ON THE PROSPECTS OF TURKEY IN THE BIRTH OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
IN THE BACKGROUND OF A CRISIS DEADLOCK SCHEMES OF NEOLIBERAL CAPITALISM
Interview with comrade Vassilis Makridis, Greek opposition leftist journalist, translator. Member of the International Relations Department of the Left Coalition “Laiki Enotita” and an activist of the organization “Aristero Revma” (“Left Current”). Talking with our long-term political partner from Greece – Alyona Ageeva, the Commissioner of the Russian section of the International Combat Social Actions “SOUTH- EASTERN STAR”.
Alyona Ageeva.: Dear comrade, i would like to start from asking you to comment one event that is mainly unclear for our international audience of many thousand people, the recent crucial statement of the members of Communist Party of Greece about the final transformation of semi-museum Saint Sophia Church (Hagia Sophia) into functioning Great Mosque of Ayasofia according to Erdogan“s decision… What does this event mean fundamentally for communists and socialists, beside the principal historical and cultural defeat of Bysanthy in May of 1453, which could be mainly forgotten? What have the Greek people, that were oppressed by The Regime of Black Colonels supported by the Orthodox clerics, lost? Just the Istanbul residence of the veteran of Turkey airforce veteran having quite doubtful British citizenship, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I? Or something more?
Vassilis Makridis.: First of all, i would like to state clearly that i have nothing to do with Communist Party of Greece since 1991. I am a member of another left communist political organization, named Aristero Reuma, which can be translated as «Left Current». I am familiar with the position of Communist Party of Greece on the issue of transformation of the Saint Sophia Church into a mosque and, principally, I completely agree with it. The majority of the left parties and organizations of Greece stand on the same position, but I can also tell that the overwhelming majority of the Greek citizen support it independently on their political orientation. Hagia Sophia is related to the history and cultural heritage of our people for most of Greeks. The church was built in the 6th century AD, and it had been functioning as the main Christian cathedral of the whole Eastern Mediterranenan and one of the greatest temples of the whole world for almost a thousand of years. After the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, their leader Mehmed II decided to transform the temple into a Muslim mosque. In 1934, the founder of the modern Turkish state, Kemal Ataturk, made a principally correct decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a museum in order to distinguish the disconnection with Ottoman Empire and secular nature of the new Turkish state. Then, UNESCO delcared Hagia Sophia the architectural site of outstanding international significance.
The current decision of President Erdogan means, first of all, the exacerbation of relations with Greece and with the whole so-called «Christian world». For Erdogan himself, it is the demonstration of power; for the numerous other countries, including Greece and Russia, it is pure provocation and demonstration of «imperial» ambitions from the side of Turkey. Erdogan sees «his» Turkey as the potential leader of the whole Turki world and the whole Muslim world. It is the comeback of the «panturkism» theory into reality. Erdogan does not follow the example of Ataturk; he copies Mehmed II, he is his «Hero of childhood». The wish of Erdogan is to restore the imperial status of Turkey and its gradual transformation into an islamic state. Such actions like the recent decision on the status of Hagia Sophia lead the process exactly in this direction.
As for Patriarch Bartholomew, i must state that i have absolutely no sympathy to him personally. However, a person should not be confused with a position. It is one thing – the dubious, at least, the identity of Bartholomew himself, and quite another – the office of the Patriarch of Constantinople and its significance for the Orthodox Christian world. One more explanation: Hagia Sophia is not any “residence” of any Patriarch; it belongs entirely to the Turkish state. The residence of the Patriarch of Constantinople is a building located in the Istanbul suburb of Fener (in Greek: Fanari). It should also be noted that Turkish citizenship is a requirement of the Turkish state for any religious figure (not only for representatives of the Orthodox Church). In addition, Bartholomew was born in Turkey (on the island of Imvros, where at one time 90% of the inhabitants were ethnic Greeks, but now there are only 10% of them, about 400 persons), so he had Turkish citizenship since then. All this is pure information and does not mean any advocating of Bartholomew’s actions from my side, especially the most recent action regarding the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the “blessing” of the Turkish armed forces, who, in fact, carried out the intervention in Syria.
