Armchair generals, or Saddam's leftwing allies

Many on the left entertain an agenda - overt or covert - of defending the Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein. Jack Conrad takes them to task

Many freelancers, groups, sects, factions and so-called parties on the left entertain an agenda - overt or covert - of defending the Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein. There are, of course, the contemptible prostitutes, the twisted and the fossils.

The rump Workers Revolutionary Party and its daily paper News Line portray Saddam Hussein as the leader of a pan-Arab revolution; Harpal Brar's wing of the Socialist Labour Party praise Iraq's "anti-imperialism"; the Stalinite New Communist Party for its part has Iraq as "non-capitalist" and somehow socialistic.

Others are from a more honourable stripe, but have allowed justified hatred of imperialism to turn them into Saddam Hussein apologists - thereby sacrificing any semblance of working class independence. Exactly the same wrong-headed method led to a refusal to countenance any condemnation of al Qa'eda and its barbarous September 11 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

As a matter of high principle these comrades, organised in a kaleidoscopic variety of competing organisations - from a shamefaced Socialist Workers Party to an unabashed Workers Power, from the deranged Spartacist League to their International Bolshevik Tendency bastard child, from the sleepy International Socialist Group to the Labour-loyal Socialist Action - call for 'victory to Iraq' against the US-UK war drive.

Shorn of bombast, flowery camouflage and devious sub-clauses, what that means in plain, everyday language is quite clear - victory to the regime of Saddam Hussein. Victory for Saddam Hussein would "encourage working people and youth everywhere to fight back" (Workers Power March 2003).

Naturally that includes those within Iraq. Self-deception, of course! Forget concrete analysis of a concrete situation. The comrades have a well worn schema: first secure victory for Saddam Hussein's bureaucratic dictatorship. Then, after that, the workers and people shall have their turn. Saddam Hussein then us.

Again self-deception! Victory for Saddam Hussein automatically creates the objective conditions for revolution. Self-deception, pure self-deception! This complacent schema of artificial stages flatly contradicts the basic lessons of history. As proven by France 1871, Russia 1905 and 1917, Germany, Austria and Hungary 1918, etc, defeat, not victory, breeds revolution.

The same goes for Iraq. In 1991 there was a revolutionary situation in the aftermath of the headlong flight from Kuwait. Iraqi defeat in Gulf War I saw the Kurds rebel throughout the north and the Basra uprising in the south. Communists welcomed and encouraged the Iraqi masses. Not the pro-Ba'athist left. They tried to cover their bankrupt prognosis by making endless excuses.

The Kurds, were for example, dismissed as pro-US stooges. The tragic denouement is well known. Despite constantly harping on about democracy, human dignity and how Saddam Hussein ought to be overthrown, George Bush senior and the US high command recoiled when it started to happen. Elemental forces had been unleashed. Forces which could not easily be controlled or contained. The Bush administration, and its big oil and big business backers, had no wish to see a successful popular revolution. First Iraq, then Saudi Arabia, then Jordan, then ... So a blind eye was turned.

Saddam Hussein's elite forces were allowed to regroup, re-equip and redeploy. Without let or hindrance helicopter gunships and the Republican Guard exacted bloody revenge. Thousands died. The people were crushed. Needless to say, though, it was Saddam Hussein's defeat that emboldened. If it were otherwise the masses would have risen the previous year.

After all the prelude to Gulf War I was Saddam Hussein's lightening victory over the al-Sabahs. Kuwait was annexed and triumphantly declared Iraq's 19th province. The only crowds on the streets of Baghdad were stage-managed. They came to glorify Saddam Hussein, not bury him.

Politics

Amongst what passes for the sophisticates, the misguided position of calling for Saddam Hussein's victory is consistently justified under the rubric of forming a 'military' as opposed to a 'political' bloc. There should be no 'political support' for Saddam Hussein.

However, there should be 'military support' for Iraq. None of the comrades possess military formations that I am aware of. Certainly none in Iraq or the Persian Gulf to my knowledge. No tanks, no ships, no aircraft, no missiles, no battalions or international brigades. Hence the generous offer of military support amounts to what?

As small organisations based in Britain what do they really do? In general they produce and disseminate political propaganda. Their main weapon is the power of words. Not guns. And this is actually what they put at the disposal of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath regime in Baghdad - though they insist for their own peculiar reasons on calling it 'military support'.

