Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 17, 2010

The USSR, Mustafa Kemal and “reactionary anti-imperialism”, part 2

Filed under: cuba,Mexico,Stalinism,Turkey,ussr — louisproyect @ 4:53 pm

(Part one is here.)

Lazaro Cardenas: the Mexican Kemal

Perhaps no other incident in history better illustrates the old cliché that politics makes strange bedfellows than the Soviet-Turkish ties in the early 1920s.

This relationship had two phases. In the first that occurred during War Communism, the USSR made common cause with Turkey because they both were anxious to fend off British imperialism. 40,000 British troops were part of a 13 nation expeditionary force that was determined to overthrow Bolshevism.

Meanwhile, Britain used Greece as a surrogate invading power to control what would become Turkey in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Mustafa Kemal relied heavily on Soviet arms and material during 1920.

Within a couple of years, the policy of War Communism had been abandoned in favor of the NEP. This meant that the Soviet Union would put a high priority on establishing peaceful relationships with any and all countries, including Britain. This was also the period in which the Comintern looked Eastward in the hope that Asia would rise up against imperialism. It viewed national liberation movements as progressive, even when they were led by someone like Mustafa Kemal. Given this turn, it would make sense that the USSR would bend over backwards trying to link up with Turkey.

The definitive statement on Soviet-Turkish relations came from Karl Radek, whose articles England and the East and The Winding-Up of the Versailles Treaty, a report to the fourth Comintern congress are must reading. It is a shame that Goldner made no attempt to evaluate such material since it would at least have given the reader the assurance that he was considering all sides of the debate. In the second article, Radek zeroed in on the Treaty of Sevres that put the WWI victors in charge of the Ottoman finances and extracted other concessions. It was analogous to the Brest-Litovsk treaty that punished the infant Soviet Republic for having the temerity to withdraw from the WWI bloodbath. Radek wrote:

Whatever may be the result of the Near Eastern crisis, one thing is quite patent: the Sevres Treaty has been smashed by Turkish cannon. The popular masses of the Near East, who in the eyes of the Allies are not only a quantité négligeable, but simply the scum of the earth, have been set in motion against no less a thing than the Versailles Treaty. They are at present beginning to play their part. Among the diplomats who think to be able to control the course of history through clever formulae and secret conferences, there is disunity. Great Britain has experienced one of her deepest humiliations in her long history, when after the defeat of her Greek vassal, she durst not come in shining armour to his assistance, and after having pronounced a sentence of death upon Turkey, had now to flatter her and even to offer her a place in the League of Nations. This fact is the irrefutable proof of the break-up of the Sevres Treaty. Popular masses on a low level of civilisation can only be kept in subjection as long as there is unity among the slaveholders, but not when these come to loggerheads. As soon as the slaves perceive that the oppressors are trembling, they begin to rebel. The East of to-day which sees Great Britain trembling, is no more the East of the days of the Sevres Treaty. The Turkish victory finds an echo in India and the whole Islamic world. This echo is the best proof that we have to do with an important episode in the growth of the world revolution, with a success of the world revolution, though the organisers of the victory are far from being revolutionary in the modern sense of the term.

What is missing entirely from Goldner’s analysis is any sense of how important Kemal’s victory was in pushing Greece and Britain out of Turkish lands. This was not only important for the defense of the USSR, it was also a genuine anti-imperialist victory on a par with Nasser’s seizure of the Suez Canal or the British being forced to leave India. It does not matter that Nasser or Gandhi were bourgeois nationalists simply interested in capitalist development. Marxists, at least those not addled by philosophical idealism, have always considered colonial struggles as worthy of support even if they are not being led by communists.

In 1882, Engels wrote a letter to Karl Kautsky that was very much in the spirit of what Radek wrote. You will notice that he does not make communism some kind of litmus test. He is for the independence of oppressed nations even under bourgeois leadership:

One of the real tasks of the 1848 Revolution (and the real, not illusory tasks of a revolution are always solved as a result of that revolution) was the restoration of the oppressed and dispersed nationalities of Central Europe, insofar as these were at all viable and, especially, ripe for independence. This task was solved for Italy, Hungary and Germany, according to the then prevailing conditions, by the executors of the revolution’s will, Bonaparte, Cavour and Bismarck. Ireland and Poland remained. Ireland can be disregarded here, she affects the conditions of the Continent only very indirectly. But Poland lies in the middle of the Continent and the conservation of her division is precisely the link that has constantly held the Holy Alliance together, and therefore, Poland is of great interest to us….

I therefore hold the view that two nations in Europe have not only the right but even the duty to be nationalistic before they become internationalistic: the Irish and the Poles. They are most internationalistic when they are genuinely nationalistic. The Poles understood this during all crises and have proved it on all the battlefields of the revolution. Deprive them of the prospect of restoring Poland or convince them that the new Poland will soon drop into their lap by herself, and it is all over with their interest in the European revolution.

Maybe Goldner does not consider Engels to be a real communist, only one of those people promoting “reactionary anti-imperialism” but Engels is good enough for me.

All that being said, the question remains: was the USSR correct to try to maintain a close relationship with Turkey after Kemal unleashed his repression against the Communists? In some ways, this is a difficult question to answer since time was drawing near when it would become moot. By 1923, when Kemal was mopping up the Communists, the USSR was on the verge of isolating Leon Trotsky and other critical-minded Marxists who objected to what was becoming a policy of accommodation to the national bourgeoisie. In four short years, the disastrous policy in China would unfold prompting Trotsky to open a full-scale assault on Stalin’s class collaborationist politics. Under directions from Stalin, the Chinese CP had subordinated itself completely to the Kuomintang, leading to the slaughter of far more many working class militants than was the case in Turkey.

If the USSR was no longer able to serve as an example of how a revolutionary society relates to governments such as Kemal’s, there is one that is close at hand facing almost identical paradoxes and contradictions, namely Cuba. As I have already pointed out, Goldner is completely hostile to the Cuban government, linking it with North Korea in one of his articles:

Fewer still look to surviving relics such as North Korea or Cuba. The most radical elements of the 1960’s and 1970’s upsurge, from Socialism or Barbarism in France, Eastern European “Marxist humanism” (Kolakowski, the Yugoslav Praxis group), the Situationists, or the Italian workerists mainly rejected these regimes as viscerally as they rejected the (Keynesian) Labour and Social Democratic welfare states of the 1945-1975 period.

If they were the most radical elements of the 60s and 70s, I am glad that I went my own way. Frankly, there was about as much chance of me hooking up with the Situationists as there was with the yippies. I don’t begrudge someone like Guy Debord having a grand old time at the expense of middle-class propriety but I was far more interested in organizing mass demonstrations against the Vietnam War.

Now Cuba faces many of the same problems as the infant Soviet republic but with the added complication of having a much smaller resource base, a narrower geographical space that is additionally vulnerable due to its proximity to the USA, and—more recently—without socialist allies internationally.

Cuba faced a similar quandary in 1968 when the Mexican government unleashed a terrible repression against the student movement, many of whose leaders were likely Fidelistas politically. Although this is not quite the same situation as took place in Turkey in the 1920s, the Cuban government was as low-key as the Soviets were when the 15 Turkish Communists were drowned.

As I have pointed out myself to uncritical Fidelistas on Marxmail, there was no response from the Cuban government. If you go to the Castro speech database and do a search on Mexico during 1968, you will not find a word of protest.

Now it is no accident that Turkey and Mexico are connected in this fashion since both exemplify the paradoxes of national liberation movements led by the bourgeoisie and governments that have become calcified after it takes power. The Mexican PRI and Kemal’s Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican Peoples Party) were both political leaderships of arguably the last hurrah of the bourgeois revolution.

And, interestingly enough, both republics gave asylum to Leon Trotsky. For all of Mustafa Kemal’s hostility to Communism, he was willing to host Trotsky in the first leg of his exile. While Trotsky does not exactly sing Kemal’s praises in “My Life”, there are some accounts that he enjoyed his stay in Turkey immensely on a personal level. I recommend the documentary Exile in Buyukuda for the modern Turkish take on his stay in their homeland.

Despite Mexico’s more democratic functioning during Trotsky’s stay there, not much differentiated it from Turkey in economic terms. Both Kemal and Cardenas were committed to national development and considered labor and capital to be co-equal partners in a bid to modernize the respective countries. Of course, this was just propaganda. The way it worked out in practice, as it does everywhere in the world, is to the benefit of the bourgeoisie. In both the case of Turkey and Mexico, the lip-service paid to labor and the actual benefits it received declined the longer the two hegemonic bourgeois parties remained in the driver’s seat.

No matter how degraded the Mexican PRI had become, there was still a residual spark that motivated it to stand up to imperialism when it came to Castro’s Cuba. In a paper titled Capitalizing on Castro: Mexico’s Foreign Relations with Cuba, 1959-1969, Renata Keller makes clear how important Mexico was to Cuba. The article begins:

In the decade immediately following Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, Mexican leaders consistently distinguished themselves from their Latin American counterparts by acting as outspoken defenders of the Cuban people’s right to self-determination. Influential politicians such as Lázaro Cárdenas threw their support behind Castro, and in 1960 Mexican president Adolfo López Mateos welcomed Cuban president Osvaldo Dorticós in a lavish state visit. At the July 1964 meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C., Mexico was the only Latin American country that refused to adopt the resolution to break diplomatic relations with Fidel Castro’s Cuba and impose economic sanctions. Mexico thereafter maintained diplomatic relations with Cuba, which effectively established Mexico as the sole link between Castro and the rest of the hemisphere because none of the other Latin American governments recognized Cuba’s revolutionary regime until after 1970.

So in order to fend off American economic pressure and to find an ally, sincere or not, in diplomatic initiatives against the counter-revolutionary OAS, Cuba found itself in bed with Mexico.

While it is difficult to quantify what this relationship meant to Cuba, it very likely helped Fidel Castro to survive. No matter how politically bankrupt Mexico and the USSR were, they were necessary allies against imperialism. If Castro refused to denounce Mexico in 1968 or the USSR for invading Czechoslovakia in the same year, he more than made up for this in assisting liberation movements in Africa and Latin America.

In the real world, politics can be very messy. My advice to my anarchist, situationist, left, council and libertarian communist friends who want to keep their hands clean is to stay out of politics altogether.


  1. Many radicals, from Sam Farber to the ISO, and others say that Fidel Castro endorsed the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968. That is a simplistic and misleading misreading of the facts.

