A- The Kurdish National Revolution is Part of the Anti-Oligarchic, Anti-Imperialist Popular Revolution in Turkey.
«The solution to the national question depends on the class struggle. The Programme of the Democratic Popular Revolution will also liberate the Kurds.» (The Historical Developments of the Kurds and the Kurdish Question in Turkey, Devrimci Sol Publications, p. 97-98)
If we fail to look at national oppression in its historical context and are not clear about which classes are responsible for it, we will not be able to establish the aims of our revolution correctly. In Turkey, national oppression is implemented by the ruling classes which collaborate with imperialism.
«Since the Turkish ruling classes which are responsible for national and class oppression have formed and alliance with the Kurdish ruling classes, we have to look at this matter from the point of view of the class struggle, and regard it as a policy of national oppression aimed at the Kurdish peasantry, petty bourgeoisie and the democratic forces – that is to say the Kurdish nation.» (op. cit. p. 102- 103)
According to this perspective, first we have to emphasise two basic points:
First: Capitalist relations in Kurdistan have not developed according to their own dynamic, but have been imposed from above as a result of imperialism in accordance with neo-colonialism. The whole of the Turkish market, including Kurdistan, is in the area exploited by imperialism and the present relations of production have been shaped according to the needs of imperialism. As a result the Kurdish ruling classes (big landowners and religious leaders) have joined the bloc of ruling classes (the oligarchy) and become instruments of national oppression.
Second: Since neo-colonialist relations are dominant in the whole of Turkey, Kurdish and Turkish workers are united in the same socio-economic structure.
These two basic features mean that the Kurdish national revolution, which will end national oppression in Kurdistan and achieve self-determination for the Kurds, will be part of the anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchic popular revolution in Turkey, and will first of all lead to the liberation of the peasantry. For although feudal relations have been dissolved in Kurdistan and there is production for the market, that is to say distorted capitalism, still 70 per cent of Kurdish families own no land, or very little. (Village an Peasantry and Problems of Village Development in Turkey, Ç. Keyder)
The solution to Kurdish peasants’ problems of land and self-determination is possible with political democracy, which has always been the main question for working people. Therefore, national and social liberation have merged. The revolutionary demands of workers, peasants and toilers in Kurdistan have concentrated on two issues: the demand for land and the demand for self-determination.
Since there was no national bourgeoisie in the first place, and since the Kurdish ruling classes have merged with the Turkish ruling classes and imperialism the social base of national oppression has been the oligarchy and imperialism. As a result the right of the Kurdish nation to self-determination has acquired a revolutionary content and in fact means the right to self-determination of the Kurdish workers, peasants and toilers.
The right of the Kurdish nation to self-determination can only be realised as a result of the anti-imperialist, anti-oligarchic popular revolution by the Kurdish and Turkish peoples against the central authorities. Therefore the social and national liberation of the Turkish and Kurdish peoples, the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination and the solution to Turkish and Kurdish peasants’ land problem are all confronted by the same obstacle: imperialism and the oligarchy!
In neo-colonies which have not solved their national question and land problem because they have not completed their bourgeois, democratic revolution, the anti-imperialist and anti- oligarchic revolution consists of the proletariat making both revolutions as an uninterrupted process. In the present epoch, the proletariat cannot skip historical stages and there is no bourgeoisie capable of making its own revolution. Therefore the proletariat has to complete the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution as well. The proletariat performs the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution from the perspective of the uninterrupted revolution and ensures the transition to socialism takes place. In this period the only revolutionary class capable of completing the democratic revolution is the proletariat. Petty bourgeois nationalist radical movements may be able to lead this revolution but they cannot complete it. They can solve neither the national question nor the land question. Often they will again succumb to imperialism.
The popular revolution, which is the form the proletarian revolution takes in colonial and dependent countries, is also the necessary revolutionary step forward in Kurdistan. The revolutionary alliance of workers, peasants and the petty bourgeoisie, led by the proletariat, is the only revolutionary alliance against imperialism and the oligarchy. To put it more clearly the popular revolution in Kurdistan will consist of throwing the imperialists out and overthrowing the oligarchy. The class base of this revolution is workers, peasants and petty bourgeoisie.
Talking about the possibility of another solution to the Kurdish people’s democratic and national demands is meaningless. Advocating a solution within the limits of capitalism, in particular, is social-chauvinism pure and simple. There is no solution to the Kurdish question except revolution. This has to be thoroughly understood.
We can therefore say that the anti-imperialist, anti-oligarchic popular revolution in imperialism’s neo-colony Turkey is like two links of the same chain: for the Turkish workers, peasants and popular masses it will provide a new kind of national liberation and destroy fascism and establish political democracy; on the other hand it will also create the conditions for self-determination by the Kurdish workers, peasants and petty bourgeoisie by getting rid of the social base of national oppression and fulfil their demands for land and democracy by liberating them from exploitation by monopolies, big landowners, usurers and merchants. The revolution is national because it is anti-imperialist and democratic because it is anti-oligarchic. And because the form of the oligarchy’s rule is fascism, the anti- oligarchic revolution will also be anti-fascist.
We should also be clear that theories of ‘two separate revolutions’ or ‘the alliance’ or ‘solidarity between the Kurdish revolutionary movement and the Turkish proletariat’ show a narrow-mindedness characteristic of petty bourgeois nationalism. Hardly anyone who talks about the Kurdish question mentions the Kurdish bourgeoisie and its struggle for markets. We repeat: the Kurdish ruling classes have joined the oligarchy and become instruments of national oppressions. There are people who, while they may not openly admit this, will refer to it indirectly.
