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THE ROLE OF THE STATE IN THE NEOLIBERAL RESTRUCTURING IN TURKEY -6-
Opinion(A. H. Yalaz)

Chapter 5

The neo-liberal restructuring of the economy of Turkey

5.1. A comprehensive economic package: The 24 January 1980 Decisions

As we have seen, the ISI model entered a structural crisis in the late 1970s. Because of Turkey’s inability to pay its foreign debt and obtain new loans in the international financial market to finance its growth strategy exerted pressure on the Turkish state. The executive institutions of the imperialist capital, such as the IMF, the WB, together with the World Trade Organisation (the former GATT) are economic and financial institutions through which international capitalist regulation takes place.

Since 1977 the Turkish governments and the IMF had been working together to formulate and implement a new economic strategy that would, inter alia, solve the balance of payment problems, limit inflation and transform ISI into an export-oriented economic strategy. Opening the economy to international competition, encouraging foreign capital, liberalisation of trade, foreign exchange regimes, financial markets, and scaling down the state sector were the most striking demands of the IMF and the WB from the Turkish state. The demands of these organisations coincided with a profound change in the view of the big ‘domestic’ capital, represented particularly by TÜSIAD which advocated closer incorporation of Turkey into the European Community (EC) regarding the economic strategy and the state’s role in the economy. TÜSIAD advocated closer incorporation of the economy of Turkey into the EC which required restructuring the economy of Turkey in order to adapt to the developments in the EC.

It was clear that the international organisations and the most advanced section of the capitalist class in Turkey saw eye to eye with each other. The neo-liberal fraction of the state bureaucracy and neo-liberal bourgeois politicians, the IMF, the WB and the big Turkish bourgeoisie together drew up a comprehensive economic programme that opened a new page in the history of Turkey. There emerged a neo-liberal collaborationist class alliance around a neo-liberal economic strategy that changed not only the economic, but also political, ideological and cultural landscape of Turkey in the 1980s and 1990s.

On 24 January 1980, the economic programme of this neo-liberal collaborationist class alliance was announced. This programme was presented as if it was self-initiated by the Demirel government without any intervention from outside. A former manager of MESS and Sabancı Holding (one of the largest holding companies in Turkey) and employee of WB, Turgut Özal, was supposed to be architect of this programme. Turgut Özal, first as the under-secretary of prime ministry, then as deputy prime minister in the government of the military fascist dictatorship and finally as prime minister and president played the leading part on the side of the Turkish state.

The introduction of this so-called ‘structural adjustment programme’ was the second most important intervention of the state in the economic life after the statism in the 1930s in the history of the Turkish Republic that has far-reaching socio-political and cultural consequences for the whole society. The state as the ‘visible hand’ (Başkaya 1997: 13) of capital played the most important role in legitimising and implementing this programme that aimed at reducing the economic role of the state. Despite claims to the contrary, this programme represented the further centralisation of the decision-making process. This programme was not a novel, but a rather standard one which combined the stabilisation policy of the IMF and the structural adjustment programme of the WB that involved, inter alia, trade and financial liberalisation, reduction and eventual liquidation of public investment in heavy industry and in production of basic goods and privatisation of some SEEs, domestic demand restraint, export promotion and the suppression of the wage rate (Boratav 1989: 122-23). According to Müftüler, ‘The short-term goal of the programme was to stabilize inflation and cope with the balance of payments problem, the long-term goal was to liberalize and restructure the Turkish economy so as to enable a convergence with the EC standards.’ (1995: 91). Given the prominent place of the EC in Turkey’s foreign trade, (27) or Turkey’s trade dependency on the EC, it is beyond any doubt that the neo-liberal programme has also been instrumental in the process of further incorporation of Turkey’s economy into the economy of EC. In order to become a full member of the EC (the present European Union) Turkish state needed an outward-looking economic order.

What was new concerning the programme, however, was the accompanying discourse, an ideological campaign launched to justify and legitimise the programme. The people of Turkey have been presented with a so-called new vision which construes the state more or less as it disciples have perceived the United States. ‘This has brought not only an ideology in favor of privatizing the state sector of the economy, but also a half-baked idea that Turkey could more or less do without the state even in spheres such as public education and public health. It advocates a reduction of the role of the state in the economy but, ironically, its proponents have, if anything, extended the state’s interference to more and more spheres of economic activity.’ (Adaman and Sertel 1997: 170-71). One of the most used arguments in favour of the above mentioned programme was that there was no alternative, and the prevailing trend towards capitalist globalisation and market-oriented economic strategies in the world economy also strengthened the arguments for restructuring the economy.

