Turkey: Debates on the Kurdish Reform in the Wolf’s Lair

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We are publishing below an article on the Kurdish situation by the ICC's section in Turkey

Debate on what was initially called the Kurdish Reform and then the Democratic Reform have been going on for quite a while in Turkey now. It is being claimed that the rulers of the state woke up from the dream of Turkism one night, and decided to stop oppressing the Kurds and turn the country into a democratic flower garden. The ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) and the faction of the Kurdish bourgeoisie existing within it on the one hand, and the liberals who drool whenever the state rings the bell of democracy on the other; bloodthirsty Turkish nationalists lurking around and the PKK-DTP (Kurdistan Workers' Party, armed Kurdish nationalist group, and Democratic Society Party, its legal wing) line with its hawk and dove wings pursuing its own agenda... What is really going on? How did the DTP, who used to say that the AKP was its greatest enemy, end up negotiating with them? Similarly, when did Prime Minister Erdoğan, who said that whoever is involved with terror will be shot even if he or she is a child, become so concerned with the tears of mothers who have lost their children? Why did the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party - Gray Wolves, Turkish fascists) who used to be the maverick supporter of the AKP respond with such rabid ultra-nationalist hysteria? How did the CHP (Republican People's Party, Kemalists) which was the toady of the Army end up criticizing the declarations of the National Security Council?

The first point that needs to be clarified in the face of all this mess is that no one has any idea what the AKP, who has been telling the lie that democracy will expand further, actually wants to do. This "gift" reform package everyone talks about might indeed turn out to be absolutely empty. First, lets see how the process developed. On July 2009, the Turkish Prime Minister announced that they had launched the Kurdish reform. The AKP said about this reform that at the basis of it was the speech delivered by Erdoğan in 2005 in Diyarbakır (city considered to be the unofficial capital of Kurdistan). There was no other information in regards to what this reform included. If we examine the contents of this speech however, we can easily see that there is nothing that can distinguish it from the state policies of the past thirty years. In his speech, Tayyip Erdoğan says: "We absolutely defend our state, our flag and our republic. I am stressing again that terror is the greatest enemy of this country and can never be tolerated. The terrorists who massacre innocent citizens and send our heroic security forces into martyrdom, the terrorists who are assassinating the future of the nation, are also using innocent children of this country for their purposes." Obviously, there was no difference in the basic attitude of the state. On the other hand, the bell rung by the AKP was enough to arouse the liberal media's enthusiasm and drove the nationalist media mad with anger. For a while, the debates focused on whether this was an American project or not. US officials even made an official statement saying that this was not their project. After that came the roadmap of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdish nationalists. The details of this now famous roadmap are, just like the details of the reform package, still unknown. Nevertheless it is understood that what is proposed does not go muc beyond pushing for the strengthening of local governments and a few stylistic changes in the constitution. This being said, the ambiguous statement from Öcalan about Kurds needing their own defense force created a storm and basically put an end to the negotiations between the AKP and a wing of the DTP including some of its leaders, and pushed the AKP into consulting NGOs and trade-unions instead. In the meanwhile, the other wing in the DTP was insisting that it was the PKK and Öcalan who should be negotiated with. In any case, after Öcalan said that he was going to put forward his roadmap, the Minister of Interior, Beşir Atalay, felt the need to accelerate the process by inviting a group of ex-leftist liberal journalists to a briefing which, significantly, was to take place in a police academy. Eventually, with the talks between Turkey and Armenia starting, the debate on ‘Kurdish Reform' gace way to that on ‘Democratic Reform'.

What can be drawn from all this is that the AKP is executing this process based on the need to create a favorable public opinion on the questions of its own policies regarding energy issues, the US talks about withdrawing from Iraq and focusing on Afghanistan, Iran's situation and so forth, under the framework of the developments in the EU and the changes that are happening in the regional conjuncture. What is going on is not an expansion of democracy, not a step towards the solution of the Kurdish question, but a clash of ruling powers based on their need and that of different bourgeois fractions to reorganize their respective positions. The hesitant statements coming from the Army, the lack of any policies or reason for the attitude of the CHP, the rabidly bloodthirsty moanings of the MHP are all a result of the liquidization of some of the previous rulers of the civil and military bureaucracy. The bases for the legitimacy of these forces are being dissolved in the light of the interests of imperialist politics in the Middle East and creating the area of ‘greater democracy and rights' which the AKP is using to boost itself. Yet this area itself is shaking, in the fashion of one step forwards, two steps back. The issue is not recognizing the rights of the Kurds put giving those who pretend to be their representatives a piece of the pie to keep their mouths shut, and more importantly to recreate social problems over "identities".