    Fidel Castro’s position had diverse elements. It was not only not to denounce it, but also to explain that it was a violation of Czechoslovak National sovereignty. Fidel furthermore sought to find the origins of the need to intervene in an absence of internationalism on the USSR’s part. That’s one of the reasons why the Soviet leadership wasn’t able to utilize Fidel’s “endorsement” to try to drum up support for the intervention, inside the USSR or inside the world Communist movement.

    Joseph Hansen wrote an extended essay, which was published as a pamphlet at that time, and also in book form in the book DYNAMICS OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION (Pathfinder, 1978). Here are two short excerpts from a much longer essay:

    On the basis of his premise, that “Czechoslovakia was moving toward a counterrevolutionary situation, toward capitalism and into the arms of imperialism” (which, of course, coincides with the justification advanced by the Kremlin for intervening with troops), Fidel Castro considers one of the main bits of propaganda used by the Warsaw Pact allies at the time to explain what they had done. They said they had received an appeal from prominent Communists in Czechoslovakia asking them to intervene. Out of international solidarity, they had responded to this request.

    Castro notes that the names of the signers of the appeal had not been made public up to the time he spoke. However, he does not make much of that; he goes to the heart of the question.

    The intervention, in his opinion, “unquestionably entailed a violation of legal principles and international norms.” It “cannot be denied,” he contends, “that the sovereignty of the Czechoslovak State was violated.” To say otherwise would be “a fiction, an untruth. And the violation was, in fact, of a flagrant nature.”

    “‘From a legal point of view, this cannot be justified. . . . Not the slightest trace of legality exists. Frankly, none whatever.”

    Castro argues that the sole justification for the invasion was political necessity. “In our opinion, the decision made concerning Czechoslovakia can only be explained from a political point of view, not from a legal point of view.”

    As he sees it, the political situation had become so alarming “that it was absolutely necessary, at all costs, in one way or another, to prevent this eventuality [the restoration of capitalism] from taking place.”

    “The essential point to be accepted, or not accepted,” he insists, “is whether or not the socialist camp could allow a political situation to develop which would lead to the breaking away of a socialist country, to its falling into the arms of imperialism. And our point of view is that it is not permissible and that the socialist camp has a right to prevent this in one way or another. I would like to begin by making it clear that we look upon this fact as an essential one.”

    Castro puts up a strong case for dismissing the appeal of the unnamed “group of personalities” as immaterial. Is a certain embarrassment detectable in his stress on this point?

    National Sovereignty and World Revolution

    That Castro seeks to subordinate all other political considerations to the needs of the world revolution is shown by the fashion in which he weighs the relative importance of Czechoslovakia’s national sovereignty.

    For Cubans, the question is especially important, he says. ‘They have had to face the problem of intervention throughout their history. Thus “it is logical that many would react emotionally in the face of the fact that armies from outside the nation’s borders had to come in to prevent a catastrophe.” Castro is referring here to the widespread sympathy in Cuba for the Czechoslovaks.

    “And since, logically, for various reasons,” he continues, “our conscience (consciousness] has been shaped by the concept of repudiating such deeds, only the development of the political awareness of our people will make it possible for them to determine when such an action becomes necessary and when it is necessary to accept it even in spite of the fact that it violates rights such as the right of sovereignty which — in this case, in our opinion — must give way before the most important interests of the world revolutionary movement and the struggle of the peoples against the imperialists, which, as we see it, is the basic question. And, undoubtedly, the breaking away of Czechoslovakia and its falling into the arms of imperialism would have been a rude blow, an even harder blow to the interests of the worldwide revolutionary movement.” He concludes this point with the general assertion: “We must learn to analyze these truths and to determine when one interest must give way before other interests in order not to fall into romantic or idealistic positions that are out of touch with reality.”

    This is the source of Castro’s consistency — he subordinates all other interests to the interest of the world revolution. Paradoxically this also happens to point directly to the weakest point in Castro’s position. Where does the question of socialist democracy stand in relation to the interests of the world revolution?

    Does Socialism Reject Democracy in General?

    Castro deals hardly at all with democracy in his speech. As for socialist democracy, the blunt fact is that he does not even mention it.

    If anything, he indicates a bias against democracy.

    HANSEN’S COMPLETE ARTICLE, which is much, much longer:

    Comment by Walter Lippmann — May 17, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

  2. Good points Lou. It could also be added that shortly after the Soviets collapsed, Cuba revived strong diplomatic ties with China in an effort to fill that void the Soviets would undoubtedly leave, and shortly thereafter, legitimate student protests in Tianemen Square, which were illegitimately exascerbated by the CIA in the hopes of sparking a civil war, were also not commented on by Fidel as far as I recall.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 17, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

  3. “Fewer still look to surviving relics such as North Korea or Cuba. The most radical elements of the 1960’s and 1970’s upsurge, from Socialism or Barbarism in France, Eastern European “Marxist humanism” (Kolakowski, the Yugoslav Praxis group), the Situationists, or the Italian workerists mainly rejected these regimes as viscerally as they rejected the (Keynesian) Labour and Social Democratic welfare states of the 1945-1975 period.”

    Clearly, these radical groups were correct in their assessment, and, to the extent that Goldner implicitly agrees with it, he is as well, even if his rhetoric (“surviving relics”) is antiquated, and in relation to Cuba, inaccurate (how could Castro’s government be a “relic” after only 10-15 years in power?). Neither Cuba nor North Korea were a suitable model for social transformation within the European countries where these groups were situated. And, their revolutionary struggles, having emerged in the conditions of these lesser developed countries, were of limited use in the efforts of these groups. One may or may not agree with the left pragmatism examined by you and Goldner in related to Turkey and Mexico (in regard to Turkey, I am inclined to agree, with Mexico, I am not so sure), but it seems to me that there is no logical connection between one’s opinion about such pragmatism in practice and whether one considers the regimes of Cuba and North Korea as suitable models for a future socialist society.

    Comment by Richard Estes — May 17, 2010 @ 11:47 pm

  4. CHP was certainly not a progressive party in the least. Look at any demographic from the 1930s onwards through the election of 2007, and CHP covers mostly wealthier provinces–hardly any of them capture the industrial northern Marmara or poorer agricultural regions in Anatolia.

    That Atatürk used certain imams to issue fatwas against a decrepit Ottoman Porte, doesn’t exactly fall under any role model for progress. In fact, he relied heavily on religious sentiments, calling for the “gavurs” to be driven out of Anatolia in order to rile up the Ottoman Turkish peasantry. Many of the Greek and Armenian communities were enemies of the state ipso facto and their churches were seized by the state–this did not happen to the Sunni Muslims. Even when the war of independence was over, his concept of “millet” was very much couched in religious terms. While in private life he might have considered himself a lapsed Muslim, in public he proclaimed that Islam was a scientific religion, the appropriate one for the modern age and used other like-minded arguments to reel in the mosques and medresses under state power (similar to the French model). In fact, Kemalist laicism, as Turkish historian and political scientist Taha Parla claimed, was more like Kemalist Islam, a rival to the more orthodox Sunni constituency.

    Kemalism is anything but progressive, just another bourgeois nationalist ideology.

    Comment by JL — May 17, 2010 @ 11:58 pm

  5. [“Kemalism is anything but progressive, just another bourgeois nationalist ideology.”]

    Of course, but the point is that the main objective of the fledgling Soviet state was to thwart the isolation & encirclement of the imperialists as a matter of self preservation. The way to accomplish this was to weaken the imperialists by any means necessary. When zealous 3rd world nationalism threatens the interests of imperialsism it can weaken imperialism, at least potentially. Insofaras Kemalism weakened British imperialism, or at least had the potential to, then it’s only natural for the Soviets to send arms & material to the Kemal regime, not because of its bourgeois nationalism but despite it. Self-determination for the historically oppressed nationalities was Lenin’s credo after all.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 18, 2010 @ 12:53 am

  6. No, this is opportunistic and was from the very start. Kemalists were driving out socialists, communists and destroying labor unions–all of the very movements which were helping Ataturk, were later betrayed by him and by the Soviets. I don’t care for dogma, so it doesn’t matter to me whether this was what Lenin decreed. Kemalism was its own form of imperialism as it sought to fight against the British for control of oil-sensitive regions that were formally Ottoman lands in what is now northern Iraq.

    Kemalism remains a poisonous influence on the left in Turkey, it is like gateway nationalism, which is why so many leftist groups have often devolved into semi-fascist organizations.

    Comment by JL — May 18, 2010 @ 1:41 am

  7. Dogma my ass. Your logic sound like Christopher Hitchens on Iraq & Iran!

    Kemal lead historically oppressed Brown people in an armed struggle against one of the biggest slaveholder regimes in human history — British Imperialism. Any victory of Brown peoples against British imperialism weakened British Imperialism and therefore socialist revolutionaries are duty bound to root for the armies of the historically oppressed.

    When the USA invaded Iraq socialist revolutionaries were for the victory of Iraq, even though Saddam Hussein murdered communists and was objectively not much different than Kemal. Revolutionary defeatism for British workers during the 20’s is NOT dogma, nor is revolutionary defeatism for American workers vis a vis Iraq today.

    The biggest enemy of the world’s toilers in not their bourgeois nationalists but the armed-to-the-teeth imperialists of the G7 who own and control this planet.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 18, 2010 @ 6:07 am

  8. richard e you seemed to have missed the point entirely. Its not about considering Turkey and Mexico in isolation its about whether or not Turkey represented some kind of original sin for antiimperialists which infects them supposedly to this day. On both points I give a resounding no.

    Comment by SGuy — May 18, 2010 @ 7:31 am

  9. JL: Was Trotsky’s position on Italo-Ethiopian war in the 30’s just more opportunist dogma from the decrees of Leninists?

    At the time some argued the Italo-Ethiopian war was “a conflict between two rival dictators.”

    Trotsky countered that on the contrary:

    “If Mussolini triumphs, it means the reinforcement of fascism, the strengthening of imperialism, and the discouragement of the colonial peoples in Africa and elsewhere. The victory of the Negus, however, would mean a mighty blow not only at Italian imperialism but at imperialism as a whole, and would lend a powerful impulsion to the rebellious forces of the oppressed peoples. One must really be completely blind not to see this.”

    One could change those words to the following regarding Turkey in the early 20’s:

    “If Britain triumphs [against Kemal], it means the reinforcement of Britain, the strengthening of imperialism, and the discouragement of the colonial peoples in former Ottoman empire and elsewhere. The victory of the Kemal, however, would mean a mighty blow not only at British imperialism but at imperialism as a whole, and would lend a powerful impulsion to the rebellious forces of the oppressed peoples. One must really be completely blind not to see this.”


