Unity, solidarity and struggle

For some years one of the largest contingents on the May Day march in Britain has been of revolutionaries from Turkey - many in exile. Aziz Demir is a communist from Turkey with a proud revolutionary history. He analyses the state of the left in Turkey. Overleaf we reprint the article in Turkish [See PDF for Turkish reprint]

AS THE working class of Turkey is preparing for May Day, the leftwing organisations are facing a severe test. The test is to be worthy of each one’s claim to be the leading force within the working class, to be worthy of the spirit of the international meaning of this unique day: to lead the working class in its struggle; to represent nothing but the interests of the working class; to defend the unity of the working class in each country and across boundaries.

The sad truth is that the wide spectrum of left organisations existing in Turkey are yet to succeed in this task and be worthy of these ideas. Indeed upon close examination, it is clear many of them do not even intend to be so.

Despite the fact that of many organisations use phrases such as ‘revolutionary’, ‘workers’ and ‘peoples’, they in fact have nothing in common with working class ideology. Despite the claims of these organisations to be communist, Marxist or Marxist-Leninist, they have nothing to do with the methodology or theory of Marx and Engels or with any serious scientific attempt to understand the society they live and operate in. And despite the fact that they will take part in the legal or illegal May Day marches and demonstrations all around Turkey, they have no understanding of the class struggle methods and organisations of the working class.

Petty bourgeois left

These grim characteristics of the majority of the leftwing organisations of Turkey are a result of their class basis. The prevailing majority of the leftwing organisations of Turkey are petty bourgeois organisations. In their ideology and politics they reflect the despair of the pauperised small peasantry, the hatred of the unemployed or yet to be employed, newly formed proletarians of the city slums towards the existing social system.

These organisations were the followers or offsprings of the organisations formed in the late sixties or early seventies by young revolutionaries coming out of the student movement. Traditionally they have flirted with nationalism - as they defined their position against imperialism, and with anti-communism - defining their attitude to the world socialist system.

Without going into the details of their individual positions, all of these movements adopted the urban or rural guerrilla war as their main political activity, and military organisation as their primary structure. Other types of political activity and organisations were subordinate to this main line. As a general rule this ideology and organisational structure created a narrow minded cadre and a very limited relationship with the working class organisations: trade unions are viewed as yet another example of bourgeois domination over the working class. For them any strike is not good enough if it is not a general strike - or at least a political strike.

However they do not see anything shameful in forming their own small organisations by splitting any organisation, association or union. What they have achieved in the newly emerged field of civil service unions is typical of their divisive effect. When the state bans on union organisation for so-called civil servants began to crack, the newly formed semi-association, semi-union type organisations were split within a short time along political lines. And all of them kept their distance from existing trade union bodies.

Despite their revolutionary rhetoric, they do not see anything wrong in working within the so-called social democratic parties, while hiding their political identity. While they claim that the state is evil and the regime is fascist, they expect these relationships to be the cover for their revolutionary activities. And they never think that by behaving in this way they act as fig leaves for the regime.

These organisations bow down before the apparent strength and capability of violence. Hence their envy, uncritical support and, they hope, cooperation with the Kurdish nationalist movement. Despite their hatred of the regime and participation in any struggle against it, they continue to put forward wrong slogans, demand impossible forms of struggle and indulge in suicidal actions. They are destined to disappear from the arena of class struggle as a meaningful force.

Legal socialists

Two main trends have emerged as a legal left: the reformed Maoist movement on the one hand; and on the other an amalgamation of the old pro-Soviet wing of the Communist Party with the traditional reformist movement. Both of these trends have suffered many demoralising splits and have one thing in common: they lack any clear ideas.

These organisations were affected greatly by the collapse of the former bureaucratic socialist countries. They lost their programmatic direction and, as their political masters wavered, they were pushed into unexpected positions. Consequently they could not build up any coherent theory or policy in the ideological vacuum created by the disintegration of socialism. They were so much affected by bourgeois ideology that today they toy with the ideas of chaos theory and similar bourgeois ideas.

However, being the old opportunists, they have taken advantage of the inexperience of the newly emerging working class opposition to grab key positions both in the new structures and existing organisations. Nevertheless they played a crucial role in splitting the trade union movement through reorganising the banned trade union centre, Disk, and a further infamous role in sharing the spoils of fascism, as the state returned part of the assets of the former Disk and paid compensation and back-dated salaries to the old officials.

