TKP GS Kemal Okuyan's opening speech at the IMCWP organized under the shared responsibility of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) is as follows:
Communist representatives of fraternal parties, comrades, I welcome you.
We were planning to host you next year, for the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of Turkey. However, due to reasons you are all aware of, we undertook the obligation to organize our 21st Meeting, in co-responsibility with the Communist Party of Greece. In either case, it is a source of great honor for us to meet with you, to welcome you in İzmir. We believe this meeting will serve our common struggle.
Another point I need to raise at the start is related to the big gathering we had planned for Saturday evening. Due to the military operation launched by Turkey against Syria, we had to cancel a political and cultural activity that would have brought together over five thousand participants and to which we would have invited all of you as well. Our party's statements related to these latest developments have been sent to you, in addition to this, we prepared a briefing on the issue to share our detailed assessments and analysis. You are all invited to this meeting.
As I begin my speech, I would like to thank all the comrades of the Communist Party of Greece who contributed to the preparation of this meeting, to everyone from General Secretary Dimitris to young KKE militants who came for technical support, and of course to my TKP comrades. Thank you; I am confident that we will transform this region into a paradise where people live in friendship and in an egalitarian social order.
21st International Communist and Workers Parties meeting is convening at the hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the Communist International, an organization whose historical significance for the communist movement is indisputable.
Communist International was founded in an era when Bolsheviks thought that the process that commenced with the 1917 October Revolution would have continued in other countries and that the working class would have come to power in at least part of Europe. In that respect, the Communist International is not an organization of solidarity or recommendations. The Communist International was founded to establish the common will, a revolutionary center, which the proletariat needed to strike the lethal blow to capitalism. In this respect, there is no mistake in calling the Third International as a World Party.
Comrades, the power that the Communist International had attained in a short time may confuse us. However, while starting out in March 1919, let us not forget that the Communist International was founded with extremely scarce resources, that the delegations coming from different countries to the founding congress did not have much representation power, and that most of the member parties did not have much weight in their own countries. If we leave aside the Bolsheviks who took power in Russia just a year and a half ago, the Communist International was founded by highly ineffective parties or groups.
However, they acted with great assertion, excitement, determination, and optimism. The deep crisis into which capitalism was falling and the mobilization of millions of proletarians in the face of that crisis was sufficient for the communists. They focused on their historic mission and responsibility as opposed to their weaknesses and they were convinced that the bourgeoisie could and will be defeated. This way, not only did the communist parties which were founded with the help of Bolsheviks became a major force in a short time and struggled to carry the working class to power, in certain cases, they also achieved it, even if for a short time. Today, no one should accuse the revolutionary attempts in Hungary, Slovakia, Germany and other countries with adventurism. Those who fought for revolutionary power remained loyal to the founding philosophy of the Communist International and they failed for various reasons.
There is a reason for me to talk about all this. It is critically important to determine the balance of forces between classes and to stay away from an administrative political line. Revolutions do not happen only by the decisions we make. Our task is not to make a revolution but to lead the revolution because a revolution is not something that can be made. However, it is also true that there is a dialectical relationship between the crises of capitalism and the increase of revolutionary opportunities and even the rise of the revolution. In this sense, it is very misleading to evaluate the balance of powers statically, especially in times of crisis.
In 1919, the communist parties were extremely weak, in both the quantitative and qualitative senses. When we look at the world today, we are understandably complaining about the weakness of the communist movement but in 1919 when the Communist International was established, it didn't have any greater power either.
So what was the difference? The mobility and organization of the toiling masses first come to mind. Even if the working class was under the umbrella of social democratic parties, it was widely engaged in the political struggle, in some countries the unions had serious potentials.
Another phenomenon that can be mentioned as a difference is the reaction to the destruction and poverty generated by the imperialist war and the fact that the war had not put an end to the deep economic crisis and even added new dimensions to it.
However, no one can claim that international capital today is stronger or more durable than 100 years ago. Imperialism is failing in every sense, it has nothing left to say to humanity economically, ideologically and politically. Nowhere.
Comrades, I am not trying to say that we are living in the same conditions as 100 years ago. This is not true. What we need to do is to analyze today's concrete conditions and based on this, to struggle with the right tools and methods.
