The war in Iraq was an event that sparked mass protest when over 1 million people marched on the 15th February 2003 in London. Despite this, as we all know, the USA and UK troops continue to occupy Iraq and bomb its civilians and destroy its infrastructure. The result was the devastation of the work and livelihoods of huge numbers of Iraqis. The occupying forces still have done little to rebuild this as the capitalist oil corporations carved up Iraq for oil profits without even caring about the Iraqi people all. This was no war of liberation, but a war for capitalist profit! The media has afterwards portrayed the battle between the occupying forces of the American and British troops fighting the Islamic guerrillas.
This idea of the guerrillas’ violent campaign being the only voice for struggle against the occupation was a position adopted by the media and the Stop the War Coalition who hail this guerrilla movement as freedom fighters. They are nothing of the kind, but simply religious extremists with a reactionary agenda, anti-homosexuals who have even forced the veiling of women in areas they control. They do not seek to secure the freedom of the Iraqi people, but merely wish to set one religious group up as the new rulers of Iraq. They oppose freedom and democracy in favour of their own factional interests – this is no national liberation.
Fortunately, there is another movement of resistance in Iraq that is fighting the imperialist occupation and the right-wing Islamist and nationalist forces: the Iraqi workers’ movement. In capitalist society, nothing can move without the working-class rebelling. The workers’ movement therefore has the power to bring about immense social change. In Iraq, the workers’ movement may have re-emerged after decades of repression by Saddam Hussein, but it now faces threats from both the religious and nationalist ‘resistance’ and the brutal US/UK occupation.
The media and, even worse, almost all of the British Left, have ignored the Iraqi trade unions. They Iraqi workers’ movement consists mainly of two union federations; the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq (which is backed by the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq) and the official Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (controlled by the Stalinist Iraqi Communist Party.)
The militias who fly the Islamic fundamentalist flag in Iraq have done as much as they can to stop this progressive movement by killing trade unionists and issuing death threats against the leadership of the unions. On the 5th of January, IFTU International Officer Hadi Salih was murdered at his home by the so-called 'resistance'. If the ‘resistance’ militias gain control of Iraq the likely result will be an Islamist government similar to that of Iran, based on religious extremism where leftists are repressed along with women, homosexuals and ethnic minorities!
However, the extreme right-wing nature of ‘the resistance’ does not prove that the US/UK occupation deserves our support as the lesser of two evils. Its occupation is based upon an imperialist take-over of oil revenue. We must demand an Iraq where the people have a voice and trade unions have the right to exist as a voice for the working classes. We should only support forces fighting for an Iraq where religion is not forced upon society but is based upon individual choice, for a secular democratic state.
The US/UK occupation is hardly friendlier to trade unions than the Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas. At the moment it is hard to tell whether unions are even legal in Iraq, as Saddam’s Labour Law from 1987 which suppressed labour movements has not yet been lifted by the occupiers; a fine way to liberate the people of Iraq. Demonstrations and strikes by Iraqi workers have been violently dispersed by occupation troops. In some areas, working-class organisations have formed workers’ militias to protect themselves not only from attacks by Islamist and nationalist groups, but even the so-called 'liberators'.
The people of Iraq must have self-determination; the right to govern themselves; and you don’t need to be a Marxist to believe that trade unions should have a right to represent the working class whose lives have been ruined by the occupation. Faced with such huge threats from both the imperialist troops and the ‘resistance’ militias, the Iraqi workers’ movement has an immensely difficult struggle ahead of it. This is why it is so important that working-class activists all over the world build support and solidarity; not just by declaring support for the Iraqi unions, but by practically demonstrating that solidarity, whether they do this by raising funds, donating computer equipment, or even organising delegations to Iraq.
Given that Marx said that religion was the ‘opiate of the masses', meaning that it was used to brainwash and control them through reactionary beliefs, you’d think that the Stop the War Coalition (which is controlled by so-called Marxist groups like the Socialist Workers’ Party and the Communist Party of Britain) would naturally turn to building solidarity with the Iraqi unions. Sadly, this is not the case: the Stop the War Coalition actively supports the resistance led by al-Sadr. The Left rightfully criticises George Bush for being a Christian fundamentalist. Yet the largest group, RESPECT, supports the ‘resistance’ of Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq who share many of Bush’s views on questions such as abortion and homosexuality! This is clearly part of their attempts to secure the support of the so-called 'Muslim community', even reactionary sections of it.
The fact that the militias are fighting against the occupation does not make their struggle progressive. Only a working-class movement – a movement that can unite all Iraqi workers, whether Sunni, Shi’a, Christian or of no religion at all – can defeat the occupation of Iraq. We cannot compromise our secular, democratic politics by supporting a religious faction which masquerades as a liberation movement – we may agree with them on the point of opposing American imperialism, but the 'resistance' presents no acceptable alternative to it.
NO TO RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALIST RESISTANCE IN IRAQ!
NO TO THE IMPERIALIST OCCUPATION!
YES TO THE WORKERS’ RESISTANCE!