Communal Democracy as a Way out of the Crisis

This article aims to contribute to the peoples’ perspective for a solution to the current structural crisis of capitalism. It has been developed from the theory of ‘democratic modernity’ – as opposed to capitalist modernity – as advocated by Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been held captive in solitary confinement at Imrali prison island since 1999.[1] Öcalan, while making extensive proposals and setting out a framework, emphasised certain fundamental points regarding a way out of the crisis and chaos.

In particular, he developed democratic modernity and the ‘democratic, ecological and women’s liberationist paradigm’ against power, state, the system of male domination, history, philosophy, scientism and the triad of nation-state, industrialism and capitalism. This brief summary of Öcalan’s paradigm emphasises certain main elements of a system that movements and societies outside of the dominant system, seeking equality, freedom and democracy, can establish with a communal-democratic perspective. Of course, explaining the democratic modernity system as an alternative to capitalist modernity is beyond the scope of this article but the following hopes to offer a framework.

Crisis and an Erroneous Approach

It is possible for all non-state social forces and what we may conceptualise as ‘the peoples’ to find a way out of the current chaos. Not just a single form of exit, but various solutions are possible and may be expected according to the level of the movements involved in the projects and their practice. There are many categories and segments that are outside the system or have been excluded on account of hegemonic interests. The extent of these varies from state to state and from period to period.

The economic and scientific interest groups, clustered around the state may be called the upper society, oligarchy, or, more colloquially, ‘the great and the good’. In opposition to this, we may include all groups at the other end of the dialectical dichotomy- the oppressed classes and ethnic, cultural, religious and gender groups – the people.[2] As the situation of variables in the content changes, groups within the scope of the people diminish or increase. Throughout history, these categories have changed from system to system and evolved into the more complicated social groups that exist today.

It is evident that the peoples were profoundly affected by the crisis, which began in 1968 with global youth movements,[3] gained momentum with the collapse of Soviet actually-existing socialism in 1989, and deepened with the Twin Towers attack on 11 September 2001. With the 20 March 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent 2011 Arab Spring, the upheavals in the world reached dimensions we may call historic. Now the Rojava/Northern Syria revolution, which has been continuing successfully since 2012 with a democratic, ecological and women’s liberationist paradigm, has become a new revolutionary hope for the peoples and forces outside the system. Although this revolution is taking place locally, its perspective and ideas are universal. Both this revolution and in general the peoples’ search for freedom is continuing with escalations broken by short hiatuses and changes in area and characteristics. On the other hand, the lava sprayed on to the peoples by the internal contradictions of the ruling system is becoming increasingly scorching. Unemployment, hunger and struggles with worsening health, environmental and education problems dominate the agenda of every social strata. It has become apparent that the ruling forces of the system have, compared to the 19th century, lost the ability to resolve problems by themselves and that the solutions imposed are far from producing meaningful results and do no more than worsen the chaos. The sources of the crisis will not be able to transform into the sources of a solution and only in the event of their changing, can they take on a function of reconciliation on the basis of correct principles.

The peoples will develop solutions as they have throughout history. Whether it be called historicity, tradition, culture or whatever, all groups of people have a history. Ever since the existence of clan society, human communities have developed existential reflexes to geoculture and political structures. This stance has a communal and democratic character.

While looking at individuals who have been turned into primates by the capitalist system we cannot ignore the communal and democratic stance. Even in the most primitive state an individual cannot live even a day without a communal level of society. Even if brain-washing operations denying society have led to the importance of this reality being forgotten, this is a fundamental social fact. No individualism has a chance of surviving without a connection to its society. If the capitalist system in the 20th century- in particular the state structure – had not relied on the three sect derivation – social democrat, actually existing socialist and national liberation – it might not have seen today’s crisis. The fundamental characteristic of these three sects were their coming to power by offering hope to the peoples. Despite this, for 150 years – since the revolutions of 1848 – they have said ‘first we will take power, then everyone will get what they are entitled to!’ That is, they envisaged coming to power as the fundamental link in the resolution of social problems. The main goal in their programmes was the gaining of power and then transforming the world or society. All their modes of struggle were linked to this perspective. This strategy did not work and led to great disappointment.

