We share this article that was originally published at The Socialist Network. Facts For Working People is not affiliated with the Socialist Network and the views are expressed are the authors.
Author: Tayfun Hatipoğlu.
The failed “coup” in Turkey has significantly bolstered the position
of President Erdogan’s regime, giving him an excuse to go even further
in repressing his critics. The farcical coup was virtually tailor-made
to help President Erdogan’s AK Party regime further strengthen its
power, while simultaneously giving it a claim to be “defenders of
democracy”. No wonder Erdogan greeted the coup as a “gift from god”.
Far-fetched as it may seem to think that this coup was actually
stage-managed by the regime, suspicions are raised by the fact that
neither the President, the Prime Minister nor any of his ministers were
arrested or injured, or any government buildings occupied. Nor, by
chance, was there any damage done to Erdogan’s beloved new Presidential
Palace, the prime symbol of his overweening ego. And what kind of coup
would allow the President to issue a video appeal online as soon as
events began to unfold, fire on his hotel after he had left it, and then
allow him to fly unhindered a few hours later into Istanbul’s Ataturk
airport to a waiting crowd of his supporters?
Indeed, how was it possible that the
government would immediately have a list of 2700 judges (no less!) ready
for arrest and prosecution within hours of a coup which they claim came
as a complete surprise? And what in any case could these judges have to
do with a military coup attempt?
Last but not least, how could Erdogan so quickly blame his religious
rival, Fetullah Gulen, for organising the coup before any military
participants were interviewed or the coup plot investigated?
Meanwhile, Gulen, from his compound far away in Pennsylvania, denied
he had anything to do with the coup and said that democracy cannot be
achieved through military action, rejecting all military interventions
in principle. “It could be anything,” Gulen told journalists, including a
staged coup intended to justify further repression. “My position on
democracy is really clear. Any attempts to overthrow the country is a
betrayal to our unity and is treason.” Gulen then went on to point out
that he had personally suffered every time a coup had happened in
Was it a Genuine Coup?
Despite all the appearances to the contrary, two things undermine the
idea that this pantomime coup was a just put-up job organised by Erdogan
in order to justify even more severe repression of his opponents.
The first was, of course, the casualties – 250 people dead and more
than 1,400 injured. But then such considerations have not held back the
regime before, as we saw by their false flag bombings in Suruc and
Ankara last year which killed around 150 people and injured hundreds
more. Or their decision to launch a civil war against the PKK
accompanied by brutal tactics in the Kurdish areas which have seen
thousands of deaths and injuries, and widespread devastation.
The second issue giving some credibility to the coup scenario was the
statement issued by the participants and read out on TRT, the state TV
channel. The rebel army faction announced that the aims of the coup were
“to ensure and restore constitutional order, democracy, human rights
and freedoms”. It denounced Erdogan’s increasingly non-secular and
autocratic approach, highlighting the lawlessness of the regime which
had “lost all legitimacy”. It then condemned the massive corruption and
thievery of the government ministers; their control of the judges; their
failures in the fight against terrorism; and their destruction of the
secular nature of the state.
Erdogan would obviously not have wanted such a statement read out on
television, the content of which may well become more popular as time
Coup Statement Gives A Clue to it Origin
The content of the statement issued by the military rebels strongly
indicates that it would not have been issued by Gulen, the Islamic
cleric who Erdogan accuses of organising the coup. Instead, it clearly
represents the traditional pro-Ataturk ‘Kemalist’ standpoint which
opposed the involvement of religion in politics. This was still the
dominant tendency in the army and until recent years also the ideology
of the rest of the state. In fact, the statement read out on television
closely resembles Ataturk’s famous address to the Turkish youth.
Furthermore, the coup plotters referred to themselves as the “Peace at
Home Council”, which was obviously a quotation from Ataturk’s famous
slogan “Peace At Home, Peace In the World”.
An Alternative Scenario
There is another possible explanation for this theatrical
event, replete with pro-government crowds being called onto the streets
after the coup had been suppressed and demonstrators clambering over
abandoned tanks and beating up bewildered soldiers.
It is possible that there was a genuine anti-regime group inside the
army looking to use force to bring down the government. But possibly it
was a group that the regime came to know about in advance, and then
allowed or even encouraged to take this action, only to sabotage key
aspects of the plan when it started to be put into operation. That would
explain how ineffective the coup was, how easy it was for the regime to
put it down, and how prepared the government was with its retribution.
