PKK: Where It Comes From and Where It Is Going – Part I



In the beginning…

Without criticism, without discussion, without checking up and doing research, it is impossible to move forward. The national movement is far from carrying out a critique and an analysis of the tactics, politics and strategy it has pursued, from yesterday to the present day. Pragmatism is an obstacle to this. What was planned is not put into practice, different tactics clearly contradict each other, the dilemma brought about by the war is scarcely talked about. The national movement does not engage in self-criticism and so can derive no conclusions from it. One can also say that the left in Turkey has not fulfilled its task of criticising the national movement. To put it more accurately, it is neither able to support it nor to criticise it.

While the oligarchy in 1978-79 was attacking the PKK with demagogy about “separatism”, a significant portion of the left supported this attack, by calling the PKK agents provocateurs and counterrevolutionaries. When the PKK started guerrilla warfare in 1984 they maintained their views and believed that the armed struggle would soon be defeated. When the PKK gained strength, they began to modify their analyses. Some turned into cheerleaders for the PKK. Their analysis of Kurdistan’s socio-economic structure followed a similar line. When the PKK grew, those who yesterday called Kurdistan a neo-colony later said it was a colony. (1) The pragmatism of the PKK played a substantial role in this.

For example, the different phases of the politics of Aydinlik (2) bear scrutiny.

At the end of 1970, the PKK were “provocateurs” according to Aydinlik. Aydinlik published the names of PKK activists.

In 1985 the armed struggle began. In the magazine Sacak, which Aydinlik published with the permission of the military junta, the PKK were called “soldier-killers” and “terrorists”.

At the end of the 1980s we witnessed how Dogu Perincek, who was responsible for such statements, was received with military honours on a visit to a PKK training camp. At this point, Aydinlik were calling the PKK “patriots”.

Then we encountered the familiar counterrevolutionary face of Aydinlik. Perincek, who slandered and smeared the PKK, now began to write that it was “under the influence of the USA”.

Among the rest of the left in Turkey, there were also numerous changes in viewpoint with regard to the PKK, even if not to the degree shown in the example already mentioned.

The TKP M-L (Translator’s note: Communist Party of Turkey Marxist-Leninist, a Maoist movement with a long history of waging guerrilla warfare) has called the PKK counterrevolutionary on some occasions, and on other occasions revolutionary. These descriptions alternated with each other from time to time. The TDKP (Revolutionary Communist Party of Turkey) with other sections of the left which favoured the Party of Labour of Albania, mostly called the PKK agents provocateurs and counterrevolutionaries. When the PKK gained strength, these claims mostly fell by the wayside. However, these parties never conducted a serious self-criticism for having made these claims.

The result of all this was the following: the national movement was never given the necessary support at the right moment, nor was it subjected to the criticism it needed.

Without hesitation, we can say that the Front was the sole exception to this.

At a time when the oligarchy and almost the whole left attacked the PKK with demagogy about “separatism”, even if other words were used, Devrimci Sol recognised and defended the PKK as a national movement. When the guerrilla struggle began in 1984, the same political support continued. When in the years 1984-86 the oligarchy conducted brutal operations against the PKK and the Kurdish people, Devrimci Sol gathered its entire organisational strength and possibilities and carried out actions against the ANAP (Motherland Party) government of the time to show that the Kurdish people are not alone.

Since that time up to the present, the same line has been followed, both with regard to the Kurdish people’s right to stand up for and defend their just demands, as well as not hesitating to support the Kurdish national movement. At the same time the mistakes of the national movement were criticised, based on the interests of the people and the revolution. The starting point of this criticism was the necessity for a common struggle by our peoples.

In order to comprehend the criticism and analyses correctly that we will cite here, the Front’s approach to this process must be correctly recognised.

It is obvious that the PKK today is an organisation which can determine the agenda of politics in Turkey. It is a force conducting a guerrilla struggle in which thousands have fallen. But the size of a particular force does not exempt it from criticism. Even if that were the case, a false picture would be created, as can be seen from the previous examples we have cited.

A revolutionary movement, in this phase or that, can lose strength for one reason or another, and on the other hand, under certain conditions a movement may seem very strong.

Yes, the PKK has struggled and become a force, but the real question is: where is it going? Today the PKK says some new things. For example, they say that “they want to integrate into Turkey”. What are the positive and negative sides to that, to what extent are the arguments consistent and comprehensible? What happened to their earlier theses?

