The Iraqi elections are over,
but imperialist tyranny remains

US out now! Support the Iraqi workers and poor!


. The following article is from a 'Communist Voice' leaflet for the ant-war meetings and demonstrations of March 18 and 19 in Detroit and New York City .
(CV #35, March 15, 2005)


. The Bush administration boasts that the elections in Iraq show the US is spreading democracy throughout the Middle East. But the US war in Iraq was fought for oil and imperial domination, not democracy. It replaced the old tyranny of Hussein with a US-run tyranny. US occupation forces continue to be the power-broker in Iraq. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been slaughtered and whole cities like Fallujah leveled. Yesterday, there was the torture at Abu Ghraib. Today about 9,000 Iraqis have been jailed by the US, most of whom were just in the way of a US military sweep.

. Meanwhile, what "democratic" forces is US imperialism backing in the rest of the Middle East? They are supporting the Sharon government in Israel, with its concentration-camp occupation of the Palestinian territories. The Bush administration is also close friends with the Arab oil sheiks, princes, monarchs and other assorted tyrants, so long as they are friendly to the US rulers.

. But let's not just blame Bush. The occupation is a bipartisan affair of the Republicans and Democrats alike. Both parties are tools of the capitalist corporations. Both support the US world business empire. Their only quarrel is over how best to do this. Indeed, these days the Democrats and liberal commentators are applauding Bush and the neoconservatives for allegedly bringing democracy to the Middle East.

. This is why workers and anti-war activists need a class approach against the war. We need to demand "US out of Iraq now!" We need to target not just Bush, but the Democrats and the system of imperialism that is defended by both parties. And we must support the struggle of the Iraqi masses to throw out the occupiers.

. But to really stand with the Iraqi masses, we must also pay attention to the class conflict inside Iraq. Despite the great problems with the elections, the results in the Kurdish and Shia regions did reflect which Iraqi class forces were stronger. But the victors in the elections were not forces with the interests of the Iraqi workers, the unemployed or impoverished peasants at heart. Rather, the new Iraqi assembly will be dominated by different ethnic and religious factions of the bourgeois elite in Iraq, with about half the seats in the hands of a coalition led by Islamic fundamentalist clerics. These sections of the Iraqi bourgeoisie are not concerned about the rights or well-being of the Iraqi masses, but gathering wealth and power for themselves. As well, to one extent or another, all these forces have accepted the need for the US occupation to continue, at least for the time being.

. This class division appears in the armed resistance to the occupation as well. Ex-Baathists and religious fanatics dominate its leadership. They seek to use the just resistance of the masses to revive the despised Baathism of the past or establish a repressive theocracy. Their horrific bombing of civilians shows they have no more concern for the masses than the imperialist occupiers have.

. Thus, beneath all the hoopla about the elections, the Iraqi masses still face a harsh future. They faced continued occupation and their own bourgeois and clerical oppressors. The conflicts between bourgeois factions could even lead to civil war. For these reasons, the Iraqi masses face the hard work of building up their own militant class organizations.

US imperialism and the elections

. Bush got rid of the Hussein dictatorship not to liberate the Iraqi people but to increase US domination of the region. The administration may not desire to rule Iraq directly in the long run. But they want to impose their will in Iraq with the help of a pro-US regime. Thus, once Hussein fell, the US began to reshape Iraq to suit its own military and business needs. The US declared the occupation authority the supreme power, rewrote Iraqi laws to allow free reign for US businesses and began handing out lucrative contracts to Halliburton and other war profiteers. Instead of elections, the US hand-picked a puppet government, the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC). Some elections for local administrators were allowed. But mainly local officials were appointed and elected officials they didn't like were often removed.

. The IGC had no popular support and there were popular calls for elections. But the US opposed them. Instead they replaced the IGC with a new, unelected interim government. This government was led by Iyad Allawi, an exiled former Baathist official who was on the CIA payroll for the last couple decades. This government managed to draw in wider sections of the Iraqi elite. But it too had no credibility among the masses. The clamor for elections grew. So did the anti-occupation resistance. Not only were the Sunni areas in revolt. The resistance took root in Shia areas which had been more tolerant of the occupation. . The top Shia clergy, seeking to capitalize on the mass sentiments, called demonstrations against the occupation and for elections. The masses poured into the streets.

