„The task of the revolutionary is to fight for the revolution with all his means. As the great masters often say (the classics of Marxism-Leninism), «and whoever is not a revolutionary fighter cannot be called a communist», therefore the revolutionary must prepare himself for the revolution, develop his capabilities, specialize, as this is possible through training in the course of theoretical and practical work.”
(Collected Works, Mahir Çayan, Devrimci Sol Publishing House, page 11, Istanbul, 1980)
With the above lines, in one of his first articles, Mahir Çayan clearly defined the task of the revolutionaries. He states that the criterion for being a revolutionary, for being a communist, is to fight, that it is obligatory to fight for the revolution. Mahir Çayan, who in the beginning, as an ordinary fighter, embraced the revolutionary struggle so strongly, fought all his life, and included the others in the struggle for the revolution, and became a leader in the struggle. He is a leader. He guides the others, he always was at the forefront of the struggle.
He has destroyed the understanding of the left and its ideological foundations for what it is like to be a revolutionary, at a time when the leftist movement was dominated by meaningless disputes, flight from struggle, disintegration, and ignorance of what revolutionary struggle should be.
In the period after 1965, during which the youth, worker’s, and peasant’s movements began to develop, new youth organizations gradually appeared. Again, in this relatively democratic environment, the possibilities of the left were expanding, and discussions about Marxist-Leninist theory and its application in the conditions of Turkey have led to specific questions.
Marxism-Leninism now was outside of the monopoly of a handful of renegades and discouraged “old rifles” (referring to the members of Turkey’s historic CP, who for decades dominated the then weak leftist movement in the country). The young people, full of enthusiasm, with love for the people and the homeland, will gradually master the struggle and the young leaders of the struggle will emerge from their ranks.
On the one hand, these young leaders would deal ideologically with the fifty-year revisionist tradition and understanding of what to be a communist on which she relied, while they would move forward, learning and teaching others what they had learned.
Mahir Çayan also goes through this process and gradually takes a leading role in the development of the processes. He was only 19 years old when, on November 8, 1965, he was elected vice-president of the Idea Club at the Faculty of Political Science at Ankara State University. Already during this period, he began to raise his voice against the course followed by the Workers’ Party of Turkey-TİP. He puts the understanding of a proletarian revolutionary as an alternative to the hollow understanding for revolutionary imposed by the Worker’s Party, which does not inspire confidence in the masses, and he adheres to this proletarian understanding in his practice of revolutionary struggle.
At that time, there was an urgent need to wage an ideological struggle against the revisionism of the Worker’s Party, which was an obstacle to the development of the struggle. The Worker’s Party, which has its organizational structures in the major cities and many parts of the country, seeks support from workers, peasants, and the youth in the name of socialism. The party says it defends the ideas of socialism but does nothing to meet the expectations of the masses in this regard.
What was the situation in the world? In what kind of country did we live in? What kind of revolution and what strategy for revolution should there be? In short, what was the path to the revolution in Turkey to be charted? What had to be done?
Mahir Çayan and his comrades would answer all these questions in the course of the struggle, chart the path of the revolution and show how it should be carried out in practice. Of course, the course of the revolutionary struggle, the tasks, and the path to seizing power was not written in the books. The answer to the question of what kind of revolution could not be given with ready-made recipes.
The revolution in Turkey could not be carried out by imitation of the Soviet, Chinese or Vietnamese revolution. In those conditions in which the “left” and “right” deviations of the Soviet, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cuban revolutions were imitated and interpreted, Mahir Çayan managed to analyze every revolutionary process correctly.
Each revolutionary process, the revolution in each country separately, undoubtedly can add wealth to the worldview of the revolutionaries. It is also a fact that there are useful things that can be taken from the revolutions in countries around the world. However, the revolutionary movement in Turkey could not move forward or develop, by directly copying others, or by perceiving themselves as ideological centers of the USSR or China.
