Authoritarianisation and the Role of Ideological Apparatuses

Marxism explained that the basic determining factor of a mode of production is, in the last analysis, the economic base. With this achievement the need and importance of studying productive forces and production relations that constitute the base in order to understand the traits of different modes of production came to light. Every single mode of production, or in other words, every single socio-economic formation, is consisted of the unity of the economic base and ideological superstructure rising above the economic base, which encompasses diverse realms such as state, politics, law, culture, religion. To grasp his unity in a correct way with diverse economic-ideological-political-social aspects it is necessary to approach the relationship between the base and superstructure in a dialectical manner.

Marxism explained that the basic determining factor of a mode of production is, in the last analysis, the economic base. With this achievement the need and importance of studying productive forces and production relations that constitute the base in order to understand the traits of different modes of production came to light. Every single mode of production, or in other words, every single socio-economic formation, is consisted of the unity of the economic base and ideological superstructure rising above the economic base, which encompasses diverse realms such as state, politics, law, culture, religion. To grasp his unity in a correct way with diverse economic-ideological-political-social aspects it is necessary to approach the relationship between the base and superstructure in a dialectical manner.

Capitalist mode of production consists of the unity of the capitalist economic base and capitalist superstructure determined by this economic base in the course of historical development. True, the base determines in the last analysis. However, it is also equally important not to understand this subject in a one-sided manner that falls beyond the reality. Since the superstructure is not simply determined passively by the economic base. There is a dialectical relation based on mutual interaction between the base and the superstructure. State, ideology, etc that are all institutions of the superstructure are not only determined by the economic base, they react upon the base and can alter the pace, course etc. of the economy. Moreover, the role played by ideology and ideological apparatuses for the bourgeoisie to maintain its rule is equally essential and important as the apparatuses of repression of the bourgeois state, which are in the realm of the superstructure.

This reality is all the more important under conditions of the authoritarianisation in progress in many capitalist counties based on the historical crisis of capitalism at present. Imperialist wars caused by system crisis of capitalism are spreading in the manner of a fragmented World War Three in progress in sui generis forms peculiar to the present conditions, and accompanied by another war mounted by the bourgeoisie on the ideological front. The developments that took place under Erdogan’s hegemony during the period between the June 7 elections and the November 1 elections materialise the authoritarianisation of the bourgeois regime in Turkey. This process of authoritarianisation advances through not only the attacks of the repression apparatuses of the state but also full speed attacks of its ideological apparatuses. These developments threatening directly the life of the broad working masses reveal indisputably that under present conditions of imperialist war bourgeois ideological apparatuses play a very important role.

Importance of ideological apparatuses

Capitalist exploitation stems from the nature of the production relation between the worker and boss in the production process which forms the economic basis of capitalism. And it is created by capitalist property relations which turn the producer into a wage-slave producing surplus-value. Capitalist production forces, capitalist production relations and capitalist exploitation stemming from them, all of them are, in the last analysis, determining factors in social life. As elements of the capitalist superstructure, bourgeois state, bourgeois law and bourgeois ideology are determined essentially by these factors. All these elements of the superstructure are historically developed phenomena that came into existence to maintain and secure capitalist production relations or property relations.

In capitalist society selling of labour power by its owners to the owners of the means of production is an unequal trade transaction. Extra-economic force which accompanies the production process in old times left its place to contracts (no doubt under unequal conditions from the standpoint of the worker) between worker and employer in capitalist society. In capitalist society, therefore, economic exploitation stopped being a system operating in company with whips slashing the backs of producers. However, the worker maintains his existence as a wage-slave due to the economic force of capitalism.

With capitalist development social and political sphere underwent great changes. In capitalist societies the ruling system of the bourgeoisie generally adopted bourgeois parliamentary forms of government in the course of history and, on this basis, the bourgeois democracy, as we know it, became the widespread form of the state. However in capitalism as a class society, the state, in all its forms (including bourgeois democracy), is a dictatorship for the exploited, the bourgeoisie’s instrument of rule over the working masses. The bourgeoisie maintains this rule by means of repression apparatuses and ideological apparatuses of the state. To the extent capitalist mode of production develops and spreads, the role played by ideological apparatuses increases in reproducing the capitalist production relations. As a matter of fact in all capitalist countries, the bourgeois order developed and reinforced the ideological apparatuses to the utmost degree with the help of new technologies which it took under its hegemony.

