By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
The failed coup attempt by a faction of the Turkish military against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan exposes the intense crisis and polarization of Turkish society.
According to reports, 1,563 military personnel suspected of involvement in the coup have been rounded up and are now in custody. The death toll according to one report is 41 police officers, 2 soldiers, 47 civilians and 104 “coup plotters” or a total of 194 dead.
Until now, many things remain unclear as to the identities of the coup plotters, their real motives and objectives.
Erdogan has accused US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers inside the armed forces of plotting the coup. 2,745 judges suspected of being followers of Gulen have been removed from office. His movement called Hizmet has denied having anything to do with the coup attempt. Although Gulen’s followers claim that Hizmet is mainly a civil movement, many Gulenists hold key positions in Turkey’s military, police, judiciary and the media.
Gulen was a close ally of Erdogan until their falling out in 2013 when Gulen accused Erdogan of corruption. Gulen’s movement also preaches a moderate type of Islam as opposed to Erdogan’s fundamentalist orientation. Gulen who reportedly favors a multiparty democracy has criticized Erdogan for his authoritarianism.
It is unclear what role the US played in the coup attempt. What happens in Turkey, a key US and NATO stooge in projecting US power in the troubled region of the Middle-East, is certainly of great interest to Washington. Turkey has been involved in the US wars of aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. It hosts 5,000 US airmen in its Incirlik Air Base and around 90 tactical nuclear weapons.
But 24 hours into the coup, there was only silence from Washington. It was only after Erdogan appeared to have survived the coup attempt that Obama declared his support to the “democratically elected government” of Erdogan. Obama did not mind though when a pro-US military cabal ousted the “democratically elected government” of Morsi in Egypt.
There are also mixed signals coming from the Erdogan camp in relation to the US. Erdogan has demanded from the US the extradition of Gulen reminding the US that Turkey has never refused the extradition of terrorists requested by the US. At about the same time Turkey’s Minister of Labor Süleyman Soylu accused the US on live television of being behind the coup for harboring Gulen. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on the other hand said that the military must now be cleansed of Gulenist influence so that it can provide better support and coordination to NATO.
There are also speculations that Erdogan himself launched a “fake coup” to give himself the excuse to acquire more power and crush his political opponents. Some posts in social media have compared the coup attempt to the Reichstag fire in 1933 in which 160 people died that Hitler used as a pretext to suspend civil liberties, order the arrest of his opponents and consolidate his power.
Erdogan was reported to have said that the coup was “heaven’s gift” giving rise to the speculation that he himself orchestrated the coup. Whatever the truth, Erdogan is sure to use it to eliminate his political opponents and amass more personal power. His fanatical followers are already calling for the death penalty for the coup plotters.
Erdogan has been under fire in recent years both within the country and abroad for his growing repressiveness and tyrannical policies. Vowing to crush the PKK-led Kurdish liberation movement, he ordered a military offensive on Kurdish communities razing buildings and houses to the ground and killing civilians. Since 2014, he has jailed 1,845 parliament members, writers and academics critical of his policies branding them terrorists.
He has ordered the arrest of reporters and the take-over of media outlets critical of his regime. Under Turkish law, insulting the president is an offense that carries a jail sentence of four years. As a result, Reporters Without Borders has placed Turkey 149th among 180 countries in the press freedom index.
In 2013, Erdogan was confronted with wave upon wave of protest actions which lasted for months. The unrest started as a protest action in Taksim Square against the uprooting of 600 trees in Gezi Park to give way to a development project that would include a shopping mall, a mosque and a military barracks. The regime responded with brutal repression. Several people were killed and thousands were injured.
Berkin Elvan, a 14-year-old protester died after months of being in coma after being hit by a teargas canister. He soon became the symbol of the protests against the Erdogan tyrannical regime. Starting from a local issue, the demonstrations turned into protests against the economic and political policies of the regime with the protesters calling on the people to “unite against fascism” and for the government to resign.
The following year, the regime was again faced with militant protests after it used brute force to prevent May Day demonstrations from taking place in Taksim Square. The protests were also triggered by the regime’s intensified repression using the AKP majority in Parliament to railroad unpopular laws on internet censorship and increasing the powers of the national spy agency (MIT) and those of the government over the courts.
The recent coup brings to the fore the deep divisions in Turkish society, the contradictions between the people and the local ruling class and the contradictions within the local ruling class. The violent conflict among the reactionaries generates favorable conditions for the advance of the revolutionary movement of the people.
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) supports the Turkish people’s legitimate struggle for national liberation and democracy against the fascistic Erdogan regime. Maoist parties are striving to lead the Turkish people on the road of armed revolution. The ILPS likewise supports the just struggle of the Kurdish people for national self-determination and democracy under the leadership of the Kurdish Workers’ Party.