Category: Politics


This is the second (and considerably edited) version of my 2007 essay of the same name. Time passes, I get old, so does my writing. The part about the ambiguous attitude towards covering (‘türban’) was completely outdated and ‘Duh!’ in 2020 (although my attitude is the same), so it was replaced by a both more universal and more contemporary discussion on death penalty. Also the ending, which was not only ‘ambiguous’ but also a bit confused and evasive, is a little more (I hope) to the point this time. The rest is almost the same, although here and there there are some stylistic interventions. I owe a great deal (for all the updates) to Ezgi (Keskinsoy), who cannot help herself to comment on the content whenever she has the chance. Thank you Ezgi!


 

Between the deliberate falsehood and the disinterested inaccuracy it is very hard to distinguish sometimes… To deceive deliberately – that is one thing. But to be so sure of your facts, of your ideas and their essential truth that the details do not matter – that, my friend is a special characteristic of particularly honest persons… She looks down and sees Jane Wilkinson in the hall. No doubt enters her head that it is Jane Wilkinson. She knows it is. She says she saw her face distinctly because – being so sure of her facts – exact details do not matter! It is pointed out to her that she could not have seen her face. Is that so? Well, what does it matter if she saw her face or not – it was Jane Wilkinson… She knows. And so she answers questions in the light of her knowledge, not by reason of remembered facts. The positive witness should always be treated with suspicion, my friend. The uncertain witness who doesn’t remember, isn’t sure, will think a minute – ah! yes, that’s how it was – is infinitely more to be depended upon!

Hercule Poirot in Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie, 1933.

The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa.

Werner Heisenberg, Uncertainty Paper, 1927.

 

In 1933, Hercule Poirot, the fictional sleuth of Agatha Christie who solves every puzzle using his ‘little grey cells’, demonstrates the futility of ‘positive knowledge’, how it goads its (supposed) possessor into ignoring the details, and since facts not yet framed in a semantic context always assume the character of details, into ignoring the facts, hence bending, distorting, recreating and misrepresenting them in order to conform to a pre-existing, a priori ‘knowledge’. Werner Heisenberg, however, precisely six years before Poirot, demonstrates the impossibility of such knowledge, basing his argument (as a proper scientist always should) not on the undesirable consequences of presumed positive knowledge, but rather on its premises: ‘But what is wrong in the sharp formulation of the law of causality, ‘When we know the present precisely, we can predict the future,’ is not the conclusion but the assumption. Even in principle we cannot know the present in all detail.’ (Heisenberg 1983) What Heisenberg suggests actually coincides with Poirot’s argument: The further we go into detail in our investigation of physical phenomena, the less precise we get. The problem arises when we do not acknowledge this fact and believe our knowledge (of larger, more general physical phenomena) to be absolute, applicable to everything in existence, from the movement of galaxies to the movement of photons and electrons. Therefore, the more we believe our presumed knowledge to be certain, the more likely we are to ignore the minute details (the momentum and/or the position of an electron, for instance) which do not conform to this knowledge. To be sure, the 1926 discussion between Heisenberg and Einstein makes a specification as to the nature of this ‘knowledge’: While Heisenberg tries to specify observable/knowable phenomena with regard to measurability, Einstein challenges him to suggest that observability is directly connected with conformity to a certain theory:

Heisenberg: ‘One cannot observe the electron orbits inside the atom. […]but since it is reasonable to consider only those quantities in a theory that can be measured, it seemed natural to me to introduce them only as entities, as representatives of electron orbits, so to speak.’
Einstein: ‘But you don’t seriously believe that only observable quantities should be considered in a physical theory?’
‘I thought this was the very idea that your Relativity Theory is based on?’ Heisenberg asked in surprise.
‘Perhaps I used this kind of reasoning,’ replied Einstein, ‘but it is nonsense nevertheless. […] In reality the opposite is true: only the theory decides what can be observed.’ (Heisenberg  1969)

Isn’t this exactly what Poirot was criticizing? To bend observable facts in order for them to conform to a pre-conceived knowledge, of a certainty? It seems to be so, unless we take into account a (seemingly) slight shift in terminology: While Poirot is talking about knowledge (even positive knowledge) Einstein is referring to theory, that is, theoria, that is, a gaze, an outlook, an Anschauung. Theory, in the most basic sense of the term, is the way you look at things, and therefore, it goes without saying that it ‘decides what can be observed.’

Knowledge, on the other hand, is something arrived at, and once you arrive there, there is no room for uncertainties: So if details (facts) tend to create unwanted uncertainties, it goes without saying that you should ignore or distort them. Theory is based on uncertainties; the gaze shifts, wanders, wonders, takes in new data, changes, mutates: it represents the uneasy equilibrium of a priori and a posteriori. Positive knowledge, on the other hand, once established, becomes fixed; it doesn’t look anymore, it tells facts what they ought to be: it represents the hegemony of a priori over a posteriori. In short, once the theoretical act coagulates into knowledge, which will become, in the blink of an eye, preconceived knowledge, and loses its self-reflexivity, it becomes a peril, rather than an asset, for further knowledge.

In this sense, positive knowledge, that is, knowledge unquestionably certain of itself, has the possibility of becoming the bedrock of what we today call Fundamentalism, once the gaze is fixed. But wait, Poirot’s uncertain witness will say, isn’t the same positive knowledge also the basis of the Enlightenment, what we know today as the diametrical opposite of Fundamentalism? Nonsense, the positive witness will answer, the same thing cannot be the basis of two diametrically opposite entities, can it now? The uncertain witness remains ambiguous and demands (or requests, depending on their predilection) a further examination of the concepts of ‘Fundamentalism’ and ‘Enlightenment’, with which I will try to comply.

Fundamentalist Knowledge

 Let us consider the poles of the Fundamentalism versus Enlightenment duality more closely: Fundamentalism is a term much used and abused these days, and it is usually coupled with Islam and terrorism (by conservative-liberals), and religious bigotry in general (by liberals in general). The former, narrower meaning is a specific tactical use by neo-conservatives in the rationalization of their global power-politics, so I will deal with it later. In the broader liberal terminology, Fundamentalism means everything that the Enlightenment was against. It is supposed to stand against critical thought and reason, since some fundamental truths are axiomatic for it. Fundamentalists (of Islamic, Christian and Judaist creed) start from presumptions that are not questionable, not open to critical inquiry or to change over time.

The main problem with fundamentalism seems to be that, fundamentalists always positively know that they are right. Once, for instance, you accept as a fact that the Koran is God’s Holy Word, there will be no mention of questioning the political, economic or cultural structure of the society in which you live (as long as it is established according to the principles outlined in the Holy Book), because everything is clearly stated there, from gender relations to inheritance laws, from public administration to the rules that should be followed while buying and selling camels. Conversely, if the society in which you live is not organized according to the book, then you have the right to use every means to transform it. The same thing applies in the other religious structures too: Once you accept the Bible as God’s Truth, you know that the universe was created in only six days, that women should be subservient to men, because, first, they were created as a second thought, just to keep company, and, second, they were the instruments of the original sin. Judaist Fundamentalism seems to be the most tightly organised of them all, since it also entails a racial prejudice along with the religious one, and does not make any allowances even for assimilation. Judaist fundamentalists simply know that the Jews are God’s chosen.

This positive knowledge which stands outside, even opposed to, reason, gives the fundamentalists the superior ethical position to patronize, silence, suppress, oppress and finally annihilate any and all opposing or even sceptical views and positions, since they positively know that the opposition is wrong. This ethical position is the basis for Jihad and the Crusades as extroverted or extrapunitive fundamentalist acts (‘Since we know we are right, everybody should be made to share this knowledge’); or for the self-imposed Jewish closing-in, which is introverted and intropunitive (‘We are right, but they will never know’). Since the basis of all knowledge is a set of unquestionable statements embedded (even hidden, as they are in the case of the Kabbalah) in some holy texts, there is the necessity for a privileged group of people who know and interpret these texts, and guide the rest along the lines drawn in them. This position of guidance is precisely what Kant, as the philosopher par excellence of the Enlightenment, criticized in his definitive essay, What is the Enlightenment. When the rest (or some of them) refuse to be guided, there is only one course of action open to fundamentalist guides: Coerce them, and when it fails, punish them. This is the reason why, although ‘Thou shalt not kill!’ is one of the primary commandments of all monotheistic religions, they never fail to enforce the capital punishment, most of the time arbitrarily.

