We opposed the war against Iraq.We tried to stop it. We built a movement that spanned the globe. From Madrid to Auckland, from California to Seoul, we organized in our millions to demonstrate our opposition, our fears, our rage and our disgust.
Practically, yes. Morally? Morally we have been proven correct. On the question of the validity of the case for war we have been proven correct. But the war is now a historical fact. That Bush and Blair lied and continue to lie is clear, but that they are successful liars is just as clear. The question is not whether the war was just; we always knew it was not. But knowing or proving that it was unjust will never be enough to stop a war.
Why did we fail?Isn’t opposition to war a natural and noble human instinct?
The world does not run in the interests of humanity. The world is run by imperialist superpowers in their own interests. Yankee imperialism has a number of strategic objectives that called for the war on Iraq. The only force capable of countering the imperialist machine is the working class. And yet it was precisely the working class that was not mobilized to oppose the war.
While workers certainly joined the movement, they did so primarily as individuals, atomized cells of a shattered and fragmented labor movement. In the absence of workers internationalism, it was natural they did not see themselves as part of the international working class, but as mums and dads. While mums and dads have every reason to oppose wars that their children are sent to kill and die in, they do not have the means to stop them.
Even at the height of the movement, apart from the odd euphoric moment in Hyde Park or in Rome, we knew that we were not going to win. We knew that the war would happen.
Why couldn’t the international working class stop this war with a general strike?
There were many good instances of this kind of action. The firefighters in Britain spring to mind as a union that was staunch in its opposition. In Greece(and elsewhere) transport workers refused to move military goods and supplies. These moves needed to be emulated and widened to the point of paralyzing the bosses’ economies. There are of course very good reasons why such a strike did not occur. The workers of the world are reeling from decades of counter-revolutionary advance. From New Zealand to Moscow the workers organizations have been repressed and beaten back. In this international situation the warmongers knew that they would not be defeated.
OK we opposed the war, but we failed to stop it. Who can resist the occupation as a historical fact?
In Iraq, the forces of the labor movement had suffered heavy defeats. Since 1968 the Baathist government has been very active in smashing all resistance. The catastrophic Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988 was followed by even more catastrophic military adventures in Kuwait. 13 years of sanctions added their toll. By 2003, the Iraqi working class was disorganized, leaderless and exhausted.
The organizations of the Iraqi working class existed only outside Iraq, ironically in the very imperialist countries that had demanded their obliteration. Traditionally Holland, the UK, and the USA have been the main centers for the exiled Iraqi left. Since 1991 they have been operating in Northern Iraq. From exile the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), the Worker Communist Party of Iraq (WCPI) and numerous other independent Iraqi leftists opposed the war.
If the communists are weak can the Baathists muster support?
When war was declared, the Iraqi people took some measure of revenge on the Baath Party by leaving it to its fate, refusing to defend it. The Baath nationalist dictatorship was unable to stand up to the assault. Aware that it was not able to win any head-on military confrontations with the American forces, the Baath Party preferred to melt away. The dictatorship had given orders to its followers, to its Republican Guard and other elements close to the regime, to embark on a campaign of looting and murder. The world watched as the museums and the banks were stripped.
But the Baathists are still resisting the occupation
In the weeks since the fall of Baghdad, Baathist forces have been engaged in a campaign of provocation and sabotage that has reinforced their anti-worker credentials. They have routinely sent armed men into unarmed demonstrations and shot US soldiers, inviting return fire. They have attacked Iraqi electricity workers trying to restore power to parts of the city of Baghdad. They have given the occupying forces a ready excuse to do what they will. Under their leadership, Baghdad fell and was occupied by the Yankee invader. This fact alone is enough to condemn the dictatorship to ignominy.
If neither the communists nor Baathists can defeat the occupation, how do we take our fate into our own hands?
The occupation is a historical fact. We must learn from it that we must never trust a nationalist dictatorship to defend the workers anywhere, at any time.
We are unable to undo history. We must not tire no matter how bitter the pill it forces down our throat. The occupation of Iraq by the Yankee invaders is a painful state of affairs.
Rather than desperation, what is required now of the Iraqi revolution is firmness. We must strive to turn this reversal into its opposite, into a defeat for imperialism. A number of important steps have been taken already. Generally, we must turn the Imperialist occupation into a workers’ revolution.
How do we go from occupation to revolution?
It is clear that occupation will not end without a victorious armed struggle. Having said that, for the Iraqi left to start armed struggle against the Yankee occupier at this stage is suicidal. It would in fact not be very different from the tactics of the Islamic groups in Palestine. Small forces of armed men taking pot shots at passing US convoys may meet the mechanical demands of anti-imperialists in the West, but it offers no solution to the Iraqi working class.
What is your perspective?
How can we do this practically?
It did not take long for the true nature of this movement to show itself. Liquor stores were bombed, women were forced to adopt Islamic customs.
Secondly, this kind of movement is a mass movement that is oriented directly to the blue-collar workers and the unemployed who number in the millions. It is imperative that the movement must encompass oil and transport and other workers, decommissioned soldiers, students etc. This movement must evolve to include all the working classes and other exploited classes in Iraq.
Is there really no alternative but a workers’ revolution?
There will be no Marshal plan for Iraq. While George Bush may be able to pledge 15 billion dollars to help fight AIDS in Africa (Bush’s re-election is coming up) he is unable to find the money to rebuild Iraq. The US economy is not the powerhouse it was in post World War II period.
Let there be no mistake, it is the imperialists of the world, and the USA in the first instance, that are responsible for all the tragedies of modern Iraq, including Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. Far from being liberators, the Yankees are seen correctly as the cause of Iraq’s suffering. As Saddam himself said, the Baathists were brought to power “aboard an American train”. Far from greeting them as liberators, we should present them with a bill for the last 35 years of Iraq’s suffering.
The demands for jobs and for unemployment insurance will not be met. The capitalists of Iraq are not able to offer anything to the workers. Neither are the capitalists of the USA.
But there are factories in Iraq. There are fields in Iraq. There are minerals in Iraq. And there are millions of workers, scientists, technicians, peasants and students, soldiers and mothers in Iraq.
It is time to take these resources, from the fields of Babylon to the oilfields of Kirkuk, and to put them to work for the good of the toilers of Iraq.
How do workers and peasants take control?
It is necessary for the movement that has already started fighting to begin occupying the factories and the oil fields.
We have shown that we can organize the defense of our streets and neighborhoods; now let us run and organize the defense of our workplaces.
If we do not start taking what is ours, the American occupier will. Their plans to privatize public industry into the hands of their own capitalists are well known.
This ancient civilization that gave the world the first alphabet, can once again lead the world by showing the way to a truly human, socialist society. We can do this by convincing Iraqi workers that they can win a new society in which workers and producers are able to transcend the tyranny of imperialism and capitalism.
That is why we call for the anti-war workers in the labour movement to take action to Free Iraq.We say that workers’ material aid should go only to those workers and peasants who organise independently of the capitalist, petty capitalist and reformist parties whose class interests are to collaborate with imperialism. We also make clear that, to organise and mobilise successfully against imperialism and its national collaborators, a revolutionary party capable of leading the insurgent workers and poor peasants must be built as part of a new international revolutionary working class party.
You can get involved by taking the campaign for NZ workers’ aid to Iraqi workers into your unions and get resolutions in support of the following organisations:
“Union of the Unemployed in Iraq” Union_u_iraq@yahoo.com
Also read about the formation of a “Preparatory Committee for Forming Workers’ Councils and Trade Unions in Iraq” at: