Analysing the hungerstrike of POW's in Turkey

DHKC Informationbureau Amsterdam tabe at
Sun Sep 1 11:05:03 MDT 1996


When the prisoners started the hunger strike till death, they weren't
taken seriously by the bourgeois parties, the petite bourgeois
intellectuals and parts of the left. While the bourgeois, Mehmet Agar
and the police continued the attacks inside and outside the prisons to
demonstrate their determination, some groups claimed this kind of
action would not lead to success. The reformist left, which thinks and
acts within the limited framework of the system with regards to the
questions of the revolution, always rejected the determined struggle,
"a tooth for a tooth”, against the rulers. When it became obvious that
the rulers governed the country with continuing attacks and bans, the
reformist left developed their analysis of the "government of the
transition phase" and the "junta" and they ended their only form of
struggle, publicity work. This was exactly what the bourgeoisie-
wanted to achieve. The bourgeoisie is able to anticipate exactly what
results they would achieve with their measures. The tactics of the
rulers are apparent. The revolutionary prisoners inside the prisons
never surrendered, on the contrary, they changed the prisons into
schools of the movement. The rulers knew very well that they had to
destroy these schools of the revolution. At least they had to render
these schools useless. They perfectly knew that the prisoners would
resist any attack. While they continued their attacks against the
prisoners, they also attacked, with all their strength, the people who
supported the prisoners outside the prisons and who wanted to
intensify the struggle. They attacked them to crush any
resistance. Against these tactics of the oligarchy, it is the
revolutionary tactic to increase the struggle, inside as well as
outside. By spreading the struggle to the whole country, the plans of
fascism are crossed with a powerful counter attack as an answer. The
reformists, on the other hand, withdrew at this point once again with
their theory of the "government of the transition phase". By worrying
about elections and "legality", they showed the oligarchy once again
that they don't belong to the revolutionaries, on the contrary, they
keep their distance.

On the one hand, the crisis of the oligarchy deepened, on the other
hand the attacks against the people increased.  Despite the collapse
of the coalition between the DYP and ANAP, the attacks were continued,
in a hitherto unknown dimension, under minister of Justice Mehmet
Agar. These attacks were continued, without any interruption under the
government of the REFAYOL coalition. After the collapse of the
coalition between DYP and ANAP, there was virtually no other
alternative left as a government of the Refah party, even though this
wasn't exactly the kind of government the imperialists and the
monopoly bourgeois desired most. After the Refah party promised the
US-imperialists, the monopolies and the military they would do
anything in their power to maintain order, the imperialists and the
federation of major industrialists - including Sabanci - gave the
green light for a Refah party government. This government didn't
hesitate for one moment to fulfil its promise and they started to move
immediately. The main point of its activities was to put into practice
the program of repression, taken over from the ANAYOL government, and
trying to crush the revolutionary movement. Although the government
changed, it continued, without any changes, the policy of repression
of the police and the general staff. Those who assert different
objectives from every change of government and who, for "tactical"
reasons, waited and hoped, soon realised they had been wrong. We have
said before that in this phase of the revolution and the
contra-revolution no civilian government is capable of withdrawing
itself from the control by the contra-guerrilla. On the contrary,
without basing itself on these force, no civilian government could
possibly exist. This was shown once again.

The Refah party gave themselves the appearance of being different than
the other civilian parties. They took over the protests of the
people's masses against the governing parties and the system in their
ideology and they presented themselves as an opponent of the
regime. Although this was obviously just a manoeuvre to become the
governing party, the mechanical and dogmatic application of the
principle that every party represents the interests of a certain class
or grouping, led to the belief that the Refah party was different from
the other civilian parties.

