NOTES ON THE HISTORY OF MLKP
AND THE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT IN TURKEY
By Garbis Altinoglu
The MLKP was founded at a Unity Congress held in September 1994, through the fusion of theTKP/M-L Hareketi and the TKIH. At the time it had chosen to call itself MLKP-K. This essay shall attempt to summarize the history of the MLKP and its constituents and evaluate the present position of this organization.
was the product of the fusion of two main groups, it was the TKP/M-L Hareketi,
which formed the ideological backbone of the MLKP.
One should get to know the TKP/M-L Hareketi more closely to be able to understand the present plight of the MLKP. That's the reason why, among the two main constituents of the MLKP, priority has been assigned to the treatment of the TKP/M-L Hareketi.
The predecessor of the TKP/M-L Hareketi was the TKP/M-L, founded in 1972 by Ibrahim Kaypakkaya. The TKP/M-L emerged as a left Maoist group in the tradition of the Communist Party of India/Marxist-Leninist, led by Charu Mazumdar. Even at the time, Turkey was a relatively developed dependent capitalist country which boasted of a militant and sizable working class. With the very significant exception of Kurdistan, peasantry in Turkey did not have a strong revolutionary tradition. The history of Turkish republic had not witnessed to any important radical and revolutionary mass peasant movement, apart from the national uprisings of Kurdish peasants. Dogmatically defending the basic tenets of Maoism, I. Kaypakkaya's TKP/M-L was for a strategy of a protracted people's war and encircling of the cities from the countryside. During the 1972-73 period, the TKP/M-L was defeated in its rural guerilla campaign, along with two other radical revolutionary groups, the THKO and the THKP-C, who chose to focus their work in the cities, at least during the first phase of the struggle.
The THKP-C was the strongest of the major revolutionary groups of the 1971-1973 period; it was a revolutionary guerilla organization, close to a Castro-Guevara line. The THKO, the third main revolutionary group of 1971-1973 period, was also close to a Castro-Guevara line and by far the least advanced of the three theoretically. Although the THKP-C and the THKO too paid homage to Mao Tse-tung as a great revolutionary, made references to him and adopted a strategy taking the countryside as the main battleground between revolution and reaction, they were in practice urban-oriented groups. All three of these main groups owed their origin to the mass revolutionary movement of the youth in the second half of the 1960's. They all opposed Soviet modern revisionism in differing degrees (much stronger and more systematically in the case of the TKP/M-L) and mistakenly identified this revisionism with the work in the cities and among workers. According to these three main groups, the Party would be built in and through armed struggle; in fact the real test of revolutionary militancy and rejection of revisionism was seen to reside in:
The TKIH, one of the main constituents of the MLKP, had split away from the majority of the the THKP-C in 1974 and begun to call itself the THKP-C/M-L. This split developed over the criticism of the "leftist" mass line of the THKP-C. From 1975 on the THKP-C/M-L began to oppose Soviet modern revisionism and embraced Maoism. In 1977 the group experienced a division; most of the leaders and part of the cadres fell under the influence of the revisionist theory of "Three Worlds" and left the organization to join the TIIKP (See End Notes Number 1). In 1979 the THKP-C/M-L rejected Maoism and stood firmly by the PLA (i.e. The Party of Labor of Albania). During the 1977-1980 period, the THKP-C was a militant revolutionary-democratic group, bearing the symptoms of "left" infantile disorders, such as attempts at forming small revolutionary unions and calls for the boycott of elections. The urban- oriented group focused its attention on the work among workers, youth and toilers in shantytowns.
The TDKP, which was called theTHKO at the time, came into being as a result of a split with the pro- Soviet revisionist minority ofthe THKO, called Miicadelede Birlik ('Unity in Struggle') in 1974. Numerically much stronger than theTHKP-C/M-L, it followed a similar ideological evolution. This group officially rejected the theory of "Three Worlds" in 1977 and held a conference in 1978, where it adopted the namethe TDKP-IO. Despite its numerical strength, theTDKP has been one of the most inert groups in the struggle against fascism; this group has also been notorious in concealing its defects under the cover of revolutionary phraseology and noisy advertisement of its supposed virtues and superiority. Mainly based among urban youth, the TDKP-IO too was for the formation of small revolutionary labor unions and boycotting elections. Not content with rejecting all forms of collaboration with other revolutionary groups, this most conceited and sectarian group in Turkish revolutionary movement was also renowned for heaping abuse on them. A case in point is the aggressive attitude of theTDKP towards the THKP-C/M-L. Three years after it had shed its right Maoist leaders, the THKP-C/M-L was described and evaluated by theTDKP at its First Congress in 1980 in these words:
In 1977, the
TIKB, the nucleus of which had joined the THKO at the end of 1975, split
away from the organization,
criticizing its rightist mass line and the theory of "Three Worlds". In
fact the TIKB was the first, among the "pro-Albanian" groups in rejecting
the theory of "Three Worlds" and Maoism. More significantly, at its foundation
meeting, called "Advanced Militants Meeting" in 1979, the TIKB had been
the first group, who adopted a Marxist-Leninist program essentially cleansed
from Maoism. A comparatively small group, which took a definite and unequivocal
stand against all brands of revisionism, the TIKB also shared the sectarianism
and narcissism of the THKO/TDKP-IO to a certain extent, plus some of the
"left" infantile disorders of the THKP-C/M-L.
