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USSR and Mustafa Kemal

Taken from:

Loren Goldners Socialism in One Country Before Stalin, and the Origins of Reactionary Anti-Imperialism: The Case of Turkey, 1917-1925 interested me for several reasons. Not only do my in-laws have strong Kemalist credentials, I have developed a strong affection for Turkish culture, enough so that I studied Turkish at Columbia University for a couple of years until I ran into the brick wall of the advanced class. Beyond the personal connection, I felt challenged by Goldners assertion that the Soviet Unions turning a blind eye to the murder of 15 leading Turkish Communists in 1921 constitutes a kind of original sin that is manifested today in the following manner: The anti-imperialist ideology of the 1960s and early 1970s died a hard death by the late 1970s. Western leftist cheerleaders for Ho- Ho- Ho Chi Minh in London, Paris, Berlin and New York fell silent as Vietnam invaded Cambodia, and China invaded Vietnam, and the Soviet Union threatened China. China allied with the U.S. against the Soviets in the new Cold War, and the other national liberation movements that had taken power in Algeria, and later in Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissaudisappointed. Today, a vague mood of anti-imperialism is back, led by Venezuelas Chavez and his Latin American allies (Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia), more or less (with the exception of Stalinist Cuba) classical bourgeois-nationalist regimes. But Chavez in turn is allied, at least verbally and often practically, with the Iran of the ayatollahs, and Hezbollah, and Hamas, as well as newly-emergent China, which no one any longer dares call socialist. The British SWP allies with Islamic fundamentalists in local elections in the UK, and participates in mass demonstations [sic] (during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, summer 2007) chanting We are all Hezbollah. Somehow Hezbollah, whose statutes affirm the truth of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, is now part of the left; when will it be We are all Taliban? Why not, indeed? Such a climate compels us to turn back to the history of such a profoundly reactionary ideology, deeply anti-working class both in the advanced and underdeveloped countries, by which any

force, no matter how retrograde, that turns a gun against a Western power becomes progressive and worthy of critical or military support, or for the less subtle, simply support. At first blush, the hostility toward Hugo Chavez and the SWP might strike one as coming from the same place as Harrys but Goldner is no New Labourite or Eustonite for that matter. He is a self-proclaimed left communist who identifies with Bordiga, Pannekoek and Paul Mattick. I honestly have not studied this current in any kind of depth but from what I have seen from Toni Negri and Harry Cleaver, two other left communists from the contemporary period, theres little incentive to read further. To Goldners credit, he lacks the preciousness of these two and has a powerful writing styleleaving the politics aside. As someone who has been very critical of the anti-imperialism of James Petras and MRZine, especially on the question of Ahmadinejad, I understood Goldners complaint. But I have a different assessment of Hugo Chavez than him. Despite my criticisms of Chavezs overly positive characterizations of Ahmadinejad, I would not dismiss him as a bourgeois nationalist. Goldners blanket condemnation of Chavez and all those who identify with him politically as profoundly reactionary and deeply anti-working class is the sort of thing one expects to hear from a left communist or anarchist seduced by philosophical idealism. From these quarters, there have been no real socialist revolutions in the twentieth century only the class struggle that never seems to culminate in a victory. In some ways these purists remind me of my late mothers Irish Setter who we could not train out of chasing cars down our country road. I always told my mom that if Rusty ever caught up with a car, he wouldnt know what to do with it. Turning to Goldners article, almost a book at 67 pages, much of the substance appears to rely on Paul Dumonts 500 page Du socialisme ottoman a linternationalisme anatolien. Since I dont read French, there would have been no point in tracking this book down. However, I did read George Harriss The Origins of Communism in Turkey and two by Bulent Gokay, a leftist scholar: Soviet Eastern Policy and A Clash of empires: Turkey between Russian Bolshevism and British Imperialism 1918-1923. There is little difference between Goldners version based on Dumont and what I read in these books. Harris and Gokay, as well as Dumont, add much detail to a story that I was already familiar with from reading volume 3 of E.H. Carrs The Bolshevik Revolution that covers the period from 1917 to 1923. Two pages from Carr pretty much tell the entire story although I certainly encourage others to read Goldners article:

