Cengiz Aktar
Nov 07 2017

A wrecked state and a wrecked society

“If Turkey’s political alternative is the Good Party, then it’s a shame,” one Twitter user quipped. However, this alternative has garnered support even by some well-known dissident writers. Why not, if the issue is waking up from today’s nightmare?

There are three things wrong with the Good Party as an alternative. First of all, it is not offering a new form of politics, rather a return to the old ways. This should be underlined.

The Good Party is a project for the survival of the state.

Against the ruling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AK Party, which has either destroyed or disorganised all the archaic state institutions that filtered in from the Ottoman Empire in the last century: the Good Party is the project to reconstruct those state structures.

Basic institutions that exist within every state such as academia, the diplomatic service, the Treasury, the civil service, the military, and the judiciary have all been brought down by the AKP. Bureaucrats in charge of these institutions – a majority of them completely unqualified – are servants whose position is based solely on loyalty. They receive orders from the palace alone, while all other voices are silent. These institutions no longer make any constructive contribution to the process of governing the country from their reserves of knowledge or traditions. The state traditions of the Ottomans and the Turkish Republic have been terminated.

The Good Party is onstage to revive these institutions. In that sense, its likelihood of success cannot be underrated. The Turkist discourse often repeated in its founding declaration and other statements will be whittled away in time, so there is no need to obsess over it. Behind this formation, there will be the state trying to survive. This reflex must not be underestimated. It is ancient, and it is strong.

Consequently, there is nothing new about the Good Party; the point is all about a recourse to the old system, which presumably was good. In this context, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which feeds on the same discourse, has some chemistry with the Good Party; it will be able to forge a coalition and perhaps electoral alliances. We should take note of that.

Aside from the point that it is nothing new, there is no trace within the Good Party platform of the changes that EU-inspired reforms succeeded in making within the state’s genetics during the pre-AKP coalition period and the early period of AKP rule. The strict statist policies of the AKP after 2013 do not bother the Good Party. The clearest example here is the policy to fight terrorism and keep up operations against armed Kurdish separatists.

In this context, they will not have any problem with the AKP regarding the struggle against thuggery – separatism by its modern name – which has been a red line since the foundation of the state. But that red line has a twin – reaction, meaning religious fundamentalism. On this subject, the Good Party is not side by side with the AKP; it is with the state.

So those who have high hopes for the Good Party have to understand that it is not a new party and it will not be a solution to Turkey’s escalating problems, especially the Kurdish issue.

The second problem with the Good Party and its supporters is that they tend to underestimate the wreckage. The destruction is not the kind that can be repaired easily. The skilful bureaucrats that used to work based on the principle of merit were tossed away, insulted, and retired early.

It is not possible to replace them with their equivalents by pushing a button. Qualified and educated members of the younger generations are busy leaving the country, and the kind of education system the others are exposed to is apparent. The worst thing is that the organisational memories of these institutions have been destroyed.

The third problem is hidden very deeply in the invisible darkness. The Good Party and those supporting it as an alternative believe that when the party (or any other) comes to power, most problems will be solved by getting rid of Erdoğan.

Even if Erdoğan and his circle do not withdraw by themselves following an election, when they do, they will leave a mass of supporters behind. Just like the bureaucratic wreckage, this is social wreckage.

This is the huge wreckage that ranges from the Islamic State supporter, to the Ottoman Association member decked in a burial robe, between the armed militia and the AKP’s client population that feeds on the system by illegal means. Its ideal is singularity: one warden, one nation, one country, one flag, one religion, one language, one brain…

It is a fascist mass that will take decades to deal with.

It is a mass lacking every tenet of humanism, such as shame, awareness of transgression, or conscience; it is hostile towards love and knowledge, filled with antagonism and grudges. These are moral ruins where neither the Good Party nor any other alternative can do the least bit of good.