Definition of Democratic Civilization

From 'The Sociology of Freedom: Manifesto of the Democratic Civilization, Volume 3' by Abdullah Ocalan.

Annotations are our own. The text is otherwise unchanged.

What is the subject of moral and political society?

The school of social science that postulates the examination of the existence and development of social nature on the basis of moral and political society could be defined as the democratic civilization system. The various schools of social science base their analyses on different units. Theology and religion prioritize society. For scientific socialism, it is class. The fundamental unit for liberalism is the individual. There are, of course, schools that prioritize power and the state and others that focus on civilization. All these unit-based approaches must be criticized, because, as I have frequently pointed out, they are not historical, and they fail to address the totality. A meaningful examination would have to focus on what is crucial from the point of view of society, both in terms of history and actuality. Otherwise, the result will only be one more discourse.

Identifying our fundamental unit as moral and political society is significant, because it also covers the dimensions of historicity and totality. Moral and political society is the most historical and holistic expression of society. Morals and politics themselves can be understood as history. A society that has a moral and political dimension is a society that is the closest to the totality of all its existence and development. A society can exist without the state, class, exploitation, the city, power, or the nation, but a society devoid of morals and politics is unthinkable. Societies may exist as colonies of other powers, particularly capital and state monopolies, and as sources of raw materials. In those cases, however, we are talking about the legacy of a society that has ceased to be.

Individualism is a state of war

There is nothing gained by labeling moral and political society—the natural state of society—as slave-owning, feudal, capitalist, or socialist. Using such labels to describe society masks reality and reduces society to its components (class, economy, and monopoly). The bottleneck encountered in discourses based on such concepts as regards the theory and practice of social development stems from errors and inadequacies inherent in them. If all of the analyses of society referred to with these labels that are closer to historical materialism have fallen into this situation, it is clear that discourses with much weaker scientific bases will be in a much worse situation. Religious discourses, meanwhile, focus heavily on the importance of morals but have long since turned politics over to the state. Bourgeois liberal approaches not only obscure the society with moral and political dimensions, but when the opportunity presents itself they do not hesitate to wage war on this society. Individualism is a state of war against society to the same degree as power and the state is. Liberalism essentially prepares society, which is weakened by being deprived of its morals and politics, for all kinds of attacks by individualism. Liberalism is the ideology and practice that is most anti-society.

The rise of scientific positivism

In Western sociology (there is still no science called Eastern sociology) concepts such as society and civilization system are quite problematic. We should not forget that the need for sociology stemmed from the need to find solutions to the huge problems of crises, contradictions, and conflicts and war caused by capital and power monopolies. Every branch of sociology developed its own thesis about how to maintain order and make life more livable. Despite all the sectarian, theological, and reformist interpretations of the teachings of Christianity, as social problems deepened, interpretations based on a scientific (positivist) point of view came to the fore. The philosophical revolution and the Enlightenment (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) were essentially the result of this need. When the French Revolution complicated society’s problems rather than solving them, there was a marked increase in the tendency to develop sociology as an independent science. Utopian socialists (Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon), together with Auguste Comte and Émile Durkheim, represent the preliminary steps in this direction. All of them are children of the Enlightenment, with unlimited faith in science. They believed they could use science to re-create society as they wished. They were playing God. In Hegel’s words, God had descended to earth and, what’s more, in the form of the nation-state. What needed to be done was to plan and develop specific and sophisticated “social engineering” projects. There was no project or plan that could not be achieved by the nation-state if it so desired, as long as it embraced the “scientific positivism” and was accepted by the nation-state!

Capitalism as an iron cage

British social scientists (political economists) added economic solutions to French sociology, while German ideologists contributed philosophically. Adam Smith and Hegel in particular made major contributions. There was a wide variety of prescriptions from both the left and right to address the problems arising from the horrendous abuse of the society by the nineteenth-century industrial capitalism. Liberalism, the central ideology of the capitalist monopoly has a totally eclectic approach, taking advantage of any and all ideas, and is the most practical when it comes to creating almost patchwork-like systems. It was as if the right- and left- wing schematic sociologies were unaware of social nature, history, and the present while developing their projects in relation to the past (the quest for the “golden age” by the right) or the future (utopian society). Their systems would continually fragment when they encountered history or current life. The reality that had imprisoned them all was the “iron cage” that capitalist modernity had slowly cast and sealed them in, intellectually and in their practical way of life. However, Friedrich Nietzsche’s ideas of metaphysicians of positivism or castrated dwarfs of capitalist modernity bring us a lot closer to the social truth. Nietzsche leads the pack of rare philosophers who first drew attention to the risk of society being swallowed up by capitalist modernity. Although he is accused of serving fascism with his thoughts, his foretelling of the onset of fascism and world wars was quite enticing.