This programme was more than a stabilisation or structural adjustment programme serving to maintain the already existing economic relations. On the contrary, it was a programme of restructuring the economy aimed at inaugurating a new mode of capital accumulation based on exports. Contrary to ISI, the export-oriented economic strategy required contraction of the internal market and increase in the share of the industrial goods in the world market. This could only happen through making the Turkish industry internationally competitive. This required, in its turn, reduction in the production costs of the industrial goods. There were two ways to realise this: either introduction of capital-intensive production techniques (an increase in the productivity of labour) or reduction in the costs of the social reproduction of the labour-power (a reduction in wages). However, there already existed a substantial under-utilisation of the existing production capacity, and, above all, the existing technology was not suitable to make the Turkish industry internationally competitive because of its level of development that was only sufficient to produce for the domestic market behind the protectionist walls. In the short-term it was not possible to increase the organic composition of capital that would make the industry competitive and sustain the export-based mode of capital accumulation. Therefore, the wage rises had to be restrained, frozen and eventually reduced. The economic and social gains of the working class and other oppressed social forces had to be substantially reversed. It was about the redistribution of the national income among social classes, and therefore, not only the standard of living of the working class, but also the great majority of the people had to be lowered.

With the introduction of the programme that was the manifestation of the offensive of the internal and external big capital, the economic and political class struggles intensified. A strong opposition was centred around the trade union movement of the working class. There was also an opposition in the parliament, particularly coming from the bourgeois left. ‘During the spring of 1980 it became clear (...) that there was wide spread resistance to what was called the ‘Chilean solution’ (after the policies General Pinochet had introduced in Chile after his coup against President Allende). The continued activity of the unions, and especially DISK, made it impossible to implement Özal’s economic package. Members of DISK occupied a number of factories between January and April and there were strikes everywhere, often accompanied by clashes with the police or the army.’ (Zürcher 1994: 281-82).

There was a new economic model, but there existed no institutional framework for the implementation of this model. It soon became clear that without crushing the working class movement and the popular opposition, particularly the organised sections of it, it would be impossible to create this framework. In other words, it was not possible to restructure the economic base, without, first, or at the same time, restructuring the political superstructure. So, while the ‘24 January 1980 Programme’ was the starting point of restructuring the economy, the coup d’état of 12 September 1980 represented the beginning of the political restructuring.

5.2. The military dictatorship and political restructuring
Under the circumstances what was needed was a subjective restructuring of the economy, particularly the industrial relations, so far as the interests of the imperialist and internal big capital are concerned. This, in its turn, made the political restructuring imperative which was also deemed necessary according to the concept of ‘indirect aggression’ of the US imperialism that could lose a loyal NATO ally in the region. As Hale points out ‘Turkey’s international relations have also played a part in determining the military’s political role.’ (1994: 322-23).

The military fascist dictatorship was the agency through which restructuring of the political system was carried out. It cannot be overemphasised that understanding the political and economic role of the Turkish military bureaucracy is indispensable for understanding the history of Turkey. Therefore, before dealing with political restructuring, let us briefly analyse the Turkish military bureaucracy.

The Turkish military bureaucracy
Throughout the history of the Turkish nation-state the military bureaucracy (the officer corps) has played a determining role concerning the most important issues and problems facing the capitalist system as a whole that threaten to destabilise and eventually would lead to disintegration of it. Particularly after the coup d’état of 1960, this segment of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie enjoys a near-absolute autonomy with regard to the civil authority even during periods of elected civilian governments, and often exercises independent political power generally behind the scenes, sometimes on the stage. In theory, it is subordinated to the civil authority (to prime minister), but, in practice, the civil authority cannot interfere, for instance, with the internal structure of the military bureaucracy which is the case in the advanced capitalist countries. Contrary to the rhetoric that the military stands above politics, it is a highly politicised institution and the real locus of power within the Turkish state lies with it. The term Praetorianism, in Hale’s usage as reference to ‘situations in which the military, specifically, exercises independent political power, either by using force or threatening to do so.’ (1994: 305) can be employed to characterise the Turkish military establishment. Militarism is a component part of the political culture in Turkey in general, and, of course, particularly in the Turkish military bureaucracy which undergoes a lifetime of military socialisation. Military cadets and officers are taught to be different from, and superior to, their civilian counterparts and to anybody else for that matter.

The Turkish military bureaucracy has interests in the state of the economy not only as a salaried professional body, but also as an integral part of the capitalist class as a whole. It has an economic as well as a political role, and not only as the core of the state apparatus protecting the general conditions for capitalist reproduction, but also as an entrepreneur, as a body of shareholders in the joint stock companies. It is probably the most corporate form of organisation and has corporate self-interests to protect and to promote. ‘In both 1960 and 1980, military regimes seized the chance to secure increased salaries and fringe benefits for the officer corps, which enjoys a high standard of living, compared with that of most citizens.’ (Hale 1994: 329).

