One of the main axes of the Second Republic, founded with 2011 election in Turkey, as confirmed by the 10thCongress of Communist Party of Turkey, is “religionization” of the political regime and social structure. Over the last year, new and accelerating steps are taken in order to strengthen this axis.
It is seen that certain practices, which were questioned a couple of years ago whether they were marginal examples or precursory steps, are generalized and they gradually become parts of a totality. Religion becoming part of the educational system, direct prohibitions against the consumption of alcoholic beverages in certain localities and initiation of a religious TV channel run by the state itself are not individual practices, not individual issues but complementary elements of the program of AKP, the governing party.
Sovereign power of Turkey needs Islamic relations of charity in order to fulfil the gaps left by the disappearing social state, the Sunni identity to extend its role in the Middle East, the idea of “religious fellowship” to create “solution” to the Kurdish problem, exhaustion of arts and culture to withhold the resources of progressive ideologies, spread and deepening of religious ideas to legitimize injustice.
In this context, insulting attacks against atheism do not indicate an insane reactionary tendency, but they are essential elements of the reconstruction of dominant ideology. The new constitution, if it is presented, will be imposed upon the masses through religion, not through bourgeois liberalism or imperialist “globalisation”.
11th Congress of the Communist Party of Turkey feels itself responsible for defining this process and answering the question of how communists should oppose. The result is the following document:
A. The General Approach
1. Religion and liberation of labourers
Enlightenment meant expulsion of religion from its hegemony over social and political life and its effect on the political ideologies so that people could handle their destinies. The advance of Enlightenment, which continued for centuries, liberated the people from being desperate slaves or weak puppets of divine powers and created the necessary background of modern class struggles. Workers movement and the left must define themselves in a secular perspective in their struggle for a world without exploitation.
This fact does not necessarily mean that all individuals as parts of the struggle, must be non-believers. It is a historical and objective fact that religious ideas become relevant whenever the cumulative fund of knowledge of the humankind faces with a question that it does not answer yet. It is obvious that such a fact cannot be confronted by a vulgar “religiousness”.
Moreover it is not true that religion had always blocked progress. Development of religions is generally a part of the intellectual development of humanity. New religions had been able to express the struggles of the oppressed and to represent historical progress.
Undoubtedly, reconciliation of the social system with science will extend the area of secular thought within the process. This reconciliation will be granted by socialism. Hence socialist revolution and the establishment of socialist system are the first couple of steps that must be taken to remove the obstacles of religious prejudices against social progress.
In this sense, the communist movement honestly adopts the individual freedom of belief. This does not conflict with the struggle of communists to clean the social life, the area of politics and political ideologies etc. from religiosity.
Socialist movement can still have positive relations with religious tendencies in some countries and in certain conditions. TKP determines that these examples cannot be generalized and our country cannot be one of the isolated examples of such a relationship.
2. Inheritance of the Enlightenment and communism
The link between bourgeoisie and values of enlightenment became weaker in time. Especially in times of reactionary movements, this attitude became stronger. The anti-communist campaign by transnational capital in the last quarter of the 20thCentury is one those. In this period, the capitalist system shifted to the right as a whole; religious ideologies and several kinds of reactionary ideas became widespread. The dominant positions of religious and reactionary movements today are directly related with anti-communism.
Communist movement adopts the bourgeois enlightenment by transforming it to the socialist enlightenment, giving way to the classless society. It is not surprising that Marxism, which methodologically excludes religiosity and stresses the revolutionary role of the working class, is the most willing and consistent doctrine of thought with regards to enlightenment.
On the other hand, the increasing proximity between bourgeoisie and religious reactionism urges direct role of religion in the struggle against working class. Dominant powers use the freedom of faith as a curtain to hide religious reactionism. Communist movement pays utmost attention not to fall into the traps on this way.
3. Enlightenment and Laicism in Turkey
Bourgeois revolution of Turkey is pragmatic, rather than being enlightened. Enlightened practices are applied as a part of central politics for a very limited period of time. Dominant powers generally chose to protect the religious reactionism and held it in reserve. Therefore, enlightenment is perceived as formal elements, such as the changes in apparel. It cannot be claimed that practices related to laicism brought a political motivation to the masses, or that they are embraced by that masses willingly.
Even under these limitations, there is an inheritance of enlightenment, which should be embraced by communist and progressive movement.
Moreover, the idea that pre-Republic period of Turkey is historically marked by religious reactionism is flawed. The problem of our country and the unique power of Sunnism are not a result of a long period of religionization of the society; instead these are related to the historical affair of religion with the political power. Else, the secular resources of the society cannot be said to be vein.
B. What is happening in the Second Republic?
1. Liquidation of Enlightenment
The Second Republic is not a preference of any particular reactionist fraction of the bourgeoisie; but it is the historical preference of the bourgeoisie as a whole. The internal conflicts of dominant classes supported and approved by imperialism are far from being deep and irreconcilable conflict of strategy. Second Republic represents a consensus of bourgeoisie for the purpose of renouncement of the inheritance of the enlightenment and liquidation of historical gains. Neoliberal attitudes and religious reactionism complete one another.
