SIX – The Emergence of the Social Problem
6.1 Defining the Problem of Historical-Society
6.1.a The First Major Problematic Stage of the Monopoly of Civilization
6.1.b From Rome to Amsterdam
6.1.c Eurocentric Civilization’s Hegemonic Rule
6.2 Social Problems
6.2.a The Problem of Power and the State
6.2.b Society’s Moral and Political Problem
6.2.c Society’s Mentality Problem
6.2.d Society’s Economic Problem
6.2.e Society’s Industrialism Problem
6.2.f Society’s Ecological Problem
6.2.g Social Sexism, the Family, Women, and the Population Problem
6.2.h Society’s Urbanization Problem
6.2.i Society’s Class and Bureaucracy Problem
6.2.j Society’s Education and Health Problems
6.2.k Society’s Militarism Problem
6.2.l Society’s Peace and Democracy Problem
7.1 Definition of Democratic Civilization
7.2 The Methodological Approach to Democratic Civilization
7.3 A Draft of the History of Democratic Civilization
7.4 Elements of Democratic Civilization
7.4.b The Family
7.4.c Tribes and Aşirets
7.4.d Peoples and Nations
7.4.e Village and City
7.4.f Mentality and Economy
7.4.g Democratic Politics and Self-Defense
EIGHT – Democratic Modernity versus Capitalist Modernity
8.1 Deconstructing Capitalism and Modernity
8.2 The Industrialism Dimension of Modernity and Democratic Modernity
8.3 The Nation-State, Modernity, and Democratic Confederalism
8.4 Jewish Ideology, Capitalism, and Modernity
8.5 The Dimensions of Democratic Modernity
8.5.a The Dimension of Moral and Political Society (Democratic Society)
8.5.b The Dimension of Eco-Industrial Society
8.5.c The Dimension of Democratic Confederalist Society
NINE – The Reconstruction Problems of Democratic Modernity
9.1 Civilization, Modernity, and the Problem of Crisis
9.2 The State of Anti-System Forces
9.2.a The Legacy of Real Socialism
9.2.b Reevaluating Anarchism
9.2.c Feminism: Rebellion of the Oldest Colony
9.2.d Ecology: The Rebellion of the Environment
9.2.e Cultural Movements: Tradition’s Revenge on the Nation-State
9.2.f Ethnicity and Movements of the Democratic Nation
9.2.g Religious Cultural Movements: Revival of Religious Tradition
9.2.h Urban, Local, and Regional Movements for Autonomy
The Question of Freedom
I almost want to say freedom is the goal of the universe. I have often asked myself if the universe is not, in fact, in pursuit of freedom. The formulation of freedom as a profound quest unique to human society always seemed incomplete to me, and I thought there must definitely be an aspect related to the universe. When I think of the particle-energy duality that is the cornerstone of universe, I would without hesitation emphasize that energy is freedom. I believe that the material particle is an imprisoned packet of energy. Light is a state of energy. Can we deny how freely light can flow? If quanta are defined as smallest particles of energy, then we must also agree that they are now seen to explain almost all diversity. Yes, quantum motion is the creative power of all diversity. I cannot resist asking whether this is the God that humanity has been searching for all along. When they say the supra-universe is of quantum character, I again get excited and feel that this could well be. Again, as I said a moment ago, I can’t help wondering if this is what has been called “the external creativity of God.”
I think it is important not to be selfish when it comes to freedom and not to fall into reductionism that restricts freedom to humans. Can it be denied that the flutter of the bird in a cage is a flutter for freedom? What other concept could explain the twitter of a nightingale in a cage, more beautiful than any symphony, but the desire for freedom? If we go a step further, don’t all of the sounds and colors of the universe make us think of freedom? Can the struggle of women, the first and last slaves, who have experienced the most profound slavery of human society, be explained by anything other than their quest for freedom? When a brilliant philosopher like Spinoza interprets freedom as a way out of ignorance and the power of intellect, isn’t he saying the same thing?
I don’t want to suffocate the problem in infinite detail, nor do I want to portray the situation as one of being convicted from birth. Apart from a few lines I scribbled in memory of Prometheus, I have never tried to write a poem, which in a way is also a quest for freedom, even one that has only an imaginary meaning. Nonetheless, is there any denying that I am passionately searching for the meaning of freedom?