Mahir Çayan had managed to set foot firmly on the lands of Anatolia. He knew the peoples of his country. He has analyzed the socio-economic structure and answered the question of what kind of revolution, noting the specific conditions in the country and taking into account all its characteristics. His starting point was to rely on the principle of trust in the people and their strength. Only in this way our revolution could achieve victory.
Mahir Çayan managed to capture the country’s contradictions in all his analyzes and to reveal in a very ingenious and unique way its realities. This can be seen in all his analyzes. In a sense, he “made Marxism-Leninism Anatolian.”
Mahir Çayan’s analyzes pave the way for the development of processes within the leftist movement in an environment of complete chaos. Here again, we see the true significance of his role as a leader in the struggle. Of course, his role as a leader in this process is clearly expressed, with his approach to the people, his concrete and accurate analysis of the conditions in the country, his understanding away from imitations, and his pursuit of socialism, which is identified with his role as a leader in the struggle.
He avoids the imitation and narrow-mindedness of learned clichés and ready-made recipes, abstract and meaningless discussions, intellectual outbursts, and makes findings by discussing all the problems of the revolution, all the while being among the masses, continuing to develop the struggle.
He does not imitate others, but creates, he makes policies, this is his role as a leader.
“The ideological struggle is the antidote to opportunism,” said Mahir Çayan, the Worker’s Party organization in Zonguldak province (northwestern Turkey, on the Black Sea coast). Zonguldak was also a “bastion” of Sadun Aren’s opportunism (one of the leaders of the Worker’s Party at the time). During this period (1969) discussions took place in the party organization in Zonguldak, as a result of which revisionism was condemned and overthrown.
Mahir Çayan goes on a tour and travels around Anatolia. Discussing the country’s problems with the workers, peasants, and youth, he explained to the masses what imperialism and independence were, and told them about revolution and opportunism.
On June 9, 1969, another discussion took place in the Worker’s Party organization in the town of Eğerli, Zonguldak province.
“Of course, we immediately intervened in Sadun Aren’s speech, along with several other revolutionary friends from the town of Eğerli. We have declared that the National Democratic Revolution is a revolution that can succeed, under the leadership of the proletariat along with other revolutionary classes, that the democratic revolution is a mandatory stage according to the theory of Marxism…” with these words Mahir Çayan continues his speech. Of course, the opportunists are not happy that Mahir Çayan and his comrades are there at the moment.
“When we entered the room, unable to hide his astonishment by asking us what we were looking for, Aren, who seemed bored with this meeting (because we were one of those who suggested that he be expelled from the Federation of Idea Clubs, for his service to imperialism), was pulled out of this rather awkward situation by Mrs. Fatma Hikmet İşmen, the voice of socialism in the Senate (!). It was obvious that he did not like to talk about theoretical problems, taking part only once in the discussions…”
(Collected Works, Mahir Çayan, Devrimci Sol Publishing House, page 24, Istanbul, 1980)
These sworn enemies of the armed struggle, who preferred to leave unresolved the problems of the revolutionary movement, disguised their pacifism through “sharp statements” when they met Mahir Çayan face to face, and seeing the proletarian revolutionaries were pressed into the corner. As a result of these discussions, the masks of the revisionists fell, and they were condemned and overthrown by the masses.
Due to the sense of responsibility of the proletarian revolutionaries, all discussions with the revisionists and opportunists are open to the people. Involving the people in these disputes, the revolutionaries set themselves the goal of making people aware of the real problems of the country, while at the same time revealing the true face of opportunists to them.
These years are a time when the road to revolution in Turkey has been charted…
“They are leaders,
in the revolutionary struggle, the leaders do not stand at the table,
they are fighting at the forefront of this struggle..” (Mahir Çayan)
Mahir Çayan, who did not stand at the table in the revolutionary struggle, thanks to his leadership qualities managed to become the leader of the struggle. He and his comrades do not have accumulated experience, a legacy from which they can take an example and draw inspiration, nor is there a ready-made “trodden path” in front of them. Before they joined the struggle, the most pressing problems of the revolutionary movement that had to be solved were neglected or were left without a clear solution. The concepts of what kind of person must be the revolutionary, leadership, struggle, people’s power have been emptied of content. Reconciliation with the capitalist system, flight from struggle, emigration, and empty talk has become completely normal for the left movement. Refusal to work among the masses, distrust of the people, are among the main policies of opportunism. Months, years, have been lost in useless talks and abstract disputes.
