Is this a leadership for life, for liberation, for identity?

Today, on the 71st birthday of Abdullah Öcalan, we publish the first part of a self-reflection of the Kurdish people’s leader and visionary of Democratic Modernity on his own development from the 90’s taken from the German book: Licht am Horizont Annäherungen an die PKK” (Chapter V.6.5) 

When it comes to the Russian Revolution, there is a vibrant Russian population. Both the Chinese revolution and the revolutions in Europe have a national basis; the social, cultural, historical and even political development is well advanced. So one might ask oneself, on what basis do you want to rely on, when it comes to a revolution in Kurdistan, to the given Kurdish reality?

Great revolutions do not arise amongst the most advanced civilisations. Those who do not have to fight for their position do not feel the need to make a revolution. As far as I remember, I know myself as a person who has difficulty liking himself. Even the people I represent – or try to represent – I could not and cannot accept as they are. When I remember my childhood, it is my oppositional attitude that first comes to mind. This strong rejection does not only exist on an emotional level. It is rather a non-acceptance of the reasons and circumstances for a people’s deep fall. This fact shapes the development of my personality, first in my family and in the village, then in my later life. I still cannot accept this people and its population today: they have found themselves in a situation that is simply unacceptable. The result is something very repulsive, a severe lethargy, a severe defeat.

The reality of this people is that it cannot be further humiliated because it has already reached the very bottom. As if that was not enough, it denies itself even more than its enemies already do. It is still very far from understanding its own existence as a value. It does not want to get to know humanity or itself, it feels fear and disgust towards itself. A kind of artificial personality has emerged within, double-faced, fake, dishonest. This person is so wretched that he/she only goes deeper into the impasse of one’s existence, of one’s people. Besides, this person runs after the enemy, and kneels in front of him. It is the complete surrender of those who appear in the name of this people, but who only imitate the rulers in an intolerable way. The range of unacceptable things is very long, as one can see.

When I share my memories, things may become easier to understand. What a misfortune to come from this people. A misfortune too, to come from this village, from this family. I say this not to slander or devalue my own reality, but to disclose my background. Revolutionaries must be loyal to their own reality. How can anyone who has lost touch with one’s own reality be a revolutionary? Doesn’t one have to question this person’s humanity altogether? When I recognised my disastrous reality during my childhood, I asked myself typical questions: Can I save myself? Can I reject myself? Childish dreams… I then wished I had another family, I belonged to another nation. If only my parents were different! If only I had been born in another society!

I can remember that I often had such questions and thoughts. But at some point I realised that there was no escape, that there must be no escape. The only decisive thing was the basic fact… The dreams and wishes of being different were not allowed to play a big role. What can one do in this state of being helpless? In a people’s reality without sublime values, one is already in the joy of self-denial, already accepting the state of damnation, lagging behind the development of humankind… Life is anything other than worth living. This village seems paralysed, everything national, everything social has almost completely dissolved. And in this village, there is this family, which can only sustain itself economically with a lot of effort.

How did I feel about this time of my childhood? What were the influences I reacted to? There are not too many memories, but my first steps were those of rebellion. If one wants to understand this child correctly, neither the family, the village nor the society had a great importance for this child. Let’s take the example of the mother. Every mother has certain rights vis-à-vis her son, she can express demands and wishes towards him. But my answer to motherly demands was to point to a chicken and its chicks and say: “You can represent nothing other than this chicken for its chicks.”… I even remember the colour of the chicks. Why did I say that? Because I was a strange person, or was I so smart? All I know is that the chicks’ mood was more cheerful than my own. It is obvious that I began to behave in a adversarial and stubborn way, becoming a force full of reactions to my environment.

Even the mother noticed at that time that this child would never listen to her. Later, when the agents of colonialism asked her why she had brought me up like this, she replied: “Of course I never wanted him to leave me either.” There has been much speculation about this in the past. It also says nothing about the reality of mothers who wish their children to be always connected to them. In no minute did my mother’s wish come true. I think about the reason why as a child I always resisted, rejecting the existing and the imposed. The state of limited satisfaction or even dissatisfaction continues also during childhood. It’s also a dissatisfaction with myself. I wonder about the standards for that.