The Auto-da-Fé constitutes some kind of a zenith among the ultimate acts of fundamentalism, and the curious thing about it was, in spite of the horrors committed, it was not born out of pure malice, but rather made a claim (albeit a false one) to compassion: The shepherd, Cardinal Tomás de Torquemada was leading the herd away from the ultimate danger of damnation by torturing their bodies in order to save their souls. In Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, Ivan tells Alyosha of a story of Torquemada condemning Jesus to death again, this time in 15th century Seville. The old, wizened Grand Inquisitor comes to (still young) Jesus’ cell at night and reproaches him for what he’s done:

Was it not you who so often said then: “I want to make you free”?  But now you have seen these “free” men, […] Yes, this work has cost us dearly, […] but we have finally finished this work in your name. For fifteen hundred years we have been at pains over this freedom, but now it is finished, and well finished. You do not believe that it is well finished? […] Know, then, that now, precisely now, these people are more certain than ever before that they are completely free, and at the same time they themselves have brought us their freedom and laid it at our feet. It is our doing, but is it what you wanted? This sort of freedom? […] For only now […] has it become possible to think for the first time about human happiness. Man was made a rebel; can rebels be happy? [… Y]ou rejected the only way of arranging for human happiness, but fortunately, on your departure, you handed the work over to us. You promised, you established with your word, you gave us the right to bind and loose, and surely you cannot even think of taking this right away from us now. Why, then, have you come to interfere with us? (Dostoevsky 1992, 212-213)

Jesus (if he ever existed) was not a Fundamentalist as a person; he was ambiguous to the last moment on the cross, always questioning. That was the gist of his teaching to people: ‘I will make you free.’ Free to doubt, free to be ambivalent, never to be self-assured even when you are going to die for what you (probably) believe to be true. Torquemada, on the other hand, knew that this freedom was too much for the people, his herd. The burden of doubt, of ambiguity, of choice must be taken from the people in order to make them happy. Torquemada is the true Fundamentalist in this equation, just like Moses was. When Moses and his God tried to coerce the Pharaoh to ‘let Israelites go’, most of what they did would have seemed terrorist acts by today’s standards:

[…] And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.
[…] And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs.
[…] And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one.
[…] Else, if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast.
[…] And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. (Exodus, 7-1)

These five acts, turning the water into blood (chemical warfare), causing a plague of frogs and then of locusts (biological warfare), killing the cattle (sabotaging production), and finally killing all the firstborns, most of whom should be innocent civilians, all sanctioned (indeed implemented) by a mean and unforgiving God, are what today’s fundamentalist ‘terrorists’ are doing, or at least trying to do. It is possible, therefore, to say that after three and a half millennia, the main strategies of the fundamentalists have not at all changed. Once you believe you know, you can steal, sabotage, maim and kill indiscriminately, since it is for the greater good. And the greater good is… whatever you say it is, because you know. The problem with Fundamentalism is not only that it believes that there is an ultimate Truth behind all existence; it is also that it believes this Truth to be knowable in its entirety, and that a person, or some persons, already have access to such knowledge.

How Enlightened is the Enlightenment?

The Enlightenment is supposed to be humankind’s rebellion against their guides who are supposed to know.[1] In Kant’s words:

Enlightenment is the human being’s emancipation from its self incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to make use of one’s intellect without the direction of another. This immaturity is self-incurred when its cause does not lie in a lack of intellect, but rather in a lack of resolve and courage to make use of one’s intellect without the direction of another. ‘Sapere aude! Have the courage to make use of your own intellect!’ is hence the motto of enlightenment. (Kant 2006, 17)

Further along the essay, Kant makes it clear that he was not living in an ‘enlightened’ age, but ‘in an age of Enlightenment’, that is, Enlightenment is only an ideal rather than an achieved or to-be-achieved state, embodied in an ongoing process. Towards the end of his essay, he also warns his age not to try to set up laws and rules which are exempt from change:

One generation cannot form an alliance and conspire to put a subsequent generation in such a position in which it would be impossible for the latter to expand its knowledge (particularly where such knowledge is so vital), to rid this knowledge of errors, and, more generally, to proceed along the path of enlightenment. That would be a violation of human nature, the original vocation of which consists precisely in this progress; and the descendants are thus perfectly entitled to reject those resolutions as having been made in an unjust and criminal way. (Kant, 20)

This warning, aside from reiterating the earlier statement that enlightenment was an ongoing process, also questions the claim that human knowledge is capable of attaining (or having attained) an eternal, unchangeable truth. So, if we are to judge the Enlightenment by Kant’s conception of it, there seems to be no, or little residual fundamentalism in it: Enlightenment is described in Kant as a perpetual questioning of yesterday’s axiomatic truths, although he cautions us this questioning should be in such a way in order not to upset the existing social structure, especially in areas in which organization, coordination and immediacy is vital, such as the military, where you have to ‘obey first and/but argue later’.

Enlightenment, however, was not only Immanuel Kant, nor was it a solely philosophical enterprise. It was also the age in which a new ruling class who, having (almost) acquired economic supremacy in the past century, was trying to reinforce this supremacy with political and ideological power. Although we cannot take a shortcut and say that Enlightenment was an exclusively bourgeois ideological enterprise, without a doubt it coincided with the bourgeoisie’s ascent to political and ideological power, and in this sense its nature is quite ambiguous: on the one hand it bears the marks of independent scientific and intellectual minds, trying to pave the way for unhindered freedom of thought and self-development for all humankind; but on the other, its call for freedom is limited in practice to the bourgeoisie’s need for it, namely, the need for a free market, the need for freedom from all pre-capitalist ties that hinder individuals from interacting in this market (that is, freely selling their labour-power and buying commodities), and, last but not least, the freedom of the working-class from the means of production. This is why many eminent Enlightenment thinkers sometimes seem inconsistent and even hypocritical: Voltaire, while arguing against slavery as such, still benefited from slave trade in a roundabout way, and was even ‘delighted’ when a slave trader offered to name his slave ship after him.[2] Of course Voltaire was not simply being hypocritical: he was only caught up in the inescapable ambiguity that was inherent in the Enlightenment.

The political/ethical face of the Enlightenment is less ambiguous: The American Declaration of Independence (some eighteen years before Kant’s essay) was not free of ‘fundamental’ truths:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Declaration of Independence)

As a matter of fact, the phrase ‘all men’ only applied to white men, and furthermore it was precisely what it said: all men, and not women. To be sure, the Declaration was a giant step away from all men being subjects of the king, a step to be repeated and indeed enhanced in the French Revolution a decade later. But it is a sign that most Enlightenment political/ethical positions to come will share with what we call Fundamentalism the same self-assurance that they are in the right. This is what gave the Jacobins (definitely the legitimate children of the Enlightenment) the right to annihilate all opposing political positions, and while they were at it, each other in the end. This is why all the children of the Enlightenment, from the most docile liberals to the Marxists, are ambiguous towards the French Revolution: both liberals and communists compete in declaring it their revolution, but at the same time they stumble over each other to disown the period from 1792 to 1796, because it is precisely this period that betrays the secret of what we may call ‘Enlightenment politics’. When it is the ideology of an opposition, it stands for the questioning of all existing fundamentalist axioms that pass for truths. Once in power, however, it hastily starts to proclaim its own truths and defends them using the same methods it has learned from its Fundamentalist ancestors.

In his famous Leben des Galilei, Bertolt Brecht creates a scene in which the basic idea of the Enlightenment (that of the scientist, represented by Galileo’s pupil Andrea Sarti) is confronted with that of Fundamentalism (represented by the Catholic Inquisition). Sarti, his mother (Galileo’s housekeeper) and Galileo’s daughter have been waiting outside the chambers of the Inquisition where Galileo was being tried. When the bells begin to toll, signalling that Galileo has repented, his pupil Sarti, who had been hoping for his master to hold fast, to denounce the Inquisition, begins to yell: ‘And the sun is the centre of the cosmos and motionless, and the earth is not the centre and not motionless.’[3] Of course we don’t know that this actually happened, as a historical fact; it is as speculative as the great master mumbling ‘Eppur si muove,’ while leaving the chambers (which statement, by the way, Brecht does not use). What Brecht seems to be trying to do, however, is to show us that Fundamentalism and ‘Enlightenment’ use the same basic syntax. We, as citizens of a more enlightened age, know for a fact that the sun, indeed, does not stand still, and far from being the centre of the universe, it is a very ordinary star at the outskirts of one galaxy among many. The scientist, making some of the necessary observations, may be pretty sure that the existing dominant ideological preconceptions (those of the Ptolemaic universe in this case) are definitely false. But once they try to replace these preconceptions with newer, affirmative ones, they start using the same syntax. The problem with Sarti is, as the precursor and, in Brecht’s play indeed the archetype, of the Enlightenment scientist-cum-ideologist, he is as sure of himself as the Inquisitors inside the chambers. The only thing he lacks is power, and that, the Sartis of the coming centuries will have in abundance.

We could start to see that our basic dichotomy, that of Enlightenment versus Fundamentalism, is a little bit more complicated than what it first seemed: Fundamentalism syntactically includes Enlightenment ideology, and Enlightenment, in its adherence to some fundamental (or ‘self-evident’) truths, axioms which seem to be neutral and objective, but prove to be socially conditioned on close inspection, albeit they are different from those of religious Fundamentalism, is essentially fundamentalist. What we perceive as radicalism in the political and ideological attitude of the Enlightenment and Enlightenment-inspired belief systems, then, is not radicalism at all, but just another aspect of fundamentalism. Radicalism is ‘grasping things by the root’; Enlightenment-inspired ideologies, however, do not grasp things by the root, but rather leave the ‘root’ (of absolute faith in a set of axioms) intact, while aggressively striving to substitute religious axioms with another set of their own. Our dichotomy then metamorphoses into another one between two fundamentalisms, one religious and the other ‘scientific’ (rationalistic or positivistic).
Read the rest

 


[1]I am well aware that my Enlightenment ‘subject who is supposed to know’ (le sujet supposé savoir) completely overlaps with Lacan’s definition of the analyst. This is no mere coincidence: The main difference is that, in Lacan the subject who is ‘supposed to know’, the analyst, is completely aware of the fact that they do not know, and in fact the process of psychoanalysis is the gradual uncovering of this fact by the analysand. The problem with the Enlightenment subject is that they really believe that they know; the supposition is treated as fact. More on this later.

