It seems my incarceration on İmralı has caused many of the friends in key roles to begin to ponder what should happen in the time “after me.” Normally, one would have to regard this as a responsible way to proceed, but, unfortunately, these calculations stand on the wrong foundation. These friends, to all intents and purposes, have failed to build mutually supportive relations with the institution they call “leadership.” The traits that had always characterized them again clearly came to the fore when I found myself in an extremely critical situation. They bided their time to see whether or not I would survive and whether or not I would squeal. One of the first things to happen, unbeknownst to me, was a power struggle concerning the guerrilla, support of our people, political organization, the media, the women’s organization, and quite likely the distribution of financial and other resources as well. This was, in fact, a continuation of the tendencies we saw at each critical point, such as the runup to August 15, 1984, in 1992, and even in 1986 and 1987. The details of these important events in the history of our movement are well known. It is also clear that I noticed these tendencies and tried to overcome them by continuously providing comradely critiques. Another important point that has once again become clear is the fact that this comradely approach was never honestly appreciated.
Even though I don’t regard it as particularly meaningful to name names regarding the most recent splits, I will name three names for each group to enable the different sides to know themselves a little better. This can be extended should that become necessary. The first group consists of Cemil Bayık, Duran Kalkan, and Rıza Altun, while the second group emerged on the instigation and through the alignment of Osman Öcalan, Nizamettin Taş (Botan), and Hıdır Yalçın (Serhat).2 One can hardly describe this second group as an organized faction but should rather refer to it as an initiative. In addition, there are also those in between. Whether there are people who are loyal to me in form and content and, if so, who they are, I do not know. The actual loyalty of the twelve individuals nominated for the preparation group for the reconstruction of the PKK can only be demonstrated in practice. I don’t have any personal objections to them, but the extent to which they are able to represent my line in form and content will only be seen in practice. Therefore, I do not want to impose any particular course of action on them.
To say that the mentality and the style of dispute of both factions sharply goes against our valuable traditions, against our theoretical perspectives, and also against me (may I remind you that I am still alive?) is probably the mildest way to put it. I never anticipated people compromising the well-being of our people and our struggle through such a greed for power and such squandering of our legacy or that they would demonstrate such a lack of respect for me. Once again, I have had an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the true nature of human beings. I now understand that none of my warnings was taken seriously, that not a single thought was given to questions of class, society, and ethnicity, and that all our values were nihilistically denied. I am also struggling to understand whether or not my friends have lost all self-control and whether or not they are involved in things that I have yet no knowledge of. That they have acted against each other so mercilessly also makes me think that external factors may have played a role. I want to add immediately that I am not judging these friends in any subjective or emotional manner. I find the situation into which they have put themselves even more poignant than the one I find myself in. I wonder how they got into this situation, even though there was no pressing need for it.
Nevertheless, I will never insult these friends. Though I am well aware that both sides are instrumentalizing me, I will not resort to expressing myself in this way. I just want to draw attention the following facts:
It doesn’t matter to me whether people regard me as their comrade, their friend, or their enemy—but they should be open and honest about it. After all, we have personally met each other more than once, and they didn’t seem to lack respect for me then. At this point, I’m asking myself: Why did they want to exclude me in this way, when in fact I made an enormous effort to preserve the honor of every single one of them? I’m not, of course, saying that I alone created all of our values.
These are values that, with great effort, I have tried to assemble and deepen after the people, the destitute masses, had shed tears, suffered hunger, felt fear, and experienced treason. They are their values and the values of their country—the values of my people and its country, from whom I have never been so audacious as to ask for a personal weapon, a house, or a life partner. They are the values for which I have sacrificed myself beyond measure to prove myself worthy of them, values for which I have toiled and struggled, and that I hoped to see grow, prosper, and succeed.
In this situation, I found the behavior of some people very astonishing and extremely ungrateful. They were essentially saying: “I have seven thousand guerrilla fighters behind me; whoever dares to even frown at me will get their eyes gouged out.” It is common knowledge that the friends who said such things were the same ones who treated these many guerrillas in the worst way, in that they either rebuffed them or deployed them in battles using the wrong tactics. The fact is that some other friends were unbothered when before their very eyes thousands of young people, each of them as valuable as gold, died as martyrs. That these friends were capable of such an egotistical behavior is equally horrible and shows the same level of ingratitude. What can we even say when, in spite of these facts, they continue to discuss whether or not they should accept tasks? Perhaps by this point you understand what it was like for me before prison, and that I had no sense of taste and could not even taste bread. During the five years in the sea climate of İmralı, where I have been trying, against the odds in spite of my breathing problems, to sustain my biological existence with nothing but a miniscule air gap, I have never even for a moment prioritized myself. I haven’t indulged in self-pity. Out of respect for the people, I did not accept being stabbed in the back. Even though all the powers of the world have left me without a single spark of hope, I have produced good thoughts and perspectives for the comrades, the people, and humanity. I accomplished the impossible. You on the outside should at least have worked hard enough to prove worthy of these efforts. I must say that it is a great misfortune that you haven’t even proven yourself as serious as Turkey, a state you really don’t like, and that you have not drawn the necessary conclusions for yourselves from my situation or even learned anything from the political changes.
