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Islamic Political Movement: Lessons from Turkey
by Ismail Buyukakan
03 December 2002 23:12 UTC
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Dear friends,
I received this text recently and I find it very interesting and rich. I think western media/intellectuals, both the liberal and the left, should pay more attention to the warnings against bloodthirsty Sharia.  
The late General Secretary of Communist Party of Turkey, comrade R.
Yurukoglu, wrote this article and it was published in Turkey May 1993.
The article was the evaluation of Islamist political movement from the
perspective of the communists of Turkey, following the success of
Islamist political movement in the guise Welfare Party (RP) in the local
elections that was held in 1993. 
When this article that ends with the warning “we fear that this evil
will be the cause of many more tragedies” was published, Al Qaida
organisation of blind supporters of Sharia was yet to be splashed
the front pages, and atrocities such as the 11 September attack on the
World Trade Centre and the Bali bomb were yet to come.
Moreover, even the Sharia supporters of Sunni Islam were yet to burn 37
democrats and intellectuals to death alive in the hotel they sought
refuge in Sivas in Turkey. When that massacre took place in summer of
1993, the world public opinion conspicuously remained silent. In our
estimation, this evaluation of Islamist political movement, that is the
movement aiming to establish domination of Sharia, is very important,
since it has reminded some of the basic tenets of Marxism that are
tended to be forgotten nowadays, and since it has been the only crisp
Marxist evaluation against the lack of wisdom in many intellectuals by
evaluating the radicalisation of Sunni Islam as a “pseudo agenda”.
Since this article was written the Welfare Party has been banned, and
Virtue Party was formed in its stead. Then it was too banned, and two
more parties were formed in its place. One those parties, the Justice
and Development Party (AKP) won two-thirds majority in the Turkish
parliament in the November 2002 elections. In our opinion, the AKP is
masterfully disguising its aims and misguiding the public opinion,
is a well-known practice of Islamist political movement (Taqiyah), as
has been seen in almost every country.
The liberal intellectuals may have let themselves be deceived by this
thin disguise, however we, the communists of a country under the
domination of Sunni Islam, feel under the obligation to enlighten the
progressive public of the non-Islamic countries, and to expose the real
intentions of Islamist political movement. In this regard, we consider
this article as a very timely and important contribution. We hope that
the progressive public of the world may draw lessons from the
experiences of the communists in the struggle in Islamic countries, and
benefit from their evaluation.  (CPT)

Establishing the Active Unity of the People Against the Islamist
Political Movement is a Historic Duty
R. Yürükoglu
1. What Is Happening?
The pro-Sharia[ ] Welfare Party (RP – Refah Partisi) has gained 25% of
the votes in Istanbul, and 15% throughout Turkey. It has thus emerged
a real threat in the political arena of the country. It is necessary
above all to identify and to characterise this Islamist Welfare Party.
Two aspects bear great importance in correct identification and
characterisation: Firstly denomination, secondly the degree of

DENOMINATION. Writers in numerous countries have been trying for years
to find a suitable name to movements striving to establish an Islamic
state, a state based on Sharia. Three names have come to the fore as a
result of these attempts: Radical Islam, Islamic Fundamentalism, and
Islamist Political Movement. The first two do not fully explain the
phenomenon. The third, since it does not affront Muslims and Islam as a
whole, and since it underlines primarily the political aspect of the
movement, seems to be more correct.

DEGREE OF CHARACTERISATION. If we consider the Welfare Party, that is
say the Islamist Political Movement, as a phenomenon confined to the
borders of Turkey, then we commit a serious error. The Islamist
Political Movement is a worldwide, international menace. Therefore, not
only the causes of development of the movement should be sought in
domestic as well as international events, but also the measures of
prevention should be perceived at national and international levels.

