Meeting with an Iraqi leftist
I've been invited to a public meeting with Faris Mahmood, a leading member of the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq. The WCPI is a relatively small group (at least, if compared to the mainstream, collaborationist Iraqi Communist Party) but with a revolutionary attitude. There I had to deliver a short speech. Indeed, I'm in disagreement with some aspects of this group's policy, especially when related to the Iraqi Resistance (they seem to consider the whole of the anti-occupation armed movement as a bunch of reactionaries so they don't participate in any way in it, which I consider to be a serious mistake by these - in any case very respectable and heroic - comrades); nevertheless, they oppose strenuously the imperialist occupation and Faris Mahmood explained very well how the situation grew into a true hell after the US-led military aggression (this statement is even more noticeable since it comes from people who have suffered a lot under the brutal Baathist regime).
In my opinion, the Iraqi Communist movement as I understand it is split into three main rival factions, each of them pursuing a different tactical line:
- the Iraqi Communist Party is cooperating with the occupying imperialist forces, on the basis of the "rebuilding of democracy", which is a completely crazy tactics (similar to the pro-US stance of some Communist parties in Latin America in the past, which often spelled disaster for these organizations);
- the "Al-Kader" split of the Iraqi Communist Party completely embraced the policy of the armed Resistance, to the point that they use only nationalist (and also religious, sometimes) slogans and demands completely abandoning class policies (they explain that in this moment "More than being a Communist, one needs be a patriot"); I understand that many comrades could think like this in this moment, but this will lead nowhere;
- the WCPI holds a clear class position and also does a good job in rebuilding a workers' (armed) movement, but it has (let me say this with the highest respect towards these brave comrades) a sectarian approach towards all those people supporting the Resistance (which in their opinion is made 99% of actions against the Iraqi people itself and not the imperialists, a figure that's contradicted by almost all other sources, first of all by the US Army itself, as you can see below).
The following text is my speech at this meeting.
Firstly, I want to thank comrade Faris Mahmood for his presence here tonight.
It’s truly a great honour to have in Pavia a leading member of the Iraqi Worker-Communist Party. I want you to know that we did and we’re still doing all we can to foster a mass opposition against the occupation of Iraq by imperialist US-led forces and against the daily terror that the military intervention has unleashed. We’ve explained (and also shown in pictures and videos) to the largest possible audience the hellish bloodbath taking place in Iraq at the present time.
Anyway, we are serious Marxist militants and therefore we reject a common misconception of internationalist solidarity as the proletariant mirror of bourgeois diplomacy. We’re not here to greet each other, wish good luck to each other and then ignore each other until the next time we meet. We’re here (1) to understand more precisely the condition of the Iraqi working class and (2) to establish political relations between us, especially through a frank clarification of our positions.
I’m talking here as the representative of the International Marxist Tendency (in Italy, FalceMartello, a dissident fraction of the main Communist Party in Italy, PRC). It’s a Trotskyist group, and I know you have quite a bad opinion on Trotskyism, as I read on your website. Unfortunately, Trotskyism got a very bad name in many places of the world, not because of Trotsky’s ideas but because of the actions of some groups falsely claiming Trotsky’s legacy. I will give an example not because I like the subject, but because it’s a good introduction to a very important point about Iraq.
In 1979 the reactionary fundamentalist regime of ayatollah Khomeini took power after a victorious counter-revolution that viciously derailed the revolution waged by the Iranian workers against the Shah. It can sound incredible, but scores of left-wing groups in Europe (and even some in Iran itself) decided to support Khomeini because he was allegedly an anti-imperialist. Sadly, that was the criminal policy of the allegedly “Trotskyist” so-called “Fourth International”, too. The best elements amongst the Iranian Left were completely disgusted by such political behaviour, especially if you consider the repression such groups had and still have to suffer under the Islamic theocracy.
I want to assure comrade Faris that we are not like that. We understand exactly what you and your comrades in Iran had to suffer under so-called “anti-imperialist” regimes like the Islamic Republic or the regime of Saddam Hussein. And even worse could be told about the taliban regime in Afghanistan. We also have comrades in Pakistan suffering frequent attacks by the Fascist fundamentalists.
We stand, as you do, for a secular and sovereign state in Iraq, for women’s rights in Iraq, for workers’ power in Iraq: these are the ideas that represent the true anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism.
