There is currently a military coup in Turkey. It is not certain what the outcome will be, but tanks are on the streets, soldiers have taken over state television, airports are shut down, and gunfire and explosions have been heard in Istanbul and Turkey. It is clear that a substantial section of the military has taken action against the government and is in control of parts of the country. At this moment there are reports of soldiers killing protesters. Given the historic weakness of the Turkish military as a political power relative to the eras in which it carried out previous coups, there is a strong chance that the government will prevail. But this is clearly a very organized coup attempt that may be able to unseat the government.
The rebelling section of the military has announced on television that martial law will be declared and that the country will be ruled by a “peace council” – a euphemism for a military junta, most likely. This military section says that their justification is the restoration of the democratic and secular rule of law, after years of rule by President Erdogan and the AKP has resulted in a de facto dictatorship.
We have been supporting the struggle against the AKP government. Erdogan’s government has arrested our friends, started a war with the Kurdish movement, laid entire cities to waste, displaced thousands of people, sponsored the spread of ISIS, allowed our friends and comrades to be killed in Turkey by ISIS, and an endless list of other crimes. Erdogan has been attempting to create a one party dictatorship in Turkey.
The context of coups in Turkey
Many people, especially those who support the Kurdish movement, may be enthusiastic about the prospect of the military coup succeeding, because Erdogan would be removed, and there may be some chance to end the war and re-organize mass revolutionary social movements. This would be misplaced enthusiasm. Although no one can predict exactly what will happen, there is no reason to believe that a military coup will mean progress for the popular classes of Turkey. Replacing one dictatorship with another dictatorship does not mean freedom for the people. The generals cannot give us freedom. Only the people’s struggles can win freedom.
The 2013 military coup in Egypt demonstrates this. Goaded into action my massive popular protests, the military deposed President Morsi and installed military rule. Some on the left supported the military coup, because they felt that it carried out the people’s will to topple Morsi’s government. But since then the military government has been even more harsh and repressive, and has made no moves towards democracy. The military coup has been a large step backwards for the Egyptian people, even though it removed an enemy of the popular classes. Under military rule in Turkey, we can expect to see a greater concentration of repressive power that will make it even more difficult for social movements to organize than it has been under Erdogan. Already in their first hours, this section of the Turkish military has been killing protesters.
Turkey has a long history of military coups – in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1998. The country is currently operating under the constitution crafted by the 1980 military junta government. These coups have always, by their very nature, been a threat to democracy. The military itself is highly ideological and opposed to democracy and the left – perhaps more so than Erdogan. They are the main political center of ethnic nationalism in Turkey, and have continuously been calling on Erdogan to be more aggressive in his war against the PKK and Kurdish people. Given the ideology and politics of the Turkish military, we could expect a coup government to be even more aggressive in repressing minorities and the left.
What we must do
We must stand with our comrades in Turkey at this time. If the coup succeeds, we can expect increased repression and even more suspension of democratic processes. If the coup fails, we can expect retaliation from the AKP and a harsh clampdown on any opposition to the government. We should support the left-wing opposition to the coup that is already being voiced. We should not support voices that try to justify a military coup that will only replace one enemy of our class with another, but on an even more undemocratic foundation.
The only way forward is mass revolutionary struggle!