Introduction to the 2nd English edition of the “Left Wing of the Communist Party of Turkey”

Printer-friendly version

The purpose of this article is to introduce the new English edition of our pamphlet on the Left Wing of the Turkish Communist Party (Türkiye Komünist Partisi, TKP), which will be serialised in the following issues of the Review. The first edition of the pamphlet was published in 2008 by the Turkish group Enternasyonalist Komünist Sol (Internationalist Communist Left, EKS), which had already at the time adopted the ICC's basic positions as a statement of principle, and had begun to discuss the ICC's Platform. In 2009, EKS joined the ICC to form our organisation's section in Turkey, publishing Dünya Devrimi ("World Revolution").

This new edition of the English translation follows the publication of a new Turkish edition, which clarified some aspects of the original pamphlet with further references to original Turkish material. It also added as an appendix (for the first time in both modern Turkish and English), the 1920 founding declaration of the TKP in Ankara.

The body of the pamphlet still presents a certain difficulty for the non-Turkish reader, in that it refers to historical events which are common knowledge for any Turkish schoolchild, but are little known or not at all outside Turkey. Rather than weigh down the body of the text with explanations which would be unnecessary for the Turkish reader, we have chosen to add some explanatory notes in the English version, and to give, in this article, a general overview of the historical context which, we hope, will make it easier to for the reader to find his way through a complex period.[1]

Our historical overview will itself be divided into two parts: in the first, we will concentrate on the actual events leading up to the creation of the Turkish state, and the formation of the TKP; in the second, we will examine the debates surrounding the theoretical basis of the Comintern's policy towards national movements in the East, in particular as these are expressed in the adoption of the "Theses on the National Question" at the Comintern's Second Congress.

The fall of the Ottoman Empire

The Turkish Republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in the years following World War I was born out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.[2] The Empire (also known as the Sublime Porte) was not a national state, but the result of a series of dynastic conquests, which - at its greatest extent in the early 17th century - spread along the North African coast as far as Algiers, across present-day Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon, and much of coastal Saudi Arabia, including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina; on the European continent, the Ottomans conquered Greece, the Balkans and much of Hungary. Ever since the reign of Selim the Excellent in the early 16th century, the Sultan had also assumed the title of Caliph, that is to say the leader of the whole Ummah, or community of Islam. Insofar as one can make an analogy with European history, the Ottoman Sultans thus combined the spiritual and temporal attributes of the Roman Emperor and the Pope.

By the 19th century however, the Ottoman Empire was coming under growing pressure from the expansionism of modern European capitalist states, leading to its gradual disintegration. Egypt broke away de facto after Napoleon invaded in 1798 and was driven out by an alliance of British and local troops; it became a British protectorate in 1882. French troops conquered Algeria in a series of bloody conflicts between 1830 and 1872, while Tunisia was made a French protectorate in 1881. Greece won its independence in 1830, after a war fought with the help of the British, French, and Russians.

This process of disintegration continued into the early 20th century. In 1908 Bulgaria declared its independence and Austria-Hungary formalised its annexation of Bosnia; in 1911 Italy invaded Libya, while in 1912 the Ottoman army was badly mauled during the First Balkan War by the Bulgarians, Serbs, and Greeks. Indeed the Sublime Porte's survival was due in part to the rivalries of the European powers, none of which could allow its rivals to profit from the Empire's collapse at their own expense. Thus France and Britain - perfectly capable, as we have seen, of despoiling the Empire for their own profit - united to protect the Ottomans against Russian advances during the Crimean War of 1853-56.

Internally, the Ottoman Empire was a hodgepodge of ethnic units whose only cohesion derived from the Sultanate and the Ottoman state itself. The Caliphate was of limited application, since the Empire included large Jewish and Christian populations, not to mention a variety of Muslim sects. Even in Anatolia - the geographical area which roughly corresponds to modern Turkey - national or ethnic unity was lacking. The majority Turkish population, largely made up of peasants farming in extremely backward conditions, lived side by side with Armenians, Kurds, Azeris, Greeks and Jews. Moreover, while some Turkish capital did exist, the great majority of the rising industrial/commercial bourgeoisie was not Turkish but Armenian, Jewish and Greek while other major economic actors were owned by French or German capital. The situation in Turkey is thus comparable to that in Tsarist Russia, where an outdated despotic state structure overlaid a civil society which, for all its backward aspects, was nonetheless integrated into world capitalism as a whole. Unlike Russia, however, the Ottoman state structure was not based on the economically dominant national bourgeoisie.

