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The Globalist Endgame in Turkey Manifested itself in Football Long Before Economic Crisis Hit the Markets

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Bloomberg quoted an Istanbul-based broker saying “God help Turkey” on 21 May 2018 as the Turkish Lira fell to a record low against the U.S. Dollar and Euro. While Bloomberg, like so much of the main(lame) stream media, enjoy fanning the flames of crisis when covering countries whose leaders they do not like (Syria’s Assad is a good example of this), the Turkish financial crisis has been a long time in coming.

I have written on this coming crisis multiple times before (in 2014 and in 2017), since the pace of privatization—and the selling off of Turkish assets to foreign ownership—was never going to end well. Unfortunately for Turkey, however, the country has been run by a globalist leader who never truly cared for his citizens any more than fellow globalist leader Barack Obama cared about the American people during his eight year tenure. While Bloomberg author Benjamin Harvey seems to connect this crisis to the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan alone, his analysis misses the mark. No, the problem is not specifically the leader; the problem—rather—is a globalist power structure which privileges international capital over human lives. Having made a deal with international capital (or, perhaps, the devil?) in 2002 to stabilize the Turkish economy in the wake of a 2001 currency crisis—which saw the dollar’s value double in Turkey overnight—Mr. Erdogan, from the beginning, was used to following the dictates of international capital. As Mr. Harvey writes:

 

When Erdogan’s party swept to victory in 2002 on pledges to open markets and liberalize institutions, Turkey’s economy was on life support, requiring an international rescue package that topped $20 billion. The lira had collapsed, along with a handful of banks and government efforts to contain raging inflation.

 

Over the course of the last fifteen years, bolstered by steady support from its base, Mr. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party has gotten complacent. They believed that, regardless of what they did, they would continue to get votes while selling away the country.

Mr. Harvey, while rightly seeing the Gezi protests of 2013 as a turning point, conveniently ignores some major qualities inherent in the globalist style of rule. Mr. Harvey claims that, following Gezi, “The sense of optimism, the belief that Turks of various stripes and ideologies were all in the same boat, was replaced by a relentless divisiveness in political culture, exacerbated by a sense of grievance emanating from their uncompromising leader”. What is important to note is that this “divisiveness in political culture” was present long before Gezi; indeed it was what cemented Mr. Erdogan’s power in the first place. Identity politics, like in the United States, is the key to creating the kind of mass movements that globalism feeds on. In order to get the masses behind a movement, the populace must first be “massified”. This “Massification”—for lack of a better term—is best achieved by dividing the population against itself; in Turkey, it works by dividing religious from secular, Kurd from Turk, and urban from rural. The end result is a mass population unable to see that their beloved leader cares more about money than about the average citizen’s well being. And that is a very real problem.

In The Theory of the Leisure Class, Thorstein Veblen recognizes that

 

The tendency of the pecuniary life is, in a general way, to conserve the barbarian temperament, but with the substitution of fraud and prudence, or administrative ability, in place of that predilection for physical damage that characterizes the early barbarian. This substitution of chicanery in place of devastation takes place only in an uncertain degree [. . .] The conventional scheme of decent living calls for a considerable exercise of the earlier barbarian traits (Veblen 1953[1899]: 161).

 

In simpler terms, Veblen is saying that—in the modern world—the barbaric instinct of humans does not manifest itself in out and out violence, rather it manifests itself in fraud and chicanery; in a word violence becomes deception. In Turkey, Mr. Erdogan’s style of rule shows that Nietzsche’s will to power is alive and well in the modern world, there can be no doubt about it. This fact was most recently made clear following a football match in late April.

