‘Analysis of imperialism was brought to the intellectual sphere of Turkey under the influence of Marxism’
An interview with Korkut BoratavInterview by Ali Somel | Translated by Etkin Bilen
We know Korkut Boratav the ‘veteran’ as a leading figure representing the progressive tradition in the Mülkiye [Ankara University Faculty of Political Science is historically called as Mülkiye]. Since he first started his academic career, he contributed to a wide range of studies from the class analysis of the Turkish society to the changes in the economic policies in the history of Turkey and discussions on planning in socialist countries. As a socialist intellectual who has sided with public interest and enlightenment oriented struggles against neoliberalism and religious bigotry for a quarter century, Boratav never withheld his contributions to the calls for organising an alternative for Turkey in line with scientific socialism. In this issue of our journal, we interviewed him about his personal memoirs on the crossroads of the history of Turkey, his personal initiatives on them and his retrospective evaluations.
Who is Korkut Boratav?
Korkut Boratav, the son of Turkey’s leading folklorist Pertev Naili Boratav, graduated from the faculty of law in Ankara University in 1959. He started to work as a research assistant in the field of economy in the Faculty of Political Sciences, becoming a member of the faculty staff raising social scientists advocating patriotism and popular interests. He witnessed waves of purge of left wing academics first with his father’s purge in 1949-50, then with his own in 1983 and then with his students’ in 2017-18. He contributed to collective studies of organisations such as the Turkish Social Sciences Association and Independent Social Scientists and wrote numerous articles to several journals especially on the economic crisis in Turkey, the IMF policies and its alternatives. In the biographical interview entitled Aydınlık Bir Adam (An Enlightened Man, written by Hakan Güldağ and İbrahim Ekinci, İmge Publishing, 2010), Boratav talks about the political and social history of Turkey from the perspective of his life and works. Boratav still writes weekly columns in soL News Portal.
His main works: Türkiye’de Devletçilik (1962), Gelir Dağılımı: Kapitalist Sistemde, Sosyalist Sistemde, Türkiye’de (1969), Sosyalist Planlamada Gelişmeler (1974), Tarımsal Yapılar ve Kapitalizm (1980), Türkiye İktisat Tarihi (1988), 1980’li Yıllarda Sosyal Sınıflar ve Bölüşüm (1991), İstanbul ve Ankara’dan Sınıf Profilleri (1995), Dünyadan Türkiye’ye, İktisattan Siyasete (2017).
We read about the historical periods you witnessed in Turkey along with your life story in the biographical interview entitled Aydınlık Bir Adam. Comparing historical periods is quite illuminating. What kind of a relation is there between the liberal and left wing opposition to the Democrat Party towards the end of 1950s and the socialist movements of 1960s? How would you evaluate the continuity and rupture between these periods?
I am thinking aloud while answering this question. 1946 is a very important period of rupture. On the eve of transition to the multi-party system, a left-wing movement flourished with strong Marxist and communist qualities but rather determined by the Soviet sympathy that arose during the Second World War. There was the Tan newspaper and authors like Sabahattin Ali later joined by Aziz Nesin were the main figures within this intellectual circle. In the academic circle, there were some left-wing groups represented by Behice Boran, Niyazi Berkes and Pertev Naili Boratav. There was also the İleri Gençlik Derneği [Progressive Youth Association], a subsidiary organisation of the TKP [The Communist Party of Turkey] pioneered by Mihri Belli, of which both my uncles were members. These were the main organs and figures defining the intellectual sphere of Turkey.
They were the followers of both alliances of the Second World War. For example, the pro-US figure Ahmet Emin Yalman’s Vatan newspaper on the one hand, and the pro-Soviet Tan newspaper on the other... There were of course no legal communist and socialist parties and yet they organised in secrecy. After the ban on trade unions was lifted, United İstanbul Workers’ Unions was found with the participation of communist workers. The old hands used to call them the ‘tobacco workers’.
Were the tobacco workers in the lead?
