Special interview with Kemal Okuyan, the Secretary of the CC of the Communist Party, Turkey (KP) on the tension between Russia and Turkey, developments in Syria and the conflict between the imperialist countries.
ICP, 24th December 2015
ICP: Several articles by you and other Party leadership on the escalating tension after Turkey’s downing the Russian jet have been published beside the statements made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Turkey (KP). What are the common points highlighted? How does KP decide on its position regarding the developments in the region and Syria in the first place?
KO: The class perspective applies not only to domestic politics but also to the issues related with foreign policy. Actually, they are more transient than commonly supposed. So, KP approaches with the class perspective both to international or regional developments and particularly to the foreign policy of Turkey. It is not possible for a government which carries out completely wrong and unjust policies inside the country to follow a right path in foreign policy. The AKP government is pro-American both inside and outside… This is the outcome of its class characteristics. In a nutshell, the AKP represents the monopoly capital of Turkey and its international connections. This is the point which is inappropriate, you cannot achieve anything sound from this.
ICP: Is AKP always wrong?
KO: Wrong corollary. In the narrow sense, the ruling classes of Turkey can be “right” in particular. For instance, when Erdoğan condemned Israel government by saying “you know very well how to kill”, he was right in the narrow sense, he said the truth. Or when he stated “it is unfair that a few big powers rule the world”, again he was right. But we preferred to expose AKP government’s hypocrisy instead of applauding him. We are not public notaries giving grades to our class enemy. Let us not forget that we struggle for socialism.
ICP: About Syria, the AKP government claims that it was right to shoot down the jet and it will not let any violation of its airspace. Russia, on the other hand, says that no such “violation” has taken place
KO: This is not the only thing that Russia says; it also states that it is “a hostile offense to down the jet even if there was an airspace violation.” However, we must take the matter out of the arguments about the “violation.” Turkey’s Syrian policy is entirely wrong. There is no need to open the black box of the jet, since there is an immense number of documents and evidences about the crimes of Erdoğan and his friends. They armed and financially supported the forces mobilized to topple down Assad administration in Syria. They have already accepted it. We call these forces "terrorists" whereas they call them "freedom fighters". Russian jet was shot down not to secure Turkey but to secure those forces. There is more… The action serves the goal to keep the NATO-Russia tension heated. There is nothing to justify in this.
ICP: If we ask more directly, what do you say about Assad’s position and the Russian aid?
KO: When I say that communists are concerned with the wrongness, illegitimacy of the basis I did not mean that we close our eyes to the concrete developments. From the start of the Syrian crisis, our party stood against the dirty war against Syria carried out by the USA, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel and other countries. We did not do that to support Assad, but to take a stand against the imperialist aggression. It is clear that Assad has a positive role in strengthening the resistance in Syria. We do not have the intention to tar everyone in the same brush. But we know that what is happening in Syria today is also a result of the policies of Assad government. It was the same Assad who had opened the country to liberalization and strived to develop good relations with the Western imperialists before the internal conflicts began.
ICP:Then what will be the criteria if we do not put them on the same equation?
KO: Since Marx, communists adopted a principle when determining their position on international matters: what do the interests of the world revolution necessitate? Today, there is not a world revolution on the rise, but the historical interests of it still exist. These interests require the failure of the imperialist aggression against Syria. Assad is already an actor and is accountable for his people, so I skip that. But opposing Iran and Russia for their taking side with the Syrian resistance even if they do it according to their interests is not reasonable for communists. Yet we must keep in mind that what Russia and some other regional powers do only helps the people of the region gain some time. The working class and the revolutionary movements are weak in the Middle East. And there will be more suffering unless they get stronger. Today there is not harmony but competition and conflict in the capitalist world. Clash of interests is deepening even between the seemingly allied countries. Relations between the USA, Germany, France and Britain are fragile. It is absurd to mention of an absolute partnership between Russia and People’s Republic of China. The world is open to new developments. An escalating competition between monopolies merely means new wars, occupations, and military interventions. What communists have to do under such circumstances is to raise the struggle against the bourgeois governments in their countries in order both to prevent the war and to fulfill their historical responsibilities. This is valid for Turkey, for Russia, for Greece and so forth. Let us not forget that what lies behind ethnic and sectarian violence today is the enormous clashes regarding energy sector and working class has no place in that!
