Reflections from CP, Turkey on the coup attempt and its aftermath

The International Relations Bureau of the Communist Party, Turkey released answers for ten critical questions on recent coup attempt and its aftermath in Turkey.

ICP, 19th August 2016

In order to share with the international communist movement, the International Relations Bureau of the Communist Party,Turkey prepared an analysis which consists of 10 critical questions on recent coup attempt and its aftermath in Turkey. The Bureau released the answers in consecutive International Bulletins in six different languages (English, Spanish, French, German, Russian and Arabic).

The ten questions and their respective answers are as follows:

1- Who were the plotters of the coup attempt?

It would be better to answer this question in two parts: the processes which led to the coup attempt, and the very night of July 15th. It was apparent that the operational actors were the soldiers acquiring different level ranks from various Services of the Turkish Armed Forces, including full generals. The soldiers who were directly involved in the coup attempt took the Commanders of the Forces, as well as the Chief of Defence, hostage;  had a raid to the hotel where Erdoğan situated by special forces and then followed his plane by F16 fighter planes; held air strikes aimed the locations of the Special Police Forces, Directorate General of Security and the National Intelligence Organization in Ankara; bombed the Parliament buildings; restricted the access to the Bosphorus Bridge in İstanbul and controlled the air traffic over the city by fighter planes for hours.

It is true that, in order to be able to accomplish such a combat, there have to be a serious number of commanders and sophisticated officers who are present by their own consents, besides the ones who act orderly. It is already known that the majority of the officers involved in the attempt were the members of the Gülenist movement, yet, when the several inconsistencies of the day of July the 15th concerned, the presence of some non-Gülenist officers and bureaucrats, who could be considered taking part in one way or another, stand out.

At this point the prior issues which led to the coup attempt should be referred to.

There seem to be many and various actors, other than the plotters, who would have been happy with the success of the attempt. It has to be recalled that the capitalists of Turkey have sponsored Gülen while he was growing strong internationally. There is the fact that the Gülen schools which raise pro-American reactionary cadres, TUSKON-the Gülenist confederation of Turkish businessmen and industrial capitalists, and other establishments and organizations of Gülenist movement have had various types of relationships with almost all the parts of the bourgeois actors in Turkey since 1990s. Moreover, Gülenists being a first hand part of the capitalist class of Turkey, they have been involved in various types of collaborations with other capitalists over the years. On the other hand, there are allegations pointing how the bourgeois opposition seeked for ways of cooperation with the Gülen movement, including alliances in the elections in the hope of controlling  AKP and Erdoğan since 2014.

Lastly the international actors of this non-fictional and from some aspects professionally plotted coup attempt have to be listed. The statements coming from Europe and the USA on the night of July 15 until the probable end of the coup attempt was clear, did not indicate an apparent refusal of the plotters. All through that night the information released by international sources like Reuters and the think-tank Stratfor, proved that it was not only some group of Gülenist military officers possessed the intelligence of the coup attempt.

Additionally, although not confirmed officially, there is the news about the US airbase in İncirlik had served for the attempt. The facts that Fethullah Gülen has been accommodating and being politically active in US and his known links with the CIA reinforce the allegations regarding the supportive role of the some group of forces from the USA for the coup attempt.

Although all these detections depend on factual information and observations, we have to consider the inconsistencies and the oddity of all the course of events. The only unconditional truth about the actual plotters is that they share the exact ideology and class position with the AKP government and carry pro-American and anti-popular identities.

2-What was the aim of the coup attempt?

The coup attempt did not aim a Gülenist government, as some believe. The main target of the attempt was Erdoğan and his close staff, in other words, it was the AKP ruled by Erdoğan.

If this purge would had been realised, the politics in Turkey would be proceeded with an AKP government without Erdoğan, supported by all the other bourgeois political groups. So we have to rephrase the question: Why was Erdoğan aimed to be purged?

The answer of this question lies within the political past of Turkey.

The AKP was formulated at the beginning of the 2000s by the capitalist class of Turkey, to serve the formation of a new model of capitalist accumulation in Turkey and the integration process of the country into the imperialist order. AKP had been founded in alliance with the Gülenist movement which had been an operational tool for the USA and the islamist groups reconciled with imperialism and capitalists.

Having been in power for 15 years, this alliance almost totally has eliminated the secular order; completed the full privatization of the public enterprises and attacked the organised parts of the working class. In 2011, AKP seized full control of the state by eliminating all the resisting points.

