Our reviews are means, products and parts of this fight and are for proletarians who, starting out from our common situation of being exploited and oppressed, starting out from the class hatred against the exploiters and oppressors and from the class solidarity for our brothers, are trying to find the way of common fight.
Another important feature of our central reviews is the fact that - due to their general level of globalisation and abstraction - they become an explicit reference in the history of our class, i.e. just like communist militants today use the material that was passed on to them by previous generations of militants, in the same way today's material that we elaborate will also be an element of clarification and reinforcement for communists tomorrow. In this sense, the existence of our central reviews does not depend on the present situation of the proletariat.
But it is easy to understand that as far as our real possibilities and the concrete means to publish such reviews are concerned, we depend entirely on the present (and past) situation of our class. As a matter of fact, it is clear that it would be irresponsible to decide to publish a review in this or that language (arguing about the historical necessity of it) without considering the real (immediate and potential) possibilities one has for turning such a publication into a REGULAR means for the centralization of communist activity.
Why the English language review is a special case?
For the reviews in French and Spanish, and in a nearly uninterrupted manner since the creation of our group (1978) practically all the concrete possibilities have been existing to publish them: continuous militant activity of the group using these languages; a relatively large number of militants and contacts involved in these activities and real possibilities to distribute them. For the English language review, at least some of these aspects are non-existent, or questionable (*).
During the last years we had to realize that the situation - with regard to these criteria - has become much less favourable, much more difficult for us... and of course, such a recognition of the real state of affairs, of the real state of our situation, our forces, should be linked up with the general state of isolation and weaknesses that we live in and that our movement is going through (has been going through for the last decade... and more!). We had to check very carefully and very precisely what necessities we are facing and what possibilities we do have.
For sure, wherever we have travelled, wherever we have met other comrades whose language we did not speak and who did not understand French or Spanish, we nearly always managed to communicate in English. Comrades in other countries, such as Germany, Norway, India, Taiwan,... nearly always relied on English to get in touch and communicate with us. This undoubtedly is due to the fact that English today is the privileged language, the first international language for the communication of capitalist transactions (in finance, commerce, science,...) and that consequently in most countries the imposition of English as a second language is considered by the local States to be a worthwhile investment.
So the necessity of an English language review, as a means for ourselves to contact militants in many different areas of the world, as a means and agent for the centralization of international struggle, has clearly imposed itself on us as an absolute necessity.
Compared to this necessity, our possibilities to assume such a publication, on this particular (high) level of abstraction, are really weak. They are weak in regard to the requirements for such a review (its quality) as well as in regard to the very limited means that we really dispose of: inside our group there are no comrades for whom English is the mother tongue, and outside the group, there are only few sympathizers that we can count on to help us with the translations.
Finally, we agreed that in spite of these difficulties, we really need the English language review, as it is a means of opening some (though limited) new perspectives, too. The group should act, also concerning these questions, in historical perspective, and judge the importance of its actions on the basis of this historical approach. The aspect of concrete English language activity is weaker (but not non-existent), but the potential perspective is much more important.
We need the review in English to maintain and improve our contacts with fighting proletarians and to have chance to make new contacts by the means of circulating our review, wherever it is possible. We cannot just wait for a greater demand for a review in English, we should contribute to the development of a real demand for if. We want the review in English to be a possible means of breaking out of the general state of isolation and weaknesses that we live in and that our movement is going through.
We are expecting all our comrades ("readers") to contribute to the task of reading, criticising, and spreading this review, as well as to the task of translating, writing, etc.. We need the comrades' contributions and we consider it our task, among others, to organize these contributions. We are aware that this will be one of the main conditions for our activities with the means of this language to become more real.
(*) This, of course, does not mean that as far as the French and Spanish reviews are concerned, we do not encounter such difficulties. But it is true that for reasons related to the "personal" history of the militants of different origins who are responsible for these publications, that the difficulties we are mentioning regarding the Communism review have less effect on the group's capacities to assure regular publications in these two languages. To have a better understanding of how we organise the political centralisation, the homogenisation of the contents of our publications in different languages, we refer to the editorial we published in Communism No.5.
War is nothing else but an inevitable expression of private property of the means of production, freedom of trade and competition.
Moreover, looking through the historical development of Capital and the consequent exacerbation of all the contradictions, we can see that this system only grew up thanks to successive wars and that the cycle it needs to survive is: crisis, war, reconstruction, expansion, new crisis,... and so on. Concretely, capitalist progress and development are made possible through barbarity and war.
Briefly explained, the reason for this is that the mass of capital grows more quickly than its possibilities of valorization. Thus comes a time of overproduction of capital, which leads to the situation that part of the worldwide social capital is excluded from the valorization process, by and on the benefit of another part of the same worldwide social capital; the conditions for a new valorization process will only be regenerated from and on the basis of a violent devalorization of a part of capital; or, to put it in a better way, on the basis of the fact that part of capital stops working as such (bankruptcy or physical destruction of the means of production).
Closing down factories or putting part of constant capital on the rubbish heap, as it happens daily through the "normal" application of the law of value, are never enough. That's the reason why regularly a generalized depression takes place and leads to a generalized devalorization of all existing capital, capital that does not meet any possibility of profitability and must "normally" lead to generalized bankruptcy of the less profitable capitalists. This is a question of life or death for the latter (as well as all the others) to resist this inexorable law of Capital. That's how, for example, the profitability of a sector can be altered on the basis of protectionism,... which only leads to pass its own sentence on other capitalists. The organization of capitalists, on different levels of centralization, aiming at leading and aiming to lead this war with the best possible conditions (societies, cartels, national States, imperialist blocs,...) periodically gives birth to war: this war is a partial solution to the problems of worldwide capitalism. Beyond the fact that wars develop as interimperialist struggles to seize means of production and markets; beyond the fact that in the consciousness of part of the bourgeois this war looks like a war against other bourgeois (which it is as well); war, as a matter of fact, through the destruction of an important part of world capital, improves the general conditions of valorization of the whole of the international social capital.
This is the reason why it is a reactionary utopia to want to stop war while keeping this society that generates war. To stop the run for war, it will be necessary to give up the economic capitalist development; to stop the barbarity that capitalist progress means, it will be necessary to stop the development of bourgeois economy, that of national production, etc. Capitalism is reproduction, growth, development,... this is the reason why only the destruction of capitalism will suppress wars.
The more Capital develops, the more the whole of its contradictions and atrocities develop; more progress and growth means more depressions, crises, necessities of new wars. The criminal role of those apologists of development and progressive clerics becomes clear.
As to peace that follows war, far from being the real negation of war, it only exists as part and product of the latter, as momentary and unstable formalization of a given correlation of terrorist forces, a correlation that other terrorist forces will inevitably consider as unfair and imposed by violence, and thus a pretext for a future war.
While the bourgeois solution to the crisis of society can only be a partial solution, the communist revolution is the general solution par excellence. While only war -with peace, reconstruction and, in the best case, the expansion they mean- can boost a new infernal cycle towards a new depression and a new war, social revolution appears as the unique alternative able to break once and for all from the permanent barbarity of war.
But, as bourgeoisie only is the class that represents Capital and embodies its historical agent, proletariat is the historical agent of the revolutionary negation of Capital, the historical class of the social revolution.
Bourgeoisie is the one that enforces all determinations of Capital and cannot escape from any of them. The struggle for the maximum profit, the competition, the commercial war and war as such are as essential to this class as breathing is to human beings.
On the other hand, whatever illusions proletarians may have about improving their lot in this society, or about war, proletariat as a class is historically forced by its own social situation to deny the whole of capitalist society, to impose through revolutionary violence the destruction of the society based on the dictatorship of profit, competition and war; it is historically forced to make the worldwide revolution.
Communist revolution is not an alternative among alternatives, it is the unique alternative to this society of misery and permanent war. In this sense the contradiction: war/revolution is just an expression of the contradiction: capitalism/communism, an expression of the antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat.
This is where our Party's invariant position against war and for revolution comes from. This position is expressed in our thesis 26 (Cf. Theses of programmatical orientation):
"Workers have no homeland, one cannot take away from them what doesn't belong to them. Any form of defense of the nation, under whatever pretext, is an attack against the worldwide working class. Under the reign of bourgeoisie, all wars are imperialist wars opposing two or more factions or groups of interests of world capital. Proletariat launch and claim only one war: the social war against the whole bourgeoisie. Independently of the direct intentions of the protagonists, the essential role of wars is to affirm Capital and to smash objectively and subjectively the subversive class within this society. In this sense, wars are never merely wars between National States, between the forces of "national liberation" and the "imperialist" forces, or wars between "imperialists", they are essentially wars of Capital against communism.
Opposed to all interbourgeois antagonisms between "progressive" and "reactionary" factions, "fascist" and "anti-fascist" factions, "left wing" and "right wing" factions,... the logical consequences of which are imperialist wars, the proletariat has no other solution but the intransigent struggle against all sacrifices (against all truce, all national solidarity): revolutionary defeatism, turning its weapons against its "own" direct exploiters, against its "own" direct oppressors. The proletariat's aim is to transform (for the international centralization of this community of struggle against Capital) capitalist war into a revolutionary war of the world proletariat against the word bourgeoisie."
War in itself, the open declaration of the hostilities, contrarily to what pacifists say, is by no means a change of nature of bourgeois society; it is by no means a break from its progress; it is only the most natural result of economic development, of competition, of social and interbourgeois peace.
On the other hand, from the point of view of humanity, war means a qualitative step in the antagonism between Capital and the human being, between bourgeoisie and proletariat, between war and revolution. To schematize, let's say that the reasons are:
As we said it before, we consider this a false polemic, a false opposition. In reality, every national war in the capitalist system is at the same time an imperialist war and a war to destroy the proletariat. This needs some more explanation.
The point is not that each faction of the bourgeoisie, when going to war seeks to destroy the proletariat or to provoke a general devalorization of capital to improve the general condition of valorization. These factions generally go to war to destroy the enemy they are in competition with, to take over their competitors' means of production and/or markets, to prevent the devalorization of their own products by taking over part or the whole of their enemy's means of production. But, while considering all this as objective facts and beyond the consciousness of those who enter into the war, it is important to see that they realize the immanent tendency of capitalist production to destroy the productive forces of Capital (means of production and labour force), provoking this way the devalorization of capital that will later make reconstruction and valorization of the rest of world capital easier, destroying at the same time the real subject of communism.
