The protracted war PKK ("Workers' Party of Kurdistan), has been waging against Turkish reaction and colonialism since 1984, has definitely entered a very critical stage, after the expulsion of its leader Abdullah Ocalan from his headquarters in Syria in October 1998, his uneasy residence in Italy between 12 November 1998 and 15 January 1999 and his CIA-arranged abduction in Kenya, on February the 15th, 1999. This turning point in the history of Kurdish national liberation movement has helped to expose all the weaknesses of petty bourgeoisie and its vacillations from one extreme to the other and once more has confirmed the validity of Leninist-Stalinist approach to the solution of national question, which ties this question with the question of proletarian revolution. Let's take a look at the course of recent events.
Just after his capture, it became immediately obvious that A. Ocalan would follow a line of total surrender to Turkish ruling classes. In his first statement made on the plane bringing him to Turkey, he stressed the fact that, "he was ready to offer his services." Later he was taken to a special prison built on Imrali Island and kept in solitary confinement there. He started to issue statements through his lawyers long before his trial began. On March the 19th, 1999, just two days before Newroz festivities, he told that he was for peace and brotherhood with Turkey and demanded PKK not to resort to violent and confrontational actions on this traditional Kurdish national day. He also pointed out that he was for the maintenance of unilateral ceasefire declared by PKK on September the 1st, 1998. The aim of this statement was to prevent and stifle the authorised and unauthorised demonstrations held by PKK and other revolutionary groups and people in Turkey, Kurdistan and Western Europe in his defence. This pronouncement would set the tone of his line from that date onwards.
As expected, he adopted a line of capitulation and treason during his trial on Imrali Island, which began on May the 31st, 1999. Right at the beginning of his speech at the court, he stated that he was not tortured, nor was he subjected to any cruel or inhuman treatment, without even being questioned over the matter by the judge. He also apologised to the families and relatives of soldiers and policemen killed in action, part of who were present at the courtroom. Trying to portray himself as a man of peace, anxious to prevent bloodshed, he offered his co-operation to the Turkish State in ending the guerrilla war being waged and in disarming of PKK. A. Ocalan blamed the so-called gangs both inside the army and PKK and their provocative line and actions for the continuation of armed conflict. He argued that, at the end of the century "democracy", that is capitalism had been proved victorious in its battle against fascism and communism and that the age of revolutions was over. He rejected the right of self-determination of Kurdish nation and went so far as to reject solutions based on federation or autonomy, affirmed the "indivisibility of Turkey" as well as the unitary character of Turkish republic and declared himself content with the recognition of Kurdish national identity on the part of the authorities and provision of cultural and educational freedoms for Kurds. He offered the support of PKK and Kurdish people to the Turkish ruling classes in achieving their expansionist ambitions, their ambitions of return to the glorious days of the Ottoman Empire, arguing that the accomplishment of "internal peace" would open the way for Turkey to become the leading force in the region, including the Balkans, the Middle East and the Caucasus. He further offered Turkish ruling classes to establish a so-called "democratic republic" with the support of PKK, whom all problems would he solved by peaceful means. What is more, he advised all other revolutionary groups to cease their opposition against Turkish fascism and employ legal and peaceful methods of struggle. All this was done in the name of peace and democracy and to end the bloodshed. The State Security Court, trying A. Ocalan however, did not seem to take neither his, nor PKK's such statements into account and sentenced him to death on June the 29th. The most important developments of the period following the end of the first phase of Ocalan case process can be summarised as follows.
After the capture of its chairman, PKK began to be directed by a Presidential Council, comprising the most influential guerrilla commanders, whose utmost concern seemed to he saving A. Ocalan's life. It soon became clear that, this organ would not try to develop an independent line of its own, would not abide by the comparatively militant line taken by the 6th Congress of PKK, held in January-February 1999 and follow obediently in the footsteps of A. Ocalan. For instance, on May the 6th, about a month before the start of the trial, the Presidential Council made the following statement:
"If the Turkish state approaches to the trial process in a positive manner and sees Chairman Apo's work as an historical opportunity in the solution of Kurdish question... this will lead to the activation of the potential of Turkey and its unification with the potential of Kurds... This will enable Turkey to make a very big leap at the beginning of the new century."
