Andre Vltchek in a discussion with Yiğit Günay October 26, 2015, Istanbul, Turkey
AV: I have worked in more than 150 countries, all over the world. Turkey is definitely one of the most fascinating, and fascinating because it is also one of the most complex of countries.
YG: Turkey as a country is a very peculiar place. It is a capitalist country that has historically sided with Western imperialism and in the past decade it has tried to obtain a certain regional power. Its ambitions have lead to wars because the Turkish state is a member of NATO and it has been involved in the military ground conflicts in Syria and Libya.
How do we describe this peculiarity? Historically, Turkey is a Western ally. But then, with this present AKP (Justice and Development Party) government… the AKP is not only a government, but it is a “project”, an “international project.” What does that mean? It is not like someone pushed some button in Washington and created AKP – no, it was not like that. But eventually, it became a part of an international project. You see, during the Bush era and his “War on Terror” doctrine, the United States was only left with the Israel and Kurds in Northern Iraq, as its regional allies.
AV: Apart from Saudi Arabia…
YG: Apart from Saudi Arabia, yes… But north of Saudi Arabia they did not have anyone else. And the West has a very complex relationship with Saudi Arabia, not really fully trusting it… The War on Terror doctrine is pretty basic. In the simple mind of Bush, if you were a Muslim, you were on one side, if you were a non-Muslim, then you were on the other side; on the “right side”. We all know how fucked-up that policy was. A tremendous mess was created in Iraq and elsewhere, and eventually, things had to be somehow changed. When Obama came to power, things somehow evolved. The new idea was: “We need more allies in the region, and we should be able to communicate with the Muslim population.” For this, the AKP government of current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was a perfect candidate. Turkey is a trusted Western ally. The AKP members are Islamists, but at the same time very open to any kind of collaboration.
Turkey is changing. Secularism and state economy doctrines were never really fully implemented here. The state economy was being altered, dismantled, and after the 1980 coup, replaced with a neo-liberal dogma, with privatization all over Turkey.
AV: Kemalism was just a symbol…
YG: Exactly. Always… But AKP brought much more profound changes.
AV: …Changes towards much more extreme capitalism?
YG: Yes, but Turkey was already capitalist. The most profound changes were towards the Islamisation of the country.
AV: We all know that Saudi Wahhabism was promoted and implemented by the West, all over the region, but also in the country with the largest Muslim population on earth – Indonesia. It is hardly a “Muslim project”; I see the destruction of a socialist and progressive Islam as a “Western Christian project”. Is the same thing now happening in Turkey?
YG: It is an extremely complicated subject, and we could easily write an entire book on it. But I would say that in Turkey, we see more influence of the Muslim Brotherhood doctrine, than that of Wahhabism.
AV: Including the influence on this government…
YG: Including on the influence this government, yes. During the so-called Arab Spring, there were many conflicts between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and on each occasion, Turkey was allying itself with Qatar, not with Saudi Arabia.
AV: But it is a radicalized Islam, coming from the Gulf that is now influencing Turkey…
YG: Yes, exactly. And due to this form of Islamisation, the social context is also changing.
AV: I have argued lately that the West actually managed to destroy socialist Islam in most of historically Muslim and tolerant, secular parts of the world, particularly after the Second World War; be it in Iran in 1953, or in Egypt or in Indonesia in 1965. So what we see now coming from the Gulf may be actually a new breed of Islam, a bizarre implant that is definitely not “home-grown”. Recently I was speaking in Teheran, Iran. There, one of the local philosophers argued that the West is actually trying to create a new religion, and promote it all over the Middle East and beyond…
YG: I see your point. But it is different here, in Turkey. Historically, in Turkey, there has never been a progressive Islamist movement. The only exception was during the War of Liberation, in 1920. Because during that period, there was a Muslim group in the Aegean part, waging war against the Greeks. They were called “Green Army”, and they were closely allied with the Bolsheviks.
Secularism is a part of any progressive movement in Turkey. If you are not secular, you are not really progressive. It is as simple as that here.