A.A.: What impact will have the NATO Navy arrival on the 20th of July of this year to Greek aquatory on the nearest future of Greece? Is it an alarming factor, comrade Makridis? If the answer is yes, then what should the common Greek people worry about after the appearance of North American cargo ships off the coast of Greece, Crete and Cyprus, on your political and civil opinion? Or can this military action be seen as a form of strategic defensive measure against NATO’s Greece as well?
V.M.: First of all, I should recall that Greece is a NATO member country, and NATO military bases have existed for several decades in our country. For your information, Greece became a NATO member at the same time as Turkey, in 1951. However, in my opinion, Greece did not see any good from participation in this political and military alliance. Moreover, in all the conflicts of our country with such a “partner” as Turkey, the leadership of NATO and the main country participating in the alliance, the United State, supported Turkey directly or indirectly. During the persecutions of 1955, when more than 20 thousand Constantinople Greeks were forced to leave Turkey and their property was impudently confiscated, the NATO principal officials just kept silent.
When a military dictatorship was established in Greece in 1967, there was not even a declaration in support of democracy on the part of NATO ; moreover, the regime of the “black colonels” was completely controlled by NATO and the Americans, carrying out the “holiest” mission of preventing the “communist threat” in Greece. In 1974, when Turkey attacked Cyprus and seized 38% of the island’s territory, creating the false state of “Northern Cyprus”, NATO committed a crime against an entire people once again. And even more recently, in January 1996, when Turkish warships sailed to Imia, the Greek uninhabited islet, and it almost led to direct military conflict between Greece and Turkey, the position of NATO and, most importantly, the United States was the following: “Make both fleets move away from the island “. In other words, the United States questioned the unconditional sovereignty of Greece in its own water area and allowed the creationof the so-called “gray zones” in the Aegean Sea by Turkey.
It has long been known that Turkey is eyeing the Greek islands of the eastern Aegean Sea and would love to have them. The only factor that prevents these aggressive intentions is the power and defensive effectiveness of the Greek armed forces. Unfortunately, the political leadership of Greece, independent on party affiliation, is “enslaved” by the so-called “collective West” and does not seek to protect the national interests and sovereignty of our country, but only to self-survival. It was a high time for our rulers to realize that neither NATO, nor the European Union, nor the United States will protect the national interests of Greece, but it is necessary to rely, first of all, on our own strengths and it is necessary to look for other options for cooperation in the international arena. Cowardice and lack of will on the part of the Greek political leaders gives Turkey an excuse and opportunity to become impudent and claim the territories that do not belong to it at all. And the appearance of NATO forces in the country, as I have already explained, does not guarantee the protection of the national interests of Greece and in no way “punishes” Turkey for outright impudence.
A.A.: The Greek authorities have prohibited any political rallies and demonstrations in the country, even the sanctioned ones… This is certainly strange for the democratic norms of a country that is a member of the European Union. Explain us, your political associates and geographic neighbors, the nature of this political normative move of the right-wing government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis? Is this a form of fighting massive social demonstrations of opposition, left, anarchist and other protest organizations? Or is there some other motivation behind this new piece of legislation for the current ruling class in Greece?
V.M.: It is necessary to clarify that the sanctioned rallies are formally allowed after the recent adoption of a new corresponding law by the votes of the members of the ruling New Democracy Party and the so-called “Social Democratic” PASOK Party. However, in fact, so many strict requirements have been imposed on the organizers of rallies (up to criminal liability in the event, for example, of a clash of even a part of the protesters with law enforcement agencies) that it becomes almost impossible to hold any rally in normal conditions. This new law is also openly unconstitutional, because the right of free assembly and free conduction of any political actions is protected by the Basic Law of the Hellenic (Greek) Republic. As you have quite fairly noted yourself, this law is a new form of struggle against mass social actions of opposition, left, anarchist and other protest organizations. But, moreover, it also signifies a general tendency, which is outlined in many Western bourgeois “democratic” states. World capitalism, especially in its neoliberal version, has clearly begun to “stall” in recent years and it is not able to resolve its crises in some more or less “peaceful” way. So, there is only one option: the suppression of any resistance, even with a violation, at the same time, of their own principles of “personal freedom” and “human rights.” And this just proves that the claimed interest of the bourgeois neoliberal ideology in freedom and human rights is pure fiction and sheer craftiness. The response of the world popular movement to these attempts must be unambiguous: a conscious massive disobedience to all such laws and their actual transformation into juridical “doormats”.
