The military coup on 12 September 1980 was a turning point in the history of class struggles in Turkey. The working class organisations, the socialist movement and Kurdish national movement suffered a major set-back. The ruling classes have set out to consolidate this victory with measures aimed at fundamentally restructuring the state apparatus and the political institutions of the country. Decrees and laws promulgated by the junta during military rule have institutionalised the repression and restrictions of the military regime, extending its effects well into the civilian era. In fact, new laws relating to, for instance, political parties, the right of association, trade unions, censorship, autonomy of the judiciary and universities have so completely strangled the exercise of democratic freedoms and political democracy that a major and long-term struggle will be necessary to regain even those rights which existed prior to the coup.
The regime used the social and political polarisation that prevailed in the country before 12 September, and in particular the threat posed by the strength of the Kurdish left and nationalist movements, to try and justify these measures. In its propaganda the junta consistently emphasised that only a return to the principles of Atatürkism1 would safeguard the future of the country. In 1981 the 100th anniversary of Mustafa Kemal’s birth provided the junta with the welcome opportunity to raise the spectre of Atatürk throughout the country. With the voices of tens and tens of thousands of Turkish and Kurdish revolutionaries stifled in military jails, the media, public and private institutions, schools and universities vibrated unchallenged with the sayings and legends of the ‘Eternal Chief’.
Above and beyond anniversary celebrations, the junta has made it mandatory that every sphere of social and political life in the country adhere to Atatürkism. The new constitution states that the “Turkish Republic is based on Atatürkist principles”. The laws on the formation of political parties stipulate that parties can only operate in the “light of Atatürk’s principles and reforms”. The same approach extends to universities and other institutions and associations. A recent law on Turkish television and radio states that “all broadcasts should conform to the spirit and principles of Atatürkism”, not so easy, given that the majority of programmes on Turkish television are American soap operas!
In brief, Atatürkism is hailed louder than even in the days of Mustafa Kemal’s reign. And yet what does this actually mean for the Turkey of today, a country that has given birth to modern classes and become truly integrated into the economic and military web of imperialism? Can Atatürkism, a legacy of the founding period of the Turkish Republic, rising under completely different historical conditions, have a role to play today, especially given that the last forty years have witnessed the conflict between the Kemalist bureaucracy and the developing bourgeoisie vying for political hegemony? To the extent that Kemalism was successful in fulfilling its historical mission of developing capitalism on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, it also became more and more of a hindrance in the eyes of the bourgeois classes. To the extent that the bourgeois classes gained strength and self-confidence they were able to challenge the role of this bureaucracy and its institutions in the running of the country. Is it therefore possible to view the present dictatorship and the role played by the military as representing a new ruling class alliance, with the military bureaucracy at the helm in a way similar to the 1920s and 1930s?
Developments show otherwise. The 12 September coup, coming in the wake of over 30 years of dependent industrialisation and consequent changes in the economic and social organisation of the country, has initiated a process in which for the first time in its history the superstructure of Turkey is being decisively shaped by the big bourgeoisie. The new constitution, legislative and executive processes, taken as a whole, could be said objectively to point to the formation of a new republic. Nevertheless the regime has found it still necessary to seize on Atatürkism, to cling to it in order to cement this transformation and bourgeois rule. This phenomenon itself is a paradoxical one. On the one hand Atatürkism crowns every aspect of legal, political and social life, providing justification for every measure taken by the junta towards establishing an authoritarian and repressive regime. On the other hand, the junta has proceeded with liquidating aspects of the same legacy that threaten to burden the unfettered rule of the big bourgeoisie (e.g. the dissolution of various institutions founded by M. Kemal including the Republican People’s Party ‒ much to the dissatisfaction, of course, of the ‘true’ Kemalists).
In this article we attempt to trace the genesis of Kemalism starting with the National Struggle2 with the aim of clarifying the specific aspects of this legacy that have left their imprint on the political structures and traditions of Turkey.
The National Struggle
The end of the First Imperialist World War brought with it the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The Young Turks had taken power in the wake of the 1908 revolution3 and their sights were set on the East. Their dream was that of re-establishing the Empire on the basis of Pan-Turanism4. They led the Ottoman Empire into war with expansionist plans and fought on multiple fronts on the side of Austro-Hungarian and German imperialism. The Ottoman Empire however was undergoing a process of historical decline. In reality its position within the chain of world capitalism was little more than that of a semi-colony, and this pre-determined in a historical sense the size of its gains even in the event of a victory.
In the First World War the Ottoman Empire together with Tsarist Russia constituted the weakest links in the imperialist chain. These weaknesses, however, showed key differences in the respective countries. The survival of Russian capitalism, a late entrant to the capitalist bandwagon, was threatened in face of the onslaught of a strong proletarian movement. As for the Ottoman Empire, its state apparatus crumbling, its empire breaking up under the impact of nationalist movements and encumbered with the contradictions of its inert and sluggish social formation, it was undergoing the birth pains of its integration into the capitalist chain. The only consolation for the Ottoman ruling classes was that they, unlike their northern neighbour, did not have to face a strong class enemy. This fundamental difference proved sufficient to draw the different ‘destinies’ of the two weakest sides in the war. While Russia changed its trajectory through a proletarian revolution, in the Ottoman Empire, the ruling classes, in spite of the collapse of their state, would engage in an attempt to save the last fort.
Formation of the ruling class bloc
The monumental losses incurred during the war (a million casualties and the loss of territories to an extent which meant the dismemberment of the empire), and the decomposition of the central state apparatus signalled the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Following the Armistice5 the victorious allied armies occupied most parts of the empire and the administrative apparatus of the state was either disbanded or its effective control broken, and centrifugal tendencies became widespread. On the remaining lands of the empire the propertied classes were left to fend for themselves. It was as a consequence of this situation that the Turkish and Kurdish landlords and propertied classes initiated the organisation of local units that were to become known as “Defence of Rights Associations”6.
The one other social stratum struggling to maintain its very existence under the conditions of the disintegration of the state authority was the traditional Ottoman bureaucracy. With the collapse of the Empire, the position of the once omnipotent Ottoman state bureaucracy as a ruling class was becoming a thing of the past. Henceforth, for it to maintain its existence would only be possible on the basis of a political alliance with the propertied classes. For the first time an alliance was going to be forged between the state and sections of society outside it. This was concluded on 4 September 1919 at the Congress of Sivas. It was to be known as the Anatolia-Rumelia Defence of Rights Association, bringing together all local defence organistions. Its declared objectives were the defence of territories outlined in the National Pact7, resistance to actions aiming to establish an Armenian or Greek presence on Ottoman lands, and the necessity to defend and save the Islamic Caliphate and Ottoman Sultanate. As in all social-political processes, however, this alliance contained within it the dynamics that would soon transcend these aims and lead to the creation of a new state, abolishing both the Caliphate and Sultanate in the process.
The rise to power of Mustafa Kemal
The crystallisation of the leadership of a political class alliance depends both on the nature of its constituent elements and the historical-social framework in which it takes place. A number of conditions that existed in this stage of decline and disintegration of the Ottoman Empire enabled the bureaucracy and its representative Mustafa Kemal to gain the leadership of the alliance with the propertied classes. Clearly the fact that Mustafa Kemal was the highest ranking Ottoman officer in Anatolia was directly relevant to this, and he was able gradually to consolidate all power in his person. Let us look more closely at the factors that influenced this process.
