Turkish Communist Party: ‘This coup attempt is beyond taking over political power’

International Bulletin No5

Erdoğan declared three-month state of emergency in the aftermath of last week’s coup attempt.  Below are the interviews with Kemal Okuyan and Özlem Şen Abay on the issue.

Kemal Okuyan (First Secretary of the CC of Communist Party, Turkey)

AKP continuously speaks of a second coup attempt. Do you think that they aim to reinforce their power and to abuse the coup or is there really a possibility of a second one?

KO: AKP has been confronted with a group which it had associated with for years. Nobody knows where this group starts or ends. Besides there are some other factions which joined them. When you add up the international dimensions it becomes a conjuncture which is prone to new coup attempts and interventions. On the other hand AKP seems to benefit from this tension. The people lose themselves amongst the factions. That’s why KP insists on emphasizing the class dimensions, points out the inner contradictions of the imperialist system. Those balances will shape the developments of the upcoming period. We can assume that the capitalist class will increase the interventions. Turkey will not conform to Erdoğan’s mind; Erdoğan will conform to the balances we’ve mentioned, or he will be liquidated. Obviously this is a chaotic process, it will be tough. The important point is that the working class should show its weight.

How will KP act in those circumstances, how will be its political lines?

KO: KP has to accomplish multiple tasks as a whole. Firstly we have to convey the reality to the people, in order to prevent them to withdraw themselves in such a chaotic environment. Secondly, the contradiction of the classes should be kept visible while struggling with the islamist-fascist threat in Turkey. Neither of them is the leading actor; There is no way to stop islamism without struggling against the hegemony of the capital, which is already our essential task. The bourgeois way of laisizm has brought us to the point of a bloody fight between two imams. Our party is totally aware of the danger, it had always been, yet the biggest danger is pessimism which we shall not allow. We won’t let this happen. Apparently the international solidarity carries great importance in times like these. We have been receiving many solidarity and support messages -which, some of them started concrete and new collaborations- from communist parties of the world. Turkey possesses strategic importance for many regions. We will not let this country to be the toy of the competitive forces within the imperialists, the international monopolies. In Turkey the working class exists, this is a progressive asset. It is our Party’s responsibility to reveal this.

Özlem Şen Abay (Member of the CC of Communist Party, Turkey)

What does exactly that “State of emergency”issued by the Government mean? Why did they need it?

ÖŞA: It seems that Erdoğan has pushed the button of  a comprehensive operation just after the coup attempt on July 15. It has been stated that the total number of people in custody is 10 thousand 410, so far. There are civil servants from the police forces, jurisdiction, universities and some other state institutions amongst those, not only the military members. Erdoğan has already asked for the resignation of all the Deans of all the universities, called off the annual leaves of the public employees and terminated the contracts of many civil servants. The State of Emergency is based on the Constitution and states as: “In the event of serious indications of widespread acts of violence aimed at the destruction of the free democratic order established by the Constitution or of fundamental rights and freedoms, or serious deterioration of public order because of acts of violence, the Council of Ministers, meeting under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic, after consultation with the National Security Council, may declare a state of emergency in one or more regions or throughout the country for a period not exceeding six months.” According to the Constitution when state of emergency is declared the President is assigned as the Chair and assigns the province governors with extraordinary authorities which allow them to intervene when required. Among those authorities there are measures like: declaring curfew; putting ban on meetings and rallies; intervening to the media and extending the custody periods. The “State of Emergency” becomes the name of the only solution Erdoğan and his Government could find out after they were left with no one to trust to. Yet we reckon that this would lead him to a bigger deadlock.

To what extent this would restrain the activities of KP?

ÖŞA: There are no restrictive clauses openly stated within the declaration of a State of Emergency regarding the activities of the political parties. Yet, during the state of emergency the Council of Ministers has the authority to decide Decree Laws which are not under control of jurisdiction. So, this is the actual situation where the ones who have the extraordinary authority could decide by their own intentions. Time will show how the activities of our party will be affected, in a period when Erdoğan’s political actions get more oppressive and he continues with the one-man-domination kind of governance.

