Tag Archives: Hamburg Speeches

Selected speeches from the 2nd “Challenging Capitalist Modernity” conference in Hamburg (3-5.04.2015), devoted 100% to the Rojava ideology and practice. See the conference page http://www.networkaq.net/

John Holloway: The Fourth World War and How to Win it

A Tribute to the Kurds and Zapatistas

I

John_HollowayA wonderful honour, a wonderful excitement. I am learning so much about the Kurdish freedom movement. But it is more than the Kurdish movement isn’t it? There is an overflowing, an overflowing from Kurdistan, and we are that overflowing, We who are here not just to learn about Them, but because they are part of us as we are part of them. We who are constantly being attacked and are desperate to find a way out. We are here not just to support them, but because in them we see a hope for ourselves. We who are trying to weave a different world against and beyond this world of destruction and death and do not how to do it, and that is why we walk asking, asking we walk, learning we walk, hugging we walk.

We are being attacked more and more aggressively, so aggressively that sometimes it seems like a black night with no dawn. The Fourth World War is what the Zapatistas call it, but the name doesn’t matter. Capital’s war against humanity is the term we’ve been hearing in the last couple of days. Ayotzinapa is the name that resounds now in the ears of those of us who live in Mexico and far beyond, but there are many, many images of the horror of capitalist aggression: Guantánamo, the drowning of the 300 migrants in the Mediterranean just a few weeks ago, ISIS and the seemingly unending horror of war in the Middle East, the damage inflicted by austerity policies in the whole of Europe and Greece in particular, the constant attacks on critical thought in the universities of the world. And so on, and so on. All symbols of the violent obscenity of a world in which Money is lord and master. Fourth World War, then, not as consciously controlled attack, but as the logically coherent and constantly renewed assault of Money against humanity.

II

The Fourth World War: capitalist crisis, capital desperate to survive, capital fighting by every means possible to ensure the survival of a system that makes no sense, that has no meaning beyond its own reproduction.

The very existence of capital is an aggression. It is an aggression that says to us each and every day, “you must shape your activity in a certain way, the only activity that is valid in this society is activity that contributes to the profits of capital, in other words labour.” That is the labour theory of value, the theory that has been so much maligned in the last two days.

Marx’s labour theory of value is of fundamental importance for three reasons. Firstly, it tells us that capital depends on the conversion of our daily activity into labour (what Marx calls abstract or alienated labour), into that peculiar activity that creates value and ultimately profit for capital. This announces the weakness of capital, that it depends on us. Secondly it tells us that this conversion of our activity into labour is a totalising process that subordinates us to a unifying logic of profit. This already tells us that revolution must be an unraveling of this process of totalisation, a movement of detotalisation (or autonomisation), a creation of a world of many worlds, as the Zapatistas put it. And thirdly, it tells us that this drive ot convert our activity (or doing) has a dynamic: this derives from the fact that the magnitude of value is determined by the quantity of socially necessary labour time required to produce a commodity and the fact that this is constantly falling. Capital’s weakness is not only that it depends on our converting our activity into labour, but that it depends upon being able to make us labour faster and faster: the inherent weakness becomes a tendency to crisis. Marx’s theory of labour is a scream, a scream of pain and fury against the obscenity of such a way of organising our creative doing, but it is also a cry of hope that this system that is destroying us has a fatal weakness, the fact that it depends upon us.

It is important to say this because a lot of what was being said yesterday seemed to suggest that Marx approved of a society based on labour when what he says is precisely the contrary. If you haven’t read Capital, please read it; if you have read it, then please read it again. This request is addressed to all of you: especially to the anarchists among you, even more especially to the Marxists among you, and to you, David Graeber, and to you, David Harvey, and, if there is some way that my words can reach you in your island prison, to you Abdullah Ocalan.

Labour is the production of meaninglessness. David Graeber said it very well yesterday, but Marx also said it 150 years ago. But it is more than that: labour is the destruction of human and non-human forms of life.

III

Capital is aggression and in its crisis there is an intensification of that aggression. In the present crisis capital comes up against the limits of its ability to impose the logic of profit, the logic of the meaningless faster-faster-faster, upon human life. We are the crisis of capital.

