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The left wins in Greece, but not in Turkey, why ?

jeudi 8 octobre 2009, par Oral Çalışlar


I was informed by an SMS message early in the morning that the leftists won general elections in Greece. The main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou will be the new prime minister of our neighboring country. That means the left beat the right and have now claimed power.

Naturally, I started to think about the left in Turkey … The left has not won any elections for a long time. “Does the left exist in Turkey ?” asked a friend of mine. We know that all social democrat parties claiming to be leftist are statists and nationalists. It is the fact that in Turkey there is no left-social democrat party of any international standard – a fact that more and more people are starting to realize.

Leftist parties in other countries may not be totally divorced from nationalism. Some may quite rightfully assert that PASOK in Greece, for instance, is a nationalist party. In this sense, the sincerity of socialism in Greece may be opened to discussion.

However, I can easily say that the Greek and European left follow a somewhat more democratic, more universal path. PASOK’s nationalist side is quite distant from statism and militarism, something that makes the party different from leftists in Turkey.

Leading figures in Europe, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, have allied against Turkey as they nurture xenophobia. The leftist Papandreou in Greece has adopted a more positive approach in finding a peaceful solution to the Cyprus question, compared to his rival Costas Karamanlis. PASOK had also supported the Annan Plan in Cyprus.

In general, leftist parties in Europe are more positive towards minorities, foreigners and immigrants. Rightist parties lead the charge with their xenophobia and have negative feeling toward Turkey’s accession to the European Union. None is surprising. On the contrary, all these are in line with the descriptions of the right and the left.


Spain, Portugal and Greece suffered militarism for a long time that, in turn, ended with a bitter payoff. Military regimes were cleaned away while socialists, social democrats and communists took the lead in this cleaning process.

But the leftist movement in Turkey has always adopted rather complicated attitudes and sent mixed signals. Since the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, stems from a statist and militarist tradition, it has not been able to stay clear of military coups. The late Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit’s challenge to the March 12, 1971 coup was a break with the traditional CHP. But that did not last long. The CHP’s line went back to its roots and transformed into pro-militarism with the impact of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup.

Today, the CHP displays the political trend closest to militarism. One can hardly say that the CHP is a leftist party in terms of its approach to diversity in the country. The Democratic Left Party, or DSP, is no different either.

A big part of the socialist movement unfortunately stands with nationalism, militarism, statism, bureaucratic elitism and the status quo. The big picture shows that we cannot talk about a Turkish leftist movement catching up with international standards. The thesis that militarism and democracy is the main difference between the left in Turkey and in Europe is confirming itself through new examples every day.

Ecevit’s stand against the 1971 military coup and defense of an anti-militarist line had urged the CHP to connect with the international leftist movement. That’s why today’s CHP takes its place in the Socialist International. Today, however, social democracy throughout the world does not see the CHP as part of itself.

The leftist movement in Turkey is not an alternative to the government and doesn’t seem likely to be one in the near future.

It could be profitable if we mull over the question “If the left is not involved in changes and restructuring in Turkey, should this be read as an irony of fate and new situations, or should we suggest ‘the left in Turkey is not the real left’ and leave it at that ?”


I will share an old experience we had in Greece years ago. We visited the Turkish Embassy in Athens with a group of Turkish people. It was the year of 2000, I think. A photograph of President Kenan Evren from the 1982 coup period was on display at the entrance. Although 20 years had passed since the coup, a photograph of a coup leader was displayed at the embassy of a democratic country.

But in that period, one of the two leaders of the military coup in 1974 in Greece was killed in prison. The other was imprisoned for over 20 years. A parliamentary deputy attending the funeral ceremony was expelled from the rightist New Democracy Party.

Today, we are unfortunately being governed by the coup constitution. The biggest obstruction in front of the change is those who term themselves as leftists. And even if you voice this, it doesn’t change the facts at all.

It is not realistic to say that a left that rather prefers militarism, state, the power and elites could win public support.

* Mr. Oral Çalışlar is a columnist for the daily Radikal in which this piece appeared on Tuesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

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Source:Radikal, Tuesday, October 6, 2009

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