormitory systems with huge financial power, had its golden era in AKP period. Gülen movement, which was strong and influential in police department and jurisdiction, wiped the Kemalist cadre off from the high bureaucracy that started in 2007 with so called Ergenekon investigation and 2010 referendum. In this period, the total deactivation of already weak bourgeois legal system by the political motives took place in Turkey. Lawlessness and arbitrary regime became the common reality. The nationalist Kemalist generals and high-ranking officers were dismissed from the TSK (Turkish Armed Forces) with the help of the EU and USA.
The capitalist classes, liberal intellectuals and some left liberals (including Greek SEK’s sister organisation DSIP) strongly supported the elimination of Kemalists by AKP-Gülen coalition. Gülen Movement completed what Erdoğan could never have done on his own. These two powers had work hand in hand as a coalition in AKP period against the enemies: Kemalists, Kurds and Gezi protestors (the popular riot against AKP in June 2013). However, they started to fight tooth and nail after they defeated or downgrade their enemies about who was going to rule the country. Who will have the say? Erdoğan or Gülen? And the big fight began.
Although the cadres of Gulen in police department and the jurisdiction revealed Erdoğan’s historic corruption that showed millions of dollars in the shoe boxes at minister’s home and sound records of Erdogan about this money, Erdoğan brazenly kept going and seized the opportunity to win the elections thanks to the preferences of the voters that had been sharpened due to the secular-conservative polarization. Afterwards, Erdoğan declared Gülen movement as a terrorist organization (by the name of FETO, the abbreviation of the leader’s first name). In addition, Gülen bureaucracy was dismissed; the properties of businesspersons were seized. After the landslide victory of Erdoğan in November 2015 election, Gülen had no other choice but to use his power in the army. Erdoğan had already been aware of this and he was planning a cleaning in TSK (Turkish Army). However, the two sides had to wait because of the ongoing urban wars in Kurdish cities. For instance, Adem Huduti who was leading the city wars as the top general, is currently imprisoned for being a FETO member and supporting the coup. Ultimately, the conflict between Gulen and Erdoğan became definite in the beginning of the summer when TSK won the city wars in Kurdish cities. While Erdoğan was preparing a huge “cleaning” in TSK, the Gulen finalized the coup date in the midst of July and took action.
This is the story of the Gulen’s coup. Who supports it? The Gulenist Movement whose leader and center are in USA have strong connections with USA foreign policies all along. Therefore, USA cannot be consider as unaware of July 15 attempted coup. There is no doubt that USA leadership who is not pleased with Erdogan would be satisfied with a kind of “Sisi” rulership in Turkey. However, they failed. The Turkish big business (TUSİAD) is very weak to effect the power struggle. They supported AKP against Kemalists but after Erdogan became more and more powerful, he started to built his personal arbitrary regime. Some elements in TUSİAD affiliated Erdogan to earn big money with the help of AKP but the other historical leaders which has more class oriented attitudes are not happy with the elimination of bourgeoisie legal mechanism by arbitrary rule of Erdogan. This wing was also against the coup because like everybody they saw it was very unlikely for the coup be successful to overthrow AKP.
We should talk about the role of Islamists in the defeat of the 15th July coup. At that night the Islamists got organized with Erdogan’s call and poured into the streets. The big capitalist media also help Erdogan’s followers to get organized by broadcasting live the protests. In general to understand the power struggles in Turkey someone has to understand the opportunistic characteristic of the Islamists in opposition and in the power. AKP and Erdogan have much in common with Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (being “conservative democrats” in the opposition, being authoritarian in power, be mired in corruption, following neoliberal policy as an enemy of the workers)
3. Are the harsh persecutions by the Erdogan’s regime a show-off of mere power or is there something else about it?
I think it is not a show off. As you say we are in a period of institutionalization of one-man rule in Turkey. Of course it is an authoritarian project that is intolerant against any opposition. Also I should talk about the imposition of Islamization.
4. What has been the recent situation of the workers’ and social movement? Have there been any major struggles recently? How has the left coped with this difficult situation?