2. The Causes of Development of the Islamist Political Movement in
First of all, one point should be emphasised: the Islamist Political
Movement is a political movement. It strives to mould religion and
as a single entity. Viewed from this particular characteristic, we see
that the roots of the movement go back to the Middle Ages. However,
has no further use apart from historical information. The Islamist
Political Movement, the concept of the state based on Sharia, are
products of a Middle-Ages mentality, relics of that period. However,
causes of their development, though, should be sought and discovered in
the present.
We should consider the causes of development of the Islamist Political
Movement in two ways: internationally and domestically.
In all Muslim societies throughout the world today, an important
reactivation is being observed in the Islamist Political Movement.
However, it is essential we understand a point which will reveal to us
the chain of causes on an international scale: the Islamist Political
Movement is essentially a very serious threat in countries going
the process of transformation from a peasant society into a modern
industrial society. The new economic order throughout the world and
neo-liberalism have produced a certain economic growth at the
and a huge increase in the expectations of the masses. The popular
classes in these peripheral countries have nothing but unemployment and
poverty. Yet a small minority of these societies have begun to enjoy
extraordinary and exaggerated wealth. The result of these circumstances
today, when progressive ideology and politics have endured a terrible,
nonetheless temporary defeat, on the workers has been a rise in the
sensitivity to this situation and to the traditionalist reactions
against the West, regarded as the ‘source’ of this situation.
With the collapse of the Soviet state-bureaucratic socialist system,
Marxism, the only consistent progressive ideology capable of responding
to the aspirations of the workers throughout the world, has received a
terrible political shock. A huge vacuum has been created worldwide. The
eruption of religious ideology in under-developed and middle-developed
countries that we are observing today takes advantage precisely of the
existence of such a vacuum. Since the Muslim religion is widespread in
such countries, it has benefited from the largest share of this
eruption. The rising Islamist political movement in these countries is
generally reflecting the reaction of the petty bourgeois masses against
the established order. However, it is not channelling this reaction
against capitalism and imperialism in a progressive direction, but in a
reactionary one. One should not be duped by the ‘anti-establishment’
rhetoric of this movement, nor should one have any illusions about
establishing an order profitable to the working masses. The pro-Sharia
movement is the greatest danger facing Turkey as well.
Apart from the fact that with the collapse of the Soviet Union,
the only way for emancipation of the working people, has lost, though
temporarily, its appeal, bourgeois-capitalist ideology too has been for
a long time gripped by a deadly crisis. Not even the temporary
difficulties endured by Marxist ideology have been capable of reviving
capitalist ideology. Moreover, in Muslim societies, such an ideology is
represented by an already feeble bourgeoisie. When compared with its
counterparts in the West, the bourgeoisie is weak, ruthless, crude and
vain in such countries; where, worldwide conjuncture aside, the working
class and its ideology are powerless too.
Irrespective of reaching considerable quantitative levels in certain
countries, this fact persists. This weakness finds its root causes in
the short history of the working class, in its poor tradition of
organisation, and in the downward tendency in the mean level of class
consciousness due to rapid swelling of its ranks from the countryside.
Consequently, we may speak of a ‘hegemony vacuum’ on social and
political levels in those societies where the Islamist Political
Movement looms as a threat. With their economy trapped within a chronic
‘bottleneck-crisis-progress’ cycle, and the positioning of the working
class and the bourgeoisie as mentioned above, the only, truly
functioning organisation, having a long past and covering every corner
in these countries, is the religious organisation: mosques.
Coming now to the domestic causes of the strengthening of the pro
movement in Turkey, we note that some of these are reflections of
with a worldwide relevance, whereas others are the results of
developments specific to our country.
The economic development of Turkey (which cannot be underestimated) has
been achieved to a large extent at the expense of the toiling masses.
Having no external colonies in its possession, the bourgeoisie of
has at every stage secured the accumulation of capital by impoverishing
its own people. Consequently, a truly rapid and powerful industrial
development has been accompanied by unbelievable levels of
poverty, and lack of confidence in the future throughout the society.
Since the process of transformation into a modern industrial society
not been carried out according to a specific plan and programme in
Turkey, economic life for large masses in the agricultural sector has
collapsed, the population has slumped, and many villages have been
abandoned. The development of cities, on the other hand, has been
deprived of any plan or programme, with masses of concrete devoid of
aesthetic appeal surrounded by shantytowns with an excessively
concentrated population. The invisible and incomprehensible strength of
capital has scattered people about like autumn leaves. Toilers do not
have the least bit of control over their lives or the destiny of their
families. The value of money drops by 30% overnight, and the dollar
up by 50% the next day. ‘Who’ is doing this, and why? This invisible
awesome power of capital is contemplated as a metaphysical perception,
as a ‘fate’.
We should fit into this picture some current political facts too.
Following the military take-over of 1980, the ensuing political
reshaping has split the centre-right and the centre-left into five
parts. This artificial splitting has increased the relative importance
of those parties having little support in society, such as the Welfare
Party and Nationalist Action Party (MHP). The revolutionary left,
only true alternative to the corrupt order, has become marginalised.
Following these developments, it became possible to speak about a
‘vacuum of hegemony’ in Turkey.
We must also emphasise in particular the incompetence of the bourgeois
politicians since the times of the Democratic Party. Apart from
Inönü and Erdal Inönü, all the politicians have striven to utilise
religion for their own political interests. They paid their respects to
and encouraged such advocates of a pro Sharia state as the followers of
the Nakshibendi, Nurcu and Suleymanci sects, as well as a long list
of others. They vigorously pursued construction of mosques and
Imam-Hatip schools, and setting up Koran courses to serve their
political interests.
The purpose of doing this was not to let religion prevail over the
state, but rather to let religion favour their politics. A large
majority of them were ‘secular’ politicians. Nevertheless, with the
arrogance of the braggart bourgeoisie and with its pathological class
blindness, they just could not see that utilising religion for
purposes would sooner or later end in the use of politics and the state
for religious purposes. Or even if they did see, they did not bother
the sake of their short-term interests. If the obscurantist pro Sharia
Welfare Party has become a real threat to Turkish society, the main
political responsibility lies with bourgeois politicians past and
Consequently, if the pro Sharia party and the Islamist Political
Movement are posing as a real threat to our society and our country,
reasons are not ‘divine’!

3. We Must Identify Precisely the Islamist Political Movement
The Welfare Party received 18% of the votes in the local elections.
Nevertheless, taking into account the votes received by the Nationalist
Action Party too, today 75% of society is against a state based on the
rule of Sharia. In other words, the question is not, as some members of
the intelligentsia mumble, whether to be afraid of the Welfare Party or
not. We must, however, identify precisely the enemy before us. If we
commit an error at this point, then the day to be really afraid will
come. As regards the Islamist Political Movement, we must draw lessons
from our own history as well as from developments in the world. The
history of the Ottomans alone, from the Chaldiran campaign of Yavuz
to the War of Liberation, cannot tell us what sort of hideous
adversary society and the state are facing. The Islamist Political
Movement is the enemy of all progress, and is the main historical
obstacle holding back the liberation of the Anatolian people from
Apart from Ottoman history, events in Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia,
Egypt, Algeria, Sudan and Iran today illustrate clearly how we are up
against a movement totally hostile to democracy in every respect. Blood
flows freely wherever the Islamist Political Movement enters. In those
countries where timely precautions are not taken, together with the
people, and in an efficient manner, even the armies are split, and
society falls helpless under its dark control.
In order to study the general characteristics of the Islamist Political
Movement, it might be useful to divide them into two parts, namely ‘in
opposition’ and ‘in power’, as well as examining its world-wide

Characteristics of the Islamist Political Movement in Opposition

1. Whatever is written in the party programme, the aim of the
Islamist Political Movement is to establish an ‘Islamist state’, that
is, a ‘state based on Sharia’. It wants to unify religion and the
to subordinate the state to religion.