In the 1960s and 1970s the officer corps, particularly generals, became an integral part of the capitalist bourgeoisie as they invested in many branches of the economy through the Army Mutual Assistance Association (OYAK), the pension fund of the officer corps. The further expansion of the Turkish military-industrial complex led to the integration of the interests of the high military bureaucracy and of the industrial elite, at the national as well as the international level (Smit 1982: 163). OYAK’s ‘financial resources come from a 10% levy on the salaries of all commissioned and noncommissioned officers, and the purpose of the fund is to pay these officers pensions upon their retirement. By the middle 1970s some 80,000 officers were paying into this fund. Its assets were estimated at US$300 million by 1973, and a decade later Bianchi (1984, 70) described it as ‘the country’s largest and most diversified industrial conglomerate.’ (Richards and Waterbury 1996: 340). Richards and Waterbury sketch a picture of the changing economic position and role of the Turkish military bureaucracy since the establishment of OYAK:
‘ OYAK has bridged a gap between the military establishment and the private economic sector. Since Ottoman times and even under Atatürk, the military has seen itself as an independent entity, a guardian of the nation’s interests and, to some extent, a watchdog against private greed. It has always depended upon state budgetary appropriations for its needs. Now OYAK and other special funds are dependent on direct investments in the national economy and in joint ventures with foreign and domestic corporations. The economic interests of the officers’ corps have become firmly wedded to the performance of the Turkish economy and to that of its private sector.’ (1996: 341).
In other words, the officer corps has been incorporated into the capitalist economic system. The high military bureaucracy became more involved with the defence of the system than with any particular party. ‘The primary concern was with stability and there was an inclination to intervene against any party or political leader who appeared to be a threat to a stable order.’ (Ahmad 1993: 131). Together with the senior civilian bureaucrats, the military state bureaucrats form the bureaucratic bourgeoisie or bureaucratic class in Turkey. ‘The military provide the regime with nationalist camouflage and, as in more overtly praetorian regimes, provide the ‘order’ necessary to allow economic development to take place.’ (Ehteshami and Murphy 1996: 755). Felt threatened by the economic, social and political developments the military fraction of the capitalist class had seized the political power and established a military dictatorship.

Political restructuring
Following over a year of preparation, on 12 September 1980, the military bureaucracy seized the whole political power, formed the National Security Council, declared martial law and established a fascist military dictatorship. The constitution and all political rights were suspended. The bicameral parliament was dissolved and political parties were first suspended and later abolished, and many politicians were arrested. All mayors and municipal councils were dismissed. All other political and semi-political associations were banned. Three of the four union confederations (DISK, Hak-İş and MİSK) were closed down, strikes and lock-outs were prohibited, many trade-union bureaucrats and activists were arrested. Tens of thousands of political activists from all walks of life, especially the revolutionary-democratic and communist activists, were killed, arrested, tortured, imprisoned, and so were thousands of people who, in one way or another, opposed the existing politico-economic order. The neo-liberal restructuring of economic, social and political structures promoted the further militarisation of the political life in Turkey which have been instrumental in the authoritarian reconstruction of state-society relationship. The military bureaucracy and those social forces that collaborated with it had regarded the opposition to neo-liberal transformation as a military problem that required military means to resolve.

All political power was concentrated in the hands of the military bureaucracy, more specifically in those of the National Security Council (NSC) consisted of five generals (the ‘gang of five’). The NSC functioned as legislative as well as the highest executive organ of the military dictatorship. The head of the junta and the chief of staff, Kenan Evren, was declared as the head of the state. Through a Law on Constitutional Order, that is, the constitution of the military dictatorship, the new regime was formalised. The NSC appointed a cabinet headed by a retired admiral (Bülent Ulusu) as prime minister and Turgut Özal as deputy prime minister with special responsibility for economic affairs. This cabinet of bureaucrats and retired officers advised the NSC and executed its decisions. Regional and local commanders were given wide-ranging powers and were put in charge of many aspects of the public life.

The NSC and the in October 1981 convened Consultative Assembly together made up a 160-member Constituent Assembly (CA). 120 of the members of the assembly were appointed by the military governors, and 40 by the NSC itself. A 15-member constitutional committee elected by CA produced a first draft for a new constitution on 17 July 1982 (Zürcher 1994: 295).