The opportunists were cut off from the masses, they did not know the people. They just went to the people to ask them for votes in the elections. They kept talking about the people, but they were deprived of love for the people.
During this period, Mahir Çayan wrote various articles in which all these discussions were the main topic. The articles he wrote were published in various magazines. He presents and defends his views during various events. Together with his comrades, he published various pamphlets to spread proletarian revolutionary ideas.
“To make the people learn the abstract theory, to put as many words as possible in their heads, to study the history of the worker’s movement, to study the history of the world revolutionary movement, in short, to make them learn Marxism-Leninism in general, and practice around the world. To ensure their participation in the practical work of the revolutionary movement in their own country, adhering to the conditions in the country, to make them adopt the correct Marxist-Leninist line, and to ensure that they engage in the practice of this struggle. “
(Collected Works, Mahir Çayan, Devrimci Sol Publishing House, page 12, Istanbul, 1980)
Guided by this understanding, they created many cadres in the school called Revolutionary Youth (Dev-Genç). Having succeeded in establishing their influence in the Federation of Idea Clubs, they soon transformed it into the spirit of Dev-Genç, thus creating the Revolutionary Youth.
Mahir Çayan was a member of Revolutionary Youth, he was one of the leaders of Revolutionary Youth.
He was at the forefront of the youth struggle. He was an organizer of the anti-imperialist struggle, a teacher, and a master of the struggle. Revolutionary Youth was born by combining revolutionary theory with revolutionary practice. Under the leadership of Mahir Çayan, Revolutionary Youth grew, becoming the nightmare of the oligarchy. Mahir Çayan in this period was an agitator, organizer, political scientist, revolutionary politician, a man of action, and revolutionary leader…
He was a good orator who explained in understandable and accessible language and guided the young people with simple and varied examples during his speeches, which last for hours in the university auditoriums.
He was a dedicated man who defends the revolution, who was waging an ideological struggle against opportunism. He was an active fighter, a leader who organized the struggle under the leadership of the Revolutionary Youth. All of Mahir Çayan’s articles and speeches are open and clear, written so that everyone can understand them. His assessments and conclusions on various issues are in a remarkable, understandable perspective and depth.
His articles have a wealth that evaluates the topic in many aspects and draws conclusions from them. Their perspectives are intertwined with concrete and responsible revolutionary tasks.
All his articles are impressive, compelling, and easy to understand. Revolutionary theory, which has shed a light on the practice and role of revolutionary theory in the development of the Party-Front, began with Mahir Çayan and his comrades.
The cadres of the Party-Front have written something on almost every topic concerning the revolutionary movement. It is an expression of faith in their strength and the ideological preparation of the Front. In other words, the cadres of the Front are people who fight and create politics at the same time. The foundations of this tradition were laid by Mahir Çayan.
Mahir Çayan is a leader in life and struggle. He stood side by side in the struggle of students in Istanbul, in Ankara, in Izmir, in factories, among miners in Zonguldak, among producers of tobacco, hazelnuts, and tea in the Black Sea region and producers of tobacco, grapes, and figs in the region of the Aegean Sea.
As the revolutionary process progresses, on the one hand, Mahir Çayan was facing the outlines of this process, and on the other hand, it was on his shoulders to solve a historical task. The urgent task was to create a fighting organization that would lead the peoples on the path to liberation and involves them in the struggle. At that moment, the struggle under the leadership of the Revolutionary Youth would “normalize” and a new period would begin. With the ideological struggle against revisionism and the supporters of the “progressive” military juntas, with the struggle against imperialism and the oligarchy, Mahir Çayan reached a period in which he would deal ideologically with revisionism and the belief in the progressive role of the army. This period is discussed in detail in the pamphlet “Open Letter to the Socialist Magazine Enlightenment”(in Turkish Aydınlık Sosyalist dergiye açık mektup), published in January 1971. with the signatures of 4 people, including Mahir Çayan. “We see this written statement as obligatory nowadays, when rumors and speculations about our secession from the socialist magazine Enlightenment are intensifying.”
