Understanding Turkey

This post is meant to introduce a political book on Turkey, “Turkiye’de Sinif Mucadeleleri” (Class Struggles in Turkey) by Sungur Savran. I mean Understanding Turkey in a wide sense, in historical and class struggles context. The main goal of the book is to provide the “activists” (we still prefer ‘revolutionaries’) the conceptual framework to understand the foundation and conflicts of Turkey. From the “freedom revolution” of 1905 (The name of “freedom revolution” – Hurriyet Devrimi- was coined by the author who is largely sympathetic to it, contrary to many political thinkers in Turkey who accuse it from many angles, including the Armenian ‘Genocide’ ) to the foundation of the republic and the Kemalist ideological struggles. Finally, a discussion of the 1960 and 1980 coup d‘etat  concludes the book and gives the reader a framework to interpret today’s Turkey.

And I mean todays Turkey. It is a shame that the theses like “Duality of Kemalism”, “In-class conflict interpretation of the ’60s coup d’etat”, “Domination of the working class in ’80s coup d’etat” are missing from the mainstream discussion.  These are very helpful to explain and understand various milestone events in Turkey, including the protests today. The duality of Kemalism helps one to understand the enlightenment and the progressive elements of the founding period, while on the other hands explaining the darker aspects, including the heavy handed nationalism, oppression of more progressive thinkers and anti-unionism. The various intra and inter class struggles set the stage of both the progressive ’60s and the ‘national front’ darkness of the ’70s and its fierce opposition. Finally, the religious ideology sets the stage for a united front for the bourgeois which crushed the workers movement. In my humble opinion, the final part is where the book is a little weak, since the religious ideology has always played reactionary role in Turkey since the ’80s as a way to control working class, which lead to the deconstruction of Turkey today (which is sometimes called the 2nd Republic by many now). The fact that these ideological shifts happened rather rapidly, explains the fragmented nature of the protesters today, who come from such distinct backgrounds such as nationalism, anarchism, social democracy, liberalism and communism. But the process of protesting has a uniting effect, so let’s be hopeful.

I hope someone (perhaps the author himself) translates this book someday for the wider audience!



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