The indigenous Turkish movement of sympathy for communism which grew up in 1919 was mainly of peasant origin and was rooted in agrarian discontents. Its overt expression was the creation of a multitude of local Soviets which became for a time the effective organs of local government. The movement was fostered by Kemal, partly because its loyalty to the nationalist cause was fervent and unquestioned, and partly because an outlet was required for the real social and agrarian discontent represented by it. In the spring of 1920 it took organized shape in the creation of a Green Army which, recruited from the small and landless peasants, formed a major part of the national forces. The principal sponsors of the movement at this time, Hakki Behic and Hikmet, were easterners in respect of Turkish foreign policy and are both said to have been convinced Marxists. A somewhat farcical sequel of these proceedings was an officially sponsored Turkish communist party bearing the name of the Green Apple . Hakki Behic was its leader; and according to a subsequent statement of a Turkish delegate to Comintern it was composed mainly of high officials and intellectuals . Meanwhile the most successful leader of the Green Army was Edhem, a soldier of fortune who, while professing allegiance to Kemal, threatened to become a Turkish Makhno. The Green Army reached the summit of its success in the summer of 1920. But in September 1920 the same month in which action against Armenia was decided on Kemal felt strong enough to put his house in order by removing a potential source of rivalry or insubordination, and issued a decree dissolving it. The order was not obeyed, and Kemal temporized. In November he appointed as Turkish representative in Moscow Ali Fuad, an army commander whom he wanted to get out of the way, and made an offer to Edhem to accompany the mission. Edhem refused; and in December, when the campaign against Armenia had been successfully concluded, Kemal finally decided to take action against the Green Army. On January 6, 1921, Edhem was routed and fled to the Greeks, and what was left of his movement was then quickly mopped up. The suppression of Edhem was immediately followed by drastic steps against the Turkish communists. Suphi was seized by unknown agents at Erzerum, and on January 28, 1921, together with sixteen other leading Turkish communists, thrown into the sea off Trebizond the traditional Turkish method of discreet execution. It was some time before their fate was discovered. Chicherin is said to have addressed enquiries about them to the Kemalist government and to have received the reply that they might have succumbed to an accident at sea. But this unfortunate affair was not allowed to affect the broader considerations on which the growing

amity between Kemal and Moscow was founded. For the first, though not for the last, time it was demonstrated that governments could deal drastically with their national communist parties without forfeiting the goodwill of the Soviet Government, if that were earned on other grounds. So for Goldner, the real problem lies in Carrs last sentence: For the first, though not for the last, time it was demonstrated that governments could deal drastically with their national communist parties without forfeiting the goodwill of the Soviet Government, if that were earned on other grounds. In Goldners words: Only on Nov. 15 did long articles on the repression in Turkey appear on the front pages of Izvestia and Pravda. In the interim two weeks, the Kemalists had continued various anticommunist harassments. The Soviet embassy in Ankara had been forced to close its commercial outlet and a Soviet courriers diplomatic pouch had been confiscated. In Paul Dumonts estimate, these harassments, combined with the preoccupation over the Lausanne conference, were the pinpricks that brought about the change in tone. A new silence on the repression descended on the international communist press in late November. The Lausanne Conference opened on November 20 with Soviet participation, and the settlement of the status of the Straits loomed large in the offing. On November 22, a major article by Karl Radek in Pravda asserted that the Soviet Union would support the legitimate demands of Turkey at Lausanne and that critics in the West of the inconsistencies of Soviet policy did not understand that, at bottom, our position is absolutely independent of tactical maneuvers or the internal policy of the Turkish governmentBut in spite of all deviations and zigzags, Soviet Russia is following the great historical road on which the international industrial proletariat can march together with the liberation movements of the peoples of the East in the struggle against international capital. So in his eyes, there was always socialism in one country, even before Stalin. In dealing with Kemal, the USSR had the same realpolitik that would typify the Comintern after Stalin consolidated his grip on power. Just to drive home that point, Goldner opens his article with a quote from a memo by Trotsky to Lenin written in 1920 that sounds positively Stalinesque: All information on the situation in Khiva, in Persia, in Bukhara and in Afghanistan confirm the fact that a Soviet revolution in these countries is going to cause us major difficulties at the present timeUntil the situation in the West is stabilized and until our industries and transport systems have improved, a Soviet expansion in the east could prove to be no less dangerous than a

