Liberating Life: Woman’s Revolution
by ABDULLAH ÖCALAN
(reposted with permission from The International Initiative)
The question of women’s freedom has intrigued me throughout my life. While at first I viewed the enslavement of women in the Middle East and in general as the result of feudal backwardness, after many years of revolutionary practice and research I came to the conclusion that the problem goes much deeper. The 5000-year-old history of civilisation is essentially the history of the enslavement of woman. Consequently, woman’s freedom will only be achieved by waging a struggle against the foundations of this ruling system.
An analysis of mainstream civilisation with regard to the freedom question will make clear that civilisation has been weighted down by an ever-increasing slavery. This mainstream civilisation“ is the civilisation passed down from, and in return influenced by, Sumer to Akkad, from Babylon to Assur, from Persia to Greece, Rome, Byzantium, Europe and finally the USA. Throughout the long history of this civilisation, slavery has been perpetuated on three levels: First, there is construction of ideological slavery (conspicuously, but understandably, fearsome and dominant gods are constructed from mythologies); then there is use of force; lastly, there is seizure of the economy.
This three-tiered enchainment of society is excellently illustrated by the ziggurats, the temples established by the Sumerian priest-state. The upper levels of the ziggurats are propounded as the quarters of the god who controls the mind. The middle floors are the political and administrative headquarters of the priests. Finally, the bottom floor houses the craftsmen and agricultural workers who are forced to work in all kinds of production. Essentially, this model has been unchanged till today. Thus, an analysis of the ziggurat is in fact an analysis of the continuous mainstream civilisation system that will enable us to analyse the current capitalist world-system in terms of its true basis. Continuous, accumulative development of capital and power is only one side of the medallion. The other side is horrendous slavery, hunger, poverty and coercion into a herd-like society.
Without depriving society of its freedom and ensuring that it can be managed like a herd, central civilisation cannot sustain or preserve itself, because of the nature of the system according to which it functions. This is done by creating even more capital and instruments of power, causing an ever-increasing poverty and herd-like mentality. The reason why the issue of freedom is the key question in every age, lies in the nature of the system itself.
The history of the loss of freedom is at the same time the history of how woman lost her position and vanished from history. It is the history of how the dominant male, with all his gods and servants, rulers and subordinates, his economy, science and arts, obtained power. Woman‘s downfall and loss is thus the downfall and loss of the whole of society, with the resultant sexist society. The sexist male is so keen on constructing his social dominance over woman that he turns any contact with her into a show of dominance.
The depth of woman‘s enslavement and the intentional masking of this fact is thus closely linked to the rise within a society of hierarchical and statist power. As women are habituated to slavery, hierarchies (from the Greek word ἱεραρχία or hierarkhia, “rule by the high priest”) are established: the path to the enslavement of the other sections of the society is paved.
The enslavement of men comes after the enslavement of women. Gender enslavement is different in some ways to class and nation enslavement. Its legitimisation is attained through refined and intense repression combined with lies that play on emotions. Woman’s biological difference is used as justification for her enslavement. All the work she does is taken for granted and called unworthy “woman’s work”. Her presence in the public sphere is claimed to be prohibited by religion, morally shameful; progressively, she is secluded from all important social activities. As the dominant power of the political, social and economic activities are taken over by the men, the weakness of the women becomes even more institutionalised. Thus, the idea of a “weak sex” becomes a shared belief. In fact, society treats woman not merely as a biologically separate sex but almost as a separate race, nation or class – the most oppressed race, nation or class: no race, class or nation is subjected to such systematic slavery as housewifisation.
The disappointment experienced due to failure of any struggle, be it for freedom or equality, or be it a democratic, moral, political or class struggle bears the imprint of the archetypal struggle for power relationship, the one between woman and man. From this relationship stem all forms of relationship that foster inequality, slavery, despotism, fascism and militarism. If we want to construe true meaning to terms such as equality, freedom, democracy and socialism that we so often use, we need to analyse and shatter the ancient web of relations that has been woven around women. There is no other way of attaining true equality (with due allowance for diversity), freedom, democracy and morality.
But unambiguously clarifying the status of women is only one aspect of this issue. Far more important is the question of liberation; in other words, the resolution to the problem exceeds the importance of revealing and analysing it. The most promising point in the current chaos of the capitalist system is the (albeit limited) exposure of women’s status. During the last quarter of the twentieth century feminism managed (though not sufficiently) to disclose the truth about women. In times of chaos, the possibility of change for any phenomenon increases in keeping with the level of progress or clarification available; thus, in such times, small steps taken for freedom may amount to leaps forward. Women’s freedom can emerge as the big winner from the current crisis. Whatever has been constructed by the human hand, can be demolished by the human hand. Women’s enslavement is neither a law of nature nor is it destiny. What we need is the necessary theory, programme, organisation and the mechanisms to implement them.
2. Women’s Revolution: Neolithic Era
Patriarchy has not always existed. There is strong evidence that in the millennia before the rise of statist civilisation the position of women in society has been very different. Indeed, the society was matricentric – it was constructed around the women.
Within the Zagros-Taurus system, Mesolithic and subsequently Neolithic society started to develop at the end of the fourth glacial period, around twenty thousand years ago. This magnificent society, with its well-developed tools and sophisticated settlement systems, was far more advanced than the preceding clan society. This period constituted a wondrous age in the history of our social nature. Many developments that are still with us can be traced back to this historical stage: the agricultural revolution, the establishment of villages, the roots of trade, and the mother-based family as well as tribes and tribal organisations.
Many methods, tools and equipment we still use today are based on inventions and discoveries most likely made by the women of this era, such as various useful applications of diffeent plants, domestication of animals and cultivation of plants, construction of dwellings, principles of child nutrition, the hoe and hand grinder, perhaps even the ox-cart.
To me, the cult of the mother-goddess in this age symbolises reverence for woman‘s role in these great advances. I don‘t see it as deification of an abstract fertility. At the same time, the hierarchy based on the mother-woman is the historic root of the mother-concept, by which all societies still respect and acknowledge the mother as an authority. This authority she demands because the mother is the principal life-element that both gives birth and sustains life through nurturing, even under the most difficult conditions. Indeed, any culture and hierarchy based on this acknowledgement cannot help but revere woman. The true reason for the longevity of the mother-concept is the fact that the mother concretely forms the basis of the social being, the human; it is not due to an abstract ability to give birth.
During the Neolithic period a complete communal social order, so called „primitive socialism“, was created around woman. This social order saw none of the enforcement practices of the state order; yet it existed for thousands of years. It is this long-lasting order that shaped humanity‘s collective social consciousness; and it is our endless yearning to regain and immortalise this social order of equality and freedom that led to our construct of paradise.
Primitive socialism, characterised by equality and freedom, was viable because the social morality of the matriarchal order did not allow ownership, which is the main factor behind the widening of the social divisions. Division of labour between the sexes, the other issue related to this divide, was not yet based on ownership and power relations. Private relationships inside the group had not yet developed. Food that had been gathered or hunted belonged to all. The children belonged to the clan. No man or woman was the private property of any one person. In all these matters, the community, which was still small and did not have a huge production capacity, had a solid common ideological and material culture. The fundamental principles sustaining society were sharing and solidarity – ownership and force, as life threatening dangers, would have disrupted this culture.
In contrast to mainstream society, Neolithic society’s relationship with nature was maintained, both in terms of the ideological and material cultures, through adherence to ecological principles. Nature was regarded as alive and animated, no different from themselves. This awareness of nature fostered a mentality that recognised a multitude of sanctities and divinities in nature. We may gain a better understanding of the essence of collective life if we acknowledge that it was based on the metaphysics of sanctity and divinity, stemming from reverence for the mother-woman.