As we problematize social freedom, this short introduction is meant to draw attention to the depth of the issue. Defining society as the nature with the most developed and concentrated intelligence also contributes to the analysis of freedom. The areas where intelligence is concentrated are areas sensitive to freedom. It is fair to say that the more developed the intelligence, culture, and reason of a society, the more that society will be inclined to freedom. Yet it is also true to say that the more a society deprives itself or has been deprived of these values, the more it is enslaved. When I think about the tribe of the Hebrews, two characteristics and survival strategies always come to mind. The first is a special relationship to making money. Jews sought financial influence at certain times and at times attained worldwide supremacy. This is the material side. However, I think it is more important that they master the second, i.e. the art of influence in the intellectual field, even better. Jews have achieved an outstanding intellectual and cultural position, first with their prophets and later with their scribes, then in capitalist modernity with their philosophers, scholars, and artists, with roots that go back almost as far back as written history. This is why I propose the hypothesis that there is no other tribe that is as rich and free as the Hebrews. Some examples of the situation of the Jews in recent times will confirm this. Many influential people in the field of financial capital, which dominates the global economy, have Hebrew roots and are, therefore, Jewish. If we mention names like Spinoza in the emergence of contemporary philosophy, Marx in sociology, Freud in psychology, and Einstein in physics, and add hundreds of theorists of the arts, science, and political theory, we would get a sufficient impression of Jewish intellectual strength. Can the dominance of the Jews in the world of intellect be denied?
But there is also the other side of the coin, the Others of the world. The material and immaterial wealth, power, and dominance of one side is realized at the expense of the poverty and weakness of the Others, as well as their transformation into a herd. Therefore, Marx’s famous statement about the proletariat: “If the proletariat wants to liberate itself, it has no choice but to liberate the whole society”1 also applies to the Jews, almost as if Marx had thought of them when formulating it. If the Jews want to ensure their freedoms—i.e., their wealth, intelligence and power of understanding—they have no choice but to enrich and immaterially strengthen world society in a similar way. Otherwise, they could be persecuted by new Hitlers at any time. In this sense, the liberation of the Jews is only possible if it is intertwined with the liberation and freedom of world society. There should be no doubt that this is the most noble task of the Jews, who have already achieved a great deal for humanity. We can also learn from the terrible genocide of the Jews that wealth and immaterial prestige based on the poverty and ignorance of others contribute no real value to freedom. Freedom in a true sense is the transcendence of the distinction between us and others that is characterized by being available to be shared by everyone.
When we evaluate the central civilization system on the basis of freedom, we see that there is an increasingly multifaceted slavery. Slavery is primarily sustained in three ways. First, ideological slavery is constructed. The construction of frightening and dominating mythological gods is very striking and easy to grasp, especially in Sumerian society.2 The upper floor of the ziggurat is considered the location of the gods that dominate the mind. The middle floors are the headquarters of the priests’ political administration. The lowest floor, on the other hand, is the floor of the craftspeople and agricultural workers responsible for all aspects of production. This model has not changed in any significant way until this day but has, in fact, expanded and spread widely. This five-thousand-year-old narrative of the central civilization system provides the historical concept that comes closest to the truth; more precisely, it is empirically observed reality. Analyzing the ziggurat is equivalent to correctly analyzing the central civilization system and, thus, the current capitalist world system. One side of the coin is the continuous and cumulative development of capital and power, while, on the other, we find terrible slavery, hunger, poverty, and herdlike behavior.
This can help us to better understand the profundity of the question of freedom. The central civilization system cannot survive and maintain itself without gradually depriving society of its freedom and ensuring that society behaves in a herdlike fashion. The solution within the system’s logic is to create more apparatuses of capital and power. This, in turn, means society will be even more impoverished and herdlike. The fact that the question of freedom grew to the degree that it became the fundamental question faced by every age is the result of the dichotomous nature of the system. We have used the example of the Jewish tribe, because it is highly instructive. Examining both freedom and slavery from the point of view of Jewish history is no less important now than it was in the past.
We can also better understand the traditional debate about whether money or consciousness provides more freedom in the light of this narrative. As long as money is an instrument for capital accumulation, for usurping surplus product and surplus value, it will always be an instrument of slavery. The fact that it even invites the massacre of its owners shows us that money cannot be a reliable instrument for achieving freedom. Money plays the role of the particle of matter, the opposite of energy. In this respect, consciousness is always closer to freedom. Consciousness about reality always expands the horizons of freedom. This is why consciousness is always described as the flow of energy.