war in the Westa potential Soviet revolution in the east is today to our advantage principally as an important element in diplomatic relations with England. From this I conclude that: 1) in the east we should devote ourselves to political and educational workand at the same time advise all possible caution in actions calculated to require our military support, or which might require it; 2) we have to continue by all possible channels at our disposal to arrive at an understanding with England about the east. In the interests of scholarship, I probably should have tracked down the quote especially since the words a potential Soviet revolution in the east is today to our advantage principally as an important element in diplomatic relations with England condemn Trotsky as a kind of Bolshevik Metternich. But I finally decided that this was pointless. There are many criticisms that can be made about Trotsky, but turning revolutions on and off like a spigot is not one of them. Trotsky sacrificed his life in the interests of world revolution and if Loren Goldner wants to make the case that he was no different from Stalin, Id eagerly await such a specious argument in order to take it apart with relish. In my next article, I want to take up the question of how the foreign policy of a revolutionary society cannot be reduced to simple black-and-white moralistic dichotomies, especially as this relates to Cuba, a country designated unsurprisingly as Stalinist by Goldner. Perhaps no other incident in history better illustrates the old clich that politics makes strange bedfellows than the Soviet-Turkish ties in the early 1920s. This relationship had two phases. In the first that occurred during War Communism, the USSR made common cause with Turkey because they both were anxious to fend off British imperialism. 40,000 British troops were part of a 13 nation expeditionary force that was determined to overthrow Bolshevism. Meanwhile, Britain used Greece as a surrogate invading power to control what would become Turkey in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Mustafa Kemal relied heavily on Soviet arms and material during 1920. Within a couple of years, the policy of War Communism had been abandoned in favor of the NEP. This meant that the Soviet Union would put a high priority on establishing peaceful relationships with any and all countries, including Britain. This was also the period in which the Comintern looked Eastward in the hope that Asia would rise up against imperialism. It viewed national liberation movements as progressive, even when they were led by someone like Mustafa

Kemal. Given this turn, it would make sense that the USSR would bend over backwards trying to link up with Turkey. The definitive statement on Soviet-Turkish relations came from Karl Radek, whose articles England and the East and The Winding-Up of the Versailles Treaty, a report to the fourth Comintern congress are must reading. It is a shame that Goldner made no attempt to evaluate such material since it would at least have given the reader the assurance that he was considering all sides of the debate. In the second article, Radek zeroed in on the Treaty of Sevres that put the WWI victors in charge of the Ottoman finances and extracted other concessions. It was analogous to the Brest-Litovsk treaty that punished the infant Soviet Republic for having the temerity to withdraw from the WWI bloodbath. Radek wrote: Whatever may be the result of the Near Eastern crisis, one thing is quite patent: the Sevres Treaty has been smashed by Turkish cannon. The popular masses of the Near East, who in the eyes of the Allies are not only a quantit ngligeable, but simply the scum of the earth, have been set in motion against no less a thing than the Versailles Treaty. They are at present beginning to play their part. Among the diplomats who think to be able to control the course of history through clever formulae and secret conferences, there is disunity. Great Britain has experienced one of her deepest humiliations in her long history, when after the defeat of her Greek vassal, she durst not come in shining armour to his assistance, and after having pronounced a sentence of death upon Turkey, had now to flatter her and even to offer her a place in the League of Nations. This fact is the irrefutable proof of the break-up of the Sevres Treaty. Popular masses on a low level of civilisation can only be kept in subjection as long as there is unity among the slaveholders, but not when these come to loggerheads. As soon as the slaves perceive that the oppressors are trembling, they begin to rebel. The East of to-day which sees Great Britain trembling, is no more the East of the days of the Sevres Treaty. The Turkish victory finds an echo in India and the whole Islamic world. This echo is the best proof that we have to do with an important episode in the growth of the world revolution, with a success of the world revolution, though the organisers of the victory are far from being revolutionary in the modern sense of the term. What is missing entirely from Goldners analysis is any sense of how important Kemals victory was in pushing Greece and Britain out of Turkish lands. This was not only important for the defense of the USSR, it was also a genuine anti-imperialist victory on a par with Nassers seizure of the Suez Canal or the British being forced to leave India. It does not matter that Nasser or

