Originally published: https://kck-info.com/interview-kalkan-apr1023/
10 April 2023
Parts of a video message of Duran Kalkan, member of the KCK Executive Council, to the conference ‘Challenging Capitalist Modernity’ held in Hamburg/Germany from April 6 – 9. In his message, Kalkan addresses central issues like a new understanding of vanguardship/leadership and how this is based on the new paradigm of democratic modernity developed by Abdullah Öcalan:
“It is undoubtedly correct that democratic-socialist consciousness is given to societies from the outside, that social consciousness and organization do not arise spontaneously. This is what the historical-social dialectic shows us. Undoubtedly, revolutionary intellectuals take over the task of spreading this kind of consciousness. The PKK is a revolutionary movement, a freedom movement that emerged in 1973 as an intellectual youth movement and later developed into a vanguard party.
In the 1970s and 80s, the PKK undertook efforts to play its role as a vanguard party in many ways. However, political and military dimensions came to the fore and the intellectual-ideological dimension of the PKK remained more in the background. This was not so much rooted in the actual reality of Rêber Apo [Abdullah Öcalan] and the PKK, but because everybody – e.g. all the party cadres and the people – understood him and the party in this way. In other words, his role as a chairman, a commander, a leader and his administering role were mostly put in the foreground. Understanding Rêber Apo as a thinker, sage, theoretician, mentor and propagandist consequently remained in the background. This happened despite the fact that the reality of Rêber Apo is that of a dialectical development. As such, his reality stands for a unity of all the above-mentioned different areas, even if that was still less the case initially than it is today. This reality stood for the emergence of a leadership, even if still only at a national level. Rêber Apo declared at the time, without any hesitation, that his most powerful weapon was the ability to use language. Thus, he made clear that he understood himself as an educator and propagandist. Consequently, he has always tried to wage all political and military struggles as much as possible on the basis of this power of language, i.e. based on educating and organizing.
With the paradigm change that took place as part of the resistance against the International Conspiracy [involving illegal abduction of Abdullah Öcalan by international powers on February 15, 1999], this reality became much clearer. The PKK moved away from being a party that strives for state and power. Instead, it now became a party based on women’s freedom, ecology and democratic society. Consequently, the domains of ideas and thoughts and of theoretical-ideological vanguardship of the PKK have since moved further to the foreground. The definition of the vanguard party has undergone a significant change as a result. According to the old paradigm, while to a certain extent the work of the vanguard party included educating and organizing, the main focus was on an administering and commanding role, both politically and militarily. Based on the new paradigm, the role of the party has become more of an educating and organizing force. As part of its deep-rooted paradigm change, the PKK has also fundamentally rethought its definition of vanguardship or leadership. While it defines Democratic Confederalism, i.e. the political and military domain, as the body of the democratic nation, the PKK understands the party leadership as the democratic nation’s soul. The PKK defines the leadership of the party as the spirit of the democratic society or the society of the democratic nation. In other words, the PKK defines the party leadership as integral to the democratic nation’s thought, feeling and education processes. This is the kind of change that has happened within the PKK as a result of the deep-rooted paradigm change undergone by our Leadership [Abdullah Öcalan]. This is why it is important for us to correctly understand how the PKK has developed as a movement of the Leadership, how the new understanding of what it means to lead has predicated itself even more on the Leadership.
It is common knowledge that a leader is someone who paves the way, finds the way and shows the way. In Turkish, there is the word ‘önder’ . In Kurdish, we say ‘rêber’. In Persian, we have the word ‘rehber’. Every language has its own expression for this. Chairman, leader, commander or administrator; all these denominations stand for following a path that has already been set. Therefore, it is important for us to recognize the difference between ‘önder’ and ‘rêber’ on the one side and chairman, commander, leader and administrator on the other. ‘Rêber’ is the person who finds the right way, shows the way and opens up new ways. A chairman, commander or administrator seeks to walk along the way that has already been set. A ‘rêber’ or ‘önder’ educates and organizes. A chairman, commander or administrator administers, directs or rules. The rêber’s main occupation is the domain of mentality. She or he predicates herself/himself on the power of thought. A chairman or commander mainly represents political-military power. While a chairman, commander or administrator is elected or appointed by a political-military power, an ‘önder’ is accepted by people and society as a power of thought. In other words, people join her or him. Elections, i.e. political and military power, don’t make an ‘önder’. Through the power of ideas, through ideological power, through representing a new way of life and through showing people and societies new ways one becomes an ‘önder’.
From the very beginning of history until today, leadership [önderlik] has always been expressed in the form of developments triggered off by prophets, sages, philosophers or social scientists. In contrast, since the emergence of class-based civilization, there have always been the institutions of commandry as the representation of military power and presidency or administration as the representation of political power. They have often been portrayed as one and the same. The liberalism of capitalist modernity even tries to portray the president, commander or administrator as democratic while depicting leadership [önderlik] as a more dictatorial approach. This is a substantial distortion caused by capitalist modernity’s liberalism. In reality, there is absolutely no truth to this.
This can also be seen very clearly in the context of the PKK’s transformation. The old understanding of a vanguard party was more focused on gaining power, ruling and administering. But the PKK that has reorganized itself based on the new paradigm has today become an educating and organizing vanguard. It shows the way, both for the individual and society. It shows the direction and provides help. On the basis of Democratic Confederalism, it leaves the political administration to society. Likewise, it leaves the military command to society – on the basis of social self-defence – in order for society to defend itself. Consequently, this gives rise to an ideological difference: Contrary to the system of power and state, which stands for an order based on private property, the system of democratic modernity foresees a life characterized by the free individual and the democratic commune. This is the fundamental difference underlying everything. Taking this situation and the above-mentioned changes in the vanguard concept into account, it is important to stress the continuing need for the organization of vanguards. Yes, the decisive factor is ultimately practice, action. But action is only possible with an organization and an organization is formed through education. Therefore, there can be no action without an educating and organizing force. Without such a force, the ability to carry out actions cannot not develop. In this respect, the new form of vanguard without a doubt also attributes great importance to the organization. It predicates itself on an organized vanguardship. Revolutionary work can only be done in the spirit of democratic modernity and revolutionary developments can thus only be achieved, if there is a vanguard like the PKK that educates and organizes.
If we understand revolution not as an event that simply happens by itself or in the form of an explosion, but as a change of mentality and lifestyle brought about by a conscious and organized vanguard working under all conditions, then all societies and all oppressed groups, especially women, youth, workers and laborers, need a vanguard like the PKK. Because they need a revolutionary change. They need liberation. It is clear that this will be achieved on the basis of the theory of democratic modernity. Vanguard organizations like the PKK are the forces that put the theory of democratic modernity into practice. Therefore, vanguard forces like the new PKK are necessary for all the oppressed, especially for women, youth, workers and laborers. This is as important as bread and water. It is of vital importance.”