According to a recent OdaTV story, Mr. Erdogan himself encouraged Besiktas to play out the second leg of their Turkish Cup Semi-final tie with Fenerbahce in late April after the match had to be rescheduled following crowd violence. While Besiktas chairman Fikret Orman said that the decision not to play was not his but that the fans wanted it, Youth and Sports Minister Osman Bak responded that “the sir wants it this way”, implying that Mr. Erdogan wanted Besiktas to play. While Mr. Bak told Mr. Orman to “do what is necessary”, Besiktas still did not come out to play. Regardless of whether one believes this was a right or wrong decision in sporting terms, it is clear that Mr. Erdogan—from the beginning—had a desire to see the match played out. Indeed, his first response was that the violence—which marred the first attempt to play the game—was a “set up”. Of course, the fan’s behavior was unacceptable. And—were there a semblance of rule of law—perhaps Fenerbahce would have been punished and Besiktas would not have had to even make the decision to not come out for the match. But the rule of law matters little when it comes to globalized extreme capitalism. Indeed, Mr. Erdogan knew that there was money to be made from the Istanbul derby, as televisions across the country would tune into it and make money for A Spor, the pro-government channel which holds the rights to the Ziraat Turkish Cup (A competition which has been a money maker for pro-government media figures in the past). Football here just represents another avenue where improper behavior (and the rule of law) can be ignored when it comes to securing profits for those who are close to the Turkish ruling class.

 

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Ugly Scenes During the First Leg of the Ziraat Turkish Cup Semi-Final Between Fenerbahce and Besiktas on 19 April 2018. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.haberturk.com/fenerbahce-besiktas-derbisinde-olaylar-cikti-olaylardan-goruntuler-1927395-spor/9

 

As I said at the outset, Turkish football has long been a harbinger of economic crisis in Turkey. Reuters reported in February of 2016 that “ambitions to secure a place at international soccer’s top table have come at a high cost for Turkey’s leading clubs”. Indeed, according to the story, “the 18 teams in Turkey’s top league [in 2016 were] saddled with 4.2 billion lira ($1.4 billion) in debt, around half owed to banks”. Again, according to Reuters, Turkey’s big clubs were in big trouble as far back as 2015:

 

Galatasaray reported a net loss of 87.5 million lira in the year to the end of May 2015, while Fenerbahce lost 181.2 million. Besiktas and Trabzonspor lost 140.5 million and 104 million respectively, according to stock market filings.

Galatasaray’s short-term liabilities – debt due within one year – stood at 527 million lira, Fenerbahce’s at 477.5 million lira, Besiktas’s 338 million lira and Trabzonspor’s at 220 million lira at end May 2015.

 

But the big names and big new stadiums put football fans to sleep, just like the shiny shopping malls of Istanbul have many believing that the current currency crisis will pass sooner rather than later. As American Sociologist C. Wright Mills once said, given the “ascendant trend of rationalization, the individual ‘does the best he can.’ He gears his aspirations and his work to the situation he is in, and from which he can find no way out. In due course, he does not seek a way out: he adapts. That part of his life which is left over from work, he uses to play, to consume, ‘to have fun’” (Mills, The Sociological Imagination 2000[1959]: 170). It is this kind of blind consumption—this acquiescence to the status quo created by extreme capitalism—which has people in Turkey (and all over the world) consuming beyond their means and, eventually, results in economic crisis; it is part and parcel of the periodic “crises of capitalism” which Karl Marx pointed out over a century ago.

This is also why Mr. Erdogan can ignore his people during a currency crisis in order to benefit those close to him. Since construction is the major source of income for the Turkish rentier state, Mr. Erdogan was reluctant at first to raise interest rates (the main path to keeping the Lira competitive, and a move eventually taken) since it would threaten the construction industry. At the same time, with many of his supporters keeping their money in foreign currency, Mr. Erdogan is—in effect—making his supporters richer through arbitrage with every day that the Turkish Lira loses value. It is a classic example of a leader enriching himself and his supporters at the expense of the average citizen. No, it is not about Mr. Erdogan. It is about the structure of the entire globalized economy. Even Hillary Clinton can even claim (incredulously) that “Democrats rescued the American economy”. Globalist figures like this have such little respect for their people that they lie to them day in and day out; globalist figures like this are also why it is imperative that people put identity politics aside and truly come together in order to take back their countries from the globalist abyss.

