By Kemal Okuyan, TKP General Secretary
The Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) , our party, was founded on 10th of September, 1920. We are the oldest party in Turkey.
Is it because we are 103 years old?
Otherwise we would call ourselves “old”, we would call ourselves “aged”…
No, it is not our age that makes us rooted. We are the most rooted party in Turkey because we are a party born to the process of liberation and foundation in these lands.
10 September is a foundation that takes its courage and legitimacy from a rising revolution, from the historical developments that turned the world and our region upside down.
We say 10 September 1920, but that foundation is also dates to 7th of November 1917, the Great October Russian Socialist Revolution; March 1919, when the Communist International took off; the Baku Congress of the Eastern Peoples, which convened on 31st of August 1920 and instilled optimism in millions for a week.
Baku was a hotbed of labour in the Caucasus. For decades, the anger of the oppressed ‘neftçi’s (oil workers), exploited by the big monopolies that had been squatting on the rich oil resources, had met with revolutionary ideas, and Baku had become the most critical city in the region in terms of class struggles.
In Baku there were workers from all nations and ethnicities, the brotherhood and internationalism of the proletariat against the cosmopolitanism of capital!
It was in Baku that the party announced its foundation. In Baku, which the Soviet power had liberated from the British-Menshevik alliance and the Ottoman pashas who were still seeking expansion.
The TKP could have been founded in Istanbul, where communists defied oppression, darkness and occupation, or in Crimea, where revolution and counter-revolution were engaged in a bloody showdown.
The important thing was this: An era was closing and a new one was opening. The ranks were becoming clearer, revolution and counter-revolution were leading to a confrontation from which no one could escape.
What were the communists to do?
The Ottoman Empire was finished, exhausted. The palace was a nest for despots and collaborators. Occupation and disintegration had broken the necks of the poor Anatolian peasants, who were already broken by hunger, poverty, epidemics and war.
On the other hand, the great war waged by the imperialists to redivide the world and in which the hands of peoples were at each other’s throats gave a completely different result; the soldiers, most of whom were workers and peasants, revolted against their own governments, and the workers seized power in Russia, which took the lead in this matter.
The same thing was almost happening in Germany. The German Empire, on the defeated side of the war, gave way to the Republic. The Republic was established in Germany with the bayonet of revolutionary sailors and by force of proletarian militiamen in red bandanas. It was the traitorous German social democracy which prevented it from becoming a socialist republic.
Finland, Hungary, Slovakia… Everywhere the wind of revolution was blowing, everywhere…
On the one hand, the victorious imperialist states were trying to divide their gains among themselves, and on the other hand, they were concerned with ousting the uprising of the reds, the rabble, the oppressed, the great humanity, the troublemakers who shook their power.
Psychological superiority was on the revolutionary front. Soviet Russia extended a strong hand to the workers and oppressed peoples of the world. This clean, honest and sincere hand was a saviour for the poor masses who had felt the bloody and dirty hand of imperialist barbarism on their throats for years.
The resistance in Anatolia emerged under these conditions.
Turkey had not had a strong tradition of democratic mass movements. In the Ottoman Empire, bourgeois revolutionaries taking advantage of the responses created by the discontent of the poor people were forcing the transformation. Intellectuals, pashas…
Of course, there was a popular reaction against the imperialist occupation. But it was weak and localised. Anatolia was waiting for someone.
Mustafa Kemal was one of those who stood out. In a short time, he distinguished himself from the others by his realism, his courage on fundamental issues and his appreciation of the opportunities and excitement created by Soviet Russia.
The occupation and the decay of the Ottoman Empire had provided new energy for Turkey’s bourgeois revolution. Did the Turkish working class have enough experience and power to go further?
No definite answer can be given to this question. But if we take into account that Thessaloniki, the most organised city of the “old” Ottoman Empire, was in Greece, and Istanbul and Izmir were under occupation; if we consider that socialist thought was not rooted, and that it existed in an inadequate and often incoherent form…
It was tough, very tough.
But even in that situation, the resistance in Anatolia was very, very valuable. First of all, the national struggle was in the ranks of the international revolutionary front. It was disrupting the plans of imperialism and inspiring many nations.
Moreover, the limits of any struggle cannot be predetermined, some processes can evolve and transform far beyond the point where they started. In 1919, no one could make prophetic predictions about the outcome of the struggle in Anatolia.
A struggle was going on, this struggle was between revolution and counter-revolution, but each front had its own internal dynamics at work.
And even in that state, we are talking about a revolutionary, progressive process, a revolution.
The Communist Party of Turkey had to be founded!
Because the Communist Party of Turkey has already taken sides in Anatolia. The Communist Party of Turkey was against the invaders, against the collaborator rotten Palace, was on the side of the revolution, was on the side of the resistance. Whatever was necessary for that revolution, that resistance to reach more, for the workers to enter the next phase stronger, had to be done.
Communist Party of Turkey was a historical claim, it was going to be established anyway. However, the Communist Party of Turkey was also the spirit of the era; in this sense, its foundation is timely.
The fact that our founding cadres, Mustafa Suphi being in the first place, wanted to move to Anatolia immediately was also in line with the spirit of that era, it was timely.
They underestimated the power of anti-communism, made a miscalculation, did not heed the warnings; they marched to their death…
Let’s skip all this…
We communists defend life, not death. But sometimes death writes the history of humanity.
As soon as the TKP was founded, it acted decisively to take a position and assume responsibility in the struggle in Anatolia. If TKP had not done this and observed the resistance, liberation and foundation from the outside, 10 September 1920 would have lost its meaning and remained symbolic.
And if this had been the case, we would have had difficulty in saying “Our party belongs to our country”, when we brought back the name TKP, which was banned by the capitalist class of Turkey, into the field of legal politics in the early 2000s and presented it to the working class of Turkey. Our voice would not have been so loud.
With the strength we derived partly from our founding dynamics, we have largely negated the accusation of “having roots outside” in twenty years. “Belonging to this country” was one of the principles that our party, our movement that brought our party into existence, determined and prioritized. Serving the interests of other countries, whatever they may be, is for us a crime we cannot accept. Our interlocutors for revolutionary solidarity all over the world are the working peoples of the world and the revolutionaries and communists of other countries. Complaining about our country to other states, asking for help from them; can only be a source of shame for us.
We want to liberate our country from capitalism and all its extensions. We want to destroy this system because we love our country very much. To put it the other way round, we love this country very much because we will overthrow this system and build a new country.
We all know that communism, which we define as a social order freed from classes and exploitation, also means a world without borders. Communism is a system where everyone lives freely and fraternally, where poverty, hunger, unemployment and wars are completely eliminated.
We have a long way to go, or more precisely, a difficult period of struggle is opening in front of us for humanity to reach this point.
The good part is that Turkey will enter this path before many other countries in the world. Yes, we think so. It will take time for humanity to completely get rid of the exploiting classes, capitalism that produces inequality on a national and international scale, and imperialist barbarism. We cannot know or measure this time today.
What we do know and calculate is that Turkey is a country that can break away from the imperialist world system.
This is a political assertion, but it is a political assertion with a scientific basis.
Socialism in Turkey, perhaps together with other countries on a similar path, will begin to be founded in an environment where imperialism continues to exist and becomes more aggressive because it is nearing its end.
A socialist Turkey will fit well on the road to communism.
For us, the date of 10th of September 1920 is much more than an anniversary because of this approach of ours. We are an honourable party that threw itself into the fire right after its foundation.
A party that embraces the working class patriotism, a revolutionary party that does not give up its claim to socialism and its determination to establish socialism…
We celebrate our 103rd anniversary with this claim and determination.