Yet, the alliance between the AKP led by Erdoğan and the Gülen movement started to shake after 2011 and turned into a conflict since 2013. It was already the year 2009 when Wikileaks released the Stratfor foresight  telling about a possible faction between AKP and Gülen movement.

The transformation in Turkey had led changes in the model of the accumulation of capital and the composition of the capitalist class. The capitalists of Turkey, who had accumulated large amounts from the privatizations, had started to export capital and had headed towards to secure those investments politically as well. The interests of the capitalists required relations with Russia and Iran on mutual interests without growing distant from the NATO and USA.

The strategic agreement on the natural gas pipeline with Russia had been signed in that sense. This would provide a line for Russian natural gas to Europe through Turkey. Besides, Turkey needed natural gas from Iran and Russia. The Russian market was an opportunity for the capitalists of Turkey. On the other hand, Russia was actively involved in political tactics which would drive Turkey out of the USA and EU alliances, and this was partly getting reciprocity.

This bourgeois policy of keeping balances started to be represented in Erdoğan himself. As a once more the bourgeois policy, the expansionism of Turkey led to independent yet unsuccessful moves which annoyed Turkey’s allies involved in USA’s plot on Syria.

However US, whose military containment policy towards Russia has been getting tenser rapidly, cannot tolerate an indecisive ally who acts double sided.

There have been an anti-Erdoğan campaign which started way before the coup attempt but has been intensified recently, in the imperialist press. Although that campaign had mottos like “democracy and the freedom of press”, it was obvious that they aimed to create a stable and docile Turkey.

We very well know that the aim of the coup was neither “secularism” nor “freedom”. The coup attempted to secure the interests of the USA and EU imperialisms and the purge of Erdoğan, which had been attempted before with several other ways but had not been succeeded.

3- Were there any chance for the attempt to be successful?

The events of the night of July 15 had different features than all other military coups in the history of the Republic. First of all, the attempt was not an initiative where the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) as a whole took action in order to seize political power. This coup should be considered as an attempt by one of the two conflicting Islamist factions within the state to deploy its forces within TAF, on the grounds of the current conjuncture of domestic and international struggles.

It became apparent that Gulen movement’s coup plans focused on the purge of Erdoğan, in order to change the balance of power. The fact that the brigades after Erdoğan and his company on the night of July 15 had almost captured them, and the unconfirmed information on Erdoğan’s asylum appeal to Germany, indicate how close the attempt was to success.

If we put aside some rather technical mistakes which former CIA agents who were experienced with military coups pointed out, the biggest risk Gulenists took that night was to postpone observing the attitude of the army commanders towards the coup until the very moment of the attempt. That was obviously a risk, but things could have been in the way the plotters expected and the high rank military officers could have stood on the coup’s side. It could be stated that the plotters took action based on the information pointing the level of discontent within TAF regarding the AKP. As a matter of fact, it took hours and many shoot-outs between the police and military units, for the generals to declare their support for the government. Those very same generals could have declared their support for the coup if the main target of the plotters, Erdogan, had been captured.

The allegations pointing advancements such as; the talks between the generals of the US airbase at Incirlik and the plotters, the delayed and hesitant actions of imperialists, and the CIA backed Stratfor’s release of the information on Erdogan’s plane, all indicate at least some levels of the US administration was aware of and supported the attempt implicitly. Likewise, the presence of this implicit support shows the possibility of a successful coup if there some of the particular turning points in favor of the government did not take place.

The issues such as; the nested structure of these two Islamist factions, which comes from the times when they had shared the power, the intimate positions held by the Gulenists around Erdogan, and the same level of dedication of the both parties' cadres to the capitalist order, could have also meant a rapid gain of strength and support on the the plotters' side during the night of July 15.

4 - What is the place of Gulen movement in the history of Turkey?

Fethullah Gulen founded his own religious community based on his reinterpretation of the teachings of Said Nursi, an influental Islamist leader who opposed to secularism during the first years of the Republic. During 60s, he held leading roles within the Struggle Against Communism Associations, a NATO-initiated clandestine organization of the time. Shortly after, he began building up a  semi-secret organization based on hierarchical codes. He organized his followers through what he named “houses of the light.”
Gulenist organization gained momentum in the aftermath of 1980 military coup, which meant a major blow against the left wing movements. During these years, Gulenists organized mainly in educational sectors, they trained their own well-educated cadres, they developed strong ties both with bureaucracy and capitalist class. Fethullah Gulen moved to the Pennsylvania, US in 1999. Against the criticisms or antagonisms of other Islamist groups, he was protected by central-right and social democrat politicians, being legitimized as a civil society movement. Under AKP rule, many associations, private schools and health-centers owned by the movement were proliferated in addition to the founding of TUSKON (The Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey). The movement realized the same pattern in many other underdeveloped countries, worked as an agency of American policies under the guise of a pro-conciliation attitude. In this period he gained the status of an “intellectual” in the US, while the movement’s ties were tightening with the liberal intellectuals in Turkey. During 2007-8 purges, which was a critical moment for the authoritarian regime-craft of the AKP, the movement cleansed the Kemalists within the media and bureaucracy, accusing the latter for being “coup plotters.” During the time, many republican and left wing intellectuals were condemned for participating in anti-state organizations. In the meantime, Fethullah Gulen was exonerated from an old case against him for undertaking Islamist terror activities, a case opened before AKP became the government.

However, during 2010s, there occurred certain disagreements within AKP-Gulen bloc. On the international basis of the disagreement were the failure of Muslim Brotherhood, which had close ideological and political ties with the AKP, in meeting the expectations of imperialist powers for the Arab Spring, and the failure of the AKP in the Syrian case. On the domestic side were the June 2013 Revolts where people took it to the streets against the AKP with demands of secularity and freedom, causing some serious cracks in the AKP rule. Meanwhile, reinforcement of the Gulenists within the state as a natural outcome of the AKP-Gulen initiated 2007-8 purges created further conflicts between the two parties. The AKP made a move to close down all the private education institutions that Gulenists had. As the tension rose, Gulenists made a counter-move in December 2013, exposing the corruption among some politicians from the AKP, certain ministers, and businessmen. Among the suspects were Erdogan’s son and an Iranian businessman of Azeri origin, Reza Zarrab who is on trial in the US today. AKP’s response was to purge all prominent Gulenists from juridical institutions and initiate a new bill of indictment under the name of “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization”, which was completed on the eve of the last coup attempt. Gulenists’ long set-up for placing their cadres within bureaucracy enabled them to seize the control of many critical positions within the army. However, there are many other religious organizations within the fragmented state apparatus, which either cooperate or compete with the Gulenists today. 

5 – Is it possible for capitalism and bourgeois politics in Turkey normalize in near future?

No doubt that there is not any “normal” capitalism for the working class politics. Yet the term “normalization” refers to a more or less steady regime, which is able to manage possible crisis while the system of exploitation continues to exist.

In the aftermath of the coup, such a normalization seems unlikely in Turkey. This is more related to the elusive position of the Turkish bourgeoisie along imperialist powers than to AKP’s hopes of a dictatorship.

Imperialist centers, which stayed silent during the coup began unwillingly to announce their support for the “elected government” as the failure of the attempt became clear. However, media organizations dependent on such centers began to expose their real purposes.

At this point, it is likely that the NATO and US will not let Erdogan in peace and unless a very particular kind of compromise is achieved, they will try to discharge him. The AKP under Erdogan rule is experiencing the fear of that.

They are afraid of assassinations, a new coup, instability, and even a foreign intervention. Shortly before the coup attempt, there were claims about the lack of security for the nuclear weapons in Incirlik Base. Nowadays, pro-AKP media reflects worries about an escalation of Alevi-Sunni conflict or of the war with Kurdish separationists.

On the other hand, Erdogan and his associates are also facing with the threat of an international trial for their corruption.

Furthermore, there is the risk of an economic crisis. The economic instruments of imperialism, international credit institutions lowered Turkey’s grade. However, Turkey’s economy is so intertwined with imperialist system that such an intervention has limits due to the risk of triggering a larger depression. Thus we should consider that they do not control everything and a crisis with economic aspects is possible.

In sum, a normalization with political “stability” seems to take some time. What they intend is to build this up on the basis of a larger consensus within bourgeois politics. Yet the position of Turkish bourgeoisie seems to keep its fragile nature with crisis potential.

6 – Is it possible for Turkey to shift towards the Russia-Iran axis?