2. It is an anti-secular movement. Secularism is regarded as an
insult, as infidelity. As can be observed throughout the world, by
increasing social tension, by creating conflict at every level of
society, and by aggravating this conflict, it splits the whole of
society into the secular and the religious.

3. In order to be able to survive, this movement is a mortal enemy
of class reality. Since it splits the society into believers and
infidels, it overshadows class reality, suppresses it and diminishes
class potential.

4. It splits and dismembers democratic organisations and
institutions at every level of society. Hence, it once again
class reality and diminishes class potential.

5. Who are organised by the Islamist Political Movement?
a. Those ‘rootless’ people who break away from the traditional
lifestyle and congregate in cities, but cannot participate in
b. Simple commodity producers, tradesmen and artisans; in other
words petty bourgeois producers;
c. The real invigorating force of the movement and its leading
cadres are small businessmen, small capitalists, in other words the
non-monopoly bourgeoisie.

6. Therefore, the class content of the Welfare Party is small
capitalists, i.e. non-monopoly bourgeoisie, and to a certain extent
small tradesmen.

7. This movement is totally against such notions as
‘enlightenment’, democracy, secularism and individual liberties.

8. This movement is against not only the reality of class, but the
reality of nation as well. It defends the notion of religious
It does not recognise national boundaries. It is perfectly aware of the
fact that, if its march is halted at some point, if it cannot conquer
the entire world, then it will collapse.

9. Precisely for these reasons, it will not accept the legal
framework of any state. State laws are simply elements of evil to be

10. It is anti-democratic in the real sense of the word. It cannot
be otherwise.

11. It does not recognise the notion of ‘citizen’ in society. All
social units other than the family are also rejected.

12. It is a jihad[ ] movement. It has to wage war against and shed
the blood of everybody who is not on its side or made a part of it. By
definition and due to its structure it cannot be a peaceful movement.
When Erbakan[ ] says ‘we are coming to take revenge for the past fifty
years’, this is what he means.

13. It politicises without fail the whole of society. (This may
seem a good thing to some, but the real consequences appear only after
it seizes power. We will come back to this shortly.)

14. It cries out for culture, morals and justice, but at every step
in engenders lack of culture, immorality and injustice.

15. Right from the beginning it blunts and lowers society’s
potential for reflection. It replaces wisdom, enquiry and logic with
acceptance of the ‘absolute’, and absolute obedience. Apart from the
great harm this causes to society, the organisational advantages that
thus conceals are enormous. Compared with its adversaries, it is
extremely disciplined. ‘An order cut through iron.’

16. It engenders a cult of violence and denunciation throughout
society. As has been observed concretely in Iran, small children
ignorance denounce their parents in the name of Islam.

17. It is a totalitarian movement right from the beginning. It
brings order to every aspect of social life by attempting to squeeze
everything into a single ‘right’.

Characteristics of the Islamist Political Movement in Power
In Social and Political Life

1. The modern, secular state is overthrown and replaced by a state
organised according to the canonical rules of Islam.

2. The structure of state authority is modified. Ideological
(religious) sections assume the highest importance within the new

3. A form of state that is in permanent crisis emerges. This crisis
originates from the permanent conflict between the capitalist
infrastructure and the superstructure (the new state).

4. In a similar manner a society living under permanent crisis and
tension emerges. The excessive politicisation that it creates while in
opposition gradually exhausts society and creates its antithesis. An
apolitical society gradually develops. The persistent fall in the ratio
of participation in Iran’s elections is a proof of this fact.

5. It destroys the entire political system, and replaces it with
the organs of the Sharia, canonical rule of Islam.

6. It monopolises political power in the hands of a religious
‘eminence’ or a small religious caste (a group of hodjas[ ]). This too
has a very important reason. The social base, which supports it in
opposition and carries it to the power consists of antagonist classes
and strata. Since the tension created by the antagonism in this social
base and power bloc is permanent, political centralisation in the hands
of a small group or a single person becomes necessary.
7. The state, as an instrument of this centralisation, is enlarged
in every possible direction and encroaches into every sphere. What
finally emerges is an absolutist, totalitarian state.

8. Erbakan speaks of ‘safeguarding national interests on the basis
of justice in the Balkans, in Cyprus and in the Caucasus’. The Welfare
Party, against imperialism in words, is itself a form of expansionism
the colours of Islam. “The lawful order of the Welfare Party is a
contemptible order which will exploit us, grind us down in wars, and
will force us to acquire illegally and seize the hard work of other
peoples” (Emine Engin, “RP Won the Election Not the Struggle”, Kervan,
issue 36, April 1994, page 7.)

In the Economic Sphere

1. The fundamental duty of the state is to provide the external
conditions of production. Whereas the emerging totalitarian
anti-democratic state based on the canonical laws of Islam, because of
its own ideological formation, creates on the contrary fetters on the
external conditions of production.

