Site Navigation

The Turkish Model in Terms of Imperialist Vision

Contribution of Özgür Der, Turkey, to Assisi 04

13. August 2004

September 11 has crystallized the imperialist identity of capitalist world system. The same forces who had been involved in a savage plunder of all world in the name of bringing civiliation in the past, evaluated the September 11 as an oppurtunity and once again exhibited their real face, war and occupation. This time the reason which was used as a weapon was terror threat and they declared their mission as to bring democracy.

The occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq; supporting of colonial policies in Palestine, Kashmir and Chechenya; sending troops and opening new military bases in many crisis areas of the world from South America to Africa and Far East, all of these colonial activities expose a global besiegement.

By strengthening and expanding colonial policies imperialism on one hand forces international organizations either serving him or losing their all functional capabilities. On the other hand the basic political assumptions of the past century, self determination and sovereignty of nations were dramatically weakend. Actually for a long time, in spite of a picture of division of the world into nation states, the capitalist world system had two basic charecteristics; cultural hegamony and imperialism.

Cultural hegamony consists imposing of modernizing Western model to non-Western societies. And economic imperialism is carried on especially by way of international travelling of capitalist accumulation and through the agency of some organizations which aims the institutionalization of capitalist system.

With the help of this dual mechanism formation of the third world as a market and a base was aimed. And to reach this goal some partners and collaborators were elected and encouraged. On the other hand resisting elements were tried to eliminate. In this respect from the beginning of its foundation, Turkish Republic has acted on behalf of capitalist world system and because of this service sometimes she was presented as an example to the third world.

As in the past, now also Turkish state has occupied an important position in the eyes of western circles especially in terms of Middle East policies. To see praises of Turkish state and system in Western political, academical circles or media is not unusual. And nowadays particularly in terms of a US product, Greater Middle East Project, Turkish state is offen mentioned as a model for Islamic and Middle Eastern countries.

Because of which characteristics Turkey is seen as a model by Western imperialists? From where does the attraction of Turkish model come?

Kemalist Model

More than two centuries, Turkey is a country where Westernization is the dominant ideology and practice. This approach, especially among the palace and intellectual circles, was accepted as a solution for reggression and dissolution of Ottoman system. Then in the Republican period this mentality became official ideology. In the final analysis this ideological approach was the expression of volunteer colonization. This was imposed in all sectors of social life by the founder of Turkish Republic, Kemal Atatürk.

According to the basic assumption of Republican mentality people were ignorant, uneducated, therefore had no capability to decide in critical issues. On the contrary the enlightened elites had the right and even responsibility to educate, direct and administer the masses. If necessary, this elites must not abstain from imposing certain practices as like bitter medicine, even to the contrary of people´s will. A social order which was conveinent to the modern Western standarts, could only be achieved in this way. Therefore even for a temporary period a tutelage regime was unavoidable.

This was a typical Führer system. A bureucratic, oligarchical system was institutionalized in the chairmanship of Mustafa Kemal who was great leader, eternal chief and the father of all Turks. All kinds of opposition were brutally oppressed. With the help of political, educational, cultural means , the society was forced to accept a new ideology, in fact a new religion, in the name of Kemalism.

The attitudes of the system to the opponents developed as a reflection of its basic character. Religion and religious values were eliminated from all sectors of social life. Instead of religious identity a new identity on the basis of ethnical purity, westernization, modernization and secularism was introduced. The power elite´s perception of the society within the pattern of social engineering and efforts to form a new society in oppressive manner naturally caused the reactions. However in a very simplistic manner these were also charged with like those stereotyped accusations “reactionary”, “seperatist”, “the puppet of foreign forces” etc. and objections were tried to oppress violently.

Oppression was the basic characteristic of the system. In the process of time due to different social political effects some changes occured and some replacements were seen among the power elites. But at the basic core the dual structure has been preserved: a tight elite of power bloc and on the other hand wide masses of people which were forced to obey sometimes with deception and manipulation and when it is unsufficient with oppression and violence. The will of people, popular sovereignty, republic, democracy and other attractive concepts were used in a cosmetic manner. By way of assigning too many conditions these concepts were made dysfunctional in practice.

Another basic characteristic of the system was it´s collaborator structure. In terms of both geographical position in the region and in general the attitude towards the world politics, the system has taken a volunteer mission which served hegemonic powers. Dependency upon hegemonic powers made Turkish state a police force in the region.

In the era of cold war the position of Turkish state was a front country and today it is forced to take a position of a battering ram in Middle East. Imperialism wants Turkish state to advance the relations with Zionist state, to support the occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq and to take a more effective role in the Greater Middle East Project. Although traditionally Turkish state has no hesitation to take this assigned role, sometimes because of the opposition of masses, goverments are obliged to resist to certain demands to some extent. The critical question is that to what extent this resistance could be continued. At this point as a NATO army, the determinant role of Turkish army over the system must be beared in mind.