That said, at this point nothing is clear. Perhaps interviews with
the participants and other facts will start to emerge that will cut
through all the government propaganda.
In the meantime, one tactical mistake already made by Erdogan has
been to demand the extradition of Gulen from America in order to stand
trial in Turkey for organising the coup. This demand has ironically
passed the initiative over to US authorities who have not turned down
such a possibility but made it dependent on them first properly
investigating whether there are genuine grounds for suspecting Gulen of
being involved in the coup. If such an investigation finds no grounds
for the charges against Gulen it will be a major propaganda blow for
Erdogan, and the first international judgement on his claims against the
“parallel state” which he has used in order to extend his power in the
media and elsewhere.
Consequences of the “Coup”
Within hours of the failed “coup” nearly 200 top Turkish court
officials were taken in custody including two members of the
Constitutional Court, 140 members of the Supreme Court, and 48 members
of the Council of State. Another 2500 judges have been arrested. Is it a
coincidence that this clear out of the last relatively
independent-minded judges comes just before many of the opposition
members of parliament will face trial and expulsion from the parliament?
Although Erdogan had already taken over control of the justice system,
recent cases involving journalists and academics on trial for
criticising the regime had demonstrated that there still remained a
number of judges, especially in the top layer of the system who were not
willing to carry out the repressive aims of the government. From now
on, we can expect no such resistance.
The purge of the state will also be extended to other sectors.
According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry 4000 soldiers have been
detained and arrests will continue. This failed “coup” provides a golden
opportunity for Erdogan to strengthen his position in the army, an area
where he was still relatively weak.
Moreover, the last two day have seen around 8,000 police suspended
from duty although just like the judges there seems little likelihood
that they played any direct role in the coup.
In addition to a promise to “cleanse our army”, Erdogan has said that
he will remove the “viruses” from all state institutions. This gives
him a blank cheque to remove any civil servants who are not
pro-government. Already hotlines exist in most departments for civil
servants to inform on their colleagues. Meanwhile, the AK Parti octopus
is spreading its tentacles into every section of public service and even
into the non-governmental sector. No wonder that many critics of the
regime are pointing to the similarities between the methods of Erdogan’s
repression and that of Hitler’s. Perhaps the main distinction being
that Hitler consolidated his power very quickly while Erdogan’s coup has
been performed in “slow motion”.
Another twist to the screw has been President Erdogan’s new call to
reintroduce the death penalty, a demand immediately taken up by his
Meanwhile, since the “coup” a flood of slickly produced videos are
now appearing on Turkish television glorifying Erdogan and exploiting
Islam to the max. In these videos, one can see Erdogan’s desire to be a
latter day Caliph along Ottoman lines, laid out for all to see.
A Silver Lining
Just as some dark clouds have a silver lining, there are a few
positive aspects that can be drawn from last weekend’s dangerous
First off, this outbreak of resistance in the army is one more symbol
of the discontent of large sections of the public at the growing
dictatorship being exercised by President Erdogan. Of course, the regime
still retains the support of a solid core of the poorer and more
religious sections of the population, a support buttressed by its
control of the media and the cynical use of patriotic propaganda for its
manufactured civil war against the Kurdish PKK.
The government is also favoured by the economy which despite the
increasingly unequal distribution of wealth in the country, continues to
grow at 3-4% per year. Part of the reason for this is government pump
priming through mega projects – bridges, tunnels, new airports etc.
Incredibly, Turkey currently accounts for 40% of all mega projects in
the world which apart from boosting economic activity also provides the
regime with plenty of opportunities for corruption. Corruption that not
only benefits government ministers and their ‘kept’ businessmen, but
also feeds the ravenous welfare demands of the ten million member AK
Party movement. Moreover, this year’s big increase in pensions and the
minimum wage have helped maintain support among poorer layers.
But this favourable situation will not last as Turkey is hit by the coming global economic storms.
No Solution in the Military
The collapse of this “coup” is one more defeat for the idea of
military intervention in Turkish political life, something that has
repeatedly cursed it since 1960. There is no solution down the military
road. We don’t need a group of soldiers to set themselves up as our
“saviours”. What we need is for the people themselves to defeat the
oppression of the current regime.
While this may seem unlikely in the current period, a day will come
when this regime will fall either by it its own contradictions or by a
collapse in support among its own supporters. Or probably by a
combination of both.
Indeed, the image of masses of people resisting and defeating
military action so championed now by the regime may yet come to haunt
Erdogan as he is inevitably forced to face the growing discontent of the
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