Our goal is a free, democratic and independent Kurdistan, not a nation-state, say Hozat and Bayik

In an extensive interview, Besê Hozat and Cemil Bayik, co-chairs of the KCK, talked about what true independence means for Kurdistan.

In an extensive interview, Besê Hozat and Cemil Bayik, co-Chairs of the Executive Council of the Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union (KCK), talk about what true independence means for Kurdistan, noncapitalist economic policies, the situation in Rojava, the achievements of the PKK in all four parts of Kurdistan, the attitude of the Freedom Movement towards other ethnic and religious groups in the region, their stance on other freedom struggles in the world, the Freedom Movement`s vision for women`s freedom and the resistance against Turkish fascism as part of a broader struggle against NATO imperialism.

Here is an excerpt of the interview which can be read in full here:

Is the goal of the KCK and its affiliated organizations a fully independent Kurdistan or greater autonomy? What is the position of your Freedom Movement regarding the question of secession?

It is important to keep in mind how exactly we understand the concept of independence. As a movement, we understand independence as a condition in which one is not subject to the will of other powers, nor of other people. In this sense, we are an independence movement. We attach great importance to preserving this kind of independence for ourselves. We can clearly state that we have always preserved our independence-oriented line and attitude since the emergence of our movement. No one - no political movement or organization - can claim that we are under the influence of other powers and that our will is dependent on them. Because of our clear stance on this issue, our Leadership [Abdullah Ocalan] was taken hostage in an international conspiracy and has been in prison for 23 years under the most severe isolation. For the same reason, all NATO members have classified our Freedom Movement as a terrorist organization. In doing so, they provide legitimacy to the all-out attacks on our movement, thereby fueling the attacks. Had we not maintained our independent stance and instead submitted to the influence of other powers, NATO’s attitude would have been very different. This is true not only for the NATO countries, whose interests the policy of our movement does not correspond to. Russia and other countries of Capitalist Modernity also take a negative attitude towards our movement.

Our movement is not under the influence of any international power. Likewise, no regional actor influences or directs our movement. Our Freedom Movement is very much concerned with maintaining its stance aimed at independence. Certain countries, which themselves have contradictions with Turkey, may indirectly take advantage of our struggle. However, none of these countries have succeeded in subjugating our will to their influence and directing it. Therefore, it is generally acknowledged that, in the real sense of the term, we have maintained our independent position on the basis of a free will. To speak about this using the terms of Capitalist Modernity or the literature of the last centuries leads to erroneous conclusions. This is because the political literature of the last centuries has, by and large, been shaped by the forces of Capitalist Modernity. It is therefore important not to understand independence within the framework of the categories `nation-state’ or `independent state’ developed by these forces. This approach would lead us to false conclusions.

The forces advocating freedom, democracy and socialism do not understand independence in the same way as the hegemonic, exploitative and oppressive forces. The concept of the `independent state` is based on the interests of the respective national bourgeoisie. It was developed on this basis. This is accompanied by the view that it is the right of the national bourgeoisie to establish its monopoly of exploitation over the respective nation from which the bourgeoisie itself originates. The `independent state` thus becomes the national factory or domain of exploitation in which the national bourgeoisie can implement its project of exploitation. To call this an `independent state` or `independence` means nothing else than to conceal the fact that the respective nation is under the rule of an exploitative monopoly.

If we look at this question from that perspective, we can clearly see that the nation-state is not a truly independent state. It is certainly not an independent country. It would therefore not be correct to equate the terms ‘independent Kurdistan’ and ‘independent state’. To do so would only mean to give legitimacy to and normalize the oppression and exploitation of the hegemonic classes that want to establish their monopoly of exploitation and oppression over the nation. It would therefore be very wrong to equate an independent Kurdistan with the notion of an `independent state`, that is, to automatically understand an independent Kurdistan as a nation-state and to create the impression that independence can be achieved through the establishment of an `independent state`. If we do not succeed in avoiding this mistake, we will not be able to develop a proper political analysis and an adequate understanding of national liberation and freedom.

It is absolutely clear that the PKK pursues the goal of a free, democratic and independent Kurdistan. But we do not understand this as a nation-state or an `independent state`. The assumption that independence can be achieved in this way is nothing but a lie of Capitalist Modernity and its hegemonic class. In addition, even the forces of Capitalist Modernity themselves do not advocate these kinds of independent states. While in the past they argued that solid state borders served their own interests, today they look at it differently. They now advocate permeable borders. They no longer see a rigid understanding of the nation state as serving the interests of capitalism, which is now in the phase of a globalized consumer society. It has become one of their fundamental laws to oppose the obstruction of the free and secure movement of capital by fixed borders.

Certain circles calling themselves leftist today erroneously portray the nation-state as anticapitalist simply because capitalism no longer considers it conducive to its own interests in the current era. These circles are characterized by their failure to recognize the capitalist and exploitative nature of the nation-state and by their lack of a proper understanding of the correct line of struggle against global capitalism. They have a very dogmatic character, on the basis of which they even defend the reactionary characteristics of their collaborating national bourgeois classes. It has been clearly shown that countries and peoples that do not derive their strength from a free and democratic society cannot have an independent will. Without relying on a free, strong and democratic society, it is impossible to develop an independent will and to oppose other powers based on that will, that is, to be independent. If the people of a country have developed into a free and democratic society, they also possess a correspondingly strong independence.