    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 18, 2010 @ 8:53 am

  10. This is taken from The Condition of the Working Class in England:

    ‘It often happens that a whole Irish family is crowded into one bed: often a heap of filthy straw or quilts of old sacking cover all in a indiscriminate heap, where all alike are degraded by want, apathy, and wretchedness … To these and other sources of disease must be added that pigs were kept, and other disgusting things of the most revolting kind were found’ (pp. 101-102, Penguin edition).


    ‘the Englishman who is still somewhat civilised needs more than the Irishman who goes in rags, eats potatoes, and sleeps in a pig-sty’ (p. 112).

    ‘[The Irishman] builds a pig-sty against the house wall as he did at home, and if he is prevented from doing this, he lets the pig sleep in the room with himself.’

    Comment by Mike — May 18, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

  11. Karl, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about when it comes to Turkey. I don’t care about other examples because quite frankly I don’t know what their situations were. Ataturk was a nationalistic leader who, while driving out the Europeans from Anatolia, took every procurement to suppress the working class and ethnic minorities (Greeks, Armenians and Kurds). The biggest tragedy was their betrayal at his hands. This is about a failed alliance of nationalists, Islamists and communists all of whom made a pact only to be betrayed later on. These “brown people” as you call them were more lured on by the fatwas Ataturk had to painstakingly rely on to whip up the Islamic masses in Anatolia. This was entirely top-down, Jacobin revolution that didn’t have the sense of urgency perhaps other revolutions had in the beginning.

    Anti-imperialism is quite value-neutral in the following sense: if Germany were invaded, I’m sure you would have a whole cross section of society participating, but I would hardly deem that as progressive in any way. Probably the Neo-Nazis and Social Democrats would take up arms. On writing on the Kurdish Question, Ibrahim Kaypakkaya, a Turkish communist militant in the 1970’s said if the Kurds wanted to secede and create their own state–so be it. They just had to realize that they were trading in one bourgeoisie (Turkish) for another (Kurdish). Thus his group, the TKIP would stay out of the fighting on condition that the communists within the independence movement requested help for no other reason than to say that they would be acting as an imperialist power by going in. Kaypakkaya, who was eventually tortured and killed by the state at 24 realized the dangers of simply throwing in support for the Kurds without considering the risks in the end.

    Comment by JL — May 18, 2010 @ 3:25 pm

  12. SGuy: no, I got the point. Louis took out a quote from Goldner, and used it as an opportunity to bash radical groups from the 1960s. The problem is, the subject of the quote, the suitability of Cuba and North Korea as models for revolutionary movements in Europe, has little to nothing to do with his post, the extent to which Cuba and the USSR made difficult, if defensible, decisions in relation to the left in other countries as a matter of self-preservation, consistent with an overall anti-imperialist orientation. One can take the position of Socialism or Barbarism on Cuba and North Korea while agreeing with Louis on the left pragmatism examined here. Nothing in my earlier comment addresses whether “Turkey represented some kind of original sin for antiimperialists which infects them supposedly to this day.” Perhaps, you have confused my comment with those of others.

    Comment by Richard Estes — May 18, 2010 @ 4:59 pm

  13. Oh Mikey, you wouldn’t perchance be the mike who plagues lenin’s tomb? Well anyway not denying that Engel’s may have been somewhat infected by the rampant anti-irish sentiment that existed at that time is he in fact saying anything false? You can see the same thing in the United States today, with Mexican workers earning and living on the less then the American worker. Why do you think GWB was unable to deliver the bill that the anti-immigrant forces in his party wanted, because capitalists who hire cheap labour want at least some immigrants. English capitalists wanted cheap labour too, is it racist to point that out?

    Comment by SGuy — May 18, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

  14. I would like to comment in detailö but suffice to note that ”Turkish National Liberation Struggle” is a pure myth; it was not a war against the imperialist powers but a war against the Greek Army and a civil war as well. Turkey before, Kemal was a multicultural country, after it became a Turkish one, nothing but a Frankestein. Everybody, nowawadays aware of the tragedy of the Armenians, but that was the beginning: 1.200.000 Greek origin Anatolians were expelled, 200 hundred thousands of whom died during the process. Kurdish revolts ın 1920s and 1930s, had been supressed with brutality, hundreds and thousands were killed. In Turkey today, Kurds are still strugling for their rigts, but many other non-Turkish origin groups has been reduced to margınal numbers. From the point view of Marx and Engels, it has not been possible to support such a Kemalists nation-building project.

    The real scandal was Enver Pasha’a, who was one of the architects of the Armenian mass killings, appearence at the Baku 1921 Congress. Why Lenin and Trotsky failed to develop A permanent revolution strategy for Turkey remaıns to be answered.

    Comment by erol — May 18, 2010 @ 11:41 pm

  15. it was not a war against the imperialist powers but a war against the Greek Army

    And what was the Greek army doing in Turkey?

    Comment by louisproyect — May 19, 2010 @ 1:00 am

  16. Erol makes a superb point insofar as it’s completely true that in retrospect the Bolsheviks provided a paucity of critical analysis of what was going on in Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman empire, paricularly re: atrocities against the historically oppressed Armenians & Kurds, who are still among the largest groups of unsung victims of genocide in the 20th century, yet they’re almost never mentioned.

    Was the weakening of British Imperialism in Soviet policy pure mythology in what actually went down, I wouldn’t go that far, however, as loathe as I am to critisize a beleaguered slave revolt encircled by armed Imperialism like the one lead by the Bolsheviks, a reasonable argument could be made that perhaps the beleaguered Soviets, diluted of bold politics by an ossifying bureaucracy, amidst, & just after, Civil War, did behave somewhat opportunisticly for what it perceived narrowly as a respite toward self-preservation along the path of least resistance.

    Revolutionary policy should have lead the Bolshevik leadership to better size up the Turkish situation & perhaps instead arm the Armenians & Kurds for revolutionary independence from the old Turkish thumb, which under Ottoman rule was apallingly akin to the Great Russian Chauvanism that held sway under Czarism’s iron heel over minority subjects.

    Like Chomsky says in his knack of reducing complex situations into streetwise language — historically statesmanship ultimately amounts to the toughest thugs in the neighborhood making deals with the toughest thugs in the other neighborhood about questions over who controls what turf? like Lenin said: Politics is who gets what?

    Now I’m not saying the Bolsheviks were thugs, but I’d understand a Kurd or Armenian who begged to differ. By the time Stalin consolidated power, however, fuhgettaboutit. The thugs really did rule. Does this mean Leninism lead to Stalinism? The answer is NO — no more than the Jacobins were responsible for Napleon Bonaparte.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 19, 2010 @ 1:08 am

  17. [15. Karl, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about when it comes to Turkey.]

    I concede I’ve studied little about Turkey and what was going on 90 years ago there, I’ve only gathered bits and pieces from old dead comrades along the way, however, I possess more than just faith in my convictions about the Bolshevik Revolution.

    For example, this protracted Wiki excerpt below does not in my opinion cast any significant aspirsions against the architects of that revolution — Trotsky & Lenin.


    The Turkish War of Independence — (May 19, 1919 –- October 29, 1923) is the political and military resistance developed by Turkish Nationalists to the Allied partitioning of the Ottoman Empire after its defeat in World War I. The Turkish National Movement in Anatolia culminated in the formation of a new Grand National Assembly which successfully mobilized its resources under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal. After the military campaigns against offensives of Greece, and of the Turkish-Armenian and Franco-Turkish War, the Turkish revolutionaries forced the Allies to abandon the Treaty of Sèvres and negotiate the Treaty of Lausanne in July 1923, leaving Anatolia and Eastern Thrace to form the Republic of Turkey in October 1923. The establishment of the Turkish national movement led to the end of the Ottoman millet system and with the Atatürk’s reforms created a modern, secular nation-state on the political front.

    Allied occupation of ConstantinopleOn October 30 1918, the Armistice of Mudros (Turkish: Mondros Anlaşması) was signed between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies of World War I, bringing hostilities in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I to a close. The treaty granted the Allies the right to occupy forts controlling the Straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus; and the right to occupy “in case of disorder” any territory in case of a threat to security. Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe, the British signatory of the Mudros Armistice, stated the Triple Entente’s position that they had no intention to dismantle the government of the Ottoman Empire or place it under military occupation by “occupying Istanbul”. Contradictory to this though, dismantling the Ottoman government and partitioning the Ottoman Empire among allied nations had been an objective since the start of the war.

    On November 12 1918, a French brigade entered the city to begin the Occupation of Istanbul and its immediate dependencies, followed by a fleet consisting of British, French, Italian and Greek ships deploying soldiers on the ground the next day. A wave of seizures took place in the following months by the Allies. On 14 November, joint French-Greek troops occupied the town of Uzunköprü in Eastern Thrace as well as the railway axis till the train station of Hadımköy near Çatalca on the outskirts of Istanbul. On December 1, British troops based in Syria occupied Kilis. Beginning in December, French troops began successive seizures of Ottoman territory, including the towns of Antakya, Mersin, Tarsus, Ceyhan, Adana, Osmaniye and Islahiye.

    On January 19, 1919, the Paris Peace Conference opened, a meeting of allied nations that set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers, including the Ottoman Empire. As a special body of the Paris Conference, “The Inter-Allied Commission on Mandates in Turkey” was established to pursue the secret treaties they had signed between 1915–17. Among the objectives was a new Hellenic Empire based on the Megali Idea. This was promised by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George to Greece. Italy sought control over the southern part of Anatolia under the Agreement of St.-Jean-de-Maurienne. France expected to exercise control over Hatay, Lebanon and Syria, and also wanted control over a portion of South-Eastern Anatolia based on Sykes-Picot Agreement. France signed the French-Armenian Agreement and promised the realization of an Armenian state in the Mediterranean region in exchange to the French Armenian Legion.

    Meanwhile, Allied countries continued to lay claim to portions of the quickly crumbling Ottoman Empire. British forces based in Syria occupied Maraş, Urfa and Birecik, while French forces embarked by gunboats and sent troops to the Black Sea ports of Zonguldak and Karadeniz Ereğli commanding Turkey’s coal mining region. At the Paris Peace Conference, competing claims of Western Anatolia by Greek and Italian delegations led Greek to land the flagship of the Greek Navy at Smyrna, resulting in the Italian delegation walking out of the peace talks. On April 30 Italy responded to the possible idea of Greek incorporation of Western Anatolia by also sending a warship to Smyrna(Izmir) as a show of force against Greek campaign. A large Italian force also landed in Antalya. With the Italian delegation absent from the Paris Peace talks, Britain was able to sway France and the United States in favour of Greek’s claims and ultimately the Conference authorized the landing of Greek troops on Anatolian territory.

