NOW:ANARCHISM IN TURKEY

a.p. (0625179964-0001@t-online.de)
Mon, 13 Jan 1997 17:38:43 -0800


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because there was some confussion about this mail (empty mails, attachments...) i will put this text now on the lists. i asked H Calbayram not to send applications to the lists

wishes

a.p.

From: H Calbayram <hcalba@essex.ac.uk>

ANARCHISM IN TURKEY

The anarchist movement came to the political scene of Turkey less than 10 years ago. The publication of ‘Kara’, a monthly magazine, was the starting point of anarchism in Turkey in 1986. Before the publication of this monthly magazine, there had not been any anarchist periodical or any anarchist circle which attempted to express itself. Of course, that does not mean that there have not been any anarchists in the geo-political borders of Turkey. An important point to note is that before ‘Kara’, anarchist circles or individuals never tried to become a political movement in Turkey. Although an organised working class movement and revolutionary movements have existed for 70 years in Turkey, anarchism has not been seen as a political factor in Turkey. And this fact should be questioned. Why has nearly every kind of Western-originated revolutionary movement taken its place in the political arena of Turkey, and not anarchism? Moreover, we should search for and discuss the reasons for that fact.

The incorrigible progressiveness of Marxism: --------------------------------------------- Revolutionary movements in Turkey have been dominated by Marxism. The reason for this domination must be found in the history of Turkey. The Republic of Turkey and its past Ottoman empire’s last hundred years were mainly dominated by a vital problem. That was the problem of modernisation and westernisation. The undeniable power and influence of western imperialism and the weakness of the Ottoman State (and later the Republic of Turkey) had put the question of modernisation and westernisation right in front of the ruling elite and the intelligentsia of the country. In other words, the argument was that Turkey, in order to become an independent power, should break away from its traditions and it should become an industrialised and socially westernised country. That is the project which has always been shared by nearly all the political sides in Turkey, except radical Islamist groups who were against any kind of break away from tradition.

Moreover, positivism was the philosophy behind this project. As it is known, positivism came into being as an ideology of progress and development in the middle of the nineteenth century. And Marxism has been partially under the influence of this ideology. Turkish Marxists never attempted to separate themselves from that ideology till the late 1970s. Thus Marxists shared the dominant philosophy of the general Turkish intelligentsia.

Anarchism was born as a part of the western and modern world, yet at the same time it was a denial of these things. In this context, anarchism as a denial of modernity and western domination is hardly the solution for the intelligentsia and politicians of Turkey.

Another reason why anarchism has developed late in Turkey lies in the fact that the intelligentsia and the political elite (left wings or right wings) of Turkey needed a strong State to implement, or rather impose, its modernisation and westernisation project.

Why anarchism appeared in the 1980s: -------------------------------------

The fact that anarchism came into being so late in Turkey may be partly explained by saying that modernist and westernised ideology was weakened in the 1980s. Yet, this may not be the whole explanation. One should look at the problem in its historical context. As we have said before, Marxism was the dominant ideology among the revolutionary movements in Turkey. In the 1980s Marxism disintegrated worldwide, and in Turkey, because of a military coup it faced a political defeat. Almost all Marxist groups were ruthlessly crushed by the military regime.

In this situation, many Marxist militants faced a dilemma, namely the tension between the ultimate aim of Marxism, which is a stateless and classless society, and the real-politic of Marxism. {In order to achieve its ultimate aim, Marxism argues that productive forces must be developed while the State is preserved for this aim.} This dilemna led Marxist militants to reject the real-politic of Marxism and to seek other ways to attain the ultimate goal of Marxism. This in effect led them to anarchism.

Publication of ‘Kara’: ----------------------

These groups and their discussions were represented, and took their place, in a new monthly publication called ‘Yeni Olgu’. The publishing policy of ‘Yeni Olgu’ was to create a political platform for the youth in the climax of the coup years. Although it was short-lived, one could say ‘Yeni Olgu’ was successful in its attempt. The platformf ‘Yeni Olgu’ helped to show many closed revolutionary circles that there were others who were thinking about the same problems. From this communication base these circles exchanged ideas and theses. This led to diversification and break away in some circles and communes, though sometimes new communes and circles were also born. They were mainly diversified at the topics, feminism, ecologism, anti-militarism. A few of them began to concern themselves with anarchist ideas.