It tries to find a solution in two ways. Firstly by pushing harder, becoming more authoritarian, pushing out of the way all who stand as an obstacle to its ambitions: Ayotzinapa, fifty political prisoners in the state of Puebla, where I live. And secondly, by playing a great game of make-believe: if we can’t exploit you the way we need to, let’s pretend that we can, let’s expand credit/ debt: hence the enormous expansion of capital in the money form. But the crisis of 2008 announces clearly the limits of the game of let’s-pretend and forces capital to become even more authoritarian. Fourth World War, war against humanity.

We have to win this war: to lose it is to accept the possible or probable annihilation of human life. By winning the war I mean not [just] stringing the bankers and politicians up from the lampposts (however attractive that may be), but by breaking the dynamic of destruction that is capital. Stop making capital, stop labouring. Let’s do something sensible instead, something meaningful, let us lay down the bases of a different way of living.

The strategy of trying to get rid of capital by reproducing capital, albeit on a less aggressive basis, does not work, however well-intentioned it might be and however real some of its beneficial effects. Look at Bolivia, look at Venezuela, look now at Greece: there is no such thing as a gentle capitalism. Greece is showing us now day by day that the apparently realistic strategy of creating a different sort of society through the state is absolutely unrealistic.

It makes no sense to think that we can stop making capital by going through the state because the state is a form of social relations that derives its existence from capital. We have to go a different way, different ways, where the only paths that exist are those we make by walking on them. And it is our responsibility, a responsibility that cannot be delegated. It cannot be delegated to the politicians, but also it cannot be delegated to the Kurdish Freedom Movement or to the Zapatistas. The struggle is ours, here-now in Hamburg or wherever we live – wherever we live and not just where we were born, or indeed where our parents were born, although of course the where we were born and have lived is part of the place where we live now.

We are in the centre, this We that we started with: a self-contradictory We, a We who walk asking, walk dreaming. Above all a We who walk weaving. Practically, we create the bases of a different society by weaving it in a movement that goes against and beyond the capitalist binding of our activity into totalising, meaningless labour. This is not just a project, it is something that we are already doing, and that has always been at the centre of all anti-capitalist struggles. We push against capital by doing against labour, that is by weaving a world of many worlds that push towards self-determination. All these weavings are contradictory, all have to face the extremely complex problem of the interface with the world ruled by money, by value: that is why they cannot really be understood as autonomies, but at best as autonomisings, as cracks or crackings in the texture of domination.

There is a poetry in this approach: not in the language necessarily, but in the very movement of struggle. We live now a world that does not yet exist, hoping that we can create it by living it. We live a world that exists potentially, we live in the subjunctive rather than the indicative. This is no future revolution, this is not an after-capitalism that we are creating, it is an in-against-and-beyond capitalism here and now. We break the homogeneity of time, we break the boundaries of space. For the Zapatistas, dignity is the central concept, the dignity of those in struggle, the dignity of all who live in-against-and-beyond a world built on the negation of dignity. The poetry that is so evident in the communiqués written by the person who was Subcomandante Marcos (now Galeano) is not the poetry of a person, but the poetry of a movement, and it is not a decorative addition to the movement: it is the core of the movement itself. This is the poetry not just of the Zapatistas but of the tradition of critical thought that runs through Marx, Bloch, Adorno, Benjamin, Marcuse, Vaneigem and far beyond. This is a poetry that has been so present in many of the presentations over the last two days.

IV

This approach is very attractive. There is a beauty in it, and also an ethical core. It brings ethics and revolutionary politics into line: the world we create is the world we think should exist. But is it realistic? In these times of war, in these times of acute capitalist aggression, is the prefiguration of the world we want to create a realistic approach? It is not enough to be morally right or poetically exciting: we actually want to win the Fourth World War by bringing it to an end, by creating a world free of capitalism.

We do not know. We know that the first approach (the apparently realistic one) does not work, but that does not mean that the second approach does work. We know too that the second approach is inevitably contradictory, that there is no purity here. We fight by weaving a different world, in many different ways. These are weavings that are taking place in all the world, weavings that are constantly threatened by capital, frequently crushed by capital, constantly taken up again by us. The weaving in this AudiMax [auditorium] over the last three days is one small, but I hope significant example. There is no model, there are no rules as to how it should be done. But there are outstanding examples, examples that light up the dark, depressing sky, examples that inspire us with their strength and beauty. The Zapatista struggle is one glorious example of this. The Kurdish struggle, with all its creative beauty that we have been hearing about, is another.