To put it more clearly, let's consider the basis of capitalist society. Capitalist society cannot exist through simple reproduction, as we have already said it; it cannot exist without the development of the productive forces, without the constant revolution of the mode of production. The slightest historically-empirical observation enables us to understand that technological progress is part of the life of Capital. Nevertheless, from the point of view of the whole, from the point of view of the social capital, it does not improve the conditions of profitability; on the contrary, inasmuch as it is concretized by (or as it takes shape in) an increase of the organical composition of Capital (we don't take into account here the case of a development of the technical composition of Capital thwarted by a reduction of the composition in term of value), technical progress would tend to a reduction of the world rate of profit if there where no conditions thwarting this law (such as the increase of the rate of exploitation). The question will then be: why do capitalists impulse technical progress if it tends to reduce the average rate of profit and to devalorize the existing capital (an increase of the productivity of labour does not only reduce the value of what's going to be produced, but also the value of what has already been produced, according to the fact that the value is not the time of labour required to produce something, but the time of labour required to produce it again, to reproduce it?
The answer is: the essence of Capital is competition, anarchy and opposition of capitals; Capital only is a whole of opposed and struggling capitals; it is not "Capital in general" that economically decides, but each capitalist, each specific faction of capital; of course, all of them are interested in technical progress since on the basis of that they can make "extraordinary surplus value". Indeed, each individual capitalist or (which, at a certain level, is the same) each faction of Capital increasing the productive force of labour it exploits, obtains a time of labour of the produced commodities lower than the time of labour of the mass of the same article produced within the average world social conditions. That is to say, what is wrongly called "the individual value" is then higher than its social value. Of course, the real value of a commodity is not its individual value but its social value (which is not measured by the time of labour needed in each case, but by the time of labour socially required for its production), thus, the faction of Capital that uses the more performant technique obtains the same products, and therefore the same value as its competitors with less work: that's where the extraordinary surplus value comes from.
Capitalists don't bother developing productive forces,... they have to! The same way, and although they do so to get a higher particular valorization, willingly or not, (in reality they don't want it!) capitalists provoke a general devalorization of Capital. This is why long before we did, other revolutionary militants understood that the contradiction of Capital lies in Capital itself.
Among the general tendencies necessary to Capital, it is important to distinguish, on the one hand, the tendency to war of devalorization and destruction of the historical enemy, and on the other hand, the forms it takes, that is to say, that the form in which the coercive law of competition imposes itself appears like a motivation in the consciousness of the different factions of Capital (trusts, cartels, coalition, National States,...).
That is the reason why, while the whole of bourgeois society is busy with interbourgeois problems -interimperialist problems-, while before and during wars the media inform about the relation of forces between the two opposed camps or talk about governmental and diplomatic chitchat trying to formalize this relation of forces into this or that kind of agreement or peace treaty or convention, we stress the fact that imperialist war is a war of affirmation of capitalism, a war against proletariat, against communism.
War is as much interimperialist as capitalist and against proletariat. In the face of this objective reality, both classes have their own interests and their own class point of view. The bourgeoisie (and the public opinion it makes) is on the belligerent and interimperialist terrain (terrain from which come the discourse of the Pope and the other pacifists, and more generally, the diplomatic agreements); the proletariat, and mainly the most decided and organized elements of this class, i.e. the communists, are openly on the terrain of the revolutionary struggle against war.
The International Communist Group, as part of the large work done by our historical Party since its origins up until now, has always centred its efforts on revolutionary defeatism and has impulsed in this framework theoretical clarification; we have published historical material of our class, we have taken position against all wars of Capital and, in so far as we were able to, our group participated in different actions and meetings trying to organize the revolutionary minorities leading the proletariat in its struggle against Capital.
Once again we claim the general coherence of the material we published in this sense in our central reviews, not only because we think they can contribute to explain the Gulf war and what they call now (April 1991) peace in that area, but also because they still are essential for the understanding of the future.
Beside the Theses of Programmatical Orientation of our group that are an attempt to put forward the evidence of the relationship between the contradiction capital-communism and imperialist war-social revolution, material we have published (without being exhaustive) can be divided into three groups. They are as follows:
1) fundamental works about capitalism and wars;
2) revolutionary defeatism and organization of the community of struggle against Capital and war;
3) analyses of military forces and positions against war and for the revolution.
Against all bourgeois discourses claiming that, at last, the epoch of eternal peace has arisen, once again capitalism has showed its truly warlike nature.
The imperialist war once again confirmed itself as war of Capital for its conservation, as war against proletariat. That is to say, it proved itself to be at the same time war for big money and destruction of productive forces, to be an international window for arms industries and to be the moment of the massacre of proletarians.
About the immense forces in the Gulf war, the analysis of the military power of the USA (and more particularly the general reorganization of the army, done in this country to take over the role of super-gendarme of the international bourgeois order even better) is important enough to call the reader to read our text "The army and the military politics of the United States". In the Gulf war it appeared as a whole what we described as the reorganization of the army and the military politics of the United States, it found in this war its rightest confirmation and application. Since we wrote the text, the only thing that has changed within the most powerful military force of the world is the growing importance of conflicts of the so-called "medium-intensity" (such as the Gulf war) in relation with other so-called conflicts of "high-intensity" (unlikely to happen -momentarily- with the end of the Warsaw PPact, and determined by the interimperialist contradictions within the Warsaw Pact itself) and the conflicts of "low-intensity" (diminution of the relative importance of guerrilla groups); but even this variation is nothing but an application of the general flexibility that we analyzed in our texts.
While taking up this subject starting from the area of war, it might be useful to read some of the articles in which our group, against the current, insisted on the importance of the development of the contradiction between "war and revolution" in that region. While no one saw anything but a war between two countries, in these articles we put forward that in Iran and Iraq, it was a capitalist war against the proletariat. We insisted on the fact that it was a war against the revolutionary action of the proletariat in the area (especially in Iran, where the bourgeoisie played the radical card of Khomeini to stop the proletarian revolt that had managed to disarm one of the strongest armies of the world), we said that it was a war to affirm counterrevolution. All along these texts we have always presented peace as a moment of war, and for this reason, when Iran and Iraq signed a peace treaty and everyone thought the question was out, we kept on insisting and calling revolutionaries to carry on and organize the work of the community of struggle of the proletariat against war and peace in Iran and in Iraq, and we made an international meeting with this aim.
We did so as much on the basis of our global conception (peace and war as expressions of the same totality against the proletariat) as on the basis of information we had thanks to contacts (confirming that the military mobilization carried on). It is essential to read the Manifesto written by our comrades in the area in 1982 (in Le Communiste No.24) as well as "Iran-Iraq: class war against imperialist war" (in Wildcat No.10), or "Massacre in Hallabja" (in Communism No.6), because, on the basis of our comrades' information we put forward that beyond the contradiction between imperialist forces at war in Iran and Iraq and at different moments of the past, the principal contradiction between capitalist war (and peace) on the one hand and proletariat on the other hand reaches impressive levels of exacerbation.
Starting from this framework of analysis for years, our group considers the Iran-Iraq area as a key area for the development of the contradiction between bourgeoisie and proletariat, capital and communism. In this sense, the realization of an international campaign against capitalist war, and more particularly against war and peace in Iran and in Iraq, has been the central axis of our internationalist activity (cf. "The invariance of our international activity: some practical elements to concretize this proposition" in Communism No.5 and "Massacre in Hallabja" in Communism No.6).
Although at the level of analysis there is nothing to add, seeing the development of the Gulf war, its quickness, the continuation of internal interbourgeois wars in the area, it could be interesting and useful to make a consequent description, starting from our class point of view and against all media lies.
Once more in the history of capitalism tens and hundreds of thousands of proletarians were sent to butchery, to massacre on behalf of the peace of the homeland, of democracy, of the liberation from imperialism and/or dictatorship. Once again behind the proletarians killing each other there lay nothing else but a problem of money, a lot of money, a problem of value fighting to valorize, of capitalist war, of war of capital.
Everything was set up for the generalized best massacre. In August '90, the Iraqi State cleared up the prisons. Proletarians considered to be the most politically dangerous ones were slaughtered. It was a current practice during the war with Iran. It was interrupted when the two countries signed a truce. Then the State granted an amnesty to most of the so-called "common law" prisoners as well as to lots of ex-deserters. It offered them some money to justify it and sent all of them (most of whom were not prepared to fight) to the front.
On the battlefield in Iraq and in Kuwait these proletarians (remember that immigrant proletarians were the first to be recruited by force in the Iraqi army and sent to the front) were literally buried, obliged by guns pointed in their back to stay in the trenches dug in the desert. In front of them there were minefields to prevent desertion and surrender, in their backs there were the elite troops (the republican guard) assuring summary execution to anyone who tried to go backwards or to run away.
Once the land offensive had been unleashed, the Coalition Forces crew over their victory and claimed they had put three quarters of the regular forces of the enemy out of the fight (although there were only ten percent of the republican guard amongst the latter). According to our point of view this clearly is the cynical confession of the fact that the massacre was concentrated on proletarians wearing uniforms. These cries of victory confirm that tens of thousands of human beings without any possibility to defend themselves were sacrificed by the Iraqi State and the Coalition Forces. For the Iraqi State still shooting at its own troops that were massively deserting the day before, this deployment of forces was essential: these tens of thousands of beings transformed into cannon fodder would hold up (even just a few days) the irremediable advance of the enemy. For the Coalition, these troops keeping still, buried and without any sophisticated weapons were a very easy target on which the whole of the killing material could be checked with very few risks for themselves.
Long before the official launching of the combats, the Iraqi civil population had been taken as hostages (the other "hostages" -the bourgeois- managed to be released) and undergone for months a situation of generalized shortage because of the total blockade (health care and food included) organized and controlled by the whole of the Coalition countries with the support of the United Nations. Here as well, the Iraqi State will take over the blockade subordinating life to the requirements of its war, imposing an even higher level of militarization on the whole of society and, doing so, ever more strongly submitting proletarians to the interests of the nation. By the way, let's notice that it's this situation of food embargo and blockade that most of the pacifists claim. As good humanists, it is to this situation they proposed to go back, once the bombing had started, in order to go right to the end with the blockade.
About bombings themselves, no one tried to hide the hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs dropped on the Iraqi and Kuwaiti territories, sowing death and destruction. On the contrary, media make all they could to convince the whole planet that it was just a "surgical operation" destroying only military targets. Starting from the same hypocrite distinction between civilian and soldier (those enrolled by force for instance are "naturally" considered as military targets), the aim of the propaganda is to make the proletariat of the rest of the world accept the development of "such a far away" massacre. We know these are our class brothers who have been oppressed to the extreme by war, who have undergone this nightmare and have fallen under tones of death material dropped on them day after day.