AV: But here we are actually coming to that “confusing part”. I know many people in Turkey. My history with your country goes back at least some 20 years. Unfortunately, it appears to me that most of the secular people that I know in Turkey are extremely pro-Western, pro-European. Their culture, their philosophic references and preferences, lie proudly in Paris or London, if not in New York. They seem to be directing, even pushing Turkey towards the West. And considering that Turkey is already a capitalist country and a member of NATO, their efforts are making Turkey more and more allied with the Western imperialism.
YG: Yes, this is an excellent point, a point that makes it very difficult not to get confused about the whole thing. Let me try to respond to this.
First of all, people that we are surveying here in Istanbul do not represent the entire Turkey. Also, the number of atheists in Turkey is huge.
AV: How huge?
YG: The last estimate was 10%, but I think it is more.
But back to the issue that you raised: inside the secular groups, there are also some liberal tendencies that are powerful. The Turkish liberals, like in the rest of the world… they want Turkey to become a part of the European Union, they are pro-NATO and they are supporting privatization… These are the orthodox liberals, and during its first years, they were backing the AKP government… They were like this because they were promoting the Western understanding of “liberalism”, like the “human rights”, “tolerance”, and etcetera… They used to say: “Those Muslims also have rights, etc.” But, Turkey is not France, the Muslims are not immigrants, and the context is absolutely different… Many of the “liberals” were members of the bourgeoisie, some belonging to the elites, to the upper class…
But if you look closely at the bigger group of secularists here in Turkey, they are either Alawites (many of them are not religious at all), or socialists, Communists, also the Kurds… Those people are not part of the phenomena that you described; they are not pro-Western. If you talk to them, chances are that some 90% would be strongly against Western imperialism.
AV: Right now, in Turkey, there are many people who are locked in prisons… Even some top military brass, but also many intellectuals… Is Turkey divided? Is even its military divided between those pro-Western forces and the officers who would want to see a strong independent Turkey?
YG: This is also very complicated issue, like everything in Turkey. Inside the Turkish army, at the higher levels, any general who is against the alliance with NATO would be like a polar bear sitting in the desert of Saudi Arabia… He would be such an exception…
AV: Wasn’t the commander of the Turkish air force also imprisoned?
YG: He was imprisoned, but he was not really against the NATO.
AV: Weren’t some imprisoned generals true “Eurasianists”?
YG: Some of them had that mindset, but it was not their determined stand. Their position was reactive, like “the United States is now backing these stupid Islamist governments, so let’s look to the East and maybe we could find some other allies there…”
AV: So we cannot speak about a determinately philosophical or ideological stand?
YG: No. And all of those guys were educated at the NATO headquarters, anyway.
And let me add this: if the Turkish army intervenes in Turkish politics, it’s with the 100% approval of the United States.
AV: Which happens often…
YG: Yes. Other scenarios practically don’t exist. Inside the army, there is no autonomous, anti-government movement. There are of course some officers and generals who don’t really like the government, but… the possibility of a coup always exists,…..but only because of the United States ready to push the button.
AV: So if there would be a coup, it would be a pro-American, a pro-NATO coup… It would not be a socialist, or a Communist coup… it would not be a Chavez-style military intervention.
YG: Exactly. There is no possibility of that. And let me add this: the last 3 years, the United States and Western imperialism are not content with the AKP government. Of course they are working together, of course the West uses them. But it is not content with the AKP.
Look at these two main issues: First, the war in Syria. Second, the Gezi protests in Istanbul.
Demonstrations in Istanbul
The Gezi protests had proven that the government has no legitimacy, as far as one half of the population is concerned. Half of the population thinks that the President, who then was a Prime Minister, is a thief and a murderer.
AV: In 2013, I was making a documentary film for South American television network TeleSur, about the Gezi protests. And it was extremely brutal how the government cracked down on the protesters…
YG: Yes it was…
The second issue – the war in Syria. AKP was so obsessed with expanding Turkish territory of influence! They were so war mongering, that even the United States could not really control them.