[2] And, by the way, the Enlightenment was precisely the age in which our present concept of ‘Race’ was developed, preparing the ground for 19th and 20th century racism (See the 8-volume Concepts of Race in the Eighteenth Century edited by Robert Bernasconi). Racist bigotry is usually fiercer than the religious one, and crimes committed in the name of ‘race’ (genocides) usually have a greater death-toll and more far-reaching consequences than those committed in the name of ‘religion’, at least in the last two centuries. Still, however, we do not categorize racism under fundamentalism, because it has its roots in Enlightenment ideology, in a kind of Enlightenment science (or rather pseudo-science), of first Lamarckian, and later social-Darwinist brands, in which the hierarchy of races is constructed ‘scientifically’. So, it was no coincidence that the deportation/massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire between 1915-18 was carried out by Ittihat ve Terakki, a political organization then in power with an agenda of Ottoman modernization and Enlightenment, rather than the older establishment which was presumably fundamentalist and conservative, but cosmopolitan and essentially non-racist.

[3] Andrea Sarti: Und die Sonne ist das Zentrum der Welt und unbeweglich an ihrem Ort, und die Erde ist nicht Zentrum und nicht unbeweglich. (Brecht 1963, 127)

Life Philosophy Politics

Most fantasy literature and cinema (and most SF, for that matter), is built on an utter denial of the fact that there is something called ‘material production’. Because it is so boring, isn’t it? It is something we are escaping from: the tedious routine of our everyday lives, the nine-to-five (and sometimes more) of ordinary capitalism, the uninteresting jobs we are forced into, but have to pretend we willingly chose, all these are why we seek refuge in the dreamland of fantasy in the first place, where no one produces anything other than adventure, wars and intrigue. There is one exception to this: weapons and armour have to be produced (so that there can be adventure and wars), so every once in a while, we visit a blacksmith (or the vast Orcish weapon shops in The Lord of the Rings).

There are of course other significant exceptions: David Eddings’ Belgariad opens in a farm, where everybody labours in the fields or is engaged in some kind of productive activity, and the two main characters of the pentalogy, Garion and Polgara, are constantly working in the kitchen. Ged, the protagonist of the Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin, was a goatherd in the Isle of Gont before he became a mage (and eventually the Archmage), and returns to Gont at the end of the third book, to become an ordinary working man, losing his power of magic, although still a protagonist (at least one of them) in the rest of the story.

In SF, things are a little different, but not much: in one of the earliest examples of the genre, The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, there is a huge underground compound of factories, run by disfigured and ‘evil’ Morlocks, as contrasted to the naïve, childish and pastoral Eloi who do not work at all, which disparity is the central metaphor of the story anyway. In one of the better examples of SF TV series, Battlestar Galactica, we observe starships entirely allocated to production, as contrasted to the exclusively military Galactica, but that is almost all.

Ordinary working people seem not to exist (or to matter) in Fantasy and SF. Of course it is not much different in naturalistic (or mimetic) literature and cinema, but this is not our subject matter for the time being. Worse still, it is almost the same in narratives of history, and not only in the French sense either, histoire in French meaning both ‘story’ and ‘history’. It is against this ‘conception of history’ that Brecht wrote his famous 1935 poem, ‘Questions from a Worker Who Reads’:

Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?

In the same poem, he also has something to say about the writers of Fantasy:

Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves.

The people exist only as passive subjects (or rather, a single, enormous and nebulous subject) in Fantasy: protagonists think and act in their name from time to time, make decisions, declare and win (or lose) wars, and the more they play the part of ‘caring’ for them, the more we like these selfless heroes. We pretend to ‘escape’ from the boring, dull reality of everyday to dreamlands, but we bring the most boring ‘fact’ along with us: that there are two kinds of people; the ones who speak, act and matter, the protagonists, and the ones who have to be spoken for, who need heroes to act in their name, and do not matter except as a shapeless mass without wills of their own as persons. These agents/heroes use the swords and drive the chariots they make, dwell in houses and palaces they build, and drink wine from the vineyards they labour in, but the people only make an appearance in their stories as some kind of a ‘damsel in distress’, somebody who need saving. Saving from whom? we are bound to ask. Well, from the antagonists of course, who are also agents/anti-heroes, the mirror reflections of the heroes.

To be perfectly fair, in the better examples of Fantasy and SF, the distinction between the hero and the antagonist is not that black-and-white; there are many ‘shades of grey’, and, in the best of them, even different colours, allowing for a more complex character development, Tolkien’s protagonists (Frodo/Gollum, Gandalf/Saruman and even the short-lived Boromir) being the epitome of this. It is only in the later examples, however, especially in Le Guin, that the incontestable dualism between the protagonist/antagonist and the ‘ordinary’ people is opened to critical inquiry.

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The much celebrated/criticised but in any case eagerly awaited grand finale of The Game of Thrones TV series has been ‘read’ as an ‘in-depth’ and extensive commentary on contemporary politics, complete with observations on populism, comparative government, democracy, feminism, multiculturalism and many more.

As usual, almost nobody was interested in the fact that throughout eight seasons (73 episodes in eight years), there was no indication of how the common people lived their daily lives, how they worked and what they produced, and under which circumstances. When we saw ‘ordinary people’, it was either as ‘victims’ of violence (e.g. Season 8, Episode 5), or its perpetrators (e.g. Cersei’s ‘Walk of Shame’ in Season 5, Episode 10). The only ‘production’ scene we saw was (of course) the blacksmithing of the weapons that could kill the white walkers, and the only ‘main character’ involved in it was Gendry Baratheon, who was very conveniently made a Lord later and inherited his father’s title which was denied to him because he was a ‘bastard’; thus he was forever liberated from such base and menial tasks. If we include ‘intellectual production’ (which we should), Samwell Tarly could be mentioned, who was a self-designated researcher, except that he was always the butt-end of a plethora of anti-intellectual jokes and intimidations all through the series, and an especially biting one in one of the final scenes (more on this later). Needless to say, he was also made a Lord and the Grandmaester in the end.

The three articles I have recently read about the last season (and the Finale) of The Game of Thrones are critical of its ending, all presumably from a socialist/Marxist point of view, but none of them makes an effort to account for this lack of representation of the production process, and consequently its main agent, the labourers, although they do not fail to comment on GoT’s politics. These articles are ‘The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones’ by Zeynep Tüfekçi (in Scientific American ) ’Game of Thrones tapped into fears of revolution and political women – and left us no better off than before’ by Slavoj Žižek (in The Independent ) and ‘The hollowing out of Game of Thrones’ by Simon Guy (in Socialist Review )

Tüfekçi and Guy more or less agree on praising the first seven seasons of GoT and criticising the last season as some kind of a deviation from this course. According to Tüfekçi, the first seven seasons represent a ‘sociological’ approach, telling the story from a ‘sociological and institutional’ point of view, in contrast to the ‘psychological and individual’ approach of the eighth. The argument itself is sound enough, except for the naming, the terminology: since my chosen field is Psychosocial Studies, I would strongly object to creating an artificial duality, sociological/psychological, as if these were terms for different and antagonistic world-views. In doing so, Tüfekçi (maybe involuntarily) accepts a popularised/populistic version of ‘psychology’, as branded by precisely the same establishment she criticises, and denigrates it, hoisting ‘sociology’ to a status akin to a Weltanschauung where it does not belong. The example she chooses is the story of Hitler:

The overly personal mode of storytelling or analysis leaves us bereft of deeper comprehension of events and history. Understanding Hitler’s personality alone will not tell us much about rise of fascism, for example.

Which is absolutely correct, that is, as long as we accept the mainstream definition of ‘psychology’ as the endeavour to depict the personality traits or behavioural patterns of individuals isolated from the network of social and cultural relations they live in. There is, however, another ‘psychology’, e.g., the mass psychology of the Italian and German people between the two wars (as represented, for instance, in Reich’s The Mass Psychology of Fascism), not to mention the many intersections between anthropology, Gender Studies, Postcolonial Studies, Marxism and psychoanalysis, and that brand of psychology indeed tells us a lot about the rise of fascism. Furthermore, no ‘sociological’ approach alone is sufficient to understand the function and transformation of institutions and masses, without taking into account this brand of ‘psychology’. The supposedly self-evident split between sociology and psychology as forcibly isolated ‘scientific’ disciplines within the strictly compartmentalised ‘scientific’ discourse of today, makes both rather useless by themselves.