The monthly magazine, ‘Akintiya Karsi’ was born from this source. Although one could not call it an anarchist magazine, it was basically an anti-authoritarian paper. After the publication of ‘Akintiya Karsi’, ‘Sokak Publishing House’ was set up by ex-socialist militants who saw themselves in an anti-authoritarian line. The importance of ‘Sokak Publishing House’ lies in the fact that it published the first book with a truly anarchist perspective: Ida Mett’s ‘Kronstadt 1921’.

In 1986, some younger members of ‘Sokak Publishing House’ started to publish a new monthly magazine called ‘Kara’ [Black]. At first ‘Kara’ gathered little attention either from the general public or from left circles. In ‘Kara’, on the one hand, society was criticised for its understanding and practice of state, education and schooling; on the other, the irresponsible individual of this society was also subjected to criticism for his/her attitude of standing by and watching things happen. Moreover, this individual was subjected to the question, “Haven’t you watched enough?” This radical attitude of ‘Kara’ created an interest in some Marxist circles, which were also discussing some of these issues in their closed circles. These circles did not see anarchism as negative but rather as a noble political theory, not practical in reality. Even some members of these circles were quite sympathetic towards anarchism. They greeted the emergence of anarchism in Turkey, whilst thinking that it was not practical. These people were the messengers of the first conversions of Marxists to anarchism.

‘Kara’s perspective influenced both the most aware of the Marxist militants and young new comers to the political arena of Turkey. The most perceptible difference of ‘Kara’ from leftist periodicals was that it did not praise the working class and it did not involve itself in daily politics. Instead, it radically attacked state institutions and general beliefs of society. Generally, it was aiming to gather attention through these radical critics. It was probably a necessary thing to do at first; yet, this standpoint can also be viewed as insufficient or even the wrong thing to do. However, this young movement was in its infancy and it mostly needed to express its reasons for its existence and its own principles with this directness. It was far from expressing original ideas on daily politics of Turkey mainly because of this reason. Therefore, ‘Kara’ expressed only general principles and they were short of daily politics (for example, it was unable to express or develop an original perspective and to propose an original solution to the foremost political problems of Turkey that was (and is) the Kurdish national “question”. It stressed both the importance and necessity of the individual’s responsibilities and the independence of the individual from society. Yet, it was unable to express ideas on the problem organising these individuals around a political movement. Especially, it was not able to offer an alternative organisation model for ex-Marxist militants, who suffered under the Leninist model of political organisation in those days in Turkey.

‘Kara’ ceased its existence after its twelfth issue in November 1987. In tose days there was confusion and disorganisation among anarchist circles or communes (this was partly because the supporters of the anarchist movement consisted mainly of students). After ‘Kara’, there appeared four autonomous groups from its remains. One of these groups began to publish a periodical called ‘Efendisiz’, a continuation of ‘Kara’. ‘Efendisiz’ carried on till its closure in 1989 what ‘Kara’ tried to do. The other groups also tried to do things in their capacity and one of these created the ‘Atolye A’ project, which later started to publish ‘Amargi’. As a result we could say that the process of the emergence of Kara and Efendisiz was also the emergence of anarchism in Turkey.

‘Amargi’, ‘Ates Hirsizi’, Birey Yayinlari’ and ‘Apolitika’: -------------------------------------------------------------

Between 1989-1991the anarchist movement did not have any periodical in Turkey. However, this does not mean that the anarchist movement lost interest among the people. In fact, rather the reverse was true. The interest in anarchism actually increased and as a result of this even non-anarchist publishing houses began to publish books related to anarchism. For example, ‘Metis Publishing House’ printed Paul Avrich’s ‘Portraits of Anarchists’ and ‘Anarchists in Russian Revolution’.

The interest in anarchism and culmination of the past five years of the anarchist movement brought new anarchist enterprises. The first was the ‘Atolye A’ project. ‘Atolye A’ project, with the contribution of the ‘Association of Against War’ set up the Amargi commune. This commune began to publish a new monthly anarchist publication called ‘Amargi’ in 1992. One year later, another anarchist periodical came into being. It was called ‘Ates Hirsizi’ [Fire Thief] and published by an anarchist circle in Istanbul. Also, another anarchist circle created a publishing house called ‘Birey Yayinlari’.