In this short article, we will briefly summarize the reasons for our secession and our differences of opinion. The various issues of the revolutionary movement in Turkey (in general, the path to revolution, the contradictions and class relations in Turkey and ways of assessing the history of the leftist movement, the specific path of Turkey, etc.), we will also set out our views in more depth.”
Mahir Çayan does not hesitate to deal ideologically with Mihri Belli, with whom they have walked the same path for a long time, and who has a serious ideological preparation and considerable experience. Just as the creation of the broadest alliances and the establishment of cooperation with the left forces to develop the struggle are a natural result of the revolutionary course followed, so the alliances that harm the struggle are naturally stopped by that same course. For this to happen, in the name of principles, everything must be set aside, including friendships that have lasted for years. That is why Mahir Çayan, in the name of the principles and the future of the revolutionary movement, is ruthlessly dealing ideologically with Mihri Belli.
After these ideological disputes, a new period began, during which the People’s Liberation Party-Front of Turkey – THKP-C was founded. Mahir Çayan is the leader of THKP-C. Mahir Çayan is clear in his ideological line. He has already drawn the dividing lines between himself and the various deviations, ideologically dealt with them, and created a militant organization to lead the struggle of the peoples of Turkey. On the agenda before THKP-C is already the struggle for political power. THKP-C has ideologically strong leadership. Thanks to him, she managed to reach the battlefields. What allows THKP-C to continue the struggle, even in the most difficult conditions, is the consistency of its views, its resilience, and its clear ideological line. The trust in the peoples, the ideological stability, have allowed the course followed by the Party-Front to reach our days.
When the open fascist dictatorship was established in Turkey after the military coup of March 12, 1971, all left forces were put to the test. Revisionists, like the Worker’s Party, who have prepared their suitcases, went to the prisons, where they take their places in the cells set aside for them. The tasks of the revolutionary struggle, the peoples were left to their own devices, the struggle was left to pause. The reformists and revisionists who had “waved” the white flag of capitulation to the fascist junta on March 12, who did not trust their forces but instead pinned their hopes on the various bourgeois parties, bitterly regretted their political short-sightedness. The situation was the same after the fascist military coup of September 12, 1980. Then there were also fugitives, capitulators, and the cadres of the Party-Front, who, remaining faithful to the legacy of Mahir Çayan, did not give up and continued the struggle.
During that period (after March 12, 1971), Mahir Çayan, his comrades, and their revolutionary actions were attacked by the cowards, and the capitulators, who were trying to cover up their betrayal of the working people. They pointed to the establishment of an open fascist dictatorship, armed actions, and the revolutionary course followed as the main culprits. As capitulation spread everywhere, Mahir Çayan and his comrades fought to develop the struggle against the junta with great energy, weapons in hand, and including new people in the struggle. They managed to build a course of armed struggle that deeply shook imperialism and oligarchy, struck them, and exposed them before the masses. Everyone was shocked. To overcome its fear, the oligarchy had declared war against the people, and by organizing the so-called Operation Hammer terrorized the people. In this ruthless and cruel struggle, victims and captives were given.
When Mahir Çayan was besieged in the Maltepe district of Istanbul on June 1, 1971, alongside his comrade Hüseyin Cevahir, creating a new example of epic resistance, he tried to break the blockade of fascist forces. Cevahir had been killed. When Mahir Çayan was taken prisoner and thrown into a cell, those who thought it was the end of the struggle had made a big mistake.