The latest figures from Turkey in the aftermath of the coup attempt and the state of emergency followed:

  • About 350 were killed.
  • 2,200 were wounded.
  • 8,000 police officers were detained or suspended.
  • 7,423 soldiers were detained.
  • 1,600 high-rank military officials were arrested.
  • 122 generals and admirals were arrested (out of 358 in total in Turkish army).
  • 60,000 staff in various governmental institutions were dismissed.
  • 2,745 judges were dismissed.
  • 1,577 deans were demanded resignation by Council of Higher Education.
  • 21,000 teachers had licenses removed.
  • 15,000 were suspended from Ministry of Education.
  • 936 private schools were closed.
  • 449 student halls or dormitories were closed.
  • 284 private education institutions were closed.
  • 62 military high school students were arrested.
  • 257 were fired from the Prime Minister’s Office.
  • 100 intelligence officials were sacked.
  • 47 district governors were dismissed.
  • 30 provincial governors were dismissed.
  • 20 news websites were blocked.
  • 4 were arrested due to their anti-Erdoğan statements in social media.
  • 14 were arrested because they opposed to pro-AKP demonstrations.
  • Academics and students on state scholarships were banned to leave the country and the ones who are already abroad were called back.

‘In this coup attempt there is something much more beyond taking over the political power’


Interview with Kemal Okuyan First Secretary of the CC of the Communist Party, Turkey

From the beginning of the military coup attempt, Erdogan or other influential individuals from AKP are said to be responsible for this fiction. In the aftermath of a week what is there to be said on this matter?

KO: To the ones who ask ‘what kind of a coup attempt is this?’ we can respond ‘what kind of a fiction is this?’. I do not want to repeat myself, but, if we are confronting with this question once more, let us first underline that: Turkey does not own a government which has such an integrity as to plot such a fiction and then bring it into practice. At least, some number of bureaucrats at critical positions must have been part of this game. If you can count five governmental authorities who trust each other, then I may take the allegations of fiction seriously! It has already been a week and there is a total confusion on who is responsible for the coup attempt, there are contradictions in the testimonies, the pro-government media is making contradictory broadcasts and are blaming each other for betrayal and provocation. I knew a lot about Erdogan, but I had no idea of him being a conductor. I mean, “to fortify his power, Erdogan made up the military coup, to support him, the USA put a sauce to this fiction, and Russia entangled to this fiction in order to protect him. And viola! Happy end: the Turkish democracy is saved!” Is that it? Is this what they want us to believe? We do not buy that…

But there are really awkward things.

KO: Yes, indeed there are. This is because of the big number of the main governmental institutions that hesitated to take part in the coup and because of the specific aims of the coup attempt.

What are these specific aims?

KO: There are allegations that the coup aimed at carrying Gülen to a governmental position. This must be a joke. That he would come to Turkey as a khalif (Islamic leader)… No way. In this coup attempt there is something much further from taking over the political power. Putting in the centre the thought of ‘a new political power’ does not have any sense. Within the existing system does Turkey have a political power alternative to AKP? The Gülen movement, even considering its strength within the social balances of army and jurisdiction, cannot govern the country. That is why it had to rely on some forces within the AKP. Now, though they damn the coup attempt in chorus, there are pretty good things that would make them happy with AKP ruling without Erdogan. And not all of them are Gulenists. CHP furthermore, has a positive stand on ‘AKP without Erdogan’ formula. In short, the theory that ‘the coup attempters would form their own government’ is not much believable.

But they had prepared their lists?

KO: A governmental list has not been documented, yet! Regardless of this, we do not think that in the narrow sense they aimed at a ‘Gulen government’. We can guess that some of these lists are only gossips and some of them were served by the Gulenists to confuse the public. This is what they do best: Fraud. The reason of this panic and cacophony is the information that everyone is Gulenist. Undoubtedly, what makes this more or less valid is the fact that in the existing political system, everyone including AKP has cooperated in one or another way with the Gulenist movement.

You have also stressed this in an interview with Ceyda Karan from Sputnik News Turkey, that everyone except the communists and the revolutionaries have developed a relationship with the Gulen movement. Can you open this matter?

