The Iraqi Communist Party is a party with an honourable history. At all stages, it has stood up for the rights of the working people of Iraq against those who would oppress them. As a result, the Baathist regime oppressed and murdered Iraqi Communists, who nevertheless continued to struggle against the regime, sometimes through insurgency. Although it is no longer the force it once was, it remains a significant presence on the ground in Iraq, so much so that the Americans and their allies have had to recognise it in the government. Since the invasion and removal of Saddam, the Iraqi CP has been rebuilding itself, out among the people and on the ground, holding meetings and carrying out political work throughout the country, with no regard to religious affiliation or the threat from terrorism.
The Iraqi CP is also very active internationally, with international solidarity work a key part of its activities, as for all communists and workers’ parties. There was a meeting last month of Communist and Workers’ Parties in Sao Paulo, and the Iraqi CP’s text is a good indication of the difficult and dangerous conditions in which progressive political activists find themselves in Iraq.
So what is the Iraqi CP’s analysis?
Five and a half years after the US war on Iraq, the collapse of the dictatorial regime, and occupation, the struggle to end the foreign military presence continues to be closely interconnected with the struggle to rebuild the new Iraqi state and determine both its context and character. Hence the “uniqueness”, so to speak, of the situation that has unfolded in Iraq.
The Iraqi CP opposed the invasion but after it decided that it would be best to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq, in order to try and ensure that the new regime would be secular and democratic as far as possible. This has led some on the left, especially in the west, to slander the Iraqi CP as tools of the occupation. Of course, the people saying this have almost universally no understanding of what it is to be in a country where promoting socialist politics can lead to being the victim of murder, nor of the dangers in forming alliances with religious nationalists. The Iraqi CP is clear what the immediate priority must be.
It can be said that national, democratic and social tasks combine and interact. Therefore, along with the task of ending the occupation and its legacy, restoring full national sovereignty and independence, we have the tasks of eliminating the legacy of decades of fascist-type dictatorship, restructuring the Iraqi economy and rebuilding the state on a democratic federal basis. International and regional factors interfere, making the struggle even more complex and intensified. Our party has put forward its own vision, encapsulated in the Patriotic Democratic Project, that aims at building a modern democratic state; a state based on law and institutions and the principles of citizenship, ensuring democracy and social justice, as opposed to sectarian projects and a return to dictatorship, whether nationalist or religious.
The Iraqi CP is calling for a set and rapid timetable for the withdrawal of all US and other forces – so that Iraq cannot be a base for future operations aimed at other countries – and in the meantime full Iraqi control and oversight over the troops stationed there. Its primary goal is independence – for the Iraqi people to be able to decide their own future, politically, economically, and socially. This cannot be achievd without
first and foremost, national unity and national consensus, as well as pushing ahead with the policy of national reconciliation.
In other words, the future of Iraq depends on uniting its people in their common interest, and on them working together to build a better, democratic future. This is why the Iraqi CP has emphasised the necessity to work among all sections of the population, and it has had success, building its influence especially among young people and women, those with in some senses the greatest interest in ensuring that the new regime is fully secular and democratic, and that there is no return to old customs and religious domination. This work has met often with hostility from the forces of reaction, with many Communists being murdered for their politics, but the CP has not and will not be distracted from its goals.
We must look ahead as Iraq enters a new crucial phase in its fight to end the occupation, restore its national sovereignty and independence, defeat sectarianism and anti-people forces, and build a unified democratic and federal Iraq.
This is both a clear and sensible agenda that rejects the exploitation and oppression of the people of Iraq by foreign forces and offers resistance to the forces of religious reaction. The need to create first and foremost a functioning democratic and secular politics in which socialist politics can flourish is not unfamiliar to Irish socialists. Our situation has been nothing comparable to Iraq, nor even India, but the themes remain the same. For socialists, the unity of the working class is the first and most important goal. When faced with a divided working class and political and sectarian violence, socialists must hold fast to their principles, and meet the challenges posed each as they come. An end to division and sectarianism and the democratic control of affairs are essential for socialist politics to make serious progress. The Iraqi CP is to be admired for avoiding the simplistic and reductionist answers that would only strengthen the forces of reaction. Long may they flourish. And as their paper to the international meeting ended, Long Live International Solidarity!