1. Apart from some breaks and transition periods and the September 12th “military dictatorship”, the history of the Republic of Turkey (TC) can be read as a history of “Bonapartism”. Turkey’s historical journey started with the “constituent” Bonapartism (single-party era) as the political expression of the social domination of the bourgeoisie. The regime that continued along with the 1960 Coup was disrupted by the Bonapartism itself on 12th of March 1971 (followed by several years of “democratic” transition!) and after a long semi-Bonapartist control regime, today it has come under the domination of another regime which we call Neo-Bonapartism (or new-Bonapartism).
Our attempt to define the phases of the Bonapartisms process of the Turkish Republic, which is a capitalist state, is a result of the effort to avoid generalizations that could lead us to wrong conclusions about the struggle. In general, Bonapartism, as we can describe is a regime that the upper bureaucracy of civil-military takes the role of “trans-class conciliatory referee” due to the weakness of the basic social classes or the balance situations arising in the class struggle (in reality for the benefit of the ruling class) and is based on various measures of force and is inevitable that it takes different forms in line with the needs of the bourgeoisie. Understanding these different forms correctly and as punctually as possible determines the methods and tactics of the struggle.
2. Even though Neo-Bonapartism has some basic characteristics in common with other Bonapartism types (therefore we still name it Bonapartism), it has differences apart from the classic Bonapartism or semi-Bonapartist “control regimes”. The most important feature that makes this form of the bourgeois state, which spreads like a wave in many countries today different from others, is that it “uses” some basic institutions and images of bourgeois democracy, especially “free elections” as its main source of legitimacy despite its oppressive character.
Such regimes, driven by the multifaced crisis of bourgeois societies, gained the support of the desperate masses in a variety of ways. Unlike the classical Bonapartist regimes based on a particular elitism, it emerged as a “national power” based on majority and populism. Also, such regimes democratically disable and transform all the institutions of bourgeois democracy (parliament, elections, judiciary, media, etc.) that are already in the process of decay and turn them in accordance with their control and use. Although neo-Bonapartist regimes are actually “civil war regimes” like any other bourgeois pressure regimes, thanks to the “democratic shell” around them they don’t need an obvious coup. So that they can be defined by means of the “smooth transition” as liberal democracy or a concept like authoritarian populism. However, these are inadequate, ambiguous, and superficial concepts. The superficiality we have mentioned makes the class character of this new regime invisible, the underlying irreconcilable contradictions, the dangers it contains, and the bankruptcy of bourgeois democracy that is the reason for its emergence.
The neo-Bonapartist regime is not the result of a personal evil or solitude of power alone, despite the extraordinary power and importance gained by a particular person. Although it has gained considerable momentum and widespread after the 2008 World Crisis, it mainly stems from the tendency of neoliberal capital accumulation to “strengthen the enforcement” in line with the goal of making quick and effective decision-making for the benefit of financial capital. The social collapse, decay, corruption, crime wave, mass migration, impoverishment, despair, and the search for security and powerful power caused by neoliberalism enable the party, movement, and demagogues that large masses see as saviors to become a powerful alternative in a very short time.
The Neo-Bonapartist regime, like other bourgeois oppression regimes, aims to keep bourgeois domination (which is in a crisis) alive. But its real function, on a completely “free marketer” basis, is that it puts the anger of the working people to the service of capital sovereignty, which is the main cause of their problems. The Neo-Bonapartist regime has some features in common with fascism, which are based on a mass movement. Civil and even paramilitary organizations in various forms that this kind of Bonapartism created, are to sustain its existence and oppress the opposition. And these constitute another similarity with fascism. These similarities also point to the potential of this regime type to acquire a fascist, semi-fascist character through an internal transformation, in parallel with certain radical changes in the social and political situation, and the intensification of class struggles. Again, in order to maintain the power of such regimes, it is likely that the clashes they will cause due to the social-cultural tension and the political lines based on polarization will open the path to power for other Bonapartist and fascist alternatives that can gain the power due to the “reactionary climate” strengthened by these regimes.
3. The regime in Turkey which we define above in general terms is shaped by a presidential regime in a process that began in the summer of 2013 with the Gezi Uprising. This regime is based on the support of “middle classes”, which are controlled by cheap loans and various supportive-saving economic measures and poor laborers through a politically neighborhood-controlled social assistance system, a network of informal relations, and community solidarity. However, it is not this “populism” that determines its main historical role, but the services it provides to the bourgeoisie of the “palace party” (AKP), which was created through large capital in general and in particular by means of rent, loot, plunder, corruption, and favoritism. However, although its main historical task is the production and reproduction of the bourgeois order in its most obvious form, it does so in a unique reward/punishment system. This quality of the relationship with power is a source of concern for the bourgeoisie.