However, we shall put aside the palpable lack of troops and military hardware. For the sake of furthering the argument let us grant them what at present exists only in their hard-wired brains. After all what we are dealing with in this article are vitally important programmatic questions that divide the left.

Questions which at the moment inhabit the rarefied realms of abstraction; but which in the very near future, crucially in Iraq, will be matters of life and death. What does a military bloc with the Saddam Hussein regime involve? We are not demanding operational details. That would be stupid. General principles are all that is required. And a range of competing strategies have been concocted. Man-traps every one. Some simply urge leftists to enlist as atomised individuals in Iraq's armed forces.

Here, under the brutal discipline of sergeants and constantly watched by the secret police they are supposed to "defend the country", gain the "respect of the people" and prepare the way for the quick overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Meanwhile in the real world any anti-regime propaganda conducted under conditions of savage military law is likely to result in torture and a long prison sentence. That, or a single bullet in the back of the head. Not to be outdone, Workers Power's armchair generals advise opposition forces to agitate for Saddam Hussein to "arm the whole people, not just his loyal Ba'athist guards" (Workers Power March 2003).

Suffice to say, Saddam Hussein is ahead of them. The regime operates a bitterly resented system of universal conscription. Understandably countless young men have sought escape. They have no wish to serve as cannon fodder. Either they hide away in the remote countryside or seek refuge in the autonomous Kurdish zone. A

nd, of course, Saddam Hussein has under his command not only the Republican Guard and the regular armed forces. He has mobilised a mass militia - which, going by TV and press pictures, is armed with AK47s. Other plans envisage independent military units. At the moment the only place in Iraq where they can be equipped, trained and directed is the Kurdish zone. But once again we shall leave practicalities aside, in order to bring to the fore the principles involved. These military units would "cooperate" with Saddam Hussein's armies and "coordinate attacks against imperialist forces".

Though this would expressly be a "purely episodic, coincidental phenomenon". Distinguishing between 'military' and 'political' support finds 'orthodox' vindication in writings of Leon Trotsky from the 1930s. From afar the great revolutionary 'militarily' backed the 'Lion of Judah', emperor Haile Selassie of Abyssinia, against the fascist Benito Mussolini and his war of colonial conquest. However, this was not Trotsky's finest hour. Exiled, hunted, surrounded by enemies on all sides and commanding bickering and largely ineffective sectarians, Trotsky's thought narrowed and on occasion fell into error.

The division between political and military support is entirely spurious. Military actions are always a form of politics. Hence, though peaceful diplomacy and war are opposites, they are opposites within a single political unity, whose origins and class interests go back over a whole, extended period. Carl von Clausewitz - the 19th century Prussian soldier-philosopher - furnished us with the primary theoretical tools in his classic magnus opus: "War is a mere continuation of policy by other (violent) means," he famously said (C von Clausewitz On war Harmondsworth 1976, p119).

War and peace, military and political methods, are therefore two sides of the same coin. So military support cannot be regarded as distinct, isolated or separate from politics. Unless one ignores the whole of history, war must be grasped, under all circumstances, as a facet of politics, a continuation of the same policy carried out in other (peaceful) times.

"War," insists Clausewitz, "is to be regarded not as an independent thing, but as a political instrument" (ibid p121). This profound insight was enthusiastically taken up by Marxists and repeated time and again - not least by Vladimir Lenin. Here is what Lenin writes in March 1916.

It is entirely representative of his overall approach and for that matter of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels before him: "War is the continuation, by violent means, of the politics pursued by the ruling classes of the belligerent powers long before the outbreak of war. Peace is the continuation of the very same politics, with a record of the changes brought about in the relations of the rival forces by the military operations. War does not alter the direction of pre-war policies, but only accelerates their development" (VI Lenin CW Vol 22, Moscow 1977, p163).

Surely then in giving Iraq 'military support' one is also giving political support. To argue otherwise is to descend into logical incoherence. Furthermore to claim that in "cooperating" with the military forces of the Ba'athist regime one is not offering any political support is to define war and politics as being entirely separate - an elementary mistake. War or - put another way - military "cooperation" is a form of politics.

Taking sides with the Ba'athist little slaveholders against the US and UK big slaveholders is to consciously or unconsciously fool oneself and those who follow your lead. "Cooperation" with the armed forces of Ba'athism must be based on some measure of political support for the regime and its aims. To defend Iraq militarily is to assist it in practice in attaining its political objectives and is in fact to support the Ba'ath regime politically, however much one may verbally deny it.

