Nazim Hikmet. The great Turkish poet of the world’s working class whose poems praised and highlighted the people’s struggles for a better future without exploitation.
The man whose poetry expressed the revolutionary desires and hopes of the proletariat, of the poor and despised people in every corner of the world.
It was 120 years ago, on January 15, 1902, when Nazim Hikmet Ran was born in the city of Thessaloniki, then part of the Ottoman Empire, from a Turkish father and a mother of German, Polish and Georgian descent.
Being just at the age of 17 he wrote in one of his early poems: “One religion, one law, one right: The labor of the worker”. Hikmet deeply believed that Socialism was the solution for humanity’s problems and he gave all his creativity and talent in order to pave the road for a socialist future. In his poetry, someone can see the expectation and optimism for a better world, without exploitation of man by man…
He studied Economics and Sociology at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East in Moscow and became a member of the Communist Party of Turkey in 1923. For his communist ideology, he was prosecuted and imprisoned multiple times.
In 1949, an international committee comprised by world-renowned figures like Pablo Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre and Paul Robeson campaigned for his release from the Turkish prisons.
know that I am a member of the Communist Party [Turkey] since 1923 and
this is my only pride. I think that in the relations between states, the
policy of neutrality can be useful and effective, but not for writers.
You couldn’t, really, tell me the name of one great writer, in world
history, who remained neutral towards the big issues of his era. Maybe
he believes that he is neutral and even proclaiming his neutrality, but
in fact he is never! As for me, I prefer to be committed and with all my
Nazim Hikmet belongs to the category of those poets, like Pablo Neruda, Louis Aragon, Yannis Ritsos, Paul Eluard, Federico Garcia Lorca, Kostas Varnalis and others, who had the ability and sensitivity to identify in the daily life of the class struggle these elements which were, socially and historically, useful in order to “unravel the future” – as Vladimir Mayakovsky was writing.
He was always present, through his poems and writings, in the major issues of his times. His heart – “one red apple” – was beating in the rhythm of the class struggle, of the fight against injustice and oppression.
The man, the worker, the poor farmer, the victim of imperialist wars, the “damned of the world”, were at the epicenter of Hikmet’s poetry:
“You will say, the stars are far away and out earth is so, so small. Well, then, whatever they are, the stars […] For me, anyway, the most amazing thing, the most imposing, most mysterious and biggest thing is a human being whom they obstruct from walking, is a human being whom they have bound in chains.”
A true internationalist, Nazim Hikmet was a proponent of the friendship between the people of Turkey and Greece. In his public letter to his “brothers”, the people of Greece, in 1952, he was saying among other things:
“My friends Greeks,
We must fight together, hand by hand for the national independence of our countries, for democracy against every expression of fascism, against the imperialists. Thus, our friendship will becoming day by day more powerful.
As a representative of my people, I can say to you that the Turkish people love the Greek people and feel admiration for their heroic achievements. I can tell you, that the Turkish fighters were learning, even in the prison, the news from the liberation struggles of your people and of your people’s army. I can tell you that they were hearing about the incidents in Greece with tears in their eyes. The Turkish people was by the side of the Greek people in these tragic and heroic days and will be in the future always by their side”.
When the Greek bourgeois state and its imperialist allies executed the KKE cadre Nikos Beloyannis on 30 March 1952 Hikmet dedicated a poem to his comrade, the “Man with the Carnation”:
I have on my table the photograph of the man
with the white carnation–
whom they shot
in the half darkness
before the dawn,
beneath the light of the searchlights.
In his right handhe holds a carnation
which is like a handful of light
from the Greek sea.
His eyes which are brave,childlike,
look out, guilelessly,
beneath their heavy black eyebrows. Thus guilelessly–
like the song which rises
when they make their vow
His teeth are bright white–
And the carnation in his hand
is like the speech he spoke to the people
on the day of bravery–
the day of shame.
Today, 120 years since his birth and 59 years after his death (3 June 1963), Nazim Hikmet is still with us. And will always be.
Indeed. Hikmet’s poems will always accompany the struggle of the working class, the people’s struggles for a society without exploitation of man by man, for socialism-communism.
* Nikos Mottas is the Editor-in-Chief of In Defense of Communism.