PKK political evolution

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rooieravotr
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Aug 17 2012 18:01
PKK political evolution

In the St Imier thread, the issue of the PKK came up. This led to the desire to have a separate thread on the PKK. So here it is.

It seems that the imprisoned PKK leader Ocalan has been reading Bookchin and encouraging his municpal libertarian ideas. For instance, on the St Imier thread somebody posted this: http://new-compass.net/node/265 How seriously should we take this? Some info and perspectives?

Mark.
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Aug 17 2012 20:04

Some comments copied over from the St Imier thread.

sabotage wrote:

In WSA we have a comrade that lived in Turkey for a while and befriended anarchist and left communist militants there. He is also pretty interested in this PKK supposed turn towards libertarian municipalism/confederalism. On the Syria thread there is a bunch of talk about this too, and there was a German Indymedia article talking about how in the civil war situation there some Kurdish areas have instituted a council democracy. When talking to him about this stuff though it seemed they were still very much regionalists but in a more practical sense of these supposed currents want to stake out autonomy for themselves via some form of the above, but don't think the situation is close enough that the world revolution or whatever is in the waiting. So long story short sounded more like a desire to create semi-autonomous zones short of outright nationalism. Being a staunch internationalist I am still wary of this and really would love to hear more from comrades about this.

akai wrote:

Just a clarification on PKK. The leader, Ocalan, in taking up democratic confederalism, also criticizes the traditional nation-state model. Thus one can understand that some people reading this can imply that this is a break and heading in the municipal libertarian direction. However there is a bigger question and that is whether as anarchists we recognize the change in the direction of the leader as indicative as a change in the direction of 5 million people.

The leaders who seem to have great power can be influential, so no doubt this idea has been popularized. But I wouldn't make any judgments without seeing it on the ground. Not the least of all because the democratization of society is an important libertarian goal, but not the most important as it doesn't matter too much if crap decisions are taken in a democratic way or not.

Am not totally critical of this change in the PKK though and think it is in a more positive direction. Just think it's a mistake to try and reach and call things anarchist like that.

akai wrote:

Back to PKK...first, a simple question is what the structure of PKK is. It is a political party, isn't it?

So if we ask about liberatarian communism, the question remains how reflective the views of the imprisoned spiritual leader are. Also, if we ask about libertarian views, then we also should ask about the murders of some prominent members who left to form alternative parties.

We can also ask about the real links between PKK and DTP, which the leadership obviously wanted to act as its legitimate political arm. There is very little support for the DTP, hence one wonders about the actual support of the PKK politics, as opposed to PKK as a paramilitary group and opposition movement. There is some research to support that a good deal of the people on the ground joined PKK merely for questions of self-defense.

So again, how does an organization become declared libertarian communist? By the conscious decision of its membership to go down that path, understanding what that means, or by the intellectual political propaganda made by a leader who is in prison?

BTW, we are talking about 5 million people, not one.

PKK's alleged libertarian turn has previously been discussed on this thread.

In 2010 robot wrote:

I guess you should be careful with kurdish people claiming to be anarchists these days. While I do respect the comrades from KAF and other kurdish anarchists, there have been others claiming to be “anarchists” lately, I am alarmed about. I am talking of the PKK stalinists. Since their maximo leader “Apo” Öcalan has become a fan of Murray Bookchin after reading one of his books in prison, the PKK claims to have adopted some sort of “libertarian inspired municipalism” over the past few years. I remember various occasions lately when PKK members attended anarchist gatherings (like the “Anarchietage” at Winterthur, Switzerland), trying to convince the attendents, that PKK is not promoting a kurdish state any longer but a federation of local communities, that it has adopted many anarchist principles etc. All this of course thanks to the wise analyses of “Apo” inspired by Murray Bookchin and other social ecology writers. Those people have not been just weird party members but cadres either from PKK or their youth organization. I do not know whether this is specific to PKK only in German speaking countries, but you should be aware of those “stalino-libertarian municipalists” trying to make new friends. Especially younger comrades that have no experience with or knowledge about the real character of PKK should try to check backgrounds if they get into contact with alleged Kurdish anarchists.

