Bookchin-Öcalan correspondence published for the first time

By Joris Leverink

ROAR Magazine

In 2004, Kurdish leader Öcalan reached out to Murray Bookchin from his prison cell, where he had been studying the work of the American radical thinker. Their correspondence is now made public for the first time.

The Bookchin-Öcalan correspondence has been published as part of a long read exploring the ways in which the Kurds were inspired by Bookchin’s ideas to continue their struggle for freedom and democracy. The article was written by Akbar Shahid Ahmed and posted on the Huffington Post’s blog. What follows is a short excerpt of the article. The links to the documents containing the correspondence can be found in the article, or by directly clicking this link.

In prison, Ocalan dove into radical, post-communist literature, looking for a new way forward. A famously voracious reader whose book selections were regularly leaked in the Turkish and Kurdish press, he began to devour Murray Bookchin. By 2004, Heider and others advocating for Ocalan’s cause felt the time had come to connect him with the aging Vermonter. Establishing some form of dialogue was critical to them, Heider told HuffPost, because conservatives in Kurdish circles were pushing for the movement to completely abandon leftist thought.

They wrote to Biehl.

On April 11, five days after he received Ocalan’s missive, Bookchin wrote back with Biehl’s help.

Then 83, Bookchin had long been curious about the Kurds and written about their struggle in his personal journals, his daughter said. He told Ocalan he wasn’t familiar with all aspects of the PKK’s fight — he blamed the U.S.’s “parochial press” — and he was so old that writing was a struggle, but he was happy to be in touch.

“I am a walking history of the twentieth century in my own way and have always tried to look beyond ideas that people freeze into dogmas,” Bookchin wrote to Ocalan. “I ask you to please be patient with an old radical.”

The existence of Bookchin’s correspondence with Ocalan has been previously reported, but HuffPost obtained the full cache of preserved documents and is publishing them for the first time with permission from the Murray Bookchin Trust, Biehl and Heider. (None of those sources had the initial message from Heider and Oliver Kontny, another Ocalan advocate.)

Read the full article here, and read Janet Biehl’s contribution to ROAR Issue #0 on Bookchin’s revolutionary program here.

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