As the occupation in Anatolia ended, some of the factors that compelled the Kemalists to build close relations with Soviet Russia became obsolete. Yet, Mustafa Kemal did not challenge the Soviet Union completely when the Soviet card to force the British and the French to recognize his government lost its former significance; neither he was that superficial, nor the conditions of the day provided such a space of maneuvering for the young Republic of Turkey. The relationships between Turkey and the Soviet Union lost the warmness it used to have during the period of “armed struggle”, but they carried on to have a “friendly” character. However, as the rapidly strengthening capitalist power established itself due to the great political authority of the founding cadres and as the relations with the Western states got normalized, the gates of anti-communism started to be opened widely in due course.
All over the world, anti-communism and anti-Sovietism overlap to a great extent. But in Turkey this is even more so; apart from overlapping, anti-communism and anti-Sovietism are almost identical in this country.
The attitude of Ankara government against the Soviet Union during Lausanne negotiations, which started in a period when the military episode of the war was over, but the Republic of Turkey was not yet declared, in between November 1922 and July 1923, proved well how the new rulers of Anatolia were nursing a grudge for the fight against communism.
Turkey helped surprisingly a lot to the Western powers in order to keep the Bolsheviks, the only great force that stood by her side during the war, away from the diplomatic negotiations. During the negotiations, it was the Bolsheviks who decided to make all sorts of sacrifices to strengthen Turkey’s hand against imperialists. They did this despite the fact that the triumphant Kemalists started to wage a widespread campaign to suppress and wipe out the communists during September and October 1922!
The voice of Soviet Russia was muted in Lausanne. Only when the situation of the straits was discussed, what voice of the communists could be heard. They were taking a stance contrary to their interests and demanding an authority over the position of the straits that Turkey was not actually entitled (and even did not want!). That was why the British diplomat Lord Curzon was saying for the Soviet diplomat Chicherin, “Even more Turkish than the Turks”.5
On the contrary, the Turkish delegation headed by İsmet İnönü was busy showing how eager Turkey was in taking a role in confining communism, i.e. the Soviet Union. They preferred to support the impositions of imperialism rather than the proposals of the Soviet delegates that were to the advantage of Turkey. While the mechanisms which were deployed in massacring Mustafa Suphi in 1920 started to be utilized again in order to do away with the communists in the country, the friendship with the Soviet Union started to cease from being the main axis of the foreign policy. This time, Turkey was using its relations with Western countries in order to confine the Soviet Union into a relationship with herself. Moscow could not find any solution but to act cautiously so as not to push Turkey into the arms of imperialism completely. Yet, the interests of the bourgeoisie, which were gradually pulling itself round, has already been orienting the country towards a new route.
The anti-communist discourse that we will witness in the entire history of the Republic of Turkey was given a start.
The most prominent and the strongest argument of anti-communism in Turkey has been that communism was an “alien factor”. I already mentioned how this argument was put in place in the last days of the Ottoman Empire. It was Mustafa Kemal, who was delivering the speeches in the same vein in TBMM of the War of Independence, while putting the argument in a “friendly” context this time:
“Gentlemen, there might be two kinds of precautions. The first: To crush those who talk about Communism immediately, to utilize fierce, destructive measures such as not allowing any man coming from Russia to step on the land if he is coming by ship or expelling him directly if he is coming by road. We have recognized such precautions as useless in two respects: Firstly, the Russian Republic which we deem good political relations as a necessity is entirely communist. If we have taken such radical measures, under no circumstances we should have any relation with and had any interest in the Russians. (…) Therefore, we considered the most effective remedy as explaining our people, as enlightening the public opinion of the nation that Communism is unacceptable for our country in view of our religious requirements.”6
Nearly one week after this speech was delivered; Mustafa Suphi and his comrades were killed.
The argument claiming that communism could not be valid for Turkey has always been predicated on three pretexts:
There is no capitalist class in Turkey.
Turkey is a muslim country.
Communism is not an indigenous thought.
While the Kemalists were expressing heartily the thesis that “there is no capitalist class in Turkey”, at the same time, they were working passionately to create a capitalist class by utilizing the means of the state. Even when Turkish bourgeoisie became so large that it was impossible to be hidden behind the lie “we are a nation without privileges and classes”, they were still shameless enough to claim that “Bolshevism relies on class struggles, but we do not have classes”.
