The following article was first published in Proletarian Revolution No. 68 (Fall 2003).
They were supposed to be greeted as liberators. But after winning a swift victory against the outgunned and despised forces of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, the U.S. and allied military forces in Iraq are being greeted as the colonial oppressors they are – with rocks, bullets and bombs. After briefly strutting atop the world as its lone and apparently invincible superpower, the U.S. is fast becoming stuck in what one U.S. general described as a "quagmire" of "guerrilla war." Having at first promised a speedy withdrawal from Iraq, U.S. military leaders now admit that they will occupy the country for years, at a current cost of over a billion dollars a week and an increasing number of dead soldiers.
The people of Iraq are now undergoing the latest stage in their country's recent history of oppression by the U.S. and other imperialist powers. For decades they had aided Saddam and his brutal rule; then they devastated the country in the first Gulf War after Saddam got out of line. When masses revolted against Saddam, George Bush I allowed him to crush the rebels and remain in power; then the imperialists imposed deadly sanctions on Iraq for a decade.
The working classes in the imperialist countries, and especially in the United States, must make their position absolutely clear: the U.S. has no right to occupy Iraq or any other country. We call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. and British forces from Iraq.
The White House's public relations hacks hope that reports of more arrests and killings of Saddam Hussein's inner circle will allay growing fears at home that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is turning into a disaster. Perhaps they will even succeed in capturing or killing Saddam himself. But the occupying forces in Iraq face daily attack not just from remnants of Saddam Hussein's forces and the Sunni minority, which formed the broader base of support of his regime. They are also under attack from elements of the Shi'ite majority who were brutally oppressed by the old regime.
What makes these attacks possible is the support they find among the masses. Iraqis are enraged that the imperialists have broken their promises of democracy and economic reconstruction, and are rebelling against the U.S.'s colonial occupation and its dictatorial violence and exploitation. Having suffered under Saddam's dictatorship, they are unwilling to bow down before new oppressors.
As a result, demoralization and rebelliousness are spreading among the ranks of U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq. The Pentagon has had to extend their tours of duty, repeatedly breaking assurances that soldiers would return home soon. Numerous soldiers have expressed to reporters, and even through anonymous letters, their sense of having been betrayed by the Pentagon and the White House. These public expressions of rebelliousness reached a high point when ABC News aired interviews with soldiers in which they expressed opinions ranging from calls for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, to demands for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation and worse. "I've got my own ‘Most Wanted List,'" one sergeant vented. "The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and Paul Wolfowitz."
What's more, it is not just Iraqis who are causing problems for the war's principal leaders, Bush and Blair. The exposure of their lies about the purported threat posed by Saddam's supposed "weapons of mass destruction" (WMDs) have become a lightning rod for popular discontent at home. Blair is struggling to maintain power in Britain, while in the U.S. Bush's popularity is sinking. The sense of patriotic unity that swept the working class after September 11, overcoming years of growing contempt for all politicians, is beginning to wane. The war had served as a "weapon of mass distraction" from deepening economic crisis. Now distrust of the warmongers is magnifying anger at growing unemployment and declining living standards.
The Bush Administration and the imperialist capitalist class they serve seemed to think that ruling the world would be easier than this. They are being reminded that the masses do not like to be ruled, and further reminders are in store. Worsening economic crisis will only increase the pressure on the imperialists to launch further military adventures abroad as well as to intensify the exploitation of the workers and poor at home. Growing mass struggles are inevitable, both abroad and at home. These struggles demand a revolutionary leadership with a clear understanding of the forces at work behind the imperialists' growing aggression, the better to lead the workers and oppressed to overthrow the rotten capitalist system.
The invasion of Iraq was always going to be very risky for the U.S. ruling class and its allies. But as we explained in Proletarian Revolution No. 67, with all the risks it entailed, the war was an attempt to answer fundamental needs of the international capitalist system, and of American capital in particular. The invasion of Iraq was a bipartisan policy of both Republicans and Democrats, to which bourgeois critics had no real alternative.
