The young Turkish Republic, although it was founded only 87 years ago, faced many problems in its short history and still continues to struggle against most of these problems today… This paper aims to show these problems of Turkish Republic with respect to Metin Toker’s “Demokrasiden Darbeye” (From Democracy to Coup D’Etat) book that contains precious information about the problematic 1950-1960 Democratic Party period. I will begin by giving information about the book and the author and then I will move on to the summary of the book. Thirdly, I am going to make critical analysis of the book.
The book “Demokrasiden Darbeye” was published in 1991 by Bilgi Broadcast Company (Bilgi Yayınları) and was written by famous Turkish journalist and writer Metin Toker. It is the fourth book of Metin Toker’s seven-booked series “Demokrasimizin İsmet Paşalı Yılları” (Our Democracy’s İsmet Pasha Years). The book is in memoirs format and consists of 353 pages. Metin Toker (1924-2002) was with no doubt one of the most respected and reliable journalists of Turkish media that is expert in creating sensational, made-up news. Toker was born in 1924 in İstanbul. He studied literature in İstanbul University and then continued to his education in The Political Science Institute in Paris. After finishing his education in Paris, he returned to Turkey and published Akis magazine, a popular journal which was critical of DP authoritarianism. The magazine was later banned by Democratic Party and Toker was sent to prison for two years. Toker worked in many newspapers (for long years in Milliyet) and tried to enlighten many important political events by using his connections and making back door diplomacy. Metin Toker was married to İsmet İnönü’s daughter and Erdal İnönü’s sister Özden İnönü (Toker) and thus, had chance to get inside information for many events. However, this closeness to İnönü family and Republican People’s Party also created some problems for him as an objective journalist.
Toker’s book basically tells us about the fall of Democratic Party’s legitimacy in the eyes of Turkish people and the coming of 27 May 1960 coup d’état (revolution for some people). The book mostly deals with Democratic Party rule during 1957-1960, an eventful period that took place after the controversial 1957 elections. In the foreword section Metin Toker explains his worries about the interruptions of Turkish democracy with military interventions. In the book, there are many memories of Metin Toker that put light to the conditions of that time. After foreword section, he begins to explain reasons that prepared 1960 intervention step by step. According to Toker, the coup d’état process began to occur on 27 October 1957 after the re-election of Democratic Party in a very controversial election. DP was seemed to lose its popular support before 1957 elections and thus, began to look for other choices then the popular will (milli irade) few months before elections. Having the overwhelming majority in the parliament after 1954 elections, DP easily prevented RPP to make electoral alliances with other opposition parties by changing the electoral law. In addition, during elections many bizarre events took place; many virtual people voted in elections, many votes were disappeared, provincial records of ballots were mysteriously burned in some cities and many violent events occurred after elections especially in Gaziantep. After the day of election, on 28 October 1957, the official radio announced the victory of RPP over DP with 700 votes in Gaziantep. However, on 29 October some votes came from unknown villages and DP achieved to prevail over RPP in Gaziantep. As 29 October is the national celebration day of the republic many people were on the streets of Gaziantep and when they learned this strange and probably tricky victory of DP, they began to revolt. An RPP supporter citizen died in these events and thus, the national celebration of the republic was overshadowed. It was never proven but Toker believes this was related to DP. Toker in first chapters explains the partisan understanding of DP managers and their effort to politicize police and armed forces. The stoning of Independence War hero and RPP leader ex-president of the republic İsmet İnönü in Uşak is another event that he mentions for showing partisan reasoning of Democrats.
Toker claims that although DP and especially Adnan Menderes never wanted to completely abolish secularism principle of Turkish republic, he never avoided using religion for political benefits too. Democrats allowed the opening of “Preacher Schools (İmam Hatip Okulları)” and took the support of different religious brotherhoods especially Nurcu movement leaded by Said-i Nursi at that time. Toker in his book severely criticizes this close relation between the Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and the leader of Nurcu movement that is still a powerful force in Turkish political life, Said-i Nursi. Also, in DP period, the prayer call, which was in Turkish during RPP rule, was made Arabic again. Many new mosques were built and religious education was expanded. The army was already suspicious about DP rule due to DP’s efforts of politicization of army and police. These kinds of religious policies increased the military’s disturbance. In Toker’s idea, the army which is strongly faithful to Atatürk and his principles, had always great respect and sympathy towards İsmet İnönü and RPP whereas it approached with skepticism towards Adnan Menderes and DP. This was also caused by the failure of first multi-party regime experiences during Atatürk’s period (Progressive Republican Party and Free Party failures). Toker continues with the plane crash of Adnan Menderes and its effect on politics. At that time, Adnan Menderes’ plane had an accident and crashed into the airport while taking off from İstanbul for Menderes’ London trip. Although few people died, Adnan Menderes was rescued from the accident. DP members tried to use this miraculous event and declared the event as the order of God and Menderes’ supernatural personality in order to deceive ignorant, uneducated Turkish people living in the countryside. Another memory of Toker is related to people’s religious fanaticism and ignorance. Toker tells us that in one of the public walks of Menderes, a father believing in the supernatural being of Menderes after plane crash survival, wanted to cut and sacrifice his children for Menderes in front of him and was hardly prevented from doing it by Menderes himself. He also provides important information based on his memories about tragicomic disputes of RPP and DP members in the parliament.
