There are some new stirrings on the left side of the political spectrum in Turkey and many experts think that now is the “real right time” for it, but there are also some doubts that these initiatives will be able to live up to expectations.
One of those initiatives is the radical democrats or the new left party but its name is not yet clear. There are many well-known intellectuals within the initiative besides some movements and parties like the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP), the Social Democrat People’s Party (SHP) and the Dec. 10 movement based on the union movement. There are also efforts by Mustafa Sarıgül, the mayor of Şişli in İstanbul, to turn the Turkey Change Movement (TDH) into a party, too. Another effort on the left is to establish an “umbrella party” with the participation of the small political parties from the Socialist Party and the Free Left Platform to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) which replaced the defunct Democratic Society Party (DTP).
Maybe it should not be called the left
Tarhan Erdem, a political analyst and prominent social democrat, told Sunday’s Zaman that since 1992 he strongly believed and repeatedly said that a new movement on the left was needed in Turkey but he emphasized that a new left party should be leftist in content but maybe should not contain “left” in its name.
“In the mind of society there are two disadvantages of the left. First of all, the general perception of the left in public opinion is that it is considered a political movement which is against religion. Secondly, in the world, the left renewed itself but in Turkey, we did not see this change and when you say left, people think about statist economic policies, centralist administrations, but the new left is not there,” Erdem said.
According to him for many years people have been talking about the need for a new leftist party and during this period of time almost 30 new political parties have been established but actually none of them were new. “Their regulations and party program is the same. Just to name itself new or left does not make it neither new nor left,” he said. According to him any movement which wants to deserve to be labeled as a new party in the left has to be organized from the bottom to the top. It should be able to bring new and workable ideas to the solution of the Kurdish question and from the very beginning it should prove that it has democracy within the party,” Erdem said.
When it comes to democracy within the party, Sarıgül’s movement says on paper that it will be the most democratic party but even on the home page of their Web site, there are many pictures of him. The movement was not able to let the public know the name of the movement, only the name of Sarıgül.
The other movement that doesn’t yet have a name, referred to as the new left movement, is currently discussing how it should be organized. Since there are many prominent names with the movement, like Professor Fuat Keyman, Professor Mithat Sancar, Professor Mesut Yeğen, Professor Burhan Şenatalar and Süyelman Çelebi, the chairman of the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK), the movement does not have the “one man” problem. Within the movement there is an idea of it being based on grassroots activism.
Yeğen from the movement told Sunday’s Zaman that it is the right time for a new leftist party for several reasons. “The struggle for democracy has improved a lot, the diversification in the left between the statist and militarist left and the democrat left is very clear. The second group is also very clear on the core issues like the Kurdish question and the headscarf issue. In addition to that, the Alevis are looking for a new party,” Yeğen said. The Alevis in Turkey are traditionally considered as the unconditional supporters of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) but for a while they have been looking for other options. Another prominent name in the new left movement is Ali Balkız, the head of the Federation of Alevi-Bektaşi Associations (ABF).
Experts underlined that one of the reasons that a new leftist movement in Turkey was not able to flourish was the Kurdish question. The attitude towards the Kurdish question was also the line which marked the difference between the old and the new left. According to them, the old left defended a militarist solution to the Kurdish question but the new left thinks that the Kurdish language could be used in education and that strong local administrations can be one of the solutions to the problem.
But the pro-Kurdish movement in Turkey always defended ethnic-based politics with the participation of the new left in pro-Kurdish politics; it tried several times to develop policies to address Turkey’s issues but was not successful. The leftist parties which think the Kurdish question is the primary question and that other issues should come later are trying to unite under what they call an umbrella party. But Yeğen, from the new left movement, underlined that they are not against solidarity with pro-Kurdish politics but they are against unification with them since both movements have different opinions on many issues.
But all these three initiatives on the left have not yet turned into political parties. The TDH has made all the necessary preparations to form a party and formed its local organizations and is planning to participate in the 2011 elections. The efforts to form the umbrella party were ceased due to the closure of the DTP but from the very first day, the replacement BDP announced that they will accelerate their effort towards it.
The new left movement is still discussing turning into a party. There is a suggestion that the movement should participate in the SHP because it has fulfilled all the requirements necessary to participate in the elections. But no decision has been taken since some people in the movement think that such a move might lead to a still birth and that it is better to take the cautious steps towards a successful result.