Although the Sultanate had made some attempts at reform, the experiments with limited parliamentary democracy were short-lived. More concrete results came from collaboration with Germany in the construction of railways linking Anatolia with Baghdad and the Hejaz (Mecca and Medina); these were of particular concern to the British in the years leading up to the war, since they promised to allow both Ottomans and Germans to pose a threat to the Persian oilfields (critical for supplying the British navy) on the one hand, and to Egypt and the Suez Canal (the lifeline to India) on the other. Nor was Britain any more enthusiastic about the Sultan's request for German officers to train the Ottoman army in modern strategy and tactics.

To the rising generation of nationalist revolutionaries who were to form the "Young Turk" movement, it was obvious that the Sultanate was incapable of responding to the pressure imposed by foreign imperialist powers, and building a modern, industrial state. However, the minority status (both national and religious) of the industrial and merchant classes meant that the Young Turk national revolutionary movement which founded the "Committee of Union and Progress" (CUP, in Turkish the İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti) in 1906 was largely made up, not from a rising industrial class, but from frustrated Turkish army officers and state officials; in its early years the CUP also received considerable support from national minorities (including from the Armenian Dashnak Party, and from the population around Salonika in what is now Greece) and, initially at least, from Avraam Benaroya's Workers' Socialist Federation. Although it was inspired by the ideas of the French revolution and the efficiency of German military organisation, it cannot properly be called nationalist since its aim was to transform and strengthen the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire. In doing so, it inevitably came into conflict with emerging nationalist movements in the Balkan states, and with Greece in particular.

Support for the CUP grew rapidly in the army, to the point where its members felt able, in 1908, to launch a successful military putsch, forcing Sultan Abdulhamit to call a parliament and accept CUP ministers into his government, which they quickly dominated. The CUP's popular base was so narrow, however, that it was rapidly forced out of power and was only able to re-establish its authority by the military occupation of the capital Istanbul; Sultan Abdulhamit was forced to abdicate and was replaced by his younger brother Mehmet V. In theory at least, the Ottoman Empire had become a constitutional monarchy, which the Young Turks hoped would open the way to the Empire's conversion into a modern capitalist state. However, the fiasco of the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) was to demonstrate all too clearly how backward the Ottoman Empire was in comparison to the more modern powers.

The "Young Turk revolution", as it became known, thus set the pattern for the creation of the Turkish Republic and indeed for states that were to emerge later from the collapse of the colonial empires: a capitalist state established by the army, as the only force in society with sufficient cohesion to prevent the country from falling apart.

It is unnecessary to give an account of the Ottoman Empire's misadventures following its entry into World War I on Germany's side;[3] suffice it to say that by 1919 the Empire was defeated and dismembered: its Arabian possessions had been divided between the British and the French, while the capital itself was occupied by Allied troops. The Greek ruling class, which had entered the war on the Allied side, now saw an opportunity to realise their Megali Idea: a "Greater Greece" which would incorporate into the Greek state those parts of Anatolia which had been Greek in the days of Alexander - essentially the Aegean coast including the major port of Izmir and the Black Sea coastal area known as Pontus.[4] Since these areas were also largely occupied by Turks, such a policy could only be carried out by a programme of pogroms and ethnic cleansing. In May 1919, with tacit British support, the Greek army occupied Izmir. The enfeebled Ottoman government, entirely dependent on the unreliable and rapacious goodwill of the victorious British and French, was incapable of resisting. Resistance was to come, not from the discredited Sultanate in Istanbul, but from the central Anatolian plateau. It is here that "Kemalism" entered the historical stage.