The draft constitution was subjected to a voting-compulsory referendum on 7 November 1982 and was adopted. The draft included a temporary article stipulating that by approval of it Kenan Evren would automatically become president, and so did he. The 1982 constitution represented a sort of revenge upon the 1961 constitution and social and political awakening in Turkey and was in many respects a reversal of the constitution of 1961. The following features characterised the new constitution: concentration of political power in the hands of the executive and increase in the powers of the president and the NSC, limitation of the political freedoms, limitation of the freedom of trade unions, including banning of political strikes, solidarity strikes, general strikes, etc.

In March 1983, a new Political Parties Law was promulgated, according to which, politicians who had been active before the coup d’état were banned from politics for ten years, new parties could only be formed if their founders were approved by the NSC, and students, teachers and civil servants were prohibited from membership of political parties. Political parties were not allowed to develop links with trade unions, to found women and youth branches or to open branches in villages. (28) In short, the military dictatorship aimed at depoliticising society, reducing the influence of organised opposition, and increasing the state’s ability to monitor and control the social and political life.

In order to stop the proliferation of small parties and avoid the resulting political instability of the parliamentary system, the military dictatorship tried to create a two-party system. Of the fifteen parties founded, twelve were considered unacceptable by the NSC and three parties were allowed to participate in the elections of 6 November 1983: The Party of Nationalist Democracy (party of the military bureaucracy), (29) the Populist Party and the Motherland Party (ANAP) led by Özal. Against widely shared anticipation not the favoured party of the military bureaucracy, but the party of Özal, who had to resign from his post as deputy prime minister in the summer of 1982 following the crash in the financial market, had won the elections. Thanks to the new electoral system that favoured large parties, the ANAP got an absolute majority in the new parliament with 45% of the votes. Özal became prime minister on 6 December 1983. The NSC, according to Provisional Article 2 in the new constitution, constituted now the ‘Presidential Council’ that would remain in existence for six years after the reconvening of parliament.

6 November 1983 elections has been seen by many as the last act of the military regime regarding the completion of the transition from military regime to parliamentary democratic political system. It represented, in fact, the transition from the military dictatorship to semi-civilian, semi-military authoritarian dictatorship in which the NSC (not the junta, but the highest permanent organ of the state since 1961) is the highest decision making body of the state which meets at the end of every month and is not responsible to parliament. By Article 118 of the 1982 Constitution, the majority of the civil authority within the NSC was ended and the powers of the NSC were increased and with it the authority of the military bureaucracy within the civilian regime. The autonomy of the military bureaucracy in relation to the civil authority increased. Besides, the martial law still continued and the martial law commanders were not anymore responsible to the prime minister but to the chief of staff. (30) The decisions of the NSC were to be given priority consideration by the government in matters which the Council itself deems necessary for the preservation of the existence and independence of the state. In fact, the decisions of the NSC must be executed by the government.

Interest representation under the military dictatorship
As we have already seen, the military dictatorship banned the labour union confederations, with the exception of Türk-Is, and other legally founded oppositional or potentially oppositional political and semi-political associations. The military dictatorship crushed civil society and made legally organised representation of interest of the progressive and revolutionary social forces impossible. By suppressing the organised interest representation on behalf of non-propertied and anti-system social forces the military regime aimed at depoliticising society. Political parties were also suspended and later banned. The unions and associations of the capitalist class, however, operated freely, and of course, ‘responsibly’. The ideas of those organisations that represented the private big capital were put into practice. The interests of the capitalist class, particularly the interests of the big capitalist holding companies were represented, not only by their business organisations, but also by the state itself. Also the most conservative, reactionary and fascist organisations and institutions operated freely and were instrumental in the reactionary ideological and cultural campaign against the left.

5.3. Political developments and interest representation after 1983
Soon after the elections a degree of political liberalisation took place. Some political parties which had been banned to participate in November elections were allowed to participate in the municipal elections in March 1984. The results of municipal elections showed that the opposition parties in the parliament (Assembly) lost their legitimacy. ‘By the beginning of 1986 the party structure created by the military rulers had virtually disintegrated and the most prominent of the banned leaders had emerged behind proxy parties.’ (Ahmad 1993: 194). In September 1987 a referendum were held regarding the restoration of the political rights of the old party leaders, and by less than 1 per cent margin ‘yes’ vote won. The so-called old guard returned to open parliamentary politics and one of the most ‘radical’ measures of the military dictatorship had been got rid of. In November 1987 , thanks to manipulation of the election law to suit the interests of ANAP, that party retained its absolute majority, even though, it won only the 36.29 per cent of the votes. When Evren’s term expired in November 1989, Özal was elected as president in a parliamentary session boycotted by the opposition.

