M.N. Roy

The Turkish Victory

(17 October 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 89, 17 October 1922, pp. 671–672.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2020). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The dream of a Greater Greece is shattered. King Constantine has again graciously abdicated “according to the wishes of his loyal subjects and for the benefit of Greece which he so dearly loves”.

Venizelos has not yet publicly assumed the reins in his hands, but is pulling the strings from behind the scene. He is keeping the Foreign Offices on both sides of the English Channel on the run by his frequent visits, each time with new and mysterious proposals. The astute Cretan will not undertake the task of saving Greece unless he is sure of having the military backing which is indispensable for keeping alive the dreams of a Greater Greece. If he did not return to Athens on the morrow of the second downfall of his arch-enemy Tino, it was because he was not able to bring back with him an unconditional promise of support from Downing. Street.

The victory of the Turkish Army was so sweeping that the British Government had to think twice before commissioning Venizelos to head the “great and determined fight of the Greek people” to keep the barbarous Turks out of Europe. It would impose military eventualities of a very serious nature, which British Imperialism could not risk without a certain amount of misgiving. But unlike his royal opponent, Venizelos is fortunate in having friends in both camps. He is the protégé of Quai d’Orsay and equally in the confidence of the Lloyd George-Churchill clique, through the medium of Sir Basil Zaharoff. So he can play the game from a more advantageous position than Constantine, who suffers under French antipathy.

In order that French support should not be entirely thrown against Greek Imperialism, Constantine had to vacate his throne. A “Greater” Greece under the Royal Colors could count only upon British backing, whereas a Greater Greece under Venizelos could count upon the two rivals across the Channel. Venizelos is playing this game, and the Joint Allied Note of September 21 indicates at least the partial success of his diplomacy. The rivalry between French finance and British finance seems to have grown less bitter, in view of the spectre of Soviet Russia looming behind Turkey. The unseen power behind the Kemalist army appears to have struck terror into the heart of French capotal, which desired to monopolize the Near East by assuming the role of the protector of Nationalist Turkey. The vision of Soviet Russia entrenched at Constantinople instead of England is not a very agreeable prospect for France. Hence the latter’s hesitating attitude; hence the sudden trip of M. Franklin Bouillon to Angora, in order to intimate to Kemal just how far the French Government would go with him.

The Greek forces were totally demoralized; British troops on the Asiatic coast of the Bosporus were entirely inadequate to resist the Turkish advance; the road to Constantinople was practically open before the Angora army. Yet Mustapha Kemal had to call a general halt and declare his willingness to negotiate with his opponents. He is enough of a general to know that from the military point of view this policy was suicidal because it gave the enemy time to mobilize his forces. What could have been done two weeks ago has become a positive impossibility today. Kemalist forces are no longer in a position to assault the Straits and take Constantinople. Why did the Turkish command permit such a thing to happen? Why did they let the fruits of victory slip through their fingers?

The answer is very simple for those who know that the pawns of this Near Eastern game are being pushed by mysterious hands in London and Paris. In so far as Kemal depended on the revolutionary social force of the Turkish peasantry on the threshold of liberation, he marched on from one victory to the other; but like a military dictator devoid of any revolutionary inspiration or outlook, he hitched himself to the yoke of French Imperialism intriguing against British Imperialism. Thus the victory won with the blood and suffering of the Turkish peasantry, threatens to be practically nullified, and the rivalry of two imperialist groups upon which rivalry Kemal counted more than upon the revolutionary might of the Turkish peasantry, will be neutralized in order that the, position of imperialism as a world factor may be preserved. This is the real meaning of the frequent exchange of notes, the occasional threats which, however, do not exceed the limits of mere threats, the conferences, secret and open, in which the spectacular Turkish victory and no less spectacular Greek collapse have ended.

Whatever may be the final outcome of this conflict in the Near East, the political as well as moral effect in the Oriental countries as far as India has been great. Caught in the meshes of imperialist rivalry, Kemal may still be forced to abandon his dominant position, which has already become militarily untenable, unless he has the boldness to cut loose altogether from the moorings of Western European diplomacy, whose friendship and backing are determined by the convenience of bankers and financial magnates.

But the very fact that the Greater Greece created under the benediction of the victorious Entente and unconditionally backed by London has become a thing of the past, that not only entire Asia Minor, but a part of Thrace also, will be Turkish, and that an Oriental nation has vindicated its ability to challenge successfully the right of European Imperialism to condemn it to perpetual slavery, are in themselves a great inspiration to all the subject peoples. For example, it can reasonably be expected that this experience will convince the Indian Moslems of the futility of the way in which they have so far been endeavouring to help the maintenance of the Khilafat. The ability of the Turks to force the Entente to repudiate one section of the Treaty sanctioned by the League of Nations, will undoubtedly encourage the Arabs of Iraq to rebel against the mandatory dictatorship of Sir Percy Cox. British influence in Persia is already a thing of the past. Egypt is in a state of chronic revolt in spite or the betrayal of the upper-class politicians. This revolt, which was somewhat demoralized in consequence of the brutal repression and bankruptcy of bourgeois nationalism, is again showing signs of vigour. Such in general is the moral effect of the Turkish victory. But there are deeper consequences to be expected, consequences which will signify a radical change in the outlook of revolutionary nationalist elements in the Eastern countries, and which may even transform the very social character of the revolt of the oppressed peoples.