Your calculations don’t add up. Perhaps you are not even aware of that. You speculate on power and you engage in a power struggle, but in terms of your approach to power your personalities are less stable than mush. As soon as someone tries to lean on you, you immediately collapse. I have repeatedly tried to call you to reason, because no one else would help you and act as your friend. Just as for many people before you, what is waiting for you is either repugnant treason, an unworthy death, or becoming a constant problem. None of these alternatives is the right path to take.
It has often been claimed that I was robbing you of your youth, and, yes, I have indeed done so. That was my historical task; I had to steal your youth and devote it to the cause of the freedom of the people and their land. This angered you terribly. The congress decisions about marriage and other things are your attempt to take revenge. Your slick maneuvers have played no small role in creating a situation in which Osman became the donkey sent to clear the minefield. As I have already said, you don’t understand anything about either love or partnership. Anything you have done in this regard merely amounts to the traditional “mutual sullying.” This is what I intended to prevent you from doing. I was always in favor of producing a love in the service of our cause and based on freedom. I assure you that I led beautiful and brave young women and men into these sacred mountains once regarded as the “throne of the gods and goddesses” to enable them to get to know true love at least for one day. Do you have the hearts and minds necessary to understand this? You have buried a large number of them in unknown graves long before they were able to achieve any success. You should treasure the memory of these young people on a daily basis, but instead you impose on me such things. Instead of just talking about your memories each and every day, had you been in my shoes, how would you have reacted in the face of all of this?
Don’t present me your arguments. I know what you are to each other. I fail to see any difference between you. The initiatives of both sides are directed against me. I will not bother to delve into it in detail here, but the way you carry on fighting is wrong. I blame myself, because I was unable to dissuade you from your way of struggling. But you shouldn’t see me as powerless; there is still much I can do and will continue to do, even from my grave. For the sake of your own well-being, I’m begging you to stop employing these methods in our movement. Doing so would prove your courage for once. I don’t want to have to organize a separate force against you. I don’t even want to reveal your names. I will ask the people and the members of the organization to forgive you. You should by all means accept this amnesty and to compensate this by living a long time. This is the first alternative.
The second alternative: you may have a certain part of the guerrilla within the organization behind you, certainly fewer than seven thousand, and you are free to preserve them and to fight with whatever these numbers are. You could even form a separate tendency with its own name. But don’t use this force against me, because I would then have to defend myself. If that were to happen, you never know who might lose. In addition, you should also openly explain to both friends and foes just how you want to wage war and conclude peace and what exactly your goals and demands are. Who are you, what are you against, and how do you intend to fight? This is what everyone must know if they are to join you. Only then would it be obvious how much actual value you have. If you do this in accord with the general principles, I too will support you. The criteria in my most recent court submissions are clear. If you succeed in organizing a resistance, a defensive struggle, I will regard that as a positive development. I will muster the kind of understanding for you that you didn’t summon up for me. This would, as such, be an example of exemplary support.
You know my stance with regard to the gang culture of the recent past. Briefly stated, such power games are useful only if they serve the legitimate demands of the people. That is why it is wrong for you to engage in reciprocal accusations. The struggle in which you have been engaged for years reminds one of vultures fighting each other. You have to stop this. You are the spit-ting image of each other. You have no choice but to team up and satisfy the demands of the people. It is quite obvious that rendering the movement dysfunctional on television and in the newspapers can only be regarded as an effort by rivals to destroy the movement. You should, however, know that our people are not so destitute. The people, and I guess the values that you are basing your calculations upon, are stronger and more precious than all of us. If we prove ourselves worthy of the people, they will embrace us, but, otherwise, they will jettison us without batting an eye. Don’t forget for even a moment that it is on account of the strength and values of this people, which I still represent, that you are able to live and breathe.
Everything invites you to engage in honest, humble, and serious self-critique. If you are honest, you will certainly not hesitate to do the right thing. Everything else will prove that your road is the road of the Gang of Four, the road of Mehmet Şener and Selim Çürükkaya, and that some of you are competent agents provocateurs. No one will prevent our people, the guerrilla, and our ideological leadership from protecting themselves and from continuing to walk the road for the cause of a free life.
For those who believe in self-critique, harmony, real mutual cooperation, and the necessity of reconstruction, and who consciously and resolutely want to shoulder responsibility for this, my court submission will be very helpful. The need for self-critique is not to save the day but to act in response to history and to the people, and to do so successfully. This is of great importance for those who want to achieve intellectual strength. In any event, it is clear that those who cannot transform their mentality are unable to pursue a revolutionary cause. If you have kept a vital problem on the agenda for years and have been unable to solve it, you have to look for the root cause of this within yourselves. Problems cannot be solved by forming factions, blaming others or by accusing another faction; this will only make the problems worse.
My latest court submission contains elements that are part of a paradigmatic shift. Every sentence in it is worth internalizing. At the very least, it can contribute a lot to promoting competence by deepening understanding. It cannot be read like any random book. It presents a powerful perspective for the utopia of the people, for democratic civilization, and for socialism in the twenty-first century. I am convinced of both its theoretical and practical value. More precisely, it provides an opening to the process in this direction. There is an urgent need to internalize this work. We can achieve great practical successes only on the basis of powerful utopias and democratic and socialist thought and conviction. Without these, there will be no safeguard against decay, marginalization, and the risk of becoming the plaything of other forces.
Those of you who should feel historical responsibility should give your self-critique with a deep awareness that you have broken with the 150-year-old state-oriented socialist and national liberation denominations of capitalism and are trying to return to the historical option of the peoples, with enthusiasm and mental power. With this court submission, my defenses, I have shown the point I have reached on this road. Even more than I, you, my friends, are in need of this transformation in this direction and the focus it requires. You have seen for yourselves that otherwise you will not be able to advance. The need to subject yourselves to self-critique has nothing to do with whether your own group is in the right or not but, rather, with the fundamental problems that I have raised in this book. This is how you should address the issue. If you do so, you will feel as if you are reborn, and I’m sure you will overflow with enthusiasm. No dam will be powerful enough to stem this tide. You know very well how urgently you need this. Why, then, do you insist on a situation that suffocates you and those around you, instead of living and winning in a great way?
Recently I got a letter from a German intellectual. He describes his enthusiasm for my writings in an impressive manner. I hope and am certain that all our friends will profit from the comradely support they receive with profound sincerity and deep understanding and will no longer be a source of problems but will, instead, prove themselves able to address all tasks and problems masterfully and with ease and, thus, shoulder every task and become forces for success.
There are indeed some points about my person that require elaboration. It is important to note that even though my messages are able to overcome the roadblocks erected by the state, they are, on orders from above our organization, not allowed to reach the prisons.
It is clear that there have been fierce reactions to my writings. I have not received any information from outside and, at the same time, some of the perspectives that I wanted to point out were ignored for years. I know that this was already the practice long before Osman’s behavior. The task is not to reveal some supposed plot against Osman but to reveal the plot directed against me, which had already begun when I was first brought to İmralı, and which Ahmet Zeki Okçuoğlu talked about.3 This cannot simply be explained with provocative statements such as “Osman has taken a wife and run away.”
People can reject my behavior in prison and condemn it as not sufficiently revolutionary or patriotic. Every current can declare this openly. They are the ones in control of the organization. That they do not do this openly could only be because they are afraid of the loyalty that the people have to me. It is obvious that they are using me for their own purposes but want to neutralize me by isolating me completely.
There have also been other indications, but I don’t think it makes much sense to elaborate on them here. What I want to know is the following:
a) Was an organizational model used? Why were my messages not passed on to the prisons and not reported in the media?
b) If it is not true that people tried to strike me by striking Osman, what are the counter-responses? There was an attempt to isolate almost everyone from Urfa. This was done even though it is well known that I am not at all in favor of family cliques and local coteries.
c) What is the explanation for the fact that probably all those who are loyal and respect me were about to be dismissed from influential positions?
d) What did you want to do after you had taken complete control of the organization? There were those who were worried that there would be a serious attempt at liquidation. It is obvious that not all of the members of the group that went away together with Osman were simply trying to get married. A significant number of these people are individuals with dignity. They are probably, even if insufficiently, also loyal to me. Could it be that this was the actual point in all this? These friends are afraid. How did these friends, who were not afraid of war, come to be like this?
e) Even though these friends have serious flaws and are guilty of serious crimes, shouldn’t there have been an effort to win them back? Why were they suddenly pushed into a position where they felt like they were being chased away? All the more so since it is known that for many years we have done our very best to win over every single individual? What kind of humanism, what kind of patriotism, what kind of revolutionary attitude can explain the fact that the efforts of so many years were discarded in the blink of an eye? Had these friends put up resistance, a thousand or more comrades might have died. Who could possibly have taken the responsibility for that?
f) Recently old-style armed groups’ movements have been seen. I don’t understand that. How can it be explained that even though I proposed democratic action, this is ignored?
g) The fact that DEHAP withdrew from the municipal elections without me even being told about it and the fact that all candidates were imposed from up above negates democracy.4 This alone shows that the organization has been stripped of its revolutionary democratic content. How is it possible to explain the antidemocratic stance that was implemented everywhere? Is it not clear that this is deadly for becoming organized?
h) Such an attempt to take control, not just against Osman but of the entire heritage of the PKK might well be carried out with good intentions, but why did people want to neutralize me? Perhaps they wanted to liquidate me altogether, or maybe there were other reasons that I am ignorant of. Wouldn’t it have been better to explain these reasons, publish your manifesto, and take this approach to seizing control of the organization? Instead, you attempted to use a secret, mafia-like model. How could you reconcile this with your own understandings?
i) Suppose you had succeeded in taking control of the organization. Would it not then have been necessary to decide on a strategy and tactics and mobilize the almost ten thousand troops? Since this was not the move you made, how and where did you hope to link our forces to? If our forces are not functional they will either decay, disintegrate, or collapse. Have you ever thought of your responsibility in this? Would it not result in chaos to simply apply the old methods to launch an offensive? Would that not be ten times more dangerous than the gang tendency that developed after August 15, 1984?
