As a response to two significant “external” events of the last couple of years -events with roots in prolonged domestic problems- the ruling classes of Turkey did everything to mobilise the people onto the streets for their own reactionary aims. The government and its institutions launched hysterically nationalist campaigns, first against Italy, based on the Kurdish question, then against France, on the question of Armenian genocide. These campaigns went on for some time and involved reactionary incitements and various forms of action such as demonstrating in front of the embassies and consulates of these countries, boycotting and burning the goods produced by them, even banning education in their languages, etc.
The main objective for these campaigns was to incite the Turkish people with reactionary-nationalist prejudices and win them over to the establishment ideology, rather than to harm those countries economically or politically. In this way, the ruling classes would not only attain social support for their reactionary theses, which lack fairness and historical correctness, but they would also draw the attention of the working people to artificially created external problems, making sure that they support or at least keep silent about domestic problems, undemocratic and repressive practices and economic plunder. And, it did not take long before the organisers of this reactionary campaign held hands with the Italian and French imperialists.
What was the cause for these campaigns and for the worsening of the relations with France?
In January 2001, France officially recognised the genocide suffered by the Armenians in 1915.
It must be noted that the recognition of the genocide by French government was to do with its short and long term political interests rather than its sympathy for the sufferings of the Armenian people. With this recognition, it would secure the votes of the Armenian population in France as well as the support of Armenia in the fight for hegemony in the Caucasus. It was an irony that French imperialism was concerned with the Armenian genocide when it has a shared responsibility for dozens of massacres and genocides all over the world such as Rwanda where one million poor and defenceless people lost their lives.
However, all this does not invalidate the problems experienced in Turkey in the past.
In 1915, during the First World War, an Armenian genocide took place in Anatolia, the responsibility of which lies on the reactionary and nationalist ruling classes of the then-collapsing Ottoman Empire and on the imperialist powers behind them.
At the beginning of the 20th century, German imperialism was one of the rising powers of the world. It was engulfed in a fierce competition for hegemony with the British and French imperialists, especially over the strategic regions.
Caucasus was one such area. The main competing powers were the British-French imperialist alliance on the one hand, and the German imperialism on the other. But the peoples of this region were being used as pawns, and it was their blood that was being shed. The Ottoman Empire, in a state of regression and break up, chose to cooperate with German imperialism.
In the wars between 1878 and 1918, the Ottoman Empire lost 85 per cent of its territory and 75 per cent of its population. The last one hundred years before its collapse had been a period of continual regression and break up. The First World War was considered as a chance for revival, which led to a voluntary submission to German imperialism. The Armenian political movement was, on the other hand, being used by the French and British imperialism for their own ends. The Sultan Abdulhamid ordered his army to massacre the Armenians. This was followed by the attacks of the clandestine organisations of the Unity and Progress Party, the pawn of German imperialism, on the civilian Armenians in order to suppress the Armenian political movement. In the meantime, however, the Armenian Tashnak militia, the pawn of British and French imperialism, killed thousands of Muslim civilians. The response of the Ottomans to this was the genocide and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Armenians.
As is the case with all imperialist reactionary fights, it was the people who suffered.
The Armenian question has been used as a tramp card by the imperialists against Turkey. The US and France inflame the question of genocide for their own advantage, and for the disadvantage of the two concerned peoples. They use it to pressurise Turkey for further concessions in times of disagreement, and to get the Armenians onto their side. Turkish ruling classes, on the other hand, have been following a policy of denial and trying to conceal this prolonged question behind nationalist howls.
What is needed to resolve this question, to invalidate the tramp card in the hands of the imperialists, and to put historical facts right is for the real representatives of both peoples to settle the problem without any imperialist intervention. This cannot be done by Turkish or Armenian bourgeois governments who collaborate with imperialism. An ultimate solution will be the work of the political power of the workers and working people who have no responsibility for the genocides of the past.
Turkey’s relations with its neighbours are at present based on generating tension and incitements, and the threat of using force. Its foreign policy is dominated by a collaborationist spirit that it can even risk a war with its neighbours, if that is the requirement of the interests of US imperialism in the Balkans, Middle East or the Caucasus. Recent examples of this were the creation of tension with Iran, and the visit to Azerbaijan. It is obvious that such policy has no use to the people of Turkey, and that it facilitates imperialist tricks on Turkey.
The only way of putting an end to such tricks is to take the country into an anti-imperialist position. It must have policies that allow a friendly solution to the problems with its neighbours; it must become an independent country that can generate the basis for an anti-imperialist struggle in the region. Otherwise, it will continue to be in the service of the imperialist powers who use its problems, be it the Armenian question or something else, for their own interests.