2. The working of the law of value in the economy is restricted.
The exchange of goods is not based on value; it depends on arbitrary
decisions. In addition to this, some parts of the economy are developed
or obscured according to the view taken by religious ideology.
Consequently, in the Islamic state, a sort of anarchism develops in
production and exchange.

3. Small capitalists, who make up the driving force and the
leadership cadres of the Islamist Political Movement, change once they
seize the economy and the state, promoting themselves into a big
bourgeoisie. (This is what has happened in Iran.)

4. The Islamic State in Iran froze the minimum wage for ten years,
and then was obliged to increase it by 300% on the fifteenth
of its rule. On the other hand prices went up by 1,000 3,000%. As a
consequence, the intense exploitation of labour and accumulation of
capital are taking place. Observing similar tendencies in other
countries, we may say that the freezing of wages through an intensive
inflationary policy is a characteristic of the Islamic State.

5. But the denial to society of an objective judicial framework and
the widespread sentiment of insecurity due to the permanent dispute
within the ruling bloc is hampering the employment of this accumulation
for long-term investment. The potential for economic development is

6. The burden of an overbearing state on the economy is growing.
The state has become more and more of a consumer, and public
have declined at the same time.

7. The Islamist government has never been able to enforce monetary
or legal measures efficiently. As a result of attempting to govern an
industrialising or capitalist contemporary society with a
legal code, the Islamist bourgeois government is weakening the
Crying out for morality, culture and justice while in opposition, the
Islamist Political Movement drags the country, where it seizes power,
back into the darkness of the middle ages. We will give three examples.
According to the figures released few months ago by the Iranian Ministry
of Internal Affairs, in 1993, the number of persons buying a daily
newspaper in a society of 60 million is less than 700,000. (In Turkey,
this figure is around 4 million.)
According to official figures, in Horasan, a province with a population
of less than 6 million, 4,000 people committed suicide in 1992. In the
same year, the figure for the whole of England, with a population ten
times bigger than that of Horasan, was only 600.
Hocatul Islam Mohammed Gazavi, an Islamic scholar and judge of the
Shehriray district in the southern suburbs of Tehran, made a statement
in September 1993 at the end of a trial. He stated that he found two
brothers guilty of kidnapping a man and burning him to death, but he
would not send them to prison because they were Muslims, whereas the
murdered mass was a religious pervert, a Bahai. He added that no
compensation would be paid to the victim’s family. Here is the culture,
morality and justice of the state under the Sharia, canonical law of

4. What is the Correct Approach to the Islamic Political Movement?

As has been clearly demonstrated in recent months, people in Turkey are
today very muddled. In particular those we call the intelligentsia,
because of their spinelessness, seem to be very confused. Some
‘democrats’ say, ‘I will vote for the Welfare Party’. Certain
say, ‘It is necessary to wage ideological struggle against these
people’. But our intelligentsia in general (regrettably some class
conscious workers join them) consider the question of the Welfare Party
as that of freedom of faith, a question of democracy.
What sort of an understanding of ‘democracy’ is this? It is precisely
the ‘abstract’, supra-class concept of democracy of the petty bourgeois
intellectual that is completely out of contact with reality. No
no democracy is without bounds. Every freedom has a framework and
‘reference point’ that determines it. If these do not exist, then there
is no freedom either.
To attempt to consider the question of the Welfare Party from the point
of view of freedom of faith or as a question of democracy is an error
right from the beginning. It is above all a methodological error. To
discuss the subject from that point of view is precisely what the
religious political movement wants. Aren’t they the ones who moan on
every occasion about ‘freedom of the believers’ and ‘our democracy
The only correct approach to the problem of the pro Sharia party is not
one that bases itself on the freedoms and democratic rights of the
Welfare Party, but the principles of the modern secular democratic
A firm ideological struggle should be waged against the Welfare Party;
lucid replies should be formulated; the hypocritical nature of this
deceitful movement should be exposed. We all agree on these points.
These should be pursued at all costs. However, the main theme of this
struggle, its starting and finishing point, should be the secular
The separation of religion and state: religion as well as the state
should keep their hands off education. When religion becomes a
factor, we all have to discuss politics, the political terrain, that is
to say the state. Politics is the terrain where classes and the state
are in contact. The formulation of every problem is in a sense its
solution. Therefore, the problem to be formulated by contemporary
is about politics, and what concerns the state is the question, ‘What
a secular state, and what is not?’ All rights and freedoms are shaped
precisely within the framework of the answer given to this question.
To recapitulate, the correct approach to the Islamist party is based
on individual and palliative rights and freedoms with their ambiguously
defined criteria. The framework for the existence and maintenance of
freedoms and all democratic rights, the defining criterion is the
modern, secular democratic state.
We stated above that the formulation of a problem is its solution;
however, when discussion starts after a correct formulation of the
problem, we encounter three distorted attitudes. Therefore, the word
secularism appears in the question we posed above, but still that is
enough for the correct formulation of the question. (Among these three
distorted attitudes two are deliberate, and that of the intelligentsia
is the consequence of their cowardice that can be summed up by the
proverb ‘The snake that does not touch me can live a thousand years for
all I care’).
Let us now briefly deal with these three distorted attitudes.

1. The Welfare Party considers, on the one hand, that secularism is
an insult, and views it as a profanity of imperialism, but, on the
hand, as the occasion arises in the press or on TV to exploit feelings,
it cries, ‘What sort of secularism is this? The state is meddling with
the religion of the believers, seizing our headscarves and oppressing
us.’ By using such demagogy, it is not discussing secularism, but
identifying secularism with its own ‘rights’. It is reducing it to the
‘freedom of belief of believers’.