One could pose even more questions of this sort. The friends may have acted with entirely good intentions, but all the same, each of these questions is necessary. They show the pronounced or potential presence of events independent of your own willpower. Hopefully, you now recognize with horror the kind of catastrophic situation that was brought about by the power struggle within the organization. You probably now understand that this is not as simple as it may seem.
It may be that a power struggle within an organization can be necessary under certain conditions. The fact that I was exposed to a process of elimination may have necessitated this sort of safeguard. At the beginning, both groups may have been acting with good intentions. Therefore, I do not regard you as conspirators with bad intentions. But, hopefully, you understand that your style of political and military struggle is worthless, both within the organization and when it comes to influencing things on the outside. You are setting yourselves, our people, and me up for defeat in a meaningless and negative manner. Well-intentioned as you may be, the fact that you cannot transform your personality toward a military, political, and organizational identity is, above all, devastating to you. Nonetheless, you have many positive qualities, although you seem committed to taking them to the grave with you. Was there anything you wanted but could not get from me? What have you ever asked for in the name of friendship and comradeship that I did not give you or prepare for you? As far as that goes, there are numerous leadership positions, more than you could ever share. Why, then, this obstinacy, this self-destructive behavior?
Once you prepare for your self-critique, you will probably consider these issues. Don’t be afraid to renew yourselves. You should, instead, be afraid of maintaining your current personalities. I have been patient with these traits for the last twenty years. I don’t want any of you to be hurt in any way. You should carry out a genuine self-critique without fear of what the future will hold. Accept every task you can fulfill and don’t belittle it as beneath you. You should neither sulk nor be hostile. Shoulder your tasks with determination, with wise serenity, and with a promise to the sacred memory of Kemal Pir, Mazlum Doğan, and thousands of others, as this is the only thing that befits you.
You have obviously started a struggle over leadership. This is wrong, both in terms of timing and approach. First of all, you haven’t understood my sociological function. That is why you are making so many mistakes. Recently, some circles talked about me derogatorily as a representative of “Kurdish Kemalism.” Supposedly, overcoming “Kemalism” and “Öcalanism” is necessary for the left to develop. I have analyzed Kemalism a number of times. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk clearly wanted to replicate the French Revolution. Therefore, Kemalism is generally viewed in the category of nineteenth- and twentieth-century revolutions. I have often said that Kemal’s revolution remained incomplete due to local conditions. I have often discussed “updating” it. Only recently, the British author Andrew Mango has also talked about the necessity to update Kemalism. It is important to note that the relationship of the Turks with the Kurds also played a key role, not just after Kemalism, but during the whole process of the Turks becoming a nation, beginning when they first settled in the Middle East. Although this relationship was correctly and strategically established in 1071, in 1515, and in the 1920s, today this strategic bond is in danger of breaking. Therefore, an update must be primarily about a realistic and sincere reform of Turkish-Kurdish relations. Otherwise, it will be impossible to prevent the development of a model characterized by a strategic conflict between Kurds and Turks.
My role may partially evoke a Kurdish Kemalism, but there are also many differences. The decisive difference is that my stance is not statist but democratic. What is essential to me and is my highest priority is that I achieve a situation in which the Kurds gain their own dynamism and authority based not on the model of the national state but on the model of a democratic people. Kemalism inaugurated the era of nationality in the Middle East; it is our task to initiate and represent the era of democracy. Between the two, there is no insurmountable mountaintop, but they also should not be simplistically equated. What I actually mean by “updating” is to explore the possibilities of a synthesis or a reconciliation of Kemalist Turkish nationalism and Kurdish democratism. This is of the utmost importance. This is a key issue in resolving both the Kurdish question and the Turkish question. It is also a cornerstone for a way out of the chaos of the Middle East. The historic, geopolitical, and social conditions all point to the possibility of such a synthesis playing a very significant historical role. Other ideologies, such as the chauvinist Turkish nationalism of the left or the right, Kurdish primitive nationalism, and Islamism are either far removed from offering solutions or are unable to avoid relying on hegemony and acting independently. The popular base for these ideologies is very weak, and they are essentially externally driven.
Thus, if you want to surpass me, first you need to clarify your ideological orientation. The attempt to achieve something by distorting and using me is futile. Even if I were to die, this would prove difficult. Dozens of people have tried, and they fared very badly. You probably have the ability to learn from these examples. I don’t know to what extent you want to confront me, openly or secretly. Be that as it may, I must be frank with you, if you have a meaningful political line and do not act with hostile intentions, in keeping with my democratic identity, I see that as your right. The minimum criterion is to agree on the definition of patriotism and freedom. But if, once again, your approach is dishonest and conspiratorial, I will have the right to defend myself. In other words, taking advantage of the heavy blow dealt to me in an attempt to take control of the organization without a coherent ideological justification and by exaggerating very minor issues falls into the category “coups and plots.” I am not in a position to determine whether or not events unfolded in this manner. I am merely providing an assessment. Such methods are employed all too often in Turkish political culture, and I definitely warn you against them. These methods are entirely detrimental.