KO: Everyone, quite reasonably is putting pressure on AKP, they deserve it. We hold Gulenists as part of the same bloc with the AKP. For a considerable time, they were together but at some point AKP began to liquidate them. However, Fethullah Gulen has deeper roots. He is an actor who took role in the ‘struggle against communism’, under the flag of NATO and other institutions. He stated that ‘we should support the USA’.  Before Gulen, his antecessor Said Nursi stated that ‘the muslims should support the USA for the struggle against communism’. Everybody speaks ill of Gulen today but after all, all such reactionary elements of our history have been declared as heroes then. And under every move of this movement, we see the signature of the USA.

But the power of the Gulenist movement in the government was revealed later, was it not?

KO: Why was it revealed? Everyone talks merely about the clandestine dimension. This is a sham. And nobody but the communists shall reveal this sham. One of the factors that transformed Fethullah Gulen from a simple weapon against communism to a world power is the fact that the capitalist classes and any governments that they had saw Gülen as a mean to expand their power. Today nobody speaks about TUSKON (The Turkish Confederation of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists, which was the strongest instrument of the Gulen movement). Talking about the coup attempt without telling a word about TUSKON is in vain, and it is hypocrisy. TUSKON is not a simple capitalist organisation. Beyond providing opportunities to its members, it has functioned as a mediator for the capitalist class as a whole. Gulen owns more than a hundred schools, globally. And these schools are not popular only among Islamists. They educate the pro-American cadres for the bureaucratic positions in underdeveloped countries. Their graduates obtain critical duties. Turkish bourgeoisie has made a great expansion through these schools, TUSKON, the existence of the Turkish Armed Forces abroad, and Turkish Airlines’ adding strategic flights to the related regions.

This process started in the 90’s, continued with AKP governments. New markets, new investment areas… That is why the files on the Gulenist organization had been skipped over in the past. The most famous capital groups, the so-called seculars, and certainly the Islamist capital owners owe a lot to the Gulenist movement. Nowadays, they are doing research on the whole Gulen genealogy. They probably will reach to the grandfather of his grandfather, but will they say anything about how he served the interests of the Turkish capitalists? The bureaucrats who called themselves ‘Kemalists’, including social-democrat Ecevit, were speaking about the ‘loyal-to-country’ character of Gulen. Now they are watching the preaching videos of Gulen with laughter and swearwords! 

Indeed, nobody is supporting the Gulenist movement.

KO: The reason is that during past years the movement reached an operational force. During AKP rule, it became the brain and the dirty hand of  the government. They infected the left wing too. I mean “the left wing.” We shall not forget those who blessed the movement as a democratic element of civil society. Those who posed at their public meetings cannot belong to the left, but their being regarded as such is our shame. Today, most of these have come to support AKP against the coup attempters. In fact, they have not changed a bit. Now they are swearing because the Gulenist movement could not advance to become a governmental project in reality. But what else could the Gulenists do? They have already managed to penetrate the state. Furthermore, let us not forget that until the end of 2014, the oppositional bourgeois parties of the existing system had developed their strategy based on Gulen’s  actions to weaken Erdogan.

Let us then speak about the aim of the coup. Who is behind this awkward operation?

KO: Suppose you accept the longtime connection of Gulen with the CIA, you know that he lives in the USA, that he had been strengthening Erdogan’s hand by the approval of the US, and that he is responsible for the liquidation in the state. After all that, can you ignore the US factor in the coup attempt? If you do, I would say: what a consistency(!) Not the administration as a whole, but a strong wing in the USA certainly had a connection with this coup. It is difficult to reach into the details of the connection, as a matter of fact, even the operational mechanisms behind the coup of September 12 (1980) have not yet been resolved. Sometimes, reasoning and theory is all you need! The USA is certainly linked to this coup attempt. The attempt did not have merely a single aim, they must have considered alternative consequences. I do not think that it was planned with a perspective of ‘absolute success’. They could have captured or even killed Erdogan. In this situation we could have been talking about AKP without Erdogan, whereas now they are trying to find a way to restrict AKP and Erdogan. If this does not work, there is no doubt that they have already created a suitable ground for a plan B or C.