The legal left parties put forward the idea of a vague democracy instead of socialism, and have dropped the concept of class struggle from their respective programmes. After flirting with the Kurdish movement for a while, they have now adopted a nationalist stance in respect of the ongoing colonial war in Kurdistan. They distance themselves from the spontaneous uprisings of the working class, such as the one which erupted in Istanbul last month.

Through isolating themselves from the most active sections of the working class, they cannot play any significant role in the impending class struggles. However their legalistic ideas, their support and praise of bourgeois democracy and the monopoly capitalist state will continue to be focal points of ideological struggle.

Kurdish nationalism and the Kurdish left

Recent years have also witnessed the clarification of ideas and positions within the Kurdish nationalist movement. A powerful bourgeois wing of the movement has appeared in the political arena. Despite its cooperation with the guerrilla movement, its distinct bourgeois programme saw it contending for the leadership of the Kurdish nationalist movement.

Its programme embraces a close cooperation with Turkish finance capital and a wish to integrate with world finance capital through this channel. At least for the time being its programme looks for dominance over Turkish and Iraqi Kurdistan - and its oil reserves - as a junior partner of the Turkish bourgeoisie.

This bourgeois programme pushed aside the old leftwing programme of the guerrilla movement. Gone is the demand for land reform to end the feudal and tribal forms of domination; gone the demand for industrialisation and development of the region with a planned economy by the peoples’ state. Free enterprise, state subsidy and international financial aid and credit have taken their place. Gone the demands for the creation of a free, non-religious state education and a socialised, free health service. Instead, to gain the support of influential local people, a call for Islamic unity and Islamic holy war against the infidel secularist has taken its place. And parallel to this the term, ‘enemy’, has begun to to be applied to all Turks without distinction.

As a result of this transformation, the concept of self-determination of the Kurdish nation has lost its connection with democracy and socialism. This is perhaps the greatest blunder of the Kurdish left - or what remains of it. Victory in a guerrilla war to force the Turkish bourgeoisie into negotiations under the auspices of international organisations has replaced the idea of revolution in Turkey. The Kurdish left has been reduced to an appendage of its own bourgeoisie, prepared to fight and die under a false flag for a bourgeois cause.

May Day and the Party of the class

Worldwide reaction is still prevailing and the sorry state of the present day left will continue for some time. The remnants of ‘offical communism’ are all around, but not united or organised. There is no will to reorganise the communist movement. The lack of coherent understanding and pro-gramme can only be overcome through joint practice, through which con-fidence and mutual trust can be rebuilt.

However there are sparks of opportunity within the working class movement for such practical work. Despite all the adverse conditions, strikes, demonstrations and other protest actions are mounting against privatisation and the ensuing rise in unemployment. Despite all the assistance of the state, the Islamic political movement has reached its limits and faces a bitter confrontation with sacked workers in the municipalities they won in the local elections. Despite the mobilisation of a large section of the army, the political opposition movement is not subdued in the cities.

When the condition of the country is full of such explosive class contradictions, these struggles inevitably point to the formation of a political party of the class. Today maybe only the groundwork for the foundations of such a party’s principles can be found in the main demands of May Day.

Democracy in Turkey and self-determination of a Kurdish nation can only be achieved by a revolution led by the working class. Any other ‘solution’ to the Kurdish question would only provide yet another temporary and reactionary settlement between Turkey and the Kurdish bourgeoisie.

To achieve this twin task today working class revolutionaries in Turkey should defend the right to self-determination of the Kurdish nation, including the right of secession without any ifs and buts. Furthermore they have to stand against the colonial war waged by the Turkish bourgeoisie with all the means at their disposal. They have to be the unwavering champions of Kurdish workers and peasants in their struggle against any kind of discrimination and oppression.

A party which does not adopt such a programme is doomed to failure in leading the working class. Any false hopes, such as in a parliamentary road to socialism, in attaching merit to a ‘progressive’ wing of the bourgeoisie, only serve to deceive the working class. The working class must follow its own independent line.

The revolutionary struggle requires the unity of the working class of Turkey. Only this unity can smash the bourgeois state and all remnants of feudal structures and institutions. Any attempt instead to give priority to unity with any social force for this or that partial or temporary aim is sacrificing the working class on the altar of the bourgeoisie.

The revolutionary struggle of the working class is a single international process, and Marxism-Leninism is the theory underpinning it. A party whose political programme is not based on this theory, and whose cadres are not imbued with it and seasoned in day-to-day struggle, cannot hope to lead the working class to revolution and socialism.