It is known that Nationalist Turkey has been backed by Soviet Russia and France, while Britain stood behind Greece. The attitude of France in practically repudiating the Sèvres Treaty in the face of British opposition created a very favorable impression upon the bourgeoisie in the Eastern countries. Thus the old idea of securing the friendship of democratic nations as against the oppression of arch-imperialist governments, an idea which was very much shaken by the experience of the World War, began to revive. The sinister effects of this idea are well-known. It paves the way for the penetration of a new Imperialism attempting to take the place of the existing one. Turkey has been torn asunder by this imperialist rivalry, fostered by her own diplomats and military cliques who ended by sacrificing the people on the altar of imperialist greed, in the hope of aggrandizing their own position. The effect of these criminal politics was the dismemberment of Turkey as a nation, and the popular revolt against this threatened dismemberment gave rise to the present Nationalist movement

When the newborn Nationalist Government at Angora was opposed by all the Entente powers, which threatened to annihilate it, the only helping hand came from Revolutionary Russia. But before long France found in Turkey a means to attack her rival Britain. French evacuation of the mandated territories made a big impression, but the real deal underlying the Angora Agreement signed by Franklin Bouillon remained unknown to the common folk. The Turkish intellectuals and militarists, until the latter found it more profitable to join hands with their Prussian peers, were all Francophile. The traditional anti-Turk policy of the mercantile interest behind British Liberalism, permitted the entrance of French finance into Turkey. No less than 70 per cent of the Ottoman debt is held by French Banks. A recovery of this enormous amount was not a very unfavorable bargain made by France, in return for the mandated territories, to hold which entailed a heavy drain on the French Budget suffering chronically from a large uncoverable deficit. Then the great railway and mining concessions were a very good beginning for reducing entire Turkey to the dictatorship of French finance capital.

So the Franco-Turkish Agreement sounded the death knell of the Sèvres Treaty, in so far as the other victorious signatories were concerned, but opened the era which would appropriate the whole victory to France. The Angora Government accepted this none too altruistic friendship of Paris, first as a military necessity, then as a diplomatic move to terrorize England, but essentially to find a counterpoise to the Russian rapprochement, the revolutionary consequences of which were dreaded by the Turkish ruling class. The latter was afraid that to lead the peasantry, which constitutes the backbone of the Nationalist revolution, with the help of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, and to cling in home politics to the theory of upper-class domination could not be compatible for any length of time. This dread naturally created a distrust which was seized upon by the French.

But the present crisis has clarified the situation. The shallowness of French friendship has been revealed. The Turkish leaders must be very thick-headed if they have not yet realized the real role their French patrons want them to play. They must be a pawn in the game played by the two imperialist governments situated on both sides of the English Channel. As soon as England gives in to the demands of French militarism in Europe and for a considerable share in the economic exploitation of the whole world, the bitterness of the rivalry between the two imperialist powers becomes less acute. Consequently the Turks are ordered to halt, thus abandoning the chances of a sure victory. Thia was exactly the message that Franklin Bouillon carried to Kemal and induced him to deliver to the National Assembly at Angora, which was bullied into declaring in favor of negotiation when military victory was sure. Had this message been ignored, had the Turks been audacious enough to act contrary to the dictates of their friends from Paris, they would have had to face the united opposition of the Entente which in European politics has been dead and buried so many times.

The revolutionary element among the oppressed Eastern people is sure to learn a great lesson from this event. They are going to learn to their great advantage that Imperialism is not limited within the borders of this or that nation, that no one particular nation is instinctively imperialistic and that Imperialism is an economic phenomenon of international magnitude.

The declaration of America that she will stand with the Allies for the defence of the Straits and will take up the holy mission of protecting the Christian minorities from the terrible Turks completes the picture. There is rivalry between the various imperialist powers concerning the division of the plunder, but in the question of plundering they all stand together. Because, for example, an unconditional French support to the Turkish Nationalist cause would be a challenge to the rights of Imperialism, which is the bed-rock of French as much as of British politics. The Eastern peoples will learn from these bitter lessons and disillusionments that their national freedom cannot be looked upon favorably by any particular member of the robber gang. It is only the European working class, whose vanguard has kept the banner of revolution flying in the face of concerted imperialist opposition, that can be a true friend of the freedom of the oppressed peoples, because the welfare of both is dependent upon the destruction of Imperialism.

The upper class-leaders of Nationalism do not challenge Imperialism as such. Their opposition is against one or the other; therefore they inevitably act as the instruments in the hands of one or the other camp of imperialist diplomacy.

The Turkish victory can be completed only when the Turkish people will force their leaders to understand the necessity of giving up dallying with the intriguing, imperialist diplomats and of boldly relying on the friendship of Revolutionary Russia.

The same applies to the rest of the Eastern peoples, who will learn much from the Turkish experience.

Last updated on 4 January 2021