Given the political-military weakness of the block led by Saddam Hussein, the proletariat of the Coalition countries didn't directly suffer from the bombings or from other atrocities inherent in wars (only the troops of elite count a few deaths), but nevertheless, it endured a violent attack against the conditions of the reproduction of its life (and thus its struggle) materialized as well in an increase of the exploitation rate as in the generalized increase of repression. In most cases, the increase of the exploitation rate took the shape of exceptional price rises -without wage compensation- under the pretext of the rising of oil price (due to speculative questions and not at all to shortage). It also took the shape of levying taxes to finance the national effort of war. The generalized increase of repression was especially directed at any struggle making an attempt on national unity and at any insubordination to war politics. In the United States, in Turkey, in North African countries, in Thailand, military speeches of the governments were accompanied by draconian and terrorist measures of persecution of the deserters, by the imprisonment of tens of thousands of proletarians who rejected the criminal imperialist politics of "their own" bosses, of "their own" National State. Lastly, during this short period, the State intensified the measures of police control of the whole of the population in many countries while it did everything to detect, catch and terrorize anyone who fought against "their own State", i.e. internationalist militants.
The big swindle was that at the same time the World State was organizing the most incredible concentration of deaths and terror machines in the Middle East, and presenting itself elsewhere as the champion of antiterrorism and, under this pretext, pursuing revolutionary militants!!!
In Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria,... war allowed direct repression to rain on the proletarian struggles. In Turkey, the end of 1990 and the beginning of 1991 were marked by a lot of very radical and hard strikes in the mining area (Zanguldak), but also in the metallurgical industry and the car industry. In Tunisia, while rejecting the gendarmes of the World State represented by the Coalition, proletarians' massive and regular demonstrations -expressing the generalized discontent- were violently repressed as being pro-islamist demonstrations: another attempt to divert and channel these demonstrations, while giving credit to the Ennhada movement, always extremely loyal to the government. A similar situation existed in Algeria, where the government, to prevent another "October '88", mobilized, just as if it was also participating in the war, troops were stationed and concentrated in big cities, reservists were recalled, and young soldiers doing military service were obliged to prolong their presence and fight for the Algerian colours. On December 14th, 1990, in Morocco, the State crushes a proletarian revolt (40 deaths).
In France, England, Belgium,... bourgeoisie doesn't waste time and intensifies its racist and xenophobic politics. In England, for instance, Iraqi refugees (whose majority fled from the jails of Saddam Hussein's state terrorism) were imprisoned into detention camps (real concentration camps) and anyone coming from the Middle East was suspicious, put on files and prosecuted for being a potential terrorist. At the same time in Belgium, more than 6,000 Moroccans were threatened with expulsion.
On the other hand, with war, companies having rentability problems, saw the volume of their sales falling down and took profit of the situation to make the proletarians responsible for it. Pan American, Air France and British Airways, for instance, made thousands of redundancies.
In the United States, the generalized silence of the population towards the war politics of the government, the consensus so often commented in the press, didn't prevent this government from violently repressing a lot of demonstrations against war (although most of these demonstrations were led by pacifists) or from arresting some 15,000 persons according to Cuban media. While during the first days of the aerial war one suddenly noticed for the first time for years an alarming deficit, the State violently repressed groups diffusing leaflets against war in recruitment centres and to soldiers sent to war whether they liked it or not. In the United States, an association of soldiers' defense called "Horreo Counseling Network" denounced the fact that "many hundreds of North-American soldiers staying in Germany were forced to embark to the Gulf, bound hand and foot when necessary".
Nevertheless, as we said before, protagonists don't make war because they feel like killing proletarians (although there are no doubts that in many cases they make agreements, on the basis of a military bourgeois front, to do so; especially when it is a matter of quelling a proletarian revolt), they make war to confront their competitors. To do this, and seeing the importance of the capitalist confrontations in the Gulf, we find it necessary to briefly analyze the imperialist contradictions that determined this war, without pretending those lines could be a sufficient explanation.
We have already put forward that the development of the Gulf war (or of other wars to come), as war against the proletariat didn't surprise us, considering our framework of analysis; we shall see now that there is nothing to be surprised at as far as the development of interimperialist contradictions leading to the Gulf war is concerned.
Analysts of international politics (as well as groups claiming to be revolutionaries) were almost all totally bewildered by the changes of alliances, by the disappearance of this or that block or unity, and by the affirmation of the polarization that had led, in the Gulf, to a war between the Coalition led by yankee imperialism on one side and by Saddam Hussein and his allies on the other side.
According to our point of view on the contrary, the reconciliation of the imperialist forces, relegating other contradictions to a position of secondary importance and making the Gulf war materialize, didn't surprise us, either.
Indeed, in capitalist society putting yesterday's alliances back into question is something permanent and particularly when the crisis is aggravating; the disruption of imperialist shares made in any kind of peace framework is implicit in the essence of Capital itself and in the kind of unity the latter realizes. As we say in the "Theses of Programmatical Orientation", the bourgeoisie is in general opposed to the proletariat, because while, in the midst of the proletariat, unity is the product of a total community of interests, bourgeois unity is always unity against others, unity of opposed interests unified against others who, in these circumstances, look like the first to confront.
Our thesis number 19 says:
"This is how the world character of capitalism gives birth to the proletariat as world class, without any regional, sector-based or national interests to defend. Opposed to the proletariat, the bourgeoisie did not only realize its revolution affirming its particular interests, but its own essence (competition) forces it permanently to violently tear one another and confront each other at all levels for the distribution and re-distribution of the means of production and commodities. Unity among the bourgeois (limited companies, agreements between monopolies, National States, constellation of states,... World State) is always realized to face commercial war and/or class war in the best possible conditions. This unity may explode at any moment and burst into different particular factions. That's the reason why the more "unified" and generalized the action of the bourgeoisie is, the more it contains the division; peace is only a stage of the war to come. For the proletariat, however, any action, even the most partial one, contains universality: one single action of our class against capital, even if it is regional or sector-based, contains the affirmation of our proper interests in every part of the world and the struggle for the universal social revolution."The so often commented changes in the East are nothing else but the exacerbation of the crisis of Capital. Perestroika or any pseudo-alternative of the economic politics of Capital are nothing else but different names to hide the old bourgeois politics of austerity and belt-tightening proper to crisis periods (under the high universal patronage of the International Monetary Fund!!!). In the same way, the death of the Warsaw Pact and the interbourgeois struggles in some East European countries, which undoubtedly conditioned the redistribution of the imperialist forces and allowed not only the Gulf war but also the present cease-fire, are a confirmation of our analysis.
We can say exactly the same about the changes of alliances amongst the different forces of the Middle East or amongst the Occidental powers that invaded the Persian Gulf. Changes of alliances that we comment on Communisme No.32 and Comunismo No.27, where we described the sudden transformation of the big ally of the Western States, Saddam Hussein, into a machiavellian and fascist monster; while the same Western States were flirting and dancing with the terrorist regimes of Syria and Morocco on behalf of a fight "against dictatorship". That is to say that the States of England, France, the United States,... are not the only ones which, on behalf of the struggle against the violation of the international right (right that they create -considering their terrorist power- and which is nothing else but the ideological expression of this relation of force), form the Coalition and this way easily legitimate any violation on behalf of this right, but also the State of Syria maintaining its occupation in Lebanon, the Israeli State maintaining occupied territories for years in open violation of the same right, the State of Turkey assuring terrorism in Cyprus, the State of Morocco doing what it wants against all international norms in Western Sahara. All those powers form a Coalition that cannot present itself with its own legitimacy, a Coalition that can only appear as any bourgeois unity, that is to say as a circumstantial and without principles unity against an as much circumstantial enemy.
At the same time, it is beyond doubt that if today this circumstantial contradiction internationally prevails, it is because the old war contradiction (NATO-Warsaw) solidified during the other war, or, which is the same, in the other peace (Yalta agreements) was not so important any more and could be considered as something of secondary importance (or even less). Our framework of analysis, always based on the essence of Capital, always distinguishes itself from superficial analyses that could only consider war as a war between two stiff blocks, a "capitalist" one and a "socialist" one, or a "pro-Yankee" and a "pro-Russian" one (1). All those who play with these journalistic stupidities are disarmed as much in their explanations of the interimperialist wars that are taking place in the East, as in the polarization that made the Gulf war possible. Those for whom the world was effectively cut into two or three (we have always fought against these ideological prejudices in our central reviews as well as in our Thesis -see thesis No.27) are today obliged to doo "political" gymnastics about the changes of nature of the Eastern countries, or about the end of the Eastern block. On top of all that there are those who could see essential differences in the social nature of Western and Eastern regimes, considering them either as "socialist" or as "state capitalist" (2).
According to us, this change of alliance, this modification of intercapitalist blocks is by no means extraordinary, it is just the inevitable consequence of the essential determinations of Capital and can be seen all throughout the history of this mode of production. This is what can explain, for instance, and against all these ideologies, that the same imperialist power (although called socialist) may sell weapons to both camps of a local interimperialist war (just like Czechoslovakia did during the Biafra-Nigeria confrontation); this is the explanation for the changes of alliances in Ethiopia as well: there the imperialist penetration insured by the State of Cuba supported first "the liberation struggle of the people of Eretrea" and later, on the basis of an agreement with the State of Ethiopia (agreements determined by the advent of a pro-Moscow government) and on behalf of "the defence of territorial integrity of Ethiopia", considered yesterday's allies as its worse enemies and sprayed them with napalm and bullets. There are thousands of examples of this kind, but to show the invariance of this feature of capitalism, let us take an example from the past century: after a while, the capital originated from Europe became autonomous and waged war against the factions that wanted to maintain the status quo. In every case, capital breaks from its national origins: the capital originated from England (and Europe, in general) and solidified as North-American capital, confronted England in a war for independence, and creole capitalists in South-America allied with England to wage an imperialist war of independence against Spain.
"This is not the place to put our oar in the generalized speculation about future launching of a war. We just want to stress that the present repolarization of the world and the coming confrontations do not seem to be mature enough for the constitution of new blocks and new mystifications to realize the supreme aim of the bourgeoisie: to lead the worldwide proletariat to war.
We do not underestimate the adhesion aroused by Saddam Hussein of important parts of the international proletariat because of their hatred for the gendarme States of the great powers, but it seems to us that the "Baghdad Butcher" is far too discredited in the eyes of his own troops and population (just like Kadhafi and Arafat are) to reach the supreme aims of Capital. Nevertheless, we do not exclude the development of the polarization and military conflicts in the short term, but we want to warn of the danger of an international bourgeois polarization "clearer", more "attractive" and thus more dangerous for the worldwide proletariat, if Saddam Hussein's flags are to be taken by factions of Capital less discredited in the eyes of their own population."That is to say that, as we were claiming the need for Capital to generalize war (a need which is always more violent seeing the exacerbation of the crisis and the necessity for devalorization), we were also defining the limits of the interbourgeois polarization of the "Gulf war" from the point of view of its capacity to give a framework to the proletariat (no capacity meaning no generalization of the war). Taking into account the development of the antagonisms during the latest decade, we considered Saddam Hussein's camp very weak (the man as well as the party) and we estimated that it was impossible for him to create an international alternative to the judeo-christian imperialism, as he claimed to be able to do. All this was confirmed by the total lack of support to Saddam Hussein's regime, on the internal, as well as on the international level, and above all, by the total lack of fighting spirit of "his own troops".
