Kalkan: Latin American social forces are our natural allies

Kalkan said: "All South American social forces, especially women, youth and labourers, are our ideological and strategic friends and natural allies."

First part of an interview with PKK Executive Council member Durkan Kalkan on the relations of South American governments with Turkey, the lessons of past peace processes, the role of self-defence, alliance policy in general and in Rojava in particular, the understanding of socialist revolution, the geopolitical role of China, the resistance in Palestine, the potential of democratic confederalism in the Middle East and the role of Israel in the Kurdish question. The interview was conducted on 24 September 2023.

Venezuelan President Maduro was in Turkey for Erdoğan's swearing-in ceremony. Lula congratulated Erdoğan on his re-election on social media. Cuba has strong economic ties with Turkey. None of these self-proclaimed socialist states criticise Erdoğan for his anti-Kurdish policies. In addition to economic reasons and relations, there are also voices that see Turkey as an anti-American power. How do you evaluate this? What does the PKK expect from the governments and social forces in South America?

Unfortunately, 'statist socialism' is based on state interests and sacrifices ideology to these interests rather than the basic principles of socialism: freedom, equality based on diversity and sharing. The Soviet Union did the same; under the name of 'defending the socialist homeland', it tied everything to the defence of the Soviet Union state; however, this understanding not only failed to protect the Soviet Union state, but also became one of the main reasons for its collapse. The relations of states such as Venezuela and Cuba with the Republic of Turkey should also be considered on this basis. As a movement, we believe that ideological principles should not be tied to political interests; on the contrary, ideology should guide politics. We also believe that it is not possible to build and develop the basic principles of socialism using the power of the state, which is a political and military institution and thus acts directly as an instrument of oppression and exploitation of capital monopolies. For this reason, we take the stance that the principles of socialism should be built and developed not through state rule but through democratic rule, through democratic confederalism, which replaces the "state without a state" expressed by K. Marx.

As for the claim that the state of the Republic of Turkey and the AKP-MHP fascist regime are anti-American, it is impossible to provide any serious evidence to verify this. Tayyip Erdoğan founded the AKP and came to power with the permission and support of the US Administration; his rise to today's one-man dictatorship is the result of the joint planning made in the Bush-Erdoğan meeting of November 5th 2007. The MHP was founded by Alparslan Türkeş, who received counter-guerrilla training in the USA. The Republic of Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952 and has participated at the forefront of all NATO attacks, notably the war against North Korea. The Turkish army is the second largest in NATO after that of the United States. All military coups in Turkey were carried out with the support of NATO. The military coup of September 12th 1980, which brought about the current Tayyip Erdoğan administration, was also a NATO coup. Since June 1985, the Turkish State has taken the war against the Kurdish guerrillas to NATO on the basis of the operation of NATO's Article 5 and has received active military, economic and political support from NATO until today. In a way, it is NATO itself that is waging the current genocidal war against the Kurdish guerrilla resistance and the people as a whole. The recent negotiations within the scope of Sweden's NATO membership and the "Coordination Against Terrorism" organisation, established within NATO to coordinate the war against the Kurdish guerrillas, are also for this purpose. Is it possible for such a state to be anti-NATO and anti-US?

We do not even need to mention the genocidal massacres carried out by the Turkish state in Kurdistan during the last century, its efforts to change the country’s demographics, its activities to assimilate the Kurdish people, one of the oldest peoples in history, into the broader Turkish culture by banning their unique language and culture. Anyone can uncover these by analysing the history of the last century and following today's developments. What we want to point out here is that the state of the Republic of Turkey is not only anti-Kurdish and practising genocide against Kurds; this state has also been anti-Armenian, Assyrian-Syriac and Greek, and has been practising genocide against these peoples for a hundred years. For example, everyone, including the USA, discusses and takes decisions on the Armenian genocide of April 24th 1915. Of course, it is not acceptable for socialists to choose not to investigate these facts and to refrain from forming opinions and attitudes on this basis.

We do not see any state as a strategic ally. Our approach to states is at the level of tactical relations. We see as strategic allies the forces outside of power and the state, i.e. outside capitalist modernity, and we approach all oppressed and exploited social sectors, especially women, youth and labourers, on this basis. This general approach also applies to the governments and societies of South America. It would be good if the South American governments did not support the fascist-genocidal Turkish state and respect the national democratic struggles of the Armenian, Assyrian-Syriac and Greek peoples, especially the Kurds. Then the Turkish state will not be strong and, therefore, NATO will not be strong. This is a good and useful thing for the whole of South America.