That the Refah party is not an opponent of the imperialists, the
monopolists and capitalism, but supports these as best as it can
instead, was not only clear after several months; it was obvious after
a couple of days. The Refah party became a force of the imperialists
and the monopolies which, especially in the phase of the coup of
September 12, 1980, work at spreading religious motives and which was
available whenever imperialism and the monopolies would need her. The
Refah party became the governing party to fulfil the needs of the
bourgeois and from the very first day she did all she could and the
attacks, started under the previous government were even increased
under the maxim "What the other governments didn't achieve, we
will". In this way they wanted to proof the imperialists and
monopolies that Refah constituted their best possible defence. As a
proof they wanted to deliver a decisive blow against the prisoners,
and at the same time destroy the mass movements outside of the
prisons. While the Refah party on the one hand for the time being kept
the masses appeased with economic promises and increasing the wages,
on the other hand they prepared for the decisive blow against the
revolutionary prisoners to show themselves trustworthy in the eyes of
the bourgeois. We were able to cross this plans with extraordinary
measures. We had to show the people that the Refah party had nothing
to do with the people, nor with justice, human rights or equality,
instead they exploited the religious feelings of the people, and that
they just were working to fulfil the wishes of imperialism, the
collaborating bourgeois and the contra-guerrilla. We had to show this
as possible, without hesitation and without allowing that our message
would be falsified. The prisoners increased their resistance to the
hunger strike till death and the struggle outside the prisons was
intensified and broadened. This was meant to wake all those who had
put their hopes on the civilian parties and on the Refah party as some
kind of new blood. A strong barricade was to be build against the

The resistance of the prisoners was not only aimed at improving the
conditions in jail or for the achievement of certain rights. It was
rather a struggle to deal with the new REFAHYOL government, to take
away the mask of the fascist Refah party. The people defended
themselves against the attacks by the REFAHYOL government with a

As the events of the hunger strike have shown, Marxists-Leninists do
not let themselves constrained in the struggle. It has been shown that
when we, Marxist-Leninists, analyse the concrete conditions of
struggle in all areas of life, when we look at the particularities of
our country and develop our struggle with the utmost creativity, that
we can achieve positive results, no one reckoned with. From this
perspective, the Marxist-Leninists have acted and by connecting the
creativity of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete conditions, they
created the weapon of the hunger strike till death.

The bourgeois showed their egoism and disbelief by letting minister of
Justice Sevket Kazan declare that the prisoners would not die. Many
reformist as well didn't take the problem seriously until the moment
the prisoners began to die, one after the other. When the first hunger
strikers till death fell, they said: "Why did they die, this is not
necessary, we must live and fight outside." Thus they showed an
attitude which was very remote of answering the attacks by the powers
that be with a counter attack, an attitude which had nothing to do
with revolutionary determination and conviction. This attitude of the
"left" is exactly the attitude of the petite bourgeois intellectuals
of not supporting the resistance, but ending it. The revolutionary
movement had to intensify the struggle against the attacks by the
bourgeois, as well as against the reformists and petite bourgeois
intellectuals, with determination and the willingness to pay the
price. The bourgeois wanted to spread pessimism and uncertainty by
calling the deaths superfluous. A broad front of petite bourgeois
intellectuals, many democratic groups and individuals didn't believe
that the revolutionary movement was prepared to give martyrs in this
struggle. Because of the foresight of the Marxist-Leninist it was
possible to enhance the unity of the revolutionary forces in many
fields. There still remain some problems, but they have started to
look for solutions. The Central Co-ordination Committee of the
prisoners, the prisoners solidarity platform DETUDAP, and Mayday 1996
are the best examples of this unity. The resistance of the hunger
strike till death constituted the first real test for this unity and
it must be evaluated according to this aspect. Important is too that
the revolutionary movement in Turkey created a tradition under the
most difficult circumstances (the years after the coup), in a time
when nothing moved anymore, a tradition of delivering blows against
the enemy, leaving the heritage of the hunger strike till death. The
prisoners refused to be treated like "inmates", fought for their
identity as Free Prisoners, and they combined their struggle with the
struggle outside the prisons, forming one inseparable unity. The ideas
like "A political struggle is impossible in prison" and "One can only
fight for certain rights there", spread by the reformists, were
smashed by the prisoners and thrown away as garbage. The prisoners
transformed their imprisonment into a nightmare for the oligarchy who
fear that all those in prison will become militants. The resistance of
the prisoners, waged under these circumstances, looking death into the
eyes, met a large echo throughout the land and the whole world. And so
we were able to reveal the fascist face of the Refah party in just a
couple of days, a task which would otherwise have taken months, maybe
even years.