First, the indigenous Muslim bourgeoisie of the Empire was weak and powerless, and accustomed to maintaining its existence under the auspices of the state; as for the working class, it was still in an embryonic stage of development. This meant that the dynamic classes of modern society were not in a position to shoulder by themselves the cadaver of the rotting empire. None of the propertied classes, including the big land-owners who had gained a degree of autonomy during the decline of the Ottoman Empire, could act as a unifying force and provide the leadership required to solve the crisis of the social formation. For the working class, this was even less of a possibility. It is in this process that the main functions of the ‘Kemalist bureaucracy’ became apparent. The fact that it was the last remaining part of the old state enabled it, at least initially, to play a unifying and harmonising role in the formation of the ruling class alliance.
Also, the existence of an ongoing military conflict was not an unimportant factor in allowing the bureaucracy to play a key role within this alliance, to gain administrative autonomy and eventually to form its leadership. The price the bureaucracy had to pay to establish its leadership in this situation was in fact far from insignificant as is demonstrated by the exceptionally high ratio of fatal casualties of officers to soldiers (1:13) in the National Struggle8.
In addition, the fact that within the Ottoman social structure the ‘intelligentsia’ was composed mainly of the civilian-military bureaucracy meant that in this phase of re-foundation they were well placed to play an active and functional role. Obviously, traditional aspects of the Ottoman state structure also played a role in enabling the bureaucracy to capture the leadership of this alliance.
The rise of the bureaucracy to a position of leadership within the alliance during the National Struggle in turn allowed Mustafa Kemal to assume power as the representative of this stratum. Within the first Grand National Assembly9, a large part of those participating in the Assembly (including leading figures of the National Struggle) had a perspective for a Constitutional Sultanate. The concept of a republic was not even a topic of debate within the Assembly. At the same time the greater part of the Muslim population did not envisage a state without a Sultan. Nevertheless, given that the Ottoman state was no more than an empty shell, the Assembly had become the sole centre of power. Its self-proclaimed status was that of an assembly with the extraordinary powers of the Ottoman Sultan.
Victory for the Kemalist forces, especially the capture of Izmir, compelled the Allies to sign on 11 October 1922 an armistice with the forces of Mustafa Kemal, and just over two weeks later invitations were sent for a peace conference. The imperialists ‒ who under such circumstances can be quite respectful of international protocol! ‒ invited the Sultan, as representative of the state, to attend the negotiations at Lausanne. This gave Mustafa Kemal, who had already gained supremacy in the ruling class bloc and, as such, in the Assembly during the National Struggle, the opportunity to go into action. He put a motion to the Assembly to “abolish the Sultanate and send the Sultan into exile”. Faced with the unfavourable disposition of the commission formed to study the motion, he threatened to have them all arrested. The commission’s report duly recommended acceptance of the motion, and the Assembly, under the shadow of armed guards, proclaimed the dissolution of the Sultanate. In this way, the Ottoman Empire came to an end and was replaced by the new Turkish state under the bonapartist regime of Mustafa Kemal.
From here on developments would follow the logic of bonapartist rule: those who had started out with the aim of saving the Sultanate would substitute themselves for it. On the ruins of the Ottoman Empire and under the shadow of the despotism of the ‘Eternal Chief’, the institutions of a ‘western’ Turkish Republic were gradually built. Nevertheless, no regime rests in mid-air and neither did the personal regime of Mustafa Kemal. The Economic Congress in Izmir, held in February 192310, documents quite clearly that the alliance between the bureaucracy and the propertied classes would (in a historical sense) carry the stamp of the bourgeoisie. The whip may still have been in Mustafa Kemal’s hand, but the bureaucracy had already been harnessed to capitalism’s cart.
The class composition of the political alliance had unmistakably determined its trajectory. While in Russia the worker-peasant alliance was able to intervene with the necessary surgical operation to destroy faltering capitalism, in the other weak link of international capitalism, the alliance of the propertied classes led by the bureaucracy assumed the role of gardeners for the seeds of capitalism to blossom on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.
Character of the National Struggle: Myth and Reality
Tge efforts of official ideology to portray the National Struggle as an anti-imperialist liberation struggle have also been pursued ‒ and carried even further ‒ by the Turkish left and labour movements. Only after the military intervention in 1971 did some sections of the Turkish left start to question this. As we have already explained, the class content of the alliance that led the National Struggle and the functions it fulfilled show that such a characterisation is completely unfounded. Although it is not within the scope of this article to give a full class analysis of the National Struggle, it is nevertheless important to see through the prevalent official interpretations. This is especially so given the role that these have played in providing Kemalism with strong ideological weapons and aiding it in establishing itself as a ‘progressive’ and ‘liberating’ movement in the eyes of future generations.
The National Struggle was not anti-imperialist
Throughout the struggle the leaders of the movement paid special attention not to enter into direct conflict with imperialist occupying forces, and set their aim as “the struggle to prevent Greeks and Armenians establishing themselves in the country”. Trade concessions to imperialist countries were drawn up during the National Struggle and in the Izmir Economic Congress an open invitation was made to foreign capital. The very limited flow of foreign capital following the founding of the Republic had nothing to do with “the anti-imperialist policies of Kemalism”, but was simply the result of the international crisis of capitalism, and the fact that Turkey did not constitute at the time a high priority for imperialist interests. Can one seriously consider as anti-imperialist a struggle that obtains the right to raise its custom duties five years after independence (1929), continues to pay its debts to imperialist countries for 28 years (up to 1951), and obtains the right to found a central bank only through an agreement made with a foreign-owned bank and applicable six years later? To characterise such a struggle as anti-imperialist is only possible for those who equate anti-imperialism with xenophobia, that is through the spectacles of the bourgeoisie, not those of proletarian internationalists.
The National Struggle was not a ‘popular movement’
The participation of the population in the struggle was extremely low. The National Struggle has been quite correctly referred to as “an officers’ war” in many a war memoir. The fact that losses in the National Struggle waged against the so-called Great Powers amounted to only 9000 killed, was not the product of military genius, but a simple indication of the limited scale of the conflict staged mainly against the Greek army (with the Allied forces declaring their neutrality in 1921) and internal revolts. Moreover, recruitment into the regular army from a population exhausted and weary from long years of war was rarely voluntary, and in many parts of the country could only be achieved through coercion. The few popular militias that were formed, mainly on the Aegean coast, to defend against the occupying Greek army, were eventually smashed by the regular forces of Mustafa Kemal.
Neither was the National Struggle a national liberation struggle
The objective of the struggle was not to free the lands on which Turks lived from foreign dominance, and establish ‘the right to self-determination’ for the Turkish nation. On the contrary, the National Struggle led to the establishment of a state based on the remaining territories of the Ottoman Empire, especially on the annexation of a section of Kurdistan, also of parts of Armenia and lands inhabited by Greeks and Arabs, and in which Turks were organised as the oppressor nation. The fact that the projected national frontiers could extend from Turkish Kurdistan to Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, and from Mosul to Armenia11 was an open manifestation of this. To characterise a movement that establishes domination over other nations as a ‘national liberation’ movement can only be the viewpoint of the chauvinists of the oppressor nation.
