National Sections of the L5I:

Working class action to defeat imperialism Victory to Iraq!

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The massive bombing of Baghdad and hundreds of Iraqi “targets” has begun. Operation Desert Storm is at this very moment laying waste whole tracts of Iraq with tens of thousands of tonnes of bombs a night. This “surgical strike” will soon give way to bloody carnage as the land forces advance.

The Iraqi armed forces and people are being bombarded by forces from the biggest coalition of imperialist powers and personnel since the Vietnam War. The blockade and sanctions can now be seen for what they really were: a holding operation by the imperialists in order to get time to assemble the war machine. Sanctions were always intended as a prelude to armed conflict, as a softening up process, as a necessary overhead cost of gaining broad political support among all the imperialists and the wavering Arab regimes opposed to Baghdad.

But now the diplomatic charade is over. The carefully choreographed opposition in the US Congress came to its predictable end—support for war. Despite the semi-pacifist bleatings of the official opposition to the ruling governments in the USA and in Europe, the war has called all the dissidents to attention; they now drop their half-hearted and half cynical protests and replace them with unconditional backing for “our boys”. Now the conflict has broken out nothing will be too much for these people to accept: increasing call-up of civilians; censorship of the media, repression against the far left, immigrant and exile communities, attacks on the right to demonstrate in opposition to this war.

The shells and missiles are not raining down in order to defeat tyranny. In countless countries tyrants as bad and worse than Saddam Hussein have been installed and kept in power for all of this century by British and US imperialism against the democratic wishes of the population. While the Iraqi Ba’athist regime utilised its relationship with the Soviet Union to increase its room for manoeuvre with the imperialist powers, it is nevertheless tied, economically and politically, to the imperialist system. Saddam was armed to the teeth by imperialism for most of his conflict with Iran. The imperialists applauded him for his brutal crushing of the Communist Party in Iraq. He was supplied with the technology to enable him to launch poison gas attacks on the Kurds. He is in power today because of the imperialist money and arms given to him yesterday.

No democracy in Kuwait

The war against the Iraqi people is being prosecuted in order to defend “democracy”. But the state of Kuwait was the opposite of democracy. It was not created by the action or wishes of its population but by the stroke of a pen of its erstwhile British administrators; its ruler—the Emir—presided over an autocratic regime without meaningful elections and by depriving the great bulk of its working population of citizenship.

Moreover, the actions of the USA over the years in Guatemala, Chile and Grenada, its attack on the Cuban revolution, and its eleven year onslaught against Nicaragua reveal all too clearly that democracy, social reform, or any attempt to assert national independence will be ruthlessly snuffed out should they threaten the economic and political interests of US and European imperialism.

The grand coalition against Iraq is stuffed full of dictatorships and semi-dictatorships. Why does Britain’s government ban television reports on the real nature of the Saudi regime that it is out there “defending”? We are not allowed to hear about the repression and deaths that are the hallmark of Saudi “justice”, or the unelected nature of the Saudi ruling family, or the absence of democratic rights in Saudi Arabia.

Gorbachev’s backing for imperialist intervention has made it possible for imperialism to use the United Nations (UN) fig leaf. The imperialists have seized the opportunity created by the crisis of the Stalinist system, the Soviet bureaucracy’s international retreat and its need for western economic aid, to launch a war in the Middle East which would previously have been impossible. This Soviet policy is a development of its counter-revolutionary pursuit of “regional settlements”.

We condemn Stalinism’s support for sanctions and its complicity in the war, which ultimately poses a threat to the Soviet Union itself, not least because of the confusion it has created in the international workers’ movement.

Imperialism’s war aims

The USA and Britain were the two imperialist powers hell bent on a war with Iraq. Their aim is not to liberate the inhabitants of Kuwait from dictatorship, but to establish political and military supremacy in the Gulf, secure cheap oil supplies for the west and establish a new world order of exploitation and oppression.

Even the public statements of Britain and the USA make it clear that re-conquering Kuwait is only part of this grand design. Before her fall Thatcher made clear that a defeated Saddam would have to face reparations and a war crimes tribunal. Major is equally determined to achieve the same war aims. Bush, who said “Saddam is worse than Hitler”, has made clear that he wants to secure a permanent military presence in the Gulf, restabilise the area for US oil companies and destroy Hussein’s regime. By their opportunist diplomacy the other EC powers, led by France, seek to minimise their costs and maximise their future political benefits in the wake of an Iraqi defeat.