The TKP/M-L, which along with other revolutionary groups, was able to resume its political work in 1974, experienced a division in 1976 over a discussion about the socioeconomic character of Turkey. The pure and dogmatic Maoists, in accordance with the thesis of Mao Tse-tung, claimed Turkey was a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country. The other wing, calling itself the TKP/M-L Hareketi, recognized the dependent capitalist character of Turkey. However, despite this progress toward an essentially correct understanding of the mechanics of socio-economic transformation of feudalism into capitalism, this group preserved its adherence to Maoism until 1980. Accordingly, it continued to concentrate its attention, forces and work in the countryside and among the peasantry.
In contrast to all three of the TKIH, the TDKP and the TIKB; the TKP/M-L Hareketi had mainly been a rural-based organization, acquiring most of its cadres from among the population of the countryside. This structural trait of the organization may be taken as an additional reason for its persistence on its Maoist fallacies. During this period, the TKP/M-L Hareketi also distanced itself from the "left" opportunist mass line and strategy of "people's war", without openly renouncing their Maoist roots. In practice, this contributed to the strengthening of the rightist mood and habits, especially since cities had been and were the main centers of political conflict in Turkey. The TKP/M-L Hareketi was formed mainly in the countryside and away from these centers, where a fierce struggle between a "civilian" fascist movement, supported by the state and a big, but divided and multi-headed revolutionary movement was raging.
During this period, the conciliatory and centrist habits of the TKP/M-L Hareketi leadership, which prevented and would prevent it from taking a firm stand on most issues, were also taking shape. That was the reason why, the modest and half-hearted move away from Maoism, had not led to the recognition of the priority of the cities and the historical role of the working class in a capitalist country, such as Turkey. The TKP/M-L Hareketi would preserve its rural orientation and reaffirm it in its First Conference held in April 1979, though the importance of work in the cities and among workers was underlined more and more. Remnants of Maoist ideology and mentality lingered on much longer, despite the official acceptance of the approach of PLA and the rejection of Maoism in 1979-1980.
The TKP/M-L (YIO) was a far smaller group that split away from the TKP/M-L Hareketi in 1978. Its founders argued that the TKP/M-L Hareketi followed a rightist mass line and played down the importance of armed action.
Here, we can make some rough generalizations with regard to proto-communist groups at the end of the 1970's and the beginning of 1980's:
All the various
groups involved in the foundation
of the MLKP plus the two, which declined to join, were of Maoist or Guevarist
origin; they all had their origins in the main radical revolutionary groups
formed at the beginning of the 1970's.
Structurally, they all were petty-bourgeois groups based mainly on the youth of lower strata of urban and/or rural petty bourgeoisie.
They had little or very little, but growing ties to the working class and were shaped mainly in the armed and violent struggle against the "civilian" fascist movement in the second half of the 1970's.
After 1974, they all had fought against the "leftist" mass line of their predecessors who emphasized the will, determination and courage of the vanguard; but in the meantime they had developed some rightist traits in response to the exaggerated emphasis on the subjective aspect of the movement.
They all had followed Enver Hoxha's and the PLA's lead in the struggle against the theory of "Three Worlds" and against "Mao Tse-tung Thought".
All of these groups were both in the process of ideological transition from revolutionary democratism to Marxism-Leninism and experiencing further splits toward the end of the 1970's.
It should once again be stressed that, with the significant exception of the TIKB, these groups had not broken definitely with Maoist ideology; all of them, including the TIKB were laden with a petty- bourgeois style of work and attitudes - although in differing degrees.
So, before the military-fascist coup d'etat of September 1980, there were five groups defending the line of the PLA:
This onslaught of political reaction can not be deemed as totally unsuccessful. However, compounded with the effect of the ebb of the mass movement of the late 1970's, this onslaught left a deep scar on the complexion and organism of the revolutionary movement in Turkey and paved the way for the emergence and development of a liquidationist trend. The fact that the revolutionary movement of the time bore a petty-bourgeois character, played a decisive role here.
At the end of the 1980's and the beginning of 1990's, the downfall of the Soviet revisionist bloc and the capitulation of socialist Albania would reinforce the drift toward liquidationism. (See Endnotes: Numbered 3). The effect of this factor, however would not be felt immediately.
That was probably, because the period between 1989 and 1991 was characterized with big actions of the working class encompassing hundreds of thousands of people and the successful advance of the guerilla warfare in Kurdistan, which in turn opened the way for spontaneous mass actions of tens of thousands of Kurdish peasants and townspeople against Turkish fascism and colonialism. The impact of this liquidationist trend was felt by all revolutionary and progressive groups; toward the end of the 1980's a great many of them were reduced to almost nothingness or had simply disappeared from the political scene. This impact was also felt by most of the above mentioned organizations, which stood at the far end revolutionary-democratism, had condemned Soviet and Chinese revisionism, but had not completed their ideological transition from Maoism to Marxism-Leninism.
Of the above mentioned groups, the TDKP was the biggest and the worst effected by this liquidationist trend. Lacking a genuinely illegal apparatus, the TDKP was quite easily destroyed by the political police in 1981, almost immediately after the military-fascist coup. In its October 1989 issue, Devrimin Sesi ('Voice of the Revolution'), the illegal organ of the TDKP conceded the fact that the TDKP leaders who were captured then, didn't offer any resistance to the enemy and gave it valuable information. Utterly demoralized, this group almost ceased to exist until 1987. In a pamphlet published in February 1989 ("Struggle Against the Right Opportunism of the 1981- 1987 Period and its Vestiges in Organization and Work") the TDKP CC (ie The Central Committee) itself admitted to following a right opportunist line, an anti-Leninist organizational line, a capitulationist line with regard to the attack of political reaction and failing into ideological disarray in the 1980's. Stooping as low as advocating the necessity of "a European style bourgeois democracy" during the years of reaction, the TDKP leaders attempted to hold a conference in December 1986 which was interrupted and broken amid bitter recriminations.