What we need to understand is this: Why and how was it possible to supersede the matriarchal system of the Neolithic age? Since the earliest social groupings, there had been tension between woman’s gathering and man’s hunting, with the result that two different cultural evolutions developed within society. In the matriarchal society surplus product was, although limited, accumulated. (This was the start of economy – not as a concept but in terms of its essence – and it is here that we will find the roots of the different types of economies, such as capitalist and gift economies.) It was woman, the nurturer, who controlled this surplus. But man (quite possibly by developing more successful hunting techniques) bettered his position, achieved a higher status and gathered a retinue around him. The “wise old man” and shaman, previously not part of the strong man’s band, now attached themselves to him and helped to construct the ideology of male dominance. They intended to develop a very systematic movement against the women.
In the matriarchal society of the Neolithic age, there were no institutionalised hierarchies; now they were slowly being introduced. The alliance with the shaman and elderly, experienced man was an important development in this regard. The ideological hold the male alliance established over the young men they drew into their circle strengthened their position in the community. What is important is the nature of the power gained by men. Both hunting and defending the clan from external dangers relied on killing and wounding and thus had military characteristics. This was the beginning of the culture of war. In a situation of life and death, one must abide by the authority and hierarchy.
Communality is the foundation on which hierarchy and state power are built. Originally, the term hierarchy referred to government by the priests, the authority of the wise elders. Initially, it had a positive function. We may perhaps even view the beneficial hierarchy in a natural society as the prototype of democracy. The mother-woman and the wise elders ensured communal security and the governance of the society; they were necessary and useful, fundamental elements in a society that was not based on accumulation and ownership. Society voluntarily awarded them respect. But when voluntary dependence is transformed into authority, usefulness into self-interest, it always gives way to an uncalled for instrument of force. The instrument of force disguises itself behind common security and collective production. This constitutes the core of all exploitative and oppressive systems. It is the most sinister creation ever invented; the creation that brought fourth all forms of slavery, all forms of mythology and religion, all systematic annihilation and plunder.
No doubt, there were external reasons for the disintegration of the Neolithic society, but the main factor was the sacred state society of the priests. The legends of the initial civilisations in Lower Mesopotamia and along the Nile confirm this. The advanced Neolithic society culture combined with new techniques of artificial irrigation provided the surplus product required for the establishment of such a society. It was mostly through the newly achieved position and power of the man that the urban society which formed around the surplus product was organised in the form of a state.
Urbanisation meant commodification. It resulted in trade. Trade seeped into the veins of Neolithic society in the form of colonies. Commodification, exchange value and ownership grew exponentially, thus accelerating the disintegration of the Neolithic society.
3. The First Major Sexual Rupture
In the vein of the revolution/counter revolution scheme of historical materialism, I suggest that we term the remarkable turning points in the history of the relationship between the sexes sexual rupture. History has seen two of these ruptures and, I predict, will see another in the future.
In the social ages preceding civilisation, the organised force of the “strong man” existed for the sole purposes of trapping animals and defence against outside danger. It is this organised force that coveted the family-clan unit that the woman had established as a product of her emotional labour. The take-over of the family-clan constituted the first serious organisation of violence. What were usurped in the process, were woman herself, her children and kin, and all their material and moral cultural accumulation. It was the plunder of the initial economy, the home economy. The organised force of proto-priest (shaman), experienced elder and strong man allied to compose the initial and longest enduring patriarchal hierarchic power, that of holy governance. This can be seen in all societies that are at a similar stage: until the class, city and state stage, this hierarchy is dominant in social and economic life.
In the Sumerian society, although the balance gradually turned against the woman, the two sexes were still more or less equal until the second millennium BC. The many temples for goddesses and the mythological texts from this period indicate that between 4 000 and 2 000 BC the influence of the woman-mother culture on the Sumerians, who formed the centre of civilisation, was at par with that of the man. As yet, no culture of shame had developed around the woman. So, we see here the start of a new culture that develops its superiority over the mother-woman cult. The development of this authority and hierarchy before the start of classed society constitutes one of the most important turning points in history. This culture is qualitatively different from the mother-woman culture. Gathering and later cultivation, the predominant elements of the mother-woman culture, are peaceful activities that do not require warfare. Hunting, which is predominantly taken up by man, rests on war culture and harsh authority.
It is understandable that the strong man, whose essential role was hunting, coveted the accumulation of the matriarchal order. Establishing his dominance would yield many advantages. Organisation of the power he gained through hunting, now gave him the opportunity to rule and to establish the very first social hierarchy. This development constituted the very first usage of analytical intelligence with malignant intentions; subsequently, it became systemic. Furthermore, the transition from sacred mother cult to sacred father cult enabled analytical intelligence to mask itself behind sanctity.
Thus, the origin of our serious social problems is to be found in patriarchal societies that became cult-like, that is religionised, around the strong man. With the enslavement of women, the ground was prepared for the enslavement of not only children but also of men. As man gained experience in accumulating values through the use of slave labour (especially accumulating of surplus product), his control over and domination of these slaves grew. Power and authority became increasingly important. The collaboration between the strong man, experienced elder and shaman to form a privileged sector, resulted in a power centre that was difficult to resist. In this centre, analytical intelligence developed an extraordinary mythological narrative in order to rule the minds of the populace. In the mythological world composed for Sumerian society (and passed down through the ages with some adaptations), man is exalted to the point that he is deified as creator of heaven and earth. While woman’s divinity and sacredness is first demeaned and then erased, the idea of man as ruler and absolute power is imprinted on society. Thus, through an enormous network of mythological narrative, every aspect of culture is cloaked in the relationship of ruler and ruled, creator and created. Society is beguiled into internalising this mythological world and gradu- ally it becomes the preferred version. Then it is turned into religion, a religion into which the concept of a strict distinction between people is built. For instance, the class division of society is reflected in the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from paradise and condemnation to servitude. This legend endows the Sumerian ruler-gods with creative power; their subjects are recreated as servants.
Sumerian mythology knew the story of creation out of the rib of an anthropomorphic god – only, it was the goddess Ninhursag who carried out the act of creation in order to save the life of the male god Enki. Over time, the narrative was changed to benefit the man. The repetitive elements of rivalry and creativity in the myths of Enki and Ninhursag-Inanna had the two-fold function of, on the one hand, demeaning woman and diminishing the importance of her past creativity and, on the other hand, of symbolising the forming of a human that is but a slave and a servant. (I believe that this last mentioned conception of the Sumerian priests has played a role in all subsequent god-servant dilemmas. To determine the truth of this is vital; nevertheless, religious literature either refrains from doing so or rejects the notion out of hand. Is this because theologians feel the need to disguise the truth and hence their interests in the matter?)
The divine identities designed in the Sumerian society are the reflections of the new approach to nature and of the new societal powers; more than that, they are almost deployed for the purpose of conditioning the mind anew. Hand in hand with the decreasing influence of the natural dimension, the societal dimension gains importance; women’s influence gradually decreases; and there are striking developments in the matter of signalising the human being as subject, as servant. While the growing political power in society results in the prominence of some of the gods, it also results in the loss of some identities and a significant change in form of others. Thus, the absolute power of the monarch during the Babylonian phase is reflected in the rise of the god Marduk. This last phase of Sumerian mythology indicates that the threshold of the birth of monotheistic religions has been reached.
In an order like this where the man owned the children, the father would want to have as many children as possible (especially male children, for attainment of power). Command of the children enabled him to seize the mother-woman’s accumulation: the ownership system was created. Alongside the priest-state’s collective ownership, the private ownership of the dynasty was established. Private ownership too necessitated the establishment of fatherhood: fatherhood-rights were required so that the inheritance could be passed on (mainly) to the male children.