    The Greek campaign of Western Anatolia began in May 15, 1919, as Greek troops began landing in Smyrna. For the city’s muslim population, the day is marked by the “first bullet” fired by Hasan Tahsin at the Greek standard bearer at the head of the troops, the murder by bayonet coups of Colonel Albay Fethi Bey for refusing to shout “Zito Venizelos” and the killing and wounding of unarmed Turkish soldiers in the city’s principal casern, as well as of 300-400 civilians. Greek troops moved from Smyrna outwards, to towns on the Karaburun peninsula, Söke, situated a hundred kilometers south of Smyrna at a key location that commands the fertile Menderes River valley and Menemen and Torbalı, towards the north and the southeast at proximity of Smyrna.

    Initial organization:

    Anatolia in 1919: Resistance to Allied demands began at the very onset of the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in World War I. Many Ottoman officials organized secret Outpost Societies (Turkish: Karakol Cemiyeti) in reaction to the policies of the Allies. The objective of the Outpost Societies was to thwart Allied demands through passive and active resistance. Many Ottoman officials participated in efforts to conceal from the occupying authorities details of the burgeoning independence movement spreading throughout Anatolia. Munitions initially seized by the Allies were secretly smuggled out of Constantinople Istanbul into Central Anatolia, along with Ottoman officers keen to resist any division of Ottoman territories. General Ali Fuat Cebesoy in the meantime had moved his army corps from Syria to Ankara and started organizing resistance groups, including People of the Caucasian immigrants under Çerkez Ethem.

    Since the southern rim of Anatolia was effectively controlled by British warships and competing Greek and Italian troops, the Turkish National Movement’s headquarters moved to the rugged terrain of central Anatolia. In the face of nationalist resistance, the sultan and his government bribed major Ottoman Pashas like Mustafa Kemal with important positions in the areas remaining under “direct Ottoman authority” territories defined by the Treaty of Sèvres, areas free of Allied control. The reasons for these new assignments is still a matter of debate; one view is that it was an intentional move to support the national movement, another was that the Sultan wanted to keep Constantinople under his control, a goal which was in total agreement with the aims of the occupation armies which can keep the Sultan in control. The most prominent idea given for the Sultan’s decision was by assigning these officers out of the capital, the Sultan was trying to minimize the effectiveness of these soldiers in the capital. The Sultan was cited as saying that without an organized army, the Allies could not be defeated, and the national movement had two army corps in May 1919, one based in Ankara under the command of Ali Fuat Cebesoy and the other based in Erzurum under the command of Kazim Karabekir.

    Through manipulation and the help of friends and sympathizers, Mustafa Kemal became the Inspector General of virtually all of the Ottoman forces in Anatolia, tasked with overseeing the disbanding process of the remaining Ottoman forces. He and his carefully selected staff left Constantinople (Istanbul) aboard SS Bandirma, an old steamer for Samsun on the evening of May 16, 1919. The inspector general stepped ashore on May 19 and set up his quarters in the Mintika Palace Hotel. Mustafa Kemal made the people of Samsun aware of the Greek and Italian landings, staged mass meetings (whilst remaining discreet) and made, thanks to the excellent telegraph network, fast connections with the army units in Anatolia and began to form links with various nationalist groups. He sent telegrams of protest to foreign embassies and the War Ministry about British reinforcements in the area and about British aid to Greek brigand gangs. After a week in Samsun, Mustafa Kemal and his staff moved to Havza, about 85 km (53 mi) inland.

    Mustafa Kemal writes in his memoir that he needed nationwide support. The importance of his position, and his status as a hero after the Battle of Gallipoli, gave him some credentials. On the other hand, this was not enough to inspire everyone. While officially occupied with the disarming of the army, he had increased his various contacts in order to build his movement’s momentum. He met with Rauf Orbay, Ali Fuat Cebesoy, and Refet Bele on June 21, 1919 and declared the Amasya Circular (22 June 1919).

    Decoding national movement:

    On June 23, High Commissioner Admiral Calthorpe, realizing the significance of Mustafa Kemal’s discreet activities in Anatolia, sent a report about Kemal to the Foreign Office. His remarks were down played by George Kidson of the Eastern Department. Captain Hurst (British army) in Samsun warned Admiral Calthorpe one more time, but Hurst’s units were replaced with a Brigade of Gurkhas. The movement of British units alarmed the population of the region and convinced the population that Mustafa Kemal was right. Right after this “The Association for Defense of National Rights” (Müdafaa-i Hukuk Cemiyeti) was founded in Trapezunt, and a parallel association in Samsun was also founded, which declared that the Black Sea region was not safe. The same activities that happened in Smyrna were happening in the region. When the British landed in Alexandretta, Admiral Calthorpe resigned on the basis that this was against the Armistice that he had signed and was assigned to another position on August 5, 1919.

    The Ottoman War Minister Damat Ferid Pasha ordered Refet Bele and Mustafa Kemal to work on reducing the tensions among the Muslim Black Sea population. Ferit Pasha promised that the British would not take any action against them. Mustafa Kemal said to his close friends “Ferit Pasha does not understand the realities of the region; he should resign for the benefit of the Empire”.

    On 2 July, Kemal received a telegram from the Sultan. The Sultan asked him to cease his activities in Anatolia and return to the capital. Mustafa Kemal was in Erzincan and did not want to return to Constantinople, concerned that the foreign authorities might have designs for him beyond the Sultan’s plans. He felt the best course for him was to take a two month leave of absence.

    Representative committee established at the Sivas Congress (4 September 1919 – 11 September 1919).

    Representational problem:

    On October 16 1919, Ali Riza Pasha sent a navy minister Hulusi Salih Pasha to negotiate with the Turkish National Movement. Hulusi Salih Pasha was not part of World War I. Salih Pasha and Mustafa Kemal met in Amasya. Mustafa Kemal put the representational problems of Ottoman Parliament on the agenda. He wanted to have a signed protocol between Ali Riza Pasha and the “representative committee.” On the advice of the British, Ali Riza Pasha rejected any form of recognition or legitimacy claims by this unconstitutional political formation in Anatolia.

    In December 1919, fresh elections were held for the Ottoman parliament. This was an attempt to build a better representative structure. The Ottoman parliament was seen as a way to reassert the central government’s claims of legitimacy in response to the emerging nationalist movement in Anatolia. In the meantime, groups of Ottoman Greeks had formed Greek nationalist militias within Ottoman borders and were acting on their own. Greek members of the Ottoman parliament repeatedly blocked any progress in the parliament, and most Greek subjects of the Sultan boycotted the new elections.

    The elections were held and a new parliament of the Ottoman State was formed under the occupation. However, Ali Riza Pasha was too hasty in thinking that his parliament could bring him legitimacy. The house of the parliament was under the shadow of the British battalion stationed at Istanbul. Any decisions by the parliament had to have the signatures of both Ali Riza Pasha and the commanding British Officer. The freedom of the new government was limited. It did not take too long for the members of parliament to recognize that any kind of integrity was not possible in this situation. Ali Riza Pasha and his government had become the voice of the Triple Entente. The only laws that passed were those acceptable to, or specifically ordered by the British.

    Ottoman Parliament acts alone:

    On January 12, 1920, the last Ottoman Chamber of Deputies met in the capital. First the sultan’s speech was presented and then a telegram from Mustafa Kemal, manifesting the claim that the rightful government of Turkey being in Ankara in the name of the Representative Committee.

    A group called Felâh-i Vatan among the Ottoman parliament worked to acknowledge the decisions taken at the Erzurum Congress and the Sivas Congress. The British began to sense that something had been flourishing that they did not want. The Ottoman government was not doing what it could to suppress the nationalists. On January 28 the deputies met secretly. Proposals were made to elect Mustafa Kemal president of the Chamber, but this was deferred in the certain knowledge that the British would prorogue the Chamber[clarification needed] before it could do what has been planned all along, namely accept the declaration of the Sivas Congress.

    On 28 January, 1920, the Ottoman parliament developed the National Pact (Misak-i Milli) and published it on 12 February 1920. This pact adapted six principles; which called for self-determination, the security of Constantinople, and the opening of the Straits, also the abolishment of the capitulations. In effect the Misak-i Milli solidified a lot of nationalist notions, which were in conflict with the Allied plans.

    Shift from de facto to de jure occupation:

    The National Movement, which persuaded the Ottoman parliament to declare “Misak-i Milli”, prompted the British government to take matters into its own hands. To put an end to this situation the British decided they needed to systematically bring Turkey under its control. The plan was to dismantle every organization beginning from Istanbul to deep into Anatolia. Mustafa Kemal’s National Movement was the main problem. The British Foreign Office was asked to devise a plan on how to deal with it. The Foreign Office developed the same plan they used during the Arab Revolt, but this time the resources were channeled to warlords like Ahmet Anzavur. The political side of this decision was solidified under the Treaty of Sèvres. Anatolia was to be westernized under Christian governments. That was the only way that Christians could be safe said the British government. The Treaty of Sèvres placed most of Anatolia under Christian control. This policy aimed to break down the authority in Anatolia by separating the Sultan, its government, and putting Christians (Greece and Democratic Republic of Armenia, Armenians of Cilia) against Muslims. The details of these covert operations is summarized under the title Jurisdictional Conflict.

    On the night of March 15 British troops began to occupy key buildings and arrest Turkish nationalists. It was a very messy operation. At the military music school there was resistance. At least ten students died but the official death toll is unknown even today. The British tried to capture the leadership of the movement. They secured the departments of the Minister of War and of the Chief of the General Staff, Fevzi Çakmak. Çakmak was an able and relatively conservative officer who was known as one of the army’s oldest field commanders. He soon became one of the principal military leaders of the National Movement.

    Mustafa Kemal was ready for this move. He warned all the nationalist organizations that there would be misleading declarations from the capital. He warned that the only way to stop the British was to organize protests. He said “Today the Turkish nation is called to defend its capacity for civilization, its right to life and independence – its entire future”. Mustafa Kemal was extensively familiar with the Arab Revolt and British involvement. He managed to stay one step ahead of the British Foreign Office. This, as well as his other abilities, gave Mustafa Kemal considerable authority among the revolutionaries.

    On March 18 the Ottoman parliament sent a protest to the Allies. The document stated that it was unacceptable to arrest five of its members. But the damage had been done. It was end of the Ottoman political system. This show of force by the British had left the Sultan as sole controller of the Empire. But the Sultan depended on their power to keep what was left of the empire. He was now a puppet for the Allies.