Metin Toker also underlines the bravery of some people and some institutions that resisted against the arbitrary rule of DP and Adnan Menderes. According to him, only three institutions completely struggled against DP dictatorship: the youth, RPP and the army. The youth that was raised with the enthusiasm of newly founded republic during 1930’s and 1940’s and with the faithfulness to Kemalist principles, never accepted DP’s arbitrary rule and made many demonstrations in universities, in streets. Although the Village Institutes (Köy Enstitüleri) were closed at that time (contrary to popular belief Village Institutes were closed in RPP rule), we see the suddent rise of leftist movements in the youth during DP rule. This rise of left in Turkey especially in the youth later prepared new political developments during 1960’s and 1970’s. RPP always tried to convince DP officials to make new elections but was not successful in persuading them and preventing our democracy from an interruption. Toker admits that some of the RPP members were also acting with partisan understanding. RPP members chose aggressive opposition style towards DP and did not act tolerantly. They mostly attacked on the restrictive laws of DP upon press, civil society organizations and did not try much for compromise. Toker claims that everybody knew the possibility of a military intervention but DP members were behaving irresponsibly and with stubbornness. İsmet İnönü once said in the parliament “If you persevere on this course, even I will not be able to save you”. The third brave institution that resisted against DP’s oppressive rule in Toker’s idea is the Turkish Army. Toker tells us about “Nine Officers Plot” that happened in December 1957. In this event, an informer close to DP denounced a group of military officers to make plans of a coup d’état against DP government. The event came into knowledge in press and increased the tension between DP and the military. Toker believes that if Menderes and other DP officials were more responsible and logical there would never be a military intervention and Turkish democracy would be able to produce other solutions. Toker also mentions some brave individuals and their deeds against DP dictatorship. Nail Kubalı who was a law professor in Ankara University was criticizing DP’s censorship policies from a law professor’s perspective. However, Menderes was allergic to criticism and tried to get rid of Kubalı. After strong reactions of students and independent voices from the press, Menderes decided to convince Kubalı by entertaining him in his house. However, Kubalı was not a for-sale professor and person unlike many of his contemporaries and thus, continued to criticize undemocratic acts of DP and became a symbol of resistance.
Toker also explains the exaggerated communism fear and rhetoric of DP members and supporters during these years. He tells us many tragicomic stories and explains Democrats’ efforts to take economic help from USA by using communism threat issue. The most interesting story is related to the visit of American Minister of Foreign Affairs John Foster Dulles. Toker explains that in order to convince Dulles in the reality of communist threat in Turkey and to take economic help, Democrats prepared bombings by themselves in the coming day of Dulles and declared these bombings as communist acts. Toker compares this event to 6-7 October 1955 events; violent events that took place after the bombing of Atatürk’s house on Selanik and caused cruel behaviors including murder, rape of fanatic Muslims towards non-Muslim minorities living in Turkey. Toker asserts that many events of that time were prepared by DP officials in order to attract people’s attention to different areas and to take their support. Also, DP prepared lists of “hidden communists” in the country and imprisoned many writers, intellectuals and citizens. Even İsmet Pasha was in the DP’s list of hidden communists in Toker’s idea. This unnecessary allergy of communism of Democrats, directed them to more oppressive policies against press, non-governmental organizations and to people. Another aspect of 1957-1960 period is the appearance of Fatherland Front (Vatan Cephesi). It was a populist movement in order to mobilize the mass population. The system was working very simply. Every evening on the official radio, the list of people joining in Fatherland Front was announced and by this way people were encouraged for joining in Fatherland Front and thus, becoming supporter of DP rule. These kind of acts destroyed social order and peace by dividing people into two groups: DP supporters and RPP supporters. The book continues with memories of Toker related to the political developments of that time and the social problems appeared due to this polarized politics. He also mentions the secret preparation of military for coup d’état and the private life details of Adnan Menderes. The relation between Menderes and İnönü is also revelaled in the book. Toker’s book also contains information about international politics of Menderes period especially in relations between USA and Turkey. The book ends with the memory of İnönü and Metin Toker. Pasha and his son-in-law Toker went for a walk on the 26 May evening and Pasha said to Toker that the military intervention is inevitable and on its way to come, a day before the take-over.
Now, I will try to make a critical analysis of the book and the author. Metin Toker is a really experienced and skilful writer, as we can understand these qualities of him while reading his sentences. Although he really tries to be neutral in reflecting realities of that time in his book, his closeness to İnönü always creates problems of objectivity in my understanding. However, his book is still a fortune for us to understand conditions of 1950’s. His family ties to İnönü, while creating some problems related to his objectivity, also helps Toker in having never-known information about İsmet Pasha and his personality. He generously shares this special in depth knowledge with us and tells us many memories related to İsmet İnönü. He often uses short sentences and prefers clarity to literary richness. The book is very attractive for people interested in politics because it contains very interesting, never heard, tragicomic stories that focus readers’ attention. Toker does not try to hide his personality and his sympathy towards Pasha and RPP in the book, but still points out some mistakes of them. The part that disturbed me most in the book is related to Adnan Menderes’ private life. Although after coup d’état, during trials people learned all details of Menderes’ private life, I find Toker’s interest in this subject as strange and unnecessary. In addition, I think that economic problems during 1950’s were not mentioned enough in Toker’s book. Metin Toker while criticizing severely Menderes period seems to defend the 1960 intervention. However, he does not accept this and claims that although Menderes’ endless stubbornness to stay as Prime Minister by using all means, if there was no military intervention Turkish democracy would still be able to somehow produce solutions to DP’s arbitrary rule within the system. He criticizes the intervention as discrediting politics in the country and encouraging next coup d’états that will happen on 12 March 1971 and 12 September 1980. As a result, I can say that it is really an important book for understanding Democratic Party period and its conditions.
- Toker, Metin, 1991, “Demokrasiden Darbeye”, Ankara: Bilgi Yayınevi (PRIMARY SOURCE)
- Harris, George S., “The Causes Of The 1960 Revolution In Turkey”