Atatuerk and Bismarck (was:Re: Questions for Mine (was: When to support nationalism?))

Johannes Schneider Johannes.Schneider at
Wed Jan 31 10:11:03 MST 2001

Nestor dijo:

> En relación a Re: Questions for Mine (was: When to support nati,
> el 31 Jan 01, a las 13:14, Johannes Schneider dijo:
> > The denial of Kurdish self-determination is a pillar of imperialist
> > in the region, maintaining the borders that were imposed on the peoples
> > the area by French and British imperialism after World War I.
> I would take exception to what Johannes (hi!) is saying above.

Hi Nestor,

> French and British imperialism did certainly carve their own colonial
> in the Fertile Crescent (particularly through the Sykes-Picot arrangement)
> the immediate aftermath of WWI. But this mainly applies to the areas South
> Anatolia and Armenia.

Yes and no. Are you saying 'south of _Anatolia_' or 'south of _Armenia_'? I
would say the latter would be correct and include what is commonly regarded
as Kurdistan.
At the moment I am doing a bit of research into the matter and here is one
of the accounts I have come across:

During World War I the Ottomans fought on the side of Germany, Austria and
Bulgaria. With the defeat of Germany and its allies also came the conclusion
of the Ottoman Empire. Before the end of the war, the Allied powers, sensing
the defeat of Turkey, negotiated the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement. Under this
negotiation, Great Britain, Russia and France divided the Fertile Crescent
into spheres of influence in which Britain would mandate the territories of
Palestine, Jordan and the Iraqi Kingdom while France would control the
territories of Lebanon and Syria. In 1920, the Treaty of Sevres was signed
and promised a Kurdish state at the conclusion of World War I. However,
under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, the Kurds and the territory in which they
reside was "pied up" or severed among the countries of Turkey, Syria, Iraq,
Iran, and the former Soviet Union.
from: (I will comment on this piece in a
seperate post).

The source is somewhat ambigous in saying there was the 'promise of a
Kurdish state' in the 1920 treaty of Sevres. I will check and come back
later. But if I remember correctly the Kirkuk oil played a role in the way
how the boundaries were drawn. See below on the signifigance of Lausanne.

> the former Ottoman empire (not an imperialist state, this is
> important) as possible.

Just out of curiosity: what was the character of the Ottoman Empire:
capitalist, feudal, Asiatic, neither of above, a mixture of above?

> b) The decission of Kemalism not to keep the non-Turkish land within
> Turkey: this was a revolutionary step ahead,

but it was dictated by neccessity, because almost all of the Ottoman empire
was occupied by Imperialist (i.e. British, French, Italian troops).
Furthermore it is only partly correct, because parts of Kemalist Turkey are
clearly Kurdish or Arabic (Iskenderun area).

> since land ownership in the non-
> Turkish areas was one of the most important assets of the backwards ruling
> class of the Empire.

Are you saying there have been pre-dominantly pre-capitalist modes of
production in the non-Turkish areas. Or are you saying that those areas were
the primary source of income for the ruling classes of the Ottoman Empire.

> The decission reminds that by Bismark to split Germany
> >from Austria in the 1860s.

I know you have a soft spot for that Junker Bismarck. But in the Second
German Empire there still have been large non-German area (Polish in the
East and Alsace-Lorraine). The small-German solution of 1866 and later was
the precondition for Prussian dominance and Hohenzollern rule and ran
contrary to the aspirations of the democratic revolutionaries of 1848.

> c) The particular reivindications of different peoples engulfed by the
> Empire. Peoples like the Kurds, the Druze, and so on.
> d) While in Anatolia the main historical force -and, for a time, the most
> progressive one- was Kemalism (please read E.H. Carr on the interesting
> relations between the Soviet Union and Kemalist Turkey),

But this certainly does not mean Kemal is beyond criticism. After all the
founder of the Turkish CP Mustapha Suphi was murdered by the Kemalists
imediately after he landed in Turkey. To some extent Lenin's positive
appraisal of Kemalist Turkey is a reflection of the weak position of the
Soviet state struggling for survival.

> outside Anatolia the
> most progressive force was the Arab national movement. The particular
> reivindications of the different peoples involved in "self-determination"
> struggles must be gauged, IMHO, in strict relationship with these two
> movements.

Certainly this is true for the 1920ties, but history is a dynamic process.
Indeed the 1923 Lausanne treaty was the result of the Turkish war of
independence and marked a sort of concession from the imperialist states by
accepting a Turkish state. But wasnt Kemal supported by the Kurds in his
fight against the intervening capitalists?

> e) the fact that Turkey has become, as it has, an arrogant new member of
> after 1945 does not transform Turkey, IMHO (nor, I fear, in NATO HQ's
> either) into an equal of Germany or France. Whenever these central states
> decide to support their own views within NATO, Turkey is expected to
> lower the head.

Certainly. But with regard to the Kurdish question Turkey's position and
that of NATO's masters are identical in the key point: denial of

> f) I would thus suspect the reasons why some Western agencies tend to give
> kind of support to separatism within Turkey.

I hope I have made clear, what I think of all those would-be
'humanitarians': They provide the context for imperialist intervention and
in the case of Kurdistan promote 'cultural autonomy' as a means to oppose
self-determination. Those forces are just the left cover for the imperialist
status quo of borders and states.


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