A section of the delegates opposed the TDKP leadership and in the wake of this foiled conference reconstituted themselves as the Leninist Wing (later it was called the EKIM (See Endnotes: Numbered 4)). Another section of the delegates, who split away from the TDKP would form the TDKIH in August 1989; the TDKIH would in turn join the TKIH in 1991 and become part of the MLKP later.
The TDKP returned to its well-known conceited and sectarian manner and rhetoric at a conference it held in February 1990. In an interview published in June 1992, the CDC of the TDKP declared its intention to transform the party into a legal socialist organization and after a period of "preparation" to neutralize and suppress probable criticism and reaction of the revolutionary cadres to this new path, the TDKP was legalized in 1995. Though it tried to retain the myth and facade of an illegal organization, the TDKP virtually was dissolved and came to be known as Emek Partisi and later Emegin Partisi (briefly EMEP 'Labor Party').
The military coup both contributed to the growth and accelerated the exposure of the rightist trend in the TKP/M-L Hareketi. In a pamphlet published just after the coup, the CC of the TKP/M-L Hareketi painted a pessimistic picture, immediately declared a tactic of retreat, allegedly for the "protection of the vanguard". A tactical retreat was necessary; but it was unthinkable and unacceptable for a revolutionary party not to strive to advance the struggle of the masses. The CC of theTKP/M-L Hareketi gave a defeatist interpretation to this tactic and denied even the possibility of workers conducting economic strikes! In the above mentioned pamphlet it said:
An example of persistence of right opportunism was provided by the attitude taken toward Kurdish guerilla struggle.
After its establishment in 1978, the PKK had followed an extremely sectarian line and especially in 1979 and 1980 it had launched physical attacks against almost all other revolutionary groups, including the TKP/M-L Harcketi and various Kurdish nationalist groups. Overreacting to this line of the PKK, which had led to the death and wounding of dozens and maybe hundreds of people from different groups, in 1979 the TKP/M-L Hareketi CC dubbed the PKK as an "Apoist fascist gang", and argued that the struggle against the PKK was a part and an extension of the struggle against the Turkish state. This, of course, was not correct. The TKP/M-L Hareketi CC stuck to a somewhat watered down version of this subjective assessment of the PKK, even after the beginning of guerilla warfare in 1984 and tenaciously maintained this position until May 1991, despite warnings and criticisms from inside the organization. This was almost the mechanical opposite of the sycophantic attitude it would adopt after 1991. As to the MLKP, following in the footsteps of the TKP/M-L Hareketi, it would adopt this latter position, in violation of the Programme and the directives of the Unity Congress, as shall be seen below.
It is to be noted that, the 1986 Conference did not even attempt to tackle the problem of the "influence of Maoism" on the programmatic views of the TKP/M-L Hareketi. (This organization did not have an official document entitled "Programme" until its fourth conference in 1991.) The TKP/M-L Hareketi would continue to ignore this "structural defect" and would in a sense, objectively strive to preserve its Maoist burden during the next eight years. It did not address this question in its third, fourth and fifth conferences held respectively in 1989, 1991 and 1993. One may surmise that, the TKP/M-L Hareketi would continue to keep this question in the deep freeze, if the unity work had not compelled it to discuss and "solve" this problem in the run-up to the Unity Congress in September 1994.
In contrast to the TKP/M-L Hareketi leadership, the THKP-C/M-L's initial response to the coup, was much more cool-headed and correct. But, as time passed by, it also had to fight against a liquidationist tendency that arose in its ranks. This occurred especially following a police operation in 1982. Though somewhat weakened, the THKP-C/M-L continued its political work after this police operation. It held a General Meeting in May 1984, where it changed its name into the TKIH. The General Meeting analysed the political situation in Turkey and the world and condemned the liquidationist trend and right opportunism, both in its own ranks and in the ranks of revolutionary movement in general. Further blows of the police, however, curtailed the work of the TKIH. So after this, it could not really reconstitute itself and reorganize political work until the end of 1987. Though, quite smaller than the TKP/M-L Hareketi, the TKIH was less burdened with opportunist prejudices and mentality, less inclined to tolerate opportunist deviations, more militant and more urban-oriented and had a better understanding of the role of the working class than its future partner.
While keeping the substance of its power and influence, the military junta had formally handed over the government over to Turgut Ozal's ANAP ('Motherland Party') following the general elections of November 1983. The outbreak of a guerilla warfare of Kurdish people led by the PKK in August 1984, the first stirrings of progressive student youth in 1985 and the beginning of first important workers' struggles in 1987, were harbingers of a new phase in the political landscape of Turkey.
These factors contributed to the creation of an environment more favorable for the reorganization of revolutionary groups, who had not expired their potential to make a fresh start. The period of 1987-1991 would witness an ascent in the mass struggles of workers, youth and Kurdish people and the inability of fascist-colonialist state to check the rise of working class movement, to contain the growth of the Kurdish guerilla movement and destroy it.
One of the effects
of the period of political reaction was the weakening of sectarianism
and narrow group mentality. The fascist junta had targeted all revolutionary
and even progressive groups and compelled, especially their imprisoned
cadres to act together. Arising out of the petty-bourgeois nature of the
revolutionary movement, this narrow group mentality had led to the poisoning
of the relations between various group. So much so, that during the 1970's,
they, had at times gone as far as engaging in armed clashes among themselves.
That was one of the reasons why, under the circumstances of fascist terror
before 1980, even groups who shared similar views, such
as those who defended the PLA and opposed Soviet and Chinese revisionism
could not come together, let alone establish a united front against fascism.