But for some reason or another when it comes to political analysis everything is mixed up and to trace is left of scientific approach or Marxism-Leninism. Theories of ‘colonies,’ ‘two separate revolutions,’ ‘alliance or solidarity between national organisations’ abound. Theory is subordinated to their subjectivism caused by nationalism. These sorts of ideas are harmful simply because they create divisions in the struggle of the two peoples, they split their forces, provide the oligarchy with room for manoeuvre and consciously on unconsciously incite to national enmity. We should like to ask: How and for what interests will our peoples, which have been integrated within the same socio-economic structure, be led towards different revolutionary aims? If someone should answer: ‘national interests,’ we reply: the proletariat does not regard national interests as its main task and is capable of both completing the democratic popular revolution and of solving the national question. They cannot come up with any other answer. Those who put forward theories of ‘two separate revolutions’ etc., however, only look at the matter from a national point of view. This is why this sort of approach will result in condemning the Kurdish working people to exploitation and oppression by Kurdish rulers. Therefore those who claim to act on behalf of the proletariat should think seriously about how the class contradiction between Kurdish workers and peasants and the Kurdish ruling classes is to be resolved. Since our aim is not bourgeois national liberation, is it not necessary to organise the class struggle not amount to rowing against the stream, particularly since the Kurdish rulers are themselves instruments of national oppression?
The answer to these questions is obvious: the liberation of the Kurdish people can only take place on a class base. The revolutionary way of doing this is the common struggle of the Kurdish and Turkish peoples against oligarchy and imperialism.
It is not the task of the proletariat to carry the ‘market’ banner of the bourgeoisie. We find it useful to emphasise again that in the neo-colony Turkey, the objective conditions for a separate Kurdish national revolution apart from the two peoples’ common revolutionary struggle against imperialism and oligarchy, do not exist.
With regard to this matter the example of Czarist Russia is often quoted. If one insists on finding examples to prove one’s theory, this is of course possible. On examining this question, however, it immediately becomes clear that the examples they come up with in fact refute their nationalist theories. In Czarist Russia capitalism developed according to its own internal dynamic and colonised other countries. On the other hand, the national bourgeoisies of the colonies wanted to control their national markets. In Czarist Russia the national struggles against Czarism taking place in the colonies were part of the bourgeois- democratic revolution. One can hardly claim a similar situation exists in Turkey. In our country, unlike Czarist Russia, one cannot speak of a bourgeoisie created by the development of capitalism according to its own internal dynamic, or of the relation between this bourgeoisie and the feudal autocracy. Neither is it possible to talk about a national bourgeoisie in the colonies fighting the dominant nation’s bourgeoisie for markets. Moreover, it is a historical fact that the national bourgeois classes, when faced with the class struggle of the proletariat, collaborated with Czarism and betrayed the nation. In this respect the interests of the proletariat are completely opposed to narrow-minded nationalism. Under no condition will the proletariat lower its class banner during the struggle against national oppression. The essence of the struggle is always to relate and subordinate national liberation to social liberation. This however requires a common struggle against the same dominant structure. In spite of the different social formation, Lenin and Stalin have never defended a separate revolution. They accused the Polish ‘Marxists’ who advocated a ‘separate revolution’ of nationalism. Lenin drew a sharp distinction between the Marxists-Leninist view and opportunism and all sorts of nationalism, repeating Mehring’s words:
«If the Polish proletariat wished to inscribe on its banner the establishment of a class state even the Polish ruling classes do not want to hear of, a historical comedy would be stage; this is perfectly possible for property-owning classes (like the Polish nobility in 1791) but it should never be considered by the working class. …
«The interests of the proletariat absolutely require the Polish workers in the three states that have divided Poland to fight together unconditionally with their class comrades. The days when a bourgeois revolution could create a free Poland are now behind us.» (The National Question, National Liberation Struggles, V. I. Lenin, p. 17-18)
Those who have difficulty putting their theories of ‘two separate revolutions’ or ‘alliances’ on an objective base, end up by explaining their ideas with relative concepts. Those on the Turkish left who talk about ‘separate revolutions’ or ‘colonies’ claim the contradictions in Turkey and those in Kurdistan have different depths and the contradiction stemming from national oppression leads to a different level of struggle. Therefore the national struggle in Kurdistan can pass beyond the class struggle in Turkey and make its own revolution, etc. If their aim is to invent arguments in support of the idea of ‘colonies’ or ‘two separate revolutions’ these statements have no meaning whatsoever. Turkey is a neo-colony and it is in a continual national crisis, even though this may not have matured. The existence of a national crisis means the merging of the economic, social and political crises. The ruling classes in Turkey lack the power and the instruments to soften these contradictions. In this sense there is no objective obstacle to the Turkish workers and toilers expressing their discontent and acquiring a revolutionary quality. In this respect, generalising the conjectural situation and claiming the Kurdish people will act sooner than the Kurdish people amounts to finding excises for one’s own lack of confidence. The fact that the popularity of this theory coincides with the current actions of Kurdish patriots proves our point.