Nevertheless, while opposing the pro-Saddam ideology, your party recognizes that the entrance of the imperialist troops in Iraq and the rule of the present puppet government severely worsened the situation. Something between 150,000 and 650,000 Iraqis died as a consequence of the war and occupation. The economic and social measures taken by the Coalition forces and the pro-imperialist government are well explained in your papers: privatizations and anti-union conduct. As a result, half of the Iraqi workers are now unemployed and the life expectancy has been dramatically cut.
Your party demands the withdrawal of all imperialist troops from Iraq, which I think is a very correct demand, and explains that the presence of foreign troops in Iraq is indeed strengthening the fundamentalist menace of political Islam.
I read your analysis on the dark scenario and my opinion is that the dark scenario created by imperialism in Iraq is a mere reflection of the fact that capitalism on a world scale has entered into a deep historical crisis (not an economic slump, a long-run crisis) which prevents the bourgeoisie from being able to develop the society as a whole. This is shown in a sharper form in countries like Iraq. As the British did when they had to quit India, the imperialists are now pushing Iraq further into chaos, civil war and barbarism, in a desperate attempt to prevent any alternative power (progressive or reactionary) to emerge. As in Pakistan and India after the British went away, reactionary forces are trying to exploit this situation to implement policies like religious bigotry, tribal barbarism, national oppression.
I’m sure the imperialists have no chance to bring Iraq out of the chaos under a stable pro-imperialist regime. The United Nations or the NATO can’t help them, as in Afghanistan. Sooner or later, they’ll have to leave and when they will, no problem will have been solved in the country. Therefore, it’s a race against the clock! If the only resistance taking place in Iraq against Western colonialism will be led by reactionary forces, a darker scenario is the only thing we could expect. Communists in Iraq (and worldwide) can’t sit down and wait to see what happens. They must represent a viable and realistic alternative to both the imperialist lackeys and the reactionaries. I think that many active supporters of the resistance, also some very pious people, can be won to revolutionary ideas; I don’t mean the leaders, I mean the ordinary fighter: a dramatic period is also a period of dramatic changes in the consciousness of millions of workers. What’s your opinion on this?
Since the resistance enjoys an undeniably large mass support, in the present moment the fight against the foreign occupation is an extremely important political issue for any progressive movement in Iraq. But the fight against capitalist oppression is equally important; building a strong union movement, supporting the interests and the rights of the workers also under a foreign occupation, could give a strong advantage to the Left in Iraq. In my opinion, if the unions (and the unemployed’s unions) in Iraq become stronger, they could play a leading role in the way out of chaos. I’d like to know more about your union activity.
I think that your party should get involved actively in the creation of a proletarian wing of the resistance, independent from the reactionary forces. There’s already a process of separation, inside the resistance movement, between those groups promoting Al-Qaeda-style terrorism, sectarism and ethnical conflicts on one hand and those groups rejecting terrorism and promoting unity of the people against the occupation. The existence of a resistance movement is unavoidable because it’s the natural consequence of the occupation; it’s the preminence of sectarian and ethnic forces (including pro-Saddam Sunni groups) which is not unavoidable, on the contrary it will make it more difficult and bloody to get rid of the imperialists and if they manage to take power they will restore another sort of dictatorial bourgeois regime, oppressing women, workers and ethnic minorities. So the question is: who will take power after the Americans leave?
I know that your party refers to the October Revolution. After the October Revolution, the imperialists of all the world tried to throw Russia in a dark scenario through the military intervention of counter-revolutionary armies. This attempt didn’t succeed because Soviet Russia consolidated as the only viable alternative to chaos. What I hope is that the present chaos could be ended by the emergence of a similar workers’ power in Iraq: the failure and the bankruptcy of both the national bourgeoisie and the imperialist bourgeoisie could pave the way for such a bright scenario.
However, since you all admire Lenin I think it would be important to consider Lenin’s opinion on national liberation movements. Lenin favoured the drawing of clear class lines inside national liberation movements, but he didn’t urge the Communists to separate themselves by those movements. That was a key point of the strategy of the Communist International before it degenerated with Stalin. Lenin proposed that the Communists set up independent proletarian organizations but also support in a critical form those national liberation movements having a relatively progressive character, while at the same time rejecting any kind of support to reactionary forces (and there he mentioned explicitly the political Islam).
Is a similar strategy, in a very careful way, appliable to Iraq? I think so. Otherwise, once again the Left in Iraq risks to play a minor role in the context of armed confrontation between two (or three or four) bourgeois blocs.
I’ll sum up now because everybody in the room wants you to deliver your speech, inviting you to keep in touch with us also in the future, because we need so badly more information and intelligent opinions on the situation in Iraq. Thank you again and all our solidarity to you and your comrades in Iraq.