Taking all these points into account, the National Struggle emerges as the struggle to uphold the continuation of the Ottoman Empire which, having participated in the imperialist war with expectations of conquests, nevertheless came out defeated. Under conditions that made it historically impossible for this continuation to be maintained on the old basis, and owing to the lack of a proletarian alternative, the National Struggle formed a transitional phase to the establishment of the Turkish Republic. The Turkish Republic emerging at the end of this period of transition was based on the share of territories apportioned to the defeated Ottoman state following the deals reached by the victorious countries in view of both the balance of forces among them and the existence of nationalist forces in Anatolia. It institutionalised the alliance between the Turkish propertied classes (and the Kurdish propertied classes opting to side with them) and the vestiges of the Ottoman state bureaucracy, the Kemalist bureaucracy. It affirmed the annexation of northern Kurdistan and the organisation of the Turks as the dominant nation in a re-founded bourgeois state expressing a new process of articulation with imperialism.
The Consolidation of the Kemalist Dictatorship
Kemalism and Bonapartism
We have already described the regime that emerged from the National Struggle as a bonapartist regime. Let us now attempt to outline which aspects of the Kemalist dictatorship most resembled those of bonapartism and also which particular aspects were effective in shaping the foundations of the Turkish Republic. The Kemalist dictatorship appears to be based on a bourgeois democratic constitution and a parliament, but it was at the same time a personal regime that transcends these, was structured above them and shaped them as and when required. It had the appearance of being independent of social classes (the rhetoric of “representing the people in its entirety”), nevertheless it represented the historical interests of the bourgeoisie.
It did not allow any political activity to take place outside itself and severely repressed such attempts, no matter from which quarter they originated (just as the left and workers’ movement was suppressed, so was ‘bourgeois opposition’ as with the short-lived Progressive Party and the Free Party)12. Society was organised from top to bottom under the control of a political structure formed mainly by the bureaucratic apparatus of the state.
The Kemalist dictatorship had at the same time, however, aspects which distinguish it from classic and modern bonapartism. First, it was the Kemalist bureaucracy’s specific position within the process of the National Struggle and the tradition it had inherited from the Asiatic-despotic nature of the Ottoman Empire that established the basis for its appropriation of power in a bonapartist way.
Secondly, the Kemalist bureaucracy did not develop its bonapartism within an existing state, but on the contrary it achieved the creation of a new state in a bonapartist manner. Finally, the class relations that enabled the establishment of the Kemalist dictatorship showed singular features. For a start, neither the working class, the bourgeoisie or the pre-capitalist propertied classes carried sufficient social weight to allow them on their own or in alliance to take political power. The Kemalist bureaucracy did not gain its autonomy by taking advantage at a critical stage of either an unresolvable equilibrium in the class struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie, or of a conflict of interest within the ruling classes.
These characteristics differentiate the Kemalist dictatorship from bonapartist regimes. For the same reasons the Kemalist dictatorship was a relatively stable regime and had a high degree of freedom of movement, both nationally and internationally, compared to regimes of a similar nature.
Nevertheless, it is not possible to explain the maintenance of the Kemalist dictatorship for a quarter of a century by the continued existence of the conditions that gave rise to it. On the contrary, although the Kemalist dictatorship did not create the conditions for its existence, it did create the institutions necessary for its continuation, and furthermore these institutions were integrated and coincided with the institutions of the state. This phenomenon was the most important factor enabling the bonapartist regime to gain a relatively stable and permanent character.
The integration of the state with the Republican Peoples Party
In spite of the very specific conditions under which Mustafa Kemal’s rise to power took place, the bonapartist regime did not rest automatically on solid foundations within the state apparatus. To this end a whole series of manoeuvres and new institutions would become necessary.
First, differences that existed from the very beginning in the Assembly had become further polarised following the abolition of the Sultanate. Key leaders in the army were in opposition, and for Mustafa Kemal to protect his position the influence of leading figures of the National Struggle had to be broken. In addition, the active support of the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie of Istanbul had not yet been won.
These problems were to be resolved in the period leading to the enactment of the draconian Law for Maintenance of Public Order (March 1925)13. Mustafa Kemal started by converting the so-called First Group14 in the Assembly into a political entity. One month after the abolition of the Sultanate he announced that a People’s Party would be formed and proceeded with a tour of Anatolia to organise this party. The Izmir Economic Congress that took place soon after secured him the support of the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie, and the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne represented a significant political victory for his leadership and his ‘team’. Thus, the First Group obtained an absolute majority in the second Grand National Assembly, and then transformed itself into the Republican People’s Party (RPP) on 11 August 1923, all the deputies of the Assembly joining the party. (None of the Second Group candidates had been elected to the Assembly.)
The next step in liquidating the opposition from the state apparatus would be the “cleansing of the army”. With a law enacted on 19 December 1923, stipulating “the incompatibility of holding both military and parliamentary office”, Mustafa Kemal forced his opponents in the army to make a choice, while at the same time paying attention that commanders close to him remained in the army. With key figures in the army choosing to enter parliament the army came under the full control of Mustafa Kemal15. Following this, the provisions of the Law for Maintenance of Public Order backed by the ruthless Independence Tribunals16 were utilised to silence the Progressive Republican Party formed by former RPP deputies and remnants of the old Committee for Union and Progress. Finally the uncovering of an assassination attempt on the life of Mustafa Kemal was successfully exploited to try leading members of the National Struggle, driving them permanently from the political arena17. In this way, a one-party bonapartist regime was conclusively established.
Throughout this process, Mustafa Kemal had aimed to bring to the fore among the cadre that led the National Struggle those belonging to the First Group, that is his own team, thereby appropriating as a whole the heritage of the National Struggle. In fact, the initial differentiation within the Assembly between the First and Second Group was not an expression of a polarisation on fundamental issues: partisans of the Sultanate and Caliphate were present within the First Group just as republicans were present within the Second Group. Also, the fact that the main oppositions that emerged following the Republic sprang from within the RPP, that is the continuation of the First Group, demonstrates that the original conflict was not between two politically homogenous groupings. Nevertheless, by removing a good many important personalities of the National Struggle outside its political heritage, Mustafa Kemal gained a great degree of freedom in strengthening his dictatorship. Moreover, the identification of Mustafa Kemal and the RPP with the National Struggle would become an important ideological asset for the bonapartist regime.
For the duration of the one-party regime the RPP became the mainstay of the state apparatus and parliament, its constitution and apparatus proving to be the lever through which bonapartism, rising above the Republic’s constitution and its laws, was institutionalised. Members of parliament were no more than civil servants appointed by the RPP. The degree of integration between the state and party is well illustrated by the fact that the president of the Party and that of the Republic were one and the same person.
Similarly the influence of the RPP on the formation of the Republic is clearly seen in a number of areas. For instance, the 1921 Constitution is a replica of the second section of Mustafa Kemal’s ‘Popular Programme’ which can be said to be the main programmatic document of the First Group. Similarly, changes brought to this constitution (the 1924 Constitution) were drawn from political positions formulated in the texts of Mustafa Kemal and the RPP. Finally the famous ‘six arrows’ of the RPP were introduced into the Constitution in 1937 as representing “the fundamental characteristics of the Turkish state”18.