I will give you an example: at one point there was a leak from the private meeting at the Prime Minister’s office. There was the current Prime Minister there, who was then a Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, and there were several generals from the army, as well as the chief of intelligence. They were all discussing how to enter Syria, militarily. The chief of intelligence was saying: “I can send 4 guys and they’d shoot few rockets towards Turkey from the Syrian territory… And it would be a good reason for a war”. This was what they had in mind. And the United States could not take such risk, because from their point of view, such action would have to be planned. If you are going to go to Syria with your army, you have to plan it with the United States. So Turkey gained the reputation of a nasty boy… The West was using Turkey to “beat up other children”, but then Turkey went out of control, stopped listening to its handlers. It became too nasty, too aggressive, and too unruly.
AV: Now Turkey is involved everywhere in the region. I used to live in Africa, and I saw its actions there. They were very deeply involved in Somalia, in a very strange way… They were involved in Libya. They are involved in Syria and they are involved in almost all “-stans”. They are playing crucial and often very negative role in the Iraqi Kurdistan… I witnessed how unpopular they are in Erbil, among the local people… It goes without saying that they are becoming extremely important “power” everywhere in this part of the world. They are everywhere. What do you think is Turkey’s plan?
YG: First, the plan is over. It was a “nice try” of the Islamists. The policy was called the Neo-Ottoman-ism. The idea was that the AKP government, or Turkey itself, would work as a sub-contractor of Western imperialism in the region, and as a sub-contractor it would expand its own zone of influence in those regions that you had just defined. In those days there was also a the Gülen movement based in the United States. Right now the government and they are enemies, but back then they were allied. The Gülen movement was particularly active in Africa, because their main claim to fame is opening schools and universities. And they have a huge amount of money. I read a report that in 2013, the movement had some 130 “chartered schools”, in the United Sates alone… And if you have chartered schools, you get millions of dollars paid to you by the US tax payers. They are also very well organized; they have huge companies; they are wealthy. And they use this wealth to increase their influence.
AV: Is it an umbrella group?
YG: They have many umbrella groups. In academy and elsewhere…
Practically, when the Arab Spring began, current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and AKP were very skeptical. They didn’t understand what really was going on, until the Americans told them…
AM: They told them not to worry…
YG: Yes… “Don’t worry: it is us who are doing it…”
There was a point when the NATO jets began bombing Libya, and Erdoğan made a speech, basically saying: “What the fuck is NATO doing, bombing Libya?” And two days later, Turkey became part of the mission. The Americans told him “Are you stupid? Don’t you see what’s going on?” And he promptly changed his mind.
But the main idea behind all this was: The Arab Spring was basically pro-AKP. It was what is called the “regime change”, all over the region. The new regimes were predominantly Islamist, and so the AKP had a chance to gain influence inside them.
AV: The Muslim Brotherhood of Morsi…
YG: Yes, especially… And the Americans, I think, at one point, made some promises… You see, right now, Northern Iraq is a zone of influence of Turkey, economically and politically… And if Assad were toppled, I think that Americans offered that Syria would also become a sphere of influence of Turkey. In return, this country would have to accept a confederation model. Where the southeastern Turkey, which is Northern Kurdistan, would be a federation.
YG: Yes, autonomy. And Kurds would have autonomy also inside Syria, if Assad were toppled. So there would be confederations all over, but under direct Turkish influence.
AV: So they would lose some direct control at home, but gain control over the entire region…
YG: Yes, I think this was the major plan.
But two things happened: First, the struggle of Syrian people. Nobody expected that, or more precisely, the United States and AKP did not expect that Syrian people would put such determined struggle against the foreign intervention!
The second was internal: the Gezi protests! It was like 11 million people on the streets, protesting against the government. Since those protests, the government began cracking inside. It began experiencing serious internal conflicts, because it was losing all the legitimacy.
Taksim Square: Police
Today, as a project, because, as we determined, the AKP is a project, the project is terminated. The problem is that the West has no real alternatives, no candidates for Turkish leadership. There is no one who could fill the vacuum, if the AKP goes. The West is kind of sick of Erdoğan, and it would like him to go, but it doesn’t want any radical changes… it’d like to have some coalition between the Islamists and the social democrats, a coalition that would be, once again, pro-Western, pro-privatization, and with more legitimacy… This is what the West is seeking right now, and one day it actually may happen. Which will not be, of course, a really good scenario for the people of Turkey.
AV: Do people of Turkey realize that they are being controlled from abroad?