After 1987 there was partial liberal democratisation, but the undemocratic laws, such as the trade union laws, the law on elections and political parties, the penal code, the higher education law, the press law, etc. inherited from the military dictatorship remained unaltered. In the 1989-91 period the government introduced a number of reforms, ‘a package of constitutional amendments which dealt partly with the political system (...) but partly with human rights. At the government’s request the assembly decided to allow the use of the Kurdish language in private and it approved the deletion of Articles 141, 142 and 163 (which banned politics on the basis of class or religion) from the penal code.’ (Zürcher 1994: 305). However, the new so-called ‘anti-terrorism law’ defined the concept of ‘terrorism’ so broadly that it undid a number of liberalisation measures. By these amendments the ban on the DISK was also revoked.

In the elections of November 1991 Demirel’s True Path Party (TPP) emerged as the biggest party. The TPP and the Social Democratic Party formed a coalition government. Thus began a period of coalition governments that led to governmental instability which characterised the parliamentary politics in Turkey in the 1990s. However, the real political power still rests with the National Security Council.

What was very remarkable was that the religiously-oriented Welfare Party (WP), thanks to an election alliance with the fascist Nationalist Labour Party, was able to overcome the 10 per cent provision in the election law and got 16.9 per cent of the vote and 62 seats. The rise of political Islam has had a significant effect on political life in Turkey. The political-Islamist (WP), this time on its own, came out (for the first time in the history of Turkey) as the first party in an early election held in December 1995. In the summer of 1996 the WP and TPP formed a coalition government and thus for the first time political Islam delivered a prime minister. However, the WP-TPP coalition government could not stay in office for long due to pressure from the high military bureaucracy which was supported by pro-secular popular opposition. On 18 June 1997 the government resigned under mounting pressure.

In the late 1980s and 1990s legal progressive civil society has grown in strength and demanded democratisation. In the 1990s Turkey has become ‘country of organisations’. A striking development in the 1990s has been the militancy and the degree of unionisation of the public servants who were stripped of their short-lived right to unionise in 1971. They have organised unions and various forms of mass actions defying the legal restrictions. They have even founded the Confederation of Public Employees’ Unions (KESK). The unions demand the rights to bargain collectively and strike, improvements of salaries and working conditions and democratisation of the political system. Since they are public employees every industrial action they undertake becomes political in nature.

Against all the odds the working class, the civil servants and some other sections of society are relatively well organised. This does not, however, mean that their interests are well represented. The trade union bureaucracy has to wage struggle against the state on the one hand for its survival, and collaborate with the state on the other. The interest representation or interest management system in the labour sector in Turkey in the 1990s is a somewhat combination of neo-corporatism and state corporatism. Although the state attempted to create a state-dominated corporatism through authoritarian reconstruction of state-society relationship during the military dictatorship, it is neither a party-incorporated corporatism, nor a state-dominated corporatism. This is reflected in forming an Economic and Social Council in which the trade unions of labour as well as capital trade unions and the state are represented.

5.4. Domestic and global cultural environment and neo-liberal restructuring
A detailed analysis of the interaction between the domestic and global cultural environment and restructuring the economy of Turkey is beyond the scope of this thesis. I shall, however, sketch a general picture of the global and domestic cultural environment in which the neo-liberal restructuring has been taken place.

Domestic and global cultural environment in the 1980s and 1990s have facilitated the restructuring of the economy as well as the political structures in Turkey. However, cultural environment is not static, and it is produced and reproduced in the neo-liberal restructuring process. A given cultural environment can facilitate or hinder economic changes, and economic changes lead to ideological and cultural changes. There is a dialectical relationship between cultural practices and economic practices, as is the case between economic ideas and culture. Any study that does not involve the cultural factors with domestic as well as global dimensions would be deficient in investigating and analysing a fundamental restructuring of the existing economic system. Thus, cultural practices and changes influence and are influenced by the restructuring process, that is, they interact with each other.

What is important to emphasise in this context is that there is a close relationship between socio-economic relations and capital accumulation, and successful implementation of an economic programme is also dependent on favourable cultural and social environment. The question ‘To what extent do the economic and cultural interactions bind societies to each other or lead to disintegration of them?’ could be an interesting research question for future studies. I hope that there will emerge some clues and points of discussion concerning this issue during the analysis of internal and external cultural environment in which Turkey found itself in the 1980s and 1990s.