In order to be able to establish the correct perspective for the country’s revolution, we must analyse the contradictions in the country correctly and also establish correctly which is the main contradiction that characterises the historical process. Thus we can summarise the contradictions in Turkey as follows:
1. The contradiction between imperialism and the oligarchy, and the peoples of Turkey. That is to say the contradiction between the Turkish and the Kurdish workers, peasants and petty bourgeoisie and the bloc of imperialism, the monopolistic bourgeoisie collaborating with it, the landowners, the big usurers and merchants. This contradiction has both a class and a national aspect, which have merged (because of the integration of imperialism and the oligarchy through the collaborating of the monopolistic bourgeoisie).
2. The contradiction between the oligarchy and non-monopolistic bourgeois sections.
3. Contradictions within the oligarchy.
4. The contradiction arising from national oppression, between the oligarchy and the Kurdish nation. This is essentially a contradiction based on national oppression between the Kurdish peasants and the oligarchy.
The most important of these contradiction is that between imperialism and the oligarchy, and the Kurdish and Turkish peoples of Turkey. This characterises the historical process. The solution to this process will also solve the contradiction based on national oppression, between the oligarchy and the Kurdish peasants. Even those petty bourgeois left-wing circles claiming Kurdistan is a colony give this account of the contradictions in Turkey – which for them is a contradiction in itself! For in the relation between colony and coloniser the main contradiction is between the people of the colonised country and the ruling classes of the colonialist state. Therefore the contradiction caused by national oppression is never reduced to a secondary level.
If the motive for ‘colony’ theories is the demand for a ‘separate state’ the easiest and quickest way of accomplishing this is by organising a common struggle against the common enemy within the framework of the anti-imperialist, anti-oligarchic revolution. Whether or not it is a ‘colony,’ we can never accept attempts to create divisions in the peoples’ struggle or to put the nation’s interests before proletarian class interests – especially by people who call themselves Marxist-Leninists.
Marxist-Leninists never limit themselves to the national question and always defend the general interests of the proletariat in the struggle. In this respect the obstacle facing the liberation of our peoples is not the national question, but imperialism and the oligarchy. This is the case for the Kurdish as well as the Turkish people.
Both peoples are confronted by the same social formation. Of course, for the Kurdish nation there is the contradiction caused by national oppression. To ignore this is to ignore national oppression and to collapse into a social-chauvinist position. All sorts of reformism have always ignored the policies of national oppression against the Kurds, to whom they have only paid lip-service. Those who oppose the right of nations to self-determination in the name of social revolution ignore the contradiction caused by national oppression and occupy a bourgeois-nationalist position. Those who have always occupied a social- chauvinist position in the name of ‘proletariat’ have made things even worse in their present capacity of ‘national party’ and are rapidly falling into a bourgeois-nationalist position. Everyone knows with what ease the opportunists of the Second International ignored the right of nations to self-determination and the Leninist resolution they had signed to oppose the imperialist war, and how they turned into supporters of the bourgeoisie in the name of ‘the fatherland’. Nor should it be a secret what those who spent years begging the bourgeoisie for permission will do when it comes to paying the price.
We defend the right of the Kurdish people to self-determination. We condemn and fight against the national oppression of the Kurdish people. We say the solution lies in the anti- imperialist, anti-oligarchic popular revolution.
We do not approach the problem only from the point of view of the nation, and we also say it is necessary to fight those who deny the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination or empty it of its revolutionary content by using terms like ‘national-cultural autonomy’ etc.
It has become meaningless only to hint at the existence of the Kurdish nation. The correct attitude for both the traditional Turkish left, and petty-bourgeois intellectuals is breaking with the tradition of begging for permission, opposing theories of a solution within the existing borders and defending the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination. Unfortunately we have to admit they have still got a long way to go.
It is the duty of all who accept their intellectual responsibility and respect scientific honour to defend the right of nations to self-determination under all circumstances, without being intimidated by fascists’ accusations of ‘separatism,’ and to show the same sensitivity and courage where the Kurdish question is concerned. An to those who describe themselves as ‘party of the working class’ or ‘communists’ we say: it is a good thing to avoid making concessions to nationalist ideas, but proving one’s loyalty to the oligarchy by opposing the nationalists of the oppressed nation while supporting the oppressor nation’s chauvinism is called social-chauvinism.
Defending ‘cultural autonomy’ is a masked defence of social-chauvinism. This attitude amounts to defending the policy of national oppression in a more ‘civilised’ manner, and condemning the workers and peasants of the oppressed nation to capitalist exploitation, since ‘national culture’ under bourgeois rule can only mean bourgeois culture. Social- chauvinists putting forward these ideas are in fact defending the continuation of the privileges of the oppressor nation’s bourgeoisie.
We repeat, as Marxist-Leninists we defend the right of the Kurdish nation to self- determination. These are principles we will never give up. Nevertheless we also engage in agitation and propaganda putting forward the wish for unity after the obstacles to the Kurdish people’s demand for self-determination have been smashed. We take this attitude because we are Marxist-Leninists and we defend the unity of the proletariat. Therefore we see separation under the present circumstances as harmful, both because of the historical development of the proletariat and because of the concrete interests of both peoples, particularly the Kurdish people. We only advocate separation if the national question becomes the main obstacle to the liberation of our peoples, that is to say, the main contradiction of the historical process. Such a situation may arise as a result of concrete developments. We engage in politics on an objective base, and we say genuine liberation means an anti-imperialist, anti-oligarchic popular revolution in which both peoples fight the common enemy.
