The below text is taken from the defence of Devrimci Sol (Revolutionary Left) leaders and prisoners in August 1989 where the views of the revolutionaries of Turkey were outlined. This defence was written behind bars, and read out in court hearings.
The defence was transformed into a two-volume book called “We are Right, We will Win” (Haklıyız Kazanacağız), complied by the revolutionary leader Dursun Karataş, which is the manifesto of the revolutionaries who did not abandon the people of Turkey after the US backed military coup of 1980.
V- THE MINORITIES ISSUE IN OUR COUNTRY AND THE ARMENIAN ISSUE IN PARTICULAR
The national issue in our country is not only the Kurdish issue. In Anatolia, a mosaic of civilizations, one of the issues awaiting a solution today is the issue of minorities. In a country where the national question has not been solved, it is contrary to the nature of things that there is no issue of minorities. In our country, the oppression of minorities has never diminished, even though it takes different forms. In particular, Armenians, Greeks and Jews, the so-called “non-Muslims”, face a policy of total hostility, even though their existence is recognized and their language and cultural activities have legal legality. We will explain these in detail. It will be seen that the ruling classes of Turkey display an attitude totally hostile to the peoples. This policy, which is implemented in a multifaceted manner on a racist-fascist ground, has a wide dimension.
Undoubtedly, the policy of exploitation of the bourgeoisie lies at the basis of the policy of oppressing the peoples shaped by multifaceted relations of interest. Particularly when one considers the clannish thinking and expansionist ambitions of the ruling classes of Turkey, it will be seen that the dimensions of this are much wider.
What is the minorities issue?
The minority issue is part of the national issue. Minorities can be defined as groups of peoples who do not live collectively on a certain territory and do not constitute a national concentration, but who have their own language, culture, customs and habits, and unity of history. The existence of minorities means the existence of groups of peoples who, despite the process of nation-building and the disintegration of peoples in the processes of upheaval that preceded it, and who therefore lose their status as national communities, retain the characteristics we have mentioned to one degree or another, and who are able to show resistance to preserve their characteristics despite all external factors and carry them forward to the present day. At this point, Marxist-Leninists cannot ignore these groups of people on the grounds that minorities do not constitute national communities. For the free development of these groups of peoples who speak their own languages and maintain their cultural activities, first of all, all forms of oppression must be eliminated.
The issues of minorities are the free use of their own language, education in their mother tongue, the free exercise of their own activities, the elimination of national humiliation.
Minorities have the absolute right to preserve and develop their own language on the basis of the principle of equality. The opposite situation means that minorities are educated in foreign schools, their initiative is blocked in state institutions and social organizations, and their development is stifled, which contradicts the Marxist-Leninist policy of equality of all nations and minorities.
The policy of oppression and assimilation of minority peoples in our country, such as Circassians, Arabs, Armenians, etc. is an indication that the racist-fascist ideology and policy is based on hostility to peoples. The issue of peoples (or nations) exposes the inhuman face of the regime and proves that opposing it is a human duty. Those who come out as democrats and progressives in our country and ignore the oppression of the Kurdish nation and minorities, and sometimes give direct and indirect approval and support, should know well that the politics of national oppression excludes the existence of democracy even in the bourgeois sense. Talking about exploitation, oppression, democracy and human rights without opposing the politics of oppressing peoples is hypocrisy to say the least.
Therefore, everyone who lives in this country, who has a modicum of responsibility towards history and humanity, who respects themselves, who has not sold their soul to capital, must oppose and condemn the politics of oppressing peoples. We would like to remind again that a country being more or less democratic (even in the bourgeois sense) is directly related to the elimination of national oppression. Whoever does not want to deceive themselves must oppose the racist-chauvinist approach of the bourgeoisie.
A- Being a Member of a Minority in Turkey is a “Crime”
We have already mentioned that the policy of oppression, assimilation and genocide against minorities in our country has two features that are the same in essence but different in form. The first is the Muslim minorities (Arabs, Circassians, etc.). The approach of the ruling classes to these minorities is one of complete ignorance. Since their existence is fundamentally denied, no institutions and organizations that reflect their national characteristics are allowed. Their language is ignored and their culture and traditional habits are suppressed. In short, a policy of melting is practiced in every aspect.