The announcement and implementation of neo-liberal economic restructuring programme in Turkey has been accompanied by a global as well as a domestic neo-liberal ideological offensive involving attacks against the organised labour, state intervention in the economy as a producer as well as a regulator, the so-called welfare state (the ‘social state’ in Turkey). According to neo-liberal paradigm of the 1980s and 1990s, there is a ‘natural’ relationship between the so-called free market economy and individual liberties; state’s intervention in the economic and social life limits the individual liberties and runs counter to the spirit of entrepreneurship; the state economic enterprises are inefficient, while the private sector can rationally allocate and efficiently use resources; the labour trade unions have destroyed the flexibility in the labour market etc. In the previous period the state was criticised of not intervening sufficient enough in the economy, but now it is criticised of intervening and growing too much and causing the problems that the capitalist economic system faces. This ideological offensive has been an integral part of subjective restructuring in Turkey as well as in the world as a whole. It has contributed to the preparation of the necessary ground for and deepening of the restructuring process. Ideas do not only reflect the material developments, but they have their own internal dynamic as well. ‘Ideas on their own may be insufficient to transform society but they are a vital ingredient in the process of transformation.’ (Ahmad 1993: 24).

Although the international economic and political developments are the basic external factors in explaining the economic transformation in Turkey, the ideological and cultural factors should also be taken into account, and taken seriously. The dominant ideological and cultural trends in the capitalist/neo-liberal globalisation process, including knowledge, the norms and values, behavioural and consumption patterns, mode, etc. reflect the trends produced and reproduced in the highly developed capitalist countries. The transnational corporations of those countries own huge amounts of the means of cultural production and institutions and dominate the international distribution system for the products of the intellectual and entertainment sector. In reference to the theory of ‘dependent development’ developed by Henrique Cardoso, Gill and Law note: ‘The structural condition of dependency can also be seen in cultural terms, whereby Western ideas, languages and tastes are implanted in less-developed countries. One effect of this is to raise the demand for core products and cultural artifacts, such as for French films in West Africa, Disney comics in Latin America, and Coca-Cola world-wide. A related effect is that social aspirations of many groups in the periphery come to be based on the goal of emulating the core countries’ lifestyle and consumption patterns.’ (Gill and Law 1998: 61).

The diffusion or export of the cultural trends, particularly via the international means of communication, have had significant effects in Turkey. They have effected, for instance, the existing consumption patterns in the country creating a significant market for imported material and immaterial consumer goods. The exporting of consumption patterns is one of the vehicles in the hands of big international corporations to penetrate the less-developed countries and make them dependent on technologies that make the production of those demanded consumer goods possible. The exported cultural trends have also been instrumental in furthering dependent ‘cultural incorporation’ of Turkey into the international cultural division of labour. In this international cultural division of labour, Turkey is an importer of ideological and cultural commodities rather than exporter. Export of the so-called American way of life, as well as the ‘Western way’ as a whole for that matter, via ideas, films, music, mode, and other consumption patterns have changed the appearance as well as cultural taste of the big cities, particularly in West and South West regions of Turkey. For instance, the American (the USA) movies dominate the domestic market for cinema films to a such an extent that producers of domestically produced films find it very hard to find film theatres prepared to show their products. Can we not talk about ‘cultural colonialism’ in this case? Particularly militarist ‘action’ films like Rambo etc. contributes to strengthen the already strong militarism in Turkey.

The dominant cultural practices of the imperialist states are not only imported, they are also domestically produced and reproduced. Besides creating a market for imported luxury goods, ideological and cultural commodities etc., these practices have also led to creation of a different sort of import-substitution and an ever expanding domestic market for import-substituting industries of such commodities.

The ‘innocent’ modernisation theory has also been a cultural instrument in the hands of the dominant economic and political forces of the highly industrialised capitalist countries. According to this theory, the West is an example to be followed by the less-developed countries if they wish to become developed countries like the ones in the West. The Western type capitalist democracy is still a very important ideological export commodity of the so-called Western world. It is a fact that the Western countries set the rules for the global economy and they can and do so without reference to most of the rest of the world. In this sense, capitalist globalisation has always primarily been a process of Westernisation in a Western-dominated global system.

Although the ‘national’ culture is still the dominant culture in almost every society, there is, however, an emerging global culture that accompanies the further globalisation of capitalist production. The growth of a common culture, according to Shaw, is not just that means of communication have been transformed and that global communications systems have developed, dominated by Western corporations with global reach. Nor is it merely that the standard cultural commodities, such as images, ideas, information, of Hollywood and CNN are globally diffused. What is more important is the ways that through these processes, intermeshing with economic and political globalization, people are coming to see their lives in terms of common expectations, values and goals. ‘These cultural norms include ideas of standard of living, lifestyle, entitlements to welfare, citizenship rights, democracy, ethnic and linguistic rights, nationhood, gender equality, environmental quality, etc. Many of them have originated in the West but they are increasingly, despite huge differences in their meanings in different social contexts, parts of the ways of life and of political discourse across the world. In this sense, we can talk of the emergence of a global culture, and specifically of global political culture.’ (Shaw 1994: 21-22). Cultural synchronisation is the term used by some to describe the global cultural developments. The term cultural synchronisation concerns ‘the tendency for a set of values to emerge across a range of countries, such that popular outlooks and tastes become more homogenised.’ (Gill and Law 1988: 155).

