by Frank Arango
(CV #41, February 2008)
How does CVO really view the Iraqi armed resistance?
A non-class approach: nationalists vs. separatists
The disappearance of Moqtada al-Sadr
What does the Iraqi resistance movement really look like?
The ghost of Saddam Hussein
The Kurds have the right to self-determination, but . . .
Did U. S. imperialism invade Iraq in order to partition it?
Marxism-Leninism on the relationship of the class struggle to the anti-occupation struggle
For your reference the FSP polemic against our position of opposing both imperialism and fundamentalism: Partitioning Iraq -- a U. S. "solution" that would spell disaster for the region
(by Megan Cornish, in Freedom Socialist, vol. 28, #6, December 2007 January 2008)
. Mark Williams' "Prettifying the Iraqi exploiters in the name of opposing imperialism" (Communist Voice #38) has evoked a polemical reply by the Freedom Socialist Party's (FSP) Megan Cornish. (1) But this is a reply that avoids seriously dealing with the many factual issues raised in Williams' article. Instead, it does such things as imply that those who don't agree with the FSP's analysis and stand are hedging on supporting the resistance against the occupation. Such a polemical method distracts from the fact that this is a disagreement among those who want to see U.S. imperialism defeated over whether to seriously take account of the internal class realities in Iraq. Moreover, Cornish takes a very un-comradely and slanderous attitude toward hard-working activists in the anti-war and anti-imperialist movements such as CVO comrades, which I think is very unfortunate.
. Now Cornish refers to debate on the left, and discussion/debate/polemics on the left can be valuable. Yet for it to be really valuable requires that this unfortunate polemical method be abandoned. What we need is scientific enquiry and back and forth discussion aimed at resolution of the controversial issues. And we need debate that all can knowledgeably participate in, which means that authors should indicate where the materials they're replying to can be found something that Cornish failed to do in responding to Williams' article.
. Such enquiry also requires looking at the realities of Iraq. Cornish instead ignores the class struggle in Iraq and reasons instead with general formulas which she supposes to be true for any "cross-class formation" which is in conflict with U.S. imperialism, no matter when and where. She calls this a principled stand. Instead one must study the political situation in Iraq and see what is necessary for the working class to establish its own independent trend in Iraq, put its stamp on the anti-occupation struggle, and defend itself against the exploiters, both Iraqi and foreign.
. I think that such an enquiry will show that Williams' critique of the FSP's political stand and
method holds up. This reply will therefore focus on how Cornish's new defenses confirm him on
several practical issues. For most part it will not respond to various diversionary charges that
Cornish makes against the CVO. However, I will begin by addressing one of these charges
because it may repel some activists from looking into what the CVO is really saying in the
How does CVO really view
the Iraqi armed resistance?
. Cornish writes that the CVO "characterizes the armed resistance as made up mostly of Islamic fundamentalists and Ba'ath party loyalists" (my emphasis), and charges that it hedges on support for the armed resistance. But no, a review of Williams' and all Communist Voice articles shows that the CVO has consistently targeted the fundamentalists and Ba'athist remnants who "lead" or "dominate" the armed resistance. Moreover, we've consistently held that these leaders (as well as the government) represent factions of the Iraqi "elite" or "exploiters" or "bourgeoisie." However much we or Cornish may wish that the situation was different, the reactionary nature of these forces that dominate the armed resistance must be faced up to.
. But Williams also pointed out that there's more to the armed struggle than just this leadership or the groups directly under it. A section of the masses participate in it or otherwise support it based on their hatred of the occupation, and very early there were reports of armed resistance organized on a spontaneous basis, of workers contemplating armed resistance, and of armed resistance organized on a local basis with fairly loose connections to any definite trend. But while armed struggles in other countries often have had several different organized political trends fighting for influence, the situation in Iraq is that the mass involvement is scattered and leaderless as a political trend. This adds seriousness to the issue that the present leadership is mostly Islamic fundamentalists and Ba'ath party loyalists.
. So our stand is that the armed resistance is just and reflects a mass sentiment, but there is a major danger in this leadership. We do not gloss over the danger, and we talk about the class struggle in Iraq and the need for working class organization, which is the only way to deal with this issue.
