48 Years After May 27, 1960 – Some thoughts on the coup
May 27, 1960 is the turning point for the Turkish political system and the Turkish army. Nothing stayed the same after that May afternoon. The army by carrying out the coup, consciously or unconsciously opened the pandora’s box.
Turkish Republic was established through the command of the nationalist soldiers, the creme de la creme of the Ottoman bureaucracy. They managed to built a hegemonic bloc for some seconds through the culmination of forces with the secret society, the sidelined, peripheral forces such as the religious brotherhoods stretching from the Naksibendis to Kadiris, the counter-society.
The leadership headed by Mustafa Kemal, later sidelined these traditional elements, and through the positivist weltanschauung which which they inherited from the former Committee of Union and Progress they began to construct a new Turkey.
in this imagined society, the army as other social actors had a predetermined place and role. Mustafa Kemal and all his friends experienced the politicisation of the army during the CUP years, and they themselves were a mere product of this decade, 1908-1918. For them, this brought with it a degeneration of the army, reminiscent of the corrupt Janissaries. Furthermore, Mustafa Kemal knew well that many of his comrades who fought against the enemy at his side, once the waters calmed down, were ready to confront his Jacobin appearance. The fact that they could at the same time hold their posts within the army also opened the way of the division of the military corps into different cliques, like the CUP years. Therefore, the Kemalist leadership decided to approve a law which forces military personnel aiming to pursue a political life to resign from their posts. This was the realisation of Mustafa Kemal’s plan which he managed to work out within the CUP during the 1908-1910.
The Turkish army by then were trusted to Field Marshall Fevzi Cakmak, who carried out this role without interruption up until 1944. The President, the prime minister and the chief of staff was the trio which was intact and which was designed to be intact. following the promulgation of the republic civil obedience was not achieved and many revolts took place in the Kurdish region which then lead the way to the Seyh Said incident. The main role of the army during this establishment years were to protect the fragile Republic, to be service of the Kemalist revolution, to be the integral part of the Vanguard, the Republican Guard, and they did so during the whole period.
Things began to change by the end of the Second World War. Their relative autonomy which was labelled by the Marshall was in a way broken. President Ismet Inönü, the “Milli Sef – National Chief” knew that he lacked the charisma of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and also were aware of the many cliques within the Republican elite who were eager to take him down. Fevzi Cakmak was 67 years old, and the upcoming negotiations with the allied powers required someone else and making things worse, his relations with Ismet Inönü was not so friendly during the 1944s.
Thus 1944 was the beginning of a new era for the Turkish army, its relative autonomy was limited and connected directly to the seat of the President. During the 1946-1950 period, Turkish army experienced one of its greatest transformation in terms of strategy and equipment and also organisational culture. The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan enabled the modernisation of the military, and a new spirit, the spirit of the soldiers of the free world began to diffuse to the organisational memory. The DP which won the elections in 1950, continued the Ismet Inönü tactic of having friendly and loyal and humble Chief of Staff to avoid possible coup attempts.
In 1950, the topic was the modernisation of the army, from toe to head. Commanders who had a reputation of being extreme loyal to Ismet Inönü were sidelined, and the NATO connection began to open a gap between the senior soldiers who had close relationships with the Democrat Party and the young soldiers who had a different training in the NATO circles and were socialised in an era of rising Nasserism in the Middle East. Samuel Huntington would soon began to produce his books on the Soldier and the state, and the bureaucratic-military forms of state as the leader of the modernisation movement.
27 May 1960 happened, we have to understand how and why it had happened. We have to understand when the rift between the government and the army and other social classes began, and how did it develop to the point of military intervention.
First of all, we have to understand the Phenomenon of the Democrat Party. For reasons of parsimony we will take the democrat party as a coalition of dissident members of the former State Party, so members of the State elite, or the Vanguard, who were also members of the liberal, growing bourgeoisie which was backed up by the state to be a loyal member of the Republican le3ading elite. They were also successful in taking the people into their side. With the 1950 election, the Democrat Party stole the “Halk” in the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi. Their populist appeal, after many years of distanced and cool RPP elite opened up the energy of the country. The DP also had a hegemonic project, to create a new Turkey, a new imagined community.
They knew that their dreams could only come true, through the Foreign aid and loans. Because instead of giving emphasis to the diachronic dimension of planning and governing, they chose the synchronic dimension of populism and patron-client relationships, which in the long run drove the economy to dire straits. At this stage, the attack on the old regime and the images of the old regime was then the backbone of the populist discourse. The DP had a complex against Ismet Pasa according to my belief. Even Ismet Pasa was represented at the parliament with an extreme minority, the DP leadership loved the confrontation. The deficit of the democratic culture was paramount at this respect. All were socialised during the Kemalist era and before, and all had no idea f nothing about democratic participation and democratic politics. Democracy was the demir-kir-at, the iron-pale-horse, it was a symbol not an idea, not a philosophical starting point. And it was the predicament of the Turkish political system which continued to evolve.
Secondly, the old segment of the bureaucracy though staying intact, suffered a great deal of loss of reputation. The new historical structure, the Pax Americana, and Turkey’s inclusion to this system during the DP, meant a change of guards in terms of both reputation, legitimacy and material capabilities. The new social classes while flourishing began to take the place of the urban bureaucratic class, and the loss of material conditions also created an envy mixed with anger. The young soldiers were also while being politicised had to cope with the loss of reputation and material difficulties.
Thirdly, during the 1957 the liberal wing of the Democrat Party were purged and formed the Hurriyet Partisi. The loss of the intellectual, liberal segment of the party meant the rise of the populist wing. The HP also represented to some extent the Istanbul bourgeoisie who began to criticise the populist policies of Adnan Menderes and wished to initiate a planned economy which would favour the industrialists.
Fourthly, Adnan Menderes’ hard stance towards the media and the universities, or the alienation of the active minds, who were to help the construction of the hegemonic mentality, dislodged from this purpose. Kara Cüppeliler, Black Hoods were Menderes’ ideas about this elite.
Fifth, the hegemonic power and the hegemonic bloc also began to feel irritated about the rising populism and were in search of finding a new strategy to stop the rise of the leftist ideals within the so-called free world. Populism would eventually lead to social divisions and radicalisation. Furthermore, they needed an alternative to the Soviet planned-economy perspective. The IMF and the World Bank also were in favour of the establishment of a planned economy in Turkey and put an end to the populist appeal.
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