The second are the Greek, Armenian, Assyrian, etc. minorities called non-Muslims. These have their own “national” institutions imposed by the imperialists in the Treaty of Lausanne. For example, they can speak their language freely, study in their schools, preserve their religious (church) and folkloric institutions. But although these rights exist legally, they have no practical validity. Perhaps the institutions of these minorities are not openly shut down or attacked, but through a multifaceted demagoguery and propaganda, these peoples are virtually isolated. These peoples are oppressed with unbridled chauvinism. The most concrete example of this is the Armenians…”
Being Armenian in Turkey is almost like being a criminal. The publications of all bourgeois press and media organizations, especially Tercüman newspaper, are the clearest indication of this. Armenians do not have the right to live; having relations with Armenians, being friends with Armenians is a crime worse than the worst.
The main theme of Armenophobia, which is even the subject of TV series (such as Duvardaki Kan), is this: “Armenians are the most despicable people in the world, alien to all values of humanity, perpetrators of the most despicable crimes, and above all, sworn enemies of the Turks!” This is carried out to such an extent that wherever there is an Armenian event, it is the “headquarters of the enemies of the Turks!” This reckless demagogic attack resembles the fatwas for the “extermination of all Armenians”.
For example, the Military Prosecutor’s Office of the Adana Martial Law Command, which tried to put a revolutionary on trial during the September 12 junta, called this revolutionary “Son of an Armenian” as an insult in the indictment it prepared. “The fact that Armenianness can be considered the most insulting swear word is not limited to the ramblings of an ignorant prosecutor. It reflects state policy and is widely practiced.
Armenian enmity is fuelled with all kinds of lies. “Armenians have massacred Turks throughout history!” For example, human skeletons found en-masse in Erzurum in 1987 were presented as massacres committed by Armenians (^things done during the imperialist war of partition) and TV, radio, press and media preached for months on the “monstrosity” and “Turco phobia” of Armenians!
Being objective about Armenians, or speaking or writing about them without swearing, is more than enough to be censured. For example, recently, a lawsuit was filed against the responsible director for “praising Armenians” after a section on Armenians was included in the encyclopaedia “Great Britannica”.
In short, Armenophobia knows no boundaries. Being Armenian or talking about the historical and current rights of Armenians is a crime that must be punished. There is also an aspect of this against the people and revolutionaries.
Armenian Enmity has become an Inseparable Part of the Attack on the People and Revolutionaries
The first aspect of the hostile policy towards minorities, especially Armenians, is naturally to create enmities between peoples, to keep nationalist prejudices alive, and thus to divide and fragment their struggles. At the same time, it gives legitimacy to the policies of oppressing, assimilation and genocide of nations and minorities; it creates a mass base for fascism by fuelling nationalism, blurs the class consciousness of the masses of the people, and is shaped as an effective tool in ensuring depoliticization and neutralizing reactions.
There is also its practical formulation. This new use of the Armenian hostility, which has been updated in parallel with the acceleration of the class struggle, is to defame revolutionaries and justify the policy of torture and massacre.
Before each attack, examples of chauvinism woven with hatred and hatred were exhibited, and one of the sides of the distortion and smear campaigns against our Movement has always been the inclusion of Armenian enmity.
“DEVRİMCİ SOL collaborates with Armenians”
“Armenian militants shelter in leftist organizations”
“Treacherous alliance; Armenian- DEVRİMCİ SOL decides to unite in action”
“Evil organizations have united; ASALA, DEVRİMCİ SOL and Kurdish organizations have agreed to destroy Turkey.”
“Holy alliance; Armenian-Greeks and communists united against Turkey”
The storm of lies and demagoguery did not stop there, fantastic interpretations typical of idiots were made. For example, the participation of a person of Armenian nationality in the struggle was immediately labelled in large print as “Left-Armenian Alliance”. According to this racist thinking, which drew strict lines of demarcation between peoples, elements of various peoples could not come together for certain purposes.
Through various publications with titles almost exactly like this and contents consisting of enmity against Armenians and revolutionaries, it was aimed to denigrates us and our struggle, and create the image of an organization “whose whole aim is to destroy Turkey”, and thus to cover up the reality of the class struggle and to develop nationalist feelings, as well as being fictitious.