Almost simultaneously with the Greek occupation of Izmir, Mustafa Kemal Pasha - better known to history as Kemal Atatürk - left Istanbul for Samsun on the Black Sea coast. As Inspector of the 9th Army, his official duties were to maintain order and to oversee the dismantlement of the Ottoman armies in accordance with the ceasefire agreement with the Allies. His real purpose was to galvanise national resistance to the occupying powers, and in the years to follow Mustafa Kemal was to become the leading figure in Turkey's first truly national movement which led, by 1922, to the abolition of the Sultanate and the liquidation of the Ottoman Empire, the expulsion of Greek armies from Western Anatolia and the creation of today's Turkish Republic.

The year 1920 saw the opening of Turkey's first Grand National Assembly in Ankara. It can also be seen as the moment that events in Russia began once again to play an important role in Turkish history, and vice versa.

The two years following the October Revolution had been desperate ones for the new revolutionary power: the Red Army had had to fight off direct intervention by the capitalist powers, and to wage a bloody civil war against the White armies of Kolchak in Siberia, Denikin on the Don (the north-eastern Black Sea region), and Wrangel in the Crimea. By 1920, the situation was beginning to appear more stable: "Soviet Republics" had been or were about to be created, in Tashkent, Bokhara, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. British troops had been forced to evacuate Baku (the heart of the Caspian Sea oil industry and the region's only real proletarian centre), but remained an ever-present threat in Persia and India. In these circumstances, the national question was of immediate and pressing importance to the Soviet power and to the workers' movement which found its highest political expression in the Communist International (CI): were the national movements a force for reaction or a potential aid to the revolutionary power, as the peasants had been in Russia? How should the workers' movement behave in regions where the workers were still in the minority? What could be expected of nationalist movements like the Grand National Assembly in Ankara, which at least seemed to share a common enemy with the RSFSR[5] in British and French imperialism?

The debate on the national question

In 1920, these questions lay at the heart of the debates both at the CI's 2nd Congress, which adopted "Theses on the National Question", and at the "First Congress of the Peoples of the East", better known as the Baku Congress. These events formed, so to speak, the theoretical context for events in Turkey, and it is to these that we will now turn our attention.

Presenting the "Theses on the National Question" to the CI Congress, Lenin declared that "the most important, the fundamental idea underlying our theses (...) is the distinction between oppressed and oppressor nations [...] In this age of imperialism, it is particularly important for the proletariat and the Communist International to establish the concrete economic facts and to proceed from concrete realities, not from abstract postulates, in all colonial and national problems".[6] Lenin's insistence that the national question could only be understood in the context of the "age of imperialism" (what we would call the epoch of capitalism's decadence) was shared by all the participants in the debates that followed. Many however, did not share Lenin's conclusions and tended to pose the national question in terms similar to those used by Rosa Luxemburg:[7] "In the era of [...] unrestrained imperialism there can be no more national wars. National interests serve only as a means of deceiving, making the working masses serviceable to their mortal enemy, imperialism [...] No suppressed nation can reap freedom and independence from the politics of imperialist states [...] Small nations, whose ruling classes are appendages of their class comrades in the large powers, are merely pawns in the imperialist game of the major powers and are abused as tools during the war, just like the working masses, only to be sacrificed to capitalist interests after the war".[8]

If we look at the debates on the national question in the CI, we can see three different positions emerging.

Lenin's position and the "Theses on the National Question"

Lenin's position is necessarily profoundly influenced by the situation of Soviet Russia on the world arena: "in the current world situation, after the imperialist war, the mutual relations between states, the world system of states, is determined by the struggle of the smaller number of imperialist nations against the Soviet movement and the Soviet powers with Soviet Russia at their head [...] It is only from this standpoint that the political questions of the Communist Parties, not only in the civilised but also in the backward countries, can be posed and answered correctly".[9] At times, this position could come dangerously close to making the proletarian revolution dependent on the national revolution in the East: "The socialist revolution will not be merely, or mainly, the struggle of the revolutionary proletariat of each country against its own bourgeoisie - no, it will be the struggle of all colonies and countries oppressed by imperialism, of all dependent countries, against imperialism".[10]

The danger of this position is precisely that it tends to make the workers' movement in any one country, and the Comintern's attitude to that movement, dependent not on the interests of the international working class and the relations between workers of different countries but on the state interests of Soviet Russia.[11] It leaves unanswered the question of what to do when the two conflict. To take one very concrete example: what should be the attitude of Turkish workers and communists in the war between Mustafa Kemal's nationalist movement and the Greek occupying forces? Should it be the revolutionary defeatism adopted by the left wing in both the Greek and Turkish communist parties, or should it be Soviet Russia's military and diplomatic help to the nascent Turkish state, with a view to defeating Greece on the grounds that the latter is a tool of British imperialism?

