[Marxism] Turkish paradoxes

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Nov 21 09:06:37 MST 2006

Although I am deeply troubled by Turkey's unwillingness to grant the Kurds 
a level of autonomy they certainly deserve and its refusal to accept its 
role in the mass slaughter of Armenians in WWI, I am constantly reminded of 
how it also demonstrated exemplary respect for human rights in the very 
same period. The most compelling document in many ways is the film "Exile 
in Buyukada", about Trotsky's 1929-1934 stay in Turkey. Like Cardenas, 
Ataturk was determined to grant political asylum to Trotsky when he was 
being hounded all over the world by the Stalinists and the bourgeoisie. You 
can rent this from netflix or buy used copies on amazon.com for only 
$10.97. I strongly recommend it.

Here's another example of Turkey's humanitarian impulse:

Turkey’s new leadership was keenly aware that the existing system of 
civilian higher education was woefully lacking compared to the education 
provided by western research universities. The Republic inherited the 
Dar-ül Fünun (house of knowledge), a fledgling state university teaching 
some western sciences and three military academies as a system of fairly 
secular post-secondary education. This system needed to be replaced. The 
plan was to transform the Dar-ül Fünun into the University of Istanbul, 
create Istanbul Technical University from one of the military academies, 
and build Ankara University from the ground up.

Qualified personnel were unavailable in Turkey to complete this so they had 
to be “imported.” In 1932, Albert Malche, a Swiss professor of pedagogy, 
had been asked to visit Turkey to prepare a report on the Turkish 
educational reform. Among many other recommendations Malche called for a 
major infusion of academic talent from abroad. The passage of Germany’s 
“Civil Service Law” just after the January 30, 1933, Nazi takeover created 
the perfect window of opportunity for Turkey. The law forced the departure 
of intellectuals having Jewish heritage. Emigration to the US or UK was not 
an option given their restrictive immigration laws. Few university job 
opportunities due to America’s emergence from depression, widespread 
anti-Semitism, gender bias, and age discrimination in university hiring 
practices was well known among the intellectuals.

One of those first fired was Frankfurt pathologist Philipp Schwarz. 
Schwarz’s father-in-law, Professor Sinai Tschulok, emigrated to Switzerland 
after the 1905 Russian Revolution and happened to be Malche’s friend. 
Recognizing a double opportunity Malche contacted Schwarz. In March 1933, 
Schwarz established the Notgemeinschaft Deutscher Wissenschaftler im 
Ausland (The Emergency Assistance Organization for German Scientists) in 
Switzerland to help fired German scholars secure employment in countries 
willing to receive them.

Predisposed to German science and culture and recognizing the opportunity 
that presented itself, Turkey invited Philipp Schwarz 6 to Ankara. He 
brought along a set of CVs. In turn, Galip’s party arrived with a list of 
vacant professorships. Agreement was reached in nine hours of negotiations. 
However, it was clear at the outset that the German professors would remain 
only until their Turkish pupils could take over. On August 1, 1933, the day 
after the Dar-ül Fünun was officially closed the Istanbul University was 
opened using Dar-ül Fünun’s physical plant, a small fraction of the 
original faculty, and more than thirty world-renowned émigré German 
professors who were on their way to Turkey. Unfortunately, Atatürk’s death 
came much too early for all concerned, especially Turkey itself. A number 
of his visionary programs were not fully developed by his successors. Some 
were curtailed for economic reasons; some were allowed to be sabotaged by 
petty functionaries.

full: http://hnn.us/articles/31946.html



More information about the Marxism mailing list