The imperialist initiative of the State of Iraq to invade Kuwait was not the produce of a force but of a whole of weaknesses. This did not surprise us, given that generally these bourgeois factions have the biggest problems to accumulate, as well as to control their own population. They feel compelled to break the framework of imperialist peace by this or that kind of armed action, which unveils them as aggressor and therefore gives the advantage to their adversary in the military confrontation (since the old Clausewitz systematized it in his book "On war", everyone knows that defence is strategically superior to offence). This can be checked all throughout this century's big European wars called first and second world wars. The most disadvantaged imperialist powers in the prior peaces, the ones which were therefore less favoured by the share of the productive forces and pre-existent markets, were those that took over the initiative of the first invasions, which led them to grant a strategic advantage that proved fatal for them.
The same applies to the Iraqi State: its situation in the interimperialist competition was a disaster and worsened by the deterioration of exchange materialized in a commercial balance-sheet getting more and more unfavourable, as well as in a huge external debt ($70 to 90 billion in August 1990). In this sense, the breaking off the agreements on the OPEC prices by part of the States the most submitted to the imperialist politics of the Western powers, as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, was seen by the Iraqi bourgeoisie as an aggression on the whole of their accumulation cycle. Invading and annexing Kuwait (and seeing the new conditions imposed on Saudi Arabia), the Iraqi State wanted to change this situation and not only did it want to reappropriate new productive forces (raw material, fuel, and an exit to the sea), but also to increase the percentage of petrol production controlled by the Kuwaiti bourgeoisie, to improve the relation of forces in the OPEC, as well as the relation of forces (idem) of the latter in the world, and revalorize this way its first source of foreign currency. Simultaneously, the Iraqi State wanted to find new reasons to justify the permanent militarization in the eyes of the proletariat and to solidify a new opposition "against imperialism". It was looking for a national adhesion that it never achieved although it had crushed by military force the big wave of revolutionary defeatism that had swept through the country a short time before (cf. our texts about the Iran/Iraq war).
It is clear, that from the point of view of world Capital, this invasion questioned it in a way which was too generalized to be acceptable. Loosing the control of such an important part of the means of production meant that a huge percentage of petrol passed under the control of other factions, it also was a great attack against the accumulation cycle of an important part of the world bourgeoisie. Add this to the geo-political interests of the great powers of Capital (any negotiation between the opposing forces -cf. the denial of the negotiations betweeen Saddam Hussein and the military power of the United States through their embassy in Kuwait, negotiations in which the United States committed themselves not to use their military force) and it will easily be understandable that the invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi State was to be considered as an aggression on the other imperialist powers' interests.
From the point of view of the United States these facts formed a whole of circumstances perfect to confront the great difficulties of the Capital management of that productive area and to strengthen its military power. In relation to this, we want to stress the following points:
We are not interested either in analyzing the other international factions of Capital and their alignment with the United States. About the more general reasons for the war let us say that it is evident that if the invasion of Kuwait had been transformed into an occupation, it would have seriously affected the cycle of international Capital because a new balance of power on the petrol price would have led to a redistribution of the surplus value internationally extracted in favour of the bourgeois controlling the raw material, probably against the ones distilling it and surely against the ones industrially depending on it. The fact that the UNO appeared much more a real agency of the USA than the usual web of intrigue where interimperialist antagonisms are diplomatically expressed, is due to this general fear that pushed all the factions to coincide about the restoring of the imperialist order prior to August 2nd. In the same way, it is clear that the old alliances that this occasion strengthened (NATO), weighed as much as the without-principles-unity against a common enemy (cf. the fact that the States of Israel and Syria can be found in the same military block, for instance).
In the medium and the long term, a petrol power as big as the USSR would have benefited from the occupation and it did not have any reason to align against Saddam Hussein. If, in the beginning, the Russian State legitimated the Coalition imperialist force, it was:
Capitalist war is not only profitable to Capital in general for the different reasons we have mentioned, it is not only profitable to the bourgeois faction that becomes victorious in the interimperialist contradiction, but it also brings about profit for a whole set of particular capitals which make important commercial deals during and after wartime.
Of course, one thinks straight away about the bourgeois factions which are directly linked to the military, such as capital that is involved in arms' production and military sectors as such, all these, without exception, benefit from the increasing of the military budget; but there are also other factions that directly benefit from the war this way. For instance, all the big car factories produce also different kinds of war-vehicles (to transport troops, armoured cars, etc.). To produce these products other kinds of raw material are required, the producers of which also directly benefit from war. To stick to the example of the car industry, we can see that the producers of metal, plastic, rubber, computers,... also get involved, as well as banking services, accountancy services, etc.. For each of these numerous sectors, tens if not hundreds of big and smaller factories will get involved in this lucrative market and will compete with each other in order to increase their parts and benefits of the war market.
And of course, the Gulf war also mobilised and militarized hundreds of thousands of men and kept them far away from their sources of supply. All this shows clearly how big the problems of logistics were. And this, of course, has attracted a lot of different sectors of capital, which also increased their turnover spectacularly, e.g. the sectors involved in tinned food, water supplies, etc..
This is why the news of the outbreak of the war was cheerfully welcomed by the different bourgeois factions. We don't know if this is true, but certain newspapers reported that in Houston, Texas, for instance, -an important center of the oil refinery- the day after August 2nd, not a single bottle of champagne could be found in the supermarkets, since the bourgeois of that town had already celebrated the war that would reactivate- so they figured -their enterprises. What we are sure about, however, is that a few months later, the stock-exchanges of the whole world welcomed the beginning of the war with euphoria! As Thomas McCarrol wrote in an article of El Pais (January 27th):
"The day after the launching of the air-raids on Iraq, the people present at the New York Stock Exchange started the day with a minute of silence to honor the North-American troops fighting in the Gulf. But this moment of meditation was the only break of the whole day. The opening was soon to be followed by a wave of outcries: BUY! BUY! BUY! When all this agitation calmed down, the Stock Exchange had lived one of its most active days! The Dow Jones climbed 114 points, the second most important rise of its whole history... The Stock Exchanges of the whole world shared the same euphoria... In Germany the Frankfurt Stock Exchange marked the highest daily rise of its history and rose by 1.6% while the Japanese Nikkeï in Tokyo rose by 2.4%."No need to be an expert in bourgeois balance-sheets to understand the meaning of these historical records related to the outbreak of the war. No need either to be an economist to see that the notorious CNN, as well as the other television networks, during all these days of war and massacres of our class, showed a real "weapon fair", an incredible industrial and electronical market, which for the first time in history and on such a massive scale displayed numerous arms, machines, missiles, means of transportation, high-tech equipment, etc. All this meant billions of dollars of increase in the sales of North American industry; and this is also the reason why the economic results during the first days of the war, were extraordinary! (3) This is what Julian Martinez writes in El Pais, on January 27th, 1991:
"The results of the first days of the war could not have been more optimistic for all sectors related to the defence. In Wall Street, nearly all values related to military industry have risen. For instance, during the first few days of the war, some of them gained 37%, like General Dynamics, which produces the powerful Tomahawk missiles, the F-111 fighterplanes as well as the M1 tanks. General Dynamics's rival, Mc Donald Douglas, increased its profit by about 25%, thanks to the TV news which showed fighter planes F-15, F-18, Apache helicopter and also Tomahawk missiles. Enterprises that produce bombs, orientation equipment, and electronic systems for air navigation increased the value of their shares. It is expected that when the army and the Marines get into action, the companies producing new arms will also benefit from the boom in the Stock Exchange [one can easily notice here how each sector of Capital has its own particular interests, even in this particular kind of war -our comment]. The constructor of "the star" of the war, the famous Patriot Missile, is particularly satisfied with the enormous publicity its product received all over the world. The factories and the enterprises which produce components of this missile -Raytheon and Martin Marietta- increased tthe value of their shares in Wall Street."No need to be a scholar to know that if these marvellous expectations did not come true, it is because the situation of the world economy is disastrous and because the Gulf war was not important enough to reverse the process of economic crisis. The level of war and destruction that Capital needs to regenerate itself and to eradicate -on this basis- its existing depression, is much bigger!
As far as the big business of the after-war period is concerned, it is worth mentioning that in the middle of the war, while they were still busy heaping up thousands of corpses and destroying not only military targets (as they pretended), but also the complete industrial infrastructure, as well as the communications and sanitary networks, the large international trusts were already competing with each other over the distribution of the tremendous contracts for the reconstruction of the war zones -just like gigantic vultures fighting over carcasses and litter! The amount of the multinational contracts that were signed for the reconstruction of the industrial infrastructure of Kuwait, was estimated at about one hundred billion dollars, and the financial arrangements for the reconstruction of Iraq were estimated to amount to more than two hundred billion dollars!
The capitalist vultures did not wait a second to share the carcasses. They did not even wait for the ex-allies to transform themselves into enemies. When finally the hour arrived to share the profitable dividents from the biggest of all capitalist trades -war and reconstruction- they all rushed, without any hesitation, onto their preys.
In "Le Monde Diplomatique" of March 1991, J.D. writes:
"More and more plans are being elaborated for the reconstruction of Kuwait and for the reinforcement of the Saudi power. At the heart of the industrial-military complex, stands the Bechtel firm, which already has important political and financial experience in the region. The same is true for Motorola, Mc Donald Douglas, General Dynamics, ATT. Forty-five billion dollars could possibly be "picked up" in Kuwait only. In Saudi Arabia, the promises are just as juicy, because Ryad says it will reinforce its airforce and buy a few hundred more tanks. Even though nobody is talking about the reconstruction of Iraq, everybody is thinking about it. Only the stubborn liberals disapprove that these contracts do not respect the Right - the right of competition. And in all these cases, Washington imposed its views: Saudi Arabia is not to be entrusted to some French firms as this has been suggested in the beginning, but to E-Systems from Dallas. The modernization of the phones? The French and the Swedish were on the lists, but when the American Secretary for Trade and, later on, Mr. Bush himself intervened, now ATT and Motorola have better chances. As it seems, the British Prime Minister would have expressed his dissatisfaction! Such a loyal ally...