There were some tobacco workers within the cadre of the TKP, some of whom were most probably from Rumelia. There used to be talks about the tobacco workers and shoemakers, as far as I can remember as hearsay. I want to emphasize that this organisation was carried into the political sphere as a natural outcome of the transition to the multi-party regime in 1946. However, on that critical moment, CHP [Republican People’s Party] decided to purge the leftists and establish anti-communism as a state policy. The first step was the government of Recep Peker in 1946. Hasan Ali Yücel, the brightest figure of the Republican wing who had served as the Minister of Education for eight years, was dismissed. As a typical instance, Hasan Ali Yücel ended up in court with Nihal Atsız [the prominent Turkish racist of that period] who accused him of safeguarding the communists. Reşat Şemsettin Sirer, who was known for his anti-communist stance and had influenced my father’s life quite badly, replaced Hasan Ali Yücel as the Minister of Education. That changed the political course in the direct opposite.
This anti-democratic move in 1946 marked the atmosphere in Turkey until the end of the 1950s. Village Institutes and the Law on the Provision of Land for the Farmers, the two most important developments in the history of the Turkish Republic, which I call revolutionary developments, were brought to an end by CHP. The revolutionary and pro-enlightenment impetus of Kemalism was undermined. That was the main issue. İsmet Pasha is the dramatic figure in the history of Turkey. He was the one who first embraced and yet later betrayed these two revolutionary steps. It is hard for historians to explain this; it needs to be adapted to literature or screenplay by fiction writers.
This atmosphere of the period might have influenced you in becoming a socialist.
That is quite true because I was influenced by my family in my inclination towards socialist ideas. It is not my personal accomplishment; it is a matter of acquired, ideological formation. Şükrü Sökmensüer, the Minister of Interior of the Recep Peker government, turned a very harsh anti-communist discourse into a policy. The law became tougher; getting organised was hindered following the arrest of the TKP members known as the 167s.
This fifteen years-period was barren and dark. I witnessed it as a little boy in my family circle. My grandfather, who was a graduate of Mülkiye and a retired district governor, took me from Fatih to visit my uncles in Harbiye military prison, I don’t know why. Did he mean ‘don’t be ashamed of your uncles, they are my sons as well’? I don’t know. There, a gendarmerie captain says to lady Sıdıka, the wife of the district governor, ‘My lady, how many communist sons have you raised, shame on you!’ and she replies ‘No, I raised three lion-hearted boys.’ This defines the fate of a family who had roots in the Ottoman bureaucracy. This fate carried the family to the 1950s. My father, who was the third leftist of the family, was not put in jail but dismissed from his position at the university.
In your memoirs, you mention having experienced this atmosphere in your youth.
Well, I know these instances as far as my family told me. However, I also personally experienced the barren atmosphere of 1950s. Those who read and loved Orhan Veli’s poems in the high school comprised the leftist group. The poems of Nâzım Hikmet used to be passed from hand to hand. And we used to change the lines of his poems collectively. Just like folk poetry. For instance, these lines of Nâzım:
If a half of my heart is here, the other half is in China, doctor.
In the army flowing towards the Yellow river.
Then, every dawn, doctor, every dawn, my heart, in Greece,
Is being shot by a firing squad.
In Mehmet Fuat’s collection of Nâzım’s poems [Mehmet Fuat being the son of Nâzım Hikmet and acknowledged as misrepresenting the legacy of the communist poet], the lines read as ‘every morning, my heart is shot by a firing squad’. No! In our anonymous version, it reads as ‘every dawn, my heart is being shot by a firing squad’ because it is more suitable for Nâzım’s sound harmony. It’s a collective edition. Here you are! It means, Nâzım becomes a folk poet. There are other examples like that.
In the 1950s when we were at the university, one of my classmates asked the economics professor ‘It seems that the Soviets are achieving a planned development; all what we talk about the Soviets, are they really accurate?’ His name was Erol Kartal, a student whose brother was involved with TKP. The professor said in response, in a lecture hall with a thousand students, ‘Ok, sir, you may sit down. If that’s your question, let’s put you in an airplane and send you down to Moscow with a parachute so that you can see it for yourself.’ There was a burst of applause in the class! But it was not clear whether the collective will of the class sided with the professor or our young friend Erol. We can consider it as the humour of Turkish society.
There were some journals where the leftists had some influence. This is also related to your story of becoming an economist.
