November 2, 2023
From In Defense Of Communism

By Kemal Okuyan, TKP General Secretary 

October 2023 

The question “Do you really believe in revolution?” is probably not asked only to Turkish communists. 

It has been 32 years since the collapse
of the Soviet Union. We labeled the 20th century the era of transition
from capitalism to socialism. In the last decade of that century and in
the period that followed, we did not encounter even a single example
that could mean “transition to socialism”. 

Class struggles continued and
sometimes took very sharp forms in some countries; streets, factories,
poor neighbourhoods were mobilised; there were exciting developments in
Latin America; but when we look at the whole picture, there has not been
a socialist breakthrough to which billions of people in the world who
suffer from the current system turn with hope.

Therefore, the question “Do you really
believe in revolution and socialism?” is a perfectly legitimate
question, unless it is the product of the cynical insinuation of a
liberal or a renegade.

What is even more interesting is that
communists from different countries have started to ask this question to
each other. I can say that I have personally received this question
several times.

“Do you really think there will be a socialist revolution in Turkey?”

The emphasis on Turkey is undoubtedly
important here. This question means, “Why do you pursue a goal that may
be possible elsewhere, but impossible in Turkey as your main strategy?”

After all, Turkey is a NATO member that
has been an outpost of the USA for years. It is a conservative society,
which increases the degree of difficulty for socialism, on top of the
serious weight of political Islam. We are talking about a system that
has made a habit of suppressing the revolutionary movement through
military coups, political murders and massacres. Despite all its
efforts, the communist party cannot even reach 1 percent of the votes in
the elections.

In such a country, why does TKP not set
more realistic goals, but insistently talks about the actuality of the
socialist revolution?

I will try to answer this question, but
first I will make a moral point which I think is at least as valuable as
a theoretical and political explanation.

“Do we seem like liars or hypocrites?…”

When working people in our own country
ask us, with good intentions, whether we believe in revolution, we
answer them with this counter-question.

This is extremely important because, in
our opinion, if we did not believe in the actuality of the socialist
revolution, the communist party would have become redundant. As we
always say, the struggle for peace, for democracy, for human rights is
very important, but there is no need for a communist party or to be a
communist only for these.

Yes, we do believe in socialist revolution. Or we do believe in the socialist revolution in Turkey.

There is a moral aspect to it, but that’s not all.

Let us first talk a little about the
objective conditions. When the Turkish Republic was first founded, one
of the problems of our country was the underdevelopment of capitalism.
The working class was small in number, and although we were next to
Soviet Russia, the material conditions for an organisation that would
bring the war of liberation against imperialist occupation to socialism
were very weak. It was almost impossible for the communists to become
the hegemonic force in the 1920s, despite their rapidly growing
popularity in Anatolia.

However, for a long time now, the main
problem of Turkey has become the capitalism itself. In other words, the
problem is no longer that capitalism is not developing, but that it has
developed too much.

It is absurd to consider Turkey as a
backward country, especially to place Turkey in a position between the
third and second group in that triadic classification which sometimes
caused serious mistakes in the Comintern.

In any case, it is now more useful to
avoid such classifications. Capitalism has ruled the world for too long.
Yes, we can still use the adjective “backward” for some countries, but
we cannot evaluate the world with the criteria of the 1930s. As for
Turkey, certainly never…

There are enough proletarians in Turkey
to lead a revolutionary transformation. We can say that the working
classes have a balanced structure in terms of manual and mental labour
and in terms of basic sectors.

Turkey has left behind a serious
industrialisation process and has an infrastructure that cannot be
underestimated. In addition to the deep-rooted problems stemming from
capitalism, the Turkish economy, which has self-sufficient resources in
agriculture, has only one problem of energy dependency. Nevertheless, it
is a fact that there are resources that can reduce the severity of this
problem which are not being utilised today.

Therefore, from a purely objective point
of view, Turkey has the class base necessary for a revolution and the
material and human resources necessary for a socialist foundation.

And Turkey is an extremely unstable
country. Stability is a relative concept. But we know that stability is a
great guarantee for the bourgeoisie in the capitalist world. Economic
and political stability means the continuation of the ability of capital
to rule the working people. In this sense, the bourgeois dictatorship
in Turkey has no chance. The country is built on fault lines that cannot
be repaired economically, politically and ideologically.

In this sense, it would be highly misleading to reduce Turkey solely to a strong state and a society shaped by religion.

In Turkey, serious social contradictions and partisanships, which also affect the state itself, have never been absent.

We know that socialist revolutions do
not arise from the labour-capital contradiction in the simple sense.
Moreover, no revolutionary upsurge bears a “socialist” character from
the very beginning. The underlying cause is of course always class
contradictions, but they are triggered either by a war, a major legal
scandal or corruption. Sometimes a political murder leads to the
opposite result and a popular movement emerges while the rulers would
never expect.

Turkey is a country that always bears
surprises in this respect. The possibility of sudden developments, often
unpleasant but sometimes exciting and hopeful, is of course a
possibility from a revolutionary perspective.

We can easily say that Turkey, with its
population, economy, proletariat, intellectuals, geographical position
and of course its endless contradictions, is objectively prone to a
revolutionary upheaval.

