[Marxism] Are religious resistance groups in Iraq fascist?

Metin Sarp metin_sarp at hotmail.com
Thu May 5 10:12:36 MDT 2005

Are religious resistance groups in Iraq fascist?

Siyaves Azeri responds

A WPI Briefing reader has written: ‘A friend and I had an argument about the 
Iraqi resistance. I argued that the religious groups of the resistance are 
kind of religious fascists, because if they gain power, they would oppress 
the working class. My friend said that fascism is not possible in a country 
like Iraq, because it's mostly under imperialist control, and fascism is a 
movement based on petit-bourgeois parts in society. I am very interested in 
the standpoint of the Worker-communist Party of Iran (WPI). So what's your 
attitude? Are these religious groups in Iraq equal to fascist groups?’ 
Siyaves Azeri, the WPI correspondent responds:

There are a number of different points in the above debate, which need to be 
distinguished and clarified in order to provide a sound answer. I will try 
to proceed through the scheme of the discussion you have been involved in 
and address the issues your discussion has brought up. In this way, I hope, 
you might get a response.

The so-called resistance is a combination of political Islamists, 
ethnicists, residues of the Baath regime, and nationalists. It was clear - 
and the Worker-communist Party of Iran emphasised this from the very 
beginning - that the US military attack on Iraq and the occupation would 
dissolve the structure of Iraqi society and create a swamp, which would give 
rise to and empower reactionary forces, especially political Islam and 
ethnicism in Iraq and in the Middle East.  The more important issue is that 
US military intervention and the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do either 
with the freedom and wellbeing of the Iraqi people or with the destruction 
of weapons of mass destruction. The war against Iraq and the invasion was a 
step towards the construction and enforcement of the New World Order, a 
project to ensure the hegemony of the US bourgeoisie in the uni-polar world 
of the post-Cold War era. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 
Eastern Bloc, the balances, institutions and relations within the western 
world that had been formed upon the existence of a rival camp could not stay 
intact and had to be redefined and justified. Lacking the competing system – 
which was really a state capitalist camp - US hegemony and leadership could 
not be taken for granted nor could old institutions such as NATO nor the UN 
and their functions. The function of other ally regimes and the range of 
their influence had to be redefined too. Political Islam, for instance, was 
one of these forces, which formerly had been backed by the US and western 
governments to prevent the expansion of the territories where the USSR could 
become influential. And other states, such as the Baath regime in Iraq, had 
to either be re-formed (read this literally) to fit into this new order or, 
in the case that they were not actually and potentially adjustable enough, 
to be removed. The New World Order project has been the US bourgeoisie's 
answer to this "identification crisis", and the actualisation of this 
project is based upon the military power of the US. The terrorist attack of 
September 11 gave the US government the alibi it looked for to launch this 
"ordering" process once again -a project that had been in the agenda of the 
US since Bush Sr.’s presidency and the first Gulf War. It is clear that this 
policy is irrelevant to the security, wellbeing, and freedom of the people 
and has nothing to do with the enforcement of human rights or replacing 
oppressive regimes with "democratic" states. As a matter of fact, the 
invasion of Iraq and US state terrorism and militarism have made the world a 
less secure a place. US policies have deprived the Iraqi people of their 
most basic rights and freedoms and have resulted in the dissolution of Iraqi 
society and the emergence of a state of chaos and uncertainty - the "dark 
scenario". The US invasion and militarism is a main part of the dark 
scenario that threatens the lives of millions of people in Iraq.

