Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Kemalism and Communism 1920'-30's : Prelude to Ibrahim Kaypakkaya's Revolution in Thought

The newspaper headline shows Adolf and Inonu, Ataturk's successor (Ataturk died in late 1938). It says "Friendship reinforced by the pact: sincere congratulations between our national leader and the Fuehrer"). 

Democracy and Class Struggle has found the work of Vahram Ter- Matevosyan useful in understanding the background to the development of Ibrahim Kaypakkaya's revolution in thought on Kemalism - we have edited extracts from his study on Soviet Turkish relations in 1920' and 1930's  has an introduction to the following article on Ibrahim Kaypakkaya here

In 1927, Vladimir Osetrov, a historian of Turkey and Iran, who used the pseudonym of Irandoust, wrote an article “The essence of Kemalism” in the party's official press described Kemalism as an “authentic mass revolution,” which was a specific type of Eastern revolution following the Western pathway.

At the same time, he distinguished two characteristics of Kemalism which had made it a unique case: its revolutionary and counter-revolutionary concepts.

Irandoust also envisioned the fate of Kemalism in the following way:

  “the future of Kemalism depends on its anti-imperialistic character, otherwise the possible compromise with imperialism would mean the crisis of Kemalism and its program.”

In 1927, Bekar Ferdi, a pseudonym of one of the Turkish communist leaders Sefik Hüsnü, who worked under the close supervision of the Soviets and published extensively in the Communist Party press, described the Republican People's Party (RPP) of Mustafa Kemal as the party of the Kemalist cause, which brought the national bourgeoisie to power at the expense of forced measures directed against possible opposition forces

In another piece that he produced the same year in the official mouthpiece of the Communist International (ComIntern), Ferdi argued that Kemalists took a wrong turn when they fully trusted the Western powers, which promised a rosy future for Turkey but, in reality, they took Turkey toward the “capitalist path.”

At the same time, Ferdi was hopeful that the increasing repression by the Kemalists would make “the Turkish working class to take advantage of the revolutionary propaganda” and, with the support of the communists, rise against the bourgeoisie in which they included both the Kemalists and, interestingly, the Unionists.

Two months later, in June 1927, the same author proposed a set of policy proposals and analytical insights concerning the similarities and differences between the Turkish and Chinese revolutions.

Ferdi expressed his belief that the Chinese communist leaders would draw necessary lessons from the mistakes of Kemalism which started off as a national democratic revolution but later on was hijacked by the ideas of the bourgeoisie and capitalism.

A year later, in 1928, Irandoust published another book to decode the main transformative features of Turkey in which he used plainer terminology to describe the agencies of the newly founded state.

He used the terms like “Kemalist Turkey” and “Kemalist movement” as names to describe the nature of the revolution that had been carried out from 1918 to 1920 by “Kemalists,” the rank-and-file of the ideological revolution.

He also continued the dominant fashion among Soviet observers to ascribe theoretical dimensions to Kemalism.

Another interesting component that Irandoust presented was the prevailing trend among the Soviet Communist revolutionaries to transform and project the Kemalist brand of revolution into China, by pinpointing the existing socio-political similarities in both countries.

He went on to mention that rather interesting case is counterpoised by another trend in the international mass media, particularly in the Japanese media, which repeatedly applied the term “Kemalism” to generalize counter-revolutionary movements of the Chinese generals (Chiang Kai-shek and Phin Yui-sen), who, by acting under the guise of anti-imperialism virtually served the needs of the Chinese bourgeoisie.

In the beginning of the 1920s, some prominent members of the Communist Party, including Yevgenij Zinovyev, a member of the Politburo, were particularly vocal in the comparison between China and Turkey, anticipating a relatively calm development for China, following the example of Turkey.

Ilan Butayev, another expert of Ottoman Turkish history, put Turkey, Persia and China on the same level of analysis, describing them as “dependent, but sovereign countries of the Orient.”

Mikhail Godes, an expert on the history and economy of the Middle East, discussed that view in his book and vehemently opposed that line of reasoning. Godes famously claimed that all the comparisons between Chinese and Turkish revolutions are superficial, hence, a Kemalist revolution for China is impossible.

