Reply to Lyons, by Efe Can Gürcan
Matthew Lyons, using emotional language, targets me rather than the original arguments that I advanced in my essay.
Lyons accuses me of “completely whitewashing Alexander Dugin,” whereas I make clear from the outset that Dugin’s Eurasianism is replete with severe problems. I do not claim that Dugin’s Eurasianism relies on revolutionary values. After summarizing the position of the Russians, I note their irrationalism and esoterism. I then turn to my central focus on NATO and Turkish Eurasianism. I explain that Eurasianism is not a uniform movement, and that the emerging Turkish Eurasianism may effectively counter NATO if bottom-up and cultural strategies prevail.
As for the so-called “ethnic chauvinism” of the Workers’ Party (WP), I described how in fact the WP rejects ethno-nationalism both in Turkey and elsewhere; for example, it condemns Turkic-Uyghur terrorism and separatism in China as well as the ethno-nationalism of the PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party).
I drew a clear line of difference between Russian and Turkish Eurasianists, yet Lyons describes the WP as if it was part of a neo-fascist movement just because it interacts with Dugin’s movement through institutional channels. Contrary to Lyons’s claim that the WP is ultranationalist, the WP interacts not only with Dugin but also with the Russian Communist Party. The WP has openly critiqued Dugin’s project of ethno-pluralism and his notion of “empire,” arguing that the real solution lies in “popular-democratic nation-states” or at least “civic regimes” rather than “archaic empires” and ethnic or non-secularist movements.
The WP’s Eurasianism does not draw on Dugin’s work (the name similarity should not lead to reductionist conclusions), but implicitly expands on Mao Zedong’s Three Worlds theory. Turkish Eurasianists have contacts with more than 15 Eurasian communist and socialist (non-Duginist) parties from such countries as North Korea, Azerbaijan, Russia, etc. to build a Eurasian alliance. The WP and the Russians have also had public disagreements on Cyprus, Armenia, and the strategic position of Turkey in Eurasia. Nonetheless, they have kept their dialogue open for future interaction.
Regarding the Kurdish question, the Kurdish ethno-nationalist movement has been a main collaborator of US imperialism in the region; it applauded the invasion of Iraq by the United States in which hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed. Lyons, however, prefers not to mention the crimes of Kurdish ethno-nationalists.
Throughout the 1980s, the Turkish Left called Kurdish ethno-nationalists “Apo’s murderers” because they executed cadres of many communist movements in Eastern and Southeast Turkey, starting with those of the WP. This led some analysts to argue that Kurdish ethno-nationalists collaborated with the Turkish state and NATO’s Gladio agenda to eliminate Turkish communists. Indeed, the Turkish state not only murdered Kurdish activists: it also murdered thousands of Turkish socialists and communists. And in the same fashion that the Turkish state murdered Kurdish activists, Kurdish ethno-nationalists murdered socialists and communists. Here, I have to condemn Lyons’s double standards or ignorance.
Even the arch-enemies of the WP within the Turkish Left admit that the WP (or the Aydınlık movement) is the first socialist movement that revealed and fought against NATO’s Gladio agenda in Turkey. The supposedly “ultranationalist” WP has done much to advance the freedom of Kurdish people, especially in the 1980s and 1990s. Additionally, many WP leaders are of Kurdish origin, as specified in my original paper.
As for Turkish civic nationalism, Lyons seems to think that voters from so-called “neo-fascist origins” should not be part of the struggle against NATO and US imperialism, as strategic partners who need to be politically or ideologically transformed towards revolutionary ideals. But if we were to follow the same logic in the international arena, one would have to condemn Venezuela for collaborating with the Iranians and Russians, or brand the Cubans as “anti-Left” just because they support Assad’s dictatorship in Syria or because they were for some years unsupportive of LGBT rights. Do we have to close the doors to Iranians and Russians just because they are anti-feminist and homophobic? Would not such an approach harden these regimes in their negative practices?
As for the voters of the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party), Lyons should know that revolution is not made by an elite group of communists, but depends rather on popular masses of diverse political origins, who under certain conditions, however, are open to the influence of committed communists. For the record, there has been no instance of official or unofficial collaboration between the WP and MHP. The MHP has never collaborated with the WP, because the WP’s objective is still to convert the masses to anti-imperialist or even revolutionary politics. Any influence gained by the WP within MHP ranks has in fact enraged the top-level MHP leadership.
Lyons thus shows little familiarity with Turkish politics. Beyond this, he seems to ignore the importance of united front tactics in revolutionary struggle. In the Turkish context, it is preferable for the Left that both civic nationalists and social-democratic republicans remain neutral or become allies, rather than be left to side with the AKP government, Israel or the US.
Such a realistic strategy also applies to the international arena. In line with its neutralizing and transformative strategy, the WP recently visited Lebanon and established close contacts not only with the “neo-fascist” Hezbollah, but also with the Nasserist Murabitoun movement, in hopes of winning both groups to the Eurasian camp against US imperialism, and eventually of transforming their ideological stance. The same goes for Dugin and the Russian communists. One should not avoid potentially transformative dialogue with such movements merely because they are not leftist or because their practices are in some areas objectionable.
It is self-defeating for the Left to limit its contacts – as Lyons apparently feels it should – to a small community of like-minded people closed to the outside world. Revolutionary subjects must be in constant strategic interaction with a multitude of forces in order to weaken and overthrow imperialism and build socialism. One does not need to approve each and every aspect of potential allies in order to build a new region/continent either in Latin America or Eurasia. Indeed the WP has a very unorthodox approach, which is why it is worth exploring with open-mindedness and discretion, without Eurocentric and reductionist bias.
The WP is nothing like Dugin’s movement. In comparative terms, it alludes to the ideology and regionalist strategy of the Mexican Labor Party (Partido del Trabajo, PT), which is its “brother party” in Latin America. The WP’s political tradition also bears significant similarities to that of the Workers' Party of Belgium (Parti du Travail, PT) and the pro-Chinese Communist Party of India (Marxist)/CPI-M, whose members have been ruthlessly executed by the “barbarian” militants of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
My original article is not a eulogy of either Eurasianism or the WP. I used descriptive language to point out that NATO is still a huge threat to the oppressed world, and that there exists an emerging “counter-movement” called Turkish Eurasianism. I discussed what actually exists and the challenges that are presented by existing developments.
People like Lyons may well be “disturbed” by the realities and revolutionary necessities of our age. We should not be intimidated by their false allegations but should instead preserve our revolutionary initiative and open-mindedness.
Efe Can Gürcan