There were one or two illuminating examples of this sort. Let me talk about two of them. I contributed to one of them; Pazar Postası, a weekly journal. I wrote some columns there with the alias A. Korkut and Mustafa Karataş. I contributed by writing on world issues with the help of the socialist Western literature which I was following more or less back then. Tevfik Çavdar, Süleyman Ege, Muzaffer Erdost and poets from the “İkinci Yeni” poetry movement used to write in that weekly. The owner of it was Cemil Sait Barlas, a parliamentarian from CHP who was considered as a socialist in a sense.
The other journal was Forum. Forum was in fact the liberal opposition. And yet, it had the traces of a cultural legacy. The Westernisation wave of the İttihat Terakki [The Committee of Union and Progress, 1889-1918] and even Islahat [The Imperial Reform Edict, 1856] and Tanzimat [Administrative reorganization of the Ottoman Empire, 1839] movements were reflected in this journal. The Republic speeded up these reflections and that’s why their traces were still seen. Therefore, the left wing legacy of the 1940s also had its reflections in Forum. I was influenced by the article of Sencer Divitçioğlu advocating Marx in his economic polemic on Keynes and Marx against Aydın Yalçın, who was a liberal at the time and would later became a fanatical right-wing figure. I was a university student in those days, wishing or even passionately wanting to continue my studies in social sciences. The arguments of Divitçioğlu, who was a PhD student in Paris back then, was the main factor that convinced me to become an economist. In a sense, it means that there were some reflections and outrunners of the great left-wing wave of the 40s in Forum.
The story of Pazar Postası was a little bit more complicated. Following the May 27 1960 coup, they had the plan of moving the headquarters of the journal to İstanbul, where I guess they thought the intellectual atmosphere was richer, and turning the journal into a more political one, following the socialist perspective. Turhan Tükel had assumed the journalism of this initiative. However, I lost track and due to various problems, it eventually failed.
Then, some of the figures who expressed themselves in a cultural sphere in these journals got politicised in the 60s.
There is an important anecdote in terms of our literary history. Just before the May 27 1960 coup, in Ankara. Oğuz Atay [the future author of the popular novel Tutunamayanlar (The Disconnected), 1972] was influenced by us and joined a group related to Pazar Postası and its left-wing circles where our socialist friends like Tevfik Çavdar and Kenan Somer were also present. He was serving as a reserve officer and he was oriented towards socialism under our influence and gradually became a revolutionary socialist! Returning to İstanbul after his military service was over he got involved with the ‘old hand’ circles. He wrote a short brochure, copied and distributed it. It was entitled ‘What is to be done?’ However he intended to discuss not revolutionary politics but the life principles revolutionaries should follow. I did not read it, I just heard it from Istanbul. He got fully engaged in the activities of Pazar Postası in İstanbul. His disappointments in this initiative are reflected in his novel Tutunamayanlar. We can say that people like Oğuz Atay shifted towards left-wing politics in the atmosphere of the 1950’s by reading Forum or Pazar Postası and meeting with its circles.
There was also the liberalised CHP of the 1950’s... The party which introduced anti-communism in Turkey and its leader İsmet Pasha challenged the oppressive rule of the Democrat Party. They published the Declaration of Primary Goals. Thereby, they contributed to the political program of the post 27 May coup period.
So, there were young intellectuals getting quickly closer to the revolutionary socialist perspective on the one hand, and there was CHP, which was becoming liberal.
What I see is that the acquis of the Turkish society does not disappear easily. Cultural legacies are handed down from generation to generation. Of course there is the risk of dying down. We are talking about a fifteen year period till the May 27 coup. Its traces are also important. Anti-communism is in fact fascism. This shows that the fifteen year long ban on everything related to the left, socialism and the Soviet Union failed in wiping off the legacy of the past. Still, would it be irreversible if they had surmounted this political pressure for an extra ten years? Would twenty years be enough? There is a similar danger today, as well. Will the Turkish society lay all its hopes on some amorphous cultural waves of modernisation of foreign origin when the revolutionary and leftist germinations of the historical legacy of the past?
I will pose a similar question for a different period. In your biographical interview, you make a very important comment that as a result of the 1989 Spring Actions of public workers, the workers recovered some of their losses during the Özal period. Can we link the workers’ movement in 1970s and workers’ demonstrations at the end of 1980s?
