Iraq lurches from one crisis to another. Violent battles rage between the occupation army and the disparate forces that are collectively mislabeled “Iraqi opposition”. Lawlessness and insecurity are the order of the day. The uneasy calm is broken by confrontations and battles. Out of this volatile situation will arise something called “the new Iraq”. But what will it look like?
The possible scenarios for the future of Iraq are many. But there are only two certainties – Revolution or Counter-revolution!
There are powerful forces with competing interests at play in Iraq. The US and its allies want to dominate Iraq, establish long term control of the region and keep the Middle East safe for capitalist investment. Many of the surrounding dictatorships, notably the Baathists of Syria and the Mullahs of Iran, want to destabilize the US plans in order to save their regimes.
The bourgeois forces in Iraq want to strengthen their position in order to win for themselves the biggest slice of the profits that they can. Tactics vary, while the aim remains the same. While some Baathist and Islamist forces clash with the occupation militarily, ultimately they are willing to cut deals with the occupation forces. These people are not capable of defeating the occupation, let alone rebuilding Iraq.
All of this makes for a grim scenario. Between the Imperialist robbers and the reactionary bourgeois, the Iraqi workers are relegated to a future of immiseration. Or are they? This working class is the forgotten factor that the bourgeois academics and Third Worldist liberals will never take into consideration. Liberals are quite happy to support “Shiite resistance” and “Sunni resistance”, but prefer to ignore the working class, just as they ignore the working class here in New Zealand preferring to reach out to churches and bishops.
What role do the workers and the communist movement have to play in the future of Iraq?
It is possible for a powerful Iraqi workers movement to defeat the U.S. and its allies. Let us recognise that Iraq too is a class society. Iraq too has a bourgeoisie and a proletariat. Iraq had a massive Communist Party in the 1950s and 60s. And if the Iraqi proletariat turned away from the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) in 1960 it did so as a result of the political zig-zags and compromises that the ICP went through. The historic defeats of the ICP did not stem from sectarianism towards the bourgeoisie, but from a failure to arm an independent working class basis.
This Iraqi working class is today occupying factories, and defending them by force of arms not only from the occupation, but also from the Islamist gangs. It has flocked to the Union of Unemployed of Iraq (UUI), which is the biggest organisation of any sort in Iraq, boasting 300,000 members. Working women have joined the Organisation for Women’s Freedom in Iraq in their thousands, raising the slogan ‘No to the occupation and the veil!’ Both the Union of Unemployed and the Organisation for Women’s Freedom were founded by the Worker Communist Party of Iraq, a revolutionary Marxist organisation with offices across the country.
The working class has rallied in cross-ethnic solidarity. While the Islamists target Shiite shrines, churches and power plants, the workers have formed neighbourhood and factory defence committees, institutions which could form the basis for a workers’ government. They have proclaimed that certain areas and neighbourhoods are under their protection.
The proclamations include explicit warnings that any attempt to enter the area will be met by force of arms. Here we quote from a press release from the Worker Communist Party of Iraq (WPIraq):
WP Iraq’s Armed Squads Protect Residents of al-Jihad and al-Furat
With jubilation, the residents of al-Jihad suburb in Baghdad received a statement by the WPIraq entitled “In Defense of the Residents of al-Jihad Suburb.” Hundreds of copies of this statement were distributed in the suburbs of al-Jihad and al-Furat. In the following days dozens of residents joined the armed squads of the Worker-communist Party of Iraq to defend the residents of these two suburbs. On August 13, 2004, four armed men using motorbikes tried to carry out a military operation in al-Jihad suburb, however the armed patrols of the WPIraq chased the group and forced them to flee the suburb after wounding one of them.
Also, comrade Sami abu Muhamad, the party leader in al-Jihad, warned the US troops against entering al-Jihad and al-Furat suburbs and asked them settle their accounts outside of these cities. Since the day the above mentioned statement was issued, the armed squads of WPIraq have continued to meet the residents of the suburbs who welcomed them and expressed happiness to see them in the suburbs. In these meetings, members of the WPIraq explained the policies of the party in protecting the residents. Many members of the Iraqi police joined squads of the WPIraq which are now responsible for conducting patrols and running check points 24 hours a day in both of these two suburbs.
On July 12, 2004 another group ordered the shop owners in al-Jihad suburbs to close their shops, however the party’s statement and a visit by the party’s delegation headed by comrade Sami Abu Muhammad, assured them and encouraged them to keep their shop open till midnight. We want to assure all residents of al-Jihad and al-Furat suburbs that their security and safety is the responsibility of the Worker-communist Party of Iraq. Therefore, their support for the party is in turn a support for themselves against the terrorist actions, which claims the lives of dozens of innocent people everyday.
Worker-communist Party of Iraq, 15 Aug 2004
While the “left” internationally rallies to the support of the “freedom fighters” of Moqtada, the same paramilitary reactionaries are engaged in a very real war against the workers of Iraq. Fallujah is regarded by many as a symbol of resistance to imperialism. But that is not the whole story. Fallujah is a town where no woman dares to step outside her home unaccompanied for fear of the Islamists.
If the western left chooses to ignore the role of the Iraqi workers and their organisations, the Islamists do not. They have targeted the offices of the Unemployed Union of Iraq, the Iraqi Communist Party, the Worker Communist Party of Iraq and the Organisation for Women’s Freedom in Iraq in a series of bombings and armed attacks.
Nor do US occupiers ignore the workers’ movement in Iraq. They have retained Saddam’s old law banning strikes, and last December they attacked and closed down the headquarters of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions in Baghdad.
It is true that Iraq is a country that is under US occupation. While anyone fights against the occupation, we support them in their legitimate struggle to liberate Iraq from the invader. However we must also recognise that the Iraqi working class and its organisations are real, and that only their armed independence can win a truly independent Iraq. To this end we are committed to supporting the Iraqi workers’ movement to the utmost of our abilities.
The workers’ movement of Aotearoa made a small step in the right direction when its Council of Trade Unions opposed the US invasion of Iraq. Since then, some unions have showed solidarity with their comrades in Iraq. The Rail Maritime and Transport Union gave its name to the international trade union petition calling for the reopening of the Baghdad Trades Hall.
Unemployed members of Unite! community union have spoken at anti-war rallies about the activities of the Union of the Unemployed in Iraq. But words are not enough. The Iraqi workers’ movement needs practical support.
Recently comrade Mohammed Abdul Raheem of the Worker Communist Party was attacked and killed by a gang of Islamists in the town of al-Kut. Comrade Abdul Raheem joins the ranks of fallen heroes of the Iraqi workers movement.
In honour of Comrade Abdul Raheem we are launching an appeal to raise money for the workers organisations in Iraq, and specifically for the Organisation for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI).
We ask all unionists and all organisations of the left to endorse the Abdul Raheem Appeal. Email us at
In the UK some news on union solidarity:
In the US:
Australian solidarity group
From Class Struggle 57 August-September 2004