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Lig TV is Gone as Qatar Enters Turkish Football Market

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The Iconic Lig TV  brand. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/657907/Lig_TV_nin_adi_degisiyor.html

 

Thursday 13 January 2017 will be the last day that Turkish football will be played on Lig TV as the channel’s name is being changed to beIN Sports. As someone who has fond memories of watching matches on Lig TV, I admit that I have a nostalgic love for the channel’s name. Interestingly, for a lesson in how the media can spin things, neither the above mentioned piece in the opposition daily Cumhuriyet, nor pro-government Sabah and CNN Turk, add the detail that the leftist Sol gives: That the name change is due to the fact that Turkey’s main pay TV service, Digiturk, was bought by Qatar!

Of course, the price of the sale was never released to the public, but the name change is a blatant attempt for the Qatari company close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), beIN Media, to stamp their ownership on Turkish football. It is also a product of Qatar’s quest for soft power in the region that has been characterized by large investments in football-related fields (the World Cup anyone?); for more on this please see the interesting articles on James Dorsey’s blog The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.

It is part of a wide ranging number of Qatari investments in Turkey, likely necessitated by the the rising instability that has scared Western money away from Turkey. Interestingly, as the Cumhuriyet daily notes, many Turkish companies such as the Doğuş Group, the Ciner Group, and Türk Telekom (owned 55% by Saudi Arabia’s Oger Telekom but 45% by the government and public) wanted to buy Digiturk yet were not allowed to. Why? Is it because, as Cumhuriyet implies, the Qatari Emir visited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the day before the sale was announced? If this is the case, then (as the paper argues) why not announce the sale price? It is just another example of the extreme neoliberal policies of the AKP, who sell to the highest bidder and line their pockets in the process (after all, by not announcing the sale price it allows a chance to skim more off the top). The Financial Times estimates the deal to have been between $1bn-$1.5bn.

Now, Nasser Al-Khelaifi (also the chairman of Paris Saint Germain football club) is the owner of Turkey’s main sports broadcaster, representing Qatar’s financial goals. As the Financial Times explains:

 

Rejecting global criticism of its hosting of the 2022 Fifa World Cup, Qatar is pushing ahead with investments abroad. Less susceptible than its regional peers to the slump in oil prices, the country has been using its formidable financial firepower to snap up assets from corporate blue-chips to sporting franchises.

This latest blow from industrial football stings because it means that another Turkish business has been sold off only to line the pockets of corrupt politicians. It also may be a sign of the Turkish economy’s increasing fragility; as the West is scared off by increasing political instability the country seems to be turning East for investment. Unfortunately, history has shown that relying on Petrodollars is not the soundest of strategies.

 

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Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the New Owner of Digiturk. Also Chairman of France’s Paris Saint Germain Football Club. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/afp/2016/08/qatar-turkey-television-bein-digiturk.html (Top) and https://t24.com.tr/haber/akpye-yakin-katarli-sirketin-aldigi-digiturkun-satis-fiyati-neden-aciklanmiyor,302953 (Bottom)

Sports Figures Support Turkey’s War on Foreign Currency

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Since the Gezi protests of May 2013 the Turkish economy has become more and more vulnerable; the failed coup of 15 July 2016 and several violent incidents—perpetrated by both ISIS/ISIL/DAESH and Kurdish separatists—have only precipitated a decline that was a long-time coming. Mustafa Sonmez’s column at Al-Monitor gives a useful outline of how the situation got so dire. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) built their reputation on a strong economy and received an average inflow of 38 Billion USD over the past fourteen years, but most of this money was spent domestically—especially in large scale construction projects and consumer loans (after all, people need money to afford the luxury high-rises that have popped up around Istanbul in the last decade). This means that there were no foreign exchange gains; Turkey still does not export anything (even footballers) to a significant degree. The end result of this? As Mr. Sonmez notes “The dollar’s appreciation against the lira since 2013 will be 60% by the end of 2016 if its rise this year is contained at the current 12%.”

