Volume 2, No. 4-5, April-May 2001


 History of the Communist Movement in Turkey 

[This is the last in the series of articles tracing the major ongoing Maoist armed struggles in the world. Due to most information being in Turkish, this account is relatively brief — Editor]


Turkey, with a population of 62 million (6.2 crores) and an area of 8 lakh sq. km, is one of the most strategically placed countries in the world. It is linked to Europe and also the Middle East. It is connected to the Balkans and East Europe and is a bridge to North Africa. It has borders with 7 countries – Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia. Armenia. Iran, Iraq and Syria - with the Black Sea in the North and the Mediterranean Sea to the West. A revolution in Turkey will have enormous impact on the whole region affecting Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, Middle East and also, to some extent, North Africa.

Though the bulk of the population is muslim, it has a sizable, 3 million, christian population. Due to it strategic significance, after Israel, Turkey is the main bulwark of US imperialism in the region. Therefore, the Maoist movement in Turkey is of enormous geo-political significance to world revolution.



The Communist Party of Turkey was formed ill 1921 in a meeting held in Azerbaijan. When the comrades were returning, all 13 of them were killed in the Black Sea region, including their leader, Mustafa Saphi. Till the 1960s there was then a revisionist Party in Turkey.

The great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China had a significant impact on Turkish revolutionaries. During the GPCR there developed a radical anti-imperialist movement, that challenged the leadership of the reformist movement. In the 1970s, from this upsurge, three radical organisations developed, mostly initiated by university students. They were

1) THKO (Liberation Army of the people of Turkey) - which became pro-Enver Hoxha (Albania)

2)   THKP-C; now called DHKP-C (Revolutionary People's Liberation Army-Front) – pro-Cuba

3)   TKP/ML — Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist Leninist


In the 1960s, within the then THKP (Workers and Peasants Party of Turkey) there were fierce debates on questions like Kemalism, nationality question (specifi­cally Kurdish), socio-economic analysis of Turkey, path of revolution, etc. The young, Ibrahim Kaypakkaya, led the ideological struggle of the revolutionaries against the reformists. He outlined that during the Ottoman Empire, Turkey was a feudal and colonial country; while alter Kemal Pasha it became a semi-feudal, semi-colonial coun­try. While all others portrayed Kemalism as progressive. Kaypakkaya analysed it as fascist. It was also he, who for the first time put forward a scientific Un­derstanding of the na­tionality question in Turkey, defining two nationalities - Kurdish and Turkish. All other revolutionary forces were social chauvinists and none recognised the Kurdish nation they only accepted them as a minority. He put for­ward the basic Maoist strategy for revolution, drawing clear lines of demarcation between Marxism and revision­ism, on not only ideo­logical, but also organi­sational questions. Many petti-bourgeois revolutionaries accepted armed struggle but used Che's 'foco-ist' theo­ries: while it was Kaypakkaya who put forward the path of protracted people's war. Also many, of these groups were influenced by Mao, but none accepted his contribu­tion to Marxism. It was Kaypakkaya who said that Mao Tsetung Thought was a higher stage in the development of Marxism.

It was he who led and organised the breakaway from the reformist THKP (now known as 'Workers Party -Isci Partisi) and established the TKP/ML on April 24, 1972. Re put forward 11 principles to guide the movement saying that the Party is primary, the Army is primary, the conutryside is primary, etc. Unfortunately, in early 1973, in an encounter with the enemy, he was wounded. Though he managed to escape, he was later caught and subjected to severe torture for months. The fascist Turkish state, having failed to get any organisational secrets from him, murdered him on May 18, 1973 in the dungeons of Diyarbakir (Dersim area). He was then, only 24 Years of age.

With the martyrdom of Kaypakkaya the Party lacked central leadership; but the local organisations began to grow as a step towards organising the centre. But in 1976, the Party faced the first serious split. A faction formed under the name, Unity of Peoples (Halkin Birligi). opposed the basic political, organisational line of the Party. This pro-Albanian revisionist group functioned under the name TKP/ML movement (Hareketi) until 1994, when it joined up with another group, taking the name MLKP.

In 1978 the first Conference of the Party was held, which centra­lised the leadership while fighting a strong rightist deviation (of the peaceful path). But, at the fourth meeting of the CC, it departed from the MLM line and went to­wards a rightist under­standing. Despite ac­ceptance of people's war, it remained only in theory, and no concrete steps were taken to ad­vance armed struggle. Though the country was building up for the Sep­tember 12 (1980) mili­tary coup, the rightist tendency dominating the CC did nothing to prepare the Party.

The September 12 coup was followed by a massive attack on all revolutionary organisations. The onslaught was not limited to massacres, tortures, street executions. etc; it was also accompanied by an economic, political, ideological, cultural offensive. Many leaders fled the country, many more became passive.

Yet, the second Conference of the Party was successfully held in January 1981. The Conference primarily upheld the Maoist line against the attacks fro in the pro-Enver Hoxha faction. Though it upheld armed struggle, the concrete analysis of the country made at the conference, was far from the actual conditions in Turkey.

Also, soon alter the Conference the members of the Second Central Committee were either captured by the enemy or killed in clashes. The Party's general secretary, Com. Suleyman Cihan, was captured in 1981 itself. He was brutally tortured and then murdered. The Party lost most of its CC members. With new members co-opted, the Party line once again drifted to the right, and the guerrilla war slowed down. The organisational setback, due to fascist repression, was combined with a political and ideological setback.

Amidst the political confusion, with both 'left' and right opportunist tendencies seriously affecting the Party, the Party held its Third Conference in 1987. The criticism against right opportunism, got even more intense, alter seven conference delegates were martyred on their way to Dersim, where the conference was to be held. The Conference decided that guerrilla war was the main task. But at this conference there existed two trends. The second was a militarist tread which called themselves the DABK. Though united at this conference, it split away later.