ICP: But aren't there distinctions among the international powers? For instance large powers such as Russia and the USA?
KO: The fact that the USA is at the top of the current world order does not justify other bourgeois states. After all, every state represents the interests of its own dominant classes and for a long time, there have been no common grounds left between such interests and the interest of the working classes. Thus, the communists have to take a stance independent of the bourgeoisie in any condition, and avoid serving the interests of any capitalist class. On the other hand, if we take the interests of the world revolution into consideration, it is crucial to depotentiate the USA, its allies, and the NATO. From the perspective of peoples, it seems crucial to mobilize our own resources and intensify the struggles against occupations, foreign interventions, and military bases. No one can claim that this overlaps with the Russia’s foreign policy. There are no connections between Russia’s competition against the USA, and our anti-imperialist position. Our ally in Russia is the working class and its representatives. It does not make any difference to us which international capitalist faction owns the energy sources and energy transfer lines.
ICP: Does KP consider Russia as an imperialist state?
KO: This is a question deserving a quite comprehensive answer. First of all, I must state that our party will take the concept of “imperialism” as a conference topic in 2016 under the light of current developments, and Russia will be the subject matter of a detailed discussion. If KP has not described Russia as an imperialist country up to now, this is not because of its sympathy to the Russian monopolies, but because of our meticulous attention on the Marxist-Leninist theory. As being a fact and a concept, imperialism was not invented by Lenin for the first time. What Lenin pointed out was the fact that capitalist monopolies lie behind imperialism, despite the suggestions to hold it as merely a foreign policy attitude. In this sense, imperialism is a new stage of capitalism and is not solely a policy matter. The term implies economic, political and ideological aspects and must be used carefully. From the outset, our party has adopted an uncompromising position against all imperialist powers and institutions, unlike some views that hold it simply to be the US imperialism and to think of the EU as a preferable option for instance. Along the same line, our party’s doors are closed to any sort of collaboration or alliance with certain factions of capitalist classes. Yet, we think that the term “imperialism” should not be used randomly. Imperialism overlaps with the monopoly phase of capitalism but is not identical with it. Today, there are a few countries where the capitalism has not taken a monopolistic character, and if we widely use the term based on that, it will surely loose its analytical value. We will discuss all these in the conference. And about Russia… It is a very dynamic capitalist country striving to open itself a space in the international area based on its colossal resources, since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. One needs to approach such a country together with tendencies and processes. It is clear that Russian Federation is on its way to become an imperialist country. So, using the term when referring to Russia is not only a scientific matter, but also a political choice. Our party has the opinion that all the capitalist countries have a tendency of turning into an imperialist power, but only some of them have the quality.
ICP: It is clear that Putin has become a popular figure and gained wide support in the Western public opinion, and even in Turkey. What would you say about it?
KO: His popularity is on the rise, because he has the advantage. On the opposite side, there are timeworn politicians such as Obama, Merkel, and Erdoğan. He is considered as brighter, wittier, and more reassuring. But as Marxists, we have to consider whose benefits the politicians defend. Putin represents Russian capitalism. Capitalists are nowhere right, and they never create goodness. To those who consider Putin a leader of principles, I must remind them his complimentary words for Erdoğan in 2014. At that time, we had said that it was not Putin to decide what kind of a person Erdoğan is. Now he started to praise Donald Trump, the most controversial name among the candidates in the USA. His standpoint is the interests of Russia, not the interests of Russian working classes! The epoch, where the interests of the capitalist and the worker could come together has long gone in the history of humankind. But as I said before, our priority is to struggle against our own capitalist class. And it is Russian communists who should assess Putin in the first place.