Such lies, distortions and demagoguery are the classic methods of the ruling classes as well as the expression of their impasse. Trying to defame our Movement with such methods will turn into a weapon that hits its owner. Let no one have any doubt about this. Our Revolutionary Movement is a force that emerged from the class and national struggle of the peoples of Turkey. The objective basis of its struggle is the exploitation of working people to the bone, fascist, reactionary and anti-democratic oppression, national oppression, assimilation and genocide against the Kurdish nation and national minorities. Despite the extraordinary advances in science and technology, the ruling classes have not been able to validate the lie that the class struggle is the work of “agitators” and the “agitators” have never been eliminated as the oppressed and exploited masses themselves. The conquest of 1/3 of the bourgeoisie’s strongholds in the world by the proletariat is the most meaningful answer to this.
Yes, they have made it their destiny not to learn from history. They want to overshadow the historical and political legitimacy of the Revolutionary Movement and destroy its justification by using inter-people hostilities, regional, religious and ethnic divisions. They want to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, to create enmity between the peoples, to distort their consciousness with nationalist prejudices; on the other hand, to overshadow the prestige and justification of the struggle of the Revolutionary Movement by relying on the reaction caused by this enmity. But these attacks will in no way be able to intimidate and destroy the struggle of the peoples, nor will they be able to stop the revolutionary struggle aiming for the brotherhood of the peoples.
In short, the anti-Armenian policy of fascism has also become a part of the ideological-political attack against revolutionaries. For this reason, it is inevitable to examine the Armenian question from a historical perspective – albeit briefly – and present our approach. This will not only expose bourgeois chauvinism but also answer its demagoguery and slander.
B- In One Aspect, Armenian History is a History of Genocide
Anatolia has been a place that has constantly changed hands due to trade routes, where waves of migration have come and gone, where invasions have taken place, where civilizations have been established and destroyed. Armenians are one of the peoples who have taken part in this rich mosaic of Anatolia and have added something of themselves to this richness.
The Armenians, a part of Eastern Christianity, became settled (or semi-settled) in the southern part of what is now the Soviet Union, dating back to the II century BC. This period saw the fusion of the Urartu and Armenian tribes and new tribes arriving in the region, and the establishment of the Armenian Kingdom in the II century BC. However, although they contributed to many civilizations after that, their organization as large states remained very limited.
The years of the spread of Islam (X century AD) were the years of stagnation of the Armenian Christian civilization. Although the Armenian Christian civilization showed a revival in this period as a result of the Byzantine rule over Anatolia, in the XII and XIII centuries, some parts lived under the rule of Turkish princes in Azerbaijan and Anatolia, while others were integrated with the Georgian Kingdom. This integration led to the emergence of a rich Armenian culture around the monasteries in the upper basin of the Aras. After the conquest of Asia Minor (Anatolia) by the Turks, the other Armenians were expelled and retreated to Cilicia. They established a small state there in the XII century. This state reached its most developed form in the XIII century.
This situation lasted until the establishment of the Ottoman Empire, after which they lived in scattered communities under Ottoman rule. Armenians live predominantly in eastern Anatolia. The six provinces where they live most densely are Sivas, Elazığ, Erzurum, Bitlis, Diyarbakır and Van. Of course, these are the main settlements. They are also scattered in other provinces.
Armenians in the Ottoman Period
During the Ottoman period, Armenians continued to maintain their ethnic characteristics, culture and traditions. The main reason for this is that the Armenians had a more advanced civilization and therefore it was historically impossible for them to be assimilated by the Ottomans, who had a more backward civilization. Despite constant oppression, Armenians managed to preserve their existence. Ottoman sovereignty was limited to taxation and administrative control and could not disrupt the internal structure of the society.
At this point, we would like to respond to a ridiculous as well as irrational claim of chauvinism. Chauvinism attributes the fact that the peoples under Ottoman rule preserved their culture, traditions and social structures to the democratic (!) character of the Ottoman rule! Let us point out that looking for “democracy” in the Ottoman state is a futile endeavour.