The bonapartist dictatorship did not rest solely on the integration of the RPP with the state mechanism, however, and the strength of its brutal repressive apparatus. Again through the RPP and a form of ‘populism’ it was in search of social support. More exactly, it felt the necessity to consolidate its hegemony over society by gaining the support of certain layers of the population. The series of reforms carried in the Young Turk spirit of “for the people, in spite of the people” must be seen in this context.
These reforms had a twofold purpose: that of consolidating the position of the Kemalist bureaucracy in wielding state power, and strengthening Turkey’s integration within the capitalist world through a process of ‘westernisation’. They were nevertheless successful in tying a number of social layers to Kemalism on a long term basis. As an outcome of the reforms the Ottoman elite was superseded by a new type of intelligentsia. The reforms had created a new ‘service sector’ which provided the ‘Kemalist intelligentsia’ with a livelihood and drew them through self-interest into supporting the regime. The creation of a social layer with a degree of authority and influence over the masses (and as a consequence privileges), in turn provided bonapartism with a social base extending into various sections of society. To summarise, for the bonapartist regime the combination of repression and bureaucratic methods and the search for popular support constituted the dominant line of the period. In both fields the RPP acted as the principal mediator.
Bonapartism and the ruling class bloc
The formation and evolution of the ruling class bloc in Turkey was undoubtedly shaped by the dominance of a bonapartist regime in the founding phase of the Turkish Republic. Similarly, the functions of parliament and political parties were shaped in the light of the relationship between the character of the regime and the ruling class bloc.
We have already described how the nucleus of the ruling class bloc came about and how the Assembly became the place where this alliance was concretised. The first Assembly included representatives of various sections of the propertied classes and large sectors of the Ottoman state bureaucracy; it was empowered with both legislative and executive powers. In this sense, the First Assembly represented a relatively ‘free’ alliance of the ruling classes. However, following Mustafa Kemal’s ‘coup’ in the Assembly this situation rapidly changed, and the ruling classes had to submit to the bonapartist regime (especially after the experience of the Progressive Party). On the other hand, Mustafa Kemal could not totally remove the Assembly and form a purely military police dictatorship.
In reality, the bonapartist dictatorship, in spite of its strength within the state apparatus and its apparent power, was never a ‘popular’ leadership supported by large masses. Attempts to gain popular support, mentioned earlier, remained limited as a result of their bureaucratic character. Moreover, the fact that the National Struggle had begun with a tradition of ‘being led by an assembly’, made it difficult for the bureaucracy, lacking social support, to dispense with it altogether. On the contrary, an assembly whose composition was determined by Mustafa Kemal made it possible for the regime to become established in a relatively stable way.
As for the ruling classes, there were a number of reasons that led them to accept this regime. Besides the weakness of the ruling classes common to backward countries and causing political structures to tend towards bonapartist or semi-bonapartist regimes, there were also specific conditions that strengthened this tendency. First, the propertied classes were not, either separately or jointly, in a position to create a political leadership capable of fighting for power. Secondly, under conditions where even the primitive accumulation of capital was extremely low, it was not possible for the propertied classes (given their historically conflicting interests) to form a stable platform of political alliances (that is after the tasks of the National Struggle were accomplished). It was not possible for the very limited social surplus to have been equitably shared between different sections of the ruling classes on the basis of a ‘free’ platform of compromise.
Thirdly, the fundamental problems facing the country (heavy foreign debt, an inadequate infrastructure, antiquated public services) would have necessitated the intervention of the state even for the most liberal economic policies. Under these conditions, and especially with the threat posed by the Kurdish national question and a yet undefeated working class (weak but nevertheless undefeated), the propertied classes had no alternative but to look towards a Bonaparte. Having once submitted to the rule of bonapartism, however, the ruling classes can not avoid restrictions being placed on their freedom of movement. This is what occurred in Turkey; having accepted under the bonapartist regime the dominance of the state bureaucracy, the bourgeoisie also had to accept the arbitrary actions of this bureaucracy and its quest for material privileges, recognising of course their own interests in a historical sense were being protected. This situation also determined the formation of the newly developing propertied classes. The new rich, the businessmen, those who moved into key positions of the economy, were to a large extent bureaucrats. Nevertheless one should not see a one-way relation here; just as bureaucrats were becoming bourgeois, the propertied classes moved into the bureaucracy (it is sufficient to recall the ‘Kurdish’ big landlords who became lifelong members of the Assembly) and the recomposition of the ruling classes of Turkey took place in this process of reciprocal transposition.
Kemalism and the policy of ‘Etatism’
The first years of the Republic are generally referred to as the ‘liberal period’. The emphasis was on developing the private sector, and state interventions were relied upon mainly to safeguard this development. The Izmir Economic Congress, the adoption of the Swiss Civil Law, the German Commercial Law, the act for the ‘Promotion of Industry’, the founding of Iş Bankasi (Work-Bank), the Industry and Metal Bank etc., were all steps aimed at basing the society firmly on bourgeois foundations.
By the end of the 1920s, however, the failure of the liberal economic policies being applied had become clearly visible. The inadequacy of the initial level of capital accumulation, the shortcomings of the infrastructure, the lack of foreign capital, and also the fact that the ‘young’ Turkish ruling classes could still find avenues to make a ‘quick profit’, all these factors had led the economy to an impasse. The great crash of 1929 was another factor that exacerbated the crisis. With the onset of the world eocnomic crisis, the equilibrium between Turkey and imperialism and the feeble links formed up till then, suffered a major setback.
Turkey, whose economy was based on agricultural exports, with imports limited to consumer goods, saw a serious reduction in its exports, while its imports came to a standstill. Under these conditions, the only option remaining was for the state to step in. The alternative to seeing the economy plunge further into crisis was to create new factories that would overcome the dislocation of the economy. The effective intervention of the state in the economy had become imperative for the continuation of the class alliance. Above all it was necessary for the state to become a customer for the produce of the big landowners and to be able to provide them with certain goods. In brief, ‘Étatism’ arose as a direct response to a crisis and not out of some given ‘principles’ of Kemalism. Later on when these pressures disappeared, it was in turn given up.
Nevertheless, the effects of étatist policies carried beyond the realm of economics, into that of ideology. The left in Turkey has generally been led to associate the differentiation between private and public sectors as that between capitalism and socialism. When something passes into the public sector and becomes state property, it is assumed to have been “broken away from capitalism”. Yet, basically nationalisations made without any change in the class character of the state are only aimed at overcoming the periodic blockages that arise in the system of exploitation. The difference in a capitalist society between the ‘private sector’ and the ‘public sector’ is a distinction internal to capitalism. Nor is it possible to view the period of étatism in Turkey under a different light.