Defining freedom as pluralization, diversification, and differentiation in the universe will make it easier to explain social morality. Pluralization, diversification, and differentiation, even if only implicitly, are suggestive of the inherent ability of an intelligent being to make choices. Scientific research confirms that plants have an intelligence that leads them to diversify. Humans have yet to replicate the formations in a living cell in a laboratory. Perhaps we cannot talk about universal intelligence (Geist) as Hegel did, but, still, it cannot be judged as total nonsense to talk about an intelligence-like being in the universe. We cannot explain differentiation in any other way than as the result of the existence of intelligence. Pluralization and diversification evoke freedom because of the sparks of intelligence that underlie them. As far as we know, the human being can be defined as the most intelligent being in the universe. But how did the human being attain this intelligence? I had already scientifically defined the human (physically, biologically, psychologically, and sociologically) as an epitome of the universal history. Here we further define the human being as the accumulation of universal intelligence. This is also why the human being is presented as a model of the universe in a number of philosophical schools of thought.
The level of intelligence and flexibility in human society is the real foundation of social construction. In this sense, it is also appropriate to define freedom as the force of social construction, or what has been called the moral attitude since the first human communities. Social morality is only possible with freedom. More precisely, freedom is the source of morality. Morality may be defined as the solidified state of freedom, the tradition of freedom, or the code of freedom. If moral choice is based on freedom, when the connection between freedom and intelligence, consciousness, and reason is taken into consideration, it becomes clear why morality can be called the collective consciousness (conscience) of society. Calling theoretical morality ethics is only meaningful in this context. We cannot speak of an ethics that is not based on the morality of society. Undoubtedly, a more competent moral philosophy, i.e., ethics, could be derived from moral experiences, but there can be no artificial ethics. Immanuel Kant put a lot of thought into this subject, and it makes sense that he referred to practical reason as ethics. Kant’s interpretation of morality as the choice and possibility of freedom remains valid today.
The connection between social politics and freedom is also apparent. The political sphere is the key area where farsighted minds collide intensely, focus the most, and strive to attain results. In a sense, it is also possible to define this area as the space where the participating subjects free themselves through the art of politics. Any society that does not promote and develop social politics needs to understand that this will rebound against them as a deprivation of freedom, and they will have to pay the price. It is in this sense that the supremacy of the art of politics emerges. Any society that fails to develop its politics (the clan, tribe, nation, class, and even power and state apparatuses) is doomed to failure. In fact, not being able to develop politics means not knowing your own conscience, vital interests, and identity. There cannot be a greater failure or loss for any society. Only when they stand up for their own interests, identity, and collective conscience—in other words, when they are engaged in political struggle—can it be said that such societies demand freedom. Demanding freedom in the absence of politics is a catastrophic error.
To not distort the relationship between politics and freedom, it is necessary to carefully determine how they differ from the politics (or, rather, the lack of politics) of power and the state and clearly distinguish them from it. Power and state apparatuses can have strategies and tactics, but in the true sense they have no politics. In any case, power and the state only come into existence when the denial of social politics is ensured. Wherever politics comes to an end, power and state structures are at work. Power and the state are the point where political word and, therefore, freedom ends. There is only dealing with the situation, obeying, and giving and taking orders; there are laws and statutes. All power and all states represent frozen reason. Both their strength and their weakness arise from this quality. Hence, the spheres of power and the state are not areas where freedom can be sought or found. Hegel’s statement that the state is the true sphere of freedom forms the basis of all of modernity’s oppressive views and structures.3 Hitler’s fascism is a good example of where this view can lead. In fact, even scientific socialism, with Marx and Engels as its masterminds, conceives of power and the state as fundamental means for socialist construction. This led them to—unknowingly—deliver the extreme blows to freedom and, thus, to equality. The liberals understood the truth behind “the more state, the less freedom” much better, and to this they owe their success.
Because of their nature, rulers and the state as instruments of domination do not signify anything but the surplus product and surplus values appropriated through coercion, i.e., a different variety of total capital. Capital creates the state, and the state creates capital. The same applies to any kind of power apparatus. Just as social politics breeds freedom, power and the state are spheres where freedom is lost. Power and state structures can perhaps make some individuals, groups, and nations richer and freer, but, as we have seen from the example of the Jews, this is only possible at the expense of poverty and slavery in other societies. The result has been all kinds of destruction, from wars to genocide. In the capitalist world system, politics suffered its greatest loss. It is possible to talk about the actual death of politics at the stage of capitalist modernity, which is the peak of the central civilization system. Therefore, today we are experiencing a political decline of incomparable proportions. While the decline of morality as an area of freedom is a phenomenon of our times, so is the decline of the political sphere. This is why if we want freedom we have no other choice but to use all of our intellectual power to find ways to restore and functionalize morality—the collective conscience of society—and politics—common reason—in all their aspects.