It is also important to analyze the place of the DTP and the PKK in this situation. The wing within the DTP which has previously been called the ‘doves' saw its role as being negotiators when the AKP decided to launch the ‘Kurdish reform'. Closed meetings took place between prominent leaders of this wing and the government officials. Those who made up this wing seemed more independent from the PKK, or at least from Öcalan's line. The roadmap of Öcalan being announced and the wing which has been called ‘hawks' in the DTP pointing to the PKK as the force who should be negotiated with, on the other hand, harmed the ‘dove' wing's plan to negotiate as representatives of the Kurds. In the end, the expression ‘Kurdish reform' was abandoned and replaced by the ‘Democratic reform'. Meanwhile, the clashes between the PKK and the Army, and naturally the number of the soldiers who died started increasing drastically. On the other hand, the ultimatum of one of the leaders of the ‘dove' wing, and previous DTP co-chairperson Aysel Tuğluk stating that they will considering separation and independence if they are pushed out of the process was criticized by Öcalan himself. Of course there is not much point in speculating about the reasons of this conflict, but we can say that the determining factor is, leaving aside the feelings and intentions of the rank-and-file, not the ‘dove' wing wanting to create peace or the ‘hawk' wing aiming to defend the rights of the Kurds in the strongest possible way, but the conflict of different political and economical interests created by conditions of national oppression and war.

We can thus say that in the current situation, none of the political tendencies whose behaviors, statements and attitudes we have been examining are either able or willing to solve the Kurdish question. Above all the conditions for solving the ‘national question' historically do not exist today. Today, the promise of ‘liberal democracy' by the same paradigm which dominated the post-1990 era and included the recognition of different identities and minority rights, is nothing but a necessity of capitalist looting. No movement based on ethnicity is capable of providing ‘freedom' unless it is supported by an imperialist power, and the ‘freedom' that can be provided by those who are supported by this or that imperialist power is far from being freedom in any meaningful sense.

This being said, there is an international economic reality also behind this debate and this reality can not be ignored. After the US invasion of Iraq, the imperialist powers who have assumed the role of patrons of this area want their share of the control of the enegry sources. The Turkish bourgeoisie is among these imperialist powers who is increasing becoming a part of this process. The Turkish Kurdistan is seen as Iraq's door to the world and the negotiations in the region regarding Armenia and Cyprus are expressed in the reform debates which under the names of ‘democracy' or ‘facing history'. It is completely clear that both the Turkish and the Kurdish bourgeoisie are making the ‘freedom' of Kurds a card of negotiation for the sake of economic interests.

The following days include those in which political and military conflicts are intensified. What matters, on the other hand, is for the working class to create its own agenda. After all, the effects of the economic crisis are getting worse every day, and barbarism and poverty prove the urgency of class based politics not only for Turkey but for the whole of the Middle East. Only this way can such insoluble questions which became impossible to solve (such as the freedom of Kurds) can cease to be trumps in the hands of the bourgeoisie and only then could confusions dissapear.

The Kurdish problem can't be solved the way the tendencies claiming to represent the Kurds used to say, with the formation of a new nation-state, since today the Kurdish population has a significant existence outside the Kurdistan geography, and we have also seen how the bourgeois nationalists becoming the local dominant power in the Iraqi Kurdistan has not improved the conditions of the Kurdish workers there one bit.  The Kurdish question can't be solved the way these tendencies say it can be solved now either, by reconciliation with the Turkish state with the blood of minorities and workers it slaughtered still dripping from its teeth and nails. The solution of this question will take no less than the complete destruction of all the existing states in the Middle East in the hands of the Middle Eastern proletarians of Kurdish, Arabic, Iranian, Jewish, Turkish and all other nationalities, as a part of the revolutionary struggle of the international proletariat.

Cem & Gerdûn