From 2 000 BCE onwards, this culture became widespread. Woman’s social status was radically altered. The patriarchal society had gained the strength to make its rule legendary. While the world of the male is exalted and heroised, everything female is belittled, demeaned and vilified. So radical was this sexual rupture, that it resulted in the most significant change in social life history has ever seen. This change concerning woman’s value within the Middle Eastern culture, we can call the first major sexual rupture or counter-revolution. I call it a counter-revolution because it has contributed nothing to a positive development of society. On the contrary, it has led to an extraordinary poverty of life by bringing about patriarchy’s stiff domination of society and the exclusion of women. This tear in Middle Eastern civilisation is arguably the first step in its progressively deteriorating situation, as the negative consequences of this rupture just keep on multiplying as time goes on. Instead of a dual voiced society, it produced a single voiced, male society. A transition was made to a single dimensioned, extremely masculine social culture. The emotional intelligence of woman that created wonders, that was humane and committed to nature and life, was lost. In its place has been born the cursed analytical intelligence of a cruel culture that has surrendered itself to dogmatism and detached itself from nature; that considers war to be the most exalted virtue and enjoys the shedding of human blood; that sees his arbitrary treatment of woman and his enslavement of man as its right. This intelligence is the antitype of the egalitarian intelligence of woman that is focused on humanitarian production and animate nature.
The mother has become the ancient goddess; she now sits in her home, an obedient and chaste woman. Far from being equal to the gods, she cannot make her voice heard or reveal her face. Slowly, she is wrapped in veils, becomes a captive within the harem of the strong man. The depth of woman’s enslavement in Arabia (intensified in the Abrahamic tradition by Moses) is linked to this historical development.
4. Patriarchal authority became deep-rooted
A hierarchical and authoritarian structure is essential for a patriarchal society. Allying authoritarian administration with the shaman’s sacred authority resulted in the concept of hierarchy. The institution of authority would gradually gain prominence in society and as class distinctions intensified, would transform into state authority. As yet, hierarchical authority was personal, not yet institutionalised, and thus did not have as much dominance over society as in the institutionalised state. Compliance to it was partly voluntary, commitment determined by society’s interests.
However, the process that was set in motion was conducive to the birth of the hierarchical state. The primitive communal system resisted this process for a long time. Respect and commitment to the authority of the alliance was shown only if they shared their product accumulation with the members of society. In fact, accumulation of surplus product was seen as wrong; the person who commanded the most respect was the one who distributed his or her accumulation. (The revered tradition of generosity, which is still widespread in clan societies, has its roots in this powerful historical tradition.) From the very beginning, the community saw accumulation of surplus product as the most serious threat to itself and based its morality and religion on resisting this threat. But, eventually, man‘s accumulation culture and hierarchical authority did defeat that of woman. We must be very clear that this victory was not an unavoidable, historical necessity. There is no law that states that a natural society must necessarily develop into a hierarchical and subsequently a statist society. There may be a propensity towards such a development, but equating such a propensity with an inevitable, incessant process that has to run its full course, would be a totally erroneous assumption. Viewing the existence of classes as fate has become nothing but an unintended tool for class ideologists.
After this defeat, severe tears appeared in woman‘s communal society. The process of transforming to hierarchical society was not an easy one. This is the transition phase between primitive communal society and state. Eventually hierarchical society had to either disintegrate or result in statehood. Although it did play some positive role in the development of society, its form of socialisation, the alliance between the male powers, provided the strength to hierarchical patriarchy to develop into statehood. It was really the hierarchical and patriarchal society that subjugated women, youth, and members of other ethnicities; it was done before the development of the state. The most important point is how this subjugation was accomplished. The authority to do this was not attained through laws, but through the new morals that were based on worldly needs instead of sacredness. While there is a development towards the religious concept of an abstract and single god that reflects the values of the patriarchal society, the matriarchal authority of the natural society with its myriad goddesses resists. In the matriarchal order, the essential rules are to labour, produce and provide in order to keep people alive. While patriarchal morality legitimises accumulation and paves the way for ownership, the morality of communal society condemns accumulation of surplus as the source of all wrong-doing, and encourages its distribution. The internal harmony in society gradually deteriorates and tension increases.
The solution to this conflict would be either returning to the old matriarchal values or escalating patriarchal power inside and outside the community. To the patriarchal faction there was only one choice. The foundations for the violent, war-like society based on oppression and exploitation were established. Through this process of conflict the state-phase, the phase of institutionalised authority based on permanent force, was arrived at.
Without an analysis of woman’s status in the hierarchical system and the conditions under which she was enslaved, neither the state nor the classed system that it rests upon can be understood. Woman is not targeted as the female gender, but as the founder of the matriarchal society. Without a thorough analysis of women’s enslavement and establishing the conditions for overcoming it, no other slavery can be analysed or overcome. Without these analyses, fundamental mistakes can not be avoided.
5. All slavery is based on housewifisation
Ever since the hierarchical order’s enormous leap forward, sexism has been the basic ideology of power. It is closely linked to class division and the wielding of power. Woman’s authority is not based on surplus product; on the contrary, it stems from fertility and productivity, and strengthens social existence. Strongly influenced by emotional intelligence, she is tightly bound to communal existence. The fact that woman does not have a visible place in the power wars based on surplus product is due to this position of hers in social existence.
We need to point out a characteristic that has become institutionalised within civilisational societies, namely society‘s being prone to power relations. Just as housewifisation was needed to recreate woman, society needed to be prepared in order for power to secure its own existence. Housewifisation is the oldest form of slavery. The strong man and his entourage defeated the mother-woman and all aspects of her cult through long and comprehensive struggles. Housewifisation became institutionalised when the sexist society became dominant. Gender discrimination is not a notion restricted to the power relations between woman and man. It defines the power relations that have been spread to all social levels. It is indicative of the state power that has reached its maximum capacity with modernity.
Gender discrimination has had a twofold destructive effect on society. Firstly, it has opened society to slavery; secondly, all other forms of enslavement have been implemented on the basis of housewifisation. Housewifisation does not only aim to recreate an individual as a sex object; it is not a result of a biological characteristic. Housewifisation is an intrinsically social process and targets the whole of society. Slavery, subjugation, subjection to insults, weeping, habitual lying, unassertiveness and flaunting oneself are all recognised aspects of housewifisation and must be rejected by the freedom-morality. It is the foundation of a degraded society and the true foundation of slavery. It is the institutional foundation upon which the oldest and all subsequent types of slavery and immorality were implemented. Civilisational society reflects this foundation in all social categories. If the system is to function, society in its entirety must be subjected to housewifisation. Power is synonymous to masculinity. Thus, society‘s subjection to housewifisation is inevitable, because power does not recognise the principles of freedom and equality. If it did, it could not exist. Power and sexism in society share the same essence.
Another important point we have to mention is dependence and oppression of the youth established by the experienced elderly man in a hierarchical society. While experience strengthens the elderly man, age renders him weak and powerless. This compels the elderly to enlist the youth, which is done by winning their minds. Patriarchy is strengthened tremendously by these means. The physical power of the youth enables them to do whatever they please. This dependency of the youth has been continuously perpetuated and deepened. Superiority of experience and ideology cannot easily be broken. The youth (and even the children) are subjugated to the same strategies and tactics, ideological and political propaganda, and oppressive systems as the woman – adolescence, like femininity, is not a physical but a social fact. This must be well understood: It is not coincidence that the first powerful authority that was established was authority over woman. Woman represents the power of the organic, natural and egalitarian society which has not experienced oppressive and exploitative relations. Patriarchy could not have been victorious if she was not defeated; moreover, the transition to the institution of the state could not have been made. Breaking the power of the mother-woman thus was of strategic significance. No wonder that it was such an arduous process. Without analysing the process through which woman was socially overcome, one cannot properly understand the fundamental characteristics of the consequent male-dominant social culture. Even awareness of the societal establishment of masculinity will be impossible. Without understanding how masculinity was socially formed, one cannot analyse the institution of state and therefore will not be able to accurately define the war and power culture related to statehood. I stress this issue because we need to truly expose the macabre god-like personalities, which developed as a result of all later class divisions, and all the different types of exploitation and murder they have done. The social subjugation of woman was the vilest counter-revolution ever carried out.