So, the partial weakening of sectarianism was not a wholly negative development, since it allowed revolutionary cadres belonging to different groups to, at least listen to each other, enter a period of dialogue and think about their individual and/or common problems; it assisted the formation of a culture of common action and united front. But, during the second half of the 1980's, in an atmosphere of tactical defeat and liquidationism, this new mood signified mainly a move in the direction of liberalism, a lessening of self-confidence and a growing inclination to blur ideological boundaries. The fall of the Soviet revisionist block and of socialist Albania reinforced this trend and especially fostered opportunist illusions; a considerable number of people began to argue that "former divisions between various trends in the revolutionary movement could be overcome". This trend would strike a chord with the TKP/M-L Hareketi, already used to compromising opposing points of view and maintaining and preserving its own burden of Maoism.
In this atmosphere, some of these five groups began to think about and discuss the question of "unity of communist forces". The division among "pro-Albanian" groups became to be seen as less reasonable and less defensible. At the end of 1987, the TKIH had declared itself in favor of unity with the TIKB, the TDKP and the TKP/M-L Hareketi, provided that important ideological and organizational hurdles were overcome. In 1989 the TKTH and the TKP/M-L Hareketi issued a Joint Declaration calling for the "unity of communist groups". In March 1990, a joint committee was established to advance the unity process among the TKIH, the TKP/M-L Hareketi and the TDKIH, a relatively very small group. The establishment of the MLKP-K would be the result of efforts aimed at uniting these groups, which lasted from 1989 to 1994. In the meantime the TDKIH would join the TKIH in September 1991. During this period, the TKIH and the TKP/M-L Hareketi and especially the latter more than once called on the TDKP and the TIKB to participate in the unity process, but they were each time rebuffed.
The liberal approach of TKP/M-L Hareketi CC had already become salient at the time. Instead of pointing to the real differences and aiming to develop a principled ideological struggle over these differences to arrive at unity, it did its best to minimize these differences and advocated a sort of amnesty for all mistakes, past and present. The TIKB and the TDKP, however, declined to take part in the work for unity, although their objections differed to a certain extent. They considered only themselves as communist and therefore did not have such a problem in their agenda. They took this drive to be an effort at unification among opportunist groups. The TIKB criticized this proposal as a liberal, liquidationist and an unprincipled attempt, a step toward unity among some groups, who lacked enough confidence in their own strength. It advised them and especially the TKP/M-L Hareketi, to critically assess their own past practical line and theoretical stands and fight against the heavy burden of opportunism, Maoism and liquidationism on their shoulders. The TIKB argued that seemingly similar positions of these groups, rooted in their proximity to the PLA meant nothing, as long as they did not follow a consistently communist line and take a definite stand against all brands of revisionism. It should be conceded that, despite its sectarian approach and arrogant language of its criticism, the TIKB's evaluation of the unity process has been correct and essentially confirmed by the experience of the MLKP. As to the leaders of the TDKP, which had returned to their habitual sectarianism after they had put some order into their house after 1987, they went further and described this unity process as an anti-TDKP step. According to them, this unity work targeted, and was designed especially to destroy the TDKP itself, the "only party of the working class"!
The effort toward unity was not successful during the first phase which lasted until 1991. It was in limbo between 1991 and 1993, due to lack of trust and inexperience, but more so due to the conservative approach of the TKP/M-L Hareketi leadership toward its Maoist past. The drive for unity gained further momentum after a joint meeting of the delegates from two groups in April 1993. The delegates decided to resume the work for unity. This decision was ratified by the Second Congress of the TKIH and Fifth General Conference (or Congress) of the TKP/M-L Hareketi, both held in the autumn of 1993. After the congresses, a Committee for the Organization of Unity Congress was established to coordinate the unity effort. This committee arranged an internal discussion in which members and sympathizers from two groups would participate. For this purpose, an internal discussion journal called Birlik Iradesi ('Will for Unity') was started and continued for some time. Up to the time of the Unity Congress, 26 issues of the journal had been published. However, it should be noted here that, due to the low level of general theoretical development of the cadres of the involved groups, articles published in the journal were not equal to the task they were expected to fulfill. This was to address the main sticking point - which was to clear up the remnants of Maoism; and moreover, to provide cadres with a somewhat profound perception of the problems of revolution in Turkey, and to lay a firm Marxist-Leninist theoretical basis for the new party.
At the First Party and Unity Conference held in September 1995, one year after the establishment of the MLKP-K, the far smaller the TKP/M-L (YIO) also joined the united organization, which thereafter changed its name into the MLKP. This group had been forced to cease its political work after the coup in 1980 and was almost totally destroyed and immobilized. It was not able to resume political work until the end of the 1980's. The participation of the TKP/M-L (YIO), who had been burdened with a background similar to that of the TKP/M-L Hareketi, hardened the Maoist strain in the structure of the MLKP and probably contributed to its future ideological confusion and organizational stagnation.
The establishment of the MLKP-K and its transformation into the MLKP, one year later was greeted with relief, hope and high spirits, not only among the sympathizers and supporters of its constituent groups, but also among a great many progressive people. After all, Turkey had been a paradise of sectarianism as far as revolutionary movement went, where even groups very close to each other ideologically and politically could not cooperate, let alone unite. Apart from the objective need to unite against fascism, there really did exist a strong longing for the "unity of the left." Progressive sections of the people were exasperated with the extreme fragmentation of the revolutionary movement during the second half of the 1970's. The fact that they lived through the white terror of the junta period, had strengthened their demand for unity or at least for a united front and common action of revolutionary forces. And, not unjustly, the MLKP has frequently underlined its contribution to the advancement of the idea and practice of unity.
