Bedri Baykam is the son of Mrs. Mutahhar Baykam (architect-engineer) and of the late Dr. Suphi Baykam (1926-1996) who was one of the leading figures of CHP, (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi) the social-democrat, Republican Party of the People. Dr. Suphi Baykam was a University youth leader and a strong Kemalist advocate during the end of the forties and the fifties. He entered the party in 1953 and started the youth and women organizations of CHP. He became one of the "right-hands" of Ismet Inonu, the second president of Turkey and got elected to the parliament in 1957 as a deputy from Adana the year Bedri Baykam was born. After fighting in all the possible democratic ways against Adnan Menderes's fascist party, the DP, young Dr. Baykam became one of the nemesis of the government. He stayed in close links with university student organizations in the days that led to the revolution of 1960 that brought a new democratic constitution in 1961. Dr. Suphi Baykam got nominated to the founding Assembly of 1961 (Kurucu Meclis) and later got elected in 1961 and 1965 as a deputy from Istanbul. Dr. Baykam became one of the top propagandists of the movement "The Center Left" (Ortanin Solu) the root of the actual social democratic politics. He was aide to the general secretary of the Party and CHP's Parliament group's second president. After the 1965 failure of CHP in the elections he was blamed for the loss which was linked to the "Center-Left" movement. Although the president Inonu was the initiator of the movement, Dr. Baykam was put on the spotlight as the one responsible for the defeat since Inonu was "untouchable". Consequently he resigned from the Party Assembly although he always insisted that the "Center of the Left" movement was CHP's future. After Dr. Baykam pulled himself back in the party, the rise of Bulent Ecevit started.
Baykam resigned from politics in 1968 and started a public company that would work in the social-democrat spirit, with the slogan "The People's Sector" (Halk Sektoru) which later was taken over by Ecevit's CHP, during the electoral campaign of 1974. Ecevit became the President of the CHP in 1972, after his congress dispute against Inonu in the Party.
Bedri Baykam did not get seriously involved in politics until 1987, the year he returned from the United States. Although a fierce Kemalist all along, raised very close to CHP ties all his life, as an artist and a writer he had only been a conceptual defender of social democracy and Kemalism. After his come-back to Istanbul, he noticed the rise of Islamic Fundamentalists under the prime minister Ozal's government that gave numerous concessions to the religious fanatics. He started writing articles on the subject and spreading public awareness through interviews and lobby movements.
Later he was closely linked to the debuts of the Ataturkçu Dusunce Dernegi (Ataturk's Association Thoughts) A.D.D. and Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi (Association in Support of Contemporary living) I.Y.D.D. two public associations founded in 1989, who fight against Islamic Fundamentalism and preach democracy, human and women rights, contemporary life.
He campaigned with them against the lifting of the famous law No: 163 which forbade the Islamist to write freely against the republic, march and protest against the regime of 1923, founded by Ataturk. In spite of all the effort, not even SHP, the social-democrat reigning Party ( born after CHP was shut down by the coup d'Etat of 1980) took their side and the law was abolished to the delight of Islamist and "naive democrats", the "Second Republicans", that control unfortunately, most of Turkey's mass-media.
Baykam started helping the publication of "Devinim" with Alptekin Gunduz a Kemalist Youth magazine, between 1990-1994. He also started touring all over Turkey reinforcing the ideas of Mustafa Kemal and warning the nation against the dangerous rise of Islamism sponsored by neighboring Islamic countries trying to export their ideology. After the murders of Kemalist writers and politicians in the early 90's. (Muammer Aksoy, Cetin Emeç, Bahriye Uçok, Turan Dursun, Ugur Mumcu) he accelerated his efforts. Famous writers and activists Aksoy and Mumcu, although from a previous generation, were close collaborators with Baykam. In the summer of 1993 he started a movement called "Taban Operasyonu" ("The people's movement", "Taban" meaning ground for regular modest people) in order to unite the social democrats who at the time were divided in three separate parties: The SHP which had been leading the left since 1983, the CHP which was founded again in 1992 and Ecevit's Party the DSP.
Baykam developed the "Taban Operasyonu" with the inclusion of writer Toktamis Ates, the lead of CYDD Turkan Saylan, Oktay Ekinci head of Istanbul Architects, Mehmet Domaç head of Turkish Pharmacists, Oguz Gundogdu head of geologist and the head of several leaders of other professional democratic organizations including the ADD. More than 50.000 signatures were rapidly gathered in support of this union of the three parties which as one party would represent the old CHP, before the coup d'Etat. Ecevit, who since the Coup of 1980 never wanted to unite again with his former team, flatly refused that offer.
