In Iraq, thousands of young demonstrators have been in the street for more than a month to protest against unemployment, cost of living, lack of public services and endemic corruption among politicians and government officials.
The youth is protesting, the police shoot to defend the bourgeois order!
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 16; Spring-Summer 2020)
The protests against governments in Sudan, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon have spread to Iraq as well, especially in its capital Baghdad, and in the country’s southern regions: Basra, Nasiriya (Dhi Qar), Amarah (Maysan), Najaf, etc. Indeed, despite the presence of big oil companies, the south of the country is plagued with a high unemployment rate, and an important rural flight, a consequence of the main rivers (the Tigris and the Euphrates) getting dry.
In some cities, like Nasiriya, Amarah or Najaf, demonstrators have put official buildings on fire. Very violent clashes have occurred almost everywhere. Peaceful at first but determined to get inside official buildings in order to state their anger loud and clear, the protesters met with the government’s repressive forces and “unknown” militias that systematically fired at the crowds. After only four days of protests, the official toll already reached 72 dead and more than 3,000 wounded, with more than 500 arrests (1): the demonstrations against Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s government have met, right from the start, with a violent repression that left no doubt as to the political will to break the movement in a bloodshed. On October 31, the toll reached no less than 250 dead and 8,000 wounded. In Karbala, a holy city for Shiite Muslims, Shiite militias literally slaughtered 18 people to death on October 29 (2). Yet from Basra to Baghdad, streets and squares are still filled with protesters.
All Medias, news networks as well as newspapers, point to the difference with the 2011 movement – the “Arab Spring”. This movement, sparked in Tunisia before it hit Egypt and almost all Arab countries, had one main objective: get rid of dictators in post (Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt). Brought about by the extreme poverty endured by the vast majority of the population, the revolt embodied the belief that, with the tyrant gone and the beginning of a democratic era, social issues could find their solution.
However, the actual power was not in the hands of the tyrant and his clan: it was in the hands of the dominant bourgeois class (to which, it goes without saying, the tyrant belonged). That class, along with its Euro-American imperialist sponsors, considered that throwing a Ben Ali or a Mubarak overboard could cement its own power thanks to the democratic illusion: propelled by a complete electoral and parliamentary system, this illusion would calm down the masses and restore social harmony. Nevertheless, the only force centralized and organized for the defense of bourgeois interests – the armed forces – keeps being a key player in countries where capitalism is only partially developed – as demonstrated once again very clearly by El-Sisi’s Egypt.
Democratic illusions progressively have been progressively dissipated by the behavior of capitalist classes which, in order to meet the standards set by their dominant imperialist counterparts, had to resort to the same weapons as the former tyrants: repression, jail sentences, targeted killings, kidnapping and disappearance of political opponents, etc. The many religious organizations (Sunni or Shiite divided along the lines of these or those particular interests, to such an extent that they go at war with each other) have played their usual part: at the same time, temper discontent and support this or that particular bourgeois faction. They have been – and still are – instigating the violent imposition of an Islamic fundamentalism, in order to control territories, natural riches and people to exploit. Bourgeois endlessly fight each other to defend their own, particular interests, be it with a military uniform, a religious cloth, a parliamentary suit and tie or a modern entrepreneur’s t-shirt; but they always unite against proletarians who start mobilizing in order to defend their own class interests.
As far as the enduring democratic illusions are concerned, the current revolt movements are not different from 2011; but as far as their social composition and fundamental attitude is concerned, it’s another matter altogether. This is especially true in Iraq. These movements are not lead by existing opposition parties, tend towards freeing themselves from religious influence (e.g. Lebanon), and do not trust the armed forces anymore.
The Iraqi youth who is taking up the street has not lived through the Saddam Hussein era and its systemic repression; these young people are less afraid of the consequences their actions. One may say that they are more “reckless”, but thanks to this “recklessness”, they are fighting the repression barehanded, making even more blatant the brutality of the State and its leaders. They are not fighting in the name of some principles of the Quran, or in order to get their leaders elected to parliament, but in order to take down the regime; they do not occupy official buildings, they set them on fire. It is a truly basic revolt, expression of a deeply rooted wrath, born from disastrous living conditions and the prospect of even worse to come; but that revolt might find itself canalized in different ways. One of them is a “grassroot democracy” following the demand for the ousting of Abdul-Mahdi’s government, directly responsible for so many deaths and wounds; there would be no political demand beyond that dismissal, and this could only pave the way for some figure “of the people” to ensure continuity. There lies the true weakness of this protest and revolt movement – politically, a “people’s” movement, even though proletarians are obviously part of it.
Two years after ISIS’s defeat and 16 years after the American invasion, what is the economic and political situation in Iraq?