In due course, this side of the story was forgotten, but the argument about communism being an “alien” factor has not been abandoned at all. They were so sure that this argument worked so well, hence they went all lengths in order not to allow the communists to exist in the Turkish territory. They prepared the evidences to support the argument, “the roots of communism lies outside”, by making the communist movement in Turkey dependent upon the Soviet Union and afterwards to other socialist countries.
In other words, the oppression and terror against communists during the history of the republic have not only aimed to suppress and eliminate them, but also to win an ideological superiority over the communists by rendering them soilless. We will touch upon another aspect of this issue below.
In order to make Islam, in turn, an effective element of anti-communism, there were three requirements: To make communists’ approach to religion look coarse, to modify the accusations of reactionary ideologies in the West in this context into the language of Islam, and to recognize that religious fanaticism can be as effective as nationalism in the counter-revolutionary struggle. Nevertheless, the Kemalist cadres were not so willing to give a dominant role, even in ideological terms, to religious circles which they tried to keep under control persistently during the years of foundation and settlement. For them, religion was like a water dam that should not lose its force by being overused, and they contented themselves with remembering this point. It is obvious that the Kemalist cadres, who allowed religion to maintain the position it has in social life due to several reasons while purging it from the administrative structure, were planning to break the influence of Soviet Russia, which was getting stronger day by day just beside Turkey, by means of the sterile social sphere created by religion.
However, anti-communism in Turkey has always benefited the most from the traditional “hostility to Russians”. Undoubtedly, there were historical causes for such hostility. It was impossible that the formidable wars between Ottoman and Russian empires not to leave any marks over the people. Just as the competition and conflicts over regions such as Crimea, which had been within the sovereign base area and then within the area of interest of the Ottoman Empire, deeply affected the Slavs living in these territories and eventually turned into an unbridled “hostility to Turks”, it was impossible for Turkish nationalism to ignore the explicit role played by Russia in the contraction of the Ottoman Empire. Furthermore, when we add the passion for Istanbul that Russian Orthodoxy never tried to hide, one can say that the image of “the Russian bear that would like to reach the warm seas” had become one of the constant elements in the world view of the Ottomans in 20th century.
I have already emphasized that during the last years of the Ottoman Empire the October Revolution drew this image away to a certain extent, but could not eliminate it completely. Although it seems that the hostility to Russia was replaced by sympathy to the Bolsheviks under the heat of the War of Independence, sincerity never existed between two countries even at the time when rapprochement was at the top, since some of the leading Kemalist cadres were genuinely cadres of Britain or France, Mustafa Kemal and his close associates were utterly concerned about the sympathy towards Soviet Russia in poor Anatolia and even the most willing cadres about developing the relations with the Soviet Union were, in the last instance, aiming an integration with the West.
While the Bolsheviks usually made realistic assessments about the leadership in Anatolia and develop a sound understanding about its class bases, they were paying attention to give assurance to this new ruling class of Turkey and keep their promises. In return, in many occasions, they experienced an “evasive” approach “keeping his cards close to his chest”.
The obvious reason of such behavior was that the Kemalist cadres were seeing the Soviet Union as the heir of Russia, so they never thought of a permanent friendship with this country and wanted to use “the hostility against Russia” as a precaution against Bolshevism when they need to.
Kemalists were so conditioned to see the occupying imperialist states as their prospective friends that they were quite arrogant about the backwardness of Soviet Russia and the rudeness of the Bolsheviks without taking the backward social relations in Anatolia into account. They considered the re-emerging Turkey as “part of the developed Western civilization” and Russia as a temporary ally!
One can think of this view of Kemalists as one of the reasons why hostility to Russia could be utilized so effectively in the bourgeois order’s fight against communism. Communism is an alien factor to Turkey, and moreover, it belongs to Russia who is “hostile” to the Turkish land!
We need to note that the first communists of Turkey strived really a lot to break this conception and in this endeavor, they never developed pragmatic approaches that would overshadow the Soviet Union or the comradeship with its ruling party. On the other hand, of course, certain problems that arose in time in the relationships between CPSU and other parties in the world put a strain on TKP as well and provided new arguments for “the roots of the communists lies outside” discourse of anti-communism.