Communist Party of Turkey (historical)

This article is about the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) formed in 1920 and which is now defunct. For other parties with similar names, see Communist Party of Turkey (disambiguation).
Communist Party of Turkey
Türkiye Komünist Partisi
Leader Mustafa Suphi
Secretary-General Ethem Nejat
Founded 10 September 1920 (1920-09-10)
Youth Wing Progressive Youth Association
Ideology Communism
Political position Left-wing
Colours      Red
Communist Party of Turkey founder Mustafa Suphi (right) and general secretary Ethem Nejat (middle)

The Communist Party of Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye Komünist Partisi, TKP) was a political party in Turkey. The party was founded by Mustafa Suphi in 1920, and was soon to be banned. It worked as a clandestine opposition party throughout the Cold War era, and was persecuted by the various military regimes. Many intellectuals, like Nazım Hikmet, joined the party ranks. In 1988 the party merged into the United Communist Party of Turkey, in an attempt to gain legal status.

Early history

The party was founded at a congress in Baku on 10 September 1920, gathering together elements from three different left-wing tendencies influenced by the October Revolution in Russia. These founding tendencies were the Istanbul-based Workers and Peasants Socialist Party of Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye İşçi ve Çiftçi Sosyalist Fırkası), elements of the Green Army (Turkish: Yeşil Ordu) in Anatolia (which represented the left-wing sectors of the national liberation movement) and a group of Turkish communists in Soviet Russia (largely made up by Turkish prisoners of war, who had been recruited by the Bolsheviks). In total the congress was made up of 74 delegates.[1] The congress elected Mustafa Suphi as the party chairman and Ethem Nejat as the general secretary.

After its foundation, the party was recognized as section of the Communist International. The founding of TKP occurred in the midst of the Independence War, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War.

In order to counter the growing influence of Turkish communists, Mustafa Kemal set up a parallel puppet communist party (Turkish: Türk Komünist Fırkası). This provoked the founding of the People's Communist Party of Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye Halk İştirakiyyun Fırkası). Although technically a separate party, the TKP cadres were also present in the leadership of the People's Communist Party.

The founders of TKP, Mustafa Suphi and his 14 other comrades, were killed. It is not known who was behind the assassination. Although many people claim that it was Mustafa Kemal or Bolshevik, according to the official version, Mustafa Suphi was killed by the order of Ottoman Emperor because of his support to liberation of Turkey.

Second Congress

In December 1921 the People's Communist Party was legalized. This provided an opportunity for TKP to work in a more open manner. The People's Communist Party held its congress in August, which the TKP considered as its second congress. The congress elected Salih Hacioglu as the party general secretary. The People's Communist Party was banned the next month, and around 200 party cadres were arrested.

Third Congress

The third party congress was held in Istanbul, in January 1925. The congress elected Şefik Hüsnü as the new general secretary. Hüsnü's group in Istanbul had conducted semi-legal activities and published Aydınlık. On instructions from the Comintern, the party started to publish Orak-Çekiç, which in contrast to Aydınlık was directed towards the working class.

The sole delegate from the left of the party was Salih Hacıoğlu, who would later perish in the purges in Russia during the 1930s.

The TKP suffered three waves of crackdowns on its cadres, in 1925, 1927 and 1929. But in addition to the external pressure, the party also suffered from internal divisions. The role of the party towards the Comintern and the governing CHP party were issues of disputes.

Albeit an illegal party, the TKP issued a series of publications like Kızıl Istanbul (1930–1935), Bolşevik (1927), Komünist (1929) and İnkilap Yolu (published in Berlin 1930–1932). The party organised a party conference in Vienna in 1926.

Fourth Congress

The fourth TKP congress was held in 1932. Hüsnü was reelected as the party general secretary.


In the 1960s the Workers Party of Turkey (Türkiye İşçi Partisi) emerged as a strong force. The foundation of TİP occurred as there was a relatively more open political atmosphere at the time. TİP became a leading force within the trade union movement, leading the Confederation of Revolutionary Labor Unions (DISK), which was founded in 1967. In addition to that, TİP became the first Turkish political party that put the Kurdish Question into its agenda.

However, as the political situation became yet more intense, and the more radical wings of the left movement opted for armed struggle, TİP was banned. The banning of TİP would strengthen the TKP, as many TİP cadres now joined the underground TKP instead. It led semi-legal mass organizations, and became the leading force within DİSK.

Atılım Era

At the beginning of the 1970s, labour organisations and left wing political parties faced with the despotism of 1971 Turkish coup d'état. Despite the pressure of the military junta, this progressive movement rose and changed the political situation in Turkey. The riots of the university students in 1968, and the big strike of workers in 15-16 June 1970, became major sources of inspiration for this progress.[2] Under the leadership of General Secretary İsmail Bilen, TKP saw this trend as a new era of revolution and reform, so named it as Atılım which means leap in Turkish. Despite the party's illegality, and the problems of working underground, TKP found a way to intervene in the political agenda of the country with the support of DISK. [3] This era of progress for TKP and the other left wing organisations in Turkey was ended by the 1980 Turkish coup d'état.

Merger into TBKP

The TKP merged with the TİP and formed the United Communist Party of Turkey (TBKP) in 1988. Due to the ban on Communist political activities in Turkey, the TBKP initially had to be formed in a clandestine congress, but, from the outset, it stated its aim to operate legally. In 1990, its leaders officially established the TBKP as a formal political party, which would be banned the next year after a lengthy court case. Nevertheless, before it was banned, the TBKP had already held a legal congress in January 1991, and in this congress a resolution was overwhelmingly adopted calling on all its members to join a project to form a broader-based socialist party, the Socialist Unity Party, which would itself eventually evolve, after a series of subsequent mergers, into the Freedom and Solidarity Party.

However, currently there are several factions in Turkey that claim to represent the historical TKP:

See also


  1. "Glossary of People". Retrieved 2008-09-04.
  2. "History of TKP". Ürün Yayınları. Retrieved 2015-02-05.
  3. "DISK-TKP relations in the Atılım Era". Retrieved 2015-02-07.
  4. "Dissolution of the former SIP". Sol Haber. Retrieved 2015-02-04.
  5. "Ürün Sosyalist Dergi". Ürün Yayınları. Retrieved 2015-02-04.
  6. "". website of the historical TKP legatees. Retrieved 2015-02-04.
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