I – Democratic autonomy and self-government

Currently, global capitalism is in a seriously chaotic phase. The Middle East, Anatolia and Mesopotamia are at the top of the list of affected regions. It’s therefore a crucial period for the interests of the world’s great power centres. Chaotic intervals are associated with economic, social, cultural and political developments that lead to the gradual dissolution of traditional nation-state structures and the emergence of alternative models. The etatist, power-oriented and nationalist mentality, which is based on violence, has normalised and separated people, thus turning the regions into a war zone.

Today’s chaos is an expression of the politics that nation states have been practicing in Kurdistan for the last two centuries, which are directed against the interests of the population. Especially the massacres of Armenians, Assyrians, Arameans and Kurds prevented them from joining forces and building up their own self-governments. This could not be prevented without taking away their freedom and letting them destroy each other. This policy extended the life of capitalist modernity and became its lifeline. It is still practiced in Kurdistan by proxy organizations supported from outside and regional collaborators. This is why we are currently experiencing the Third World War in the Middle East and why those who insist on Kurdistan are facing denial and annihilation.

The attacks on Rojava are a clear expression of this. The revolution of Rojava is the result of the resistance of Kurds. In Rojava and Southern Kurdistan, a heroic resistance against the curse of the Middle East, the fascism of the IS, has also been developed. The proclamation of self-government in Northern Kurdistan is also to be understood in this sense. It is possible to lead a profound ideological struggle for a free life and a democratic will against all the forms of slavery, backwardness and resignation produced by the system of cultural annihilation (Holocaust) on an individual and social level. The politics of the states are confronted with the alternative solution model as a system of democratic autonomy, which is based on the understanding of “democracy + state” and combines the equal and free coexistence of peoples as the basis of its solution approaches. Therefore, as long as the peoples of Kurdistan and the Middle East have not achieved their self-government, they will be exposed to the massacres and denial policies of the nation states and will not be able to achieve their freedom. In this respect, Kurdish existence and freedom, the historical reality of the Kurds, the democratic unity of the peoples of the Middle East and a free humanity are defended here. However, at the present stage, there is no other solution than for the peoples to build up their self-government and fulfil their will. However, attempts are being made to criminalize these efforts. Nevertheless, the peoples of Kurdistan are fighting with the will for the democratization of Turkey and the liberation of Kurdistan.

“The creation of a platform on which all kinds of social and political groups, religious communities or intellectual tendencies can express themselves directly in all local decision-making processes can also be called participatory democracy”. (Abdullah Öcalan)

Even in this century, humanity has still not been able to provide a fundamental solution to the problems of national identity, freedom and democracy, but we find ourselves in a situation where it is not possible to continue to govern in the same way as before. To stop at this point would lead to renewed slaughter of peoples. The only way to resist is to build the cultural and social life of the peoples. They will not accept neither the genocidal character of capitalist modernity nor the reactionary status quo of the region as a basis. The only way left is to build democratic modernity, to implement and defend it. The way to achieve it is through ideological, political and moral self-organization in the sense of the principle of the democratic nation and democratic autonomy, in other words, through the construction of a democracy by the people.

Democracy is a communal way of life for an ethical-political society, which is in essence extra-state, anti-nationalization, based on self-government.

Democratic autonomy means the establishment of one’s own democracy and social system. Furthermore, the struggle for a democratic system of self-government is about getting the existing nation-state system to respect it. It is based on the understanding of the democratic nation, which does not favour any nation but embodies a supranational structure. The democratic nation is the unity of all organizational structures based on social, political, cultural, economic, religious, denominational freedom and women’s liberation at the ecological, communal level.

It is the independently operated organization (self-government) of organized society. Democratic autonomy includes the constitutional recognition of all identities as well as mother-tongue education, equal freedom for all cultures, freedom of opinion, organisation, assembly and free access to politics. Denied cultures and peoples are included in politics. In the context of the democratisation of Turkey, the free development of different identities and their free expression and organisation is synonymous with democratic self-government. The freedoms mentioned here are not limited to a certain region in Turkey or a certain part of society, but apply to all ethnic and social groups. For freedom must not be restricted geographically.

Democratic autonomy rejects centralistic, bureaucratic and monistic state mechanisms with the nationalism behind them and involves overcoming the problems created by this system and implementing a pluralistic, democratic, equal and solidary understanding of politics. It is a matter of opening up the structure of the state to pluralism, to different shades of colour, and thus pluralising the monistic state. Instead of concentrating every power in the centre, the cumbersome bureaucratic mechanisms should be overcome and democratic autonomy should be established under the primacy of grassroots democracy. The powers centralised by the state are to be left to the people, and politics is to develop attraction and solution power through the direct participation of localities and the population. The state is to be sensitized to society. The dependency of all citizens on the state should be reduced to a minimum and they should become a shaping and solving force by determining their own lives.

