As history shows us, the more the bourgeoisie speaks of peace, the more important the competition to which they abandon themselves to drown any revolutionary uprisings in blood. It is this very scenario that the bourgeoisie applied when faced with the proletarian forces coming out of the uprisings of March 1991 in Iraq. Despite having suffered a few vicious setbacks since then, the proletariat is still managing locally to mark out a continuity in its refusal to submit to the State. This situation of permanent resistance constitutes an important factor in the destabilisation of the social order which makes the difficulties of capitalist restructuring more and more intolerable, not only on the regional level but also for the whole of the world State.

Since then, the State has been rushing to launch all its forces (UN, KDP, PUK, Islamists) on the proletariat and its struggles, profiting from the lack of organisation of our class. This offensive has taken the form of:

Proletarians being disarmed of any tools of combat - their guns as well as their class organisation. In parallel with this the State has reinforced the presence of all the institutions indispensable for the maintenance of social peace (nationalist police, new bourgeois parties...) to defend its order, its national economy and its society.

The material preparation necessary for sending proletarians back to work. Merely re-opening factories was not enough, it was also necessary to put proletarians in a situation of deplorable poverty, of famine for them to finally accept a return to work, so as to be exploited even more than before and to have to give their blood for the national economy.

The submission of proletarians to the spirit of sacrifice, to the safeguard of the nation and property, to respect for the laws and institutions for the maintenance of social peace (from the family and the mosque to the army and parliament), that is to say to the needs of capitalist production.

That said, this offensive to reestablish order with the aid of the various bourgeois fractions has run into a thousand and one phenomena of working class resistance which still prevent these fractions from being able to guarantee a long-lasting social peace sufficient for proletarians to return passively to work and to allow capitalists to reinvest in the region.

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The revolutionary proletariat is the gravedigger of the nation and of market exchange. Any defence of the fatherland, of progress and of the national economy further tightens the chain that keeps proletarians in slavery. The emancipation of the proletariat passes through sabotage of the national economy.

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Although the struggles preceding the insurrections of March 1991 aimed at globally confronting all the forces of the State (the Ba'ath party, the nationalists, the other opposition parties) it remains true that the movement contained numerous expressions limiting these attacks to the perspective of a society free of Ba'athists. This political limit of opposition to a form of government, which was present in the movement, put a brake on the social action against the whole of the conditions of life, against the whole of capitalist social relations: wage labour, prisons and so on.

Another fact: neither the parties nor the nationalist forces had an important role, neither militarily or politically, at the heart of the social conflicts. Their armed regiments consisted of not more than a few hundred people.

Subsequently, the waves of uprisings against the miserable living conditions in the North and the South of Iraq, the repression and the huge massacres during the war years by the Ba'athist government, the new international political conditions created by the Gulf War (including the condemnation of the Ba'athist regime by the "international community" of bourgeois States), all created a favourable terrain for the strong resurgence of fractions of the bourgeoisie opposed to the existing regime.

Until then, even if the revolutionary uprisings had occasionally been brought into confrontation with the parties and forces of the opposition, they nevertheless acted generally outside their influence and without these forces having to reveal their counter-revolutionary role too clearly. The revolutionary uprisings were genuinely autonomous and had clearly ruptured from the parties and the forces of the opposition, even if, in some places, there was a certain political and ideological influence of nationalism and democracy. But certain anti-Ba'athist limitations in the movement allowed the forces of the bourgeois opposition to partially infiltrate it. Thus, although they manifested considerable class ruptures, the shoras and other associations set up by the proletariat at this time also contained important limits to the rupture with democracy.

It is precisely from the moment that the movement organised itself in the form of shoras, in the form of mass associations, that the parties of the counter-revolution were able to assert their presence and elaborate their democratic-nationalist-populist ideology. These are therefore the limits of a sort of anti-Ba'athist consensus partially present in the revolutionary confrontation which allowed the bourgeoisie to crystallise, to set up as a barrier, the lack of rupture at the heart of the movement.