More about John Holloway

Formatting and minor editing: Freelab

Nazan Ustundag: Family as a tool of oppression

Nazan_UstundagOne of the key elements of Öcalan’s discussion of capitalist modernity and civilization is his critical analyses of the modern family and its relationship to capitalism and the nation state. My aim in this talk will be first, to summarize Öcalan’s approach and thoughts on the family, second to discuss the practices of the Kurdish Freedom Movement and how these have affected the institution of the family and finally, to open up certain questions in relation to the status of family in the political moral society that should flourish with the construction of democratic modernity. A lot of these questions are surely going to be answered in practice; still, I think we should pose them intellectually as well, in order to contribute to the ongoing international debates on themes like the organization of reproduction, love and care all of which are intimately related to the family.

The patriarchal nature of the modern state is the object of extensive debate in feminist literature. The idea that gender inequality is constitutive of modern citizenship and the national community as well as early and late capitalisms has now become a common ground on which socialist, radical and postcolonial feminists in different contexts engage in dialogue and contestation. While historical studies document that modernity, instead of enabling the liberation of women, has merely transformed the meaning of gender identities and hierarchies, sociological and anthropological research show that such hierarchies are crucial in drawing the boundaries of the social, the economic and the political, both materially and symbolically. Studies on women’s bodies on the other hand document how, the presentation and representation; inclusion and exclusion; care, disciplining and violation of women’s bodies are constitutive of modern power and state sovereignity.

In his writings, Öcalan makes similar observations. According to Öcalan women constitute the oldest colony which has no determined borders. Moreover he argues, while the colonization of women has started long ago when matrilineality was replaced by patrilineality and patriarchy, it has taken its most exploitative form during capitalist modernity. The institution of the family plays a major role in this process: Family is where sexual and labor exploitation takes place and rendered invisible through discourses of love, intimacy, motherhood and femininity. It also through the oppressive structures of family that the state and capitalism are produced and reproduced. When discussing the role the family plays in the colonization of women Öcalan gives reference to three ways in which the family is linked to the stately and the accumulation and monopolization of capital:

  1. Family is a micro state where men, who monopolize means of violence and decision making, rule over women. As such, family is the place where the stately anchors itself in society.

  2. Family is where women’s labor is exploited and where women perform reproductive functions without any return.

  3. The state makes women responsible for child bearing and raising, in other words, for the growth of the population, through the institution of the family.

  4. Finally, the family naturalizes and normalizes oppression and slavery in society, by its treatment of women.

In sum, Öcalan argues that family is an ideology that constitute the culture and materiality of capitalist modernity. Family is also the space where a war is waged against women. Enclosed in the family, women are both made into objects of unlimited pleasure through sexual exploitation and into slave labor through becoming mothers and housewifes. Also, morality is replaced with law and politics by state first, within the family; simultaneously however, all these are made invisible by discourses of love, intimacy and liberalism. Family then singlehandedly constitutes the modern citizen who can function in a capitalist modern state and naturalizes oppression.

While these are general assessments Öcalan makes about the modern family, he has more specific insights pertaining to the Kurdish family based on his own experiences and his ethnographic operations.

As we know a number of postcolonial feminists have criticized white feminism’s objection to the family and argued that in contexts of colonialism and racism, the family might have an empowering role providing its members with support and security. Öcalan on the other hand, believes that for obtaining freedom and free will, Kurdish youth have to separate themselves from their families. According to him Kurdish family not only suffers from all the problems of the modern family but in Kurdistan family is also where colonialism and cooperation with the state is achieved. Families facilitate assimilation and the internalization of colonized personalities.

Joining the Kurdish freedom movement and specifically, the guerrilla movement is then, not only a way to resist the state and capitalism but also the ideology of the family. Here, I should add that according to Öcalan, family is not an institution that needs to be overcome but an institution in need of a grand transformation. Only after this transformation will the family be able to perform its function of reproduction, in a moral and political way. Until women become liberated and equal, Öcalan believes that sexuality and love will continue to be a relationship of domination. Hence the reason why him, the guerrillas and members of the freedom movement do not engage in sexual relationships.

Although it is not seen as a sacrifice but rather an exercise of a political and moral individuality, celibacy is nevertheless not demanded from the whole society. Instead, the Kurdish Movement’s experience show that the pioneering role of the guerrilla and their ideas and practices change families directly and indirectly:

Directly, the movement enacts change in consciousness and in gender relations through multiple political and pedagogical practices. Indirectly, change occurs through sons, daughters, brothers, sisters who join the guerrilla and disconnect themselves from the family. Since they do not reproduce themselves biologically, it is up to their family and friends to reproduce them by disseminating their ideas, deeds and memories and by sending more guerrilla to the mountains which by itself restructures the family.