Power has reached its full capacity in the form of the nation-state. It derives its strength mainly from the sexism it spreads and intensifies by the integration of women into the labour force as well as through nationalism and militarism. Sexism, just as nationalism, is an ideology through which power is generated and nation-states are built. Sexism is not a function of biological differences. To the dominant male, the female is an object to be used for the realisation of his ambitions. In the same vein, when the housewifisation of woman was done, he started the process of turning males into slaves; subsequently the two forms of slavery have become intertwined.
In short, the campaigns for excluding women and for manufacturing reverence for the conquering, warrior male authority structure were tightly interwoven. The state as an institution was invented by males and wars of plunder and pillages were almost its sole mode of production. Woman‘s societal influence based on production was replaced by man‘s societal influence based on war and pillage. There is a close link between woman‘s captivity and the warrior societal culture. War does not produce, it seizes and plunders. Although force can be decisive for social progress under certain unique conditions (e.g., through resistance to occupation, invasion and colonialism the way to freedom is paved), but more often than not it is destructive and negative.
The culture of violence that has become internalised within society is fed by war. The sword of war wielded in state warfare and the hand of the man within the family, are symbols of hegemony. The entire classed society, from its upper layers to its lower layers, is clamped between the sword and the hand. This is something that I have always tried to understand: How is it possible that the power held by the woman fell into the hands of the man, who is really not very productive and creative. The answer lies of course in the role force played. When the economy too was taken from the woman, atrocious captivity was inevitable.
6. The Second Major Sexual Rupture
Millennia after the establishment of patriarchy (what I call the “first major sexual rupture”) women were once again dealt a blow from which they are still struggling to recover. I am referring to the intensification of patriarchy through the monotheistic religions.
The mentality of rejecting the natural society deepened in the feudal social system. Religious and philosophical thought constituted the new society‘s dominant mentality. In the same way that the Sumerian society had synthesised the values of Neolithic society into its own new system, the feudal society synthesised the moral values of the oppressed classes from the old system and the resisting ethnic groups from the remote areas into its own internal structures. The development of polytheism into monotheism played an important part in this process.
The mythological features of the mind-set are renewed with religious and philosophical concepts. The rising power of the empire is reflected in the multitude of powerless gods that evolved into an omnipotent, universal god. The culture concerning women that was developed by the monotheistic religions resulted in the second major sexual rupture. Where the rupture of the mythological period was a cultural requirement, the rupture of the monotheistic period was “the law as god commands”. Treating women as inferior now became the sacred command of god. The superiority of man in the new religion is illustrated by the relationship between the prophet Abraham and the women Sarah and Hagar. Patriarchy is now well established. The institution of concubinage was formed; polygamy approved. As indicated by the fierce relationship between the prophet Moses and his sister Mariam, woman’s share in the cultural heritage was eradicated. The society of the prophet Moses was a total male society in which women were not given any task. This is what the fight with Mariam was about.
In the period of the Hebrew kingdom that rose just before the end of the first millennium BCE, we see, with David and Solomon, the transition to a culture of extensive housewifisation. Woman under the dual domination of the patriarchal culture and the religious state culture play no public role. The best woman is the one who conforms best to her man or patriarchy. Religion becomes a tool to slander woman. Primarily, she – Eve – is the first sinful woman who has seduced Adam resulting in his expulsion from paradise. Lilith does not subjugate herself to Adam’s god (a patriarchal figure) and befriends the chief of the evil spirits (a human figure who rejects being a servant and does not obey Adam). Indeed, the Sumerian claim that woman has been created from man’s rib has been included in the Bible. As pointed out earlier, this is a complete reversal of the original narrative – from women being the creator to being the created. Women are hardly mentioned as prophets in the religious traditions. Woman’s sexuality is seen as the most wretched evil and has continuously been vilified and besmirched. Woman, who still had an honoured place in Sumerian and Egyptian societies, now became a figure of disgrace, sin and seduction.
With the arrival of the period of the prophet Jesus, came the figure of Mother Mary. Although she is the mother of the son of God, there is no trace left of her former goddess-ness. An extremely quiet, weeping mother (without the title of goddess!) has replaced the mother-goddess. The fall continues. It is quite ironic that a mere woman is impregnated by God. In fact, the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit represents the synthesis of polytheistic religions and monotheistic religion. Whilst Mary too should have been considered a god, she is seen as merely the tool of Holy Spirit. This indicates that divinity has become exclusively male. In the Sumerian and Egyptian periods, gods and goddesses were almost equal. Even during the Babylonian era the voice of the mother-goddess was still heard clearly and loudly.
Woman no longer had any social role bar being the woman of her house. Her primary duty was looking after her male children, the “son-gods”, whose value had increased much since the mythological period. The public sphere was totally closed off to her. Christianity’s praxis of saintly virgin women was in fact a retreat into seclusion in order to find salvation from sins. At least, this saintly, cloistered life offered some deliverance from sexism and condemnation. There are good and strong material and spiritual reasons for choosing life in a cloister above the hell-like life at home. We can almost call this institution the first poor women’s party. Monogamy, which had been well established in Judaism, was taken over by Christianity and sanctified. This praxis has an important place in the history of European civilisation. A negative aspect is that women are treated as sexual objects in the European civilisation because Catholics are not allowed to divorce.
With the coming of the prophet Muhammad and Islam, the status of women in the patriarchal culture of the desert tribes improved somewhat. But in its essence, Islam has based itself on the Abrahamic culture; women had the same status during the period of the prophet Muhammad as they had in the period of David and Solomon. As then, multiple marriages for political reasons and numerous concubines were legitimate. Although in Islam marriage is restricted to four women, in essence it is unchanged because owning of harems and concubines became an institution.
Both the Christian and Muslim cultures have become stagnant in terms of overcoming the sexist society. The policies of Christianity towards women and sexuality in general are what lie behind the crisis of the modernist monogamous life. This is the reality behind the crisis of the sexist culture in Western so- ciety. This can also not be solved by celibacy as it is demanded from priests and nuns. The Islamic solution, giving priority to male sexual fulfilment with many women in the position of wife and concubine, has been as unsuccessful. In essence, the harem is but a privatised brothel for the sole use of the privileged individual. The sexist social practices of harem and polygamy have had a determining role in Middle Eastern society falling behind Western society. While the restraining of sexuality by Christianity is a factor that has led to modernity, encouraging excessive sexual fulfilment is a factor that has led to Islam regressing to a state worse than the old desert tribal society, and to it being surpassed by the society of Western modernity.
The effect of sexism on societal development is far bigger than we assume. When analysing the growing gap between Eastern and Western societal development, we should focus on the role of sexism. Islam’s perception of sexism has produced far more negative results than Western civilisation in terms of the profound enslavement of woman and male dominance. Societal servitude is not just a class phenomenon. There is an order of subjugation which is more deeply hidden than the slave owning system itself. The softening of this truth contributes to the deepening of the system. The fundamental paradigm of society is a system of servitude which has no beginning and no end.
7. Family, dynasty and state
I have mentioned the intense relationship between the power relations within the patriarchal family and the state. This deserves a closer look. The cornerstones of dynastic ideology are the patriarchal family, fatherhood and having many male children. This can be traced back to the understanding of political power in the patriarchal system. While the priest established his power through his so called ability to give and interpret meaning, the strong man established his leadership through the use of political power. Political power can be understood as the use of force when leadership is not adhered to. On the other hand, the power of priest rests on „god‘s wrath“ when not abided; it is spiritual power and thus has a stimulating effect. The true source of political power is the military entourage of the strong man.
