Crisis within Turkey’s ruling bloc

By YASIN KAYA

The Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office initiated a “corruption and bribery operation” on Dec. 17. About one week later, the Ministers of Economics, the Interior, and Urban Development all resigned after their sons were arrested. Events accelerated at a dizzying pace. Prime Minister Erdogan fired seven other ministers. The chief prosecutor was taken off the case. Hundreds of police officers were removed from their posts.

Although Erdogan claims that the scandal was a foreign plot, and blames the “interests-rate lobby” for trying to harm Turkey, many see the unfolding drama as a civil war between his AKP (Justice and Development Party) and the Gulenists.

The Gulen Movement is a global Islamist network led by Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. The Gulenists were among the strongest political groups that had supported the AKP since it came to power in 2002. They joined forces with the AKP to prosecute secularist generals, and hundreds of other alleged coup plotters since 2007. Not only the top military officials, but also many innocent journalists and politicians were arrested on the basis of “fabricated evidence, secret witnesses, and flights of investigative fancy”—thanks to the Gulenists’ infiltration of the judiciary and police.

Such undemocratic underpinnings sustained the corrupt neoliberal economy. This meant unprecedented profits for domestic and foreign financial capitalists and their conglomerates on the one hand, dispossession and pauperization for workers and peasants on the other.

As previously reported in Socialist Action, numerous protests spread across Turkey after the Turkish police brutally attacked protesters in Taksim Gezi Park in summer of 2013. The popular upheaval against the authoritarian government and its neoliberal policies had a working-class character. Nevertheless, the revolt lacked political leadership and a clear political perspective. Revolutionary spirit was on the wane, but anger generated by the corruption scandal has revived it. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets on Dec. 29. Although the number of protesters were less than in the summer, the masses proved to be as committed and determined as before.

The conflict within the ruling bloc continues as we go to press. Political instability is only one of the fears of the Turkish capitalists. The Turkish economy is heading into a crisis. Turkey’s gargantuan current account deficit worsens against the backdrop of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to end its loose monetary policy—thanks to which the Turkish economy recovered from the severe hit it took from the global recession in 2008 and 2009.

Moreover, Turkey’s aggressive foreign policy failed in the Middle East, where the popularity of its government and capitalists has crumbled. This further limits Turkish capitalism’s room for maneuver because it had high hopes for economic activism in Middle Eastern markets. In short, the exploiters are not able to “live and rule in the old way,” as Lenin put it, anymore. And popular demands for change resonate to the core of the Turkish economy.

The CHP (Republican People’s Party), the main opposition, has now replaced its Kemalist-secularist rhetoric with a social democratic phraseology in order to absorb democratic demands. It seeks the support of pro-imperialist and pro-Zionist Gulenists to replace the AKP, and it strengthens its ties with the big business.

The Kurdish movement missed yet another great opportunity. Its leaders’ lukewarm opposition to the corruption scandals shows that it doesn’t want to risk the so-called “peace process” that it initiated with the AKP elites behind close doors. Of course, its reluctance to join forces with Gulenists and CHP against the AKP is understandable, since these two political forces have always been obstacles to any democratic solution to the Kurdish question. The Kurdish people do not need another tragedy to see that their national struggle has nothing to gain from capitalists and their political parties.

The Left is still fragmented and lacks the ability to organize public dissent, although its ideas are enjoying a revival.

Intense warfare within Turkey’s ruling bloc is a sign of escalating conflicts between the capitalist class fractions as the Turkish economy hurtles towards a crisis. It also shows that the imperialists are not sure whether they should bet on Erdogan or Gulenists. Imperialists employ zigzagging political tactics while their room for maneuver is narrowing in the context of the escalating crisis of imperialism in the Middle East. American and Canadian workers’ solidarity is needed with their brothers and sisters in Turkey. Our slogan should be “Imperialist Hands off the Middle East!”

The political situation in Turkey demonstrates a crisis of political leadership. Although the masses withdraw their support from the existing bourgeois political parties, in the absence of a realistic revolutionary alternative, new pro-capitalist pseudo-alternatives flourish to channel the people’s anger against the corrupt system that is based on private ownership of the means of production.

The cracks in the ruling capitalist bloc can be utilized by the working class and its allies, such as the Kurdish movement, only if an independent course of working-class action is pursued. The key task is building an independent working-class party in Turkey.

Photo: Dec. 21 protest in Ankara, Turkey, against government corruption. Signs are from the anti-capitalist Freedom and Solidarity Party. Umit Bektas / Reuters