Opening speech of the Secretary of the CC of the Communist Party of Turkey, Kemal Okuyan, at the 17th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties (IMCWP)
I welcome you to the 17th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties. As the Communist Party in Turkey, we are very glad to see our comrades from all over the world here in Istanbul. I assure you that we try our best for a productive, secure and comradely meeting that is realized under continuously changing and quite challenging circumstances. Yet all we can do is to apologize in advance for any sort of possible inconveniences.
I prefer not to start with the cliché phrase that “in these difficult times we’ve been passing through ... .” There has never been an easy time for the working class movement. It is not surprising that today capitalist classes attack on labor movement and strive to abolish all the gains that working classes have gained along centuries, they have done each time when capitalism passed through successive economic and political crisis. It is not surprising that contradictions among imperialist powers deepen and the threat of war and fascism rise.
It is true that this threat implies additional difficulties for the communists. Restrictions, bans, arrests, persecutions, murders … We have countless examples of such aggressions by the bourgeoisie in the history of communist movement. Right here, in our country, communists were forced to engage in clandestine struggle for decades. Today is no exception. There is only one meaning of the unjust implementations that we do and will protest against in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Hungary, Baltic countries and others: we cannot speak of any real freedom or democracy under capitalism!
There are no reasons to tell that certain periods provide “smoother” conditions for the communists. And, I mean the periods when capitalism gains relative stability and extend the scope of bourgeois democracy due to one reason or the other. Of course, this can be asserted only if we are still committed to our only reason for being: the claim to establish a classless society free from exploitation. A stabilized capitalism would not and does not resolve exploitation, unemployment, inequalities, poverty and the possibility of crisis. The stability of capitalism provides dominant class with additional opportunities to deceive working masses. In that regard, the difficulties for the communists increase in certain ways.
We must get rid of capitalism. Humanity can no longer put up with this barbarism. I dare to declare this in a country where we faced with one of the worst electoral results a communist party can get, just four months ago.
I dare, not because we are dreamers, utopians, adventurers or fools, but because we are communists!
It is clear that the struggle for socialism demands patience and persistence. We would not make a revolution but create caricatures, with a voluntarism that does not take into account objective conditions, nor we would without taking pains. Caricature is an impressive, creative and cheerful art; yet those who become caricatures themselves in politics would cheer no one but our enemy.
And this is not all! What would cheer our enemy, the capitalist class, is the claim to socialism being sunk in the oblivion.
The history of the communist movement is full of great victories and achievements. Taking it further, I can say that if the communists were taken out from the history of last 160 years, the world would not only turn into a hell, but it would become barren in every sense of the word. The communists left their mark on their epochs in the fields of science, art and culture.
Then why are we less influential today?
We must bravely ask this question. We must do so, in order that our enemy cannot cheer up anymore.
We are less influential today, since the very idea; the very hope that another world is possible has been on the wane. It is a deadly blow for the communist movement if the goal for socialist revolution looses its actuality. Although it is true that the communists take sides with peace and freedom; their historical legitimacy stems from nothing but their goal for a classless society.
The goal of socialist revolution was on the first rank in 1919, when the Comintern was established, not because the member parties were powerful. We all know that many of the parties, which took the name of “communist” then, were not any stronger than the parties that we call “small” today. The advancement of the October Revolution proved the intermittent and surging features of the struggle for socialism. The Russian revolutionaries won a victory, in which no one would believe a couple of years prior to 1917. Today, socialism is not any farther away than in 1914, and it cannot be so!
We know this by our experiences in this country.
If I ask you what comes to your mind as revolutionary politicians when you hear the name Turkey … It is a beautiful and lively country both with its historical and natural riches. It is the homeland of the great poet Nazim Hikmet, and it is the homeland of dedicated revolutionaries. Yet that is not all. You would definitely think of military coups, fascists, militarism and religious fanatics. Today, many tell us that it is meaningless to speak of socialism in such a country. They tell us that our priorities must change when the freedoms are overridden to such a great extent.
Yet we know that military strikes happened in our country, precisely for this reason; that is to secure the capitalist order as a whole. When the pro-NATO generals staged the coup in 1980, one of the prominent capitalists in Turkey declared: “it is our time to laugh now.”
The same goes for the religious fanaticism. Yes, the religion itself is much older than capitalism, but it invaded the political sphere of Turkey via US dollars and German marks. The rational was to prevent the social revival in Turkey. In that regard, it is a great mistake to count the Islamist movement only as an anachronistic phenomenon. You can only come to a correct interference if you use the term “anachronistic” for capitalism as well. We must understand that today, the most prominent monopolies in the world are waging a war against modernity.