 

The Sharp Downfall Of the Turkish Lira (All Figures Courtesy Of : http://www.xe.com/currencycharts/?from=TRY&to=USD&view=12h)
1 Year:

1-year

2 Year:

2-year

10 Year:

10-year

 

Clearly, this is bad news for the Turkish economy and those in the country who earn their money in honest ways. In a bid to combat the Lira’s downward spiral, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the country on 5 December 2016 “those who keep foreign currency under their mattress should come and turn them into liras or gold”. Subsequently, Turkey’s main stock exchange Borsa Istanbul, changed all their assets into dollars while Mr. Erdogan’s spokesman said on 8 December 2016 that the President had changed all his foreign currency into Liras. As is to be expected, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu was left wondering whether the shoeboxes of foreign bills belonging to Mr. Erdogan’s associates that were uncovered during a corruption inquiry in 2013 were exchanged as well.

This “war on the Dollar” has also taken some interesting turns. Hurriyet Daily News reports that some restaurants would give free food and drink to those who converted Dollars or Euro into Liras, while one bus company offered free bus tickets and even one marble cutter offered free tombstones to those who show proof of converting 2,000 Dollars. It is ironic that tombstones should be offered, since the decision to convert foreign currency to Liras—in this climate—could be construed by some as economic suicide for low-income individuals and families.

Interestingly, many famous people have also joined this crusade, including footballer Aydin Yilmaz. Former Sivasspor footballer Jacques Faty is seen in a picture proving that he converted foreign currency into Liras , although the fact that he now plays in Australia may mean that his contribution to the “crusade” is questionable. On 8 December, Galatasaray captain Selcuk Inan announced that he would accept a new contract in Turkish Liras and we will wait and see how many other footballers choose to follow suit, since—in the globalized world—football is intimately tied to the global economy.

 

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Celebrities Follow Their Leader. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.sabah.com.tr/magazin/2016/12/09/vatansever-unlu-isimler-dolar-bozdurmaya-kostu

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.haberler.com/eski-sivassporlu-jacques-faty-dolarlarini-9038038-haberi/

 

The most high profile participant in this frenzy is former Turkish great (and AKP Deputy) Tanju Colak who took an astounding 80,000 USD to an Istanbul change office, saying “we came here to make fun of the Dollar, to burn the Dollar”. Indeed, some of those waiting to exchange their money were allegedly seen burning one Dollar notes (clearly, none were bold enough to burn one hundred dollar bills!).

 

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Mr. Colak (L) Trades In His Greenbacks While The Change Office Employee Looks On With Joy (R). Image Courtesy Of: http://www.yenisafak.com/spor/selcuk-inan-tl-teklifini-kabul-etti-2577034

 

As if the spectacle of a former professional footballer burning money was not ridiculous enough, the coach of Osmanlispor (a team close to Ankara’s AKP mayor Melih Gokcek) Mustafa Resit Akcay asked the state to come and take 20,000 USD from him. Normally, citizens are reluctant to allow the government to take money from them; I am reminded of a graffito I once saw that asks “why do we need police to protect us from thieves when the government already steals from us?” In Turkey—as is so often the case—the logic is turned upside down. Mr. Akcay said (author’s translation):

 

Siyasetçilerimizden, bütün siyasetçilerden, devleti yönetenlerden, müsteşarlardan hepsinden özür dileyerek, haddimi aşmadan bu ülkenin bu ekonomik savaşında devletim gelip benden 20 bin dolar alsın. Ve bu aldığı parayı bana 10 sene sonra mı öder, 20 sene sonra çocuklarıma mı öder, nereye öderse ödesin. Vergi dairesinden bir tane adamı yollasın bana, ben de ödeyeyim, paramı vereyim, helali hoş olsun. Ama bunu yaparken devletime bir nezaketsizlik yapmak istemiyorum. Özür diliyorum eğer bir nezaketsizlik varsa.