Gandhi were bourgeois nationalists simply interested in capitalist development. Marxists, at least those not addled by philosophical idealism, have always considered colonial struggles as worthy of support even if they are not being led by communists. In 1882, Engels wrote a letter to Karl Kautsky that was very much in the spirit of what Radek wrote. You will notice that he does not make communism some kind of litmus test. He is for the independence of oppressed nations even under bourgeois leadership: One of the real tasks of the 1848 Revolution (and the real, not illusory tasks of a revolution are always solved as a result of that revolution) was the restoration of the oppressed and dispersed nationalities of Central Europe, insofar as these were at all viable and, especially, ripe for independence. This task was solved for Italy, Hungary and Germany, according to the then prevailing conditions, by the executors of the revolutions will, Bonaparte, Cavour and Bismarck. Ireland and Poland remained. Ireland can be disregarded here, she affects the conditions of the Continent only very indirectly. But Poland lies in the middle of the Continent and the conservation of her division is precisely the link that has constantly held the Holy Alliance together, and therefore, Poland is of great interest to us. I therefore hold the view that two nations in Europe have not only the right but even the duty to be nationalistic before they become internationalistic: the Irish and the Poles. They are most internationalistic when they are genuinely nationalistic. The Poles understood this during all crises and have proved it on all the battlefields of the revolution. Deprive them of the prospect of restoring Poland or convince them that the new Poland will soon drop into their lap by herself, and it is all over with their interest in the European revolution. Maybe Goldner does not consider Engels to be a real communist, only one of those people promoting reactionary anti-imperialism but Engels is good enough for me. All that being said, the question remains: was the USSR correct to try to maintain a close relationship with Turkey after Kemal unleashed his repression against the Communists? In some ways, this is a difficult question to answer since time was drawing near when it would become moot. By 1923, when Kemal was mopping up the Communists, the USSR was on the verge of isolating Leon Trotsky and other critical-minded Marxists who objected to what was becoming a policy of accommodation to the national bourgeoisie. In four short years, the disastrous policy in China would unfold prompting Trotsky to open a full-scale assault on Stalins class collaborationist politics. Under directions from Stalin, the Chinese CP had subordinated itself