On June the 2nd, the Presidential Council of PKK declared its total support for the line A. Ocalan put forward in his trial and has continued to do so until today. On June the 9th, in one of its statements made during the course of A. Ocalan's trial, the Presidential Council, once more stressed the significance of its supreme leader's project for a so-called democratic republic and "the correct method for liberation of Kurdish society and the solution of Kurdish question on that basis." It further alleged that, such a solution was not only in line with the interests of Turkish and Kurdish peoples, but it also was in line with the interests of everybody in the world, except those who benefited from the "rent of war." In its statement, the Presidential Council also warned imperialists to act according to their responsibilities and especially called on the US to use its influence over Turkey during this critical process.
In its meeting on July 23-29 1999, Enlarged Plenum of the Central Committee of PKK too declared its total support for the line A Ocalan put forward in his trial. On August the 2nd, 1999 A. Ocalan made a statement to the effect that PKK would end its armed struggle as of September the 1st, 1999 and withdraw its guerilla forces from Turkish territory. He also asked Turkish military not to interfere with guerilla units that would start the withdrawal process as soon as possible.
On August the 5th, 1999, the Presidential Council of PKK declared its agreement with A. Ocalan's last statement. And it tried to assure Turkish military and the state that PKK was completely sincere in its intention to abandon armed struggle; that this was not in any way based on tactical considerations, on the contrary it reflected a strategic shift in the approach of the organisation. Subsequently, in one of its rare statements made on August the 10th, the Central Committee of PKK followed suit. It openly confessed its defeatist position, avowed its adoption of the method of "political struggle" as opposed to armed struggle. It also acknowledged that, "Me New World Order formed under the leadership of the US had taken control of the Middle East, just as it had other regions of the world." And further it argued that, "even if some forces resist to this process for a certain period of time, in the end they all will be obliged to submit to it."
In an announcement made on August the 25th, 1999, the Presidential Council of PKK said it would start to withdraw its guerilla forces from Turkish territory, without waiting the deadline of September the 1 st
On September the 22nd, 1999, A. Ocalan demanded the return of a group of guerillas together with their weapons and surrender to the authorities as a sign of reconciliation. According to him, this would help to dissipate the misgivings of certain sections in Turkish ruling classes as to the sincerity of PKK and promote and strengthen the atmosphere of peaceful reconciliation and trust.
On October he 2nd, 1999, a group of eight guerillas, calling itself "Re Group for Peace and Democratic Solution" returned to Turkey and were immediately detained by the military and put into a prison. Included in the group were some of the leading and veteran members of PKK. They were not tortured or mistreated; but were not met with fanfare or a spirit of reconciliation either.
During this whole period of time, following the end of the first phase of the trial, A. Ocalan had continued, ugh his lawyers to make various similar statements to exhort PKK to continue to tread on the road of capitulation and also to convince his captors and mentors of his sincerity and to prove his and his organisation's "goodwill." And it seems that the Presidential Council of PKK, seems to he going along with him. The problem is that Turkish military and the ruling classes, who have A. Ocalan under their control, have not in any measure budged from their previous position and show no signs of doing so. And this is, despite the policy advice given by US and especially Western European imperialists, who seem to be urging their Turkish clients to relax after their apparent victory over PKK, start to follow a more flexible line, that is to recognise certain rights of the Kurdish people (so-called democratic reforms), to enter into negotiations with some "prominent" Kurdish personalities not associated with PKK and to present a more human face. The position of the main body of Turkish ruling classes, however, has been and is, "no concessions, no talks to terrorists". Despite all the capitulationist rhetoric made and steps taken by A. Ocalan, the main body of Turkish ruling classes remains bent on demanding total submission and the surrender of PKK guerillas together with their weapons, plus their repentance. They've consistently argued that if PKK guerillas surrender with their weapons and repent, and if as a result of such a step so-called terrorism definitely comes to an end, certain reforms over the Kurdish questions could be considered. For instance, referring to the offer of help in ending the armed struggle, Turkish President Solemn Demirel, told that, "The state needs no help in. finishing this struggle."
On the other hand, Turkish General Staff, in its August 1999 "Monthly Report Over the Struggle Against Terrorism" voiced its doubts about the last moves of PKK. It argued that despite PKK's statements about its intention to end armed struggle and leave Turkish territory, Turkish army continued its campaign against this organisation "with determination and success." 'The Report of the General Staff observed that, Terror will come to an end only when all terrorists leave their weapons and avail themselves of the articles of Anti-Terrorism Act or become neutralised." In fact, this intransigent attitude of the main representatives of the Turkish state totally disproves a recurring theme in PKK propaganda, which tries to convince its audience that the main body of Turkish ruling classes are for "peace", while a minority said to be directly benefiting from the war, that is the so-called "war rentiers" are responsible for the continuation of the war.
