Wednesday, June 5, 2013

This Turkey Thing

Woman in Red

I'm not quite sure what it is about it, but there's something going on in Turkey that doesn't sit quite right with me.

My first question was, "Why Turkey?"

It's the Big (Muslim) Player in the region, and during the last few years, especially, its government under Erdogan has become more and more assertive of Turkish interests and prerogatives -- and history. Its diplomatic clashes with Israel, particularly over the Mavi Marmara business, are legendary. The entire (former) Ottoman Empire appears to be the sphere of influence over which modern Turkey wishes to assert itself. But then, what of Israel and the United States -- not to mention Russia -- all of which assert influence over much the same territory and have been committing atrocious acts against the peoples of the region for many years now. They've been enabling and permitting atrocities when they are not committing them as well.

So it occurred to me, when the revolt began in Istanbul, ostensibly over the re-development of a park -- the last open space in central Istanbul, they say -- into an Ottoman-style shopping mall, that this had all the earmarks of one of those "springtime revolutions" that have been roiling North Africa and the Middle East for some time now, some of them, such as Libya and Syria, leading to gross and massively destructive civil wars, and all of them having at least an initial similarity to Gene Sharp's famous Color Revolutions that resulted in the installation of neo-liberal regimes in the former Soviet sphere, the Philippines and elsewhere.

Why Turkey? Why now? Who have they offended?

This revolt is ostensibly over a neo-liberal project in the center of Istanbul, as well as the increasingly authoritarian impositions of the Erdogan regime in Ankara.We hear the usual calls for freedom, justice, dignity, etc. "It's not about the park," say the rebels and demonstrators themselves. "It's about 'not being heard.'"

Now wait.

"Not being heard" is a straightforward rhetorical device. Turkey is a complicated society to be sure, but so far as I can tell, it is a modern western-style democratic republic as well. Its democracy operates with at least as much freedom and fairness as that of the United States (say), probably more freely and fairly when you get down to it.

Erdogan and his party, so I understand it, are very popular, their programs and policies widely supported -- at least until recently. But now, all of a sudden, they are "arrogant" and "dismissive" of the popular will, and the regime has become an "authoritarian dictatorship" which is symbolized by the redevelopment project under way at Taksim Square and Gezi Park. The regime "doesn't listen to the People" who want to preserve the park as the sole remnant of former parks and open spaces in the center of Istanbul.

Wait. Something is off here.

In his public statements, Erdogan has indicated he is really pissed at the fact that these malcontents are making trouble -- and he has been at pains to point out that they are in essence acting on behalf of the main Turkish opposition party and of some nameless, faceless foreign interests, regardless of any discontents they may have with him and his rule and that of his party. But, as he says (in paraphrase), "elections have consequences" and he and his party have been elected three times by popular vote, in elections that (so far as I know) have been free and fair.

Operating a "Color Revolution" - style popular revolt under these circumstances is somewhat dicey, but that's the way these things go.

"Color Revolutions" can work against actual dictatorships, and they can be successful when those dictatorships are rotten to the core and on their last legs, as was the case in the Soviet Empire back in the day. Of course the nearly universal result of "Color Revolutions" is the triumph of neo-Liberalism -- to the extent that I have long assumed that's the real point of them -- and the gross impoverishment of the masses for the benefit of a new oligarchy. But when a "Color Revolution" is attempted against a functioning representative democracy, it runs into all kinds of ideological, philosophical, and practical mine fields. Basically, the revolutionaries are acting in opposition to what they say they want.

That can make it easy for authority to clamp down hard on the rebels and prevent them from succeeding.

In other cases, the internal contradictions of the rebel movement(s) can trigger civil war as we saw in Libya and now in Syria.

I doubt the Turks are interested in engaging in civil war, but the rebels don't seem to be relenting in the face of pretty serious crackdowns by police.

I've read that the Turkish economy is booming, certainly compared to Europe, but that there is very high unemployment, especially among the youth -- as in Europe -- and that most of the benefits of the booming economy are going to a handful of well-placed individuals and interests. It's the classic neo-liberal "success story" in other words. The People are not benefiting from the economy; they're losing ground. But that's how neo-liberalism works. The People (or a portion of them) are rising up, using the rhetoric of revolts against socialist/fascist dictatorships, but what they are rising up against -- if they are being truthful -- is what results from the success of revolutions against those dictatorships. They're rising up against neo-liberalism.

Or so it would seem.

The result of these revolts against neo-liberalism, however, seems to be even greater applications of neo-liberalism (for example, in Spain... or the United States) . The physical violence used to suppress the revolts is sometimes extreme -- we've seen plenty of that in Turkey -- and almost always, the suppression leads to greater hardships for the People through even more severe applications of neo-liberal economics.

There may be something else entirely happening in Turkey. Some of what's going on, for example, seems primarily intended to overturn the results of the most recent election and to embarrass Erdogan in the eyes of the world. "Too big for his britches" as the saying goes. What with Syria's civil war next door (which Erdogan has remarked upon at some length) and Israel's constant carping about and interference in practically everything, one could easily see a "foreign" aspect to the Turkish revolt. While foreign influence could help trigger a domestic revolt in Turkey, I doubt it could be sustained. The Turks are too proud and defiant to be led around by either Syrians or Israeli self-interest. But slapping around Erdogan for uppity-ness may well be in a whole lot of domestic and foreign interests, so we'll see how that plays out.

He sounds very Bush-like in his denunciations of the demonstrators.

Which leads me to the whole question of why things are as fucked up in general as they are. It goes back to the success of the Bushevik Revolution when time was. They were able to get away with some of the most atrocious acts imaginable, and because they were able to do what they did, without serious repercussions (at least to themselves), they became examples for leaders in the rest of the world to follow -- which as been going on for years now. I don't know how much of it is conscious emulation, but a great deal of Bushevism has been inculcated into governments throughout the world, and it leads directly to the kind of outrageous -- and very stupid -- behavior of governments we see nearly everywhere today.

Erdogan is certainly part of the picture.

While there are no doubt other elements in play in the revolt against him (and it seems to be quite a personal thing at times) I suspect the underlying motivation is that instinctive rebellion/revulsion against the kind of monstrousness that the Busheviks introduced to the world -- a monstrousness that has become the New Normal nearly everywhere. Turkey is no tired-old-dictatorship on its last legs, but it is going through a period of Bushevik-style neo-liberal reorganization that is severely affecting the peoples' sense of security and well-being. Whatever else may be driving the uprising, I suspect that is the underlying problem, as it is in the uprisings sporadically occurring elsewhere in Europe and the United States, and which has been the motivation for so much of the Occupy Movement.

I wrote this post well before I looked at Scott Creighton's "Color Revolution" conspiracy musings over at American Everyman. For a more thorough examination of what might -- or might not -- really be going on in Turkey, Ché say Check It Out.

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