2. Our intellectuals do not consider secularism as a social and
legal framework within which all the democratic rights and freedoms are
realised. They consider freedom and democracy to be without bounds or
limits. They reject the relationship between ‘necessity and freedom’
from a philosophical point of view, even if they are not aware of this
fact. Their cowardice leads them to the understanding of a kind of
‘absolute’ freedom, to some sort of anarchism.

3. The third distorted attitude is the common attitude of the
bourgeois politicians, irrespective of the political party they belong
to. What we have lived through over the last few years in particular
have shown us all that these politicians, these state officials, are
from being capable of drawing the line between religion and secularism,
between the state and the mosque. If one is to be consistent, then
either one should forbid the mixing of religion with politics at all
levels, or one should allow religion to mix with politics as it wishes.
There is no middle road. You are either secular or anti-secular.
However, our dwarf politicians, who are totally incapable of becoming
statesmen, can identify themselves with neither one of these consistent
extremes. Forbidding the mixing of religion with politics at all
Bourgeois politicians do not want that. Because what they want is not a
situation where state and politics rely on free will in the true sense
of the word, but rather on the acceptance in general, with the support
of religion, of the existing situation by society. The full-scale, even
fanatical, interference of religion with politics and the state? Our
bourgeois politicians do not want that either. They rather want
to support the superficially secular state as it exists today. But the
state should not find itself in a situation where it becomes dependent
on religion.
However, our blinkered politicians are incapable of seeing that, once
you mix religion with politics (no matter how little!), requiring that
religion should decide in a ‘secular manner’ how to react to political
issues, now that is truly the biggest treachery, ‘infidelity’ and
cruelty. If by religion one does not understand believing in one’s own
political identity, then whoever uses (however little) religion in
politics should know well that one must necessarily give to religion
determining role in all issues. We may adapt an expression, used in a
different context, here too.
“Using religion a little bit is like being a little bit pregnant!” The
baby is born sooner or later. And that means counter-revolution, a
based on the canonical codes of Islam.

5. What is a Modern Secular Democratic State?

The Welfare Party is a party founded on lies. It distorts the notion of
secularism as well. It strives to define secularism only as the
of belief of the believers”, hence making a one-sided definition.
Secularism has three fundamental principles:

1. The foundation stone of the philosophy of the modern
secular-democratic state is the total removal of religion from inside
the state. Moreover, religious organisations must not receive a single
penny from state funds.

2. The state, on the other hand, must interfere in no way with the
freedom of belief of the believers.

3. The state as well as religion must be kept out of education to
the same extent. (On the other hand, those communities of believers may
form their own schools out of their own funds.)
These three fundamental principles were developed in particular by the
great bourgeois thinkers and philosophers of the “Age of Enlightenment”
due to the necessities imposed by social progress, and thus the notion
of secularism came into existence. All the civilised countries have
accepted the notion of secularism. However, to what extent these
principles have been put into practice in each country has been
determined by the struggle between, on the one hand, the reactionary
classes and strata, and, on the other, the classes and strata
representing progress. Moreover, in each country this class struggle
marched in tune with the historical and economic realities of the
If we look at Turkey in the light of what has been expounded above, we
can immediately say two things. Firstly, the Republic of Turkey,
immediately after its foundation, adopted the principle of secularism.
However, under the pressure of the historical realities of the country,
the application of this principle has been crippled. Kemalists[ ],
anxious to keep under control the clergy (ulema)[ ], who are a historic
impediment to the development of our society, acted wrongly despite
basing their actions on sound analyses: namely, they organised religion
within the state, in the form of the “Directorate of Religious
The harmful consequences are evident today. This was not the way to
struggle against the clergy. Much more efficient options, not
detrimental to the principle of secularism, were available. They still
are today.
Secondly, on the point of keeping the state and religion at a distance
from education, the republic once again assumed a different attitude
historical and economic reasons, and until recent years has been in
charge of the whole education system. We too understand the necessity
this. Considering the first 30 years of the Republic, it was evident
that, within the balance of power at that time, had the education
remained outside the control of the secularist, the Kemalist cadres of
the state could have only produced molla – melle.[ ] Moreover, Turkey
was a country with very modest economic development and means. She
has not overcome her problems today. Not even today would it be
conceivable for the state to completely withdraw from education. If it
does, then education will fall into the hands of Islamists, but also
mostly to the education enterprises providing “services” to the
of rich people. However, the state’s overseeing of education does have
important detrimental impacts. Consequently, without forgetting the
economic realities of the country at this point too, there are plenty
precautions and steps that can be taken in order to consistently apply
this principle of secularism.
Let us close here the parenthesis on Turkey and return again to the
theory of secularism. Now we will consider, with the help of several
quotations, the modern secular as described by Marx and Engels.
Anti-communists will always find a pretext to attack whatever we say,
but let us nevertheless emphasise that the citations you are going to
read below are not ideas specific to Marxism or “Communism” but
constitute a complete and consistent consideration of the notion of
secularism, which has become institutionalised since the Great French
revolution of 1789. Marx and Engels summarise the notion of secularism,
developed by the classical philosophers, in this way:
“Complete separation of the Church from the state. All religious
communities without exception are to be treated by the state as private
associations. They are to be deprived of any support from public funds
and of all influence on public schools. (They cannot be prohibited from
forming their own schools out of their own funds and from teaching
own nonsense in them.)” (A Critique of the Draft Social-Democratic
Programme of 1891, MESW, v. 3, p. 437.)