But in order to prevent any misunderstanding we also feel obliged to say we want the national oppression of the Kurdish people to end immediately. It is against our view of history to accept the idea that the revolution will solve everything anyway, or absolutely to deny the possibility of other solutions. We are in favour of ending the national oppression of the Kurdish people today. However, this is not possible under the present objective circumstances. A scientific analysis of the Kurdish question shows national liberation will come about as a result of the anti-imperialist, anti-oligarchic popular revolution. This is why the struggle organised by us Marxist-Leninists will be the common revolutionary struggle of both peoples.
B- In Multi-National Turkey the Liberation of our Peoples will be by Common Organisation and Struggle.
Within the borders of multi-national states, the Marxist-Leninist concept of organisation is common organisation (one party organisation). Marxist-Leninists absolutely reject separate organisation which divides the proletariat on national grounds. The Marxist-Leninist concept was put into practice by Lenin and Stalin in Czarist Russia, and has proved to be successful.
This approach is even more relevant to Turkey. In Turkey, unlike Czarist Russia, relations between colonised and colonisers do not exist, and Kurdish and Turkish workers and toilers have come together in the same economic and social structure. Organising separately in this case means in practice causing divisions in the struggle of the peoples, destroying the idea of class and becoming a prisoner of bourgeois-nationalist prejudices. Besides, the conditions for the self-determination of nations cannot be created without the destruction of the reactionary central authority. As we have said before, in this epoch, only the proletariat can defend the genuine freedom of nations and the unity of workers of all countries. The organisational form within the borders of multi-national states is one party organisation.
«All proletarians of all nations united in this state must organise as one indivisible proletarian community. … Our view on the national question … means one, indivisible proletarian community, one party, for the proletarians of all nationalities in given state.» (The National Question, Stalin, p. 85-86)
Organising separately on the base of the national characteristics of proletarians of different nations within the borders of the same state is absolutely not in the interests of the proletariat. Except for narrow-minded nationalists no one will even consider this. For organising separately means sacrificing the final aim of the proletariat and proletarian internationalism to narrow-minded nationalism. Advocating separate organisation means dividing the working class into nations in every city, town and factory and erecting a Chinese wall between them. It reduces proletarian internationalism, which aims to unite the workers of all countries, to a meaningless phrase by emptying it of its revolutionary content. This can only lead to encouraging the idea of discrimination between nations. We must not forget discrimination leads to chauvinism, which strengthens bourgeois-nationalism by creating divisions among members of the same class.
We should start by saying the oppressed nation has the right to organise separately and form its own national institutions and organisations. But there is a difference between recognising these rights and demanding they are put into practise under all conditions and insisting on separate organisation. Marxist-Leninists, while leaving it up to the oppressed nation whether to use these rights, also agitate and make propaganda against separate organisation, and defend the necessity of common organisation instead.
«It is obvious that while Social-Democrats (Marxists) never deny the freedom of organisation, including the organisation of any community of any nationality within the same state, the cannot demand such a thing or support such an organisation…» (On The Right of Nations to self- determination, Lenin)
The matter is very clear. Nations have the right to organise in any way they choose. Whether it is advantageous of disadvantageous, they have the right to form their own national institutions and national elements. To deny this means to absolutely deny the right of nations to self-determination and to defend national oppression. We will not repeat this since we have explained this in detail. Besides, this is not the point. The point is what should be the approach to the organisation question of those who claim to defend the interests of the proletariat and who call themselves Marxist-Leninists. A bourgeois or petty bourgeois nationalist may defend separate organisation. We may see this as harmful and agitate against it. But we will oppose attempts to dissuade them from this by force. All this is perfectly obvious. But a socialist, a Marxist-Leninists, cannot defend separate organisation. If they insist on doing so, they are not socialists or Marxist-Leninists,, but petty bourgeois nationalists of the oppressed nation.
The main principle of any kind of bourgeois nationalism is the development of the nation in general. This is in its nature. But the development of the nation in general cannot be a socialist principle. Socialists, Marxist-Leninists are in favour of the internationalist unity of workers of all countries. They know any discrimination between the proletariat of different nations will lay the foundations for bourgeois intrigues and plots. They determine their attitude according to the internationalist interests of the proletariat, not narrow-minded nationalism. Since we are not concerned with building nations, we have to understand historical development leads to internationalism, and the focus of our approach to the right of nations to self-determination (including secession) is putting an end to the policy of oppressing nations and keeping them together by force, and realising their voluntary unity on the base of complete equality.
In our country separate organisation is defended by Kurdish petty bourgeois nationalists. We regard this as any natural. What is not natural is that they call themselves Marxist- Leninists. To solve this contradiction, they claim Kurdistan is a ‘colony’ and therefore requires a ‘separate revolution.’ We have explained in great detail that Kurdistan is not a ‘colony,’ that the liberation of both peoples will be the result of the anti-imperialist, anti- oligarchic popular revolution, that both peoples share a common enemy, that the national oppression of the Kurds does not necessitate a separate revolution and that the anti- imperialist, anti-oligarchic popular revolution will also solve the national question.
