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UNIVERSITÀ CATTOLICA DEL SACRO CUORE

ASERI- Alta Scuola di Economia e Relazioni Internazionali

MASTER IN MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES

THE EVOLUTION OF THE CONCEPT OF NATION-STATE AND


SELFDETERMINATION IN THE POLITICAL THOUGHT OF
ABDULLAH ÖCALAN

Supervisor: Francesco Mazzucotelli Student: Andrea Leoni

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Index

Introduction

CHAPTER 1. THE OCALAN'S READING ON PKK

Paragraph 1.1 Kurdish nationalism and the creation of the PKK

Paragraph 1.2 The PKK, according to Abdullah Ocalan

Paragraph 1.3 Criticism of the armed struggle

Paragraph 1.4 The new strategy of self-defense as a legitimate basis for resistance and of the
progression of Ocalan's thought.

CHAPTER 2. WHAT OCALAN INTENDS FOR STRUGGLE FOR NATIONAL


LIBERATION AND FORMS OF LIBERATION WHICH HE CONSIDERS VIABLE

Paragraph 2.1 The Road Map

Paragraph 2.2 The critique of nation-state

Paragraph 2.3 The democratic nation

Paragraph 2.4 Doctrine and practice

Conclusions

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Introduction

Historically, publications written in jails have held a primary role within the literature of
resistance movements.. These cases are numerous and there is a vast body of literature even in
the Middle East. As in the case of Öcalan, he is not particularly special in this regard but
draws on an imaginary that could ideally approach, both in the case of methodology, and more
simply in the title itself, comparisions to communist theoretician Antonio Gramsci. As in other
cases, the writings of Öcalan from prison are not only a number of unique documents that
enrich and directly affect the debate and the political process in Kurdistan in a unique way.

One of the elements that must be introduced is the importance of Öcalan, as the undisputed
leader of the PKK, to the Kurdish people. Öcalan dubbed, Apo, both as an abbreviation of his
name (Abdullah), and for its meaning (uncle) in Kurdish, is serving a life sentence, since
1999, on the island prison of Imrali where he resides today under a security system
comprising thousands of soldiers, in the south of the Sea of Marmara. He was captured, in
Nairobi in 1999 and sentenced to death in the same year, guilty of “separatist activities” which
is terrorism in Turkey. The penalty was commuted in 2002 to life imprisonment, as Turkey
had abolished capital punishment. His prison situation has changed, however, over time: to
total isolation and in addition, the arrest in July 2011 of thirty-six lawyers in his defense team.
For many months he found himself completely isolated and out of the world, “to the point of
wondering if he was still alive”1.

His face features in every event relating to Kurds. A petition for his release has collected
millions of signatures and was delivered to the European Parliament. For the Kurdish people,
the progression of a peace process would only evolve with his release. While his messages,
which are applauded at every Newroz, by even the most radical, have opened negotiations for
a peace process in Kurdistan. But this "pharaonic" construction of this figure surely comes
from the strength of the party which he founded – a strength gained through the party's ability
to synthetize Kurdish claims, a mixture of Marxism from the Turkish socialist movements,
and from Kurdish nationalist claims. These Ideologies have been intertwined for years in the

1 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 8

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experience of the PKK and are now being re-discussed even by Öcalan, because of the
contradictions that always arose in the history of the party.

The texts emphasize the ability of Öcalan, in the role of revolutionary theoretician, not to
surrender to prison literature passively, but rather to utilise the capacity of analysis and
research to overcome the conflict. His writings are not on trend to the enrichment of a cultural
debate, but directly affect the practices of the ongoing conflict in addition to the peace
process. His progressive reasoning and ideological interpretation must be included in an
ongoing war and in a given geographical area. As a direct source of inspiration for the
fighters, Öcalan definitely shows tactical vision, despite being completely physically
separated for almost fifteen years from the arena of the Kurdish context. Only through a
proper understanding of the historical moments in the Kurdish conflict, will it be possible to
understand the progression of Öcalan’s political thoughts in certain theoretical concepts that
are implemented immediately.

In the "Writings from the Prison" we can see not only the arguments that underlie the
progressive change of the struggle in Kurdistan, but also an element of debate within the
movement and the Marxist parties, or generally, parties of the left, in the Middle East. In
recent years, the experience of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) was a prime example of how the
Kurdish movement have been influenced by Öcalan. The history, as Ocalan has explain, acts
as the basis for the construction of a new society; so, it is within the historical path of the
PKK who are to be found political practices that are implemented in Rojava.

Öcalan's message in these books is that of the necessity for the democratization of Turkey
and states in general. His reflections involving all historical periods and all state organization
systems as implemented, expressed the need for change in the idea of the state, the need for a
new interpretation of the struggle for independence, the role of the armed struggle and so on.
The democratization process is not a surrogate of Western civilization but rather the result of
the history of the PKK.

The following pages will analyzes the role that the PKK has played according to Öcalan,
the strategic importance, the mistakes, the self-criticism that will be the basis for the
construction of subsequent reasoning. Öcalan’s interpretation of the armed struggle, in which,
he even speaks widely of violence, from which will be formed the cornerstone of a new form
of self-defense, and also of a critique of banditism to serve as a warning to critics on the use

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of power .

The second chapter will relate to the very important text Road Map, his last writings from
prison, where Öcalan outlines a possible solution, to the Kurdish problem, and a possible
democratization of the Turkish state. Then, Öcalan’s reasoning will focus on the critique of
nation-state and thus to the possibility of creating democratic confederalism. In the
conclusion, I will mention the possibility of putting into practice Öcalan’s ideas, especially in
relation to Syrian Kurdistan.

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CHAPTER 1. ÖCALAN'S READING ON PKK

Paragraph 1.1 Kurdish nationalism and the creation of the PKK

The building, or awakening, of Kurdish nationalist sentiment usually starts in the


nineteenth century. In this period the territories populated by the Kurds were under the
jurisdiction of the Ottoman Empire which, by the early 1800s, began to lose its influence in
the eastern parts of its vast territory. These years would be significant in the policy of
centralization of the domain of the Ottoman Empire, which would be one of the most
important moments in the building of Kurdish nationalism. Trends that have led to a
strengthening of Kurdish tribal forces and formed the basis, as writes M.Hakan Yavuz, of
Kurdish nationalism:

“There is a growing tendency to analyze Kurdish nationalism as a 'natural' force. One


needs to remind policy makers that nationalism, whether Turkish or Kurdish, is always
constructed by 'identity entrepreneurs' and shaped by political context. The major difference
between Turkish and Kurdish nationalism is the presence of the state. It is the modernizing
nation-state which formed the Turkish nation and nationalism, and also stressed the civic
aspect of the nation. Since Kurdish nationalism in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran evolved in response
to modernizing nation-states, it constantly stresses its ethnic 'difference', sometimes even
evoking racism to historicize itself”2.