Now, ethnographic studies in Kurdistan have shown that the guerrillas movement has unsettled the institution of the family in other ways, too. Women in general and female relatives of those who were killed during combat against the state in particular, have become politically active, participate in civil society and take public positions in municipalities and parliaments leaving their husbands and sons at home hence challenge the division of labor at home. The campaign for education in mother tongue on the other hand, highlighted women’s role at home since it is mostly women who exclusively speak in Kurdish because they weren’t sent to school and hence became less assimilated linguistically and culturally. In that sense, women’s position in the family and in society have acquired a new value as agents who prevent the state and ethnic colonialism from fully achieving their goal. Aside from changes in women’s status within the family, a new generation of youth have emerged in Kurdistan who populate the cities where in 1990s their families have been displaced by the Turkish army. These children have their own political communities and are agents of major serhildans, insurgencies against the state. As a result childhood has emerged as a political status in which different age groups invest as a source of political and individual freedom.

Despite all its negative affects, we can say that the war in Kurdistan has resulted in a geography where nationalism, capitalism and the family systematically fail to be reproduced. Indeed, it is no surprise that as elsewhere, since the beginning of 2000s the Turkish state targeted the Kurdish family as its main unit of social policy and simultaneously punished women and children most severly. Social assitance programs, conditional cash transfer schemes, health reforms, social centers, schooling campaings, low cost public housing surrounded the Kurdish family and connected it intimately to the state The then prime minister Erdoğan urged mothers to properly educate their children and his then ally Fetullah Gülen garnished Kurdistan with private schools and scholarships which would prepare students to the central university exams while also shaping their conducts. Meanwhile, as a result of anti-terror laws, children participating in public protests and women members of the Movement were arrested and sentenced to long years of prison.

When the justice and development party started the peace process, it is no surprize the first martyrs of peace were Sakine Cansız and her two friends. Cansız was a founding member of PKK and a leader of the women’s movement for liberation. The next martyr would be Medeni Yıldırım, a teenager protesting the building of an army post in his hometown.

During the peace process the prime minister have numerous times declared that peace would open up Kurdistan to capital investment and accummulation while war was making it uncanny for capital. He also admitted mistakes done in the past by the state and declared his willingness to include Kurdish history to the national narrative by making reference to Kurdish historical figures like Ahmede Xani, Şıvan Perwer and Said Nursi. Finally, repeating the slogan “Mothers shouldn’t cry anymore” again and again he underlined the importance of intimate bonds and tried to reduce the guerrilla movement into a narrative of family tragedy.

The peace of the state is always one where territory made uncanny by war, is redefined and secured, where multiple histories are assimilated into one national history and where the social is reorganized as a homogenous unity. Thereby the moral and political society which found an outlet by capital’s and state’s loss of power find new forms of organization and expression. Indeed, right after the peace process was declared JDP started building roads, dams and other construction projects in order to privatize Kurdistan’s commons, built new army posts it order to nationalize it and tried to reestablish family and thereby what Öcalan would call its little state cells by means of social policy.

However, the Kurdish movement was prepared and Öcalan had developed a new paradigm to fight against all of this single handedly, by mobilizing the movement towards what we call the construction process. That is the building of the institutions of democratic autonomy and modernity in spite of the state.

Öcalan argues that the family is key to the building of the moral and political society that will flourish with democratic autonomy as a result of the construction process.

I hope that until now, the difference between Öcalan’s thinking and feminist critiques of the family became clear.

  1. For Öcalan women’s liberation and the transformation of the family into a free willed, equal togetherness are necessary for a political and moral society and vice versa. Hence society’s, family’s and women’s well being are interrelated. In that sense Öcalan rejects liberal individualism and instead foregrounds and understanding of the individual as deeply socially embedded and connected. Liberation is not “you do what you want to do” but it is an ethical cultivation of a connected self that will participate in the the construction of a new and democratic society.

  2. Also, in Öcalan’s thought critique is a praxis that immediately calls for collective action. His understanding of history which goes against both positivism and geneology is very much influenced by Engels. And I would say by Claseteres. There is a fight between society and the stately and the fight of men against women is equal to the war of state and capital against society. Nevertheless, due to its history society know better.