Having said this, I would of course concede the fact that there is an easily observable difference between the first seven seasons and the last, although I would rather interpret this divergence using Brechtian terms, as a shift from the epic to the (melo)dramatic. The Brechtian epic/dramatic distinction, however, should rather be seen as a scale rather than a mutually exclusive dualism: The GoT was not strictly an epic-dialectic narrative ever, and it did not exactly end up in pure melodrama, although there is a distinct shift from the former to the latter. This shift may not be as radical in content as Simon Guy seems to believe:

The radical critique of class society and colonialism intrinsic to earlier seasons of Game of Thrones was replaced more recently with an individualised tale of psychology, characterised by a deep fear of its original revolutionary potential.

Having read the novels even before there was an idea of the TV show (and of course, having watched the show in its entirety), I would say assigning ‘revolutionary potential’ and ‘radical critique of class society and colonialism’ to it is a bit of an over-interpretation. Admittedly, it was radical enough to represent an at least pseudo-Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt in earlier seasons as contrasted to the last season, in which simplistic, quick and barely-explained fluctuations of behaviour and emotion observable in many main characters, intended to create a cheap emotional response, an easy catharsis in the audience, took over. George R.R. Martin, however, is hardly a Bertolt Brecht in his understanding and representation of class societies; he is rather a (fairly good) fantasy writer with a healthy rage against social injustice, pointless wars for domination and a grotesque lust for power, none of which makes one ‘revolutionary’ per se. But this is all we can expect from Martin: his political ideology fluctuates between the defence of a cursory democratic position and a yearning for a meritocratic order under the guidance of an enlightened despot. To be sure, Martin is not the sole ‘proprietor’ of the show. Although he is involved in every aspect of the production, HBO and the showrunners/writers (Weiss & Benioff) probably had the last word in ‘wrapping up’ the show in a hurry to make time for spinoffs, prequels and/or sequels, and convert the growing popularity of the show into quick cash. Coupled with Martin’s already not-too-firm ideological hold over the huge epic cosmos he created, this undue haste practically ‘ruined’ the last season, at least for many fans.

Žižek’s critique is more extensive, and in especially one respect, more ‘ideologically loaded’. The reference to Stephen King, that the fans were annoyed not at this specific ending but at the fact that there was an ending at all, is a sound argument, revealing the open-ended quality of the universes created in fantasy literature and film. Of course this does not mean that any fantasy novel (or TV series) should not ever end, although some fantasy and SF writers seem to be attempting this impossible task (Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series was an example in this direction). It would rather mean that any ending or denouement should not also terminate the open-endedness of the universe, drain its options and reduce its possible paths and alternate courses of progress to one, that is, to the one which has just ended. What the final season of GoT has done is mostly this in its haste to ‘wrap it up’ (except for some possibilities for sequels, which seem to be necessitated for business purposes rather than a respect for the open-endedness of the fantasy universe), and so the fans have every right to be annoyed, even if they cannot pinpoint precisely what it is that they are annoyed at.

With his critique of the Wagnerian renunciation of female lust for power, I would cautiously agree, maybe calling for a little more attention to the character of Arya, who never made a bid for political power, but nevertheless held more ‘power’ in her hands (at one point saving the entire world of the living), and at the same time successfully refusing to be used by any kind of political power, male or female alike. Unlike the other female protagonists, Arya has never been a nice girl bent on survival (Sansa), a ruthless Machiavellist (perhaps the most ‘Wagnerian’ of them all, Cersei), or a victim with a blind faith in her Birthright and ‘destiny’ (Daenerys). The female protagonist closest to Arya is Brienne of Tarth, the supposedly ‘masculinised’ female knight. Arya, however, differentiates herself even from Brienne, since after they both have their first forays into sexuality in the final season, Brienne loses most of her ‘power’, helplessly crying after her ‘man’ but unable to do anything to assert her former commanding self, while Arya becomes even more powerful with the realisation of feminine sexuality. Her vigilante/feminine power superficially resembles Jessica Jones’ in its ‘darkness’, but she is a better match for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the girl who never uses her power to dominate others, always has her mentors and comrades alongside her, and in the end shares the power with everywoman who have a will to bear it.

The final point in Žižek is the one I most fiercely disagree with: his characterisation of Daenerys as ‘the only social agent in the series who really fought for something new, for a new world that would put an end to old injustices.’ Although he puts a fine point on it by adding ‘old’ to ‘injustices’ with characteristic Žižekian subtle wit, intimating that he is aware of the fact that the Daeneryen ‘new world’ would have had its own share of injustices as well, it is apparent that he sees Daenerys Targaryen as some kind of a true revolutionary force to be reckoned with:

And one cannot help but note that those faithful to Daenerys to the end are more diverse – her military commander is black – while the new rulers are clearly white Nordic. The radical queen who wanted more freedom for everyone irrespective of their social standing and race is eliminated, things are brought back to normal.

We can concede that the claim that Daenerys ‘wanted more freedom for everyone’ is supported by the fact that she ‘freed the slaves’. Only, it was in another continent! In Westeros, where she sought her Birthright, that is, absolute power over the entire continent, there was no systematic slavery at all. The question becomes, therefore, what was her ‘program’, so to speak, to provide ‘more freedom for everyone irrespective of their social standing and race’? And speaking of Westeros, it is important to remember that there were no ‘races’ there, everyone, including the hitherto excluded ‘Northlings’ belonged to the white race. Admittedly, the fault belongs to Martin rather than Daenerys, who imagined an all-white continent, limiting the black race to the ‘other’ continent of Essos. Daenerys ‘freed’ them, not because she was some kind of Moses of Martin Luther King Jr., but to transform the Unsullied, the former slave-soldiers, into mercenaries frantically loyal to herself (rather than the slave-owners).

We can understand what ‘freedom’ means for Daenerys in her very last words to Jon Snow.

Jon: What about all the other people who think they know what’s good?
Daenerys: They don’t get a choice.

So, Daenerys wants ‘freedom’ for people, only as long as she is the only one to ‘know’ what is good for them. What is ‘freedom’, one is bound to ask, if it is not thinking about or imagining what is ‘good’, or what constitutes a ‘good life’, and actively trying to accomplish it? The standard argument here would be that Daenerys did not mean ‘people’, but other Lords, Ladies, Maesters, would-be Kings and Queens: people who have the time and means to ‘think’ what is good for the people, but not the ordinary people themselves. They are too much concerned with everyday survival anyway; left to themselves, they would never go about ‘thinking’ or trying to ‘know’ what is ‘good’, until and unless another war comes about, when they would again be too much concerned with another kind of survival, simply staying alive and escaping the dragon-fire of their saviours. If in the end a new ruler provides them with a slightly better life and means, they should be thankful. ‘Freedom’, in this scheme, is strictly the business of the ‘elite’.

We can, therefore, see that after a wide detour of fantasy (or should we say traversée du fantasme?), we arrive exactly at the place where we started, at what everybody is talking about these days, populism. Let’s ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’, Žižek is not unaware of this: ‘Daenerys [is] a new type of a strong leader, a kind of progressive bonapartist acting on behalf of the underprivileged.’ The argument here should be, of course, whether any Bonapartist can ‘act[…] on behalf of the underprivileged’ or merely pretends doing so, but this is the subject matter of a much longer and much more detailed discussion.

The argument, however, that Daenerys Targaryen had intended to prohibit the involvement of the ‘elite’ in deciding what is ‘good’ for the people and thus ‘setting them free’, is the perfect populist one (doesn’t matter whether ‘right’ or ‘left’, ‘reactionary’ or ‘progressive’) and it is not to be accepted lightly (or rejected in a hurry). In ‘rejecting’ this populist argument, the last episode of GoT quickly (in a matter of minutes) introduces a set of alternatives, ridicules and dismisses one of them (Samwell’s call for ‘representative democracy’ in a feudal order), rejects a return to the status quo pro ante, and summarily decides on a kind of Magna Carta, where an oligarchy decides on who will be the supreme ruler in every generation, abandoning the concept of ‘Birthright’. In doing so, it also dismisses the idea of Empire (the North becomes an independent kingdom). Even this short argument among the ‘elite’ should make us realise the fact that ‘Queen’ Daenerys had not intended to be a Queen after all, but an Empress, because victorious populism unerringly ends up in Empire, in its various incarnations of Caesarism, Bonapartism (of both Bonapartes, one victorious and tragic in the end, and the second ridiculous), Stalinism and Nazism.

We can (and should) discuss the fortunes and misfortunes of populism at length, to our heart’s content. Pro or con, the very fact that this discussion has become so central to our lives and theoretical endeavours, that we can see nothing but its validation or refutation in the ‘ending’ of a TV show is proof enough that it is more than a purely theoretical or political matter. It has become something that touches most of us emotionally, and this emotion is nothing but fear: we fear disorder, we dread the chaos of revolution, rebellion or any kind of destructive transformation, and we are horrified of the directionless (or misdirected) violence of the masses. Accept it or not, we are also terrorised by the prospect of the planet which we have vandalised for centuries may finally hit back, and we cannot make amends without a massive, coordinated effort. We have all read about the Age of Terror following the French Revolution, when everybody was happily guillotining each other in front of cheering masses. We have seen the Russian Revolution turning into a Stalinist dictatorship where even the victims were complicit in victimising themselves. We have seen many revolutions and ‘wars of independence’ in Asia, South America and Africa, ending up in worse dictatorships, massacres and some in open genocides. However radical our words may be, we all are terrorised, and some of us, even in a fantasy universe, have started (albeit under our breath) to pray for Lacan to be completely wrong, that there may be a ‘Big Other’ somewhere after all, an omniscient Philosopher King, a firm-handed but benevolent Glorified Father, an Enlightened Despot to listen to our counsel, somebody!