Dear representatives from fraternal parties;
Our party’s struggle is based on three inseparable and fundamental elements.
First is the fact of imperialism. What should we understand by that? First of all, we do not regard imperialism as a matter of foreign affairs for Turkey. Nor imperialism means simply a problem of dependence for the country. We have no doubt that Turkey is open and fragile to the influence and interventions of powerful imperialist centres, notably the USA and Germany, in terms of economy, politics, military and culture. We struggle against that and we defend an independent and sovereign Turkey. We do so, not because of tactical reasons but because we are communists, and we are patriots. In connection with this, we fight for the annihilation of imperialist institutions such as NATO and EU, which afflict not only Turkey but all the oppressed of the world.
But how can one distinguish this struggle from the one against domestic and foreign monopolies, and against the very foundational order of those monopolies: capitalism? How can we continue to struggle against imperialism, unless we also stand against the regional claims of the bourgeoisie of Turkey, and its efforts and intentions for becoming an imperialist power itself? A capitalist but independent country, a capitalist but sovereign country, a capitalist but dignified country is a pipe dream.
There are more than enough examples in the history of the communist movement, which show what we would be faced with, when we take out the class perspective and the goal for socialism from the anti-imperialist struggle. History teaches us that after the goal for socialism had been forsaken, came the withdrawal from the struggle against NATO, and finally from the objective of breaking ties with it!
We define patriotism as such: patriotism is the will to liberate one’s country from the exploiters! Not the foolishness of showing empathy to the bourgeoisie of the country.
It is the same reason, the same necessity why the communists can and must not prefer one imperialist power over another. The most powerful enemy today may be the USA or another imperialist centre. Moreover, the clash of interests among imperialists may provide certain opportunities to the communist movement. But all these can attain a historical meaning only and only if we take a firm stand in our independent class position and restrain from prompting the working class to make peace with this or that faction of the capitalist class.
The second element of our struggle is the enlightenment. We have here many comrades from Islamic countries. The same experience that we all share shows that, the communists will never be able to gain real strength unless they adopt a secularist attitude. No doubt that by enlightenment, I refer to the beyond of the limits of bourgeois sense of the term. The historical legacy of bourgeois revolutions since 1789 passed with a changed content to the working class, which today waves the flag of the progress on its own. We need to put up an unhesitant fight against the reactionary forces and against religionization of the society and politics, not solely in Islamic countries but in all over the world. Let us not forget that religious terror today is the product of religionization of the political sphere, be it in a moderate or radical way.
This invasion of political sphere is not simply a matter of geopolitical interest of the imperialists. Religionization as a whole helps to the persistence of the dominance of capitalism. Thus, it is unacceptable for the communists, who have always defended the freedom of belief and worship, to abandon the principle of keeping the religion out of political life.
We object to the reduction of struggle against religious fanaticism to a struggle solely against the ISIS. We also object to the pursuits for meeting in the same ground with imperialist countries for the sake of struggling against this bloodthirsty organization. We not only decline the tendencies to accept any lesser of evils, but also know who created all these.
The third essential element of our struggle, anti-capitalism, is undoubtedly the determining feature of a communist party. However, we do not take this as an often-repeated cliché pending for the right time to be brought into play. Nor we see the struggles for peace, freedoms and enlightenment as prior steps to help a future struggle for socialism. For us, the perspective of socialist revolution must be the fundamental principle of communist parties in every issue and in every moment.
Allow me to explain what I say more clearly, in connection with the concrete situation in Turkey.
When the AKP (Justice and Development Party) came to the power almost 15 years ago under the leadership of Erdogan, the majority of the left in Turkey gave their direct or indirect support to the AKP; justifying it with the need for democratisation, demilitarisation and development of civil society in Turkey. Some parties in the European Left also got involved in this process. We are able to document that they declared Erdogan to be revolutionary, reformist and progressive. We, on the other hand, assessed the developments from a class point of view, and are justified over and over again. Those who anticipated democracy from the capitalist class, and those who hoped for freedom from Islamist fundamentalists deceived the people of Turkey.
Later on, as the AKP government attacked the working class, women and youth, indignation and reactions accumulated in the society. The influence of communists who had waved the flag of anti-AKP struggle almost by themselves before, expanded. As Erdogan polarised the society more and more, significant factions of bourgeoisie became disturbed too. At that moment, in 2013, a great social uprising known as the Gezi protests broke out. Millions took to the streets against the government. The capitalist class attempted several times to influence it through several channels to the extent of turning it into a color revolution. Yet, presence of revolutionary forces and ideological tendencies of the participating masses did not give passage to any liberal, pro-US or pro-EU intervention. Kurdish movement, on the other hand, abstained from participation, accusing the movement of an attempt at a coup against the AKP.
