The Kurdish question
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THE KURDISH QUESTION
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The Kurdish Question
a. The bases of the Kurdish question
b. The economic and social structure of Kurdistan
c. What is the P.K.K.?
d. What is our message to the proletarians of the West?
e. What do we say to the proletariat of the Middle East?
f. What do we say to the Kurdish proletariat?
Notes
Source


The Kurdish question

a. The bases of the Kurdish question
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Marxism has always looked at the national question not from some abstract or moral angle, but relating its historical assessment to the material conditions of development of the communist revolution: from Marx and Engels to Lenin and to us, the Sinistra or Communist Left, the question has been looked at dialectically, and national interests have been subordinated to the needs of the proletarian revolution. This was true when support was given to national question in the special circumstances of a two-phased revolution, that is, in an anti-feudal bourgeois struggle and in the elimination of counterrevolutionary bulwarks, as well as when the national question had to be opposed because it was in conflict with the revolutionary goal, as in the cases involving Pan-Slavism and the separatist Jewish Bund.

The Kurds are a nationality of over 20 million, half of whom live in Turkey and the rest in Iran, Iraq, and Syria, with other substantial nuclei in Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Kurdish territory was shared between France and England by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, resulting in the largest Kurdish area going to Turkey to transform that nation into a «sold barrier against the «red peril» in the Near East and Mediterranean». (1) For the last 70 years most Kurds have thus endured the oppression of Turkish, Iraqi, etc., bourgeois ruling classes, as well as that of their own bourgeoisie, whose disparate factions have served in turn Turkey, Iraq, or Iran, always searching for the highest reward in exchange for their work of ironclad social control.

b. The economic and social structure of Kurdistan
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The fact that the Kurds are mostly a mountain people, who «for reasons of mineral resources and hydrography [...] continue to live under a patriarchal agriculture and a compulsory migratory pasturage» (2) should not mislead us: this is not a pre-capitalistic society, nor a Kurdish feudalism that stands to be abolished. If Marxism does not limit consideration to single nations, but takes into account large geo-historic areas, there is reason for this approach: scattered throughout the region one finds Kurdish workers employed in the factories of the oppressor states, and the fact that most are found outside Kurdistan does not change matters.

We have here an economically undeveloped area, but one which lies within and is part of the broader capitalism of the Middle East. Hence Kurdistan is no example of «an unfinished bourgeois revolution.»

c. What is the P.K.K.?
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The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), not withstanding its affirmation of Marxism-Leninism and regardless of the rhetoric used to attract workers, is not a communist party, but rather a nationalist democratic-bourgeois organisation. Today, no communist party meriting that title would dream of calling on the Kurdish workers to fight for the anti-historic goal of a nationally independent Kurdistan. A true communist party would deliver to the Kurdish workers one message: that the end of their national oppression would come only with the destruction at least of capitalism in the whole Middle East; that the end of their national oppression would result not by erecting additional frontiers designating an improbable «Kurdish People's Republic», but by abolishing all frontiers in the region under the blows of the proletarian revolution, and by fusing all nationalities into one state, which for the short and medium term might be called «The Union of the Workers' Republics of the Middle East», and in the long run the «Republic of the World's Proletariat».

d. What is our message to the proletarians of the West?
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The workers of all countries, and in the first instance those belonging to the central imperialist nations historically responsible for the dismemberment of Kurdistan and the interminable martyrdom of the Kurdish people, must unconditionally oppose their own bourgeoisie, recognise the Kurds' right to self-decision, while at the same time championing and struggling for the unity of all workers of whatsoever nationality. In reference to the Kurdish question, we wrote in the 1994 issue of our Italian paper cited above that communists «have the obligation [...] to condemn, denounce, and fight every form of oppression of one people by another».

Unconditional recognition, quite apart from the actual possibility that a Kurdish national independence will be affirmed in the present historical conditions, something that appears quite improbable given the extreme weakness of the Kurdish bourgeoisie and the tight hold of surrounding imperialism's. The national oppression of Kurdish workers is a given fact and for a chimerical liberty these workers are shedding blood in a struggle not their own: it follows that only by linking themselves to a world proletariat once again arisen will they be able to emerge from the dead end in which they find themselves.

But they will be able to unload from their backs the burden of a nationalism of despair only on condition that the world proletariat, arising, will undertake the task of clearing away the barrier that obstructs them, that is to say on condition that this proletariat recognises without hesitation the right of Kurds to organise a national independent state.