I remember that I started looking for friendship very early on. Strangely enough, I always only found interest in a child with whose family my own was in an irreconcilable dispute. Our families raised us in such a way that we were prepared to continue this conflict later on, and to protect our family honour – which meant our destruction. I don’t know whether my pursuit of contact with this child is a sign of intelligence or whether it derives from the need to defend myself. I have a simple desire to start a friendship with this child. Hasan became my friend, later he fell in a very unfortunate way as a martyr. The friendship with him was my first secret ‘organisation’, which I had to hide from my family. I remember that I was very happy to walk with my friend as soon as we left the village. But once my grandmother saw us and she shouted at my mother: “This child of yours will become one without honour!” Despite all that, I didn’t betray my friend. Even under the pressure of social norms, I continued and deepened this friendship, though in a different form.

I began to oppose one of the most important feudal principles; I do not want to live according to the prescribed laws, not according to the rules of the father or mother – that is how I made my earliest revolutions.

When I took my first steps into the bourgeois society of this Kemalist republic, I had little self-confidence, no big goals. I feel the same helplessness, the loneliness of this society. But I also see the need to start a wrong path. Although I did not see any real opportunity for advancement, I forced myself to climb the social ladder step by step. In schools, I finish every year as the best. Until I graduated from university, I didn’t understand anything about this education, I didn’t accept anything – but I was always first. It must have been some kind of inner resistance. With the language of the system successfully overcoming the system – but in reality not believing in it, not wanting to know anything about it. That, too, is a way of fighting that I still use today. Some words I speak in a language that everyone understands, but I have my own understanding when it comes to life. I don’t think those words mean anything to me. My situation is a different one. Why?

The answer must be sought again in reality. In this reality human beings have lost the basic qualities of human existence, their sensitivity has been lost at a certain point. Everyone is talking about my outrage and anger against the Turkish Republic. That’s right at first. However, very little or nothing is said about the “how”. This applies both, to the party in which we find ourselves, and to the fighters on our side. Why is this battle in balance?

If the possibilities of TR [Turkey] had not been available, I would not have been able to develop this far. Just as this republic shaped the whole of society, it also influenced my development. At least the artificial growing up, the studies, the career are owed to it, I have to admit that. But I do not agree with the contents of this path and feel that this is an act of destruction against my own identity. This is where the revolutionary begins to develop: to adapt when necessary, but never to betray one’s own spirit. However, not selling thoughts and basic ideas because they are necessary for the interests of one’s own people. In a state, in which the individual could sell oneself to the system a hundred times a day, one does not do so – for the sake of personal pride.

What can be concluded from this is that if the family of humankind regards you as non-existent, if you cannot raise your voice against all the injustice, and yet in this situation you do not sell your soul in order to protect human honour – if you are able to do that, you can set many things in motion. If there are to be accurate analyses about my person, this link could be a part of it. I am still in the situation of not being able to describe myself sufficiently, comprehensively enough…

It is very difficult not to fall in the face of this denial, the pressure, and to stay upright, to keep oneself on one’s feet, and not to lose oneself. A really great personality must understand how to go ahead without falling down. In our case, the personality does not have the basis as with other nations, other classes or liberation movements. When it comes to the Russian Revolution, there is a vibrant Russian population. Both the Chinese revolution and the revolutions in Europe have a national basis; the social, cultural, historical and even political development is well advanced. So one might ask oneself, on what basis do you want to rely on, when it comes to a revolution in Kurdistan, to the given Kurdish reality? And if you want to base this on your own strength, on your own personality – you have in fact reached the end, too.

There is the saying ‘Gone with the Wind’; the nation is gone with the wind, the class is gone with the wind, one’s own personality has long been gone with the wind.