With the support of the world bourgeoisie and profiting from the condition of isolation of the struggle of proletarians in the region, the counter-revolution, personified by the nationalist organisations and opponents of the regime, is today bringing its corpses back to life. It is trying to take control of events and to progressively force a transformation of the general direction of the movement towards a war of liberation of the Kurds and Kurdistan, that is to say a war linked to the interests of the counter-revolution. In looking to disperse and atomise the proletariat war, the nationalists are not failing in their tasks, they are only trying to realise the goal fixed by their historic identity.

* * *

Proletarians set up barricades in most of the towns of the North and South of Iraq, they confronted the Iraqi army and police force with guns in their hands and wiped out the "Ba'athist" enemy. Faced with this situation there is not a single living bourgeois whose dirty egotistical desire to enrich himself did not push him into participating in the massacre of insurgent proletarians in the region.

It is at that moment that the nationalists, by all sorts of manoeuvres, chose to place themselves in leading positions facing the forces of the Ba'athist government. Recuperating the struggle waged by the proletariat, they hung on to that position which guaranteed them the "legitimacy" of renegotiating, hand in hand with the Ba'athist authorities, the division of tasks necessary for maintaining order and capitalist society.

The "victories" of proletarians having, at the time, been essentially military, it was easy for the nationalists to limit them to that aspect, wiping out the social dimension of the movement. This dimension has played an important role in the transformation of the class content of the uprisings: the liberator once again taking on the image of the Peshmerga, at least in the North of Iraq. Even if Peshmerga are not officially designated as a bourgeois force, this denomination nevertheless refers in public opinion to the particular institution which is the army of liberation of the Kurdish nation. In the present period this represents the nationalists of the PUK and the KDP. These have played the card of confusion to the full by denoting real nationless and internationalist proletarian martyrs as "Peshmerga who died on such or such a patriotic front".

This was particularly marked in Kirkuk during the attack which aimed to liberate the town. Hundreds of fallen proletarians were identified by the nationalists as being "martyrs" from such and such a bourgeois force while they were in fact its irreducible enemies. The official history thus gulps down the blood of the proletariat so as to create a list of "those who died for the fatherland". Each time, the presence of such and such nationalist contingent was sufficient to justify this recuperation while, as always, it was the proletarian insurgents who constituted the avant-garde of the fighting and not the nationalists.

This recuperation was doubled in a manoeuvre in which the nationalists set about dispersing the movement so as to better drag it in their wake. At the time when proletarians had just started to act against the State in the early stages of the uprising, the nationalists of the PUK and the KDP tried by every means to frighten and intimidate the populations of the insurgent towns, notably by the threat of an army counter-offensive and of a so-called government plan to massacre the Kurds by chemical bombing. They thus managed to push the majority of the population (including a large section of the families of proletarians who had taken an active part in the March insurrection) to leave their homes and head for the Iranian or Turkish borders. Those who managed to get to these safe places - many died from cold and hunger along the route of the exodus - found the forces of the UN and various States waiting to disarm them and put them in camps. At that stage the movement had lost a lot of political, social and also military potential: many of the combat positions gained during the struggles of the months of March, April and May had fallen into the hands of the coalition formed by the nationalists and the other parties of opposition to the Ba'athist government. At the same time the avant-garde which had wanted to remain in place was isolated and dissolved. During this time, all the bourgeois forces negotiated their part in the control of the region. Having profited from the exodus by pillaging houses, taking back the equipment and arms reappropriated by the insurgent proletarians, the nationalist chiefs had invited proletarians to return to their emptied houses!

They thought they were on favourable ground and started to put their bourgeois plans and projects into action: negotiations with central government (the Kurdish Front all-party Front), preparation of free and democratic elections, the establishment of autonomous Kurdish rule under the protection of worldwide capitalist States. The prisons were reinforced for those who failed to respect their law and order and torture and executions of "traitors" were organised everywhere.