At first sight, this policy of the main body of Turkish military and the ruling classes may give an impression of irrationally extreme inflexibility and an incapacity in making political maneuvers on their part. But, if one takes a closer look at the problem and considers the experience and basic attitude of imperialism and reaction in fighting against oppressed classes and peoples, one can sense the logic behind it. Turkish ruling classes want to inflict a very severe and crushing blow at the Kurdish national liberation movement, a blow that will also destroy the spirit of resistance of Kurdish people, apart from destroying PKK per se. We should also add that, the advocacy of a line of capitulation and treason by A. Ocalan and the Presidential Council's kowtowing to this line have contributed to the growth of the arrogance and self confidence of Turkish military and state and in fact urged them to follow a more intransigent line than before. Therefore, it can definitely he said that, the appeasement policy of PKK, who is far from being defeated militarily, has made it more difficult to achieve at least a temporary or tactical peace.
As have been pointed out above, the Presidential Council of PKK seems to be going along A. Ocalan's policy directives issued from inside the lmrali prison. To obey the policy directives of a leader, who is under the custody and control of the enemy, should definitely be a rare instance in the history of class struggle. But, this has been and is, what we have been experiencing since the capture of A. Ocalan in February 1999. It will be very difficult for outside observers to understand the picture of a PKK, submitting to a captured leader's directives sent through the enemy. This may be explained in part by the peasant character and mentality of Kurdish people, but the main reason for this state of affairs lies with the history and formation of PKK itself. A secondary, but important factor has been the relative backwardness of the level of development of revolution y proper. From the time he eliminated his rivals and potential rivals in the leadership of PKK, A. Ocalan, alias Apo, has concentrated most of his efforts to denigrate other cadres and potential leaders and to promote and impose his personal image and prestige. He has consistently built up a cult of personality surpassing similar instances in other countries. For example, in his Report to the 5th Congress of PKK held in 1995 he told:
"Without the Party, there will he no popular resistance, besides without me, there will be no people. Some may find that an exaggeration, but that is what is being realised. The rebirth of Kurdish people would not have happened without my 30 year long planning." He told the following in December 1995: "Mat's why PKK means APO. That's why Kurdish people are identified with my name-" Considering himself a sort of prophet and superior to Marx, Lenin and Mao, A. Ocalan said in December 1996: "Philosophers are in a pitiful position on this question. So are politicians and political scientists. My level differs very much from that of theirs... I can tell in one moment what the philosophers can tell in a lifetime... I can do in one day what politicians can do in fifty years..."
The effects of the capture of A. Ocalan and especially of the line of collaboration and capitulation he has put forward have been very negative. At least in the short run. Despite growing demoralisation and disillusionment, the Presidential Council has been able to hold the organisation together. On the other hand, it appears that a certain amount of confusion and passive resistance do exist among PKK cadres and sympathisers, for the simple reason that Turkish army and the ruling classes have not even made token concessions and continue to talk and act as they have always done. Turkish army, police and Special Teams continue their operations against PKK guerrillas, they continue to bum houses, to evacuate people from their villages, to torture PKK sympathisers both in Kurdistan and Turkey proper, just as they've been doing before. Besides, Turkish army has been attacking even against guerrilla formations, who are trying to withdraw from Turkish territory.
As can be seen from the tragic example of the prison massacre of 26 September, they continue their aggression against all revolutionary and progressive forces, including human rights activists, legal pro-Kurdish party HADEP, demonstrations organised by Kurdish women and their supporters to promote ceasefire and peace, legal progressive and pro-Kurdish press etc. So, all the advances of PKK and its cadres have been brutally rejected. They've been presented with only two options: Consistent struggle against fascist-colonialist regime or total submission. It can only be hoped that the facts of life will break the spell of A. Ocalan and teach the Presidential Council and other PKK cadres in a positive sense. It is hoped that, before it is too late, they prefer to opt for the road of resistance and consistent national liberation. It is also hoped that the Presidential Council clearly understands the absolute necessity of militant struggle against imperialism and Turkish colonialism, for the achievement even of a modest advance in the direction of peace and democracy.
It can he said that, at least a significant portion of PKK cadres and guerrillas will get more and more disillusioned and dissatisfied with the policy advocated by A. Ocalan. This state of discontent should be expected to grow as time passes by, despite the great and unquestioned authority and prestige of A. Ocalan. That may be the reason why Turkish military have begun to use a stronger language against PKK. And that may also be reason why during the first days of September, A. Ocalan has sent a letter to the Presidential Council of PKK, exhorting them "to neutralise those PKK groups, who are opposed to the peace process." It is not at all surprising to bear Chairman Foreign Ministry to say the following in a secret report prepared in September 1999, on the situation in Turkish Kurdistan: "Turkish army is not expected to remain neutral in the face of the withdrawal of PKK units. Also, it is not surmised that the Turkish government will take into account Ocalan's proposition to the effect that, PKK's armed forces shall accept to surrender their weapons in return for a general amnesty."