A.A.: Comrade Makridis, you are a left opposition journalist and editor and the main author of the periodical with the noticeable name “Iskra”, as well as an active member of the Central Committee of the anti-capitalist organization “Aristero Revma”, which has been sufficiently tested by time, and all this immediately explains my next question: knowing the mentality of modern Greek youth and, knowing about the abundance of activated representatives of the crypto-fascist elites in the ruling and law enforcement agencies of Greece (we will arbitrarily call this phenomenon “repressive de-communization”), which is acquiring an increasingly pronounced aggressive character, as well as in other countries of South-Eastern Europe, including the Russian Federation, where nazification clouds will soon again close our skies; according to your objective forecasts for Greece, is it possible to revive a united Anti-Fascist Popular Front, ready to fight? Is the process of unification against the fascized ruling capitalism possible in form of the maximal consolidation of all representatives of the Greek opposition forces: communists, socialists, left-wing radicals and even those with great programmatic ideological differences – for example, the anarchist organizations of Greece, famous all over the world for their desperate fearlessness and irreconcilable radicalism of direct action? Is it possible that various organizations of your country, discarding eternal contradictions, in the next year and a half could still get together in order to sit down at a round table of negotiations on a common decision to create a single and strong anti-fascist Resistance?
V.M.: I want to inform you that I left the post of editor of the political information website Iskra.gr more than a year ago, and now I continue my activity in journalism as a freelancer, while having other professional activities outside of journalism. As for the main topic of your question, my thesis is this: the development of openly pro-fascist and pro-Nazi sentiments in Greece has been suspended by a tragic event – the murder of the Greek hip-hop musician and pronounced anti-fascist Pavlos Fyssas (pseudonym: Killah P) by members of the pro-Nazi organization Chrissi Avgi (Golden Dawn) in September 2013. Until then, the Greek Nazis had argued that they were targeting only illegal immigrants, but with this premeditated murder they proved that in fact they were ready to commit a similar crime against any citizen who resists fascist atrocities. On the other hand, xenophobic and openly racist rhetoric (albeit without a positive perception of the criminal “activism” of the members of “Chrisi Avgi”) continues to be quite widespread among a significant part of the Greek population. Unfortunately, such views (albeit in a more “refined” form) can be found among the supporters of “loyal” systemic political parties (of course, not among the supporters of left-wing parties). In general, there has been a kind of turn towards conservatism, from “moderate” to more radical and nearly fascist ideologies, in the Greek society in recent years.
As for the opposition forces of the communist, socialist, left-radical and anarchist directions, they have experienced their deep identity crisis (and not only such crisis) in recent years. This is largely due to the complete collapse of the hopes and expectations of the Greek people because of the actions of the once-left radical party SYRIZA, which, being in power and contrary to its statements about pursuing a sovereign policy in defense of the people’s interests, actually followed in the footsteps of previous bourgeois governments. The key moment was the signing of the 3rd Memorandum of Understanding with the country’s creditors and especially with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, at the moment when he himself announced that he would cancel both previous Memorandums “with one law and one article.” The broad masses of the Greek population then had the idea that “the lefts also lie” and that “all the political forces are the same.” This, of course, was completely unfair to those who continued to fight against this kind of policy from the left and class-oriented positions. The results of the last elections in May and June 2019 confirmed not only the return of the neoliberal “New Democracy” to power with a result of 39.85%, but also its complete rebirth from the ashes, because 4 years ago, in 2015, it reached its historical minimum, receiving only 22% of the votes. The left-wing political forces suffered a serious defeat, and if it comes to my political coalition, LAE (Laiki Enotita, i.e. National Unity), of which the Aristero Revma organization is an integral part, the defeat was crushing and led to the resignation of its unconditional political leader until then, Panagiotis Lafazanis.