. Rather than "hedging", looking at what actually exists in this way provides a framework for
sorting out revolutionary work. But a support that doesn't take account of the class issues can
lead one to supporting reactionaries, a problem that the FSP finds itself confronted with.
A non-class approach:
nationalists vs. separatists
. Cornish would prefer that what exists with the armed resistance were otherwise, but her article glosses over the danger of its leadership, or attempts to deny it. This is a non-class approach. The same non-class approach leads her to cite approvingly the view of a liberal anti-war professor, Stephen Zunes, that the main division in Iraq is between "advocates of national unity" (whom Cornish supports) and "separatists". She apparently identifies the "advocates of national unity" with supporters of the resistance, although Zunes specifically includes the majority of the parliamentarians of the collaborationist government as part of the "nationalist" forces. Indeed, Zunes believes that the U. S. Congress could, by providing Iraq with aid and setting a timetable for troop withdrawal, both force the collaborationist government to act well, and induce most of the resistance "to end the insurgency and participate in a national unity government", that is, unite with the collaborationist forces. (2)
. Cornish relies on Zunes for her analysis of the main division in Iraq, even though she draws different conclusions from it than he does. What she has in common with Zunes is that she too tends to have a non-class approach to the situation in Iraq. Cornish presents this as a principled anti-imperialist stance, while Zunes presents it as an orientation for improving U. S. government policy, as also do a number of Democratic Party congresspeople.
. Cornish makes the charge that "when discussing Iraqi 'exploiters,' CVO focused on the
resistance rather than the collaborators, who are clearly the main exploiters!" But any perusal of
Communist Voice shows that it always discusses the exploiting nature of the collaborationist
government. Cornish's reply, by way of contrast, relies on the liberal analysis of Zunes, who
ignores class exploitation. His highest aspiration for Iraq is that the different factions of
exploiters unite against separatism, hand-in-hand with a U.S. Congress that has somehow
The disappearance of Moqtada al-Sadr
. To illustrate the sad result of the FSP's neglect of class issues in Iraq, Williams' raised a Freedom Socialist article by Megan Cornish herself entitled "Al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army: Iraq's most abused and desperate stand up to empire."(3) He pointed out what is well known: Moqtada al-Sadr wants a strict fundamentalist tyranny in Iraq, and his militias already act as morality police in areas they control -- areas where they're liable to beat or kill anyone who doesn't go along with their doctrine, particularly women who commit "un-Muslim" acts and secular leftist organizers of workers, the unemployed and women. But in defiance of this reality Cornish's article pulled out all stops in order to prettify this reactionary force. Because al-Sadr's Mahdis had for a time fought U.S.-occupation troops she thought it revolutionary and socialist to cover up their daily fight to brutally suppress the democratic strivings of the masses.
. Cornish replies to Williams with silence (which means that many Freedom Socialist readers
wouldn't even know that this was part of the debate that she refers to). This might be acceptable
if the reply otherwise indicated that she'd rejected the wrong ideas that had led her so horribly
astray. But, unfortunately, no, there is no such indication.
. Cornish just resurrects her previous anti-worker stand in a different form, i.e., rather than give political support to al-Sadr and his militia by name, she now raises the call: "Support the Iraqi resistance, especially its progressive wing."
, But this is opportunistically trying to ride two horses at the same time. Her call to "especially"
support the progressive wing of the resistance merely hides her calling on activists to support the
reactionary wing of the Iraqi resistance, i.e., the very fundamentalist and Ba'athist forces
(including al-Sadr) that have helped destroy the ability of the Iraqi workers to unite to fight the
occupation, and that have decimated them. One just can't have it both ways. Calling for support
for those who break up the organizations of progressive Iraqis and murder them is not supporting
them, it's betraying them.
What does the Iraqi resistance movement
really look like?
