HISTORICAL-SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE

OUR PERSPECTIVE

We believe that the current political landscape of Turkey makes sense in the light of a historical-sociological perspective that can uncover the primary tensions: a polarity emerged between the center and the periphery, and both politics (state institutions) and the people have been divided based on this polarity since the beginning of the transition process from the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic. The center has been occupied by the military-bureaucratic authority and capital owners subsidized by the state, while the Sunni religious majority, Kurds, non-Muslims, Alevis and local craftsmen were alienated and abandoned in the periphery.
 
The westernizing elites occupying the center were presented as the ideal citizens to those in the periphery. While doing this, all the ideological apparatuses of the state made up of secularism and nationalism, that sought to impose the typology of the ideal citizen on the people, completely ignored their organic sociological character. The center that emerged as a result of the combination of bureaucracy and capital, tried to harshly suppress Islam, a reference point taken by wide sectors of society, by overlooking its praxis in society. Similarly, the Kurds, non-Muslims, Alevis and peripheral merchants who violated the ideological character of the center also became the object of the political, economic and cultural repression mechanisms of the center. Moreover, the peripheral actors were not only oppressed by the center and rendered invisible, but were also deprived of political and economic advantages the center possessed. 
 
The political practice of the center that appropriated the bureaucratic and economic tools of power was devoid of any solid action in establishing and strengthening democracy. To the contrary, the center came to be the actor that provided overt support to military coup d'etat that took place in every decade after the transition to the multi-party era. The economic practice of the center also contrasted with the logic of local production that would lead to the increase of national welfare: The only contribution made by the center to the economy was the creation of markets for national consumption of imported products and taking control of these markets. The cultural characteristics of the center class’ elitism were shaped by its phantasmatic Western representation. The political institutions established by the center and the products they put on the market were also an imitation of this Western representation.
 
In short, the bureaucratic elites that hegemonized the state institutions in the Republican Turkey, through their statist and protective policies, generated the emergence of a secular, nationalist and emulator capital-owning class. This class preferred to protect the interests of the state instead of the large masses of people, and carried out “status-politics” rather than “sociology-politics”

TURKEY’S STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRACY

The interrupted move to the Center: Era of Adnan Menderes

With the Democrat Party’s rise to power in 1950, the periphery had the opportunity of occupying the center for the first time in the history of the Republic. However, in a short time this democratic opportunity was taken away from the periphery. The coup d-etat of 27 May 1960, that was staged with the support and call of judicial bureaucracy, mainstream media belonging to the center and politicians from the center, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), marked the end of the era of Democrat Party. Menderes, who was the chair of the party and prime minister of that period, and deputies Fatin Rustu Zorlu and Hasan Polatkan were sentenced to death by hanging. After this coup d-etat, it became apparent that the center did not regard using military coup d’etat against the “dangerous” consequences of democracy as harmful. Yet, none of the coup d’etat that took place in every decade prevented the members of the periphery from moving to the center.

The Era of Ecevit

Even though this move mainly took place through the political parties regarded by the center as rightist, the CHP, an organic part of the center, made this move possible at certain exceptions: Producing discourses in line with the thesis called “renunciation of inheritance” rejecting the ideology of the center theorized by Turan Gunes and written by Deniz Baykal, Bulent Ecevit gained victory in the elections in 1973 and 1977. Despite these accomplishments, the harshest opposition came from the founders of the CHP, who accused Ecevit of being a communist, and TUSIAD (Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen Association) via countless newspaper advertisements. 

The Era of Suleyman Demirel

Suleyman Demirel, who was elected as the prime minister after the 1960 coup d’etat and who presented himself as the inheritor of Democrat Party, was also confronted with resistance from the center. Demiral was despised as a shepherd, and after the military coup d’etat, he could only enter the center after he became a staunch defender of the values of the center. Demirel was one of the two active actors, accompanied by General Staff Cevik Bir, during the process of 28 February coup d’etat in 1997 that resulted in the overthrow of Necmettin Erbakan’s government which attempted to introduce an eastern centered economy (D8) to replace interest in the center.

Ozal

Turgut Ozal came to power after the 12 September 1980 coup d’etat. As a consequence of his liberalizing policies that intended to integrate Turkey into the world economy, peripheral religious entrepreneurs started to gain power to compete with the secular Istanbul capital owners while the center had begun to be deprived of the opportunities that were provided by the state. The economic success of peripheral actors enabled more overtly religious people, who were exiled to the periphery, to appear in the metropolis dominated by the center in various fields ranging from culture to politics. The center started to produce cultural and racist discourses like “our way of life is under threat”, and tried to segregate and discipline the periphery. The religious masses, who were suppressed in Turkey before Ozal began the process of liberalization, succeeded in becoming organized in the civil and political society, and in the 1990s this helped them constitute the opposition against the established order.

Erdogan

When the current ruling AK Party came to power in 2002, the capital owners of the periphery (called “the Anatolian tigers”) were determined to realize a structural transformation against the tutelage of the center. Through this transformation, the peripheral actors aimed to fulfill a democratic reform to move the periphery to the center and maximize the economic interests of the periphery that constituted 85 percent of the Turkish population. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s firm stance on this transformation led Turkey to come to terms with the tutelage of the center in such a way that had never been done before. He has developed an official civil-democratic discourse that has destroyed almost all the taboos (representation of Kurds, headscarf, religious vocational schools, minority foundations, Alevis’ recognition by the state) of the center’s official ideology that had excluded the members of the periphery from the center. In 2014, the last taboo of the center was eradicated with Erdogan’s election as president by the people (periphery). This also changed the status of presidency that had long served to protect the tutelage of the center.