However, there is some positive news. After the crisis and defeat in the elections, most of the left-wing political forces in Greece realized that the unification of forces is a necessary condition for effective resistance to the reactionary neoliberal policies, not only to New Democracy, but in general, to any bourgeois government. Political forces which previously had practically no contact with each other began to meet, exchange opinions and organize joint political events. Of course, to achieve forms of closer cooperation requires a lot of work to be done, but the fact is that “the ice has broken.” Unfortunately, Greek political realities include one practically invariable factor: the Greek Communist Party, the most massive and organized leftist party in the country, completely refuses not only to cooperate, but even to enter into negotiations with any other leftist political force. It understands “cooperation” not as an equal political relationship between different forces, but as an actual “absorption” of all other left political forces and their political and organizational subordination under the roof of the Communist Party itself. Finally, as far as the anarchist forces are concerned, as a communist, of course, I have ideological disagreements with them, but I am far from opposing the creation of not only a narrowly anti-fascist, but also a common opposition bloc with them. However, this case is hindered, in fact, by the anarchist ideology itself and the political practice of these forces. This is, of course, a very long conversation, which, perhaps, has no place in this interview and should be held separately. But the fact remains that it is practically impossible to build a united front with the forces of anarchism, at least in the conditions of my country …
A.A.: Comrade Makridis, tell me your opinion as a spokesman for a certain socially-oriented socio-political section of the Greek society, which, like Spain, has experienced and is going through a severe economic crisis, despite the fact that Greece is an average country of a commodity surplus and also one of the main tourist regions in the European part of the world, – is it generally advisable to continue to exist under the authority of the European Union, the European Parliament, the Central European Bank as a historical form of an interstate alliance with its key parameters? Or does the European Union simply need some radical reform, and its member states continue to need the EU, but only reformed one? Or perhaps they need massive “EXITS”? …
V.M.: The historical experience and political reality prove that all the interethnic formations of the Western capitalist world are not just experiencing another internal crisis, from which they will sooner or later and somehow get out. The political and economic crisis of Western capitalism over the past decade has shown that this time things are much more serious than any previous time. This is the first time in modern history when capitalism deliberately violates its own principles. The clearest example of this process is just the European Union and the state of affairs within it. Even such generally accepted rules, such as the free movement of citizens within the EU countries, are violated by a number of member countries of the organization without the slightest sense of accountability for their actions. And this does not only apply to the affairs after the appearance of CoViD-19 or the emigration crisis of the previous 3-4 years. We saw, for example, how France began the mass deportation of Roma who came from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria a few years ago. Or how workers who came from poorer countries of the European Union to more developed ones receive salaries almost the same as those they received at home, despite the fact that the cost of living in more developed countries is much higher.
The euro and the Eurozone are also a separate and very serious topic. The euro is not just a currency, but a whole mechanism of control over the economies of the participating countries. Euro is convenient for producing and exporting countries such as Germany. And for countries like Greece and all the rest of southern Europe, it serves as a means of financial and political enslavement.
Summary: The European Union and the Eurozone turned into purely bureaucratic mechanisms that protect the interests of the ruling class of the more developed member states, mainly Germany, long ago. The European Union and Eurozone cannot be reformed and / or reformatted. The only sure way for any country that respects itself and its citizens is to secede and pursue an independent and sovereign foreign and economic policy.
A.A.: A large part of the population of Modern Greece are immigrants from post-Soviet Russia, both ethnically Russian Greeks (Pontians, Azov, Tsalka), and immigrants of Slav origin. I am sure that the older and middle generation of Russian immigrants in your country must still remember the Russian language, are still bearers of a part of the Russian mentality and culture to some extent, and also in 90% of cases have fairly close family and historical links, maintain relations with those who remained in a huge country located across the Black Sea – Pontus, directly opposite the “Turkish coast”. In this regard, your “overseas optics” is extremely interesting, I mean a view from the outside at the current processes dictating political steps in modern Russia … I will say frankly that the rating of that political leader and his political system, on which the majority Russians pinned a lot of hopes, optimistic prospects, etc. some 10-15 years ago, has sharply dropped. Today we are observing just the opposite of the recent past from the inside, the black pessimism staining it more and more every day. How do Greeks see Russia today, Vassilis? Let me make a reservation right away, comrade, I do not want to sharpen this issue, which is important for the whole world, through the prism of some purely national interest; I am talking to you as before: as a Marxist with a Marxist and as an internationalist with an internationalist.
