5 Şubat 2011 Cumartesi

Economic Policy of the Single Party and Democrat Party Periods

Founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his friends, Republican People’s Party (RPP) is Turkey’s first and oldest political party that established modern Turkish Republic and laid the foundation of a secular and democratic state. RPP was an umbrella party and according to Ergun Özbudun[1] pluralistic in its nature since all elements of the state (local notables, bureaucrats, religious leaders, soldiers, businessmen etc.) were members of this single party. There were two main groups competing with each other in the party. The first group (generally called as the bureaucratic group) was led by İsmet İnönü-Recep Peker duo and they were in favor of a statist economy and authoritarian state in order to consolidate the revolution. The second group (often called as the İş Bankası group) was led by Celal Bayar and they were in favor of liberal economy and less authoritarian state (especially in terms of religious fundamentalism). Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, at the early years of the Republic, was in favor of liberal economics and he was close to Bayar’s group. However, Turkey did not have a class of bourgeoisie that had capital accumulation and could help the country to develop. Especially after 1929 Great Depression’s terrible effects to Turkish economy, bureaucratic group gained strength and Turkey began to implement a mixed but mostly statist economy in order to develop its industries. İnönü was the Prime Minister and he was trying to counteract Bayar completely. During single-party period many important industrial facilities were opened. Economy was developing slowly but the single-party regime could have chance to use authoritarian methods against opposition since there was no democracy. Moreover, single-party regime was trying to feed its bureaucratic class very well in order to protect the regime. However, when Turkey became a part of the capitalist western bloc after the Second World War and decided to pass to multi-party regime, it was now time for liberals.
Democrat Party (DP) was established on 7 January 1946 by Celal Bayar, Adnan Menderes, Fuat Köprülü and Refik Koraltan who were members of Republican People’s Party previously. DP was born from RPP as an opposition to it, with the will and claim of more democratic political life. From the very beginning of its foundation, DP attacked towards the anti-democratic and statist sides of RPP and defended a liberal system concerning both political and economical life. Some of the founders of DP including Menderes were wealthy landowners and they were completely against RPP’s land reform project. DP symbolized a coalition between landowners and newly flourishing Turkish-Muslim bourgeoisie. DP also found a great support from rural people who were discontent of RPP’s statist economic policies that created slow economic growth and hardliner secularist policies that contradicted with pious people’s religious practices. When the question of “how the state can deal with economic problems” was asked, the answer was “First of all, we should gain liberty, after that all other problems will be solved spontaneously”[2]. We can deduce from this statement, DP saw the anti-democratic and suppressive politics of Republican People’s Party as the fundamental reason of the poverty in the state. DP took help from USA’s Marshall Aid and imported technological instruments by World Bank loans in order to increase agricultural production. The surplus of the agricultural production was exported to devastated European countries. By this way, DP and Prime Minister Menderes tried to create a bourgeois class for Turkey and make Turkey “a little America”. At the beginning, the system worked perfectly well and a serious economic grow took place in the country. However, DP’s export oriented economic policy began to slow down after the decrease in the export rates and the rise of foreign debts and inflation which led to the devaluation of Turkish lira. This made a very negative effect on bureaucratic classes (soldiers, public officers etc.) since their purchasing power decreased. When economic grow stopped and social problems emerged, opposition emerged and DP tried to suppress opposition with the methods of single-party period and established an authoritarian rule in the country although now it was time for democracy. This led to public demonstration and student uprisings and eventually caused the 27 May 1960 coup. Turkish democracy was suspended due to DP’s failures and wrong strategies.
When we compare these two periods, we see that in RPP’s single party period due to world conditions, Turkey was implementing a nearly autarchic self-sufficiency economy. This was a good choice since it was the period of world wars and self-sufficiency was a major source of power for a nation-state. During RPP rule, Turkey was developing steadily and industrializing according to a plan. The state was also trying to develop its own national bourgeoisie and never implemented completely statist economy. The economic model thus could be labeled as mixed economy. However, authoritarian practices of the government as well as the heavy role of civil bureaucracy in the system, began to create problems especially landowners and bourgeoisie began to feel discomfort of civil bureaucracy’s power. Moreover, rising rural population was not happy of RPP’s planned economy. In DP period, Turkey met with big economic growth thanks to becoming a member of NATO and Western bloc, but at the expense of foreign debts and inflation. However, people were happy of earning more money and supported DP. But when economic problems emerged, DP did not act as a democratic party and in a sense invited the military coup.

[1] See, Özbudun, Ergun, “The nature of Kemalist political regime”
[2] Kemal Karpat. Türk Demokrasi Tarihi. (Istanbul: Istanbul Matbaası, 1967), p. 147
Ozan Örmeci

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