1917

Desperately searching for hard Bolshevik credentials, opportunist eyes alight upon the turbulent events in revolutionary Russia, especially the period August-September 1917. Steadily losing popular support, the unelected provisional government of Alexander Kerensky found itself threatened on two fronts. The Bolsheviks had gone from being a tiny minority in the workers' and soldiers' soviets.

Now in the main cities they were within reach of a majority. Petrograd led; Moscow, Kiev and Odessa followed. Banning their press had backfired. Extreme democracy and the forces of a second revolution were once again on the forward march. Within the high command the generals plotted a counterrevolutionary coup. That would drown the Bolsheviks in their own blood and replace the unstable and ineffective provisional government with a strong man wielding an iron fist.

General Kornilov, with the support of the British and French ambassadors, ordered his troops towards Petrograd. The moderate socialists were panic-stricken and sought a coalition government with the bourgeois parties. The Bolsheviks demanded an all-Russian congress of the soviets - which they said should assume full power. They also took the lead against Kornilov. They were determined to defend the democratic gains of the February revolution.

Gains such as soviets, press freedom, factory councils, the red guards, etc, which allowed them to steadily work towards a second revolution ... peacefully if they could, forcibly if they had to. Facing a wall of popular opposition, Kornilov's coup ignominiously fell to pieces. His army was halted by striking railway workers, dissolved by Bolshevik agitators and sucked into the ground by war weariness.

What was the policy of the Bolsheviks towards Kerensky? Did they offer his provisional government support? No, on the contrary they emphasised that no support could be given to Kerensky's government. Let us read what Lenin said in the midst of these August events.

Given the febrile, fluid and highly menacing coup situation Lenin urges "a revision and change of tactics". But, he warns, "we must be extra-cautious not to become unprincipled". There must be no "slide into defencism or ... into a bloc with the SRs, into supporting the provisional government". Unlike the moderate socialists - the Socialist Revolutionaries and their Menshevik allies - the Bolsheviks would only become defencists "after the transfer of power to the proletariat, after peace, after the secret treaties and ties with the banks have been broken - only afterwards".

He goes on: "Even now we must not support Kerensky's government. This is unprincipled. We may be asked: aren't we going to fight against Kornilov? Of course we must! But this is not the same thing; there is a dividing line here, which is being stepped over by some Bolsheviks who fall into compromise and allow themselves to be carried away by the course of events. "We shall fight, we are fighting against Kornilov, just as Kerensky's troops do, but we do not support Kerensky. On the contrary, we expose his weakness. There is the difference. It is rather a subtle difference, but it is highly essential and must not be forgotten.

"We are changing the form of our struggle against Kerensky. Without in the least relaxing our hostility towards him, without taking back a single word said against him, without renouncing the task of overthrowing him, we say that we must take into account the present situation. We shall not overthrow Kerensky right now. We shall approach the task of fighting against him in a different way: namely we shall point out to the people (who are fighting against Kornilov) Kerensky's weakness and vacillation. That has been done in the past as well.

Now, however, it has become the all-important thing and this constitutes the change." Lenin concludes by demanding a "truly revolutionary war against Kornilov", by drawing the masses into struggle and encouraging them to deal with the generals backing his coup. The campaign "against Kerensky" has therefore momentarily shifted from direct attack to indirect attack (VI Lenin CW Vol 25, Moscow 1977, pp289-90).

Using Lenin's letter - to the Bolshevik central committee - in order to cleave apart 'political support' and 'military support' is wonderfully inventive. By equal measure trying to metamorphose Lenin's shift in tactics over Kerensky into an excuse for calling for the victory for Saddam Hussein's regime displays a surreal imagination. The same goes for dupes who use the above text to dismiss "sloganising against Saddam" as a needless "tactical folly".

Those that do have crossed a line. They have allowed their anti-imperialism to take them into compromise with the camp of reactionary anti-imperialism. Another point. It simply does not work. Over and again Lenin stresses that the Bolsheviks would give Kerensky and his provisional government "no support". And in my language, and most other people's too, I guess, "no support" means "no support".

