People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 11, 2007
CP Turkey Congress: Confident About Future Amid Repression
K Varadha Rajan
AS many as 29 parties from all over the world attended the eighth congress of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), held on January 21, and the international conference on “Oriental Question,” organised on January 20. These were the Algerian Party for Democracy and Socialism, Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, Communist Party of Britain, Communist Party of Cuba, Danish Communist Party, Communist Party of Greece, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of Israel, Communist Party of Malta, Portuguese Communist Party, Progressive Party of the Working People of Cyprus (AKEL), Romanian Socialist Alliance Party, Socialist Workers’ Party of Croatia, Syrian Communist Party, Communist Party of Syria (another party), Unified Communist Party of Georgia, Union of Communists of Ukraine, Workers’ Party of Belgium, Workers’ Party of Ireland, Communist Party of the People of Spain, Communist Party of Venezuela, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party, Lebanese Communist Party, New Communist Party of Yugoslavia, Palestinian Communist Party, Palestinian People’s Party and the Party of Italian Communists. Thus the CPI(M), which I represented at the congress, was the only fraternal party from South Asia to attend it.
HEAVY TASK FOR TURKISH PARTY
Before going into the details of this congress and the preceding conference, I must point out that the deliberations of the two events clearly reflected the situation of the communist movement in various countries, especially after the Soviet Union’s debacle.
Though the enemies of socialism are still propagating that the communist movement is finished all over the world, the picture I saw in Turkey said just the opposite.
The TKP congress took place at a time when imperialist aggression has met strong resistance in numerous countries worldwide in the recent years. While the new anti-imperialist governments in Latin America, together with Cuba, are striving to create a powerful front against imperialism, the Iraqi resistance against occupation, the ongoing struggle of Palestinians, and the defeat of Israeli aggression in Lebanon demonstrate that the Middle East people are determined to defend their sovereignty, dignity and independence. The growing opposition against neo-liberal policies in Europe bears the potential to defeat the EU that has been one of the most sustaining imperialist grouping in history. In the face of these hopeful developments, imperialist powers are responding with a vengeance, employing numerous means in political, ideological and economic spheres and also escalating the dosage of their military aggression. Yet the growing influence of communist and workers’ organisations in Europe, Middle East and Latin America is promising.
The TKP congress took place in a critical period when the communists in Turkey are assuming heavy responsibilities. Two major processes, namely the country’s strivings to get the European Union (EU) membership and the imperialist aggression in the Middle East, took Turkey’s relations with imperialists to a new level. In addition to dramatic alterations in the economic and social spheres of that country, which produced devastating results for the working masses, Turkey has been under constant pressure to actively participate in the US imperialists’ expansionist plans. In addition to having their military presence in Afghanistan under the NATO command, Turkey’s bourgeoisie agreed to send troops to Lebanon in the interest of imperialism. Thanks to the government’s collaboration with imperialists, Turkey is likely to get actively involved in the invasion of Iraq some time soon, and to contribute to a possible imperialist military intervention to Iran. Turkey’s involvement in imperialist plans is not only dangerous for the region.
However, the possibility of such an involvement and the imperialist penetration into Turkey has paralysed many political organisations in the country, leaving the Communist Party of Turkey with the heavy responsibility of defending the country against imperialist intentions. The foundation of the Patriotic Front in February 2005, at the TKP initiative, signified a turning point in their struggle against imperialism. Within one and a half years since its foundation, the front was able to mobilise significant numbers of the working people, students and intellectuals against the plans of imperialist powers and their collaborators. Later the Patriotic Front matured and became institutionalised a short while ago, in 2006. Naturally, the Patriotic Front occupies a central position in the policies of the TKP. Thus the eighth TKP congress marked the beginning a new period in which the Patriotic Front is likely to emerge as a major actor in the political arena.
When I landed in Istanbul, the first message I got from the comrades who have come tto receive me at the airport indicated the current situation in Turkey. One the morning of January 19, a cruel murder took place in Istanbul --- the chief editor of newspaper Agos and a Leftist intellectual, Hrant Dink, was murdered on the day. The suspicion is that it was the joint misdemeanour of imperialist powers and fascist circles in Turkey. In the country, American imperialism and its supporters are also instigating various groups to fight one another, and the process is threatening to decompose the country itself. Because of this, the Communist Party of Turkey’s main issue for discussion was how to keep the country united and win over the people from the imperialist supported fundamentalist reactionary movements that threaten a dissolution of the state.
