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Turkey: a case where neoliberalism has literally jailed the Left



Ben Norton of the RealNews spoke with scholar Baris Karaagac about Turkey's economic ills, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party (AKP) neoliberal nationalist policies, and the repression against Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Leftists, and Kurds.

Karaagac reveals that there is a wider battle behind the rise of ultra-nationalism in Turkey, concerning the dominant ideology of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism's brutality is now quite evident in Turkey as the big capital is taking advantage of Erdogan's permanent state of emergency, in order to suppress workers' resistance and any demand for upgraded labor rights or other progressive policies.

Karaagac explains:

Erdogan sees the Kurdish movement and its political party, the HDP, as its most critical of opponents. That is the decisive force in terms of whether or not the AKP and Erdogan will remain in power, both in parliament and presidency.

The leader of the HDP has been in prison for more than one year, and there’s no basis for that. There’s absolutely no legal basis as to why this person, Demirtas, has been in prison in Edirne that neighbours Greece, in Turkey. So, the reason is that Erdogan is really afraid that the HDP will again pass the 10 percent threshold, and will destroy an AKP and MHP majority in parliament. So he’s really scared of Demirtas. And this is what Demirtas actually emphasized in his talk from prison yesterday.

There is significant concern both within Turkey and on the international level, that Turkey is becoming more and more authoritarian, day by day. And this process has been led and cultivated and engineered by particularly Erdogan, who is running for president again this week. Another important point is that this authoritarianism has particularly hit people on the Left and Kurds.

What Erdogan - and the people around him within the AKP - has implemented in the past 15 years, is a very specific form of neoliberalism based on cronyism, but it’s neoliberalism. Since 2016, Turkey is under a state of emergency. Even the state of emergency has made many neoliberal reforms possible. And when Erdogan faced some criticism from certain parts of Turkish capital, he responded by saying, ‘Why do you guys complain? No one can go on strike in state of emergency. This is the best moment for you to do business.’ So, he basically told them to shut up.

It’s a very difficult situation for people on the Left in Turkey, but particularly for Kurdish Leftists in the country. Selahattin Demirtas is leading a party that is known as pro-Kurdish. But Demirtas wanted to create a party for Turkey that embraces different segments of the population, and that it agrees or that has a consensus over a number of issues, a number of policies, a number of principles that the Left has held dear for more than a hundred years. So it’s very important that Demirtas is not only the leader of Kurds in Turkey, but he’s also embraced as a leader by many Turkish Leftists, and rightfully so.


As has been already pointed out in previous article, the neoliberal establishment of the West may find a suitable model in the way Erdogan acts inside Turkey, in order to dictate the most brutal form of neoliberalism inside Western societies.

On the occasion of the first anniversary of last year’s failed coup attempt in Turkey, “Turkish authorities have sacked nearly 7,400 civil servants for alleged links to terror groups”, while the “total number of state employees dismissed for alleged terror links reaches 110,000”. The massive layoffs under the pretext of terrorism tends to become an epidemic in Turkey.

Well, this is the exact picture that the neoliberal fundamentalists would adore!

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