The entry of the state into the area of industrial investments had the effect of strengthening even more the position of the bureaucracy within the ruling class bloc. Just as the bonapartist regime was a factor that facilitated the transition to étatist policies, so was this move in itself a prop for the bonapartism of Mustafa Kemal. In the wake of a general feeling of social discontent, demonstrated in the popularity of the short-lived Free Party (1930), it provided the regime with strong support. Also, the fact that after the death of Mustafa Kemal, that is the disappearance of the Bonaparte, the regime could continue under the leadership of the “National Chief Ismet Inönü” must be explained by this phenomenon. For Inönü, who had always remained in the background, suddenly to substitute himself in the place of Mustafa Kemal (to the extent of replacing Mustafa Kemal’s picture on the bank notes with his own) was only possible because of the high degree of autonomy and strength the bureaucracy had gained within the ruling class bloc; that is, under conditions where the state apparatus had become an indispensable element in the running of the economy. Undoubtedly, the start of the Second World War and the establishment of martial law were further factors that helped the National Chief to maintain his position.
Throughout the bonapartist period the policies of étatism were directed at stimulating the private sector, and during this period which coincides with the structural crisis of imperialism, the efforts to create a ‘national’ merchant and industrial bourgeoisie proved to be significantly successful. The country witnessed the enrichment of the Turkish bourgeoisie and the primitive accumulation of capital through the official or covert support provided by the state. The war years especially were characterised by speculation, blackmarketing, hoarding, forced labour, reduction of wages, and the increase of the working day to 11 hours. The purchase of the produce of big landowners was subsidised by the state through higher taxes and non-Muslim minorities were divested of their wealth in favour of the Turkish bourgeoisie by a ‘Capital Tax’ in 1942. The fruits of this period are succinctly expressed in the heading of a daily paper (Aksam) on 10 September 1946 announcing that “2000 millionaire families are born in Turkey”.
The working class under Kemalism
The fact that the Turkish workers’ movement had not participated in the National Struggle as an independent political movement would have serious consequences in shaping its traditions. In the epoch of proletarian revolutions, for the working class not to have had an active political role in the collapse of a state and in the subsequent process of foundation of a new state, and moreover for this process to have been presented as a ‘national liberation war’ was a factor that would severely obstruct its political development.
In spite of its weakness, the working class had in the years leading to the formation of the Republic created numerous class organisations, especially in the major towns. Significant were the close links that existed between the trade unions and the political movements. The approach of the Kemalist dictatorship, although cautious at first, would be to totally crush the workers’ movement and the communist movement. This strategy progressed in a contradictory way; by promising labour reforms and creating new official labour organisations the aim was to break the workers’ movement from the communists, while at the same time the workers’ movement was repressed violently and bloodily at every opportunity19.
There was also a direct link between the suppression of the workers movement and the left during the first phases of the Republic, and the repression of the Kurdish national movement. Starting with the Sheikh Said rebellion in 1925 the Republic witnessed successive waves of Kurdish revolts. The Kemalist dictatorship resorted to ruthless measures to repress these. Yet the Turkish ‘communist’ movement and the Comintern would give open support to the government and condemn the Kurdish movement in the words of the Kemalists as “an attempt at restoration by Turkish reaction in collusion with British imperialism”20. This stand marked the Turkish left and workers’ movement with the stamp of chauvinism from the very beginning. Neither did the support given from the ‘left’ to the repression of the Kurdish national movement provide the communist and the working class movement with any relief. Disarmed through supporting the government’s war on the Kurds, it would in turn be repressed severely while the Comintern had to be consoled with a Turkish-Soviet friendship agreement. It would take 40 years for the Turkish working class to recover from this defeat.
There is one other point that has to be mentioned in relation to the position of the working class under the Kemalist regime. The foundations of a labour policy that would blossom only after 1946 were first established in this period. Towards the end of the 1920s when the strategy to crush the workers’ movement had succeeded, and under conditions of high unemployment and widespread impoverishment caused by the world economic crisis, the Kemalist dictatorship set out to create fake labour organisations so as to establish control over the class. An American team of experts visiting Turkey at this time drew attention in their report to the “advantages of forming labour organisations under the auspices of the government”. Similarly the Labour Law enacted in 1936 was aimed at the establishment of a trade union practice under the tutelage of the government. However, these projects had to be shelved with the onset of the war. They were taken up again after the war, eventually leading to the formation of the Turkish Trade Union Confederation (Türk-Iş) ‒ the largest union body in Turkey whose leadership has always remained unconditionally faithful to the state power that set it up, providing the ruling classes with enormous freedom of movement. As such, the violent repression of the workers movement on the one hand and attempts to create a controlled trade union movement on the other would become the twin bases for the labour policies of successive governments.
The Annexation of Kurdistan
and the Oppression of the Kurdish Nation
The role which the repression of the Kurdish nation and the annexation of North Kurdistan played in the formation and evolution of Turkey cannot be stressed too strongly. These in fact determine the specificity of the Turkish social formation. Kurdistan and the oppression of the Kurdish nation are subjects whose analysis is outside the scope of this article; here we will limit ourselves to assessing their role and effect in shaping the Turkish state and its official ideology.
The political alliance of the Kemalist leadership with a section of the Kurdish propertied classes during the National Struggle had given this struggle an appearance of a ‘joint Turkish-Kurdish’ struggle. Nevertheless, even during the National Struggle, the tendency of Kurds to struggle for an autonomous Kurdistan, most clearly expressed in the rebellion at Koçgiri and the subsequent repression of these movements, provide us with indications of the reality behind this appearance21. The official line during the National Struggle was to emphasise “the brotherhood of Turks and Kurds”, the “inseparability of Turks and Kurds” and that “the Assembly represents Turks and Kurds together”. This was necessary for the Kemalists in view of their alliance with the Kurdish propertied classes, and also to enable them to draw the Kurdish masses into supporting the National Struggle. The fact that the Sèvres Treaty, signed by the Sultan’s Government on 19 August 1920, had already made provisions for an autonomous Kurdistan made this issue even more sensitive.
By the end of the National Struggle however, the balance of forces had changed sufficiently to allow the Turkish Republic outright annexation of North Kurdistan. Similarly, with ‘victory’ obtained, and following Mustafa Kemal’s declaration to the Assembly on 1 November 1922 that “the state that has been founded is a Turkish state”, and especially following the Lausanne Treaty, this terminology with respect to the Kurds would end. It would be replaced by the consistent denial and denigration of the Kurdish nation.
A section of the Kurdish propertied classes which had contributed to the oppression of their own nation for the sake of ‘Turkish-Kurdish brotherhood’ would adapt to the new situation and declare themselves Turkish, condemning the word Kurd as “a debasing adjective”. On the other hand a smaller, more ‘honest’ section (which included Sheikh-Said) would change sides and choose to align with their own nation. Nevertheless, for the Kurdish nation, once betrayed within its own ranks, it would not be possible to recover from the defeats in Koçgiri and Lausanne on the strength of the return of some of the traitors. Starting with the Sheikh-Said revolt in 1925 and ending with the Agri Rebellion in 1936 all the Kurdish uprisings would be crushed by the government. The support which the Kemalist leadership had obtained from the Kurdish propertied classes during the National Struggle had proved to be crucial in the oppression of the Kurdish nation following the foundation of the Republic.