As a general law, a system that cannot reproduce its conditions of production relations, and its social and material conditions of existence, cannot survive. And capitalist system can maintain itself as long as capitalist production relations can be reproduced. As clarified in detail in Marx’s analyses in Capital, the process of capitalist production is the process of reproduction of the means of production and labour power. Means of production as forms of dead labour are always available under capitalists’ ownership, but it is not possible to say the same for labour which is the living element of the production process. Living labour is not a machine and as human beings they can revolt against the conditions of capitalist production.

This is always a possibility for capitalists and when the threat becomes reality it is the law of capitalism to send state apparatuses of coercion over workers. Yet, in order to ensure its existence the bourgeois order is also in need of keeping control of the masses through preventive means (ideological mechanisms) before threats realise. In short, reproduction of capitalist production relations cannot be considered separately from reproduction of capitalist relations of domination. And to ensure this the need for ideological apparatuses is as enormous as the need for capitalist state apparatuses of coercion. It is possible therefore to say that a capitalism that fails to reproduce the sway of bourgeois ideology over the working class in particular and the masses in general cannot survive. It is thus necessary to take into account the bourgeois state apparatuses of domination as a whole in order to grasp the mechanisms that ensure the continuity of capitalist process of production.

The capitalist state is a means of coercion used by the ruling bourgeoisie over the working masses. The state apparatuses of coercion are embodied in the police, army, law courts etc.. The ideological apparatuses of the bourgeois order encompass a vast diversity of institutions such as education, religion, law, politics, media, culture, family etc. State apparatuses of coercion can control public sphere on a central level. Yet, ideological apparatuses pervade private areas of society, ranging from pro-system trade-unions to political parties, from diverse civil society organisations to the institution of family. It helps to reproduce the ruling bourgeois ideology and make it embraced by society. While the state apparatuses of coercion fulfil their service by employing force to protect and maintain the rule of the bourgeois order, the ideological apparatuses employ ideology for the same purpose.

To put it in general terms, ideology is the system of ideas dominating the minds of individuals or groups in society. Marxism made it clear that the class that rules the material forces of society rules its intellectual forces as well. The owner class of material production forces also takes intellectual production under its control. Thus, the ruling ideas in a society are in general the ideas of the ruling class. In bourgeois society the main objective of ideological apparatuses is to ensure the sway of a system of ideas that would enable reproduction of capitalist production relations. For example, capitalist education system shapes the human material in line with the interests of the order and requirements of capitalist production process. On this basis, some people would be educated to become high level bureaucrats and managers for the bourgeois state institutions and capitalist enterprises, and the other millions of people would be forced into capitalist market as wage-slaves with certain qualities needed by the capitalist production process.

Apart from giving information and teaching techniques at varying levels to students, the education system in bourgeois order injects into students a host of rules required for the continuation of the bourgeois order and imposes an ethics that affirms the bourgeois order. The case with religious institutions and family is no different in this respect. Taking these realities into consideration, capitalist reproduction process is not only a reproduction process of labour power qualitatively and physically but also a process wherein subordination of the masses to the ruling bourgeois ideology is reproduced. It is well known that the role played by political parties and media among the ideological apparatuses is quite big. However, the two most influential ideological institutions are the school and family which shape and establish one’s worldview and habits etc. from the cradle to the elementary education from the standpoint of the interests of the bourgeois order.