Up to the present, the PKK has hurled every kind of reproach at the left in Turkey. What are the reasons for this intolerance?

False lines of action and the negative consequences arising from it have persisted, despite all the warnings and criticism they have received. Why do they keep on doing it?

What is meant by peace, the laying down of weapons and compromises with the oligarchy, which they have been trying to achieve for years? How does that stand in relationship to the original aims of the PKK? There are many such questions that could be asked.

The Kurdish national struggle has chiefly had a positive, progressive function since the upsurge of 1984, even if there were some mistakes in the line of action adopted. The line which has clearly emerged since the end of 1991and has been followed up to today is a wrong one, according to all indications. This development cannot be considered to concern only the Kurds and the PKK. The historical past and the existence together of the Turkish and Kurdish peoples also influence the relations and development of all other Anatolian peoples. Even in the last months of 1991 the PKK said it was necessary to take the struggle in Kurdistan to the major cities of Turkey, that is, the national struggle by the peoples in Turkey and Kurdistan and the class struggle share a “common fate”. Even this shows that the liberation and the organising of the two peoples must be achieved jointly.

As examples of the history of the national struggle and the class struggle in the world have shown, revolutionaries in Turkey have also witnessed how a movement changes its line or comes from its apparent line to its true one.

The PKK arose in the 1970s as a mixture of Marxism-Leninism, socialism and nationalism, influenced by the revolutionary movement in Turkey and by socialism, whose prestige at that time was very great. At the end of the 1980s however, petit bourgeois nationalism came to the fore.

If one thinks that a patriotic movement lays its weapons down because of compromises with the oligarchy, and instead of independence it negotiates with the oligarchy about a federation, one can see that the way the PKK has developed does not serve the interests of the people of Turkey. For Marxist-Leninists it was not a surprise but quite predictable how the PKK came from the claims and aims it had at the start to the current viewpoint it holds. The results of this development will be analysed so lessons can be drawn from it.

The PKK’s conception of national independence and armed struggle and its current condition

The PKK was founded in 1978 but its ideological formation began at the start of the 1970s. The PKK called this process between 1973 and 1978 “the epoch of the ideological struggle and returning to the country”, and 1978-80 was “the process of forming and founding the party”. Conditions in certain phases which influence the formation and development of the political line of almost all political movements, also had a certain influence on the PKK.

The East European countries’ transition to socialism at the end of the 1940s and the victory of people’s liberation struggles in many countries greatly increased the prestige of socialism. The fact that socialism became the hope for liberation of the oppressed peoples through its worldwide role meant that it also influenced the political structures of national political movements. In this phase almost all nationalist movements called themselves socialist and those that came to power formed contacts with the socialist countries and set in motion policies influenced by socialism.

Turkey was also influenced by these developments, especially in the years 1960-70 Marxist-Leninist ideas were widespread and in connection with that one could observe a certain loosening of the grip of refomism and revisionism. Organisations, above all the THKP-C (People’s Liberation Party-Front of Turkey), THKO (People’s Liberation Army of Turkey) and the TKP M-L, which were formed in these years as a result of ideological and practical struggle, shook the status quo through their struggle, administered blows to the oligarchy and thus won the sympathy and support of the broad masses.

The fascist junta of March 12, 1971 admittedly had physically liquidated the armed revolutionary movement, but after 1973 the potential which had arisen through the armed struggle of the THKP-C reorganised itself on the basis of its thesis “The Road to Revolution in Turkey”. In the pamphlet “The Road to Revolution in Kurdistan”, which contains almost all the views held by the PKK, the traces of this phase are clearly discernable. The concepts “class society”, “socialism”, “neo-colonalism” and “independence”, which today do not rate a mention, are frequently cited in this pamphlet.

The great sympathy of the peoples of the world for socialism; the continued support of the USSR for national liberation movements; the strength of the spirit of internationalism; the results of the armed struggle carried out by the THKP-C under the leadership of Mahir, as well as the line of the THKP-C, THKO and TKP M-L with regard to the “Kurdish question” and the correct policy on the right of nations to self-determination; all these, which the PKK today calls “Kemalism” or “social chauvinism” had an influence upon the PKK. This influence was what distinguished the PKK from other Kurdish organisations. The defence of complete independence, the necessity for armed struggle to achieve independence under the leadership of the proletariat are the principal areas that made the PKK distinctive.