The situation of “isolation within isolation,” which I recently mentioned, along with what I have been hearing, although it is not completely reliable information, suggests that an image of me is being created, as if I have established a “dynasty,” which some others want to destroy. I cannot know who, i.e., which institution, is disseminating all this or to what extent, but it is an objective reality that such an atmosphere was created. It may be that the emergence of the problem with Osman and the way it was used played a role, but this was not decisive. It is more likely that it is driven by a tendency with connections both outside of and within the organization, whose roots are to be found in the past. Kurdish primitive nationalists and the Turkish left are making maximal use of this discourse, as are many renegades who have left the organization. The worst aspect of the most recent faction formation is that people haven’t learned from all the past experiences and are objectively speculating on taking control of leadership. This is unfortunate. At the same time, both sides verbally justify their behavior as expressing greater “loyalty” to me. It is not at all unlikely that these are dishonest approaches.5 This is something that must be clarified.
I would be glad about and be fully supportive of a situation in which I am no longer necessary and have been surpassed. I am also ready to support the faction that succeeds in a positive way. A coup is not necessary, because the circumstances of my incarceration make it superfluous. If people fan hostile flames against me within the organization, this will only serve the purpose of liquidation; our strong and vital support for any individual or group that wants to be successful is explicit. It is also clear that no attempt to wear me out can be anything but an attempt at liquidation.
Although I am known to be the fiercest opponent of family coteries and dynasticism, the emphasis on Osman is not quite correct. The attempt to build an organization within the organization under this cloak is doomed to failure. It would seem that this approach has been tried. Therefore, the factions should be very sensitive about this and demonstrate practical self-critical behavior with an awareness of its objective meaning. The core of the cadre policy is the correct coming together with an understanding of the actuality of leadership. In any case, the necessary steps must be successfully carried out immediately.
It might make sense to criticize me in relation to the topics of war and peace. My call for the immediate end of the armed actions under the influence of the plot was not entirely appropriate.6 The decisive factor in issuing my call was the fact that the plot was directed against all of our structures, and that the traitors were already lying in wait. It is well known that this call, which was not made for my own personal benefit, was used against me. Even though, from that point on, our forces were inactive for a long time, in part as a result of my call, for the most part, the decisive factor was the concrete situation of our forces and commanders. In all of this, there was a fundamental error, namely, the impression some people created that everything happened as a result of my orders. Many completely incorrect actions and much fallacious praxis were carried out in my name. Of course, I never wanted to be misused in this way. This is an issue that I will pay serious attention to from now on. I was not very sensitive in that regard. I continuously emphasized that our forces should seek the conditions for war and peace based on their own reality—not for me, but for the people. Had this been the basis for the formation of factions, it might have made sense.
With my most recent court submission, my views on war and peace have been clearly laid on the table. I am not in a position to give orders for war or peace. Even if I wanted to, the necessary conditions are quite obviously absent. I considered it a manifestation of respect that my request was complied with for a long time. It turned out, however, that the representatives of the state didn’t attach very much importance to this. Their attitude amounts to saying: “If they have the power let them fight.” Even under the most modest circumstances, there is neither a bilateral ceasefire nor the expression of any will for peace on the part of the state. The state seems determined to liquidate us. It is also trying to involve the United States. You thus have two alternatives: complete capitulation or resistance. Since you have not capitulated, you will have to resist. Therefore, you must immediately end your factionalism. Otherwise, those who want to persist cannot avoid playing a provocative role. It is entirely your responsibility to develop a multifaceted war strategy and tactics. You are in a position to assess and analyze not only the Turkish armed forces but all armed and political forces that may attack you. You should keep each other focused on the fact that the war must be intense and must encompass the urban, rural, and mountain dimensions. You should warn the people of the coming war beforehand, and you should offer peace and a ceasefire one last time. You should determine and address the problems of the various regions of the war and the necessary logistics, and you should consolidate your forces both quantitatively and qualitatively. In short, all these issues depend entirely on you and your own efforts.
Do not expect me to remain silent about the way you have used me until now. I want to emphasize that my situation doesn’t allow me to evaluate your course of action. You must try to attain results solely on the basis of your own strategic and tactical strength. Anything else would amount to expecting a miracle from the saints, and that would be a little anachronistic. It is important that you are the force for both war and peace. As long as the state or the states don’t see your actual fighting capacity, they won’t undertake the steps necessary for peace. It seems that there is a formula for this: “The more war there is, the more peace there will be.” This is the reality, however grim. I once said that not a single additional soldier or guerrilla should die. That was a very humane attitude, but the state doesn’t take it seriously. The state seems to see military success as essential. Thus, a fierce guerrilla war on your part may contribute to peace.
In this context, one can think about tactical considerations such as defensive warfare and taking prisoners instead of killing as many people as possible, about inflicting material damage rather than taking lives, and of adopting a line of action that compels peace. In addition, it is also more humane to proclaim the conditions for a bilateral ceasefire and the rules to be adhered to in the war beforehand. I hope that the door to dialogue will open at the last moment.
