Anti-imperialism, the Middle East and democracy - ERGÜN YILDIRIM

Anti-imperialism, the Middle East and democracy

The anti-imperialist sentiment was one of the most widespread ideologies of the Cold War era. All the National Socialist Arab regimes in the Middle East were holding on to this ideology. All of them were republics. All of them were one-man regimes. All of them were ruled by dictators. They wanted to save their people. They were promising them equality, independence and welfare. Saddam and Hafez Assad defended this political ideology with their Baath parties. Jamal Abdunnasir formulated this with the name Nasserism. In Libya, Gaddafi called it the Green Revolution. These leaders were crying for “revolution.” Everybody was having dreams under the shadow of either the French Revolution or the Bolshevik Revolution. These revolutions caused radical changes with great masses. They created new orders. They changed history.

The Arab National Socialist Republics of the Middle East also thought that through revolutions they could topple the dynasties and create a new order. In reality, what they achieved was not a revolution but a coup. Their coups were based on military juntas. They were representing the people in a utopic sense, and not by interacting with them. These republics were not democratic, and they still aren’t. Those came to power through coups were removed either by coups or with their death.

These socialist, nationalist republics of the Middle East have always been holding on to the anti-imperialist sentiments. At one time, their anti-imperialism was against the U.S. and Europe. Because they lived through the occupation of the colonialists. The officers who grew up in such times wanted to independence by disposing of colonialism. They saw the opposition rising against them as an uprising against their authority. They always blamed the opposition for cooperating with the imperialists so that they could eliminate them. Saddam, at first, fought against Iran’s Islamic Revolution on the order of the U.S. Then it declared war against U.S. imperialism. Former Egyptian President Nasser cooperated with Soviet imperialism against U.S. imperialism.

When the Islamic Revolution took place in Iran, former supreme Leader Khomeini was saying “neither the East nor the West but the Islamic Republic.” This was the birth of a new way. Iran too joined the movement against U.S. imperialism and cooperated with Russian imperialism throughout its war against Saddam. So, Iran’s anti-Imperialism was only against the U.S.

In Turkey, anti-imperialist sentiments have always been used by the left. Anti-imperialism is a leftist ideology. However, this anti-imperialism is only used against the U.S. and the NATO. The Kemalist Kadro journal published between 1932 and 1934 used the anti-imperialist sentiment against the West abroad and against religion within Turkey. This approach was also adopted by the YÖN journal. Mustafa Kemal and the National Struggle too were interpreted through anti-imperialist sentiments. According to them, only that could bring independence. And it was used against the U.S. This is where democracy falls off the map. During the 1970s when the journals YÖN and Devrim (Deniz Gezmiş, D.Avcıoğlu, H.Cemal) were published, they had great resemblance with the anti-imperialist sentiments used by the Arab National Socialist regimes. The left Kemalists are still close to them. This ideological parallel lies beneath their positive approach towards the Syrian regime.

Turkish democracy was not constructed upon anti-imperialist sentiments. Neither was Mustafa Kemal’s modernization movement. On the contrary, he was inspired by Western countries and made peace when the wars he fought against them ended. Turkish democracy has always been developed with rightist politics. It was not looking for a revolution. Independence had already been gained. Instead of producing policies to this end, democratic policies, which would ask the people about their opinions and allows their participation, were adopted. That is why even the most critical politicians found a place in the national assembly. They were given the opportunity for political participation. The parties and politicians that represent the Islamic circles were also among them. Our President Erdoğan who came up from the ranks of the National Vision Movement rose up to the top of the government from the most critical sociological background.

Turkey has a different political tradition both from the Middle Eastern republics’ nationalist socialist structures and from those of the Latin republics. That is why it doesn’t place anti-imperialist politics at its core. It also doesn’t define anti-imperialism only in reference to the U.S. Let’s not forget that states like Russia, China, France, and Britain are also imperialist states. Turkey, in principle, states that the world order created by these imperialists is not just. It uses the notion of justice, not the anti-imperialism sentiment. Erdoğan summarizes this understanding very well by saying “The world is greater than five.”

Anti-imperialist politics have always been going after authoritarianism. They always underestimated democracy. So have the socialist republics of the Middle East and Latin America, and even the Islamic Republic of Iran. They always mobilize their people by means of the fear of imperialism, and they gather them under their trust. Masses lose their free will under the shadow of the authoritarian regimes, which they sought refuge in because of their fear of imperialism.


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