Manabendra Nath Roy's position

During the Comintern's 2nd Congress, MN Roy[12] presented his "Supplementary Theses on the national question" which were debated in committee and presented together with Lenin's Theses, for adoption by the Congress. For Roy, capitalism's continued survival depended on "super-profits" from the colonies: "European capitalism draws its strength in the main not so much from the industrial countries of Europe as from its colonial possessions. Its existence depends on the control of extensive colonial markets and a broad field of opportunities for exploitation [...] The super-profits made in the colonies forms one of the main sources of the resources of contemporary capitalism. The European working class will only succeed in overthrowing the capitalist order once this source has finally been stopped up".[13] This pushed Roy towards a view of the world revolution as dependent on the revolution of the working masses of Asia: "The East is awakening: and who knows if the formidable tide, that will sweep away the capitalist structure of Western Europe, may not come from there. This is not idle fancy, nor is it mere sentimental brooding. That the final success of the Social Revolution in Europe will depend greatly, if not entirely, on a simultaneous upheaval of the labouring masses of the Orient, can be proved scientifically".[14] In Roy's view, however, the revolution in Asia depended on the proletariat in alliance with the peasantry. This he saw as being incompatible with support for the democratic nationalist movement: "The struggle to overthrow foreign domination in the colonies does not therefore mean underwriting the national aims of the national bourgeoisie but much rather smoothing the path to liberation for the proletariat of the colonies [...] Two movements can be discerned which are growing further and further apart with every day that passes. One of them is the bourgeois-democratic nationalist movement, which pursues the aim of political liberation with the conservation of the capitalist order; the other is the struggle of the propertyless peasants for their liberation from every kind of exploitation".[15] Roy's objections led to the removal from Lenin's draft theses of the idea of support for "bourgeois-democratic" movements; it was replaced by support for "national-revolutionary" movements. The rub lay, however, in the fact that the distinction between the two remained extremely unclear in practice. What exactly was a "national revolutionary" movement that was not also "bourgeois-democratic"? In what way exactly was it "revolutionary" and how could such a movement's "national" characteristics be reconciled with the demands of an international proletarian revolution? These questions were never clarified by the Comintern and their inherent contradictions remained unresolved.

Sultanzade's position

A third, left, position was perhaps expressed most clearly by Sultanzade,[16] the delegate from the newly-founded Persian CP. Sultanzade rejected both the idea that national revolutions could free themselves from dependence on imperialism, and that the world revolution depended on events in the East: "Does [...] the fate of communism throughout the world depend on the victory of the social revolution in the East, as comrade Roy assures you? Certainly not. Many comrades in Turkestan are caught up in this error [...] Let us assume that the communist revolution has begun in India. Would the workers of that country be able to withstand the attack by the bourgeoisie of the entire world without the help of a big revolutionary movement in England and Europe? Of course not. The suppression of the revolution in China and Persia is clear proof of the fact [...] If one were to try to proceed according to the Theses in countries which already have ten or more years of experience [...] it would mean driving the masses into the arms of counter-revolution. The task is to create and maintain a purely communist movement in opposition to the bourgeois-democratic one. Any other judgment of the facts could lead to regrettable results".[17] That Sultanzade's voice was not an isolated one can be seen from the fact that similar views were being expressed elsewhere. In his report to the Baku Congress, Pavlovitch (who according to some sources[18] worked on the report together with Sultanzade) declares that if "the Irish separatists succeed in their aim and realise their cherished ideal of an independent Irish people. The very next day, independent Ireland would fall under the yoke of American capital or of the French Bourse, and, perhaps, within a year or two Ireland would be fighting against Britain or some other states in alliance with one of the world predators, for markets, for coal-mines, for iron-mines, for bits of territory in Africa, and once again hundreds of thousands of British, Irish, American and other workers would die in this war [...] The example [...] of bourgeois Poland, which is now behaving as a hangman towards the national minorities on its own territory, and serving as the gendarme of international capitalism for struggle against the workers and peasants of Russia; or the example of the Balkan states - Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Greece - squabbling amongst themselves over the division of the booty and over their desire to annex to their own territory some nation which was only yesterday under the Turkish yoke; and a whole number of other facts of the same sort show that the formation of national states in the East, in which power has passed from the foreign rulers who have been driven out into the hands of the local capitalists and landlords, does not in itself constitute a great step forward in the matter of improving the position of the popular masses.