The ethnic "differences" will form the dialectic for the building of collective memory for
the construction of "Kurdish nationalism" together, according to the author, with the
resistance to the approval within the Ottoman Empire and the entrance of capitalism in the

2 M.Hakan Yavuz (2001) Five stages of the construction of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey, Nationalism and Ethnic
Politics, 7:3, 1-24, DOI: 10.1080/13537110108428635

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region . The central passage of the reflection on Kurdish nationalism is of course the creation
of the Turkish state, based on religion and territory: from the multicultural and cosmopolitan
Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic, which initially used Islamic rhetoric to consolidate
its formation. In fact, in the Republic of Turkey citizenship is available to everyone: the
Turkish nation will include all Turkish citizens regardless of their ethnic roots.

“Turkey, by refusing to accept ethnicity as the basis of its national identity, instead based
its national identity on religio-territorial identity. Islamic identity, which consists of religious
devotion and ritual practices and a set of historically structured socio-political roles and
schematic frames to signify and punctuate events, experiences, and objects, was the
integrative glue in the establishment of the Turkish Republic. Turkish national identity was
modeled on the Islamic conception of community and disseminated through Islamic terms. By
incorporating religious vocabulary, such as millet (referring to a religious community in the
Ottoman empire, appropriated by the Republic to mean nation), vatan (homeland), gazi
(referring to those who fought in the name of Islam, and becoming the title of Mustafa
Kemal), §ehid (those who die for the protection and dissemination of Islam), into the
nationalist vocabulary to vernacularize and disseminate national identity, Islamic identity
was nationalized. Islam remained imbedded both within and outside and continued, for the
most part, to provide the hidden identity of the Turkish state”3.

These changes have meant that the Kurdish tribes reacted by just looking for a space in the
states structures. However, Kurdish identity received a major transformation in the Turkish
leftist movement of the 1960s and 1970s and this is a result of the encounter with socialism.
Socialism, in fact, was claimed by the opposition in Turkey, as one of the most influential
dominant ideologies of the time and place, in the Soviet Union, where the Kurds were living
much better than in other areas, without any discrimination. In 1969 the creation of Devrimci
Dogu Kültür Ocaklari (DDKO) leftist movement that fought for the rights of oung people,
women and for greater social justice is crucial. After a few years of formation, it would be
Abdullah Öcalan who participated in the initiatives of the movement, which had an ideology
imbued with Marxism and nationalism.

“the oppression of the 1980 coup had the opposite impact by further politicizing and
strengthening the Kurdish sense of identity and this, in turn, was used by the PKK. The

3 M.Hakan Yavuz (2001) Five stages of the construction of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey, Nationalism and Ethnic
Politics, 7:3, 1-24, DOI: 10.1080/13537110108428635

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policies of the Turkish military and the regional developments in Iraq and Iran further
consolidated Kurdish separatism, and the PKK launched an armed uprising to defeat the
Turkish state in 1984. No Kurdish organization captured the mind and resources of the Kurds
as much as the PKK. Yet, there is no single sociological study of this organization. Peasant
tribes and religious Kurds were the least ethnic conscious sector of the population, reflecting
instead an umma (religious community) view of the state-society relations. They established a
sense of difference from Ankara by utilizing the Safai idiom of Islam. Tribes stress Islam
because Islam does not negate tribal identities and offers a common space for communication
and interaction. In newly created suburbs of Diyarbakir, Istanbul, and Ankara, peasants cut
off from traditional ties became centres of Kurdish nationalism. In the late 1990s, Kurdish
nationalism was still 'in formation' and composed of different heterogeneous groups. In the
formation of this new politicized Kurdish identity, class questions have been perceived in
national (Kurdish) terms. Kurdish nationalism offered a space within which class and
regional differences could be suppressed. In short, it was the PKK which ended the mutually
constitutive relationship between Islam, tribe, and nationalism in favour of the latter”4.

It is through the creation of a movement such as the PKK, that Kurdish political
consciousness radically changes its point of view. The reach of the movement is witnessed by
many factors, not least, of being a major concern to Turkish governments. But in a theoretical
level the PKK fuelled a fundamental debate as it undermined the structure of Kurdish society
in its tribal-religious expression and of being an expression of new compositions (such as
urbanized youth). The main criticism of the separatist movement was also directed at the
composition of the state and Turkish nationalism..

“This new twist from being critical of the state power to being critical of Turkish
nationalism has represented a turning point in the separation of Kurdish nationalism and the
leftist movement of Turkey. As a result of a centralized education system, urbanization, and
population displacement, a new wave of Kurdish youth came to major cities to study or work.
This became the movement of first generation Kurdish university students, who had doubts
about finding jobs and encountered a new socio-economic life in the cities with very little
means to benefit and join”5.

4 M.Hakan Yavuz (2001) Five stages of the construction of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey, Nationalism and Ethnic
Politics, 7:3, 1-24, DOI: 10.1080/13537110108428635
5 M.Hakan Yavuz (2001) Five stages of the construction of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey, Nationalism and Ethnic
Politics, 7:3, 1-24, DOI: 10.1080/13537110108428635

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Paragraph 1.2 The PKK, according to Abdullah Öcalan

The PKK Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, or Kurdistan Workers' Party, was officially founded
on November 27, 1978, a day that ended with the first meeting in a small village near
Diyarbakir where 22 delegates gathered. The leader and founder of the organization was
Abdullah Öcalan, accompanied by M.Hayri Durmuş, Cemil Bayik, Mazlum Doğan, Mehmet
Karasungur, Kesire Şahin and Yıldırım Dönmez. According to Öcalan, the PKK, since its
inception has embraced the politics of scientific socialism, through an analysis of the
characteristics of capitalism. Therefore si important to make this premise, because , as
explained in the book “The PKK and the Kurdish issue in the twenty-first century” , otherwise
it would be a very partial evaluation and understanding of the movement if we consider only
the Kurdish territory and the Kurdish question. Since the beginning of the presentation of the
PKK, in the fourth chapter, Öcalan explains the focus of interest of his discussion: the role of
the state system. Scientific socialism should not lead you to think that the goal is the
constitution of a state system, according to the leader of the PKK, because in his opinion it
would be a new interpretation of the modern priestly system of the Sumerian.

“If we analyze closely the structures of the priestly state Sumerian, we will find out clearly,
the existence of state socialist, social structures and even communist, that the socialism of the
twentieth century really existed was not able to create. If the purpose for both systems has
been building a state, the difference between them was the scientific way of the second. In fact
in the political organization of the state, the regent class was represented by necessarily
priests, as in Sumerian, or by a group of philosophers, as theorized by of Plato. The idea of
the organization of a modern state has always been dominated by similar trends”6.

The approach with which he begins his narrative of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, has been
affected, according to many scholars, from influences of anarchist thought, but just like the
premise Öcalan reiterates this might be so confused, but “I think anarchism is part of a trend
of capitalism, is an extreme form of individualism that comes to the rejection of the state.
6 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pag.102

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Such individualism has nothing to do with freedom and social equality”7. On the contrary, by
his own admission, the theory of a new concept of socialism in which there is no obligation of
a state constitution is not a supposition far “from the basic ideas of Marxism”8.