Global neo-liberal ideological offensive campaign and all these global cultural developments have interacted with the ‘national’ cultural factors and facilitated the neo-liberal transformation process in Turkey. Domestic neo-liberal offensive had to be legitimised and international cultural as well as economic and political developments have been selectively used for this purpose. Arguments like ‘Look that is happening all over the world. If we do not keep in step with the developments in the world we shall fall further behind. Whereas, we are obliged to skip an age.’ have become a commonplace about the economic developments in the 1980s and 1990s. Trying to imitate the ‘European civilisation’, to reach to the level of ‘contemporary civilisation’ has always been a part of the dominant bourgeois culture which reflected the extent of the ideological and cultural alienation or ‘auto-colonisation’ (Baskaya 199: 15).

Culture is a dynamic dimension of the social life, and there occur positive as well as negative cultural changes. In the neo-liberal restructuring process in Turkey profound cultural changes have taken place. As far as social relations, such as solidarity, friendship, etc. and ideas and attitudes concerning the economic, social and political questions and problems facing the society are concerned these changes have overwhelmingly been negative. ‘Get rich as quickly as possible’ (‘turn the corner’), ‘everyone is for herself or himself ’, etc. have been phrases that, either explicitly or implicitly, widely used by the advocates of neoliberalism and have taken root in society.

Cultural erosion or degradation has been an integral part of the neo-liberal transformation. For instance, money became the most important criterion of and a powerful means for ‘buying’ social status. The commodification of expectations has expanded and deepened. The decline of leftist culture and the rise of bourgeois individualism have accompanied the neo-liberal economic restructuring. Conservative and reactionary culture have been used as weapons of ideological mass mobilisation, particularly of urban and rural petty-bourgeoisie, against the organised labour and the progressive and revolutionary political opposition. They have also been used to persuade the working class (the military regime even accused the ‘trade union lords’ of not genuinely defending workers’ rights) and other working people of the necessity of change in the economy. The state has used the institutions of cultural domination, such as the media, educational institutions, the family etc. to persuade the people that class struggle was very harmful for the fabric of society. All problems could be solved within the framework of a ‘national’ interest represented by the traditions, norms and values of a common culture. The common cultural ground served to legitimise the economic strategy of the neo-liberal era. Developments immediately after the coup d’état of 1980, and in the whole period thereafter, have shown once again that culture is a major battleground, and a powerful weapon of persuasion as well as offensive in the class struggle.

Anti-communism has, thanks to, inter alia, the foreign policy of the USA, always been a strong part of bourgeois ‘common’ culture in Turkey. The military coup d’état was supposedly carried out against the growing communist danger. In the political history of the Turkish Republic, every opposition, even the bourgeois democratic opposition, every dissident voice has been regarded as being communist which must be silenced. Direct political repression, imprisonment, juridical and extra-juridical execution of political opponents have always been accompanied by ideological and cultural offensive.

The fascist military dictatorship in the early 1980s and the authoritarian regimes that followed it have manipulated and promoted the already powerful religious (Islamic) culture in Turkey. They have done so to such a great extent that promotion of Islam by the state was instrumental in helping political Islam to become not only a political force but also a powerful economic force that dares to challenge the dominant form of capitalist order, or at least the dominant fraction of capital and the ‘neo-liberal’ state. The military takeover was also supposed to be against manipulation of religion for political ends and ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ or theocratic danger. The military dictatorship aimed, however, at depoliticising society through, inter alia, manipulating religion as a weapon against the left. This policy led to further politicisation of religion and strengthened the position of political Islam. (31)

In the neo-liberal restructuring process, particularly in the 1980s, religion was a powerful cultural weapon in the hands of the state against the left and every organised progressive opposition for that matter, as had always been the case, particularly since the beginning of the 1950s. Ironically, the champions of Kemalist secularism, the military bureaucratic rulers, had used Islam to prepare the necessary ideological, cultural, social and political conditions for the neo-liberal economic changes. The organised left and working class had to be suppressed and the military takeover and economic ‘reforms’ had to be legitimised. Under the circumstances what other ideological and cultural weapon than Islam could be more instrumental as far as political legitimacy is concerned in an overwhelmingly Muslim and highly religious society? Islam served as one of the instruments in depoliticising the highly politicised and polarised society.