“The conditions which crystallised after the second war of partition (World War II)… showed the inconistent and conciliatory attitude of bourgeois leaderships with regard to revolution in the colonies and made it obvious that complete independence could only be achieved under a proletarian leadership which was based upon the working masses…” (2)

In later years this influence was denied by the PKK, for example, the writings of Mahir Cayan on the Kurdish question and Misak i-Milli (the present-day borders dividing Kurdish-inhabited territory among different states) were ignored and the defenders of the Front’s line were criticised as advocates of the Misak i-Milli. But what the PKK is now saying has already been said by the Party-Front over the past 30 years.

The PKK condemns reformism

The PKK which, starting from the prestige of socialism, defended the “active support” of the socialist countries and the “ripening” of objective conditions of the revolution for national liberation and the necessity for proletarian leadership, distinguished itself from reformism with these aspects and said that reformism was an obstacle to national liberation. “After the liberation movements had become a significant revolutionary current of our epoch, we experienced the development of various deviations… the bourgeois ideologues have been completely unmasked, therefore they are not supported by the popular masses. This caused these tendencies to try to pass themselves off as socialism.” (3)

“The clear character of reforms in the imperialist epoch is that they play the role of being a tool preventing the achievement of independence of the peoples.” (4)

At the time the PKK made these statements, it went even further and drew a clear distinction between itself and reformism: “For national liberation movements, all tendencies other than independence are reformism, and all reformist approaches are by those who are closely integrated with imperialism, colonialism and home-grown reactionaries.” (5)

Furthermore, the reformists’ identification with the nationalism of oppressed nations is stressed:
“…All views which state that with the achievement of certain reforms in a colony, the question of independence can be resolved and are not able to state that revolution and national independence is the way to resolve the situation, are demonstrating a nationalism and chauvinism which is expressed by both the oppressing and the oppressed nation and merely serves to legitimise colonialism…” (6)

If we look at the PKK which had the viewpoint of fighting, not for reforms but for revolution, and examine its struggle before 1980, we see that it did not pursue a tactic of targetting the state, and consequently it could not put this into practice. The armed struggle of the PKK actually began in August 1984. Before 1980 it did not take a serious part in the anti-fascist struggle. The PKK left the field of struggle with the declaration of the state of emergency after the massacre in Maras (December 24, 1978). In their words, this was a “hicret” (retreating abroad).

The retreat

The PKK, which officially announced its formation in 1978, lost strength a year later and suffered a psychological defeat. This condition was brought about both by the operations of the oligarchy and by traitors in their own ranks, as well as by the clashes among the left at the time, in which many people lost their lives. At this point the PKK saw fleeing abroad as the only way out of a cul-de-sac. They left the soil of the country.

“We thought that if we stayed in the country we would survive one or two months but then we would be suffocated. Our retreat abroad is similar to the flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina. At that time Mohammed had been driven into a corner, and if he had stayed even one more night, he would have been suffocated. Our retreat was exactly like that, for if we stayed, the same would have happened to us…” (Abdullah Öcalan, Serxwebun, May 1990, Issue 101, page 104)

In a later assessment the PKK connected its retreat with the violence of the oligarchy which was directly targetted against it. This is nothing other than a revisionist interpretation of history. The assessment of the PKK, which officially announced its founding in November 1978, of the Maras massacre of December 1978 is a characteristic example of the revisionist rewriting of history: “…Maras was a place in which our party was active, our party has an assessment of the Maras massacre… it was absolutely fascism’s answer to the consciousness that we had created” (The History of the PKK)

The PKK tries, after it has become a significant force, to use an extremely egoistic conception of itself to connect all developments at the time with its own activities. The Maras massacre, the state of emergency declared after it and the forced resignation of Prime Minister Ecevit are all described as being connected with the PKK. But in the years in which the class struggle grew in our country, the PKK was not yet a serious force, it was an organisation which had difficulties maintaining its organisational structures. Moreover, in another part of the same book of PKK history in which the assessment above was given, the real situation was described.

“When we announced our foundation in 1978/79, we had no people we could put into action. For this reason we retreated and went through a preparatory phase which lasted six years.”