However, while criticizing any overgeneralizations and artificial parallels between different revolutions, he adds that many nations in the Orient greatly resemble pre-revolutionary Turkey in terms of their social structures and international standing.

Based on that thinking, he claims that Kemalism, as a pattern of revolutionary development, can appeal to many national-revolutionary movements. Particularly, he mentioned the example of Persia, which could borrow the important features of the Kemalist revolution.

In this regard, it is interesting to present the content of a diplomatic cable sent from the Soviet Ambassador, Yakov Sourits, to the PCFA of the SU, concerning the non-official visit of the Chinese Nanking government delegation to Ankara in March 1928.

The ambassador reports that Chiang Kai-shek sent that delegation in order to “study Turkey and borrow the experience of Kemalism” (opit Kemalizma) as well as advocate the existence of similarities between “Chiangkaishism” and Kemalism.

According to the ambassador, the delegation left a “disgusting impression on ?smet-pa?a [?nönü]” and an “unpleasant” one on ?ükru Kaya, the Interior Minister.

In spite of these impressions, the Turkish government, however, shared its insights on how the Nanking government should proceed—“finish the capitulation regime, expel foreign armed forces and value the friendship with the SU.”

The Soviet ambassador's cable reflected the SU's general displeasure toward that delegation too, which may indicate that if the SU was interested in exporting Kemalism to China, it was certainly true of the Nanking government, which were supposed to be recipients of that approach.

Also, once again we witness that in official Soviet communications the term Kemalism has long been in circulation as a generic term to describe the Turkish development model.

It is interesting to observe that within a short period the SU became critical toward the Kemalist Turkey as the initial enthusiasm retreated. Dmitrij Yeremeyev, one of the renowned scholars of the Soviet Orientalist school, provides reasons for the Kemalist movement initially being viewed as “progressive and democratic” in the 1920s.

He argued that Kemalism was seen positively because it included “large masses of the Turkish nation and was under the influence of the October revolution” and because it excluded the chauvinistic and reactionary forces.

However, once “the Kemalist revolutionary war was over,” pan-Turkic movements, namely chauvinistic and reactionary forces, being tolerated by Mustafa Kemal, reemerged and distorted the spirit of Kemalism.

The SU interpreted this shift as an aggressive trend.

Thus, based on the analysis above, since the mid-1920s the Soviet leadership became more outspoken in its criticism toward Turkey.

At least two reasons can explain the change of approach.

In spite of promising start, the Kemalists turned toward the Western model of development, which, starting at least from 1925, was heavily criticized by some circles in the SU.

Later, the rise of aggressive rhetoric in Turkey of certain movements, especially of the radical nationalists, racist and pan-Turkist orientation, generated more animosity toward Turkey as they were largely seen as irredentism by the Soviets and a threat the Turkic nations living in its territory.

Nonetheless, what bears emphasizing is that, the Communist leadership, party functionaries and scholars tried to trace ideological premises in those developments and thereby provided working definitions of Kemalism long before the term was circulated in the official Turkish political terminology.

Another possible explanation for the use of the term had to do with the Turkish previous experience of ideological projects like Turkism, pan-Turkism, and Turanism, which were familiar concepts for the late Imperial and early Soviet periods.

Therefore, some circles in the SU saw Kemalism as a continuation of some of these political and ideological trends. The Soviet leadership also held the view that the Turkish political and intellectual elite possessed sufficient skills and experience to produce a new ideological framework for the development of the newly formed Turkish nation-state.

Against this background of searching for a modus operandi with the Kemalist regime, the SU undertook an important academic and symbolic initiative at the end of the 1920s.

Two years after Mustafa Kemal delivered his famous 36-hour speech in 1927, Soviet Turcologists decided to translate the speech into Russian. The first volume was published in Moscow by the printing house of the PCFA of the SU in May 1929.

It took another five years, however, to complete the next three volumes. They contained a foreword, footnotes, comments, maps, and notes, which provide valuable information not only about that particular initiative but also make the reading of the text much easier as compared to Turkish publications.

