After the withdrawal of the US and other NATO forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s seizure of cities across the country in a very short period of time, spaces for discussion have opened up concerning the ‘deadlocks’ that many view as inherent within capitalist nation-state systems, which lead to conflict and war.
A “democratic modernity” paradigm, which is based on the principles of a “democratic, ecological and women’s libertarian society,” formulated by Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), offers alternatives to the vicious circles that many countries (especially in the Middle East and Asia) seem to be entangled in.
Öcalan, imprisoned in conditions of severe solitary confinement for 22 years in the F-Type high security prison in İmralı Island of Turkey, has not only offered solutions to a number of issues (especially regarding the ‘Kurdish Question’) in the fifth volume of his book entitled ‘Manifesto for a Democratic Civilization,’ but also seems to have predicted the present crisis in Afghanistan. In his book, he presented perspectives that suggested a way out of such crises.
Observing that one of the greatest disasters of the nation-state was experienced on the Afghanistan-Pakistan line, Öcalan said, “The aim of the first offensive towards Afghanistan was to act urgently and take the initiative so that Russia and China did not fill the hegemonic vacuum that emerged in Central Asia. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were front-line tools used for this purpose.”
‘Third World War’
Noting that the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on 11 September 2001 actually accommodated an attempt by the capitalist system to start a “Third World War,” he said: “After Soviet Russia was defeated by the world hegemonic system in the 1990s, NATO declared radical Islam the enemy. In fact, it was used as an ideological mask. The objective was to establish a full hegemony of the capitalist system in Muslim countries of the Middle East, a task left unfinished after the Second World War.
“The specific objective was to properly integrate the states – defined as ‘rebels’ and ‘bandits’ – like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc. into the system, and thus, consolidate US hegemony globally. The hegemonic vacuum that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet system was to be filled through the ‘Third World War,’ under the leadership of the US hegemony. In addition, the rise of a potential new competitor, China, would also be prevented.”
Öcalan continued: “The aim of the first move in Afghanistan was to act urgently and take the initiative so that Russia and China did not fill the hegemonic vacuum in Central Asia. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were front-line vehicles used for this purpose. They could have been wiped out within 24 hours if desired but for the ‘legitimacy’ of the war, their presence would remain constantly on the agenda.”
The Iraq intervention and difficulties in the political arena
Öcalan stated that after the overthrow of the Saddam regime in Iraq, it was as if a “Pandora’s Box was opened” in a region hosting too many ethnicities, religions and sects.
“Politically, it would have required either a strictly despotic regime, or the most radical democratic system,” he wrote. “Western liberal political regimes had no chance of being implemented in this region, and neither was it a place which could be adequately analyzed through Western sociology. In short, it was not a culture that could be easily dominated through instruments of the ideological and political paradigms of the West. The situation that emerged was similar to the situation facing Britain after the First World War. Military victory could not be translated into the political arena. On the contrary, as traditional despotic regimes were overthrown, real social problems emerged, which capitalist modernity was not capable of solving.”
A ‘polish’ of modernity
Indicating that the situation in Afghanistan was similar to that in Iraq, Öcalan saw the nation-states’ implementation in these countries as “polish,” which created a ‘perception of modernity’ that was only surface deep. “When that polish was scratched, the reality that emerged revealed cultural issues which had accumulated for thousands of years,” he wrote.
“What all traditional despotic regimes have done so far was only to suppress cultures. However, they could not possibly destroy these cultures. The polish of modernity was so superficial that even with the slightest movement, it was bound to be removed and the true picture would emerge.”
Pointing out that the disintegration of the nation-state was not only experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan, Öcalan stated that similar situations were taking place in many countries, ranging from Kyrgyzstan on the China border to Morocco on the Atlantic coast, from Sudan sub-Saharan Africa to Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Balkans.
“Pakistan is already no different than Afghanistan,” he wrote. “Lebanon, Yemen and Sudan are constantly boiling. While Egypt was about to enter into a slightly democratic process, it faced the collapse of the regime. Algeria has not yet fully emerged from the civil war. Turkey, which has declared itself an island of stability, is kept alive only through the special operations of Gladio. There is hardly a single Middle Eastern country that does not have problems.”
Crisis of a global nature
Underlining that the US and its allies were far from resolving the crisis, and the problems were not likely to be solved through military means, Öcalan also observed that the crisis brought about by the insistence on structuring political systems as ‘nation-states’ were not even exclusive to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. Referring to the formation of the European Union (EU) as a response to a crisis of a global nature, he wrote: “The European Union has been trying to improve itself by limiting the nation-state sovereignty for sixty years.
“Since even these efforts are not sufficient, it becomes quite clear how much of a global problem the nation-state crisis is. The question is no longer whether nation-states, and therefore capitalist modernity, are experiencing a structural crisis; it is exactly what will emerge and how to live after the crisis is an issue. With ‘what’ and ‘how will’ the depression and chaos be overcome? If we compare the situation to the aftermath of the collapse of the Roman or Ottoman empires, it will be necessary to discuss and find out what kind of regimes, political formations and social lifestyles will develop in the place of nation-states.”
The Afghanistan-Pakistan line
Öcalan makes the following assessments in the last chapter of his volume entitled ‘Democratic Modernity Solution in the Middle East Crisis,’ regarding the problems that have emerged along the Afghanistan-Pakistan line: “One of the greatest disasters of the nation-state’s deadlock has currently been experienced on the Afghanistan-Pakistan line. The root of the Kashmir problem is completely based on nation-statism too.
“Pakistan-India, Pakistan-Bangladesh problems have been and still are the result of the same nationalist minds. By its very nature, the ‘solution’ perspectives and ‘peace agreements’ of nation-states lead to stalemate and war. These concrete examples demonstrate this fact quite clearly. All republican, royalist and real-socialist models of nation-statism were attempted in Afghanistan. The result is now a society, dissolved in a spiral of blind violence, lacking the capability to sustain itself.”
The “democratic nation” as a solution
Öcalan made the following suggestions after a comprehensive evaluation regarding the root of the problems: “No notion and source of will is conceivable other than the notion and theoretical frame of a democratic nation for realizing the objective of re-uniting these societies on the road to a free and democratic existence.
“Unless social problems are solved mentally, they cannot be solved structurally. The democratic nation mentality constitutes the most appropriate integrative framework for a wide variety of cultures and peoples from Central Asia to India. As long as the nation-state mentality persists, whether in the form of religious or secular nationalism, it is inevitable that these societies will be further disintegrated and drowned in conflicts.”
Öcalan also drew attention to a ‘Democratic National Unity project’ as a possible solution: a project with the potential to be implemented in the Middle East: “The most appropriate alternative to the intense disintegration that the nation-states of the Pakistani type are already experiencing is a Democratic National Unity project to be developed across the Middle East. (…)
As we have clearly stated, the democratic nation mentality and democratic autonomy structure of democratic modernity constitutes the most appropriate egalitarian, libertarian and democratic model, and thus the new paradigm that can take us out of this chaotic situation. It is a model that shows everyone and every society the way to lasting peace and security.”