Making of mass psychology

One of the most important functions of the bourgeois ideological apparatuses is to produce ideas, opinions, comments, lies and images in the interests of the bourgeoisie. The propaganda that spreads these products is one of the methods of psychological war, which is instrumental in manipulating the perception of the masses to forge a desired mass psychology. As the perception of the masses is shaped under the propaganda shower of bourgeois ideological apparatuses and they are kept away from the means of true sources of information, they might even view the most heartbreaking, conscience-panging issues from the angle imposed by the rulers. While the masses normally desire a peaceful climate, they can be drawn to a madness applauding unjust wars especially under black propaganda, accompanying the periods of extraordinary regimes. The masses can be fooled to believe in the lie that the problems making their lives a hell do not arise from the bourgeois governments downing on their neck, but from inside and outside enemies.

As a matter of fact, a positive method to convince the masses about maintaining the existing bourgeois system of power is to make some improvements to their interests. However, as the crisis of capitalist system deepens, let alone improvements, even existing gains are undone and cuts in social expenditures are increased. Therefore the bourgeoisie employs negative persuasion method in periods of profound crisis and war in order to control the masses. This method is the method of locking and paralyzing the perception of the masses whose channels of attaining the truths are blocked. They do this on the basis of a fabricated common enemy which is supposed to pose a threat. Capitalist world has witnessed variations of this method in periods of profound crises accompanied by imperialist wars.

In the period of World War One the government of Woodrow Wilson, who was elected for the second time in 1916 in the US, had set up a propaganda apparatus named “Creel Committee”. One of the ideologues of this apparatus was Walter Lippmann who was a famous liberal American journalist of his time. Laying the foundations for the political propaganda strategy, Lippmann argued that, through new propaganda techniques, the public could well be persuaded to accept things they did not want. He put forward his method calling it a “revolution in the art of democracy”, which was based on “manufacture of consent” by perceptual distortions outside democratic mechanisms, i.e. creation of a “spectator democracy” for the masses.

In fact, those ideological assaults such as Lippmann’s are a clear recognition of shrinkage in the bourgeois democracy compared to the era of bourgeois revolutions. Within such a short time span as 6 months the Creel Committee was able to drive American public into hysteria of war with a great hatred towards Germans. (This historical example brings light into how the public who had wanted a solution and peace on the Kurdish question before 7 June elections has been turned into supporters of the policies of unjust and bloody war, based on the distortion and propaganda campaign led by Erdogan after 10 October massacre in Ankara.)

There are similar examples in the period of World War Two. In the period following the 1929 Great Depression new union rights were introduced as a result of major workers’ struggles.
The trade-union struggle was on the rise. Most importantly, on the basis of their own experiences, workers were getting conscious about the importance of getting organised for their salvation. The bourgeoisie launched a campaign to reverse this situation, and bourgeois ideological apparatuses and public relations industry set to work to create a perception that organising and union struggle were subversive activity. Thus in the aftermath of the World War Two the number of unionised workers in the US began to fall down. In order to push back workers and suppress the strikes the bourgeoisie did not employ explicit state violence but mechanisms of social pressure created by the ideological apparatuses. The campaign to create a mass psychology centred on portraying striking workers as subversive trouble makers doing harm to common public interests proved influential.

As more striking examples, one can remember what happened in fascist Mussolini Italy or Germany under Hitler fascism. Fascist Goebbels, one of the most prominent examples of creating mass psychology by disseminating systematic lies, was Hitler’s minister of “Public Enlightenment and Propaganda”. He waged successful black propaganda campaigns to prepare the German people for a bloody war killing millions of people. Passed into history as the biggest liar of his age, Goebbels based his propaganda techniques upon 17 basic principles in the example of “if you tell a lie thousand times, it ceases to be a lie, it becomes the truth.” Goebbels who became famous with his ability to use “Big Lie” technique in mass propaganda imposed hostility towards the Gipsies, disabled, homosexuals, and the Jews on top, on society to pacify the masses in Nazi Germany in face of the ruthless practices of the fascist regime.

While the USA, the hegemonic power of the capitalist system, stuffed the peoples of the world with a discourse of “democracy” after the World War Two, it also kept on the activity of moulding mass psychology by techniques of lying. What is marking in that period was scaring the masses on a world scale, especially the American people, with the bogey of communism in the image of the Soviet Union and the threat of nuclear war. Within time a tremendous industry of public relations was formed in the capitalist world with the US in the lead. “Public relations” departments were set up in universities in order to manipulate the masses on a variety of realms, social, political, industrial, and so on.