completely to the Kuomintang, leading to the slaughter of far more many working class militants than was the case in Turkey. If the USSR was no longer able to serve as an example of how a revolutionary society relates to governments such as Kemals, there is one that is close at hand facing almost identical paradoxes and contradictions, namely Cuba. As I have already pointed out, Goldner is completely hostile to the Cuban government, linking it with North Korea in one of his articles: Fewer still look to surviving relics such as North Korea or Cuba. The most radical elements of the 1960s and 1970s upsurge, from Socialism or Barbarism in France, Eastern European Marxist humanism (Kolakowski, the Yugoslav Praxis group), the Situationists, or the Italian workerists mainly rejected these regimes as viscerally as they rejected the (Keynesian) Labour and Social Democratic welfare states of the 1945-1975 period. If they were the most radical elements of the 60s and 70s, I am glad that I went my own way. Frankly, there was about as much chance of me hooking up with the Situationists as there was with the yippies. I dont begrudge someone like Guy Debord having a grand old time at the expense of middle-class propriety but I was far more interested in organizing mass demonstrations against the Vietnam War. Now Cuba faces many of the same problems as the infant Soviet republic but with the added complication of having a much smaller resource base, a narrower geographical space that is additionally vulnerable due to its proximity to the USA, andmore recentlywithout socialist allies internationally. Cuba faced a similar quandary in 1968 when the Mexican government unleashed a terrible repression against the student movement, many of whose leaders were likely Fidelistas politically. Although this is not quite the same situation as took place in Turkey in the 1920s, the Cuban government was as low-key as the Soviets were when the 15 Turkish Communists were drowned. As I have pointed out myself to uncritical Fidelistas on Marxmail, there was no response from the Cuban government. If you go to theCastro speech database and do a search on Mexico during 1968, you will not find a word of protest. Now it is no accident that Turkey and Mexico are connected in this fashion since both exemplify the paradoxes of national liberation movements led by the bourgeoisie and governments that have become calcified after it takes power. The Mexican PRI and KemalsCumhuriyet Halk

Partisi (Republican Peoples Party) were both political leaderships of arguably the last hurrah of the bourgeois revolution. And, interestingly enough, both republics gave asylum to Leon Trotsky. For all of Mustafa Kemals hostility to Communism, he was willing to host Trotsky in the first leg of his exile. While Trotsky does not exactly sing Kemals praises in My Life, there are some accounts that he enjoyed his stay in Turkey immensely on a personal level. I recommend the documentary Exile in Buyukuda for the modern Turkish take on his stay in their homeland. Despite Mexicos more democratic functioning during Trotskys stay there, not much differentiated it from Turkey in economic terms. Both Kemal and Cardenas were committed to national development and considered labor and capital to be co-equal partners in a bid to modernize the respective countries. Of course, this was just propaganda. The way it worked out in practice, as it does everywhere in the world, is to the benefit of the bourgeoisie. In both the case of Turkey and Mexico, the lip-service paid to labor and the actual benefits it received declined the longer the two hegemonic bourgeois parties remained in the drivers seat. No matter how degraded the Mexican PRI had become, there was still a residual spark that motivated it to stand up to imperialism when it came to Castros Cuba. In a paper titled Capitalizing on Castro: Mexicos Foreign Relations with Cuba, 1959-1969, Renata Keller makes clear how important Mexico was to Cuba. The article begins: In the decade immediately following Fidel Castros 1959 revolution, Mexican leaders consistently distinguished themselves from their Latin American counterparts by acting as outspoken defenders of the Cuban peoples right to self-determination. Influential politicians such as Lzaro Crdenas threw their support behind Castro, and in 1960 Mexican president Adolfo Lpez Mateos welcomed Cuban president Osvaldo Dortics in a lavish state visit. At the July 1964 meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C., Mexico was the only Latin American country that refused to adopt the resolution to break diplomatic relations with Fidel Castros Cuba and impose economic sanctions. Mexico thereafter maintained diplomatic relations with Cuba, which effectively established Mexico as the sole link between Castro and the rest of the hemisphere because none of the other Latin American governments recognized Cubas revolutionary regime until after 1970.

So in order to fend off American economic pressure and to find an ally, sincere or not, in diplomatic initiatives against the counter-revolutionary OAS, Cuba found itself in bed with Mexico. While it is difficult to quantify what this relationship meant to Cuba, it very likely helped Fidel Castro to survive. No matter how politically bankrupt Mexico and the USSR were, they were necessary allies against imperialism. If Castro refused to denounce Mexico in 1968 or the USSR for invading Czechoslovakia in the same year, he more than made up for this in assisting liberation movements in Africa and Latin America. In the real world, politics can be very messy. My advice to my anarchist, situationist, left, council and libertarian communist friends who want to keep their hands clean is to stay out of politics altogether.