(This article was published in the 2nd issue of KöZ Newspaper dated March 2015.)
Principled politics by whose principles?
The first and most common result of the reflexes of revolutionary factions and socialists against the fickle perception of politics, mainly of bourgeois politics, which is also called “opportunism”, is, every faction seeing its own principles as fundemental and expecting everyone, who at least they think they will work together to some point, to act according to those principles. Indeed, there is nothing strange and surprising for anyone to adhere strictly to the principles and views adopted by the political movement one is involved and to want to attract others to this position.
An important dimension of the political struggle also requires this. Propaganda work in general and also polemics etc. also walks along this axis. But the essence of these studies refers to the work carried out by the factions in question to gain supporters. In this context becomes explaining the opinions and principles in detail and concretely, revealing their superiority compared to other opinions usual and no subject who is in a political struggle cannot exist without these practices, independent of their scale of influence.
However, the situation changes when the same thing is tried to be done while attempting to collaborate with other movements for a period of time. Because the principles and distinctive theses and views of each political movement are already the reason and necessity for each to exist as an independent movement. In this respect, one movement imposing the other its own principles and views or inviting them to it, leaving the differences in tone aside, has one meaning: saying “accept these principles and views” means “join us”, should be regarded as the opening line for a relation of unification. However, the relations among organizations that are formed according to different principles and programs are not just the relationships referred above. On the contrary, relations in this category are generally between a limited number of organizations.
Apart from that, of course, there may be relatively more permanent alliances and relations on some singular principal positions, without the aim of a temporary, non-casual unity. as a matter of fact, the formations and initiatives that can be an example to this are not few. There should be no strangeness in this. Let us assume that those who have agreed among themselves on a single principle or principal position take action to invite others to take the same position. In this case, the problem that we have just mentioned becomes reproduced in a collective manner, this time in a narrower frame and comes to the same thing.
Is putting principles and benchmarks aside a condition for political action?
On the other hand, on platforms that aim and actually have to temporally bring together organizations varying in scale, legibility and tendency on a single agenda, imposing a single or somewhat collective position on everyone or expecting everyone to go along is against the nature of these formations. Such attitudes prevent the formation of such platforms, their regular and effective functioning or results in dissociation of those who insist on this attitude.
For example, the “We Can Succeed Together” platform, which was formed on the occasion of the previous elections, has a much wider scope than the usual ones, can be a good example for the clarification of this problem.
What could happen if every component or some in such a platform insists on the orientation of the platform, or the explanations and positions to be taken in any step according to their own principles and separating views? It is difficult to find such a common point since each of the movements and organizations coming together in the mentioned environment has their own history, and positions and principles referred as their distinctive features; or, if there are such common points, it is necessary to lean towards a permanent alliance and search for ways of unity on deeper foundations. Since the example in question does not have any relationship with such a possibility, such an insistence either plays a role in preventing the work of the platform or invites an attitude that is a mirror image of the first. This attitude, this time, leads to the same result with putting principles totally aside, to the search of gathering around fickle positions under the name of “common principles”. In this case, an attitude that is not identical to anyone’s own principles, reflecting a little bit from the colors of each component, regardless of their political influence and diameters, emerges. This will be a reason for ambiguity, and it is often far from expressing a common point that could be defended strongly.
In many other instances, as in platform work on elections, this dilemma often manifests itself, and the impression is that it is faced with an insurmountable dilemma.
However, it is not so. This problem is largely due to the habit of conducting political work on its own and with the belief that there is no other way than its own linear growth. A dilemma occurs only with this narrow perspective on political struggle. Of course, it is quite natural that the movements that declared themselves as a party believe they will grow from a linear development path to reach the main goal of theirs, namely the seizure of political power. However, it is evident that none of the subjects that make up the current picture stands exactly close to this point. For this reason, it is not a coincidence that the current movements have to come together when they realize that they cannot take the responsibility of the newly emerging problems or developments leaving their marks on the agenda. These situations describe environments in which alliances and platforms become in question. However, since this process appears at the beginning of a track where one or the other of these political movements cannot move forward on their own independent from others, ways to affiliate through different measures than their principles should be sought. This is usually missing and left ambiguous.
Politics by which principles?
However, this common point is not very difficult to describe. Such common points are, for example, that each movements has a predetermined positions towards this or that question (eg torture, party closures, poliçe operations etc.), these are not only written statements but also shown through concrete practical experiences. Such a process brings together alliances of movements on various platforms where they will come together and discuss how, when and for how long this platform will work. In this case, the topic in question and the principle are obvious; there is no need to argue over them at great length. At the most, after a discussion in the sense of confirmation, it is necessary to move on to planning concrete steps and actualize them.
This is also the case where pre-announced tactical positions are already known, rather than sudden positions to sudden developments. This is the case, for example, when the need to intervene in the election process with co-candidates independent of the parties of bourgeois politics in the upcoming elections. As a matter of fact, this has been the case in the elections we left behind. In such cases, it is absurd to discuss the principles, programs, the commonalities and differences among movements who come together or their opinions on one another. On the contrary, it is necessary to concentrate on the practical actualization of the tactical position, which allows movements to come together in the first place, since it is already agreed on. The differences or similarities of each movement etc. are issues that each will deal separately in their own publications and propaganda activities. Somewhat “importing” them to the stage of formation and functioning of the platform plays a disruptive role, preventing the formation and the operation of the platform in question.