This is the meaning of Lenin's words on the national question: the categorical need to pose the question «not only on the general historic basis, but also on the basis of class.» Here lies the difference between our «recognition» and that of various other reformist or bourgeois factions. This means, in other words, that the proletarians of the West must not make their own the Kurdish national claim, must not support it as if its accomplishment were a historical positive event (which it is not). It simply means that, by acknowledging the Kurds the right to self-decision, the right to establish - if so they wish to do and can do - an independent national state, the proletarians of the West do away with their chauvinism, break off with their imperialist bourgeoisie's, on which the Kurdish people's oppression depends. That is why we maintain that the struggle which the proletarians of the Western countries must wage against any national oppression has a negative character.

e. What do we say to the proletariat of the Middle East?
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The Iranian, Syrian, Iraqi and Armenian, above all, Turkish proletariat have the primary duty to fight their own governments, in order to compel them to remove their bloody grip on the Kurds and to recognise their right to self-determination. This is the position that Turkish, Syrian, Iranian, and other communists must defend always and at all times, even if it is clear that the fervour with which these words can be raised amongst the proletarian masses depends on the reality of social conditions.

Communists in all Middle Eastern countries wherein a «Kurdish problem» exists must therefore hold to this position not only to help the Kurdish workers free themselves from this nationalism, but above all for themselves as members of the workers' movement of those countries. To defend their own dignity even before defending that of the Kurds. Because their governments, their armies, their police massacre the Kurds day after day. Iranian, Syrian, and other workers cannot become free so long as they tolerate the oppression of the Kurds. Their awakening as a class for itself will be one and the same as the revolt against the massacre of their brothers.

f. What do we say to the Kurdish proletariat?
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That its future as a class will begin only when it succeeds in escaping from the blind-alley of nationalism, in as much as «from the revolt against the national oppressor (actually against the Holy Alliance of national oppressors) it is urgent and necessary to move to the struggle against the root of all oppression in the Middle East - capitalism.» (3) That their party, the one able to defend their historic interests in the present, is not and cannot be the PKK, which has inscribed on its banners the anti-historical call for national independence. Nor can it be born from the left wing of the PKK or of any other nationalist party: we are not in the epoch of the struggle against feudalism, when the bourgeois nationalist parties were progressive and bore in their bosom the embryo of a future proletarian party. That struggle is over, even in the mountains of Kurdistan.

The Communist Party of Kurdistan, as that of any other country, can only be born as a section of the World Communist Party, and in that specific instance from an implacable struggle against nationalist ideology and against the PKK - a struggle which is at the same time directed against the Kurdish bourgeoisie on the ground of the defence of the workers' immediate interests and against the inconsistency and impotence of an historically-condemned nationalism whose only «prospect» is that of curling up at the feet of one or another imperialism.

The fact that the Iraqi-Kurdish bourgeoisie, itself a victim of Sadam Hussein's bloody beatings, was willing at first to accept a watered-down autonomy and the profits from the Kirkuk region in exchange for a non-belligerence, and later an alliance in the armed struggle against the radical Kurds of the PKK, as well as the fact that the Kurds of the PKK have turned for help to the hardly disinterested - and amongst the worst enemies of the Kurdish people -Iranians, these facts say it all. (4)

Finally, the fact that the imperialist Italian bourgeoisie has obstinately refused the Turkish demand for the extradition of the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, is in its turn the most evident indication that the Kurdish bourgeoisie and its principal party are already fully involved in the game of inter-imperialist rivalries, ready to offer themselves as pawns to one or the other of the «bigs» in return for the paltry bowl of porridge - a play in which the European imperialism's, and in particular the Italian and German ones, see in Kurdish independence a «restructuring» of Turkey, the principal outpost for US imperialism in the region.

Notes:
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  1. See our Italian monthly «Il Programma Comunista», n.1, 1994. [back]
  2. See our Italian monthly «Il Programma Comunista», n.1, 1994. [back]
  3. See our Italian monthly «Il Programma Comunista», n.1, 1994. [back]
  4. On this, see «Kurds, the Massacre Continues», «Il Programma Comunista», n.1, 1992, and «The Two-fold Kurdish Drama», «Il Programma Comunista», n.6, 1992. [back]

Source: «Internationalist Papers», number 8, spring/summer 1999

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