Dynasty, as ideology and in practice, developed as a result of turning this system upside down. Within the patriarchal order, the patriarchal governance became deep-rooted as a consequence of the alliance between the “experienced old man”, the “strong man” with his military entourage and the shaman who, as the sacred leader, was the forerunner of the priest. The dynastic system should be understood as an integrated whole, where ideology and structure cannot be separated. It developed from within the tribal system but established itself as the upper class administrative family nucleus, thereby denying the tribal system. It has a very strict hierarchy. It is a proto-ruling class, the prototype of power and state. It depends on man and male children; owning many is important in order to have power. A consequence of this has been polygamy, the harem and the concubine system. Creation of power and state is the dynasty‘s first priority. More importantly, dynasty was the very first institution that ensured its own clan and tribes as well as the other tribal systems became accustomed to class division and slavery. In the Middle Eastern civilisation, it has become so deep-rooted that there is almost no power or state that is not a dynasty. Because it constitutes a training ground for power and state, it is continually perpetuated and very difficult to overcome.
Every man in the family perceives himself as the owner of a small kingdom. This dynastic ideology is the effective reason why family is such an important issue. The greater the number of women and children that belong to the family, the moresecurity and dignity the man attains. It is also important to analyse the current family as an ideological institution. If we are to eliminate woman and family from the civilisational system, its power and state, there will be little left to constitute the order. But the price of this will be the painful, poverty stricken, degraded and defeated existence of woman under a never-ending, low-intensity state of warfare. The male monopoly that has been maintained over the life and world of woman throughout history, is not unlike the monopoly chain that capital monopolies maintain over society. More importantly, it is the oldest powerful monopoly. We might draw more realistic conclusions if we evaluate woman‘s existence as the oldest colonial phenomenon. It may be more accurate to call women the oldest colonised people who have never become a nation. Family, in this social context, developed as man‘s small state.
The family as an institution has been continuously perfected throughout the history of civilisation, solely because of the reinforcement it provides to power and state apparatus. Firstly, family is turned into a stem cell of state society by giving power to the family in the person of the male. Secondly, woman‘s unlimited and unpaid labour is secured. Thirdly, she raises children in order to meet population needs. Fourthly, as a role model she disseminates slavery and immorality to the whole society. Family, thus constituted, is the institution where dynastic ideology becomes functional.
The most important problem for freedom in a social context is thus family and marriage. When the woman marries, she is in fact enslaved. It is impossible to imagine another institution that enslaves like marriage. The most profound slaveries are established by the institution of marriage, slaveries that become more entrenched within the family. This is not a general reference to sharing life or partner relationships that can be meaningful depending on one‘s perception of freedom and equality. What is under discussion is the ingrained, classical marriage and family. Absolute ownership of woman means her withdrawal from all political, intellectual, social and economic arenas; this cannot be easily recovered. Thus, there is a need to radically review family and marriage and develop common guidelines aimed at democracy, freedom and gender equality.
Marriages or relationships that arise from individual, sexual needs and traditional family concepts can cause some of the most dangerous deviations on the way to a free life. Our need is not for these associations but for attaining gender equality and democracy throughout society and for the will to shape a suitable and common life. This can only be done by analysing the mentality and political environment that breed such destructive associations. The dynastic and family culture that remains so powerful in today‘s Middle Eastern society is one of the main sources of their problems because it has given rise to an excessive population, power and ambitions to share in the state‘s power. The degradation of women, inequality, children not being educated, family brawls, and problems of honour are all related to the family issue. It is as if a small model of the problems integral to power and state are established within the family. Thus, it is essential to analyse the family in order to analyse power, state, class and society.
State and power centres gave the father-man within the family a copy of their own authority and had them play that role. Thus, the family became the most important tool for legitimising monopolies. It became the fountainhead of slaves, serfs, labourers, soldiers and providers of all other services needed by the ruling and capitalist rings. That is why they set such importance to family, why they sanctified it. Although woman‘s labour is the most important source of profit for the capitalist rings, they concealed this by putting additional burdens on the family. Family has been turned into the insurance of the system and thus it will inevitably be perpetuated.
Critique of family is vital. Remnants from past patriarchal and state societies and patterns from modern Western civilisation have not created a synthesis but an impasse in the Middle East. The bottleneck created within the family is even more tangled than the one within the state. If the family continues to maintain its strength in contrast to other faster-dissolving social bonds, this is because it is the only available social shelter. We should not discount family. If soundly analysed, family can become the mainstay of democratic society. Not only the woman but the whole family should be analysed as the stem cell of power; if not, we will leave the ideal and implementation of democratic civilisation without its most important element. Family is not a social institution that should be overthrown. But it should be transformed. The claim of ownership over woman and children, handed down from the hierarchy, should be abandoned. Capital (in all its forms) and power relations should have no part in the relationship of couples. Breeding of children as motivation for sustaining this institution should be abolished. The ideal approach to male-female association is one that is based on the freedom philosophy, devoted to moral and political society. Within this framework, the transformed family will be the most robust assurance of democratic civilisation and one of the fundamental relationships within that order. Natural companionship is more important than official partnership. Partners should always accept the other’s right to live alone. One cannot act in a slavish or reckless manner in relationships.
Clearly, the family will experience its most meaningful transformation during democratic civilisation. If woman, who has been stripped of much of her strength and respect, does not regain this, meaningful family unions cannot be developed. There can be no respect for a family that is established on ignorance. In the construction of democratic civilisation, the role of the family is vital.
8. Women’s situation in the Kurdish society
Thus far, I have described some general characteristics of the sexist society. Let me conclude this analysis with some remarks on the specific conditions of Kurdish women. The transition from the Sumerian to the Hittite civilisation pushed the proto-Kurds to strengthen their tribal existence. Because a premature statehood would have caused their elimination, they seemed to have preferred a semi-nomadic, semi-guerrilla life style. As more and more states were established around them, they felt an increasing need to strengthen their tribal structures. Kurdish tribalism resembled the lifestyle of a guerrilla group. When we take a closer look at the family within the tribal organisation, we see the prominence of matriarchy and freedom. Women were quite influential and free. The alertness, strength and courage of the present-day Kurdish women originate from this very old historical tradition. However, a negative aspect of tribal life is that opportunities to make the transition to a more advanced society are restricted.
It is not a coincidence that amongst the peoples of the Middle East the Kurds have the best-developed sense of freedom. We see this in their historical development. The prolonged absence of the ruling and exploitative classes and their inability to generate any positive value for their community, plus the fact that throughout their history Kurds have had to fight nature and foreign incursions have all contributed to the development of this characteristic. The fact that women in Kurdish society are more prominent than in other Middle Eastern societies is due to this historical reality.
However, the present situation of women in Kurdish society needs to be analysed thoroughly. The situation of women throughout the world is bad, but that of Kurdish women is nothing but terrible slavery and unique in many respects. In fact, the situations of both women and children are appalling. Although in Kurdistan family is considered sacred, it has been crushed – especially as a result of a lack of freedom, economic inability, lack of education, and health problems. The phenomenon of the so-called honour killings is the symbolic revenge for what has happened in society in general. Woman is made to pay for the obliteration of society‘s honour. Loss of masculinity is taken out on woman. Except for woman‘s honour, the Kurdish male, who has lost both moral and political strength, has no other area left to prove his power or powerlessness.
Under the present circumstances, it may be possible to resolve the family crisis if there is a general democratisation of society. Education and broadcasting in the mother tongue can partially eliminate identity impairment. Marriage, the relations between husband and wife and children, has not even surpassed that of the old feudal relationships when capitalism‘s merciless relationships besieged them and turned their life into a complete prison.
In its freedom struggle for the Kurdish people, the PKK did not only fight against the crippling effects of colonialism; above all, it struggled against internal feudalism in order to change the status of women and end the enslavement of society in general. Women were attracted to the struggle in great numbers – not only to resist colonialism, but also to end the internal feudalism and to demand freedom. Since the 1980‘s, this has caused Kurdish women, whether within or outside the organisation, to organise themselves as a movement and to take and implement decisions that concern not only them as women but also concern society in general. I have tried to support them in any way I can, both theoretically and in practice.