Of course, we all know that war and peace are the most difficult topics. Nobody can deny that I have made great efforts in both areas. However, now I am obviously in no position to contribute to either war or peace. Among your tasks today is to develop a correct evaluation of your own reality in times of war, as well as an accurate assessment of the Turkish army. The difficulty for me comes from the fact that both sides put the whole burden of war and peace on me. This is cruel. Now you have no choice but to try to settle accounts with one another, between yourselves and the state forces, using all of your skills. You cannot rid yourself of this burden simply by liquidating yourself. The duration, extent, and style of war depends solely on your skills. This burden cannot be reduced either by emotional loyalty to or hostile reactions against me. Let me emphasize this once again: this war will be waged on the basis of your will and your intellectual clarity. Approach it properly and competently. Don’t suicidally throw yourselves or others into the deep end. You must comprehend the difficulties that I would be facing if it fell to me alone to answer all your questions about war and peace.
I think you still don’t understand the extent to which you sustain yourselves by leaning on me. Be realistic and capable. By forming such poor factions, you will only dig your own graves. You will only have a chance to lead if your achievements are recognized by the people, as well as by your friends and your foes. Anything else is just mischief. Do not address leadership issues until you have achieved success in historic offensives. Let me again emphasize that the two factions need each other in the way the fingernail needs the finger. If people fail to understand that, it would be a huge personal catastrophe if members of these factions rose deliberately or spontaneously to leadership positions. It appears that you have no choice but to embrace the tasks you are able to successfully complete.
In today’s Middle East, the theoretical and practical development of the democracy movement is a historical necessity. Such a foray against the tradition of the despotic state is the most appropriate political option for the most fundamental demands of all groups of people. The transition of the peoples of the Middle East to the era of democratic civilization would signify a qualitative leap to a new stage of global geopolitics and history. Overcoming the chaos in the Middle East with democracy would be the decisive factor for the turn from the era of the warrior ruling power to the era of peace and democratization. Therefore, the democratization in Kurdistan will play a key role. The road to democracy in the Middle East depends on the success of the people of Kurdistan and their democratic option against the despotic state. That is why it is so important that the people in every part of Kurdistan set up democratic parties. Success in this regard would lead to a chain reaction that accelerates the democratization of the peoples of the Middle East.
Even more important in this connection is the question of how a democratic party can be founded. Undoubtedly, any top-down approach goes against both the form and the essence of democracy. Persons and groups can earn the attribute “democratic” only if they continuously educate and organize the popular base and lead it into action. This has to involve a passion for democracy bordering on love. The democratic system has a different paradigm of life and is characterized by a wholeness of philosophy and practice. For democracies, elections and positions of authority have only a limited significance. Basically, democracy denotes the conscious and organized state of the population in its struggle for freedom and dignity. Democracy expresses people’s attainment of self-governance, authority, and sovereignty. A truly democratic party can prove its merits by carrying out the most comprehensive grassroots organizing and action in accordance with this framework. A state of affairs in which the people are driven like a herd of sheep is the result of the despotic state culture and must be overcome by a constant struggle on the part of the democratic party.
No cadre and no leader can be worthy of the attribute “democrat” without proving themselves in the democratic organization of the people and its activity. Seen from this point of view, it is obvious that the factionalizing tendencies that have emerged are not aware of the line on democratization but, rather, insist on forming coteries and cliques, the approach familiar to them. This understanding and behavior is rooted in the fact that the phenomenon of the democratic social leadership analyzed a long time ago was not grasped, and that people have, therefore, not adapted themselves to it. One underlying aspect is reactionary social mentality in its various forms. These people have not been able to overcome this through education and practice, because their will for freedom is not strong enough. This shows up not only in their party work in the narrow sense but also in the line developed by the congress and the legal parties regarding organization and action. These basic institutions show the extent to which one is integrated with the people and with society. In general, all hierarchical and statist power holders share a top-down approach to the appointment of people, staying out of sight while covertly holding the reigns of control, all under the cloak of secrecy. Only circles, powers, and representatives of classes that are not democratic but want to exercise hierarchy, authority, and power over society can behave in this way. Contemporary state-focused organizational mechanisms, including real socialism, also subscribe to this line in their approach.
I am convinced that we as a movement and I personally have made great efforts to overcome this traditional understanding of rule based on hierarchy, authority, and small cliques, however, there is not a sufficient understanding of how we elaborated this democratic stance into a process that attained a more conscious, theoretical, and structural quality, having in the beginning only subscribed to it spontaneously, in response to the plotting of the powerful states. The audacious acts shown by the formation of these recent factions confirms this observation. A system, including the selection of candidates, that should have been organized by the people’s democratic decision-making was instead carried out by appointments in a way that came close to exceeding a sultan’s authority. Such top-down approaches are very harmful to the highly valuable democratic stance of our popular base. Those who lack the passion for organizing the people and for democracy are strikingly exposed as a result.
