‘In search of an identity’: Öcalan’s socialism

Türk H. B.

Journal of Political Ideologies, 2022 (SSCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/13569317.2022.2114248
  • Journal Name: Journal of Political Ideologies
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, IBZ Online, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Educational research abstracts (ERA), Geobase, Index Islamicus, Political Science Complete, Sociological abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
  • Ankara Haci Bayram Veli University Affiliated: Yes


© 2022 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.The leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan or PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, initially described his movement as a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist organization. However, his perspective on socialism changed over the period between the founding of the PKK in 1978 and the present. After his imprisonment on the island of İmralı in 1999, Öcalan sought to reformulate the ideological tenets of the PKK. In so doing, he challenged both orthodox Marxism and the Marxist-Leninist legacy of the PKK. This challenge was accompanied by a new theoretical search that resulted in the emergence of a multi-layered paradigm that Öcalan called ‘democratic civilization.’ This new paradigm, which was based on a critique of state-centred political perspectives, was heavily inspired by the works of Murray Bookchin, the founding figure of social ecology. Öcalan’s paradigm reshaped not only the political discourse of the PKK but also its organizational structure. Using an interpretive-textual methodology, this paper presents an outline of Öcalan’s approach to socialism. It argues that the change in Öcalan’s perspective on socialism provides insight into his ability to adapt his leadership to different situations, the eclectic nature of his political thought and his search for a new ideological identity for the PKK.