The increase in major crises and world wars, along with the division of the liberal center into right- and left-wing branches, was enough to bankrupt positivist sociology. In spite of its widespread criticism of metaphysics, social engineering has revealed its true identity with authoritarian and totalitarian fascism as metaphysics at its shallowest. The Frankfurt School is the official testimonial of this bankruptcy. The École Annales and the 1968 youth uprising led to various postmodernist sociological approaches, in particular Immanuel Wallerstein’s capitalist world-system analysis. Tendencies like ecology, feminism, relativism, the New Left, and world-system analysis launched a period during which the social sciences splintered. Obviously, financial capital gaining hegem- ony as the 1970s faded also played an important role. The upside of these developments was the collapse of the hegemony of Eurocentric thought. The downside, however, was the drawbacks of a highly fragmented social sciences.

The problems of Eurocentric sociology

Let’s summarize the criticism of Eurocentric sociology:

  1. Positivism, which criticized and denounced both religion and metaphysics, has not escaped being a kind of religion and metaphysics in its own right. This should not come as a surprise. Human culture requires metaphysics. The issue is to distinguish good from bad metaphysics.

  2. An understanding of society based on dichotomies like primitive vs. modern, capitalist vs. socialist, industrial vs. agrarian, progressive vs. reactionary, divided by class vs. classless, or with a state vs. stateless prevents the development of a definition that comes closer to the truth of social nature. Dichotomies of this sort distance us from social truth.

  3. To re-create society is to play the modern god. More precisely, each time society is recreated there is a tendency to form a new capital and power-state monopoly. Much like medieval theism was ideologically connected to absolute monarchies (sultanates and shāhanshāhs), modern social engineering—as re-creation— is essentially the divine disposition and ideology of the nation- state. Positivism in this regard is modern theism.

  4. Revolutions cannot be interpreted as the re-creation acts of society. When thusly understood they cannot escape positivist theism. Revolutions can only be defined as social revolutions to the extent that they free society from excessive burden of capital and power.

  5. The task of revolutionaries cannot be defined as creating any social model of their making but more correctly as playing a role in contributing to the development of moral and political society.

  6. Methods and paradigms to be applied to social nature should not be identical to those that relate to first nature. While the universalist approach to first nature provides results that come closer to the truth (I don’t believe there is an absolute truth), relativism in relation to social nature may get us closer to the truth. The universe can neither be explained by an infinite universalist linear discourse or by a concept of infinite similar circular cycles.

  7. A social regime of truth needs to be reorganized on the basis of these and many other criticisms. Obviously, I am not talking about a new divine creation, but I do believe that the greatest feature of the human mind is the power to search for and build truth.

A new social science

In light of these criticisms, I offer the following suggestions in relation to the social science system that I want to define:

A more humane social nature

  1. I would not present social nature as a rigid universalist truth with mythological, religious, metaphysical, and scientific (positivist) patterns. Understanding it to be the most flexible form of basic universal entities that encompass a wealth of diversities but are tied down to conditions of historical time and location more closely approaches the truth. Any analysis, social science, or attempt to make practical change without adequate knowledge of the qualities of social nature may well backfire. The monotheistic religions and positivism, which have appeared throughout the history of civilization claiming to have found the solution, were unable to prevent capital and power monopolies from gaining control. It is therefore their irrevocable task, if they are to contribute to moral and political society, to develop a more humane analysis based on a profound self-criticism.

  2. Moral and political society is the main element that gives social nature its historical and complete meaning and represents the unity in diversity that is basic to its existence. It is the definition of moral and political society that gives social nature its character, maintains its unity in diversity, and plays a decisive role in expressing its main totality and historicity. The descriptors commonly used to define society, such as primitive, modern, slave-owning, feudal, capitalist, socialist, industrial, agricultural, commercial, monetary, statist, national, hegemonic, and so on, do not reflect the decisive features of social nature. On the contrary, they conceal and fragment its meaning. This, in turn, provides a base for faulty theoretical and practical approaches and actions related to society.

Protecting the social fabric

  1. Statements about renewing and re-creating society are part of operations meant to constitute new capital and power monopolies in terms of their ideological content. The history of civilization, the history of such renewals, is the history of the cumulative accumulation of capital and power. Instead of divine creativity, the basic action the society needs most is to struggle against factors that prevent the development and functioning of moral and political social fabric. A society that operates its moral and political dimensions freely, is a society that will continue its development in the best way.

  2. Revolutions are forms of social action resorted to when society is sternly prevented from freely exercising and maintaining its moral and political function. Revolutions can and should be accepted as legitimate by society only when they do not seek to create new societies, nations, or states but to restore moral and political society its ability to function freely.

  3. Revolutionary heroism must find meaning through its contributions to moral and political society. Any action that does not have this meaning, regardless of its intent and duration, cannot be defined as revolutionary social heroism. What determines the role of individuals in society in a positive sense is their contribution to the development of moral and political society.

  4. No social science that hopes to develop these key features through profound research and examination should be based on a universalist linear progressive approach or on a singular infinite cyclical relativity. In the final instance, instead of these dogmatic approaches that serve to legitimize the cumulative accumulation of capital and power throughout the history of civilization, social sciences based on a non-destructive dialectic methodology that harmonizes analytical and emotional intelligence and overcomes the strict subject-object mold should be developed.