In other words, it was an effort to provide a complete history of Kemalist Turkey through 1927. Another interesting feature of that academic venture was the title of the book. The original Turkish title “Nutuk,” which is generally translated as “Speech” in European languages or as “Great Speech” in Turkey, was translated as “The Road of the New Turkey” (Put' novoj Turtsii).

The foreword published in the first volume claimed: “until this moment there is no single work in the European literature, which would provide the complete picture of the Turkish national-freedom movement,” neither does it exist in Turkey.

 It mentioned, however, that in parallel to the Russian version, the Nutuk was simultaneously being translated into French, German, and English.

 This Russian translation served as a primary source for many generations of scholars in the field of Turkish studies in the SU.

The first volume of the German translation of Kemal's speech, however, was already published in 1928 and its title (Der Weg Zur Freiheit) was also different from the original and Russian translations.

These “recollections” or “memoirs” of Mustafa Kemal, as Soviet scholars referred to them, while interesting, insightful, and well written, were also criticized. Gurko-Kryazhin claimed in 1928 that one might get an impression as if “the political program of Kemal?…?was an irretrievable value, which was created as a result of political intuition, some kind of prophesy.” Whereas, in reality, he went on, Kemal's program-speech was “temporarily adopted to situational circumstances.”

Domestic development in Turkey were closely followed by not only the central authorities in Moscow, but also in those Soviet Republics which had historical disputes with Turkey.

In the beginning of the 1920s, Soviet Armenian communist functionaries were able to monitor transformations in Turkey. However, after the consolidation of the Soviet system, they were not in a position to pursue an independent agenda different from Moscow.

Meanwhile, those Armenian intellectuals and former members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) (which ruled the short-lived Republic of Armenia between 1918 and 1920), who left Armenia after its Sovietization, voiced their own interpretations of Kemalist Turkey.

Their primary motivation was to keep following the developments in and around Turkey, trying to find answers to questions concerning Turkish-Armenian relations and post-war transformations in Turkey.

Two of these authors stand out for the depth of their analyses. Rouben (Rouben Ter-Minassian), one of the prominent members of the ARF and former Minister of Defense of the Republic of Armenia, authored an article in 1928 published in two parts, which provided a comprehensive account of Kemalism and the Kemalist transformation in the 1920s.

He challenged the dominant perception of the time that Turkey was undergoing a revolution.

He argued that true revolutions do not happen without resistance, whereas the Angora [Ankara] government adopts one revolutionary law after another?…?without facing a real resistance.

Therefore, it is not a Turkish revolution, but a coup carried out by Kemal and the Kemalists.

That is why, it is accurate that what happened is named either “Kemalist” or “Kemalist movement,” which is dear to Kemal himself, but not to Turks and Turkey.

Understandbly, he was skeptical about the future of Kemal's reforms, describing the reality in Kemalist Turkey as “an empty word and insubstantial box?…which probably will serve as a coffin both for Kemalism and Turanism.”with checked and balanced steps.

It is also interesting to examine how the Soviet observers interpreted the power relations within Turkey. Kross, a Soviet observer of Turkey, confirms that by the end of the third decade within the Kemalist revolutionary circles a few factions emerged which caused certain deviations from the general politics of the mid-1920s.

The right wing (or pro-Western section) of the Kemalists demanded more resolute involvement of the Western model in state building of Turkey. The Left demanded more of a state role in the economy and in the daily life of the country.

The Pan-Turkist circles were also active by initiating efforts for making Kemalism an official ideology and a scientific doctrine by establishing, among other institutions, the Museum of the Kemalist Revolution and the Institute of Turkism.

The more orthodox section of the Kemalists wished to rely upon the peasants and the Anatolian petty-bourgeoisie as trustworthy resources for promoting the policy of nationalism, republicanism, and laicism.

Earlier Ferdi also had contended that after five years of independence, factions appeared within the ranks of the RPP as well, which was manifested in the increasing dissatisfaction of the masses. As a result, more people were leaving the party than joining it

In this regard, Godes argues that the RPP never became a mass political party as it nominally had 2000–3000 members, but the number of real active members throughout the entire country did not exceed 500 people.