. Cornish's slogan evokes the picture of an armed resistance divided into progressive and reactionary wings, which is something familiar from various struggles. It implies a movement with a revolutionary section as well as the backward section, both of which have recognized leaderships and organizations, and so on. But this is not an accurate picture of the armed resistance in Iraq. Moreover, in order to defend the FSP's supporting the reactionary resistance leaders Cornish continues to paint an inaccurate picture when she jumps from discussing the armed resistance to the following:
"FSP recognizes the core of the resistance as Iraqi workers - unionists, women's rights activists, and others. This includes Iraqi oil workers, who have fought valiantly against oil privatization, and the female president of the utility electrical workers union, who is also active for women's rights. " (Emphasis as in the original)
But it is not the case that the workers movement, women's rights activists and others are basically in the armed resistance. They're basically outside it. Their attitude towards it varies. For example, the FSP once supported the Workers Communist Party of Iraq, and the WCP of Iraq organized a number of workers' struggles after Hussein was toppled. (They also bitterly oppose the armed resistance, which is one of the things the CVO has criticized them for. )(4) Some other unionists try to support sections of the armed resistance, and others have still other attitudes. And the relationship of the armed resistance to the women's rights activists is particularly tragic. Furthermore, taken literally, Cornish's description can imply that the armed resistance coordinates various of its actions with strikes and women's rights activities, i. e. , things that have been done in other countries. This is also wrong, with it often being the case that the reactionary-led groups attack such activities.
. Of course there's more to the armed resistance per se than the reactionary leaders who dominate it. But, what does "recognizing" its core to be workers mean? Does it mean that the resistance fighters are in great part workers and unemployed people? If so, much the same could be said about the U. S. troops that they confront, and the core of the U. S. military is the Pentagon, which acts on behalf of the U. S. monopoly capitalist class through its government. Of course, the Iraqi armed resistance is dominated by various competing factions and as a whole is less organized than the U. S. military machine. But, in the main, it fights under the leadership of fundamentalist and Ba'athist cutthroats, and it's these leaders and their groups who comprise its core.
. Cornish repeats a general formula that she would like to be true -- that workers are the core of
the armed resistance movement -- rather than looking at the realities of Iraq and the actual level
of the class struggle. The present situation is much more complicated and dangerous than any
such formula would indicate.
The ghost of Saddam Hussein
. Cornish's twisting and turning to support al-Sadr and the reactionary resistance leaders is rooted in a politics that led the FSP to cheer on the dictator Saddam Hussein's war efforts during Gulf War I, and in 2006 to hearken back to the good old days of the Hussein tyranny by writing of the Iraq under him as a "country that had maintained a strong tradition of secularism and significant national unity among its vast mosaic of peoples."(5)
. In response to Williams' discussion of this Cornish is silent about the FSP's 1991 support for Hussein. (Hence, Freedom Socialist readers wouldn't know that this was part of the discussion.) But she gives the same warm and cozy picture of what life was like under his regime, stressing how peacefully everyone lived together for generations.
. Thus, although today the FSP on the one hand strongly denounces Hussein, on the other hand it paints a wonderful picture of secularism, significant national unity and peace that allegedly existed during his Ba'athist dictatorship. There's therefore an implication that this is an era that should be returned to, minus Hussein -- or at least that the Iraqi oppressors aren't that bad; the US occupation is supposedly the only problem facing the Iraqi people.
. If only the world were so simple and the revolutionary struggle so straightforward! There's a stubborn blindness in the FSP view. It's true that at times in Iraqi history, such as when the communist movement was strong, unity developed among the working masses. But the oppression of the Ba'ath dictatorship destroyed the political life that had developed in Iraq after the overthrow of the monarchy, and disorganized the working class. Domination by the Sunni bourgeoisie resulted in the majority of the people being doubly exploited and oppressed, and created divisions between them and ordinary Sunni believers. The national oppression and slaughtering of the Kurds by the Arab bourgeoisie created further divisions. And the Ba'ath dictatorship itself made more and more concessions to Islamic clericalism as time went on.
. With the overthrow of the Ba'ath dictatorship by the U.S. invasion, things came out into the open that had been building up for years on end. A variety of political and class trends presented themselves to the people, published their views, demonstrated, and organized. On the one hand, workers, women, the unemployed and others built organizations and waged struggles in their interests, and continue to struggle. But, at the same time, rival factions of the Iraqi elite -- both inside the present government and opposed to it -- demagogically exploited the just grievances built up under Hussein in order to organize armies and militias with which to further their bids for power. This has resulted in a bloodbath for ordinary Iraqis, and further divisions as neighborhoods and towns are "cleansed" of people from the "wrong" sect or ethnic group.