A realistic definition of capitalism should not present it as a constant created and characterised by unicentral thought and action. It is, in essence, the actions of opportunist individuals and groups who established themselves into openings and cracks within society as the potential for surplus product developed; these actions became systematised as they nibbled away the social surplus. These individuals and groups never number more than one or two percent of society. Their strength is in their opportunism and organisational skills. Their victory relies not only on their organisational skills but also on their control of the required objects and fluctuation of prices at the point where supply and demand intersect. If the official social forces do not suppress them; if, instead, these forces borrow from their profiteering giving their continuous support in return, then these groups who exist on the margins of all societies may legitimise themselves as the new masters of society. Throughout the history of civilisation, especially in Middle Eastern societies, these marginal groups of broker-profiteers have always existed. But because of society‘s hatred of them, they could never find the courage to come into the daylight from the fissures they resided in. Not even the most despotic administrators had the courage to legitimise these groups. They were not just scorned, but seen as the most dangerous corruptive power; their ethics were considered the root of all evil. And indeed, the unsurpassed wave of wars, plunders, massacres and exploitation originating from Western Europe over the last four hundred years, is largely a result of the capitalist system‘s hegemony. (But then, the biggest counter-struggle also took place in Western Europe, hence it cannot be considered a total loss for humanity.)
Capitalism and the nation-state represent the dominant male in its most institutionalised form. Capitalist society is the continuation and culmination of all the old exploitative societies. It is a continuous warfare against society and woman. To put it succinctly, capitalism and nation-state are the monopolism of the tyrannical and exploitative male. Breaking down this monopolism will perhaps be more difficult than breaking down the atom.
A main objective of capitalist modernity‘s ideological hegemony is to obliterate the historic and social facts concerning its conception and its essence. This is because the capitalist economic and societal form is not a social and historical necessity; it is a construct, forged through a complex process. Religion and philosophy have been transformed into nationalism, the divinity of the nation-state. The ultimate goal of its ideological warfare is to ensure its monopoly on thought. Its main weapons to accomplish this are religionism, gender discrimination and scientism as a positivist religion. Without ideological hegemony, with political and military oppression alone, maintaining modernity will be impossible. While capitalism uses religionism to control society‘s cognisance, it uses nationalism to control classes and citizenship, a phenomenon that has risen around capitalism. The objective of gender discrimination is to deny women any hope of change. The most effective way for sexist ideology to function, is by entrapping the male in power relations and by rendering woman impotent through constant rape. Through positivist scientism, capitalism neutralises the academic world and the youth. It convinces them that they have no choice but to integrate with the system, and in return for concessions this integration is assured.
As with all oppressive and exploitative social systems, capitalism could not rise without establishing a state. Whereas the dogmatism of the feudal system had a religious character, that of the archaic slave owning society had a mythological character. One god was embodied in the king and dynasty; but today god is presented as the invisible power in the state‘s noble existence.
When capitalism saw the opportunity to become a system, it started off by eliminating all societies based on the mother-woman culture. During early modernity, the strength of female sociality that was still trying to maintain itself was burnt on the stake of the witch-hunter. In order to establish its hegemony over woman through her profound enslavement, these burnings were very useful tools. Woman is at the service of the system today partly because of the wide-spread burning of woman at the onset of capitalism. The embedded fear of the stake has put women in Europe under the total servitude of the man.
After eliminating women, the system mercilessly demolished the agrarian and village society. As long as the communal democratic character of society stands, capitalism cannot attain maximum power and profits. Thus, this kind of sociality was inevitably targeted. In this way, the complete entrapment of the oldest slave, woman, became the model for all other enslaved lives – that of children and men.
Political and military power play quite an important role in maintaining the capitalist system’s hegemony. But what is crucial is to possess and subsequently to paralyse society via the cultural industry. The mentality of communities under the influence of the system has weakened and its members have become gullible. Many philosophers claim that society has been turned into a society of the spectacle, similar to the zoo. The sex, sports, arts and culture industries, in combination and in sequence, bombard the emotional and analytic intelligence incessantly by means of a diverse spread of advertisements. As a result, both emotional and analytical intelligence have become completely dysfunctional; the conquering of society’s mentality is thus complete.
What is of grave concern is society’s voluntary acceptance of its captivity by the combined cultural and sex industries, and moreover, perceiving this as a burst of freedom! This is the strongest base and tool of legitimisation the rulers have. Capitalism can only reach the empire phase with the aid of the cultural industry. Therefore, the struggle against the cultural hegemony requires the most difficult struggle of all: mental struggle. Until we can develop and organise the essence and form of a counter-struggle against the cultural war waged by the system through its invasions, assimilation and industrialisation, not a single struggle for freedom, equality and democracy has a chance to succeed.
Capitalist modernity is a system based on the denial of love. Its denial of society, unrestrained individualism, gender discrimination in all areas, deification of money, substitution of god with the nation-state, and turning woman into an automaton that receives no or little wages, mean that there are no material grounds for love either.
Economy has been turned into a subject matter that ordinary people are not supposed to understand. It has intentionally been made complicated so that the plain reality can be disguised. It is the third force, after ideology and violence, through which women, and subsequently the entire society, was entrapped and forced to accept dependence. Economy literally means “house-holding”, originally the women’s domain, along with other fundamental sections of society which I will discuss later.
In the woman’s order, there was accumulation too, but this was not for the merchant or the market. It was for the family. This is what humanitarian and real economy is. Accumulation was prevented from becoming a danger by widespread use of the gift culture. Gift culture is an important form of economic activity. It is also compatible with the rhythm of human development.
As woman was ousted generally from the history of civilisation but specifically from capitalist modernity, big men had the opportunity to distort the functioning of economy and thus turning it into a mass of problems. This was done by people with no organic link to the economy because of their excessive lust for profit and power. They thus placed all economic forces, especially woman, under their own control. The result is that the forces of power and state have grown excessively, like a tumour on society, to an extent where it can no longer be sustained or maintained.
The economic problem actually begins as the woman is ousted from the economy. In essence, economy is everything that has to do with nourishment. It may seem peculiar, but I believe the real creator of economy still is woman, despite all attempts to overrun and colonise her. A thorough analysis of the economy will show that woman is the most fundamental force of economy. Indeed, this is clear when we consider her role in the agricultural revolution, and how she gathered plants for millions of years. Today, she does not only work inside the home but in many areas of economic life; she is the one that keeps on turning the wheel. After woman, those who can be classified as slaves, serfs and workers would be second in line to the claim of being creators of economy. They have been kept under control continuously and cruelly so that the civilisational powers can seize their surplus product and value. Third in line are all the artisans, small merchant-shopkeepers and small landowner-farmers who are, admittedly, a little freer. To this category we can add the artists, architects, engineers, doctors and all other self-employed people. This will just about complete the picture of those who create and constitute the economy.
The most brutal period for woman was when she was ousted from the economy during the capitalist civilisation. This reality can be called the “woman destitute of economy”. This has become the most striking and profound social paradox. The entire female population has been left unemployed. Although housework is the most difficult work, it is seen as valueless. Although childbirth and child rearing are the most exacting tasks of all, they are not always regarded as valuable but often as mere trouble. On top of being an unemployed childbearing and child raising machine that is inexpensive to purchase and can be run cost free, woman can be used as scapegoat, carrying the guilt for all that is wrong. Throughout the history of civilisation, she has been placed on the ground floor of society where she does her unpaid housework, raises the children and keeps the family together; duties that form the actual basis of capitalist accumulation. Indeed, no other society has had the power to develop and systemise the exploitation of woman to the degree that capitalism has.
During the capitalist period she has been a target of inequality, with no freedom and no democracy, not only at the ground level but at all levels. Moreover, the power of the sexist society has been implemented with such intensity and so deeply that woman has been turned into object and subject of the sex industry. The male dominant society has reached its peak in capitalist civilisation.