You had mentioned some evidence about the connection of the USA after the coup. What is there to be said after one week of time?

KO: The USA and EU did not declare their support to Erdogan during the first phase of the coup attempt. They have just used rhetorics about stability, democracy… I am not an expert in military coups but I have some background in international relations. This is not usual. Secondly, Erdogan asked for asylum in Germany… Even if these claims are  not true, it is a fact that they have been published by significant sources, regardless of their trustworthiness. I point out to the possible untruth in such claims since there are so many details that what really happened may not be revealed for a long time. But who did spread such information? US officers, Reuters, Stratfor… Given these, there is no other meaningful explanation of the fact that Stratfor broadcasted Erdogan’s flight coordinates during the most crucial moments. During the coup attempt, thousands of AKP adherents protested Stratfor, which shows that it did not go unnoticed. Russia officially blamed the NATO, for not backing their ally. Also, do you think that it is possible that there would be a coup attempt and from the divided Turkish Armed Forces there will be no intelligence flowing to CIA?

It is alleged that Russia informed Marmaris (the place where Erdogan was during the coup attempt) for the coming helicopters…

KO: There are many allegations. But if Russia was informed about this, they must certainly have passed the information.

What makes you so sure?

KO: Although annoyed with Turkey on the matter of Syria, the position of Putin’s government was to keep Erdogan away from the USA at the most possible extent until the Russian jet was downed in November 2015. So much that the Russian media was continuously warning Erdogan that ‘the USA is aiming at a coloured revolution in Turkey’. Some of these warnings were incoherent and some were based on real information. Also, you should recall Putin calling Erdogan a ‘folk hero’. Then the jet was downed, and Putin besieged Erdogan from every possible corner. The main strategy was the same: dragging Erdogan away from the USA.

But this time, Russia made a call to the US and NATO for getting rid of Erdogan. The control was lost and Russian media began even writing that Turkey had to be thrown out of the NATO. Erdogan could not continue to fight with the USA, EU and Russia at the same time. Erdogan gave Putin exactly what he wanted, an excuse and partial withdrawal of the support that he was providing to the jihadists in Syria. And Putin came back to the old point. The Russians still insist that Erdogan should get out of NATO.

Is this possible?

KO: Very difficult. Putin shall tactically help Erdogan to strengthen his hand against the US and EU. Moving Turkey from the West to the Shanghai Five is a pretty hard project! It is not solely up to Erdogan! The Russians know that if Erdogan gets weaker, he shall make big concessions to Washington in order to save himself. They will try to prevent this from happening.

What about the allegations against Erdogan saying that the Russians gave a file to the United Nations? What about these accusations?

KO: We have been telling from the very beginning, this should worry those that regard Putin as the ‘protector of the peoples’. The Russian state is a capitalist state, serving its own interests. They keep the file, they either use it in the proper time or they do not. At this point we have to say that the real revolutionaries in Turkey know that neither the USA nor the EU can guarantee freedom and democracy. On the contrary, the international monopolies bring war, occupancy and exploitation. But it is forgotten that Russia does not own a different social system. The Soviet Union is long dissolved. Relying on this or that country or on various unions and axis shall not bring the salvation.

Let us come back to the internal affairs. What is going on?

KO: They are trying out a new format for Erdogan and AKP. Erdogan on the other hand, is trying to reinforce his power while showing that he is open for this new format.

Who is designing this format?

KO: All the international powers! The USA does not want to go on with a Turkish leader that is difficult to control. With the strong mass support and his ideological bigotry, Erdogan turns into a problem when he becomes more than a simple instrument. While Putin wants Erdogan out of his way in the Black Sea and Syria, he wants him as a partner in the energy lines. Turkey may end up as a more ‘steady’ member of NATO. This is possible. When I say ‘steady’, I do not use that in a positive way, of course. Note this: Erdogan wore out this country and the region in general to the extent that almost everyone, except the communists, shall accept a reasonable membership of NATO abroad and the existing (so-called) limited Islamic fundamentalism inside. Provided of course that he satisfies the markets with his trade-oriented mind.

