Troops out now! The main enemy is imperialism!

Paul Greenaway outlines the principled communist stance on the Iraq war and occupation

The CPGB position on Iraq is quite clear. We are for the defeat of British and US imperialism, our main enemy. We demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all imperialist troops from Iraq. In the towns and villages of Iraq, the 'coalition of the willing' continues to meet the fierce resistance of those who refuse to be ruled over by the imperialist metropoles and their local satraps. Even the occupiers' own soundings show that over 80% of Iraqis are opposed to the occupation. Whatever the mendacious huff and puff from the likes of Bush and Blair about 'staying the course', 'never betraying the brave Iraqi people', and so on, the US and UK governments are looking for a way out. Modern imperialism does not want permanent colonies. It prefers to rely on its economic might, backed by the threat of military force, to maintain the much vaunted 'new world order' - with the United States, of course, firmly embedded as top dog. However, does our defeatism equate with automatic support with all those resisting the occupiers? Absolutely not. In the case of viciously reactionary forces like those of al-Sadr on the one side and al-Zarqawi on the other, they have made it clear in action and words their desire to defeat the other and subjugate whole populations under their own particular version of islamist autarchy. In other words, when we approach 'the resistance' we are not facing an undifferentiated movement or organisation. Forces within it are fighting a combined war. On the one hand, they are against the US-UK occupation, though even that needs qualification. Within the Iraq parliament there are many factions who oppose the occupation, but these very same forces would do a deal with US imperialism at the drop of a hat, if it suited their class and sectarian interests. Ditto the armed groups who at present stand outside the Iraqi parliament and the coalition government. On the other hand, many of the various factions are simultaneously fighting a civil war. There are those who want to oppress the Kurds once again. Others want to see the newly assertive shias put down and back in their place. And then there are those who simply want to crush - preferably physically exterminate - the Iraqi workers' movement and their trade unions and political organisations. We communists do, however, recognise that an imperialist defeat would objectively open up possibilities for the working class, and we would therefore welcome it even if it came at the hands of reactionary anti-imperialists. But that is not an outcome we seek. Communists do all in their power to support, defend and advance all progressive and working class organisations and movements that promote secularism, democracy and socialism. That is precisely why we call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all US-UK forces. The occupation is feeding the fires of communalist and sectarian fanaticism and social disintegration. Imperialism cannot bring democracy and civilisation to Iraq - quite the opposite - a fact that must only bring joy to the rotten hearts of people like Muqtada al-Sadr, al-Zarqawi, etc. Our position is hardly a new one. For example, in his 'Preliminary draft theses on national and colonial questions' (June 5 1920), prepared for the 2nd Congress of the Third International, Lenin was quite clear in his opposition to reactionary anti-imperialism. Having emphasised that "the duty of rendering the most active assistance [to those resisting imperialism] rests primarily with the workers of the country the backward nation is colonially or financially dependent on", Lenin immediately went on to stress "the need for a struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements in backward countries". He specified "the need to combat pan-islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc" (www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/jun/05.htm). Thus, for Lenin, it "follows" from these "fundamental premises" that the communists' "entire policy on the national and the colonial questions should rest primarily on a closer union of the proletarians and the working masses of all nations and countries for a joint revolutionary struggle to overthrow the landowners and the bourgeoisie". It is "this union alone", Lenin concluded, that "will guarantee victory over capitalism, without which the abolition of national oppression and inequality is impossible". So, for communists, any putative 'alliance' with - for instance - the likes of al-Sadr and his militia brigades must be purely episodic. For communists, our enemy's enemy is not necessarily our friend - far from it. There are secondary or tertiary enemies to fight as well, if we are to achieve our aim of universal human liberation. As we wrote last year, "This is an extremely difficult situation for the Iraqi left, for communists and working class socialists. The masses are in motion against the main enemy, and yet they are influenced on a mass scale by forces that themselves are certain to prove enemies of the Iraqi workers if they get their hands firmly upon the levers of power in the future. Socialists and communists in Iraq must participate in the struggle for national liberation as an independent force, raising a progressive banner, a banner of democracy and secularism, as well as a programme for liberation from capitalism and social oppression in all its forms" (emphasis added - Weekly Worker April 15 2004). We in the CPGB continue to stand for this correct position and will never drop the red banner of democracy and secularism.