Years ago, when I was ten, my cousin, who was going to Erzurum Atatürk University at the time, told me about Lenin’s ideas about the common ownership of property, that God was a human concept and did not exist, and that the hegemonic classes had created the idea of religion to control the masses. These thoughts sent me into an existential depression that lasted for days. I got over it by sharing my depression and thoughts with my grandmother.
At this young age I decided to become a member of the right, somebody who believes in God. Then, as now, in Turkey it was generally believed that only conservative right leaning people believed in God while Leftists were atheists. Nationalists and rightists were one in the belief that God and nation went hand in hand. This group consisted mostly of the people of rural and urban middle Anatolia.
There were three kinds of right- conservative political ideologies in those days and scratch a little deeper one could see a lot of differences in ideas and interpretations.
: Milli Görüş were the followers of Erbakan and believed styled in a Union of Muslims led by Turkey. They dreamt of regenerating ottoman influence in a union of religion and politics; the MHP were nationalists, a synthesis of Islamic and Turk ethnic nationalism; lastly there was Yeniden Milli Mücadele who were the middle road between the nationalists and Milli Görüş.
Since Turkey’s first free elections in the early 1950’s, approximately 65% of Turkish voters have supported the right wing parties. The 70’s was the era of Nationalist conservatism and economic liberalism (Ozal). For the last 60 years, Turkey has been governed by mainstream right wing parties with the exception of the six years from 1973 to 1979 when it was ruled by the CHP a party considered left wing in Turkish politics because they were secular and showed tolerance to communist groups.
I was in high school when and I joined the Yeniden Milli Mücadele. It was the 1970’s and unknown powers, allegedly the deep state, were manipulating students into battling each other under the guise of ideology. İt was a masterful strategy of playing each side against the other.
Young nationalists and rightists, who PM Bulent Ecevit described as the Lumpen Proletariat, the uneducated masses were coming from rural Anatolia to go to university. The right and the nationalists were ideologically from the class of property less capitalists. The ideological foundation of the left was a combination of Maoist and Lenin-Stalinists.
These were the years of the low intensity war that took place in Turkey’s cities between 1975 to 1980 between the youth of the right and the left. It was very easy to acquire and possess weapons in those days and random shootings on the streets, in the universities and targeted home invasions were common.
For people going about their daily business things seemed normal but for secondary and post-secondary students they were dangerous times. Citizens became used to seeing fellow citizens get shot on the street, most were targeted shootings. Each faction accused the other of being either a fascist or a communist. Up to 20-30 young people were killed a day, about 7000 a year. The Alevis and the Sunnis were fighting in Corum and the army got involved to stop it.
The three political factions on the right rejected westernization and accused it of causing the downfall of the Ottoman Empire. The latter group believed that when Ataturk declared Turkey secular, a religious and moral vacuum was created and they would fill it with a New Turkish Republic that would be a fusion of moral, religious and conservative values. By returning to the original Ottoman values Turkey would regain its strength. Some people said it should recognize the western sciences of physics, chemistry, medicine and technology but not evolutionary biology and Darwinism.
It was during this era I discovered Pinar Magazine and met the people involved in writing it. They called themselves Milli Mücadeleci movement. They called their ideology the scientific right and the leadership was indoctrinated by the eminent Turkish scholar and former officer Dr. Ziya Uygur. İt was a fusion of Marxism, socialism, nationalism, and Islamic ideas influenced by Marxist determinism and on Zionism as the enemy.
Pinar examined the concept of a Jewish conspiracy that major historical events were influenced by the Jews. After their liberation from Babylon they went to Alexandria and created the education centers that would influence platonic thinking and ideas, hellenistic ideas and eventually the Roman Empire into modern politics and economics. Communism and capitalist ideologies were influenced by Jewish thinkers. They were also the only group that was able to talk and negotiate without fighting.
Milli Mucadelli were different than the other groups because they had an intellectual base, for example they accepted the human mind as one of independent thought- if we are to accept the truth of an idea we need to analyze it, use our mind and our senses in tandem with holy references – like the Koran and the Hadiths.
The members of Mili mücadele were self confident in their defense of the nation state and its independence and saw the nation as citizens inclusive of all ethnic groups. This group respected other leaders and advised some leftist pundits. They told us to be fair to all people and that all people are equal.
Yeniden Milli Mücadele wanted to create a new Turkey that was a combination of Republican and Islamic values and recognized the Ottoman heritage values of strength and power.
Prime Minster Süleyman Demirel was threatened by it’s growing influence and spread the rumour it was a British group. This conspiracy was successful. The rumour spread and resulted in the group disbanding. But its membership has influenced Turkish political, social and economic life for the last 40 years. This group is the foundation of contemporary Turkish politics.
The MHP nationalists got their ideas from the Ülkücü movement which originated with Ziya Gokalp and Nihal Atsiz’s ‘Nine Lights Action Movement ‘– act first think later. It was alleged this movement had received indirect deep state support because of its anti-communist leanings.
There was another right wing group that emerged from Milli görüş called Akıncılar. They were against the enlightenment philosophers and defended the God centres of the universe (as compared to the human centre of the universe as described by the enlightenment). They hesitated to take the same violent actions as used by communist groups.
An umbrella organization that included Milli görüş- MHP, and Y. Milli Mücadele called MTTB was established against leftist, liberal intellectuals.