    Jurisdictional conflict:

    The new government, hoping to undermine the National Movement, passed a fatwa (legal opinion) from Şeyhülislam. The fatwa stated that true believers should not go along with the nationalist (rebels) movement. Along with this religious decree, the government sentenced Mustafa Kemal and prominent nationalists to death in absentia. At the same time, the müfti of Ankara Rifat Börekçi in defense of the nationalist movement, issued a counteracting fatwa declaring that the capital was under the control of the Entente and the Ferit Pasha government. In this text, the nationalist movement’s goal was stated as freeing the sultan and Caliphate from its enemies.

    Dissolution of the Ottoman parliament:

    Mustafa Kemal expected the Allies neither to accept the Harbord report nor to respect his parliamentary immunity if he went to the Ottoman capital, hence he remained in Anatolia. Kemal moved the Representative Committee’s capital from Erzurum to Ankara so that he could keep in touch with as many deputies as possible as they traveled to Istanbul to attend the parliament. He also started a newspaper, the Hakimiyet-i Milliye (National Sovereignty), to speak for the movement both in Turkey and the outside world (January 10, 1920).

    Mustafa Kemal declared that the only legal government of Turkey was the Representative Committee in Ankara and that all civilian and military officials were to obey it rather than the government in Istanbul. This argument gained very strong support, as by that time the fact of the Ottoman Parliament being fully under the Allied control had been established.

    Declaration of the Grand National Assembly:

    The strong measures taken against the nationalists by the Ottoman government created a distinct new phase. Mustafa Kemal sent a note to the governors and force commanders, asking them to implement election of delegates to join the Grand National Assembly, which would convene in Ankara. Mustafa Kemal appealed to the Islamic world asking for help to make sure that everyone knew he was still fighting in the name of the sultan who was also the caliph. He stated he wanted to free the Caliph from the Allies. Plans were made to organize a new government and parliament in Ankara, and then ask the sultan to accept its authority.

    A flood of supporters moved to Ankara just ahead of the Allied dragnets. Included among them were Halide Edip, Adnan Adivar, Ismet Inönü, Kemal’s important allies in the Ministry of War, and the Celaleddin Arif the president of the Chamber of Deputies. Yunus Nadi Abalioglu, the owner of Yeni Gün newspaper, journalist-author and deputy of Izmir, Halide Edip Adivar met in Geyve on March 31. Two intellectuals discussed the necessity that a news agency should be established to allied military administration’s censure over the news. They chose Anadolu as the name. Mustafa Kemal, which they meet in Ankara, immediately launched initiatives to herald establishment of Anadolu Agency[16]. Kemal wanted to transmit news stories to the world. Kemal also stressed the importance of making the national struggle be heard inside and outside of the country[16]. Celaleddin Arif’s desertion of the capital was of great significance. Celaleddin Arif stated that the Ottoman Parliament had been dissolved illegally. The Armistice did not give Allies power over dissolving the Ottoman Parliament and the Constitution of 1909 which removed the power from Sultan to prevent what Abdulhamid did in 1879.

    Some 100 members of the Ottoman Parliament were able to escape the Allied roundup and joined 190 deputies elected around the country by the national resistance group. Ismet Inonü joined as a deputy from Edirne. On March 1920, Turkish revolutionaries announced that the Turkish nation was establishing its own Parliament in Ankara under the name Grand National Assembly (GNA). The GNA assumed full governmental powers. On April 23, 1920, the new Assembly gathered for the first time, making Mustafa Kemal its first president and Ismet Inonü chief of the General Staff. The new regime’s determination to revolt against the government in the capital and not the Sultan was quickly made evident.

    Early pressure on nationalist militias:

    Anatolia had many forces on its soil: British battalions, Ahmet Aznavur forces, and the Sultan’s army. The Sultan gave 4,000 soldiers from his Kuva-i Inzibatiye (Caliphate Army). Then using money from the Allies, he raised another army, a force about 2,000 strong from non-Muslim inhabitants which were initially deployed in Iznik. The sultan’s government sent forces under the name of the caliphate army to the revolutionaries and aroused counterrevolutionary outbreaks.

    The British being skeptical of how formidable these insurgents were, decided to use irregular power to counteract this rebellion. The nationalist forces were distributed all around Turkey, so many small units were dispatched to face them. In Izmit there were two battalions of the British army. Their commanders were living on the Ottoman warship Yavuz. These units were to be used to rout the partisans under the command of Ali Fuat Cebesoy and Refet Bele.

    On 13 April 1920, the first conflict occurred at Düzce as a direct consequence of the sheik ul-Islam’s fatwa. On 18 April, the Düzce conflict was extended to Bolu; on 20 April, it extended to Gerede. The movement engulfed an important part of northwestern Anatolia for about a month. The Ottoman government had accorded semi-official status to the “Kuva-i Inzibatiye” and Ahmet Anzavur held an important role in the uprising. Both sides faced each other in a pitched battle near Izmit on June 14 1920. Ahmet Aznavur’s forces and British units outnumbered the militias. Yet under heavy attack some of the Kuva-i Inzibatiye deserted and joined the opposing ranks. This revealed the Sultan did not have the unwavering support of his men. Meanwhile the rest of these forces withdrew behind the British lines which held their position.

    The clash outside Izmit brought serious consequences. The British forces opened fire on the nationalists and bombed them from the air. This bombing forced a retreat but there was a panic in Istanbul. The British commander, General George Milne, asked for reinforcements. This led to a study to determine what would be required to defeat the Turkish nationalists. The report, signed by Marshal Ferdinand Foch, concluded that twenty-seven divisions would be sufficient, but the British army did not have twenty-seven divisions to spare. Also a deployment of this size could have disastrous political consequences back home. The Great War had just ended and the British public would not support another lengthy and costly expedition.

    The British accepted the fact that a nationalist movement could not be faced without deployment of consistent and well-trained forces. On June 25 the forces originating from Kuva-i Inzibatiye were dismantled under British supervision. The official stance was that there was no use for them. The British realized that the best option to overcome these Turkish nationalists was to use a force that was battle-tested and fierce enough to fight the Turks on their own soil. The British had to look no further than Turkey’s neighbor: Greece.

    Establishment of the army:

    Before the Amasya Circular (22 June 1919), Mustafa Kemal met with a Bolshevik delegation headed by Colonel Semyon Budyonny. The Bolsheviks wanted to annex the parts of the Caucasus, including Democratic Republic of Armenia, which were formerly part of Czarist Russia. They also saw a Turkish Republic as a buffer state or possibly a communist ally. Kemal’s official response was “Such questions had to be postponed until Turkish independence was achieved.” Having this support was important for the national movement.

    The first objective was the securing of arms from abroad. They obtained these primarily from the Soviet Union and from Italy and France. These arms, especially the Soviet weapons, allowed the Turks to organize an effective army. After the Treaty of Kars (October 23, 1921) nationalists agreed to cede Nachicevan and Batum and in response they received support and gold. For the promised resources, the nationalists had to wait until the Battle of Sakarya (August – September, 1921). On August 4 1920, Turkey’s representative in Moscow, Riza Nur, sent a telegram saying that soon 60 Krupp artillery pieces, 30,000 shells, 700,000 grenades, 10,000 mines, 60,000 Romanian swords, 1.5 million captured Ottoman rifles, 1 million Russian rifles, 1 million Austro-Hungarian Mannlicher rifles, as well as some Martini-Henry rifles and 25,000 bayonets would be in the possession of the Turkish nationalists.

    Treaty of Sèvres:

    The Ottoman Government signed the Treaty of Sèvres on the basis that the Treaty did not dismember the Caliphate and Constantinople was left to the Sultan. The Treaty was rejected by the Turkish national movement. Their position was that territorial settlements were not made on the basis of broad practical statesmanship to arrange durable frontiers and a tolerable future for the peoples concerned. Rather, it was drawn on the momentary interests of foreign policy.

    Also Venizelos drew the Greek gains in the Treaty as other nations had to let Greece annex these regions. It was not that the Triple Entente wanted to see these regions detached from Bulgaria and Anatolia, but they were not strong enough, either their domestic policy or armed units did not have the will to go forward, to take themselves.

    Democratic Republic of Armenia:

    The border of the Republic of Armenia (ADR) and Ottoman Empire was defined in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 3, 1918) after the Bolshevik revolution, and later by the Treaty of Batum (June 4, 1918) with the ADR. It was obvious that after the Armistice of Mudros (October 30 1918) the eastern border was not going to stay as it was drawn. There were talks going on with the Armenian Diaspora and Triple Entente on reshaping the border. The Fourteen Points was seen as an incentive to ADR, if Armenians could prove that they were the majority of the population and that they had military control over the eastern regions. The Armenian movements on the borders were being used as an argument to redraw the border between Ottoman Empire and ADR. Woodrow Wilson agreed to transfer the territories back to the ADR as given the ideas that they are dominantly controlled by Armenians. The results of these talks were to be reflected on the Treaty of Sèvres (August 10 1920). There was also a movement of Armenians from southeast with the French support. The French-Armenian Agreement granted the Armenian claims to Cilicia with establishment of French Armenian Legion. The general idea at that time was to integrate ADR to the French supported southeast Armenian movement. This way ADR could gain much sought resources to balance the Bolshevik expansionist movements.

    One of the most important fights had taken place on this border. The very early onset of national army was the proof of this, even though there was a pressing Greek danger on the west. The stage of the east campaign developed through Kâzim Karabekir’s two reports (May 30 and June 4, 1920) outlining the situation in the region. He was detailing the activities of the Armenian Republic and advising on how to shape the sources at the eastern borders, especially in Erzurum. Russian government sent a message to settle not only the Democratic Republic of Armenia but also Iranian border through diplomacy under Russian control. The Soviet support was absolutely vital for the Turkish nationalist movement, as Turkey was underdeveloped and had no domestic armaments industry. Bakir Sami Bey was assigned for the talks. Bolsheviks demanded that Van and Bitlis be transferred to Armenia. This was unacceptable to the Turkish revolutionaries. The revolutionaries were also faced with another dilemma: their hesitation to move forces to prevent the Armenian raids was causing a growing unsettlement among the Turks. The Greek threat and diplomatic connections needed to be balanced.

    [Eastern active stage — Turkish-Armenian War:

    Before more diplomatic exchanges took place, to show a sign of power on the discussion table, Armenia moved its forces to Oltu, leading to the battle of Oltu. The battle of Oltu ended the discussions with Russian government and in a couple of days the Treaty of Sèvres was signed by the Ottoman Empire. This was followed by occupation of Artvin by Georgian forces on 25 July.

    Eastern resolution:

    The Treaty of Alexandropol (December 2, 1920) was the first treaty signed by the Turkish revolutionaries. It nullified the Armenian activities on the east border which was reflected on the Treaty of Sèvres as succession of regions named as Wilsonian Armenia. The tenth item in the Treaty of Alexandropol stated that Armenia renounced the Treaty of Sèvres, which stipulated the Wilsonian Armenia.

