Forward interviews Workers' Liberty

Submitted by AWL on 2 December, 2004 - 10:23

Abridged from an interview published in "Forward", international bulletin of the Worker Communist Party of Iraq. Contributors for Workers' Liberty are Janet Burstall, Clive Bradley, Lynn Smith.
FORWARD: After one year how do you assess the reasons presented by the USA for invading Iraq? What do you think was the real reason behind this war?

WL: The USA's ruling class sees the chance after the collapse of the Soviet empire for an integrated global capitalism, in which capital can readily and freely exploit labour and resources in any part of the world.

The bombing of the Twin Towers in New York was an evil act. But is also provided the US regime with a propaganda tool that eased its path to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The White House had such confidence they probably thought they could 'sort out' the region in order to undercut al-Qaeda. Even if they knew there was no al-Qaeda link with Iraq, the US still wanted to make Iraq a strategic ally and base in the Middle East.

The 1991 Gulf War and subsequent sanctions made Iraq more known, and had established the evil nature of Saddam Hussein's regime in the minds of western nations. The USA was concerned that Iraq under Saddam could become a regional power to threaten the USA and its Middle East allies like Saudi Arabia. Even though he'd been brought to his knees in the 1991 Gulf War, the US was worried Saddam might rebuild such a power.

Iraq has one third of the world's oil reserves and the US economy is highly dependent on oil. There was known opposition to Saddam, which the USA expected, could form a new, compliant government.

FORWARD: War is still going on between the Coalition forces and Islamic groups and remnants of the Baath regime. Is this is a progressive war? Does it serve the interests of the people in Iraq?

WL: No, and no. Working people in Iraq and in the countries of the occupying armies have no interest in supporting either side.

We need to oppose those on the left who skip over the objectives of the so-called "resistance". You can't support an armed group simply because they're opposed to the prevailing power structure. You have to ask: what do they want to put in its place?

Mr Al-Sadr indicated this when he announced that any US women soldiers captured by his fighters would be used as sex slaves. These "liberators" are backward feudalists. They'd ban all working class political parties, trade unions and women's rights organisations and execute the leaders. They'd execute, imprison or exile hundreds of thousands of people who currently belong to or support these organisations.

This is what happened right next door in Iran after the fall of the Shah and the creation of a reactionary regime by the "anti-imperialist" Islamists.

The USA is justifiably mistrusted and hated for its treatment of the people of Iraq from the first Gulf War onwards and there are reports that the Islamists and Baathists may be gaining some support for fighting the occupying troops. However, the US Occupation is also doing deals with these forces and allowing them to take over in some parts of the country.

A third way is desperately needed. Otherwise Iraqi independence after the US occupation could be the replacement of one murderous dictatorship... Baathist... by another... Islamist.

FORWARD: The majority of Western leftists support the so-called armed resistance in Iraq. They say that Islamic groups and remnants of the Baath regime are anti-imperialists and progressives who should be supported. What do you think of this concept?

WL: The main argument one hears on the left is that what we're seeing in Iraq is a carbon copy of what happened in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s.

But the Islamists in power are dangerous (in a different sense from the USA) in that for workers, socialists and any oppositionists, every moment of public life is dangerous if they don't submit. For women every moment of public and private life is dangerous, with the added power of men in the family backed by Sharia law.

Yes... the US ruling class is murderous and untrustworthy, with its vast military power and potential to intervene almost anywhere, supporting any dictator who will accommodate its interests. Although the Occupation might succeed in holding elections that could produce a non-Islamist regime, it's just as likely to produce a period of chaos, the end result of which could be a neo-Baathist or Islamist repressive regime.

The working class and other secular forces which are for democratic freedoms (right to organise, right to free speech, women's equality, etc) cannot put any confidence in either the "armed resistance", which would murder them, or the US Occupation, which would just as likely betray them.

Another position you hear on the left is that to condemn the Islamists is to support the Occupation. This is the quasi logic of "lesser evilism" and "two camps". The Iraqi working class and secular forces struggling to assert themselves are pointing to a third way: neither the "armed resistance", nor the US occupation.

If the workers' movement can play a strong role in ending the occupation, it can win rights and freedoms that will allow workers to maintain their organisations and develop their struggles under a new, democratically elected government.

FORWARD: What's the best way out of the current situation in Iraq? What should the Left in Iraq and worldwide be doing?

WL: It's vital to build up build workers' organisations and class solidarity, against the Occupation, against the former Baathists, against the Islamists.

It's also important to work out what kind of government the working class should help set up in Iraq. The core demand of the WCPI is for a secular, non-nationalist government. This is too abstract - governments are formed out of the social forces available, and through a specific process.

We have not heard the WCPI call for parliamentary democracy in Iraq. Is this because the word "democracy" is understood to mean US domination? Or is it because you see democracy as bourgeois? In the absence of workers' councils, soviets, or some other working class mass organisation trying to exercise political power, the demand for parliamentary elections on the basis of maximum democracy would seem to be the best guarantee of political freedom and human rights.

We believe the WCPI needs to seek unity with other forces, particularly with workers who are members of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions. The reason for seeking this unity is not to help the Stalinoid Communist Party of Iraq (which leads the IFTU) or to endorse its participation in the Interim Governing Council. It is to build unity between the ranks of all unions. Whatever the politics of the IFTU leaders, there's evidence that workers are joining unions affiliated to it and through this unionization, are standing up to the bosses and the Occupation Authority.

What is needed in a joint platform on these issues:

* self-defence against the Islamists and Baathists,
* an end to the occupation
* independence from the interim government (for a break from it)
* removal of ex-Baathist managers and managers imposed by the large companies of the occupation
* for workers to choose the management of factories.
If workers struggle for control in the factories they will have a stronger base from which to defend themselves against the reactionaries and the occupation. This base can be built if there's unity on the ground between the workers in the FWCUI (unions led by the WCPI) and the IFTU.

Working class unity is more important than the political differences between parties.

We agree that secularism is vital. Secularism means separation of government and mosque, state and religion. Secularism should guarantee freedom for all varieties of Islam and for all other religions. But secularism can be misconstrued as anti-religious. Does the WCPI's platform guarantee religious freedom in Iraq? Do you specifically state this in your party material? In clarifying this question, the WCPI would open the road to Muslim workers.

The international left can and should organise solidarity with Iraqi workers. US Labor Against the War shares its fund-raising 50:50 between the two union federations. This is also the strategy being adopted by the newly formed Australia/Iraq Trade Union Solidarity: see separate report.

The left should also publicise the struggles of Iraqi unions, and encourage fact-finding tours. It should help send unionists to Iraq. And sponsor Iraqi unionists able to tour outside the country.

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