“Every conquest by a more barbarian people disturbs of course the economic development and destroys numerous productive forces. But in the immense majority of cases where the conquest is permanent, the more barbarian conqueror has to adapt himself to the higher “economic situation” as it emerges from the conquest; he is assimilated by the vanquished and in most cases he has even to adopt their language. But where – apart from cases of conquest–the internal state power of a country becomes antagonistic to its economic development as at a certain stage occurred with almost every political power in the past, the contest always ended with the downfall of the political power.” (Anti-Dühring, Engels, p.112)
The Ottomans, with their strong centralized bureaucratic organization, were not assimilated by the conquered peoples, but they also failed to dismantle and assimilate the internal structure of these peoples. This is because they were at a more backward level of civilization. The Armenians had a more advanced civilization because of the role they played in trade, their relations with the Christian civilization of Western Europe, etc.
The economic and social structure of Armenians in the Ottoman period has its own unique characteristics. In the early periods, the economic and social structure, which was shaped by a segment of the population engaged in trade in the big cities and families engaged in farming in the East, became more pronounced from the XIX century onwards. The Armenians’ relationship with trade dates back to before the Ottomans. This activity became even more prominent in the Ottoman social structure. The Ottoman Empire had left trade to non-Muslims in order to prevent the formation of an economic power against itself among its own subjects. Therefore, Armenians, together with Greeks, were an important power in trade. As a matter of fact, under Ottoman rule, Armenian and Greek colonies were established in Istanbul and Izmir, and Armenian and Greek capital created economic power along the railroad routes.
In short, they are characterized in two ways. Those who are engaged in commerce in the big cities, supported by European capital, and those who live in Anatolia as farmers and small businessmen. Although there are notable notables or landlords among the Armenians in Anatolia, their numbers are very small.
In general, it can be said as follows;
“Minorities will struggle to occupy both ends of the stratification, occupying the economic and social space between the Turkish gentry and the big European import-export companies” (Azgelişmişlik Sürecinde Türkiye, Stefanos YERASİMOS, Volume 2, page.498)
Another feature arising from these characteristics is that minorities are the first to experience capitalist development. The capital accumulated in trade gradually forms the first accumulation in industry. For example, in 1914, 85% of the capital invested within the borders of the Ottoman Empire belonged to minorities, while only 15% belonged to Turks.
The Process of Armenian Nationalization, the Armenian National Movement and the Armenian Genocide
Armenians were among the first peoples to enter the process of nation-building during the Ottoman Empire with their commercial activities and their first capitalist development. Anything else would be contrary to the laws of social development. For this reason, despite being a minority in the 6 provinces where they are most densely populated, they are the people with the most developed social organization. Armenian schools and education in the Armenian language have the most advanced level among the peoples within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, the historical characteristics of the Armenian church (being closed to itself and forming the core of the social hierarchy) have been an important factor in the process of nation building. Religion was also a unifying factor in the establishment of national states by other peoples within the Ottoman borders. In addition, the relationship formed by Christianity and the colonial ambitions of the European states were also among the factors that accelerated the process of nationalization of oppressed peoples. Although the ruling classes explain the desire of the peoples to separate and establish their own states with the provocations of states such as Russia, England, etc., this is not only untrue, but also contrary to the laws of social development. The influence of these states has of course been there, but it is not foreign interventions that shape the phenomenon of the horizon, but the reactions created by the bourgeoisie’s desire for a “national market” and the politics of national oppression that emerged from capitalist development. We are not repeating this since we have explained it extensively in the context of the Kurdish national question.
The development of the idea of nationhood among the peoples living within the borders of the Ottoman Empire took on a new dimension especially after the French Revolution. In the multinational Ottoman Empire, the national struggle, which was an intra-state problem (market problem), took the form of the bourgeoisie of the oppressed peoples claiming their national markets and establishing their national states.