It is obvious that advocating separate organisation in a multi-national country, (especially in a country like Turkey, where the workers and peasants of both nations are united within the same social formation) means covering up one’s petty bourgeois nationalism with ‘Marxist’ phrases. This should not be confused with the separate organisation of the working classes living inside the borders of different states. While defending the principle of common struggle at the international level, the proletariat fights by creating independent class organisations within the national borders. The class struggle within the borders of the national state is part of the world-wide class struggle. But one cannot ignore the reality of countries with different social formations for the sake of internationalism and advocate a theory of ‘one revolution, one organisation.’ Starting from the totality instead of recognising every single revolutionary struggle is part of the world-wide proletarian revolution, will lead us nowhere. Again we should not mix things up by advocating separate organisation for nations belonging to the same social formation and living within the same state now. As we have seen, organising within national borders is a matter of form and does not refute the principle of common organisation. To carry this attitude, which is in itself correct, into the borders of one state means destroying its spirit and degenerating it. Examples like Portugal, Angola and Mozambique are irrelevant to this discussion. If an example is absolutely required, it is useful to look again and again at Lenin and Stalin’s views on Czarist Russia. We have to take into account Lenin and Stalin’s objections to the Bund and the Polish Social Democrats’ concept of separate organisation (or federation), which they emphasised and offered as an argument for separate organisation and separate revolution.
In our country, where the strategic aim for both peoples is the anti-imperialist, anti- oligarchic popular revolution, the Marxist-Leninist idea of organisation is common organisation in one party. We are in favour of Kurdish and Turkish workers and toilers’ unity on the base of comradely relations. The concept of common organisation fits in with the class composition of the anti-oligarchic, anti-imperialist popular revolution as well as with the politicised military war strategy we advocate as the method of revolution in our country.
Advocating common organisation within the multi-national state does not mean ignoring the existence of the oppressed nation. This sort of idea reduces the organisation of the proletariat of two nations to the level of one nation, which means the reappearance of social-chauvinism in another form. In our country, the traditional left which acts as a standard-bearer of social-reformism, while admitting the existence of Kurdish nation when forced to do so, ignores the oppressed nation’s demands and characteristics with regard to the question of organisation, and they reduce the matter to the point of the organisation of the proletariat of one nation. Nothing else can be expected from the traditional left, which has tailed the ruling class throughout its existence and provided a left cover for chauvinism, and today sees proving its loyalty to the bourgeoisie as its main organisational aim. They only pay lip-service to the existence of the Kurdish nation. Caring about the Kurdish nation’s problems involves fighting against national oppression, defending unconditionally the right to self-determination and behaving accordingly in practice. One way of doing this is developing a concept of common organisation which takes into consideration the question of national oppression. For social-chauvinists, however, this would endanger their claim to be a ‘national party.’
Under the conditions of our country, the organisation of the oppressed nation concretely means regional organisation. Within the central party organisation the organisation of the oppressed nation is the regional organisation of its own region (Kurdistan). The Kurdish organisation (committee) of the central party organisation cannot be compared to just any ordinary regional organisation in Turkey. This committee, which can be defined as the party’s Kurdistan branch, should be flexible enough to take into account the characteristics and demands of the Kurdish nation, absorb it and to respond to the different characteristics of the struggle.
Those who hold different views on the organisation of the oppressed nation and central organisation defend forming tendencies or separate organisation instead of regional organisation. This means parting with the Leninist conception of the party.
Several left-wing structures in our country which, whether they describe Kurdistan as a colony or not, wish to develop an organisational presence in Kurdistan by making concessions to the nationalism of the oppressed nation forming a section within the central organisation. It is no coincidence the idea has become popular after the defeat of the left by the military coup of 12 September 1980. If we remember these ideas and the analysis of colonialism were put forward in a period during which the Kurdish patriotic movement was relatively active, it will not be difficult to understand how theory was sacrificed to subjectivism. Sectional organisation thus has nothing to do with central party organisation or conditions in Turkey.
A sectional organisation is inform of organisation within the central party which has its own organs and programme, and which may leave the organisation if necessary and become an independent (national) organisation. That is to say that the separate organisations of the oppressor and oppressed nations are united in a central structure. This can also be described as a federative organisation. This is essentially separate organisation, on the base of nationality. Central organisation exists only in form, so that it has nothing to do with the Marxists-Leninist concept of ‘the merging of the proletariat of all (or two) nations as one proletarian community.’
Referring to this sort idea, Lenin puts it like this:
«In this situation, all economic and social conditions in Russia require social- democracy (that is to say Marxists) to unite the workers of all national communities unconditionally and without making any distinctions, in all proletarian organisations (political organisations, workers union, co-operatives, educational organisations etc.) The party should not have a federal structure, national social-democratic groups should not be formed.»(The National Question and National Liberation Struggles, Lenin, p. 101, my emphasis)
Another subjects on which Marxist-Leninists disagree with social-chauvinists is the way in which the common struggle can be won. Social-chauvinists ignore the oppressed nation’s existence and demands with regard to both the question of organisation and the question of struggle. For them, only the demands and struggle of the proletariat exists (and these have been reduced to economism). Because of this attitude they remain silent in the face of national oppression and ignore the right of nations to self-determination. We attribute to the hypocrisy of social-chauvinism, which is an extremely subtle form of opportunism, the fact that they protest against national oppression within the framework of fake bourgeois- humanism and humanitarian concerns, rather than that of the right of nations to self- determination. This attitude, which can be seen in most of the traditional left in our country, especially the reformists, is caused by their petty bourgeois class character. It is no secret that even those who pride themselves on talking about the Kurdish question all the time remain silent when it comes to fighting national oppression in practice.
