The Democratic Autonomy Solution and its Implementation

The text is an extract from the text “Democratic Nation” by Abdullah Öcalan.

The PKK’s struggle until now was essentially aimed at making the Kurdish question visible. The denial of Kurdish reality during the time of its formation naturally brought the question of existence on the agenda. Thus, the PKK at first tried to prove the existence of the question, by means of ideological arguments. The continuation of this denial by the left through more refined methods placed on the agenda organising ourselves on the basis of distinct identities and actions.

The Turkish nation-state – who insisted on traditional denial and annihilation policies – refused to consider the possibility of a political solution during this period. On the contrary, it chose to counter the PKK’s initiatives with a campaign of fascist terror that led up to the 12 September coup. PKK’s declaration of a revolutionary people’s war emerged as the only viable option. Under these conditions, PKK was either going to wither away, like the other democratic left groups in Turkey, or decide on resistance. The decisive factor in the transformation of the Kurdish question from being one of ideological identity into a question of war is state’s insistence on maintaining previously covert policies of denial and annihilation through the open terror of 12 September. It would be more realistic to analyse the offensive of 15 August 1984 within this framework. Such a move is much closer to the objective of proving the existence of the Kurdish people and protecting their existence than of being a liberation movement. It should be pointed out that, in this regard, it has attained a significant success.

The PKK, while proving Kurdish existence beyond any doubt, remained rooted in nation-statism. The ensuing period of self-criticism revealed the anti-socialist and anti-democratic essence of nation-statism. The speedy dissolution of real socialism in the 1990s contributed to a deeper understanding of the underlying factors behind the depression. The dissolution of real socialism was caused by power and real socialist nationstate problematics. To be more precise, the crisis of socialism was the result of an inadequate understanding of the problem of power and the state. When the contradictions of state and power, set out so starkly by the Kurdish question, coalesced with the wider global crisis of real socialism, a comprehensive analysis of the issue of the state and power became inevitable.

To this end, in a significant part of my defence, I try to analyse the state and power throughout civilisational history. I concentrated on presenting the transformation of the phenomena of state and power in the context of capitalist modernity – the present-day hegemonic civilisation. I specifically argued that the transformation of power into the nation-state was the basis of capitalism. This was an important thesis. I tried to demonstrate that in the absence of power being organised through the nation-state model, capitalism could not have become the new hegemonic system. The nation- state was the fundamental tool that made capitalist hegemony possible. Therefore, I tried to prove that socialism, as anti-capitalism, presenting itself as what I call “historical-society”, could not establish itself as based on the same state model, in other words, as a real socialist nation-state. I tried to show that the idea that socialism, as proposed by Marx and Engels, could only be constructed through central nation-states was indeed a fundamental defect of scientific socialism. I went on to present the thesis that socialism could not be constructed through the state, especially the nation-state, and that an insistence on this could only result in the most degenerate versions of capitalism as experienced in many instances, but especially in the actually-existing socialism of Russia and China. As a necessary precursor to this thesis, I analysed the system of central civilisation throughout history, the concept of power, and the structure of capitalist modernity’s state and power which is the prevalent structure unique to our era. My main conclusion was that socialists could not have a nation-state principle. Rather, the solution to the national question should be based on the democratic nation principle. The practical expression of this, as I will try to show, is the KCK – the Union of Democratic Communities in Kurdistan – experience.

Kurdistan, in a way, has already become the focus of revolution and counter-revolution in the twenty-first century. It is the weakest link of capitalist modernity. The national and social problems of the people of Kurdistan have become so aggravated that they cannot be concealed by means of liberal prescriptions or the demagogy of individual or cultural rights. When it comes to the Kurdish question, nation-statism – which led to different practices, including cultural genocide – is no longer a problem-solver; rather, it has long been the source of the problem, both for the oppressor and the oppressed. Nation-statism is in dissolution and it has even become a problem for capitalist modernity. More flexible democratic national developments will spearhead the advances of our era. Democratic modernity signifies the theoretical expression and the practical steps of these advances. The KCK, as the concrete expression of democratic national transformations in Kurdistan, sheds light on the path of democratic modernity solution in the Middle East.

The democratic autonomy solution can be implemented in two ways:

The first is predicated on finding a compromise with nationstates. It finds its concrete expression in a democratic constitutional solution. It respects the historical-societal heritage of peoples and cultures. It regards the freedom of expression and organisation of these heritages as one of the irrevocable and fundamental constitutional rights. Democratic autonomy is the fundamental principle of these rights. The foremost conditions of this arrangement are that the sovereign nation-state renounces all denial and annihilation policies, and the oppressed nation abandons the idea of forming its own nation-state. It is difficult for a democratic autonomy project to be implemented without both nations renouncing statist tendencies in this regard. EU countries took more than 300 years of nation-state experience before they could accept democratic autonomy as the best solution for solving nation-states’ regional, national and minority related problems.

In the solution to the Kurdish question, too, the path that is meaningful and consistent is the one that does not rely on separatism and violence and that accepts democratic autonomy. All other paths will either lead to a postponement of problems, and therefore to a deepening of the impasse, or to violent conflict and separation. The history of national problems is littered with such examples. The relative peace, wealth and prosperity of the EU countries – the home of national conflicts – in the past 60 years were achieved by their acceptance of democratic autonomy and their ability to find flexible and creative solutions to regional, national and minority problems. The opposite has been true of the Republic of Turkey. The nation-statism that was wished to be brought to completion through the denial and annihilation of Kurds has drawn the republic to the brink of disintegration, huge problems, continuous crises, military coups that are resorted every ten years, and a special warfare regime that is conducted together with Gladio. Only when the Turkish nation-state abandons these policies, and accepts the democratic autonomy of all cultures (including Turkish and Turkmen), and specifically the Kurdish cultural entity’s democratic autonomy, will it achieve lasting peace and prosperity as a normal, lawful, secular and democratic republic.

The second path for a democratic autonomy solution – one that does not depend on finding a compromise with nationstates – is to implement its own project unilaterally. In the broad sense, it recognises the Kurdish people’s right to become a democratic nation through the implementation of democratic autonomy. It goes without saying that in this case conflicts will intensify with those sovereign nation-states who do not accept this unilateral implementation of becoming a democratic nation. If this happens, the Kurds will have no other choice but to adopt a full-scale mobilisation and war position in order to protect their existence and to live freely against the individual or joint attacks of nation-states (Iran, Syria and Turkey). They will not hold back from becoming a democratic nation with all its dimensions and to develop and realize their aspirations through their own efforts until they either reach a compromise or achieve independence amidst the warfare.