Most of Turkeys decision makers have come from a right wing tradition that idolized ottoman power and wanted to bring back its values, customs, religion, respect for family, and nation. The nationalist conservative history was seen as a heritage to be protected, and it was the general Turkish mindset to be suspicious of politics that came from the west. All these groups had an ambition to regenerate the Pax Ottoman and embrace the brotherhood of Turks and Muslims. All today’s upper echelons are from these conservative right wing youth in the 1970’s.
Though the ruling parties have invested in infrastructure such as the building of roads, hospitals, schools etc…,they have not created effective policies targeted at resolving domestic social conflict, such as those related to Kurdish culture, recognition of Alevi religious practices, and political dogma.
All these rightest groups saw themselves as coming from a heritage of mainstream Ottoman life. They identified themselves as representative of the nation Sunni Hanife and Turks. But scratch a little deeper one could see a lot of differences in ideas and interpretations.
The situation now is such that Turkey has not maintained good relations with the Islamic world and because it hasn’t put energy into regenerating relationships between middle eastern and Turkish Islam, and between nations, their neo-Ottoman influence project has failed. They have also failed to develop a strong relationship with the Central Asian Turkic nations
Generally the Turkish right has not been able to create constructive policies nor ideas and they have no historical model to follow. They are unable to accept constructive criticism, to think analytically and synthesize ideas using complete information
They dream of a Turk- Muslim synthesis; but what would happen to the others? Alevis, kurds, white turks, shia, non-muslims, slavs, etc?
İs it assumed that the Muslim world was waiting for the Turkish nation, the savior that would come to the Islamic countries? In Africa, middle east, Asia. Turkish governments have been working towards this end for the last twenty years
The fall of the USSR and the development of the concept of a moderate Islam as described in the American Green Belt Project (yesil kuşak ) created the possibility for nationalists and Islamists to achieve their goals: a Turk dominated Islam, but they have been unable to meet the challenge.
According to Turkish nationalists one day the Turks in middle Asia would break the chain of soviet authoritarianism, but with fall of the USSR the nationalists were unable to create a convincing policy to convince the Turkmen of central Asia to make an religio-economic with Turkey. Nationalists failed to meet their ambitions and central Asian Turks maintained their separateness. Justice and Development Party hasn’t been able to create a common Turkish islamic model, a. moderate Islam, a democratic Islam.
For the general population it was enough to have a functioning government services. They didn’t care about defending conservatıve and religious values. Responsibility for this lay with the right wing bourgeoisie rather than right wing politicians .
The ıdeology of the right was influenced by the ideas of Turancılık and Islamcılik. The former is a term that describes the brotherhood of Turkic geographic regions standing together in collaboration. Lenin was influenced by this idea of a brotherhood of nations in his creation if the USSR. The latter is the brotherhood of the Islamic nations. These two concepts have moved far from their essence of meaning that existed during the Ottoman era and in these modern times the linking of Turkish Republic and Islam Republic have been severed.
Unfortunately no new ideas have emerged within the intellectual circles of the right. They haven’t been to create any new thinkers nor idea makers since the Ottoman educated and Ottoman French educated pundits of past days.
Sufi mysticism was unable to maintain itself in this republican era ,because there was no young generation of sufies to replace the old so they didn’t regenerate. The medresa was where muslims learned the customs, rituals and traditions of sufi islam. The medresa heritage protected Tareqat, the Islamic mystic sect from the influences of heterodoxy. Mystic sufis leaned towards salafi islam or heterodoxy (non-conformity). The medressa heritage unfortunately suppressed critical ideas and critical thinking.
We can identify 3 problems in right wing ideology /conservative thinking
- There is no methodological foundation of thinking; they don’t understand their political history and don’t follow an logical thinking process. (such as historical determinism or Hegel’s reading) . This causes an altered and distorted perception of the truth.
- In the early Islamic era there was a strong dialectic thinking heritage but unfortunately we lost this 11th and 12th In fact Marx’s ideas of the synthesis evolved out of the writings of Ibni Haldun , an Arabic intellectual. have a strong intellectual heritage and have applied it by thinking of an anti- thesis, thesis, synthesis in this situation . The critical thinker can have and/or be tolerant of opposing ideas.
- Right thinkers refer to holy reference in their discourse, but are unable to use it in their daily life to solve problems.
Right thinking was conspiracy minded and very introverted – inward looking. Our conservative youth were easy to provoke, they were hard to understand and analyze
During those days in the 70’s some pundits tried to resolve the intellectual problems of the right, like Sezai Karakoc, Erol Gungor and Nurettin Topcu and more recently with the leadership of Davutoglu who established a science and Art Foundation called Bilim Ve Sanat Vakfi. Twenty five years ago they founded a new school of thinking around ideas of a New Turkey and an Islamic world view. Their aim was to develop new values but unfortunately it was abandoned prematurely when the core thinkers left education for politics. His vision ended up in tatters at his feet.
Unfortunately, Our new Islamic-conservative middle class aren’t interested in establishing new schools that create new paradigms of thought and transformation, such as Robert College and Galatasaray high school, even though they are able. Politicians and philanthropist entrepreneurs prefer to work with partners who are exploited for their agreeableness to suggestion rather than independent thought. They have failed to understand that power is not only money but the implementation of ideas.
Turkish dıscourse is related to domestıc concerns and issues, be it corruption, conflict, war, etc.. . Outside of Turkey there is a bio- informatic and robotic revolution happening, but if we can’t keep up with it our grandchildren will be slaves of the new world. We aren’t contributing our values and ideas, instead we have conspıracy ideas, ethnic identity conflicts, theories and interpretations that results in us living in an autıstic-lıke closed world.