As Immanuel Wallerstein said so correctly: “If you work within the power structure of the capitalist system you cannot be an alternative”. This Leviathan kneaded by the most nationalist, sexist, religionist and scienticist of modernity was accepted as the fundamental and correct framework in which to wage struggle.

The centralised nation-state was presented as a more progressive and problem-solving vehicle, or, more correctly, aim. No analysis was developed for the nation-state, the basis of which was the government’s wholesale nationalism, sexist communitarianism, religious fanaticism and scientific positivism which created the most swollen,[4] monstrous citizen in history, dissolved the entire society within the state and led to fascism. When this vehicle, which the ruling power infiltrated into the very peripheries of society, became the preferred vehicle of scientific socialism, the fate of socialism was sealed from the very start. The official dissolution in 1989 was just a formality.

As if the layers of the state are inexaustible – reminiscent of heaven – it is made into a programme of hope full of the resources of life. Parties are founded and wars waged. Then, in the event of victory, it shares the means of the state, the values of what is called society, with its followers. When it comes to the broad masses of society nothing is left. The same old story. If it doesn’t win the war continues.

Lasting Ways of Resolution

In that case, if history is in one sense to learn from the past, we must produce a lasting, root and branch and principled solution to the current situation of crisis-chaos in favour of the people. What leads to defeat is not taking as our basis the communal and democratic stance of the people. However many social analyses are made, whatever strategies and tactics and organisations are established, and actions taken, and even victories won, the point reached is to meet with the system at its worst. Lenin, the genius revolutionary of the 20th century, was expressing a fundamental truth when he said: “There is no way to socialism outside of democracy”. But even he believed there was a short cut to socialism without experience of democracy. The immense Soviet accumulation – millions made the greatest sacrifice and thousands of the greatest intellectuals were sacrificed – supposedly won for the sake of an obsession with power, but was unable to go beyond facilating the work of the system. The main lesson to learn from this great experiment of the 20th century – the October Revolution – is that lasting, principled solutions to capitalism can only be achieved by transforming the democratic stances of the peoples into comprehensive communal-democratic systems. As long as democratisation is not liberated from the illness of state formation, a democratic system cannot be attained.

In order to become better acquainted with our form of solution we must again look at history. Let us go back a long way. It was peoples called barbarians, who had a communal order and did not recognise the state, that ended the last enslaving Roman Empire. The communal monasterial order also gnawed away at Rome from within. It was these forces that dissolved that horrendous slave machine. They were communal and democratic forces, but their leaders deceived them with the crumbs of power. Instead of developing a democratic Europe, they brought in a feudal, despotic state and statelets. Such movements emerged everywhere slavery was transcended. As the Renaissance ended the feudalism of the Middle Ages, cities that were islands of democracy emerged everywhere. City democracy developed. A democratic Europe was now on the agenda of history. The Great French Revolution (1789), the English (1640) and American revolutions (1776) prior to it, and communards in Spain and many other European countries from the 16th century onwards were the thunderous voice of democracy. But that always devious, ferocious tool of force of warlike power worked for an oppressive system, whether old or new. Some it took on its side, others it crushed. It swallowed the naive forces of democracy in its historical vortex. Like a growing cancer tumour this warlike power was nourished by wars in the 19th and 20th centuries, bringing about the most inhumane regimes, racist fascism and totalitarianism, resulting in today’s great chaos.

Communal-democratic traditions are universal, like the links of a chain. They connect us to the ancient past and the most obscure places. We are not alone. History and places are communal and democracies that should be ours rather than the system’s. It is our task to prevent the loss of knowledge, select the correct political means and return to social morality. All this is to do with ‘consciousness’. Political means is the subject on which we must dwell the most. In brief, we call this stateless communal-democracy. This approach is not one of an absence of authority or order. It is a meaningful, enlightened order of popularly supported authority. A peoples’ democracy not strangled in bureaucracy with public officials elected every year and the people able to withdraw the mandate they have given.