The Fourth Conference was held in 1991, at a time when socialism came under massive attack internationally. This conference firmly upheld revolutionary Marxism, described the present setback as temporary, analysed the nationalist tendencies being fuelled in the country and stated that the main task of the Party was to continue the guerrilla war for the seizure of Red political power. The conference also decided to unite with the DABK which split from the Party' in 1987, and for that purpose elected a Unity Commission to do the preparatory work.

The Party reunited with the DABK in April 1993, and in order to iron-out the problems and strengthen unification an Extraordinary Conference was held in May-June 1993. An important decision at this conference was to change Mao Tsetung Thought to Maoism. The conference analysed that although the content of Mao tsetung Thought had been understood correctly, the formulation of it had been incomplete. But the problems with the DABK continued, and it once again split away in 1994. It continues existence utilising the same name with the letters 'ML' in brackets.

Meanwhile, the Party made preparation for its Second Extraordinary Conference to conduct a tharough-going rectification movement, analysing the past In years history. The conference was held in August 1995 and decided to take a rectification campaign from "head to toe" - i.e.. starting from the CC itself It went into the ideological, political and organisational basis of the errors. Right opportunism within the Party was condemned and all kinds of liquidationisin was ended. It also carried out self-criticism about the misunderstandings and shortcoming of the Party in the international arena and decided on the necessary precautions to be taken. This Conference and Rectification movement has given a new impetus to the Party.


Present Situation

The Party has a central committee, under which exist five regional committees. All its members are professional revolutionaries and it has a vast network of sympathisers. Though a muslim country, the Party and Army has a large number of women cadres, including at the top levels of the Party. Specific encouragement is given to women cadres.

The Party has its armed wing, called TIKKO -Liberation Army of Peasants and Workers of Turkey. TIKKO has its own military constitution. The armed struggle is being led in two regions of Turkey - Turkish Kurdistan and the Black Sea region. Besides the military commission the army functions under a general command. The Black Sea region was opened up after the 1995 Conference and has seen some major advances. Turkish Kurdistan in the east of Turkey is an area where the Party has been working for long, but has faced severe losses in this region. Most of the two areas are mountainous, with thick snow covering the landscape for over three months. Both regions have had to face intensive enemy repression. With the temporary collapse of the Kurdish nationality movement, due to betrayal of the PKK leadership (see box), the government is now able to concentrate all its forces against the Maoists.

Besides the areas of armed struggle, the TKP/ML has a wide network of activity amongst the working class and youth, particularly in the cities of Ankara and Istanbul. Of late it has made major inroads among the employees in the service sector and have also built some strong trade unions amongst workers. It also has a growing influence amongst students and youth. University youth are a main centre for support of the Party.

There is a vast network of magazines linked directly or indirectly with the Party. 'Communist’ is the magazine brought out only for party members and close sympathisers. 'Ikkalai' is the illegal party organ brought out for the masses. The fortnightly legal mass newspaper has a circulation of 20,000 in Turkey and 4,000 in Europe. The 'Communist Youth' is an illegal monthly brought out by the Party, while 'New Democratic Youth’ is a legal bi-monthly. Besides, there is a monthly for workers and labourers and a bi-monthly cultural magazine. ‘New Women’ is a women's magazine published in Turkey and abroad. Besides these, it has a number of magazines at the regional and district level.

There is also a growing democratic movement in Turkey which supports the on-going people's war. A number of lawyers' bureaus assist the struggling people. They defend human rights and bring out a large number of investigative reports against state brutalities. There is also an organisation of the relatives of the martyrs and prisoners. Of late, this has got increasing popularity with even old people coming forward not only as supporters, but even as activists. Besides, the Party has a large influence amongst the vast Turkish/Kurdish exiles based in Europe, particularly Germany.

Yet, besides the network being built in the urban areas the main task set by the Party is the armed struggle. The Second Extraordinary Conference clearly stated that the main focus is in the countryside and called on all Party members to shoulder this task as the first priority. The Maoist people's war in Turkey continues to grow, even though it is faced with one of the most brutal states in the world - backed by both the US and Israel. In these past decades, it has lost four general secretaries, other top leaders and over four hundred cadres. The growth of the Maoist movement in this most strategic region of the world, is a great hope to the genuine revolutionary forces worldwide.

On the PKK

Uptil two years back the TKP/ML considered that the PKK as a National Revolutionary Parth fighting for a separate Kurdish nation. But since then it has changed into a National reformist party.

With the arrest of the PKK leader, Ochlan, the capitulation was swift. The PKK had a dual character and capitulation was expected but it was never estimated that total surrender would take place in just one month. The process of surrender, for others, e.g. Palestine, took a number of years - from ideological capitulation to finally military surrender.

After Ochlan and the PKK leadership surrendered, of their 10,000 guerrilla forces, one-third were dissolved and the bulk of the rest were dispersed to other countries. Only 150 were maintained in Turkey in order to destroy the real fighters. Those who wanted to continue the armed struggle for the liberation of Kurdistan, were sought out and killed by the PKK leadership. So after the surrender, roughly 300 PKK guerrillas have been killed. Also two central committee members, who wanted to continue the armed struggle, were killed in the Dersim region.

But resistance continues with a number of guerrillas organised as the 'Revolutionary Line Fighters of the PKK'.

Earlier 3 1/2 lakh military forces of the one million Turkish army were pitted against the PKK; now, overnight, the bulk of these have been freed, and will be focused mainly on the TKPIML.





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