The dynamics of the revolutionary movement in Turkey have always been
strong. The shortcomings were with the inadequate leadership of the
movement which acted dogmatically and which didn't go beyond the
framework of already known forms of struggle, which came under the
influence of the reformists, developed no belief in the own strength
and which kept aloof of developing unison. One can look at the hunger
strike till death as the joint action of several political groups who
approached death together, groups which, be it slowly, surpass their
dogmatism and self interests.

The hunger strike till death created a large gap in the oligarchy and
especially in the Refah party and its "Islamic" ideology. The Refah
party and the oligarchy were dealt a great blow at a time they didn't
expect and in a field they didn't expect. This struggle not just
created a barricade against the attacks of the Refah party and the
bourgeois and achieved certain rights for the prisoners, foremost it
took away the mask from the fascist face of the Refah party and it
dealt a great blow against the bourgeois which was spreading pessimism
and disbelief. The real gain of this resistance was taking victory and
moral superiority in the ideological struggle against the bourgeois.

The reformists, the bourgeois, the petite bourgeois intellectuals
etc., who kept repeating that there was nobody in the world anymore
who was prepared to give his life for his cause, were very surprised
when hundreds of revolutionaries announced they were prepared to
die. Even the mediocre bourgeois authors had to admit they were
surprised. But it is nothing new that Marxist-Leninists,
revolutionaries, are prepared to face death for their conviction, that
they receive death without hesitation. We have had hundreds of leading
cadres and fighters who for years affirmed their conviction with their
last breath, who never surrendered when they were surrounded, who died
fighting, who even in their last moments wrote their conviction on the
walls with their own blood. But in this struggle, a tooth for a tooth,
with all these martyrs, certain parts of the people, democrats,
petite-bourgeois intellectuals, and even the bourgeois, were shocked
as never before. However, the hunger strike till death was not an
event which suddenly occurred. During the period of the military junta
there were almost no struggles outside of the prisons, due to the
circumstances. The prisoners resisted to maintain their political
identity and their dignity. But this resistance, which took
sacrifices, was not isolated from the outside and the people. The
resistance took in every step the development of the movement and the
future of the people as a starting point. Those who in the past, under
the circumstances of the time, had said that "the prisons are not the
centre of the struggle", "a political struggle can not be waged inside
the prisons", "actions like a hunger strike till death are suicide,
murder" etc., now participated in the hunger strike till death. This
shows that the long struggle, armed and unarmed, in all areas, in the
cities and in the mountains, which demanded sacrifices, had a strong
influence on the people, and on the left. The struggle had caused the
people and the left to develop in the right direction. No sacrifice is
ever in vain, it always has some effect. No matter how much the truth
is denied, or ignored, it always forces itself into the open.

The revolutionary forces have shown that they, if they succeed in
uniting, and despite the huge price, are a force that has to be
reckoned with and that, if they realise the adequate policy, will
achieve important and successful results. The ongoing war has thought
that the revolutionary forces can not achieve serious and positive
results without paying the price, without waging the war with the
bourgeois on all levels. All know that revolutionaries do not wish
death. But they have shown the determination time and time again to
die if necessary. And it is this determination which scares the enemy
the most. It is often said that there is no force which can defeat
people who are prepared to die. For the bourgeois the most dangerous
and most feared force are those people who take death into
account. The bourgeois has seen this dreaded force once again during
the hunger strike till death. And when the oligarchy saw that the
revolutionaries jointly went into death, they panicked. A struggle,
waged together and where ones shares death, can clear the road to the
beginning of a new process of the revolutionary moment in Turkey. The
hunger strike till death, with all its aspects, with the unification
of the left forces, its determination, its brilliance, could be a the
beginning of a new chapter of the revolutionary movement in
Turkey. The bourgeois is aware of this danger and they will plan new
attacks to avoid this danger.

