Worker-Communist Party of Iraq

Ben C benj at
Fri Aug 15 21:45:12 MDT 2003

Mahmood Ketabchi of the WCP-Iraq makes some good points and as Paolo
points out it is indeed good to hear from socialists inside Iraq as to
what needs to be done. I've come across WCP-Iraq comrades here in
Australia, they have participated in the Socialist Alliance and are very
serious about what they do. So I respect them; however, I take issue
with some of Ketabchi's analysis. Hopefully the following thoughts are a
constructive engagement with the Iraqi comrades.

Ketabchi writes:
"The Iraqi people need a break for a period of a few months during which
they can meet their daily survival needs and can get sometime to
organize.  They need space from the violent and unsafe situations caused
by the occupation as well as by armed criminal organizations.  At this
point in time, a temporary administration of Iraq by the UN could
provide the Iraqis with some relief and opening.  Yes, it is true what
the ISR says about the UN.  But it is equally true, that under intense
pressure from world public opinion, the UN did not endorse the war
against Iraq. Reactionary governments and institutions under mass
pressure can be forced take positions that could be favorable to people
and provide some opening and space for organizing."
No doubt this will be contentious considering the international left's
response to the UN going in to East Timor (where the leadership of the
national liberation struggle, both left and right, clearly called for UN
assistance). There is no liberation struggle in Iraq with anything like
the unified leadership that existed in East Timor.  Certainly we need to
help the Iraqi comrades create the conditions that Ketabchi describes,
whether or not that is through the UN.

Ketabchi writes:
"Just imagine a different scenario-- one where the anti-war movement
continued with the same momentum they generated before the war, to
demand an end to occupation, to call for a temporary administration of
Iraq by the UN, to actively support freedom and equality for the people
of Iraq, by reaching out with full force to support progressive
movements of women, workers, etc., What if it demanded the rebuilding of
Iraq with the money coming from those who destroyed it, and so on.
Where would we be today as a movement, in terms of power and
effectiveness, in changing not only the direction of Iraq but also
combating the US murderous war machine and militarism?  The core issue
here is not United Nations intervention.  I have no illusion about it.
  The crucial point is organizing a massive and consistent international
support for political freedom for Iraqi people and to build solidarity
with progressive, secular and socialist movements in Iraq."
To me, this replicates the mistake of many comrades I have met from
third world countries who (as far as I can tell) fail to understand the
stultifying influence of opportunism on first world workers. The first
WCPI comrade I met (I think he was from their Iranian party) was an oil
workers union activist. He seemed never to be able to understand why in
Australia revolutionaries didn't just walk out into the
street/workplace/community and organise the workers directly in militant
struggle there and then. Whereas in his country, allowing for dodging
state repression (the government had killed his brother for the same
activities he was involved in), it was pretty simple to agitate and
organise among workers.

Concretely in this example, the different scenario that comrade Ketabchi
imagines is very unlikely, because (here) the level of mobilisation and
politicisation of anti-war protesters was too low to keep going after
Baghdad fell. Perhaps the left could have done better to prepare the
sort of movement he describes but I'm dubious about that.

Of course, the specific demand of calling for UN intervention is also
thorny but (as Ketabchi points out) this can be changed to a call for
material reparations, etc, without substantially altering the point he

I think Ketabchi is jumping a step ahead. Are we to not only reverse the
invasion/colonisation of Iraq by the US but also to force the
imperialists to set up a democratic regime in Iraq in one fell swoop?
One step at a time, I think, is the only way it can be done. The
anti-imperialist movement in the imperialist countries has a lot of
responsibility, but I don't think we can substitute for the struggle of
the Iraqi people to rebuild their country on secular, democratic (let
alone socialist) lines.

Lastly, I think that in misunderstanding the potential that exists in
the West, Ketabchi ignores the need to rebuild the Western left, and the
opportunities that the antiwar movement affords for this. We need to
build the socialist movement which in fact will be the only effective
friend for the Iraqi left and working class in the medium to long term.
Cutting a deal with liberal-conservative antiwar forces to call for UN
involvement (which is tactically what Ketabchi's proposal would result
in) could well be a kiss of death for an active anti-war grassroots
movement. It might achieve some limited space for Iraqi leftists, that
shouldn't be denied, but what would be the overall outcome?

What do comrades on the list think? Perhaps, given the small size of the
Iraqi left, a relatively liberal UN colony, where comrades like the WCPI
can still operate, is the best we can hope for? I don't think that's
reason to back a UN solution. We need to find other avenues to aid the
Iraqi left.

Ketabchi writes
(As I edit this article, today, the Workers Communist party Of Iraq has
issued a statement that armed thugs from various fascist Islamic groups
have attacked the party's office in Al-Nasriya and clashed with party
members.  The WCP succeeded in forcing the attackers into retreat, but
the Italian police in the city intervened and arrested four members of
party who were attacked by the Islamists.  These are the routine
activities of Islamic murderers acting like fascist squads.)
I think matters like this are where the Western left can really aid our
comrades in Iraq. Without ceasing to call for imperialist forces out of
Iraq, we should campaign in solidarity with left comrades in Iraq, and
expose such undemocratic actions by the foreign occupiers. If possible,
we ought to identify the Iraqi left and working class forces which are
actually leading the struggle there and provide material aid to them (as
they need/request).

Ben C

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