  3. In Öcalan’s though critique aims at mobilization and this mobilization has to have suitable strategies, tactics which will orient it towards a defined goal. We could say that this encoupling of critique and praxis, ideology and mass mobility; freedom and construction; constitutes the epistemology of his thought which we can at best define as postcolonial due to its embeddedness in a fight fought against colonialism.

Finally, the most frequently asked question by feminists: If family is that bad, if women are opressed in family, why is for example, increasing divorce rates seen as a problem in Rojava and Bakur? Why for example, do women houses in Rojava encourage women to stay in their marriage, fight against polygamy or condemn sex work? One could say not to alienate people or as a transitional solution. One could say that for the Movement a politics against family runs the risk of becoming westernized and disconnected to people. Or one could argue that family is still seen as the only viable reproductive institution. Or, one could argue that family in Kurdistan is still the only place that protects people from liberal individualism until other institutions are built. As these institutions become functional new forms of intimacy based on guerrilla’s own experience of friendship will flourish and hence models for different forms of intimacy multiplied yet further unsettling the family as an institution. These are debates that need to be opened indeed.


More about Nazan Ustundag

Title: Freelab

Havin Guneser: No Miracles At Work.

Dear Friends, Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;

Havin_GuneserLet me at the beginning thank the Kurdish and German people who have opened up their homes and made it easier for this conference to take place by giving us free, warm and comfortable lodgings. There are of course a whole lot of people who have prepared all the things we are enjoying now, from coffee to our lunches, registration, the programs your are holding in your hands, headphones you need to listen to simultaneous translation and more. And yes, the whole team of translators, around 30 of them. Without them too this conference would not have been possible. This is a perfect example of solidarity of different sections of society and communities; wherever possible this conference has been realized on a voluntary basis. And finally I thank you all for making the trip here; so that we can together focus on not only the things we criticize but also to discuss how we want to build things. So thank you all!

I must say that the conference kicked off with a great session indeed. Not only the evaluations and analyses made by the speakers were great but it also prepared me with a great backdrop to continue with what I want to say without any repetitions.

When we first had the idea for such a conference not too many people had in fact heard about the alternative paradigm the Kurdish people were discussing and attempting to implement. But today suddenly in the personage of a town, that nobody had ever heard ― Kobani ― we are witnessing something revolutionary ― just when many had been convinced that revolutions are not possible, even if so, not in the Middle East, not in Kurdistan!

Of course, if we do not look at the past of Kobani or Rojava in general we will give it attributes of a miracle happening. I would like to today look in depth at how this miracle happened. Of course this is not a miracle ― it is the vision of a free life that the Kurdish people, the Kurdish freedom movement, and Abdullah Öcalan have been envisaging for the past 40 years or so. But how to reach this vision of a free life has not been easy to realize. This answers to this question have continuously transformed over the years.

Abdullah Öcalan and his friends began with a Marxist-Leninist perspective back in the 1970s. In 1978 they founded the PKK as a Marxist-Leninist organization with an aim to establish a united socialist Kurdistan. Although the movement’s departure point was colonial situation of Kurdistan it did not limit itself with this ― especially in terms of women’s freedom and class-conflict. Let me point out to several reasons why the Kurdish question had unique features:

1. Kurdistan was divided as a result of international agreements and its denial was ensured internationally

2. Since it was divided between four separate states, two of which ― Iran and Turkey ― have a tradition of hegemony in the region and the greater world, it has been difficult to make headway in any part without four states uniting against it.

3. Feudal structures within the Kurdish society had been turned into a collaboration with the state to a great degree. This served as an instrument to control the society.

4. Therefore, any movement that attempted to struggle for Kurdish rights would either be demonized from the beginning or placed under control so that it would not depart from traditional roles.

The reason for the several transformations that both Abdullah Öcalan as the main strategist of the PKK since before its foundation and the PKK itself went through can be summarized briefly as follows:

1. All the points above mentioned created huge difficulties for PKK to organize itself; especially because the Kurdish people had already reached a point of auto assimilation. Therefore, from here Öcalan reached conclusions on how the system implements its cultural hegemony.

2. Due to Kurdistan being an international colony, discussions on what independence and dependence actually mean were on the table early on. All regional and world powers wanted to control any given Kurdish movement and use them against one another to further their own policies. Thus, policies of the Soviet Union and other real socialist states as well as different powers were analyzed early on.