First, the U.S. ruling class was aware that with economic crisis spreading, they would face rising mass struggles, at first most explosively in the "third world." Imperialist stability demands an all-powerful military threat to keep the masses down and rival states in line. The September 11 terrorist attacks challenged the U.S.'s authority as the world's lone superpower, and it had to respond with a massive show of force that would terrorize the Arab masses in particular, and force the whole world to cower. As we wrote immediately after the terrorist attacks:
George W. Bush and the rest of the scum who rule America are angry. ... Somebody has humiliated them; their place as the world's most powerful and seemingly invincible terrorist has been challenged! ... Soon, as Bush & Co. intimate, the masses abroad will receive a bloody response which will dwarf past atrocities and re-establish who has the only "God-given right" to engage in mass murder on this planet. Terror does rule the world, and Bush wants to make it clear who is going to exercise it. ("Behind the Terror Attacks Stands Bloody U.S. Imperialism," Sept. 13, 2001.)
In the lead-up to the war we continued this reasoning:
The U.S. war on Afghanistan was only a limited success in this respect. It did succeed in toppling the Taliban and installing a puppet regime, slaughtering thousands of civilians in the process. But even against this weak enemy, the U.S. failed to kill or capture the top Taliban or al Qaeda leadership. By invading Iraq, the U.S. plans to send the message to the masses of the world that it has the power and will to smash even bigger enemies without regard for diplomacy or international law. ("Defend Iraq – Defeat U.S. Imperialism!" March 21, 2003.)
Since the ouster of Saddam's regime and the growing scandal over the imperialists' failure to find any WMDs, some ruling-class figures have edged toward admitting a few of the real reasons for the invasion. On June 4, the New York Times's arrogantly imperialist but often well informed foreign policy columnist Thomas Friedman, nearly borrowed his line from PR:
The failure of the Bush team to produce any weapons of mass destruction ... in Iraq is becoming a big, big story. But is it the real story we should be concerned with? No. It was the wrong issue before the war, and it's the wrong issue now. ... The "real reason" for this war, which was never stated, was that after 9/11 America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world. Afghanistan wasn't enough ... Smashing Saudi Arabia or Syria would have been fine. But we hit Saddam for one simple reason: because we could ... .
Earlier, sensing the weakness of the Bush Administration's lying claims that Iraq had to be invaded to prevent Saddam from using his supposed WMDs, Friedman had tried to incorporate the WMD-hysteria into a more realistic explanation:
Let's cut the nonsense. The primary reason the Bush team is more focused on Saddam [than on North Korea] is because if he were to acquire weapons of mass destruction, it might give him the leverage he has long sought – not to attack us, but to extend his influence over the world's largest source of oil, the Persian Gulf. ... the natural resource that powers the world's industrial base. (January 5.)
Subtract the now thoroughly discredited idea that Iraq was assembling a huge arsenal of WMDs and Friedman has, in his typically crude way, presented Washington's key war aims: asserting U.S. military and economic power over an increasingly crisis-ridden and rebellious world.
However, unilaterally overthrowing a troublesome Arab dictatorship and thereby tightening their grip on the world's oil supplies were not ends in themselves for the U.S. rulers. Rather, they were means by which the Bush Administration hoped to establish a new world order of unrivaled U.S. domination over imperialist rivals and local "third world" rulers as well as the masses. Bush I tried it in 1991, but the end of the Cold War did not bring about the worldwide stabilization the imperialists hoped for. So in the wake of September 11 they are trying once more. While the imperialists again won the war against Saddam's regime, the U.S. is failing to win the "peace" it wants.
Washington's flouting of the United Nations, plus the opposition to its war aims by Germany, France and Russia, highlighted the fact that the U.S.'s invasion of Iraq was in part aimed against its imperialist rivals. As the world economic crisis deepens, economic competition between the imperialists intensifies, pointing toward trade war. By tightening its grip on the world's oil supplies, the U.S.'s invasion of Iraq was designed to strengthen its economic advantage over its main imperialist rivals, Germany, France and Japan, who are far more dependent on oil imports than is the U.S. Asserting its preparedness to defy international law and use its superpower military to brutally enforce its interests in Iraq was necessary preparation for the U.S. using its huge military advantage elsewhere in the future.
