The six arrows of Kemalism are known by everyone in Turkey. I remember how teachers throughout my elementary to high school education were insistent that we had to memorize them by heart. They are republicanism, nationalism, populism, revolutionism, secularism and statism. Today, the six arrows are emblems of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), but because of the Gramscian hegemonic indoctrination in all areas of life, we are all in one way or another under the influence of the six arrows, making us “children of Kemalistan.”
In its former terms, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) was a democratizing party and it was very difficult to associate it with the six arrows. This was the party I supported and voted for repeatedly. If it returns to its former democratizing and reforming spirit, I will again be a staunch supporter. Nevertheless, as I have written here before, there are several signs that the new AKP is becoming a party of the six arrows. If you add to this, my belief that the party is reverting back to Islamism, that makes seven arrows. Thus, with Islamism included, the new ideology becomes Kemalo-Islamism.
Ostensibly, it looks like an oxymoron, but if you scratch the surface you will see the new AKP has actually been combining these seven arrows in its practice, if not in its ideology. As the AKP leader Erdoğan said a while ago, “We will make history and others will write it.” The AKP is not concerned about the ideology any more and we can only understand the party by looking at their praxis. If there are conflicting elements in our evaluation that suggest oxymoronic ramifications, it is not the observers’ fault, and the politicians are responsible for this. Yet, at the end of the day, it is not surprising to watch politicians contradicting themselves. A fact, very skillfully summarized by Süleyman Demirel: “Yesterday is yesterday, today is today.” Anyhow, let us look at the new AKP’s seven arrows.
I will look at the Kemalism’s or CHP’s six arrows, but let us first start with the seventh arrow, which is unique to the new AKP that emerged after the June 12, 2011 elections. I have asked here before if the AKP was reverting back to Islamism. The answer is complicated. It cannot of course return to pure Islamism or the Islamism of Necmettin Erbakan, the former leader of the Felicity Party (SP), National View (Milli Görüş), since it may lose it broad support, but it is increasingly trying to implement an Islamist agenda simultaneously with other policies. Saying this does not mean that the party will follow a full-force total overhaul of the political system, but it will try to Islamize society by using state power and means. I will discuss this issue later in another piece.
Republicanism is the first arrow of Kemalism. Almost everybody in Turkey, including the AKP, agrees with this principle. Yet, what people understand from republicanism differs. The Kemalists understood it as only a non-monarchic system. As long as sons did not replace fathers as rulers, the Kemalists were happy with the one-man rule and shows. One can argue that the new AKP would not contest fiercely this Kemalist understanding of Republicanism nowadays.
Nationalism is the second arrow. When we look at its practice, the AKP is to a great extent a Turkish nationalist party. Even its rhetoric during the election periods is nationalist. Yes, it has given Kurds some rights, but there is no sign if they have done it willingly or to counter the PKK terrorism. Despite its power, there are many things that it can do but does not.
Populism (Halkçılık) in Kemalist theory is different from its usage in English. It refers to an aim of creating a classless society. But in practice, the Kemalists did almost nothing to create such a society, other than creating their own LAST (Laicist, Atatürkist, Sunni, Turk) elite that I keep talking about. The Kemalist were not populist in its other meaning, either. Nobody can object to the fact that the new AKP is the real populist party. Similar to the Kemalists, the AKP does not work for a classless society but is busy in creating its own elite.
Revolutionism is the fourth arrow of Kemalism. In their first few years, the Kemalists made some revolutions to westernize society but not in terms of land reform. After 1928, the CHP had become a conservative status quo establishment party. Similarly, in its first five years the AKP made revolutionary changes but now is showing signs of becoming a status quo party.
Secularism is the fifth arrow. The AKP does not object to it. The only difference is that espouses an Anglo-Saxon practice rather than the assertive French practice. The abnormal secularism of the Kemalism was happy to use the Diyanet monolithically in favor of Sunnis at the expense of the others. The Alevi case shows us that the new AKP is no different.
Statism is the last arrow. This principle means that the state regulates the country’s general economic activities and the state was to engage in areas where private enterprise was not willing to do so, or where private enterprise had proven to be inadequate, or if national interest required it. It is obvious that the AKP’s practice is not in contradiction with the CHP’s practice of Kemalism.