Both forms of nationalism (that of the oppressor and the oppressed nation) show the same one-sidedness. The nationalists of the oppressor nation (the social-chauvinists) ignore the struggle against national oppression and limit themselves to the class struggle, or rather economism, while the nationalists of the oppressed nation (Kurdish patriots) ignore the class aspect of the struggle condemn the Kurdish workers and peasants to the yoke of the Kurdish ruling classes and confuse working people’s consciousness with bourgeois slogans of ‘the nation.’ Of course, the nationalists’ attitude cannot be compared to that of the social-chauvinists, since the nationalists of the oppressed nation nave legitimate demands.
A movement claiming to be the organised revolutionary vanguard of both peoples cannot ignore the contradiction caused by national oppression between the oligarchy and the Kurdish working people. Ignoring this contradiction in practice will reduce the right of nations to self-determination to mere words and confuse workers’ and toilers’ consciousness with petty bourgeois nationalists’ bourgeois nationalist ideas. The common struggle against imperialism and the oligarchy includes the national question. Unlike then Kurdish nationalists, of course, we cannot limit ourselves to the struggle against national oppression. Our understanding of the struggle in Kurdistan is based on a class perspective. The struggle against national oppression is only meaningful if waged on a class basis.
The struggle against national oppression in Kurdistan essentially concerns the Kurdish workers, peasants, petty bourgeoisie and middle bourgeoisie, because national oppression is aimed mainly at these social layers. At the same time these layers are also confronted by intensive exploitation. Most peasants do not own any land and are terribly exploited by usurers and merchants. Even the most elementary democratic demands are bloodly suppressed. Imperialism and the oligarchy are responsible for all this. The Kurdish people’s right to self-determination is therefore connected to its demands for land and democracy. We regard the struggle against national oppression as the struggle for land and democracy itself.
«The struggle against national oppression in Kurdistan must be waged taking into account the contradictions facing peasants and toilers. Thus the struggle against national oppression should at the same time be a struggle of the Kurdish peasants and toilers against the army, police, landowners and capitalists of the fascist state. A struggle must be waged against those who put forward other, wrong, nationalist goals.» (The Historical Development of the Kurds and the Kurdish Question in Turkey, Devrimci Sol Publications, 1979, p. 137-138)
This is our perspective for the struggle.
This perspective requires opposing any suppression of the demands of the Kurdish people on language, culture, national unity as wall as political self-determination, reviving the national characteristics of the Kurdish people from the perspective of proletarian internationalism and opposing forced national assimilation. If this is not done, the struggle against national oppression and for the right to self-determination remains a dead letter; whether Marxist-Leninists have broken with nationalism depends on whether they regard this struggle as an integral part of the class struggle. If this is not the case it is easy to make concessions to social-chauvinism while trying to stay clear of nationalism. The history of the reformist left is very instructive in this respect.
Because Kurdistan is the countryside of our country and the method of revolution in our country is the politicised military war strategy, the struggle against national oppression is connected with the basic form of struggle. That is to say that in Kurdistan the struggle against the oligarchy by a vanguard war on the base of armed propaganda also includes the fight against national oppression.
Armed propaganda in Kurdistan must be able to express concretely the national and class contradiction facing the Kurdish people. Obviously this struggle must be waged against the militarist forces responsible for national oppression in Kurdistan and against the assimilation aimed at destroying the Kurdish people’s national characteristics, as well as against the landowners, usurers and merchants who exploit the Kurdish peasants. In short, armed propaganda must first of all be aimed at the contradictions facing the peasants. The importance of political agitation too is great. Political agitation in Kurdistan must also address the question of national oppression. Political agitation only on the basis of class will lead in practice to the denial of national oppression.
«The politicised military war strategy must be implemented while taking into account the specific characteristics of Kurdistan. The situation of the cities and the level of neo-colonialist relations compared to the western areas, require us to concentrate on fighting and organising in the countryside rather than in the cities. When determining our political goals however we should also take into account national oppression and the characteristics of Kurdistan. Armed propaganda must be implemented by waging a guerrilla struggle in the countryside – and to a lesser extent in the cities – taking into account first of all the contradictions facing the peasants. We must destroy the propaganda of the oligarchy, which is based on the situation of the Kurdish peasants against the army and the government, and on oppression, arrogance and intimidation.» (The Historical Development of the Kurds and the Kurdish Question in Turkey, Devrimci Sol Publications, 1979, p. 141)
These are the main principles of our understanding of the struggle in Kurdistan.
Having said this, we must emphasise it is necessary to see the struggle as that against imperialism and the oligarchy in the whole of Turkey without making concessions to mechanistic ideas or narrow-minded nationalism.
C- Our Attitude with Regard to the Kurdish Patriotic Movement.
As Marxist-Leninists we think the liberation of the Kurdish people will come about as a result of the anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchic popular revolution, which will be accomplished by the common struggle of the Turkish and the Kurdish people. While this is the course of our struggle, we cannot remain neutral towards objective events outside our control. Neutrality in this respect means denying one’s Marxist-Leninist mission.
Neutrality can only be attitude of petty bourgeois who think they themselves are the centre of the universe or who have lost be ability to intervene in life.
The present Kurdish movements which oppose imperialism and the oligarchy on a nationalist basis are progressive and patriotic. Their main starting-point is nation, not class. The social base of these movements is the Kurdish petty bourgeoisie.
As we have said before, in the imperialist era the bourgeoisie has lost be ability to lead the democratic revolution or solve the national question. In this period the struggle against national oppression can be led by two social layers. First, the proletariat on internationalist grounds, second, the petty bourgeoisie on patriotic grounds.