But after all -if one neglects the number of those who were killed- perhaps this war will turn out to have been only an even operation for the USA. Besides the fact that this war is being paid for by a large number of countries, the US will also benefit from the large amounts of private dividends that will wipe out the public expenditures. Thanks heaven, the defence of international law is safe,... if not, one would easily get inspired about some simple truth, and this is total sacrilege in these days of international sacred union."This means that the international sacred union had only some validity against Saddam, and, as "Le Monde Diplomatique" seems to regret it, today again the law of the jungle is surpassing all other considerations between capitalists. Those who are the most powerful in the military field, those who invested most in this big war business are the ones who will get the better dividends from this war.
As a matter of fact, the type of the process of citizenization, (we published an article on this process (4) which is dominating the proletariat today, coincides with a phase of massive desertion by proletarians of the old bourgeois apparatus, such as parties and unions, which serve the purpose of framing up all proletarian revolt. The influence such bourgeois organisations may have had is slowly but surely eroding. This process also implies that life is becoming more separated, compartmentalized, more individual, more family-like, more locked up inside each house or apartment... This means that the media -and especially television- become essential means of communication, and transform themselves in decisive means -directly related to their own armed forces- for the framing up, the mobilization and the militarization of the proletariat.
Before, the main intermediary between the worker and his mobilization for the State, his war-like militarization, was the party (the "workers'" party, preferably), the union, the "workers' movement"(5). The press and radio were only supports to increase the efficiency of these organizations. But the more individualism is developing, the more television as well as all other means for the production of ideas are transforming themselves to become central intermediaries for the mobilization of proletarians for the fatherland, for sending them to the army and to the butchery! We must not forget that -because of the citizenization process and the generalized isolation- that for many proletarians who do not have any fellow-workers to talk to and to discuss with, the television (but the radio and the newspapers, as well) seems to become the unique (fictitious) ("human") relationship with the outside world.
On the whole, the campaigns orchestrated by the different means of communication try to hide the real and fundamental causes of what is going on, and they make this or that individual be guilty for all what is wrong; therefore, in view of the needs of the foreign policy of their own State, these campaigns depict the actions of the enemy as being barbarous, criminal, dictatorial, terrorist,... and at the same time, they justify the criminal actions of their own imperialist camp as humanitarian actions, as a struggle against dictatorship and for democracy...
During the Gulf war, even more so than during previous wars (Vietnam, Falklands, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan) the Heads of States and the Commanders in Chief of the Allied Armed Forces were particularly attentive to the means of communication: this time they were transformed into real instruments for brainwashing, for militarization and national mobilization.
During the North-American invasion of Grenada and Panama, the Pentagon had already requested and obtained from the press that they would use the word "intervention" rather than "invasion", but during this war, the journalists went a lot further still when they started talking about "our boys" or "us" when talking about the troops of the U.S. coalition. In the same manner, several generals from the Pentagon succeeded each other daily on the television screens of different international networks, which became nothing less than the true spokesmen of the Pentagon (the real public relations offices of the imperialist command). So the journalists started adopting progressively the language of the generals and that's how the bombings became "surgeon attacks" and the civilians killed became "collateral" losses, while the areas that had not yet been bombed, became "lucrative" objectives. In the face of an American POW that had been beaten up, they talked about "war crime" (!!!), but at the same time the terrifying bombings that were killing the population in Baghdad were being presented as "incursions" by "our freedom fighters".
Nothing was left uncontrolled! Each word, each image was checked, analysed, censured... and even sometimes, when there was no image to go with the message that the military and political command had decided to broadcast, they did not hesitate to produce such a suitable image -out of nothing- in their laboratories.
The big bosses of the broadcasting firms, the speakers, the journalists and all the other shitbags accomplished faithfully and wholeheartedly the adaptation and presentation of reality according to the wishes and needs of the military command. The lack of independence, the hypocrisy, the submission and the cynicism of all these press people have already often been denounced... but we think that it would be more proper to speak about the complete and total militarization of this particular instrument of domination, about its achieved integration, by the imperialist State, into the full military action. And as a matter of fact, each time journalists accomplish more perfectly their true role as intermediaries of the military action, as the obeying officers of their superiors, as the indispensable conveyor belt that aims at turning each proletarian into a patriot, a soldier, an assassin!
In the face of such an always growing symbiose between the army and the television networks, between the generals of the armed forces and the professionals of the spectacle, between the military command and the journalists, we should ask ourselves whether the revolutionary and insurgent proletariat should treat these agents of the means of communication in the same way as it has always treated the officers of the armies, who send the proletarians to the butchery, i.e. by turning their arms against them!? We will get the response from the future history of the war and of the struggle against war, but it is clear that as far as we are concerned, this answer lies already in today's war.
We could multiply here the always more impressive examples of what those craftsmen of the spectacle have achieved to "model" the information according to the needs of the fatherland and of war. We will not go into any more details about the lies that they believed themselves, e.g. when the bosses of the Pentagon declared that about 90% of the military potential of the Iraqi army had been annihilated (after "only" 24 hours of bombings), a piece of information that the media quickly broadcast over the whole planet! We will not go into any details about the praise from all the press people for the "heroism and sacrifices" consented by the pilots of the Coalition (indeed, how courageous it must have been to drop bombs with an absolute power of destruction, from a height of 10,000 meters!). And it is not worthwhile either to insist on the sheer hypocrisy and the total partiality that completely dominated the propaganda on the use of chemical weapons by Baghdad (in reality, Baghdad has only used such weapons against its own troops and population) while nothing was ever said about the use of napalm and fuel bombs by the Allied forces. Nor will we insist on the total partiality with which the "daily horror that Israeli citizens had to go through" was described (mentioning only the Jews; the horror for the Palestinians surely was not the same -as a matter of fact, a government decree stated that there were not any gas masks available for them!- while the horror that came pouring down on the population of Iraq was systematically omitted!
No, all this is only normal for these shock troops of the Western Christian army. We would rather like to denounce here some elements in this manipulation of the news. We already knew that they created images, and that a large number of them -shown on television- were created in computer laboratories. This was the case for instance for those images that showed missiles hitting their military target exactly in the middle: in fact, these images had been shot several years ago in the United States. But undoubtedly, this is when the modern Goebbels of the little screen excelled: when they tried to accuse their opponent of not only wasting oil, but also of exterminating nature and the environment (6). This is when they built up the pitiful story about a bird covered with black liquid, the bird that they had found dying in the sea. This story, and these images showing that dying bird, representing the destruction of nature -something only "bad" people could possibly desire and provoke on purpose- were circulated around the world. And probably public opinion has been more influenced and upset about this dying bird... than it has ever been about any other victim being shown on TV (and of course, they do not talk about these real deaths). This shows how extreme the manipulation can be, this gigantic collective idiocy produced by Capital. Everything seemed to work out just fine... until a specialist turned up to explain that this kind of bird does not live in the Persian Gulf area, but lives on the European coasts... and that's how it became obvious that this story as well was nothing else but a pure strategic laboratory invention, launched with some political-military goal.
But we do want to mention - as a significant example of this war -the sudden general discovery of the massacres committed by the regime of Saddam Hussein, massacres that we have denounced for years, against the stream, in spite of the fact that our contradictors accused us of "exaggeration" or even "invention". For several years we have denounced the tens of thousands of deaths that (during the war and after the signing of the cease-fire between Iraq and Iran) were caused by the bombings that the Iraqi State carried out against its own population, while we also denounced the systematic destruction of tens of cities and small villages. Speaking about the tens of thousands of deaths, about the hundreds of cities destroyed, has been considered to be an enormous exaggeration on our part, including at the time when we called for an international meeting that we had organized against the war and the peace in this region. As a matter of fact, nobody talked about all this, while all of a sudden, during the war, the Western bourgeois press "discovered" the massacres that it had been hiding for years! It was the "Figaro" newspaper (accusing its allies of yesterday and excusing those of today) that wrote (8th of March, 1991):
"Neither in Iran [sic!], nor in Syria [sic!] or in Turkey [sic!] did the Kurds experience such a brutality in repression. This brutality reached a peak at the end of the Iran-Iraq war, in 1988. In March of that year, while Saddam was winning every battle against the Khomeini troops and was forcing them to accept a cease-fire, he finally finds himself free enough to clean up Kurdistan. 'The Kurdish rebels are like ants, we will crush them,' warns an Iraqi general. And just like on ants, Saddam will use chemicals on the Kurds. More than 5,000 will get killed in the city of Halabja alone, the city will be completely destroyed and will be rebuilt 30 kilometers further away; altogether 4,000 cities and villages will be wiped out, erased from the map, and their population will be transferred to other areas that are easier to check for the Iraqi army. The poor and miserable families are packed in sordid townships with large alleys where armed vehicles can take up position at any moment. In the middle of the desert, the Iraqi State has installed real concentration camps, disguised as military basis, to imprison the most rebellious amongst the population. According to Sami Abdulrahman, the General Secretary of the People's Party of Kurdistan, 50,000 Kurds have disappeared in this sand-goulag."This is only one example among many others. In reality, the whole of the main information agencies of the Christian Western world, mobilized for this new crusade, all of a sudden discovered what they had decided to ignore for years, and at the same time the heads of the Kurdish nationalist opposition parties were for the first time well received in the Western imperial centers of power, and indeed, in the Pentagon itself. Their declarations were widely echoed by television and by the other different means of production of the reality of public opinion.
If the war - in its phase of more general confrontation between the Coalition armies and the troops of the Iraqi State - has met a definite limit (while we're writing this text, the war between different bourgeois factions inside Iraq is still going on), this is surely due to the complete lack of support that the imperialist policy of Saddam Hussein has encountered and to the ensuing weakness of his imperialist bloc and this has allowed its enemy to reach its objectives with much less damage than was initially estimated.
We already announced the weakness of the imperialist bloc directed by the Iraqi State, precisely because Saddam Hussein has been completely discredited in the face of his own troops and population (cf. the editorial of "Communisme" -French central review- No.32). Today we ccan affirm clearly that this constituted the main obstacle -and indeed the real break- for the continuation of the war.
We do not think it is necessary to go into any other explanations about the decisive importance of the adhesion of the proletariat to the imperialist war... since without such adhesion there simply cannot be any war like that, as all the burden of bourgeois war, from the battle ground unto the production lines, lies on the shoulders of the proletarians.
In Iraq, nearly ten years of war and of struggle against war did not take place in vain. Those hundreds of thousands of workers in uniform were no longer ready to sacrifice themselves for the national cause of the war. From the very beginning of the war, the only non-official information that we received from Iran and Iraq stated that those who had been forcefully sent on the battlefronts, tried to escape from there and that there had been many desertions and executions. Comrades from that region also confirmed - a long time before official sources fromm both sides could no longer hide the fact that the Iraqi troops were not ready to fight any more, and before the mass surrenders were shown on television- that the butchery was looking more and more like a war of extermination and that the common Iraqi soldier was trapped between two enemy fires: the fire of the Coalition and the fire of the Republican Guards.