3. During the 40 years of struggle Öcalan and the PKK were not only able to evaluate the practices of real socialism, feminism, national liberation and other alternative movements’ practices; they also evaluated their own praxis and tried to understand what was wrong. Why was everyone repeating the system?

4. In the late 1990s Öcalan tried a set of reforms within the PKK to overcome the real socialist influences in order to break power-centered and centralist approaches and the increasing bureaucracy within the PKK. From 1993 on he tried to find a political solution to the Kurdish question with Turkey. Europe completely ignored Öcalan’s attempt to resolve the Kurdish question when he came to Europe in 1998. This attempt ended in the tragedy of his abduction from Kenya as a result of a NATO operation.

All this signaled to Öcalan that something was profoundly wrong. He did not see the problem in the sincerity of the revolutionaries, but looked for problems in their analyses, strategies and tactics, including his own. So he came to these conclusions:

  1. Methodological problem: Öcalan realized that ideological weapons of the system play a more prohibitive role than do the physical weapons. Since the present understanding of science is based on written records only, women’s and people’s history are either not well documented or buried under rubble. Thus, the system established its monopoly by controlling what and how we know as well as the fact that the contributions of peoples and women do not exist for as far as historical science goes. The specific methodological problem here is mainly the empirical and quantitative method.

  2. Mythology, religion, philosophy and positive science structures are tightly intertwined with the history of capital and power accumulation. They therefore protect one another’s interest.

  3. The positivist and functionalist theory of society; especially the linear developmental approach of society from primitive, slave-owned, to feudalism from there to capitalism was severely criticized. In connection with this Öcalan broke away from equating the society with a particular class and thus from equating the society with that of rulers.

  4. Analyzing the practices of alternative movements came to the conclusion that a free life can not be established by using the tools that are used to enslave the society, women, nature and everyone else. Thus, power and state structures must be replaced.

  5. Capitalism is not unique in that sense but a continuation of the 5 thousand year old patriarchal society; something that was present throughout the history but only had the chance to become the dominant system in the last four hundred years.

Therefore, Abdullah Öcalan reached the conclusion that the anomaly was capitalism itself. We are made to believe that there can be no life outside of capitalism or any other form of patriarchy. But Öcalan goes into great depth, back to history to uncover the truth about historical society.

Democratic Civilisation

Abdullah Öcalan has also contributed to the critique of the capitalist modernity. For the lives and struggle of those left outside the system such as women, peoples, cultures, and craft workers he coined the term “democratic civilization”. And he has called the social sciences that shall develop a libertarian perspective the “sociology of freedom”. The analysis of democratic civilization he bases on what he calls the “moral and political society” or democratic society the modern version of this historical society.

He saw that the various models that have been developed in relation to social arena are far from explaining what has happened:

  1. The most known and used unit is the state and more specifically the nation-state. Within this model history and society are examined around the problems of construction, destruction and secession states. Its real aim is to play the role of legitimizing ideology of the state. Instead of elucidating it serves to conceal the complicated problems of history and society.

  2. On the other hand the Marxist approach chose class and economy to be its starting point of analysis. Marxism wanted to formulate itself as the alternative model against the state-based approach. Choosing working class and capitalist economy as the fundamental model of examination has contributed to explaining the history and society in terms of their economy and class structure. But this approach has also had several major flaws especially in its definition of work, something which feminists have criticized later.

By basing his model on moral and political society Öcalan draws a relationship between freedom and morals and freedom and politics. In order to develop structures that expand our area of freedom, morals is defined to be the collective conscience of the society and politics defined to be its common wisdom. The moral and political society is thus the natural state of society, uncorrupted by institutionalized hierarchies and power structures as states.

While religious narratives also emphasize the importance of morals, they refer its political aspect to the state and hold the society to be more important than the individual. Bourgeois liberal approaches do not only disguise the moral and political society whenever they get the chance―they open war against it. Liberalism is the worst anti-social ideology and practice; individualism is the state of war against society as much as state and power are.

Öcalan concluded that slavery was above all an ideological construction which was strengthened by the use of force and violence and seizure of economy. Centers of power and hierarchy have been built on top of these. He saw from his own praxis that in the absence of developing a new approach in these areas are doomed to fail.