Besides it´s all legal-political privileges and powerful position, the army is a force which intervened to the political system just 4 times in last 40 years directly. This fact limits and frightens political parties which compete to come to the power. On the other hand because of perceiving themselves under threat of coup d´etat political parties turn their faces to foreign dynamics more and this also strenghtens dependant politics.

Practical Adoptation

Features of the regime mentioned above have been basically kept without changing so far. Influential and determinant position of military structure on top of the system is still preserved strictly. As the keeper and carrier of the formal idology, armed forces which intervened to the system frequently and limited the field of the public and political actors, have proved how much serious the threat they constitute. Moreover, the oppression of the military structure over the system with many legal and economic arrangements has been formalized and legalized.

However, as time passsed, in the structure of the regime, in terms of both method of working and the ruling elites, some changes occured. In the process, the regime sometimes with the influence of socio-economic conditions and sometimes because of the foreign pressures has changed its behaviors to some extent and either revised it´s some practises or stepped backwards.

For example, in the political field, authoritative identity of the regime based on one party dictatorship and formed during the establishment, has kept itself so far but with a relatively liberal transformation. The relative transormation did not reflect the will of establishment but they were obliged to change as a result of both foreign pressures and seeking feasible policies. And on the other hand by allowing limited freedom to the people, the power elites had planned to control the demands and reactions. Of course the contribution of opposing tendencies for transformatory process must not be denied but the real motive for change was winds of democracy from the West. After the war, as a reaction and precautionary measures to the destruction caused by dictatorships during the Second World War, the attitude of the West to the one man or one party system changed. Consequently Turkish state has directed itself from the appearance of chief regime to a multi party political structure. This process has been maintained today as well in the name of preparation of joining the EU.

It is certain that with its many hunchback such as its formal ideology, political bans and constitution without a difference from a minefield, the regime is still too far from its claim related to “popular sovereignty and democracy”. But despite this fact today we can talk about a wide variety of acquirement in many fields, in spite of the regime, from the university to the press, from the union rights to the freedom of organization. Moreover we should struggle in order to protect and develop these acquirements.

It is not heartening to look Turkey´s view which imperialism presents as a model to the Middle East. The domination of bureaucratic oligarchy do not respect basic rights of people. Freedom of expression, belief and right for organization have been systematically violated. Coming together around the opposing ideas sometimes are sufficient to be accused of potential terrorism and being punished. Thousands of political prisoners are in jail and they have been targeted in violent operations. With the isolation practice in the prisons beginning at the end of 2000, the regime aims to isolate opponents from their political, ideological identities and their organizations. In this manner they are tried to remove their personality. This practice causing in the last four years more than 100 lives has been still maintained mercilessly.

Despite some positive steps related to recognition of Kurdish identity, the chauvinistic and racist frame of the official ideology cannot still be removed, so certain steps to widen the field of freedom cannot go beyond cosmetic changes and cannot be adopted sincerely.

In the same way, the restrictions related to belief have been maintained non-stoppingly. The lives of Muslims are strictly surrounded by oppression and prohibitions of Kemalist secularism. Especially, because of the ban on headscarf, innumarable Muslim girls and women are isolated, officially insulted and kept away from the social life. As a result of headscarf ban the right of education and labor of these people were usurped and because of their Islamic identity political participation of these people were blocked. And although the great majority of people oppose this shameful practice, the oppressive forces are making efforts to wieden the field of ban.

In spite of this situation Turkey is also an intensive struggle field. In one side there is an hegemonic power practicing oppressive policies inside the country and chosing the collaboration with imperialist forces against resisting Muslim people in the Middle East. On the other side there are opponent groups and movements from different ideological-political origins. In this struggle, the status quo forces have got two big advantages. One of these is the indifference and passivity of masses to political matters. The roots of this fact go to the obediance culture which goes back to past centuries and also combined with oppresive policies which strenghtened especially during the military intervention periods. This can only be eliminated by introducing wide scale political aims and instruments related to the masses.

The other advantage of the status quo is the absence of a strong dialogue and cooperation among opponent circles. Unfortunately, as a tradition in Turkish political culture opponents are opponents to each other before opposing the regime. The regime uses this fact very well and presents opponents as a threat to each other on the basis of secterianism.

At this point the necessary duty which we should do is to define the regime in its integrity and in a consistent manner. It is also obligatory for opposing circles to cooperate against colonialism and collaboration in a field that imperialism surrounds the world and puts into practice the projects to occupy the Middle East. Surely, on the base of justice which is defined by everybody from his/her own ideological perspective and given different meanings, a search of dialogue and cooperation is possible and inescapable.

Ridvan Kaya