Now that the armed forces of the Ba'athist central government had been liquidated, the task of imposing order in the North of Iraq fell quite naturally on them as historic members of the bourgeois opposition capable of dismantling the proletarian movement. In order to undertake the destruction of the proletarian movement, the nationalists had to, above all, build a new government which would ensure normal production and circulation of goods and guarantee the functioning of State institutions. For the nationalists this entailed rapidly reassuring the worldwide State regarding the efficacy of its work of social pacification of the proletariat. They proved irreproachable in their undertaking of this task! We are convinced that for this kind of mission, today's State does not have more faithful and effective servants.

Preoccupied by the constitution of their government and their nation, the Kurdish nationalist forces effectively tried everything to achieve a certain social stability, well aware that their existence, as that of any nation, is indissociably linked with putting proletarians to work and to efficient running of production. They knew very well that their existence, as new local managers of capitalist exploitation was directly linked to their victory in this domain.

If they are coming across some difficulties today, it is not because they are "managing things badly" as many opponents of the "critical support" school would have it, but because a large section of proletarians refuse to make solidarity with their government, its programme and its projects. These proletarians, which the nationalists insist on calling "citizens" know very well that their interests are diametrically opposed to those of the Kurdish patriots. They are aware that becoming "citizens" means submitting themselves to the will of their enemies, who thus enrich themselves and reinforce their power to their detriment.

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The later interventions of the Turkish army in the North of Iraq in the name of the war against the army of PKK (another agency of Kurdish nationalism which acts more on the Turkish side) have prolonged the international efforts to disarm the proletariat of the region. The essential objective of this operation was to cleanse the mountains and the bush of the region of entire families of proletarians who did not submit to the orders of the governments and bourgeois forces of the region. The danger of an insurrectionary outburst is on the horizon in all the countries of the region: Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Palestine... It is the fear of the unleashing of a class war which threatens to overrun borders which is the origin of the military mobilisation and manoeuvres of the armies. It was an offensive on a spectacular scale with the intervention of 35,000 Turkish soldiers and thousands of tanks and fighter aircraft.

The international support for this action was manifested in various ways. The UN suspended its supposedly protective flights over the North of Iraq to allow the Turkish army to act undisturbed. The Turkish army was also helped by numerous photographs of Iraqi Kurdistan taken by the British air force, French Jaguars and the AWACS aircraft of NATO. Elsewhere, countries such as the US, France and Germany have concentrated in the hands of the Turkish army an impressive amount of fire power, either in the form of sales or gives: armoured cars, anti-tank rockets, bombers, helicopters...

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Today, the proletariat in the North of Iraq is showing real difficulties in clearly dissociating its interests from those of the bourgeoisie and in asserting itself as an entirely autonomous class. Nevertheless, there is a generalised lack of trust in the nationalist forces and parties in Kurdistan.

It is important to remember that in this area there have always been extremely combative proletarian factions, organised at different levels, which have risen up in various periods of struggle to assume the revolutionary tasks of our class. This historical continuity of struggle in the region explains the lack of confidence in the nationalist proposals.

In this sense, one of the essential tasks of the bourgeoisie to stabilise order in the region is to disarm proletarians. The nationalists have had great difficulties in imposing this, especially given the ever-present fear that Saddam's armies could return. Proletarians are thus disarmed by militarising them into rival bourgeois camps. It is not a question here of physically taking their arms away from them, but of dissolving the force of the proletariat (the struggle to abolish all exploitation) in a confrontation with no future other than the eventual victory of one or other nationalist fraction which will have won the monopoly on the exploitation and repression of proletarians. Incapable of calmly and massively integrating the workers into the factories of the capitalist relaunch, the nationalists have turned their armies into factories filled with proletarians in peshmerga clothes who kill each other in rival bourgeois confrontations.

At this level, the proletariat has suffered its heaviest defeat since 1991. Having attacked the bourgeoisie head-on, aiming their guns at the Ba'athists and other bourgeois fractions, today proletarians find themselves placed as enemies of their own class brothers instead of assuming the continuity of the struggle of class against class by attacking the various elements of the Kurdish Front which today ensure the leadership of the State.

This reality confirms the crucial role played by the nationalists in the current reinforcement of the State in Iraq. In the division of labour amongst different bourgeois fractions, currently they are the best suited to dissolve the proletariat and to turn it into cannon fodder.