"Within the framework of the capitalist system, any newly-formed state which does not express the interests of the toiling masses but serves the interests of the bourgeoisie is a new instrument of oppression and coercion, a new factor of war and violence. [...] If the struggle in Persia, India and Turkey were to lead merely to the capitalists and landlords of those countries, with their national parliaments and senates, coming to power, the masses of the people would have gained nothing. Every newly-formed state would be rapidly drawn, by the very course of events and the iron logic of the laws of capitalist economy, into the vicious circle of militarism and imperialist politics, and after a few decades we should witness another' world war [...] for the interests of the French, German, British, Indian, Chinese, Persian and Turkish bankers and factory-owners [...] Only the dictatorship of the proletariat and, in general, of the working masses, liberated from foreign oppression and having overthrown capital completely, will provide the backward countries with a guarantee that these countries will not, like the states formed from fragments of the Austro-Hungarian empire and Tsarist Russia Poland, White Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Georgia, Armenia - or formed from fragments of Turkey - Venizelist Greece and the rest be new instruments for war, plunder and coercion."[19]

Grigori Safarov (who was to play an important part in the development of the TKP) put the problem more clearly in his Problemy Vostoka: " must be emphasized that only the development of proletarian revolution in Europe makes the victory of agrarian-peasant revolution in the East possible [...] The imperialist system of states has no place for peasant republics. Numerically insignificant cadres of local proletarians and semi-proletarian rural and urban elements can carry with them broad peasant masses into the battle against imperialism and feudal elements, but this requires an international revolutionary situation which would enable them to ally themselves with the proletariat of the advanced countries".[20]

To be sure, Pavlovitch's report, which we have cited, is not a model of clarity and contains a number of contradictory ideas. Elsewhere in the report, for example, he refers to "revolutionary Turkey" ("The Greek occupation of Thrace and Adrianople is aimed at isolating revolutionary Turkey and Soviet Russia from the revolutionary Balkans"). He even goes so far as to take up a suggestion from "the Turkish comrades" (presumably the group around Mustafa Suphi) "that the question of the Dardanelles should be decided by the states bordering on the Black Sea, excluding participation by Wrangel[21] and the Entente", and continues that "We warmly welcome this idea, the realisation of which would be a first and decisive step towards a federation of all the peoples and countries whose territories adjoin the Black Sea".[22] This only goes to show that the revolutionaries of the day were confronting, in practice and in conditions of extreme difficulty, new problems which had no easy solutions. In such a situation, a certain degree of confusion was probably inevitable. Let us remark in passing, though, that the "left" positions are being put forward, not by Western intellectuals or armchair revolutionaries, but precisely by those who, on the ground, would have to put the Comintern's policy into practice.