However, it is impossible to determine today's tasks in a healthy way without pointing to a very, very important difference between 100 years ago and today.
Comrades, 100 years ago, starting from the working class 100 years ago, for large masses of people, hundreds of millions of people, socialism or an egalitarian order was a tangible, current demand. From the second half of the nineteenth century onwards, every working-class struggle was permeated with the desire to overthrow capitalism, although primitive. I am not talking about political strategies and programs here. The desire to change the order was a social reality. This desire did not emerge with the October Revolution of 1917. The October Revolution brought a new sense of energy and reality to this desire and spread it to a wider geography.
I need to repeat that capitalism today is not more durable and stable than 100 years ago. Maybe hundreds of millions are not in a struggle, but billions of people have given up on the current social order. This also has a role in the rise of racism and right-wing populist movements around the world. Although it is not the only reason why millions of people go after people they don't know, and at least support the new leader-centered formations in the elections, it is related to the people's search for a way out.
Yes, comrades, we have to admit that one of the most important differences from 100 years ago is that the idea that capitalism can be destroyed and that an egalitarian order can be established is largely out of the minds of humanity.
This cannot be explained by objective conditions alone. Keeping this idea alive and making it concrete in the minds and hearts of large masses of people, starting from the working class is the main task of the communists. This idea cannot be pushed back by referring to the balance of powers. On the contrary, it is the spread of this idea that will change the balance of forces.
Comrades, when we look at the last 100 years, we have to admit that we communists are also guilty of humanity's failure to state in a loud fashion that a more egalitarian order is possible and that capitalism must be destroyed.
And now I am moving on to Turkey and our region, I would like to show you, when facing the current developments, how one can lose direction and move without a compass that would point the right way if one forgets the actuality of socialism.
Our meeting coincided with Turkey's new military offensive launched in Syrian territory. This is not the first time. The presence of the Turkish army in the territory of other countries started with Korea. It was part of an unjust war waged to protect the interests of US imperialism. In the following years, soldiers of Turkey participated in many operations of the international monopoly terrorist organization NATO. In Cyprus, the sovereignty, independence, and integrity of the island have been violated for 45 years. There are countless cross-border operations in Iraq, as well as numerous bases, outposts and observation points belonging to the Turkish army, just as in Syria.
How do we evaluate this picture?
One point of view is to see Turkey as an obstacle to democracy and freedom.
Can any communist who struggles in Turkey object to this?
One can't object to this but comrades this expression, this formulation is wrong. It is wrong because the rule of capital is the enemy of democracy and freedoms everywhere in the world. This formulation means to empty the class content of the problems in Turkey and to link it to people or the army and that will lead one to mistakes.
A revolutionary political position is impossible without understanding that there is a strong capitalist class acting with ever-increasing self-confidence and that in general Turkey's domestic and international policies are shaped in line with the interests of this class.
When one doesn't understand this, the following happens: One ends up siding with, becoming allies with powerful imperialist countries or Turkey's capitalist class for freedoms and democracy in Turkey or a larger region. What I am saying is not an exaggeration. This has happened in Turkey and many revolutionaries have unfortunately turned into actual collaborators with imperialism throughout this process.
Comrades, I have to remind you that Erdoğan, who in the news all over the world today and who is ascribed various adjectives, was supported by the so-called democratic and pro-freedom circles from the first periods of his rise to power till 2010. It wasn't only from the European Union to the United States but from many different tendencies in the left to the Kurdish nationalist movement in Turkey that this support was provided by. On the other hand, those of us, TKP, who struggled against AKP’s rule right from the beginning, were even labeled as fascists because we confronted Erdoğan.
Later, when the rivalries and contradictions within the imperialist system deepened, and when Erdoğan, facing big problems in domestic politics, opened up space for himself by using these rivalries and contradictions and started having real issues with the US, some fake some real, criticisms and accusations against Erdogan started. However, for many leftists, this did not result in taking the correct position because many looked to imperialists and the Turkish bourgeoisie against Erdoğan. Shameful.
I will not take your time by providing you with the proof for all of these. I want to come to the other side of the coin.
Comrades, I mentioned that a quest for democracy and freedom that does not have class content, that does not place the socialist revolution objective in its core will mean an overt or covert collaboration with EU and NATO and that this approach will result in total surrender to the capitalist class.