AV: Because, as we determined before this discussion, the Turkish people are very knowledgeable…
YG: Yes. And it is not only in Turkey. In general, in this part of the world, in the Middle East, everybody knows that [the West] is an imperium that controls everything. Even the supporters of the government know it. They know it but they approve of the situation. They say: “OK, we are getting richer.” Because in Africa and in the Middle East, Turkey is becoming a big power… and that is the reason for the approval of the imperialist policy…
AV: What about the Gezi uprising? I made a film about it, and I spoke to many people, from all walks of life. But what is your take on it?
YG: All those people had one main goal: to change the government. The vast majority of that mass of people did not think about what would happen after the AKP goes… they would perhaps just vote for other parties. That’s it.
AV: That’s the same as those protests that brought down General Suharto in Indonesia.
YG: But the protests here were actually very ideological, but not organized.
AV: But they were not socialist, or Marxist…
YG: I see what you mean. I had written a book about the Arab Spring. So I have some idea about what had happened on the ground, in each country. One of the great differences between Tunisia or Egypt, and Turkey, is what the foreigners can’t really grasp… The socialist movements here have really huge influence, which is not necessarily reflected in the number of votes or in the representation in the government. It is all really historical… Even the AKP government needs some sort of approval from the ex left-wing intellectuals, in order to gain legitimacy for the radical steps they take.
So when Gezi started, on the ground it was impossible for any foreign power to start to control main groups of the people active in this uprising.
In Egypt you had those social media activists, youngsters who were educated in Washington, who were really pro-Western, who attended classes organized by the State Department… In Turkey we also have those groups, but they are so marginal, and everybody mocks them. They have really no influence. You had been here, you saw it: it was full of red flags! Hammers and sickles everywhere… It was not totally socialist, of course, but you could not easily control those people from abroad…
AV: Did the Gezi movement die? Or is it only dormant?
YG: I don’t think that movements die. As a social scientist I would say it is like in a law of physics… every movement has its ups and downs. And any popular movement creates and leaves behind certain inheritances: ideological, cultural, political… It is what happened with Gezi. It had its lifespan. No group of people can go on protesting 24 hours a day, for months. The influence, the inheritance, is still there. It will not go away. In fact ,Gezi was the largest movement in the history of Turkey. It especially effected young generations.
But if you looked at it as: “here is this movement and its aim was to topple the government”. Did they succeed? No! So in that sense of course it died. Although I would say: it did not really die; it just was not successful.
AV: Where is Turkey right now economically, socially, even politically? We hear a lot about Kemalism, or about the state economy. In fact the country is very capitalist, and definitely not left wing, as it is siding with the imperialists, spreading its influence all over the region.
YG: The major peculiarity of this country is in its the very foundations, because its creation was not intended in a sense. The colonial powers did not want this country to exist. The plan was a much smaller Anatolian state for the Turks, and the rest would be just shared among the major powers. At that conjunction of the history there were two interventions against that plan: first was of course the October Revolution in Russia. Nobody saw that coming… And the second one: the war of liberation of Turkey.
The leading cadres of the Republic, the Kemalist movement and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk himself, they were, without any question, pro-Western. But they had to wage the war against the West, in order to found their country. So this is the basic dilemma.
AV: The contradiction.
YG: Yes, the basic contradiction! They were really good politicians, in a bourgeois sense. They were realists, pragmatists… And people generally don’t know this: in fact, a great deal of the weapons and ammunition that was used in the war of liberation in Turkey, in Anatolia, came from Russia after the civil war there ended. Local leaders had to have good relationships with the Soviet Union, because it was really beneficial for both parties. For the Soviet Union, the main concern was that the imperialist countries would not control the Straights. Because those were the main routes the Soviets had to the Mediterranean. And so they were backing the Turkish position that the Straights would be under full control of the Turkish state. Turkey also benefited politically from this support, and they also got weapons.
For two decades, Turkish politicians knew that in fact they did not have any local bourgeoisie. They did not have any capital. Their main idea was to create their local bourgeoisie, through state investment.
AV: How come it did not have the capital or the bourgeoisie? We are talking about one of the mightiest empires on earth, before the WWI.
