Turkish Communist Party: Critical Questions on the Recent Coup Attempt and its Aftermath

The coup attempt and the continuing dispute in its aftermath was not only the concern of Turkey but of the workers’ and communist parties all over the world. Definitely, the course of the events should be considered regarding the class struggle in Turkey but at the same time that very coup attempt also referred to the class struggle around the world, indicating the relentless rivalry and weaknesses within the imperialist order.

In order to share with the international communist movement, the International Relations Bureau of the Communist Party,Turkey has prepared an analysis which consists of 10 critical questions on recent coup attempt and its aftermath in Turkey.

The following International Bulletin of the Communist Party,Turkey will answer these questions:

1- Who were the plotters of the coup attempt?

2-What was the aim of the coup attempt?

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

The International Relations Bureau regards the perspectives from the international communist movement, and will be expecting contributions and questions which will be involved in further analysis.

The contact address is as follows: int@kp.org.tr

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International Bulletin of Communist Party, Turkey

Critical questions on recent coup attempt and its aftermath in Turkey

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 sought 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.

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.

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.

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.

 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.

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.

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Statement of the Central Committee of the Communist Party on the Attempted Military Coup
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