There have been some strikes. These are going on. But the problem is that the left can not effect these actions. These strikes are isolated in one work place and limited with economical issues. So they can’t effect the political struggle in Turkey. Other than socialists the trade unions are very weak. Also they are highly bureaucratic and corrupt. One and half year ago there was a huge metal sector strikes with tens of thousands of workers that took place at the heart of the turkish industry. But even this huge action could’t effect the political life. The main reason is that there is no leftwing class oriented political alternative that has real relationship with workers to effect them. So although the workers go into struggle the political radicalization doesn’t coexist. Turkish political life is highly polarized between identity politics such as turkish-kurdish, alevi-sunni and secular-conservative. So this polarization divides the workers too.
The left is under heavy pressure. Even main opposition party CHP feels themselves insecure. There is danger of total oppression against socialists. AKP media sometimes openly threaten socialists as “something should be done for Gezicis” (means participants of Gezi uprising in 2013). Also the fascists MHP gangs attacks socialist militants with knives and machetes while provoking the normal citizens with blaming them supporters of PKK. Many of the left groups have minimized their routines. AKP’s strategy resembles Turkist-Islamists authoritarian regime and it causes despair in the ranks of the left forces who are inactive. On the other hand our party SEP believes that the best defense is good offense. Even we increase our daily works as we know that political activities increase not only the morale of leftist people in the streets but also the morale of our members and sympathizers. So it attracts peoples attention and as a result we are in a process of growth. Joint action of the leftist groups are urgently needed but unfortunately the traditional defect of Turkish left (sectarianism) prevent this. So socialist groups cant organize a joint campaign. However it is not easy for Erdogan to settle his arbitrary rule. Other than pressures that comes from foreign policy and weak economy there will always be a big potential for popular opposition which has strong social bases such as the Alevis (%15-20 of the total population), Kurds (%20-25) and the secularists (mostly Kemalists). These groups which makes the “left”in general can’t comply with Erdogan regime. Whenever they find suitable conditions there will be huge protests. Last month the women’s protests against the murder of women were very big (although we have police brutality and we have had experiences of suicide attacks to the protestors two times last year) Also there is a tendency that broke with AKP because of its rotten rule moves to the left opposition as a kind of left Islam. It shows the diversity and aliveness of the popular opposition. The people that participated in Gezi uprising have not disappeared they are still angry but this time very pessimistic. The main problem is the lack of leadership. AKP is identified with corruption and high exploitation of working class. Also in Turkey we witness all the conditions that lead to outbreak of an economical crisis. So there is an important potential to class oriented radicalism but again we need to a socialist alternative whose focus is working class. However I should add that PKK/TAK suicide attacks helps AKP to overcome these challenges and continue to OHAL rule (state of emergency).
5. How has the Kurdish issue developed in these last months?
One of the milestone for Turkey was the start of the war between the state and PKK in July 2015 just one month after the historic 7th June election in which AKP lost the majority and HDP won more than %13 votes. Erdogan wanted war because he knows that without war AKP would loose. Even before 7th June election AKP tried to start to war but PKK were very careful and didn’t go into combat. Because they know that the clashes would help AKP and damage HDP before election. But after the election they changed their attitude and declared the end for inactiveness and bargaining process. Although HDP was on the top of their political vacuum with charismatic leadership of Demirtas PKK joined the war and gave Erdogan what he wanted.
The result of the war was total disaster. Thousands of Kurdish youth was killed in urban warfare in which PKK lost after intense clashes that destroy the cities. Under shade bombs HDP lost all the political effect. After the many death soldiers and polices the society became more and more chauvinistic. Erdogan shows himself as a strong leader that fights against terrorism and gained the whole support of fascist MHP. With the start of the war and with threats of chaos AKP had a very big election victory on 1st November and regained parliamentarian majority. After the failed military coup last summer Erdogan didn’t missed this chance and escalated his anti-terror tone, became more and more authoritarian. PKK’s suicide attacks which killed great numbers of civilians (and police also) in western part of the country also helps Erdogan to unite all the right wing behind himself and affect the ordinary people. Another important thing is that although Demirtas, the other MP’s and mayors of Kurdish cities (including Diyarbakır) were arrested the protests in Kurdish areas were very small. It is true that one of the factor is the state oppression but in Kurdish cities there have been always state pressure. The main reason is that Kurdish people in general doesn’t approve the latest strategy of PKK. Most of them hate the state but they don’t like ongoing PKK strategy. The results are very clear: PKK had lost the urban control and one militant generation. Erdogan use the war effectively and finished the HDP opposition. With the pretext of war against terrorism Erdogan establish authoritarian rule in all country.