In this spirit, Friedman wrote a few years ago:
For globalization to work, America can't be afraid to act like the almighty superpower that it is ... The hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist – McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. (New York Times, March 28, 1999.)
The Bush Administration's bold assertion of U.S. military power had seemed for a moment to work. The U.S.'s quick victory appeared to give the rival imperialists, anxious to secure even a tiny amount of influence in post-Saddam Iraq, no choice but to swallow their earlier objections and give their stamp of approval to the U.S. occupation. Thus in May the U.N. Security Council resolved that the U.S. proconsul in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer III, "has ultimate authority in Iraq under a United Nations resolution that recognized the United States and Britain as occupation powers."
But now that the occupation is becoming bogged down in an intensifying guerrilla war and its military and financial resources are becoming stretched, the U.S. is struggling to maintain its unilateralism. Washington's attempts to secure troop commitments from U.N. Security Council states have been rebuffed, and they are having to rely on token contributions of troops from other NATO countries. There are even calls coming from some figures associated with the Bush Administration for the U.S. to surrender control of Iraq to the U.N. before it becomes trapped in a protracted and costly guerrilla war. Such a retreat would mean a humiliating failure to achieve key aims of the war, so the U.S. will do all it can to avoid it.
The rival imperialists have an interest in restraining the U.S. in order to limit the growth of its military and economic power against them. But they cannot afford to allow the U.S. to suffer too great a defeat. Still comparatively weak militarily, they need U.S. imperialism's strength to maintain international stability for their own interests. Beneath the diplomatic maneuvers between the powers is the underlying drive of the capitalist system that propels the rival imperialists toward trade war and ultimately another world war. In the long term the U.S.'s competitors will be forced to develop their own military power to back their need for international imperialist expansion.
The U.S. has so far met with more success in its broader war aims for the Middle East. It aimed to send a bloody message to the masses of the Middle East that it is prepared to unleash military terror to maintain order. With its occupation of Iraq, the U.S. succeeded in establishing a new and massive permanent military presence in the Middle East, while preparing to largely remove its forces from Saudi Arabia in the hope of alleviating hostility to the Saudi rulers' alliance with the U.S.
An initial measure of the U.S.'s success in terrorizing the masses throughout the region was its ability to force the official misleadership of the Palestinian people to accept a "road map" leading to further domination by the Israeli occupiers. It has gained similar acquiescence from Syria, which refused to harbor Saddam and his cronies after his regime's collapse. Syria, a member of the U.N. Security Council, also failed to vote against the resolution giving the U.S. governmental authority in Iraq.
But Washington has a broader dream: redrawing the political map of the Middle East and gradually replacing the clerical and monarchist rulers with ostensibly democratic regimes that will enforce compliance with imperialist domination of the world. Saudi Arabia and Iran are the next targets. The U.S. sees that their theocratic regimes breed and support anti-Western terrorists, and asserts that its pseudo-democracy will solve the problem.
This hope is already proving illusory. Bush & Co. have rattled their sabres at Iran, calling for "regime change," advocating inspections of its purported WMD programs and even discussing economic sanctions. But the deepening instability of Iraq and the U.S.'s stretched resources make its threats sound increasingly hollow, at least for the moment. Further, the U.S.'s inability to construct its own stable regime in Iraq, let alone an indigenous one, underscores the consequences of the weakening of any of the other dictatorships in the region.
In motivating its invasion of Iraq, the Bush Administration promised the Iraqi people democratic rights and freedom from tyranny. It also promised to not just rebuild Iraq after the war but to create a new prosperity for the masses in which the profits of its oil industry would benefit its people and not just a powerful ruling clique with its expensive weapons programs.
