This article is the result of discussions among Internationalists in Rojava about the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
On November 27, hundreds of thousands of people also in Rojava will celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the PKK which on November 27th 1978 opened a new chapter not only for the Kurdish people but for people all over the world. That we, internationalists from different continents, can be here in Rojava today to take part in the revolution of our era is closely linked to the PKK, its visionary Abdullah Ocalan, and their ongoing political struggle for freedom since the 1970s.
Nevertheless, in many of our home countries, the PKK remains barely known. Even where the struggle of the Kurdish people is known, solidarity often exists without an understanding of the socialist core of the Kurdish struggle for freedom or adherence to the party’s ideological stance.
Most of us got to know the Kurdish revolution through the resistance in Kobanê and the fight against ISIS. The Rojava Revolution brought significant attention to the Kurdish question and revolutionaries in the Middle East. The emphasis on women’s liberation, a cornerstone of Abdullah Ocalan’s philosophy and a core element of the PKK organization, was gaining widespread sympathy, especially among women and the youth.
But upon discovering the existence of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, even among leftist circles, confusion regarding their political program, ideology, and methods prevailed. A genuine contextualization was missing.
In Abya Yala, consensus on the PKK might be easier to reach than when discussing Rojava (due to persistent absurd allegations about Rojava’s alliance with US imperialism). While young people in Europe often learn about the revolution in Rojava totally disconnected from the PKK.
Encountering the PKK brought about contradictions and doubts. For some, the concept of a revolutionary party seemed dubious, associated with social democracy or Stalinism, while others, with individual anarchist inclinations, saw a party as generally authoritarian and restricting individual freedom.
Understanding the PKK’s reality evolved slowly through our engagement with the movement. We witnessed an unprecedented commitment and seriousness, unfamiliar in political struggles in our respective homelands. The level of organization impressed us greatly, revealing the strength and support a mass movement can harness. Above all, it instilled hope in us, and with each further contact, the belief that a revolution is possible today grew stronger. The movement’s ability to navigate the complex situation in the Middle East and globally and its capability of resistance left many of us positively astonished. To this day, the fighting spirit of the party and its cadre continues to inspire us.
To confront our contradictions and doubts, we delved into the party’s history. Parallel, a better understanding of the history of socialism emerged. Many contradictions dissolved when orientalist approaches were questioned, and the party was given an honest chance to explain itself. Those deterred by communist aesthetics, the alleged cult of personality surrounding Abdullah Ocalan, or dogmatic rejection of parties miss the opportunity to be part of a historical breakthrough. We must strive to develop a contemporary understanding of socialism to comprehend the revolution in Rojava, considering regional realities, and to approach the PKK more accurately.
Every time we met friends from the movement, it was a beautiful and enriching experience. A deep trust developed from the admiration for the lived unity of theory and practice and the adherence to values that determine their lives. Thus, we began to understand the party’s history and recognized the historical necessity of organization.
While friends from Abya Yala confirm that there is hardly any negative press about the PKK there because those reporting are mostly independent journalists sympathetic to the movement. On the other side, in Germany, for example, the party faces a massive anti-propaganda campaign. Consequently, the general population finds it difficult to develop a realistic picture. In France, where the party experienced a low level of repression for a long time, there is a growing change. Those in power are increasingly afraid of French youth aligning with the movement. Returnees from Rojava have recently been prosecuted under alleged terror threats. The state’s fear does not stem from any military training they supposedly received in Rojava. What scares the states is the dissemination of an ideology, a philosophical paradigm, and a corresponding practice that has the potential to bring about successful change in the catastrophic conditions created by the system of capitalism, nation-states, and industrialism.
The PKK’s paradigm, beyond advocating for a democratic society, embodies a revolutionary approach to interpreting reality and history, a radical critique of real socialism, and a firm commitment to socialism. Recognizing the need for a radical shift in human mentality, the movement presents an antidote to capitalist modernity’s ailments—individualism, ego-centrism, nihilism, and loss of values.
