Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Left-Wing Politics in Turkey: Its Development and Problems

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Left-Wing Politics in Turkey: Its Development and Problems

Article excerpt

Introduction

The origins of left-wing politics and the popularity of the word "socialism" in Turkey date back to the late nineteenth century. The formation of an Ottoman left under the influence of Ottoman intellectuals, most of whom were in close contact with the non-Muslim people and westerners, grew with the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Such developments necessarily had an impact in the Republican period, during which the efforts to organize the left gamed considerable momentum. The first era in the Republican period, defined as the "sprouting" period, commenced with the establishment of the republic and continued up to 1960s. The second era was between 1960 and 1980, during winch the left-wing political movement was fairly organized and highly influential. This era witnessed a lot of schisms. The final era started with the 1980 military intervention and has continued until now. In tins era, the left has not had that organized structure and influence as in the second era and has not been sensational as a political thought. What has determined the development and separation of the Turkish left since the beginning is the process of the establishment of the Turkish nation state and the Republic of Turkey and the developments the left-wing movements outside the country have undergone. Added to this, the experiences in Turkish political history and culture have contributed to the formation of the left-wing political movement in Turkey. Therefore, "the Left-Wing Politics in Turkey" refers to the adaptation of the theoretical bases of the left-wing political understanding to the Turkish political environment. In other words, the left-wing politics in Turkey has developed and diversified under the influence of theory and practice. This article examines the development of the left-wing political understanding and the problems encountered during the process.

Outside influences in the Development of Left-Wing Politics

Before the establishment of the former Soviet Union, the Socialist International's congresses had a great impact on the development of left-wing politics at the theoretical, political, and social levels. Two congresses were held before the Bolshevik Revolution. The first, primarily influencing Western Europe, was the First International, held in the age of competitive capitalism. The Second International was held in the age of monopoly capitalism and imperialism. During the Fust International, the foundations for the proletariat's struggle for international socialism were laid down, whereas the Second International occurred in a period when mass political movements were extensive within the countries, as a consequence of imperial expansion. Benefiting from the previous Internationals, the Third International aimed to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat under Soviet influence (Foster 2011: 412). During the first two internationals, the political movements of the time were considered with reference to Marxist theory. Within this framework, Marx and Engels related the possibility of forming a proletarian government to the country's level of development and class structure, thinking that such a government was likely to be established in an advanced capitalist country where the industrial bourgeoisie was dominant; thus, the proletariat should lead in such a context. They discussed whether such a change should be brought about by force or peaceful means (Sener 2010: 25). These issues continued to be discussed in the later periods of left-wing politics. Just after the theory started to be implemented in the Soviet Union, the successful practices attracted more attention and approval than theory in the left-wing circles. Since Lenin was the leading figure in this development, his book Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, which he wrote during the 1905 Revolution in Russia, became the most referred book. In this book, Lenin suggested a gradual model for revolution by Russian workers and defined the first stage as democratic revolution and the second as proletarian socialist revolution. …

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