The national question in practice

It should be emphasized that the positions we have outlined here, rather schematically, were not set in stone. The Comintern was confronted with problems and questions that were wholly new: capitalism as a whole was still at the watershed between its period of triumphant ascendancy and the "epoch of wars and revolutions" (to use the CI's expression); the opposition between bourgeoisie and proletariat was finding expression in an opposition between the Soviet power and capitalist states; and communists in the East were having to "adapt [themselves] to specific conditions of a sort not met with in European countries".[23]

It has to be said that in confronting these new questions, the Comintern's leaders could sometimes reveal a surprising naivety. Here is Zinoviev, speaking at the Baku Congress: "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 [...] the task of this [current national] movement is to help the East free itself from British imperialism. But we have a task of our own to carry out, no less great - to help the toilers of the East in their struggle against the rich, and here and now to help them build their own Communist organisations, [...] to prepare them for a real labour revolution."[24] Zinoviev was doing no more than echoing Lenin's report on the national question to the Comintern's 2nd Congress: "as communists we will only support the bourgeois freedom movements in the colonial countries if these movements are really revolutionary and if their representatives are not opposed to us training and organising the peasantry in a revolutionary way."[25]

In effect, the policy that Zinoviev is putting forth - and which the Soviet power at first tried to put into effect - assumes that the national movements will accept the Soviet power as an ally, while at the same time allowing the communists a free hand in organising the workers to overthrow them. But nationalist leaders like Mustafa Kemal were not idiots, nor were they blind to their own interests. Kemal - to take the Turkish example - was prepared to let the communists organise only insofar as he needed the support of Soviet Russia against the British and the Greeks. Kemal's determination to keep the popular enthusiasm for communism - which certainly existed and was gaining ground however confusedly - firmly under control, even led to the bizarre creation of an "official" Communist Party whose central committee included the leading generals of the Turkish army! This CP was at least perfectly clear (indeed a good deal clearer than the Comintern) on the radical incompatibility between nationalism and communism, and on the implications of this incompatibility. As the "official" CP's organ Anadoluda Yeni Gün put it: "At the present moment, the program of communist ideas is not only harmful, but even ruinous, for the country. When a soldier realizes that there does not have to be a fatherland, he will not have to go out to defend it; hearing that there does not have to be hatred of nations, he will not go out and fight the Greeks".[26] The Party ideologue Mahmud Esat Bozkurt declared unambiguously that "Communism is not an ideal, but a means for the Turks. The ideal for the Turks is the unity of the Turkish nation".[27]

In short, the Soviet power would be an acceptable ally for the nationalists only insofar as it acted as an expression, not of proletarian internationalist but of Russian national interests.

The consequences of the Comintern's policy towards Turkey were spelled out by Agis Stinas in his Memoirs published in 1976: "The Russian government and the Communist International had characterised the war led by Kemal as a war of national liberation and had ‘in consequence' judged it as progressive, and for that reason supported it politically and diplomatically and sent him advisors, arms and money. If we consider that Kemal was fighting a foreign invasion to liberate the Turkish soil, his struggle had a character of national liberation. But was there anything progressive about it? We believed this and supported it then. But how can we defend the same thesis today? For something to be progressive in our era and to be considered as progressive it must contribute to the raising of the class consciousness of the worker masses, to developing their capacity to struggle for their own emancipation. What has the creation of the modern Turkish state contributed to this? Kemal (...) threw the Turkish Communists into the jails where he hanged them, and then finally turned his back on Russia, establishing cordial relations with the imperialists and giving himself the job of protecting their interests. The correct policy, in line with the interests of the proletarian revolution, would have been to call on the Greek and Turkish soldiers to fraternise, and the popular masses to struggle together, without letting themselves be stopped by national, racial and religious differences, for the republic of workers' and peasants' councils in Asia Minor. Independently of the policy of Russia and the objectives of Kemal, the duty of Greek Communists was definitely one of intransigent struggle against the war."[28]

The importance of the Turkish Left's experience lies not in its theoretical heritage but in the fact that the struggle between nationalism and communism in the East was played out in Turkey to the bitter end, not in debate but on the ground, in the class struggle.[29] The Turkish Left's fight against opportunism within the Party, and against the repression of the Kemalist state, which dipped its hands in workers' blood from its very birth, mercilessly exposed the failings and ambiguities of the Comintern's Theses on the National Question. The struggle of Manatov, Haçioglu and their comrades, belongs to the internationalist heritage of the workers' movement.

Jens, 8-6-10



[1]. In doing so, we have relied extensively on Andrew Mango's recent biography of Kemal Atatürk, and on EH Carr's history of the Russian Revolution (1950 edition), in particular the chapter in Volume I on "Self-Determination in practice". The French speaking reader can usefully consult the long critical article published in Programme Communiste n°100 (December 2009, ), which, despite its inevitable Bordigist blind spots, contains some useful historical material.

