Kurkcu: Self-criticism cannot be just an accounting of the past! -II

According to the HDP's Honorary President the party's immersion in parliamentary politics, the expectation of negotiations, and its preoccupation with issues unrelated to the struggle have led to a waste of time and energy.

On August 27, the HDP held its 4th Extraordinary Congress. With the party under threat of being shut down by the Constitutional Court, it will now transfer all its power and cadres to the Green Left Party. However, the Green Left Party will inherit the HDP's power and responsibilities for its recent past and shortcomings requiring self-criticism.

Since June 7, 2015, the HDP has been suppressed by relentless violence. In the future, books and documentaries will likely document the HDP's test against this process. The crackdown on the HDP and the opposition's response are directly tied to Turkey's construction of an authoritarian regime.

So, how did the HDP pass the test of this process? What should be the way and method of struggle going forward? As the HDP transfers power to the Green Left Party, what should it do? In the second part of our interview, HDP Honorary President Ertugrul Kurkcu, who has made historic contributions to the Turkish left-socialist movement in theory and practice for half a century, addresses these questions...

- The failure to manage the Labor and Freedom Alliance well, especially the breakdown in relations with the TIP (Worker's Party of Turkey) affecting Kurds, is an important discussion topic. Some Kurdish nationalists use this to argue that left-socialist movements in Turkey should no longer align. Others take refuge in 1990s HADEP and DEHAP nostalgia. What does this tell you?

The political reality giving rise to the HDP is determined by how Kurdish patriotism understands the Kurdish struggle for freedom and self-determination. This is the paradigm expressed in Ocalan's theses. Ocalan's prediction and determination birthed the HDP: "For Kurds in Turkey and other parts of Kurdistan, liberation is possible through a confederal solution." Therefore, those arguing, "Should we work with leftists or rightists?" must first answer: "Is this paradigm correct?"

- What is your view on whether Ocalan's paradigm for Kurdish self-determination has proven effective?

Despite shifts, this perspective has been confirmed in practice. The emergence of a federal administration in Iraqi Kurdistan and an Autonomous Administration in Rojava, Syria, show this. Between 1984 and 2023 in Turkey, Kurds achieved their most influential political existence since the Republic's founding, becoming parliament's third largest force and the third pole in Turkish politics. I believe the HDP's pursuit of this paradigm has proven successful.

- How has the HDP experience contributed?

The HDP enabled Kurds to articulate their struggle for self-determination, organize politically, and make de facto room for Kurdish identity in Turkey. The HDP established a Kurdish-led third power center in parliament. This means Kurds emerged from the darkness imposed on them since the 1930s to gain a place in the sun.

- What was the Turkish left's role?

It was to help critical segments of society understand this paradigm. The most rooted Turkish leftists helped establish the HDP. They worked to ensure the transformative potential of the Kurdish struggle was understood in western Turkey. So it's preposterous for those hostile to Öcalan's paradigm to scapegoat the Turkish left over the political genocide by Turkish racism.

- Can you elaborate?

It's well known those exploiting leftist tensions to condemn Kurdish-leftist alliances are no friends of the Kurdish cause. And it's untrue the Turkish left plays a numerically dominant decision-making role in the HDP.

- So the party isn't shaped by its leftist elements?

From the start, Turkish socialists in HDP leadership have been under 10%. The same goes for MPs. This cannot obstruct the Kurdish movement's political expression. Moreover, to believe the movement has placed such obstacles requires ignoring forty years of history.

- Does this mean Turkish leftists are ineffective in the HDP?

Not at all. The Kurdish movement itself has socialist roots. There's no natural "socialist alternative" in Kurdistan outside it. Think of the HDP like a chemical compound - removing even one small element destroys the substance. It's thanks to this complexity that the HDP exists. By including not just Kurdish and Turkish leftists but democrats, libertarians, women, LGBTQ individuals, Arabs, Assyrians, ecologists, Alevis, secular urbanites, religious rural Kurds, renowned professors, and remote towns, the HDP created unprecedented political chemistry. This attracted those seeking new politics. For Kurds, this didn't undermine the HDP - it increased its democratic appeal in the West, too.

- So, who lost influence?

Kurdish groups close to the state and conservatives carved out positions in the AKP, believing they could mediate between Kurds and the regime. The HDP's progressive program and mass appeal dwarfed their influence. The HDP's issues today aren't due to its makeup or paradigm - that's precisely what made it a nationwide third pole.

- What if Kurds pursue self-determination differently, not through partnership?

Our socialist duty would be to assist Kurds' realization of new preferences, as the Bolsheviks did when parts of Russia seceded. Currently, Kurds back the common struggle, with democrats in HDP and conservatives in AKP. But the right to self-determination is absolute - how it's realized doesn't affect the request itself.

- Some argue the HDP should now lean nationalist and conservative.

It's odd to treat opponents who didn't vote for HDP as having valid opinions. Besides, in the 1920s-30s, Kurds were massacred while attending Friday prayers, with no ideology but Islam. Whether Kurds were religious or Alevi didn't affect the state's colonialist view. To be colonized, Kurds must be convinced their worsening plight is because of those fighting for liberation. One can't resist destruction with defeatism.

- What Kurdish history are you referring to?

I'm encouraged by the spirit of resistance - even under colonialism; religiosity transformed into a democratic movement in the 1960s-80s, starting in madrassas. When the state tried turning mosques into anti-terror centers, religious Kurds creatively responded with "Civil Fridays." This righteous resistance was crucial in opening space for democratic politics - we watched with admiration. Those now saying "we'd benefit by loyally serving the state" disregard people's memory and culture.

- Isn't that possible?

That's chasing "dry water." Kurdish history shows otherwise. Uprisings require proper timing and tactics - mistakes bring consequences. But blaming the HDP's Turkish socialists, who simply back Kurdish self-determination and pay the costs, deserves a firm response. As we defend Kurdish rights internationally, patriots must explain that solidarity is necessary amidst these attacks. As we make this case in western Turkey, the same necessity remains in Kurdistan. All objections require objective answers. But when outside enemies try injecting leftist hostility into the HDP, we must consider whether the regime has a hand.

- What do you mean?

Trying to make the HDP purely regional at the expense of its nationwide third-pole status suits government calculations. In 2023, we can't excuse this by citing problems in our alliances.

- After 2019, the HDP finally regained political space. Was this utilized fully?

Our 2019 strategy delivered a heavy blow, giving unmatched political opportunities even under dictatorship. Our politics squeezed the government. But we wasted this on parliamentary politics, false hopes for renewed talks, and debating a "democratic constitution" in a dictatorship parliament. Rumors of Öcalan talks created unhelpful expectations. And we wasted time building alliances despite congresses demanding it - the People's Democratic Congress, the HDP's human energy source, withered. With nothing else, parliament became the only political arena. The HDP's shadow was peaceful but stagnant.

- Shouldn't parliamentary politics be the focus?

Not everything can or should happen in the HDP, Ankara, or parliament! Life can't fit into politics; politics can't fit into one party. The HDP retreated from the people into Ankara when the opposite was needed. We wasted time on indirect tactics instead of mobilizing the masses against the multiple crises. Come election time, we rehashed the same old alliances.

- So, the Alliance for Labor and Freedom was founded incorrectly?

We didn't take the party's labor-oriented program to the streets against poverty, cost of living, misogyny, and ecological destruction. In allying with the TİP, we projected left unity as consisting solely of them, rendering our socialists invisible. This blurred the HDP's longstanding role as a polestar for Turkey's anti-capitalist forces.

- Weren't these issues raised at the time?

Just because criticisms weren't loudly aired publicly or phrased in insulting terms doesn't mean they weren't made. These points were all raised in various forums. But without a fundamental change in practice, declarations alone are meaningless. Unfortunately, there was no fundamental shift in the HDP's core orientation - the focus of "self-criticism" now. The results don't reflect successful political practice per objective measures.

- Will the post-election discussion and self-criticism process be effective?

The passionate airing of needs shows the desire for self-criticism is genuine. But it can't just be backward-looking accounting. Current attitudes, reorganization, parliamentary practices, and party re-education methodologies will indicate what self-criticism means.

- Has that process begun?

We're still at the start. Reminding itself that enabling people's self-governance is its primary task and establishing channels between the party and people would help the HDP avoid mistakes. The HDP is Turkey's future, so it must value itself and rebuild. The HDP congress and HDP's next steps will show whether self-criticism was taken seriously.

- As the HDP passes the torch, what should the HDP do to create a new wind?

The wind isn't blown by those filling its sails but by mobilizing forces to seize it. To continue the "voyage of hope," the HDP must block its ears to siren songs of conservatism and liberalism and articulate the language of liberation for youth, women, Kurds, and workers.

- How can this be done?

By maximizing extra-parliamentary activity. Parliament is now just a loudspeaker for its agenda. Its discourse must resonate with people through a language revolution. As the sole parliamentary channel for Kurds, the HDP must articulate people's issues rather than flatter them. It must actively examine why Kurdish freedom enables universal freedom.

- Should the HDP focus more on labor?

Absolutely. It must lead workers and democracy, pursuing that agenda even at high cost to offer political alternatives. It must enlighten people as their servants with all mechanisms, glorifying shared revolutionary values.

- International left ties weakened in the HDP's later years. Would restoring those connections help?

I strongly hope the HDP adopts an inter-people international orientation. This requires inner journeying between Kurds, Turks, and others - bilingualism programs are needed. Relations should be between people and revolutionaries, not elite state representatives. Our program remains a democratic, autonomous republic where Kurds are equal founders and the remotest villages self-govern. We must rebuild society daily to achieve this.

- Do you see the HDP Congress as an end or a beginning?

Not quite. But the HDP's importance and destiny haven't been sufficiently reflected on. More thought on our experience would do it justice.

- How did participating in exile feel?

It's early to call this the last congress. But in impact, innovation, transmitting its legacy - a golden opportunity was missed. I hope the HDP sees this as an example of thinking about propaganda.

- Where do you situate yourself in the struggle now? And the HDP?

The HDP was our first nationwide effort toward our ultimate goal - a stateless, egalitarian world. It was unique to glimpse possibilities for change, see the country's colors, feel the cruelty of nationalism, and marvel at my transformation. This continues - I know I will be horrified and awed. If I'm dying, I'll think, "I wish I'd seen the full story."

*The first part of the interview was published by Gerceknews yesterday. The second part has been shortened and translated into English for the readers of Gerceknews.

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