Before 1980, the PKK had properly fulfilled neither its task in the anti-fascist struggle, nor had it developed a struggle against the state. It could not intervene in developments, so it lost strength and went abroad. If the true reasons for this loss of strength are analysed, we come up against the PKK’s clash with the rest of the left. But instead of stating this, they try to “justify” the retreat with a subjective assessment of the Maras massacre.

Also, the retreat did not go according to plan. The events after the September 12, 1980 military coup in the prisons and abroad showed that the PKK was in a generally demoralised state at this point. After a certain amount of preparation the PKK returned to the country, began an armed struggle and achieved significant successes. But that is not sufficient to legitimise their retreat abroad at the time. For the logic which explains this retreat is very distorted. This logic goes as far that they connected the physical defeat of the armed struggle of 1971with not leaving the battlefield beforehand. The armed struggle of 1971 broke through the traditions of reformism and revisionism and paved the way for the liberation of the peoples of Turkey:

“In my opinion, organising abroad at this time was also necessary. If we had correctly assessed the Palestinian reality (translator’s note: the possibility of using training camps), if we had not been in a hurry and had patiently put into practice our experiences from 1970, revolutionaries in Turkey would not have experienced defeat at the hands of the fascism of March 12, 1971.

(…) Mahir Cayan (THKP-C) and his friends wanted to bring about armed struggle in the country. Deniz Gezmis and his friends (THKO) were to some extent militants with a narrow horizon, and they were unsuccessful. They said, ‘If we flee, that means we are not heroic.’ That was a short-sighted approach which took no account of security. So an important opportunity was missed.” (Selected works of Abdullah Öcalan, page 212) The chairrman of the PKK legitimises its retreat by denying 1971. Apart from anything else, this practical activity that the PKK criticised is the break with reformism and revisionist traditions, the source of the armed struggle and the beacon lighting the way to revolution in Turkey.

The September 12 (1980) coup and the PKK

During the coup the PKK was hardly active at all in the country, for by 1979 it had been already been in exile for a good while. So it also had no programme for resisting the coup, and its assessment of this phase is contradictory and inconsistent:

“…The liquidation of our national liberation struggle led by the PKK was essential if the fascism of September 12 was to be victorious. That has clearly been proved. The aim was to destroy our movement forever.” (Selected works 4, page 82) Another comment on this period runs as follows:

“When the fascist military putsch came to power, our movement was not able to push the struggle forward because of the state of its organisational structures.We had an organisational crisis. In such a situation one could not fight against a coup. It was also clear that the rest of the left could not resist the coup and did not intend to. So we had the movement concentrate on gathering strength and training itself. To achieve that, we went abroad.” (Özgur Halk, December 15, 1993, page 13) The PKK had left the country as early as the middle of 1979 and had ceased its activity. So it is not objective to state that the putsch only took place to destroy the PKK.

“Nobody intended to fight. Our own situation was also not favourable.” That is an excuse that was later invented to explain their retreat from the country. It is obvious that the PKK at this time had neither the strength nor the intention of fighting. Nevertheless, there were those who fought.

The September 12, 1980 coup was a test for revolutionaries and patriotic movements in Turkey which showed who was really revolutionary at the time and who was not, who was prepared to risk everything in the fight against fascism, who gave up the struggle and who preferred to go abroad. Not a lot was said during the coup by those who had promised a lot of things before 1980. Some who had seen the putsch coming went abroad, and those who were surprised by it also left the country after a short period of confusion. The PKK was among the very first to leave. The fact shown by the years since, is that the left did not retreat because of suffering a defeat, but rather it was defeated because it had retreated. The defeat of September 12 is chiefly the consequence of this retreat and flight abroad. The PKK shares the responsibility for this defeat.

The front abroad and the PKK

The United Front of Resistance to Fascism, founded abroad on June 1, 1980, was chiefly created under the leadership of the PKK and Devrimci Yol (Revolutionary Path). This front outside the country only existed on paper. Its practical activities did not extend beyond the publishing of some leaflets. In the documents of its Second Congress, the PKK had the following things to say about the United Front of Resistance to Fascism:

“With the active participation of our party and the participation of a total of nine organisations, this front is, according to its programme, a front for the struggle, to which no alternative exists. It is a historic step in the creation of a revolutionary alliance of the peoples of Turkey and Kurdistan. If the front can successfully fulfil its tasks, it will lay the basis in struggle for the overthrow of the colonialist, fascist dictatorship anf the liberation of the peoples of Turkey and Kurdistan.” (Documents of the Second Congress, page 49) The PKK saw Kurdistan before September 12 as its own preserve and it ignored the existence of revolutionary and democratic forces. It described many groups as “counterrevolutionary” and in armed clashes with them, the blood of many revolutionaries was shed. Up to this point the PKK had not bothered to create unity, but it concerned itself with forming this front to summon strength in the wake of the defeat and to improve its disturbed relationship with the left, in order to legitimise itself as the “representative of Kurdistan”.