Žižek’s sympathy for Danerys and his portrayal of her as some kind of an Enlightened Despot, a revolutionary, is understandable in this sense, and it is completely in line with his recent (or maybe not so recent) turn towards a desperate acceptance (ironic maybe, but nevertheless acceptance) of some kind of meritocracy under a Benevolent Ruler. As for myself, I still have no hopes for (or excessive dread of) a Big Other. Whatever will happen, we will make it happen, not with the ‘people’ the populists promote and endorse, which does not exist anyway (‘Le peuple n’existe pas’), but with a different people, not a presumed unity but divided and scattered, split and broken. So in this respect I am completely with Dennis in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

KING ARTHUR: […] We are all Britons and I am your king.
OLD WOMAN: Oh! I didn’t know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
DENNIS: You’re fooling yourself. We’re living in a dictatorship, a self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes…
OLD WOMAN: There you are, bringing class into it again!
DENNIS: That’s what it’s all about. If only—

Politics Popular Culture

 

Muhtemelen 10 Kasım dolayısıyla yazılmış iki yazı okudum dün ve bugün (10-11 Kasım 2018). Birbirlerine pek de yakın olmayan iki yazardan ve yayından: Biri Taner Akçam’ın Birikim’deki ‘Erdoğan’ın İkinci Cumhuriyet’i ve Atatürk’ün Birinci Cumhuriyet’i: Kuvvetler Birliği, Suriye Politikaları ve Tarihle Yüzleşme’[*] yazısı; diğeri ise Fatih Yaşlı’nın Birgün’deki ‘Atatürk’le Aldatmak’[†] yazısı.

İkisi de can-ı gönülden altına imzamı atabileceğim yazılar değil, ama vardıkları sonuçlar açısından ciddi itirazlarım yok. Akçam yazısını şöyle bitiriyor: ‘Özetle, M. Kemal’i savunarak, tercih ederek Erdoğan rejimine karşı çıkılamaz. Demokratik bir Türkiye ancak ve ancak hem tarihindeki hem de bugünkü Tek Adam rejimlerini eleştirerek kurulabilir.’ Yaşlı’nın finali ise şöyle: ‘Bu gerçekler görülmeden, o reklam filmleriyle kendini kandırmaktan vazgeçmeden, Atatürk’ü ve Cumhuriyet’i nostaljik ve romantik değil, politik bir bilinçle kavramadan, yeni bir cumhuriyet kurmanın politik bir mücadele olduğunu bilmeden tek bir adım bile atılamaz.’

Farklı yollardan gelerek benzer bir yere varıyorlar, ki bu sonuca benim de itiraz etmem mümkün değil. Yaşlı, Kemalizme (o ‘Atatürkçülük’ diyor) karşı daha anlayışlı, belli ki Kemalistlerin en azından bir kısmını ittifak unsuru olarak görüyor. Akçam ise (benim de dahil olduğum) Kemalizmi eleştiren gelenekten geliyor. Yaşlı’nın kapanış paragrafını, özellikle ‘Atatürk’ü ve Cumhuriyet’i nostaljik ve romantik değil, politik bir bilinçle kavramadan’ ibaresini ‘kavramadan ve eleştirmeden’ diye okursak (ki eleştirmeden kavramak mümkün olmadığına göre pekala da yapabiliriz bunu), varılan yerler çok farklı olmayacaktır. İkisi de (gene farklı yollardan giderek) bugün vardığımız yerin ‘kuruluş’ evresindeki ‘Cumhuriyet’ olmadığını söylüyor. Yaşlı’ya göre, ‘Cumhuriyet yıkıldı, rejim değiştirildi ve inşa edilen rejimle Cumhuriyet’in ve kurucu felsefesinin uzaktan yakından alakası yok.’ Akçam ise zaten daha baştan bugünkü rejimi ‘İkinci Cumhuriyet’ diye adlandırıyor.

Aralarındaki temel (ve bence çok önemli) fark ise, Yaşlı’nın hâlihazırdaki durumu Cumhuriyet’in temellerine, özsel varlığına yapılmış bir ihanet sonucu olarak değerlendirmesi, Akçam’ın ise Birinci ve İkinci Cumhuriyetler arasında yapısal bir fark görmemesi, ikisini de birer tek adam rejimi olarak değerlendirmesi, ki bu konuda da Akçam’a daha yakın durduğumu belirteyim. Ancak belki de Yaşlı’dan ziyade Akçam’a birkaç eleştiri yönelterek varolan durumu, yani status quo’yu daha iyi kavramamıza yardımcı olmayı deneyebilirim.

Bence varolan durum, 2016 referandumu ve 2018 seçimleri arasındaki iki yılda oluşturulan ve istihkam edilen rejim, Akçam’ın önerdiği gibi ‘İkinci Cumhuriyet’ değil, ‘Dördüncü Cumhuriyet’tir.

Hüküm sürmekte olanın kaçıncı ‘rejim’ (Krallık, İmparatorluk, Cumhuriyet) olduğuna karar vermek için, o rejimin kurucu belgesine bakmak gerekir. Bu açıdan bakıldığında da, bir ya da iki değil tam dört kurucu belgeden bahsetmek mümkün: 1924, 1961, 1982 ve 2016 Anayasaları. 2016 yeni bir Anayasa değil, bir değişiklikler paketi gerçi, ama rejimin temel yapısını değiştirdiği için bir kurucu belge olarak değerlendirilmesinde sakınca yok bence. Bu hesapla, 37 yıl süren bir Birinci Cumhuriyetimiz, 21 yıl süren bir İkinci Cumhuriyetimiz, 36 yıl süren bir Üçüncü Cumhuriyetimiz, ve taze, iki yıllık bir Dördüncü Cumhuriyetimiz var.

Fransa’nın da böyle ‘çok cumhuriyetli’ bir tarihi var, ancak onlar 226 yılda beş Cumhuriyet kurarken, biz 94 yıla dört Cumhuriyet sığdırmayı başarmışız. Gerçi haksızlık etmeyeyim, Fransa’nın farklı Cumhuriyet dönemleri arasına serpiştirilmiş çeşitli Krallık, İmparatorluk ve işgal rejimleri olduğu için, bu 226 yılın sadece 157’si Cumhuriyet rejimi altında geçiyor.[‡]

İşte biz 1990lı yılları ‘Birinci mi, ikinci mi?’ tartışmalarıyla harcarken, aradan sıyrılanlar dördüncüsünü kurdular bile. Baştan belirteyim, bunu espri olsun diye, ya da varolan durumdaki bir akıldışılığın altını çizmek için söylemiyorum. Türkiye gerçekten de Dördüncü Cumhuriyetini yaşıyor. Bunu ne kadar çabuk kabullenirsek, ‘Bundan sonra ne olacak?’ sorusuna da o kadar kolay cevap veririz. İsterseniz bu dört cumhuriyetin kısa tarihçesine bakalım ve bundan ne gibi dersler çıkarabileceğimizi görelim:

Birinci Cumhuriyet, Birinci Evre (1924-1938): Bu evre, Taner Akçam’ın da söylediği gibi, açık bir ‘Tek Adam Rejimi’ olarak kuruldu ve sürdürüldü. İlk yıllarında açılıp kapanan partiler, Takrir-i Sükun Kanunu gibi tedbirlerle açık şiddete dayalı bir yapısı olduğu gibi, son yıllarında da (belki çaresizlikten, belki de ekonomik ve siyasi açılardan görece bir rahatlama geldiği için) giderek yaygınlaşan, ama asla toplumun tümüne yayılmayan bir mutabakatla sürdü.

Birinci Cumhuriyet, İkinci Evre (1938-1961): Bu 23 yıl, Tek Adam’a göre tasarlanmış bir yapının önce bir oligarşiye, sonra da ‘çok partili’ rejime intibak ettirilmesi çabalarıyla geçti ve büyük ölçüde başarısız oldu. Tepedeki kişi(ler) o kadar denetimsiz ve o kadar ‘aşırı yetkili’ idi ki, toplumdaki diğer politik aktörler giderek yok hükmünde kaldılar. O tek kişi ‘Gazi Mustafa Kemal’ iken güç bela sağlanabilen zoraki mutabakat, giderek sağlanamaz oldu, iktidardan dışlanan politik aktörler çareyi askeri darbede buldular.