To put it clearly, from the point of view of the Iraqi State, everything had been going wrong from the very beginning: there had been no decisive international support on the military and political level (the small support the Iraqi State did receive -like from the PLO e.g. - did not have any real significance); it failed in its attempt to make Israel get directly involved in the war and to build up this way a general front against it; there was very little credibility of Saddam's so-called anti-imperialism with the international masses, and this resulted in the complete lack of positive response to Saddam's different calls, including the lack of response concerning his call for terrorist attacks,... Even the Republican Guards did not show any full disposition for fighting and here also desertions were more massive than initially expected.
In view of the composition of the Coalition forces - composed of all the bigger international watchdogs of imperialism (USA, France, England,... and also with the complicity of the Soviet Union) and also in view of the intrinsic secular hate that the world proletariat feels for them (in general, it is these powers which always intervene to put down proletarian revolts and which always support the local bourgeois when the national State can no longer cope with an insurrectionary situation!), Saddam Hussein hoped to be able to raise the banner of the struggle against imperialism, as some others had already done -with more success though- before him. Saddam Hussein is not Nasser, nor Peron or even less so Che Guevara; Saddam is nothing else but an already ancient agent in that region, having the same interests as those who he is pretending to fight today. He is the agent of France, of the Soviet Union,... and above all, he is a tyrant having lost all credibility in the face of his own population that he has bombed without mercy; he is a tyrant incapable of achieving national unity which is the indispensable condition for the realization of an international front capable of forcing the big powers to negotiate.
Of course, there have been some demos in several countries, like in North-Africa or in Europe, in the Far East or in Latin America, where the crowds -amongst other claims- shouted some slogans in favour of Saddam, but without any real conviction and more as a provocation in the face of their own State (like in Spain, e.g.) when it was being considered to be too submitted to the Western Christian bloc. In quite a few cases also, the slogans in support of the Iraqi State, were nothing else but the result of the manoeuvres and manipulations by the local national State so as to take away all credit from the struggle against the war by assimilating this struggle against the bourgeoisie and its State as a struggle in support of the external enemy.
Even the bourgeois organizations of the radical left of the Western countries, always eager to sell their anti-imperialist speeches - and indeed, Saddam and Arafat hoped these would take their side - had only little autonomy in the face of their own national State (probably this is due to the general down graded situation of these organizations) and they all just claimed some vague pacifist rethorics: indeed, it was difficult to distinguish between the speeches held by a Stalinist, by a Castroist or by a Trotskist and the speeches held by the pope!
There were some "remarkable" exceptions to the cause of international Trotskism: for the Argentinian MAS e.g. it was no problem to take up the imperialist side of the butcher of Baghdad. The leaflets of this group, defending one imperialist camp against another, while hiding systematically all references to the murderous past (and present) of the Baghdad regime, for sure are part of the anthology of this war. We will just quote a small part of one of the leaflets of this group:
"When the war breaks out, there will be two clearly defined opposite military camps. One will be the aggressor camp, under the lead of the yankees and the support of Gorbatchev, as well as a long list of lackey governments. Through war, these will pursue, on a higher level still, the aggression that they triggered 5 months ago, through their military blockade and their economic genocide. The other side will be the side of Iraq. On this side we will find the Palestinians of the Intifada, millions of inhabitants from the Arab and Islam countries, as well as thousands of militants amongst the workers and the people who everywhere in the world, oppose the aggression. The Movement for Socialism (MAS) calls on all workers and on the people of Argentina, to support the Iraqi side. We are in the same boat as during the Falklands' war (THIS IS CLEAR! It is the same boat that they share with the Argentinian head of State terrorists who are guilty of killing and torturing, and of the disappearance of tens of thousands of our comrades - our comment!) when received the support of the majority of the people of Latin America and of large parts of the people of the Middle East, including the Iraqi people."
(quotation from a leaflet "Yesterday the Falklands, today Iraq; Yankees, out of the Gulf" calling for a "day against the imperialist aggression".)
The bourgeoisie tries to make us believe that nothing depends on us, that everything depends on technology, that the latter is opposed to us (even though it is our own product) as an alien power that is oppressing and controlling us. The interest of the bourgeoisie is obvious. With such propaganda, they are telling us: "I'm almighty", "you can do nothing", "In the face of the State, you don't stand a chance".
But when thinking about this, one soon realizes that all this is nothing but a big lie. During the Vietnam war, the North-American State had a complete technological superiority, but was unable to win the war. The same happened to the Russian army in Afghanistan. Even more so, the same technology that supposedly destroyed one of the best equipped armies of the world, cannot manage to defeat a few hundred of guerilleros in other parts of the world, like in Peru, for instance.
Every military strategist, from Clausewitz until today, knows that the keyfactor in all wars, is the human factor, the adhesion of the part of the population to the military policy, and it is this factor that determines the moral of the troops, the efficiency of the production front, the logistic capacities, etc. And it is sure, from this point of view, that there was -as we just wrote- an enormous difference between the two sides. On one side, a well disciplined army, ready to go to war, and on the other side, hundreds of thousands of men, forced to go to war at gunpoint and here every soldier was a potential deserter. On one side, a very mobile army with a nearly unlimited capacity to deploy itself, the soldiers of which -at least a large majority of them- are frree citizens who signed a contract to sell their capacity to kill ("workforce") (7); on the other side, a kind of formation and deployment on the battleground where the officers and the pretorian troops have to maintain a permanent pressure on their subordinates in order to prevent massive desertions.
All this determined a type of war with positions that favoured even more the Coalition. Indeed, the type of army and armement that was being used by the Coalition proved to be very appropriate to attack and destroy the fixed positions of the enemy. The situation is completely different when an army of this kind must transform itself into an army of occupation and for maintaining law and order, and when it is confronting a kind of popular war, facing autonomous military units. In such situations, the strategic advantage that derives from the support for the war effort by large parts of the population, disappears as time goes by. This is exactly what is happening today to the Israeli State for instance, since it is caught up relatively powerless in a war of occupation without any perspectives for a positive evolution - quite to the contrary of what happened during its blitz-victories in the past. If the North-American command of the Coalition forces interrupted its military actions before destroying the whole of the Iraqi military potentials, it is because they know that after all Saddam Hussein is a good guardian of bourgeois order. Even though it would have been relatively easy for the Marines to go further as far as Baghdad, it would have been much more difficult for them to pacify the population in this region, in the face of an Intifada a hundred times more powerful.
The technological superiority of one of the imperialist sides, and the never ending bombings that lasted for days and days without any possibility for the adversary to do anything about it, functioned exactly on the basis of these two fundamental conditions: the lack of eagerness to fight and the kind of war of positions that this determined (and also the acceptance of the classical bourgeois diplomacy by Saddam Hussein and the consecutive liberation of all the important persons belonging to the enemy camp by Saddam Hussein -because without this for sure the bombings would have encountered less national and international support). After weeks of bombings that accentuated even more the generalized weaknesses of Saddam's troops, the initial difference in the moral of troops between both sides became even bigger, and Saddam's imperialist army decomposed without having fought one single important battle (in spite of the press' exaggerations about the "Khafji battle") (8).
On the other hand, these intensive bombings disintegrated the whole regional system of political control of the Iraqi State! The orders from Baghdad did not get through any more to the troops, nor did they reach the remote villages of the southern provinces; it took days and days for news from different geographical points to reach Baghdad, and this -in such a situation of lack of national unity- was fatal to the Iraqi military command.
So tens of thousands of new deserters united with the numerous deserters from the Iran-Iraq war, as well as with those who had never submitted themselves and those who had organized themselves from the very beginning of the war and who were just waiting for the right moment to desert or surrender. Desertion became even more massive as officers themselves deserted and as the lack of food became more and more widespread. That's how the Coalition got a much easier victory than expected: besides, it did not really know what to do with such a victory, because it was no longer possible to hide that the cohesion of the enemy had been exaggerated for the sake of propaganda, and also because it had not prepared to round up such a high number of prisoners. The Coalition military Command was very embarrassed having to take care of more than a hundred thousand men... so embarrassed that on several occasions the American officers ordered to shoot on the Iraqi soldiers who came running towards them - in spite of the white flag they were waving as a sign of surrender. For sure the Allied Command would have preferred desertions to be less massive on the Iraqi side, and the imperialist war to last a bit longer - so as to account more easily (as well as in the face of the ordinary American citizen, as of the parliamentarians of the bourgeoisie) for the 500,000 men they sent to the Gulf together with all other military and logistical efforts.
We could draw up a list of the proletarian actions against the war that occurred in different countries. But it is more important to draw up a much more global balance-sheet of the forces that existed during the struggle against the war, and we must cry out the truth that imposes itself and that we must recognize: the proletariat has been incapable of stopping the war, and especially on the side of the Coalition; capitalism reached its objectives of national mobilization and of the submission of the proletarians to the interests of the national States. Indeed, it is more important to stress this, than to mention the number of national flags that were burnt, the international leaflets that have been circulated, the schools that have been occupied (like in Italy and in Spain), the occupation of/or demos against recruitment offices, the number of deserters that have fled.
For us this general situation is logical, since counter-revolution is dominating on a nearly generalized scale, and in such a context we are rather glad that some violent actions against the war did take place. But the situation is really tragic, and every apology of some acts of resistance as if the proletariat finds itself in a revolutionary period, can only serve counter-revolution. We have to start out from this very elementary truth, that cannot be hidden: hour after hour, day after day, week after week, we were unable to stop one of the largest massacres in history, one that can be compared to the massacres in Hiroshima, Nagasaki or Dresden during the second world war. The massacre of our brothers took place while the bourgeoisie placed the world proletariat in front of the television screens so as to show them the horrible spectacle!
In relation to the weakness that we already talked about concerning the army of the Iraqi State, we must stress that the strength and coherence of the Coalition armies is shocking, especially as far as the passive but massive support by the rear-guard for these armies is concerned. The strength of the armies of the main international watchdogs of Capital lies within the weakness of the struggle of the proletariat in these countries.