The development of Kurdish petty bourgeois patriotic movements has objective as well as subjective causes. The objective causes are the development of neo-colonialist relations and the formation of petty bourgeois layers in Kurdistan, while the subjective causes must be seen as a reaction to the social-chauvinist attitudes of the traditional left, and the insufficient practical intervention of the revolutionary movement.
As a result of the development of capitalism in Kurdistan, parallel to neo-colonialism and the dissolution of feudal structures, a substantial petty bourgeois layer has come into existence. The petty bourgeoisie is inherently nationalist. Since after the peasantry the petty bourgeoisie is most frustrated in its development by national oppression, naturally it will protest. Therefore the social base of the nationalist movement in Kurdistan is the petty bourgeoisie. Particularly Kurdish petty bourgeois intellectuals studying in the big cities and coming into contact with social and political movements there have developed nationalist ideas parallel to the political struggle in Turkey. Up till here this development has followed a normal course. If you look at the development of neo-colonialist relations in Kurdistan you will see that this is related to the development of nationalist movements.
But the most important aspect of the question comes after this. Putting the nationalist protest by the petty bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation in a correct class perspective is possible especially under the leadership of the Marxist-Leninist movement in the country. The left wing movement in Turkey however has failed to fulfil its obligations with regard to the national question.
The reformist, social-chauvinist position dominant on the Turkish left has played an important role in increasing nationalist sentiments among Kurdish petty bourgeois intellectuals. The social-reformists’ position on the policies of genocide and assimilation of the Kemalist period are well known. The social-reformists supported the massacre of the Kurdish people arguing that ‘feudalism was being liquidated’ and did not change their disgraceful attitude in spite of the Comintern’s warning. Continuing the tradition of the Tanzimat, the social-reformists made ‘the stability of the state’ their main priority and quietly accepted or even supported the oppression of the Kurdish people during the period of neo- colonialism. The social-chauvinist attitude of the traditional left, which has spent most of its life begging the bourgeoisie for permission, inevitably led to a lack of confidence among the Kurdish petty bourgeois layers and fostered nationalist prejudices. Nowadays the attitude of the traditional social-chauvinists can be summarised as almost denying the existence of Kurdistan and supporting the assimilation policy of the oligarchy.
The social-chauvinist tradition of the Turkish left was temporarily interrupted in 1970 by the THKP-C movement but regained its influence when this movement was physically eliminated within a very short period of time. The THKP-C movement for the first time developed a correct approach to the national question and differentiated itself sharply from those looking for a solution within the national borders. When the THKP-C movement was accomplishing the mission given to them by the historical process, and trying to put forward its theoretical insights on the Kurdish national question, it was physically eliminated.
Under the conditions of betrayal, desertion from the revolutionary ranks, pacifism and spontaneity after the defeat of the THKP-C movement, the national question was again left alone and almost ignored. Although our movement from its inception in 1978 put forward its own theoretical theses on this question and tried to put them into practice immediately, our intervention was too late and did not succeed in attracting the Kurdish petty bourgeoisie to a class perspective.
The task of Marxist-Leninists today is putting an end to the lack of confidence and the reactions caused by the social-chauvinist left, defending the Kurdish people’s national demands, and organising struggle on a class base. Only a struggle on this base cam make the common struggle of our peoples a reality. This does not mean we repudiate we Kurdish petty bourgeois nationalist movements which have come into existence outside our control our that we are indifferent to them.
Marxist-Leninists’ attitude to the right of nations to form their own organisations and organisations is well known. Although we attempt to form a common organisation, nationalists of the oppressed nation have the right to form their own independent organisations, whether these are advantageous or disadvantageous.
Our attitude towards the Kurdish petty bourgeois nationalists movements today has a dual character. On the one hand we explain the dangers of separate organisation to the liberation struggle of our peoples, the bourgeois character of nationalism, and the revolutionary method under Turkish conditions for the liberation of both peoples (including the right of the Kurdish people to self-determination) and we wage an ideological struggle against their bourgeois nationalist characteristics. But at the same time we support them in action as long as they remain opposed to imperialism and the oligarchy.
The ideological struggle against nationalists of the oppressed nation must be constructive and aimed at attacking them towards a class perspective. Therefore style and timing are very important. We must avid the sort of style which may provide the ruling classes with material for their demagogy, distortions and slander. The ideological struggle must in fact be aimed against the chauvinists and social-chauvinists. The ideological struggle against the nationalists of the oppressed nation must in fact take place within the framework of ‘friendly struggle.’ The struggle against their faults and disadvantages can only be meaningful if combined with support for and solidarity with their revolutionary characteristics. We believe this can be described as ‘a contradiction within the popular forces.’
In the imperialist era Marxist-Leninists’ attitude to the national movement is supporting it in so far as it weakens and pushes back imperialism and therefore supports and strengthens the proletarian movement. At this moment the Kurdish petty bourgeois nationalist movements fulfil this condition. When they lose this position we will no longer be able to support them. Although then nationalist movement of the oppressed nation is in itself legitimate we cannot ignore its objective position in relation to the class struggle and its attitude towards imperialism. Marxist-Leninists cannot separate them matter from general interests.
This is the revolutionary method of giving confidence to Kurdish petty bourgeois nationalists, attracting them to a class perspective and gradually leading the Kurdish people away from the influence of bourgeois nationalist prejudice. On the one hand putting the Kurdish people’s national demands in a class perspective, intensifying the struggle against chauvinism and social-chauvinism, and on the other hand approaching the petty bourgeois nationalist movement, which has come into existence independently of our will, with ‘friendly struggle.’ This is, in short, our attitude in practice to the current situation in Kurdistan.