The period of 1980-88 was determined first by the September 12 1980 coup and then by the changes made to the constitution and labour act, that is, the changes made on the legislation defining the relation of the working class and the employers. Özal, who had controlled the political arena with a full hegemony over this period, lost his power in 1988. He lost two referendums. One of them, which was about the continuation of political bans, was conducted in 1987 and he lost by a hair’s breadth. Thereby the CHP and Adalet Party [Justice Party] could return to the political arena. The second referendum was an attempt to conduct general and local elections jointly, he lost it too. Özal saw that his party was losing its electoral support and he most probably intended to either postpone local elections or reschedule the general elections to an earlier date. However, the SHP [Social Democrat People’s Party] ranked as the first party in 1989 local elections.
Let me point out the critical issue of this period: When SHP ranked as the first party, it gave hope to us and everybody else that the political atmosphere of the 1970s would revive. However, there was an important difference. During the 1970’s, along with CHP which in the 1973 and 1977 elections ranked as the first party in the parliament, there were also socialist revolutionary movements organising among the popular classes outside the parliament. Therefore, the Turkish society got closer to the left by means of two veins during the period before 1979-80. First of all, the parliamentary voter base got closer to the left. After the March 12 1971 coup, the masses Demirel took for granted gradually shifted towards CHP. CHP became the first party for the toiling masses. That’s what Demirel could not tolerate. He formed the National Front coalitions, thinking ‘How can they steal my clients!’ On the other hand, there was this revolutionary movement spread across unions, workplaces, farms, villages and slums. The March 12 1971 coup could not eradicate this movement. The historical TKP had also a powerful influence in the workers’ unions, even dominant in DİSK [Confederation of the Revolutionary Workers’ Union].
This power had already been smothered by 1989. What kind of a political program was being discussed at the end of 1980s, as different from the discourse of Ecevit saying ‘land belongs to those who cultivate it and water belongs to those who use it’?
When SHP ranked as the first party in 1989, socialists and social democrats were working on a project for SHP offering alternative solutions rather than a program. The TÜSES Foundation presented a study, funded by Friedrich Ebert Foundation, offering a series of alternative economic and social policies to Erdal İnönü’s party [İnönü was the leader of SHP]. Part of it was published. I also contributed to that study. We were following this idea: Could SHP become the voice of popular opposition by also making use of the sections within the dominant class who were concerned about the neoliberal policies of Özal? That is, there was an expectation of a possible alliance of the working class with the industrial sector disturbed by the neoliberal policies. Some industrialists accused Özal of ‘kleptocracy’. Nepotism which has increased immensely during the AKP [Justice and Development Party] rule took root during the Özal rule. Those sections of industry who did not have financial partners, banks and who were oriented towards the home market were concerned about high interest rates. Some openly stated that they were lowering the wages because of high interest rates. I asserted this economic data.
What kind of a solution did you propose?
We assumed this discourse: Refuse neoliberalism, return to conventional statist, interventionist policies and make use of state planning! Erdal İnönü had second thoughts. There were people from the liberal left such as Seyfettin Gürsel, probably Asaf Savaş Akat, and there were also people from a more socialist orientation, such as myself and Oğuz Oyan. As a critical development, the SHP became the first ranking party in 1989 like the CHP in 1977. ANAP [the Motherland Party of Özal] was losing its influence and the support of the urban working class tended towards SHP. I have a book including surveys conducted among urban slums and rural areas in 1992 and 1993: İstanbul’dan ve Anadolu’dan Sınıf Profilleri [Class Profiles from İstanbul and Anatolia]. It was published in 1995. The results of the study indicated that the people living in the slums of İstanbul and villages are generally against neoliberal policies. When asked not about general politics but about more concrete alternative policies left-wing answers outweigh. However, the political choices of the popular classes were at a crossroads; either Islamist or leftist. By leftist I mean the great block back then. There was SHP, CHP or DSP [all three being Turkey’s main social-democrat parties after 1980, the Democratic Leftist Party being led by Ecevit] and all other left-wing parties. That is to say, according to this comment, at the crossroads of 1992, the expectation of the Turkish workers to revive the 1977s was strong.