If there were developed national preconditions, preconditions in the field of class structure, perhaps even historical personalities who achieved successes – where then are these successes to be seen? How long did they last in the face of the enemy? To what extent could they act on behalf of the nation? Not to mention their warfare against the enemy, how many people have they convinced? To what extent were they able to bring reality closer to their closest relatives, their own children?

There are attempts, revolts – but these are uprisings which are betrayed by the nearest relatives. They don’t leave a positive legacy. Every uprising only takes national and social reality a little deeper into the grave. It even goes so far that the Turkish republic can quite bluntly say: “Now they’re buried for sure, the grave has been covered with concrete. In this country no rebellion will ever be attempted again, no development into a national reality will ever take place here again. Their names will never be heard again, because they are already beginning to rot in their graves.” Of course, one has to keep an eye on this reality. Of course, it is easy to talk about a development that has already led to success. I only look at today; there is a lot of debate about the Kurdish reality, many conferences are held, daring theses are put forward. Much more often than I do, people claim in a state of exhilaration: “Victory is not far away!” I find such evaluations incomprehensible, and I cannot hold them in very high esteem. I don’t think reality will take this lightly; I evaluate the conditions differently. How can one understand the world when it is even questionable whether we understand ourselves?

Let’s leave aside the reality of our people: I am convinced that I could not even train normal helpers for the development of our cause. I must openly admit that despite my search for friends and comrades, despite all efforts, I could not develop any real helpers, even if they say everywhere, in the mountains, in the prisons: “We offer heroic resistance.” They are willing to die, but when it comes to taking on the role of the helper, everyone is reluctant. What shall I call this condition? Is this the Kurdish dishonour, the lack of personality?

The interest that is shown for a cigarette cannot be developed for the important task of a helper. The strength for this is lacking – this is what it looks like in practice. Perhaps this is not possible because of the national societal elements that have been destroyed long ago.

For others, the Kurdish person can be a strong bearer of burdens, a very good wife, a very good husband. For others, the Kurdish persons can be a very good soldier, a very good commander. For others, the Kurdish person can be a good worker and servant, even a good intellectual or a good craftsperson. But when it comes to one’s own identity, to one’s own liberation, the Kurdish person says: “I am not in.” That is the tragedy.

The Kurdish person finds no relation to one’s own identity, to reality. The Kurdish person collapses, falls apart, goes backwards…

PKK’s Second Congress 20th Agust 1982 in Bekaa Valley. On the wall “Long lives Independence and Proletarian Socialism”

Ultimately, he/she finds no relation to the task of the helper. It would be merciless to address this point again and again, to confront this population and these personalities again and again with this demand, because their possibilities are limited. What they do best is die. It is hard for me to endure these daily ‘suicides’. That means for me that I have to work on myself more and more. That is what leadership means. A leadership that must live up to this tragedy in life.

Is this a leadership for life, for liberation, for identity? One can call it what one wants. Of course I have reached the stage of passion in the meantime. Against all those who are without honour, weak, liars, fugitives, against those who can only bravely fight their ‘own’ battle … No matter whether they want to force themselves upon us directly or indirectly, express themselves internally or externally: “We can’t – we’ll never be anything.” Slowly, however, an unwillingness arises in me to develop myself further. I say to the people: “We will not let you live in peace unless you develop.” The same goes for my surroundings, for the party.

We say: “You can’t just live the way you think. We want to convince you of the basic principles of life.” This is our biggest fight. Of course, I determine the way, the pace, the approach, that is my freedom. My legitimation for this is everything I learned in the ‘League of Humankind’ [from German: ‘Bund der Menschheit’]. It gives me the certainty that the pressure I am putting on is absolutely necessary and, above all, very justified. In this respect, I can trust myself until the end. My observations have led me very quickly to results; therein, I have gained a great advantage.

Just as I have gained strength in the field of language, so I have gained strength in the field of action, of acting. Of course I had to learn – if I compare the present time with the time of my weakness – to use this strength correctly. A personality who, as a child, feels a great weakness towards all social values and develops into a position of strength can be assumed to be able to fulfill a leadership role. It is not so important if that is the case with me.