Instead, having bombed Iraq into a "pre-industrial state" in the first Gulf War (according to a U.N. report), killed over a million people through malnutrition and disease with its decade of sanctions, and wreaked further destruction upon the country with its latest invasion, the U.S. has casually left the masses to suffer. Electricity is still far from being completely restored, even in Baghdad, meaning that there is no way for families to store perishable food or even run fans in the summer heat. Most of the country is still without clean drinking water, and diseases are rapidly spreading because people have no choice but to drink contaminated water. Before the war, 67 percent of the population relied on meager food rations to survive; that figure is now close to 100 percent.
While restoring essential services to the people is unprofitable and therefore a low priority for the imperialist occupiers, they have wasted no time in plundering the country's economy. Before the war had even begun, the White House had signed billions of dollars worth of contracts to favored capitalists. Oil production was restored within weeks of Saddam's overthrow. The U.S. administration quickly created ministries for all areas of the economy, headed by prominent Western capitalists. Their priority has been to privatize all major industries from petroleum to agriculture and open them up for imperialist ownership. They have also made clear that all the tariffs and other measures used to protect domestic industry in Iraq would be removed. Based on these policies, Bush has announced plans for the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Middle East with the hope of forcing neighboring states to further open their economies to imperialist exploitation.
The Iraqi masses took advantage of the fall of Saddam's dictatorship to break into the mansions and offices of their previous rulers and seize everything they could. It has since become clear that freedom to pick at the bones of the fallen regime was all the imperialists would offer them. But by overthrowing Saddam, the U.S. destroyed the force that had been keeping the masses down. It thereby unleashed the mass rebelliousness that had been brutally repressed for so long.
No sooner had Saddam's regime been overthrown than rival opposition groups – religious, ethnic and secular – throughout the country began attempting to mobilize support and pursue their aspirations to power. By far the most prominent role has so far been played by the Shi'ite religious leaders.
In planning their occupation of Iraq, the U.S. grossly underestimated the role the Shi'ites would play in fighting for their rights, expecting them to essentially remain passive. Saddam's dictatorship had relied on using moderate Shi'ite leaders to keep the masses of Shi'ites in check, while viciously repressing those opposed to his regime. The U.S. planned on inheriting those moderate leaders, figuring the Shi'ite masses would be too "shocked and awed" by the U.S. military to resist.
Initially they saw signs that their plan would work. The supreme leader of Iraq's Shi'ites, Grand Ayatollah Ali Hussein Sistani, was a cautious collaborator with Saddam's dictatorship and, before the war, had called on Shi'ites to defend the country against the invaders. But as the U.S. took control of the country, Sistani made a declaration directing all Muslims not to hinder the invading forces – which Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz immediately hailed as "the first pro-American fatwa" [religious edict]. But since then it has been the U.S. who have been shocked and awed, and their plans for rule in Iraq thrown into chaos.
Within a week of his pro-U.S. fatwa, Sistani found himself surrounded in his house in Najaf by a crowd of armed supporters of the militant Islamic organization Jimaat-i-Sadr-Thani (JST), demanding that he leave the country. This was a serious threat, since the previous week JST supporters had rallied at the Shi'ites' holiest shrine, also in Najaf, to protest the meeting of a U.S.-aligned cleric returning from exile to meet with the previously Saddam-aligned caretaker of the shrine – and killed them both.
The JST won loyal support from many of the most downtrodden Shi'ites through its opposition to Saddam's dictatorship, for which its leaders and members were brutally repressed. It is led by Muqtada al-Sadr, son of the late Mohammed Sadek al-Sadr, a militant Shia cleric killed by Saddam in 1999. The JST is still vying for power with the supporters of Sistani. It has retreated from its demand for Sistani to leave. But its popular support is indicated by the fact that the largest Shi'ite urban population center, located in what had been called "Saddam City" in Baghdad, was immediately renamed "Sadr City" following Saddam's downfall, and a JST cleric, Sheikh Mohammed al-Fartousi, was acknowledged as Baghdad's most powerful cleric.