“‘Elementary education by the state’ is altogether objectionable.
Defining by a general law expenditure on elementary schools,
qualifications of teaching staff, branches of instruction, etc., and, as
is done in the United States, supervising the fulfilment of these legal
specifications by state inspectors, is a very different thing from
appointing the state as the educator of the people! Government and
Church should rather be equally excluded from any influence over
schools. Particularly, indeed, in the Prusso-German Empire (…) the
needed, on the contrary, a very strict education of the people.”
(Critique of the Gotha Programme, MESW, v. 3, p. 28)

Religion will be excluded from the state, members of the clergy will
return to their private lives, and will earn their living through the
donations of believers. All educational establishments will be open to
the public and will consequently be saved from the assault of religion
and the state. Thus the sciences too will be rescued as far as possible
from class prejudice and governments persecution.
“(…) Just as the state emancipates itself from religion by emancipating
itself from state religion and leaving religion to itself within civil
society, so the individual emancipates himself politically from
by regarding it no longer as a public matter but as a private matter”
(Marx–Engels, The Holy Family or Critique of Critical Criticism,
Progress Pub., Moscow,  1980, p. 138)

“Just as industrial activity is not abolished when the privileges of
trades, guilds and corporations are abolished, but, on the contrary,
real industry begins only after the abolition of these privileges; (…)
just as trade is not abolished by the abolition of trade privileges,
finds its true realisation in free trade; so religion develops in its
practical universality only where there is no privileged religion (cf.
the North American States).
“The modern ‘public system’, the developed modern state, is not based
(…) on a society of privileges, but on a society in which privileges
have been abolished and dissolved, on developed civil society in which
the vital elements which were still politically bound under the
privilege system have been set free. Here no ‘privileged exclusivity’
stands opposed to any other exclusivity or to he public system. (…)
“[In] the democratic representative state (…) law has here taken the
place of privilege.
“It is therefore only here, where we find no contradiction between free
theory and the practical validity of privilege, but, on the contrary,
the practical abolition of privilege, free industry, free trade, etc.,
conform to ‘free theory’, where the public system is not opposed by any
privileged exclusivity, (…) – only here is the fully developed modern
state to be found. (…)
“The [modern] state declares that religion, like other elements of
life, only begins to exist in its full scope when the state declares it
to be non-political and therefore leaves it to itself. To the
dissolution of the political existence of those elements, as for
example, the dissolution of [the political existence of – RY] property
by the abolition of the property qualification for electors, the
dissolution of [the political existence of – RY] religion by abolition
of the state church, to this proclamation of their civil death
corresponds their most vigorous life, which henceforth obeys its own
laws undisturbed and develops to its full scope.” (Ibid., pp 143 –145)

“The truly religious state is the theocratic state; the head of such
states must be either the God of religion, Jehovah himself, as in the
Jewish state, or God's representative, the Dalai Lama, as in Tibet, or
finally, as Görres rightly demands in his recent book, all the
states must subordinate themselves to a church which is an “infallible
church”. For where, as under Protestantism, there is no supreme head of
the church, the rule of religion is nothing but the religion of rule,
the cult of the government's will.
“Once a state includes several creeds having equal rights, it can no
longer be a religious state without being a violation of the rights of
the particular creeds, a church which condemns all adherents of a
different creed as heretics, which makes every morsel of bread depend
one's faith, and which makes dogma the link between individuals and
their existence as citizens of the state. (…)
“There exists a dilemma in the face of which ‘common’ sense is
“Either the Christian state corresponds to the concept of the state as
the realisation of rational freedom, and then the state only needs to
a rational state in order to be a Christian state and it suffices to
derive the state from the rational character of human relations, a task
which philosophy accomplishes; or the state of rational freedom cannot
be derived from Christianity, and then you yourself will admit that
derivation is not intended by Christianity, since it does not want a
state, and a state that is not the realisation of rational freedom is a
bad state.
“You may solve this dilemma in whatever way you like, you will have to
admit that the state must be built on the basis of free reason, and not
of religion. (…)
“In the political sphere, philosophy has done nothing that physics,
mathematics, medicine, and every science, have not done in their
respective spheres. Bacon of Verulam (…) emancipated physics from
theology and it became fertile. Just as you do not ask the physician
whether he is a believer, you have no reason to ask the politician
either. (…) Earlier, however, Machiavelli and Campanella, and later
Hobbes, Spinoza, Hugo Grotius, right down to Rousseau, Fichte and
began to regard the state through human eyes and to deduce its natural
laws from reason and experience, and not from theology. In so doing,
they were as little deterred as Copernicus was by the fact that Joshua
bade the sun stand still over Gideon and the moon in the valley of
Ajalon. Recent philosophy has only continued the work begun by
Heraclitus and Aristotle. (…) Of course, the ignorance (…) regards
ideas of history as having suddenly occurred to certain individuals
overnight, because they are new to it and reached it only overnight; it
forgets that it itself is assuming the old role of the doctor of the
Sorbonne who considered it his duty to accuse Montesquieu publicly of
being so frivolous as to declare that the supreme merit of the state
political, not ecclesiastical, virtue. (…)
“Whereas the earlier philosophers of constitutional law proceeded in
their account of the formation of the state from the instincts either
ambition or gregariousness, or even from reason, though not social
reason, but the reason of the individual, the more ideal and profound
view of recent philosophy proceeds from the idea of the whole. It looks
on the state as the great organism, in which legal, moral and political
freedom must be realised, and in which the individual citizen, in
obeying the laws of the state, only obeys the natural laws of his own
reason, of human reason.” (K. Marx, The Leading Article in No. 179 of
the Kölnische Zeitung, MECW, p. 184.)