It is obvious that the fact that nearly all deaths were only on one side, and that on the side of the Coalition the war did not cost much in terms of life or in terms of survival (the increase in misery cannot be compared to what happened on the other side), all this facilitated national unity, the submission of the proletariat to its own State, and the coherence of the armies of the US-led Coalition. The existing correlation of counterrevolutionary forces could only be put into question if the proletariat of the Coalition countries had also had to support the burden of the war, and if, on top of an intensification of the austerity-policies in those countries, thousands of plastic bags "bringing home" the "heroic freedom fighters" had arrived at the airports of the Coalition countries. In today's circumstances, when the "bourgeois" and "proletarians" are together celebrating the allied military victory, sharing the same criminal satisfaction about the fact that the victims remained in Iraq and Kuwait, in such circumstances it is counterrevolution itself that can fortify the perception of the proletariat as an organic and single body, by the exacerbation of the misery it causes!
So we must assume this sad reality where the international proletariat is standing, incapable of stopping the war (and we must remember that the most important limit to the Vietnam war, was the North-American proletariat itself!) or even of assuming really important actions of struggle against it! We do not want to devalorize the actions of some proletarians who refused, e.g., in certain harbours, to load arms to be sent to the Gulf region, nor the violent actions against this or that center for recruitment in the USA, but it is tragic that there was no uprising amongst the troops that were sent to fight on behalf of the Coalition; it is tragic that there were only a few tens of deserters (while on the other side, there were several tens of thousands!), that there were no important attacks against official buildings of the Coalition forces; it is tragic that the military production, as well as production in general, did not get paralyzed, so as to fight against the criminal politics of our "own" States. And finally, the most tragic of all is the terrible state of atomized individuals to which large parts of the proletariat are reduced today, sitting in front of a television screen, or participating in some pacifist demo that reinforces the national mobilization and the military actions of the imperialist State.
Without any doubt, one of the most difficult problems to solve, as well in the past as for the future of the worldwide revolution, is this tragic difference between the development of the struggle in one or another country: this is how the bourgeoisie can afford to send troops from one country to repress the insurrection that is going on in another country, as it happened so many times in history, transforming the proletariat in one country into the accomplice of the State repressing the proletariat elsewhere. There is no doubt about the fact that the trajectory of the States of the Coalition and more specifically of the North-American State, as well as the present affirmations (practical and military, as well as in all official speeches) as the international police force of the State of "International Law", designate these States to be the watchdogs against insurrectionary movements in other countries. In the struggle against this, the responsibility of the proletariat in these specific countries is obvious. But this also requires the necessity for a general staff of the international proletariat, the importance of the centralisation of the proletarian community of struggle based on the communist programme. In relation to this, the critique of the complete failure -through opportunism, centrism, euro-centrism, federalism, nationalism- of the Third International (that, from the 2nd Congress onward, adopted the tactic of national liberation that objectively divided the proletariat and this way became the accomplice of the bourgeoisie) is essential.
So even before the launching of the terrestrial offensive, the general situation in Iraq was very explosive, and for this reason, for fear of an insurrection, Saddam Hussein made thousands of leaflets to be thrown down by airplane, recalling the Halabja massacre. This is how he wanted proletarians who were ready to rise up against him, to remember that the State would not hesitate to bomb or gas them if they refused to submit themselves to his war-plans. Saddam Hussein did not have time to execute his threaths since the Coalition offensive was launched even before he could put down this defeatist resistance.
This is how, from the very moment that the warplanes from the Coalition had started dropping their tons of bombs on the South of Iraq at first, crushing the proletarians who were hiding in shelters or in caves, these proletarians started moving up to Baghdad, fleeing the areas of famine and desolation; they were immediately joined by thousands of starved deserters. In the face of this situation, the Iraqi State had no other solution but to move more reliable troops from the North into the area to prevent these thousands of proletarians from fleeing to Baghdad. But while moving these more loyal troops to the South, the Iraqi State destabilized even more the situation in the North, where the uprisings were the most violent, straight after the terrestrial offensive.
This resistance of proletarians in Iraq and the defeatism they were capable of -even before the launching of the terrestrial offensive- were the first cause for the ending of the war between the Coalition and Iraq. Even more so since on the front, right after the beginning of the war, tens of thousands of other proletarians surrendered and refused to sacrifice their blood for the imperialist crusade of Saddam. During these few days when the Republican Guards had to confront an enemy that was really armed, one could easily see that their eagerness to fight was much weaker than when they were fighting proletarians who refused to go to the battlefields. On this occasion, tens of thousands of proletarians got completely "out of control", and at the same time when they were fighting for their own survival while attacking private property, they were clashing with their enemy of always, their "own" State.
From the first days of March 1991, the news agencies of the whole world had to mention the attacks and arson of official buildings and Baath' party buildings, but as we already mentioned, the struggle did not start nor did it end here: as a matter of fact, a real tendency for generalization existed. The press mentioned only certain attacks by the proletariat against the State in Iraq, in order to better justify the Coalition's massive massacres as a "public health operation". The Coalition wanted the actions against the war, the desertions of proletarians, the uprisings against famine,... to be depicted as struggles against a detested tyrant, and not as a more general struggle against capitalist war. For the State organized around the Coalition, the biggest danger lies in a possible contamination of these defeatist struggles within its own army. In the face of a generalization of the desertions and struggles in Iraq, the soldiers of the Coalition could easily have become aware that they were not fighting against thousands of fanatic "Saddamised" terrorists, as they had been made to believe, but that they were in fact participating in a butchery that had been organised against the masses of proletarians in Iraq and in Kuwait.
The worldwide bourgeoisie had a feeling of general terror when considering the possibility that the defeatism against the State of Saddam Hussein might affirm itself as revolutionary defeatism. This is one of the reasons that made Bush decide -in spite of the many international calls for the destruction of the complete military potential of Saddam- to stop the war only a few days after having launched the battle against the Republican Guards. This is how he tried to ensure the integrity of this anti-proletarian and repressive organ, the Republican Guard. General Kelly declared explicitly:
"It is a defeated army that is going back home. A beaten army always constitutes a political threat."The Washington Post itself reproduced declarations by Iraqi bourgeois opposition leaders that were in contradiction with the general analysis which pretended that what was going on, was a national or religious problem. For instance, this paper reproduced the following declarations by Muhammad Bahr Ulum:
"This is not a religious problem, but the first popular uprising in 20 years against the reign of Saddam Hussein. His defeat in Kuwait has broken the reign of terror."And as a matter of fact, while they were trying once more to make us believe that the struggles that erupted after the war are about religious problems, or even about national questions -as far as the Kurdistan area is concerned- we know, as far as we are concerned, that these struggles are much more the direct continuity of the struggles that occurred before and during the war.
And for this reason, the Coalition's interest was for Saddam Hussein to assume himself the continuity of repression organized by the means of the Republican Guards.
Uprisings took place nearly everywhere, as soon as the war stopped. Bassorah, in the South, Mossoul, Arbil, Kirkouk, Sulaimania, in the North, were in a state of insurrection. The rest of the defeated army, the deserters, the inhabitants of the cities, united themselves to cry out their anger and hatred of the State in the face of those who had sent them to war. In the South, clashes were particularly violent, but the Republican Guards were prepared for it: they had already been concentrated in this region because the State knew very well the explosive situation that prevailed here. In the North, Saddam hoped for some respite since he knew he could count on the nationalists. He hoped that they would be capable of framing up and defeating the proletariat, and he knew for sure that they would not engage in any action against him. Indeed, from the very beginning of the war, Saddam Hussein and the nationalist parties had reached some secret agreement via the PLO and its beloved leader, Yasser Arafat, guaranteeing the pacific coexistence between these two bourgeois factions for the whole duration of the war. This is why repression first hit struggles in the South.
But the uprisings in the North took place in spite of all official "opposition", and in spite of and against the KDP, PUK and all other Kurdish nationalist organizations. From the very start, these factions were recognized as being "war-participationists" and their attempts to frame up the insurgents by putting forward nationalist perspectives, did not work out. Other groups rose up, such as "Communist Perspective" in Sulaimania, an internationalist organization that resulted from the lessons of the preceding struggles. And other groups as well, all more or less formal, and which all clearly designated the nationalists as enemies as dangerous as the`Republican Guard. The insurgent proletarians refused to let nationalists enter the cities. The latter then tried to encircle the cities, meeting this way many soldiers on their way home from the front. These soldiers did not want to fight any more, but on several occasions, the nationalists forced them to join their ranks and fight. As one can see, a nation-to-be uses the same terrorist methods as the nation it is fighting against. Here, Saddam Hussein and Talabani stand hand in hand to send proletarians to the front at gunpoint. The encircling of the cities by the nationalist parties, allowed them to make the world believe that they were "in control" of these cities; but the only control that they actually assumed, was the control of the repression of proletarians returning home from the front. These pieces of information that have been reported directly to us by contacts, sympathisers and comrades from that region, are corroborated by the fact that Talabani e.g., the boss of the PUK, has not been able to return to Sulaimania even though this city was considered to be his stronghold before.
It is exactly in this city, that the insurrection was particularly violent: here proletarians took revenge for years and years of massacres and organized terror that they had been submitted to. They attacked the terrifying secret police of Saddam Hussein, killing some 2,000 Baathists, who were hiding in the buildings of the political police. The anger of our fellow proletarians turned against everything that represented the Iraqi State, as they burnt, looted and entirely demolished all buildings belonging to the police, to the Baath' party, courts, etc. During all this time, the nationalist parties tried to oppose this, arguing that the material that could be found in these buildings, would be useful to the future Kurdish State!
To put down this generalized proletarian revolt, Saddam Hussein sent his most loyal troops to clear the region, after Bassorah and the other insurgent cities of the South had been crushed! As soon as the Republican Guards got closer to the North, and as the first reports about their atrocities arrived, as soon as the proletariat realized that the Republican Guards had succeeded partially in crushing the South and that white terror was coming up North, towards the Kurdistan region, as soon as the insurgents realized that the Coalition armies had left the Republican Guard nearly unharmed and in any case sufficiently powerful to organize the terror against them, they withdrew from the cities towards the mountains, with their arms, luggage, children, trying to escape by all possible means the repressive hell that was about to hit them. We already gave some examples of the violence with which the insurgents struggled against local authorities and it is easy to understand that they expected the worst of the Republican Guards. For tens of years they had been submitted to the repression by the shock troops of the Iraqi regime, and they knew they should not expect any mercy of them.
The whole of the information was transmitted to us directly by comrades from that region who had participated in these struggles. We do not possess yet all the details about the different clashes and confrontations that we have mentioned (one can easily imagine all the difficulties for these comrades to communicate with us, in view of the horror of the defeat that they are submitted to today!), but of course we will continue to centralize all the information that these comrades will give us. As soon as the war started and at the very moment when the bombings started, these comrades also circulated an "appeal against the war" that was produced by our group, in Arabic. Other material produced by our group was also circulated, before and during the war.
