Religious transformation and communists

Religious transformation and communists

As stated at the 10th Congress of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), one of the basic pillars of the Second Republic established with the elections in 2011 is the religious transformation of the political regime and the social structure. Gradually increasing steps have been taken to strengthen this pillar in the last year.

As stated at the 10th Congress of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), one of the basic pillars of the Second Republic established with the elections in 2011 is the religious transformation of the political regime and the social structure. Gradually increasing steps have been taken to strengthen this pillar in the last year.

We witness that some practices, which were under debate whether they were marginal examples or leading steps until a few years ago, have been generalized and gained integration. The introduction of religion into the educatory system, the straightforward ban on alcoholic beverages in some localities, the state-led broadcasting of a religious TV channel are not individual practices, but such elements integrating the program of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in some fields that may seem unrelated at first glance.

The hegemonic forces of Turkey need Islamic charities in order to fill the remaining gap left by the social state, a Sunni identity to expand their role in the Middle East, the idea of "religious fraternity" in the name of solution of the Kurdish question, the eradication of artistic and cultural fields to block the resource of progressive ideologies, the expansion and deepening of religion to legitimate the inequalities and injustices in general.

In this context, ignominious attacks on atheism are not only composed of an insane manifestation of reactionism, but also indispensable elements for the readjustment of the hegemonic ideology. They will also attempt to impose a new possible constitution on the masses not from the grounds of bourgeois liberalism or imperialist "globalism" but of religion.

Feeling responsible for describing this process and producing answers on how the communists should behave, the 11th Congress of the Communist Party of Turkey has prepared the document below.

A. General approaches

1. Religion and the emancipation of workers

Enlightenment meant the deprivation of religion of dominating social and political life and of drawing the framework of political ideologies in order to enable humanity to take the control of its destiny. The breakthrough of Enlightenment that has lasted for centuries freed humanity from being the helpless slave of divine forces or being the reflection of them without any initiative, and formed the background of the modern class struggles. The labour movement and the Left necessarily define itself with a secular perspective in the struggle for creating a world without exploitation.  

This does not necessitate that all the individual parts of the struggle, all the persons should be atheist. The introduction of religious thought into the every question that is too difficult to be answered by the humanity's accumulation of knowledge is a historical and objective phenomenon. It is obvious that such a phenomenon cannot be confronted with a rough "atheism".

Moreover, it is not true that religion has always prevented progression. The development of religions was generally part of the intellectual development of humanity. As many examples show, new religions could express the struggle of the oppressed against the hegemonic forces, thus could represent historical progressions.

Doubtlessly, the conciliation of social establishment with science will expand the realm of secular thought in the course of time. Said conciliation will be enabled under socialism. Therefore, the first step that should be taken in order not to allow the religious prejudices to prevent the progression is the construction of socialism, thus the socialist revolution.

In this context, the communist movement is extremely sincere in protecting the people's individual freedom of belief and conscience. The struggle of communists to purge social life, politics, political ideologies etc. of religiosity does not contradict this sincerity.

Today, some socialist movements may have a positive contact with religious movements under specific circumstances in some countries. The Communist Party of Turkey argues that a generalization cannot be reached from such examples, and that our country cannot be assessed in this context.

2. The legacy of Enlightenment and communism

The link between bourgeoisie and the Enlightenment values has declined in time. This tendency increased particularly during reactionary conjunctures. An example of this can be seen at the anti-communist campaign of the international capital at the last quarter of the 20th century. At this recent period, the capitalist system has further shifted to the Right as a whole, and religious ideologies and diverse types of reactionism have expanded. Today, the widespread and dominant position of religious and reactionary movements is directly related with anti-communism.

The communist movement adopts the bourgeois Enlightenment by transforming it into a socialist Enlightenment towards the classless society. Methodically excluding religiosity and underlining the revolutionary role of the working class, Marxism is expected to be the most enthusiastic and consistent movement in relation to Enlightenment.