The first formation of the Armenian national movement, as can be seen in every movement, first begins within the framework of Armenian intellectuals. Although the first national formation began in the 1850s, the core of the Armenian national movement was formed by the grouping around the “Hunchak” newspaper published in 1887 by Armenian intellectuals in Europe. Although this intellectual movement aimed for a “socialist Armenia”, the nature of the movement was bourgeois national. The movement’s conception of socialism was very superficial and far from a materialist perspective. Apart from the Hunchak group, “Dashnakzutyun”, which was founded in Tbilisi in 1890, stated in its program published in 1892 that it aimed for a “socialist” Armenia. However, like Hunchak, Dashnakzutyun’s conception of socialism was superficial and blurred. The only difference was that Dashnakzutyun proposed armed struggle for the liberation of Armenia.
In the same period, it was possible to find other Armenian groups active in London. When Hunchak moved its headquarters to London in 1894, the Armenian national movement was mainly concentrated in London.
The national movements that started in Europe inevitably spread to Turkey in a short period of time and the first Armenian uprising broke out in 1893. Although the uprising, which was mainly concentrated in Kayseri, Amasya and Merzifon, developed on a national basis, it lacked the dimension to embrace the entire nation and social factors played an important role. Mahmud II’s policy of dismantling feudal units and high taxation, the drought of 1890-98, etc. were the sources of dissatisfaction. As a matter of fact, the fact that the first uprising was only partially reflected in the 6 provinces where Armenians were concentrated and generally developed in isolation from each other shows this concretely.
Although the first uprising was suppressed bloodily, riots continued between 1893-96. In 1895, events broke out in Istanbul. The events in Istanbul erupted after a demonstration was organized to attract the attention of European public opinion and turned into an uprising. This uprising also marked the beginning of the Armenian massacres. On October 5, 1895, 300 Armenians were massacred in Trabzon in retaliation for the assassination of the division commander and the attack on the government house in Erzurum. Massacres took place in Sivas-Malatya in November, Diyarbakır in December and Urfa in January 1896. In February 1896, according to calculations kept by foreign embassies, 400 thousand Armenians were massacred and hundreds of thousands were deported. The prevention of foreign intervention, which the Armenian committeemen had hoped for, created a favourable environment for massacres.
The main factors for the brutal crushing of the Armenian national movement can be listed as follows:
First, although the national movement took shape in the period of the bourgeois national movement, the Armenian big bourgeoisie was not qualified to lead the movement. Although it was in favour of the creation of its own “national market”, which was shaped as “Greater Armenia”, it did not have the courage to leap forward due to the possibility of losing these activities in a conflict that would arise due to the fact that it had trade and capital channels in the Ottoman Empire and that relations with European capitalism would face much greater obstacles than the new status, etc. It aimed to achieve its own state in a peaceful way that would not disturb the status quo and with the support of capitalist states such as Russia, England and Germany.
Therefore, the Armenian national movement, although supported by the national bourgeoisie, was formed without the effective leadership of the bourgeoisie.
Although it had its initial formation within the church hierarchy, it took shape mainly as a radical petty-bourgeois nationalist movement. While the movement’s vaguely socialist elements led it to completely withdraw the support of the big bourgeoisie, it could not get the church behind it, and was also viewed with distance by the Western capitalist states. In addition, the fact that it was fragmented within itself and that it was unable to achieve national organization also played an important role in its defeat. In particular, the lack of full support from the church, which is an important unifying element in nationalization, deprived the movement of an important basis for bringing all sections of the nation together at a high level.
Secondly, the national movement, like the Armenian bourgeoisie, relied heavily on the Western capitalist states. While the movement was shaped on the basis of such an idea, the radical and “socialist” elements of the movement were repulsive, and as a result, it did not find the support it had hoped for and thus remained in a vacuum. The August 26, 1896 attack on the headquarters of the Ottoman Bank in Istanbul and the dissatisfaction of the European states in the face of the occupation action is the clearest example of this. Moreover, it is a mistake in itself for a movement, even if it is of bourgeois national character, to act largely on the support of the capitalist Western states. It must be known from the beginning that the support of capitalist Europe for colonial purposes will be limited and can be reversed at any moment.
Thirdly, the Armenian national movement not only lacked the support and solidarity of other nations under the Ottoman Empire, but also faced attacks from Kurdish tribal militias, especially the Hamidi-ye Regiments (1892). The Hamidiye Regiments played a major role in the massacres of Armenians. In addition to the property contradictions of the local ruling circles, years of hostile propaganda also played a major role in the fact that the Armenian movement received attacks instead of support from the Anatolian people in general. The initial clashes gradually fed each other and prepared the ground for the massacres that followed. The share of Armenian reprisals in deepening the enmity between peoples should also be noted.