Woman and economy are interwoven components. Because she generates economy according to fundamental needs only, a woman driven-economy never experiences depression; it never causes environmental pollution; and it never poses a threat to the climate. When we cease to produce for profit, we will have achieved the liberation of the world. This in turn will be the liberation of humanity and life itself.
11. Killing the dominant male:
Instituting the Third Major Sexual Rupture against the dominant male
Although male dominance is well institutionalised, men too are enslaved. The system is in fact reproducing itself in the individual male and female and their relationship. Therefore, if we want to defeat the system, we need a radical, new approach towards woman, man and their relationship. History, in a sense, is the history of the dominant male who gained power with the rise of classed society. The ruling class character is formed concurrent with the dominant male character. Again, rule is validated through mythological lies and divine punishment. Beneath these masks lies the reality of bare force and coarse exploitation. In the name of honour, man seized the position and rights of woman in the most insidious, traitorous and despotic manner. The fact that, throughout history, woman was left bereft of her identity and character – the eternal captive – at the hands of man, has caused considerably more damage than class division has. The captivity of woman is a measure of society‘s general enslavement and decline; it is also a measure of its lies, theft and tyranny. The dominant
male character of society has to date not even allowed for scientific analysis of the phenomenon of woman.
The fundamental question is why man is so jealous, dominant and villainous where woman is concerned; why he continues to play the rapist. Undoubtedly, rape and domination are phenomena related to social exploitation; they reflect society‘s rape by hierarchy, patriarchy and power. If we look a little deeper, we will see that these acts also express a betrayal of life.
Woman‘s multi-faceted devotion to life may clarify man‘s societal sexist stand. Societal sexism means the loss of wealth of life under the blinding and exhausting influence of sexism and the consequent rise of anger, rape and a dominating stance. This is why it is important to place on the agenda the problem of man, which is far more serious than the issue of woman. It is probably more difficult to analyse the concepts of domination and power, concepts related to man. It is not woman but man that is unwilling to transform. He fears that abandoning the role of the dominant male figure would leave him in the position of the monarch who has lost his state. He should be made aware that this most hollow form of domination leaves him bereft of freedom as well and, even worse, it forecloses reform.
In order to lead a meaningful life, we need to define woman and her role in societal life. This should not be a statement about her biological attributes and social status but an analysis of the all-important concept of woman as a being. If we can define woman, it may be possible to define man. Using man as point of departure when defining woman or life will render invalid interpretations because woman‘s natural existence is more central than man‘s. Woman‘s status is demeaned and made out to be insignificant by the male dominant society, but this should not prevent us from forming a valid understanding of her reality.
Thus, it is clear that woman‘s physique is not deficient or inferior; to the contrary, the female body is more central than that of man. This is the root of man’s extreme and meaningless jealousy. The natural consequence of their differing physiques is that woman’s emotional intelligence is much stronger than man’s is. Emotional intelligence is connected to life; it is the intelligence that governs empathy and sympathy. Even when woman’s analytic intelligence develops, her emotional intelligence gives her the talent to live a balanced life, to be devoted to life, not to be destructive.
As can be seen even from this short argumentation, man is a system. The male has become a state and turned this into the dominant culture. Class and sexual oppression develop together; masculinity has generated ruling gender, ruling class, and ruling state. When man is analysed in this context, it is clear that masculinity must be killed.
Indeed, to kill the dominant man is the fundamental principle of socialism. This is what killing power means: to kill the one-sided domination, the inequality and intolerance. Moreover, it is to kill fascism, dictatorship and despotism. We should broaden this concept to include all these aspects.
Liberating life is impossible without a radical women’s revolution which would change man’s mentality and life. If we are unable to make peace between man and life and life and woman, happiness is but a vain hope. Gender revolution is not just about woman. It is about the five thousand years old civilisation of classed society which has left man worse off than woman. Thus, this gender revolution would simultaneously mean man’s liberation.
I have often written about “total divorce”, i.e. the ability to divorce from the five thousand years old culture of male domination. The female and male gender identities that we know today are constructs that were formed much later than the biological female and male. Woman has been exploited for thousands of years according to this constructed identity; never acknowledged for her labour. Man has to overcome always seeing woman as wife, sister, or lover – stereotypes forged by tradition and modernity. Claiming that we first have to address the question of state then the question of family, is not sound. No serious social problem can be understood if addressed in isolation. A far more effective method is to look at everything within the totality, to render meaning to each question within its relationship to the other. This method also holds when we try to resolve problems. Analysing the social mentality without analysing the state, analysing the state without analysing the family, and analysing the woman without analysing the man would render insufficient results. We need to analyse these social phenomena as an integrated whole; if not, the solutions we arrive at will be inadequate.
The solutions for all social problems in the Middle East should have woman’s position as focus. The fundamental objective for the period ahead of us must be to realise the third major sexual rupture; this time against the male. Without gender equality, no demand for freedom and equality can be meaningful. In fact, freedom and equality cannot be realised without the achievement of gender equality. The most permanent and comprehensive component of democratisation is woman’s freedom. The societal system is most vulnerable because of the unresolved question of woman; woman who was first turned into property and who today is a commodity; completely, body and soul. The role the working class have once played, must now be taken over by the sisterhood of women. So, before we can analyse class, we must be able to analyse the sisterhood of women – this will enable us to form a much clearer understanding of the issues of class and nationality. Woman’s true freedom is only possible if the enslaving emotions, needs and desires of husband, father, lover, brother, friend and son can all be removed. The deepest love constitutes the most dangerous bonds of ownership. We will not be able to discern the characteristics of a free woman if we cannot conduct a stringent critique of the thought, religious and art patterns concerning woman generated by the male dominated world.
Woman’s freedom cannot just be assumed once a society has obtained general freedom and equality. A separate and distinct organisation is essential and woman’s freedom should be of a magnitude equal to its definition as a phenomenon. Of course a general democratisation movement may also uncover opportunities for woman. But it will not bring democracy on its own. Women need to determine their own democratic aim, and institute the organisation and effort to realise it. To achieve this, a special definition of freedom is essential in order for woman to break free from the slavery ingrained in her.
12. Jineolojî as the science of woman
The elimination of women from the ranks and the subjects of science requires us to look for a radical alternative. We firstly need to know how to win within the ideological arena and to create a libertarian, natural mind-set against the domineering, power hungry mentality of the male. We should always keep in mind that the traditional female subjugation is not physical but social. It is due to the ingrained slavery. Therefore, the most urgent need is to conquer the thoughts and emotions of subjugation within the ideological arena.
As the fight for woman‘s freedom heads towards the political arena, she should know that this is the most difficult aspect of the struggle. If success is not attained politically, no other achievement will be permanent. Being successful politically does not entail starting a movement for woman‘s statehood. On the contrary, it entails struggling with statist and hierarchical structures; it entails creating political formations aiming to achieve a society that is democratic, gender equal, eco-friendly and where state is not the pivotal element. Because hierarchy and statism are not easily compatible with woman‘s nature, a movement for woman’s freedom should strive for anti-hierarchical and non-statist political formations. The collapse of slavery in the political arena is only possible if organisational reform in this area can be successfully attained. The political struggle requires a comprehensive, democratic organisation of woman and struggle. All components of civil society, human rights, local governance and democratic struggle should be organised and advanced. As with socialism, woman‘s freedom and equality can only be achieved through a comprehensive and successful democratic struggle. If democracy is not achieved, freedom and equality cannot be achieved either.
The issues related to economic and social equality can also be successfully resolved through an analysis of the political power and through democratisation. A desiccated juridical equality means nothing in the absence of democratic politics; it will contribute nothing to the achievement of freedom. If the ownership and power relations which dominate and subjugate woman are not overthrown, then free relations between woman and man cannot be achieved either.