On the other hand, the growing relation of bourgeoisie with religious fundamentalism brings about the direct introduction of religion into the anti-labour struggle. It seems that hegemonic forces use the discourse of the freedom of belief and conscience as a cover of reactionism. In this context, the communist movement pays big attention to not to fall into the traps it confronts.

3. Enlightenment and secularism in Turkey

The Turkish bourgeois revolution is rather pragmatic than being pro-Enlightenment. The pro-Enlightenment practices were carried out as a central policy for a highly limited time span, the hegemonic forces often protected and resorted to religious fundamentalism. Therefore, pro-Enlightenment stance was generally perceived as formal elements as in the example of dressing. It cannot be argued that the secular practices introduced such a political motivation as controlling their own destiny into the masses of people, let alone being protected enthusiastically.

Even under such restrictions, there is a legacy of Enlightenment that should be protected by the communist and progressive movement.

Furthermore, it would be a baseless opinion to argue that religious fundamentalism marked the pre-Republican era in Turkey. The problem of our country and the specific strength of Sunni Islam are not based on a society exposed to religion for a long historical time span, but on the historical relation of religion with the political rule. Otherwise, the secular sources of the society cannot be regarded as poor at all.

B. What is happening in the Second Republic?

1. The liquidation of Enlightenment

We are confronting a Second Republic not as a choice of a reactionary fraction of the bourgeoisie, but as a historical choice of it as a whole. The intra-contradictions of hegemonic forces approved and supported by imperialism are far from being deep and irreconcilable strategic distinctions. The Second Republic represents a bourgeois consensus in the refutation of the legacy of Enlightenment and the liquidation of historical gains. Neoliberal and pro-market approaches integrate with religious fundamentalism.

Socialism is the sole alternative to this liquidation. The communist movement is primarily responsible for encouraging the whole progressive accumulation of our country and for mobilizing it in direction of socialism.

2. The limits of the Second Republic

Despite the broad power sources of the government, it would be wrong to argue that the regime of Second Republic would as get deepened as up to its logical boundaries. There are structural and historical limitations before the religious transformation of the Turkish society. The modern working class, the educated and qualified labourers such as physicians, engineers and teacher, the intellectual sections such as artists and scientists, the studying youth, the women, and the Alevis represent these limitations, not the so-called “secular” sections of the propertied hegemonic forces.

It is apparent that this broad population lacks a political representative, or, most of their representatives behave compromisingly and submissively vis-à-vis the Second Republic. This situation does not block the path of the communist movement, but increases its responsibility. Hopeless anticipations should be rejected since they argue that religious fundamentalism will drag Turkey to an irreversible darkness and a pro-sharia dictatorship. Also, such approaches cannot be accepted since they argue that a positive and political relation should be established with religion with the aim of opposing religious fundamentalism.

The links of the communist and revolutionary movement with the social sections in question will largely determine the limitations to be drawn to religious fundamentalism in practice.

3. The struggle is also integrated

As religious fundamentalism is not an extremism or an anomalous phenomenon but represents the whole of bourgeois hegemony, the struggle of the Left also should be integrated. Dragging Turkey into imperialist scenarios in the Middle East requires a sharpened Sunni Islamism, and the struggle for peace against this will also deal a blow to religious fundamentalism. If they want to subjugate the Kurdish people in the name of religious fraternity, then the participation of the Kurdish labourers in class struggle would destroy a frontier of religious fundamentalism. These mediations that can be demonstrated in many other examples should be taken into account in the program of struggle of the Left.

C. Attack on “the field of Left”     

The Second Republic is directly attacking the field of the Left through the government-led manipulations or the approaches and circles led by its reactionary atmosphere.

1. The discourse of “True Muslims”

Speaking in the name of “true Muslims” and considering religion as a common ground tend to rise so as to oppose the Islamist government. The Left cannot make any concessions to its principle of not introducing religion into the political realm.