The Armenian movement with national demands regained its vigor during the period of the Committee of Union and Progress. This was partly due to the atmosphere created by the declaration of the Constitutional Monarchy. On October 3, 1913, Armenians held a meeting in Istanbul and decided to defend national rights as a whole in the elections. Pursuant to this decision, the Armenian Patriarch sent a delegation* to the Ministry of Justice asking for Armenians to be represented in the Parliament in proportion to their population (2 million Armenians should be represented by 20 deputies). Although this proposal was not taken seriously, the Committee of Union and Progress did not close the doors completely and continued negotiations with Armenian representatives, accepting the proposal on the condition that they defend their nation and adhere to the ideas and policies of the organization. As a matter of fact, 14, 13 and 13 deputies in the 1908, 1912 and 1914 Assemblies, respectively, were Armenians. (Source: İttihat ve Terakki, Feroz AHMED, pg.255) *
However, it became clear that the Committee of Union and Progress would not recognize the national rights of Armenians. This can also be identified by Armenian organizations. In 1910, the Dashnakzutyun Committee decided to arm the Armenians at its congress in Copenhagen, while in 1913, the Hunchak Committee pointed to the anti-Armenian policy of the Committee of Union and Progress at its congress in Constanza. (Talât Pasha’nın Anıları, p. 72) Another change in this period was that Russia now adopted a policy against the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. (Talât Pasha’nın Anıları, p. 72). The imperialist war of division was considered as a great opportunity for Armenians who relied on external powers (European states) rather than relying on their own strength and internal dynamics. Based on the observation that the war weakened the Ottoman Empire, Armenian uprisings broke out again and between 1915-20, the lands where Armenians lived changed hands between Armenians and Turks four times.
The massacres and deportations called the Armenian genocide mainly coincided with this period. Aware that the Armenian issue had created an environment of weakness for them, the Union and Progress pashas decided to solve the issue once and for all.
“Thereupon, a law on the ’emigration of Armenians’ was prepared at the General Headquarters and submitted to the Council of Ministers” (Talaat Pasha’nın Anıları, p. 81),
With the “deportation” law of 1915, Armenians were expelled from their homeland and 1-1.5 million Armenians were massacred. This event, which has gone down in history as the great Armenian genocide, is a fact, even though it is denied by Turkish chauvinism today.
Armenians were in a reactionary position during the War of Independence
During the Ottoman period, the Armenian national movement had a just basis. However, for the reasons we have explained, it did not succeed and became a tool of the imperialists. Despite all its faults and shortcomings, this movement was supported by Marxist-Leninists. Its demands were justified. To take a stand against their demands to establish their own state, in whatever name, was to be a partner in the bloody policies of the Ottoman pashas. Having such evaluations stemming from a social-chauvinist approach leads to supporting today’s chauvinism, which means betraying the cause of the proletariat.
However, it is very difficult to say that there is any justification for their attitude during the War of Independence…
Although the Armenian national movement has a justifiable basis in itself with its demand for free self-determination, it is a collaborator of imperialism in the current conjuncture. Although this situation reflects the “divide and rule” policies of the imperialists, it is mainly due to the fact that the Armenian national movements have the idea and attitude that they will achieve success by relying on the European states since the first formation. Despite the massacres, the Armenian national movements failed to learn the necessary lessons and made becoming an independent state under the guidance of imperialism their starting point.
Armenians played a leading role in the occupation of Anatolia. In particular, they could not escape the guidance of the British and French imperialists, and in many places (for example, in Marash) they fought in French uniforms. This attitude was repeated in Soviet Armenia in the form of British collaboration.
The historical meaning of this attitude is clear. In the age of imperialism and proletarian revolutions, movements that strengthen imperialism and thus weaken the proletarian movement are objectively reactionary, no matter how justified they may be in themselves. The situation of the Armenians is no different… Moreover, this attitude is reactionary not only because of the progressive content of the Kemalist movement in the current conjuncture, but also because of its collaboration with imperialism, its position against the Soviet Revolution, its failure to see the fact that imperialism is the new social basis of national oppression. And it cannot be supported by Marxist-Leninists.
