The PKK’s European front organization: a weak link in the chain
Negotiations between the Undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization on behalf of the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan continues. Öcalan made an important gesture in the first stage of negotiations by ending the hunger strikes that could have significantly troubled the government. Although this gesture consolidated his power, other challenges lie ahead. Still, the process will continue according to a specific plan and mutually made promises.
Time will test both the perseverance of the government and the integrity and discipline of the PKK. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will try to face his opponents in the political system as he keeps negotiating with the PKK. This he will have to do in the wake of three upcoming elections.
The length of the process and the inactivity of the organization are likely to pose serious risks to Öcalan and the PKK. Like all Marxist/Maoist movements, the PKK has three main elements. These are Öcalan, who personifies the party ideology, armed militants, and the front organization. The front organization has important roles not only in Turkey, but also in Europe and the Middle East.
These elements operate under different rules and in different political, legal, social and psychological environments. The armed movement occupies the center of the system. Organized in light of military necessities, it is the most disciplined section.
The most important tool for maintaining discipline and integrity is the continuity of the armed struggle. If negotiations linger and the armed militants remain inactive, the PKK will inevitably face internal restlessness. Nevertheless, the armed section is the strongest element in the face of the challenge of internal struggle.
The weakest link in the chain is the legal and illegal European front organization. Each of its parts in different European countries changes in time according to local circumstances. Moreover, its cultural codes can differ from the PKK’s general code of organizational discipline. Thirdly, money can easily corrupt “idealists.” Finally, due to legal and physical circumstances, supervision from the center is low. In the final analysis, this section is highly vulnerable to external factors and disintegration.
The assassination of three PKK female militants exposed the weakest link in the chain earlier than expected and reminded the PKK that organizational integrity is under threat. It also presented the government with a new opportunity to exploit the intra-PKK fault lines. But to do so might prove detrimental because the PKK knows from experience that the best way to maintain internal discipline is to organize a new and fiercer wave of armed action.