If the CPGB gains the ear of any section of the revolutionary masses in Iraq we would certainly advise tireless and energetic opposition to the US-led "coalition of the willing". Illusions that the US is conducting some kind of a war of liberation for democracy must surely have been scotched by the revealing snippets that have come to light concerning the 'reconstruction' plans for a post-war Iraq.

Leave aside vice-president Dick Cheney and Halliburton. The country is to be a US protectorate in which the Shia majority remain oppressed and the Sunni minority remain a privileged minority. As for the Kurds, the US has exhibited an utterly cavalier attitude. To secure a northern invasion route the US is quite willing to let the Turkish army trample over Kurdish national rights and aspirations.

Any democracy introduced under such circumstances would be a pure sham. Window-dressing that ought to be exploited where possible, but nothing more. So there can be no thought or notion of supporting the US armed forces, or the US-sponsored opposition - mainly ex-generals, dissident Ba'athists, former landlords, disaffected capitalists and adventurers looking for CIA money and the chance of riding to power on the back of an Abraham tank. When, or whether, to take up arms against the Saddam Hussein regime is purely a tactical decision determined by the balance of forces.

No one should play at revolution. Perhaps his regime will simply implode in upon itself, once US forces begin their drive on Baghdad and the Daisy Cutters and smart bombs rain down on command centres and strategic targets. On the other hand maybe the US will find itself bogged down in a Stalingrad-type battle for Baghdad. Military experts talk of US units suffering 30% to 70% casualty rates in the narrow streets and alleys. Civilian losses would be even higher. The slogan 'US and Britain out of Iraq' must be raised and given a practical cutting edge. There can be no argument about that.

We in Britain certainly demand the withdrawal of British forces and prefer their military defeat to their military victory. If in the chaos the masses rose up and managed to take the big cities of Mosul, Kirkuk, Basra and above all Baghdad, the whole progressive world would be duty-bound to provide whatever support - material and moral - that could be garnered. Any parallel between the insurgent forces in Baghdad and those that remained loyal to Saddam Hussein would, yes, be purely coincidental.

The immediate aim would be to defend the anti-Ba'ath revolution against the military might of the US. Civil war under these circumstances becomes interwoven with the anti-imperialist war. There would be two Iraqs. A counterrevolutionary Iraq and a revolutionary Iraq. Communists defend only the latter. Never the former. Classification Communists are not pacifists. We consider many wars - war by imperialism, for example - to be unjust (reactionary). Others are just (progressive). What decides our attitude is determined by changing historical development and class interest.

Civil wars fought by the oppressed are just. Spartacus, John Ball and Thomas Münzer formed and led armies against the oppressors. Marx and Engels earnestly looked forward to the day when leaders of the modern proletariat would do the same. The defensive war brilliantly conducted by Jacobin France against the Hapsburg Austrians and the other counterrevolutionary invaders is also retrospectively supported by communists. Likewise the national liberation wars fought by the colonial peoples in the 20th century.

What about the Iraq of Saddam Hussein? How should it be classified? Saddam Hussein is no leader of an oppressed class. Nor is his country a colony politically ruled from abroad. However, almost without exception those who would excuse a 'military bloc' with the Ba'athist regime describe Iraq as a "semi-colonial country", which must supposedly be "positively" sided with as a matter of definition.

But, is Iraq a semi-colony? It is definitely not a full blown imperialist power. That is for sure. Needless to say Marxists are not stuck in a sterile 'either-or'. Life is complex, rich and must be studied in all its concreteness. Let us begin by asking how Lenin defined imperialism? We shall turn for an answer to his 1916 booklet Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism (a work which, it should be emphasised, he modestly described as "a popular outline" which included definitions and categories that were in his own words "inadequate", "conditional and relative").

Lenin outlined five "basic features" of imperialism. Being: "1. the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; 2. the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this 'finance capital', of a financial oligarchy; 3. the export of capital, as distinguished from the export of commodities, acquires exceptional importance; 4. the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world between themselves; and 5. the territorial division of the whole world amongst the biggest capitalist powers is completed" (VI Lenin CW Vol 22, Moscow 1977, p266).

Quite clearly even at a cursory glance Iraq does not neatly match these five features. But treating Lenin's "conditional and relative" definition of imperialism as timeless is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. One would be forced to declare - in step with social democracy - that imperialism is a thing of the now distant past. Do the big capitalist powers of the 21st century, above all the US superpower, really "divide the world" up amongst themselves? Is the division "complete"?