. Like all progressive people, the FSP doesn't like the U.S. imperialist occupation of Iraq, the
flourishing of sectarian conflict, and similar atrocities. But history has shown, and 2003 again
showed, that one can't protect oneself by hiding under the coattails of a dictator like Saddam
Hussein. The 2003 tough-talk that Baghdad would become another Stalingrad proved empty
precisely because the masses saw no future in fighting to maintain the Ba'athist dictatorship, and
this was reflected in the rapid collapse of Hussein's own conscripted army. Today the problem of
uniting the working masses is crucial, and, again, looking to the top, i.e., to Moqtada al-Sadr or
other reactionaries is not going to solve it. Like Hussein's, theirs too can only be an oppressive
unity that ultimately collapses.
The Kurds have the right to self-determination, but . . .
. Williams pointed out that while FSP's March 2006 statement shouted against an alleged neocon decade-old strategy to rip Iraq apart, it breathed not a word in defense of the right of Kurdish people to form their own state. Cornish is indignant: "Like any nation, Kurds have the unconditional right to decide whether to be independent." But she follows this with a "nevertheless" after which she lists some of the powerful local forces arrayed against the Kurdish people deciding their own fate, and concludes that the Kurds "are unlikely to get a nation short of a socialist Middle East."
. So despite Cornish's apparent declaration of the need for "principled support" for national liberation struggles, she does not see the need for that type of support for the right to self-determination of the Kurds. For FSP, that can wait until there is a socialist Middle East.
. The rub is that there cannot be a socialist Middle East without the workers standing up to fight for the rights of those who are specially oppressed by their national ruling classes. Confidence and class solidarity between the workers of the oppressing and oppressed nations can be built up in no other way. And in several countries standing up to agitate for the right of the Kurds to self-determination is crucial in this regard. The Iraqi bourgeoisie is an oppressor bourgeoisie of the Kurds; it has carried out massacres of Kurds in the past; and it wants to maintain control of the Kurds as part of building up Iraq into its own would-be imperialist power. It hasn't given its ambitions up, despite the horrors of the occupation. So long as the workers of Iraq don't separate themselves from the bourgeoisie on the issue of Kurdish rights, they will be hamstrung in the fight for their own rights and in the fight against the occupation.
. But rather than encourage a fight against the bourgeoisie's denial of Kurdish national rights, Cornish throws cold water on it by raising the difficulties the Kurds face, and implying that perhaps they should wait for socialism. Of course, a Kurdish worker might point out to Cornish that ever since the English, French and Italian imperialists drew their lines on the map in such a way as to eliminate the Kurdish nation, the Kurds have always had powerful forces arrayed against them. But through persistence in struggle they've captured the attention and support of workers and progressive people all over the world; and they've actually won concessions from the reactionary governments that rule over them, even in Turkey. This worker might also point out that the Kurdish working class has grown immeasurably since the revolts of the 1920s, and that half the Kurdish people are now city dwellers. Moreover, workers have sought to build numerous groups and parties in recent decades, although they presently suffer the same disorganization and political disorientation that workers elsewhere suffer. The dominant bourgeois parties' have replied to them with bloody repression. Hence, the necessity of the Kurdish workers to persist in building up an independent proletarian trend in the national movement against these reactionary attacks; as well as opposing national exclusiveness, and bourgeois-nationalist attacks on Turkmen, Arab and other minorities in Kurdistan.
. The dominant Kurdish parties collaborate with occupation, and their peshmergas have played a particularly filthy role against the resistance at Falluja and elsewhere. The Kurdish bourgeois nationalist parties must be opposed. But the Kurds also repeatedly find themselves at odds with imperialism and the regional governments. The Kurdish masses remember well that it was U. S. imperialism that opened the door to Hussein's crushing of their massive March 1991 uprising. Further, in the really huge late 2007 demonstrations against the Turkish military attacks they denounced not just the Turkish government, but also the U.S. support of the attacks. Nor is it accidental that numerous leftist and revolutionary parties in Iraq and Iran have originated in Kurdish areas, where they gained wide support. But for the Arab masses of Iraq to break down distrust and cement ties with the Kurdish people against the common occupying enemy very practically speaking means that they must today stand up for the right of the Kurds to secede. Rather than weaken the anti-occupation struggle, this will greatly strengthen it.