YG: The problem was that most of the local bourgeois were non-Muslims… The Greeks or Armenians, or Jews… For that “investment” they intensively collaborated with the Soviet Union. Most of the factories that were built during the First Republic were created thanks to the Soviet know-how. Soviet engineers, Soviet planning… The Turkish state had even some sort of a 5-year Plan, similar to the one in the Soviet Union.
AV: So they influenced Turkey also ideologically?
YG: No. Actually they did not. The thing is that the Soviet Bolshevik Party – they were also real pragmatists, in a sense that they were very careful about not intimidating the Kemalist government. They did not really support the Communist Party of Turkey, which was actually part of the “Comintern”. They did not really protest against the crackdowns and murder of the Turkish Communist Party members, because they still had to keep a good relationship with the government. And the members of the Communist Party of Turkey understood that. They understood the position of the Soviet Union, and they were not critical of it.
So Turkey had some sort of political alliance with the Soviet Union.
But after the Second World War, especially because of the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine… the Truman Doctrine and the initial Marshall Plane – it was mainly about Greece and Turkey, at the beginning. That is because these two countries were then the two main bastions of the Cold War against the Soviet Union. From that period, things began to change, step by step, as the distance from the Soviet-style economy increased. And when the neo-liberal era arrived, the changes accelerated.
Right now, Turkey is definitely a capitalist country. The state assets in the Turkish economy are tiny. The AKP government had privatized everything, and right now they are busy selling the country’s forests and beaches.
AV: So it could be described as an extreme capitalist model…
YG: Exactly. And on the social front, this is one of the changes that came with Islamisation… Historically, the fundamental principal of the Turkish Republic was the concept of the social state. The state was obliged to take care of its citizens… The AKP changed this. Now it is some sort of a concept of “Good Muslims are helping bad Muslims”… And there is this concept of “sadaqah”…
AV: Of charity…
YS: Charity, exactly… So now it is not in the sense of a modern state and the rights of the citizens.
On paper, the economy of Turkey is growing, but the vast majority of the Turkish people, according to many studies, became impoverished during the AKP years.
Turkey was flooded with huge amounts of money coming from the Gulf countries, because of Ankara’s foreign policy. The imperialist countries also invested heavily in Turkey, because you had to, somehow, satisfy the economical needs of the country that was waging wars on their behalf.
However , now, even top government officials are talking about an imminent economic crises. The standard of living is going down.
AV: Why are people still voting for this government, which so miserably failed on several fronts? Now elections in Turkey are coming; the second round. The AKP is going to win. Perhaps they will not get an outright majority, but they will count on enough votes to retain their power.
YS: First: the ideological reasons. They have Islamists backing them.
AV: So they are cashing on their religious card?
YS: Exactly. Second: the shop owners and the small and middle size business owners – they have huge fear of the economic crises. They want “stability”. And they think that if the government goes, there would be economic crises.
Of course it is a paradox. Turkey is not a stable country. We have bombs exploding in the middle of our cities, we have killings, and we have a war going on in the Kurdish cities…
AV: What about the Left? Are there any promising leaders and alternatives?
YS: We have traditional social Democratic parties. These are pro-Western, pro-NATO parties; I don’t think we can even call them “Left”.
AV: Of course not…
YS: We have that, and we have a Kurdish-influenced political party. Their main agenda is any decent solution to the Kurdish problem.
AV: But this is not some pan-Turkish force.
YS: No. Of course there are many leftists inside the party, but there are also many Islamists inside the party.
AV: There is a great violence sweeping entire country. Who is behind the attacks?
YS: A few weeks ago, we had a major attack in Ankara. ISIS is behind the attack. But Erdoğan and his government are desperately trying to benefit from this instability. They turned the tables around and said: “The country is in total chaos and we are the only ones who can prevent its collapse”. Politically it is clear that the government is responsible for the violence. And on the ground… well, I cannot really go into the details, but it is proven that the state knew all about the attacks: they were tracking the guys; they were bugging their phones… And they didn’t do anything. Last week, the Prime Minister of Turkey declared: “We know who the suicide bombers are, but we cannot do anything before they explode themselves!”
AV: But then the state cracks down not only on the Islamists, but also on the left wing leaders. How dangerous is it to be a Communist or a left-wing intellectual these days in Turkey?