Class Democracy

Let us draw attention to one of the fundamental matters that needs elucidation. This regards the fact that class democracy cannot be meaningful and as desired. According to dominant theories of Marxist social science, it is an inevitable conclusion of the progression of history from ‘slave’ to ‘serf’, and finally to ‘worker, proletarian’ and that without these phenomena being experienced we cannot reach socialism or freedom-equality. In that case, to say ‘long live slavery, long live serfdom, long live the workers’, is to say class revolution, class democracy – followed by dictatorship. In the peoples’ communal-democracy there is no place for slaves, serfs or workers! Consecrating oppressed classes and groups is an old illness. As indicated by the name, if communal-democracy exists in a place, there will be no oppression or unjust exploitation. Tyrannical systems can enslave, and institutionalise serfdom and labour. But once democracy has developed then there is no slavery, serfdom or status of worker. People will work, but they will work for themselves, as members of their own commune. Communalism and democracy are inseparably linked. The definition and history of the democracy we are aiming for is like this.

Equality and Freedom

The link between freedom and equality in democracies is absolutely understandable. They are not alternatives to each other. However as much democracy as develops, freedoms develop to the same extent. As freedoms develop equality emerges. Democracy is the real area where freedom and equality grow. Freedom and equality that are not based on democracy can only be class-based. Only one class, group or preferential groups. For the others only being ruled and enslavement remains. In people’s democracy, since self-government is the basis, equality and freedom are generalised. Therefore, the most extensive freedom and equality is found in people’s democracies, in democracies where there is no state or power. Democracies do not deny the state, but they are not an ornamental cover for the state, either. It is a fallacy to demand democracy by destroying the state. In fact, the state – which in the long term should wither away – can implement the principled integrity of democracies.

Legitimate Defence

It is beyond dispute that democracy is the most effective means of resolving social problems – first and foremost peace. It takes its power not from war, apart from essential legitimate defence, but from the ability of persuasion. It compares what will be lost in war with what will be gained through persuasion and endeavours to develop solutions in line with the interests of the peoples. Bold and realistic debate involving broad participation elucidates the problems, after which rooted solutions may be applied. The democracy in Athens constituted the best environment for philosophy. Without Athenian democracy Aristotle, Plato and Socrates would have been unimaginable. If it hadn’t been for the city democracies of the Renaissance, the revolutions in science and art could not have developed.


The economic contribution of democracies cannot be underestimated. If a democratic system exists in a society, then there will not be a monopoly of economic values and nor will there be pillage. Individuals will not be abandoned to unproductiveness either. Democracies do not approve of an extreme quest for profit or individual and institutional idleness and irresponsibility. In this field optimal equilibrium will eventually be established between public and private economy. The relationship between democracy, economic productivity and development has been proven by many studies. In addition to productivity, democracies are the best environment for fair distribution and suitable investment. They are also a fundamental factor in production meeting the real demands of the people and the setting of a balance between supply and demand. In this way there is the opportunity for the setting up of a genuine social market. The spirit of competition will replace deadly rivalry. By keeping a lack of balance between supply and demand, inflation and financial manipulation, the main causes of crisis, to a minimum, it will express its power for a solution. A fundamental solution will be found to systematic unemployment.


The issue of women is the most urgent one of the fundamental social issues. Throughout history all manner of oppression, exploitation, violence and objectification, in brief, a system of slavery has been imposed on women by the male-dominanted system. This makes it necessary for us to address the women’s issue as a main issue and the basis of all questions, not only as a part of social problems. It should also be dealt with as a fundamental issue of freedom in political, economic, moral, social and scientific arenas, not just in debates. Women’s freedom line/struggle and women’s historical accumulation should be taken as a guiding light. The freedom struggle being waged by women’s movements is not just against capitalist modernity, but is a more profound struggle against male domination and should constitute the basis of the new alternative paradigm. It cannot be postponed and left until after the revolution as in the past. The Women’s Liberation Ideology, as proposed by the Kurdish women’s movement since the 1990s, should be seen as a main element and beacon of the struggle for freedom, equality and democracy. Just as in many places in the world, in Rojava/Northern Syria the women’s freedom line is blazing a trail and is a hope for liberation. It is of the utmost importance to further deepen this experience and accumulation and address this along with the science of Jineolojî developed by Abdullah Öcalan and the Kurdish women’s movement. The World Social Forum and other revolutionary forums may develop a new and more analytical perspective with this science.