As for all South American social forces, especially women, youth and labourers, they are our ideological and strategic friends and natural allies. Any emancipatory and democratic development they can achieve is our development and success. The success of the Kurdish people and women is their success and strength. For example, the Jin Jiyan Azadi revolution raised by the women of Kurdistan is both the revolution of the women of South America and the revolution for the freedom of all humanity. We consider the brotherhood of peoples and freedom struggles on this basis. The Cuban Revolution and the thoughts of Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevera had a great influence on the emergence of Leader Apo and our birth and development as a movement. Che Guevera's thought and practice have always been a source of inspiration for us, especially in understanding and developing guerrilla resistance. We took the 1968 Youth Revolution as our starting point. Today, the non-state libertarian and democratic struggles of the peoples of South America and the developments they have achieved give us strength and excitement in the same way. We believe that they, too, are so impressed by the struggle of the Kurdish people against ISIS and the Turkish fascist-genocide, and that they embrace this understanding and struggle. On this basis, we wish success to all our friends in South America.

There is an interest in what your movement has learnt from the peace processes in South America. Many movements were liquidated with the peace processes. How do you evaluate your experience as the PKK? What are your conclusions that should be taken into account in relations with states?

Undoubtedly, this question is very important in terms of our practical stance and our ability to survive and make progress. Our experience, our relationship with the state and the search for a political solution was a very new endeavour for us. At the same time, in such an endeavour, we encountered the attack of the international conspiracy and experienced a paradigm shift. In other words, we had to carry out this process with two different paradigms. In particular, we had a certain difficulty in understanding and implementing the practical style and tone of the new paradigm, which was reflected in our negotiations with the state. As some basic lessons of the process we have been going through since the first ceasefire declared by Leader Apo on March 17th 1993, we can state the following:

First of all, we must know very well that the states are liars and deceivers, that they approach such processes tactically, always thinking of taking advantage of them and liquidating the other side, and that they use such processes secretly as a military and organisational preparation process based on their own power. In this regard, we are naive and always well-intentioned, and we can evaluate the other side as we do ourselves. Of course, this is a very serious and damaging mistake. As a matter of fact, since 1993, we have mainly faced four comprehensive attacks by the Turkish State and the NATO-USA behind it. They responded to the ceasefire process we started on March 17th 1993 with a total annihilation attack between June 1993 and August 1998. On October 9th 1998, they responded to the ceasefire process we started on September 1st 1998 with an international conspiracy attack organised and carried out by the USA and the İmralı system of torture, isolation and genocide. From August 2nd 1999, they further responded with political genocide operations, and total attacks between April 14th 2009 to 2012. From the spring of 2013, their response to the ceasefire process we developed, called the "Solution Process", with the "Collapse Action Plan" attack which they started on July 24th 2015. In other words, while we were trying to create suitable grounds for political negotiations and search for solutions, we consistently came up against the Turkish State developing secret plans and preparing for the annihilation attack. It is important that this state of affairs is recognised and taken into account.

Secondly, of course, we ourselves have to make very serious efforts to create a basis for relations and negotiations. We can declare a unilateral ceasefire, we make very intensive propaganda in a positive sense; in short, we try to reassure. This process can sometimes be protracted and intensive. In the end, we may end up believing our own propaganda ourselves, and our mass base may become overly influenced. This can lead to a shift in understanding, to insensitivity, to imprudence – in short, to carelessness. Of course, in the end, the other side makes full use of this situation in its favour. It is necessary to be aware of this situation and to carry out these activities carefully, adjusting the content and tone very well. We must never forget the reality of the state and its aim to dissolve us.

Thirdly, states can sometimes keep these processes very short, choosing to immediately show their true intentions by going on the offensive, while sometimes they can keep them relatively long. Or at least, this is how it may seem to us. For example, the state may initiate the process and then not take any real steps, keeping us waiting in anticipation of their next move, anxiously awaiting a response that will decide our fate. The longer the process goes on, the deeper the state of delusion and heedlessness we mentioned in the second point can become. So much so that a misguided approach can emerge, as if to say 'this is now done'. From our own point of view, we can develop a one-sided view that always looks positively, and consequently downplays the real concerns we face. In other words, states can use this as a basis to draw revolutionary and democratic forces into a process that we may call softening and loosening, and can work consciously and planned in this direction. As a result, serious difficulties can be experienced when faced with a planned and prepared attack. This situation should also be taken into consideration.

Finally, the ideological, strategic and tactical aspects of such relations and negotiations must be adjusted correctly. On the basis of our new paradigm, we approach these relations and negotiations on the basis of the political formula 'state plus democracy'. We base the level of agreement on mutual acceptance of each other. In other words, to the extent that the state accepts our democracy (democratic society or democratic confederalism), we envisage that we will accept the state. On this basis, we want to ensure that the state and democracy exist intertwined, side by side and in a relationship and struggle. All this requires a great deal of clarity and a great deal of effort. In other words, it requires a convincing enlightenment. Because in general, the existing state system is not open to this, it is too closed. They do not want to share the management of society with anyone. They are very much monist and absolute dominators. Today, the whole nation-state system is like this. The genocidal Turkish nation-state is very much like this. Therefore, it is not easy to negotiate and reach a political solution. One of the two important issues here is to take as a basis the creation of one's own society and the emergence of its own government through education and organisation, and to use such negotiations as a means and opportunity for this purpose. In other words, you will always take the development of your own self-power as a basis and never forget it. Secondly, it is only possible to bring states toward this balanced state through a multifaceted and serious struggle. For this, it is necessary to carry out a long-term plan and continuously struggle within and against the system. Expecting that relations and negotiations with states will yield results in a short time, easily and without struggle, is a very serious mistake and a dream. Our practice has taught us this and we are struggling to overcome our own misconceptions on this issue.

