“What to do? How to live?”

Below, we publish the second part of a self-reflection of Abdullah Öcalan on his own development from the 90’s taken from the German book: Licht am Horizont Annäherungen an die PKK” (Chapter V.6.5). 

All friends and comrades who want to understand my dialectic of life must understand the following: what kind of death I am against and what kind of life I reject. When I ask: “What to do? How to live”, then I have the whole world against me.

I often think about what I am as a human being and what the issue of ‘leadership’ means. It’s true that I insist on being human. This can be based on the reality of the people or the reality of a person – ultimately choosing to be human.

Even though I don’t have a single helper, that’s how it is for now. There is no place in my life for the request, the demand for friendship. This is the situation I hate the most. Everywhere I go, others depend on me. I’m there because they want it, not because I want it myself. Without the wish and the demand of others I do not take a step. That doesn’t mean that I consider others to be inferior. On the contrary, even in my first relationships, whether with other children or with people who thought they were in superior positions, they felt a great proximity and warmth.

When I first met someone who could be in a completely different position today, he told me: “I can remember you like a friend from my childhood.” I was surprised by his statement. Actually, with that he got the reality. He, who was alienated from himself by the political reality, saw in me only his childhood friend. With that, he said something essential about me.

This man could see me as a modest, simple man. This is an important indication of a fundamental characteristic of leadership. At the same time, he saw in me a friend from his childhood. This also means that in a leadership position one must not deny or reject one’s distant, earliest childhood. Even more generalised: One must be in the possession of humankind oneself. Every person, regardless of nationality, gender, social and political level, must be able to see a part of oneself in you. I think every person who makes a similar assessment expects a little humanity from us. It pleases me very much that I can live up to this wish a little. I am very impressed that there are still people who want to understand the other and who want to find something in the other – it gives me hope.

I am not interested in the material situation of our age. Nor does it fall within my field of interest – how strong a nation is, which name is strongest, how the economy is developing on a global scale. My interests are very valuable to those who have lost human values and are again searching for solutions to the problems of humanity. I feel proud of those who break free from highly developed social and material conditions and come here. In this step I see real humanity. The people, who leave their secure situation in the system, who do not value a life in which they could have fulfilled their material desires, are also important to me – initially regardless of which class they belong to. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many of them. More people support vulgar materialism than one might think. This vulgar materialism finds its expression in the weakness of one’s own nation, one’s own class, whether as oppressed or as oppressor, whether as exploiter or as exploited, but also in the weakness of one’s own family, in the weakness in relation to oneself. This is what is generally lived; but what they call human or humanity is exactly the opposite.

Can we as individuals and as people be an attractive and exciting book for humanity? I do not want to exaggerate according to the slogan: “We want to represent this or that example for humankind.” I don’t like to talk too philosophically or prophetically, not even when I’m called one or the other, philosopher or prophet. But, of course, I have no interest in stopping the march for humankind even for a moment.

I myself do not believe that I am as rich and strong as others claim. Perhaps I could help myself morally and materially, even though only with difficulty. If it was just about that, I would not have much trouble. However, in this way life is not acceptable – that is obvious. When it comes to the responsibility towards a people – and I am committed to this task – I cannot allow myself the right to my own life. That is what I decided to do. Perhaps this condition does not correspond to the individual rights that every human being should have. But do the rights of individualism come first? Or shouldn’t people’s rights come first? I cannot make a clear distinction in this question for myself. It is a matter of dignity to bring a people closer to and accept its identity, a people that denies and rejects itself.

What kind of a people do not want to understand and defend this? How can it approve of this dishonour? At this point, I feel indignation. I put myself aside for the movement. I am currently not interested in what my objective and subjective conditions are like. I ask myself: “Is it you who denies himself? Is it you who rejects himself and doesn’t consider himself human?” So I fight with myself, and I hold myself accountable. It’s a daily control mechanism that is mandatory. I am confronted with the world policeman USA, which declared me a ‘terrorist’. The United States likes it when its Secretaries of State make statements about me every day. But: Where am I, and where are they? They are a world power and I am someone at the bottom, trying hard to fight for one’s own identity. If that’s the case, why do they keep saying the same thing? The world plays its accomplice role and feels no sign of pain. Of course, the degree of my indignation grows in parallel. If I want to defend human existence, I have to prove that the reality is not as they say it is – up to and including the accusations in the area of human rights. If these people are not seen as human beings, are not treated as such, why force them into conditions in which not even animals can live. Kill and bury them – wouldn’t that be a more concrete solution?