“To insist on Socialism means to insist on Humanity”Abdullah Ocalan
The PKK, like the Zapatistas, offers a promising socialist approach. Through deep philosophical exploration and constant practice, the PKK managed to develop a more correct understanding of socialism and the movement’s comprehensive principles—Eco-Industry, Democracy, and Women’s Freedom—provide a contemporary framework. Despite imperfections, the PKK’s achievements signify a monumental success for humanity.
For socialism in the 21st century, Abdullah Ocalan has opened up new perspectives for the party and everyone listening, especially through the redefinition of words like socialism, freedom, democracy, and internationalism. Reading Ocalan’s writings inevitably leads to sympathizing with the ideas and thinking.
The problems we experience in our struggles and our practices of life, whether in Abya Yala, Asia, Africa, or Europe, demonstrate how much we are in need of a new paradigm. Unlike the PKK’s practice, we are disconnected from the reality of our societies and have lost relevance outside academic leftist circles in many places. Many of our efforts are short-term without a clear strategy or organizational framework. Grand spectacular actions gain more importance than the necessary groundwork and organizational development. When we become demotivated due to the lack of success and concrete results, it is largely due to the absence of a long-term perspective and a grand narrative. The PKK has also created this: a contemporary myth of socialism based on the history of the emergence of the first societies and the subjugation first of women and then of entire societies.
Some of us were part of various struggles in our home countries. However, without faith in change, we were doomed to fail. What does the PKK represent for us primarily? Hope and an unwavering belief that revolution is possible, indeed inevitable!
The revolution, not as a singular event but as processes occurring everywhere in the world in small and large scales, just needing a form, has led us from various parts of the world to Kurdistan.
Kurdistan is undoubtedly the center of the revolutionary struggle today. Comparable to Palestine/Lebanon in the 1970s, it is the place where revolutionaries from all over the world find a space for reorganization and development. The difference is that the revolution here is based on stronger principles and adherence. In the development of a new internationalism, the PKK plays a historically significant role today, and what we see are sincere and concrete efforts by the party to live up to this responsibility.
Rojava is open today to all who are willing to listen and learn. There is great openness to criticism that has impressed us. Despite this openness, the movement defends its principles and prevents deviation from a revolutionary line. The party today enters the enormous challenge of spreading the revolution and Abdullah Ocalan’s paradigm beyond the borders of Kurdistan while considering and respecting local roots & traditions.
Our engagement has revealed our deficiency in understanding internationalism properly. Our gaze has often been only on our home countries, asking how we can apply what we have learned here. Focused on our home countries, we often failed to transcend national boundaries. In Rojava, we understood the saying ‘The revolution is your home.’ Being involved in Rojava or the movement isn’t neglecting our home struggles. It’s an extension of our love for our homeland, intertwined with the revolution in Kurdistan.
The movement’s methods, especially its culture of critique and self-critique, serve as effective organizational tools against stagnation which we are in desperate need for. Besides many organizational methods, it is strategy that we lacked. The political strategy of Democratic Confederalism & the strategy for struggle against a repressive state “Revolutionary People’s War” provide a perspective for struggles globally.
To develop Revolutionary personalities that can adapt the strategy to different localities we are in need of a better understanding of our situation and deeper reflection about a solution. But between dozens of actions, riots, and lectures, we haven’t taken the time to really live the revolution. For many of us, coming to Rojava for a longer time seemed unimaginable. However, it’s here that we’ve begun to understand how much we need the perspectives of the party and Abdullah Ocalan’s paradigm. Our time in Rojava marks the beginning of a learning process, a journey we’re eager to share with friends worldwide.
On the 45th anniversary of the founding of the party, the revolution faces significant threats and daunting challenges. But we firmly believe that this awakening, which found a form on November 27th 1978, marks the beginning of a new era. For those who have come to know the history of the PKK, they know that nothing is impossible:
“We have proven to the world that in our dictionary, there is no word for impossible!”Şehîd Sara (Sakine Cansiz)
We congratulate the party, Abdullah Ocalan, revolutionaries from all over the world, the Kurdish people, and all oppressed peoples on this special day and say:
Long live the Kurdistan Workers’ Party! Long live the People’s Revolution!