We think it is useful to briefly say something about the PKK movement. As we have said the PKK movement is a product of the formation of a petty bourgeois layer in Kurdistan. At present the PKK is a patriotic movement engaged in armed opposition to imperialism and the oligarchy. We support it because it strikes a blow against the oligarchy and imperialism. However this does not mean this movement has no faults or makes no mistakes. Because the PKK’s petty bourgeois character and its tendency to act on the base of nationalism it has a number of shortcomings and weaknesses. The most conspicuous of these are caused by its mechanistic and narrow practical approach to problems and methods of struggle, especially its nationalist, pragmatist approach. We criticise the wrong and mistaken approach they have in practice, especially their tendency to act on the base of nationalism.
But our criticism of the PKK is made within the framework of ‘friendly struggle’ we have described in general, and this is a problem within the popular forces. We are against the attitude of the left which formulates its criticism in the words of the oligarchy. Almost all of the Turkish left criticises the PKK and tries to isolate it because of its militant character. The PKK has been exposed to attacks from the traditional left because it disrupts the status quo. Therefore the anti-PKK criticism of the left are directed against its militancy and have to be opposed. Fighting imperialism and the oligarchy means supporting the PKK, not attacking it.
D- The Turkish Petty Bourgeois Movement is our Ally in the Anti-Imperialist, Anti-Oligarchic Popular Revolution.
Today the nationalist Turkish petty bourgeoisie, which is part of the petty bourgeois layers which belong to the popular forces in the anti-imperialist, anti-oligarchic popular revolution in our country, is not organised as a political movement. Because of the reasons mentioned above, however, there are Kurdish petty bourgeois political movements on a nationalist base. Therefore allying oneself with the Kurdish patriotic movements on an anti- imperialist, anti-oligarchic basis is a revolutionary step forwards. This sort of position is necessary in order to integrate the anti-imperialist, anti-oligarchic forces, influence these movements, give them confidence and put forward a class perspective.
Making this alliance between the Marxist-Leninist movement and the Kurdish petty bourgeois patriotic movement a concrete reality is, of course, not without its specific difficulties. However, drawing the Kurdish people into the anti-imperialist, anti-oligarchic struggle and developing the common organisation and struggle of both peoples on the one hand, and forming a political alliance with the petty bourgeois nationalist movement which divides peoples on nationalist grounds and bases itself on national organisation on the other hand, though difficult, is not impossible. Using correct tactics, on the base of the tasks practice itself imposes, Marxist-Leninists can and should create the necessary room for manoeuvre.
Another question connected with the question of forming an alliance with Kurdish petty bourgeois nationalists is the fact that chauvinist Turkish petty bourgeois layers are also included in this alliance and two nationalist groups with conflicting interests unite for a common goal. This often leads to criticism of our movement by the rest of the left. They ask us: «How can you march with on one side the Kemalists and on the other the Kurdish petty bourgeois nationalists?» Should we ignore reality and claim this is difficult? Those who ask this question have neither understood the phenomena of ‘alliance’ and ‘front’ nor learned the lessons of social practice. It is natural contradictions should exist between Kurdish and Turkish petty bourgeois nationalists. Since the base of nationalism is the question of ‘national markets’ there are inevitably contradictions between the interests of these layers. But we are not referring to just any abstract alliance. When we say an alliance is possible between petty bourgeois layers, we depart from the contradiction with imperialism and the oligarchy both sections have in common. For imperialism and the oligarchy are the enemies of both these layers. ‘Alliance’ and ‘front’ are both developed in spite of contradictions.
A front or an alliance is a unity of opposites consisting of different sections working together on the base of a certain common programme. There are classes and political forces which have essentially similar interests; and there are classes and political forces whose interests can only be reconciled to a certain degree. Every class or political force can form an alliance for the sake of specific and common interests and be part of the same front.
Thus Kurdish and Turkish petty bourgeois nationalists have both specific interests and common interests on the basis of their opposition to imperialism and the oligarchy. And because their specific interests are threatened by the oligarchy and imperialism, the main contradiction for both sections is that they have with imperialism and the oligarchy. Their unity on this common ground required for their specific interests. Thus Kurdish and Turkish patriots were able to unite during the Anatolian Liberation Movement in 1919. The fact that the Kemalists adopted a chauvinist attitude after the establishment of the Turkish Republic and started to develop policies which were opposed to the interests of the Kurdish people cannot obscure this reality.
But we must forget that an alliance between two sections is not necessarily an alliance made by themselves. Of course this is also possible. But we are referring here to an alliance led by the proletariat. Proletarian leadership can both prevent an outcome like that of 1923, and provide a secure environment for the nationalists of the oppressed nation by its struggle against chauvinism. As to the distinction between the oppressor and the oppressed nation, the proletariat must support the oppressed nation. Therefore it is nothing but a confession of one’s own lack of confidence to panic because of the contradiction between nationalists of the oppressed and the oppressor nation and to say these cannot be united on the basis of common interests. We base ourselves on social practice when we say that the anti-imperialist left wing sections developing on the basis of nationalism of both nations can fight as parts of the same front. Anyway, the left wing of the Turkish petty bourgeois nationalists has no political organisation at the moment. Therefore the question of alliance at this moment will concern that between the revolutionary movement of the people of Turkey and Kurdish petty bourgeois nationalists.