    After the peace agreement with Turkish nationals, in late November, a Soviet-backed Communist uprising happened in Armenia. On November 28, 1920, the 11th Red Army under the command of Anatoliy Hekker crossed from Soviet Azerbaijan to Armenia. The second Soviet-Armenian war lasted only a week. The ADR was defeated by the Turkish revolutionaries, Armenians could no longer threaten after being defeated. It is also possible to claim that had the ADR been content with the boundaries as of 1919, she could have shown more resistance to the Bolshevik conquest, both internally and externally, but could not.

    On March 16, 1921, the Bolsheviks and Turkey signed a more comprehensive agreement, the Treaty of Kars, which involved representatives of Soviet Armenia, Soviet Azerbaijan, and Soviet Georgia.

    The arms left by the defeated ADR forces were sent to the west for use against the Greeks.


    The war arose because the western Allies, particularly British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, had promised Greece territorial gains at the expense of the Ottoman Empire if Greece entered the war on the Allied side. These included parts of its ancestral homeland, Eastern Thrace, the islands of Imbros (Gökçeada) Tenedos (Bozcaada), and parts of Western Anatolia around the city of Smyrna (Izmir). Greece wanted to incorporate Constantinople (Istanbul), the historical capital of the Byzantine Empire, to achieve the Megali Idea, but Entente powers did not give permission.

    It was decided by the Triple Entente that Greece would control a zone around Smyrna(Izmir) and Ayvalik in western Asia Minor. The reason for these landings were prior Italian landings on the southern coast of Turkey, including in the city of Antalya. The Allies worried about further Italian expansion and saw Greek landings as a way to avoid this.

    On May 28, Greeks landed on Ayvalik. It was no surprise that this small town was chosen as this town was the Greek-speaking stronghold before the Balkan Wars. The Balkan Wars changed the nature of this region. The muslim inhabitants who were forced out with the extending borders of Greece, mainly from Crete, settled in this area. Under an old Ottoman Lieutenant Colonel Ali Çetinkaya, these people formed a unit. Along Ali Çetinkaya’s units population in the region gathered around Resit, Tevfik and Çerkes Ethem. These units were very determined to fight against Greece as there was no other place that they could be pushed back. Resit, Tevfik and Ethem were of Circassian origin who were expelled from their ancestral lands in the Caucasus by the Russians and Armenians. They were settled around the Aegean coast. Greek troops first met with these irregulars. Mustafa Kemal asked Admiral Rauf Orbay, if he could help in coordinating the units under Ali Çetinkaya, Resit, Tevfik and Çerkez Ethem. Rauf Orbay, also of Circassian origin, managed to link these groups. He asked them to cut the Greek logistic support lines.

    The Allied decision to allow a Greek landing in Smyrna resulted from earlier Italian landings at Antalya. Faced with Italian annexation of parts of Asia Minor with a significant ethnic Greek population, Venizelos secured Allied permission for Greek troops to land in Smyrna, ostensibly in order to protect the civilian population from turmoil. Turks claim that Venizelos wanted to create a homogeneous Greek settlement to be able to annex it to Greece, and his public statements left little doubt about Greek intentions:”Greece is not making war against Islam, but against the anachronistic Ottoman Government, and its corrupt, ignominious, and bloody administration, with a view to the expelling it from those territories where the majority of the population consists of Greeks.”

    Western active stage: Mustafa Kemal in İzmir, greeting people — Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922:

    As soon as Greek forces landed in Smyrna, a Turkish nationalist opened fire prompting brutal reprisals. Greek forces used this as a base for launching attacks deeper into Anatolia. Atatürk refused to accept even a temporary Greek presence in Smyrna. Greek forces committed numerous atrocities in their attempts to control the region, and frequently targeted defenseless civilians and religios symbols. Eventually the Turkish nationalists defeated the Greeks and pushed them out of Smyrna and the rest of Anatolia. 3000-years of Greek presence in Anatolia finally ended.

    Western resolution:

    With the borders secured with treaties and agreements at east and south, Kemal was now in a commanding position. The Nationals were then able to insist that unconditionally, the Greeks evacuate east Thrace, Imbros and Tenedos as well as Asia Minor, and the Meriç River to be set as the border at Thrace at its pre-1914 position.

    France, Italy and Britain called Mustafa Kemal to Venice for cease-fire negotiations. In return, Mustafa Kemal demanded negotiations be started at Mudanya. Negotiations at Mudanya began on October 3, and it was concluded with the Armistice of Mudanya.


    French officer with five Turkish prisoners from Antep (later Gaziantep gazi means veteran). The officer has, on his right, a soldier of the French Colonial Forces; on his left, wearing epaulettes, an auxiliary from the French Armenian Legion.
    Çukurova Nationalist militias.Main article: Franco-Turkish War
    The French wanted to settle in Syria. With a pressure against French, Cilicia would be easily left to the nationalists. The Taurus Mountains were critical for Mustafa Kemal. The French soldiers were foreign to the region and they were using Armenian militia to acquire their intelligence. Turkish nationals had been in cooperation with Arab tribes in this area. If compared to the Greek threat, they were the second most dangerous for Mustafa Kemal. He proposed that if the Greek threat could be disseminated, the French would not resist.

    The resistance of the national forces was a big surprise to France. They blamed the British forces which did not curb the resistance power of the local sources. The strategic goal of opening a front at the south by moving Armenians against the Turkish National forces was a failure after the defeat of the Greek-British forces on the west. The French Armenian Legion joined with local Armenians in the region was defeated by the Turkish National forces. Most of the Armenians in this region had to migrate alongside the retreating French army. Even though most of the fight was organized alongside the Armenian sources, the loss of French soldiers generated much disapproval in France, which tried to mend the results of the continental wars. France asked for 1,500,000 gold coins from the Turkish National Government (Mustafa Kemal) for their loss, which was denied.

    Conference of London:

    In salvaging the Treaty of Sèvres, The Triple Entente forced the Turkish Revolutionaries to agree with the terms through a series of conferences in London. The Conference of London, with sharp differences, failed in both the first stage and the second stages. The modified Sèvres of the conference as a peace settlement was incompatible with the National Pact.

    The conference of London gave the Triple Entente an opportunity to reverse some of their policies. In October, parties of the conference received a report from Admiral Mark Lambert Bristol. He organized commission to analyze the situation, inquire into the bloodshed during the Occupation of Izmir and the following activities in the region. The commission reported that if annexation would not follow, Greece should not be the only occupation force in this area. Admiral Bristol was not so sure how to explain this annexation to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson as he insisted on ‘respect for nationalities’ in the Fourteen Points. He believed that the sentiments of the Turks ‘will never accept this annexation’.

    Neither the Conference of London nor Admiral Mark Lambert Bristol’s report changed British Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s position. On February 12 1921 he went with the annexation of the Aegean coast which was followed by the Greek offensive. David Lloyd George acted with his sentiments that were developed during Battle of Gallipoli, opposed to General Milne who was his officer on the ground.

    Stage for peace:

    The first communication between the sides were during the failed Conference of London. The stage for peace effectively began after the Triple Entente’s recognition to make an arrangement with the Turkish revolutionaries. Before the talks with Entente, the nationalists partially settled their eastern borders with Democratic Republic of Armenia signing Treaty of Alexandropol, but changes in the Caucasus especially establishment of the Armenian SSR required one more round of talks. The outcome was the Treaty of Kars, a successor treaty to the earlier Treaty of Moscow of March 1921. It was signed in Kars with the Russian SFSR on October 23, 1921[21] and ratified in Yerevan on September 11, 1922[22].

    Armistice of Mudanya:

    The Marmara (sea resort town of Mudanya) hosted the conference to arrange the armistice on October 3, 1922. Ismet Inonü, commander of the western armies was in front of Allies. The scene was unlike Mondros as the British and the Greeks were on the defense. Greece was represented by the Allies.

    The British still expected the Grand National Assembly to make concessions. From the first speech, the British were startled as Ankara demanded fulfillment of the National Pact. During the conference the British troops in Istanbul were preparing for a Kemalist attack. There was never any fighting in Thrace, as Greek units withdrew before the Turks crossed the straits from Asia Minor. The only concession that Ismet made to the British was an agreement that his troops would not advance any farther toward the Dardanelles, which gave a safe haven for the British troops as long as the conference continued. The conference dragged on far beyond the original expectations. In the end, it was the British who yielded to Ankara’s advances.

    The Armistice of Mudanya was signed on October 11. By its terms the Greek army would move west of the Maritsa, clearing Eastern Thrace to the Allies. The famous American author Ernest Hemingway was in Thrace at the time, and he covered the evacuation of Eastern Thrace of its Greek population. He has several short stories written about Thrace and Smyrna, which appear in his book In Our Time. The agreement came into force starting October 15. Allied forces would stay in Eastern Thrace for a month to assure law and order. In return Ankara would recognize continued British occupation of Istanbul and the Straits zones until the final treaty was signed.

    Refet Bele was assigned to seize the control of Eastern Thrace from the Allies. He was the first representative to reach the old capital. The British did not allow the hundred gendarmes who came with him. That resistance lasted till the next day.

    Abolition of the Sultanate:

    The form of the government in Istanbul, resting on the sovereignty of the Sultan, had already ceased to exist when the British forces occupied the city after the World War I. The law for the abolition of the Sultanate was submitted to the National Assembly for voting. Furthermore, it was argued that although the Caliphate had belonged to the Ottoman Empire, it rested on the Turkish state by its dissolution and Turkish National Assembly would have right to choose a member of the Ottoman family in the office of Caliph. On 1 November, the Grand Assembly voted for the abolition of the Ottoman Sultanate. The last Sultan left Turkey on 17 November 1922, in a British battleship on his way to Malta. This was last act in the end of the Ottoman Empire.

    Conference of Lausanne:

    The eleven-week Conference of Lausanne was held in Lausanne, Switzerland, during 1922 and 1923. Its purpose was the negotiation of a treaty to replace the Treaty of Sèvres, which, under the new government of Kemal Pasha, was no longer recognised by Turkey.

    The conference opened in November 1922, with representatives from the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Turkey. It heard speeches from Benito Mussolini of Italy and Raymond Poincaré of France. At the conclusion, Turkey assented to the political clauses and the “freedom of the straits”, which was Britain’s main concern. The matter of the status of Mosul was deferred, since Curzon refused to be budged on the British position that the area was part of Iraq. The French delegation, however, did not achieve any of their goals and on 30 January 1923 issued a statement that they did not consider the draft treaty to be any more than a “basis of discussion”. The Turks therefore refused to sign the treaty. On 4 February 1923, Curzon made a final appeal to Ismet Pasha to sign, and when he refused the Foreign Secretary broke off negotiations and left that night on the Orient Express.

