Interview with Kemal Okuyan on Turkey-US tension

"We are approaching the issue from the point of the working people. They want self-sacrifice from the toiling people. What sacrifice! Those who have dragged Turkey to this point are apparent; the working class, the labourers, the petty craftsmen, the poor peasant have no responsibility"
Tuesday, 14 August 2018 14:19

soL News interviewed with Kemal Okuyan, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), regarding the recent developments in Turkey and the imperialist-capitalist system as the Turkish lira witnesses a record freefall against the US dollar amid the escalating tension between Washington and Ankara.

Was an economic war declared on Turkey?

Turkey has already been living through a big conflict, a dispute that has an economic basis, which we can call a war at one point. There is a great tension that is increasingly growing within the imperialist system. One of the factors which accelerates the loss of value in the Turkish lira is the fact that the US resorts to some instruments during this tension. However, this is not the only or primary reason leading up to a loss of value in the Turkish lira.


What is the relation between the intra-imperialist system tensions and Turkey? More precisely, why has Turkey been set as a target?

The problems between the US or some European countries and the AKP government have been persisting for too long. The Western imperialist countries acted with an inclusive strategy when they helped the AKP take the power. The AKP highly satisfied their expectations for a certain time span. However, the rails running off in Syria, the concerns about Turkey's social dynamics, the difficulties in managing and controlling [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan have prompted these countries to look for different alternatives since 2011. The imperialist system is based on a hierarchy, everyone gets a slice of the cake as much as it can. Erdoğan has headed for some goals that did not take this hierarchy into consideration. Neo-Ottomanism originally fit well for the US; nevertheless, it has started to generate a big political price for the US in the course of time.

To say the least, Erdoğan is a pragmatist politician; he could have come to good terms with the US and the EU. How have the things get to this point?

There are many reasons in leading up the things to get to this point. First of all, the situation of the US and the EU is not that good! Not only because the US cannot maintain its hegemony, not only because it could not establish a permanent and consistent system of alliance; but because it is in difficulty in playmaking due to the general laws of capitalism, such laws that generate crises. Secondly, Erdoğan has learned to use some countries, which are going through a conflict with the countries that try to control or adjust him, as a matter of bargaining with each other, and he has seen that it works. Therefore, he has tried to use the sphere of manoeuvre to the full extent against the US that is urging him to obey itself unconditionally. However, there is something he forgets: capitalism does not provide such a basis in which the actors reach rational decisions or control everything. We always have to remind. It would be misleading to equate everything taking place today to an integrated strategy. There is neither such reason nor possible conditions for it.  


Why does Erdoğan take too much risk then?

The US, and, in some manners, the EU were highly pleased with Erdoğan. However, their moves for a more controllable Erdoğan did not work because of the disintegration of the world order. They have started to look for an alternative to Erdoğan at some point, and they have resorted to some attempts. As Erdoğan saw this, he started to rely upon the other centre within the imperialist system, hoping for help from this centre. Turkey is too big for such manoeuvres, and it is inevitable for these manoeuvres to occasionally culminate in unexpected results. Let's remember that Erdoğan is not a man who could abandon the power. Hence, the problem should not be discussed simply like the US imperialism is attacking Turkey or Turkey's capital has discovered new opportunities within the axis of China and Russia. These are present, yet Erdoğan efforts for a personal salvation.  


What can Turkey's capitalists find in China-Russia-Iran or in the BRICS countries? More precisely, can the existing economic relations be replaced with the relations with these countries?

Most of the capitalists were excited about the relations with China-Russia-Iran since they envisioned new opportunities beyond the existing ones and new doors to profits. Carrying out business with everyone is a genetic feature of Turkey's bourgeoisie. The EU alternative and good relations with the US on the one hand; carrying out business with Russia and China on the other hand. What they ignore is that the world witnesses a great dispute. One needs to make a choice after a point. It is apparent that the things are not going well-controlled today. TÜSİAD (Turkish Industry and Business Association) says, "We can never give up the West, our foreign policy should change," while the government says, "We have set a time limit for the US, we will find new allies if the things do not change." We cannot say that all these are "trivial" or pure demagogy.

Can Turkey really change axis?

Is the son-in-law [Berat Albayrak, Turkey's Treasury and Finance Minister, President Erdoğan's son-in-law] qualified enough to declare the axis shift? I do not think that this is well-founded. However, the international system carries so much tension that it would not be a serious evaluation to say "nothing happens". It would be childish to think that Turkey's capitalism can resort to an axis shift only through a decree from [Erdoğan's] palace. From this viewpoint, Turkey's deviations may even lead to a big war.  


Does the Turkish lira lose value against the US dollar because of these tensions?