It is necessary to approach youth in the struggle for a democratic society in a distinctive way. As young people are socialised they face huge traps. While being confused by on the one hand traditional patriarchal social conditioning, and on the other the ideological conditioning of the system, they have a nature that is open to new ideas. They are naive when it comes to what is happening. Under the influence of the old society, they are far from discovering what has been prepared for them. They cannot even catch their breath in face of the thousand and one tricks of the capitalist system. All this renders it essential that social education particularly for young people be designed. The education of young people is something that needs great effort and patience. In return they have a daring and dynamism that can write epics. Once they have grasped the aims and methods there is nothing they cannot achieve.

Action and Organisation

The forms of action and organisation in democracies are at least as important as their self- definitions. While self-definition leads more to illuminating the aim, it is a sine qua non that organisation and action be correctly defined. Without harmony of aim and means and correctly resolving the equilibrium between them it is difficult to make progress in democracies. Democracies that rely solely on aims or means resemble a one-legged person. How far can a one-legged person walk?

Participation and congress models

Since the current crisis cannot be overcome by opposing popular will, popular participation is obligatory. Participation should be popular and democratic. This cannot work without a congress system. Perhaps in the 19th and 20th centuries capitalist states did not have to share state authority with peoples’ congresses, but in the present day crisis, states cannot go a step forward without recognising the popular initiative. The severe conditions of crisis render it imperative that there be comprehensive, lasting and institutionalised popular participation. Consequently, the very restricted popular participation in the 19th and 20th centuries can only find meaning in the present day with congresses. These congresses will be neither of a party or a semi-state. They will be popular congresses emerging from historical conditions. The peoples have distanced themselves from the three sects of capitalism – actually-existing socialism, social democracy and national liberation – and subsequently from the state, entering the process of congresses. Just as the state is not entirely rejected, it is also not accepted as before. Consequently, it is possible for them to play a role in the resolution of social crises in the framework of clear principles. The increasingly diminishing size of states and emergence of new state models shows the need for a congress model.

Also, in countries where there are grave national problems congress models can play a buffer role. For many communities and groups, too, lower level congresses are necessary. The capacity congresses have to unite participation from different parties, views and beliefs demonstrates that democracies will not be able to function without them. In conclusion, it will be realistic to think of congress solutions not as an alternative to states, but as parallel solution models in a period where states alone cannot resolve serious problems.

In conclusion, from all these solutions and theses, it would be wrong to draw the conclusion that: “Civilisations will fight each other until victory without reconciliation”. We do not find such judgements, originating from a destructive dialectical analysis, appropriate to the universal flow dialectic we are endeavouring to open up with a philosophical view. Even if destructive tips exist, what is fundamental is development that is reciprocal (a symbiotic relationship). The nature of society works with such a dialectic, with reciprocal relationships and common life. History and the present day present a multitude of such examples.
The first precondition for this is for civilisations to recognise each others’ identity and show respect. To try to force one’s identity on another using a variety of methods is a destructive, not reconciliatory, method. This method is one that was frequently used in history and is the power-war route that in the present day has been imprinted on societies.

Those of us who want to constitute an alternative system, a communal-democratic system, must re-address our search from our history and experience of struggle. Those opposed to the global system of capitalism can, by making a self-criticism regarding the past in order to create a more compact understanding of history and society, break with capitalist civilisation and progress towards a democratic civilisation integrated with freedom, equality and communalism.


[1] Öcalan was captured in an international plot and handed over to the Turkish state. In this plot the US, the main driver of capitalist modernity, and its local associates played a major role, and all other forces approved of the plot.

[2]  The term ‘people’ should be understood as a concept which is dynamic and changes rapidly..

[3] The student-youth movement that took a leap forward in 1968 was the largest protest movement at the beginning of the finance era. Although it had a predominantly utopian aspect, it was a torch of enlightenment and freedom against the dirtiest and darkest age. This was followed by the developing cultural, feminist and environmentalist-ecologist movements which blazed a trail with the first anti-modernist perspectives. They broadened the struggle for equality, freedom and democracy without relying on government.

[4] Positivism is the most vulgar philosophy of phenomenalism. Fact is the image of truth; as for positivism it is truth itself. Consequently, nothing that is not fact can be truth. We know from quantumphysics, astronomy and biology, and even from thought itself that truth as a maximum occurs in universes beyond what is visible. In the relationship between what is observed and the observing (truth) it assumes a mysterious nature which cannot fit any physical measure or description. Positivism, as a denial of this depth, most resembles paganism in antiquity (Öcalan, Sociology of Freedom).