Although the feminist struggle has many important facets, it still has a long way to go to break down the limitations on democracy set by the West. Neither does it have a clear understanding of what the capitalist way of life entails. The situation is reminiscent of Lenin‘s understanding of socialist revolution. Despite much grand efforts and winning many positional battles, Leninism ultimately could not escape making the most precious left wing contribution to capitalism. A similar outcome may befall feminism. Deficiencies weakening its contention are: not having a strong organisational base; inability to develop its philosophy to the full; and difficulties relating to a militant woman‘s movement. It may not even be correct to call it “the real socialism of women‘s front”, but our analysis of this movement has to acknowledge that it has been the most serious measure to date to draw attention to the issue of woman‘s freedom. It does highlight that she is only the oppressed woman of the dominant man. However, woman‘s reality is much more comprehensive than just being a separate sex; it has economic, social and political dimensions.
If we see colonialism not only in terms of nation and country but also in terms of groups of people, we can define woman as the oldest colonised group. Indeed, in both soul and body, no other social being has experienced such complete colonialism. It must be well understood that woman is kept in a colony with no easily identifiable borders. In light of the the above, I believe that the key to the resolution of our social problems will be a movement for woman‘s freedom, equality and democracy; a movement based on the science of woman, called Jineolojî in Kurdish. The critique of recent woman’s movements is not sufficient for analysing and evaluating the history of civilisation and modernity that has made woman all but disappear. If, within the social sciences, there are almost no woman themes, questions and movements, then that is because of civilisation and modernity’s hegemonic mentality and structures of material culture.
Moreover, woman as the prime component of moral and political society, has a critical role to play in forming an ethic and aesthetic of life that reflect freedom, equality and democratisation. Ethical and aesthetic science is an integral part of jineolojî. Because of her weighty responsibilities in life, she will no doubt be both the intellectual and implementation power behind developments and opportunities. Woman’s link with life is more comprehensive than man’s and this has ensured the development of her emotional intelligence. Therefore, aesthetics, in the sense of making life more beautiful, is an existential matter for woman. Ethically, woman is far more responsible than man. Thus, woman’s behaviour with regard to morality and political society will be more realistic and responsible than man’s. She is thus well suited to analyse, determine and decide on the good and bad aspects of education, the importance of life and peace, the malice and horror of war, and measures of appropriateness and justice. It would thus be appropriate to include economy in jineolojî as well.
13. Democratic modernity:
Era of Woman’s Revolution
Woman’s freedom will play a stabilising and equalising role in forming the new civilisation and she will take her place under respectable, free and equal conditions. To achieve this, the necessary theoretical, programmatic, organisational and implementation work must be done. The reality of woman is a more concrete and analysable phenomenon than concepts such as “proletariat” and “oppressed nation”. The extent to which society can be thoroughly transformed is determined by the extent of the transformation attained by women. Similarly, the level of woman’s freedom and equality determines the freedom and equality of all sections of society. Thus, democratisation of woman is decisive for the permanent establishment of democracy and secularism. For a democratic nation, woman’s freedom is of great importance too, as liberated woman constitutes liberated society. Liberated society in turn constitutes democratic nation. Moreover, the need to reverse the role of man is of revolutionary importance.
The dawn of the era of democratic civilisation represents not only the rebirth of peoples but, perhaps more distinctively, it represents the rise of woman. Woman, who was the creative goddess of the Neolithic society, has encountered continuous losses throughout the history of classed society. Inverting this history will inevitably bring the most profound social results. Woman, reborn to freedom, will amount to general liberation, enlightenment and justice in all upper and lower institutions of society. This will convince all that peace, not war, is more valuable and is to be exalted. Woman‘s success is the success of society and the individual at all levels. The twenty first century must be the era of awakening; the era of the liberated, emancipated woman. This is more important than class or national liberation. The era of democratic civilisation shall be the one when woman rises and succeeds fully.
It is realistic to see our century as the century when the will of the free woman will come to fruition. Therefore, permanent institutions for woman need to be established and maintained for perhaps a century. There is a need for Woman’s Freedom Parties. It is also vital that ideological, political and economic communes, based on woman’s freedom, are formed. Women in general, but more specifically the Middle Eastern women, are the most energetic and active force of democratic society due to the characteristics described above. The ultimate victory of democratic society is only possible with woman.
Peoples and women have been devastated by classed society ever since the Neolithic Age. They will now, as the pivotal agents of the democratic breakthrough, not only take revenge on history, but they will form the required anti-thesis by positioning themselves to the left of the rising democratic civilisation. Women are truly the most reliable social agents on the road to an equal and libertarian society. In the Middle East, it is up to the women and the youth to ensure the anti-thesis needed for the democratisation of society. Woman’s awakening and being the leading societal force in this historical scene, has true antithetic value. Due to the class characteristics of civilisations, their development has been based on male domination. This is what puts woman in this position of anti-thesis. In fact, in terms of overcoming the class divisions of society and male superiority, her position acquires the value of a new synthesis. Therefore, the leadership position of woman’s movements in the democratisation of Middle Eastern society has historical characteristics that make this both an anti-thesis (due to being in Middle East) and a synthesis (globally). This area of work is the most crucial work that I have ever taken on. I believe it should have priority over the liberation of homelands and labour. If I am to be a freedom fighter, I cannot just ignore this: Woman’s revolution is a revolution within a revolution.
It is the fundamental mission of the new leadership to provide the power of intellect and will needed to attain the three aspects crucial for the realisation of a democratic modernity-system: a society that is democratic as well as economically and ecologically moral. To achieve this, we need to build a sufficient number of academic structures of appropriate quality. It is not enough to merely criticise the academic world of modernity — we have to develop an alternative. These alternative academic units should be constructed according to the priorities and the needs of all the societal areas, such as economy and technology, ecology and agriculture, democratic politics, security and defence, culture, history, science and philosophy, religion and arts. Without a strong academic cadre, the elements of democratic modernity cannot be built. Academic cadres and elements of democratic modernity are equally important for attainment of success. Interrelationship is a must to attain meaning and success.
The struggle for freedom (not only of women but of all ethnicities and different sections of the community) is as old as the enslavement and exploitation history of humanity. Yearning for freedom is intrinsic to human nature. Much has been learnt from these struggles, also from the one we have been waging for the past 40 years. Democratic society has existed alongside different systems of mainstream civilisation. Democratic modernity, the alternative system to capitalist modernity, is possible through a radical change of our mentality and the corresponding, radical and appropriate changes in our material reality. These changes, we must build together.
Finally, I would like to point out that the struggle for women’s freedom must be waged through the establishment of their own political parties, attaining a popular women’s movement, building their own non-governmental organisations and structures of democratic politics. All these must be handled together, simultaneously. The better women are able to escape the grip of male domination and society, the better they will be able to act and live according to their independence initiative.
The more women empower themselves, the more they regain their free personality and identity. Therefore, giving support to women’s ire, knowledge and freedom movement is the greatest display of comradeship and a value of humanity. I have full confidence that women, irrespective of their different cultures and ethnicities, all those who have been excluded from the system, will succeed. The twenty first century shall be the century of women’s liberation. I hope to make my own contributions – not only by writing on these issues, but by helping to implement the changes.
On the Author
Abdullah Öcalan, born in 1949, studied political sciences in Ankara. He actively led the Kurdish liberation struggle as the head of the PKK from its foundation in 1978 until his abduction on 15 February 1999. He is still regarded as a leading strategist and one of the most important political representatives of the Kurdish people. Under isolation conditions at Imrali Island Prison, Öcalan authored more than ten books which revolutionised Kurdish politics. Several times he initiated unilateral ceasefires of the guerilla and presented constructive proposals for a political solution of the Kurdish issue. The current “peace process” started in 2009 when the Turkish state responded to Öcalan’s call to resolve the Kurdish issue politically. Since 27 July 2011 he is being held again in almost total isolation at Imrali Island Prison.