* * *

The emergence and reinforcement of Islamic forces in a region in which Islam had never really had a hold is the product of the same conditions described above. Their growing influence came about by their advantage of not having revealed their role in the heat of events, as did the other nationalist parties. Moreover, to understand the development of their numbers, it is necessary to take into account that these organisations are financially supported by various agents of world Capital in order to openly confront communism.

The Islamic movements in Iraq, as in other countries in the region, take advantage of a situation in which discontent and struggle against imposed living conditions affect a large number of proletarians and where, paradoxically, organisation and class unity are still weak. They take advantage of a situation in which the majority of proletarians have lost all illusions about the policies of the traditional bourgeois forces. How to trust parties who for decades, in the name of one or other democratic policy, in the name of national liberation or socialism, have touted charitable projects and promises which they are incapable of keeping and which always conclude in a blood bath?

For a long time social-democrats and other Leninists have been able to impose their capitalist programme in the name of a better world (1); today, in a period in which communism is still facing enormous difficulties in imposing itself as a perspective, it is the Islamists who, although they have no difference in nature from their atheist bourgeois colleagues, brandish their programme in the name of humanity. Their celestial pseudo-alternative appears just as radical for the fact that it is not based on national and immediate reform, but on a far more universal perspective.

In addition to these socio-political factors, Islamists dispose of that particular weapon that is the religious weapon, a weapon different to all others because in the context of an after-life to which there is only access after death, it is not necessary for them to propose solutions for the real and present world. Allah will sort everything out up there! Religious ideology thus plays a particularly effective role for the bourgeoisie, to the extent that they even lie about the existence of their after-life, as they make no promises to reform and improve the world down here, sparing them any criticism of not keeping to their word. Their political decisions, their religious consultations, their "Fatwa", come from their material and earthly beings, but they present them as being orders from God, which gives them the hope that they will not have to account for their criminal acts. They craftily plead that "We will all be returned to God and it is He who will judge"! But it is jumping the gun a bit to imagine they can keep the benefits of these arguments to hide their anti-proletarian nature for long.

Moreover, Iran is not far away and the consequences of the experience of the Islamist government in Iran, result of repression of the revolutionary movement there, are well-known. What the Islamist forces did there in the name of liberating human beings from capitalist civilisation, leaves them no cause to be jealous of what other bourgeois have realised throughout history. Reality has clearly shown that, in other terms, the Islamist forces are there to assume the same function as all other bourgeois fractions that have gone before them: to exploit proletarians and ensure the order and stability of Capital's mode of production.

Repeated uprisings by proletarians in Iranian towns and villages concretely reflect this decredibilisation of Islam and indicate that the days of these bands of bigots are well and truly numbered. When proletarians do attack the Islamist government, they will not content themselves with attacking the ruling government alone, but will fight Islam in all its forms.

The geographical proximity of Iran and the closeness in time of what happened around the Shah's downfall actually reduces the Islamists' room for manoeuvre in Iraq. Nor do they have the benefit of the image of uprightness and honesty that Khomeini enjoyed compared to the Shah: They have already been denounced

by many proletarians as religious men whose faith is directly inspired by whatever will fit into their wallets.

What differentiates the situation in Iraq from the rest of the world is that over the past few years, as in a few other countries, proletarians have shown an important level of struggle that is principally characterised by the continuity with which the proletariat confronts the State, a continuity which dates back to before the "Iran-Iraq" war and which, despite a ferocious repression throughout the years, cannot be quelled.

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At another level, it is clear that the capacity of the nationalists to recruit proletarians under their flags as well as the appearance of a new Islamist fraction equally expresses the difficulties experienced by the proletariat in openly defining its needs and fully reappropriating its social project of subversion of the old world.

The proletariat's lack of unity and weakness of class organisation allows the bourgeois to engage in any necessary battles to retake control of the situation and to know to whom the exploitation of proletarians will be granted next. The proletariat will live these inter-fractional wars for as long as it fails to strangle the whole of the forces aiming to keep capitalism in place, for as long as it fails to take its revolutionary project firmly in its own hands, for as long as it fails to openly claim the leadership of its movement by organising itself as a class, a force and thus as a party.