Hopelessly out of touch with these developments, the U.S.'s first efforts to form an Iraqi fig leaf for its occupation centered on exiled figures with proven commitments as servants of imperialism: Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress and Iyad Alawi of the Iraqi National Accord. When the U.S. occupation's initial chief, General Jay Garner, called the first conference of Iraqi organizations to prepare for an "Iraqi Interim Authority," he excluded essentially every leader with an organized following beside the pro-imperialist Kurdish leaders Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani. Thus the U.S. did not even try to incorporate into its front Shi'ite groups more willing to collaborate with it, like Mohammed Bakr al-Sadr's al-Dawa Party, on the grounds that it was committed to an Islamic state – let alone Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim's Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which is aligned with Iran.
Such moves by Garner only added to the most militant Shi'ite forces' support, triggering demonstrations of thousands across the country, including well over ten thousand in Baghdad demanding an end to the U.S. occupation and an elected government. Garner's loss of authority and the need for a more conciliatory approach to some Shi'ite leaders was most likely what prompted the White House to suddenly replace Garner with Bremer as the head of the U.S. occupation regime, the "Coalition Provisional Authority" (CPA).
Shortly after its establishment, the CPA announced that it would appoint an interim government to rule the country until a constitution could be drawn up and elections held. Apparently thinking he would display his commitment to bar any return to power of figures from Saddam's dictatorship, Bremer not only fired tens of thousands of former civil servants but unilaterally dissolved the Iraqi army. This last decision meant that almost half a million Sunnis and Shi'ites with military training were suddenly unemployed. Not surprisingly, the sporadic armed attacks against the occupying forces that had been just beginning now escalated greatly; desperate soldiers linked up in underground cells or joined the armed wings of political and religious parties taking advantage of the growing popular opposition to the occupation.
As mass protests continued to grow and armed attacks on its occupying forces escalated, the U.S. realized that it could not yet afford to create a figurehead government. For even if it were made up of Iraqis of its own choosing, its members could be pressured to adopt policies counter to the imperialists' wishes. The U.S. would have to combine repression of the growing anti-occupation movement with attempts to forge alliances with broader forces among the Shi'ites, hoping to win to its side those willing to collaborate while setting up the more militant groups for a crackdown.
On June 1 the CPA issued a new "weapons control order" requiring all Iraqi militias outside of Kurdish-held northern Iraq, as well as individuals, to disarm. The occupation forces then began a series of sweeps seeking to disarm the population. Thousands of homes were invaded and families brutalized; there were a number of deaths and many hundreds were arrested, only to be released without charges days later. Soon after, the CPA issued a decree banning all "gatherings, pronouncements or publications" in "opposition to the U.S. occupation."
But these policies only outraged the masses further and made the colonial nature of the occupation of the country more glaringly obvious. The U.S. then appointed a sham interim government of Iraqi leaders as window-dressing, an Interim Governing Council (IGC) which would have the power to make governing decisions as long as the CPA agreed with them. The U.S. hoped that this would provide an Iraqi face for its rule and also redirect some of the masses' anger toward their own leaders. For example, by making the IGC responsible for decisions on budgetary spending (though not for how much money it has to spend, which is up to the CPA) it hoped to spread the blame for the masses' suffering.
The CPA had hoped that the IGC would be dominated by Iraqi political figures who were tested collaborators with the U.S. like Chalabi, Alawi, Barzani, Talabani, a few token tribal and other ethnic leaders, as well as more moderate Shi'ite leaders. Unsure of how far it could afford to go in incorporating other Shi'ite leaders, the CPA alternately acted against SCIRI (sending military forces to occupy and ransack its offices) and conducted negotiations with it to afford it a place in the Council.