The hunger strike till death is more than just an ideological struggle
with the bourgeois for socialism or capitalism. It has shocked the
non-socialist intellectuals, the democrats who put their hope in the
regime, the egoists, the discouraged, the tired, and even the
islamists, who were betrayed with words of a just regime, justice and
equality, in other words the whole people, very deeply. Behind this
shock is the selfless, sacrificing new human, who puts a new morality
against the immorality of the bourgeois, against the degeneration,
individualism, loss of identity, against egoism, who puts his own
interests behind for his people and his country. This new human could
be witnessed in the hunger strike till death. In the quagmire, created
by the imperialists and its collaborators, the revolutionaries who
gave their lives created a new and strong hope for a new world, for a
dignified life and a dignified future. The people discussed the
difference between the bourgeois parties and the
revolutionaries. Death crossed the demagogy and the lies of the
bourgeois. Those who fell spoke to the conscience of the people. The
longing for justice, honour and dignity was evident. This longing
materialised on the streets. Many of those who were under the
influence of the regime, took sides with the revolutionaries. The
hunger strike till death, jointly organised by several organisations,
has its foundation in the many armed and unarmed actions and the
hundreds of martyrs. Therefore the hunger strike had great
influence. This influence arised from the characteristics of the
hunger strike till death. This can not be explained with a dogmatic
theory, it has to be explained with the quality and development of the
revolution. These results were achieved by applying the right methods
in the struggle and by the will to pay the price.

In the beginning the police, the military and the bourgeois parties of
the oligarchy thought "they will not die..." When the hunger strikers
till death died, the one after the other, the military thought "let
them die inside, we will kill them outside" and they believed they
could continue the oppression and destroy the resistance. When the
bourgeois parties, who didn't believe that the prisoners would die,
saw that they did die, one by one, and when they saw that mass
activities increased despite the repression, that the world public
opinion stood up, that the prisoners continued their resistance with
determination despite the fallen, they made concessions. They were
forced to their knees and had to promise to fulfil the demands of the
prisoners in order to stop the mass potential of the resistance and to
end the resistance at all costs. In this phase, while the police
chiefs threatened everybody, including intellectuals and artists, and
pledged revenge, the bourgeois parties surrendered to the hunger
strikers till death who gave their lives. In this phase those who
cried "there may be no more deaths, stop the resistance" met with the
bourgeois. The revolutionaries do not love death, neither do they love
to kill. But if its advances the revolution, they are not afraid to
die. Those who fear death, do not want the revolution.

The days when two or three prisoners died were a nightmare for the
oligarchy. Despite their shown uncompromising attitude and toughness,
they experienced the moments of their greatest weakness. If it would
have been necessary, the prisoners from the Party-Front would have
paid an even higher price.

Some democratic organisations panicked and feared a police operation
in the prisons. With their showed toughness, this panic was exactly
what the government wanted to achieve. Furthermore some prisoners, who
did not participate in the hunger strike till death, nor in the
unlimited hunger strike, tried to use the resistance for their own
purposes. In the name of the hunger strikers till death, without them
knowing it, they negotiated with representatives of the government and
thus caused a lot of misunderstandings and wrong developments. Those
who negotiate with the government in the name of the prisoners without
knowing what the prisoners think have to think very carefully who and
what they can represent. They act without mandate when they speak and
negotiate in the name of the prisoners without permission and
authorisation. When they keep on speaking in the name of the prisoners
and even demand "amnesty" for the prisoners, they embarrass themselves
for the public. When they want to act for the rights of the prisoners
and their human rights, they first have to develop a line which is not
in contradiction to the line of the prisoners themselves.