The military fascist dictatorship had manipulated the religious characteristics of the common cultural ground in the Anatolian society. The head of the junta, Kenan Evren, had held speeches in state-organised meetings with Koran in his hand. ‘The military regime encouraged Islam to combat the left, but the conservative, modernizing urban elites have employed the state to maintain a firm control over religious forces and to channel them in regime-supporting directions.’ (Bromley 1993: 392). As Hale also points out, the military regime sponsored Islam and adopted an ambiguous position on the secularist issue. ‘On the one hand, the military continued to regard itself as the guardian of Kemalism; on the other, it had approved the insertion of a clause in the constitution providing that ‘education and instruction in religion and ethics’ should be a compulsory part of the curriculum in all primary and secondary schools.’ (1994: 298). Promoting Islam in Turkey served the foreign policy of the USA too that advocated to build a so-called ‘green belt ’ in order to contain the so-called communist danger.

The so-called ‘Turkish-Islamic Synthesis’ was another ideological instrument used as a weapon of suppression as well as persuasion. This ‘synthesis’, which combined Turkish reactionary nationalism with Islam, was developed by the ‘Hearths of the Enlightened’. ‘Its aim was to break the monopoly of left-wing intellectuals on the social, political and cultural debate in Turkey’ (Zürcher 1994: 303). The basic tenet of the ‘Synthesis’ was that Islam held a special attraction for the Turks because of a number of supposedly striking similarities between their pre-Islamic Turkish culture and Islamic civilisation. According to the ‘Synthesis’, pre-Islamic Turkish culture and Islamic civilisation shared a deep sense of justice, monotheism and a belief in the immortal soul, and a strong emphasis on family life and morality. The mission of the Turks, according to it, was a special one, to be the ‘soldiers of Islam’. ‘After 1983, it became a guiding principle in Özal’s MP, but there it was linked to a strong belief in technological innovation to catch up with the West (or, in Özal’s phrase, ‘to skip an age’)’ (Zürcher 1994: 303).

Although the neo-liberal changes in the economic, social and political structures have drawn many criticisms and caused relatively strong popular opposition following political liberalisation after 1983 and partial liberal democratisation after 1987, the successive governments have carried on with the state policies. We have seen above that, apart from direct political and military repression, several factors have been instrumental in facilitating this.

It must be emphasised that the mainly authoritarian ‘common’ culture in Turkey has also facilitated the neo-liberal transformation and the state’s role in it. National identity is still the most powerful principle regarding people’s identity-formation in Turkey. The Turkish state has been, though with decreasing conviction I think, regarded as embodiment of this principle by the vast majority of people. The Turkish state, particularly the military establishment, has been mythicised as well as mystified as ‘Father State’ which has been strengthened by strong tradition of etatism. This has, in its turn, led too often to unquestioning obedience to the state. The military is feared as well as respected, and doing military service, for instance, is considered as a national duty and a very important lifelong personal experience. The dominant social values, traditions, principles and expectations in Turkey are, among other political institutions, embedded in the Turkish state too. Short-cut solutions to economic, social and political problems have always been very popular. In the eyes of the vast majority, the ‘Father State’ is the modern and institutionalised Alexander the Great who can undo the Gordion knot by cutting it.

Mythicisation as well as mystification of the Turkish armed forces are also embedded in cultural traditions and together with the tendency towards finding short-cut solutions to problems have strengthened militarism which is an important ingredient in the dominant political culture in Turkey. In the absence of a well developed civil society this has always been a big problem in every aspect of the social life and the state has done its utmost to exploit the situation.

The domestic and global neo-liberal forces have been trying to change the relationship between the state and economy in Turkey. A long and strong tradition in state ownership, the enmeshing of the state and economy is a part of ‘common’ culture in Turkey. Opposition to privatisation should also be considered from this point of view. Changing the relationship between economy and the state, thus the economic role of the state in Turkey means a profound cultural transformation. Given the strength and persistency of traditions in general, this would be a very difficult transformation to be realised.

In short, global as well as domestic cultural practices and developments have influenced and generally facilitated the neo-liberal restructuring process. Domestic cultural practices are influenced, produced and reproduced in the same process. In other words, the restructuring process of economic and political structures has also been one of restructuring the cultural structures.

Read more... Chapter 5 (part 2)

(27) In 1979 the shares of exports to and imports from EC were 50.0% and 34.5% and in 1993 47.2% and 41.8%, respectively (Müftüler 1995: 89).
(28) Changes in the Political Parties Law in August 1999 made it possible for political parties to found women and youth branches and party branches abroad.
(29) The military bureaucracy tried to ensure the political reproduction of its domination through establishing a political party headed by a retired general. It also tried to secure the consolidation of the institutional structures of the 1982 Constitution.
(30) Today, the state of emergency is still in force in some cities mainly populated by the Kurdish people.
(31) Below, I shall deal with the rise of ‘tarikat (religious sect)-capital’ or ‘Islamic capital’ and political Islam in an separate sub-paragraph.