History of modern Turkey is history of class conflict – academic

Aug 22, 2018 by

Historian Halil Karaveli has told podcaster William Armstrong that the narrative of Turkey as a place where Islam and secularism collide, with coups being carried out in order to further the secularist cause, is a false interpretation of a much more complex, class-based set of conflicts.

“When the Turkish republic was founded in the 1920s and 1930s, a certain form of bourgeois radicalism prevailed, as that was basically what answered to the needs of capitalist development at that stage. But as history evolved, and especially with the onset of the Cold War, it became more instrumental to shift from a bourgeois radicalism to a bourgeois conservatism, as I described, leaving Turkish parties to result to conservatism in order to counter the rising threat of the left,” Karaveli said.

“So what looks like a clash between secularists and Islamists is actually an intra-class conflict.”

Karaveli said that unlike in Europe, where states were gradually captured by the interests of the bourgeoisie, this was impossible in the Ottoman Empire where the bourgeoisie was mainly Christian, but the people were predominantly Muslim. Hence, the Young Turk government sought to create a Muslim bourgeoisie and to purge the empire of Greeks and Armenian Christians.

These cultural elements of class conflict continued into the 1997 so-called post-modern coup against the religious Welfare Party government, which was the result of clashes between the old established bourgeoisie and a new class of more Islamic businessmen who were seeking to challenge their power, Karaveli said.

“Turkey has remained authoritarian because the populist right has monopolised the working-class vote, and the left has crippled itself by waging this culture war in the name of secularism or in the name of enlightenment,” he said, pointing to former prime minister Bülent Ecevit as the only politician on the left who had been able to overcome that bad habit.

Source: History of modern Turkey is history of class conflict – academic | Ahval

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