The relationship between freedom and democracy is even more complicated. There is a constant debate about which emerges from which. We can safely say that the intensity of their relationship means that they nurture one another. Just as we think of social politics in the context of freedom, we can also associate it with democracy. Social politics is at its most concrete as democratic politics. As such, democratic politics can be defined as the true art of freedom. Without democratic politics, neither politicization nor freedom by political means is possible for society in general or for peoples and communities in particular. Democratic politics is the true school in which freedom is learned and lived. The more political work creates democratic subjects, the more democratic politics will politicize society, ultimately leading to freedom. If we accept politicization as the main form of freedom, we must understand that we free society by politicizing it and, simultaneously, we politicize society as we free it. There are, of course, many social spheres that nurture freedom and politics, most particularly various ideological sources, but basically social politics and freedom produce and nurture each other.
In general, the relationship between equality and freedom is confused. The relationship between the two is at least as complicated and problematic as their respective relationships with democracy. We note that when complete equality is achieved, the cost is paid in freedom. It is often suggested that they cannot coexist, and that it is necessary to make concessions in one area or the other. Some argue that concessions in the area of equality are necessary to achieve freedom.
It is necessary to explain the difference between the two concepts and, thus, the difference in nature of these phenomena, if we are to correctly address the problem. Equality is more of a legal concept. It foresees individuals and communities sharing the same rights regardless of their differences. However, diversity is not only a fundamental feature of the universe but also of society. Diversity is a concept that is closed to uniform rights. Equality can only be meaningful when it is based on differences. The main reason that the socialist understanding of equality failed to gain ground was that it did not take diversity into account, and this contributed greatly to its ultimate downfall. True justice is only possible with an understanding of equality in diversity.
Once we understand that freedom is highly dependent on diversity, then a meaningful connection between equality and freedom can be established in the context of diversity. Reconciling freedom with equality is one of the main objectives of social politics.
We need to touch on the discussion between the advocates of individual freedom and the proponents of collective freedom. We need to explain the relationship between these two categories, defined by some as negative and positive freedom. Capitalist modernity promoted individual (negative) freedom at a great cost to social collectivity. It must be stressed that today individual freedom causes the decline of social politics as much as does the phenomenon of power. The crucial issue in a discussion about freedom is to clarify the role of individualism in the destruction of society, particularly in negating morality and politics. When we say that a society that is atomized by individualism does not have the strength to resist the apparatuses of capital and power, we can perhaps better understand the cancerous threat this poses for the social problem. Identifying liberal individualism as the main cause of the decline of social politics and freedom could possibly provide a meaningful way out. Of course, we are not talking about individuality or the necessity to be an individual. What we are discussing is the role of the ideological idealization of individualism and liberalism that consumes social politics and freedom.
We have already discussed collective freedom. We must emphasize that freedom itself, like individualism, requires that every community (including tribes, peoples, nations, classes, occupational groups, etc.) define its identity, represent its interests, and take steps to guarantee its security. This is the only way for freedom to be meaningful. If individual and collective freedom can be reconciled in this way we will be able to talk about a successful and optimally free social order. Although defined as if they are opposites, the experience of the twentieth century has shown us that there is a strong similarity between the individualist freedom promoted by liberalism and the collectivist freedom promoted by real socialism. Both are liberal options. When we see how the games of statism and privatization are played by these two forces, the issues we are addressing here grow clearer.
Democratic society provides the most favorable ground for harmonizing individual and collective freedoms, something that has become particularly clear in the aftermath of the individualist (savage liberalism) and collectivist (pharaoh socialism) models that brought about such terrible destruction in the twentieth century. Arguably, democratic society is the most appropriate sociopolitical regime both for striking a balance between individual and collective freedoms and for achieving an understanding of equality in diversity.
1 As usual the author quotes from memory; the actual quote is: “But it cannot emancipate itself without abolishing the conditions of its own life. It cannot abolish the conditions of its own life without abolishing all the inhuman conditions of life of society today which are summed up in its own situation.” Karl Marx & and Frederick Engels, The Holy Family or Critique of Critical Critique, 1845, accessed September 8, 2019, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/Marx_The_Holy_Family.pdf.
2 A detailed description can be found in Abdullah Öcalan, Prison Writings I: The Roots of Civilization (London: Pluto Press, 20017); a shorter version can be found in Abdullah Öcalan, Manifesto of the Democratic Civilization, Volume I: The Age of Masked Gods and Disguised Kings (Oakland: PM Press, rev. ed., forthcoming 2021).
3 See Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Philosophy of Right (London, G. Bell, 1896), §57, 65: “the Idea of freedom is genuinely actual only as the state,” and §260, 237: “The state is the actuality of concrete freedom,” accessed November 2, 2019, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/pr/philosophy-of-right.pdf.