Although the resistance of the prisoners won victory, neither the
attacks by the oligarchy nor the resistance ended. The resistance will
continue in several forms and it will, from dynamics from its own,
unite with the struggle outside the prisons and develop further. Now
it is the most urgent task to beat back the attacks of the oligarchy,
or even better, to go over to the attack from the defence. Therefore
the central co-ordination of the prisoners has to develop further, it
has to induce the organisations who did not yet participate to do so,
to evaluate the resistance, learn the necessary lessons and thus
prepare an even bigger resistance. Outside of the prisons the
prisoners solidarity organisations must be enlarged and
institutionalised so they won't neglect the long term tasks. To
reflect the achieved positive results inside the prisons outside of
the prisons as well, the present disorganisation must be transformed
into organisation, the fragmentation of the struggle must be overcome,
and the struggle must be centralised and structured. During the time
of the resistance it wasn't achieved on the outside give the
resistance a central structure. For that reason the mass resistance
outside remained weak and without effect and it only achieved
relevance because of the rising number of dead prisoners. But despite
the 12 martyrs, the dozens of wounded and the hundreds who were at the
brink of death, the resistance outside the prisons remained far behind
the expectations. Although the resistance caused an earthquake inside
the heads of the reformists, the petite bourgeois intellectuals and
the democrats, the lack of a strong and trustworthy central democratic
organisation prevented an adequate broadening of the resistance. When
we do not centralise and organise the democratic opposition of the
people, the reformists will try to split the struggle and bring it
under their control. Some organisation will claim full and arbitrary
freedom of movement by proposing "coalitions of strength and
action". The broad segments of the people will not trust such a
situation and in stead of tens- and hundreds of thousands, only a very
few will remain in the squares.

The Refah party and the other bourgeois parties, who do not want to
lose their source of votes, could propose a partial amnesty in order
not to keep the mass potential which is dissatisfied with the
regime. We can already now see the beginning of this debate. We have
to deepen this debate and lift it on all levels to the demand "Freedom
for the Prisoners". It is not impossible to crown the victory of the
hunger strike till death with the freedom of the prisoners. It is
possible to achieve successes with the political structures, the broad
participation of the democrats and the intellectuals.

By showing their willingness to die together, if necessary, the
prisoners made everybody conscious of the need for unity. Those who,
with a thousand of pretexts, withdrew from their responsibility for
the unity and who represent their own egoistic group interests under
the mask of unity, should look back once more how our martyrs went
into death together and they should think about it.

The fighters in the hunger strike till death wrote the history of
honour and heroism of our people. This history is so strong in
tradition and legitimate that she brought hope and created trust in a
world of immorality, lies, degeneration, egoism and despair, created
by the bourgeois.

The revolutionary movement gained an even larger legitimacy among the
people's masses and dealt the bourgeois a heavy ideological blow. The
masses took side with the prisoners. Those who under these
circumstances still do not support the resistance of the hunger strike
till death, who try to besmirch the results, are not for justice and
human dignity and they are not on the side of the people, no matter
which view they represent. One should ask them what they mean with
honour and conscience and one should verify whether they possess such
qualities at all. The most valuable children of our people and the
revolution are those who gave their lives without hesitation. We know
those who act as if nothing happened, who didn't even care for the
lives as the prisoners as the bourgeois defenders of human rights
did. It will become more difficult to remain in the back, creating an
artificial agenda, insulting the revolutionaries, but claiming to be
representatives of the working class and pretending to have good
relations with the people. Sooner or later the people will hold them
accountable. They say "The working class will solve the problems, we
have to address the working class", while they look down at all the
actions, and in reality they have nothing to do with the working
class. All their deceitful acts are done in the name of the working
class. The struggle intensifies and the attacks by the oligarchy grow
stronger. In this process the distance between the reformists and the
revolutionaries will increase and the reformists will draw up plans,
like Aydinlik (1), to save themselves. These groups will develop a
steadily increasing reactionism. They already began to write against
the revolutionaries in the literature of the bourgeois. When they
proceed on this way, they will not be able to save themselves from
condemnation, like Aydinlik. The revolutionary movement is stronger
than ever before and it will defeat the provocations of the oligarchy,
as well as those who drool around the bourgeois.

This is the time for us to be even more courageous, to learn from the
events, and to promote unity between the revolutionaries
everywhere. In that way we will create even more complex forms of
organisation and even bigger actions.

(1) Reference to a party from the 70's, which still exists today under
several names. This party betrayed revolutionaries to the oligarchy by
denouncing them and publishing their names and photographs in their
paper. This paper was called Aydinlik and the successor parties kept
this name as well. Nowadays the party is called Isci Partisi (Workers

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