It is a fact that the MLKP has dealt certain blows to sectarianism and promoted the idea unity among revolutionary forces.
Besides and what is more important, some hard successes emerged in the work of the MLKP following unity. In March 1995, it played an important role in the glorious resistance of the Gazi people against the armed repression of the police in Istanbul, in the March-May 1995 period it organized the campaign to find the remains of Hasan Ocak, who was abducted and later killed by political police. The MLKP successfully utilized the energy released through this campaign to develop two important initiatives: holding of a "Congress Against Disappearances in Police Custody" and the formation of the "Saturday Mothers' Movement". It also mobilized a significant following during the May the Ist demonstrations of 1995 and 1996 and led or actively participated in some strikes. Organizational fusion of two groups had proceeded without considerable friction. The KGO, the youth organization of the MLKP proved to be a militant and strong organization and a center of attraction for revolutionary youth.
On the other hand, the long standing extreme sectarian and almost openly anti-Marxist opposition of the overseas organization of the TKP/M-L Hareketi, headed by a single careerist person, was defeated mainly through the accomplishment of the unity in Turkey, plus patient ideological struggle and political persuasion. The ideological baggage of this local organization, frantically opposing the work for unity, had consisted of a mixture of the most backward interpretation of the views of the TKP/M-L Hareketi (bordering on pure Maoism) and a sentimental cult of I. Kaypakkaya, with a form of foquismo. Some time after unity, the remnants of this local organization would try to constitute themselves into a caricature of another "revolutionary group."
It should be noted that, different revolutionary groups, such as the DHKP-C, the TDKP, the TIKB, the TKP/M-L(See Endnotes: Numbered 5)., the EKIM etc. met the establishment of the MLKP with a sort of inimical skepticism. After the struggle to isolate the careerist and sectarian elements in the overseas organization of the TKP/M-L Hareketi, and to win the majority of its cadres was successfully ended; some of these other groups went as far as protecting and passively supporting the extremely small anti-Party group, that had come into existence. There appeared to be no rational explanation for this attitude of theirs, apart from the petty-bourgeois spirit of sectarian rivalry. The fact that the MLKP at times utilized mistaken methods of struggle against this tiny group could, naturally not justify this attitude of theirs.
All these developments reinforced optimism both in the ranks of the MLKP and outside. In fact the MLKP was becoming and for a certain period of time did come a center of hope and attraction for revolutionary cadres and sympathizers; especially for those who were disenchanted and frustrated with the narrow-mindedness, sectarianism, stagnation and gradual fossilization and even degeneration of significant sections of the traditional revolutionary movement. Unfortunately, these successes accompanying the first year of the life of the Party, created a mentality of "dizziness with success" and served to hide its structural weaknesses. Speaking of the positive or negative effects of tactical successes Stalin had said:
These interrelated problems and defects were not fully understood at the time. What was worse, these would not be addressed later and would cause the gradual degeneration of the MLKP. And that happened despite repeated warnings ,and criticisms made by some cadres of the Party.
That was the main reason why the above mentioned tactical successes played such a harmful role and objectively assisted in the deformation of the strategic line of the Party. Despite its Programme and the directives formulated at the Unity Congress, the MLKP was almost instinctively drawn toward political work among non-proletarian sections of the people, that is toward work among youth, urban semi-proletariat and Kurdish people, instead of the working class. Petty-bourgeois rush and haste and longing to win success and following prevailed over systematic and patient daily work to win the working class and its advanced sections.
There were some
other factors, pushing the Party away from the working class.
First of all, the Party was under obligation to interfere and take part in the current struggle against fascism, imperialism and colonialism and especially to support the Kurdish people whose blood was being profusely shed.
Secondly, the Party leadership also felt itself under moral pressure to show its sympathizers and revolutionary public opinion in general, that MLKP was something more than the simple combination of its constituents, that it was worth the long and protracted effort to create it. These, however, were only secondary factors contributing to this loss of direction.
In the final analysis, it was the petty-bourgeois ideology and habits of the cadres and especially of the leaders of MLKP that were to blame for the drift toward work among petty-bourgeois strata and petty-bourgeois revolutionary democratism. No tactical consideration can justify the loss or relinquishment of the strategic orientation of a communist party.
The reason for this diversion was anything but accidental; it was mainly due to the deep-rooted ideological confusion reigning in the MLKP and its predecessors, especially the TKP/M-L Hareketi. The Party could not focus its attention firmly and unequivocally on the spontaneous fight of the working class against the bourgeoisie; it could not participate in all working class struggles on a daily basis; it could not impart socialist class consciousness to the class and move forward systematically to win first the vanguard and later the great masses of the working class. Far from treading on this path, the Party was not even really aware of its task to prepare and steadfastly apply a long-range plan to advance the anti-capitalist struggle and enlightenment of workers and to elevate itself to the position of leadership of the class.
Naturally a Communist Party will not and can not reject to do political and organizational work among other sections of the people. However, a genuine party of the working class should and will concentrate its attention among the workers and relegate work among the non-proletarian sections of the people to a secondary position, especially during the first stage of its foundation and consolidation. Such a party does not have the right to forget the fact that, without a solid basis among workers and firm ties to the class, and especially to its politically advanced section, achievements and even "brilliant" achievements among petty-bourgeois strata will come to nothing.