Maybe this concept has been forgotten, but Turkey is one of the weak links in the imperialist chain.

Then, we can move on to answering the
question “whether we believe in socialist revolution in Turkey” in terms
of the subjective factor.

From our point of view, the main issue
is simply this: In the case of a revolutionary upsurge in Turkey, what
should we be doing today in order not to miss such a historical

Firstly, it is necessary to avoid the
fantasy that revolutions can be the result of the linear growth of the
working class movement and its vanguard, the communists. This is a
fantasy because it is based on the assumption that the struggle for
socialism consists of successive and predictable steps.

In reality, however, the struggle for
socialism means preparing with a realistic and revolutionary perspective
for sudden developments that cannot be known in advance. We cannot
predict the developments in all their dimensions in advance, but we can
determine at which points the contradictions will accumulate in each
country, which sections of the society have which ideological-political
sensitivities and we can position ourselves accordingly.

The indispensable thing here is to
organise and take root in the working class. However, we should be
careful to ensure that so-called organisation and rooting does not have
the character of binding the masses of workers to the status quo, as we
saw most tragically in Germany before 1914.

This is not as easy as it seems. It
should be very clear that the ongoing struggles and organisations around
the current needs and demands of the working class, especially wages,
do not necessarily mean a school for revolution. On the contrary, we
have painfully seen in more than one example that current gains can in
fact immobilise both the working masses and its vanguard party in the
conditions of a revolutionary objectivity.

Communist parties should not enter a
conjuncture in which the revolution is on the rise with burdens that
will make it cumbersome. Although TKP attaches great importance to
electoral success and the strength in the trade union, it acts without
forgetting the fact that the positions obtained here, when the necessary
ideological-political rigour is not shown, bind the workers’ movement
(often without being aware of it) to the system.

We do not act with the simplicity of
hiding behind the Bolshevik experiment. It is true that the Bolsheviks
increased their influence from the end of 1916 to October 1917 with a
speed that no one expected. In this sense the proposition “the
Bolsheviks were also a small party…” is of course based on a historical
fact. However, as long as it stands alone, this proposition leads us
into error. Smallness and greatness are relative concepts. The
Bolsheviks were rapidly increasing their influence not only in 1917 but
also before the beginning of the war. Not to mention the tremendous
political and organisational work after 1903, with its ups and downs.

Therefore, to remain inactive for years and say “the Bolsheviks were small” is self-deception.

But this is also a fact: The Bolsheviks
never tested themselves within the institutions of the existing social
system. They had their own criteria. Some elements of the preparatory
period have been very prominent in historiography, others have been
downplayed. But we know that while all other political movements were
concerned with “small” calculations in the “big” world of the
bourgeoisie, the Bolshevik Party had its own agenda, and in this sense
they were playing a “game” that looked childish from the outside.

Then that great politics rolled into the
dustbin of history, it became apparent that the Bolsheviks were not
playing a game, on the contrary, they attempted a very big job and

The TKP has no intention of imitating
the Bolsheviks. But it is important for us to understand the Bolsheviks
and the successful or near successful examples that came after them.

The revolutionary movement in Turkey has
no chance of achieving success by making one two, two three, with a
linear growth, with an arithmetical increase. Despite its conservative
appearance, Turkey is a country where political and ideological balances
can change very, very quickly. In this country, what is more valuable
than numbers and quantities is to settle at the right points of
intervention and make interventions in the right direction.

TKP is striving for this.

Undoubtedly, TKP feels the pressure of
the criteria of success that is valid in bourgeois politics, under
conditions in which a revolutionary uprising does not make itself felt
at all and the broad masses are far from the political and ideological
energy necessary to change this social order. There is a very
well-intentioned expectation among those who appeal to us for the sake
of popularity, visibility, parliamentary representation and for the
expectation that we could exist on the same plane with bourgeois
politics. They want to see concretely the success of the party they
believe in and embrace.

The problem here is not only the
possibility that bourgeois institutions, if not vigilant enough, can
lead a communist party away from revolutionary values. What is more
dangerous is the possibility that a communist party that begins to
appeal to the average expectation in society will be determined by that
average and take on an ideological and political character in accordance
with it.

It is important to remember that each
country has a different political climate in this respect. In Turkey,
where class consciousness follows an extremely fluctuating course, we
must not forget that only a very limited section of the working class
has a permanent, unchanging revolutionary position. Knowing that early
massification processes can harm our historical missions does not mean
being afraid of organising and growing. But we can still say that we can
make adjustments by utilising the accumulation of Marxism-Leninism to
determine the most appropriate scale according to the situation of
social dynamics.

Finally, I would like to say a few words
about those who put the “democratic revolution” or a democratisation
process that will be spread over a long period of time as a
revolutionary stage before the socialist revolution in Turkey.

The debate on “national democratic
revolution” and “socialist revolution” had been the most important issue
in the Turkish left for almost the entire 1960s and 70s. The
trivialisation of this debate over time was the result of a significant
part of the left explicitly or implicitly abandoning the idea of
“revolution”. Today, there are very few people in Turkey who openly
pursue a strategy of “democratic revolution”.