Therefore, Öcalan bases his democratic civilization:

1. On women’s freedom. Democratic civilization must be feminist in character, he says. Following on from Maria Mies he calls women the first class, nation and colony. Socialism’s major flaw is in the definition of work: That is how to analyze the unpaid labor of women and people as well as the total exploitation of nature. This is the only way capital can be accumulated. Since no one shall willingly give in to such a scheme, structural and direct violence comes into play. And this characterizes all colonial relations. Thus, the relationship between woman and man, too, is essentially colonial. This fact has been disguised by declaring it to be a private sphere―an area of exploitation well protected through the use of emotions and love games. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to expose this and to re-define this relationship. No non-state and non-power solutions can be achieved while each and every individual is regenerating this in their seemingly harmless ways of life.

2. Democratic civilization must be based on ecological industry. This follows on from a similar logic and perhaps is an area that is most difficult to overcome due to object-subject dichotomy and the way we live.

3. Democratic civilization must develop its own understanding of self-defense. The use of force has been monopolized by the state and power structures in order to leave the moral and political society defenseless. Any attempt for the society to defend itself faces claims of terrorism and criminalization. But on the other hand almost all freedom struggles have fallen into the pitfall of interpreting the use of force like the state formations. Thus, self-defense must be tied down to grass roots structures and must not be professionalized―it should not become a sector.

4. Finally, democratic civilization’s economy is a communal economy. Economy has been seized and all individuals have been made dependent on the state structures in order to even meet basic needs of their lives. Housing, food, schooling, and just about anything you can think of can no longer be done without money and we have been all stripped of any knowledge of how this can be done. Therefore, re-connecting and grounding every individual in satisfying their own needs within the community and in a communal manner shall empower the individual and the society and restrict the repetitions of capitalist mechanisms.

Democratic Modernity

Thus, what is democratic modernity? Abdullah Öcalan says and I am quoting: “I am neither discovering nor inventing democratic modernity. Just as modernism is uniquely named to be the hegemonic era of capitalism which is the last four hundred years of classical civilization, then democratic modernity can be thought to be the unique name for the last four hundred years of democratic civilization.”

Fundamental Dimensions of Democratic Modernity:

1. Moral and Political Society

2. Ecological Industry

3. Democratic Confederalism

Democratic Confederalism

Democratic autonomies at local levels come together to form democratic confederalism at a more general level. Democratic Confederalism is the political alternative to nation-state and rests on:

1. Democratic Nation

2. Democratic Politics

3. Self-defense

Democratic confederations will not be limited to organize themselves within a single particular territory. They will become cross-border confederations when the societies concerned so desire.

Here each and every community, ethnicity, culture, religious community, intellectual movement, or economic unit can autonomously configure themselves as a political unit and express themselves. The most fundamental element of the local is its ability to have free discussion and its right to take decisions.

Democratic confederalism is open to different and multi layered political formations. Both horizontal and vertical political formations are needed due to the complex structure of the present day society. Democratic Confederalism keeps central, local and regional political formations together in an equilibrium.

All of these concepts will be revisited in further detail by the following speakers and in the following sessions.

We need to return the moral and political aspects back to the society. Intellectualism has been restricted mostly to the universities; it needs to be returned to all of us. Morals has been replaced by positive law. Politics on the other hand has been brought to an almost stand-still under the administration of nation-state bureaucracy underneath the disguise of parliamentarism.

Thus, in order to be able to stop the perpetuation of capital and power accumulation as well as the reproduction of hierarchy there is a need to create structures of democratic confederalism―that is a democratic, ecological and gender-liberated society. To achieve this there are many things to consider, like :

  • Intellectual Duties and Education

  • Education of Men

  • Economy, Industrialism and Ecology

  • Family, relationship between men and women

  • Self Defense

  • Culture, Aesthetics and Beauty

  • Dismantling Power and Hierarchy

As a result, we see that we, the 99% as David [Graeber] is attributed to have coined, have always been there. But to struggle and gain free life we first need to develop a different vision of a good life than the one given to us by capitalism or patriarchy in general. That is, we should no longer foster the desire to have infinite goods and increase of money and to measure everything up against its money’s worth. Instead, we should have immediate production of good and beautiful life at the center of all social and economic activity as well becoming ardent seekers of truth. And this, my friends, is an open ended process which this conference wishes to discuss further in the coming days.

Thank you


More about Havin Guneser

Title, formatting and some editing: Freelab