Berch Berberoglu, Turkey in Crisis, From State Capitalism to Neocolonialism (London: Zed Press, 1982).

This is a useful, concise rendition of Turkish political history and economic development. It is rich in facts and easy-to-use economic data. Its best conceptual contribution is the portrayal of the contradictions of the “state capitalist” development path. The analysis is presented chronologically rather than thematically. There is a strong sense of inevitability in this method: of Turkish history marching inexorably toward the pitched “class” battles of the 1970s and the implicitly fascist coup of 1980.

There is also the urgent sense that Turkey is in continual and unavoidable crisis. To step back from this sense of urgency, one might consider that capitalist development, never either perfectly smooth or perfectly motionless, is characterized by both growth and crisis, usually in alternating rhythm. The contradictions of one growth phase set the stage for the emergence of the subsequent crisis, and the terms of each crisis set the stage for a “resolution” of the crisis and a new wave of growth. Not every crisis phase has revolutionary potential, although if revolutionary potential exists it will tend to appear most strongly during a crisis.

Berberoglu presents the 1960s as a continuation of the crisis of the 1950s. One might take the same economic data and argue that the 1960s were a period of relative stability. Certainly economic growth was taking place (total output, and especially industrial output, was rising), the rate of exploitation was rising (output per worker and profits per worker were increasing), the level of employment was rising, and real wages were rising, at least for those workers organized in industrial unions and those employed by the state enterprises. In a period of rising output per worker, workers can obtain a share of the increased output with no decrement in capital’s share.

There were serious problems emerging in this era, both in the Turkish economy and in the world capitalist economy, around rising inflationary pressures, imbalances of payments and external public debt, but these did not yet constitute a crisis. In Turkey, the problems were ameliorated by the inflow of foreign investment capital, the relative lack of a dispossessed rural population (as compared to other Third World countries, small-scale commercial family farms still predominate in Turkey), and by remittances of Turkish laborers in Europe.

The real crisis era began by the 1970s, as the world economy stagnated: overall growth of output slowed, inflation heated up, employment growth both within Turkey and for Turkish emigrants slowed, real wage growth declined, and balance of payments deficits and external debt rose quickly. The sharpness of the conflicts of the 1970s make more sense when seen against what the working classes were losing from the gains of the 1960s.

Berberoglu portrays the 1970s as a potentially revolutionary situation. Certainly the conflicts were heated and apparently irresolvable within the framework of the existing Turkish political system. But the left was not well enough organized to lead the working classes in a revolutionary movement, and there was no revolutionary party ready to assume state power. Berberoglu rightly contends that his work “shows the process by which the contradictions of the state capitalist formation have led to the restoration of neo-colonialism in Turkey in the post-World War II period…[and] provides further evidence of the long-term impossibility of independent, national state capitalist development in the Third World.” In the past, the contradictions of integration into the world capitalist system (“neo-colonialism”) generated pressures for independent, national economic development which led to state capitalism. What we need to understand now is how to channel them into the movement toward socialism. Far from being inevitable, this movement can only be something of our own making.

How to cite this article:

Karen Pfeifer "Berberoglu, Turkey in Crisis," Middle East Report 121 (January/February 1984).

For 50 years, MERIP has published critical analysis of Middle Eastern politics, history, and social justice not available in other publications. Our articles have debunked pernicious myths, exposed the human costs of war and conflict, and highlighted the suppression of basic human rights. After many years behind a paywall, our content is now open-access and free to anyone, anywhere in the world. Your donation ensures that MERIP can continue to remain an invaluable resource for everyone.


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This