Historical experience both in our country and in the world has amply proved that the road of reform and capitulation is the road of defeat. The revolutionary struggle of the masses is the only option for them, that's the only way even to make the ruling classes to institute reforms of some substance, that is to install a bourgeois democracy. It should be added on the other hand that, historical experience has also shown the hollowness of the road of bourgeois-democratic reforms and of formal independence from colonialist and imperialist powers.
Lenin long ago had criticised and exposed the policies of imperialist powers, tolerating or at times promoting the establishment of so-called independent countries, who were financially and politically dependent on them. He had clearly indicated that, without the overthrow of bourgeoisie and landlords and the establishment of Soviet power, there could be no real independence. Today, when the ubiquitous power and influence of multinational companies and big imperialist powers dwarf most of the dependent and backward states themselves, this thesis of Lenin is much more valid.
Likewise, victory of Kurdish people's liberation movement requires a consistent and protracted struggle of Kurdish people in unison with Turkish workers, toilers and revolutionary and communist forces for the overthrow of Turkish big bourgeoisie supported by US and Western European imperialists and establishment a workers' and toilers' Soviet power in Turkey and Kurdistan.
The vacillations of A. Ocalan and the PKK leadership date far back in time, much before these last developments we've summarised above. Especially after the downfall of revisionist/ social-imperialist bloc, A. Ocalan time and again had spread illusions about imperialist powers and called on the US and Western European powers to put pressure on Turkey and force it to accept the "solution" of the Kurdish question. For instance, in November 1991 he had told that after the dismantling of Warsaw Pact, NATO was being transformed into a political institution aiming to solve the so-called political problems and human rights problems, and "further to an institution aiming to solve demands of peoples who wanted independence."
His unilateral flirtations with imperialists were naturally were complemented with his growing and more open hostility to Marxism-Leninism. In a long interview conducted in 1993 with a left-wing Turkish intellectual he had attacked the Soviet Union of Stalin. In this interview, he had blamed CPSU and Stalin with selfishness and added the following: "Re interests of world revolution are the interests of the Soviet Union; the interests of the Soviet Union are the interests of Russians; the interests of Russians are the interests of CPSU; the interests of the CPSU are the interests of Central Committee; the interests of the Central Committee are the interests of the Secretary-General... You may call it a bureaucratic deviation, a nationalist deviation. For that reason, you have Russian nationalism. The natural outcome of such an approach is definitely nationalism." (Dirilisin Oykusu, p. 283). And he had said further: "We now understand that socialism was a tactic for arrested capitalism, for Russian nationalism." (Ibidem, p290) In November 1994 he had sent a message to the all the heads of state coming together at the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in which he had argued that the Kurdish was the most urgent problem in the world to be addressed and it required urgent an intervention on the part of the international community. He had further promised these imperialist and reactionary chiefs, "to support all steps and initiatives to he taken by the outside world."
On October the 13th, 1995, he had sent a letter to US President Bill Clinton urging him to "exert his persuasive weight" on Turkey and to assist in "stopping the massacre of a people." In that letter, he had also stressed the fact that, his party was "ideologically different from classical communist parties" and he and his party were "not insisting on changing the frontiers of Turkey and were not for secession from that country." It should be stressed that such moves and statements on the part of A. Ocalan were putting grist to the mill of Turkish ruling classes, who consistently have tried to portray PKK as a tool of foreign powers (Syria, Greece, Western Europe and even the US) bent on to divide or at least weaken Turkey. Thus they were helping them to alienate Turkish working class from Kurdish national liberation struggle and to secure a chauvinist mass base especially among the petty-bourgeois Sections of Turkish population.