To win support from among the radicalizing Shi'ite masses, SCIRI leaders spoke out against foreign occupation of the country. But having abandoned its presence in the country's urban areas years ago in favor of conducting military operations from the marshes of Southern Iraq and collaborating with the imperialists, SCIRI has found itself with little popular support outside of a couple of small cities near the Iranian border. It also seems to have lost much of its support from Iran, which has made moves to back the JST. Thus SCIRI knew its only hope for a slice of power was to tie itself to the occupation forces. SCIRI thus sought to show the CPA that it was prepared to act "responsibly," for example, by promising to disband its 10-15,000-strong militia. Seeing the U.S.'s urgent need for Shi'ite allies and needing cover for its collaboration, SCIRI demanded that a majority of the positions on the IGC be allotted to Shi'ites, a demand the U.S. agreed to. Bremer even agreed to appoint a representative of the
Iraqi Communist Party to the IGC in the hope of winning urban workers' support while stifling the emergence of workers' struggles.
But by the time the IGC held its first meeting, it was clear that it had failed to win to its side any Shi'ite leaders commanding mass support, as militant anti-occupation demonstrations by Shi'ites grew. Pressure to come out against the occupation and the CPA's betrayal of its promises of democracy had become so great that Ayatollah Sistani issued a fatwa at the beginning of July condemning Bremer's plan to appoint an IGC rather than have the people elect one.
The JST has continued to hold weekly mass rallies of tens of thousands. In a recent speech at one such rally, Muqtada al-Sadr declared the IGC illegitimate and without popular support. Sadr announced the formation of an alternative governing council and an army to defend it. The thousands gathered then marched to the U.S. military headquarters chanting slogans like "No Americans after today!", "No to America! No to colonialism!", "Down with the invaders!" and "Long Live Sadr! America and the Council are infidels! Muqtada, go ahead; we are your soldiers of liberation!"
Bourgeois observers of Iraq have been shocked by the rapid rise of Iraq's militant Islamic movement and its demands for an Islamic state. Their standard description of the Shi'ites as largely secular, with a mostly non-political clergy, was a product of their ignorance of the class struggle in Iraq under Saddam's dictatorship. The mainstream Shi'ite clerical leaders avoided political involvement, not out of theological commitment but out of fear for their lives. With Saddam's dictatorship gone and the masses increasingly rebellious, their clerical leaders have no choice but to chart a course to political power.
But there is a deep source of secularism in Iraq – the multi-millioned working class. Tearing peasants from rural life and drawing them into modern industry and urban life, capitalism greatly undermined the grip of religion on the Iraqi working class. Many Shi'ites and Sunnis alike identified themselves more as Iraqis than followers of either creed. They shunned Islam's more reactionary and puritanical aspects, from its oppression of women to its forbidding of the consumption of alcohol.
It is no coincidence that the JST bases its support not on the working-class masses but on the most desperate, impoverished and permanently unemployed masses of the slums of Sadr City and other areas. It is mobilizing these elements not just against the imperialist occupiers but also against the democratic rights of the working masses. Thus its leader in Sadr City, Sheikh Mohammed al-Fartousi, has moved to implement a brutal version of sharia (Islamic law), calling for physical attacks on all women found not to be wearing veils and for the murder of prostitutes. He has also been behind the bombing of alcohol distilleries and cinemas.
Similarly in other cities, various religious and ethnic bourgeois leaders have sought to overcome the traditions of secular and national unity among the working class and instigate pogroms against rival groups. In the northern oil center Kirkuk, where Kurdish and Arab workers, along with Turkmen and Assyrians, have long lived and worked together, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan has encouraged murderous attacks on Arabs.
At the root of the fratricidal war of all against all that the various religious and ethnic leaders are attempting to spur the Iraqi masses toward is the poverty and desperation that imperialism enforces. With jobs, food and shelter scarce, pro-capitalist leaders of all stripes seek to mobilize support for a fight over who gets how much. Religious demagogy serves to discipline the poor and solidify their support for leaders with very modern economic interests.