As a matter of fact, such problems have been witnessed frequently and within the platform practice we have experienced. The most effective way to prevent this, is to declare such endeavors on simple platforms and concrete targets that can be easily understood by the widest masses, and to enable everyone to actualize their own positions and opinions with their own tools and methods. If this is not sought, it is inevitable that these private views of elements within the platform will be carried to the common texts and discourses of the platform, and thus, it will aggravate them and decrease their influence.
When the same attitude does not lead to a debate at the level of principles and discourse, this time manifests itself in the form of highlighting various identities or related names in movements. Usually tensions on matters of who to choose as spokesperson and who to stand out concretely etc. are of this type. In election platforms, of course, this element manifests itself in the stage of determining candidates, causing tension.
Communists who stand behind KöZ have been acting with the meticulousness to add to what they have learned from this experience on the platforms in the past elections, as in all platforms, and took responsibility to interfere against any attempt in the opposite direction, for he sake of the platform. They attached importance to express their criticisms or peculiar positions as they know and proportionate to their own power with their own tools and methods, or to express them collectively after the collective work is done. From today, they will continue to do so.
Doctrinaire Approach, Groupist Politics or Secterism
Groupism, also called as doctrinaires or secterians, is one of the most common erroneous attitudes encountered when it comes to principled politics. Although these concepts, which are almost always compatible with each trend, are widely used, it is not true that they are known on the same scale. Moreover, the flaws listed under this name can generally be reduced to a definition that describes a particular tendency, and to defects that are perceived and appear to be some of the unique features of that tendency.
However, these descriptions have general definitions and these general definitions need to be underlined. The word “doctrine” found at the source of defect of doctrinaire attitude should be understood as a term that expresses the interpretation of Marxism Leninism, which can essentially be described as the “general doctrine” of any group. In other words, a tendency described doctrinaire is determined through making its own principles, theses etc., which it accepts as the most accurate interpretation and expression of Marxism, the basic material of political activity. In this regard, the attitude in question is essentially to replace the activity of gathering militants with mass propaganda and polemics, and to confuse the requirements of political activity with the measures of organization.
In order to add new militants to its structure, it is of course quite natural and necessary for an organization to maket hem adopt its own views and principles and test them through this touchstone. Political activity, in the final analysis, also has a connection to this aim and it is quite natural to have it. But once the content and methods of the political activity have been replaced by the content and methods required for organizing new militants, then it is condemned to a policy line that only addresses the elements that may be the addressee of this action. This explains an attitude that does not change in essence even it changes according to the temperament of that tendency. When a tendency aiming a narrow organization adopts a doctrinal style of politics, they gravitate to a political activity that only appeals to elements that are suitable for their own organizational framework, or become imprisoned in this framework that cannot go beyond this even if they claim otherwise. They adopt similar attitudes in dealing with other factions. An attitude that always imposes their own measures and expects them to adopt their own principles marks the orientations of such tendencies. This gives life to a self-centered attitude that either makes calls of unity to everyone or excludes everyone at every stage and occasion.
It is not a coincidence and in vain that doctrinaires are always associated with secterianism, the disease of persisting political activity like a closed community. Whether it publicly declares or not, doctrinaire politics in essence expresses an attitude indexed to the expectation of replacing all of the revolutionary movement through a linear line of development with registering new militants and sometimes through the expectation of their rivals erased from the scene one way or another. At the same time, the style of politics marked by the secterian and narrow group interests is the other side of this coin.
On the other hand, it should not be assumed that those who have wider disposition and prefer to appeal to everyone are completely immune from doctrinaire attitude. Because what makes these doctrinaire is not that they speak in whisper, but they do politics in public with the measures of the field of organizing, and in this respect, although there is different types of doctrinaire attitudes according to the nature of the organization, the attitude of doing politics in pursuant of secterianism and narrow group interests can be seen in organizations of all types and scales.
Communists behind KöZ, who have been attentive to distinguish between the organization of the revolutionaries and the organization of the masses from the beginning and at every stage, are equally meticulously distant from the doctrinal stance in politics. They are careful not to confuse their stance and suggestions towards revolutionaries with their political positions and initiatives towards the masses. This also requires not confusing principles and tactical positions and the political steps that are necessitated by these tactical positions. On the other hand, first of all, what distinguishes the communists who stand behind KöZ from other factions is, instead of inventing their own principles, them distinguishing the core references that all communists declare they agree on and describing and declaring these references as touchstones for themselves and in their relations with others. Contrary to those who sometimes interpret this frequent reminding of these references as doctrinaires, conducting political activity according to these references is the most effective vaccine against it.
The communists standing behind KöZ leaned towards the past election campaigns with this consciousness and continue their way by adding the lessons (which of course include also lessons related to doctrinaires) they learned from this experience to their repertory.