İkinci Cumhuriyet (1961-1982): 1961 Anayasası seçimle gelen iktidarın üzerine meritokratik (‘liyakat sahipleri’ yönetimi) bir denetim mekanizması yerleştirmeye çalıştı. Bu meritokratik yapı öncelikle yargı oligarşisinden, ama bunların fiziksel/şiddet temelli bir gücü olmadığı için, onlarla tandem çalışan askeri oligarşiden oluşuyordu. Yargı oligarşisi ‘çağdaş, aydın görüşlü’ (yani ‘liyakat sahibi’) kişilerden oluştuğu sürece sorun yok gibi görünüyordu. Ancak iktidar kaçınılmaz olarak ahlak bozduğu için bu hukukçu/asker işbirliğinin sonu çabuk geldi, yeni bir darbe kaçınılmaz oldu.

Üçüncü Cumhuriyet, Birinci Evre (1982-2002): 1982 Anayasası uzun, hantal ve yamalı bohça benzeri bir belgeydi. İç tutarlılığı yoktu, olan kadarı da bu ilk 20 yılda yapılan sayısız değişiklikle imha edildi. ‘Kurucu’ ataların (Evren ve hempaları) dahiyane bir modelmiş gibi tasarladığı, kendilerine bağlı iki partili sistem daha ilk seçimde çökünce, ‘kafana göre takıl’ felsefesi egemen oldu. Bu kaostan anlamlı bir politik önder çıkamadı (Özal, Çiller, Yılmaz, hatta bütün kıymetine ve iyi niyetine rağmen Erdal İnönü’ye bakın), en nihayet hayatının (ve zihinsel melekelerinin) kışını yaşayan bir Ecevit’e umut bağlandı, sonu hüsran oldu.

Üçüncü Cumhuriyet, İkinci Evre (2002-2016): Aralıksız AKP iktidarı. 1924 belgesiyle iktidar yapısının dışında bırakılan, ancak dolaylı yollardan, karmaşık ittifak zorunluluklarıyla (DP, AP, ANAP) iktidara dokunabilen toplumsal kesim, Özal döneminde kazandığı ekonomik gücü de arkasına alarak iktidarı ele geçirdi. 14 yıl boyunca da bu iktidarı kurumsallaştıracak hukuki değişikliği yapabilmek için ittifaklar kurdu, ittifaklar bozdu, eski kardeşlerini/müttefiklerini harcadı, harcadıklarına iade-i itibar etti ve sonunda 2016’da yaptığı Anayasa değişikliğini 2018 seçimiyle perçinledi, Dördüncü Cumhuriyet kuruldu.

Burada Taner Akçam’la anlaşıyoruz: 4. Cumhuriyet, 1. Cumhuriyet’e bir geri dönüş gayretidir. Birinci Cumhuriyet Tek Adam rejimini bir ‘İstisnai Durum’ temelinde oluşturmuştu. AKP ve Tayyip Erdoğan ise Dördüncüsünü ilan edebilmek için aynı (ya da benzer bir) istisnai durumu yaratmaya çabaladılar, 2012’den başlayarak bu yolda ellerinden geleni yaptılar, sonunda 2016’da ‘Allah’ın bir lütfu’ sonucu bu fırsatı ele geçirdiler. Geçirdikleri anda da AKP gereksiz hale geldi, politik sistem içinde bir safraya dönüştü, Tek Adam rejiminin kurumlaşması yoluna girildi.

1924’te durum gerçekten de ‘istisnai’ idi, amenna. Kuşkusuz her istisnai durumun bir Tek Adam rejimi gerektireceği tartışmasız, taşa yazılmış bir kural değildir. Ancak 1. Cumhuriyet, ‘istisnai durum’ iddiasında haksız değildi en azından: Çok uluslu imparatorluktan ulus-devlete geçmek, kapitalizmin küresel düzen olduğu bir dünyada, kapitalist olamasa da uluslararası kapitalizme uyumlu bir ekonomik yapı kurmak, ne anlama geldiğini tam olarak bilmeden de olsa ‘modernize olmak’, gerçekten de bir istisnai durum yaratır. Bu istisnai durumun zorunlu politik ifadesi ille de bir Tek Adam rejimi olmalı mıdır, bunu yıllardır tartışıyoruz zaten. Benim kanaatim böyle bir şart olmadığı, ama ‘millet için en iyisini bildiğine’ inanan kişinin bu şartmış gibi davranmakta beis görmediğidir. Ayrıca her Tek Adam rejimi toplumun bir yarısını baskı altında tutmak, politik azınlıkları ya susturmak ya da imha etmek zorundadır. Ulus devlet kuruluşunun etnik azınlıkları imha etme/sürme zorunluluğunu da buna eklerseniz, 1. Cumhuriyet’in nasıl bir politik kültür mirası bırakmış olduğu kendiliğinden belli olur.

Araya giren 2. ve 3. Cumhuriyet dönemlerinin de bu mirası daha ‘demokratik’ ya da daha ‘özgürlükçü’ yaptığını iddia eden kimsenin çıkacağını sanmıyorum.

Kısacası, 1. ve 4. Cumhuriyet dediğim dönemler, birer Tek Adam rejimi olmaları bakımından birbirlerine benzeseler de, aralarındaki farkları görmek, geleceği hayal edebilmek açısından çok önemli. Ortak yanlarından biri kuşkusuz, otokratların toplumun ancak yarısı civarında bir desteğe sahip olması. Ancak 1. ve 4. arasında bu yarı radikal bir biçimde değişiyor, örtüşen küçük bir oportünistler grubu ve her devrin adamları dışında, neredeyse tamamen farklılaşıyor. 1. Cumhuriyetin kitle tabanı askerler, bürokratlar, ulema dışında kalan eğitim görmüşler, yükselen ya da yükselmek isteyen küçük ve orta boy burjuvalardı; modernleşmek isteyenler, Avrupa’ya bakıp gördükleri meta yığınını ve hayat tarzını arzulayanlardı. Reaya ve esnaf, modernizasyona direnen, olduğu gibi kalmak isteyen ‘mütedeyyin’ yarı ise sessizdi, evine çekilmiş, politik hayattan dışlanmıştı. 4. Cumhuriyetin kitle tabanı ise 1. Cumhuriyet döneminde dışlananların torunları oldu. Bunların bir kısmı 1980lerde ve 1990larda ekonomik güç kazanmıştı, daha büyük kısmı ise yarı-modernleşmişti, ‘Batı’nın metalarını arzulayıp kültüründen nefret etmeyi öğrenmişti. Geçmişte kendisini aşağılayan, hor gören, bastıran kalabalığa karşı da kin, nefret ve intikam duygularıyla doluydu. Bu defa bastırılan, geçmiş dönemin ‘modernize’ olmuş büyük azınlığı oldu; zamanla onlara Kürtler (en azından çoğunluğu) de katılmak zorunda kalacaktı.

Bu farkı şunun için özellikle vurguladım: Hiçbir otokrat, kendi kitlesini oluşturamaz, yaratamaz, şekillendiremez. Tam tersine büyük bir hızla kendi kitle tabanına, temsil ettiklerine benzer, onlara dönüşür. Bu nedenle Mustafa Kemal ile Tayyip Erdoğan birbirlerine benzemiyorlar, sadece yapısal olarak işgal ettikleri konum aynı. Daha önce belirttiğim farkı, yani Mustafa Kemal otokrasisinin gerçek bir ‘istisnai durum’dan, Tayyip Erdoğan otokrasisinin ise kurgulanmış, aranıp bulunmuş bir ‘istisnai durum’dan kaynaklandığını da düşünecek olursak, iki Cumhuriyet arasındaki temel iki benzemezliği de ortaya koymuş oluruz.

Mustafa Kemal yeni bir status quo yaratmıştı. Tayyip Erdoğan ise status quo pro ante’ye dönmek istiyor. Kendinden öncekine, ya da ondan bir öncekine değil. Hatta 1. Cumhuriyetin ikinci evresine bile değil. 1. Cumhuriyetin birinci evresindeki status quo’ya dönmek istiyor. Ve tarihin ironisine bakın ki, bu en bağnaz Kemalistlerin istedikleri şeyle bire bir örtüşüyor. Üstelik Tayyip Erdoğan bu geri dönüşü kitle tabanını neredeyse tamamen sabit tutarak yapmak niyetinde de değil. Tersine, eski (en eski) rejimin sadık savunucularından bir kısmını da yanına alarak, tabii ki kendisine biat ettirerek yapmak istiyor. Bu proje başarılı olursa (ki kanaatimce bu şansı çok az), 1. Cumhuriyetin ‘Batının teknolojisini ve metalarını alalım, ama kültürümüz ve ananelerimiz değişmesin’ fikrini de yeniden gündeme getirmiş olacak, bu imkansız arzuyu bir kere daha gerçekleştirmeye çalışacak. 1. Cumhuriyet ve onu izleyen 2. ve 3. Cumhuriyetler, bu fikri uygulamaya koymayı becerememiş, ne teknolojiyi tam olarak alabilmiş, ne de kültürü koruyabilmişlerdi. Tayyip Erdoğan bunu başaran ilk lider olmayı hedefliyor işte. Başarı şansı ise sıfıra yakın.