Let us ask the same question for this matter: is this possible?

KO: They will try it. The capitalist class in Turkey will gradually start to take initiatives and use its influence. At this point CHP (social democrat party) is most likely to assist AKP, at least during this period. Actually the two parties are assisting each other. The administration of AKP has eventually decided to open space to CHP, or at least they want to give this impression. That is, for some time CHP will be welcomed because AKP needs CHP. If CHP did not provide the help at this moment, AKP would have real problem with its political legitimacy. CHP will have control on AKP. And in fact, there are some actors within the AKP who want to have control on the party through the hand of CHP. As far as we understand, some ‘democratic forces’ of the left wing have also come to this way. While they create panic that ‘fascism is rising, the slaughters are on the edge, the dictatorship of AKP is tightening’, it is interesting that they give shoulder to the AKP-CHP convergence. What they have in mind is something like that: the CHP will have control on the AKP and the left wing on the CHP. What a pyramid scheme!

Yet, our question did not find its answer. Is this possible?

KO: It is possible but not ever lasting, because the country AKP created has more than one fault lines. The possible alliances will continuously face serious obstacles. There is no any condition that can satisfy everyone, no win-win situation. They can only create the impression of a normalisation, a false impression.

What about a chaotic alternative?

KO: They will try to normalize the situation. They may not succeed, though. They may come with other new instruments against Erdogan and then he, on his turn, may try to take everything under his control. And they tell us that we should prevent this and allow for the normalization process. What a pity! Look, the Communist Party, Turkey made a declaration that the country was almost surrendering to the dirty hand of an imam, named Fethullah Gulen. After all these years that Erdogan has been governing, take a look at the country. Now should we calm AKP, let AKP have a good relationship with CHP so as everything not to get worse? No, thanks! Yes, we are aware of the danger but it is not possible to prevent anything this way. One week now, we are watching this bloody-minded reconciliation but at the same time we see the other side of the coin. There is no need to panic, by exaggerating certain points they want us to accept the normalization of AKP but we should not overview the fact that the counter-revolutionary forces are gaining power. The noise of the crowd in the streets is not the main point. The point is that with the rhetorics of normalization the counter-revolutionary forces have gained legitimacy.

What is it to be done? You are most probably getting accused of turning up your nose at everything or of dogmatising.

KO: We do not like CHP mentoring AKP and the ‘left wing forces’ mentoring CHP. Let me say the opposite: It is them who have been criticising the revolutionaries for the last 15 year while actively participating in the existing political system who are liable for the current situation of the country. The people in this country will either continue to have hope on the antagonisms among imperialist powers and waste time with concepts that do not question the capitalist system such as ‘an anti-coup position’ and ‘democracy’ and hence accept the dominance of the ruling class and its obscurantism, or, they will stand against this world of dirty plots and dark conspiracies relying on its own power and a working class character. Let those who say that this is not possible to get normalised together with imams.

How do you justify your abstaining from participating in the demonstration of CHP?

KO: Ordinary people who took part in it had some concerns that we understand. It is clear that we do not question that. Furthermore, we should not leave the space free for the reactionary forces. But from a broader perspective, as I have been telling before, a project of normalisation is on the agenda. If this project succeeds, Turkey will be condemned for long years of obscurantism, that is accepting the dominance of AKP. And if it fails, those that are getting frightened of ‘the bigots coming with their knives’ and on the other side those that see as a last hope the CHP-AKP alliance, which if proves to be false, will totally surrender.  

The left wing forces in Turkey followed the Kurdish movement so as not to leave it alone by itself against AKP. Now, there is a new invention: to try not to leave CHP alone against AKP. This is a project of harnessing AKP through CHP. This sounds very much like the project that was tried by England and France on Germany of Adolf Hitler. It is the needs of the capitalist system that shapes a capitalistic world. If we are not happy with this, the efforts to normalise, to cool down, or to harness the situation are in vain. An independent, progressive, egalitarian and anti-capitalist class movement should rise as soon as possible.