. The following article is from Detroit Workers' Voice #35, March 3, 2003, which is published
by the Detroit Marxist-Leninist Study Group. Reprinted in Communist Voice, May 20, 2003.
. Bush's war against Iraq could break out any day. It's not a war for freedom, but for domination.
. It's a war to control the Middle East. In his speech of Feb. 26, Bush called for changing the entire region. And while he didn't say so, everyone knows that it is considered an area of US "vital interest" because of its oil.
. It's a war in which the new weapons being developed by the US in the name of the "revolution in military affairs" will be tested. Bush is even pondering the use of mini-nuclear and chemical weapons.
. It's a war to intimidate the rest of the world, to "shock and awe" them, and to put them on notice that the US will take unilateral action to crush anyone who looks at it the wrong way.
. It's a war against a rival bully, the Hussein regime, where both sides are oppressors of the Iraqi masses.
. In brief, it's a war for oil and empire.
. But as the war comes nearer, a cry of "No War!" has thundered through the streets of cities here and around the world. On the weekend of Feb. 15-16, millions of people in the US and around the world rallied in huge demonstrations to demand and end to Bush's war plans against Iraq. And the demonstrations continue.
. At present, there are many different ideas and trends which are critical of the coming war. There
are those who oppose the building up of a US empire. But there are also those who worry that the
war would be a disaster for US influence. There are even, although not at the demos,
governments that oppose an immediate war. And there are other trends. As the war breaks out,
not all these forces will react the same way. Let's look more closely at them. To fight the
capitalist war machine, we must know who are its reliable opponents, and who will waver. We
must know what the class basis of the war is.
The UN drama
. The Bush government has been meeting delay and opposition in the UN. So some people are promoting the UN and international law as salvation. But what is really going on in the UN?
. The French, German and Russian governments have called for the UN to continue weapons inspections for months, rather than have an immediate war. But the capitalist rulers of these countries don't care about the Iraqi people any more than Bush. Nor are they necessarily opposed to an eventual war sometime down the road. They are, however, afraid that the war will stir up a hornet's nest of angry people throughout the Middle East. And they are opposed to Bush's unilateral military approach to every problem. They want mutilateralism, where their big-business interests aren't always sacrificed for Washington's.
. Thus the French, German and Russian governments agree with Bush in pushing globalization and privatization upon the world. They too stand for a system where the whole world is exploited for the sake of a handful of wealthy industrialized powers. They are equally imperialists with Bush, but they want a multilateral imperialism.
. But Europe doesn't consist solely of governments. There are also the European working people, who came out in their millions on the Feb. 15-16 weekend to protest the war. The European workers don't like aggressive war, and they don't like neo-liberalism. Moreover, the biggest demos in Europe were in Britain, Italy and Spain, where the governments back the war. In Europe, as in the US, the workers want one thing, and the governments another.
. The UN, however, represents not the people, but the governments. What will it do if the
Security Council defeats a new US-backed resolution, but the US goes to war anyway? Is it
seriously going to try and punish the Bush administration? Not a chance! The UN, and
international law, simply reflect the balance of power among the present-day governments and
ruling classes. The disagreements among the capitalist states may be expressed in the UN, but
there aren't any anti-capitalist forces there. The big powers that dominate the world, dominate the
UN. That is why only countries who anger the strongest and largest capitalist states are subject to
serious sanctions, not the big capitalist states themselves.
Bush poses as a liberator, but plans military rule
. Pro-war propaganda has been portraying Bush as on a mission to "liberate" the Iraqi people from Hussein's tyranny. But Bush doesn't care for the freedom of the Iraqi people any more than he cares for civil liberties in the US, or the Social Security system, or the access of blacks and other minorities to college. No, the struggle between Bush and Hussein is not a battle between a liberator and a bully, but a fight between two bullies.
. The Hussein regime is a vicious dictatorship. It fought Iran for a decade and invaded Kuwait for the sake of building itself up as a regional bully, and it has butchered the Kurdish and other oppressed peoples in Iraq. But the US is an even bigger world bully, and it has built up bloody military alliances in the Persian Gulf region. The Bush doctrine declares that the US should be unchallenged ruler of the world, backed up by vast military superiority and striking first against anyone who gets in the way. It is not world democracy that US imperialism wants, but total hegemony.