The leaders of the Party-Front had set the best example of the devotion between comrades in an organization. Also, thе famous video footage of Mahir Çayan and Ulaş Bardakçı embracing in the courtroom, even though so many years have passed, are still a vivid memory in the minds of many in Turkey. These examples are still in the minds of the cadres of the Party-Front.
Apart from the heroic death of his comrades, in the course of the struggle, Mahir Çayan also experienced the betrayal of some of them. Just as his comrade and, like him, a leader of the Party, with great heroism, paved the way for the further development of the Party-Front, so betrayal inflicted great damage. In the conditions in which a relentless and cruel struggle was being waged between THKP-C and the oligarchy, against its leadership, poisonous arrows were fired by the mercenary “journalists” and “authors” of the oligarchy, and the opportunists begin to fall in the face of Mahir Çayan. Their target was the Party-Front, its leader, and the armed struggle which they were waging.
Everything happened very quickly, heroism, betrayal, great courage, fierce struggle, and capitulation. Mahir Çayan was not broken during the captivity either. All attacks by the oligarchy were repulsed by the leaders of the Party-Front, and their course was fully defended. After the split in the ranks of the THKP, in a letter from December 1971, Mahir Çayan set out his thoughts as follows:
“In the previous letter, we only wrote that we would not be able any longer to be in the same organization together with Ilhan and Mahmut (Yusuf Kupeli and Munir Ramazan Aktolga), and we practically broke off all our relations.
We have summarized these reasons under two main headings:
1) The difference in ideological-political and strategic line
2) The actions which taken were by these two people, who in the most treacherous way put before a fait accompli their comrades in the cells of the oligarchy, the positions they occupied in the most despicable way, to leave the comradely relations between the revolutionaries, but do not even enter in feudal friendly relations.
The PASS was abandoned, and the pacifist revisionist line of Kıvılcımlı (albeit in a new reading) was imposed on the party.”
(Collected Works, Mahir Çayan, Devrimci Sol Publishing House, page 444, Istanbul, 1980)
The letter discusses in detail the reasons for the division in the party. The right faction, after the capture of Mahir Çayan and the leading cadres, continued with its betrayal by withdrawing the Party from the course of armed struggle. Representatives of the right faction do not hesitated to resort to the use of all sorts of lies to impose on the Party-Front the course they want. In the conditions in which the betrayal took place, Mahir Çayan and his comrades, managing to return to freedom after escaping from prison, rejoined the struggle. In conditions where they were wanted “dead or alive”, their photos were hung in key places in the cities, where they find it was difficult to even find a home to spend the night, they do not think about how to save their lives, but defend the Party-Front with all their might.
Thus, after discussions and disputes led by Mahir Çayan, the representatives of the right faction were liquidated and removed from the Party. Thus began the difficult task of rebuilding the Party. During the period when there wass no money, weapons, a place to sleep, even secure contacts, in which everything is deciphered, they do not surrender to the junta and the renegades, and with great faith they try to fill the gaps in the organization, starting everything. from zero. But this was not easy at all, as this period lasted for months, in which leading cadres were wanted everywhere, freedom of action was severely limited, during which the Party withdrew from the armed struggle had many negative consequences.
But despite all the difficulties and obstacles, the Party-Front managed to get back on its feet, and the armed struggle continued where it left off. Although Mahir Çayan and his comrades were in this difficult period, they do not thought for a moment when they take a position against the hanging of the leading cadres of the People’s Liberation Army of Turkey (THKO), Deniz Gezmiş and his comrades.
This period took on a new form, with the historical resistance and the calls for the struggle of the leaders of the Party-Front, in the village of Kızıldere. Kızıldere became a cornerstone, a kind of test in which they were tested before history, THKP-C, and the role of leader of Mahir Çayan. The rightness of their ideas and the struggle they waged were confirmed by this test.
With the role he played in the struggle, Mahir Çayan deserved to be one of the leaders of the revolutionary movement in Turkey. The mission to be a leader was not given to him for anything, he deserved it with the role he played, and with the successful completion of historical tasks set before him, and creating an example of a leader who drags others into the struggle. He was tested in the struggle, created a real image of the leader, and with this role he paved the way for the historical development of the revolutionary movement.