Democracy is possible even in its attenuated bourgeois form only in imperialist countries, whose ruling class's exploitation of the "Third World" allows them to use a portion of their super-profits to buy stability. In the neo-colonial world, democracy is unaffordable. That is why the U.S. allowed the defeated Saddam to survive in 1991. Today it may be able to hold Iraq together for some time through military power, but its search for an indigenous front demands that it find another strongman, lest Iraq and therefore the rest of the Middle East be torn apart. They pray that the next Saddam can be kept on a tighter leash, one held more directly by the U.S. military.
Only the working class of Iraq can lead the masses out of this nightmare. It is the only class with no interest in maintaining capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination. The revolutionary overthrow of imperialist capitalist rule in Iraq and the building of a workers' state committed to socialism is the only way the masses' democratic rights will be secured.
The imperialist invasion has no doubt thrown the working class into disarray. Mass unemployment has skyrocketed and many industries are yet to resume work. Yet there have already been signs of working-class struggle. Protests by unemployed and unpaid workers have become a regular occurrence in Baghdad and other cities, and imperialist investment in the oil industry will provide the basis for revived struggles by the most powerful section of Iraq's working class.
Revolutionaries in Iraq must participate in these struggles, helping their fellow workers' learn their class interests in the course of the struggle. But they must not ignore the masses' struggle against imperialism and for democratic rights; these struggles are the key to the current struggle. The Shi'ite clerical leaders are winning most of their support not because of their religious edicts but because they claim to represent a courageous fight against imperialism and its local enforcers. The bourgeois Kurdish leaders are encouraging pogromist attacks on Arabs to deflect attention away from their betrayal of the masses' quest for an independent Kurdistan.
These demagogues can be undermined by revolutionaries fighting as the most determined champions of anti-imperialism. In the course of that struggle, they must be the best fighters against religious and nationalist attacks on democratic freedoms. The clerics and bourgeois leaders must be exposed as a dire threat to the anti-imperialist struggle. Revolutionaries fight for the defeat of the imperialist forces in every clash with Iraqi forces of all stripes, but would at all points seek to mobilize and arm the working class independently.
Given the present balance of forces, the working class cannot simply pronounce itself the leadership. By its power to control oil production and much of the economy, and through a program of consistent internationalism and socialist revolution, it can win and unite the masses. Only such a program – permanent revolution – can fulfill the democratic yearnings of the Iraqi people. Without a doubt, a massive working-class anti-imperialist struggle in Iraq would light a match to the whole Middle Eastern tinderbox and send imperialism reeling throughout the region.
Genuine communists would fight for a revolutionary constituent assembly to democratically decide on a new constitution and government to replace the imperialist fraud. Communist revolutionary delegates would argue for the overthrow of capitalism and the creation of a working-class state. They would fight for democratic rights for all ethnic and religious minorities. They would champion Kurdish self-determination and favor a united and independent Kurdistan which would shake Turkey, Iran and Syria – and which could only occur through socialist revolution. They would proclaim that only revolutionary workers' states united in a Socialist Federation of the Middle East could meet the democratic and economic needs of the masses.
We are not aware of any genuinely revolutionary communist force active in Iraq today. The Communist Party has long collaborated with various bourgeois opposition forces and has now openly gone over to the side of imperialism and joined the Interim Governing Council. A new group split from it in protest, but embraces Islam and nationalism. The far more left-wing Worker-Communist Party of Iraq is, according to reports, advocating workers' struggles and opposing the Islamists and nationalists. But the WCPI calls for an end to the U.S. and British imperialist occupation only to favor interim rule by the United Nations, an unprincipled concession to "multilateral" imperialism made all the more ridiculous because the U.N. has endorsed Bremer's CPA.
The Iraqi masses are only just beginning their courageous struggle against their new dictator. But they will only find the road to victory if a genuinely revolutionary Trotskyist party made up of the most class-conscious workers is built to help show the way. In the meantime, the growing mass resistance will serve as an inspiration to the workers and oppressed everywhere that we need not be shocked and awed by the imperialists' military might nor bowed down by the poverty and exploitation they enforce.