Obviously for a party founded on the claim of rights of the Kurds, and not just only, the
concept of state in the Turkish state, is of fundamental interest. The theoretical basis of the
concept of the state, in the PKK, appeared with its socialist reinterpretation. Awareness that
was acquired and changing over time, a factor due to various difficulties in the foundation,
which suffered from the extensive influence of bourgeois nationalism and “social chauvinism
linked to the Turkish”9left wing. Therefore, according to Öcalan, the PKK, from the very
beginning was a synthesis between a modern socialist structure and an identity characteristic
of that of the Middle East not much different from other experiences of “socialism adapted to
the national characteristics”. The mode, said Öcalan, is the example of theory and synthesis of
socialism between East and West, because the practice of the party does not depend on any
dogmatic center. In fact, the goal, of the PKK was the creation of a Democratic Kurdistan and
this was to be achieved in two phases: the first, a revolution to take control of power, and the
second, in which power would have to be abandoned in order to create a functional
democracy and also to destroy the nucleus of feudal power.

“His philosophy of life is based on equality and respect of labor. More organization has
developed, and the Kurdish society could see with their own eyes these features, plus the
organization was accepted. The PKK had not elicit sympathy for what they propagated, but
that the organization had lived. These aspects fueled the incredible speed of development and
the essential features of the PKK”10.

7 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pag.102
8 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pag.103
9 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pag.104
10 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pag.105

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Paragraph 1.3 Criticism of the armed struggle

After the military coup of 1980 and with the desperate conditions which the PKK militants
had to deal with, the armed struggle started in 1984. The military coup had in fact led to a
wave of repression against Kurds, many people, especially those belonging to the leadership
of the PKK were immediately incarcerated. In 1982, the Second Congress of the PKK decided
that it would commence the armed struggle. Öcalan speaks of it as a spontaneous process, not
calculated, from which, naturally, was born a new type of movement and a new organization.
According to Öcalan’s writings, attacks on military targets in Turkish Eruh and Semdili on 15
August 1984, declared the official start of the armed struggle. The state's response described
the perpetrators of such deeds only as "bandits"; the aim of Turkey, was in fact, to
delegitimize the Kurdish struggle on a political level. Thus began a bloody war that brought
death to thousands.

“Only during the 1990s, the situation appeared to unlock a bit and the state seemed ready
for a political solution. Turgut Ozal and Suleyman Demirel, former president, released
statements saying it could think of a recognition of the Kurdish identity, awakening the hope
of early end of the conflict. The PKK tried to strengthen this process in 1993 proclaiming a
cease-fire. With the sudden death of Turgut Ozal this process was deprived of one of its most
important protagonists”11.

In his book Öcalan often deals with the dark history of the 1990s in the PKK: authoritarian
practices that resulted in a phenomenon that is described by the same author as "banditism".
The analysis of this period remains central to the PKK leader, because de-constructing these
practices, admitting certain mistakes and analyzing the period, it can build a movement that is
free from authoritarian practices. Thus Öcalan reconstructs the birth of that period:

“The habits of the now consolidated practice of real socialism and the surrounding system,
that the birth of the PKK had been embedded in the organization, were now clearly in the
light. The socialist ideology internalized however inadequately by many activists was now

11 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Guerra e Pace in Kurdistan, Köln, Iniziativa Internazionale Libertà per Abdullah Öcalan –
Pace in Kurdistan, 2010, pag.29

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neglected. Leaders, with always impressed, the traditional Kurdish identity, thanks to the
military and political power they now possessed, felt small Nimrod. Many people with strong
character traits of feudal fell in love madly their essential characteristics and their ideas to
the point to want to put on top of everything. Not infrequently they used primitive nationalism,
that in their area of responsibility was a highly influential trend. The managers of the first
hour, represented by poor peasants anyway loyal but limitated from both material and
ideological point of view, could not only just go forward, and so the feudal personality that
lay behind the primitive nationalism pushed more and more arrogantly in the foreground. As
bands of marauding feudal threw themselves on the achievements result of the various
activities of the leadership and the incredible efforts of a large number of supporters and
activists”12.

Therefore Öcalan himself admits, they recognised and admitted that there were errors..
1987 and 1988 were years in which the organization was characterized by banditism.
According to the leader of the PKK, the basic characteristics of the party were overwhelmed
by its own interest and irresponsibility, so that:

“actions were conducted outside of any ethical war and whose principals remained hidden.
Like a disease, spread between guerrilla forces. To conceal these crimes, even went so far to
stage fights simulated in which were killed fighters loyal [...] The file organization were
increasingly poisoned by authoritarianism and by the fact that was taken for granted that it
was useful. Despite the various countermeasures adopted, in the years between 1987 and
1997, the PKK has been steadily losing its characteristic features and its original
structures”13.

According to Öcalan, most of the organization became victims of this political conception
that was imposed upon the majority. Another fundamental error, according to Öcalan, that he
underlines at various times and which he expresses in his various publications, is the
contradiction that was created with the commencement of the military strategy. In fact, Öcalan
admits that as the final battle system, he does not deplore the use of force with weapons, but
rather the ideological thinking that drove it. Two of Öcalan’s criticisms are closely linked:
banditism, says the leader of the PKK, has influenced policy, as well as the organization and
consequently armed activity, as an expression of political activity.
12 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pag.106
13 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pp.107 -
108

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“What can be said of a guerrilla war, but also of political and military leadership, that
despite, not at all poor, military possibilities, a general situation extremely favorable and a
logistical support base, it was not able to put in place even the simplest strategy of legitimate
self-defense? How can a leadership claim for itself the power of the military, when fleeing
across the work of political education and organizational methods that could expand the
horizon and thus were also important from the military point of view? That even when they
have the best opportunities, they were lazier than if they were on vacation? That wasted
potential which already existed with unprecedented irresponsibility? Why should they take
seriously military guidance that, although they had all the ideal conditions for a war of
defense and in a highly favorable location in the mountains , they do not defend, but
attack?”14.

The PKK remained standing, according to Öcalan, only because, even in Turkey and in this
state the same methods were implemented. These two criticisms, are key to understanding the
relationship between Öcalan and his party, however, this relationship is often confused. It is
also very important to dissect the political-military praxis aspect, of his thoughts. In fact,
Öcalan did not aspire to war as a continuation of political activity nor as a "strategic tool"
because it was inconsistent with their changed aspirations since the inception of the PKK.

Paragraph 1.4 The new strategy of self-defense as a legitimate basis for resistance and
of the progression of Öcalan's thought.

