Portrait of a Turkish social democrat : İsmail Cem
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İsmail Cem (1940-2007) was a Turkish intellectual and social democratic politician who spent his life investigating the characteristics and problems of Turkish modernization and social democratic solutions to these problems. Cem started his career as a peculiar socialist journalist who had a special curiosity towards the Ottoman past in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With his books and articles he became an influential and prestigious figure in the leftist intellectual and political circles and served as the manager of Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT). Unlike usual leftist-modernist intellectuals, he was very critical of “top to bottom” Turkish modernization and had propositions to solve Turkey’s political problems within the limits of democracy. During these years, Cem’s democratic socialism slowly evolved into social democracy. Starting from the 1980s, Cem appeared this time as a social democratic politician and tried to realize his projects and reduce his theories into practice. He was one of the leading figures of Turkish social democracy and was the creator of the “Anatolian Left” together with Deniz Baykal. In the mid-1990s he served for a short time as the Minister of Culture and starting from 1997 -with short interruptions- for five years he worked as the Foreign Minister of Turkey. He continued to write about Turkish politics and foreign policy and left behind an important collection of books and articles. İsmail Cem saw his life’s work as involving basically three tasks: to reconcile Turkey with its Ottoman past by softening the radical modernist mentality of the earlier Republican period both on the intellectual and social levels, to find solutions to Turkey’s various political problems by making a social democratic interpretation of Kemalism and thus, achieving democratic consolidation in Turkey and to transform his country into a respected regional power in international relations by pursuing an active foreign policy through full membership to the European Union as well as by developing relations with Middle Eastern and Eurasian countries. Both as a public intellectual and politician, he was able to take considerable steps in order to realize these three tasks, though he did not have chance to complete his mission. Although he was an important part of the intellectual force behind Turkey’s pro-Western secular segments, we do not know too much about Cem’s personal life and intellectual development throughout the years. This thesis is an attempt to analyze İsmail Cem by focusing on his life, his ideas, his political career, his propositions to Turkey’s major democratic problems and his foreign policy understanding and practices analytically.
Republican People’s Party
Turkish Foreign Policy