Given such attitudes, working democratically is difficult and cannot lead to success. The situation of the left in Turkey proves this well. Imposing top-down approaches on the Kurdish people, who are developing into a truly democratic people, must definitely be overcome. This is the real reason why, from HEP to DEHAP, a democratic organization has not developed, democratic cadres have not been trained, that the potential far-reaching progress in democratization has failed to materialize. This is a situation experienced by the entire left. The main factor underlying this is the hierarchical statist culture and its utopia.
Based on my most recent court submission, our movement has turned toward a deeply democratic line, both theoretically and practically. This democratic line has been internalized, and, thus, with this knowledge and a self-critical stance, everyone should join anew and make a fresh start. Prolonging the present state of affairs with superficial self-critique and an authoritarian and sectarian practice, while wasting time by pretending to be marching together, will only result in a loss. Our line on democratization is the antithesis to the five-thousand-year-old line of hierarchical and statist society and represents the democratic ascendancy of a people formed by a comprehensive theory and a noble practice. Regardless of how many groups people set up within the organization or how many cliques and gangs they form, they must know that they will lose against the people’s commitment to democratic leadership. Ultimately, it will not be possible to keep the people under the old relationships of slavery and demagogic authorities or deceived by false revolutionary socialist dogmas as long as their sons and daughters love democracy.
In the end, if there is insistent factionalization, and the factions are not integrated into structures with clear form and content, then these factions, which in a way should have been considered natural since the beginning of the PKK movement, can only result in liquidationism. Not every faction is necessarily bad. But the criteria for positive factions are unification on a higher level, the capacity to be constructive, to solve problems, and to transcend reactionary views and organizational forms.
I believe that I have clarified the ideological, political, organizational, and moral line that I hoped to develop. By ideology, I mean a revolutionary mentality, a new paradigm for viewing the world and the universe. The great belief and thought struggles resulted in an enhanced understanding of the core of the functioning laws of the universe. In my most recent court submission, I have tried to convey some of this understanding. Although the European Renaissance lies at its core, I also attempted to surpass it. I think I have delivered a useful analysis of the hierarchical and statist paradigm that emerged and developed in the Middle East. I have tried to show how individualism, which deteriorated into extreme forms after the European Renaissance, can actually be unified with the almost complete negation of individualism in Eastern societies once a correct social definition is provided. In doing so, I paid due attention to establishing a healthy equilibrium between the individual and society. Society should not be shortchanged in the name of the individual nor should the individual be abandoned in the name of society.
There are two ways to engage with the theoretical and ideological level that has been achieved; either one rallies around it with full trust, sincerity, and modesty or intentionally participates in the theoretical essence and ideological substance on a deeply conscious level. Thousands of comrades who represent the greatest values of the PKK—Haki Karer, Kemal Pir, Mazlum Doğan, Hayri Durmuş, and Mahsum Korkmaz among them—have exhibited a well-balanced harmony of these two approaches. This genuine participation made them an example of the most heroic behavior until the end. On the other hand, those who neither managed to rally sincerely and modestly nor to make a sufficient theoretical and ideological effort always failed badly. Sometimes they turned into coteries, sometimes they became liquidators, and sometimes they succumbed to the tendency to form gangs. It is difficult for me to arrive at a common mentality with those who are unable to comprehend my basic mentality, who do not respect it, and who are unable to participate modestly and display a high theoretical participation. Here we are talking about embracing a high level of mentality. Esteeming a backward mentality leads to aberrations.
The second basic point is that my political line has made great progress in an evolution from our natural democratic stance to a conscious and active democratization, and a unification with the people has been attained. It should be noted that the institutionalization of the PKK’s leadership that I represent has liberated itself from the national liberation and real socialist stumbling without pandering to the tendencies of bourgeois life. In this way, both in terms of understanding and in practice, a democratic, free, and equal political line has been achieved in Kurdistan under its present conditions that neither leads to capitulation nor, on the basis of nationalism, fixates on achieving a state. The cadres of the PKK are expected to internalize this political line and to take it to the people. A political approach that does not actually integrate this understanding and fails to make practical efforts in this direction will sooner or later come back to haunt its practitioners in the form of liquidationism. Politics is an art that requires a high level of sensitivity and decency. The biggest weaknesses of our structures in this regard are arbitrariness and an insistence on behavior that lacks sensitivity and a dynamic attitude. This will only result in early defeat, becoming the instruments of liquidators, and cronyism. To be successful, we must always remember that politics does not tolerate a vacuum, and that we must, therefore, live a life full of action.
Since the age of seven, I’ve been trying to live actively and in an organized fashion. Indeed, being organized requires action, and action requires being organized. In all of this, being constructive outweighs being destructive. Construction and production are the decisive factors. We have not particularly tried to be destructive, and when we did it was to destroy the structures that were an obstacle to important developments. We are talking about an active personality that condemns destruction, extortion, and confiscation of all sorts. My conception of friendship has always been based on achieving noble goals. I never entered into relations with people to distract myself, to amuse myself, or to attain personal benefit. This aspect of the actuality of leadership that I represent must be carefully understood and followed. Otherwise, it is impossible to talk about political unity and an organizational and activist life under my leadership. It is close to impossible for people whose lives are not thoroughly organized and primarily determined by positive activism to successfully play a role within the leadership institution.