According to the leader of the PKK a programmatic change is also necessary today to

14 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pp. 108-
109

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modify the strategy within the party: in fact the whole reasoning should not be subjected to a
mere self-criticism and should not be re-read in this light, but in a decisive change of strategy
through a perspective of self-defense. It is based, not only, on the alleged military defeat of
the PKK according to the Turkish state, and to the capture of Öcalan, that it was possibile to
reflect on the following topics related to defense.

In this case, also, the maturity of Öcalan’s thoughts is derived from practical analysis, as an
actor within a process, and rendered mutable due to the result of the conflict. Therefore
testifying that this passage should be interpreted, not through a dualistic debate on the
exercise of violence / non-violence which could defer to an alleged "conversion" of the leader
of the PKK, but to a more complex understanding. Surely the resistance techniques have
changed greatly with the capture of Öcalan, surely the historical period in which other armed
groups (European or strongly influenced by European movements, especially) have given up
the armed struggle, certainly everything is derived from the lack of the polar star “Soviet
Union”, for the Marxist-Leninist movements. However, the predominant character of the
ideological change that would imply the use of force: it is an exercise of collective 15 force in
self-defense mechanisms rather than the violence of a war of position.

“This concept, deterministic of the war is neither socialist nor democratic, although the
PKK considered itself a democratic party. A really socialist party is not based on a structure
or hierarchy of statal types, nor aspires to institutional political power, the basis of which we
find the protection of the interests of power by recourse to war”16.

Öcalan will return later in the Roadmap, the third book: a human being cannot live without
the strategy of self-defense inherent in the organizational mechanism of society. Therefore, it
is always the basis of any democratic system according to the Kurdish leader. In a rebalancing
of his writing, “Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo”, in which he describes the history
of the party as “characterized by pain, useless victims, wasted opportunities of freedom, acts
of heroism, tragedy, infamy, elimination and conspiracies”17.

15“è necessaria una resistenza legittima estesa, che attivi tutte le forze difensive di un popolo, incluse le
unità armate, per proteggersi contro la repressione ricorrendo a tutte le astuzie della strategia bellica,
indipendentemente da dove venga condotta questa resistenza” ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda
nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pag. 114
16 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Guerra e Pace in Kurdistan, Köln, Iniziativa Internazionale Libertà per Abdullah Öcalan –
Pace in Kurdistan, 2010, pag.30
17 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pag. 213

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Öcalan talks of actions as armed uprisings and armed clashes that have to be weighed up
and that “only after doing everything legally possible to achieve a life of dignity and
liberation, only after justice has been trampled upon, after having been deprived of individual
rights, cultural and collective, and after men are driven to death, then it is time for the armed
struggle. When it becomes not only a necessity, but a legitimate right of self-defense,
enshrined in international law and in all constitutions”18. In his thinking Öcalan expresses the
right of resistance, as it forms part of the rights of the individual and the people as decreed in
the United Nations Declaration, of which, Turkey is also a signatory.

“The logic of self-defense considers this resistance as a basic constitutional right. If the
existing constitution does not contain such right, then we must continue to fight as long as it
is not included in the constitutional law. Self-defense is not exercised naturally in the form of
armed power, if the state’s opponent respects the criteria of the rule of law, elementary human
rights and common rules. Although in compliance with these rules, there is also armed self-
defense, resistance loses its legitimacy and its ideological value. It's already been shown
many times that a whole series of revolutionary organizations and socialist states in the
defense field of the homeland and the Revolution did refer to self-defense, despite the system
of power exercised by them having nothing to do with this concept , and in the worst cases
they were kept standing only due to the terror. An indispensable criterion of legitimate
resistance consists in not makng any concessions to the model of the state based on terror.
For tactical reasons, it should never make the mistake of conducting an armed struggle with a
regime of terror. But what must be rejected, first of all, is a pact with such a scheme or the
possibility of a submission”19.

More clearly, if a state does not guarantee basic rights to the development of a democratic
society, this forces a strategy of self-defense, which should have the right to take action. But
that does not permit nor involve the overthrowing of a state and the formation of its own state,
but a transformation of the existing one to a democratic rule of Law. Öcalan, reiterated several
times that this is the ultimate solution, of course, it remains central to the thinking of the
leaders of the PKK, as the party has braided its history with guerrilla practices.

The question of the right of resistance is one of the key issues in the political thinking of
Öcalan, because as outlined before: it is part of the history of the PKK, reveals the

18 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pag. 214
19 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pag. 115

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contradictions that lead to a critique of how the PKK approaches this method of struggle and
the ideology behind it. Both on a practical level, with an aspiration to the creation of the
mechanisms of self-defense, that in theory tended to have a profound critical analysis and a
solution behind it: the creation of a socialist society. Meaning in fact the method of struggle as
a means and not as a goal, putting Öcalan behind "all the problems" of socialist ideology
which has strongly characterized the PKK. Now, the need to modernize the basic concepts is a
theoretical effort requiring, first and foremost, according to Öcalan, the concepts of state and
revolution. Therefore, the PKK leader is very strict with Marxism itself:

“I came to the conclusion that the fundamental weakness of Marxism is precisely in such a
model of socialism. The fact that Engels towards the end of his life dealt intensely on the work
of L.H. Morgan, "Ancient society" (1877), which had already attracted the attention of Marx,
I interpret it as taking a vision of his own weaknesses., Since they were unable to flee to
escape the sphere of capitalism, became, against their will, the left end of the existing
system.It had reached in this way a higher form of the system right-left reached during the
French Revolution. I think the biggest mistake of Marx and Engels was that they could not
understand that an alternative to capitalism, or rather, a system that replaced it, could not
beestablished only by its critics”20.

The formulation of the need for the transformation of society comes from overcoming the
old society and the state. This cannot happen through systems of violence and repression,
even in the form of “dictatorship of the proletariat”. According to Öcalan, any form of taking
of power that would use the method of violent mechanisms, must be abandoned. As
previously mentioned, quoting Engels, the ability to overthrow the ruling power has to be
achieved through the “overcoming” of the state as a “fundamental principle”. This would not
allow citizens to be subjected or adapted by the state.

“In the new ideology it contains also the fundamental principle of the fight against all
concepts and practices that are related to this state. However its method does not end in a
violent collapse. It is rather, legitimate to implement an active resistance, that due to its
creativity makes ineffective the tool of repression. In this sense, the new ideology accepts the
legitimacy of self-defense as a component, a basic principle of a universal right”21.

20 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pag. 112
21 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pag. 114

16
CHAPTER 2. WHAT Öcalan INTENDS FOR STRUGGLE FOR
NATIONAL LIBERATION AND FORMS OF LIBERATION WHICH HE
CONSIDERS VIABLE

Paragraph 2.1 The Road Map

At the end of the second publication of his writings from prison, “Il PKK e la questione
kurda nel XXI secolo”, Öcalan summarizes the historical importance of the PKK in having
been able to summarize and collate the claims of a people repressed in all fields, to, unlike
other Kurdish parties, continue a dialogue with the workers, the farmers in particular, thereby
gaining a vast consensus. Actions, with all its mistakes, which the leader admits, have been
the basis for problems and constitute the “status quo” and the transition from a hidden conflict
to a war of position. The wars that were imposed against the Kurdish people according to
Öcalan would produce only "Pyrrhic victories" or only the continuations of wars that persist
"until in the end, do not establish two losers." This means that, as Öcalan sees it, the Kurdish
conflict is in a type of blockade, as there are no prospects of a solution, or rather it is an
invitation to the Turkish state, to progress solutions and move towards resolution.