The effects of annexation on the state and dominant ideology
The annexation of North Kurdistan, and the dismemberment of Kurdistan within the frontiers of four different states, did not only result in the obvious oppression of the Kurdish nation, but also became an important element in imperialism’s status quo in the region, as well as shaping each of the oppressor nation-states’ formation. Starting with the Treaty of Lausanne, the common thread in a series of pacts ‒ the Saadabat Pact (1937) followed by the Baghdad Pact (1955) and then CENTO (1959) ‒ and bilateral agreements in the region has been anti-communist and anti-Kurdish policies. Many examples can be given of the co-operation of the oppressor nations in the Middle East on this question. The readjustment of frontiers in 1936 between Iran and Turkey so as to enable the Turkish forces easy access to the Kurdish rebellion at Agri, the joint bombardment by Iraqi-Turkish-Iranian planes of Kurds trying to escape into the Soviet Union following the crushing of the Mahabat Republic in 1946, the joint Iranian-Iraqi operation in 1956 to crush the revolt in Iran, the Turkish government’s silence when Iraqi planes bombed Kurdish villages in Turkey (Hakari) and of course more recently Turkey’s military foray into Iraq against the peshmergas in June 1983. Consequently, the problems posed by the division and annexation of Kurdistan are central to the struggle of the working class of each of the oppressor nations against the central state apparatus, as well as to the international revolutionary movement.
For the Turkish state, the Kurdish question is inseparable from that of territorial conquests of the National Struggle and the integrity of the Republic. It is part of the ‘defence of the fatherland’, of national frontiers, and, as such, a question of national security. If one takes into account the role of the army in the National Struggle, the tradition inherited from the Ottomans, and factors such as the geopolitical position of Turkey, the basis of the Turkish state’s militarist character can be understood. The decision to hold on to an army of half a million men, and shoulder the crippling costs this entails, is due to necessities born of this situation. This phenomenon at the same time determines the army’s role in the political arena, as a function of its position within the Turkish state. For these reasons, the Kurdish question has been central in unifying the army and the state and impressing a common platform on all the forces of order irrespective of their other differences. It has been fundamental in determining the Turkish state’s militarist and authoritarian character from its very inception.
Another area in which the act of annexation has had an important effect is that of the dominant ideology. Although nationalism and chauvinism constitute in general an important aspect of bourgeois ideology, in Turkey, due to the foundation of the state on the basis of the oppression of the Kurdish nation it carries a specific meaning. The existence in Turkey of a sizeable proportion of the population (approximately 20 per cent) conscious of their Kurdish origins, and yet a dominant ideology built on the total denial of this reality, has meant that this glaring contradiction and irrationality had to be covered up through a sustained cultural offensive against the Kurdish people.
A whole history, including that of the National Struggle, had to be rewritten to fit with the denial of the Kurdish nation. Following the defeats of the Kurdish rebellions, all Kurdish sources of reference were destroyed, the use of the words Kurd and Kurdistan banned, publication in Kurdish prohibited, and spoken Kurdish penalised. With the ‘Forced Residency Act’ of 1930, Kurds were driven from their homeland and spread throughout Turkey. The ‘Turkish History Thesis’ put forward by Mustafa Kemal in 1932 expounded farcical concepts, attributing to the Turkish race the origins of all civilisations and relegating Kurds to a Turkic tribe whose Turkish had been deformed through living in the mountains (the ‘mountain-Turk’ syndrome!). All these measures in themselves are confirmations of the irrationality of the official ideology. Here once again, in the context of Turkey, one can see in its starkest form the link between dominant ideology and the repressive apparatus of the state, and the fact that ideology can only be made dominant with the assistance of the repressive arm of the state.
Kemalism in Perspective
The Kemalist dictatorship, as the bonapartism of the formative years of the Turkish Republic, was able to shape all the state institutions and establish itself as a tradition in the political life of Turkey. But this tradition was neither a revolutionary one nor did it represent a rupture with its Ottoman roots. It is true that the Republic gave rise to a neo-colonial bourgeois state and over a period of 50 years paved the way to the development of modern classes and Turkey’s close articulation to imperialism. Nevertheless, only by situating this evolution in its historical context and looking at the totality of relations engendered by this process of re-foundation can one gain a true assessment of the character of Kemalism.
Attempts to modernise or ‘westernise’ the Ottoman Empire had a long history even before the foundation of the Republic. Most visible were the measures implemented in the second half of the nineteenth century, starting with the Reform Bill of 1856, the adoption of a new Legal Code (1858), a Commercial Code (1862) and followed by the proclamation of a Parliamentary Constitution (1876). The Young Turk revolution of 1908 restored the 1876 Constitution and recalled Parliament with the aim of modernising the state and establishing a national economy. With 1908 came an era of increased social and political activity: trade unions and left organisations proliferated in an atmosphere of relatively free parliamentary politics and diminished censorship; strikes spread throughout the country and women were for the first time allowed into schools and universities. However, the Young Turks were quick to relinquish their banner of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’. After an attempt by the reigning Sultan Abdülhamit to overthrow parliament, the Committee for Union and Progress would move towards the establishment of a one-party dictatorship, gradually putting an end to the liberalisation of society while at the same time providing Turkish nationalism with its first power base; the fruits of which would become tragically apparent with the onset of the First World War.
The Kemalists’ view of political democracy never went further than that of the Young Turks. The National Assembly acting as the platform for the ruling class alliance was maintained through bureaucratic mechanisms and never gained popular support. A leader of the Turkish Communist Party, and supporter of the Kemalist government, complains in 1924 that “our revolutionary government who aim to increase the participation of our people in the running of the state still rely on laws promulgated half a century ago during the time of Mithat Paşa for elections to the National Assembly”22, referring to the two-tier election procedure in use. The state of things in this sphere would only get worse. By 1925 existing workers’ organisations and associations were banned and strict censorship applied. In 1927, Mustafa Kemal in complete control assumed the absolute power to select the candidates for the Assembly. In fact general suffrage would never be realised during the life of the dictatorship. The Turkish Republic would live until 1946 a dark period reminiscent of the despotism of Abdülhamit.
It is against this background of total repression that Kemalist reforms took place. The Ottoman tithe on the land was removed in 1926, primarily as a concession to the landed notables after the Kurdish revolt had errupted so as to ensure their support in what was going to prove the largest military conflict in the history of the Turkish Republic23. The Kemalists never attempted a land reform. On the contrary the adoption of the Swiss legal code served the big landowners to consolidate their ownership of land and the constitution further guaranteed this. Statistics show that land holdings did not show any significant change during the one-party regime compared to that which existed before the Republic, except for those lands expropriated from the Armenians and Greeks24.
As for the ‘étatist’ measures undertaken by the regime after 1930 and hailed ever since by the Kemalists as one of the basic principles and a revolutionary feature of Kemalism, we have already attempted to show that these policies were brought about by the necessity of the moment ‒ given the depth of the world economic crisis at the time and the weakness of Turkish capital. Mustafa Kemal’s position on this question is perhaps best illustrated in the words of his closest associate Ìsmet Ìnönü: “Atatürk from the very beginning sided with private enterprise and applied this principle until his death”25.