The MLKP experiment has once more proved that, such achievements always carry the risk of distracting the attention of the Party from the working class and contribute to the growth or regeneration of petty-bourgeois ideology, mentality and style of work. Furthermore, with the MLKP such a risk was much greater. Why? Because,
That is, they had taken into account the level of development of capitalism and historical weakness of the revolutionary tradition of peasantry. Furthermore, they had taken into account the prone-ness of Turkish petty bourgeoisie to fall under the influence of political reaction. Therefore, the Party had declared the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to be the basic contradiction in our country; the MLKP was duty bound to concentrate its attention and forces on the working class and resist all attempts to distract it from this basic direction.
the MLKP leadership proved itself unable or
unwilling to clearly recognize the correct relationship between the democratic
and socialist tasks of the revolution.
The basic documents of the Party had stated that Turkey was at the stage of democratic revolution, which could only be led by the working class. Far from denying the burning character of a series of important democratic tasks, these texts have called on the Party to fight for the establishment of the hegemony of the working class in the democratic revolution, to work for the execution of these democratic tasks thoroughly, radically and with a socialist perspective and to declare itself for uninterrupted revolution. That is, the Party was not for lingering at the stage of democratic revolution; it would strive for the immediate transformation of the democratic into the second and socialist stage of the revolution.
The Party was obliged to tell the workers never to neglect the democratic tasks of the revolution, and always support actively and participate in all revolutionary-democratic popular movements. But it also had to warn the working class against glorifying or exaggerating the democratic revolution itself, since even the most far reaching democratic transformations would not end capitalism and the class domination of proletariat by the bourgeoisie and the exploitation of the former by the latter. Exaggerating and extolling democratic tasks of the revolution inexorably leads a party away from socialism and lands it in the mire of bourgeois democracy and capitalism. Opposing this reformist viewpoint, the Programme of the Party had said:
Yet the MLKP leadership acted as if the Programme and the directives of the Unity Congress did not exist; it acted as if the Party was an ordinary petty-bourgeois and populist revolutionary-democratic party fighting in a country where the basic contradiction was the one between people in general and fascism and/or imperialism. It concentrated its attention almost entirely on democratic tasks, that is the struggle for political democracy and national liberation.
The Menshevist and democratist line of the MLKP leadership showed itself in a much more glaring manner in the case of the Kurdish national question. Here, right from the start, it followed a tailist policy and kowtowed to the leadership of the Kurdish national movement; that is, it restricted the Party's role almost solely to supporting the just demands of the oppressed nation and its petty-bourgeois leadership. Besides, the Party leadership followed a progressively more conciliatory line concerning Kurdish nationalism, which as time passed began bordering on unconditional support and outright flattery. Disgracefully caving in to the PKK leadership and in accordance with its inherent tendency to worship spontaneity, the CC of the MLKP underestimated the revolutionary potential of Turkish working class and toilers and went as far as blaming and censuring them, especially for not actively supporting Kurdish national movement. It failed to criticize firmly and openly the growing flirtations of the PKK leadership with imperialists and certain sections of Turkish bourgeoisie; further, the Party leadership failed to recognize and therefore expose the growing reformism and approaching treason of A. Ocalan, who, as far back as 1995, had become ready to sabotage and sell the PKK in return for a few crumbs.
Under such circumstances, it was not surprising to see the CC of the MLKP violating the Programme and distorting the directives of the Unity Congress in quite an arbitrary fashion. In fact, right from the start, it had neglected its task to enlighten all workers of all nationalities in an anti-capitalist and internationalist spirit and to strive to unite them in common, single working class organizations; it had neglected its task to organize Kurdish workers independently of PKK, that is, of Kurdish national movement. In fact, the MLKP leadership did not even dare to assert the communists' inalienable right to do that. This meant a covert approval of the "right" of petty-bourgeois national liberation movement, that is of Kurdish national bourgeoisie to dominate Kurdish workers and toilers ideologically, politically and organizationally; this meant renunciation of proletariat's right to establish its hegemony in the democratic revolution in general and over the national movement in particular. This was a Menshevist position and was totally against the principles of Marxism-Leninism, as it was against the letter and spirit of the Programme of the MLKP and basic directives of the Unity Congress. Lenin had told the following in his "Preliminary Draft of Theses on the National and Colonial Question" as far back as 1920:
nationalist and tailist policy of the MLKP leadership contributed to the
distortion and degeneration of the united front policy of the Party as
well. In 1998, the MLKP played a very important role in the formation of
a block of a number of revolutionary and progressive forces. This block
included the PKK, the TKP (M-L) and the
TKP/M-L plus some extremely weak groups
trying to maintain themselves by leaning on and extolling the PKK. Right
from the start, the MLKP leadership attributed a very exaggerated importance
to this bloc; time and again it argued that the BDGP would prove to be
a different experiment in united front work, that it would be a permanent
and long-range weapon in the fight against fascism and colonialism. But,
it was obvious from its inception that the BDGP was doomed to failure.
Why? Because, the main force in the BDGP
was the PKK, whose leadership had gone
a long way in the direction of capitulation and treason at the time of
this platform's foundation.(See
Endnotes: Numbered 6).
At least, starting from 1995, if not before, the PKK leadership was continuously underlining its aim to come to terms with Turkish reaction and imperialism in return for the basest of democratic reforms, such as the recognition of the national identity of Kurdish people; it was systematically trying to assure them of the PKK's "peaceful" intentions and its readiness and eagerness to cooperate in maintaining "stability." So, how could this caricature of a united front do, apart from acting at best as a sort of "solidarity committee with the PKK" and at worst as an instrument of counter-revolutionary reformism and liquidation? Who, apart from utter simpletons and degenerate opportunists could expect or appear to expect such a formation to fight for the overthrow of the fascist and colonialist regime and for a people's revolution? Therefore, the MLKP leadership was totally wrong and unjustified in trumpeting the so-called virtues and superiority of this particular initiative.