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Devrim
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Aug 18 2012 10:51
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We can also ask about the real links between PKK and DTP, which the leadership obviously wanted to act as its legitimate political arm. There is very little support for the DTP, hence one wonders about the actual support of the PKK politics, as opposed to PKK as a paramilitary group and opposition movement. There is some research to support that a good deal of the people on the ground joined PKK merely for questions of self-defense.

Just on a couple of factual points, the DTP no longer exists. It was banned at the end of 2009. The current version in called BDP. I am not sure where the idea that they don't have much support comes from. In their strongholds, Diyarbakir, Van, and Hakkari, they pick up more than 50% of the vote, and over 30% in seven other provinces.

Devrim

akai
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Aug 17 2012 22:14

Thanks, yes out of date. The information I had (don't know how reliable) was that the former DTP had little support amongst the majority of members of PKK, but that the upper crust of the moment had been pushing it.

This is interesting: http://ideasandaction.info/2011/03/interview-with-turkish-anarchists/

Somebody sent me a link to this, but I can't possibly listen to it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBfK3ye_SBc

Mark.
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Aug 17 2012 23:28

Translation of an interview from Kurdish anarchist journal Qijika Reş:
Kurdish autonomy and social ecology

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Aug 18 2012 12:22
Serge Forward wrote:
Mind you, if PKK were genuinely libertarian communist and no longer nationalist, why would their involvement be a problem?

But we know that nationalist organisations don't transform themselves into libertarian communist ones just like that. We may as well ask what would happen if the moon were made out of cheese.

As far as I can see the PKK is still a nationalist organisation, which is still carrying out a guerrilla war, and still engages is such anti-working class actions as kidnapping school teachers, to name just one example.

It does seem over the past few years to have changed its rhetoric a bit, particular since its overtures to the US were rejected, but I don't think that it has in anyway changed its fundamental nature. Its dropping of claims for an independent state, and its new stance on democratic confederalism, to my mind, still holds all the hallmarks of nationalistic ideology. In the 'Deceleration of Democratic Confederalism, Öcalan states that "Democratic confederalism is based on the reality of the patriotic people". Also in now way does it have anything to do with communism in that " Democratic confederalism is a system which takes into consideration the religious, ethnic and class differences in society", which actually I believe is the only mention of class in the entire document.

Finally the quoted figure of five million Kurdish anarchists is absolutely absurd. Even if you take the highest figures for the numbers of Kurds in Turkey, 25,000,000 it would mean that one in five Kurds was an anarchist. Taking the lowest figure I have seen, 12,600,000, it would mean nearly half of the Kurds are anarchists. The claim is just ridiculous.

Devrim

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Aug 18 2012 14:57

Since I've brought certain information, like number of 5 million Kurdish anarchists, I'd like to write here the source. My source comes from lecture by 3 Turkish anarchists, who came to Croatia (and then moved forward to Europe) to discuss issue of national liberation of Kurdish people and what they believe is "anarchist turn" in PKK. They claimed that there's 5 million anarchists in PKK. They have also been talking about this "democratic confederalism" as something anarchist/libertarian and they've talked tales about self-managing communities, communes for abused women etc. They even later organised lecture "Democratic confederalism in Kurdistan" where they've repeated that crap.

Now, Devrim pointed key issues with PKK - it's bourgeois nationalist organisation. Therefore, I find this new anarchist obsession with them quite weird (cause it's not just about few comrades from Croatia). When I've heard that they were in St-Immer I was quite shocked, even I believe that from now on I shouldn't be so surprised.

This "turn" in PKK's politics means pretty much nothing and it has more to do with the fact that Cold war is over, they don't have sponsors and their openly Marxist-Leninist politics won't get them money and guns, but only repression from Turkey and other countries. So, they are trying to be more liberal and just "plain nationalist".

rata
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Aug 18 2012 20:49
Kontrrazvedka wrote:
Since I've brought certain information, like number of 5 million Kurdish anarchists, I'd like to write here the source. My source comes from lecture by 3 Turkish anarchists, who came to Croatia (and then moved forward to Europe) to discuss issue of national liberation of Kurdish people and what they believe is "anarchist turn" in PKK. They claimed that there's 5 million anarchists in PKK. They have also been talking about this "democratic confederalism" as something anarchist/libertarian and they've talked tales about self-managing communities, communes for abused women etc. They even later organised lecture "Democratic confederalism in Kurdistan" where they've repeated that crap.

Since our organization's research center has organized talk of these same people, who first came to Belgrade, I can say that what Kontrta is saying is pure fiction. They gave presentation of new developments in PKK, but they have never claimed that it is anarchist, nor did they ever give crazy numbers such as 5 million of anarchist. In fact, quite the contrary is true, they were adamant that PKK is not an anarchist organization, but, different from internet forum revolutionaries, they have understood that changing of PKKs politics is a process, which has positive sides - such as turning to ideas of confederal organizing as an opposition to authoritarian type of organizing. Also they showed convincing proofs of PKKs struggle against patriachalism.

I don't know where is Kontrra getting his information, and why is he presenting them in this way, but knowing that he is stand-alone freak isolated from any movement and organization in his own country and region, I can guess that his image on internet forums, as only place where there are still some people who could take him serious, is so important for him that he is ready to lie about his supposed source of information, blaming his ridiculous positions on some unnamed activists that can not answer his bullshit.

To come back to PKK development - I find it quite interesting, and I think it would be a big error for anarchist movement to miss this opportunity of establishing hegemony of our ideology over such a vast amount of people. We should intensifie our contacts with PKK, and try in every way to influence development of this organization - always being clear about what our positions are, and what critique of their positions we have.

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Aug 18 2012 21:26

Oh, Rata do you really believe that I'm that stupid to fall for your emotional outburst? Also, are you capable of anything but waving with your hands, screaming and making personal attacks? You should've learned by now that you may scare your minions with that but that I don't give a fuck.

"Unnamed activist" were 3 guys which made this lecture: http://masa-hr.org/content/demokratski-konfederalizam-u-kurdistanu Other lecture carried out by Croatian anarchists on Kurdistan will probably be on youtube by the end of year, so you'd be able to watch it. And 3rd document is written by MASA member after first lecture so you can ask him to send you. In that report you'll find all "5 million anarchists in PKK" in its title.

I don't know what ridiculous positions do I have if I reject nationalist gangs which were killing working class for decades. I believe that only ridiculous position here is your idealist mysticism where you believe that anarchist movement can establish hegemony over nationalist gang, such as PPK, which doesn't even know what working class or class struggle are since they call themselves patriots and fight for national liberation.

Hearing you calling me freak is best compliment that I've got in a long time.

rata
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Aug 18 2012 21:38
Kontrrazvedka wrote:
"Unnamed activist" were 3 guys which made this lecture: http://masa-hr.org/content/demokratski-konfederalizam-u-kurdistanu Other lecture carried out by Croatian anarchists on Kurdistan will probably be on youtube by the end of year, so you'd be able to watch it. And 3rd document is written by MASA member after first lecture so you can ask him to send you. In that report you'll find all "5 million anarchists in PKK" in its title.

Just few posts above, as well as on another thread, you have said that the information on 5 million anarchist and PKK being anarchist came from 3 Turkish anarchist who gave the lecture to whose announcement you are linking here without any reason, since on that page there is nothing that claims that. Than you change the story, and it is not 3 of them anymore that have said that but some document that nobody else saw and lecture given by some Croatian anarchist. Hihihi, get a grip man.

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Iskra
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Aug 18 2012 22:00

How low can you go?

I've said that Turkish anarchists said that and that Croatian anarchists repeated that their lecture and in report from lecture by Turkish anarchists. Report is not public and I've advised you to contact MASA members to get it.

Still, I don't see what you're trying to prove with this, especially when you've repeated yourself bourgeois fantasies about PKK smile

Android
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Aug 18 2012 22:37
rata wrote:
To come back to PKK development - I find it quite interesting, and I think it would be a big error for anarchist movement to miss this opportunity of establishing hegemony of our ideology over such a vast amount of people. We should intensifie our contacts with PKK, and try in every way to influence development of this organization - always being clear about what our positions are, and what critique of their positions we have.

What opportunities? As was said above there is no evidence that the PKK has changed in any meaningful sense. They have changed their rhetoric, big deal.

As far as intensifying contacts with nationalists with anarchist trimmings goes, would you also be in favour extending this to national-anarchists or is this just special treatment for PKK. Maybe SolFed should phone Troy Southgate up! (edit - last bit was just a joke aimed at idiocy of rata's position.....so no need for SF'ers to go on rampage)

Mark.
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Aug 18 2012 23:10

Janet Biehl interview with Kurdish activist Ercan Ayboga which I suppose puts the 'democratic confederalist' case. Make what you want of it.

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Steven.
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Aug 19 2012 00:18

Just a reminder for people to be polite to one another and immediately cease the personal insults.

akai
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Aug 19 2012 10:14

Steven, please stop the reminders what matters is the political content of the debate. I don't think the sky will fall on your head if some people have not passed the anglo-american netiquette course 101. smile

Here, despite the fact that I am very critical of the claims that there has been a radical transformation of the PKK, I do think that the promotion of these ideas by the great leader and others in PKK does open new opportunities see if people (rank and file) would be more receptive to other ideas. It's hard to say "our ideas" because there are so many different readers here. But what I mean by that is beyond the Bookchinist democracy shit.

If somebody was talking about 5 million anarchists or not is irrelevant; it is pretty clear that at least some people referring to the anarchist or libertarian movement are inclined to blow this PKK transformation out of proportion.

Besides the question of the PKK itself, I find several other questions interesting:

- whether or not resigning from aspirations to have a separate nation state removes the nationalist aspect from the movement

- whether we see the ideas of leaders as truly "representative"

- a crticism of libertarian municipalism and limits of democracy

- instances in the anarchist movement of strange naivite

I am personally quite interested in the last two, because of the unfortunate popularity of participatory democracy in Poland and Slovakia, which is even less than libertarian municipalism and which has brought with it tendencies of "anarchist" aspirations to take part in local government. But these ideas are also often supported by prominent municipalists, so it can be seen as part of the same package. Beyong that, the question is about the limits of placing a primacy on democracy when you live in a conservative and reactionary country. Maybe the main idea has to be social equality and getting rid of everything that makes us unequal instead.

In terms of the last one, some things I have heard recently blow my mind. I won't even get into it...

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Aug 19 2012 10:41
akai wrote:
If somebody was talking about 5 million anarchists or not is irrelevant; it is pretty clear that at least some people referring to the anarchist or libertarian movement are inclined to blow this PKK transformation out of proportion.

Exactly!

And regarding your question there's one key issue question here. What is a purpose of PKK and/or similar groups? PKK fights for national liberation not for communism. Every national liberation struggle is nationalist, since if they win Turkish bourgeoisie will louse power and Kurdish will get it. These are just basics of internationalist position. If PKK abandons national liberation struggle it will louse it's raison d'etre and lost support it has among Kurdish bourgeoisie and workers.

So, I don't see how can you inject anarchist ideas in such kind of a movement, because it's not just about "authoritarian" or "libertarian" ways to organise - it's about crushing the capitalism.

But I agree that libertarian municipalism must be criticized heavily, as much as direct democracy and OWS-ih democracy stuff, because these are just reformist policies of democratic myth.

And I agree that putting an emphasize on democracy in present state of class consciousnesses is an idealism (or suicide). Democracy can be used as a tool in fighting capitalism, but it can also be used as a tool of repression and diversion.

Harrison
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Aug 19 2012 16:27
Kontrrazvedka wrote:
So, I don't see how can you inject anarchist ideas in such kind of a movement, because it's not just about "authoritarian" or "libertarian" ways to organise - it's about crushing the capitalism.

agree. libertarian organisational principles mean absolutely nothing if it is not combined with a goal of the destruction of international capitalism.

(but still in my opinion, a movement to crush capitalism still needs it's leadership to be recallable by the base if it is to avoid structural decay, which can only happen through direct democracy and delegate systems)

Android
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Aug 19 2012 17:34
Harrison wrote:
Kontrrazvedka wrote:
So, I don't see how can you inject anarchist ideas in such kind of a movement, because it's not just about "authoritarian" or "libertarian" ways to organise - it's about crushing the capitalism.

agree. libertarian organisational principles mean absolutely nothing if it is not combined with a goal of the destruction of international capitalism.

(but still in my opinion, a movement to crush capitalism still needs it's leadership to be recallable by the base if it is to avoid structural decay, which can only happen through direct democracy and delegate systems)

Harrison, even though I might not pose it the same way ('direct democracy'), I think I agree in substance with you. For instance, the group (CWO) I am a member of, has a leadership/co-ordination body that consists of a member of each of our 3 local/regional groups.

However, to be honest, a group can have all the structure, procedures etc to try safeguard itself against bureaucratisation, the emergence of a bureaucratic centre. But if it doesn't develop a healthy internal life and culture that really counts for nothing because at the end of day political groups are made up of humans, irrespective of what is written on paper it is up to them to ensure a group doesn't degenerate in the way you point to. The best way to ensure negative tendencies don't take hold is a active and engaged membership.

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Aug 19 2012 18:06

I agree with Harrison and especially with Android, but I'd just like to point one more thing.

Organisation can be structured in libertarian way (i.e. based on direct democracy and federalism) and still be authoritarian, because of informal centers of power which develop around certain individuals in the group and which block groups work. Especially, when they are managing to change important/basic political positions every time they change the mood. This is only possible if group is consisted of passive members and if group is voluntarist.

So, in the end, I believe that crucial moment in building an organisation is in developing of active members capable of discussing and engaging in organisations work. This is a healthy basis for every organisation no matter what you chose: federalism or centralism. It's important that members have class consciousnesses and that they are aware of their purpose in class struggle.

When it comes to PKK, I clearly doubt that regular PKK member has any idea of its party's ideology but "fight for Kurdistan" and "kill bad Turks"... After all if they had any class consciousnesses they wouldn't kidnap Turkish teachers (i.e. working class)...

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Aug 20 2012 23:13

Propaganda by deed: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19322449 grin grin

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Aug 25 2012 12:32

removed by writer.

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Aug 26 2012 00:04

I don't know owt about the PKK so whether it's just rhetoric or moves towards something real is anyone's guess but if they are genuinely making in roads towards something more progressive shouldn't that be supported and helped along? Or even just have a chat with some of the members rather than sniping from the sidelines not knowing either way.

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Aug 26 2012 15:14

A change in direction by the leadership might be an indication of changing political attitudes on the ground in which case it is a positive sign although a change by the PKK itself would be likely to be more about recuperation than anything, as Devrim has said they engage in anti-working class activities and in the UK they are involved heavily in anti working class criminal activity. One thing I will say is that people in Turkey seemd much more engaged with politics, not just the people I met (mostly through politics) but in general. It's also the only place I've ever seen where people will queue up to take leaflets on demos, so maybe good ideas are coming through.

Harrison
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Aug 26 2012 18:10

i'm seriously confused by how a lot of comrades seem to be orienting toward this. PKK has a several decade long record of being a clearly not anarchist, clearly anti-worker, and clearly left nationalist party. anyone who posts anything on libcom that can be remotely construed to be national liberation will get destroyed (good thing), but a left nationalist party that adds bookchin to its ideology is supposed to be something we should watch and see if its politics evolve? i wouldn't really say its sniping from the sidelines, but instead reasonable political critique. i wouldn't be surprised if PKK is potentially looking for a new international political support base now that capital M "Marxism" is in many ways morally bankrupt, possibly to try and emulate the support EZLN receive (whose official ideology is incidentally bookchin's libertarian municipalism).

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Aug 26 2012 18:43

I don't think anyone's orientating to anything, it's more wait and see because you don't know their intentions for sure anymore than we do. They can't win either way though, can they? If they do make any moves it'll only be dismissed as a cynical ploy. And people wonder why anarchism is in the doldrums.

Also, yes, destroying someone's views on national liberation over the internet is totally productive and will make them renounce everything.

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Aug 26 2012 21:02
flaneur wrote:
Also, yes, destroying someone's views on national liberation over the internet is totally productive and will make them renounce everything.

Supporting nationalist gangsters reading Bookchin over Internet will change course of historical process of building class consciousness... Wait, what? eek

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Aug 26 2012 22:15

Yeah, what? I thought I was more ambivalent than anything but hey, who am I to ruin someone's fun.

Harrison
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Aug 27 2012 01:36
flaneur wrote:
it's more wait and see because you don't know their intentions for sure anymore than we do. They can't win either way though, can they? If they do make any moves it'll only be dismissed as a cynical ploy.

i agree with this generally with regard to groups undergoing a change in their politics, and also in the sense of not upholding an overly purer-than-thou attitude, but applied to this specific situation of a left nationalist party, i don't see whats wrong with saying the default attitude should be scepticism unless there is actual hard proof they've changed their practices.

flaneur wrote:
Also, yes, destroying someone's views on national liberation over the internet is totally productive and will make them renounce everything.

btw that was a reference to when I posted something on a thread a while ago like "if scotland became independent then people would realise that independence won't solve their problems" and got told off, and in hindsight i was wrong.