“The PKK is today at a point in which it regains its old line of legitimate resistance, both
theoretically and practically. The PKK, however, cannot do anything else. [...] The most
important prerequisites for overcoming injustice and allow peace is the recognition of the
right of existence of the Kurds, the granting of their cultural rights, the establishment of a
democratic system and its institutions, as well as the preparation of a democratic system”22.

Criticism and analysis, to a variety of historical processes, to the role of the party and also
to the ideologies that moved the party building (it should be noted the polemic with which

22 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Il PKK e la questione kurda nel XXI secolo, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2013, pag. 120

17
Öcalan addresses the role of Marxism in the Turkish left: to contextualize and chauvinist)
leads almost naturally to the latest publication of Öcalan from prison: the Road Map. The
book is of fundamental importance in many ways, especially in its contradictions, but
consider the book as a theoretical progression of Öcalan’s thoughts, and not as a publication
ex novo of an author who has suffered the influence of thinkers, who come from a thought
process diametrically opposed to the practices of the PKK. In this sense, Ocalan, was often
compared to anarchist thought for the influence that his thinking has suffered with that of the
libertarian thinker Murray Bookchin.

First of all, the scope of the book must be emphasized, and secondly Öcalan ended with a
type of appeal to the Turkish state, to make steps in the peace process. Although there is the
daily reality and it is constantly changing, the Road Map contains the history of the
negotiations which have taken place since 2009 and which were interrupted in 2011. The
Road Map arrives in 2012, as a volume in which solutions are included, which can lead to the
end of the conflict. The central fact is that the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state
is at a crossroads: the continuation of the war is profoundly futile and harmful, and in
addition, the claims that had animated the formative years of the PKK, met with the
progression of a conflict mutated by changes brought about by modernity and a complex
situation.

The Road Map is a very ambitious publication, in that, amid other matters, it advocates the
goal of finding a solution to the formation of a democratic constitution in Turkey. On the
Kurdish question, The Road Map speaks of “prospects” and a “plan of action”. The idea of
introducing democratisation of Turkey, by applying pressure through the Kurdish struggle, has
returned several times over the past few years, not least during the riots of Gezi Park 23. But in
addition to addressing the questions both Kurdish and Turkish, a novel thought is presented
by Immanuel Wallerstein, who also writes in the preface, having outlined in detail other much
more general matters. Wallerstein identifies four issues: the sovereignty that is being sought
by the states, the discourse that pushes all countries to become nations, the desire for
democratisation against the states and finally a vision of how capitalism can remain in
balance. It is precisely on this point that the American sociologist insists:

“The struggle for democratisation has become much more active and intense in the last
half century, with an increasing number of groups who insist on increasing the real
23 http://firstlinepress.org/un-curdo-ad-occupygezi/

18
participation in decision-making. This is very positive but it's a job that has just begun, and is
far from being half complete”24.

Paragraph 2.2 The critique of nation-state

The fundamental analysis in this volume of the Road Map develops, after outlining the
concepts and principles, in the fourth part. Öcalan, in the fourth part, after summarizing once
more the role of the PKK, focuses on the prospects for a solution to the Kurdish question. He
presents the Kurdish people in the context of the Middle East, by finding a common
problematic thread, in common with other minorities in the Middle Eastern context. Öcalan,
simplifying, said as the Kurds are top of a list of policies of annihilation, that rebellions
during the various periods of repression used against the Kurds had changed in three principle
forms.

Öcalan’s analysis is very important on this latter point, as it will be the basis for the
establishment of a system and a corresponding solution for the Kurdish people. Öcalan
outlines three characteristic features of capitalist modernity: the nation-state, capitalism and
the industrial monopoly. With these three tools, capitalism through the instrument of the
nation state, tends to eradicate endorsing any social entity. The mechanisms are varied and
forced assimilation is perpetrated in forms of equal measure, reaching from brutality to
genocide. Historically the Kurds were considered, either as Turks coming from the mountains,
or rather had been relegated to clashes between bandits and denying the problems of these
issues. Therefore, the Turkish state, has always aimed to assimilation, starting with the policy
of Mustafa Kemal, and the line of “cultural unity” since the twenties until the presidency of
Turgut Ozal in the 90s.

“Being banished from villages and rural areas to the cities is another form of the violence.
In the concentration camps, prisons, and by the massacres, the intensity of violence is much
more concentrated. Fragmenting the homeland is another form of violence, and that allows a

24 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 13

19
people to be governed more easily. The forced assimilation is yet another method.
Unemployment, bad health condition, bans and forced labour are types of systematic violence
used repeatedly. However, if the community or society targeted survive and if their
elimination is absolutely necessary, then the cultural genocide is completed by physical
genocide”25.

According to the leader of the PKK, all these practices that sought the annihilation of the
Kurdish people, have been tested in the various nation-states in which the Kurds are found to
inhabit. Nation-states, however, have had the approval of the hegemonic powers of the
capitalists, without which, even a despotic power would have the power to exercise nationalist
violence.

“The nation-state, as an entity, is the biggest capitalist boss. It is the most organized and
concentrated form of capitalism. [...] 'Social engineering' homogenizes nation-state in the
name of dominant national ethnicity.”26

The other practice of social annihilation and monopoly, according to Öcalan, is the
destruction of the agricultural society, but not only through industrialism. In addition to this,
as this process has led to the elimination of a rich culture, which was the basis of the Kurdish
identity, this analysis is described as “a threat worse than genocide”. The representation of the
enemy, as made by Öcalan, in accordance with these practices, takes the form of violence or
a“military solution”, that the Road Map attributes to a thought, arising from positivist
Darwinism. Violence, which was also submitted on the “Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians,
Bedouins and the Turks”. At the command of these systems of destruction, though, are
average-bourgeoise and bureaucracy: the mechanisms created by modernity.

“Since the 20s, the four nation-states (Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq) took part in an
alliance tacit and secret, against the Kurds and Kurdistan, in exchange for concessions
provided and guaranteed by Western hegemony . In order to guide these nation-states in any
direction they decided, hegemonies toyed with Kurdistan and the Kurds, they pretended to
give them support, and then leave once they have reached their goals”27.

The critique of the nation-state system as protection of the interests of capitalism, is central

25 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 94
26 ABDULLAH Öcalan, L++a Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 95
27 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 96

20
to Öcalan, and is important because with this, he believes that one cannot implement any
transformation, in social terms, within this framework. But neither, is there in this, or in the
solution which is based in South Kurdistan, or in the the possibility of a federalist Kurdish
nation-state. This is not only exactly a mirror of the interests of Western powers.