This regime is also a “civil war regime.” It tries to make its existence permanent through a policy of constant tension-enmity. Society is tried to be divided into opposing camps by separating it from its political, denominational, and cultural identities; The definition of “nation” is limited to the supporters of the government, and opposites are declared as “non-national” as elements open to all kinds of liquidation when necessary. This is the basis of the regime’s “civil war” character. At the point we have reached, the formula of opposition = betrayal is valid. For this reason, opposition initiatives, organizations, and especially mass protest actions are defined as “coup attempts” and they are subjected to increasing pressure. But it should not be thought that all this remains at the level of discourse.
The regime is increasingly turning to more organized “civil defense” measures and “paramilitary” organizations, especially after the July 15th Coup Attempt (2016), by the impact of its resistance experience and terror. Armament, facilitated by the government, is in unprecedented dimensions. All this points to the danger of removing the legal state protection on people who are actually deemed “internal enemies” by the government in a particular situation. This also means a danger of civil war in its most concrete sense, beyond the general “civil war regime”. In general, dictators (Bonapartist, military, and fascist type) come to power with the support of a part of the bourgeoisie and the people because they either prevent a civil war or win a civil war. The most important feature of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which represents the regime in person, as a “dictator” (also the feature of the regime) is that it has the potential to cause a danger of civil war himself. This is one of the main concerns of the “mainstream” traditional bourgeoisie.
The regime maintains this polarization policy not only on “internal problems” but also on “external problems”. The unifying factor here is the “survivability” problem. In this way, false relationships are often established between “inner enemies” and “outer enemies”, which are often deliberately rendered “unknown”. This fraud also applies to the “anti-imperialist” discourse that the regime has been using more and more in recent years. Although it seems contradictory that a government which holds the country in its most free-market-capitalist form within the imperialist world system and its main international economic-political-military institutions and tries to maintain all kinds of cooperation and partnership with international financial capital, contradicts its opponents of being an “imperialist collaborator” which is a common situation for the whole world now. On the one hand, the regime has been trying to correct its deteriorated relations with its imperialist allies (USA, EU…) and attract foreign capital. On the other hand, it continues its false anti-imperialism and “survivability discourse” by linking even the economic crisis known to be approaching for at least a few years to an external conspiracy and manipulation. The same discourse is used in the justification of cross-border military operations, aimed at eliminating the Kurdish national achievements in Syria and for the occupation of the Kurdish regions and Syrian territory in cooperation with the Islamist forces.
Another important point to be emphasized is that the regime has been increasingly interfering with the election results (and referendums) that it has used as evidence of its main “source of legitimacy” and the right to represent “national sovereignty” over the past few years. The presidential referendum and the elections were won with open cheating, lawlessness, and bullying that took place in the eyes of everyone. İBB (Istanbul Municipality) elections were canceled by polling. By removing the many mayors elected in the Kurdish provinces, AKP presidents were appointed instead.
Aside from the belief that the palace will not leave the power in a legitimate way, there is a common belief that it will resort to mass violence if necessary, to remain in power. Despite the obvious violations in the presidential election, it should be emphasized that the CHP (Republican People’s Party) leaders could not object to the results and do not protest by pointing the “armed men” on the street.
Essential Principles of Struggle Against the Regime
4. Regardless of the ideological structure and discourse of the palace regime, the main problem is its class character. The Islamic ideological and cultural discourse of the regime aims to hide its class character and its true social role. This regime is a capitalist regime and the reason for its existence is to serve large capital; It is the conservation and reproduction of the capitalist society based on labor exploitation. As the Chief of the Regime, a capitalist, often recalls, big capital made huge gains during the AKP period. RTE has made it clear that one of the primary goals of the state of emergency declared after the July 15th Coup Attempt is to prevent strikes that “try to shake our business”. Therefore, we argue that, unlike the nationalist opposition, the revolutionary socialist opposition should firstly struggle not with the “secret agenda” of RTE, but with what it explicitly aims and does.
Already one of the main reasons why the preventable rise of this power cannot be prevented is that the opposition takes a wrong position in the fight against power. The government has continually pulled the opposition into a struggle in a cultural identity field to conceal its original social and class goals and it has succeeded in this tension strategy. The nationalist-bourgeois opposition, which dreams of returning to the “golden age” that is supposed to have lived in the past and has also been burdened by the bankrupt old regime, has chosen to correlate the support given to this “populist” power to the “stupidity of the masses” in an extremely “elitist” manner.