A country cannot achieve its independence merely by defining its borders. It is undeniable that precisely those who claim to have an independent state with clearly defined borders display the worst form of collaboration and lack of will. Because in these states a free and democratic society does not exist. A free and democratic society possesses its own will and power. Political forces that are not based on such a society inevitably become collaborators. Being independent, anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and against occupation is only possible if you predicate yourself on a free and democratic society. Otherwise, it would be impossible to attribute these characteristics to yourself.

During the Cold War, when the world was divided into two poles, some states could claim to be antiimperialist while relying on certain other forces. Some other states, benefiting from the conflicts between various forces, managed to adopt an independent stance to a certain extent. But it would be a misconception to consider them as states or countries that were seeking independence. The relative freedom of movement that resulted from the line and political conjuncture of the time cannot be understood as an attitude that strives for independence. To look at these states or countries in this way paves the way for a false understanding and concept of independence. Any viewpoint that does not understand independence as something based on a free and democratic society is wrong. Such views only serve to distort the actual facts.

The state is a tool of the ruling class. We must never forget this. A state can neither belong to the people nor be socialist. Both self-administration of the people and socialism can only be implemented without the state. For this very reason, Rêber Apo [Ocalan]  expressed that he would never strive for a state, even if it were offered to him on a silver platter. Rêber Apo calls for a democratic-autonomous Kurdistan based on a free and democratic society. He considers a democratic-confederal Kurdistan, in which all four parts of the country have political, social, cultural and economic relations with each other without changing the existing state borders, as the best way of liberation and national unity. He does not consider a unified Kurdistan through statehood to be the right way, because it would create many new problems and would not solve the already existing ones. Moreover, it would not create a free, democratic and independent nation.

In this context, Rêber Apo emphasizes that this path of statehood would only move Kurdistan further away from a free, democratic, and independent status. There are two ways to establish a democratic autonomous life without changing the existing state borders. The first consists in an autonomy, narrowly defined only on the basis of relations with the state. The second path involves an organized, democratic society that develops into a social and political system on a democratic-confederal basis in the political, social, cultural, economic, etc spheres. When the organized and democratic society develops into a socio-political system on a democratic-confederal basis, it will be free and independent in the true sense.

This form of Democratic Autonomy does not resemble other common place form of autonomy. Rather, it is a form of autonomy based on an organized and free society. An autonomy that took a clear stance and empowers the nation. Within the framework of this form of autonomy, the nation develops a degree of strength that it cannot achieve in any other states or systems. Society and the nation can only be empowered through democratic relations. Democratic Nations based on an organized society possess strength and willpower. In this sense, this nation model has the highest level of independence and willpower. States do not give strength to the nation, but to the ruling classes. In a democracy, on the other hand, it is society and the nation that are turned into the decisive force. The nation is strongest when it has developed as an organized democratic society into a social system that stands on a democratic-confederal basis. The Democratic Autonomy thus constituted has a level of independent political willpower that cannot be found in any nationstate or supposedly independent state.

Here we are undoubtedly talking about a situation we call `democracy + state`. This is not a completely democratic condition. But at the same time it is a situation in which the society or the nation is in the strongest possible position in relation to the state. In today`s world, the term ‘complete independence’ does not do justice to the actual reality anyway. It is rather a relative situation. In today’s world, there are relations of mutual dependence. Certain objective influences and circumstances exist that impose limits on all states and nations. What is crucial is that these relationships and interdependence do not destroy the independent will of those involved. In the `democracy + state` formula mutual limitations exist as well. But the system `democracy + state` represents at the same time a situation of permanent tensions.

In our present era, it is always democracy that emerges from this tensions with greater strength and efficacy. For us, it is important that peoples and societies live free and democratic lives. We advocate for the systems that can best ensure this. In our view, separation, detachment, dissociation and opposition is only meaningful when you separate and detach yourself from violence, oppression and hegemony. Becoming a state is certainly not conducive to this goal. The right of nations to self-determination has ultimately been expressed in terms of the bourgeois understanding of the nation-state. But socialists cannot follow such a principle or take such a stance. For socialists, freedom, equality, democracy, society and fraternity among peoples are crucial. All those who are committed to society strive for the broadest possible political associations based on friendship among peoples and democratic unity. Separating communities from each other by state borders in a rigid way is contrary to historical-social reality. Historically, peoples, communities or cultures have never been separated by rigid borders. Rather, they have always drawn on their symbiotic relationships with each other. The Soviet Union erected immutable borders and walls, separating itself from the rest of the world. However, this was an unnatural development.

Actually, the Soviet Union should not have isolated itself even if the capitalist system had decided to take this step. However, due to certain wrong convictions and a lack of self-confidence, real socialism ended up in the aforementioned situation. The strict secession of the Soviet Union from countries and regions that defined themselves as capitalist is ultimately another result of the disease represented by the nation-state. Historically, peoples and communities have always lived in the form of federations or confederations. Centralized empires have practically never existed in this context. In any case, an empire was only able to exist if it recognized the autonomous political will of the peoples, cultures, communities of a region and geographical areas.

Against this background, Democratic Autonomies, confederations and federations represent systems that are more in line with the historical trend and can more successfully ensure that peoples complement each other. However, Capitalist Modernity, due to its understanding that revolves around nation, nation-state, nationalism and the annihilation of different cultures, and for practical reasons, does not succeed in practically implementing the forms of local democracy, Democratic Autonomy and other forms of autonomy that are correct from the point of view of humanity. It does not succeed in solving the problems of humanity. Once these mentalities and obstacles are overcome, the world will become a place where nationstates will be rendered obsolete and broad democratic unions will emerge on the basis of the free and democratic life of the peoples.