But we know that a leftist revival like that of the 1977s never proved to be true. An Islamist inclination followed, quite the contrary. Why?
There are two reasons. First of all, the leftist vein of SHP was eradicated. The movements on the left of old CHP had a permanent pressure on the CHP itself and it was a de facto alliance. Ecevit was especially careful about infiltration, saying ‘I don’t want any sort of left within the party except our line.’ However, he never openly said ‘Yes’ when he was asked whether he was an anti-communist. The absence of this left was a determining factor. Erdal İnönü had the character of an İsmet Pasha in terms of his political reflexes. In other words, he was open for everything including left-wing policies and yet did not engage himself in terms of principals. SHP won the majority because it sided with the working class movement and a parallel opposition for a while in 1989. However, SHP never propagated that opposition to the people by its discourse. Erdal İnönü abstained from voicing a politically class-based opposition like Ecevit.
We can add two more things to this. The splits within the party, that is, the contributions of Deniz Baykal was a determining factor. In addition to this, allowing some Kurdish figures to run in 1991 elections from SHP lists might or might not have had a negative impact on SHP. Under those conditions, this alliance might have turned against them with the attacks of the right wing parties that made use of nationalist reflexes.
However, I personally think that the first reason had a more determining role. If there had been an organised socialist movement in that sense, it would have also served as a brake against this tendency towards the right.
You say that there was a de facto alliance between the left and Ecevit. Was there an expectation of a similar alliance between the industrialists and the industry workers?
In 1989, I was one of those who identified that alliance in my writings. I found the clues indicating it. You may find it in my books. Especially in my article on the Özal period that I call the neoliberal period, titled “1980'li Yıllarda Türkiye'de Sosyal Sınıflar ve Bölüşüm” which was published in English with the title “Inter-class and Intra-class Relations of Distribution”, these evaluations and related class analysis are provided.
We conducted a research as the Turkish Social Sciences Association with the Canadians. There, we identified the reactions of industrialists against the neoliberal extremisms of Özal. The accusation towards Özal of ‘kleptocracy’ is related to the reactions of businessmen to Özal’s practices of stripping himself from the Mülkiye graduate bureaucracy and assigning people from finance circles to positions in the public administration and economic administration, developing informal relations with some company owners, and taking them along during flights in domestic and foreign trips, all from which these others were alienated. The Chamber of Industry of the Aegean Region represented the reaction of the parts of bourgeoisie that were excluded from the profits of high interest rates and had no banks of their own.
However, the expectation about the political reflection of this identification gave no result and proved to be inaccurate. It could be considered as an attempt to set the intellectual background for pushing the SHP to lead the struggle against neoliberalism, and in a way, to pull it to an Ecevit type of leftist position in those days. An attempt to lay the basis for a discourse saying ‘I also ally with the sections of the capitalists who are productive, who are not usurers and are not parasitic...’ This is not a self-criticism, I still assert that following that line was right back in those days. Could we have prevented the parliamentarian system from handing over the popular opposition to political Islam? Well, it did not work.
Didn’t it work because of subjective reasons? Were there any objective reasons?
It is apparent why it did not work. Parasitism predominates character of the Turkish bourgeoisie. It is double-dealing; even the small ones are passionate about benefitting from the finance capital when they get a chance. Let me make a comment: I think it was two years ago, the head of İstanbul Chamber of Commerce made a complaint. ‘İstanbul's industry is dying because the industrialists give up production on the lands where they have their factories and start rent seeking’ he said. However, he did not go on to say, ‘The only way to solve this is to socialize, nationalize the urban property’. What he said implied to the government was ‘Grant us land, allocate free land for industrialists’. This means that even the most productive industrialists seek for an opportunity to become a rentier. In Turkey the industrialists are also snatchers. They fluctuate between their industrialist identity relying on self-power and their snatcher identity exploiting the state. They are so double-dealing that they seek for an opportunity to get the position within the rentier class. Therefore, it was inevitable that my suggestion would not work.
What would be the outcome of your attempts despite this inevitability?
Ecevit formed an alliance with Türk-İş [The Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions], its then president Halil Tunç in the late 1970s. Our socialist workers' movement stayed away from this alliance. Türk-İş was looking for a social agreement like, ‘we can be more moderate in our demands of wage thus we can support the government indirectly’. On the other hand DİSK was following a line to ‘get the maximum result when there is a chance’. This was proper in terms of the class position. Yet it was not in position to bargain with CHP.