YS: It is not as dangerous as it was, let’s say, 20 years ago. People still get arrested, they get beaten, harassed… it is all there. But somehow I don’t really like to talk about this because… look… After the 1980 coup, many leftists immigrated to Europe. They had to obtain their citizenship or their right to just stay there. And because of that, everybody started telling all the terrible things that were actually really happening, but then… then it became a tendency to just portray the situation in Turkey much worse than it really is. So in a sense it would seem “sexily horrible” to the Western mindset. Politically it is really terrible. But the immigrants can’t really go to the European institutions and tell them openly: “Look, there is this horrible Islamisation which is fucking up our daily lives”. But they can say: “There are many murders and disappearances…” Which are there, but it is not like our leftist comrades are living their lives in constant fear, that it is imminent that something terrible will happen to them any moment…
To summarize: things are not so dangerous here that the fear would prevent people from becoming Leftists.
AV: The plight of the Kurdish people… Is there any chance, any hope that things could get resolved, successfully, in the near future?
YG: Certainly there are negotiations. But in this part of the world, negotiations are not only made around the table. Using force, waging wars is also part of the negotiations and diplomacy. And that is exactly what is going on in Turkey. Here, sometimes, the government attacks, and sometimes the Kurdish movement attacks, too. It comes and goes. It has ups and downs. But right now, because of the position of the government, the negotiation process has weakened a lot. It is very improbable that this government could succeed in a obtaining a peace deal that would satisfy the demands of the Kurdish people.
AV: And it is even more complicated, because Turkey is involved in the Kurdish conflicts all over the region…
YG: Yes and no. Because if you look at Northern Iraq, both Barzani and Talabani, they have excellent relations with the Turkish government. And they have their own conflicts with the PKK, which is the main Kurdish force inside Turkey. Then, the PKK is very powerful in the Syrian areas, waging war against the ISIS. In Northern Iraq, the PKK has its base there, and some influence, too, but it could not be compared with the influence of Barzani or Talabani. So the PKK is mainly strong in Turkey and Syria.
AV: The Kurdish commanders that I spoke to in Northern Iraq were either trained in the UK, or in the United States…
YG: Yes, and they are very close to both regional powers: to Turkey and Israel. They have excellent relationships with Israel.
AV: And Turkey has, of course, excellent relationships with Israel, too. When the conflict between two countries took place, over the ship that Israelis attacked, the training of the Israeli military pilots at the air base outside the city of Konya had continued.
YG: Of course! And in fact, here is an interesting piece of information: several AKP MP’s were planning to board that ship and go to Gaza. But a few weeks before…
AV: They cancelled…
YG: They cancelled! OK, it does not mean that the AKP knew there would be a massacre on that ship, but the government knew there was a possibility of a massacre, and they did nothing to prevent it.
AV: How much is known in Turkey about the ISIL being directly or indirectly trained and armed in Turkey? When I was writing my reports, and also when I was making my documentary film, I got convinced that several Syrian “opposition movements” were actually trained in both Apaydin “refugee camp” near the city of Hatay, and at the Adana air force base. We managed to track the movement of the Syrian anti-government fighters, and we got several testimonies from the people in the area, including the Turkish border guards. Qatari jihadi cadres were also involved in Hatay and its vicinities. Is it something that is discussed in Turkey?
Apaydin Camp, where the “Syrian opposition” is trained by the West
YG: Yes, it is discussed a lot. But the thing is that the ISIS militants were never “officially” trained inside Turkey. What happened is: Turkey was supporting the so-called “Free Syrian Army”. And they had especially good relations with Al-Nusra, which is part of al-Qaida, as well as with a few smaller groups. But generally they were supporting “Free Syrian Army”. Some of those guys who were trained in those camps, when they went back to Syria, they joined ISIS. I don’t think the government gave conscious training to ISIS. But they did not crack down on ISIS. The state looked in the other direction, closed its eyes. And whenever there were clashes and ISIS fighters were wounded, the Turkish ambulances would enter Syria, take them to Turkish hospitals, and then the fighters would return to Syria, and continue waging the war. for the militants it is possible and easy to cross the border and to enter Turkey.