The re-conquest of Kuwait by the imperialist armies would “free” Kuwait for continued imperialist exploitation. The rich Kuwaiti ruling class will be free to live their international playboy lifestyles. The big oil companies will be free to drain the oil-fields of this British created city-state. The general staffs will be free to utilise military installations in this strategic part of the Gulf. None of this will give freedom to the workers and poor within Kuwait.

Imperialism does not want, does not care about, democracy in the Middle East. Its policy of plundering the region’s oil reserves and obstructing the balanced industrial and agricultural development in the Middle East, as in Africa, Asia and Latin America, fosters dictatorships. Their rule, free from the niceties of democracy, is often imperialism’s best guarantee of stability, profits and the continued enslavement of those countries. This is why Britain and the USA have said nothing about restoring democracy in Iraq. They will establish another dictatorship, but one more pliant and responsive to their needs.

The Palestinians

The crusaders for “democracy”, weeping crocodile tears for the oppression and occupation of Kuwait, are rightly scorned by the Palestinians and their sympathisers throughout the Arab world. These forces realise that imperialism’s brutal refusal to link the issues, its forty year toleration of the oppression and occupation of Palestine, its failure to implement the half-hearted resolutions wrung from the UN; all this shows what sort of solution they are planning after the defeat of the strongest Arab military power.

Should the US-led forces crush Iraq, then any Palestinian settlement directed by the victors and their Arab puppets would be one enormously favourable to the Zionist state. On the other hand, any victory for Iraq, or even a stalemate, would weaken the Zionists and their masters. For this reason the imperialists hope to keep the Zionist expansionists on a tight leash for fear of provoking a massive upsurge throughout the Arab world, one that could topple the Mubaraks, Assads and Fahds. Thus Saddam’s attempt to link the struggles—no matter how hypocritical and self-serving his motive—is justified. The struggles are, and should be, linked in deeds and not in words. Moreover, in any conflict between Israel and Iraq, started by either side, we are with Iraq and for the defeat of the Zionist state.

Opposition to the war

Even after five months of an unremitting propaganda war barely half the population of the USA and Europe accept the need for this death and destruction. Millions of people took to the streets in Europe on 12 January as the deadline for war approached. Millions of workers in Spain, Italy, France and Germany have taken strike action in protest at the war; in Turkey the general strike movement has taken a position of opposition to the war. The biggest protests for decades have been seen in many cities and small towns in the USA. The reason for the scale of opposition and the lack of enthusiasm for this war is that many understand or sense the lies with which their rulers justify this war.

At present this movement is mainly limited to protest and retains illusions in the possibilities of a “peaceful settlement”. It is essential that the movement be turned into one of action against the war. Only the working class, whose objective interests are directly opposed to imperialism, can lead that struggle. The fight for industrial action, including strike action, against the imperialist war effort must be central.

The workers in Britain, the USA and the other countries of the coalition, do not have the slightest interest in supporting their rulers’ war. It is their war, not ours. A victory for their armies will not benefit us one bit. It will strengthen their rule. It will enable them to impose their will throughout the Middle East and the rest of the semi-colonial world. It will provide them with vast profits. It will bring them nearer to their goal of a new world order of exploitation where the exploited and oppressed are powerless against the imperialist military machine.

Working class internationalism demands that we should not simply sit back and say “a plague on all your houses”. Iraq is a country that has long been oppressed by imperialism. Iraq is in hock to imperialism to the tune of $30 billion. Its oil wealth during the 1970s was incapable of breaking the chains of servitude. All its major industries are dependent on imperialist investment. And the profits the western bosses repatriate from those investments starved Iraq of the funds that could have enabled it to develop and diversify its economy. Even its ability to produce oil exists courtesy of the technology of the imperialist powers. And, as Saddam himself observed, Iraq is dependent on the imperialists to buy its oil.

The complete dependency of Iraq on imperialism is qualitatively different to the interdependency of the imperialist economies with one another. It is the dependency of a subordinate nation, an oppressed nation, one whose development is deliberately stifled by imperialism.

Defeat imperialism, defend Iraq!

It is in our interests to bring about the defeat of the imperialist armies and their Arab puppets locked in battle with Iraq by ruthlessly pursuing the class struggle at home. The governments who direct these armies are our main enemy.