TKP defended the “socialist revolution
strategy” very decisively in these debates. We have defended for years
that labelling the perspective of socialist revolution with “Trotskyism”
ultimately means servicing Trotskyism. In fact, as a party
“representing the Stalin tradition”, this position of ours was
considered quite interesting until recently.

As I said, nowadays this debate has lost
its former importance. But the idea that Turkey must first achieve
“democracy” has never changed.

There are also those who think that Turkey must be “independent” before socialism.

We know that those who say democracy
first often appeal to Lenin. I don’t want to go into details here, but
the following is forgotten: Lenin’s writings on the “democratic
revolution” were written when bourgeois revolutions were still an
objective reality in Russia and in many other countries. As an objective
fact, independent from the strategy of the Bolsheviks, bourgeois
revolutions were a reality. 

This period is completely closed. In
Lenin’s thought, the strategic task of building bourgeois democracy had
never existed, but the processes of bourgeois revolution complicated the
issue and the labour movement had to relate to these processes. After
the period of bourgeois revolutions has closed, the relation of the
communist parties to the building of democracy can only be considered in
the context of socialist democracy.

The idea of an independent Turkey
prioritising socialism poses an even bigger problem. The demand for
independence in Turkey has always been on the agenda of communists. TKP
not only emphasised the difference between working class patriotism and
nationalism, but also made theoretical interventions that deepened this

However, in today’s world, under
capitalism, it is not possible for a country to be “independent”. By
“independent”, of course, we do not mean “isolated”. “Independence” is
the ability of a country to determine its political, economic and
cultural preferences and decisions in line with its own internal
dynamics. In this sense, independence should be considered together with
the concept of sovereignty.

While the domination of the
international monopolies prevails, all capitalist countries produce
dependence on this international system, and this is in fact an
all-encompassing dependence. It is obvious that the goal of becoming
“independent” without overthrowing capitalism will serve no other
purpose than for that country to climb up the imperialist hierarchy. It
is unthinkable for communists to be part of such a goal.

What remains is the idea of Turkey’s
democratisation, if not a revolutionary stage. For a while this was
identified with Turkey’s membership of the European Union. TKP opposed
this idea very strongly, almost alone on the left. “We know what the EU
is, but even the freedoms within the EU are very valuable for us,” the
liberal leftists were saying.

What they did not get was that there was
no better, or more tolerant capitalist class in Europe. The continent
was characterised by strong democratic mass movements and the historical
emergence of the working class. Add to this the privileged position of
the main European countries in the imperialist system, and it was not
surprising that the working masses enjoyed relatively greater rights.

However, recent history has shown how
fragile these rights are. The slightest hitch in the bourgeoisie’s
ability to rule and the deepening of the economic crises would shatter
all the gilding of “European democracy”. It is natural that the first
thing that comes to mind is German fascism, but we all know that Germany
of 1933-45 is only a chapter in a bloody history.

Today, the bourgeois democracies in
North America and Europe are the countries where bourgeois dictatorships
have been the most fortified. Not only because they use the carrot
well; but in these countries the stick in the hands of the capitalist
class is also very strong.

Those who think that the transition from
the carrot to the stick is the product of the excesses of communists or
other revolutionaries are seriously mistaken. It is akin to attributing
Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 to the “left” policies of the KPD. Of
course, the KPD can be criticised not because it acted with
revolutionary aims, but because it was not sufficiently prepared and
could not be effective.

Fascism is anti-communism in any case,
and in this sense every revolutionary upsurge carries the risk of a
counter-revolution within. However, a tangible threat of socialism is
not at all necessary for the bourgeoisie to restrict freedoms. Phenomena
such as increased repression, wars and fascism are the product of the
crisis dynamics of capitalism. In this context, in order to manage
social discontent (even in the absence of a revolutionary tendency), it
is possible for them to narrow the scope of bourgeois democracy, or even
to want to abolish it altogether.

In any case, communists cannot act with
the strategy of not frightening the bourgeoisie! Timing, not making
early and empty moves, calculating the balance of forces well are
important, but we will not give up the revolution to save “democracy”.

In any case, a revolutionary upsurge
cannot be our strategic choice. It is an objective fact. It is our
choice and duty to carry that rise to socialism. Avoiding this mission
means not only missing a historical opportunity, but it can also mean
paving the way for fascism.

TKP rejects the approach “let democracy
come to Turkey first”. Which democracy? What is democracy? We retain the
right to ask questions such as these. And more importantly, we think
that the struggle for democracy will only have meaning when it is
dependent on the goal of socialism and is an extension of it. We never
give up our thesis that a developed and stable “bourgeois democracy”
will not serve the liberation of Turkey from the hell of capitalism, on
the contrary, it will make the capitalist system more fortified. 

Fortunately, this is impossible.
Fortunately, the barbarism called capitalism cannot normalise in Turkey
and it is constantly in trouble. 

This is our approach. Therefore,
comrades, do not ask us “Do you really believe in the socialist
revolution in Turkey?”. The question “What are you doing today for the
socialist revolution?” will excite us more, and we will learn more from
each other in the discussions we will have on this axis.