C- The Solution to the Issue of Minorities in Our Country is in the Anti-Imperialist Anti-Oligarchic Revolution
The expulsion and massacres of Armenians from their homeland continued during the War of Independence. In the new Republic of Turkey, Armenians are no longer a national community. As a result of the policies of ‘deportation’ and massacres, they lost their national community characteristics and dispersed to various parts of the world. Most of them migrated to Soviet Armenia.
Despite the oppression and assimilation of all minorities, which we stated at the beginning, in our country, and of Armenians in particular, the Armenian question remained out of the spotlight until the first half of the 1970s. In other words, it was almost forgotten. However, in the first half of the 1970s, Armenian movements outside Turkey, particularly in European countries and the United States, started to be seen towards Turkey. The Armenian question, which became more topical by targeting the members of Turkey’s missions abroad, brought with it the bourgeoisie’s demagoguery and propaganda that fuelled Armenian hostility.
Although there has been a general pause in violent forms of struggle in the last year or two, Armenian demands against Turkey are expressed in various forms. The demands and goals of the struggle of the Armenian nationalist organizations are not to put an end to the policy of oppression and humiliation of the Armenian minority in Turkey and to put full equality of nations and national minorities against the policy of enmity between nations. Rather, the goal is the establishment of an Armenian state in Anatolia, shaped by bourgeois nationalism. These are two different things and the platform for their solution is different.
In general, the demands of Armenian nationalism can be listed as follows:
- Recognition of the responsibility of the Turkish state for the massacres against Armenians, especially the 1915 genocide, and payment of compensation
- Not to prevent Armenians abroad from returning to their lands
- Our approach to these demands will be in the light of historical materialism. Just as we are against Armenian nationalism, which is shaped as changing the historically formed objective reality, we are also against the attitude of ignoring what happened in history with a deep chauvinism.
It is true that Armenians were massacred and expelled from their homeland during the Ottoman period. The massacres are inhumane and must be condemned. The Ottoman Empire is responsible for these massacres, as well as the Republic of Turkey, the perpetuator of this policy. Saying this and acting in this direction is above all necessary to eliminate the enmity between the peoples and to establish the necessary trust. It has never been the job of Marxist-Leninists to cover up the crimes of the ruling classes. It is a dark social chauvinist who claims otherwise. On the other hand, Armenians have the right to return to their lands. They can return if they wish, but this can never be for the purpose of creating an artificial Armenian national community in Anatolia. The Armenians who will return will live together with the peoples of Turkey under conditions of full equality, as brothers and sisters.
To go as far as establishing an “Armenian State” in Anatolia is not only unrealistic, it would be an attempt to remake history, which is not the job of Marxist-Leninists to correct historical injustices. It is necessary to point out and condemn historical injustice once, but this does not mean trying to recreate the historically established reality. Besides, wouldn’t trying to correct historical injustices create new injustices? Today, another nation (Kurds) lives in the places that Armenians claim as their “homeland”. Won’t the creation of an Armenian state in these lands lead to the Kurds becoming landless? The aim of Marxist-Leninists is not to create new national conflicts, but to eliminate national conflicts. Moreover, Armenians have fused with the economic and social structure of the countries where they live. To what extent would it be realistic to ask them to come to Anatolia?
In short, for Marxist-Leninists today, there can be no question of correcting the injustices that Armenians have faced in history. Such a demand not only contradicts historical development, but is also a reactionary demand stemming from nationalism. Therefore, the Armenian question in Turkey today is not the return of Armenians to the lands where they lived a century ago and the establishment of an Armenian state there, but the elimination of the oppression of the Armenian minority in Turkey.