One of the founders of public relations industry in the USA was Edward Bernays (1891-1995) who came from the Creel Committee. Bernays was a famous public relations expert who is regarded as the pioneer of modern propaganda, who used mass psychology and mass persuasion techniques to meet the needs of diverse bourgeois institutions and political organisations. He was known not only for manufacturing mass perception on the political front but also on the industrial field to boost commodity sales. To give an example from the political front, Bernays was one of the prominent ideologues who were selling the shrinking bourgeois democracy as “exemplary American democracy” in the political market. In order to push this “democracy” on the public, the powerful bourgeois, what he calls “engineers of consent”, should wage campaigns. And, in order to bring the public into line it should constantly be scared of foreign enemies and provoked against them.

The objective of the capitalist “public relations” industry was defined by the American ideologues who were the founding fathers of this industry as “controlling the public mind” against the “threat of communism” arising from the Soviet Union. However, in 90s the Soviet Union and the other similar bureaucratic regimes collapsed with their old propaganda motifs. Survived alone with all its filth out on earth, the capitalist system would now need a new false motif in order to lull the masses by means of a threat of common enemy. The “bogey” fabricated to satisfy this need came to be “the threat of international terror”. The US ideologues launched a new period of global ideological assault based on the Big Lie technique with motifs such as “clash of civilisations”, “evil Saddam”, “international terror organisations”, “threat of Islam” etc. Resorting to every means and method from the brainwashing products of film industry that spends billions of dollars to organising groups that would bring some credibility to the “threat of international terror”, providing them with money, and staging provocations directly by the state, making all of these means permissible, mass psychology and perception were prepared for monstrous aspirations of the bourgeois rulers.

The method of intimidating and pacifying the masses is so much systematically and widely used by the present bourgeois ideological apparatuses that we now have a “society of fear” in all capitalist countries crippling the mass psychology. All these developments are actually symptoms of a period of great war which accompanies the historical system crisis of capitalism. In fact, as we have been arguing for a long time, there is an ongoing World War Three now. This war has actually started with the carve-up war in Balkans in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the present episode of history, imperialist wars that are being waged in succession with methods and means particular to the present day are parts of a new type of a world war. The incidents that are called, in an effort to distort, by the imperialist powers as acts of “international terror” in various regions and parts of the world are expressions of the World War Three which marches along turning the Middle East into a hell and which develops with flames increasingly affecting the European cities as well.

Shrinking bourgeois democracy

Even in its normal operation, which we call bourgeois democracy, the bourgeois state is essentially a democracy for the ruling class, but a dictatorship for the exploited-oppressed masses. This dictatorship side of the bourgeois state comes to surface in a most explicit manner in periods of extraordinary regimes which embark upon suppressing the revolt of the working masses against the existing order. Extraordinary bourgeois regimes such as Bonapartism and fascism went far beyond normal bourgeois operation on the question of creating a mass psychology to wreck the struggle of the broad masses.

The main role of the bourgeois ideology in ordinary periods of bourgeois rule is to impose on the masses the notion that the bourgeois democracy is an ideal that embraces the whole public in an equal manner. Thus the bourgeois parliamentary system is reproduced as if it is a system of government meeting the political expectations of the masses and it continues to operate in the framework of its own legality. As long as it is possible to manufacture and maintain mass consent for the existing government (except extraordinary periods such as war conditions convulsing the order, political crises, revolutionary situations, etc.) the bourgeoisie can well maintain its rule without intense use of the coercion apparatuses. But no matter what happens, as capitalism makes way the state apparatuses of coercion becomes bigger, more developed and stronger. However the technological progress under capitalism does not only serve to modernise the state apparatuses of coercion and make the war machine more fatal in parallel with the militarist rise. At the same time the importance of ideological apparatuses and their influence on the masses increases enormously in comparison to the past.