The PKK, which had resisted a common struggle and a common revolution, claimed that power could be achieved through a common struggle waged abroad. What had changed? Since the economic, social and cultural structure of the country had not changed, or no alteration had taken place sufficient to influence the strategy for revolution in Turkey, what was meant by the appeal for building a front consisting of the revolutionary, democratic forces of the people of Turkey and Kurdistan? There was no answer to this question, then or later. But the answer they did not give was nothing other than the effort to conceal the weaknesses of the organisations taking part in this front. They aim to conceal their own flight from the country and their existence as refugees abroad. Why the front, which existed abroad and had nothing to do with people in the country, was dissolved without achieving anything in practice was never explained by the PKK or by others.

The upsurge of 1984 and the development of the guerrillas

The determining factor in the national awakening of the Kurdish people is the upsurge of 1984.

“The operations of the Kurdish liberation units on August 15, 1984 in Eruh and Semdini-Catak are the first sparks in the national liberation struggle. At a time when the junta was saying it had removed terror for ever, this upsurge by Turkish and Kurdish revolutionaries caused great enthusiasm among the peoples. Looked at in this way, the guerrilla actions of August 1984 were undoubtedly of historic significance.

“In the years 1984-85 we took another step forward and had the courage to take our struggle into another phase. The weapons fired on August 15 were something achieved for the first time in the history of Kurdistan. At the same time, these were also the most difficult times…” (ibid. page 15)

In reality, they had wanted to return to the country earlier and start the guerrilla struggle. But exactly at this point they felt the consequences of two years of retreat. The retreat without waging a struggle and the abandonment of the Kurdish people after the state of emergency and the conditions of September 12 and the emigration had a very marked effect on the ranks of the PKK. The return, planned for 1980/81, was postponed until 1983 and the start of the guerrilla struggle to August 1984. In the meantime, the results of the same influence were again visible when the y sought the reasons for defeat and the negative atmosphere elsewhere, for example as resulting from not achieving unity and trying to remove this lack by using the front abroad. Organising abroad, particularly through training camps, the choice of a region as a rear base that was under the control of Barzani (of the Kurdish Democratic Party in Iraq) were important factors in preparing the upsurge. The intimidation of the Kurdish people over years, the increase in terror following guerrilla operations and the mistrust of the people were all partly to do with the situation in the country but also partly because the PKK had left the country in 1979. The choice of the Botan region where they had not been active previously as the place for action, resulted in the guerrillas suffering losses (for an assessment of this, see the magazine Serxwebun, August 1989, special edition 15, page 30). In 1986 the PKK was fighting for survival. At this point the guerrillas were saved by their firm adherence to fighting on and their refusal to be intimidated by losses, and this paved the way for their struggle. The more the armed struggle continued, the greater became the support and sympathy of the people. Not fearing losses and going on with the struggle are important lessons to be drawn from the PKK’s practical activity, and all revolutionary movements should take the lessons seriously. At the start it appeared that the oligarchy did not take the PKK’s struggle seriously and denied its existence. But the PKK’s firmness in maintaining its struggle caused the denials to lose their credibility.

The oligarchy was forced to recognise the reality of war in Kurdistan and admit that the guerrillas would not be removed in the near future.