Actually there is no longer any British or any other colonial empire. There are indeed something like 150 politically independent states represented in the UN. Moreover small - some very small - countries like Greece and Ireland have joined the European Union and what we would call the imperialist club ... and rather effortlessly at that. So some thinking is needed. Even in terms of 1916, in spite of his fivefold definition Lenin could still categorise backward Russia as imperialist. Another renowned Marxist from the same school, Trotsky, called it a colonising semi-colony, which both acted for its masters and itself - Russia therefore was a "twofold imperialism" (L Trotsky The history of the Russian Revolution Vol 1, London 1965, p33).

In other words Lenin is a excellent starting point, but he should not be used as a substitute for concrete analysis and developing new, more accurate categories and classifications. Backwardness allows - or compels - countries to make leaps to what is most advanced. There is neither the possibility nor the necessity of retracing the path taken by Britain: ie, the deracination of peasants by agrarian capitalism, the slow commodification of free labour-power, the real subordination of workers with the introduction of technology, the steady concentration and depersonalisation of capital in limited companies, etc.

Each in their turn, Germany, Japan and Russia fielded the enormous power of the state to skip the intermediate historical stages of capitalistic development. Their autocracies adopted, sponsored and attempted to generalise what was most advanced. Primitive accumulation resulted not in numerous small manufacturers, but industrial giants. Trotsky famously named it the "law of combined development". That theory helps to explain why Russia in 1914 had finance capital - ie, the "confluence of industrial and bank capital" - and why in terms of industrial technique it "stood at the level of the advanced countries, and in certain respects even outstripped them", though it was in the midst of a peasant sea (ibid pp31, 27).

Imperialism is not merely an expansionist or aggressive foreign policy pursued by various governments. It is a stage of capitalism itself whereby monopoly capital is exported and reproduced on the basis of a world division of labour. Thereby the contradiction between labour and capital is universalised and the world as a whole becomes increasingly ripe for socialism (the first stage of communism). Between the capitalist states there is a definite pecking order determined by size and degree of development.

Fundamentally we can say that the world is divided between oppressing and oppressed countries. Yet to leave things there would still be to settle for a lifeless abstraction. After World War II the ruling method of international capitalist exploitation underwent a marked transformation. In place of the colonial system, epitomised by an economically uncompetitive Britain, there has been a shift to a system epitomised by the economically competitive USA.

This victory of the greenback over the colonial sunhat does not preclude a neo-colonial relationship with certain capitalistically underdeveloped countries (central America being a case in point). Nevertheless, the main characteristic of the post-World War II capitalist system was the dismantling of the colonial empires and the opening up of markets to the stiff winds of monopolistic competition. The imperialist club has thereby been made relatively porous and in consequence has tended to steadily expand.

There has also been the emergence of what must be called intermediate or medium developed countries in which the ruling classes, often in cooperation with core imperialist powers, have managed to take capitalist development to a high level, whereby not only is it the dominant mode of production, but domestic finance capital is created (Turkey, South Korea, Brazil, Argentina and Taiwan being examples).

Nor must the existence of the Soviet Union be discounted either. As the other superpower from 1945 to 1991 it acted as a counterweight to the US. A number of capitalistic countries, including medium developed ones, were able to align themselves to it so as to ply something approaching an independent course (eg, Iraq). Recent history Let us now touch upon the recent history of Iraq. The country was granted formal independence by Britain in 1932. It remained pitifully backward, not least because the revenues generated by the increasing demand for oil went directly into the pockets of British shareholders.

In return for what amounted to a few crumbs, the king and the whole regime acted as little more than local agents for Britain: ie, classic neo-colonialism. Things began to change rapidly after 1958 and the Free Officers' revolution. The monarchy was overthrown and state power passed from the big landowners and the bureaucratic elite into the hands of middling elements who typically had worked their way up through university and military academy. This new state power sought to wrest by degrees ownership of the oil and refining industry from the transnationals.

It was the July 1968 Ba'athist Party revolution which put Iraq on a confrontational course against the big imperialist powers. The oil industry was nationalised and Baghdad cuddled up to the Soviet Union for protection. That alliance and the boom in oil prices after 1973 allowed the country to make huge strides forward in terms of wealth and development. Radical land reform was enacted, effectively abolishing the old ruling class. Industry was built up using state capitalist methods - unions were banned in nationalised concerns but the relatively well paid workers were guaranteed lifetime employment (they were not free, however, to choose their place of employment).