However, these two anarchist periodicals, ‘Amargi’ and ‘Ates Hirsizi’ had different perspectives from the beginning. ‘Amargi’ mainly gave importance in its pages to the problem of peace, the dilemna of the individual-society contradiction and pacifism. ‘Ates Hirsizi’, on the other hand, stressed social revolution, the Kurdish national question, and the problem of organisation. Moreover, ‘Ates Hirsizi’ discussed the problem of organisation in its relation to anarchist experience and the short comings and the wrongs of the anarchist organisations. Also, ‘Ates Hirsizi’ was against pacifism, contrary to the ‘Amargi’ commune and ‘Amargi’.

In the summer of 1994 the ‘Amargi’ circle proposed a collective publishing of a new monthly paper to all other anarchist circles on the condition that the differences between the groups should be preserved. This project was discussed thoroughly and, with the co-operation of an anarchist group from Ankara, publishing of a new paper was agreed. According to this agreement, the new paper should mainly be concerned in its pages with daily politics. Yet, ‘Amargi’ left this project just after the agreement. As a result, the new paper was made ready for publication by the anarchist group in Ankara and by the members of ‘Ates Hirsizi’.

The new periodical is called ‘Apolitika’. Unfortunately, although it was intended as a daily politics magazine, it become a theoretical magazine. Its subjects have been dominated by issues such as the direction of the struggle and the form of organisation.

Lastly, anarchist first participated in the May Day celebrations with their black flags in 1993 in Istanbul and again in 1994, 1995, 1996. Their presence created big interest in the media. The media gave special coverage to the anarchists and announced “at last we have our anarchists”.

The situation of the anarchist movement now in Turkey: -------------------------------------------------------

Turkey is a country that has the potential of important transformation dynamics. Although this dynamic nature of the people of Turkey has been ruthlessly repressed and was intentionally attempted to be dismantled by the ruling classes during the 1980s, from time to time it has emerged again.

First of all, we could speak of the existence of a spontaneous and dynamic working class movement. Just four years ago, a massive march of the miners from Zonguldak to Ankara (capital city) created great panic among the ruling classes. Yet, since the demands of these actions were limited to the economic sphere, the ruling classes were able to control them in the end. On the other hand, the Kurdish national movement is a determining factor in the political and daily life in Turkey. However, the Kurdish national movement is lead by a nationalistic and Stalinist leadership. It appears that Kurdish people in Turkey are determined to change the status quo of the country for their own good. All the repression and the dirty war of Turkey against the Kurdish people do not lead the ruling classes of Turkey anywhere. Kurdish peole resist all this. And it seems that they are going to find ways of winning this political and military war against the ruling classes of Turkey.

Moreover, there is another political factor that should be taken into consideration: it is the radical Islamist movement. The repressive military regime of the early 1980s has intentionally promoted radical Islamist in the stage apparatus for the purpose of eliminating all other forms of civil political groups and also for creating a new type of patriotism. Although this movement and its leaders are actually at the service of the ruling classes, the masses choose this radical movement in order to show that they are against the ruthless capitalism. As it happens elsewhere in the when the revolutionary fire is deflated, the masses often choose the reverse way against the system. From this point of view, we should try to understand the Islamic radicalism as a complex issue, which is both an obstacle for the revolution and a signal of discontent of the masses.

All these analysis lead us to these conclusions: -------------------------------------------------

1) The masses are discontented and they are looking for new alternatives. The ruling classes have been successful in silencing the youth and the intelligentsia by the military coup that took place in 1980. However, the masses show their discontent within the working class actions, in the armed national uprising of Kurds and in their support of the radical Islam.

2) However, the idea of revolution does not become popular for the discontent masses. Actually, all left groups have gradually lost support and credibility. In this situation, what is required is a new perspective and a new revolutionary understanding that could make the idea of revolution attractive again.

3) Turkish society lives full corruption. All moral, political and economic institutions are in explicit corruption. In these conditions, an anarchist movement could be the flag of the hatred of the masses against corruption. Yet, in order to do that, anarchists should get rid of individualism, marginality and irresponsibility. They should organise themselves as a political movement. Only then are anarchists going to be able to move the people and their constructive and instructive instincts.

[Questions may be forwarded to: Hasan Baku <hcalba@essex.ac.uk.>]

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