“For a piece of the homeland that has been freed”

In 1985, the founding of the ERNK (National Liberation Front of Kurdistan) was announced, and in 1988 the HRK was turned into the ARGK (People’s Liberation Army of Kurdistan). In this phase the guerrillas continued their development and won back the support of the people. At the Third Congress of the PKK in 1987, the resolution “The movement on the march to freedom” was passed.This was a new upsurge and the PKK set itself the goal of turning Botan into a “liberated zone” which would symbolise “a piece of the homeland that is free”. In 1988, the PKK formulated, on the basis of this resolution, the slogan “Attack, destroy and wipe out that which belongs to the enemy, build something symbolising the national liberation in its place” (Serxwebun, July 1988, page 79). In this phase, successes were achieved through institutionalising the “law on conscription”, which was later the subject of a self-criticism. In PKK writings from this period, the view is expressed that great steps can be undertaken with the participation of hundreds of people in the movement of the army, and they started forming brigades. But after a short time it became clear that this development was a dead end for the PKK’s struggle. Its guerrilla strategy took the Vietnamese people as a model. The conception of “liberated zones” was a result of the slogan “a piece of the fatherland that has been freed”, and it was formulated in this framework. But at this point the contradiction between the reality in Turkey and Kurdistan and the PKK’s strategy of people’s war became clear.

Even though every year the slogan was reiterated: “This year we will have a free piece of the fatherland”, liberated zones were never realised. In connection with this, the organising of the people could not be successfully brought to life. Although at the start of 1990 there was a very broad potential in Turkey and Kurdistan, there was no appropriate people’s organisation that could express this potential. The same slogan was repeated again and again without an analysis of why the liberated zones of 1987 and later were not achieved and without the consequences of the military dead end, which began to have a negative influence on the war, being analysed. (The only answer to the question why the liberated zones were not achieved is not that the strategy of people’s war was wrong, but there were other reasons we will cite later.)

Gaining strength and becoming weaker at the same time

The PKK gained strength, because from August 15, 1984 to today it has waged an armed struggle despite all the difficulties. For a certain amount of time it advocated an “independent, free Kurdistan” and secured support and participation by the Kurdish people in the struggle in proportion to the national consciousness that had developed among the Kurdish nation.

Despite thousands of fallen, and with the “aim of achieving independence” at the beginning of the 1990s it was an increasingly powerful force confronting the oligarchy. But with the policies they were implementing at the time, the PKK unfortunately was at its weakest politically, although it seemed to be strong. Despite the strength of its guerrillas and the support of the masses, the PKK distanced itself from the goal of independence and began to think in terms of solutions within the system. Consequently it became weaker and weaker. The reasons the PKK moved swiftly towards compromise can be found in its class character and are as follows: its starting point was not Marxism-Leninism, it did not have the class viewpoint of the proletariat, and the socialism that influenced the PKK in the beginning had lost strength and prestige.

It may be that however the PKK may describe itself and others may describe it, its statements on the historical development of the Kurds up to the politics of alliances, its conception of socialism and revolution, up to its final aims and their development, its fundamental theoretical approach is an expression of its nationalist side. The PKK claimed that it had the mission to carry Marxism-Leninism “from the soil of Turkey to the soil of Kurdistan”. But the lack of clarity in its views in regard with to socialism have persisted from its foundation to the present. The reason for this is that the PKK has set as its basic aim the liberation of the Kurdish nation, rather than socialism. If we note Lenin’s remark that “without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement” (9) or “in reverse” Engels’ remark that “it is correct in general that the official programme of a party is less important for this party’s practical activity” and we apply this to the PKK, then we can say the following:

If the theoretical literature of the PKK had a socialist content, at least at thestart this is not based on Marxism-Leninism; if socialism is an aim of its programme, practice contradicts this.

The turning point

The PKK, which sought an “independent” Kurdistan, experienced a crisis from 1990. The crisis is not surprising for a petit bourgeois nationalist movement. As can be seen from experiences drawn fromthe entire world, petit bourgeois nationalism has never lef the peoples to true liberation. Either before the conquest of power, one enters into compromises with imperialism, or despite taking power one becomes subordinated to imperialism. The wave of controversy that arose in the socialist system in the 1990s caused many organisations to deviate to the right or to the left. The PKK was among those influenced by these developments. It was swift to distance itself from socialism and moved closer to nationalism. Thus Kurdish nationalism regressed, in spite of the progress it had made beforehand. With its theory of colonialism, it made the common struggle of the peoples more difficult, and it weakened the peoples in the face of the oligarchy. The PKK experienced the consequences of localising the struggle to one region. The aim of “independence” was replaced by concepts such as “federation”, “compromise”, “a political solution”, “peace”, a “cease-fire”. Now the guerrillas only fulfil a function in negotiations. Today, the PKK is awaiting a political solution from bourgeois parties, TÜSIAD (The Employers’ and Entrepreneurs’ Association of Turkey) and the MGK (National Security Council). Instead of saving itself from its crisis, examining its own strategy and tactics and drawing conclusions, the PKK is falling into the trap of seeking compromises in the name of a political solution, and this is causing concern among the peoples. It is unavoidable that nationalism will grow and the compromises will increase in scope, unless the PKK uses self-criticism to extract itself from crisis. Now it stands at a turning point. Either it will find solutions based on Marxism-Leninism, something we cannot expect in the near future, or it will continue on its current path without turning back.