“Federal Kurdish state in northern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan), should not be seen just as
the transformation of the bourgeoise of the area, but also as a bourgeois transformation of
the class collaborationist all over Kurdistan. Its origins are well rooted. In all the revolts and
nationalist organizations, such a solution has been a goal. Although, they have been severely
fragmented and dispersed, these forces can be defined as Kurdish capitalist modernity”28.

Federalism, for Öcalan, is a tool, totally inadequate for the purpose of a Kurdish solution.
However, in this period of crisis, it can play a positive role within the solution of a democratic
nation.

Paragraph 2.3 The democratic nation

The foundation of a new democratic nation, was developed by Öcalan and the PKK only
after a process of rebirth, which began with a statement on the inability to creat a state. For
this reason, “the political root, of the solution of the democratic nation is democratic
confederalism of civil society, which is not a state. Democratic confederalism, is not equal to
federalism or confederalism states”29.

In the essay Road Map, Öcalan, traces the various forms of the nation-state that have
occurred throughout history. A very important paragraph, from which one can understand not

28 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 98
29 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 102

21
only the critique of nation-state but also the authenticity of the communist reinterpretation of
Öcalan's thoughts, is in the critique of the Bolshevik model. Öcalan, wonders if indeed the
Bolsheviks had really become Communists.

“Personally I am of the opinion that the Bolsheviks, with their roots in Jacobin, were
unable to undertake a communist transformation. They focused on power and were
nationalists with a class perspective. So this led them to build themselves as a nation-state.
But the nation-state is the fundamental form of state system capitalism, the same as if they
clashed. The pioneering industrialism makes them emerge as modernist radicals. Now
nothing remains of their revolution. The experience of real socialism, especially in the Soviet
Union and China confirms this”30.

As Öcalan writes in his book Democratic Confederalism, this type of administration could
be interpreted as a sort of "democracy without a state." The states have consensus through the
exercise of power, instead of democracies standing with the collective consensus. This means
that decision-making, according to the theory of democratic confederalism, would not be the
same as public administration.

“The state uses coercion as a legitimate means. Democracies are based on voluntary
participation. Democratic confederalism, is open to other groups and political factions. It is
flexible, multi-cultural, anti-monopoly, and consensus-oriented. Ecology and feminism are the
central pillars. In the context of this type of self-management, an alternate economy will
become necessary, which increases the company's resources instead of exploiting them to
compensate the multiple needs of society rightly”31.

Öcalan proposes a democratic autonomy, which could be summarized in the form of


extreme democracy that are certainly very far from this point of view, forming parties or
elections, which sees the socialist leaders leverage the role of the party. Direct forms of
democracy would replace partisan representatives, with a multifaceted civil society, which
would also includes religious communities, cultural groups and minorities. Obviously, the
protagonists will be the sovereign people who seek to achieve democratic self-government in
every aspect of their lives and not state-based authorities.

30 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 48
31 ABDULLAH Öcalan, Confederalismo democratico, Köln, Iniziativa Internazionale Libertà per Abdullah Öcalan –
Pace in Kurdistan, 2012, pag.21

22
The fundamental principles that are defined by Öcalan in order to reach a democratic
solution are nine: democratic nation, common homeland, republic, constitution, inseparability
of individual and collective rights, independence and ideological freedom, historical and
present, moral and conscience and at the end self-defense.

It is precisely in the second part of the text that Öcalan outlines the basic concepts that
would be the foundation of a new democratic Turkish state. This approach according to a
possibile new solution to the Kurdish problem could only pass by overcoming affiliation of
class, ethnicity and religion.

In dissecting the key concepts of "overcoming the crisis" according to the constitution of a
democratic society, Öcalan said that there is implicit consensus by all the social partners for a
democratic solution in Turkey.

“What is missing, however, is the transformation of this implicit and historical desire, in
explicit willpower and concrete. The democratic constitution is the synthetic expression of
this reality. Part II, especially the part on the principles outlines the kind of democratic
constitution needed to answer that historical question of democratization”32.

The first of the fundamental concepts of Öcalan’s political thoughts, is a Democratic


Nation that would be characterized by "individuals of all cultures, ethnicities and religions"; It
would not be made up of rulers and would respect the will of the citizens and civil society.
According to the principle of multiculturalism, which also is enshrined in the Constitution of
Rojava, Öcalan describes a Democratic Nation as consisting of indivisibility of “collective
and individual rights and respect for common homeland” .

It is precisely the common (Democratic) homeland, second principle, that would constitute
a multilingual society, multinational and multi-religious, in contrast to the idea of uniform
citizenship. Obviously, in this passage, the reference is to the founding ideology of the
Turkish Republic: a homeland made up of a single ethnic group, according to Öcalan, could
alienate the state.

32 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 65

23
“The notion of uniform citizenship is clearly of fascist origin. Diversity is the wealth of
nature as of society. Patriotism should not be based on chauvinism and racism, on the
contrary, it should be valued as a commitment for the land, ecology and development”33.

The third principle is that of a democratic republic; according to Öcalan, the ideal state is
not a nation-state but a democratic state. Since the two systems are incompatible, the Republic
would act as an umbrella organization for the democratization of the civil society.

“The republic would be more complete and united if concepts like "Turkish idiosyncrasy"
or "Kurdish idiosyncrasy" (incorporating ethnicity and race), definitions such as "Islamism",
"Christianity" and "Sunni" (terms are religious and ideological) were not included in the
definition”34.

The fourth principle is that of a Democratic Constitution that would protect civil society
from any resulting undemocratic trend and any trend of assimilation by the state, and it would
be, precisely, a pact that would be defended by the state. The Constitution is a central theme
and will be one of the first principles put into practice, in Syrian Kurdistan: it will be the glue
between society and state.

The principle of democratic solution will try to make a democratization within civil
society. Once again Öcalan assigns the task of the contribution of greater democracy to civil
society rather than to a state government. This fifth point is one of the most interesting in the
development of Öcalan’s thoughts, as many interpretations have confused it with presumed
shades of anarchism. The critical role of the state is expressed by the leader of the PKK in its
authoritarianism and its imposition. Democratization is a process in which the state should not
deal:

“As a principle, the democratic solution, is not concerned with sharing of power, or rather,
it takes away from this. The stronger the power becomes, the more we move away from
democracy. If societies are organized in only the name of governments and states, then the
order that will result will be undemocratic because of the exclusion of social forces. If the
measures taken by the dominant power and by the government are constructive, then we can
open the way to democratization. The goal of democratic solutions cannot be power-sharing

33 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 32
34 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 32

24
or resourcing the state. Taking control of the state and become part of the state cannot be the
aim of a democratic solution”35.

