Iraq: The tragedy of Sabah

I was very young, born in exile when he was taken in 1980. Sabah was a relative of mine who was taken by the Baathist police on February 2nd 1980. He was an economics lecturer at the university and a leading member in the Communist Party. His family was never informed about where he was taken, what charges they had against him. Official papers and government records that shed some light on his story have recently come to the possession of the Communist party…

Sabah was born in Baghdad in 1932. He joined the communist party during his years as a student (1949-1954). He was drafted into the Iraqi army to take part in the war against the Kurdish armed factions that was ongoing in 1956. Sabah was stationed in the Saadiya camp, where he was involved in a mutiny against the racist war on Kurdistan which failed.

Sabah and 15 comrades were sentenced to 15 months in prison. By the time they were released, the war was over. Sabah travelled to East Germany, only for the July Revolution to overthrow the monarchy. Sabah returned to Iraq and earned full membership in the party. He was sent again to East Germany where he gained a PhD in economics.

During his stay in East Germany (1959-1965) the Baathist coup of 1963 succeeded in its primary aim of defeating the communist party. Thousands of fighters and workers were liquidated. Once this main aim was achieved, the Baathist violence became unnecessary and they were pushed out of power once more. Sabah returned in 1965 to an Iraq unlike the one he had left, and he was quickly imprisoned once more.

In 1969 Sabah was released, and travelled to Hungary, where he played a role in the secretariat of the International Youth Union, an organ of the USSR.

In 1972 he was sent back to Iraq to participate in the Baghdad council of the popular front government. The Communist party had made a recovery since the defeat of 1963. Moscow had pushed the line of participating in this government with the Baathists and other forces. Sabah was arrested in 1979 (on the 2 of August) and interrogated:

Interrogator: “What is your opinion of the Communist Party, in light of their continued refusal to cooperate in an honest way in the Popular Front government?” (Here they are giving Sabah the opportunity to renounce Communism and denounce the party.)

Sabah: “The general direction of the communist party is to work within the Popular Front to oppose imperialism and to complete the national revolution. Any acts that deviate from this are mistakes that are to be criticised.”

Here there is a statement apparently prepared by the interrogator, to the effect that Sabah would be leaving the party and would participate in the “national project”. This line is struck out and Sabah’s signature appears underneath it.

Sabah was released two weeks later, and over the next period he was arrested and released a number of times, finally on the 2/2/1980. After that he was never heard of again.

There is a contradiction between Sabah who lived and fought for the cause of the socialist revolution, and Sabah who was a leading member of the Communist Party responsible for betraying the Iraqi working class into the hands of Saddam.

One the one hand, Sabah lived as a heroic fighter for the workers of Iraq and the whole world. He risked his life many times, and ultimately paid the ultimate price in circumstances that one can only imagine as being extremely difficult.

He was a victim of a compromise where the Soviet Union disarmed people like Sabah and placed them in front of monsters like Saddam Hussein as part of a cynical global game. In exchange, the Soviet Union was assured of an “anti-imperialist” government in Iraq.

On the other hand, Sabah never renounced the popular front and therefore has to take his share of the responsibility for the criminal policy of Stalinism. This policy led the workers into alliances with the national bourgeoisie resulting in the murder or exile of thousands of communists and the defeat and demoralisation of millions of workers.

The balance sheet of the Iraqi Communist Party must also include blame for the situation in Iraq today. The Communist Party is so corrupt that it is a member of the US stooge government of Iraq. And the breakaway Workers’ Communist Party is appealing to the UNO to remove the US invaders. A weakened working class has left a political vacuum into which the Islamic radicals have moved using nationalist and religious appeals to attract workers.

The personal tragedy of Sabah is a small part of the historic tragedy of the Iraqi working class misled and betrayed by the Communist Party. Today, this legacy can only be overcome by the rebuilding of an armed, independent working class movement. This is the only force capable of defeating the imperialist invaders and the treacherous factions of the national bourgeoisie and their allies in the labour movement, and opening the road to socialism!

For a World Party of Socialist Revolution!

From Class Struggle 58 October-November 2004

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