TURKEY: COUP PLOTTERS FORCED OUT INTO OPEN
July 16 2008
There is an almighty struggle going on in Turkey. It is not a struggle
easily recognisable as being between workers and bosses. There are
no general strikes, no pickets, no scabs. In fact, the industrial
struggle is at a low ebb.
This struggle has involved bombings, court cases, declarations by the
military, assassinations, plots against the government, the arrest
of retired generals, the discovery of secret arms dumps and more.
It is hard to say who is on which side and who wants what. It started
in earnest in 1997, when the military forced a coalition government
led by the Islamic Welfare Party (WP) to resign.
The WP had been elected on a document called A Fair Order, which
had nothing to say about religion, but much to say on unemployment,
poverty and privatisation.
Its overthrow was followed by years of instability and weak coalition
In 2002, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a breakaway from WP,
won a general election to form the first coherent majority government
for 20 years.
The AKP is a conservative, staunchly neoliberal party with a very
slight Islamic tint. In its six years in power, it has not passed
any legislation that could be interpreted as "Islamic".
It has implemented everything dictated to it by the IMF and Turkey’s
Yet it has also been more like a radical opposition party than a
government. It has been under constant attack from the state machinery
through legitimate and clandestine means.
It emerged last month that the military has prepared an "action
plan" consisting of steps against the government "responsible for
These plans were hatched by the military chiefs of staff in 2004 and
2005 for a takeover. They were only prevented because the chief of
staff was against it.
Last year, a memorandum published on the chiefs of staff website
attempted to stop the foreign minister, a leading AKP member,
from being elected president of the republic. This was dubbed the
It forced an early general election. As so often when they are given
the chance, the people did the exact opposite of what the military
wanted. The AKP had polled 34 percent of the vote in 2002 and they
were re-elected with 47 percent.
These attempts by parts of the state to cripple and overthrow the
government have been accompanied by the clandestine activities of
what is known in Turkey as the "deep state".
This is the murky world of semi-amateur plotters of coups, fascist
youth organisations and hit squads. They have all been brought together
by retired generals.
They parade as patriotic associations out to "defend the
republic". Where the "deep" state ends and the "visible" state begins
is often hard to tell.
The fight going on is now very visible. The government has started
rounding up the plotters. Prominent names have been arrested, although
these do not go all the way to the top.
A case is also making its way through the Constitutional Court, in
which the AKP has been accused of being "the focus of anti-secular
There is no doubt that AKP will be closed down next month. This will
plunge the country into political instability.
People are asking why the state mechanism is trying to overthrow
a government that is a docile servant of big business and enjoys
Because the AKP comes from a different tradition to the Turkish
nationalists, who have run the state under the ideology of Kemalism –
named after the founder of modern Turkey Kemal Ataturk – it can take
steps which no other party can.
It has been willing to tackle such issues as a peaceful solution
with Kurdish rebels and open discussion on the Armenian question –
relating to accusations of genocide in the early 20th century.
It is also trying to resolve the ethnic division of Cyprus, challenge
the role of the military in politics and liberalise a great deal
These are all challenges to the sacred cows of Kemalism.
The AKP does this not because it is democratic or progressive. It
does it because big business wants Turkey to join the European Union
and these issues are a block to that.
The AKP wants to reform and liberalise the state machine and exclude
the military from politics, but it cannot afford to weaken them.
It’s not in the business of abolishing the state. It just wants to
bring it in line with current ruling class interests.
This vicious struggle at the top opens up great possibilities for
revolutionaries. Alas, much of the left is taken in by the rhetoric of
"defending the secular republic".
The leader of the Communist Party even wrote an article titled "I am
not against all coups."
Some on the left are. And it brings us together with a large number of
people who we can work with, first to defend democracy and then more.