A Secular State is the Only Solution to Stop Religious, Sectarian and
Creed Conflict in Turkey

For instance a community of more than 22 million Alevis lives in
The enmity between Alevis and Sunnis in history as well as today is at
its sharpest in the form of confessional antagonism. How can this
confessional antagonism be abolished?
Since no one will give up his system of beliefs and rights, this
antagonism can only be abolished by making it impossible. Then the
obvious question is: How can one make confessional antagonism
impossible? By abolishing religion from the state.
We cannot expect people belonging to different faiths and religions to
grasp and assimilate easily the following truth: different faiths or
religions are nothing other than different stages of the development of
human wisdom. Had humans grasped this truth, then the relation between
Muslim and a Christian or between an Alevi and a Shafi would cease to
religious, and would become a scientific and human relation. Their
would be secured by science and would naturally be resolved by science
itself. Conflicts would vanish altogether in their final form. Since
this cannot happen in our world today, the only way to abolish the
religious conflicts within the existing socio-economic system is to
establish a truly secular state.
Let us try to make our point clearer: for instance, the question of
Alevis in history has assumed different forms, depending on the kind of
state under the rule of which the Alevis lived. The Ottoman state was
not a political state, but a religious one. The head of the state was
Islam’s Caliph. Therefore the question of Alevism in the Ottoman state
was a completely theological question. An Alevi person living under the
rule of the Ottoman state used to find himself in religious conflict
with a state, which admits as its foundation Sunni Islam.
The Republic of Turkey is a political, constitutional and secular
However, as we have noted above, the secularism of the Republic,
of various reasons pertaining to class as well as history, is a
secularism. Liberation of the state from religion, in other words
political liberation, is incomplete and inadequate. Since complete
secularism has not been realised, the beliefs, opinions and the
lifestyle of Alevi society are still largely met with religious
Only in a state, which has become truly secular in all its principles
and institutions in Turkey will the question of Alevism lose all
theological meaning, and become a truly secular question. When the
becomes a political state in the true sense of the word, that is to say
when it stands as a state against religion, when religion is removed
from all its dealings and relations, will conflict between Sunnis and
Alevis cease to exist.

Is Secularism Atheism?

Would the total exclusion of religion from the state, namely a complete
liberation from religion, be harmful to religion? The Islamist
Movement strives to portray secularism as impiousness. But when we look
at countries such as Sweden and United States, where secularism is
implemented, we notice not only that religion survives, but it also
enjoys a lively and active existence. This fact alone is the best reply
to the lies of the pro Sharia movement.
Therefore, as the state becomes more and more fully secular, as it
becomes a more democratic state, the consequences of these developments
pose no threat whatsoever to religion.
If we remember the examples given by Marx in the quotations cited
for instance the abolition of the condition “to possess property” which
was required in the past in order to have the right to be elected, this
means, from the state’s point of view, the exclusion of this condition
from state affairs. It is evident that the exclusion of the notion of
property from state affairs does not abolish private property within
society. On the contrary, its existence is taken for granted.
Similarly, the modern state has removed from the state apparatus such
distinctions as profession, education, the family one is born into and
social status. It has reduced them to “non political” distinctions
will always exist in society. In so doing, the state has rendered equal
in its eyes people having many differences in civil society as well as
their private lives. In so doing, the state has become a political
and has been able to proclaim its general nature in front of these
thousands of differences. Only by rising above such categories as
religion, belief, race, language, birth, profession and rank can a
declare itself to be the state of the entirety of that society, as well
as its general nature.
It can be seen from what has been said above that political
from religion does abolish privileged religion, but does not touch or
interfere with religion itself.

A Last Word on Secularism

The secular state, that is to say the political state, political
liberalisation, is a giant step forward in the development of humanity,
It is not the final form that we shall see in the liberation of human
beings, but it is indeed the final form of human liberation under
The secular state is not the final form of human liberation because the
fact that the state declares its independence from religion does not
mean that human beings liberate themselves from it. Therefore, you may
live under the authority of a secular state in the real sense of the
word, you may have completely politically liberated yourself from
religion, but for this to happen you do not have to have denied it.
Consequently, political independence from religion, secularity, is not
the totality of human liberation.

6. Lessons of the Last 25 Years (What Needs to be Done?)

Nowhere in the world has it been possible to fight against the Islamist
Political Movement by attacking Islam. In Turkey too, a struggle waged
along those lines can only strengthen the hands of the enemy. The
reasons for the development of this movement are not ‘divine’;
counter-measures taken against it should not be ‘divine’ either.
As world events of the last 25 years show, once it seizes power it will
be extremely difficult to get rid of the Islamist Political Movement:
we shall be up against a totalitarian state, which does not allow any
opposition whatsoever, and is brutally intolerant of the slightest
criticism of religion, it is necessary to wait for it to exhaust its
means of subsistence (along with the people and the productive forces
the country).
Nevertheless, by waging a wise and consolidating, yet flexible and
dynamic struggle, which also makes use of the lessons drawn from world
events of the last 25 years, it is possible to eradicate the lifelines
of this darkness of the middle ages, and to annihilate the threat it
What should we do to achieve this?