    Treaty of Lausanne:

    The Treaty of Lausanne, signed on July 24, 1923 in Lausanne, Switzerland, settled the Anatolian and East Thracian parts of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire by annulment of the Treaty of Sèvres that was signed by the Istanbul-based Ottoman government. The treaty also led to the international recognition of the sovereignty of the new Republic of Turkey as the successor state of the defunct Ottoman Empire.

    Establishment of the Republic:

    The Republic was proclaimed on October 29, 1923, in the new capital of Ankara. Mustafa Kemal was elected as the first President. In forming his government, he placed Fevzi Çakmak, Kazım Özalp and Ismet Inönü in important positions. They helped him to establish the Atatürk’s Reforms.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 19, 2010 @ 2:04 am

  18. I’m sorry, but if you’re going to just post things instead of formulating them in your own words, then this entire discussion is a waste. I have studied and continue to study Ottoman and republican history. Every shred of evidence of the Turkish War of Independence being nothing but a reactionary cause of self-defense is entirely legitimate and accurate for the following points:

    1) It was couched in religious terminology, since the concept of the Ottoman millet was still drawn largely on religious lines, with some vague references to ethnicity. Ataturk used millet to describe the whole of “Turkish” Anatolia and those who fell within its borders were considered to be Turks. Yet even if he did conceive of it along some secular, Herderian lines, it was certainly not apparent to the millions of Anatolians who just considered themselves Muslims.

    2) Ataturk screwed the Kurds and Armenians out of any sort of deal, be it a separate land or some form of alliance. He explicitly used the deep resentment of the Sunni-Alevi division of the Kurdish tribes in order to weaken their power and secure the border in the east. Since the formation of the republic there have been upwards of twenty rebellions by Kurds, whose language and culture was not recognized (for awhile they were called “mountain Turks”).

    3) Ataturk was a nationalist modernizer, not a socialist. Similar to Mussolini, he wanted to redevelop Turkey in order to compete with the west, not form a workers’ state. Lenin himself once said that Ataturk was not a socialist.

    The question is not “Why did Ataturk’s legacy become reactionary?” but “Why is Ataturk and his revolution even thought of as being progressive?” His ideology, his state, everything resembles fascism. Look at the Six Arrows and if you study them within the context of the times, every single one falls short of being “progressive”. It made sense that the army would seize power, that a new class of paşas, a institution which was always the direct beneficiary of the Ottoman Tanzimat reforms a century earlier, would ultimately do away with the anemic and meddlesome Porte bureaucrats. Not an original idea, but the Turkish Republic is nothing more than a 400-year old answer to a failing state that could never quite adapt to merchant capital–it finally came to fruition in October of 1923.

    Comment by automattick — May 19, 2010 @ 3:47 am

  19. So AUTOMATTICK, let’s say for the sake of argument you were in a position to formulate the Bolshevik’s policy toward Turkey in the aforementoned days, you would have done what exactly different than Lenin & Trotsky? Please spell it out for a five year old to understand so that any Bolsheviks of the future might learn a lesson.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 19, 2010 @ 4:05 am

  20. There are a lot of dubious formulations on both sides of this debate.

    When KF says “The biggest enemy of the world’s toilers in not their bourgeois nationalists” he’s also using a very unfortunate formulation. A nation has bourgeois nationalists not the “toilers”
    They aren’t “theirs” in any sense.

    At the end of the First World War, the Turkish nationalists were facing a plan, led by Britain, to dismember the country, occupy Anatolia and even Christianise it with the help of the Armenian and Greek minorities, who traditionally occupied the role of merchants and traders in the Ottoman Empire.
    It’s not surprising that there was a nationalist revolt against this and the Bolsheviks were engaging in legitmate diplomacy to aid it. Many left wing Turks joined in this revolt and were later supporters of communism, such as the poet Nâzım Hikmet, who was later imprisoned.

    But diplomatic support for a movement is not the same thing as political support.
    In some cases, even the diplomacy was seriously faulty. Enver Pasha, who turned up at the Congress of the Peoples of the East on horseback, was sent to Turkestan by the Bolshevik government to supress a rising against the local soviet government. But he was secretly double dealing with the rebels, in line with his Pan-Turkic politics. Eventually he was killed by the Red Army.

    Nor is it really true to say that the Turks were fighting for “Turkish lands”, as such. That’s a concession to nationalism. They were resisting a colonial plan to dismember their country. But the Greeks had just as much right to live in Izmir and Trabzon as Turks. This history was largely eradicated during the Population exchanges in the 1920’s.

    I’d also question whether Cardenas was really in the same category as Ataturk.
    Cardenas was a populist, not a dictator. He came to power supported by millions of peasants who were granted land during the the mass redistribution of the Ejidal reforms.
    This was because in Mexico, there,d been a genuine revolution from below, involving millions of radicalised peasants, even if its main leaders Zapata and Villa were subsequently assassinated.
    Cardenas was also an ally of the more progressive wing of the union movement led by Vincente Lombard Toledano and nationalised the Mexican Oil Industry. Under Cardenas, both the Mexican CP and the Trotskyists were able to organise freely.

    Ataturk, by contrast, led a much more reactionary alliance in the “war of independence”, then swerved to the right soon afterwards. His diplomacy was more opportunistic and he created a fake Communist Party that had to follow his line. So maybe it’s significant that Trotsky was eventually booted out of Turkey and ended up in Mexico?

    Comment by prianikoff — May 19, 2010 @ 6:38 am

  21. Wikipedia entry is an uncritical, official version of the Turkish History. I would lıke to write about this but, I am travelling today, so I cant in a short space of time, which I had.

    A few points though:

    Turkey has never been a colony of a super powerö but a colonizer itself. There is no mention of this in official history, neither the mention of the fact that The Turkish Army had not fought against any of super powers but the Greek army.

    Turkey and Mexico are different cases: The Founders of the TR set out to create a Turkish bourgeoise, by default this was a racist and nationalist project. It cant be justified as a nationalist liberation struggle by any means. By the time the Türkish Communist Party was supporting Kemal he was busy intenting to prove that all human race, languages and so on, began with Turks! This can be compared with Spanish armada’s occupation actually. It seems farfetched, but from a marxist point of view, it is not.

    Dont forget while Kemal was waging ”a war against imperialist” he was making all the efforts to accomodate to them. He had never been an anti imperialist himself.

    Secondly note that Kemal hosted Trotsky, with condition that he would not interfere with Turkish affairs.

    Comment by erol — May 19, 2010 @ 7:19 am

  22. In reply to #10, Engels did write some ignorant and biased things about the Irish in his first book but he evolved toward a totally different outlook the older he got. Indeed, Conditions of the Working Class in England was written before he had hooked up Marx and arguably was not a Marxist work–rather a kind of investigative reporting. You can say the same thing about Marx. When he was a reporter for the NY Herald, he wrote articles that basically endorsed British rule in India from a “stagist” standpoint. Later in life he described British rule as larceny. Assuming you are an anarchist, you should consider some of the awful things that Bakunin wrote *throughout his life*.


    Although you can find this theme throughout Bakunin’s writings, its most concentrated form appears in “Statism and Anarchy,” an uncompleted book representing his most mature thinking, to put it generously. On nearly every page, you find stereotypes about Germans and Slavs. The former have “a passion for state order and state discipline” because of “German blood, German instinct, and German tradition,” while the latter “lack this passion.” (Statism and Anarchy, p. 45) Furthermore, as if referring to a thoroughbred horse, Bakunin refers to Czech peasants as representing “one of the most splendid Slavic types.” “Hussite blood flows in their veins, the hot blood of the Taborites, and the memory of Zizka lives within them.” Since the Hussite rebellion took place in the 15th century, the Czechs must have a very long memory.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 19, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  23. Turkey has never been a colony of a super powerö but a colonizer itself.

    This is nonsense. Turkey only became a country in 1920. The Ottoman Empire had colonies but Kemal’s movement was designed to liberate the country from foreign rule.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 19, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

  24. But diplomatic support for a movement is not the same thing as political support.

    Read Karl Radek. If that is not support for Kemal’s movement, then nothing is.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 19, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

  25. Ataturk was a nationalist modernizer, not a socialist.

    Who is this an argument against? Certainly not mine. Karl Marx backed Lincoln against the slavocracy because he was carrying out a bourgeois revolution. Marxists support such revolutions even when they are being led by the local ruling class. We are not neutral between Nasser and Britain. At least the Marxism I identify with.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 19, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

  26. On Bakunin and race, it should be noted that Marx and Engels were not averse to describing racial characteristics and even saying some of said characteristics were superior to others. (Though this was NOT done to put forward a politics of supremicism of course). It seems that this was the standard thinking of the time.

    Comment by Steve — May 19, 2010 @ 5:53 pm

  27. Radek was arguing for a military alliance between the Young Turks and the Soviet Government.
    Rightly so, under the circumstances.
    Politically, judged them as a movement of declassed officers, forced by events to base themselves on the peasantry.
    But rather like the attempts to win over the German Nationalists opposed to Versailles and the Kuomintang in China, such a strategy was fraught with dangers.
    It was vital to retain political independence from these nationalists.

    What’s noteworthy is just how little land reform there was in Turkey (3 million hectares distributed to landless farmers between the 1920s and 1970, most of it state land.)
    Whereas Cardenas distributed 17 million acres – more than in all the other Mexican Presidents after the revolution.
    He also supported the republican side in the Spanish Civil War and Mexico gave welcomed refugees from it.
    To me, Cardenas was a radical populist, closer in spirit to a Chavez.
    Whereas Ataturk evolved in a more right wing direction.