The only alternative of this liquidation is socialism. The communist movement has the first degree liability to encourage the whole progressive inheritance of our country and mobilise it for the struggle for socialism.
2. Limits of Second Republic
Even though the political authority has varied sources of power, it is not true to say that the regime of Second Republic will deepen to its ends. There are structural and historical limitations to the religionization of Turkish society. These limitations are not represented by the so-called “secular” fractions of proprietor dominant classes; rather, these limitations are represented by the modern working class, educated and skilled workers including doctors, engineers and teachers, intellectuals including artists and scientists, youth, women and Alevis.
It is obvious that this huge portion of population lacks a political representative or that its representatives have a reconciliatory and submissive attitude against Second Republic. This fact does not block the advancement of communist movement; rather it enhances the responsibility of it. Pessimist predictions, such say that the religious reactionism carries Turkey to an irrevocable darkness, to a dictatorship of sharia, must be totally neglected. Likewise, such approaches that oppose religious reactionism inevitably necessitates having a positive and political relationship with religion much also be denied.
The practical limitations to religious reactionism will, to a great extent, be determined by the links that the communist and revolutionary movement have with different social fractions.
3. Struggle is also extensive
The struggle of left must be extensive; just like the religious reactionism is not an isolated fact, an extreme point but a reflection of the unity of bourgeois dominance. The Sunni ideology will be carried to an extreme point if Turkey will be integrated to the imperialist scenarios in the Middle East; so, peace struggle against these scenarios will also undermine religious reactionism. The system tries to hold down the Kurdish people using the idea of “religious fellowship”; so, Kurdish workers’ participation in the class struggle will also weaken the religious reactionism. This kind of indirect links and their variations must be considered in the struggle program for the left.
C. Attacks on the “Sphere of Influence of the Left”
Second Republic attacks to the sphere of influence of the Left either by direct manipulations or by creating new opportunities and new environments for reactionary ideology.
1. The discourse of “Real Muslims”
Talking in the name of “real Muslims” and accepting the religion as a useful common ground when opposing the religious government is becoming gradually widespread. The Left cannot step back from the principle of excluding religion from the political sphere.
2. Religionization of the Alevi Opposition
The leftist tendencies of Alevi opposition were suppressed by radical measures after coup d’état in 1980. However, the effect of these measures by dominant power was limited. Today, policies devoted to reconstruct the Alevism as a sect of Islam are supported by some groups of Alevis themselves and demands in this direction are sometimes considered as progressive and democratic by the Left. The Left should promote the cultural characteristics of Alevism rather than religious ones; defend the solidarity aspects rather than sectarian relations. Additionally enhance ideological and political struggle in this context.
3. Religious intervention to the Kurdish Problem
Religious sects, Hezbollah, Barzani and tribalism as an integral part, became stronger in Kurdish society. As a result, religious reactionism consolidated in ideological sphere. All these are symptoms of Second Republic. Here again, the approach of religionization of the political area in the name of protecting the populist aspect is adopted. This is not a ground of struggle, but is a leakage of religious fundamentalism into the ranks of popular politics. Left should protect the secular aspect of awakening of Kurdish society and aim to strengthen this aspect.
4. Surrendering the worker class with religion
Various interventions are realized to weaken the workers’ identity in trade unions. Progressive trade-union movement must withstand to the transformation of trade-unions in line with AKP policies, not only via institutional competition, but also constituting a political, ideological and cultural resistance.
5. Pacification of intellectuals
Interventions of AKP to the area of culture, from theatres to TV shows, are effective as it uses the governing power. However, these interventions are not supported by the masses; they rely on a narrow group of people, who are extremely reactionist. This fact will not change even though the various prohibitions and oppressions may be effective in the short term. Artists will also protect their opponent position. However, resistance to this pressure by the artists can only be enhanced by political radicalisation, instead of reconciliation.
6. The discourse of religious minorities and democracy
An important aspect of conservatism is democracy being reduced to coexistence of religions, religious minorities. However, gains of democratisation can only be defined by the demands of labourers about their rights and freedoms. Left must stand against any gain of power by religious reactionism, not limited to Sunni Islam but including any other religions and sects. Left must uncover the role of state in this process and resist to the campaigns of “belief tourism” accompanying it.
7. Criminalisation of Atheism
Atheism is not a position to be directly transferred to the political sphere. The political position of atheists does not correspond to anti-religious propaganda. The reflection of atheism in politics should be secularism. Seemingly, AKP considered this aspect as a weak point and thought that atheists cannot resist directly to criminalisation of atheism and that they would hide themselves. However atheism is not the weaker point of enlightenment; it is rather the leading force of it. Left must overcome these efforts, which aim to discredit atheism, by a rational and effective counterattack. On the other hand, a certain kind of atheism which is not politicized enough and which limits itself to the debate of existence or nonexistence of god is developing recently, as an answer to religious reactionism. This kind of an answer will be ineffective after a certain period of time and there is a risk that it will be misused by reactionist agitators. So, Left must have a comprehensive, scientific, ideological and political approach to this issue, encouraging political organisation.