For South America, the role of guerrillas and self-defence in the liberation struggle is important. For this reason, the experiences gained in Kurdistan are of interest. What is the importance of the HPG's (People's Defence Forces) resistance against the Turkish army? What innovations does it offer for the understanding of guerrillas? What does it mean to be defined as a self-defence force?

The importance of the HPG resistance emerges in two ways. Firstly, the PKK guerrillas brought modern military science to Kurdish society. All previous resistances, including the KDP and YNK peshmerga, represent traditional popular or peasant rebellion. The most recent attempts at militarisation do not in essence go beyond this situation. The guerrilla, on the other hand, bases its training, organisation, strategy and tactics on the requirements of modern military science.

The second concerns the strength and structure of the Turkish army. It is the second largest army in NATO. It is in continuity with the Ottoman Empire, which was a military system. It is the main founder and sustainer of the Turkish state. Its basic structure is based on suppressing social uprisings and resistance. With its entry into NATO, a very powerful counter-guerrilla system was created within it. It is not democratic, but completely dominant. It does not want to share sovereignty with anyone. It is based on suppressing all kinds of objections with the heaviest use of force, brute force. Therefore, it is not easy to oppose and stand against the Turkish army. All revolts and oppositions before the PKK guerrillas were defeated and crushed in the shortest time. The only force that changed this history is the PKK guerrillas. This is where the meaning and importance of the guerrilla resistance, which was previously organised under the names HRK (Liberation Forces OF Kurdistan) and ARGK (People's Liberation Army of Kurdistan) and restructured itself under the name HPG after the paradigm shift, comes from. For the first time, an undefeated military force is emerging against the Turkish army. In this way, the invincible power and will of the Kurdish people has been formed.

The guerrilla organisations developed under the names HRK and ARGK were guerrilla movements based on the statist paradigm and the goal of establishing a regular army. They were based on classical guerrilla theory and practice and envisaged developing them as rural guerrillas in Kurdistan. However, it was not possible to develop guerilla resistance in Kurdistan as seen in the practices of other countries. This situation was not due to geography or people; the geography of Kurdistan, especially its mountains, were more than suitable for developing the classical guerrilla system. Again, the Kurdish people and youth had more than enough courage and sacrifice to develop guerrilla warfare. What made it impossible to apply the classical guerrilla theory and practice as it was in Kurdistan was the characteristics of the Turkish genocide imposed on Kurdistan. It was simply not possible to stand against this genocidal understanding and attack, which had no other analogue in the world, with normal patriotism, democracy and even revolutionism. Kurdish freedom fighters had to be completely partisan. At the same time, this partisanship had to be formed entirely along the lines of sacrifice. Attempts similar to the practices of other countries did not yield results, and the persistent guerrilla effort led Leader Apo and the PKK to such sacrificial partisanship and guerilla. HRK and ARGK guerrillaism were shaped in the form of such sacrificial guerilla resistance. HPG guerrillaism, which was formed with the paradigm change, was based on deepening this sacrificial line. In short, the Kurdistan guerrillas have raised the measures of freedom fighters to the level of sacrificial militancy. This is how guerrillaism emerged in Kurdistan, which was not defeated by the Turkish army and developed the Kurdish people's will for freedom. For this reason, it was defined as the Kurdish people's will for freedom and self-defence.

Undoubtedly, with its current structure, the HPG guerrillas are a self-defence force of the Kurdish people. It represents the Kurdish people's will for freedom, is formed with its own power and resists external and internal reactionary attacks against the people and protects the existence and free life of the Kurdish people. However, the current structure of the HPG is still incomplete as a self-defence force of the Kurdish people. With its current structure, the HPG is essentially a professional guerrilla force and in this respect it is a pioneer. In order for the Kurdish people to have adequate self-defence, only a professional guerrilla force is not enough. This force is pioneering and very necessary. The existence of this professional sacrificial force is necessary and decisive for people to have self-defence.

However, it is also necessary to create a local guerrilla force based on the masses of the people. In self-defence, the professional guerrillas are the vanguard and the local guerrillas are the basic force. The local guerrilla, as the name implies, is a freedom fighter in its own local area, and consists mainly of people who organise their daily lives. That is to say, it refers to the general state of being "armed at night and wearing a cap during the day". It includes both the organisation and maintenance of civilian life and military self-defence fighting. The self-defence force of the paradigm of democratic modernity consists of two such forces, the arming of the people. The regular army of the states is replaced by the self-defence of democratic confederalism consisting of professional and local guerrillas. In other words, K. Marx's definition of "replacing the regular army with an armed people" comes to life in this way.