If asked about how our relations are with the Kurdish Nationalist Movement, our answer would be as such: Kurdish people are oppressed. We cannot turn our back to their requests of equality and freedom. We struggle for a country where Kurds, Turks, and all other peoples can live together in peace and brotherhood. There are many Kurds in our party who struggle for this purpose. Having said that, dear comrades, we cannot approve pragmatic choices of a nationalist movement based on class collaboration, or their relations with imperialist centres. Nor can we forget how they have supported the AKP government for years. Socialism is necessary for Kurds as well, unless they think of liberation as the dominance of Barzani and the like.
The Kurdish Nationalist Movement saved Erdogan from toppling down in 2013. This is not our claim. The leaders of the movement expressed it explicitly and repeatedly. And then … What?
And then, the bourgeoisie and leading imperialist states, which distrusted the millions who took it to the streets, initiated a comprehensive intervention, what we called “an attempt of restoration” since then. The aim was a broad coalition with an AKP without Erdogan, a renewed and reformed CHP (Republican People’s Party), and the HDP (People’s Democratic Party) as a Kurdish party integrated into the system. Today, Erdogan resists this alternative, which would mean his exclusion. The attempt did not succeed in the elections in June, and now, powerful factions of the capitalist class try the same once again in the upcoming elections.
Almost all the factions in Turkish left stand behind this project. Their justification goes like this: “Erdogan shall go first, so that we can heave a sigh of relief”
It shall not surprise you that our party received votes only from its grassroots in the past elections. We were not affected negatively by the results since we are aware of the existing intellectual terror. Today, there is not an organisation left that mentions the working class or labour-capital contradiction! HDP, which turned into a social democratic party, keeps receiving support from certain media monopolies. Some politicians of the HDP who account themselves as “Marxists” visit organisations of capitalists, posing gladly in the same photo frames.
In fact, the capitalist class as well needs the left. The system in Turkey is in the rush of making its own left persuasive, since otherwise it will turn into a big risk. Without SYRIZA, the system in Greece would also be under threat. The same goes for the other countries. Podemos in Portugal, latest developments in the Labor Party in Britain … Can all these be unrelated to the need for managing the crisis and sustaining capitalism?
Today, similar developments take place in Turkey. Those who have kept Erdogan safe from people until now put the pressure on us to participate in anti-Erdogan coalition. But why do they attach such importance to a party, which receive less than one percent of the votes?
Because, they are afraid! I am not exaggerating. They are afraid of our being well organised, our political wisdom, our influence, our cadres, and our militants who waved the red flag of the working class in Taksim Square on May Day, when it was occupied by tens of thousands of policemen. The very day after the elections, in which we received a ludicrously insignificant rate of votes, 780 thousand people visited our party’s online publication.
Why is it so? How come an election failure does not cause distress?
Because, we are sure of ourselves! Our party protected itself and gained good reputation by often taking the risk of standing alone. We always took stances, which would be justified later on, about the EU, NATO, and AKP government. When the process called the Arab Spring shook the Middle East, we immediately announced that they were hijacking the anger of the poor Arabian masses. The hijackers were international monopolies. Those who said, “let the democracy develop first”, and those who supported Islamist parties setting forth the reason that “it is all that a revolution can be in the Arab countries” became disappointed. Mursi, Sisi, Erdogan, or Tsipras … These are the representatives of different factions of bourgeoisie and they always will frustrate those who rely upon them in the name of democracy, freedom or progress.
Yes, dear comrades, our party, which was blown into a crisis last year by the liberal-reformist wind proceeds in its own way. My intention is not bragging. We are all members of the same family here. We intend to show our comrades that they do not need to worry about how the communists can succeed in this difficult country.
It is possible that we can receive insignificant votes again in the coming elections. Of course we always take some lessons from such results. But we never base our plans on increasing our votes. We organise, strengthening our units in factories and workplaces. As a working class party, we fight a severe ideological battle with those who try to besiege us.
We have no doubt that we will eventually succeed in our struggle in this problematic and surprising country. We also have no doubt that you too will triumph in your struggles. Together, we will get rid of this barbaric order called capitalism. All we need is Marxism-Leninism; not as a worn-out slogan but as a living guide that enlightens our path.
Once again, we welcome you comrades …