Perhaps the most radical move that can be attributed to Mustafa Kemal was the abolition of the Caliphate followed by the removal from the Constitution in 1928 of an article stipulating Islam as the state religion, and finally the introduction in 1937 of the principle of secularism into the Constitution. We must however stress that Kemalist secularism never developed a critique of religion and its role in society. During the National Struggle moves towards secularism that had started previously were reversed and religious propaganda employed to the utmost. ‘Islam nationalism’ was integrated into Turkish nationalism as a means of subjugating the non-Turkish Muslim minorities, while at the same time one and a quarter million Greeks were removed from Anatolia in the population exchange with Greece.
Having abolished the Sultanate, however, it was also imperative for Mustafa Kemal to disestablish Islam in the running of the country. It must be remembered that in the Ottoman Empire Islam constituted the main cultural and social force that bonded the Muslim population into a cohesive entity and the concentration of both state and religious authority was expressed in the person of the Sultan who automatically assumed the role of Caliph. Under Kemal’s bonapartist dictatorship there was no question of allowing the clergy to play its traditional and prominent role. Especially under conditions where political freedoms were totally suppressed and the Kemalist bureaucracy isolated, there was always the danger that opposition to the regime would find its voice in the clergy. The clergy had to be deprived of its status and social weight, and this became the leitmotif in a number of measures and reforms instigated by Mustafa Kemal.
The various measures and reforms introduced by Mustafa Kemal have passed into Turkish literature and history as the ‘Kemalist revolutions’. These include the adoption of the Latin script, the purification of the language, the reform(!) in head-gear (preventing the wearing of the fez), the replacement of the Islamic Friday with the western week end, the right to vote for women (1935), and the adoption of a modern Civil Code based on that of the Swiss.
However, the ‘Kemalist revolutions’ were realised under conditions where the masses were completely deprived of the means of expressing themselves, the workers’ movement repressed and the Kurdish national movement defeated. It is not therefore surprising to find that the reforms did not find any significant popular approval and support. This in turn left the Kemalist bureaucracy, the elite of the Republic, as the sole defender and carrier of the ‘Kemalist revolutions’, distancing and isolating it from the popular masses and encouraging it to rely on ever increasingly authoritarian and bureaucratic forms of government. This situation had implications also for the army. To the degree that a political regime is not able to establish ideological and political hegemony over society the army always becomes its main support. Similarly, in Turkey, the application of the ‘revolutions’ decreed in a bureaucratic manner could only be realised by the existence of a strong army (i.e. a repressive apparatus), and in this way the army became the mainstay of the ‘Kemalist revolutions’. Seeing itself as the creator and guardian of these ‘revolutions’ became the tradition of the Turkish Army from its very inception.
In brief, Turkey in the 1920s and 1930s witnessed Kemalism in action. This became synonymous with the introduction of institutions associated with the bourgeois revolutions in the west on the one hand, while on the other hand with the blow struck against the working classes and Kurdish national aspirations, Kemalism became the main obstacle to their emancipation.
Kemalism, as a political regime, left the scene of history together with the disappearance of the historical and social conditions that gave rise to it and the death of Mustafa Kemal. This is clearly visible in that even Inönü’s ‘National Chief’ dictatorship that followed could only be sustained by the special conditions that existed for the duration of the Second World War.
The political materialisation of Kemalist ideology and tradition had become possible under conditions where none of the fundamental classes of bourgeois society had reached decisive strength, thereby allowing the petty bourgeoisie or more correctly the state bureaucracy, to intervene in the political arena as a substitute for the ruling class. Kemalism, however, in a paradoxial way was burdened with the mission of undoing the basis on which it rested. By catering for the development of capitalism and bourgeois society it also cleared the way for the political power it held to be used by its true owners.
The 1960 coup of the young officers represented the final blows in this process. It expressed the dissatisfaction of an army finding itself increasingly relegated from its traditional role and stature within the political establishment ‒ mainly as a result of the introduction of a ‘popular’ dimension to the political life of the 1950s. In the 1960s the expansion of capitalism in Turkey accelerated, a strong industrial sector and bourgeoisie developed with a corresponding growth of the proletariat, both classes making their social weight increasingly felt in the political sphere. By the time the next military intervention took place in 1971 its character had already changed. The generals were no longer acting as the followers of the Kemalist tradition but as the direct representatives of the industrial bourgeoisie. In fact it would be the followers of this tradition themselves who were going to be eliminated by the military.
As for the coup in 1980 its character became completely transparent. The phraseology and hundredth anniversary speeches of the generals could not even pretend to hide the fact that the regime of the National Security Council represented the most direct form of government the industrial bourgeoisie and finance capital had ever experienced in the history of Turkey. The 1980 coup distinguished itself from the 1960 coup as its negation, and from that in 1971 by achieving what it was not able to.
With 12 September 1980 a new period has opened in the history of class struggles of Turkey. A period in which the political structures of the country are being shaped for the first time by the big bourgeoisie. In this sense 12 September represents the true genesis of bourgeois rule, and the military dictatorship took it upon itself to destroy all vestiges of autonomous petty bourgeois political influence including that of Kemalism. What remains of Kemalism in Turkey today, apart from the nostalgia of a small section of the intelligentsia and the rhetoric of the junta, are its anti-communist, anti-Kurdish and authoritarian features which have completely fused with bourgeois ideology and bourgeois rule.
I would like to acknowledge an unpublished work, “The National Struggle and the evolution of the key elements of the Turkish social-formation” (1978), as having formed the main reference to the arguments put forward in this article.