Long before his capture A. Ocalan had proved to be an extremely pragmatic and unprincipled politician, who could change his alliances and tactics from one day to the other. Yesterday's enemy could easily become 's friend and vice versa. So, after his capture, he changed his tune and adopted a line of propaganda favouring Turkish ruling classes, or rather a line imposed by them. He now puts the emphasis upon the unity of Turks and Kurds and the historical record of the Western powers, who have been intervening in the affairs of Turkey, since long before the establishment of Turkish Republic in 1923, in the name of protecting non-Turkish minorities, especially Christian ones. But, even before his capture, he was able to reconcile his continuous appeals to imperialist powers to put, pressure on Turkey, with his occasional flirtations with Turkish ruling classes. For instance, in another interview given in December 1995, he could call on all political forces in Turkey to come to a consensus. He had told the following in that interview: "We will call on the army, we will call on the bureaucracy. If you are in favour of a peace project with us, please come together. We will call on socialists, we will call on liberals. Let's give an end to this foolish course of events; there exists a common ground. We can find a consensus, a conciliation; we all have our stake in this." (Dirilis Tamamlandi, Sira Kurtulusta, p. 284)
The experience of PKK has proved among other things, first of all, the absolute importance of the presence of a revolutionary leadership conscious of the unbreakable tie between national and social liberation, that is, between the struggle against colonialism and imperialism in particular and the struggle against bourgeoisie and other exploiting classes in general, and secondly the absolute importance of a revolutionary leadership not content with the acquisition of certain rights, but determined to break the yoke of national oppression. It is obvious that the long suffering Kurdish people can and will be liberated only through a struggle against imperialism, Turkish colonialism and their Kurdish servants, such as Barzani and Talabani factions in Northern Iraq. This struggle can and will only be waged together and in unison with the mainly Turkish working class and other toilers in Turkey proper.
Besides Kurdish and Turkish workers and toilers can not & limit their struggle with the overthrow of imperialism, Turkish colonialism and their Kurdish servants and with the achievement of democracy and national liberation; they should continue the struggle until all exploiting classes are overthrown and democratic revolution is culminated with socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Long ago, in their Communist Manifesto, the founders of scientific socialism had justly emphasised the inseparable connection between national and social liberation: "In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another is put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to. In proportion as the antagonism between classes within the nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end." In line with this thesis of Marx and Engels, Stalin, in March 1921 wrote thus: "It scarcely needs proof that under the rule of capital, with private ownership of the means of production and the existence of classes, equal rights for nations cannot be guaranteed; that as long as the power of capital exists, as long as the struggle for the possession of the means of production goes on, there can be no equal rights for nations, just as there can be no co-operation between the labouring masses of different nations. History tells us that the only way to abolish national inequality, the only way to establish a regime of fraternal cooperation between the labouring masses of the oppressed and non-oppressed nations, is to abolish capitalism and establish the Soviet system." ("Report on the Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question", Works, Vol. 5, p. 38)
It might be asked whether it was a mistake on the part of communist and revolutionary parties and groups to have offered their critical support to PKK, until after A. Ocalan's capture. It was not a mistake, because despite its increasingly pro-imperialist and reformist rhetoric, the armed and other struggles waged by PKK were objectively delivering heavy blows at Turkish ruling classes and reactionary Kurdish groups directly and at imperialists indirectly. Despite its spread of illusions about imperialist powers, Turkish ruling classes and Kurdish bourgeoisie, until recently the balance of the struggle of Kurdish people led by PKK was weakening, not strengthening capitalist-imperialist system. Communist and revolutionary parties and groups in Turkey be criticised of course; but not for their support for and solidarity with Kurdish national liberation but for their comparative inability to rally Turkish workers, toilers and youth to struggle against fascist dictatorship and imperialism. To reject or to fail to support the liberation struggle of a people oppressed by one's "own" ruling classes, on the ground of its leadership being not revolutionary would mean to adopt a social-chauvinist policy. In his polemic against Luxemburg, who objectively supported Great-Russian nationalism, Lenin wrote:
". . . . Social-Democrats would be deviating from proletarian policy and subordinating the workers to the policy of the bourgeoisie if they were to repudiate the right of nations to self-determination, i.e., the right of an oppressed nation to secede, or if they were to support all the national demands of the bourgeoisie of oppressed nations . . .
"Successful struggle against exploitation requires that the proletariat be free of nationalism, and be absolutely neutral, so to speak, in the fight for supremacy that is going on among the bourgeoisie of various nations. If the proletariat of any one nation gives the slightest support to the privileges of its 'own' national bourgeoisie, that will inevitably rouse distrust among the proletariat of another nation; it will weaken the international class solidarity of the workers and divide them, to the delight of the bourgeoisie. Repudiation of the right to self-determination or to secession inevitably means, in practice, support for the privileges of the dominant nation."
("The Right of Nations to Self-Determination", Selected Works, Vol. 1, pp. 591-92)
("The Right of Nations to Self-Determination", Selected Works, Vol. 1, pp. 591-92)
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party; Turkey