For Marxist-Leninists today, the issue to be fought for is to put an end to all forms of oppression of minorities, to eradicate the Armenian enmity, and to create the conditions for full equality between peoples. This will only be realized by overthrowing imperialism and oligarchy, the implementers of all kinds of national oppression, and will become a reality in the revolutionary people’s power. The Anti-Imperialist, Anti-Oligarchic People’s Revolution is the solution platform for the Kurdish national question as well as the issue of minorities. Forms of solution other than the people’s revolution, which will triumph through the common struggle of our peoples, are incompatible with objective reality and are damaging to the struggle. We have always stated and always state that Marxist-Leninists are not nationalists, but internationalists. The attitude of the Armenian nationalists is a concrete example of how nationalism can lead to a racist understanding that goes as far as rewriting history. This attitude is full of lessons for those who struggle against chauvinism and social chauvinism.
As we have already pointed out in our discussion of the issue, the demands of minorities are to speak their own language freely, to be educated in their own language, to preserve their folkloric characteristics and to participate freely in social activities. With the disappearance of the social foundations of national oppression, these conditions will arise spontaneously. Today, there are 60-70 thousand Armenians living in Turkey (it is not possible to estimate the exact number. Because many Armenians hide their ethnic identity due to Armenophobia). Although these rights seemingly exist for Armenians, as a result of Armenophobia, they are unable to exercise these rights, are humiliated, excluded from society and are unable to develop their national characteristics. This is also the case for Greeks. The issues of Muslim minorities are more comprehensive. As we have already mentioned, their ethnic existence is completely denied, thus increasing the oppression.
The Circassians were forcibly expelled from their country and deported to Ottoman lands in 1864 as a result of the “Russification” policy of the Russian Tsardom against the Caucasus. According to various studies, the number of Circassians deported is around 1 million. The Ottoman administration tried to assimilate the Circassians who took refuge in its territory by distributing them in small groups to various parts of the empire and thus fragmenting them. After the War of Independence, the assimilation policy was continued against the Circassians who remained in Anatolian lands during the Republican period, but despite all this, the Circassians have been able to preserve their existence as a national community to a great extent until today. An anti-imperialist, anti-oligarchic people’s revolution will provide all opportunities for the Circassians, along with other national minorities, to exercise their national rights to the fullest extent and to develop their cultural characteristics, and will consider the progressive and positive values and traditions of the Circassian people as part of the common cultural richness of the peoples of Turkey.
Stating the fact that the issue will be solved by the anti-imperialist, anti-oligarchic people’s revolution does not require ignoring the oppression and hostility against Armenians in particular and all minorities in general. We Marxist-Leninists know that it is our duty to oppose the oppression of minorities, especially the Armenian hostility. And again, we know that in the Turkey of the future, Armenians and other minorities will participate in the fight for the creation of the future of humanity together on the basis of brotherly, complete trust and unity.
Here we would also like to mention the ASALA demagogy, which is used to defame revolutionary-patriotic movements and our Movement and to destroy its prestige in the eyes of the people. The purpose of the “ASALA-REVOLUTIONARY-LEFT COLLABORATION” demagoguery originating from the political police and MIT is obvious: It is to destroy the legitimacy of the revolutionaries in the eyes of the people by using the prejudices created by chauvinism and the mistakes and errors of the Armenian organizations as a basis.
There can be no question of our “alliance” or “unity of action” with ASALA. ASALA’s form of struggle, perspective and goals are beyond our understanding and do more harm than good to the struggle of the peoples of Turkey. Its political goals are the product of a reactionary approach. Moreover, as the ruling classes try to show, the Armenian nation and ASALA are not identical. While we reject the relationship with ASALA, we embrace the issues of the Armenian nation. It is clear that the reason for our refusal to ally with ASALA is not the primitive demagogies of the oligarchy, but the ideological and political nature of ASALA that is incompatible with our understanding.
We don’t want to prolong the discussion further. We are fighting for an independent and democratic Turkey. This requires first and foremost the elimination of all forms of national oppression. We oppose the hostile policy towards peoples (Armenians in particular) and this is a constant principle of our struggle. But at the same time, we also oppose movements that are motivated by nationalism, that are directed towards the wrong goals and that harm the struggle.
We repeat: we fight for the emancipation of the proletariat, we stand for the unity of the peoples. The way this happens is the end of national oppression on peoples. Those who attempt to shadow the class character of our Movement on the basis of hostility towards Armenians will be disappointed. Despite all kinds of defamation, we will stand up for the just demands of the minorities.