The political solution, the sixth concept, works only if there is a balance between collective
rights and the individual. The hegemony of capitalist modernity, expressed in the seventh
concept, with a Gramscian dialectic, must be overcome: according to Öcalan there has never
existed individual freedom where it lacked the collective one. The dual relationship between
individual rights and rights of the community, is explained by Öcalan, as if individual
freedom necessarily presupposes the collective, and vice versa. It will only be through the role
of the civil society that it will be able to weaken the hegemony of the state ideology.

In the eighth concept, Öcalan, explains the problem of democratization and how their
solutions are closely related to historicity and the present. The current situation should be
analyzed as an expression of history and this will also be the key to how to solve social
problems. Understanding the present, means, according to Öcalan, correctly understanding
our own history, and only in this way is it possible to act in the present. And operate as a
function of the democratization.

“This reality must be understood, otherwise we can not liberate society of its problems or
provide democratic solutions. For this reason the first thing, that the despots do is eliminate
the social memory and, therefore, the democrats must, first, protect the social memory, or
history. The capitalist modernity seeks to destroy human memory and proposes the present
like eternal, or rather, the end of times. Consequently, everything is formed by the compressed
present. The disease of individualism has to do with this interpretation of the present. The
motto 'Live your life, everything else is meaningless' is a denial of historical memory”36.

The last two points are very important for understanding clearly Öcalan’s thoughts. In the
ninth, it addresses the principles of morality and conscience, in which he explains the
importance of religion and morality in the democratic field. The social struggle is described as
the fight against lost consciousness. The process of democratization must pursue the objective
of acquiring lost values. According to Öcalan, the capitalist modernity, encompassing
processes sometimes progressive and other times barbarian:

35 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 33
36 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 36

25
“Cases of genocide cannot be analyzed without resorting to consciousness. Humanity can
confess to all the murders and genocide of capitalist modernity and find justice only if the
principle of consciousness is activated. Modernity is based on the principle that power can
solve social problems. Those in power, solves things, but to those who do not have power, it is
no longer relevant. This disease is present in the foundations of modernity, it leaves the
society in disarray”.37

With the last point he returns to the concept of self-defense in democracies, as already
discussed above. Democratic society, writes Öcalan, must find remedies not only for the
revolutionary developments but also for self-defense.

Paragraph 2.4 Doctrine and practice

The Kurdish reality is constantly changing. In recent years, however, a remarkable


development that has helped Öcalan’s project to materialize took place in in Rojava, Syrian
Kurdistan. Studies and analysis, have spoken many times about the possibility of creating a
new system as a civil society organization. The reconstruction process involves those areas
completely devastated by the war of the Syrian Kurdish militias, an offshoot of the PKK
against ISIS; and the continuing development of a situation of permanent conflict makes it
impossible for any judgment on the implementation of Öcalan’s theories.

Some ideas, through the efforts in Rojava in the democratization of society, are being
implemented: the publication of the Charter of Social Contract, as an example. The Charter of
the Social Contract or the Rojava Constitution is a set of rules and models on how to govern
the autonomous regions that make up Rojava. It was approved on 9 January 2014, when the
self-governing Kurdish-Syrian people declared its independence. The Constitution explicitly
states minority rights and gender equality. In fact, even in the preamble of the Charter it

37 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pp. 37-38

26
declares: “a confederation of Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turkmen, Armenians and
Chechens, freely and solemnly publish and adopt this Charter”38.

All democratic principles to which Öcalan refers are present in the constitution: democratic
self-governance, the role of the state (Syria in this case), systems of democracy as municipal
councils and provincial Legislative Assembly that would put into practice the democratic
confederalism, a multi linguistic and multi-ethnic society. A document of considerable
importance but that obviously has all its limitations in the practice, as evidenced by the
organization's Humans Rights Watch report on abuses committed by the Kurds (PYD and
YPG) in power in Syrian areas39. This attests to an inability to make a judgment of certain
processes of building systems of "extreme democracy", as the Constitution was approved in
2014 in an area that has only been in continuous conflict with the Syrian state, the turkish
state and the self-declared Islamic State of al-Baghdadi.

The democratic solution, however, for Öcalan already has a name: KCK or Union of
Communities in Kurdistan. That is a system that would be the mosaic that would count all
parts of the civil society. "It is the umbrella organization made up of elements of democratic
modernity of the Kurds (the democratic nation composed of economic and ecological
communities, open cultural identities and democratic compatriots). The key concepts here are
compatriot, democratic and nation”40.

Many members of the KCK were arrested by the Turkish authorities over the past number
of years. According to some scholars, the KCK is the new organization that will replace the
PKK, when the democratization process is completed and there will be no need for armed
struggle. It will also be specified in the constitution of Rojava, that Turkish borders will be
accepted and declared legitimate but also that the process of democratisation will have to be
overcome. The KCK’s much larger ambition is to be a model for a solution for the entire
Middle East.

“It proposes a system that solves problems without differentiating between ethnic groups
and nations, but taking into account religious differences, ethnic and national. The model
predicted does not abolish the borders, it does not open the way for a military solution, or
impose federalism. Rather, it takes into account the different models that were tested around

38 http://www.uikionlus.com/carta-del-contratto-sociale-del-rojava-siria/
39 https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/06/19/under-kurdish-rule/abuses-pyd-run-enclaves-syria
40 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 106

27
the world, including the European Union, while maintaining its uniqueness”41.

Within the KCK are found today five main fronts: ideological, social, political, military,
and the grouping that deals with women's rights. The groups that are party of it are obviously
the PKK (the party that created the KCK), PJAK or the Partiya Jitana Azad a Kurdistanethe
formation sister of the PKK in Iran; PYD (Partiya Yekiti a Demokratik) in Syria, the PCDK
(Partiya Caresera Demokratik Kurdistan) of Iraq; civil society organizations and the HPG
(Hezen Parastina Gel) exclusively military formation of the PKK. The KCK is organized in
the form of regional and provincial assemblies, divided by geographical area and according to
an ethno-cultural criterion.

According to Öcalan, there are five aspects to a possible implementation of a democratic


solution through the structure of the KCK. In the economic, the KCK will be able to protect
society and the environment from the devastating effects of capitalist modernity, according to
Öcalan, through social markets. The work will be an expression of a happy form of life
according to ecological and social bases.

The social aspect, which will see the KCK meet the needs of education, health, sports, art
and law. In fact, according to Öcalan, the institutions have not been able to guarantee these
basic services for all. “Contrary to what one thinks, language and ethnicity will not be much
of a problem. Multilingualism in education is a social necessity and should be encouraged.
Turkish, Kurdish and other languages should be taught at all, in order to encourage the
cultural richness”42.

The safety aspect in which Öcalan, underlines again, the lack of freedom that the Kurdish
people have suffered and this requires strong attention in his defense. The perspective is of the
presence of the Turkish army, but before that, a transformation within itself, and then, until
that is available, what is required urgently is a self-defense mechanism that is managed by
KCK43. Meanwhile, “the army can be deployed in Kurdistan only if there is an external
threat. The army must stop considering the Kurds as a threat accept them as essential to the
unity of the state and the nation”44.