2. Religious transformation of Alevi opposition

Although dramatic measures were taken in order to prevent the Alevi opposition from tending to the Left After the 12 September 1980 coup d'état, the hegemonic forces reached a limited success in doing so. Today, the policies to configure Alevism as a sect of Islam are welcomed even among the Alevis, and such demands can be regarded as progressive, democratic demands within the Left. The Left should not defend the religious but the cultural characteristics of Alevism, not its sectarian but solidarity aspects, and rise the ideological and political struggle in this respect.


3. Religious intervention in Kurdish question


All such are Second-Republican syndromes that cults, Hezbollah, pro-Barzani stance and integrated tribalism are getting stronger among the Kurdish society, and that religious fundamentalism is rising in the ideological field. An opinion arguing that this baseline should be religiously transformed in some scales has become widespread so as to protect a pro-people baseline. This should not be considered as a resisting baseline, but as the infiltration of religious fundamentalism into pro-people sections. The Left should protect the secular characteristics of the Kurdish awakening and try to strengthen this aspect.


4. Blockading the working class with religion


Various interventions to dissolve the working class identity are deepening in the field of trade unions. The progressive movement of trade union should not confine itself to an institutional competition alone, but establish a political, ideological and cultural resistance against the attempt to transform the trade unions into pro-AKP structures.


5. Disciplining intellectuals


As the AKP-led interventions in theatres to TV series have become efficient since they are based on the political power, such interventions are not based on broad social sections but on a religious and reactionary militant base. Various effective practices of bans, repression and privatizations will not change this situation; the artists will continue to oppose the establishment. However, intellectuals and artists can resist this repression if they do not compromise but become radicalized.


6. Discourse of religious minorities and democracy


Yet another indication of increasing conservatism is to reduce democratization to the coexistence of religions and religious minorities. However, democratic gains can only be defined in relation to the demands of rights and freedoms. The Left should decode the real aspect of the government-sponsored rise of religious fundamentalism, including Sunni Islam as well as other religions and sects, and oppose the campaigns of religious tourism accompanying this process.


7. Criminalization of atheism


Atheism is not such a positioning that can be directly oriented to the political realm. The political positions of atheists are not based on anti-religiosity but on secularism as non-religiosity. It seems that the AKP has regarded this as a weakness, considering that an overt resistance could not be developed against the criminalization of atheism, so that the atheists would hide or avoid from the struggle. Nevertheless, atheism is not an Achilles’ heel but the vanguard force of Enlightenment. The Left should repel the operation of discrediting through a rational and efficient challenge. On the other hand, instead of a politicised approach, a sort of atheism that manifesting itself in such themes as the existence-nonexistence of god has expanded recently. Knowing that if it does not become politicised this respond would be futile, become neutralized or even go beyond nothing but become an excuse for reactionary provocations, the Left should make integrated, scientific, ideological, political and organized interventions in this field in question. 


D. What should communists do?


1. The Communist Party of Turkey sincerely advocates the freedom of belief and conscience.


2. The TKP rejects becoming part of the debates on the Constitution that is nothing but a turning point for legalization of the Second Republic in the eye of the society. The TKP will not remain unconcerned with such attempts to define religion as one of the basic lines of the system during the debates on the Constitution, and struggle against these attempts.


3. The TKP objects to the opinion arguing that the absolute majority of the Turkish society is composed of Sunni Muslims, and rejects all the approaches describing the society with religion. The TKP considers that the organizations founded with political, ideological and economic motives by religious faith groups are completely illegitimate apart from compulsory gatherings for prayers. It wages an ideological struggle against such fallacies arguing that these organizations are part of democracy or non-governmental organizations.


4. The TKP struggles against those political party leaders and governmental officials who abuse religious values for political shows. It is an abuse of belief and violation of the freedom of belief and conscience if political personalities attend mass prayers and deliver religious-related speeches, or say prayers at political or social events.