[2]. The fact that Turkey as such did not exist for much of the period covered by the pamphlet goes some way to explain why the EKS' original Preface describes Turkey as an "obscure Middle Eastern country"; for the rest, the undoubted ignorance of Turkish affairs by the vast majority of the population in the English speaking world thoroughly justifies the expression. Amusingly, Programme Communiste prefers to attribute it to "the prejudices of a citizen of one of the 'great powers' that dominates the world" on the wholly unfounded assumption that the Preface is written by the ICC. Should we conclude that the PCI's own prejudices leave it unable to imagine that an uncompromisingly internationalist position should be adopted by a member of what they like to call the "olive-skinned peoples"?

[3]. Amid all the crimes perpetrated during World War I, the massacre of the Armenians nonetheless deserves special mention. Out of fear that the Christian Armenian population would collaborate with the Russians, the CUP government and its War Minister Enver Pasha undertook a programme of mass deportations and killings leading to the extermination of hundreds of thousands of civilians.

[4]. See

[5]. Russian Socialist Federation of Soviet Republics.

[6]. The Second Congress of the Communist International, Vol. 1, New Park, p.109. Also to be found on the web site.

[7]. In its critique of the EKS pamphlet, Programme Communiste tries to use Lenin against Luxemburg, even going so far as to claim that Luxemburg, under the name of "Junius" "puts forward... a national programme of the defence of the fatherland!" It is true that Luxemburg, like most of her contemporaries including Lenin, was not always free of ambiguities and outmoded references to the national question as it had been treated during the 19th century by Marx and Engels, and by the Social-Democracy more generally. We have already pointed out these ambiguities in International Review n°12 (1978), where we defended Lenin's critique of them in his article on the Junius pamphlet. It is also true that a correct economic analysis does not lead automatically to correct political positions (any more than an inadequate economic analysis invalidates correct positions of political principle). Programme Communiste, however, fails miserably to come up to Lenin's standard when they shamelessly truncate Luxemburg's words in order to avoid putting before their readers what her so-called "national programme" actually consisted of: "Yes, socialists should defend their country in great historical crises, and here lies the great fault of the German social democratic Reichstag group. When it announced on the fourth of August, "in this hour of danger, we will not desert our fatherland," it denied its own words in the same breath. For truly it has deserted its fatherland in its hour of greatest danger. The highest duty of the social democracy toward its fatherland demanded that it expose the real background of this imperialist war, that it rend the net of imperialist and diplomatic lies that covers the eyes of the people. It was their duty to speak loudly and clearly, to proclaim to the people of Germany that in this war victory and defeat would be equally fatal, to oppose the gagging of the fatherland by a state of siege, to demand that the people alone decide on war and peace, to demand a permanent session of parliament for the period of the war, to assume a watchful control over the government by parliament, and over parliament by the people, to demand the immediate removal of all political inequalities, since only a free people can adequately govern its country, and finally, to oppose to the imperialist war, based as it was upon the most reactionary forces in Europe, the program of Marx, of Engels, and Lassalle." (

[8]. "Either/Or", in Rosa Luxemburg's Selected Political Writings edited by D Howard, p.349. This is not to say that those delegates who echoed some of Luxemburg's positions could be described as "Luxemburgist", especially since there is no clear evidence that Luxemburg's writings were known to them.

[9]. Lenin, in The Second Congress of the Communist International, op. cit.

[10]. Lenin's report to the Second Congress of the Communist Organisations of the Peoples of the East, November 1918, cited in Marxism and Asia, Carrère d'Encausse and Schram.

[11]. A striking example of the dominance of Russian state interests can be seen in the Soviet power's attitude to the movement in Guilan (Persia). A study of these events is outside the scope of the present article, but interested readers can find some of the details in Vladimir Genis' study Les Bolcheviks au Guilan, published in Cahiers du Monde russe, July-September 1999.