. Cornish goes farther than throwing cold water on Kurdish self-determination, however. She
says the main division in Iraq is between "advocates of national unity" and "separatists", and that
leaves the Kurds, who want their own separate state, as "separatists". Yet an independent
Kurdistan in northern Iraq or even the maintenance of the present autonomy would be
separation. Hence, according to Cornish's logic, it would be a catastrophe. She can be for the
right to self-determination of the Kurds, or she can be for the maintenance of national unity in the
present borders of Iraq, but she can't be for both.
Did U.S. imperialism invade Iraq
in order to partition it?
. Moreover, Cornish is defending the FSP statement that claimed that U.S. imperialism invaded for the sake of breaking Iraq into pieces. In talking about partition, Cornish doesn't distinguish between the achievement of national rights by the Kurds, and ethnic cleansing and sectarian warfare. Nor does she think that the threat of civil war in Iraq comes largely from internal divisions in Iraq. She claims that partition of any type is basically a U.S. plot.
. The FSP statement backed up its claim by claiming that the U.S. neocon David Wurmser wrote in 1997 that it was "imperative" to ensure that Iraq was "ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects and key families." Mark Williams showed that the rabid imperialist Wurmser had actually argued that such a ripping apart went against U.S. interests, and that it was "imperative", in planning actions against Hussein, to take the type of action that would, in his opinion, avoid this.
. Cornish is silent about this, as is her usual way with facts and arguments that contradict FSP views. She simply reiterates that all the internal problems in Iraq are a U.S. plot.
. Mark Williams had pointed out that the U.S. imperialist occupation of Iraq had created conditions for sectarian violence and was contributing to it. U.S. maneuvers were devastating to the Iraqi people. But this didn't mean that U.S. imperialism's intention was to create an Iraqi civil war; in fact, the sectarian warfare and the descent towards civil war has been a fiasco for the occupation. He pointed out that:
. "For the FSP, it's not enough to say that the US occupation has been carried out for imperialist aims, has terrorized the masses, destroyed the economy, etc. They feel you must show that whatever bad happens in Iraq has been directly stage-managed by the US. This might seem to be a very bold anti-imperialist stance. But since it doesn't correspond to the reality of Iraq, it actually discredits anti-imperialism. Far from the US being able to have things go neatly according to their plans, they have suffered one failure after another. The plan to install Chalabi in power failed; . . . the plan to delay elections was aborted when even US-friendly forces like Ayatollah al-Sistani called the masses into the streets to oppose US stalling; the plans for opening up Iraq to foreign investment have been undermined by the civil war; and the notion that the militias could be controlled and disbanded collapsed. One could go on and on. What this shows is that US imperialism, for all its military might and rhetorical bluster, has miscalculated at every turn. It shows that far from being omnipotent masters of the situation who can arrange whatever they like, they more often than not are being buffeted around by events and forced to improvise."
Marxism-Leninism on the relationship
of the class struggle to the anti-occupation struggle
. The FSP claims to be anti-imperialist and Marxist-Leninist; but it's not working-class or Marxist-Leninist principle to ignore the class struggle and support the likes of Hussein yesterday, or al-Sadr, or the Ba'athist and fundamentalist leaders who still fight the occupation today. And, because of what it says it is, for the FSP to claim or imply that such support is a revolutionary principle discredits anti-imperialism and Marxism in a way that the ruling class itself could not.
. Cornish believes that one can put aside the class struggle if one is dealing with a "cross-class formation" such as the Iraqi resistance. She implicitly admits that the anti-occupation struggle will not give rise to a socialist revolution, and she sees that it should be supported despite the fact that it's not a socialist struggle, but she concludes that therefore one can downplay the class struggle. She thereby, despite her flowery words about the Iraqi workers, retreats from internationalist solidarity with them, and helps weaken the anti-occupation struggle.
