Political parties that long for ruling power find the opportunity to express their long-time wishes during such congresses. The festival-like atmosphere during the CHP congress over the weekend is pretty common. What is important is the reality the atmosphere corresponds to in terms of social, economic and political life. Time will tell the dimension of this reality. The “change” in the CHP is currently a matter of the election of the former parliamentary group deputy chairman as the new party leader, and his pledge to go ahead with a party council again elected from among old CHP members. We will see in the coming weeks whether new council members will function in a different way once their positions within the party change. Is “Gandhi Kemal” an appropriate introduction? There is no need to go that far; what Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu “reminds” us of is Professor Erdal İnönü, a former politician and the son of Turkey’s second president, İsmet İnönü. Kılıçdaroğlu reminds us of the late president with his calmness, silence, politeness and other characteristics.
Political discussions in the CHP carry the traces of an introverted and dominant culture. An interesting example of this is the notorious and classic “CIA agent” accusation.
When Önder Sav decided to support Kılıçdaroğlu, his friends accused him of being a CIA agent. Anyone who heard these words probably had a storm of questions: Did you just discover that he was a CIA agent? If you had known all along then why hadn’t you told the public sooner? Why did you continue to work with a CIA agent? Are there any other CIA agents in the party? If a CIA agent has managed to take over such a critical position, does that mean the people and circles who brought that person to power have ties with the CIA as well?
It doesn’t matter how you answer these valid questions, it doesn’t make the problem go away. Every question and every answer will only serve as a sign of institutional decay. Because once a comment like that is made, there will be questions and conclusions that will follow the ones mentioned above such as these: If Sav is not a CIA agent, then what kind of groundless accusations does the political mind that has accused him make about its rivals? Are we facing a political style that has no moral concerns about whether something is true or false and that pushes aside all kinds of norms for the sake of power? How can we take seriously those who can use such an offensive tone against their own long-time fellow party members in a power struggle within the party when they attack other parties?
A world of words
Politics is a process that depends on words. Every word that is uttered is scrutinized not only for what it means but also for why it was said. It’s obvious that during critical periods in power relationships, this basic means of politics, in other words speaking, can get out of hand. However, every improper word that is uttered is interpreted as a sign that harms the person saying it instead of the person receiving it. There’s only one explanation for why a political circle has no sense of restraint: It is losing. The bitter outcry is the last cry of life on the brink of death. It is the desperate attempt to leave behind some kind of trace. Those who’ve lost their balance during critical periods fail the essential merit test when they are on a platform that includes challenging tasks such as managing the country. When people from different circles regardless of whether they are a member of a party or not see people filled with rage and anger and speaking immoderate words, they say, “We cannot entrust any title or position to them.” The only reason for this conclusion is not because of their susceptibility to lose moderation. Anger is seen as a sign that a political demand per se is not for the sake of the nation but for the sake of a self-centered circle. Vulgar verbal abuse is seen as an attitude that is akin to the violent behavior of a child whose toy has been taken away. Those who can’t make space for objectivity, rationality and interpretation and those who integrate with ruling power down to every cell in their body are confined to the tragic state of being disliked. This lack of having limits and complete integration is a serious source of concern that the ruling power will distribute public benefits arbitrarily. Concerns that short-tempered people who have no limits will not be able to adhere to the public/private distinction when distributing material resources, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly, come to mind.
Who might have believed in the claim that Sav is a “CIA agent?” His enemies and those who believe he sold out and betrayed Baykal might be able to develop a contemporary Brutus story from this and cool their anger. “Why did he betray him? Because he was a CIA agent.” In this way, the pieces fall into place, and Sav’s political stance is placed in an understandable context. The CIA agent accusation serves as an answer to questions boggling people’s minds and puts casual connections into play. Pointing to the betrayal of Baykal gives another justification to the selfish anger and violence that are hard to explain. “We are upset with Sav not just because he suddenly changed political sides but because he did this as a CIA agent.” The second bird hit with the same stone is the new front Sav is joining. Sav played a critical role in the formation of the new front and was able to do this because he is a CIA agent. Those who gather on that side comprise a CIA-made front. “Those who don’t want to be deceived” should abandon the front at once and return to this side, to Baykal’s side.
The accusation has another benefit. It supports the explanation of Baykal’s innocence and the kind of forces he is up against. The rug was pulled from underneath Baykal because he challenged and resisted the CIA, and now he is becoming the person that those who are dedicated to this country need to support.
An orphaned group
Recall the tears that were shed when Baykal announced he was resigning. Of course, it had an emotional side to it. But it was the end of a father figure who represented a collective identity. The tears on the political stage represented the sadness of being orphaned. If tears are shed because of this kind of syndrome, then it’s not surprising for the tone described above to surface. That deep sadness gives way to a rage-filled tone. After this a deep silence comes over everyone. We are now in the second phase. The third phase is on the way. We will witness that silence in the coming period.
The CHP’s basic problem is that it can’t close the gap between its imagination and social reality and that it sees its imaginative power, which can be used as leverage in politics, as a replacement for reality. It insistently takes whatever theory it developed in the beginning as the basis and instead of fixing its theories by looking at the contradictory aspects in life, they religiously ignore them. Turkey’s most religious party that sees its own axioms as indisputable realities is the CHP. The phrase “alliance with the devil” following the CIA accusation is an example that clarifies the dark core of the identity that sees nothing wrong in embracing the sacred language during critical periods. The mentality there, instead of analyzing the party’s common identity, its style of playing politics and its representative quality and contemplating how these correspond to social issues, is in brief basing the entire story on the chairman’s identity. His success will be the party’s success and his failure will be the party’s failure.
They think that if Baykal goes and Kılıçdaroğlu comes, the party’s votes are going to suddenly increase and in fact they are going to come to power. The way this rationality makes all social democrat circles and party officials ineffective and incapable of taking the initiative is overlooked . They think that an individual correction will fix a collective mistake. Even if the CHP looks like it has been divided into two, the common mentality is seated firmly on both sides. The mutually spoken words and the style that is used represent the genetic similarity between those who are presented as being different to each other.
Will the change effect be able to hide the unchangeable background? That’s impossible. Religious parties are destined to be “as we know them to be.” Until a new mentality is formed that is able to overcome all the obstacles and hurdles and acts “as itself” and does not function as a “means for other purposes,” the CHP will continue to be as we know it to be.
*Professor M. Naci Bostancı is an instructor at Gazi University’s faculty of communications.