After the mid-1930s, technical and financial assistance to Turkey was suspended, which was followed by a new period of interpretation of Kemalist Turkey.

In the decades that followed the Soviet criticism of Kemalism became more robust.

Kemal was presented as a “reactionary tyrant?…?who ruled by means of a unique mixture of terror and social demagogy, a special Turkish brand of ‘national fascism’ or ‘agrarian Bonapartism’.”

In November 1938, Kemal died and  Inönü replaced him as president. Although in various occasions Inönü assured the Soviet leadership about Turkey's commitment toward friendship with the SU, the reality was somewhat different.

Aralov claims that after Inönü invited the former opponents of Kemal, Kazim Karabekir, Hüseyn Rauf and Fuad Cebesoy to return to Turkey, “a struggle was unleashed against the friendship between Turkey and the USSR.”

In his memoirs, Aralov became particularly critical toward Turkey, especially when describing events after 1941, particularly when Turkey concentrated its armed forces near the Caucasian border with the SU. He stated:

This was a disgraceful and perfidious response of the Turkish government to the frank assistance of the USSR during the most difficult and dangerous times of Turkey. Simultaneously, it was also an outrage upon the memory of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

With the deepening of cooperation between Germany and Turkey, the SU started to treat Kemalist regime as “an appendix of the German fascism.”

Particularly, during World War II (WWII), the SU was openly critical about the rising irredentism among both the radical circles of the Turkish government and the intellectual elite.

Moreover, in 1944, V. Krimskij, a contributor to the journal “Bol'shevik,” openly defied the dominant view at the time that the manifestations of expansionism in Turkey should be identified exclusively as pan-Turkism. 

For him, pan-Turkic organizations in Turkey, in reality, “present unrestricted fascist-Nazi intelligence in Turkey, which Hitlerists created long before WWII.”

He also drew parallels between the fascist practices in the Nazi Germany and Turkey arguing that all the attributes existing in Germany were also widely observed in Turkey (including inciting ethnic cleansing, persecution of ethnic minorities, propaganda of notorious ethnic supremacy ideology, nationalist radicalism, irredentism, anti-communist campaigns, and burning of books of progressive Turkish writers)

Relations between two countries remained tense until the end of the 1950s.

After WWII, the American influence in Turkey visibly increased, which disturbed the Soviets. The Truman Doctrine, the Marshall plan, and Turkey's membership in NATO, in particular, caused the SU to react with strong criticism, the core of which was the Soviet suspicion that Turkey was losing its sovereignty in the face of mounting American pressure.

Throughout that period, different Party functionaries and scholars from the SU continued to heavily criticize the ruling Turkish regime and its ideology.

For instance, Anna Tveritinova, one of the renowned experts in Turkish studies in the SU, viewed the ruling Kemalist elite of Turkey as “a coalition of bourgeoisie and landlords which completely impoverished the nation because of its reactionary nature.” “

As a result,” she argued, “the ideology of Kemalism was transformed from national-chauvinism toward national treachery because of its anti-popular and anti-national character.”

She saw no difference between the RPP, which ruled Turkey until 1950, and the Democrat Party (DP), which came to power in May 1950.

For her, both parties “appear to be advocates of the predatory ideology of pan-Turkism, misanthropic racism and chauvinism, they implement a policy of national treason and act as agents of imperialism.”

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is an excellent and informative summary of Turkish history in 20th century - especially describing the class-struggle within Kemalism and how the reactionary wing of this initially progressive, anti-imperialist, bourgeois, nationalist triumphed, and led to series of irredentist, anti-secular, pro-Western governments, culminating in Erdogan's present social-fascist,Islamist regime
Kemalism also provided model for Affleck's Baathism and later Nasserism in Egypt, by demonstrating that where national bourgeoisie's were economically and culturally weak, the banner of progress and realisation of Arab nationalism was realised by the officer strata in the various armies throughout the region, following WW 2.