The nature of the Iraqi "resistance" should be understood and analysed 
against this background. Although not homogeneous in its texture, political 
Islam is the other pole of the war between terrorists. Political Islam is a 
backward political movement that used to reside in the margins of Middle 
Eastern societies during the Cold War era. It was backed by the US and west 
against the "danger" of communism and the left. Particularly, during the 
1979 Iranian revolution it emerged as the last resort for the west to 
encounter and defeat the revolution. The seizure of political power by 
political Islamist forces in Iran, backed up by the west and the US, 
accelerated the strengthening of this reactionary movement in other Middle 
Eastern countries. Afghanistan - the rise of the Mojahedin and later Taliban 
- is another offspring of the Cold War era US and western politics in the 
Middle East against the rival Soviet camp and left forces and movements. The 
present day regimes in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and Pakistan are other 
examples that express the nature of the relationship between the US and west 
and political Islam. The heterogeneity of political Islamic forces, to which 
I referred to above, tends to point to this fact only. As I mentioned 
earlier, in the post-Cold War era, the older balances, institutions, and 
relations had to be redefined. Political Islam, its role, its range of 
influence, its function, etc. were not exempted from such a process of 
redefinition and re-formation. To put it more clearly, during the Cold War 
era, the degree of enmity to the Soviet Union was a scale to measure the 
desirability of a regime -for instance an Islamic regime in a particular 
country - for the US and the west. However, in the post-Cold War era such a 
scale does not function properly, because it is irrelevant. The new measure 
of desirability will be to function properly in accordance with the new 
needs and the new division of labour that US hegemony and the New World 
Order require. Hence, in the earlier period an anti-Soviet Union state, yet 
not fully cooperative with the west was tolerable; at present, only a regime 
that fully submits to the benefits of the NWO is acceptable. In both cases, 
states are representative of the interests of the bourgeoisie - 
international and national; however, the alteration in the forms of 
relations among different segments of the bourgeoisie gives way to the 
reorganisation of the relations that best represent the interests of the 
bourgeoisie. The war against Iraq is such an attempt of redefinition and 
reorganisation of the new hierarchy within the international bourgeoisie, 
where the state apparatus of the US as the representative of the US 
bourgeoisie is the leader. It is obvious that as a reactionary, bourgeois 
force some segments of the political Islamic movement would "resist" this 
attempt in different forms and via different means in order to acquire a 
larger share in this process of bargaining. And it is clear too that the US 
government has the tendency and the will - although not necessarily the 
power proper - to replace any state and regime with one that best serves its 
own interests. This, on the other hand, explains the positioning of 
different fractions of political Islamic forces, nationalists, even former 
Baathists in Iraq of the present day. While some participate in the process 
of the formation of the new government in Iraq -e.g. Sistani - some others 
join the "resistance" - e.g. Muqtada al-Sadr. However, no matter the 
position they take, it is obvious that none of these forces represent the 
benefits of the working class masses, of women, children, youth and elderly. 
All the fragments of political Islam, nationalism, ethnicism, etc. as well 
as the US government and invasion forces are elements of the dark scenario.

Hence, coming to your point - the so-called resistance forces, if they come 
to power, will definitely oppress the working class. They will not hesitate 
to launch the bloodiest attacks against the most basic workers', women's, 
and children's rights and against anything that is humane. They have already 
been practicing these attacks and measures wherever they could. They have 
kidnapped and murdered worker activists, women’s rights defenders; they have 
forced women out of the society, veiled them, silenced them and threatened 
them to death. They have taken every fascistic measure to silence working 
class leaders and communists. So have their counterparts, which participate 
in the government. Bombing innocents and killing people, causing bloodshed, 
and terrorising the masses is their daily practice, just as it is the US 

I personally would not discourage a historical study of the class bases of 
fascism and Nazism. However, from my point of view, the vision that 
mechanically tries to discover/invent a one-to-one relationship between a 
particular fragment of the bourgeoisie and a political movement in a 
particular historical era (such as is the case of the emergence of fascism 
in 1930's Germany) misses the larger picture and represents economist 
reductionism. Such a view reduces the analysis of the relations of 
production and the mode of production into an analysis of the fragmentation 
of the bourgeois class in particular and classes in general. On the other 
hand, it does not see the forms that the (bourgeois) state machinery can be 
clothed with and the drastic measures it can take at dramatic turning points 
- such as revolutionary periods or times of crisis - in order to protect the 
capitalist relations of production and the profit of the bourgeois class. 
Moreover, such reductionism, ironically, is the consequence of a 
"petit-bourgeois" political standpoint that advocates the existence of 
different revolutionary eras toward socialism and different stages in 
revolution as a principle. It views history as a mechanically ordered stage 
where every class and every segment of a class lines up in queue of history 
waiting until its turn to seize political power arrives. This is the 
viewpoint that postpones the fight for a socialist revolution and the task 
of the construction of socialism. This is the viewpoint that does not find 
urgency in the call for socialism due to different alibis. It is, in one 
word, Menshevism.

Socialism is possible now in every single part of the world, and also in 
Iraq. Particularly speaking for Iraq, a genuine struggle for freedom, 
equality, for human rights, for secularism cannot be separated for the 
struggle to build a workers’ state, i.e., a socialist state. Such struggle 
requires fighting against the two poles of the international terrorism, 
namely USA state terrorism and Islamic terrorism (the so-called resistance 
is representative of the latter). Postponing the fight against any of these 
two poles of terrorism, no matter the justification, in practice means 
participating in the continuation of, and cooperation with the forces of, 
the dark scenario. The binary opposition that "radical" left organisations 
and groups base their arguments on in order to justify their support for 
political Islam and the "resistance" - the opposition between imperialism 
(the evil alien bourgeoisie) and "anti-imperialist" forces (including 
segments of the native bourgeoisie and the most anti-human and 
anti-Communist forces such as political Islam) - is evidence of their real 
class standpoint. It is representative of their political position. At best, 
they belong to the tradition of the nationalist bourgeois left movements.

Only a socialist state in Iraq can guarantee the welfare and freedom of the 
masses; only a socialist state can guarantee the widest liberties and 
unconditioned freedom. Only the worker-communism movement acts within such a 
horizon and it is the only force that can mobilise large masses to this end. 
I call upon all radicals, socialists and working class activists to support 
the cause of the working-communist movement and to support the struggle of 
the Left Worker-communist Party of Iraq towards building a bright, humane, 
equal, free, and socialist society in Iraq.


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