41 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 110
42 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 109
43 Recently in the month of September 2015 following the attacks of the army in the cantons of Rojava and areas of
Turkish Kurdistan, the KCK issued a statement calling on a total resistance against the Turkish authorities
44 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pp. 109-110

28
The last question concerns the diplomacy, in this last paragraph, Öcalan, outlines the idea
of the KCK as a solution for peace in the Middle East. Öcalan reminds us that this model,
does not provide for the abolition of borders and is not a mechanism for federalism. “The
current need for a society that can go beyond the nation makes an organization of solidarity
indispensable. In the Middle East, confederalism states and democratic confederalism of the
civil society are equally important and necessary. They must be developed in tandem and
complement one another”45.

45 ABDULLAH Öcalan, La Road map verso i negoziati, Milano, Edizioni Punto Rosso, 2014, pag. 111

29
Conclusions

“The advantage of the theory of democratic modernity is that it does not look at problems
from a hegemonic and statist perspective. Civilization systems that are hegemonic and state-
centric, as well as capitalist modernity the current representative of historical civilizations,
approach social ― issues from a hegemonic and statist perspective. But power and state are
the very sources of the problems they attempt to solve through violence. The desire for power
truly kills life. The age of democratic modernity is the age where the life of free women is to
be found or discovered as being ecological and economic communality. Democratic
modernity nations are not something that can be realized without women’s freedom. On the
contrary, they are revolutions that can only be realized by sharing wisdom and activism with
women in each and every step. Just as the construction of economic society developed with
women’s lead, its reconstruction will also require women’s communal power. Science of
ecology is a science that can only be reunited with the society through women’s sensibility.
Quite simply, democratic modernity is a woman’s revolution and civilization era. It attains
truth by analyzing women’s reality and through the participation of free women as the
fundamental constituent of life in its system. The capitalist stage of the state and power-based
civilization is not the final phase of the human mind. It is a phase where the traditional mind-
set it bases itself on is diminishing while the freedom mindset with all its richness is emerging.
On this basis it is important to live and to keep democratic modernity alive against capitalist
modernity which is a war paradigm against communalities and freedoms. In other words
“another world is possible”46.

With these words Öcalan, on 3 April 2015, greeted the annual conference held in Brussels
on the situation in Kurdistan and on capitalism. In these lines, Öcalan, summarizes the
progression of his political thoughts, new objectives and a new base. “Another world is
possible”, words echoing other uprisings and revolutions, and that would be not only a battle
cry in this case. The work in these three writings by Öcalan in prison, is precisely the aim of
laying the basis for a new ideological foundation that modifies anthropologically by the
participation of individuals in civil society. This short paper, brought to light only certain

46 http://networkaq.net/2015/speeches/Abdullah-Öcalan_Messages-of-Greeting.html

30
aspects that characterized significantly the interpretation, analysis and the possibility of a
democratization of the states in Öcalan’s political thinking.

In Kurdish history many paradoxes and contradictions have arisen, both on a practical level
and from a theoretical point of view. One of the most evident, was the difficult overlap of
socialist thought with a strong nationalist sentiment that strongly permeates Kurdish society
and that also affects these texts. It is in developing and highlighting the concept of nation-
state, the method of struggle of the PKK, whichs make evident these paradoxes. The solution
that Öcalan proposes in the Turkish state in order to achieve peace, in fact, leads many times
to the assumption of the unique importance, that only Kurdish people play within the Middle
East chessboard.

Some scholars47, as for example, Tamir Bar-On, in the book Road Map have seen an
abandonment of the thesis relating to Marxism and nationalism in order to reach a peaceful
solution that ideologically permeats only radical democracy. More than a drop, it is an
adaptation due to the political pragmatism of the PKK leader. The PKK no longer have the
goal of claiming an independent Kurdish state, but rather to be recognized within a system of
state or institution of democratic confederalism. Marxism-Leninism, tied to a real socialism
that has permeated the organization until now, reads in its radicalism, confrontation and
overcoming of the capitalist system

As previously noted, the re-reading of the writings from prison should assume the
historical practice, but especially theoretical, of the PKK and not a parallel history sought
from anarchist suggestions. As written by Christopher Holman in his article “Democracy
against the state: Marx and Machiavellian Moment”, published in the journal Rethinking
Marxism, democratic theorists many times expressed their skepticism of Marxist philosophy
because it cannot contribute positively to the development of the democratic project . On the
contrary, Marx offers a clear "ontology of freedom" in the conceptualization of the human
being “considered in terms of its essential capacity for spontaneous creation for the free
generation of the conditions of its own existence, it is generally thought that such creation is
exclusively relegated by Marx to the social-productive sphere, politics being thought of as a
mere means to an end – the means to the realization of a socialized humanity, to true
communism as a positive form of existence”48.
47 http://www.uikionlus.com/sfidare-la-modernita-capitalista-iidal-marxismo-al-nazionalismo-alla-democrazia-
radicale-la-sintesi-di-abdullah-Öcalan-per-il-21esimo-secolo/
48 Christopher Holman (2014) “Democracy against the state: Marx and the Macchiavellian Moment”, Rethinking

31
Central, in the thoughts of the three volumes is the role played by the criticisms of the
nation-state and capitalism. The foundation of a more democratic system could pass only
through overcoming the role of the state. Central, in the thoughts of the three volumes is the
role played by the criticisms of the nation-state and capitalism. The foundation of a more
democratic system could only pass through overcoming the role of the state. In this case the
state is presented and interpreted by Öcalan as guarantor of the interests of capitalism through
the creation of a protected market. And then to be able to propose their own anthropological
change of the civil society, it can only go beyond the concept of the authoritarian state of
modernity. The proposition is that of a democratic confederalism, a system that aggregates
ethnic, religious and national values. The model proposed by Öcalan, the KCK, also took
inspiration from existing systems like the European Union that are certainly not out of context
in the federation of states in order to protect the markets.

In the "Writings from prison”, Öcalan, represent a unique testimony of the conduct and the
limits of the PKK, from its foundation in the turkish socialist movement, until the decision of
the armed struggle. Choice that is supported according to a possibility of seizure of power and
the formation of an independent state. Only by highlighting a number of contradictions and
the partial defeat on the field, will there start a review for possible change and acquiring a
change in strategy.

Overcoming the"Kurdish question" will be possible, according to Öcalan, only by


overcoming capitalism. The nation-state is aimed at producing and strengthening. The Turkish
state is a very obvious example, it can be overcome only through democratization of the state
itself and a parallel system that can act as a democratic alternative. The solution to the system,
will definitely not be brought forth theoretically by a leader, even if it is a spokesman for a
substantial part of Kurdish society, but surely the historical need is one that demands more
rights and more democracy.

Marxism: A Journal of Economics, Culture & Society, 26:3, 434-442, DOI: 10,1080/08935696,2014,917850

32
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