Posted by: hevallo | February 21, 2011

>A Turkish news article that is revolutionary!


The revolutionary atmosphere is obviously having an effect on Turkish journalists. I make no apology for publishing this article from Zaman today.

Why do we need a post-Kemalist republic?

Unless Turkey abandons Kemalism as a constituent element of the state and society, we cannot consolidate democracy and resolve the Kurdish question. The best a Kemalist paradigm can offer is a “tutelage democracy” under the supervision of the military.

Kemalism has left its mark on the state apparatus, the political culture and the national psyche. In its essence, Kemalism envisages a homogenized nation and a disciplined society. Since the nation was not homogeneous but diverse ethnically and religiously, the state apparatus was used to eliminate sources of difference, or at least silence claims of difference. This resulted in assimilation efforts aimed at Kurds and the expulsion of many non-Muslims during the republican period. This positioned the state elite as a hegemonic authority vis-à-vis society that was subjected to the interferences of the state.

Moreover, the top-down modernization project as reflected in the radical reform movement in the early republican period assumed the possibility of constructing a “new society” in accordance with the ideological proposition of the state elite. Society was supposed to be “modern, secular, Turkish and loyal,” as taught to them by the Kemalist vanguard. Viewing society as subject to the interferences of the state elite to be modernized, secularized and nationalized built a “hierarchical relationship between the state and society.”

All these reflected the belief that a “new society” can be built through state intervention according to the model imagined by the Kemalist elite. It is obvious that democracy which prioritizes society over the state could not be established under such a hierarchical relationship. This Jacobin attitude that still prevails among the secularists and the Kemalists prevent them from embracing democracy and its political outcomes. It is then possible to assert that under a strict Kemalist order, which places the state and its ideological vanguards above society, democracy cannot flourish. To make the democratization process irreversible and consolidate democracy in Turkey then, a post-Kemalist republic is needed.

A related problem is the form of military-civilian relations. Since the 1960 military coup the military established itself as autonomous from the political sphere. With the 1961 constitution it created tutelage over politics. While it was autonomous from politics, the latter was subordinated to the priorities and preferences of the military. This was done by claiming that the military was the vanguard of the Kemalist republic. Such a self-appointed role after the 1960 military coup constituted the grounds for the constant interference of the military in political affairs.

Thus Kemalism of the formative years was reinvented in the 1960s to limit democratic politics and justify a role for the military to assert its will over the people’s will. Backing up Kemalism with the armed forces created a fatal power against democratic forces. To get out of this trap what is essential is to reform the military as a “professional” unit and not as an ideological one seeking political power, which requires total control of the military by civilians. This, however, cannot be done in a Kemalist state in which powerful institutions will always try to derive the right to rule from their ideological commitment to Kemalism. Thus, a post-Kemalist state is needed to eliminate the possibility of using ideological justifications over national will and representative institutions.

Another reason for the need to form a post-Kemalist order concerns the Kurdish question. It is not only the continuation of the question itself but its usage by the state elite that is an obstacle to democratization. The Kurdish question has always been used as a pretext for authoritarian political formations in Turkey. This was first carried out over the Kurdish rebellion in 1925 by Sheikh Said. To suppress the rebellion, the regime in Ankara did not limit its measures to the Kurdish areas and people. But the occasion was used to suppress all opposition in Ankara and İstanbul. The new opposition party, the Progressive Republican Party, was closed down and the dissenting İstanbul press was silenced as part of the crackdown following the Sheikh Said rebellion.

Since then the pattern has not changed: “Kurdish demands” have been used by the authoritarian elements in the state to postpone full democracy, suppress human rights, ignore the rule of law and spread a militarist political culture provoked using the threat the Kurdish demands were supposed to pose to the integrity of Turkey. Therefore, to build and consolidate democracy in this country, the Kurdish question should be resolved. The Kurdish question has to be resolved, first to address the demands of the Kurdish question and second to deprive the state of an excuse to postpone meeting the requirements of full democracy.

And the Kurdish question cannot be resolved within the paradigm of Kemalism that imagines a homogeneous Turkish nation denouncing even the presence of the Kurdish people. In short, we need to have a post-Kemalist republic in order to consolidate democracy, establish civilian control over the military and resolve the long-standing Kurdish question.


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