Let me add a factor about the post-1990 period. The Madımak (Sivas) Massacre in 1993 was also a very critical phase. It was important because the central right parties such as Süleyman Demirel's Doğru Yol Partisi [True Path Party] and the ANAP [Motherland Party] in the opposition jointly underlined the priority of protecting the pro-shariah group that led to the Madımak Massacre. Erdal İnönü was the deputy prime minister of the SHP-DYP coalition. The leaders of the two central right parties, President Süleyman Demirel, Prime Minister Tansu Çiller and Mesut Yılmaz as the main opposition leader, all reacted to the Madımak lynch attempt which was the first open signal of Islamist violence with a discourse like ‘We've prioritised not to cause any harm on the people’. In other words, they described the lynching mob as the ‘people’ instead of the intellectuals who were being lynched. In the following period this opened the door for legitimising the power of the Islamic political program.
The bourgeoisie prevents the attempts to fore Turkish capitalism to apply radical policies. You said that İsmet İnönü was the main actor who both led and betrayed various radical breakthroughs. In which periods do you think the most radical policies were followed in the history of Turkey?
Mustafa Kemal was matchless in the first years of the Republic. I have no doubt that he was the most revolutionary figure. He challenged the Ottomans with all its medieval institutions. As I always say, his opening speech to the İzmir Economic Congress in February 1923 starts with a severe criticism towards the three glorious sultans (Fatih Sultan Mehmet, Yavuz Sultan Selim, Kanuni Sultan Süleyman).
Two examples of the richness of Turkish intellectual life emerged when they were trying to find the right policies after the Great Depression in 1930. First is the introduction or prologue to the First Industrial Plan of 1933. There is a fine analysis of imperialism in that text, probably with the contributions of the Kadro [Cadre] movement. It states that the world system is divided into two big blocks. It describes the block to which Turkey belongs. We can call it the centre-periphery but it defines it as industrial-agricultural.
Secondly, it states that the Great Depression has created an opportunity. They make a call, saying, ‘The industrialized countries are far from and incapable of dealing with us since they are divided among themselves; let's use this opportunity and let's become industrialized’. Thirdly, they say ‘These need to be done quickly, or else we’ll miss this opportunity. They will resurrect the old hegemony as soon as they forget the disputes between themselves’. Could there be any better analysis? This was a combination of the theories on dependency and anti-imperialism. Most probably what it shows us is this: The interpretation was brought into the Turkish intellectual life with the influence of Marxism by means of the Cadre movement. Those who read this will see that this analysis approximately foresaw the Latin American texts on dependency that would emerge 25 years later.
Let me give another example. İsmet Pasha publishes an article in the Kadro journal, signing it as the Prime Minister: "The Statist Character of our Party". This article also comprises of a unique thought of economic policy.
Furthermore, you said that the Village Institutions and the Law on the Provision of Land for the Farmers was a breakthrough.
Yes, 1946 was an important turning point, we've already discussed this. If there was no break in '46, Turkey was about to reach the political spectrum of Western Europe. The fascists and the Germanophiles became pro-American and influenced politics. İsmet Pasha had arrested a small group of them who were racist and pan-turanist in 1944. They even stayed in a prison cell next to my uncles for a short time. The third turning point is 1980. Turkey faced the same situation in '80. There was a healthy spectrum. There was the socialist left; although it was not united it had a collective force. There was the CHP that had managed to connect with the popular classes. It had a European style but it had different roots, which is very important; it did not derive from the social democrat roots but the Republican Kemalist roots. The socialist left, the moderate left, the social democrat and populist left. So why did this political spectrum, this profile not survive? It is because the bourgeoisie did not want it and invoked the September 12 coup. The bourgeoisie’s resistance to it was very important.
The bourgeoisie generally resisted to the orientation of politics towards the left with its class instincts. Then, how did the political profile determining today take shape in accordance with the choices of the bourgeoisie?