The only way to bring liberation to the Turkish, Kurdish and other peoples of our land is through joint struggle against imperialism and oligarchy. The Party and Front (THKP-C and its successor organisation the DHKP-C, translator’s note) has stood for this for years and fought for it. Because it defends joint struggle and has said that nationalism cannot bring the peoples to liberation, it has been accused of Kemalism. But the current situation and its crisis has forced the PKK to propagate joint struggle, even if only in words, which the Party-Front has confirmed yet again. In this sense we must say that the line of the Party-Front is what can give this turning point a revolutionary direction.


The theses of the PKK, which in its first programmatic statements said that the “objective conditions for the victory of the national liberation movements under the conditions arising from the second war of partition are today ripe” and defended the idea that “for complete independence, the leadership by the proletariat is necessary”, take as the starting point the support of the socialist system for national liberation movements.

“In every event in society that has taken place in the world, the influence of the socialist countries can be seen. One of the most important factors for the victory of the anti-fascist and national movements is the existence of the socialist world. The revolution against imperialism in the colonial countries is possible because of the existence of the socialist system and its influence, support and help. The forces that will destroy imperialism are above all the national liberation movements, however the socialist system is a force present in the background of this victory.” (The Road to Revolution in Kurdistan) If this is the case, then without doubt it is impossible to defend the national liberation movements after the collapse of the USSR and the other socialist countries. The typical character of a petit bourgeois movement is shown by its lack of self-confidence, which means that its policies are extremely influenced by external events. Petit bourgeois nationalist forces are always on the lookout for a force they can lean on and that will support them. If the socialist system was such a force for a time, they will now look for something different to take its place. After the counterrevolution in the socialist countries the PKK found itself confused. So on one occasion they seek a compromise with imperialism and try to win its support, on another they try to use contradictions inside the oligarchy and expect a section of the oligarchy to offer a solution. This is inevitably how petit bourgeois movements which rely on other forces end up.


In the first part of our series we dealt with the PKK’s departure from the country in 1979, its attitude to the fascism of September 12, the front set up abroad and the upsurge of 1984. And why? It might be asked why it is necessary now to discuss events and attitudes current years ago.

It is necessary both to understand the historical development of the whole process and to recognise the direct connection between the past and the present. As a member of the United Front of Resistance to Fascism when it was abroad, the PKK was a “weak” force. The PKK which later was a part of many alliances was a “strong” force, with thousands of guerrillas fighting for it. But its approach to alliances and its allies are still like the time the front was set up abroad.

There are connections between the PKK’s talks with the oligarchy on forming a federation, abandoning the country in 1979 and its attitude to September 12, and these undoubtedly influenced one another. The history of revolutionary politics cannot be interpreted in such a way that the later successes erase the mistakes committed beforehand.

For the earlier mistakes continually influence the later successes. Mistakes not corrected through self-criticism have the potential to turn successes into defeats involving a rightist or reformist line.

As can be seen, the process with the PKK is a similar one. Therefore, from this viewpoint it is necessary to talk about the past.


“… A people which wishes to fight must prepare for a prolonged people’s war, the number of people involved is not important. When the Kurdish people dare to struggle, they must absolutely be prepared for a prolonged people’s war which will run through several stages.” (The Road to Revolution in Kurdistan)

“In connection with that, suggestions for a solution like ‘autonomy’, ‘federation’ and ‘regional autonomy for language and cultural issues’ from the left as well as from the oppressing nation in relation to the national question are all equally reactionary and contradict the thesis of the ‘independent state’, which is the only correct interpretation of nations’ rights to self-determination. The thesis of the independent state is the only correct one under current conditions, and therefore revolutionary. Other theses and proposals which do not affect the borders of the state are reformist and therefore reactionary.” (The Road to Revolution in Kurdistan)