    Comment by prianikoff — May 19, 2010 @ 6:12 pm

  28. (Units for land distribution are both in hectares)

    Comment by prianikoff — May 19, 2010 @ 6:13 pm

  29. Well, look, this is what Zinoviev said at the Baku Comintern Congress that was dramatized in the movie “Reds”. You may not agree with what he said, but he was speaking for the USSR. This is more than just a military tactical alliance obviously:


    We can support a democratic policy such as has now taken shape in Turkey and such as will perhaps tomorrow make its appearance in other countries. We support and will support national movements like those in Turkey, Persia, India and China not out of any mercenary calculation but because the conscious worker will say to himself: the Turks who have today not yet understood where all their interests lie will understand this tomorrow. We must support this Turk and help him, and wait for a real people’s revolution to arise in Turkey, when veneration for Sultans and other survivals will all at once depart from his mind. I must, as the elder brother, hasten this movement, says the advanced worker. I will support the present national-democratic movement of the Turks, says the Communist worker, and at the same time I consider it my sacred duty to call upon the Turkish peasants, the Persian peasants, and downtrodden, oppressed working peasants of the entire East, to hate all the rich, all the oppressors, to teach them the simple truth that we need real economic equality between all men and real brotherly unity between all who live by their labour.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 19, 2010 @ 8:23 pm

  30. When you read that entire Zinoviev speech, that’s a helluva thing under the circumstances. No wonder the Bolsheviks engendered such fear & loathing in the hearts of the world’s bankers, bosses & landlords. I’ll bet Malcolm X would have become a communist 10 years before his death had he read that speech in its proper context.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 19, 2010 @ 11:52 pm

  31. Kind of off-topic, but I was wondering if you ever wrote more articles in your planned series on Anarchism? I really enjoyed the piece on Bakunin you linked to, and as an ex-anarchist, such analysis really interests me.

    Comment by Rob — May 20, 2010 @ 3:45 am

  32. Re: Anarchism, Trotsky had the following paragraph written in an unpublished manuscript in his desk at the time of his assassination:

    “Events of the last period (before the war) have revealed with especial clarity that anarchism, which in point of theory is always only liberalism drawn to its extremes, was, in practice, peaceful propaganda within the democratic republic, the protection of which it required. If we leave aside individual terrorist acts, etcetera, anarchism, as a system of mass movement and politics, presented only propaganda material under the peaceful protection of the laws. In conditions of crisis the anarchists always did just the opposite of what they taught in peace times. This was pointed out by Marx himself in connection with the Paris Commune. And it was repeated on a far more colossal scale in the experience of the Spanish revolution.”


    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 20, 2010 @ 5:31 am

  33. Without wishing to get into a quote swapping contest, I also seem to remember Lenin saying something about not painting the national democratic movements red.
    What Malcom X, would or wouldn’t have done is something we’ll never know, but it’s undeniable that Kemal Ataturk and Chiang Kai Shek struck out at their left as soon as they had power.
    So the Congress of the People’s of the East experience also has to be counterbalanced with the proviso that independent workers’ parties had to be built in these countries.

    On a more limited empirical point, I’ve been to both Turkey and Mexico and visited some remote country areas. My impression of Turkey was that it was a lot more repressive, there was quite a lot of whisperings against the “mafia” that controlled the stores and the farmworkers were more downtrodden.
    It felt like a dictatorship at the time. Whereas the Mexican farmworkers seemed pretty friendly and relaxed. It’s in the tourist areas that the exploitation was more acute and close to the US border, where drugs and prostitution are rife. I tend to think the difference was due to the deep land reform process created by the revolution and the subsequent reforms of Cardenas, which included granting land to peasants on a communally administered basis. Whereas I get the impression that in Turkey, the Ataturk government never really broke with the tax farmers who were so important under the Ottoman system and that may explain why land reform was so much more limited. It’s hard to find the evidence, but the figures suggest it (even when adjusted for the different land areas of Turkey and Mexico)
    Maybe someone from Turkey knows more on this?

    Comment by prianikoff — May 20, 2010 @ 7:06 am

  34. In rush, I wrote Turkey instead of Ottoman Turkey, which had never been a colony, neither Modern Turkey was. In case of Turkey and Kemalizm we are talking about nationalism of a reactionary type, from top to bottom. Reactioanry Türkish nationalism has never been an anti-imperialist current. As I stated before Kemal had always sought accomodation to the Imperialist powers. In that he was succesful. The very moment he was seeking help from the Soviets he was also looking for a post-war settlement with the Imperialist powers. Therefore it is erronous to think that Kemal somehow represented a kind of reactionary anti-imperialism. There is actually no evidence to support the argument that Kemal was a some kind of anti-imperialist except some speeches and letters to the Soviet Authorities.

    Marx and Engels, jointly stood against reactioanary, from top to bottom nationalism, their rejection of Russian nationalism and their support for İrish and Polish causes are well-documented. Engels clearly saw the bloody results of reactionary nationalism as well.( See Erica Benner’s book, ”Really existing Nationalisms, Clarendon Press, 1995” for a detailed discussion. )

    On the other hand, Trotsky, while he was in İstanbul ın early 1900s, wrote about Armenian Massacres and was no way sympathetic to the Turkish Nationalists. (see Balkan Wars)

    Lenin was very keen on challenging Russian Natioanalism and defending the right of SD. If we follow his logic we must know that he wouldn’t have had any illusion about the Kemalism. It is possible that that he was thinking about the post-war settlement but somehow, with others failed to develop a revolutionary strategy for Turkey and Middle East. It ıs thoughh difficult to understand why they had not paid due attention to the fact that Kemal was aimıng to build a dictatorship, a non-reforming capitalist state. This failure no doubt enabled Stalin to support Kemalism. As a result, the TCP turned ınto a traitor to the working class cause and revolution.

    Comment by erol — May 20, 2010 @ 8:14 am

  35. As far as which is more repressive today, Turkey or Mexico, I think everybody here would agree that Turkey is, and that fact is partly because the Zapata revolution went significantly further than the Kemal revolution, no question. I for one would feel a helluva lot safer fighting with the Mayan Indians in the Zapatista Army than with the Kurdish Communists in Turkey, for example.

    I also don’t think anybody here underestimates the perfidiousness of Kemalism either. Of course neither Ottoman Turkey or new Turkey were ever colonized. Lou’s point was that the new Turkey almost certainly would have been colonized if it weren’t for Kemal & some help from the Soviets.

    If one wants to argue like Christopher Hitchens that Anglo colonization would have had a better, more civilizing effect than Kemalism, then they ought to just say so, but that’d be like arguing that the Indian masses would have been better off crawling in the streets at gunpoint under the humiliation of the British Army than supporting Ghandi.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 20, 2010 @ 1:20 pm

  36. I am not arguing that the colonization was a better option but even a democratic republic was. This is certainly a different point to make. From the point view of the permanent revolution, one can go even further and claim that TCP could have played a different role instead of turning themselves apologists for Kemalists. (Theories about the Kemalist anti-imperialism had been formulated not by only Kemalists themselves but by the Stalinists as well including famous Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet) Moreover, under the Kemalism Turkey has been a staunch defender of the imperialism in the Middle East.

    Comment by erol — May 20, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

  37. [Turkey has been a staunch defender of the imperialism in the Middle East.]

    That’s for damn sure. Freakin’ imperialist bootlickers that rule Turkey made it relatively easy for Uncle Sam all these years against Iraq when they could have just as easily made it difficult and gained some respect.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 20, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

  38. The very moment he was seeking help from the Soviets he was also looking for a post-war settlement with the Imperialist powers.


    Comment by louisproyect — May 20, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

  39. #35 I should add that I was in Turkey at a time when it still actually WAS a dictatorship!
    It was during the Presidency of Turgut Özal and the politicians and parties from before the 1980 coup were still banned. OTOH, the fact that Mexico didn’t go that way is probably due to its more thoroughgoing Revolutionary democratic tradition.
    I’ve been doing a bit of reading up on this and there’s a lot of murky history in all the Turkish coups since the 1960’s, which has been covered up ever since, related to the Turkish branch of the Gladio operation “kontrgerilla”. I met Turkish leftists who were arrested and tortured in the 90’s too.

    See this

    Comment by prianikoff — May 20, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

  40. Being a staunch reactionary in regard to anything, excepting religious matters, did not make it impossible for Mustafa Kemal to play a decidedly short-lived anti-Imperialist role which proved very important in getting the British to succeed their presence from eastern-Europe.
    Reading that excerpt from Zinoviev’s speech just reveals how little the USSRians knew or cared about the national struggles that were underway in Turkey. That treaty with the Kemalists wasn’t something special in Soviet history or any nation’s history. It just happened that the critical immediate interest of both powers converged (the interest being survival). not unlike the Rapallo treaty.

    Comment by Michael — May 20, 2010 @ 6:56 pm

  41. While we’re at it, we can bring up revisionist Zionist terrorists. They also played a role in getting the brits to hasten their leave from the Middle East (with help from the Soviets nonetheless!).

    Comment by Michael — May 20, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

  42. Of course the interest then for the Soviets was not survival, but expansion of Stalinist hegemony.

    Comment by Michael — May 20, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

  43. Michael: I don’t think it’s fair to say that guys like Zinoviev, Lenin & Trotsky hardly “cared about the national struggles that were underway in Turkey” but an argument could be made that they weren’t nearly as sensitive to the nuances of these conflicts as they were, say, with the peoples who spoke a hundred different languages under the rule of Czarism.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 20, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

  44. Re: “insesitivity to nuances” — as I recall that was part of Jack Reed’s complaint in the movie “Reds” when he was mighty pissed off that Zinoviev “changed the words” of the speech he had written — a scene that I suspect was probably historically very accurate.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 20, 2010 @ 7:37 pm

  45. Louis, what do you make of statements by Lenin like the following? For Lenin, the Ur-theorist of the Marxist account of modern imperialism, who is so often mindlessly invoked when it comes to conversations of imperialism, was himself far more balanced when it came to the issue. For example, from chapter five of his 1916 work, A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism:

    “Imperialism is as much our ‘mortal’ enemy as is capitalism. That is so. No Marxist will forget, however, that capitalism is progressive compared with feudalism, and that imperialism is progressive compared with pre-monopoly capitalism. Hence, it is not every struggle against imperialism that we should support. We will not support a struggle of the reactionary classes against imperialism; we will not support an uprising of the reactionary classes against imperialism and capitalism.

    Consequently, once the author admits the need to support an uprising of an oppressed nation (‘actively resisting’ suppression means supporting the uprising), [Kievskii] also admits that a national uprising is progressive, that the establishment of a separate and new state, of new frontiers, etc., resulting from a successful uprising, is progressive.”

    Or later, if Lenin didn’t make himself clear enough on this score here, he spelled it out even more explicitly in 1920 in his “Draft Theses on National and Colonial Questions”:

    “With regard to the more backward states and nations, in which feudal or patriarchal and patriarchal-peasant relations predominate, it is particularly important to bear in mind:

    first, that all Communist parties must assist the bourgeois-democratic liberation movement in these countries, and that the duty of rendering the most active assistance rests primarily with the workers of the country the backward nation is colonially or financially dependent on;

    second, the need for a struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements in backward countries;

    third, the need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc.”

    Comment by Ross Wolfe — December 25, 2011 @ 11:14 pm

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