Democratic Society: not yet strangled

July 22, 2008 at 6:52 am (dtp, Human rights, left, turkey, Uncategorized, voltairespriest)

Demokratik Topllum PartisiInteresting summary in today’s Zaman of goings on at the congress of the Demokratik Toplum Partisi, the left-Kurdish nationalist coalition in the Turkish parliament which is threatened by closure along with the ruling AK Partisi. It would seem that the party’s “moderates”, led by Ahmet Türk, have the leadership but have gotten it on the basis of an accommodation with more radical factions. It is pleasing to see such unity in the face of potentially devastating attack from the state.

Albeit deeply flawed, the DTP is the nearest thing in national level Turkish politics to a significant left-wing force. It is therefore an entity whose persecution should be of some concern to all progressive and left-wing people in the West who care about Turkey and its future. One would certainly hope that, even where people (wrongly in my view) might support the use of the Constitutional Court against the Islamist-descended AKP, they would at least stand in defence of a party explicitly set up to stand for progressive politics and Kurdish rights.

In particular, the discussion of the current Ergenekon investigations looks potentially revealing. Whilst many within the DTP (including Türk) see this as a welcome weeding-out of the “deep state” and therefore as a very real opportunity for a democratic polity to take greater hold over Turkey, others such as left-winger Emine Ayna see it as a “clash of powers” where two entrenched and reactionary sections of the ruling class tear at each other in a struggle for power over the oppressed mass. This is obviously a very fundamental difference of perspective, albeit one that appears for now to have been accommodated.

Who is right? Türk is certainly correct that the destruction of the shadowy ultra-nationalist networks which have been in evidence since the 1996 Susurluk incident can only be a good thing. But the real issue here is not simply those networks themselves, nor of some of the waffle that one reads from “left-wingers” in the UK suggesting that the AKP represents some (presumably progressive) surge of the oppressed classes against their rulers. The real question is which set of forces – the military with its historical allegiance to Kemalism or the AKP and their backers in the police – actually has the interests of the Turkish working classes at heart? The answer is clearly that neither does. Ergenekon and the “Ataturk Thought Association” (sponsors of massive pro-nationalist demonstrations over the weekend) represent an old order of ruling class in Turkey, and the AKP is now the party of neoliberalism. In that sense Emine Ayna and the DTP’s radicals are right – the left should have no trust in religious-political forces to deliver progressive change, even the more “moderate” religious parties such as the AKP. Erdogan is not a latter-day Khomeini, but neither is he a latter-day Nye Bevan.

All too often we on the left project a political template on to complex situations that bear no resemblance to that template. Both the “B52 Liberal” and cod-anti-imperialist tendencies (the latter being the SWP et al) in politics are guilty of this. Those templates inevitably skew our perception of the political realities faced by people in Turkey; fortunately the debates within organisations such as the DTP are there to correct us.

Long may they continue and Biji Kurdistan.


  1. tcd said,

    “All too often we on the left project a political template on to complex situations that bear no resemblance to that template. Both the “B52 Liberal” and cod-anti-imperialist tendencies (the latter being the SWP et al) in politics are guilty of this.”

    The “left” doesn´t do this. The bourgeoisie limits discussion to binary choices within their own framework, in Turkey this comes down to infuriating situations like “for or against headscarves”, “for or against the EU”, “for or against Kurdish nationalism” etc. This is because in each case, both positions are those of different factions of the bourgeoisie, or of the bourgeosie´s of different countries. What is staring you int he face is that neither “B52 Liberals” or “anti-imperialists” are left at all, but rather mouthpeices for different bourgeois factions who want workers tomarch, struggle and even die for comepting capitalists.

    For analysis of Turkey I recommend this:

  2. tcd said,

    btw I shold clarify that I meant to say by that that the issue is not just that British intellectuals are “confused” and are misunderstanding the situation, but that there is a faction fight within the Turkish bourgeoisie and that it´s completely consistent with the politics of “B52 liberals” or “anti-imperialists” to take sides in that faction fight in line with the interests of the faction of British capital they represent.

    I don´t think there is an issue here of “confusion”, this suggests that in some cases (Iraq? Afghanistan? Iran?) there really is a choice to be made by workers between liberalism/occupation and islamicism/national liberation, and that in those cases the “B52 liberals” and the anti-imperialists do argue in “good faith”, but that they are wrong to project these ideological motivations onto Turkey.

    IMO all these liberal/imperialist vs islamicist/anti-imperialist struggles are a facade and in case are these the real issues at stake, and therefore there is no confusion when the same hypocrites who cheer for different factions of capital in Iraq or Afghanistan do the same in Turkey.

    Just my two cents, but anyway I recommend that site I linked to for regular news on Turkey from a class perspective.

  3. Demokratik Toplum Partisi Under Attack from Turkish State « The Blog and the Bullet said,

    […] by Jack Stephens on July 22, 2008 Shiraz socialist blogs: Interesting summary in today’s Zaman of goings on at the congress of the Demokratik Toplum […]

  4. Voltaire's Priest said,


    I fully agree about the “binary options” offered not being of the left’s creation, but nevertheless I’d hold (and I daresay you’d agree) that the left doesn’t therefore have to go along with them. In terms of Turkey this is what I was getting at when I agreed with Emine Ayna about the “clash of powers” between the AKP and Ergenekon.

    In more general terms I would often agree with you as well – I was obviously specifically talking about Turkey here but I didn’t mean to discount the same set-up elsewhere as well. I don’t necessarily hold that all of these international conflicts, or the positions that the left takes on them, can simply be boiled down to faction fights between sections of big capital, but there is certainly a large slice of that involved.

  5. tcd said,

    fair enough, I was not trying ot be hyper-critical, generally I thought it was a good post.

    still, I wouldn´t personally agree wiht calling on workers to defend the AK Partisi against a coup. To defend their own rights against a repressive coup, sure, but not to defend the “democratically elected government” in itself, as this government is a class enemy which doesn´t deserve a drop of workers sweat. I think doing so legitimises the “binary options” set up.

    Still, I realise this is a contentious issue.

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