Remembering Doğan Tarkan

January 6, 2014

Tom Gagné honors a veteran of the socialist movement in Turkey.

THE INTERNATIONAL left lost a dedicated and able fighter on December 25 when Doğan Tarkan, general president of the Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (DSİP) of Turkey, died at the age of 65 of a heart attack at Taksim Metro Hospital in Istanbul.

Doğan was a lifelong socialist and played key roles in an incredible period of radicalization during the 1970s in Turkey. During the subsequent period of reaction, his activist efforts continued as part of the struggle against the military dictatorship. As a principled fighter alongside the Kurdish liberation movement and the Palestine Liberation Organization, his influence had deep roots in the region.

During the 1990s, he founded the DSİP, which would affiliate with the International Socialist Tendency. The party has since become a vibrant nationwide organization.

Over the course of my correspondence with various comrades in Turkey, it is clear that this loss has affected the entire party. Doğan was held in high esteem by his comrades, and his skills of organization and leadership will be difficult to replace. Comrades from Egypt to the U.S. thought of him as a "revolutionary's revolutionary."

Dogan Tarkan
Dogan Tarkan

The Gezi Park Resistance that erupted in Istanbul's Taksim Square last May was a movement that inspired radical activists around the globe. Given Turkey's rich history of working-class struggle and left-wing political traditions, the significance of the massive popular resistance against the government and the opportunities for building revolutionary organization were lost on no one.

The challenges facing organized socialists in Turkey became real and concrete learning experiences for a new and younger generation, which, from my outsider's perspective, seems to have met them with a mixture of resilience, fortitude and optimism that we can all seek to emulate.

Turkey's ruling government has yet again become embroiled in a corruption scandal involving its highest members. The scandal, which has prompted more resistance and clashes with the police in the wake of Gezi Park, has once again threatened the foundations of the government's weakening legitimacy.

Without question, Doğan's death came too soon, but his memory will live on in the coming struggles. I'd like to send a message of condolence and solidarity to all of our comrades in Turkey as they recover from their loss and organize to fight the next fight.

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