July 25, 2014

Second single-party era

Murat Aksoy

Turkey is going through a difficult time. As noted in a Chinese proverb, we are having interesting times. We are being divided, gravely and slowly. The current political tension in Turkey polarizes the people in terms of mindset. What we have right now is the result of the political style and method Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan deliberately chose. Erdoğan tries to consolidate his power through the majority plebiscite within a classical democracy. He believes that his acts and policies are endorsed as he wins the elections.

Second single-party era

This is the path Prime Minister Erdoğan has been traveling to get to the new Turkey he seeks to build. But this is not a new Turkey. This is an attempt to create a second single-party era through the first single-party regime mindset and tools. It is really sad to see that we are back to the early republican period. Turkey has never been a country where diverse social groups were able to interact with one another freely and where they were able to coexist in peace. Different groups have existed in their own ghettos and private spheres. They were present in the common public spheres; but they did not coexist.

The state and its ideological apparatuses

Those who built the state preferred a nation-state model; this is why they pushed all different identities to their private spheres other than the Turkish/secular cultural identity. The state mobilized all material and non-material opportunities for the conveyors of this cultural identity that would justify its rule in political terms. The Kurds, conservatives, Alevis and other groups have always been alienated by the state. As the state sterilized the public sphere, they thought that Turkey would be socialized. Did it succeed in its attempt? Of course not. It failed in this attempt; and in every case where the public sphere was pluralized by political actions, the state sterilized this sphere again and again through direct or indirect interferences.

Chance AK Party failed to use

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) had a real chance to transform Turkey into a real society that is able to recognize the rights of all diverse groups. Unfortunately, it failed to use this chance. The conservative identity, one of the cultural identities disfavored by the republican regime, came to power. However, the expectations over democratization of the state, plurality of the public sphere and equal citizenship proved wrong. The AK Party preferred to imitate the state it wanted to transform at the beginning. It now exercises the political preferences of this state mindset. It imitates the republican regime that ignores its identity. The AK Party owns the authoritarian mindset as in the single-party era. It reorganizes the state, which seeks a homogenous public sphere, single identity and one truth by a reliance on this premise. The AK Party is building a new public sphere. They push everybody who remains outside its own cultural identity to a private sphere. To do this, it relies on all state apparatuses. They extend funds to the media; they manipulate the legal system and redraw the borders of the political sphere.

Islamist Turks now replacing secular Turks

The first republic did this. Now the AK Party is doing the same. The secular/Turk identity of the first republic is being replaced by the Islamist Turks of the AK Party. The AK Party uses the Directorate of Religious Affairs, which the republican regime created to disseminate its own religious interpretation, for the same purposes. Besides, they add populism and patriotism to this Islamic interpretation to make it a tool of polarization. Islam becomes an object and tool of a populist political discourse and deepens social polarization.

The liquidation of Alevis and Christians from the state was not found to be sufficient. The AK Party attempted to eradicate the Hizmet movement, which held a different vision. The gist of the tension between the AK Party and the Hizmet movement is the attempt to purge the movement from the state while the AK Party seized full control within it. However, individuals should be able to exist in the public sphere by virtue of their achievements and merits. They should exist in this sphere by virtue of being a citizen, not by their cultural, religious and ethnic identities.

Did you say law?

The tool being used to eliminate the Hizmet movement and people affiliated with it is the law. It is of course possible to explain and justify the most recent operation against the police officers who carried out crucial investigations before by reliance on legal reasons and pretexts. But it is very obvious that this is a political move. We are not aware of the content of the investigations; but if the individuals who were arrested committed crimes, the government is also an accomplice.

It is the duty of the state and the government to identify whoever violated the law, abused their position, received orders from external actors and punish them. But if law is used as a means of vengeance, nobody would trust the state. This is what is happening right now.

We need to remember that law is an interpretation, and it is not independent of the mindset of who interprets it. A democrat mindset may offer a liberal interpretation out of a strict legal rule, whereas an authoritarian mindset may generate a restrictive interpretation out of a liberal rule. As noted by Mikhail Bakunin, law is the prostitute of power. We should remember that administrations come and go. Everybody will need law eventually.

The current tension which we believe is between the AK Party and the Hizmet movement is a problem for all of us because it is we, the people, who lose in this tension regardless of who wins. This tension harms our rights and freedoms, lifestyles and private spheres. For this reason, in this tension we side with our freedoms, protection of our lifestyles and of the victims.

Published on Today's Zaman, 25 July 2014, Friday