[12]. Manabendra Nath Roy (1887 - 1954), born Narendra Nath Bhattacharya and popularly known as M. N. Roy, was a Bengali Indian revolutionary, internationally known political theorist and activist. He was a founder of the Communist Parties in India and in Mexico. He began his political activity on the extreme wing of Indian nationalism, but moved towards communist positions during a stay in New York during World War I. He fled to Mexico to avoid the attentions of the British secret service and took part in the formation of the Communist Party there. He was invited to attend the Comintern's 2nd Congress and collaborated with Lenin in formulating the Theses on the National Question. See the Wikipedia entry on Roy at

[13]. Roy's "Supplementary Theses" in 2nd Congress, op. cit.

[14]. "The awakening of the East", 1920:

[15]. "Supplementary Theses".

[16]. Sultanzade was in fact of Armenian origin: his real name was Avetis Mikailian. He was born in 1890 into a poor peasant family in Marageh (North-West Persia). He joined the Bolsheviks in 1912, probably in St Petersburg. He worked for the CI in Baku and Turkestan, and was one of the main organisers of the Persian CP's first congress in Anzali in June 1920. He was present at the 2nd Congress of the Comintern as delegate of the Persian party. He remained on the left of the CI, and opposed to the "nationalist leaders" of the East (such as Kemal); he was also profoundly critical of the Comintern's so-called "experts" on Persia and the East. He died in Stalin's purges some time between 1936 and 1938. See Cosroe Chaqeri's study on Sultanzade in Iranian Studies, spring-summer 1984.

[17]. 2nd Congress, op. cit., pp.135-6.

[18]. See Cosroe Chaqeri, op.cit. In Cahiers du Monde russe, 40/3, July-September 1999, Vladimir Genis mentions a report drawn up jointly by Pavlovitch and Sultanzade, at Lenin's request following the Comintern's 2nd Congress, on "the objectives of the communist party in Persia". The report proposes to undertake massive propaganda "for the complete elimination of private property and for the transfer of land to the peasants, since the landlord class cannot support the revolution either against the Shah, or even against the British". 

[19]. It is significant that he poses things in these terms. See

[20]. Cited in Marxism and Asia, op.cit. Emphasis in the original.

[21]. Wrangel was one of the counter-revolutionary generals whose military campaigns against the revolution were financed by the major powers - in Wrangel's case in particular by the French.

[22]. Op. cit.

[23]. Lenin, speaking to the Congress of Communist Organisations of Peoples of the East. Cited in Marxism and Asia, p168.


[25]. Op. cit.

[26]. Cited in George S Harris, The Origins of Communism in Turkey, p.82.

[27]. Ibid.

[28]. Stinas, (our emphasis). For a brief summary of Stinas' memoirs (unfortunately not available in full in English), see our article in International Review n°72 ( ).

[29]. As the pamphlet puts it, "The left wing of the TKP was a movement shaped around opposition to the national liberation movement for practical reasons because of its terrible consequences for the workers, bringing them only pain and death". Both EKS when the pamphlet was written, and the ICC, were and are well aware that the Turkish Left does not occupy the same place in the theoretical and organisational development of the Communist Left as the Italian Left, for example. This is why the pamphlet is titled "The left wing of the TKP" rather than "The Turkish Communist Left". Apparently this distinction is not clear to Programme Communiste. But then Programme Communiste tends to treat the Communist Left as their personal property, claiming that only the Italian Left "placed itself on the basis of orthodox marxism" ("orthodox marxism" is itself a ludicrous notion which is entirely - dare we say so - unmarxist). Programme Communiste then goes into a long discussion about all the different currents, right and left, in the "young communist movement" and very learnedly informs us that they could be "right" or "left" depending on the changes in political line in the Comintern, citing Zinoviev's characterisation of Bordiga in 1924. But why is no mention made of Lenin's pamphlet written against "Left-Wing Communism", specifically in Italy, Germany, Holland, and Britain? Unlike Programme Communiste, Lenin at least had no difficulty in seeing that there was something in common among the "Left Wing Communists" - even if, of course, we do not agree with his description of Left Communism as a "childhood illness"!

Historic events: 


Heritage of the Communist Left: 

Development of proletarian consciousness and organisation: