V. Problems of the Peoples in the
[from the book “Democratic Confederalism”, 2011]
The national question is not a phantasm of the capitalist modernity. Nevertheless it was the capitalist modernity which imposed the national question on the society. The nation replaced the religious community. However, the transition to a national society needs the overcoming of the capitalist modernity if the nation is not to remain the disguise of repressive monopolies. As negative as is the over-emphasis of the national category in the
Middle East as severe would be the
consequences of neglecting the collective national aspect. Hence the method in
handling the issue should not be ideological but scientific and
not nationstatist but based on the concept of democratic nation and
democratic communalism. The contents of such an approach are the fundamental
elements of democratic modernity.
Over the past two centuries nationalism and tendency for nation- states have been fuelled in the societies of the
Middle East. The
national issues have not been solved but rather have been aggravated in
all areas of the society. Instead of cultivating productive competition the capital enforces internal and external
wars in the name of the nation-state.
The theory of communalism would be an alternative to capitalism.
In the framework of democratic nations which do not strive for power monopolies it may lead to peace in a region which has only been the field of gory wars and genocides.
In this context we can speak of four majority nations: Arabs, Persians, Turks, and Kurds. I do not wish to divide nations into majority or minority as I do not find this to be appropriate. But due to demographic considerations I shall speak of majority nations.
In the same context we may also use the term minority nations.
1. There are more than twenty Arab nation-states which divide the Arab community and damage their societies by wars. This is one of the main factors responsible for the alienation of cultural values and the apparent hopelessness of the Arab national question. These nation-states have not even been able to form a cross-national economic community. They are the main reason of the problematic situation of the Arab nation. A religiously motivated tribal nationalism together with a sexist patriarchal society pervades all areas of the society resulting in distinct conservatism and slavish obedience. Nobody believes that the Arabs will be able to find an Arab national solution to their internal and crossnational problems. However, democratization and a communalist approach might provide such a solution. Their weakness towards
, which the Arab nation-states regard as a competitor, is
not only the result of international support by the hegemonic powers.
Rather, it is the result of a strong internal democratic and
communal institutions within Israel .
Over the last century, the society of the Arab nation has been weakened by
radical nationalism and Islamism. Yet, if they are able to unite communal socialism
which they are not a stranger to with that of the understanding of
a democratic nation then they may be able to find themselves
a secure, long-term solution. Israel
2. The Turks and Turkmens form another influential nation.
They share a similar understandings of power and ideology with the Arabs. They are strict nation-statists and have a profound religious and racial nationalism engraved in them. From a sociological point of view, the Turks and Turkmens are quite different.
The relations between Turkmen and Turkish aristocracy resemble the tensed relations between Bedouins and Arab aristocracy. They form a stratum whose interests are compatible with democracy and communalism. The national problems are quite complex.
The power strive of the nation-state, distinct nationalism and a sexist patriarchal society prevail and create a very conservative society.
The family is regarded as the smallest cell of the state. Both individuals and institutions have taken in these aspects. Turkish and Turkmen communities struggle for power. Other ethnic groups are subjected to a distinct policy of subjugation. The centralist power structures of the Turkish nation-state and the rigid official ideology have prevented a solution to the Kurdish question until today. The society is made to believe that there is no alternative to the state. There is no balance between the individual and the state. Obedience is regarded as the greatest virtue.
In contrast to this, the theory of the democratic modernity offers an adequate approach to all national communities in
solve their national problems. Community based project of a
democratic Turkish confederation would both strengthen its internal
unity and and create the conditions for a peaceful coexistence with
the neighbours that it lives with. Borders have lost
its former meaning when it comes to social unity. In spite of
geographic boundaries today’s modern communication tools allow
for a virtual unity between individuals and communities wherever
they are. A democratic confederation of the Turkish national communities
could be a contribution to world peace and the
system of democratic modernity. Turkey
3. The Kurdish national society is very complex. Worldwide, the Kurds are the biggest nation without a state of their own. They have been settling in their present settlement areas since the Neolithic. Agriculture and stock breeding as well as their readiness to defend themselves using the geographic advantages of their mountainous homeland helped the Kurds to survive as a native people. The Kurdish national question rises from the fact that they have been denied their right to nationhood. Others tried to assimilate them, annihilate them, and in the end flatly denied their existence. Not having a state of their own has advantages and disadvantages. The excrescences of state-based civilizations have only been taken in to a limited extent. This can be a benefit in the realization of alternative social concepts beyond the capitalist modernity. Their settlement area is divided by the national borders of four countries and lies in a geo-strategically important region, thus providing the Kurds a strategic advantage. The Kurds do not have the chance to form a national society through the use of state-power. Although there is a Kurdish political entity today in Iraqi-Kurdistan, it is not a nation-state but rather a
All these properties are a blessing for new democratic political formations. Communal cooperatives in farming but also in the water economy and the energy sector offer themselves as ideal ways of production. The situation is also favourable for the development of an ethical political society. Even the patriarchal ideology is less deeply rooted here than in the neighbouring societies.
This is beneficial for the establishment of a democratic society where women’s freedom and equality are to form one of the main pillars. It also offers the conditions for the creation of a democratic environment-friendly nation in line with the paradigm of the democratic modernity. The construction of a democratic nation based on multi-national identities is the ideal solution when faced with the dead-end street nation-state. The emerging entity could become a blueprint for the entire
and expand dynamically into neighbouring countries. Convincing
the neighbouring nations of this model shall change the fate of the Middle East
and shall reinforce the chance of democratic modernity to create
an alternative. In this sense, therefore, the freedom of the Kurds
and the democratization of their society would be synonymous with
the freedom of the whole region and its societies.
4. The reasons for today’s problems of the Persian or Iranian nation can be found in the interventions of historical civilizations and the capitalist modernity. Although their original identity was a result of Zoroastrian and Mithraic tradition these have been annulled by a derivative of Islam. Manichaeism that emerged as the synthesis of Judaism, Christianity and Mohammedanism with Greek philosophy was not able to prevail against the ideology of the official civilization. Indeed, it went no further then to nurture the tradition of rebellion. It has hence converted the Islamic tradition into Shi’ah denomination and adopted it to be its latest civilizational ideology. Presently there are efforts made to modernize itself by passing the elements of capitalist modernity through its Shi’ah filter.
The Iranian society is multi-ethnic and multi-religious and blessed with a rich culture. All national and religious identities of the
Middle East can be found there. This
diversity is in strong contrast to the hegemonic claim of the theocracy,
which cultivates a subtle religious nationalism and the ruling class
does not shrink back from anti-modernist propaganda whenever it
serves their interests. Revolutionary and democratic
tendencies have been integrated by the traditional civilization. A
despotic regime skilfully governs the country. The negative effects of
American and European sanctions are not negligible here.
Despite strong centralist efforts in
from the grass-roots already some kind of federalism exists. When elements
of democratic civilisation and federalist elements including Azeris, Kurds,
Baluchis, Arabs, and Turkmens intersect, the project of a “Democratic
Confederation of Iran” can emerge and become attractive. Women’s movement and communal traditions will play a
special role here. Iran
5. The Armenian national question contains one of the greatest tragedies that the progress of the capitalist modernity has brought about in the
Middle East. The Armenians are a very
old people. They shared much of their settlement area with the
Kurds. While the Kurds live primarily on agriculture and animal
husbandry the Armenians engaged in arts and crafts. Just like the
Kurds, the Armenians cultivated a tradition of self-defence. Apart from
some short episodes the Armenians never successfully
founded a state. They rely on Christian culture which gives them their
identity and their faith in salvation. Because of their
religion they often suffered repression at the hands of the Muslim
majority. Hence, the emerging nationalism bore fruit with the Armenian
Soon there were differences with the Turkish nationalists eventually ending in the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks.
Apart from the Jews the Armenians are the second-largest people which live primarily in the Diaspora. The foundation of an Armenian state in the west of
however, did not solve the Armenian national question. The consequences
of the genocide can hardly be put into words. The search for
the lost country defines their national psyche and is at the
heart of the Armenian question. The issue is aggravated by the fact
that these areas have been settled by other people since then.
Any concepts based on a nation-state cannot offer a solution. There
is neither a homogenous population structure there nor any clear
borders as is required by the capitalist modernity. The
thinking of their opponents may be fascist; however, it is not enough to
only bring the genocide to one’s mind. Confederate structures
could be an alternative for the Armenians. The foundation of a
democratic Armenian nation in line with the paradigm of the
democratic modernity promises the Armenians an opportunity to
reinvent themselves. It could enable them to return to their
place in the cultural plurality of the Azerbaijan Middle
East. In the event that they renew themselves
under the Armenian democratic nation not only shall they
continue to play their historical role within the Middle
East culture but they shall also find the right path to
6. In modern times the Christian Arameans (Assyrians) also suffered the fate of the Armenians. They too are one of the oldest people in the
Middle East. They shared a settlement
area with the Kurds but also with other people. Like the
Armenians they suffered from repression by the Muslim majority paving
the way for European-style nationalism among the Aramean
Eventually the Arameans too fell victims to genocide at the hands of the Turks under the leadership of the fascist Committee of Unity and Progress. The collaborationist Kurds lent a helping hand in this genocide. The question of Aramean national society has its roots in the civilization but has also developed further with Christianity and ideologies of modernity. For a solution there is a need for a radical transformation of the Arameans. Their real salvation may be to break away from the mentality of classical civilization and capitalist modernity and instead embrace democratic civilization and renew their rich cultural memory as an element of democratic modernity in order to re-construct themselves as the “Aramean Democratic Nation”.
7. The history of the Jewish people also gives expression to the overall problematic cultural history of the
The search for the backdrop of expulsion, pogroms and
genocide amounts to balancing the accounts of the
civilizations. The Jewish community has taken
up the influences of the old Sumerian and Egyptian
cultures as well as those of regional tribal cultures.
It has contributed a lot to the culture of the
Like the Arameans they fell victims to extreme developments
Against this background, intellectuals of Jewish descent developed a complex point of view towards these issues. However, this is by far not enough. For a solution of the problems as they exist today a renewed appropriation of the history of the
Middle East is needed on a democratic basis. The Israeli nationstate is at war since its foundation. The slogan is: an eye
for an eye. Fire cannot be fought by fire, though. Even if enjoys relative
security thanks to its international support, this is not a sustainable
solution. Nothing will be permanently safe as long as the
capitalist modernity has not been overcome. Israel
it clear that the nation-state paradigm is
not helpful for a solution. There has been much bloodshed; what
remains is the difficult legacy of seemingly irresolvable problems.
The Israel-Palestine example shows the complete failure of
the capitalist modernity and the nation-state. Palestine
The Jews belong to the culture bearers of the
Denial of their right to existence is an attack on the
Middle East as
such. Their transformation into a democratic nation just as for
Armenians and Arameans would make their participation in a
democratic confederation of the Middle East
easier. The project of an “East-Aegean Democratic Confederation” would be
a positive start. Strict and exclusive national and
religious identities may evolve into flexible and open identities under
this project. may also evolve into a more acceptable open
democratic nation. Undoubtedly though its neighbours must also go through
such a transformation. Israel
Tensions and armed conflicts in the
Middle East make a transformation
of the paradigm of modernity seem inevitable.
Without it a solution of the difficult social problems and national questions is impossible. Democratic modernity offers an alternative to the system that is unable to resolve problems.
8. The annihilation of Hellenic culture in
is a loss that cannot be compensated. The ethnic cleansing arranged
by the Turkish and Greek nation-states in the first quarter
of the last century has left its mark. No state has the right to
drive people from their ancestral cultural region. Nevertheless, the
nationstates showed their inhuman approach towards such issues
again and again. The attacks on the Hellenic, Jewish,
Aramean and Armenian cultures were stepped up while Islam spread
throughout the Middle East.
This, in turn, contributed to the decline of the
Middle-Eastern Civilization. The Islamic culture has never been
able to fill the emerging void. In the 19th century when the capitalist
modernity advanced into the Middle East it
found a cultural desert created by self-inflicted cultural
erosion. Cultural diversity also strengthens the defence mechanism of a
Monocultures are less robust. Hence, the conquest of the
Middle East had not been
difficult. The project of a homogeneous nation as propagated by the nation-states furthered
their cultural decline.
9. The Caucasian ethnic groups also have social problems which are not insignificant. Again and again they have migrated into the
Middle East and stimulated its cultures. They
have unquestionably contributed to its cultural wealth. The arrival of modernity almost
made these minority cultures disappear. They, too, would
find their adequate place in a confederate structure.
Finally, let me state again that the fundamental problems of the
Middle East are deeply rooted in the class civilization. They
have tightened with the global crisis of the capitalist
modernity. This modernity and its claim to dominance cannot offer any
solutions not to mention a long-term perspective for the
The future is democratic confederalism.