Organization and activism should be understood less as an obligation than as a way of life. One should try to understand the reality of our leadership by keeping in mind that just as it is impossible to live without water and air, it is impossible to live without organization and action. Otherwise, the rise of an organization within the organization, arbitrary destructive actions, and meaningless and aimless activism will always create problems. The only correct form of commitment is to organize competently and to do so concretely, in keeping with the essence of the ideological and political line, and to integrate this organizing with targeted and productive activism. Doing so serves our goals, avoids the squandering of historical efforts, and erects the building stone by stone. There is no other way to succeed besides increasing the understanding of organization and action of our forces, including in terms of armed struggle to this position of ours.
In the reality of the leadership of the PKK, moral behavior doesn’t simply mean conforming to the laws and rules; it means being passionately committed to the new sociality that has emerged on the basis of the ideological, political, and organizational line. The reality of PKK leadership perceives this new sociality as the form of being that life takes. Life is our new sociality. Pursuing life outside of this or walking away from this means emptiness and loss. The correct moral attitude is not meant to lead to a life like that of a disciple or member of a sect, but to a life that is based on a scientific understanding and a mastery of and wisdom about life that perceives political freedom as an effort to create the new—i.e., being a contemporary “believer.” Those who fail to display the necessary moral strength will lose their way in everything they do. A moral life is essentially continuously displaying the ability to use our mentality and free will to take part in society’s way of being. The truly great values of the PKK were produced by those who exercised this kind of moral attitude. Anyone who wants to live according to the PKK’s line must have this moral strength.
In brief, this definition of leadership, which I found that I had to represent, shows that everyone must again take a critical look at their own participation and must once more reintegrate themselves into the whole. A leadership that follows this line carries within itself the whole universe, the whole of human existence, our social reality, and the democratic freedom of our people. It is not just national but is universal. If the leadership has flaws and shortcomings, they are to be found in these fundamental categories. To live in the shadow of this leadership and to think that by building simple selfish worlds or worlds characterized by slavery one could actually live is thoughtless, even perverse. This court defense reflects all of the fundamental features of a leadership that have been realized. Those who are interested must first fully grasp this. If there are points that are flawed or inadequate, it is a requirement of comradeship to point this out and to address these flaws and inadequacies. Acting so as to appear to be participating, while doing something else in practice, is either, to use two old-fashioned words, sanctimony or hypocrisy. The reality of my leadership may not be accepted. In that case, those who do not accept it have the right to leave after having provided an appropriate explanation. But to say yes I understand and then to refuse to participate or to say, “I will participate,” and then to refuse to live up to the requirements only denotes a decadent and irresponsible way of life, which cannot endure or be meaningful.
My style of leadership never consists of forcing people to do things. It is nurtured with great belief and wisdom. Those who lack these traits should stay away. The individuals who have been made sick by our age cannot participate in a leadership of this style, and when they do cannot attain results. One aspect of the latest formation of factions was the fact that right from the start the people involved could not participate in this leadership reality as I redefined it. If people are interested in and respect us, if people actually have the desire and the determination to connect with us and share a common ideological, political, and organizational line, then it is not me who has to join them, but they who must join me. For this, it is immaterial whether I am physically alive or dead. The decisive factors are the meaning, will, and morality that have been attained. This doesn’t concern just me, but the whole universe, humanity, and our social reality, which find their expression in me. This is the basis for a renewed democratic, free, and egalitarian formation of our people.
Our martyrs, before whom I am always shaken, our poor and long-suffering people, our understanding of friendship and humanity—these and all other noble values are calling on the comrades to rally around our line, which paves the way to productivity and allows no place for other walks of life that cannot attain success. My regards and my love to all those who assemble under the flag of these noble values.
1 In 2004, this letter was submitted as an appendix in the original edition of this book but was inserted into the main text in later editions. It was not included in the first German edition published by the Mezopotamien-Verlag.
2 In the summer of 2004, Yalçın and Taş split from the movement for good and joined Osman Öcalan to form the Patriotic Democratic Party (PWD), which rapidly faded into insignificance.
3 Zeki Okçuoğlu was one of Öcalan’s attorneys but soon distanced himself and accused Öcalan of betraying the “Kurdish cause.” Later on, he peddled absurd conspiracy theories, including the claim that Öcalan was actually not incarcerated on İmralı but was only flown there every now and then to meet his lawyers.
4 At the municipal elections of 2003, the candidates of DEHAP ran on the list of the SHP. For the selection process of the candidates, see notes 27 and 28, page 637.
5 After the group around Osman Öcalan, Taş, Yalçın, and Yılmaz split, it shifted its rhetoric into furious attacks on Abdullah Öcalan.
6 Immediately after his abduction on February 15, 1999, Öcalan called on the guerrilla to continue the ceasefire that had been declared on September 1, 1998. By doing so, he opposed almost the whole movement, which followed his call only very reluctantly. On August 2, 1999, five weeks after the death sentence pronounced against him, he called for a retreat from Turkey. This step also gave rise to a lot of dissatisfaction within the guerrilla.