Bu eleştiriler dışında, Taner Akçam haklı. Fatih Yaşlı da çok uzak değil haklı olmaya. Yaşlı status quo pro ante’ye dönüşten değil, ‘yeni bir Cumhuriyet kurmaktan’ söz ediyor, Akçam ise iki Tek Adam rejimini de eleştirerek bulunacak yeni bir yoldan. Aklın ve eleştirel düşüncenin bugünkü kadar kökten imha edilmemiş olduğu bir dünyada, farkları sabit kalarak uzlaşmamaları için bir neden olmazdı. Ancak maalesef o dünyada yaşamıyoruz. En azından onları ‘savunan’ birileri, o ‘yeni Cumhuriyeti’ kurma çabasına girmektense birbirlerine hakaret etmeyi tercih edecekler. Oysa yol belli: Status quo korunamaz, status quo pro ante’ye de dönülemez. Üçüncü bir yol bulmak gerek; ikisini de eleştiren, benzerliklerini ve farklarını da görerek ikisinin oluşturduğu düzlemi ve düzeyi aşmayı/dönüştürmeyi hedefleyen bir yol.

Belki o zaman Fransa’nın elli yıl önce bulduğu çözüme benzemeyen bir çözüm bulunabilir: Fransa’nın yarı-otokratik 5. Cumhuriyetinin kurucu babası De Gaulle’dü. 1958 referandumundan sonraki ilk Cumhurbaşkanı da o oldu. 1965 seçimlerinde ikinci kez Cumhurbaşkanı olduğunda kendisinden o kadar emindi ki, yönetim sistemini biraz daha merkezileştirme hedefli bir anayasa tasarısını referanduma götürdü. 1969 referandumunda hezimete uğradı, ikinci dönemini tamamlamadan istifa etti, çekip gitti. Fransızlar maalesef yeni (Altıncı!) bir Cumhuriyet kurmaktansa elde olanla idare etmeye çalıştılar; elli yıl sonra geldikleri yer ise belli: Bir yanlarında Marine Le Pen ve faşistleri, öteki yanlarında ise Macron ve onun belirsiz, kafası karışık ‘Tek Adam’ bile olamayan rejimi. Status quo çöktüğünde kaderimiz Fransa gibi olmasın istiyorsak, sonrasını şimdiden düşünmeye başlamamız gerek; gideni ve gelmekte olanı anlamaya çalışarak.

[*] http://www.birikimdergisi.com/guncel-yazilar/9202/erdogan-in-ikinci-cumhuriyet-i-ve-ataturk-un-birinci-cumhuriyet-i-kuvvetler-birligi-suriye-politikalari-ve-tarihle-yuzlesme?fbclid=IwAR3szyfSRJzSOFnoKBmDWIHP8uGsHAL2Rfe7NW8raSlx8Ld_3flmiQsUrYM#.W-gprSdryqC

[†] https://www.birgun.net/haber-detay/ataturk-le-aldatmak-236398.html?fbclid=IwAR31eH0io850dMdbez7-_azZ-rK2FAE0zMhfOeEFrg97JaunouLaJwVM6XY

[‡] Fransa ‘Cumhuriyetlerinin’ kronolojisi, karşılaştırma açısından faydalı olabilir:

1792-1804          =          12          (Birinci Cumhuriyet)

1804-1815          =          11          (Birinci İmparatorluk)

1815-1848          =          33         (Restorasyon-Krallık)

1848-1851          =            3         (İkinci Cumhuriyet)

1851-1870          =          19         (İkinci İmparatorluk)

1870-1940          =          70        (Üçüncü Cumhuriyet)

1940-1946          =            6        (Alman İşgali)

1946-1958          =          12         (Dördüncü Cumhuriyet)

1958-                =            60         (Beşinci Cumhuriyet)

 

Politics

24 Haziran seçimlerinin tek sürprizi var: MHP’nin %11 oy alması. Ancak sürece 2017 başından itibaren baktığınızda, geri kalan her şey sürpriz sayılsa da bir tek bu sonucun aslında sürpriz filan olmadığını, aksine beklenmesi gerektiğini görebilirsiniz. Şahsen ben göremedim. Fox TV ekranında, gözlerim sol alt tarafa kilitlenmiş, HDP’nin adım adım baraj üstüne çıkmasını izler, bir noktadan sonra da RTE’nin oylarının %50’nin altına düşme ihtimalinin pek kalmadığını tevekkülle kabullenirken, %11 küsura kilitlenmiş duran MHP oylarında bir hikmet aramak çok geç geldi aklıma. İyi bir illüzyonist gösterisinde olması gerektiği gibi, doğru anda yanlış yere baktık hepimiz; bu arada olan da oldu.

Halbuki, Devlet Bahçeli’nin 1 Kasım 2015 oylarını bir şekilde koruma garantisi almadan, RTE’yi önce Başkanlık Referandumuna, sonra da erken seçime zorlama ihtimalinin olmadığını, olamayacağını düşünmemiz gerekirdi, yapamadık.

Bahçeli’ye o garantiyi kimin, kimlerin, nerelerin verdiği konusunda spekülasyon yapmaya kalkışmayacağım. Bir açıdan bakarsak, zaten pek mümkün değil bunu bilmek. Mümkün olsa bile, bunun için, artık nesli tükenmekte olan ‘araştırmacı gazetecilerden’ bir taburun, bir dizi hayırlı rastlantının (aslında Ümit Kıvanç’ın harika tabiriyle ‘Araştırmacı Kamyonculuğun’) da yardımıyla, uzun uzun çalışması gerek.

Ancak, o ‘sürpriz’ %11, 24 Haziran gecesi hepimizi bir süre meşgul eden ‘Akşener, İnce ve Kılıçdaroğlu nereye kayboldular?’ spekülasyonlarının ve giderek komplo teorilerinin gerçek nedenidir. Bir komplo vardıysa bile, onu gerilerde, 2017 başlarında aramak gerek; yoksa ‘Rehine alındılar, tehdit edildiler, kaçırıldılar,’ spekülasyonlarının ömrü, haysiyetli bir komplo teorisi olmaya bile yetmeyecek kadar kısa olacaktı, nitekim öyle de oldu.

Kanaatimce, MHP’nin %11’i ve ona sıkı sıkıya bağımlı olan RTE’nin %52,5’i, İnce, Kılıçdaroğlu ve Akşener cephelerinde önceden hesaplanmamış, senaryosu yazılmamış bir durum yarattı. Ortadan kaybolmalarının, pot kırmalarının ve sonunda ‘Dağ fare doğurdu,’ kıvamında açıklamalarla işi geçiştirmelerinin gerçek nedeni bu olmalı.

İnce/CHP cephesine bakalım. Bu ikisinin A planı, RTE’nin %45-49, MHP’nin ise %5-8 bandında kalacağı ve Cumhur’un bir blok olarak mecliste azınlığa düşeceği üstüne kuruluydu muhtemelen. İkinci tura bu koşullarda gidilecekti. O zaman ya bu ‘yenilginin’ vereceği hayal kırıklığıyla RTE seçimi ucu ucuna kaybedecekti (küçük ihtimal), ya da ucu ucuna kazanacaktı (büyük ihtimal). Ancak o zaman da %45-49 bandında oy almış bir İnce, ‘Tamam koçum, görevini layıkıyla yerine getirdin, artık milletvekili de değilsin, git Yalova’ya emekli ol,’ diye geçiştirilemeyeceği için, toplumsal muhalefetin önderi olacak, kısa sürede CHP’nin başına geçecekti. B planı ise RTE’nin birinci turda seçilmesi, ama Cumhur’un azınlıkta kalması olurdu bu durumda (gene MHP’nin %11’i düşünülmeden). Muhtemelen buna uygun bir senaryosu da vardı İnce/CHP cenahının; muhtemelen gene İnce’yi ön plana çıkaracak, Meclis ve RTE arasında acil bir krizi zorlayacak bir senaryo.

Ancak hem RTE’nin birinci turda seçilmesi, hem de Cumhur’un mecliste çoğunluğu sağlaması ihtimali muhtemelen hesaplanmamıştı. 24 Haziran gecesi saat 22.00’den sonra başlayan iletişimsizlik, sakarlık ve kafa karışıklığı da bundan kaynaklanmış olmalı.

Akşener cephesinde de benzer bir durum var: İP’nin hesabı, parlamento seçimlerinde çok parçalı bir meclisin üçüncü partisi olmak, Başkanlık seçiminin ikinci turunda ise yüksek pazarlık gücü olan bir faktöre dönüşmek üzerine kurulu olmalı. Ancak bu ikisi de olmadığında Akşener’in önceden hazırlanmış bir cevabı kalmadı. Akşener İnce kadar heyecanlı bir politikacı olmadığı için, ‘Adam kazandı!’ benzeri bir pot kırmadı, ancak iki günlüğüne de ortadan kayboldu, ortaya çıktığında ise etkisiz, sade suya tirit bir açıklamayla yetindi.

24 Haziran gecesi dönen komplo teorilerine bir anlam vermek gerekirse, tepkisiz ve sessiz geçirilen yaklaşık iki saatin, her iki partinin (ve İnce ile Akşener’in), var olduğundan şüphe etmememiz gereken ‘derin devlet’ haber kanallarına danışıp, bu işin içinde bir iş olup olmadığından emin olmaya çalışmalarına gitmiş olması ihtimali çok yüksektir. Yani aslında hepsi o %11’e bir anlam vermeye çalışıyorlardı ‘içeriden’ bilgi arayarak.