A victory for Iraq would be a blow to imperialism. It would weaken their world rule and sabotage their plans for a new, oppressive world order. That is why it is the duty of working class internationalists to do everything in their power to bring about the victory of Iraq in this war.

This will astonish many workers, even those revolted by the prospect of war. How can we support the victory of the “Butcher of Baghdad”, the oppressor of the Kurds? The defence of Iraq against imperialism in no way implies that we politically support the regime of Saddam, that we support the invasion of Kuwait or that we excuse his monstrous crimes against the Iraqi workers and poor peasants, and against the Kurdish people. Revolutionaries have always argued for the overthrow of this dictator, well before the bosses’ media made him their pet hate figure.

But today, he is not the main enemy of the Iraqi and Gulf region masses. Imperialism poses a far greater threat to them. Victorious imperialism will intensify their exploitation, their misery and their oppression. Until the threat of such a victory is removed, a war by Iraq against Britain, the USA and the coalition will be a justified war.

It is in the direct interests of the Iraqi and the Kurdish people to defend Iraq against imperialism without for a minute abandoning their just struggles for national freedom, democracy and class emancipation. In the war they should propose a military united front against the attacking imperialist forces. In practice this would require that the regime cease all repression against the progressive forces.

But what ever the regime’s actions against progressive forces, imperialism remains the main enemy whilst the armed conflict continues. It is from within the war effort that forces must be rallied to overthrow the Ba’athist regime and create a workers’ and peasants’ government. Proceeding towards an armed insurrection to achieve that goal during the course of the war with imperialism will have to be considered in the light of the need to secure a military victory against the main enemy—imperialist forces in the Gulf.

We call for independent workers’ and peasants’ mobilisations against the imperialist threat, and warn the Arab masses that the Iraqi bourgeoisie is incapable of carrying through the struggle to the finish—let alone liberating Palestine. We fight imperialism not by holy war but with the methods of the class struggle.

It is vital that workers face up to the real issues at stake in this war. It will cost the lives of thousands. And after the working class youth has spilled its blood, sustaining horrific physical and mental scars, the world’s rulers will patch together a peace in the plush surroundings of the international conference centres.

We have to fight in the working class and anti-war movements for a real understanding of the character of this war, and to break workers of the imperialist countries from chauvinist prejudices and pacifist illusions.

It is vital that we build a movement to bring this war to an end through workers’ action—action aimed at crippling the war machine of Bush and Major and forcing imperialism to retreat from the Middle East forever.

• Stop imperialism’s war against Iraq! US and European troops out of the Middle East!
• For the military victory of Iraq against imperialism!
• Defeat US, imperialist and allied forces. Victory to Iraq! Down with the UN!
• No sanctions! Break the blockade! Send aid, including military aid, to Iraq!
• No to conscription and call-up! Not a penny, not a person for the armed forces ranged against Iraq!
• The labour movement in all countries supporting the “allied effort” must oppose the war effort! Strike against the war! Boycott all war work! Workers’ action to stop the transport of weapons and troops to the Gulf and military production for the imperialist armies!
• Youth and students, protest against this war! Boycott lessons, occupy the colleges!
• Defend the right to protest against this war! No internment of exiles! Defend Arab and Muslim communities against racist attack and state repression! Reject all attempts by imperialist governments to impose military discipline on the working class and further attacks on civil and democratic rights!
• Soldiers—don’t die for big oil! Fraternise with your Iraqi brothers and sisters! Turn your guns on your officers!
• Turn this war into real war against imperialism. the Iraqi government must nationalise all imperialist holding and support the right of all Kurdish people to self-determination!
• Arm the population of Iraq; arm the Palestinians! Victory to the intifada!
• Support the anti-imperialist mass movements, and for the overthrow of all capitalist regimes in the region!
• The self-determination of the peoples of the Middle East cannot be obtained under the leadership of bourgeois nationalists or Islamic clerical reactionaries, only through a revolution led by the proletariat!
• Within Iraq revolutionaries fight for freedom of independent working class organisation, defence of religious rights, mobilisation of women for their full emancipation, and the building of a revolutionary Leninist-Trotskyist party!
• Down with Soviet collaboration with the imperialists. Demand the Soviet Union gives full military support to Iraq!
• For international working class solidarity against imperialist war!
• For a United Socialist States of the Middle East!