But, the MLKP leadership was not content with spreading false hopes and illusions about this non- revolutionary and reformist structure; it insisted on staying in it until after A. Ocalan declared his open capitulation to Turkish fascism at court. And that was done despite some correct warnings and heavy criticism from inside the Party. What is more, it tried to portray this initiative as a means "for the creation of militant working class movement!" In the August-September 1998 issue of Partinin Sesi ('Voice of the Party'), the illegal organ of the MLKP, following lines were written:
Furthermore, Lenin considered the defence of the dictatorship of the proletariat the main criterion to distinguish between Marxists and all sorts of defenders of propertied classes, "the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested". In his famous pamphlet, The State And Revolution Lenin said:
Since September 1994, Party's committees, its publications etc. have provided information about the situation and actions of the working class, they have exposed the bourgeoisie, the state apparatus, trade-union bureaucrats and reformists. But, this has, definitely not been done in a consistently revolutionary and an anti-capitalist spirit. The Party has not systematically analyzed the experience of the working class gained in its struggle against the bourgeoisie; it has not prepared serious plans or proposed concrete measures to advance the struggle of the working class against capitalism. What is more, it has not taken part systematically in the daily struggle of workers against capitalism and not strived to educate them on the basis of their own experience. The task of a communist party could not be restricted to recording and describing the situation of the working class. Therefore, it is fair to say that, despite participating and providing leadership in various strikes and other actions of the working class from time to time, the MLKP has been worshipping spontaneity in the working class movement and following a khvostist and in the final analysis a reformist line.(See Endnotes: Numbered 7).
Thirdly, the MLKP leadership did not really understand the vital importance of definitely and unequivocally breaking with all brands of opportunism and revisionism and of cleansing itself of all remnants of bourgeois democratic ideology and of embracing Marxism-Leninism firmly.
Between 1989 and 1994, that is during the period of the formation of the Party, one of the most important sticking points was the disagreement over the assessment of I. Kaypakkaya, the Maoist founder of the TKP/M-L and TKP/M-L Hareketi's own past. The TKP/M-L Hareketi for years had tried to portray both the patently Maoist I. Kaypakkaya, and its own mainly Maoist 1972-1979 period - as "Marxist-Leninist". That, of course, was a totally mistaken view.
At the root of the problem, lay the centrist and eclectisist tradition of the TKP/M-L Hareketi leadership, which instinctively drove it to attempt to tread a middle way between Marxism-Leninism and Maoism. When it had rejected Maoism as a brand of revisionism in 1979-1980, the TKP/M-L Hareketi had not reviewed, or rather postponed to review its past in the light of this ideological step forward. And it would continue to postpone this thorny problem. In the meantime, it had created a fantastic myth, according to which I. Kaypakkaya's pure Maoism and its own mainly Maoist line were in harmony with Marxism-Leninism! Gravitation of the successors of the THKP-C and the THKO toward Maoism after 1974 had assisted to reinforce that illusion. It was true that I. Kaypakkaya's views were more advanced than the views of the founders of these groups. But that didn't make them Marxist; these views still were a dogmatic version of Maoism.
To "prove" the so-called communist nature of I. Kaypakkaya and of its own past, the TKP/M-L Hareketi leadership chose to mention certain seemingly correct Marxist statements and formulations, to be found even in every revisionist programme. The Marxist statements and formulations that one could find in I. Kaypakkaya's and the TKPIM-L Hareketi's basic writings, naturally did not in any way suffice to characterize their lines as communist. As to the TKP/M-L Hareketi leadership, it acknowledged the presence of "Maoist elements" in its basic views; on the other hand it alleged that the existing "Maoist elements" weakened, but did not change the "essentially Marxist-Leninist nature" of these views!
The constituents of the MLKP failed to solve this problem through ideological discussion. The TKIH had correctly argued that, all of the five groups mentioned above were petty-bourgeois revolutionary groups, up until the time they openly rejected Maoism in 1979-1980; it had also argued that the TKP/M-L Hareketi was obliged to alter its evaluation regarding its past, if a real communist unity was to be effected. But the TKIH had its own structural problems, such as organizational instability and theoretical inadequacy, which produced a crisis of self-confidence. This in turn prevented the TKIH from standing its grounds in the face of the pressure of the TKP/M-L Hareketi leadership. Under these conditions, the TKIH and a minority in the TKP/M-L Hareketi could not persuade the TKP/M-L Hareketi leadership to drop its Maoist historiography. As to the TKP/M-L Hareketi leadership, it never even intended to face its petty-bourgeois past radically and openly. Despite its apparent "ideological tolerance and liberalism", it obstinately and desperately clung to the strong remnants of its petty-bourgeois democratism and Maoism and rejected to criticize its own line in the light of Marxism-Leninism. And to mask its anti-Marxist insistence, the TKP/M-L Hareketi leadership tried to play down the immense ideological significance of this question and attempted to portray this disagreement as one pertaining only to history. Accordingly, this disagreement was presented as one allegedly not having any decisive ideological significance or any real relevance for the daily political work of the Party to be founded! The TKP/M-L Hareketi leadership argued that, this question would not present a problem for the communist unity of the Party!
In the end, this hurdle was overcome in a non-Marxist manner. It was left to the decision of the delegates to the Unity Congress, the majority of whom voted against the traditional opportunist assessment of the TKP/M-L Hareketi leadership. On the face of it, the MLKP did therefore, reject the opportunist and Maoist approach of the TKP/M-L Hareketi leadership to its past. This, however, was an opportunist compromise and not the product of a real ideological discussion in which vestiges of Maoism were condemned and dealt a death blow.