Relative labour costs were huge - two or three times higher than in comparable countries. Oil allowed the regime to sustain this social tribute to the labour aristocracy. By the late 1970s in terms of per capita levels of production Iraq stood in the same league as Portugal and Greece, not India and China. It was medium developed. There was not only monopoly capital but the export of capital. Its Rafidyn Bank was calculated to be the largest commercial bank in the Arab world in 1983 and the country had assets totalling $50 billion invested throughout the world (above all through the London and New York markets). Militarily too Iraq was transformed.

Massive imports of Soviet arms made it a regional power to be reckoned with. In general finance capital, whatever the particular level of development reached by a country, brings with it a striving to expand outwards. Capitalist development sharpens class and national antagonisms domestically no end. Accumulation in medium developed capitalist counties means fabulous wealth for high officials and their friends and relatives. But the gap between rich and poor, the haves and the have-nots grows continuously and visibly.

Democracy is therefore precarious, often non-existent. Class and social contradictions become acute. Economically it is very difficult for medium developed capitalist country such as Iraq to take full advantage of the world economy. Oil apart, in terms of competition their state capitalist monopolies stood no chance against the transnational giants. Faced with the prospect of declining oil revenues - also as a means to prevent internal explosion, to prevent civil war - military solutions therefore became ever more attractive. Hence our category - proto-imperialism. In 1980 Iraq invaded Iran. US imperialism may well have given the go-ahead. Iraq was though no mere "proxy".

Saddam Hussein wanted a greater Iraq. He hoped to gain a string of oil fields in a stunning double-quick victory. Iran was in turmoil. Khomeini's counterrevolutionary revolution against the Shah regime left it a soft target. As things turned out, the war proved hugely costly and protracted. Iran did not collapse but fought back with Koranic-driven fanaticism. Nearly a million were killed. The Ba'ath regime was though committed to a 'guns and butter' strategy and a low-casualty war. Where the theocracy in Tehran was prepared to send human waves against tank emplacements, Saddam Hussein willingly sacrificed territory and equipment.

Moreover, peace of the home front was brought by maintaining living standards and compensating the families of those killed in action with cars, land and other such expensive items. Nevertheless, inexorably oil production declined, as facilities and shipping were destroyed. Foreign assets became debts. All in all, the war is thought to have cost Baghdad something in the order of $226 billion (Japanese Institute of Middle Eastern Economies).

By May 1987 the 'guns and butter' strategy was unsustainable. The regime issued its decree No652 abolishing the lifetime employment guarantee in the attempt to shift from subsidised state capitalism to competitive capitalism and thus increase the very low rate of exploitation. The war ended a year later. Social tensions could only but increase. It is against this background that Saddam Hussein gambled on an invasion of Kuwait. Possibly Iraq was set up by a US itching to launch its new world order crusade. Either way, we evaluated both sides in Gulf War I strictly from the point of view of class interests and the historical and social conditions which gave rise to the conflict. Hence we denounced Saddam Hussein's Anschluss of Kuwait. Nothing in the policy or actions of the Iraqi regime could command our sympathy or support.

The CPGB had no hesitation in denouncing pacifist demands from Tony Benn, the Labour left and the 'official communists' for UN sanctions (which naturally would not hurt ordinary people). UN sanctions are, we said, "nothing more than a form of imperialist economic warfare". Neither did we make a call for the restoration of the al-Sabahs and the Kuwaiti state. Instead we said that the Arab, Turkic, Kurdish and other peoples of the region should be free to redraw the boundaries of the region "as they think fit".

We sided with the Iraqi masses - the communist workers, the Kurds and Marsh Arabs - who refused to 'suspend' their democratic struggle against the Ba'athists and who declined to enter a 'military bloc' with them. They have, as we said at the time in our journal, "every reason" to use Saddam Hussein's "difficulties as their opportunity - an opportunity to make revolution" (The Leninist December 1990).

Today, 13 years later, we adopt the same position. With the no-fly zones, weapons inspectors and murderous sanctions, Iraq is effectively an oppressed proto-imperialist power. However, there can be no support for Saddam Hussein. Tactical shifts in the struggle against his dictatorship, yes. Send the US-UK forces packing, yes. The end goal remains putting power into the hands of the workers, peasants and the urban poor.