On The Relation Between Politics And Science: The Seeking Of Socialist Power For Science
General Secretary of Communist Party of Turkey
**Speech of TKP General Secretary Kemal Okuyan at the Opening Ceremony of the Socialist Future and Planning Symposium**
Translated by Gamze Öy Terzi and Alpcan Evren
The Academy of Science and Enlightenment has become quite an important reference point in a very short period. It is conducting invaluable studies. Before I mention these studies, I have to answer the question why I am here.
A few people have asked about this today, half jokingly; “What are you going to talk about?” This is a rightful question, because except for a year-long medical faculty experience, I have a rather modest relationship with science, because of the fact that social sciences are not considered as science. On the other hand, in fact, I will try to establish my speech on this relationship precisely, which means, the relationship between politics and science policies or science.
We have never overshadowed the studies of the Academia with the interests of Communist Party of Turkey in a narrow sense. However, this work has emerged under the lead and initiative of TKP. Therefore, I will try to answer these questions such as why we considered to organise this initiative, in such an area, to found such an academia, what we are expecting for and specifically what we expect from this symposium.
Dear friends, first of all, we have to know that there cannot be any area which politics is not related with or interested in. As a politician I say, we are looking forward to the days when politics will be abandoned from humanity’s repertoire. Because politics is an occupation which will get out of humanity’s agenda, together with the society of classes. An unnecessary occupation, in fact. Politics is needed as much as classes are needed. In fact, we politically struggle to eliminate the classes and therefore we have to struggle in this way and aim, and for that reason, of course, science does concern politics.
When we say politics we do not understand a parliamentary struggle or a corporate one in a narrow sense. Our struggle has an aim, which is to bring the proletariat, the toiling people to power and to establish a classless social order without exploitation. This is quite a comprehensive claim. Conversely: Is there any area which the capitalist class has not touched? No. Even if they claim otherwise, politics is everywhere from art to culture, and science as well. It is said that politics is not done in places such as barracks, mosques and schools. On the contrary, there’s a load of politics done in barracks, mosques and schools, and this is not only true for Turkey. Therefore, when we look at, we see that there is no area where capital does not enter or leak. Therefore, the capitalist class dominates the whole fabric of human life. Both human life and social life. Of course, science is under the absolute domination of capital.
The struggle to destroy the dominance of capital or the rule of capital requires a tough struggle in all areas where capital has touched. Yes, the conquest of political power is the central problem of the proletariat. As long as you put this problem aside, your struggle does not have a chance of success in any aspect. On the other hand, we do not have the chance to struggle for political power by neglecting the main areas of struggle or the basic aspects of social relations. For example, as soon as you say that you postpone struggling within the area science to some post-revolutionary time, you put an important aspect of struggle aside, you neglect it. A very similar situation goes for culture and arts as well. And generally, when we look at the history of the struggles in the 20th century, we see that the revolutionary workers’ movements or communist parties have occasionally put these areas, which are culture and science, aside; or in a more direct way to say, they neglected them.
Friends, this situation has a heavy price for today. Why? The exposure of capitalism, making the masses react, move and organize against it - this is one of our most important missions. How do we expose capitalism without transforming the areas that capitalism touches, reorganizes and uses for profit into strongholds of the working class movement, of our own front? We all know about the difficulties of making the people move without exposing capitalism.
Yes, science, as the other areas, is an extremely critical area to expose capitalism. Because having drawn into profit mechanisms more and more, science is also particularly important in this aspect. I want to give an example. In the last few weeks, the health system in Turkey came into the fore in a quite wrong way, I mean the medical sector, vaccination… A journalist tried to introduce the discussion of a real problem, yet on an extremely unrealistic basis, and indeed the problem started to be discussed. Now friends, we have to be well equipped here. Our equipment is not absent, but more is needed. In all of these discussions; revolutionary public-minded scientists, revolutionaries, communists, Marxists have a duty, which is to enlighten humanity and our people. We do not have the chance to perform this struggle without knowing these mechanisms in detail and placing our own scientists in the channels where science flows, in critical points or without touching people and scientists at critical points. This Academia has such a meaning.
What else? Friends, we try to destroy this social order and establish a socialist country. Well, with what are we going to establish a socialist country? As I said, we need assertive, prominent, or “vanguard” cadres to use our terminology, to make the struggle today realistic. We need vanguard scientists when it comes to science. Yes, however, this also has a special importance for the post-revolutionary period. Why?