The last turning point was 2001. There is not a similar case in the worldwide history of parliamentary democracy where an election liquidates the whole parliament. The elections of November 2002 removed the three parties of the coalition government -DSP, MHP, ANAP- and DYP which had been sharing the same fate with these parties in previous years, from the parliament all together. Why? It was because the severe social outcomes of the 2001 crisis were vehemently rejected by the popular classes. I almost foresaw this situation at a meeting of METU at that time. ‘The people will vehemently punish them,’ I said, and what I said came true.
What did take place? Two external parties became candidates of power. The party that could absorb the popular opposition would probably become the winning party. Deniz Baykal's CHP included Kemal Derviş [the World Bank technocrat who was popularly identified with the 2001 crisis and served then as the minister of economic affairs] in the party, even decided to form the electoral program together and declared that it would carry out the opposition responsibly. Hence, it gave away the political power to AKP that was slyly adopting the popular opposition's anti-IMF discourse. The Genç Party [Young Party] took 7 percent of the votes in this election alone with its opposition to the IMF. This was yet another turning point. This is what presented the single party power to AKP for 17 years.
Talking about alternative, radical policies... There are some periods identified with industrial planning, development planning in the history of Turkey. However, we cannot see the same thing in terms of nationalization, socialization. Why are planning and nationalization not discussed together?
The influence of the planners of the 1960s is important. For example, Atilla Karaosmanoğlu [one of the first managers of State Planing Organization] sympathizes with the left but he does not approach planning from the perspective of socialism. Protecting the existing public property... This is all what they experienced and they did not feel the need to expand it. It’s because planning also had some instruments to control the private sector at those times. Incentives were given to sectors but there were some guarantee mechanisms within the public administration to prevent advantages for companies. If, say, a sector has priority, there would be import subsidies, this is the characteristic of that period. Subsidies generate rent, which is, in turn, transferred to the sector, not to the individual. This is why the Mülkiye graduate economy bureaucracy was responsible for determining the conditions of transfer to the sector. Bureaucracy was very proactive those days...
We attended a panel together with Abdüllatif Şener [former deputy prime minister of AKP, now an opposition figure], he was sitting next to me. We were in Çanakkale where CHP organized the Justice Assembly following the Justice March in 2017. Şener is a Mülkiye graduate and had once said ‘All the Mülkiye graduates are communists to some extent.’ Referring to him, I said, "All the Mülkiye graduates are communists to some extent, but later when the same Mülkiye members begin to work in the bureaucracy they do not forget their communist inclination completely, so they assume the task of protecting the state against the bourgeoisie." Thus, their semi-communist identity continues as they protect the bourgeois state against the snatcher bourgeois. Therefore, it was consistent for the planning mechanism of the time not to have socialist elements. In the last instance, it represented the maximum limit that the the ‘left-of-centre’ CHP of İsmet Pasha could reach. The group on its left, our team, waves the flag ‘This planning is not enough, further, further!’ After 1970 the ‘democratic left’ Ecevit is concerned of this flag, yet he indirectly appreciates them.
They both demarcate socialism in political terms and benefit from socialism's technical instruments.
The State Planning Organization was under the influence of socialism at that time. They were already infiltrating; all the expert cadre consisted of socialists from different factions. However, the balances were taken into consideration when it comes to politics. That’s all what it is about.
Around 1989, I argued that the capitalist class that was pleased with the environment of planning would be an actor which could resist the domination of international capital that we call neoliberal. My hypothesis did not come true. It was a misdiagnosis. Either because of the universal characteristics of the bourgeoisie or because that period came to an end. In other words, it was historically proven that the bourgeoisie lost its quality of being a dynamic and pioneering actor in the periphery of the world during the historical phase when it lost its revolutionary character. This idea was already expressed out loud by some factions of our socialists even in 1970s. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union advocated some sort of thesis closer to the line that was called the National Democratic Revolution, non-capitalist transformation, and transition to socialism by means of statist reforms. The expectation that the Third World experiences from Nasır to Sukarno and Nehru could be a mid-way or a short cut to socialism was also found in that doctrine. Some revolutionary currents used to say ‘You cannot tame the bourgeoisie and you cannot form an alliance with them because their comprador and dependent character is running through their veins.’ I can say that there is nothing new under the sun. All these were discussed before.
Thank you very much for this enlightening interview.