There is a tendency among Turkish bourgeoisie to develop relations with Russia and Iran based on mutual interests, and to make long-term strategic agreements. Yet, when Russian state’s class character is taken into consideration, this would not mean a shift of axis including ideological aspects, which could be possible during Soviet period. The main reason behind such a tendency is the profit maximizing impulse of Turkish monopolies.

Moreover, Turkish bourgeoisie must have considered the possibility of a war between the Russian and American blocs, given the military preparations and provocations of the US, which would lead Turkey into a catastrophe as a country in the frontline. Nevertheless, it seems very unlikely for Turkey to break off with US/EU axis.

European countries continue to be the largest market for Turkey. Financial system of Turkey is integrated to Western finance monopolies to a very large extent. Also, Turkish capital did quite a number of joint investments, notably in automotive sector, together with Western monopolies in Turkey.

Turkish Armed Forces is dependent to NATO for almost 70 years now. So it would be a big mistake to consider the only pro-NATO elements in the TAF are Gulenists.

In these circumstances, AKP and other bourgeois actors will possibly pursue conciliation, with or without Erdogan. Such conciliation would continue NATO membership and EU negotiations whereas searching for a relative autonomy in international relations.

Despite all these, it seems doubtful that they will manage to find grounds for such conciliation under the escalating tension –even to armed measures- between blocs. Although Erdogan received some political and economic support from Russia in the aftermath of the coup, affording a radical shift of axis seems impossible for Turkish bourgeoisie in short or middle terms.

7- Is there a connection between the NATO Summit that took place this summer in Warsaw on July 8-9 and the military coup attempt in Turkey one week after the Summit?

The NATO Summit was indirectly related to the coup attempt. Forming a naval force in the Mediterranean, activating the anti-missile bases in Romania and taking non-member countries such as Finland and Ukraine under the control of NATO are some provocative decisions that were made in the Summit that aimed at besieging Russia.  

In such a period, Turkey was expected to act as a loyal member of NATO and decisively become an enemy of Russia. It would be wrong to reject the relevance of the coup attempt with this specific aim.

But, the plans did not work out and the two thirds of the cadres of the second largest military force within NATO were disabled as if in a situation of war.

The fact that Communist Party, Turkey is insisting on getting out of NATO, at the time that everybody is pointing out the connection of USA with this coup, provides a clear advantage in the name of the working class in Turkey.

8- Can AKP and Erdogan succeed a restoration after the partial liquidation of the state?

The theory that the state structure in Turkey during the administration of AKP was strengthening and the dictatorship was taking deeper roots was very common. But, this dictatorship and its determinant social element, the process of Islamization, were at the same time signs of a crisis. It was very clear that the secular bourgeois republic of Turkey has been dissolved, however; after the elections in 2011 the efforts of AKP to install an Islamic fascist regime instead were not proceeding on a steady ground. In this atmosphere of crisis, arose the massive uprising of the 2013. Afterwards, it turned out that regardless of the electoral victories of AKP, the governmental power of AKP was getting radicalized even further while losing its persuasive character.

We should add to this picture also the vulnerable character of the economy and the ideological dissolution but we can say that the most distinctive side was the administrative crisis. AKP for a long time now is mentioned with its loss of administrative power. The inability of the dominant power to rule is a typical sign of political crisis. Not only the existing system failed to find a solution, but also the state apparatus had fallen apart. This dissolution with all its dramatic dimensions was clearly seen at the coup attempt of July 15.

The fact that the attempt was defeated does not necessarily mean that the power of AKP will be consolidated.

This ascertainment has certain bases:

First, the crisis is deeper than thought and the solution is not in the bloody confrontation of the two Islamist factions, i.e. the two dominant power blocs led by Erdogan and Gulen, which share almost the same ideological-political position. The loss of administrative capacity is the consequence of the complicated social dynamics, and specifically of the split of the historical, cultural, ideological roots of these dynamics. A ground of struggle that  leaves out the working classes, the modern secular sections, Alevis, and women will keep the real reasons of the crisis unaccountable. Turkey is proceeding toward a wider confrontation than the one that was experienced recently between the two dominant powers.

Second, on July 15, Turkish capitalism underwent an unprecedented split up, and the disintegration caused a big leap. The paralyzation of the second largest military force in NATO, and the dominance -even if temporarily- of jihadist paramilitary groups together with the police force in a society in which the secular social elements are still vivid, and lastly the split in the state bureaucracy, are vexed problems which cannot be overcome in short time.