- Mustafa Kemal took the surname Atatürk in 1934 dropping the name Mustafa, following a new law stipulating the adoption of surnames. Atatürk literally means Father of the Turks or Father Turk. The establishment has preferred to use the term Atatürkism instead of Kemalism after the latter had been given a radical connotation by the Turkish left. Mustafa Kemal was also titled the ‘Eternal Chief’ after 1930. ↩
- The period from 1919 up to the proclamation of the Turkish Republic on 29 October 1923 is generally referred to as the National Struggle, the War of Independence or the War of Liberation. In this article we have chosen to use the term National Struggle in preference to the others as it was the term originally employed. ↩
- The Young Turks or The Committee of Union and Progress were the force behind the ‘1908 Revolution’ which re-established the constitution. Although they initially remained in the background, based in Salonika, after Abdülhamit’s complicity in the brief counter-revolution of April 1909 they exiled him and formed the government. In the first parliament of 288 deputies that convened in Istanbul there were 147 Turks, 60 Arabs, 27 Albanians, 26 Greeks, 14 Armenians, 10 Slavs and 4 Jews. ↩
- Pan-Turanism projected a future Turkish nation consisting of Turkish speaking Muslims only, and spreading into the ‘Turanian’ peoples of Asia. Ziya Gökalp, the leading proponent of Pan-Turanism, became the chief theoretician of the Committee of Union and Progress after joining its government in 1909. The military exponent of Pan-Turanism, Enver Paşa, led the Eastern campaign during the First World War, escaped to Germany after the defeat in the war, attended the Baku Congress (amid protests from delegates) and headed an unsuccessful revolt against the Soviets at the end of which he was killed by the Red Army in Bukhara on August 1922. ↩
- With the Mudros Armistice of 30 October 1918 the Ottoman State acknowledged defeat. The Dardanelles and Bosphorous were opened to the British fleet and occupation by the Allies of important strategic points was accepted. The armistice also required the demobilisation of the Ottoman Army and the surrender of arms, but these were never fully enforced. ↩
- Defence of Rights Associations were formed especially in areas threatened with the return of Armenians and Greeks. They were based on the notables, merchants, clergy, etc, of the locality and often coincided with the former cells of the Committee of Union and Progress. ↩
- The National Pact was formulated in the Congress of SlvaS and accepted by the Ottoman Parliament in Istanbul on 17 February 1920. It is given as an appendix in Atatürk: The Rebirth of a Nation, by Lord Kinross, London, 1964. ↩
- S. Selek, The Anatolian Revolution (in Turkish), p. 111, Istanbul 1981. ↩
- On March 18, 1920 Allied forces occupied Istanbul and arrested the deputies of the Ottoman Parliament. The next day M. Kemal called in the name of the Anatolian-Rumelia Defence of Rights Association executive for an extraordinary assembly to meet in Ankara. The first Grand National Assembly convened on 23 April 1920. Its deputies were made up of members of the Defence of Rights Association but the procedure of election/selection to the Assembly is not well documented. ↩
- The Economic Congress held at Izmir after the Armistice was aimed to obtain the confidence of the Istanbul bourgeoisie which had remained outside the National Struggle in Anatolia. It drew up an ‘economic pact’ representing a series of compromises between the commercial bourgeoisie and the big landowners, with the bureaucracy acting as the arbitrators and vested with the responsibility of implementing its proposals. See S. Yerasimos, Turquie: Le processus d’un sous-développement (University’ of Paris, also Istanbul 1974). ↩
- For the Turco-Armenian war and ensuing peace see Armenia, by C.J. Walker, London 1980. ↩
- The Progressive Party was formed on 17 November 1924 by deputies who had resigned from the Republican People’s Party. It was led by Kazim Karabekir and Cebesoy, both leading figures of the National Struggle. It was banned on 5 June 1925 following the introduction of the Law for Maintenance of Public Order. The Free Party had an even shorter life. It was founded on the instructions of Mustafa Kemal by his close associate Fethi Okyar on 12 August 1930. M. Kemal had thought of it as an intra-Assembly opposition party, but the new party proved to be embarrassingly popular commanding mass receptions on its visits outside parliament. Fethi Okyar dissolved the party on 17 November of the same year with a letter to M. Kemal in which he explained that the party threatened to “come face to face with M. Kemal on the political arena”. ↩
- The Kurdish Rebellion led by Sheikh Said started on 13 February 1925 after a skirmish with the gendarmerie when ten of his men refused to surrender. The Law for the Maintenance of Public Order was introduced on 6 March 1925 giving the government the right to forbid and suppress any organisation and any publication which might encourage “reaction and rebellion”. The law was enforced through Independence Tribunals and these proved completely successful in stamping out all opposition, however meagre, to the government. ↩
- The First Group (also known as the Anatolia-Rumelia Defence of Rights Group) was formed on 10 May 1921 to allow its members to function as a disciplined party within the Assembly. From its inception it governed a majority in the Assembly. According to F.W. Frey, The Turkish Political Elite (Cambridge, Mass. 1965) out of the 437 deputies in the First Grand National Assembly 197 belonged to the First Group and 118 to the Second Group ‒ in M. Tuncay, The Formation of One-Party Rule in the Republic of Turkey (1923-1931) (in Turkish), Ankara 1981. ↩
- Kazim Karabekir, Cebesoy and Ali Fuat resigned from the army choosing to remain in the Assembly while Fevzi Çakmak and others remained in the army on the request of M. Kemal. ↩
- The Independence Tribunals were first formed in the National Struggle. During the period 1920-22 they sentenced approximately 47,000 people, 1054 of whom were executed; in E. Aybars, The Independence Tribunals (in Turkish), Ankara 1975. These Tribunals were revived after the Kurdish rebellion of 1925. After the defeat of Sheikh-Said they sentenced him and some of his followers to death. They also sentenced a large number of Progressive Party and Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) members in the period of the Law for the Maintenance of Public Order; the number of executions totalling 660, see M. Tuncay, op cit. ↩
- On 15 June 1926, an assassination attempt on the life of M. Kemal was uncovered in Izmir. The Independence Tribunal proceeded with the arrest of 28 deputies from the Progressive Party which had been banned the previous week. Included in the list of deputies were the leading names of the National Struggle: Kazlm Karabekir, Ali Fuat, Rauf Orbay, Adnan, etc. The trial was then expanded to include all the remaining influential personalities from the CUP. A long list of executions followed the trials (S. Selek, op cit). ↩
- These principles were first formulated in the 4th Congress (1935) of the RPP (the 1st Congress was taken to be the Congress at Sivas!). This was explained by the RPP General Secretary: “The main features of the Party; those of Republicanism, Nationalism, Populism, Revolutionism, Etatism and Secularism have with the acceptance of the new programme become the features of the new Turkish state”. These principles were included in the second article of the Constitution in 1937. E. Congar, Atatürk (in Turkish), p305. ↩
- The left and workers’ organisations were confronted with severe repression during 1923 and 1924. For instance in 1924 the leaders of the Workers Progress union were arrested for May Day activities and the union was reorganised (!) by the police as the Istanbul Workers Support Fund. At the same time a Labour Law was presented to the Assembly that guaranteed the right of collective bargaining, the right to form unions and the right to strike. This never materiaised, except that in 1925 one day’s unpaid leave was provided with a raw on the working week. For a comprehensive study and documentation on the left and workers’ movement in this period see M. Tuncay, Left Currents in Turkey (1908-1925) (in Turkish), Ankara 1978. ↩
- Aydmhk, The Kurdish National Question in the Comintern (in Turkish), Istanbul. Although the left did not understand the nature of the Kurdish revolt, the same can not be said for the Kemalists. At the end of the Sheikh Said trial, Mazhar Müfit, presiding over the Eastern Independence Tribunal summed up with the following words: “Although some of you manipulated a social stratum for personal profit and some of you were guided by foreign provocation and political ambitions, all of you marched towards a single objective: the establishment of an Independent Kurdistan”. In B. Cemal, The Sheikh Sait Revolt (in Turkish), Istanbul 1955. ↩
- Koçgiri ‒ Popular Movemems (1919-1921) (in Turkish), Ankara. 1975. ↩
- H. Keymer, Classes in Turkey (in Turkish), p282, Ankara p75. Mithat Paşa was a skilled Ottoman administrator and reformer. He is considered to be the architect of the 1876 Constitution. Exiled by Abdülhamit before the parliament met in the same year. ↩
- “Turkey decreed a partial mobilisation and sent the bulk of its armed forces, 80,000 men, into the region’. Kendal, in People Without a Country (London 1980). Kendal’s article gives an enlightening and comprehensive account of the relationship between Kemalism and the oppression of the Kurdish nation. A.C. Lou indicates military losses of 15-20,000 men in Kurdistan and the Kurds (London, 1965) referred to in M. Tuncay, The Formation. ↩
- S. Yerasimos, op cit. ↩
- Kongar, op cit. ↩