. Thus, while Bush talks about bringing democracy to Iraq, he is planning for military rule. Currently the idea is to install a US general, possibly Tommy Franks, as dictator, while other US officials take over the top spots in each ministry. In effect, Bush would use one of the "military tribunals" he is so fond of to rule the entire country of Iraq. Elections for a new national government will be postponed for years and years. Bush is concerned, not with democracy, but with having a reliably pro-US government in Iraq.
. Nor does Bush plan to grant the right to self-determination to the Kurds in Iraq, although this would be the only way to solve the Kurdish issue democratically. The Bush administration, like past US administrations, has used the Kurdish people as pawns, but it has never supported their democratic rights. Bush's envoy Zalmay Khalilzad recently went to the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq to tell them to forget about self-determination. In negotiations to get Turkey to join the war against Iraq, the US offered it the right to make more use of its army in suppressing Kurdish national rights in Iraq. (The Turkish government, which suppresses its own Kurdish minority, wants to keep the neighboring Iraqi Kurds in line. ) This deal might collapse under the pressure of the Turkish masses. But even so, the US has consistently opposed a democratic solution to the Kurdish question on the grounds that this would destabilize the area and harm US interests.
. Bush's plans are so arrogant and undemocratic that even some anti-Hussein groups favoring a US invasion are expressing anger. Responding to the plan to install a US military government, a deputy prime minister of the present Kurdish administration in the north stated "Conquerors always call themselves liberators. " Meanwhile the leader of the largest Shia group favoring war told MSNBC on Feb. 25 that "if the United States installs an American general, this is against the idea of democracy" and could lead to a "religious war" against the American occupation. Keep in mind, these are the views of Iraqi's who support a US invasion!
. At the end of the first Gulf War, the Kurds and Shias were encouraged to revolt against Hussein
by the administration of Bush senior. Hussein's forces were driven out of many areas. But Bush
senior preferred the stability of Iraq under Hussein to the uprisings, and he waited until they were
crushed before establishing the "no fly zones". Now that Bush junior has decided to topple
Hussein, he sheds crocodile tears in support of democracy in Iraq, while planning a few years of
military rule. Even pro-US Iraqi's can't help but be suspicious.
Solidarity with the Iraqi people vs. Hussein and imperialism!
. It is not Bush, but anti-imperialist activists around the world who support Iraqi democracy. Supporting the Iraqi people requires both opposing the war, and opposing Hussein's tyranny.
. Iraq has its own forces fighting for freedom. It was the discontent among the Iraqi masses which led to the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958, while Britain and the US backed the monarchy. The Iraqi masses didn't achieve all their goals, and by 1979 Hussein took over sole power in Iraq. The US government, interested not in freedom but in strongmen to put down the people, was happy to make deals with Hussein in the 1980s.
. The development of the mass struggle in Iraq and the Middle East has been fought by imperialism every step of the way. The US has sent billions of dollars into the Middle East to back up tyrannical regimes like those in Saudi Arabia and Egypt; it has backed to the hilt Israel, which has waged a constant war on the Arab masses; and it has supported murders, government coups, and other ways of crushing progress. If the Bush administration really wanted to help democracy in the Middle East, it should stop the aid to reactionary regimes, end secret US operations, and withdraw US pressure from the Middle East.
. Today there are people in Iraq who oppose both Saddam Hussein's regime and US invasion. But there is no large left-wing group with a clear revolutionary stand. Supporting the Iraqi masses today is complicated by the influence of this or that bourgeoisie over the largest and most influential groups. For example, the largest Kurdish groups are led by bourgeois nationalists, who have repeatedly tried to work with US imperialism and who have been repeatedly betrayed. The Shia elite exert a strong influence on the Shia majority in the South through Islamic religious movements. These forces are more concerned about getting positions of power for their respective ruling classes than the well-being of the masses. Other Iraqi working people also have had trouble developing class organizations that speak in their interest.
. But if the Iraqi people's movements are presently in disarray, so are the movements of working
people in the US and elsewhere. It is nevertheless the working people, not the imperialist
governments, that harbor a real sentiment for economic and political freedoms. It is the working
people who form the real bastion of the anti-war movement, and we must work to link up with
the Iraqi masses. Both in Iraq, and here in the US, the workers face a struggle to build up an
independent movement that really represents their interests. To help encourage this struggle, we
must oppose both US invasion and the Hussein regime.
