By Toni Alaranta
February 17, 2017
It has become a commonplace to argue that Kemalism was a Turkish variant of right-wing nationalism with strong corporatist leanings and even fascist aspects. This is often compounded with the assertion that the Kemalist secularist state elite only sought to secure its own power and status in society, and that it only paid lip-service to Enlightenment ideals. It is pertinent to ask why the Kemalists would have embarked on a hugely unpopular project of culture revolution that threatened their hold on power by provoking a popular reaction, if they only sought to establish a right-wing dictatorship. The right-wing authoritarianism from which Turkey has suffered during most of its history has other sources.
Ali Bayramoğlu in Yeni Şafak writes that the social fabric of Turkey is brittle. It is as if the Ottoman “millet” system, in which different groups lived side by side, but without contact with each other, persists. This social reality informs our political life. What imports for every separate group is to promote its own interests. When this is the case, “interests” matter more than “principles.” The partisanship in our politics, the natural populism, is the result of this. It is perhaps no wonder that certain state institutions and actors and certain strains in politics and some people often emphasize that the country faces the risk of falling apart. This is maybe an expression of the fact that their respective hold is tenuous, a recognition of the need to hold on, lest everything be lost. Are we going to continue like this, in the same way that we have been doing now for almost a century? Or are we going to engage in an endeavor to build bridges, make connections, across the different sections, fraternities and groups – many of which have been formed on the basis of cultural differences – embarking on a “great, civilian, egalitarian civilization project?” That is the one truly fundamental question that Turkey faces.
Ali Bulaç in Yarına Bakış writes that Turkey had the chance to provide a model of successful Islamist governance, and asks why it failed. Turkey could have been different, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. If every group had shown the maturity of sharing the work of governing with each other, while at the same time conserving their autonomy, then the process that started in 2002 would have ended with making Turkey a role model for the Middle East. We have to concede that the Muslims were unable to share power, and that they failed to construct a just power. They have forfeited nearly all of the gains that were made since 1960; indeed, the gains relating to freedoms and rights that had been obtained since parliamentary democracy was established in 1950 have been surrendered. This has more than one reason. Two principal reasons stand out: The first is the incompatibility between the two strands of Islam in Turkey that has never been surmounted, between the National Outlook movement and the Nurcu strand or strands; the other reason is that the religious fraternities, as soon as they glimpsed the light of power in the 21st century, reverted to the Ottoman tradition of seeing themselves as the prolongation of the state in society and engaged in a race to become the state’s most privileged group. Meanwhile, Muslim intellectuals quickly embraced the opportunity of becoming the official servants of the state. Anyone who chooses Turkey as model will repeat this mistake.
By Halil Karaveli
June 6, 2016
The celebration of the conquest of Constantinople 1453 is an expression of Turkey’s quest for purity. The “ideology of conquest,” the need to symbolically and repeatedly reclaim what has been Ottoman and Turkish for centuries, ultimately speaks of an existential unease with a historical legacy that is marked by a heterogeneity that is unsettling for an authoritarian state that seeks uniformity. The need to celebrate the conquest of the most important city of the land shows that Turkey is yet to become reconciled with its past. Such reconciliation calls for assuming the entirety of what is a multi-layered historical legacy. Recognizing that Turkey is the result, not so much of conquest, as of a history of continuous mixing and assimilation of aboriginal cultures and state traditions, is also the key to coming to terms with country’s ethnic and cultural diversity today and securing a democratic future for Turkey.
By Halil Karaveli
May 13, 2016
The dynamics of capitalist development have played a much more central role for Turkey’s journey from secularism to religious conservatism – and before that for the Kemalist break with Islam – than what is generally recognized. During the context of the Cold War, capitalist development and Islamization went hand in hand, as religious conservatism neutralized the challenge of the left and labor. Today, neoliberal globalization provides impetus for Islamization. Raising “pious generations” – who are “traditional,” not rebellious – is essential for sustaining neo-liberalism. An explicitly “religious” constitution, in which reference is made to God, will serve to mask that it is capital that reigns supreme. Ultimately, the survival of secularism requires that the economic order that depends on continued Islamization is called into question.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.