The TKP rejects the construction of gigantic mosques and religious complexes in city centres and historical spaces.


5. The TKP objects to the religious education and compulsory religious courses in or out of schools for the children under 16, advocates that religious education can only be discussed as a theme of history and social sciences. Imam-hatip schools cannot be established as basic pillars of the educatory system. Imam-hatip schools must be shut down since they were launched not for the need for related professionals but with the aim of religious transformation of education and of training reactionary cadres. The TKP advocates that the faculties of theology must be shut down. Research on religions should be organized with a secular content as a theme of history and social sciences at universities.


6. The TKP advocates the dissolution of the Religious Affairs Presidency as the central base of religious fundamentalism. The reconfiguration of the Religious Affairs Presidency involving other beliefs and sects would not curb the reactionary aspect of this institution, and would not lead to nothing but religious transformation of minorities and further legitimate reactionism.


7. The TKP supports the Enlightenment values, the human values, and the labourers and artists’ artistic production rising the struggle for equality and freedom against the increasing conservatism of art, encourages those intellectuals and artists in this position, strengthens political production and organization within the cultural and artistic field. The TKP demands the closure of such TV programs based on religious superstitions and reactionary propaganda on public or private TV broadcasters; wages an ideological and cultural struggle against such programs; supports educatory, cultural and scientific works in the field of social and historical roots of religions; supports and organizes informative attempts for the youth; stands against religion-based non-scientific activities at schools; organizes scientific activities and stands against reactionary campaigns that reject the evolution of nature; and struggles for introducing scientific perspective and science into the young generations.


8. The TKP struggles against threatening, defamatory and insulting campaigns against non-Sunni sections, particularly the Alevis. It struggles against such approaches arguing that Alevism is or should be a sect of Islam. It carries out such works to demonstrate the historical sources of Alevism as a pro-people, solidarist and cultural phenomenon. It struggles and organizes to help Alevism get positioned as a source of resistance against the Second-Republican regime.


9. The TKP advocates that the Kurdish question could be solved not on the basis of “religious fraternity” but on such a basis in which the national characteristics are not regarded as a source of priority but the peoples’ demands of freedom are met on the basis of equality and justice as the production of the struggle of the workers and labourers from all roots. As religious fundamentalism gets stronger within the Kurdish people, it would prevent a solution depending on the fraternity of peoples. The TKP struggles to reveal and strengthen the pro-Enlightenment background of the Kurds’ demands of freedom.


10. The TKP reveals that the Second Republic also stands for depriving the studying youth of scientific education, and strengthens the cultural, scientific and artistic aspects of the political struggle and organization among the youth.


11. The TKP states that the women have been removed from the social life in parallel with the deepening Second Republic, struggles against such illusions in this respect, encourages and organizes the women’s resistance against the repression of religious fundamentalism. The TKP rejects imam-sanctioned marriages [Islamic marriage ceremonies] that support a male polygamy and a male domination based on the inferiority of women, advocating that voluntary relations without official marriages should be accepted in law. The TKP states that violence against women rises in parallel with the deepening religious fundamentalism, emphasizing the importance of the struggle against religious fundamentalism for the emancipation of women under socialism. The TKP reveals that the propaganda of having many children is part of reactionism.


12. The TKP rejects the classification of sexual orientations by the political rule, the hegemonic ideology and the legal system, advocating that sexual orientations should be definitely respected. The TKP strongly objects to discrimination and the definition of homosexuality as a disease.


13. The TKP advocates the annulment of the part on citizens’ identity cards showing their religious affiliation. It defends the right to non-religious funeral ceremonies, calling on the people to reject the impositions on such rights.


14. The TKP criticizes inadequate, non-functional, formative and shallow implementations of secularism that does not involve the people. It interprets the essence of Enlightenment around the idea arguing that the working people can determine its own destiny. The TKP depends on an organized struggle, not the judiciary mechanisms under the control of the Second Republic.