Friends, yes, after the revolution power of the proletariat will reorganise the life; actually we will create the “new human”, the new society. On the other hand, this transition process will be more troublesome than we think. We will have problems in education, health, technology on the very first day of our power. Our dams and power plants will need to continue generating energy. Our factories will have to continue operating. Our armed forces will have to be equipped with the necessary technological equipment or the necessary ammunition and weapons. Well, what are we going to do all these with? With which human resources?
I will come soon to the difficulties which Soviet Union has experienced, however we need to know that if we aim for a socialist power in Turkey in the near future, as my friend or comrade Erhan well said, we have to intervene in science, from today. Of course not by setting up dreamy goals. Yet this is extremely critical; if we can recruit respectable people who have mastered their own area in the basic sciences, those who are productive and possesses significant amount of knowledge in that area, who have links with other scientists, if we can increase the number of the people among the young scientists who can say “I serve and politically struggle for this country, for working people, in science area”; then, in state of a crisis, in a moment of revolutionary crisis, when the proletariat of Turkey will face with the responsibility of taking power, we will not brood over this situation.
What I have told goes for culture and art and other areas as well. Therefore, in political struggle, we have to touch every area of life.
Friends, which approach will we use? Perhaps, a significant amount of what I will tell you will be fulfilled in socialist Turkey, however, we have to approach science with this point of view.
Once, there is quite an important, a fundamental difference between the science in our minds and that of the capitalist society, which pertains to the aim of science, aim of scientific study. Scientific study has only one fundamental aim, which is profit maximization. This goes for all scientific disciplines. For us, the goal of scientific work is the interests of the society. There are radical, deep-rooted differences. It has been discussed many times; would science have class, for example, would there be proletarian medicine? Friends, there will not be Marxist medicine, however, of course Marxism will have an approach to medicine or medicine will have a Marxist approach.
Why? As the aim of the studies will be different, its theme will be different as well. Under the dominance of the capitalist class each discipline and the research themes of each scientific discipline are determined to be profit-oriented issues. Their priorities are defined accordingly. From our point of view, the theme of scientific study shall be different from that of the capitalist point of view. There will be a change there.
For us, the organization of scientific work will also change, because today, in capitalist countries, scientific work is overseen by international monopolies and a bureaucracy of science, detached from the people. On the other hand, our goal is to establish scientific work on an extensive network consisting of universities, all elements of a planned economy and all organizations of the working people. Consequently, the organization of science will be radically different from how it is today.
The actors of scientific work will change. Here we need to ask, who are the actors of scientific work in Turkey and other capitalist countries? Part of it is scientists, or science labourers exploited by capital, another part of it is scientists who either turned into capitalists or who help capitalists manage the field of science. The field of science is divided into two separate classes and unfortunately, one of these antagonistic classes is unaware of such division. This class antagonism will be overcome by the way socialism defines scientists as actors. Scientists will be a part of the working class, or the only actors of the field of science will be liberated science workers.
The relationship between science and education will also change. Our society will introduce drastic changes in how these are organized. Education will become scientific, and the education of the scientist will socialize and will no longer be a privilege.
Finally, the problem of organizing the scientists is the one that we should care about the most today. In a socialist society, the scientist will also be a political being. There will be scientists in all administrative ranks, including councils and the parliament. Is there anyone in Turkey’s parliament today, whom we can call a scientist? Even if there is, the number should be very few. But in socialist Turkey, we will need scientists in the parliament and they will freely do politics, just like other elements of the working people.
All of these changes that I mentioned involve politics. Therefore, I thank my friends for inviting me here, but of course, politics will have things to say on science. They go together, since when we do science and when we’re involved in scientific work, we do politics at the same time.
We must start working from now on so that we don’t need to worry once we achieve power. The Soviet experience provides us with substantial lessons to be taken. In Russia, the working class came to power in the leadership of a strongly organized party with very experienced cadres who have been involved in the struggle for years. But this party had few specialists in Russia whose population consisted mostly of poor and uneducated peasants. They had few soldiers, no diplomats, no artists, no lecturers, and few engineers and scientists. That posed a great problem for the Soviet Union, forcing it to start establishing socialism on a vast geography with scarce resources. The field of science was dominated by privileged people. A great majority of elite scientists of Russia came from aristocratic families. They didn’t have a positive opinion on the October Revolution or a workers’ state; in fact, most of them were hostile to it.
A substantial part of those went abroad during the revolution. As for the remaining ones, most of them expected workers’ power in Russia to collapse soon. The rest were the ones that we might call honest scientists, those in love with their profession who didn’t think of anything but their scientific work and didn’t see a difference between serving the tsar or serving the Soviet Union. But there still was a huge shortage of specialists and scientists. We aren’t in the position to underestimate this and we should be discussing the challenges created by this shortage openheartedly.
We used to not talk about this in the past, but for the whole period of Soviet Union’s existence, some athletes, scientists, artists tried to escape to the West from the Soviet Union. It’s time to talk about this reality, because that wasn’t exactly Soviet Union’s fault. Soviet Union didn’t have any scientists believing in the new social order in 1917, or in 1922 when it finally took its name. And it would take at least 10 years to create scientists from among the working people by educating them. Therefore, they needed to convince the already existing ones first. Some scientists returned from abroad. In order to convince them, some concessions were made, like paying them higher wages, tolerating their political views, and ignoring their bourgeois or aristocratic background. Some had their former property restored to them. The bargain here was aimed at buying the time the Soviet government needed to create the new human and raise a new generation of scientists as a part of this.
However, a great part of those who worked in research laboratories, institutes, academia, technological research institutes of the Soviet Union were those who didn’t believe in Soviet power. These cadres had connections to Russian scientists who emigrated to France, Germany, United States and other countries after the revolution. Therefore, each of these scientists, among them very reputable ones, posed a potential threat to the new Soviet social order. That problem just cannot be solved in 5 or 10 years. Then, in Germany, the fascists came to power. The government in Germany was the arch enemy of the Soviet Union, and a war was approaching. An immense scientific effort is required to prepare for such a war. So, even though the young scientists raised from among the working people and the villages are deployed, the older generation that was ideologically in odds with the Soviet Union also kept working.
It is neither a secret, nor a slander, that some scientists continued their research in prisons converted to laboratories, especially during wartime. That’s fully true. What should the Soviet Union have done instead? They could either give up all hope from these people, or benefit from these people for as long as possible so that the Soviet Union could keep going. Looking back from today, we can say that the Soviet Union achieved the impossible. They became an industrial giant without cadres, specialists, and without substantial experience in many areas. By the time the Stalin Constitution of 1936 was drafted, literacy rates of the Soviet Union were at an all-time high, and a new generation of young scientists started to emerge, but as I said, all of this wasn’t enough to solve all the problems.
As time went on, Soviet Union turned raising scientists into a whole industry. Not only scientists but also artists and athletes were being raised, since in an organized society, practicing in these fields stopped being a privilege. Consequently, Soviet Union had a percentage of experts to population 10 times greater compared to Western countries. Every house, every village had a piano, and Soviet Union boasted the biggest number of piano players.
Soviet Union had 5 or 10 times more chemists compared to the United States. That was because scientific education and the processes necessary to become a scientist were open to all people. So it comes as no surprise that the West tried to find ways to attract these scientists.
As access to arts, sciences and sports stopped being a privilege in the Soviet Union, the inequalities between scientists and the working people greatly diminished. Yes, scientists were paid higher than manual workers, but there never was the vast difference that existed in the West. Therefore, the West looked at Soviet scientists, artists and athletes as low-cost experts, and poured in money to transfer them, and to be fair, humanity has to go a long way before becoming unobtainable with money. Yes, some of these people were bought off, and some had the intention to leave from the very beginning, since many scientists in the Soviet Union had roots in property owning families that were against the Soviet way.
I’m sharing all of this because Turkey will inevitably become socialist. In order to prevent enduring the same difficulties, we need to have the human resources that will at least meet the immediate needs of a workers’ state in scientific and cultural areas. That need is what makes your work so crucial. Therefore, this congregation does more than bringing together progressive, patriotic, Marxist, materialist and communist scientists to discuss issues related to their disciplines. Even though that’s also an important issue, our main problem is that we need to have in stock the scientific knowledge and organisation that a workers’ state will need. That’s why we need to start arranging symposiums, organizing, discussing and publishing before we come to power. After its honourable struggle in the October Revolution, the Russian working class didn’t have one tenth of the scientific knowledge contained within this hall, and in spite of this, they attempted a tremendous task, and largely succeeded.
We have to organize our preparation ahead of time, knowing that our struggle will have many other difficulties. I believe that when we come to power as the working class of Turkey, the best artists, the best experts, the best technicians, the best engineers, and the best scientists of Turkey will stand together with the working class of Turkey.
Good luck, and thank you.