. This pressure forced Bush to change tactics. The administration had delayed elections in part because of fear of the Shia fundamentalists coming to power. They were forced to move up the elections timetable and to seek an uneasy alliance with reactionary clerics like al-Sistani. Thus, elections were finally held in Iraq not because the US was anxious to have them, but because of pressure against the US invaders.

. The US propaganda machine shifted gears, too. Previously the administration had portrayed US opposition to elections as "democratic" since they were supposedly staving off clerical rule. Now they marketed the Islamic zealots as democratic and "moderates", hiding their desire to impose medieval religious codes on everyone and drive women into complete subservience. And they played down their concerns that key Shia leaders had close ties to the ayatollahs running Iran, a country declared to be an "axis of evil" by Bush.

. This doesn't mean the US has relinquished its grip in Iraq. Indeed, for some time the US has been preparing to make sure it has a strong influence even when an Iraqi government takes over. The Bush administration wants to retain a military presence and will continue to use US aid as leverage to get its way. It has packed Iraqi ministries with US-friendly personnel who will likely remain in place for some time even when an elected Iraqi regime takes power. And it plans to use a giant US embassy staff as a virtual shadow government.

Were the elections just a US plot?

. But for all its efforts, the Bush administration hasn't been able to do exactly as it pleases. Not only was it pressured into earlier elections, it also was unable to decide the outcome. Thus, the election was not a US plot, but reflected what class political forces are presently powerful in Iraq. That's why the coalition of US puppet Allawi finished a distant third, with only 14% of the vote. About half the votes went to the United Iraqi Alliance, reflecting the influence of the Shia clerics among the majority Shia population. And the Kurdish vote went overwhelmingly to the two strongest Kurdish parties, the bourgeois-nationalist KDP and PUK.

. Nevertheless, the elections had major problems. A party that demanded immediate US withdrawal was likely to be persecuted. Campaigning was nearly impossible, due to the combined terror of the occupation, the interim Iraqi regime, and the indiscriminate targeting of ordinary Iraqis by the reactionary elements among the anti-occupation guerrillas. The Sunni population largely boycotted the elections. And evidently sometimes ballots were not distributed to non-Kurdish people in the Kurdish-controlled regions.

The Iraqi bourgeoisie vs. the masses

. Still, the main problem arising from the elections was not that the results were a fraud, but that the dominant forces in the elections were representatives of different sections of the Iraqi bourgeoisie. The more the Iraqi bourgeoisie has a role in running Iraq, the more important is the class division between themselves and the Iraqi workers and poor

. The Iraqi bourgeoisie is divided into religious and national groups. They all want to keep the masses interests subordinated to theirs. And each bourgeois section wants advantages over the other. This poses the danger the masses of different groups will be hurled against each other. The present debates in the newly-elected national assembly reflect the aims and disputes among the different bourgeois groupings.

. With the coalition led by the Shia clerics taking about half the seats in the new assembly, the danger of Islamic fundamentalist rule is growing. They don't want direct clerical rule like in Iran, but want politicians who answer to the religious leaders. They also want fundamentalist Islamic law codified into the constitution that the assembly is charged with writing. Their demands for Sharia law on family and personal matters would legalize the subservient status of women. This appeals to fundamentalist Sunni clerics, too. The clerics leading the coalition are portrayed as moderates. But this only means they are willing to establish Islamic rule piecemeal. While the national assembly haggles over this, in many cities fundamentalist gangs are busy terrorizing all those who don't accept their repressive social rules and anti-women codes.

. Another major issue being haggled out among the Iraqi bourgeoisie is the question of Kurdish rights. The Kurds were slaughtered and denied their rights under Hussein. But the anti-Hussein bourgeoisie also does not recognize the right of self-determination for the Kurdish nationality. They deny the Kurds the right to form their own autonomous area or separate off into a separate state if they choose. The bourgeois nationalist Kurdish leaders aren't presently demanding a separate state, but want the new constitution to guarantee a high degree of autonomy. This upsets the Shia and Sunni bourgeoisie. A major issue behind this conflict is who will control the rich oil fields in certain contested regions. The Kurdish leaders demand these areas be part of the Kurdish autonomous region, and they want ownership rights of the oil and other natural resources. As well, they want their own independent military force and exclusive control of what goes on inside the Kurdish region.