Third, the Turkish capitalist system does not own the needed economic sources at its disposal to overcome the crisis, as a matter of fact it is quite vulnerable.

Forth, after this split, the restoration of the political authority based on enforcement is very difficult. More importantly, that a wide acceptance of any political authority is even more difficult.

Lastly, with the coup attempt the distance and reservations between the Western imperialist powers and Ankara has reached a peak. If the coup attempt was successful, it could have taken the approval and support of the West.

On the other hand, moving away from the Western bloc in the name of an administrative consolidation is structurally and historically impossible.

Therefore, the AKP-Erdogan side is incapable of solving the problem. As long as the governmental power keeps using its reactionary instruments the crisis shall deepen even more. Restraining such forces and seeking for a social consensus will indicate weakness and thus will invite new confrontations. At that point, both the evocation of a new military coup and the strengthening of the bourgeois parties can become possible.

9- Is the future for Turkey an islamist dictatorship led by Erdoğan?

That Turkey tends towards an overtly Islamic and fascist dictatorship under the leadership of Erdoğan, who has taken the control once again after the coup attempt, brings along a wide range of conflicts.

A week after the coup attempt, the developments under the title of “national consensus” have become remarkable. That capitalist system gives top billing to centralisation seems to be the only reasonable and realistic solution so as to prevent polarisation and conflicts. However, it is highly likely that the consolidation in the centre turns into an inclined plane for AKP due to corruptions and Syria policy. Political power will try hard not to disintegrate from the accumulation in the centre and will take measures to prevent its own resolution at the same time.

Turkey seems to witness manoeuvres in pursuit of balance. 

It is possible to see that the social-democrat main opposition in the assembly, CHP, “invests” in the normalisation of AKP. It will not be surprising to observe that MHP, which has been functioning as the auxiliary power of AKP, will concentrate on normalisation instead of supporting radicalisation of AKP, when considered MHP’s strong bonds with imperialist centres and capitalist class. Kurdish opposition, HDP, seems to be prone to accommodationist policies though it does not take part in the “national consensus” currently. 

For the near future of Turkey, a repression for disciplining AKP is more probable than an Islamofascist dictatorship led by Erdoğan; however, it cannot be regarded as an alternative for democratisation which can be preferred by the left and working class. We are talking about “avoiding extremism” and “making the system manageable again”, not about centralisation of the balances which shifted to the right in the era of AKP. Therefore, Communist Party will address that a normalisation process which includes the amelioration and liquidation of Erdoğan is not a progressive process and put an emphasis on the class character of the struggle against fascist Islamist uprising.

10- Are there any opportunities for a working class politics in Turkey as it is today? 

Days after the coup attempt, such incorrect and unacceptable views were asserted that Communist Party caught attention of working class on the party with the news and comments it made immediately after the attempt. Communist Party is trying hard to take this interest as an opportunity to organise masses. Instead of regression, the Party is making a stride to organise the working class and making an move for this.
On the other hand, a kind of civil war occurred in the country and especially people who reside in Ankara felt the bitterness of the war. After that, Erdoğan called reactionary forces supporting political Islam to streets in order to guard against successive coups; therefore, squares of various cities have been full of religious fundamentalists. Then, the left within the system went out and developed a discourse of “democracy” as if it had not been a coup backed by the US.

All of them were traumatic and discouraging for the working class.

In spite of all these negative circumstances, Communist Party sees the revolutionary opportunities in these days and looks for an exit based upon the class.

Just think about it: A coup supported by the US was attempted and failed, but almost all political actors are pro-US. The coup was attempted by an Islamist group, but the bourgeoise cannot govern without political Islam. Erdoğan harshly criticises the Gülen movement and accuses it of treason. However, they, together, carried out all of the political operations till 2012 and it was extremely difficult for AKP to take over the control of the state without the Gülen movement.

It is really difficult that an order can overcome such a great number of conflicts. The state, which is the protector of the order, has never cracked so deeply and been so weak. Moreover, new crises which are getting more violent are approaching in Turkey.

Communist Party thinks that the crises of capitalism in Turkey and all over the world which are getting more staggering provide the working class politics with revolutionary opportunities. 

Though everyone says that we confronted with a US-backed coup, only Communist Party struggles for leaving NATO, which is a remarkable advantage in this period.


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