Unfortunately, the experience of the MLKP has proved this approach to be a great mistake. The extremely important experience of international communist movement was confirmed once again: Without definitely and unequivocally breaking with all shades of opportunism and revisionism and cleansing itself of all remnants of bourgeois democratic ideology, a revolutionary group cannot embrace Marxism-Leninism firmly and follow a communist path. This opportunist tradition of the TKP/M-L Hareketi was taken over by the MLKP, which would prove the key to its silent and protracted liquidation.
In "What Is to Be Done?", Lenin, referring to Marx, who criticized the leaders of Social- Democratic Labor Party of Germany with regard to its unity with Lassalle's National German Workers' Union, said:
The MLKP's experience has once more and tragically confirmed the merits of following a principled policy and abiding by the basic premises of Marxism-Leninism. In his "The Conditions of Affiliation To the Communist International" Lenin had said:
What do this unusual tolerance toward attempts at distorting Marxism-Leninism, this indifference to, reluctance and utter inability in assimilating the advanced theory and this failure in using it to guide the strategic course of the Party signify? They signify a lack of enthusiasm and a genuine interest toward the gigantic tasks of revolution in our country and a lack of belief in the cause of revolution and socialism. The reflex and attempt to belittle the importance of theory and the worshipping the most backward forms of practical work, is the hallmark of an ordinary petty-bourgeois democratic party. A communist party never perceives revolutionary theory and practice as polar opposites, allegedly excluding and negating each other; on the contrary it takes them as complementary aspects of a single process, where they both influence, interact, guide and learn from each other. In fact, our theory is not something divorced of the practical struggle of the working class against capitalism. Stalin said:
Indifference to the task of defending the principles of Marxism-Leninism, including indifference to defend its own Programme and basic documents and sowing theoretical confusion and promoting eclecticism betrays a self-denial of a party's own communist and even revolutionary identity. In fact, this means an indifference and concealed opposition to the cause of liberation of workers and other toilers and an effort to make common cause with the democratic bourgeoisie. And herein lies the essence of the liquidationist strain that has characterized the MLKP and has brought it to the verge of total destruction or more probably a gradual degeneration, whereby it will end up as an ineffective petty-bourgeois reformist party. The opportunist tradition of the TKP/M-L Hareketi taken over by the MLKP leadership has long transformed the Party into a loose alliance of all sorts of different tendencies, into a wreck where an ideological, political and organizational anarchy and decentralization reigns.
The experience of the MLKP has confirmed the fact that, there can be no common and middle ground between those, who are for Marxism-Leninism and those who are for opportunism and revisionism and between those who are for bourgeois democracy and those who are for the dictatorship of the proletariat and Soviet power. Any attempt to hold or bring these two antagonistic parties together, will not only be futile, but will also lead to reactionary results ideologically and politically.
TIIKP ('Revolutionary Workers' Peasants' Party of Turkey'), led by Dogu Perinqek, was a right Maoist party advocating the theory of "Three Worlds", following an inimical policy toward all revolutionary groups. It has been marching in the footsteps of Chinese revisionism since its foundation at the beginning of the 1970's. During the second half of the 1970's, this group applauded and supported Turkish state in its efforts to suppress revolutionary action in the name of uniting all forces, including US and Western European imperialists against the "Main enemy", that is Soviet social-imperialism. Thoroughly exposed and isolated, the group tried to change its complexion in the second half of the 1980's and posed to follow a reformist-democratic line. In 1988, it adopted the name "Socialist Party". Growth of the revolutionary movement forced this group to show its real face once again. Since the beginning of the 1990's, it has again started to openly support Turkish ruling classes, in the name of anti-imperialism. At present, it is peddling its rotten wares under the name of "Workers' Party."
Endnote Number 2:
There also existed a "pro-Albanian" group of Kurdish origin. This group, which called itself Kawa followed a similar political evolution during the second half of the 1970's. A section of Kawa accepted the theory of "Three worlds" and took the name Denge Kawa ('Voice of Kawa'); but was dissolved before 1980. A comparatively strong organization in Turkish Kurdistan, Kawa itself was almost totally dissolved after the military coup d'etat of 12 September due to the liquidationist trend and lost most of its following to PKK. Toward the end of 1980's Kawa slowly began to reconstitute itself and took the name Yekitiya Proletaryaye Kurdistan ('Proletarian League of Kurdistan') and held a congress in 1992, where it adopted a semi-revisionist, semi- Trotskyite, anti-Stalinist and nationalist stand. This ideological retrogression prevented Kawa from becoming a real force and joining in the discussions for the "Unity of communist forces" that began at the end of the 1980's. This stand also faithfully reflected the reformist and liquidationist political and organizational line of Kawa leadership, which has converted Kawa into a shadow of its former existence.
Endnote Number 3:
Throughout this text, the term "liquidationism" has been used times and again. Therefore, it will be useful to provide an authoritative statement of Lenin as to its precise meaning. He said:
Endnote Number 5:
At the moment, there are two Maoist organizations in Turkey bearing this same name, There doesn't exist any real or significant ideological difference between them. In Turkish political literature they are differentiated by writing their name TKP/M-L and TKP (M-L) respectively.
Endnote Number 6:
On October the 13th, 1995, Abdullah Ocalan had sent a letter to US President Bill Clinton urging him to "exert his persuasive weight" on Turkey and to assist in "Stopping the massacre of a people." In that letter, he had also stressed the fact that, his party was "ideologically different from classical communist parties" and be and his party were "not insisting on changing the frontiers of Turkey and were not for secession from that country."
In an interview given in December 1995, Ocalan had called on all political forces in Turkey to come to a consensus. In that interview, he had stated a collaborationist theme as following:
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