. While the demands for autonomous rights are just, the Kurdish bourgeois-nationalist leaders violate the rights of minority peoples (Turkoman, Assyrians, Shias) in the regions they control. They have also been working with the brutal occupation forces in attacking non-Kurds in various cities. This undermines unity between the working masses of different religious and ethnic groups and erodes support for the Kurdish right to self-determination among the non-Kurdish masses.

. Along with the contradictions between the Shia and Kurdish coalitions, the coalition led by Iyad Allawi has it's own agenda. It doesn't want clerical rule and is frightened of self-determination for the Kurds. It wants secular authoritarian rule As prime minister in the outgoing interim government, Allawi was known for putting ex-Baathists like himself in official posts.

The elections and the struggle of the masses

. How these contradictions will play out in the new national assembly remains to be seen. But what's clear is that the Iraqi masses cannot trust their fate to the bourgeois forces. The Iraqi bourgeoisie wants rights for itself, but isn't keen on rights for the masses. The workers will have to fight for basic trade union rights, full rights for women, etc. A section of the Iraqi bourgeoisie wants the US military occupation to continue and may well allow permanent military bases. But democracy for the masses is impossible in Iraq so long as the US military is free to slaughter and torture the population. And there are the ex-Baathists and religious zealots who want to use the anti-occupation resistance to establish their own dictatorship. . Nor are any of the bourgeois forces going to solve the economic disaster facing the Iraqi workers and poor. That will require a class movement for relief, for jobs and for basic services. While the Iraqi bourgeois factions foster animosity between toilers of different groups, the workers need class unity across religious and national lines. They must rally for the right of self-determination for the Kurds and against discrimination against minorities.

. The Iraqi working masses face the task of establishing their own independent class trend, their own political parties, unions, women's organizations, etc. The process of reestablishing working class organization in Iraq has just begun. But new unions, organizations of the unemployed and women's rights groups have sprung up and waged battles. The task of establishing a revolutionary workers trend is particularly important. The misnamed Communist Party of Iraq long ago stopped standing up for the workers as an independent force against the bourgeoisie. Once it was in the government of Hussein's Baathist Party, and yesterday it was in the US-chosen Iraqi Governing Council. The Workers Communist Party of Iraq is a newer party, but has had problems of orientation in dealing with the anti-occupation struggle and the class struggle.

Target imperialism! Support the Iraqi workers and poor!

. To support the Iraqi working masses, we must target imperialism. The problem isn't only Bush. True, Bush and his neocons are heroes of big business. But the capitalists also own the Democrats. Both parties are imperialist to the core because the corporate giants need to plunder the world for profits. That's why Clinton and even liberals like Sen. Kennedy are hailing Bush's Iraqi conquest as a victory for democracy. Kennedy stated on ABC TV's This Week (3/6/05) that "What's taken place in a number of countries [in the Middle East] is enormously constructive. It's a reflection the president has been involved. "

. Rather than place hopes in the "enlightened" section of the bourgeoisie, we should appeal to the working masses. It's their sons and daughters being slaughtered. The workers are daily under attack by the capitalists both at the workplace and through slashing social programs and public services. Working class interests lie in opposing the occupation and the bourgeoisie behind it. It's vital to spread anti-imperialist literature among the workers and poor and draw them into protests.

. Targeting imperialism doesn't insure that the movement will instantly become powerful enough to defeat the warmongers. But it provides the link between all the atrocities of US foreign policy. In so doing it provides a basis for utilizing each new atrocity to build up a trend that targets the real class roots of war and empire-building.

. Fighting imperialism is impossible without also supporting the class struggle in Iraq. It's the struggle of the Iraqi masses that will liberate them, not the bourgeoisie sitting in the national assembly, nor the ex-Baathist dregs who mislead the anti-occupation resistance. Let's build up an anti-imperialist trend among the masses here in solidarity with the struggles of the Iraqi masses!

Back to main page, write us!

October 16, 2005.