V.M.: It is true that a considerable number of immigrants from Russia and other countries-former parts of the Soviet Union live in our country, both ethnic Greeks and other nationalities: Russians, Ukrainians, Moldovans, Georgians, Armenians, etc. As for emigrants with Slavic roots, they are naturally native Russsian speakers, they speak Russian among themselves, they love Russian culture and keep in touch with their homeland, especially in our times when technology provides many different ways to do this.
As for the attitude of local residents towards Russia, I would say that the majority of Greeks have a positive attitude, despite the massive anti-Russian propaganda and “brainwashing” carried out by our (as well as most Western) media. Many Greeks see strategic partnership with Russia as one of the ways to “detach” from direct Western interference in the internal affairs of Greece and regain sovereignty and national dignity (where the word “national” should be understood at the state level and not with any purely ethnic or, especially with a nationalist connotation). As for the internal state of affairs in Russia, there are different points of view; I personally would not like to express my ideas in this interview, because this is a whole separate topic, and here our conversation is mainly about Greece and its citizens. Maybe at another moment we can organize a separate conversation on the topic of Russia; I would love to participate.
A.A.: And the last question for today on the most actual problem for the Eurasian part of the planet: it is highly possible that the flow of history brings us 120 years backwards. Both we and you are in partial ignorance but in great worriness about standing on the ednge of a new Neoimperialistic war, and its theater will be transferred from the Balkans in Europe to a huge «gunpowder barrel», Southern Asia. In its centre, in turn, there is a tiny, partially independent and largely unrecognized country, Artsakh, arouud which the larger countries are moving, including Turkey, Armenia, Russia, UK, European Parliament… I would like to hear the complete and frank analytical opinion of our comrade, Greek citizen Vassilis Makridis, about the possibility of this impending storm…
V.M.: If I got you right, you speak of Nagorny Karabakh, although the name «Artsakh» is historically attributed to a larger territory included into the former «Great Armenia». I must clearly say that I am not a great expert in this question, although I have been watching th events in this region since Soviet times. Nagorny Karabakh is a matter of foreign relations of several countries, mainly Russia, Turkey and Iran. Despite being the real sides of conflict, Armenia and Azerbaijan are the epicenter of a much wider conflict including the European Union and the whole «joint West». The crucial problem is the energy sources and transportation systems in the region. More definitely, it is the question of energetic independence of Armenia and choice of the main strategic partner that the government of the country must do between Russia and European Union. The stumbling block can be Metsamor nuclear power plant and an issue of the prolongation of its operation after the necessary technological update or termination of its functioning. The first choice means the closer relation of Armenia with Russia but worsened affairs with the West, although EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement has recently been signed (the analogous agreement was signed by Ukraine and Moldova and, in my opinion, it has done no good to these countries). On the other hand, the second variant (closure of the old NPP and construction of a new one) will lead to stronger energetic and, moreover, financial dependence of Armenia on the West and IMF, because Armenia will need very expensive credits (in all the senses possible). This can make a good game to Turkey and Azerbaijan, because the financial dependence of Armenia can lead to reduced defensive potential of its armed forces and to «increased appetite» among those who want to capture Nagorny Karabakh and dictate the rules in the whole region, making another step to the dream about restoration of the Old Ottoman Empire. Personally, I think that the key position in this question is the opinion of Russia and its ability to play a role of a «judge» and to maintain the relative peace in the region. We should keep watching and see whether Russia could manage this issue or not…
AA: Thank you very much, our dear Greek brother and like-minded person, for such frank and wise answers, which indicate the continuation of our comradely conversation about such urgent problems, which are returning to our planet, tormented by insatiable Empires.
And I personally want to wish you and your ancient beautiful land of Hellas, Vassilis, – clear sky and free wind!