5. We insist that the struggle against this capitalist power is above all, a class struggle. This is never a “reductionist” struggle, limited to the economic sphere, the factory, the strike, the union problems. While we are talking about the “working class” as the main carrier power of the struggle, we are talking not only about an “economic class” but mainly a “social class”. Because class relations are actually “social relations.” It cannot be expected to be otherwise in a class society. Starting from this basic point of view, we should emphasize that our understanding of class struggle covers the struggles that span all social areas. Ideological, political, cultural, etc. all areas are areas of class struggle for us. Because the struggles between classes are not only at an economic level, but also ideological, political, cultural, etc. It occurs in all areas. In this context, we see the working class as the “motor power” of the historical and social movement and the historical precursor and the determinative subject of any revolutionary transformation. And we say that the revolutionary program should move to all struggle areas of other oppressed sections of society and must cover their problems.
6. From this point of view, we emphasize that one of the most important aims of the struggle against the current regime is to win the working people who are controlled and supported by the government through “social aid”, which are blunted by class consciousness by various means and methods, especially by organizing. The only way to destroy the false “community solidarity” that keeps the exploited poor together under the guise of faith is the “class solidarity”. Coming from rural areas and gathered in newly formed industrial areas; It is understandable that the workers, who were kept under the control of religious-nationalist reaction with social aids, countrymen relations, and similar methods, and who continued their existence with the fear of losing their job at any time, are often under heavy conditions of exploitation without any experience of organization and struggle, vote for the ruling party. This situation, especially their relations with their social environment, affects even the organized sections of the working class in terms of their political behavior, even they have relatively more suitable livelihoods.
However, this is not fate. Many experiences in recent years have revealed that workers who voted for the ruling party or other religious, nationalist parties have gained a very different identity by turning into a “person of the class” in a series of resistance, occupation, protest, and strikes or organizational struggles. It should not be forgotten how the working class of the 1950s had similar characteristics, turned away from Democrat Party support, to the left in general in the organizational struggles and actions in the 60s and 70s. The liberation of the working class from the ideological, political dependencies, and relations that hold it together with its exploiters is possible only through its action, namely the class struggle. This struggle will not only achieve the economic and social gains of the working class but will also enable its “independence” and increase its specific weight and political influence in the society and open the way for social liberation. The liberation of the working class through struggle will also ensure the liberation of the working people and other oppressed groups that make up most of the society. The existence of an organized and struggling working class is also the first condition for the defense of economic, political, and social rights and freedoms against any reactionary attacks by the bourgeoisie. Without becoming an organized force, it is not possible to get rid of the situation of the workers and laborers, let alone the sovereignty of the bourgeoisie, where many of their basic needs are not met, become increasingly impoverished, and are forced to live like a “hostage” under the risk of constant unemployment.
7. It is a proven fact that many times the struggles that the working class does not take place as a leading subject they cannot escape from being absorbed in a short time if it doesn’t become massively defeated. (As in the last Gezi Uprising example…)
The above-mentioned “independence” is not the class becoming condemned to social “loneliness”. This is the ideological, political, and organizational independence of the working class from the bourgeoisie, not from other oppressed people of society. However, a working-class that is independent of the bourgeoisie can be no more than a simple tool of the power games, election numbers, and internal competition of the dominant classes that exploit themselves, but as a leading and liberating force against other oppressed.
Working-class action is also the most important condition for the construction of a “revolutionary political leadership”, which is a sine qua non for class struggles to succeed. Revolutionary leadership’s real development and reaching a massive power is only possible within “mass mobilization”. However, it should be an organization, a revolutionary working-class party, which will carry “political consciousness” to the working class, educate it with its program, strategy, and tactics and lead the struggle for liberation. Without this party, mass mobilization can’t take strong steps towards the liberation of the class, except for some partial and reversible achievements. The point that needs to be emphasized especially against some misunderstandings is that “the liberation of the working class will only be its work”. It has nothing to do with revolutionary Marxism to think that a political leadership that should have no different interests than the working class, but only from its action and being an organic part, would be the “savior” (Christ!) of the working class. Although the class and the party are not the same, they must establish a strong trust with each other in a mutual learning relationship. However, the political leadership must build trust in this relationship; A political leadership that does not trust the class is not a leadership anyway!
A united class front (a united workers front), can only be built by massive and organized labor actions, to defend the rights and freedoms of the working class, to expand them, to protect themselves from the physical attacks of the bourgeoisie (fascism, military dictatorship, Bonapartism…) and to respond to them. Otherwise, the revolutionary struggle will have to continue with the basis of alliances and fronts (even if it becomes a necessity in some circumstances) lacking the class foundation or with the weak class foundations (that is a situation we often encounter).