1. The leadership of the Islamist Political Movement (the Welfare
Party in our country) is autocratic in the true sense of the word.
Leaving aside demagogy and hypocrisy, it does not truly reflect the
demands of the people, nor does it raise these demands. It is us who
should be doing that.
In our country the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting
poorer. We must put forward a programme which would not only undermine
this tendency by redistributing what already exists, but would also
increase and spread wealth.

2. This movement is an enemy of freedom, democracy and human
rights. We should be the defenders of them. But the democracy that we
defend should in every aspect be different from the democracy that the
liberal bourgeois politicians waffle about. Our democracy should defend
not just the casting of votes once every four years, but active mass
democracy, participation at every echelon of the state and society.
We must defend full social and political justice and liberties within
the framework of the modern, secular and democratic state.

3. We must keep our people informed down to the tiniest detail about
what is going on in countries where the power has been seized by the
Islamist Political Movement. We must show everybody that “the Hell is
here, right now!”

4. We must study secularism in depth. We should explain thoroughly the
separation of state and religion, the separation of religion and
education, and why they are inseparable from democracy.

Let people wear what they want: the turban, the caftan. But where? At
home, in private life, in faith associations, or while pursuing one’s
business affairs in state offices. But a state employee at work, or a
schoolteacher, a student in school should not be able to wear these.
This demand is not an infringement of democratic rights but a
consequence of secularism, the cornerstone of modern democracy. It is a
democratic demand.
On the other hand, everybody should be able to engage in acts of
religion without the police meddling in such activities.

5. We should form a widely based secular democratic movement starting
from today. Participation in this broad bloc or front must not be based
on any ideological preconditions other than the principles of the
secular democratic state. Muslims who defend secularism, Alevis, trade
unions, professional organisations, democratic associations, the
pro-Ataturk[ ] movement, social democrats, communists, and the
centre-right parties provided they defend secularism should all be
united within it.

6. The enemy we are confronting is an international movement. We too
must base ourselves on international solidarity and co-operation.

7. The fundamental slogan of this movement for a “Secular-Democratic
Turkey” should be “The pro Sharia Welfare Party must be banned!” We
respect everybody’s religion and belief. However, there is no
“democratic right” to work for religion to prevail over the state. Nor
does anybody have any right to grant such a “freedom”, in the name of
anything whatsoever. Those attempting to make religion prevail over the
state acting against all liberties, all democratic and human rights. Is
there a freedom to kill people? Is there a freedom to steal? Are the
fascist parties free in democratic countries? Therefore, this demand is
a democratic one. Moreover, to implement legal measures against them is
legitimate and democratic.
8. It is essential, however, that, such a ban must come about through
huge popular support. Since a bureaucratic ban, based only on a
vote in parliament, will not have convinced the people, the damage it
will cause will be greater than its benefits. Therefore, we must work
ensure that the slogan “The pro Sharia Welfare Party must be banned” is
raised from every corner of the country.
A serious struggle must be waged against those who will interpret the
campaign around “The pro Sharia Welfare Party must be banned” as a
against religion. We, as the secular democratic forces of society have
respect for our people’s beliefs.

9. We should distinguish those labouring people who have voted for
Welfare Party and keep it apart from the Welfare Party identity.

10. An intensive educational campaign on secularism, freedom of belief
and the modern state through evening courses, conferences, educational
activities in the trade unions and associations should be started.

11. Imam-Hatip schools should be taken out of the education system of
the state. Only those Imam-Hatip schools, which are supported by the
believers, may keep open.

7. Conclusion

Experience from all over the world shows that during the process of
Islamist Political Movement’s arrival to power there is lots of
bloodshed. After it has seized control of the state, a very long time
inevitably necessary before it is toppled from power as a result of its
own internal contradictions and the consequent tendency to become
weaker. Once again a lot of blood is shed. However, despite this, it
be observed that the Islamist Political Movement to a great extent
weakens the state throughout its period of power. All the productive
forces, and first and foremost the people, are oppressed. Such
become more and more divorced from modern world standards. In other
words, these regimes do everything possible to force their “just” order
down society’s throat. The country will collapse if they seize power.
And what a collapse it will be!
However, this should not be what is aimed at. Communists in particular
would never wish such a course. Socialism, which is a system synonymous
with justice, freedom, democracy and freedom from exploitation, will be
achieved not by the destruction of the country, but by its development.
Therefore we must swiftly eliminate all the economic, social and
political factors, which offer the Islamist Political Movement the
chance to seize power. For that purpose, first of all, ways and means
must be found to unite, or to form a bloc or a front at every level and
in every sphere of activity with all the secular-democratic forces.
Such a front will carry out basic work in working class neighbourhoods
and quarters, in factories and schools, work based on concrete reality,
enlightening and clarifying without “revolutionary” brouhaha or petty
arrogance. Expel the pro Sharia party out of the system with the
co-operation of the people’s movement, solidarity and a functional
division of labour among the publishing organs participating in this
The nation of the modern secular-democratic state - originating with
Heraclitus and Aristotle, enriched with the ideas of Machiavelli,
Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and the Great French Revolution of
1789, and of Hobbes, Spinoza and Hegel, put into practice in the Paris
Commune of 1871 - is part of the experience and cultural heritage of
The Islamist Political Movement and the pro Sharia state, on the other
hand, truly breed on philistine ignorance. To wage an extraordinarily
energetic struggle using every appropriate means against this ignorance
is absolutely necessary and an historic duty. Otherwise, we fear that
this evil will be the cause of many more tragedies!
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