A disastrous one, according to all bourgeois experts. It is a country full of gas, oil (4th producer in the world, 2nd in the OPEC after Saudi Arabia) and… corruption (12th most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International) (3). Wealth piles up on one end of society, while poverty spreads in the majority: 20% live below the poverty line, and unemployment hits 25% of young workers according official data that, as everyone knows, only provide an embellished picture of reality. The succession of protests for more than a month is a clear evidence of the exploitation and poverty of the masses. The youth amounts to a high percentage of the population; it should not come as a surprise that they make the bulk of the protesters: they are first in line when exploitation and unemployment hit. Authorities, capitalists, political and cultural elites have nothing to offer to them and, in turn they do not trust them in the slightest. They express their wrath, show their courage, and put their lives on the line to wake up the consciences of those who hold economic, political, military power.
Eventually, the revolt was bound to break out; but what has proven a surprise for both imperialist and Arab bourgeois is its duration and the fact that, until now, it has remained free from the control of religious and political organizations, with which it is always possible to make a deal, even after some rude fights.
However, the demands for the government’s resignation, for democracy, elections, changes of political leaders, in the hope that all this will make it possible to improve the lot of proletarians and impoverished masses, these demands are doomed to smash against the reality of Iraqi and global capitalism. Behind the mask of religious rivalries and regional or ethnic divisions, there are too many divergent interests between bourgeois factions for a peaceful and consensual bourgeois regime to last.
There is more. Iraq finds itself in a strategic position in the Middle East, not only because of its resources in oil and gas, but also because of its geographic location. Along with Syria, it forms some sort of “buffer zone” between regional powers (Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia) trying to assert their conflicting influences; and, as demonstrated by the Gulf Wars and the perpetual civil wars, the world’s most powerful imperialist powers play a part as well – from the old ones, like France or the UK, to the US and Russia, to China, which has become a prominent economic partner of Iraq. The conflicting interests of local bourgeois factions and regional powers intertwine with those of imperialist powers, making the region constantly unstable and populations dramatically unsafe.
Yesterday, the laws of capitalism asserted themselves on Saddam Hussein, his allies and his enemies alike; today, they are asserting themselves on the current government and tomorrow they will assert themselves on whoever may replace it, like for example Muqtada al-Sadr – the Shiite leader of the main opposition party in parliament, who started to demand the prime minister’s resignation as well, as he expects to use the current movement as an opportunity to take his seat. On a fundamental level, nothing will change; the economy will keep experiencing booms and bursts depending on the global economy’s oscillations, workers will keep suffering from poverty and unemployment.
And yet, there is an alternative; its possibility rests precisely in the hands of the working class, the proletariat, whose systemic exploitation of which is the source of capitalist profit. A class that must not only fight for its own immediate goals, but must also find its own classist way and means of struggle. Indeed, courage alone is not enough in the fight against a shameless, heavily armed enemy, and it is an ill-fated delusion to think proletarians can trust forces and classes whose interests are, by essence, opposed to their own. The proletariat must resort to its own forces, its courage, its constant resentment against the bourgeois regime (despite this regime’s never-ending attempts to show a new face, with social measures, religion, etc.), in order to defend its sole class interests by unifying proletarians of all categories and all faiths in the struggle against capitalism.
To achieve that goal, proletarians must perform a qualitative leap; they must rely only on their own forces and reject interclassism, which sacrifices them on the altar of the interests of local and foreign dominant classes. In order to free themselves, once and for all, from the delusion that the answer lies in a reform of the bourgeois system, they must learn from their struggle for immediate aims and brand as enemies those who oppose them.
The alternative facing proletarians, young and less young, in Iraq just as in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan or Algeria, the alternative facing proletarians of all countries, is inexorably the same: either they fight to help some bourgeois politicians (at best less corrupted, but always the mere face of capitalist interests) gain power – and then they condemn themselves to a life of misery under the heel of their class enemies; or they fight for themselves, for the proletariat, for the interests of this class that is the future of humankind, and not for the bourgeois society!
In this fight, proletarians will be able to move further than mere (justified but immediate) demonstrations of their wrath, to the accumulation of the practical, social and political experience necessary to their liberation. In this fight, they will feel the need of an organization representing of their whole class, beyond ethnicities, professions, age and gender, the need for a party with a political program strictly opposed to that of bourgeois parties: an international program, rather than an national one; a program saying loud and clear that the proletarian struggle must break down every organ of bourgeois domination, starting with the State.
This internationalist revolutionary party will inevitably be a communist one, and even more so insofar as the proletarian struggle will make progress on its own classist path; it will be a party conscious that, if this struggle must be fought primarily against one’s “own” national bourgeoisie, it can be successfully completed only if it takes place in an international struggle, because the proletarians’ interests go way beyond any bourgeois border.
Against any common interests and goals for bourgeois and proletarians!
Only class organization can fight bourgeois repression!
Class independence is the only way for proletarian struggle!
Down with national flags, hail to the red flag!
For the formation of the international communist party!
November, 1st 2019
(2) https://nena-news.it/iraq-la-repressione-non-ferma-i-giovani ; see also: https:// www. lemonde.fr/ international/ article/ 2019/ 10/ 28/ sans-pays-pas-d-ecole-la-jeunesse-irakienne-rejoint-le-mouvement-de-contestation_ 6017200_3210.html
International Communist Party