. Marxism-Leninism has always had a different view. Unlike the Trotskyist theory of "permanent revolution", it holds that yes, one should support various progressive struggles that aren't socialist. But developing the independent role and organization of the working class is vital in these struggles, and the power of these struggles depends greatly on how far the class struggle develops.
. Much of the 20th century was in fact marked by democratic revolutions and national liberation struggles that weren't socialist, and often in countries with much smaller proletariats than Iraq has today. The communists threw themselves into these struggles. They did not have to pretend that these struggles would lead directly to socialism in order to see their importance. But they did not say that, since these struggles involved "cross-class formations", that the class struggle could be ignored. The communists rightly saw the need for an independent proletarian role in these struggles, and for linking these struggles up with the class struggle as far as possible.
. Iraq is no longer a colonial country, but one that has sought to be an influential power in its region. This underlines the need for a class approach to the struggle in Iraq. But even in colonies and semicolonies, the communist movement emphasized the need to deal with the class struggle. The communists rightly saw that the power of the great anti-colonial movement of the 20th century came in its connection to a wave of democratic revolution directed not simply at foreign oppression and colonialism, but also at local tyrants and feudalists. The Communist International (while it was still revolutionary) devoted tremendous effort to organizing in these struggles, and organizing international solidarity towards them. It studied the internal class relations of these countries closely. Lenin's Preliminary Draft Theses on the National and Colonial Questions is an example of its thinking. It held that it wasn't right to support every trend that might be in contradiction with foreign imperialism; one had to oppose those movements that, even as they opposed foreign domination, sought to enslave the masses. Thus it wrote of
" . . . the need for a struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements in backward countries" and "the need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc. " (Emphasis added.) (6)
. This orientation was based on summation of the then-gained mass experience with these reactionaries, and I think it was correct. This is opposite from FSP's non-class approach to the situation in Iraq.
. The experience of what happened to the Iranian revolution is a good example of the need to preserve the class standpoint.
. During 1978-79 a great revolutionary-democratic upsurge developed that toppled the Shah's tyranny. The revolutionary left (including Marxists) played an important role in this powerful movement, including in the armed insurrection, as did various bourgeois reformists. But separately or together these forces didn't have the strength to establish a democratic regime. The clerical reactionaries had more strength, and were able to ride the democratic upsurge of the masses to power. Once there, they used demagogy and great violence to step-by-step divide and smash the democratic movement of the workers, peasants and poor. The Shah's tyranny ended up being replaced by a theocratic tyranny.
. But this end to the democratic revolution also essentially ended the struggle against imperialism. Sure, the ayatollahs cursed U.S. imperialism as the great Satan and so on, but this was and is only a fig leaf behind which they've dealt with other imperialist powers. (Meanwhile, from Reagan's time until today regarding Iraq, they've cut many behind-the-scenes deals with the U.S. itself.) The Islamic Republic theocrats are tied to imperialism overall by a thousand threads, and are in fact part of the world imperialist front against the workers and oppressed people of all countries.
. In this regard, the Iranian clerics rule on behalf of a growing Iranian capitalist class that strives to have its own sphere of influence in the oil-rich region. This forces it into contradictions with not only the big global powers, but also with other striving regional powers. These latter contradictions resulted in eight years of war between Iran and Iraq (1980-88) over which was going to be local boss of the Persian Gulf region. Around one million people were killed just in the fighting, with "civilized" and "neutral" U.S. imperialism supplying spare parts and intelligence to Iran for two years (while also aiding Iraq), and then definitively tilting to support the "Butcher of Baghdad" in 1982, but also continuing some aid to Iran at times. Its aim was to weaken both, and thereby maintain its domination. (We should also not forget that this Iranian government that postures as anti-imperialist chauvinistically oppresses East Kurdistan, and collaborates with the governments of Turkey, Syria and others to suppress the wider Kurdish national struggle.)
. The fate of the Iranian revolution hinged on what happened to the forces of the working masses. The insufficient organization and strength of the working class led to the disastrous period of Islamic theocracy, a period of brutal suppression of workers' freedom in the interests of capitalist exploitation. This shows the importance of the Marxist-Leninist analysis that the workers must not only support democratic struggles, but must strive to build up their own independent trend in the midst of these struggles. They cannot leave the class struggle for another time, but must connect the democratic struggles with the liberation movement of the exploited majority.
