KCK Executive Council member Xebat Andok points out the importance of Democratic Confederalism for building a society beyond power and domination.
05 March 2023 | ANF
Democratic Confederalism as a radical democratic alternative to capitalist modernity and state society has proven time and again that it is not a utopia for a time after the abolition of the state model, but a form of self-organisation and self-defence based on ecological, women’s liberation and communalist principles. The first practical experiences of implementing Democratic Confederalism were made in Northern Kurdistan. The model of Rojava was built on these experiences, based on the principles of the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan. In the first part of an interview with ANF, the KCK (Kurdistan Communities Union) Executive Council member Xebat Andok talks about the meaning of Democratic Confederalism, its regional and global approaches and the model of self-organisation.
What is Democratic Confederalism?
Democratic Confederalism is a system of organising a democratic society. In this respect, it is not a movement or a party, but a social system. It can be implemented in Kurdistan as well as Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. If we expand it, it could also be an alternative for the Middle East, Europe, the whole of America and Africa. The KCK is the expression of Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan. The same is possible for Iran, Iraq, Syria or any other country. If all peoples, ethnicities, cultural identities, religious beliefs, in short, all societies and peoples in the Middle East want to take such a system as a basis, then it is possible to establish such a confederalism under the name “Democratic Confederalism of the Peoples of the Middle East” or some other name. It would be possible to establish something similar in the Americas, in Europe, Africa or on other continents. And if it were introduced throughout the world, it would be the World Confederalism of Democratic Peoples. It is a system in which all parts of society, from local to global, from small to large, organise themselves and realise their self-government.
What does this mean in terms of content?
Since it is an alternative system to the existing nation state and the prevailing etatist system in general, it is based on the organisation of the people and society as a whole and their self-defence. If we look closely, Democratic Confederalism consists of two basic concepts. One is democracy and the other is confederalism. Confederalism is a very flexible system of relations based on voluntarism. There is no written constitution. There is no obligation. Collectivity, like separation, is based on voluntariness.
Who comes together in this sense?
The demos – that is, the people. Confederalism can encompass all ethnic communities, religious beliefs, cultural structures, men and women, every form of organisation that has come together to solve a social problem, and all components of society. In short, on this basis, all parts of society, the demos, the people, govern themselves. It is self-government. The people govern themselves and are not ruled by strangers or any remote government. A system is created in which all sectors of society come together within the framework of confederal relations on the basis of self-government.
This is based on two prerequisites: society must organise itself at all levels and with all components, and these organised structures must network. The form of relationship is what makes confederalism. There must be no form of relationship based on oppression, violence or ideological hegemony. It is a union based on equality and freedom. This is the confederal dimension. The other point is that it must be an organised society. All components of society can also organise themselves on the basis of the smallest units, their identities and affiliations. They organise autonomously on the basis of an understanding of local democracy and join together on the basis of confederal relations to create a stronger organisational unit. Democratic Confederalism is thus a system in which all the social components of the societies in Kurdistan, the region and the world organise themselves and at the same time constitute themselves as an entity beyond the states themselves through their relations with each other. It is only a local and, at the same time, global form of organising. This system is addressed not to the people of Kurdistan and the region alone, but also to all the oppressed of the world.
But how can an organised democratic society be created in this way?
It is not a form of organisation based on centralised parliamentarism. Instead, the classical form of the state is turned upside down. Democratic Confederalism starts from the smallest unit such as a village, a town, a street, the organisation of a neighbourhood, a factory or a house. In short, it is based on the organisation of all areas where people come together.
FROM THE COMMUNE TO THE PEOPLES’ CONGRESS
The smallest organisational unit is the commune. The commune deals with all areas of life and is the smallest unit of direct democracy in which the people govern themselves. The commune is the smallest council. In the KCK social contract or in the existing theory of democratic confederalism, the commune therefore corresponds to a village assembly in which street and village organisation structures come together. At another level, representatives of the communes come together and form, for example, a council for the neighbourhood or the town. The point is that all problems are seen as community problems that need to be solved collectively. So, there are then further levels, from the city council to the provincial council, to the regional council. Above that, for example, there would be the People’s Council of a country. This could be transnational. The People’s Congress would then be the decision-making body of a particular population group or people. If several communities are involved, a People’s Congress could be formed. In the broadest sense, one can say that a congress of all peoples of the world is held when global decisions have to be taken.
A SYSTEM OF DIRECT AND RADICAL DEMOCRACY
So, it is a council system and not a parliament. For example, in Turkey there is a parliament. Everything is decreed. This is something completely different. When we talk about Kurdistan or Turkey, we are not talking about two, three or five councils. In Germany, for example, there is federalism and several parliaments. In the USA, too, there is federalism and more than one parliament. But democratic confederalism is also different from that. It is a system involving thousands, maybe tens of thousands of councils and communes, all discussing and trying to find solutions to problems in their own areas, but at the same time interconnected. That is why Democratic Confederalism is also a system of councils. It is a system of direct democracy. It is a system in which no one rules over others, and all rule themselves and the community. It is not a system where some are in charge and others are governed. All rule and are ruled. It is a system where everyone, according to the definition of a political and moral person, thinks about the problems of society, looks for solutions, talks, discusses, makes decisions and assigns someone to put those decisions into action. It is a system where authority and power are completely in the hands of the people and direct democracy is realised. Since it is not governmental, it can also be called radical democracy.
FREEDOM AND UNITY OF DIFFERENCES
The model can also be called communal democracy because it is about communal attitudes and communal life. Democracy here is not only understood in terms of raised and lowered hands or having a say in decisions. The spirit and life in this model are also different. Life is based on free, equal relationships. Again, if you want to put it in one sentence: it is a system in which there is an equal unity of differences. There is unity. Because society must form a unity on the question of who and what, a unity of differences. All identities retain their own differences. People are not regarded as equally meaningful or meaningless objects as in nation states. There should not be some subjects and otherwise objects in democratic confederalism. There are no rulers and no those ruled. All live with their differences and uniqueness. On the other hand, the nature of the relationship between people is one of equality. There is no superiority of one identity over another. Democratic confederalism can thus also be defined as the equal unity of diversities.