The framework of moral and political society

The paradigmatic and empirical framework of moral and political society, the main unit of the democratic civilization system, can be presented through such hypotheses. Let me present its main aspects:

  1. Moral and political society is the fundamental aspect of human society that must be continuously sought. Society is essentially moral and political.

  2. Moral and political society is located at the opposite end of the spectrum from the civilization systems that emerged from the triad of city, class, and state (which had previously been hierarchical structures).

  3. Moral and political society, as the history of social nature, develops in harmony with the democratic civilization system.

  4. Moral and political society is the freest society. A functioning moral and political fabric and organs is the most decisive dynamic not only for freeing society but to keep it free. No revolution or its heroines and heroes can free the society to the degree that the development of a healthy moral and political dimension will. Moreover, revolution and its heroines and heroes can only play a decisive role to the degree that they contribute to moral and political society.

  5. A moral and political society is a democratic society. Democracy is only meaningful on the basis of the existence of a moral and political society that is open and free. A democratic society where individuals and groups become subjects is the form of governance that best develops moral and political society. More precisely, we call a functioning political society a democracy. Politics and democracy are truly identical concepts. If freedom is the space within which politics expresses itself, then democracy is the way in which politics is exercised in this space. The triad of freedom, politics, and democracy cannot lack a moral basis. We could refer to morality as the institutionalized and traditional state of freedom, politics, and democracy.

  6. Moral and political societies are in a dialectical contradiction with the state, which is the official expression of all forms of capital, property, and power. The state constantly tries to substitute law for morality and bureaucracy for politics. The official state civilization develops on one side of this historically ongoing contradiction, with the unofficial democratic civilization system developing on the other side. Two distinct typologies of meaning emerge. Contradictions may either grow more violent and lead to war or there may be reconciliation, leading to peace.

  7. Peace is only possible if moral and political society forces and the state monopoly forces have the will to live side by side unarmed and with no killing. There have been instances when rather than society destroying the state or the state destroying society, a conditional peace called democratic reconciliation has been reached. History doesn’t take place either in the form of democratic civilization—as the expression of moral and political society—or totally in the form of civilization systems—as the expression of class and state society. History has unfolded as intense relationship rife with contradiction between the two, with successive periods of war and peace. It is quite utopian to think that this situation, with at least a five-thousand-year history, can be immediately resolved by emergency revolutions. At the same time, to embrace it as if it is fate and cannot be interfered with would also not be the correct moral and political approach. Knowing that struggles between systems will be protracted, it makes more sense and will prove more effective to adopt strategic and tactical approaches that expand the freedom and democracy sphere of moral and political society.

  8. Defining moral and political society in terms of communal, slave-owning, feudal, capitalist, and socialist attributes serves to obscure rather than elucidate matters. Clearly, in a moral and political society there is no room for slave-owning, feudal, or capitalist forces, but, in the context of a principled reconciliation, it is possible to take an aloof approach to these forces, within limits and in a controlled manner. What’s important is that moral and political society should neither destroy them nor be swallowed up by them; the superiority of moral and political society should make it possible to continuously limit the reach and power of the central civilization system. Communal and socialist systems can identify with moral and political society insofar as they themselves are democratic. This identification is, however, not possible, if they have a state.

  9. Moral and political society cannot seek to become a nation-state, establish an official religion, or construct a non-democratic regime. The right to determine the objectives and nature of society lies with the free will of all members of a moral and political society. Just as with current debates and decisions, strategic decisions are the purview of society’s moral and political will and expression. The essential thing is to have discussions and to become a decision-making power. A society who holds this power can determine its preferences in the soundest possible way. No individual or force has the authority to decide on behalf of moral and political society, and social engineering has no place in these societies.

Liberating democratic civilization from the State

When viewed in the light of the various broad definitions I have presented, it is obvious that the democratic civilization system—essentially the moral and political totality of social nature—has always existed and sustained itself as the flip side of the official history of civilization. Despite all the oppression and exploitation at the hands of the official world-system, the other face of society could not be destroyed. In fact, it is impossible to destroy it. Just as capitalism cannot sustain itself without noncapitalist society, civilization— the official world system— also cannot sustain itself without the democratic civilization system. More concretely the civilization with monopolies cannot sustain itself without the existence of a civilization without monopolies. The opposite is not true. Democratic civilization, representing the historical flow of the system of moral and political society, can sustain itself more comfortably and with fewer obstacles in the absence of the official civilization.

I define democratic civilization as a system of thought, the accumulation of thought, and the totality of moral rules and political organs. I am not only talking about a history of thought or the social reality within a given moral and political development. The discussion does, however, encompass both issues in an intertwined manner. I consider it important and necessary to explain the method in terms of democratic civilization’s history and elements, because this totality of alternate discourse and structures are prevented by the official civilization. I will address these issues in subsequent sections.