What seems as the consent of the masses for the operation of the bourgeois order is actually kind of a system of ideological coercion. Thanks to the modern technology at the bourgeoisie’s disposal in our day, the ideological apparatuses of the bourgeois system of rule have turned into a system of tyranny, insidiously straitjacketing the masses and making them robots. Evoking what Orwell described in his 1984, the ruling finance-capital guides and rules the society with high-tech apparatuses in a Big Brother manner. And social realities have become the opposite of what they are called. The argument of “information society” can be taken as an example. When you look at new technologies it seems that the masses’ access to information sources is easier compared to the past. However, as long as modern technology is under the hegemony of the bourgeoisie, production and presentation of information is essentially controlled by the bourgeoisie. Therefore, while modern-day average person thinks they become informed thanks to use of new technologies, they are actually and generally made dumb under the rule of the bourgeoisie. This prevents the masses from taking an active position against bourgeois power and is one of the manifestations of the bourgeois democracy turning reactionary in imperialist era.

The USA takes the lead in terms of the mass psychology manufacturing techniques which have taken enormous dimensions and become diversified even under normal bourgeois regimes. The USA has become expert in manufacturing and spreading the techniques needed for scaring the masses in a systematic way, keeping them intimidated and getting society used to this situation, preventing it from questioning capitalist way of life. New “devils” needed for paralysing the masses and driving them to a general psychology of fear are first manufactured in the USA, distributed in the market and transferred to other countries. In order to prevent the masses from revolting against the order, society is forced into a state of passive spectators following what they are presented by the bourgeois media with the help of new technologies. To pacify and control the masses, football league games, TV series are injected right into their lives along with violent films that would make them get used to real scenes of war wearing away their conscience. And the “spare time” of the masses is thus taken under control by the bourgeois rulers.

No matter it is the USA or Turkey, new technologies at the service of capitalism are made by the bourgeois rulers the means of making a robot society under their control. Means of mass entertainment and most importantly the social media that appear innocent at first sight are made into enormous industries serving the bourgeoisie to keep the minds away from thinking and questioning, paralyse them by lulling or scaring them. In all capitalist countries the bourgeois ideological apparatuses, from school to newspapers, to TV programmes, are specialised, again in the interests of the bourgeois rulers, in forming and disseminating an official version of history. Thus a distorted version of history denying the truths is imposed on society through these ideological channels. For example, in Turkey the masses have been deceived for long by false historiography about Kurdish people and Armenians, and this way they are made hostile towards a democratic solution to such problems with a long historical record.

These kinds of issues have now acquired a quite established character as normal practices, not only under authoritarian and totalitarian bourgeois regimes but also under those bourgeois regimes that we call normal. The political regime in the USA, a two-party presidential system, which has been sold for years as the ideal form of democracy actually constitutes the most striking example of how bourgeois democracy has shrunk in general. In order to keep the masses under control, as revealed by various examples ranging from the USA to Turkey, campaigns of bourgeois ideological apparatuses are stepped up on the one hand, and on the other hand, socialists and other forces that do not, despite everything, bow down in face of repression are subjected to explicit violence, bullets and bombs of the bourgeois state apparatus.

Present day Turkey

In periods of normal operation of the bourgeois order, ideological apparatuses may succeed in creating a psychology among society, which fosters an expectation for a relatively stable and peaceful future. However in periods when the bourgeois order is convulsed by profound crises and the imperialist war works havoc, extraordinary measures begin to leave their mark on the bourgeois political realm. It would undoubtedly be factors such as the level of bourgeois governments’ predicament, domestic and foreign balances of power and the level of working masses’ struggle that decide.

In today’s Turkey we are living through a process that places all these elements mentioned into the political agenda. Before the turn of 2011 Erdogan government was praising itself for pushing back the military tutelage regime and making democratic openings, but now it has put the society in Turkey under a civilian tutelage symbolised by a single leader’s tyranny. While the police apparatus has been turned upside down under the pretext of purging the supporters of so-called “parallel state organisation”, Erdogan, who in actuality acts as if president like in a presidential system, established kind of a new police apparatus tied to himself and intensified practices of a police state. A society of fear has been formed in Turkey by playing with the mass perception. It is a common characteristic of authoritarian regimes to manufacture a mass psychology that there will be a disaster if they are opposed despite all vicious acts they committed. When it is not possible to rally social support with positive measures, the rulers set to create an illusion of “stability” on the basis of fear mongering.