Two or 3 years ago we wrote about ISIL organization inside Turkey. We gave names of top cadres, of the leaders. And we gave details, including the houses that are being utilized by the militants. If we knew the names, there is no way that the state didn’t.
AV: So now we have totally new situation in the region. We have Russia, which said “enough”. It came to rescue its Syrian ally. How is the Turkish government reacting? Is it panic, is it outrage or does it call for a confrontation with the Russians?
YG: We should always speak of two separate parts: the government of Turkey, and the majority of Turkish people that hates this government. For the majority of people, it is a good thing what Russia is doing. But it is not because these people are “pro-Russian”. It is because they are opposing the war that is waged by the imperialists inside Syria. They want this war to stop.
For the government, it is a horror scenario, because if Assad doesn’t go, Erdoğan goes. Simple as that! So what Russians are doing is terrible for the AKP government.
AV: And yet the government is negotiating with both Russia and its closest ally – China. There are discussions about the pipelines and about the so-called New Silk Road, which would include the information super-highway, as well as the high-speed railroad connecting Turkey with the Asia Pacific. Is the government playing it both ways?
YG: Even the AKP government at some point said: we will become part of Eurasia. These are all leverages that they are using when negotiating with Western powers. If they don’t get what they want from the European Union, they threaten that they would ally themselves with Russia. The Europeans do not take it seriously; they know that it is part of “Turkish diplomacy”.
AV: And yet, China and Russia really represent a tremendous alternative. Entire new international institutions are born, and there is also big flight from dollars to RMBs. These two countries are forming the core of resistance against the Western imperialist block. Is Turkey eying this block as an alternative?
AV: So is its goal still to join the European Union and the West?
YG: Yes. There is no strategic thinking about changing the direction of Turkey’s politics towards the east. Of course in some cases they ditch some French company and let China to build something here… or Russians, who will be building nuclear power plants in this country. Partially it is because Turkey is dependent on Russia, because of the supplies of natural gas etcetera.
AV: So Turkey is going to stay with the West?
AV: Is it what the Turkish people want, or is it what the elites want?
YG: It is what the bourgeoisie wants.
AV: Any chance for a revolution?
YG: Of course! If one studies history books and conditions that led to the revolutions, Turkey satisfies all such conditions. Of course it does not mean that in just a few years we will see a revolution here. But look at the world, and give me names of 5 or 10 countries where the revolution is likely to happen. Definitely one of them is Turkey!
Just a few days after this discussion, the second round of elections took place in Turkey, and the AKP scored unprecedented victory.
I asked Yiğit Günay to comment. He replied:
“The election results were somewhat unexpected. Everybody knew that AKP would be the leading party, but not even the AKP leaders had guessed such a high percentage.
So, what happened? The parliamentary opposition has managed to resurrect Erdoğan & Co. in the past two years. After the Gezi protests, AKP was finished. They had absolutely no legitimacy. They were not ruling the country but fighting, and they had to admit the fact that the state was in a deep crisis… But the parliamentary opposition, mainly the social-democratic CHP and the pro-Kurdish liberal democrat HDP dismissed any scenario and endeavors to topple AKP on the streets and channeled the people to the ballot boxes as the only solution. In most of the main topics of debate about the new regime implemented through the AKP, such as Islamization, secularism, relations with the EU, relations with the US, membership in NATO, the Syria policy and so on, these two parties did not fundamentally differ from AKP’s position, but in many cases adopted their main direction with a slightly more nuanced rhetoric.
Returning to your earlier question, though as I’ve said I would not like to use the word “died”, in this sense you could argue that the parliamentary opposition killed the Gezi movement. Once the only legitimate way to change the power was reduced to the ballot box and once the parliamentary opposition did not go aggressively against the main tenets of the AKP regime but shyly legitimized and adopted them, there was no way to weaken the AKP support amongst the people.
And, what are the implications for the struggle? First, starting immediately after the first estimated results indicated that AKP was to form a one-party government, many people started to express the need for a more radical struggle. The “election game” has lost its appeal. We’ll see where this goes… But let’s keep in mind one thing: When the Gezi uprising began on June 2013 and approximately 10 million people took to the streets against AKP, the AKP was then in the office with 50% of the votes.”
All photos are by Andre Vltchek.