What about the quest for independence? Comrades, when the concepts of independence and sovereignty are detached from their class basis, they become as dangerous as the concepts of freedom and democracy. We see that there is a split in many countries and in the progressive public in general. On the one hand, there is a tendency to cooperate with the bourgeoisie around the concepts of “freedom and democracy". On the other hand, there is a tendency to reconcile with one or another division of capital through the concept of "independence".
The situation in Turkey is exactly reflecting this split. We are told that we need an alliance of the largest powers for Erdoğan's decline. There is German imperialism in this alliance; there are the most powerful representatives of the Turkish bourgeoisie; there is the US government; there are social democrats, so-called leftists, liberals, some Islamists, and a fraction of fascism. Such an alliance could surely hold down Erdoğan, but it will never bring democracy and freedom.
Furthermore, they argue that the most important thing is to gain the ability to act independently of the US, by making an incomplete interpretation of imperialism and even by narrowing imperialism to the US. And they say that all kinds of oppression, bullying, reactionism, and war can be allowed for this cause.
In almost every country in this geography, there is pressure on the communists to accept one of the two paradigms. Either you will cooperate with the imperialists-capitalists for the sake of democracy and freedom, or you will remain silent to all kinds of oppression and cruelty with other imperialists or capitalist groups for the sake of independence.
Can freedom, independence, sovereignty be worthless for communists? No, never. However, the random use of these concepts causes us great harm, as you can see. There's only one way out of this weird situation. It is to place the demand for an alternative social order in the agenda of the working people, with the excitement coming from the foundation of Comintern 100 years ago. Isn't it a pity that the poor in my country is going after Erdoğan and bourgeoisie's greed for profit because of their rage against the US? Isn't it a pity that the working people, no matter they are Turks, Kurds or Arabs, expect freedom and democracy from the European imperialists or from one or the other fractions within the USA?
These are the results of our weaknesses, the gaps that we have left. Let's not take the disadvantageous circumstances or balances of powers as excuses. As I said at the beginning, when the Comintern first set off 100 years ago, there were fewer people than we have now in this room.
I believe that, in a short time and together, we will regain our claims and enthusiasm we had 100 years ago.
The Communist Party of Turkey is organizing its struggle with this perspective. It is not true that the goal of socialism, defending the contemporariness and timeliness of socialism, will inevitably lead to isolation. There is no rule that a revolutionary attitude will result in sloganism or sectarianism. On the contrary, today in the world, the goal of communism requires a high level of creativity and intellect. When this is coupled with courage and determination, defending the socialist revolution as an actual goal echoes in the working class. The opposite could not be possible in this era of crisis when it is proved every day that capitalism has nothing left to give to humanity.
The Communist Party of Turkey said no to any alliance with the bourgeoisie or bourgeoisie's political representatives. Despite the heavy pressure, the party persistently defended the thesis saying "this social order must change”. Within the working class, we have developed our organization patiently; we have succeeded in doing what trade unions fail to do in many instances with a unique model called "We Breathe Down the Bosses' Neck". We succeeded in making those laid off to return to their jobs and we gained wage increases. While doing so, we said that the focus should be on the establishment of an egalitarian order, not on this or that bourgeois solution.
We said no to bourgeois alliances but we made the communists win the mayoral election in a city for the first time in the history of Turkey by making a revolutionary alliance. Our votes, for the first time, rose above 1 percent in some settlements in Turkey's largest cities.
The number of party members increased by more than 30 percent in one year. We are at the beginning of our task in a very big and challenging country. More important than quantities are qualitative characteristics. Doing our utmost, we are trying to make the Communist Party of Turkey the urban, modern, intellectual and revolutionary vanguard of the working class. We have a long way to go, but knowing that life can leave us with historical responsibilities at any moment, we persistently follow the path of revolution, the path of Lenin who marked an era 100 years ago. The important thing is what our comrades say, not what anti-communists overtly or covertly say.
TKP will make mistakes, will sometimes take steps back; these are in the nature of the struggle. But, dear comrades, what TKP will not do is to betray the revolutionary ideals, the goal of communism, the working people and their friends.
Glory to the common struggle of the communist parties...
Long live Marxism Leninism!
And until victory, always!