D. What Should Communist Do?
1. Communist Party of Turkey continues to defend the freedom of faith with all its sincerity.
2. TKP refuses to be part of the debates on a new constitution, which does not mean anything more than a juncture in the process of legalization and popularization of the Second Republic. TKP will remain indifferent to the attempts to make religion as one of the main axes of debates on the new constitution and struggle against these attempts.
3. TKP opposes the tendency to create a common value based upon the idea that the absolute majority of Turkish society consists of Sunni Muslims and denies any approach to define the society via religious references. TKP considers any organization with political, ideological and economic motives, rather than the compulsory assemblage of religious groups with the aim of worship, as illegitimate. TKP conducts an ideological struggle against the nonsense that these kinds of organizations are non-governmental organizations or they are a part of the democratic life.
4. TKP struggles against the utilization of religious values by political leaders and government executives as a means of political show off. Participation of political figures in mass prayers, political speeches with religious references, prayers in political or social activities are examples of the abuse of religion and violation of the freedom of faith.
TKP objects to constructions of mosques in the form of flashy religious complexes in city centres and historical places.
5. TKP opposes compulsory religion courses at schools. TKP defends that children under the age of 16 cannot be subjected to religious education in or outside the schools and that religious education can only be handled as a subject of education in history and social sciences. Religious vocational schools cannot be made one of the main branches of educational system. Religious vocational schools, which do not meet the demand for related vocations but serve for the religionization of education and the demand of religious reactionism for educated cadres, must be shut down. TKP demands the closure of divinity schools. Researches in religions must be programmed as a subject of history and social sciences departments at universities, on a secular basis.
6. TKP defends the liquidation of Department of Religious Affairs, which became the epicentre of religious reactionism. Reconstruction of this department in such a way that it would include other faiths and sects will not undermine its reactionist characteristics; but, this will enhance the religionization of minorities and give legitimacy to religious reactionism.
7. TKP supports the values of Enlightenment, values of humanity and the production of art enhancing the struggle for equality and freedom of artists and workers; encourages and stand by intellectuals and artists with these aims; intensifies political production and organisation in the areas of culture and arts. TKP demands the termination of TV broadcasts based on religious superstition and including reactionist propaganda by the state channels or other channels; conducts an ideological and cultural struggle against these broadcasts; supports and organises educational, cultural and scientific informative efforts, aimed especially at youth, about the social and historical resources of religion; protests non-scientific and religious practices at schools; stands against reactionist campaigns refusing the evolution theory of nature and organizes scientific activities about the evolutionary theory; struggles to infuse a scientific perspective to young generations.
8. TKP struggles against any kind of threat, defamation and contempt against non-Sunni parts of the population, particularly against Alevis. TKP refuses the idea that Alevism is and must be a sect of Islam. TKP works to disclose the historical resources of Alevism as a popular, solidarist and cultural fact. TKP struggles and gets organized to support Alevism as a resistance against the regime of Second Republic.
9. TKP defends the opinion that the Kurdish problem can only be solved via a struggle for freedom based on the principles of equality and justice, excluding any national privileges and as a result of the struggle of all workers and labourers from any ethnicity, rather than on the basis of “religious fellowship”. If religious reactionism strengthens its position among Kurdish people, a solution to the problem based on the fraternity of the peoples will become more difficult. TKP struggles to stress the enlightenment background of the demands of freedom by Kurds and to promote these demands.
10. TKP reveals the fact that Second Republic brings about non-scientific education for students and strengthens the cultural, scientific and artistic aspects of the political struggle and organisation among the youth.
11. TKP determines the longstanding period of social exclusion of women, which developed in parallel with the deepening of Second Republic regime; struggles against illusions about this fact; encourages and organizes the resistance of women against the pressure of religious reactionism. TKP refuses the practice of imam marriage, which promotes male dominance and polygamy for males and humiliation of women; defends the recognition of voluntary cohabitation with or without a civil marriage with all its legal aspects. TKP determines that violence against women rose in parallel with the deepening of religious reactionism and underlines the primacy of struggle against religious reactionism in the course of salvation of women, which will completely realised under a socialist system. TKP uncovers that the propaganda for having more children is a part of reactionism.
12. TKP refutes the classification of sexual orientations by political power, dominant ideology and legal system and defends the necessity of absolute respect for sexual orientations. TKP denounces the definition of homosexuality as an “illness” and objects to discrimination.
13. TKP argues for removal of religion information on the identity cards of Turkish citizens. TKP defends the right of non-religious funeral ceremonies and calls for refusal of violation of this right.
14. TKP criticizes inefficient, superficial, non-functional, formal and unpopular practices of secularism and arguments in this context; interprets the very core of Enlightenment on the basis of self-determination of people. Throughout this struggle, TKP counts on organised struggle of people, rather than mechanisms of jurisdiction dominated by Second Republic.