The loss of value in the Turkish lira is just a result. The structural problems of Turkey's economy are determining. This would happen one way or another. However, some impose a thought on the society: the things have got to this point because of the mistakes in the foreign policy while the economy was steady; or from the viewpoint of the government, they declared a war on us when everything was okay. There was an unsustainable situation in the Turkish economy, which has now hit the wall. Moreover, capitalism could not find any solution to crises anytime and anywhere. Some link the problem to Trump's tweets and Erdoğan's statements. Of course, all these have a role, yet they forget to ask what makes Turkey's economy so fragile, and this fight serves their purpose. They will want the people to make self-sacrifice with the argument "They have declared a war on us".


But there are some indications showing that the control over the capitalist class will increase...

The number of the players in the market generally reduces during such crisis times, big handovers are witnessed, a dense monopolization is experienced. The control towards the motions of capital emerge to run this process. Some rules are set, and those who do not obey these rules, those who are not strong enough are eliminated. Well, by saying elimination, I mean nothing would happen to the capitalists, the weak ones may withdraw from some fields, they may shrink but continue to exist. While withdrawing, they take for granted what they have gained until now, and they lay the debt and damage on the state, thus on the people. Those who are strong enough further grow up through the crisis. Besides, "crisis" is a big opportunity to usurp the bread of the working people. Inflation is a way of transferring resources from the working class; mass dismissals and cheaper employment will be witnessed after a point. As the government provides convenience for the companies, the price of it will be met by the cuts from social services like education and health, by imposing new tax loads on the people, and by the increases in basic needs. "The bosses also make a sacrifice" is a big myth, the shrinkage or field change of those who have plundered the country for too long have nothing to do with us. We have to look at the question from the viewpoint of the unprotected workers. We have to strengthen the organized struggle and solidarity against the high cost of living, unemployment and extra mechanisms of exploitation. 


One aspect of the problem is the anti-imperialist struggle. Turkey's economy was fragile but a US attack is also in question...

We have warned long before the Turkey-US tension gets to this point: the tension with the US within this system is very dangerous for Turkey. Why so? It is dangerous because the existing government owes its presence to the US, at the least. It is dangerous because the US and the other Western imperialists have placed themselves on all parts of Turkey's military, political, economic and cultural life. It is dangerous because the hegemonic capitalist class in Turkey has deep links and relations with the US. The Gülen cult that did the dirty works of the US was the official owner of this country until yesterday, those who touched them got burnt. That is why we say that the anti-imperialist struggle cannot be disintegrated. There is no good or bad imperialism. Imperialism is a world system based on the hegemony of the monopolies. It is nonsense to think that we can move beside the imperialist system while the capitalists rule Turkey. Take a look at the example of Venezuela. The economy of Venezuela suffers from structural problems. However, the weak point of Venezuela in its conflict with the US is the fact that the very basis of the capitalism is not terminated by the leftist government. There is still a powerful and influential capitalist class in Venezuela. Capitalism decays everything. Either the countries become fragile to the interventions of powerful imperialist countries or they themselves become problem maker to other peoples while trying to escalate in the imperialist hierarchy. For example, the political power in Turkey tries to increase its presence and interventionism in Syria while at the same time it claims 'being in war' with the US and tries to develop its relations with Russia. Turkey claims being a victim in one side while playing the role of a potent actor in the other side. They try to appeal to the nationalistic feelings of the millions of poor. A partial fight against the US imperialism to veil the truth cannot succeed. Then the barbers will reject doing American style haircut! A full-fledged struggle should be waged against the US imperialism, and the change of the existing social system is key to this. You cannot challenge the US while secretly meeting with the IMF at the same time. This is not consistent. The problem of Turkey is the capitalist class. The basis of Americanism is this class.


What is to be done? What does the TKP recommend?

The Communist Party of Turkey has made a statement today regarding the economic situation. This statement is also being distributed as leaflets among the workers. We are approaching the issue from the point of the working people. They want self-sacrifice from the toiling people. What sacrifice! Those who have dragged Turkey to this point are apparent; the working class, the labourers, the petty craftsmen, the poor peasant have no responsibility. Their sole mistake is tolerating this robbery and theft. Now, it is high time to awaken. The struggle against the US imperialism must be combined with the struggle against today's order of theft. We have to develop a line of the struggle against unemployment and the high cost of living by underlining the labour culture, resistance and solidarity. The TKP will take concrete steps at this point. Our Party is to conclude a big organizational transformation in September. We are becoming a more organized Party within the working class. If we do not take initiative, liberalism and nationalism will drag Turkey into ruin. We do not have the luxury to leave this country or the people helpless. Yes, we say, "This social order will change, there is no other way out," with a great assertion and a great confidence. Those who reacted us before June 24 [presidential and parliamentary elections] when we said "this social order must change" are now looking for shelter in panic. Yet we say that there is no safe harbour under capitalism. That is no foolish; socialism is the only option if you are looking for peace within equality and freedom.