Multilateral imperialism and Democratic opposition
. In the US too, it is the working masses, not the official leaders, that are the real source of opposition to the war. The Democratic Party tries to portray itself as some sort of opposition to Bush. But the Bush-Cheney war machine has received great help from the Democratic Party. For example, the Congressional Democratic leadership pushed through Congress the resolution allowing Bush to attack Iraq even without UN approval.
. A number of Democrats, however, are fretting about going to war without UN support. Instead of Bush's unilateralism, they prefer lining up the other major powers in a multilateral alliance before embarking on war. They are seriously worried that Bush is overreaching himself and the US alliance with the other big Western powers is threatened. They don't reject war as an option, and in the meantime many of them favor economic sanctions which have brought great suffering to the Iraqi people. Many of them are concerned simply to find the "right" war, and advocate that US attention should turn to North Korea rather than Iraq.
. Even the few congressional Democrats that speak at peace marches don't really reject this war as an option. Former Michigan Congressman Bonior went on a "peace" mission to Iraq along with Congressman Jim McDermott, but McDermott said their message to Hussein was "If you don't have unfettered inspections, you are going to have war. " Meanwhile Detroit's John Conyers and New York's Charles Rangel have called for reviving the draft. They claim that if there's a draft, rich people will be at risk like poor people, and so the rich won't want to go to war. They imply that they are fighting war by advocating a draft. But in fact, they are paving the way for increased militarism. And they have had no trouble joining with other congresspeople who want a draft precisely in order to strengthen the military. As for equality of sacrifice, past experience shows that, even when the rich serve in the armed forces, those who wish to can easily worm their way into safe positions and the upper ranks. Supporting the draft means being a Pentagon recruiter, not an anti-war or anti-racist fighter.
. Thus the Democrats may sometimes criticize Bush, but they don't oppose imperialism. They criticize Bush for weakening imperialism and its supposed "war on terrorism", and they compete with Bush in strengthening the military. They do this because the Democrats, like the Republicans, are a party of big business. They may appeal for votes to the minorities and working people, but their hands are out for business contributions, and they legislate on behalf of business interests. War and imperialism aren't simply policy mistakes, but are based on the interests of the capitalist class.
. The American capitalists aren't satisfied with driving down workers here, but are driven to
dominate the world in order to secure markets, resources and cheap labor. Whenever they meet
resistance, be it from the oppressed masses or rival capitalist regimes, they rely on the military to
protect their interests. This is the imperialist system that the Republicans and Democrats are tied
to hand and foot. Today Bush represents the unilateralist wing of the imperialists, while his
Democratic critics are multilateral imperialists.
For an anti-imperialist orientation
. The issue of war with Iraq is causing a major political crisis. Debates and protests are taking place not just on the streets all over the world, but even in the ruling parties of various countries and in the UN. Different people are worried about the war for different reasons. The bourgeoisie is concerned over the best way to strengthen imperialism -- should it be unilateral or multilateral? But the working people are fed up with wars for oil and empire.
. It is not a bad thing that the different bourgeoisies are squabbling among themselves. This helps retard imperialist plans, and it gives room for the masses to exert themselves. But if we don't want to simply end up supporting one bourgeoisie against another -- or one bourgeois policy, multilateralism, versus another, unilateralism -- we must work to orient the anti-war movement in an anti-imperialist direction. Only a movement built on this basis can have a consistent opposition to aggressive war, whether or not there is a UN resolution, and whatever the twists and turns of ruling class politics.
. A strong anti-war movement must be based on the working masses. It should put the system of
empire-building on trial, rather than worrying over how to strengthen imperialism. It should
orient itself to building links between the working people of all countries, and to supporting their
struggles against both US imperialism and the local exploiting regimes. It should show the class
basis of the war in the interests of the capitalist classes. In this way, the anti-war movement will
contribute to building up an independent movement of the working class, and to preparing a
struggle against the capitalist root of the imperialist evil. The more it does so, the more the
energy and organization developed in one struggle can be transferred to the next. The more it
does so, the more it will become clear that we are fighting not merely against some bad policies,
but a class of oppressors.
Last changed on May 25, 2003.