On May 1 2003 George Bush said that the war in Iraq was over and won. Since then the likes of Rumsfeld have had to acknowledge a "war that is complicated and difficult". The occupation forces led by the US now talk about "uprisings" across the country. With the Iraqi population caught in the chaos and the crossfire, with many deceived into joining pro- or anti-US militias, this is just what the capitalist left has been hoping for. Against the repression and torture of the occupation they celebrate the car bombs, kidnappings and land mines of the 'resistance'.
Last November Tariq Ali speculated whether guerrilla warfare would turn into "an Iraqi National Liberation Front". According to his leftist co-thinkers that wish has come true. The Weekly Worker (15/4/4) has announced that "the situation has been transformed. The entry of previously uncommitted forces - Shia Islamist forces with real mass support and roots - into open armed opposition has produced a real confrontation of the masses themselves with the coalition. � The real war of national liberation has begun". The World Socialist Web Site cheers a "broad and popular movement" and a "heroic and justified nationwide uprising against colonial repression". And although WW (22/4/4) is concerned about "the influence of clerical and reactionary elements" and WSWS warns of attempts to divide the "resistance", there is no mistaking their enthusiasm for "a movement of Iraq's urban poor and most oppressed" (WSWS) dying in the cause of Iraqi nationalism.
Poor and oppressed, the victims in capitalist war
In a previous article (WR 270) we showed that it was entirely appropriate that the leftists should compare the Iraqi 'resistance' to the underground guerrilla forces active in France during the Second World War. The French resistance was a weapon of Allied imperialism that, regardless of allegiance to De Gaulle or Stalin, was against the working class defending its class interests in time of war. Yet at WSWS (7/4/4) you can read that "The Iraqi resistance against US occupation is just as legitimate as the struggles waged by the French resistance against German occupation in the 1940s and the liberation struggles that swept the colonial countries in the 1960s and 1970s."
In this respect the leftists have been consistent. They wanted workers to abandon any concern for their own class interests and enrol for the imperialist Allies who fought under the 'anti-fascist' banner. During the Cold War, when 'national liberation struggles' were part of the conflict between the Russian and American imperialist blocs, the leftists continued to defend the national interests of the bourgeoisie against the class interests of the proletariat. And now the leftists are the foremost advocates of an Iraqi capitalism without the presence of foreign troops. They complain that the 'resistance' has been slandered as former supporters of Saddam, religious fanatics or foreign terrorists. While some of these descriptions are applicable, the fundamental point for the working class to remember is that it is being asked to die in a war between different capitalist factions - whether under the flag of 'freedom', democracy and the 'war on terror', or behind opposing forces proclaiming their loyalty to Islam, 'socialism' or Iraqi integrity.
The language of the 'resistance' and its supporters also echoes that of 1939-45. Many forces are dismissed as pro-US 'puppets' and 'collaborators'. Yet the Shia forces of Moqtada al-Sadr, the Jaish al-Mahdi militia that has so inspired the leftists, have functioned just like the supposed 'traitors'. "An apparent deal is being struck under which many of the gunmen would be absorbed into a legal Iraqi force which will take over security of the two holy cities and allow the US military to withdraw. A similar agreement was reached last month to end the fighting in the Sunni city of Falluja" (Guardian 13/5/4). For real working class internationalism against its leftist distortions
To make sure there can be no misunderstanding of their positions, a number of leftist groups have made it clear that they oppose any hesitations in supporting the 'resistance'. In practice this tends to mean that they don't share the current views of the Worker Communist Party of Iraq on the current conflict, even though they have enormous respect for the WCPI's work in the unions etc.
The WCPI's position is superficially 'radical'. They say they don't support "nationalism and defending the lands and waters of the homeland". They say "Occupation" and "Resistance" are "two poles within the same reactionary camp". Yet their analysis doesn't take them away from the logic of leftism. In a text first published in International Weekly (30/1/4) they say that the "situation in Iraq is an immense human catastrophe, bleak, chaotic with total social disintegration". This "political calamity is a direct result" of the attacks of the US coalition. They claim that there is no state in Iraq and that "The international bourgeoisie is incapable of establishing civil order in Iraq". This means that "The question of power can only be resolved by expelling the US forces from Iraq". They see the fundamental problem facing Iraq as "the filling of the power vacuum and bringing an end to the chaos and disarray." The WCPI does not insist on workers defending their class interests but demands "the establishment of a secular, non-religious, and non-ethnic state in Iraq". Their solution to the problems facing the country is "Immediate withdrawal of the US and British forces and handing over the administration, as well as peace-keeping in Iraq, to the UN forces for a provisional period and providing freedom and equal material resources to all the political organisations to inform the masses about their alternatives and programmes." This is a familiar call on the UN and democracy, and yet the WCPI claims that no one has ever had to face such a situation before.
A war between different capitalist factions is not a new situation. Revolutionaries defend an internationalist position, which means advocating the independent struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie that wants to mobilise workers for all its conflicts. The WCPI, through its advocacy of UN intervention and its participation in the Union of the Unemployed in Iraq, has already shown it is not shy of filling the "power vacuum" in its co-operation with the occupation in distributing food and other aid. Their rhetoric sounds more 'radical', but fundamentally, in time of war, they stand for bourgeois order, not the struggle of the working class.
Another group that uses 'revolutionary' language is the Internationalist Communist Group. Founded by ex-militants of the ICC more than 20 years ago, this parasitic group has subsequently given its support to leftist guerrilla actions in Latin America, and tried to portray desperate acts of social disorder as proletarian struggle. In their French publication (Communisme no 55) they have plumbed new depths. They begin by stating that "the proletariat in Iraq has given an example to its brothers throughout the whole world in refusing to fight for its oppressors", that workers have "refused to die for interests that were not their own". And it's certainly true that Iraqi workers showed little enthusiasm for dying on behalf of Saddam's army when the US Coalition first invaded. But it is criminally false to identify this response with the subsequent active mobilisation of Iraqi proletarians behind the 'resistance' with its reactionary capitalist agenda. This is exactly what the GCI does. They conflate the desertions and demonstrations of the unemployed that have undoubtedly taken place with the bombings, acts of sabotage and armed expressions of the military conflict, and claim that in all this "you can see the contours of the proletariat which is trying to struggle, organising itself against all fractions" while minimising the influence of the "Islamists or pan-Arab nationalists" on this alleged proletarian movement.
The main reality of the conflict in Iraq is that, with some small exceptions, workers are not fighting for their own interests and are caught up in a military campaign that flies the flags of Islam and Iraqi nationalism. Leftism tries to obscure the struggle between classes and advocates that workers die in the conflicts of their class enemies.