Reading the paper this morning, I came across a news item about the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, an armed struggle “Marxist-Leninist organization responsible for attacks on U.S. targets in Turkey in the early 1990s. ” In fact, the DHKP/C (to use its Turkish acronym) has been active beyond just attacking U.S. targets, and since 2001 has used suicide bombings in its activities.
Now, my knowledge of the Turkish left is not as complete as I might hope, so it was off to Wikipedia to see what I could find out. (Actually, all levity aside, the ICC has published two good texts on the history of the Turkish left, and there’s a good article on Loren Golder’s site too. )
Turns out the DHKP/C was formed in 1978 as Revolutionary Left, a split from the People’s Libertarion Party-Front of Turkey, itself a split from the Revolutionary Youth Federation. In 1994, the group split with one section becoming the DHKP/C and the other re-taking the name of the People’s Liberation Party-Front of Turkey. And just to clarity, “party” refers to the group’s political wing; front to the military.
Still, you can’t help but be reminded of Life of Brian.
The thing that struck me about this group though was the use of suicide bombers. For the “left” (broadly speaking here), suicide bombings are rare. Sure, there have been numerous leftist organizations, self-declared Marxist and anarchist who have used armed struggle tactics in pursuit of their goals, but suicide bombings are usually the trademark of the religious groups (the nationalist Tamil Tigers being a notable exception)
This then adds another level of problems to the organization. Aside from the hierarchical authoritarian nature of armed struggle, and the fact that most militants end up dead or in jail, thus curtailing their activities while driving their supporters into prison rights campaigns, you need to keep find a willing supply of recruits ready to blow themselves up, not for however many virgins you’re supposed to get, but, er, revolutionary immortality. Hmm.
To end, Life of Brian again:
Suicide Squad Leader: We are the Judean People’s Front crack suicide squad! Suicide squad, attack!
[they all stab themselves]
Suicide Squad Leader: That showed ‘em, huh?