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