Having witnessed military coups and a military-fascist regime so far, Turkey now is stage to a civilian authoritarianism and fascistic practices on the road to Erdogan’s adventure of presidency. Erdogan government is savagely polarising the society and poisoning it with Kurdofobia and nationalism in order to impose the war against Kurdish people on the masses. As a very striking and grievous example, unfortunately even involving the workers in factories, a considerable section of society has been forced into an “eclipse of conscience” and they could be made to gloat after tens of valiant people were killed in a bomb attack on 10 October in Ankara.

We have been having a process of authorianisation since the turn of 2011 and today’s main problem is essentially to heighten the struggle against the escalation towards an extraordinary regime embodied in the de facto presidency of Erdogan. There is no doubt that Erdogan is a Bonaparte as expressed many times in Marksist Tutum pages. As every bourgeois Bonaparte, Erdogan longs for becoming the sole ruler of the bourgeois regime by taking absolute control of executive power, and tying legislation and judiciary completely to himself. From the Bonaparte the nephew who established his monopoly of power by a coup d’etat in 1851 to Mussolini and Hitler, all chiefs of extraordinary regimes employed a series of measures violating the legality of bourgeois parliamentary order in order to achieve their goals. They created special organisations, troops etc. tied completely to themselves.

The moments embodying the above mentioned process, in the case of Erdogan the Bonaparte, are those police operations carried out under the pretext of “Parallel State Organisation”, targeting political institutions, media outlets, companies, foundations etc.; and acts like arbitrarily not recognising the legitimacy of the June 7 elections and dubious results of November 1 elections; attacks and massacres aiming at even mild critics of Erdogan, political opponents, socialist organisations, various organisations of the oppressed people; organising of the “Ottoman Hotbeds” reminding the nephew Bonaparte who gathered his private troops named “the Society of 10 December” formed of the lumpen mob to establish his own personal rule; the steps tying the police and intelligence to the President… All these constitute very serious links of a chain process wherein Erdogan shapes the bourgeois regime as a Bonapartist regime under his single-man leadership.

Erdogan has not yet been elected president, but he announced his de facto presidency and imposed this on society in his own fashion. What Erdogan did when he refused to accept the results of the June 7 elections and then set up a “war cabinet” tied to himself, instead of setting up a cabinet out of the newly elected parliament, can well be called a “civilian coup”. Those political forces in June 7 parliament other than the AKP could not take a stance to prevent Erdogan’s move to carry out a civilian coup at that critical turning point. Thus they granted legitimacy to the decision for the November 1 elections and opened the way forward to Erdogan’s single-party government. In face of this reality we can say that Erdogan who has become a Bonaparte marched gradually forward on the road to establish his personal power and a police state tied to him, now made the bourgeois regime a Bonapartist one. Now it is time for him to prepare the legal and constitutional (formal) guise of it. Undoubtedly this process is open to any surprises as it is progressing along with crisis, war and conflicts between imperialist powers. However the danger is big and importance and urgency of struggle against this danger is indisputably obvious.

Set aside the tendency towards authorianisation that we have been witnessing on a world scale on the basis of the deepening of the capitalist system crisis and spreading of imperialist wars, it is a very clear fact that now decaying capitalism is creating decaying bourgeois regimes. He who wants democracy should join the struggle against capitalism instead of deceiving themselves with delusions of a flawlessly operating bourgeois democracy. Democracy and peace can only be won by the struggle of the broad working masses against capitalist order and it is the urgent task of the day to organise to this end. One should not forget that this organised struggle constitutes the only way to stand up against repression and massacres of the bourgeois state, as well as the bondage created by the bourgeois ideological apparatuses, and the eclipse of conscience and mind!