Şimdi ise ‘Çanak çömlek patladı’ gibi görünüyor. Bu ihtimaller kümesini hesaplamamış olan İnce/Kılıçdaroğlu/CHP içinde ve arasında bir iktidar kavgası kaçınılmaz, ancak bunun açık açık mı, yoksa kapalı kapılar ardında mı olacağını birkaç gün içinde görürüz.

Meral Akşener ile taze ve örgütsüz partisi, bu durumda nasıl ayakta kalır, mecliste nasıl ittifaklar arar ve gelmekte olan ciddi (hata ölümcül) kriz döneminde ne tarafa meyleder, onu görmemiz için de aylara ihtiyaç var.

Bu arada HDP’nin oyu %12’ye yaklaştı (yani hem MHP’yi hem de İP’yi aştı), mecliste 67 milletvekili olacak (yani hem MHP’den hem de İP’den fazla). Ben birkaç gün buna sevinmek ve bununla ilgilenmek istiyorum izninizle.

 

 

Politics

 

Frankly, I had been sick and tired of friends of my generation (in their early and mid-sixties now), repeating over and over again that we should “retire” from left-wing/revolutionary politics and make room for the younger generation. There was even one who suggested collective (literal) suicide. It is true that with our old habits and convictions, our experiences that we have interpreted and digested one way (but not in other possible ways), with our grudges and petty comforts, we usually acted as plugs, corks or stoppers, in short, pains in the ass. There seemed, on the other hand, to be no overflowing fountain of youth to be stopped or hindered by our old and worn off (but persistent) existence, at least for the last three or four decades.

Well, this sequence in history seems to be coming to an end.

We are approaching the 50th (Golden!) anniversary of one of the most significant anti-systemic revolutions of our time: 1968 is fifty years old next year. Immanuel Wallerstein called it a “World Revolution”:

For 1968 shook the dominance of the liberal ideology in the geoculture of the world-system. It thereby reopened the questions that the triumph of liberalism in the nineteenth century had closed or relegated to the margins of public debate. […] Liberalism did not disappear in 1968; it did, however, lose its role as the defining ideology of the geoculture. (Immanueal Wallerstein, After Liberalism, p. 139)

1968 was usually described as a “youth movement”; so much so that the radical wing of the movement in the US called themselves “Yippies” (not to be confused with “Yuppies”), the Youth International Party. Throughout these five decades we have exhaustively argued about the problems of positing the main conflict as “Young/Old”. Shouldn’t race, gender, sexual orientation or (as I should have argued as a Marxist) class be the determining divide? Can “Youth” be defined as the bearer of the revolutionary aspirations of an era? Well, yes and no. Of course age is not, cannot be, the determining factor in social change. But gender, sexual orientation or race are not, either—by themselves. Class seems to be such a factor, especially to those of us of the Marxist convinction, but the fates of various revolutions since late 18th century have shown us over and over again that it is not exactly the case in practice. Class actually is the main divide, but little does this determination help us in resolving revolutionary moments (and their aftermaths) in actual history. Class, to use a very shaky metaphor, is the explosive matter; say, gunpowder or TNT. It needs, however, a fuse to become active. Depending on the specific circumstances of an era and culture, this fuse can be women, queer people, immigrants, “inferior” races (the “subaltern” in general, so to speak) and definitely Youth. Without the fuse, the explosive matter remains inert. Without the explosive matter, on the other hand, the fuse just fizzles. For a revolution, we need both (all these potential fuses are, in one way or another, included in the explosive matter anyway). And even this is not enough: we also need an inability on the part of the ruling classes to rule, an inability to juggle the intricacies of class, gender, sexual orientation, race and age, to play them one against the other in order to keep the status quo intact. 1968 was one such event. It exploded and shone brightly for a very significant historical moment. It did not just fizzle, it changed things, it changed the ways we perceived the world, the ways we perceived each other, it changed our language and our way(s) of life in such a way that it can never go back. Then it withered away, and the ruling classes, licking their wounds, re-established the status quo pro ante. But it was not exactly pro ante either. Because even in cases of total defeat, revolutions change things.

Politics

Yes, there is a very significant current of populist nationalism (or nationalist populism—your choice) in the world, not only in the “East” where the despotic state has historic roots (see Modi, Putin, Erdoğan, not to mention Kim Jong-Un), but also in the “West”, which is (supposedly) relatively grown free of these roots (see Trump, Johnson/Farage, Wilders, Le Pen). Yes, those so-called “leaders” think, act, and sometimes look alike. It is, however, too easy (and often misleading) to think of them as “racist guys with weird hair”:

This approach, of course, tends to forget Marine Le Pen who is not a “guy” and has her hair usually under control, and also neglects to mention that for these new-fangled petty would-be dictators, the hair is the easiest aspect to get under control. As a matter of fact, Putin and Erdoğan have no “hair trouble” to speak of, although they are no better in the racism and authoritarianism departments.

The real (and serious) question is, whether there is any lingering, profound truth behind these much talked-about and advertised similarities. That all these leaders are nationalists, populists, and most of the time racists, goes without saying. But what of it? There always have been, and probably will be in the foreseeable future, many of these so-called “politicians”. In what way are they significant at this precise juncture in history?

To start with, it is our reaction to them that is significantly different. And, unfortunately, this reaction is a carefully manipulated and tailored one: we are asked (even goaded) to believe that this new generation of “politicians” are replacing neoliberalism. Neoliberalism, which is supposed to be no different from liberalism, but only newer and shinier; a regime that guarantees our liberties (as long as such liberties do not threaten the perpetual survival of capitalism); a regime that guarantees our happiness (as long as such happiness is found in the unconditional submission to the free market). So, we are supposed to be threatened, because the system that guarantees our liberties and happiness is going to be replaced with something much nastier, isn’t it?

This is the kind of manipulation we are dealing with. So, we are expected to support neoliberals against the “populists”; Hillary Clinton against Trump, Macron against Le Pen, Rutte against Wilders. Nobody asks whether we like Hillary, Macron or Rutte—we are asked to decide not by what we prefer, but by what we want to avoid. Even the phrase “lesser of two evils” is not pronounced much—we are not supposed to think of these choices as “evil” at all, lesser or greater.

Politics Uncategorized

The Guardian published an article about the recent (mis)adventures of Donald Trump by John Daniel Davidson (February 5, 2017), supposedly offering an alternative approach, but only ending up in the same populist/Bonapartist narrative as Trump himself.

What is terribly wrong with this article is that it puts us in an either/or situation. Trump is not only a self-absorbed, narcissistic, racist bigot (maybe not exactly a fascist, but the difference is undetectable right now), but also a clever politico who can exploit the need for change in a considerable percentage of the US population. The fact that the American people was forced into an impossible and sad referendum between Trump and Hillary, was the problem itself. It seemed that in this impossible choice Trump stood for “change” and the “people” and Hillary for the status quo and the elite, but this is no more than an illusion. Nobody stood for real change and for the people: they both stood for the status quo and the elite, but only for different status quos and different elites. Both of them won by a small margin (one the popular vote, the other the Presidency) and Trump became President. If Hillary had won, we would have been a bit more comfortable (or rather, blissful in our own ignorance), because hers is the more familiar status quo (hence less “uncanny”) and the more “professional” elite.

But at this point in history, neither had the means or willingness to resolve the formidably complex issues facing US capitalism. Sanders did have the willingness (but probably not the means), so he was discarded by the Democratic establishment. By doing this, the Democratic Party conceded a possible Trump win, but they probably hoped that Trump couldn’t survive four years of untruth, bullying and ignorance, or, failing that, were sure that even if he did, he could only pave the way for a huge conservative-Democratic victory in 2020. Exactly like the situation in Turkey for the last 15 years. If the Democratic Party had studied the events in Turkey a bit better, however, they could have seen the possibility that Trump might be a keeper, and disrupt and dismantle the status quo in the US without even realising that he was doing so, and do this over and over again, always finding a way to keep popular support even if by the skin of his teeth.

By the way, this is not something we should be unconditionally cheering about (“Hooray, the US system is going down the drain!”) Not because we like the existing status quo, but we, too, are completely unprepared for what is to come next. Again, look at Turkey: there is no rational, defendible oppositon to what is happening, because the existing opposition (both from the left and the right) had already conceded to the status quo, offering no alternatives but the narrative of an abstract “change”, which the AKP and President Erdoğan had already hijacked. Even the far left who seemed to be exteremely critical of the status quo (both “old” and “new”), didn’t have a hope that it could be changed or a clue about how it could (and should) change. Now that it is being forcibly changed (for the worse) by the recent Constitutional Amendment, establishing a “Presidential System” without checks and balances or a functional parliament, everybody is trying to shake off the paralysis and only now trying to think of ways of offering an alternative other than a simple “No!”

Let us hope that the Americans are wiser (and luckier) than us.

Politics Uncategorized