It was directly against the unification of the proletarian movement in the North and the South that the State divided the country into three zones. It is only by fighting against these geographical divisions that the proletariat will be able to reappropriate its own struggle, by retracing the class frontier to where it really is: between its own interests and those of Capital. The pursuit of proletarian struggle today has its stakes in recognition of the State within the whole of bourgeois fractions and forces, whatever the region, and to denounce each one, without exception, as enemies.

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During the March 1991 uprising, thousands of "Arab" deserters had refused to shoot at the rebels and at the local population and showed solidarity and a will to participate in the movement. Many of them had called for the rebels to come and take whatever weapons and other military equipment they needed from their barracks. Amongst these soldiers, some went directly over to the side of the movement and some were killed in battles side by side with other "Kurdish" rebel proletarians. Taking advantage of the weaknesses of the proletariat, in particular the lack of organisation and centralisation of activity, the nationalists were able to separate these "Arab" soldiers from the rest of the movement and capture them as prisoners of war. They handed these "prisoners" over to the Ba'athist authorities, as stipulated by the terms of the negotiations. As soon as it laid its hands on these soldiers the Iraqi Army began to execute hundreds of the most active. They sent their bodies back to their families with a letter: "This is what the savage Kurds have done to our son!" In this way the bourgeois fed hatred amongst proletarians: Kurds against Arabs, Islamists against non-Islamists, blacks against whites... The nationalists did the same thing on their side. Every time they killed or massacred "Kurdish proletarians" they said it was the work of the Arabs!

As the nationalists did not have any way, nor the force, to prevent proletarians from taking revenge by attacking the headquarters of Ba'athist organisations (police, party, secret service, prisons...) They tried to save - when they could - the high level officers and generals of the army, especially the Kurdish Ba'athist police and those in charge. Currently they play important roles in their ranks.

Clearly, in their negotiations, the nationalists placed all the responsibility for the massacre on the rebel proletarians, "savages without rules nor any respect for any order", including the responsibility for the massacre that they themselves carried out on the soldiers and militants with a Ba'athist base (the ones who had been forced to carry the party card for one reason or another, often because of work!).

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Continuation of the struggle in Iraq must equally entail putting forward the communist project: universal liberation of the human race from the State, from social classes, from money...in a word, the abolition of capitalist exploitation.

Assuming this perspective in Iraq today means:

In the present context in Iraq, it is indispensable to organise the action of the whole of the expressions of existing struggles (shoras, district revolutionary committees, groups of self-defence and class direct action...) and to encourage these practices to find their natural extension in the struggle of our brothers in other countries of the region (Iran, Turkey,...). Only the centralisation and generalisation of these struggles will allow the affirmation of a single class, a single movement organically soldered to the communist and internationalist social project. This consolidation of our struggle will pass through the struggle against nationalists and the Nation, Islamists and religion, against humanists and pacifists, against every kind of reformist.

Down with the society of wage slavery !

Down with the State, the Nation and bourgeois wars !

Victory to the proletarians' revolutionary movement !

Victory to the dictatorship of the needs of the human community !

* May 1996 *

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Note :

1. The "workers communist parties" in Iraq and Iran are living examples of classical Leninist organisations which put out radical slogans of proletarian revolution against the bourgeoisie but which, in practice, call for proletarians to defend the democratic rights and liberties of the exploited "people"... Although some militants from these organisations have been executed under the regime of these same democratic rights and liberties and some are still in the prisons of democracy, these organisations still call for more democracy! The programme of these organisations is limited to the democratic struggle for a "workers'" power which would manage the society (of wage labour) in an egalitarian manner and would give freedom to its citizens and to all political forces in the society (sic!) to enjoy the right (of property!). This is how the so-called communists follow the path of emancipation of proletarians: work for the workers... ownership of production for themselves! What they propose is Capital "with a workers' management", or rather a capitalist management in the name of the power of the proletariat.

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Read "Additional notes on the insurrection of March 1991 in Iraq"


CM11.3.2 Nationalism and islamism against the proletariat