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Aug 26 2012 23:41
flaneur wrote:
They can't win either way though, can they? If they do make any moves it'll only be dismissed as a cynical ploy. And people wonder why anarchism is in the doldrums.

Nationalist organisations will obviously make lots of moves depending on the circumstances and the needs of the organisation. IIRC the IRSP published articles of Paul Mattick's in their publication a few decades ago, and the last two leaders of their North American support group were self described 'council communist' and 'libertarian marxists'. Doesn't at all alter the fact they are nationalists though.

From what I have read, my interaction with Kurdish supporters of PKK in UK and Devrim's posts on this thread, I think it is fairly safe to assume that they have not changed in any fundamental way, whereby they'd have something to contribute, positively, to working-class politics.

wrote:
I don't think anyone's orientating to anything, it's more wait and see because you don't know their intentions for sure anymore than we do.

Well, I think it is fairly clear that rata was arguing for such an orientation:

Quote:
To come back to PKK development - I find it quite interesting, and I think it would be a big error for anarchist movement to miss this opportunity of establishing hegemony of our ideology over such a vast amount of people. We should intensifie our contacts with PKK, and try in every way to influence development of this organization - always being clear about what our positions are, and what critique of their positions we have.
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Aug 27 2012 09:13

FT: Analysts link PKK upsurge to Syrian war

Quote:
Turkey’s leaders gathered on Wednesday for the funerals of nine people killed by a truck bomb, as commentators depicted the attack as a sign that violence in Syria might be spilling over into its neighbour.

Ankara has been faced with both an intensification in the violent campaign waged by Kurdish militants within Turkey and with increasing tensions with Damascus over the civil war raging inside Syria.
[...]
Meanwhile, Turkey’s political elite and much of the country is alarmed by the growing presence of the PYD, a group that says it has an “ideological” affinity with the PKK, in Kurdish areas of northern Syria effectively vacated by Syrian government forces.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, has already threatened military intervention if terrorist bases are set up in Syria, as tensions between Ankara and Damascus continue to rise.

Cale Salih, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the PYD was more focused on establishing itself as the dominant political party among Syrian Kurds than on helping the PKK’s military struggle against Turkey.

“It’s not clear whether they would go so far as to establish operational bases,” said Ms Salih. “I think if they did it now they know they could be wiped out.”

Other commentators point to Turkey’s broader fight against the PKK, which they say may be turning into a proxy war with Damascus.

“We are effectively at war with Syria because we have chosen to support the Syrian opposition,” said Suat Kiniklioglu, a former Turkish ruling party MP, in a nod to widespread reports – officially denied by Ankara – that Turkey is helping to arm Syrian rebels.

He added: “The Syrian regime is fighting back by helping and supporting hardliners in the PKK.”

Turkish officials suggest that hundreds of PKK fighters have already crossed into Syria from their existing bases in northern Iraq, but figures cannot be verified.
[...]
Cengiz Candar, a leading Turkish commentator, argues that with an increasingly powerful Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq, and the Kurds of Syria now seemingly headed for autonomy, Turkish Kurds’ own demands for greater rights are likely to redouble.

“Turkey is a much more developed country, with more connections to the western world, and more than half of all the Kurds are here,” he said. “How can they be satisfied with chewing gum if they are banqueting next door?”

Mr Candar said that for this reason, it was riskier than ever for Ankara to consider the Kurdish conflict as an issue that could be resolved by military force, rather than through a Good Friday-style agreement of the sort reached in Northern Ireland in 1998.

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Aug 27 2012 16:48

around 10 years ago, it was my impression that in Germany, people who i would describe at least as leftwing social democrats/reformist socialists, as Marxist-Leninists or as non-dogmatic leftistst and generally as people who honestly wanted to go beyond capitalism were drifting out of the PKK and its fronts, many of them joined other Turkish left wing groups, the KKP, the PDS, etc. ... the PKK was left with those members and sympathizers who followed every turn of Öcalan