Mahir Çayan is a leader who has fought and attracted others to the fight. His intransigence to imperialism and oligarchy, his devotion to the ideas of Marxism-Leninism, symbolize his ideological strength. He managed to create the image of a leader who develops the struggle through ingenious tactics.
Under his leadership, the image of the Party-Front was created, which fought against the right and left factions within the leftist movement, and fought against imperialism and oligarchy. Today, the tradition of the Party-Front is the only alternative force in the revolutionary movement in Turkey. The foundations of this force were created precisely in these conditions, with strong leadership.
Through his ascertainments on the third period of the general crisis of imperialism, he enlightened the people during this period, becoming the creator of an irreconcilable struggle against imperialism.
The name of the Revolutionary Movement in Turkey will continue to be mentioned along with that of Mahir Çayan.
Source: magazıne Liberation, On the Road to Independence and Democracy (Bağımsızlık ve Demokrasi Yolunda KURTULUŞ), issue 24, dated April 2, 1999.
Revolutionary Youth, also known by the short name in Turkish; Dev-Genç, is a Marxist-Leninist youth organization in Turkey, having its origins in “Clubs for Ideas” found in various universities in the country in the second half of the 1950s (in Turkish Fikir Külüperi), which in the mid-1960s were unified into the Federation of Idea Clubs (Fikir Külüperi Federasyonu). It was during this period that the Marxist-Leninists, led by Mahir Çayan, succeeded in imposing a militant course on the organization as a turning point in the process of shaping Dev-Genç as a Marxist-Leninist organization uniting the youth with the October 1969 congress is a turning point in this process, and marks the date since it took the name by which it is known to this day.
Workers’ Party of Turkey, in Turkish; Türkiye İşçi Partisi – TİP, was founded in 1961 by a group of trade unionists and intellectuals who supported the socialist ideas. The party has a revisionist and parliamentarist course. It is the first legal socialist party in Turkey to nominate members of parliament. Despite all its shortcomings, it is important to note that it contributes to some extent to the spread of the ideas of socialism among the masses. Many future revolutionaries, such as Mahir Çayan and Deniz Gezmiş were members of the party at the beginning of their acquaintance with the ideas of Marxism-Leninism.
Look at footnote № 1.
Socialist Magazine Enlightenment, in Turkish; Aydınlık Sosyalist Dergi was a Marxist theoretical magazine published between 1968 and 1971 by Turkish Marxist Mihri Belli and his associates. It ceased to exist in March 1971.
Mihri Belli was a Turkish communist who became acquainted with the ideas of Marxism while he was a student in the United States in the 1930s. Upon his return to Turkey, he established ties with the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), which was operating illegally at the time. During the same period, he developed academic activity in Istanbul. In 1946 he left Turkey, and joined the civil war in Greece, on the side of the Communists. Here he shows the good abilities of a fighter and a military commander. He was wounded twice during the battles and was treated in Bulgaria and the USSR. He was repeatedly arrested and imprisoned for his articles in various socialist newspapers and magazines. He lived for many years in exile in Europe because of the repressions he was subjected to. He died in 2011, at the age of 95, at his home in Istanbul. He remains in the history of the communist movement in Turkey, devoting his whole life to the struggle for socialism.
For more information about this event, you can read the articles on this address:
More about Hüseyin Cevahir and the resistance in Maltepe, you can read in these articles:
- More about Ulaş Bardakçı you can read in the following articles:
Ulaş Bardakçı’s biography
The resistance in Arnavutköy, Istanbul where he have martyred
These two traitors were among the founders of the THKP-C and were elected members of its Central Committee, together with Mahir Çayan, but after he fell captive of the oligarchy, they betrayed him.
Articles about the resistance in Kızıldere
The Kızıldere manifesto
Kızıldere – defeat or victory?