Democratic autonomy basically represents a model in which the principles “little state, much society” or “few prohibitions, many freedoms” are systematically implemented. Self-administration is a form of administration that does not reach for power; in this way, social problems connected with the striving for power as well as oppression and exploitation are prevented to a certain extent.

As an alternative to the understanding of power-centred and state administrations that cause social problems, self-administration claims to be an understanding of democratic politics. It fights against the approaches that make society passive and will-less and advocates methods of self-government that involve every cell of society.

The main goal is to replace anti-social centralism and bureaucracy with a social organization based on grassroots democracy. The grassroots democracy is based on the life of a moral and political society and on the participation of the people in all discussions and decision-making processes.

Contrary to the concentrated, uniform and bureaucratic understanding of administration and leadership of the nation state, all social groups and cultural identities represent themselves in all political structures and thus realize the self-administration of society. Leadership is determined by election and not by appointment. The actual decision-making mechanisms include councils and discussion. From the general coordinating body (council, commission, congress) to the local committees, each unit or group has control and democratic self-government over a solution of the social tasks corresponding to its cultural background.

The primary condition for grassroots democracy is that it internalises direct democracy and is based on an organised society. No social group or class can make decisions alone on behalf of a people or a society. It is emphasized that everyone should have the right to make and implement decisions for themselves in their own name.

All over the world it is becoming clear that it is both a democratic necessity and a serious way out for the solution of the increasing and manifold problems that the centralistic and bureaucratic structure of politics is changed. Democratic autonomy is being put on the agenda as the most appropriate choice for overcoming one of the most pressing political problems of the Middle East and for the need for political change in Turkey. The crucial thing is that autonomy should have a democratic content.

In short, democratic autonomy represents the body, while the democratic nation animates that body. By organising its institutions, local self-government is practised by the people. The life of the democratic nation has a mental and institutional unity. Therefore the citizens of this system can be called “free citizens”. Their freedom is measured by social freedom. The antidote to the imposed individualism is communal life.

Organization in the form of municipalities and councils

Councils and municipalities form the basis for grassroots democracy. Their structure depends on an organized society. In this sense, for the implementation of grassroots democracy we are talking about a system ranging from village, district and city councils to district and regional councils. It is a system that starts locally at the grassroots, overcomes etatist centralism and thus corresponds to the nature of society. The institution in which municipal values are mainly implemented is the councils. The understanding of the consciousness of the democratic nation is trained in the communes, implemented in everyday life and becomes a system through the councils.

When democratic values become concrete in a society, it means that there is communal life and councils have similar organisational structures. One of the outstanding characteristics of grassroots democracy is that it creates a sense of responsibility in all individuals in a society towards themselves and the environment. All socially relevant responsibilities are shared among all individuals in a society, so that each individual’s own strength comes to light and promotes personal development. This deepens the sense of social responsibility and strengthens the community.

The commune is a form of grassroots organisation in which free citizens can express themselves in every respect and obtain all the resources they need to lead a life of their own. When talking about the commune, one must not only think about the economy. The lie of capitalism “there is no society, only individuals” is contrasted by the truth “an individual exists only in the context of his or her society”. There is a close connection between communalization and liberation, because freedom and communality are part of the nature of society. There can be no liberation without communalization, just as there can be no communalization without liberation. To be a member of a commune requires that you live according to democratic standards. It is a condition of democracy to make the principles of living together concrete in one’s own life. Every commune is to be regarded as a moral and political unit of society. Grassroots democracy is the opposite of the etatist system, which sets up a parliament at the highest level and imposes it on society. Instead, it is a system in which councils are constituted from the very bottom, from the districts and villages, in order to enable each individual to participate in the decision-making mechanisms in these councils. The local councils will have procedures appropriate to their environment. Not everything can be prepared or handled according to the general public. Basic principles must be based on this. Coordination between the councils that are being established is important. In this coordination, however, the councils cannot decide about each other, but instead a cooperation is developed. The main decision-making powers lie with the village, neighbourhood, local, district and regional councils. The basis of local (grassroots) democracy is provided by the councils, which ensure that the needs of society are met more quickly and that general problems are solved in a more direct and lifelike way. In the state system, which is based on centralism, attempts are made to transport social problems from the local to the capital cities and to maintain them with the help of a huge bureaucratic apparatus, whereas in grassroots democracy the problems are solved locally and society is liberated from unnecessary expenditure of time and money.

Without expecting the solution of social problems to come from the state, it should be organized on the level of the regions and according to the social, economic and cultural situation in Turkey and Kurdistan, starting with the villages on the basis of the municipalities, districts, cities, towns, counties and region itself. With the help of civil and independent institutions, in which society develops its own solutions to its problems, the aim is to build a more practical, democratic and participatory system. From the economy to health education, ecology, culture and the arts, to the liberation of women, new skills can be gained in all these areas of society. Only in accordance with practical living conditions can all local structures in these areas form commissions etc. according to need.

translated by YXK Union of Students from Kurdistan