These groupings have also affected the working class very much and workers in many places are divided. According to the assessment of the TKP, for example, Turkish and Kurdish workers stand divided. The trade unions functioning today in Turkey are, instead of uniting the working class, helping to divide it. The discussion at the congress took up this issue as one of the main subjects.
Besides being divided, it was also reported that a big section of the working class is not in any trade union at all. In the situation the TKP congress has worked out how to build up an alternative trade union movement and develop the political consciousness of the workers.
Another important issue that came up for the discussion was the division between the Turkish and the Kurdish people. The communist movement, which is very weak among the Kurdish population, has discussed this issue in detail and decided that a new and profound organisational arrangement should begin immediately for a widespread organisation among the Kurdish people and the Kurdish proletariat.
In today’s Turkey, the ruling class is busy suppressing the right of the Kurdish political organisations to exist and perform political activities. Needless to say, if this oppression is not stopped, the question of building unity does not arise. This was a correct assessment of the party congress and to work for the rights of the Kurdish people is a must.
The question of Turkey joining the EU is also one of the highly debated issues in the country. The TKP is against Turkey joining the EU. With regard to this, the congress resolution said the following:
“The Communist Party of Turkey invites the friendly and fellow parties to completely abandon the approach that the process of membership to the EU helps to democratisation of Turkey. It is clear that mediation of the EU is not necessary to act with solidarity with proletarian class, communists and progressives, and to protest the anti-democratic practices in Turkey. While the TKP is continuing with its struggle without any concession against the power of reactionary bourgeoisie, it cannot be indifferent to the plans of imperialist countries and institutions about Turkey and certain impositions with certain targets. We expect that the European communist and workers’ parties, who are true friends of the Turkish and Kurdish proletarians, will approach the issue with due sensitivity.”
An interesting feature about Turkey is that it can be called neither an Asian country nor a European one. It is spread over both Asia and Europe. In fact, the capital of Turkey, Istanbul, is itself spread over both Asia and Europe. We crossed the historic bridge which separates Europe and Asia, when we travelled from the airport to the conference venue.
‘YOUNGEST’ CP IN THE WORLD
The TKP congress was is attended by more than two thousand delegates, of whom 405 had the voting rights. An important fact about the TKP is that it has faced oppression by the ruling classes for many decades and at one stage, after the debacle of the Soviet Union, the communist movement in Turkey was almost finished, but yet it again started to function effectively. The Turkish Communist Party, which was started in 1920 and played an important role in the independence movement of Turkey, was divided into many groups in the 1970s and 1980s, and almost came to an end in 1990. As Turkey’s constitution did not allow any party to function with the name “communist” at that time, the party was renamed as the Party of Socialist Power in 1993 and it was only in 2001 that the name was again changed to Communist Party of Turkey (TKP). Even now, constitutionally, there cannot be a registered communist party, but the TKP is allowed to function openly with its name because of the new situation and the people’s fight for democratic rights.
Thus, in one sense, the TKP is the youngest Communist Party in the world. It was reflected in the data given at the congress. Out of 58,000 votes the TKP got in the recent election, a big chunk (around 50 percent) came from the TKP members and sympathisers themselves. The average age of TKP members is 23 and the average age of its CC members is 35. Out of the 2000 delegates attending the congress, 90 percent and more were around 20 years and the important fact to be noted is that they were almost equally divided between both sexes. When these youngsters spoke at the congress, their dedication and their confidence about the future was very well reflected. When I had a discussion with a CC team on the 22nd morning, they informed me that representatives from various communist parties were impressed by this domination of youngsters in the party and the future plan to expand it wider and deepen its base through the formation of the Patriotic Front. They also expressed the hope that the impact of the Patriotic Front will be seen in the general election which is supposed to come within a year, and that will prove a turning point in the life of the party. We do hope that these Turkish comrades will win their goals and march still forward.