The aim of exploitation now stands before the aim of murder. Though the final verdict is: “Kill!” … This is an unbearable condition, these are impossible living conditions, completely inhumane. To be kept alive by the enemies, even though they were originally supposed to be killed. The reason is stated: “You shall live like an animal – and that is why we let you live.” The world power agrees, and even plays the gendarme. In this situation my will and my defiance grow. I am very sensitive to the people’s pain and suffering, but I do not make the revolution only because of this point of departure. Certainly not because of the suffering. I have a goal and I myself am part of that goal. With denial, with seeing oneself as ‘nothing’, nothing can be achieved. For me, it is just as unacceptable to live in a way without honour as to die in an absolutely ignoble way. It is the rejection of the imposed reality, but also the rejection of a life as an individual without honour. Getting out of this situation means the ignoble death for the Kurd; this is very common amongst them. A rebellion immediately develops, death comes immediately, even the best approach it in such a way. Or exactly the opposite is lived, double-faced. Both are unbearable and wrong for me. Neither do I die like this, nor do I live this life.

All friends and comrades who want to understand my dialectic of life must understand the following: what kind of death I am against and what kind of life I reject. When I ask: “What to do? How to live”, then I have the whole world against me. This population itself and all comrades are against us. The difficult problem – that which I have to solve as a leader – lies exactly at this point. If humanity, or some of its representatives, had understood the intolerable life of this people and had taken action, I would not need to do anything. And if this people would recognise its own problems, its own suffering and not let itself be so humiliated, I would not have intervened so massively.

If the members of the party, the commanders, the fighters, approached themselves with respect and understood better, I as a person would not have to play my role as leader so extensively. But somehow they cannot handle it.

USA is the strongest power. Russia is – after losing the revolution – the second. They do not want to understand. If you make them face reality, they feel disturbed. I’ll ask the population itself: It has died long ago, its life has been destroyed, and often it even regards the life forced upon it by the enemy as an honour and enrichment.

You give your comrades the passion for freedom, they deal with it like with change. That does not go beyond living out one day as pashas in order to bring about one’s own death on the second day. The world faces us without understanding, the population is without understanding, the party members as well. So I need to show the greatest understanding and I need to know how to keep this up all the time. Of course, I have to do this in my own way, not in the way that is forced upon me.

Thus, this means: We say ‘no’ to the life that is forced upon us. But what does the life I wish for look like? Does the world recognise this life?

Abdullah Öcalan at Mahsum Korkmaz Academy, PKK’s central party academy

It’s up to them whether they accept it or not. Do party members accept it? It’s up to them. I will continue, nonetheless, to do everything necessary for them, whether they want it themselves or not. Nevertheless, I will know to continue on an uncertain path.

Although I did not receive any serious training, I had no difficulty in establishing, from two sentences, the characteristics, the ‘personality’ of each period in history. Why? Because what I live is kind of history itself, it’s a summary of it. Am I okay with that, am I happy about it? I guess these questions are unnecessary. For me, this is not the question of success or failure. This means that I fight all alone with the world, with my own people, with my environment – day after day. If I feel passion and joy in doing so, it has to do with my own view of life. How far can I go? Where are the limits? What could happen to me? If I had to re-evaluate myself, my fears would be less, my misery would be less.

A productive level, the level of the productive human being is reached. Everything that was lived in the name of the fallen, degenerate human being, in the name of the always losing, exploited human being – all this has disappeared. A personality who is satisfied with oneself, strong, productive, full of willpower and perseverance, who has achieved beauty against the ugly and is thus on the path of ‘completeness’.

No doubt I’m not doing this for myself. I try to convey these feelings, for which we are fighting here, to the population and to other interested people. Will there also be people from other parts of the world who see themselves as friends, or who want to become our comrades? Our desire and our actions are themselves a solution. We will not make ordinary calls for friendship. You can’t win any good friends and comrades with that anyway. But if there are people who carry this desire in their hearts, they should know that we put our unlimited power and strength at their service. That can be a person or a people. This is not the place to call for support and solidarity with ‘requests’. That’s no sense of greatness either – if you want to be great, fight a great fight. Such people have existed in history, and I believe they will continue to exist in the future.

For me it would be sufficient if one or two friends of each nation, of each people, were to be found who approach us in this way, but under the condition that they really want to wage a great struggle. If they have this goal, they should analyse themselves a little and if possible develop their own actions. The name of my party, the name of my people is redundant here. Those who want to give something to humankind cannot think in terms of ‘I’. They cannot approve of these traits, of these characters. At this point, I’m trying very hard. These people are very much appreciated by us in this respect. If they understand us correctly in this respect and if they stand as friends and comrades within their own population, if they make themselves understandable and comprehensible to it, if this people learns from them to understand other peoples – then I firmly believe that I can also be for other peoples what I am for my own. At this point, I have great faith in myself.

If we develop our future efforts after this evaluation, we can, even if delayed, develop a good example of friendship. Coming here is an important sign of friendship, it shows a link in the chain of friendship.