Baykam tried to help the negotiation between Deniz Baykal, Head of CHP and Murat Karayalçin, Head of SHP. Although the "entente" was very close, it wouldn't materialize. Many press conferences were held by the movement "Taban Operasyonu" throughout 1993. Last minute offer for these parties to collaborate at the municipal elections of 1994 was also refused. As expected with the divisions in the center left and in the center right (Between ANAP and DYP) the Islamists won the elections in 1994 to the great surprise (!) of the general public.
After the union of SHP and CHP in 1995, Baykam finally left "outside lobbying" and joined the CHP. In the congress of September 1995 he was elected to the Assembly board of the Party. Between June 1995, and May 2000 he wrote for the leftist political weekly "Aydinlik" and contributed to the daily "Cumhuriyet". He left Cumhuriyet in 1998 for personal reasons and Ayd›nl›k in May 2000 for political differences. He wrote for the Aksam Newspaper. Till may 2001. Now he writes for the political bimonthly Ileri
He wrote three dossiers for the party "CHP Before the 1995 Elections" (October 1995), "The South-East Report (December 1997) and "the Profile of CHP"(May 1998). He traveled throughout the country giving conferences on the party's behalf. He was the party's responsible controller for the city of Tekirdag but in fact he covered any city on the agenda, writing, status reports for each of them.
Baykam supports the granting of all cultural rights to all ethnic groups including the Kurds but refuses any discussion concerning the divisions of Turkey, not even into a federation. He believes that the "south-east problem" will be solved through major economic and cultural help, as well as affection and care. Refusing all types of racism, Baykam does not understand people who want a share of land for ethnic reasons in the 21st Century. He defines this attitude as the one of racist, people who are still carrying ideas from the Middle ages.
Although a harsh defender of human rights and against police violence and torture, he is very alert not to fall in the trap of "naive democrats" (his terminology). For Baykam, in democracy there is no place for the enemies of democracy and every regime has a duty to protect itself. Baykam sees Kemalism as an ideology in constant growth. The Revolutionary spirit, the sixth arrow of Ataturk's Party the CHP, keeps that flame of eternal change for the better of society, burning. He is one of the biggest enemies of the "Second Republicans" a group of intellectuals mainly present in the top-media, that although live a modern life style, want to collaborate with the Islamists in order to attack the ideas of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, to their own detriment! Baykam accuses them of serving the religious fanatics while pretending to be democrats. This is an ungoing fight.
He is also a big critic of Bulent Ecevit the head of DSP. For Baykam, Ecevit is the former worst disaster that happened in Turkish Politics. He regards Ecevit's refusal of the union of the left as the biggest reason for the rise of fascism and religious fanaticism in the country.
As far the problem of privatization goes in economics, Baykam refuses the surrender to wild Capitalism and neo-liberal trends. In the line of his party's program, he puts the accent on giving autonomy (ozerklik) to major important strategic State Industrial Corporations (K‹T) and selling only the ones that are really outdated.
He wants a balance between the "state sector" and the "private sector". He refuses the arguments of those that ask the total desappearance of the state from the economy. Baykam actually supports CHP's positions versus the EU: Turkey should not give more concessions to the EU and accept to comly with all the political blackmails that the Union is trying to impose on her.
According to Baykam, anyway the AKP government does not in fact really want to adhere to the EU. They just use the ongoing dialogue in order to neutralize the Turkish Army which has been a longtime nemesis of political Islam. Also he doesn't believe in this "marriage" looking from the other side.
He is among the ones who questions the sincerity of the European Union in Wanting to include Turkey in the group. He suspects that the union only wants to use the market offered by Turkey and is not interested to include an islamic country between themselves at this point.
In October 2003, on the 30th Congress of The Party, Bedri Baykam has been a candidate for the Presidency of the CHP. He organized meetings in 41 cities for his campaign. He made 25.000 km on the road. But as Deniz Baykal only few hours before the presidential elections had a new inside procedure within the Party be accepted, Baykam could not become an official candidate in the last minute: Instead of the 66 delegate signatures required to become a candidate, the new "law" switched that limit to 250 signatures that had to be taken in the congress only an hour before the race. Baykam that had gathered 111 signatures stopped his campaign and opened a court case. Months later the court decided that the issue was not in their field of operation, that it was up to the constitution court to decide. However in Turkey, individuals can not go to the constitution court to complain about anything.
You can read all the details of Baykam's Presidential Race in "Korku Imparatorluguna Son" (End to the Empire of Fear".
Baykam announced publicly the creation of "The Patriotic Movement" on May 30, 2005 with the participation of several civilian institutions. The Patriotic Movement is not a political party. Still very close to the CHP, it wants to unite all the social democrats party against Erdogan's AKP. (Read the first statement and link yourself to "Yurtsever Hareket" on the front page.)
This is an ongoing story, not history...