 With all due apologies to our politicians, all politicians, those who run the state, and the councilors, I ask—without overstepping my bounds—for the state to come and take twenty-thousand dollars from me in the midst of this country’s economic fight.  Maybe they we will pay this money back to me in 10 years, or back to my children in 20 years; however they pay it they can. They should send one person from the tax collector’s office, let me pay, let me give my money, it’s all ok. But as I do this I don’t want to be rude to my state. I apologize if I have been ungracious.   

It is an interesting stance to take, and I cannot fault Mr. Akcay for his nationalism, but it is also an example of the troubling results of globalization and global financial interdependence. The same push back that brought the UK Brexit and the US Donald Trump is now leading to economic nationalism in Turkey.

With currency experts calling this a “currency crisis”, CNBC reported that many American companies are facing trouble in Turkey. With the country downgraded to below investment grade—the latest bombing on 10 December confirming fears—foreign capital has been given another reason to avoid Turkey. As of now, some companies—like GE and Pepsi—are increasing their presence in Turkey. But how long will this last?

The Voice of America expressed fears that this economic nationalism could go to dangerous levels. Atilla Yesilada, a consultant at Global Source Partners, said:

 

While the patriotic Turks may heed him and will probably exchange their currency holdings, you got to remember that 48 percent of these people don’t vote for him, and they are scared, and many of whom may choose to take their money abroad. Assuming only 10 percent of domestic savers choose to send their money abroad, that would be $9 billion and that would be huge […] That’s where danger lies; action brings reaction. If the government in consultation with banks and the central bank,[sic] realizes those skeptical of the government are taking their money outside the country on a large scale, then you will have capital controls, like [C]hina. You will have limits on what money you can take out and that will really scare foreign institutional investors, who have 80 billion dollars invested in Turkish financial markets, so you might see a chain reaction of them scrambling for the door.

 

Indeed, capital controls would be disastrous for the Turkish economy, and could even affect the football world. Turkish teams are already suffering on the international stage, if their purchasing power is curtailed it could get even worse. Given that international capital has not pulled out completely, the situation is still fluid and I myself have heard rumors of smaller companies that have decided to pull out of Turkey. In the travel sector, for instance, the Los Angeles Times reported that Albania—the same Albania that used to be off-limits to foreigners during the Cold War under the Enver Hoxha regime—has now replaced Turkey on the cruise circuit.

While I believe that the trend towards reversing some of globalization’s more devastating side effects will continue throughout the world in the post-Brexit and post-Trump world, it will be important to watch for the results of this type of economic nationalism. These are worrying times, perhaps not for the ruling elite (and famous celebrities like footballers) who likely have stockpiles of cash and are using this as a cheap publicity stunt, but certainly for the normal citizen who struggles to make ends meet as it is. Encouraging the everyday person to trade in their foreign currency for one that has lost 11 percent of its value in the last month alone will not help, rather it will exacerbate their difficulties.

 

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Gold Values Have Plummeted Over The Last Month. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bigpara.com/altin/cumhuriyet-altini-fiyati/1ay

 

By encouraging people to buy gold, for instance, the value of government issued coins has actually gone down; on 1 December 2016 the value was 887.90 Turkish Liras but following Mr. Erdogan’s announcement on 5 December 2016 the value has fallen to 855.29 on 15 December 2016. For a working class Turk in a country with a 1,300 Lira minimum wage, that loss of over thirty Liras in fourteen days means a lot. This is why it is unfortunate that footballers—extremely wealthy celebrities that are looked up to by people from all walks of society—should be following the government in encouraging those with much less wealth to do things that may not be in their immediate best interests, economically at least.