. This holds good for the anti-occupation struggle in Iraq. One must study closely the class realities of the present situation, and not gloss over the class nature of the various forces including the resistance leadership. Cornish, in her reply to Mark Williams' criticism of the FSP, replaces the Marxist-Leninist view of the anti-occupation struggle with the liberal non-class analysis of Zunes which sees only national unity or separatism. This weakens the solidarity movement with the Iraqi people and betrays the task of encouraging the building of an independent proletarian trend in Iraq.
(1) Williams' article may be read at http://www.communistvoice.org/38cIraq.html. For Cornish's reply, see pages 40-41 of this issue of Communist Voice. (Return to text)
(2) Cornish cites Zunes, without a reference to where he puts forward his views on partition. But she is no doubt referring to his article "Support for Iraq Partition: Cynical and Dangerous", (October 12, 2007), which can be found on the website of "FPIF: Foreign Policy in Focus" at www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4639. Prof. Zunes is the Middle East Editor for FPIF, a think tank which strives "to make the United States a more responsible global partner" by recommending policy changes for the government. (www.fpif.org/project-info.html). (Text)
(3) This article may be read at http://www.socialism.com/fsarticles/vol25no4/sadr.html. (Text)
(4) For FSP's past support of the WCP of Iraq, see the editorial "The Popular Roots of Resistance" in Freedom Socialist, Vol. 24, #4, Jan-Mar 2004. For CVO criticism of WCP of Iraq, see, for example, "On some problems of orientation of the Worker Communist Party of Iraq: 'Left communism' turns from the class struggle to seeking 'democratic' coalitions with reactionaries" (Communist Voice #37, Feb. 2006, http://www.communistvoice.org/37cWCPI. html). (Text)
(5) Available at http://www.communistvoice.org/38cFSP.html. Leon Trotsky developed a mechanical rule for ignoring the internal class contradictions in subordinate countries in conflict with imperialist powers. Thus, the FSP was being faithful to Trotsky's legacy when it supported Hussein, see http://www.communistvoice.org/29cEmir.html. (Text)
(6) Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 31, p. 149. (Text)
(by Megan Cornish, in Freedom Socialist,
vol. 28, #6, December 2007 January 2008)
. The U.S. Senate voted in September in favor of subdividing Iraq into ethnic/sectarian regions. Ignoring condemnation from Iraqis, even U.S. cohorts in the puppet government, the legislators crowed over their "bipartisan consensus."
. But, if partition is attempted, it will have even more catastrophic results than the war has so far. And the conflict could easily explode through the whole region.
. While the Senate's nonbinding vote does not necessarily mean the U.S. will try to impose a partition, it is more proof that the two capitalist parties are united on doing whatever it takes to consolidate control in Iraq - no matter the human cost.
. Division: logical extension of the occupation. The U.S. set out to weaken Iraq as a nation from its first actions against Saddam Hussein, a one-time ally, at the time of the first Gulf War. In 1991, the U. S. encouraged the Kurdish nationality in the north, and Shia denomination of Islam in the south, to rebel against Hussein, later abandoning them to murderous retaliation. In the current war, the U.S. organized the government along ethnic and sectarian lines, laying the basis for tearing the country apart.
. Except for the Kurdish north, Iraq was integrated before the invasion. Sunni and Shia Muslims, plus ethnic and religious groups like Assyrian and Arab Christians, Turks, Yazidis and others, lived peacefully together for generations.
. As analyst Stephen Zunes points out, the main division today is between advocates of national unity, who mostly oppose the U.S. presence, and separatists, many of whom collaborate with the occupation. Iraqi nationalists are the majority, but the two parties that control the puppet government are separatist.
. There is an organic connection between the U.S. attack on Iraq as a nation, its encouragement of sectarian violence, and the increasing calls for partition in U.S. government circles. These assaults are escalating steps of divide-and-conquer, as the U.S. tries desperately to gain the upper hand.