One of the most important features of today’s “one-man regime” is the gradual and arbitrary restriction of democratic rights and freedoms. In this case, the “struggle for democracy” makes it compulsory to be moved to the first row of Turkey’s agenda. However, in no period of history has there been a problem of democracy in its “pure” state. Democracy is an extremely “class” concept. In other words, it is a phenomenon determined by class relations. Therefore, in the political field, although it provides relatively wide opportunities to the oppressed classes in some periods, its ultimate boundaries are actually determined in the economic field, that is, according to the needs of the area shaped by the relations of production and where the bourgeoisie has definite sovereignty. In short, it is not a coincidence that during the times when capitalism entered the crisis, the price of the crisis caused not only economic restrictions and losses, but also political rights and freedom losses. Not only yesterday, but today’s world is full of countless examples in this regard. Turkey, during its recent history, has been one of the most “distinguished” examples of this situation.
9. For all these reasons, we see the struggle for democracy as an integral and complementary part of the class struggle. We can also express this as “there cannot be a struggle for democracy apart from the class struggle”. This approach also forms the basis of our understanding of the program and the revolution: The essence of the “Transition Demands Program” of Revolutionary Marxism is the linking of today’s urgent economic and democratic demands to the goal of building up to tomorrow’s proletarian power and socialism. While this program does not conceal its ultimate purpose and the real situation in any way, it sets out from the current level of consciousness of the working class and the working people. Its purpose is to ensure that this level of consciousness is exceeded by the workers’ own actions and self-organization. Revolutionary Marxism strongly rejects the petty-bourgeois “revolutionary” approach in which the revolutionary class struggle is divided into artificial “stages”. For us, the only obstacle to the transition of a revolution from “democratic tasks” to socialist tasks may be the backwardness of the proletariat’s level of consciousness and organization. Failure to overcome this obstacle leads to the failure of a “democratic revolution” (in terms of completing its real duties).
10. The “transition” logic of our program aims to overcome the existing undeveloped level of consciousness and organization of the working class. Revolutionary Marxism advocates that democratic demands and duties can only be truly resolved while “passing” by a proletarian government. This thesis, which forms the basis of our “Permanent Revolution” understanding, also points out that urgent democratic demands can only be realized as long as they integrate with an “actual” (ie not delayed to a distant future) demand and target of a “worker democracy”. Our “demands for transition” constitute the working and organizing principles of a substantially socialist society, as well as being largely impossible demands within the boundaries of bourgeois society and capitalist economy that have already become unable to meet the most basic needs of the workers. (“Sliding scale” in wages and working hours, workers’ supervision, organizing the new state based on workers and labor councils at all levels, recalling the elected by the electors, etc.)
In this sense, a program founded on transitional demands will enable the socialist propaganda which has been long ignored in Turkey and it will provide a practical and concrete agenda of popular format and language of class struggle again.
The struggle against the ideological-cultural attack of the ruling Islamist-nationalist power to anesthetize the working masses can only be done by systematically defending the goal of a libertarian, egalitarian, and solidaristic social future in which the workers really govern themselves. We must tell the laborers that their emancipation is possible in this world, not “in the other world”.
Again, in this context, we can make every democratic demand with an urgent economic demand of the class so that the democratic demands that seem to be orderly can go beyond the boundaries of the bourgeois society and above all, to become “touchable” to the working class. And we suggest it by integrating it with a “demand for transition” in a meaningful way. In this way, all demands within the program integrity gradually acquire a revolutionary character.
Based on all this, we can clearly state the following: A struggle for democracy without a class perspective will, at best, lead to a return to the point we started or a direct defeat if it does not come across as a very “fortunate” time. For this reason, “liberal democracy” (which is a kind of it), “radical democracy” (which is a kind of it), which does not give any result other than covering the social sovereignty of the bourgeoisie, and “civil society”, etc. we defend the idea and goal of “worker democracy” against thoughts and goals.
All these narratives can be seen as generalization and abstractions valid for every period in the first hand. However, there is no other “practical” and “shortcut” method of a struggle whose goal is the social liberation of the working class and socialism. These will be the basic principles of the class struggle against today’s Palace regime. However, if the principles are not made functional and concrete through program, policy, and practice (3 P!), they will gradually turn into templates and shallow formulas. Anyway, the correctness, inaccuracy, or validity of principles must pass the test of reality every time. This is the reason why Lenin mentions “the gray of theory and the green of life” in his April Theses.