. Debate on the Left. The Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) raised some of these points last year in a leaflet published for the third anniversary of the occupation. The leaflet analyzed the violence fomented by the U.S. among Iraqis and characterized it as leading to civil war and Iraq's possible balkanization (division into small separate states). We noted that neoconservatives had advocated the sectarian "ripping apart" of Iraq going at least as far back as the 1990s.
. The flyer also said that the antidote to this is those forces within the Iraqi resistance who are organizing across ethnic and religious lines to expel the U.S. It called on the U.S. anti-war movement to support this resistance, especially the trade unionists, women's organizations, and others whose goal is a secular Iraq with full democratic rights.
. The FSP statement provoked an extended critique from the Communist Voice Organization. Originally Maoist, the CVO later adopted the explicitly Stalinist politics of the head of the Communist Albanian Party of Labor. Still later, the group declared itself opposed to all "revisionism," including Trotskyism along with Stalinism and reformism.
. CVO disputed that the U.S. purposely fomented civil war, rejected the idea that division of Iraq might be an intended U.S. outcome, and claimed that we were "prettifying the Iraqi exploiters" by blaming the U.S. for the sectarian violence.
. Bizarrely, when discussing Iraqi "exploiters," CVO focused on the resistance rather than the collaborators, who are clearly the main exploiters!
. Like many current and ex-Stalinists, CVO does not deal well with real-life contradictions, including the nature of the Iraqi resistance. It characterizes the armed resistance as made up mostly of Islamic fundamentalists and Baath party loyalists.
. FSP recognizes the core of the resistance as Iraqi workers -- unionists, women's rights activists, and others. This includes Iraqi oil workers, who have fought valiantly against oil privatization, and the female president of the utility electrical workers union, who is also active for women's rights.
. Because of CVO's blindness to the role of Iraqi workers, it hedges on supporting the resistance. It's true that the Iraqi resistance is a cross-class formation, like most struggles for national liberation. But, because it is fighting against imperialist occupation, it deserves support on principle.
. To evade this lets the imperialists -- that is, U.S. capitalists -- off the hook! It also lets CVO off the hook for trying to win support for this position among U.S. workers.
. In a final display of either/or thinking, CVO said that because FSP opposes an imperialist division of Iraq, we must be against Kurdish self-determination. It also slandered Trotsky as not supporting oppressed nations. Wrong on both counts!
. Kurdish self-determination. The Kurdish people have never had a nation state, but their territory covers some of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and smaller parts of Syria and Armenia. This territory is the basis for a distinct economy, as well as the people's historically evolved language and culture.
. Like any nation, Kurds have the unconditional right to decide whether to be independent. They certainly have reason; Iraq, Iran and Turkey have all conducted massacres against them.
. Nevertheless, the way their land is divided up among these nations creates powerful obstacles to their own realization as one nation. Since the Senate vote on segmenting Iraq, Turkey threatens to invade Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkey and Iran may both go to war against the Kurds, who are unlikely to get a nation short of a socialist Middle East.
. The Senate vote opening the door to imperialist partition demonstrates that U.S. capitalism is willing to do anything to control Iraq's oil, including tearing the country apart or igniting region-wide war.
. The job of U.S. workers: end the war! It is more important than ever for U.S. working people to force our own rulers to stand down. We are the only ones with the power to do it!
. Insist on immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, removal of U.S. military bases, an end to all interference.
. Support the Iraqi resistance, especially its progressive wing. Defend Iraqi and Kurdish self-determination.
. Support U.S. troops who refuse to fight.
. Demand that the military budget be spent on reparations in the Middle East and social services at home! <>
. Freedom Socialist is the paper of the Freedom Socialist Party, a Trotskyist organization which describes itself, in Where We Stand, as a "revolutionary, socialist feminist organization dedicated to the replacement of capitalist rule by a genuine workers' democracy that will guarantee full economic, social, political, and legal equality to women, people of color, gays, and all who are exploited, oppressed, and repelled by the profit system and its offshoot -- imperialism. Its website is at www.socialism.com.
. But are FSP's political stands compatible with its aims? Is its disregard of the internal struggle
in Iraq and prettification and support of various fundamentalist forces in Iraq compatible with its
declared goals? Our reply to Cornish's article can be found starting on page 35 of this issue of
Last changed on May 15, 2008.