A few days after the "anniversary" of the Halabja massacre, while the struggle was fully going on, particularly in the North of Iraq, in the Kurdistan region, our group sent a leaflet there, in Kurdish, which was also circulated in the area. Here are some excerpts from this leaflet that was called: "No Kurdish nation! No Islamic republic!" and that focused mainly on the critique of nationalism, in all its forms.
"The Halabja massacre and all other filthy nationalist actions are the arms of democracy (...) The proletarians and the exploited from Kurdistan, as all the exploited of the world, can only abolish misery by turning their guns against the Kurdish nationalists and by treating them the same way as they have been treating the Baathist State. The bourgeois are our enemy, wherever they may be. So, what can be the difference that the nationalists make between "the external enemy", the "momentaneous enemy", the "main enemy", small or big? (...) The Halabja massacre is the direct result of the law of this class society, as history has proved us a thousand times. As soon as the revolutionary movement fights against Capital and its nationalists, as soon as Capital loses control, the only response by the bourgeoisie will be the massacre of proletarians!
The official media of the whole world, together with all types of Marxist-Leninist groups, have collected money in the name of the Halabja massacre by spreading their lies about these events. In this job, all their lies have been cautioned by the dogs Talabani (PUK) and Houshiar Zebari (KDP) (...) The nationalist bourgeois have prevented the population of Halabja from leaving the city before the chemical bomb attacks, while letting their own relatives and militants go (...) Capital itself engenders war, misery, illness and repression. The Halabja massacre is the direct product of money and work. This massacre has been perpetuated with the help of the Western countries. They arranged themselves to put all the blame on Saddam Hussein, while putting their horrible pictures in their papers. (...).
For a classless society!
Towards the victory of the struggle for communism!"
Kurdish nationalist autonomy is being considered to be too destabilizing for the whole region, and besides -as soon as the outcome of its military confrontation with Iraq was clear- the Pentagon stopped flirting with the Kurdish nationalist leaders. In the same manner, Washington is considering the establishment of an Iran-like Islamic republic to be dangerous and contradictory with the other imperialist interests in that region. This is why, during the decisive days when the fall of Saddam Hussein seemed most likely, all observers were surprised once more by the support the Coalition powers gave to the Iraqi leader whom only a few days earlier they had called "the new Hitler". For us, this stands as an additional proof for our analysis of Capital, as far as the fragility of inter-imperialist alliances is concerned. For sure, the Coalition would prefer the same Baathist party to maintain law and order in Iraq, but headed by somebody with more credibility than Saddam Hussein.
Nevertheless, from the point of view of the US and of its allies, the whole operation did bring about a positive political and military outcome, especially because of the lack of struggle and of proletarian autonomy against the war. A bourgeois outcome of course, not only in relation to the commercial business of the war (who would still buy Russian tanks today?) but also and especially, because of the national and international mobilization and because of the reconstitution and consolidation of the spirit of the most important military power in the world!
From the latter point of view, the war has reached the capitalist and imperialist objectives that were searched for. However, from the most global point of view, from the point of view of the general need for destruction, which will only serve to open a new phase of reconstruction and expansion, there is no doubt about the fact that the Gulf war was completely inadequate. However lucrative the commercial deals are, the ones that many different factions of Capital contracted during the war and during the period of reconstruction in this area, the destructions caused by the war were very small compared to today's necessities for the destruction of capital.
Capitalism needs war still a lot more. This is why we insist that much on the actual limits of the war, because the tendency for a more generalized war remains acute. And nobody can guarantee that today's limits of this war will also be the limits capable of preventing the generalisation of another war tomorrow. The difference between today's blocs and the lack of adhesion to one of them, cannot be a permanent limit for other wars to come. As a matter of fact, because of the rapidity in the changing of interbourgeois alliances -engendered by the depression and today's crisis- and also because of the experience from this last war that will push the weaker factions of the bourgeoisie into making concession to an even higher degree so as to reinforce their bloc and engage into military actions - one can foresee the coming of more equally balanced polarizations, in terms of military power, that will be much more dangerous for the world proletariat. In the future war, there will not be on one side a giant and on the other side a dwarf, but there will be two opposed giants, and not only in military terms, but also in terms of the power that derives from the different myths about the "causes to defend the nation".
Here we have to mention that the weakness of Saddam Hussein does not exclude the possible coming of much more radical factions that will be capable of raising the banner of "third world" ideology or radical anti-imperialism in a much more coherent manner. These factions would also be capable of giving rise to a popular mobilization of the entire nation for waging war in a much less conventional way and therefore in a much more murderous way in regard to the troops of the main imperialist watchdog. Neither can we discard at all the possibility that there might be a more general decomposition of the stronger bloc in this war and the birth of new polarizations between the main industrial powers, including from within the bossom of each country. We cannot either discard the possibility that the standards of international trade will completely explode, opposing e.g. the bourgeois factions in favour of the complete application of the law of international value to other more protectionist factions. Such a polarization would be the most logical and profound one to develop during the coming years: however, it will only become a material force if it manages to crystallize itself in a discourse capable of mobilizing the masses and of inducing the proletariat to kill and die for the fatherland. Such a polarization will appear with completely different discourses and ideological justifications (we discard the reappearance of the old fascism/anti-fascism form) which, however, are not ripe yet.
The community of struggle against capitalism and war is an objective reality that emerges from the interests of the proletariat in opposition to the interests of Capital, its economy, its wars. With its strength and its weaknesses, the common action of the proletariat forges it as a class, as a unified force. The ICG is an expression of this process and it fights, on the highest possible international level, to centralise this force, so as to build up an international direction according to the interests of the proletariat and the historical program of communism.
We repeat here each one of our calls for revolutionary defeatism and for the organisation of the community of struggle against the war. This is why we advise our readers, who have not read all our publications, to read more in particular the following issues of the French language review "Communisme" (before "Le Communiste"): 7, 25, 27 and 29 in which we have developed a whole series of appeals and propositions. In very concrete terms of activity, our group proposed in all these texts:
During the war itself, we experienced the general weakness of our class in everything we have tried to organise or to encourage. While it was important to take up and circulate different information, while deserters and fugitives, in different places, had to be backed up, or also, in order to assume on a larger level some direct action of propaganda and agitation against the war, we were objectively very isolated, mainly here in Western Europe, since we already mentioned how defeatism in Iraq did allow for more centralised action.
As there do not exist any larger class organs to participate in in order to promote and reinforce revolutionary defeatism, as there do not exist any forms of coordination of proletarian action against the war, we had to limit ourselves, here in Europe, to the organisation of some action of propaganda, and this is how, with our own forces as well as with some of our close contacts, we circulated leaflets and reviews, and we produced and put up posters. For us, communist militants, it is a real tragedy that our class was led to die and to kill, without putting up any massive or significant resistance; it is a real tragedy that - in the hour of truth - when it was necessary to prevent the depparture of troops and assume massive and violent action against the enemy "in our own country", we found ourselves to be alone, we, the comrades of the ICG together with some other militants and close sympathizers, and with a balance of forces that was completely paralysing.
Denying this sad reality, denying the impressive force of counter-revolution today, comes down to being its accomplice! From our point of view, this terrible reality does not discourage us. It confirms the invariant road we are following, the struggle of always, against the stream and far away from all popularity.
Today capitalism is stronger than ever. Nevertheless, it has not been able to avoid depression, crisis, and neither will it be able to avoid complete bankruptcy tomorrow, nor a new merciless commercial war that will finish in a new war altogether. Capital has bypassed partially one imperialist contradiction, but it continues to exacerbate the whole of the general contradictions of its system. Sooner or later, the contradiction WAR or REVOLUTION will polarize once more the entire world. Everything that is being done to diminish or postpone the contradictions, in fact only delays the moment when these contradictions will explode, when they will again come to the forefront of the international scene, but with much more power still!
Sooner or later also, with this new and inevitable explosion, the proletariat that has been so absent as an international autonomous class during the ultimate convulsions, will again stand at the centre of the historical scene, and again the contradictions of capitalist society will fuse in the contradiction between war and revolution, between capitalism and communism.
We have attempted to put the main points down in this chapter. We apologize for the relatively disorganised and sometimes bitty presentation - bear in mind that some of this information was obtained by very indirect means, by communication with comrades and proletarians, some of them in the midst of armed confrontation with the State.
As a result of the Iran/Iraq war, it is difficult for the State to control the area, particularly the cities. Ten years of war have literally armed the majority of proletarians. The marshlands, for example, have become an area of convergence for deserters and other proletarians. Soldiers who have been fighting for ten years will no longer put up with a system now demanding taxes or a boss or foreman giving orders. Moreover, in glorifying soldiers returning from the battle front (indispensable war propaganda), the State indirectly encouraged insubordination and resistance to its control over daily life. It responded in a confused manner to try to maintain social peace, but was unable to halt disobedience and generalized disorganisation.
In Baghdad itself, before the bombings, everyone was preparing to flee the city and there was a flourishing trade in forged laissez-passer documents, organisation of hide-outs, etc. Everyone had organised their desertion well in advance of the first bomb dropping on the city: privates, but also some officers who had ripped off their stripes and were sometimes the first to leave. The biggest barracks in Baghdad began to empty as the first shells fell and not a single shot was heard in defence of the barracks. There were desertions and officers were executed. Soldiers and other proletarians made up a corps of shock troopers fighting the Baathist forces. During the war, they managed to gain control of two areas of the city: Al Sourah and Al Sho'ela. Within Baghdad, these areas became magnets for further deserters. Hundreds of soldiers from all over the country escaped from the main barracks in Baghdad and went to such supportive districts, whose inhabitants enabled them to return to their homes, by providing them with rest, food and civilian clothes.
As the threat of a new war became more and more real, resistance to it took on various forms - from passive reaction to violent and armed action against army recruiters. A decisive role was again played by the core of armed proletarians, who responded so significantly to the Iran/Iraq war. Before and during the war, they directed resistance against the military at various levels and were now able to transform initial passive resistance (refusal to sign up, to accept superiors' orders, to go to the front - often supported by the family and friends) into conscious military confrontation with recruiters and others supporting the army.
As always, executions of a few officers carried out by the most resolute minority were initially not openly supported by proletarian conscripts. Although they sympathized with this kind of action, state campaigns against defeatism were still maintaining state terrorism. However, they gradually overcame their fear and executions of officers reached massive scales. Soldiers carried out mass lynching of "their own officers" and it got to a stage where the hierarchy required for cohesion of the army no longer existed. Officers were terrified and lost the balance of power. Soldiers did whatever they wanted and the officers were reduced to apologizing and asking forgiveness. They tried to pretend that they were also against the war and had nothing to do with re-mobilization.
The situation within the army became so chaotic that when the Allied military offensive began, officers ripped the stripes off their uniforms for fear of being recognized and executed on the spot by the masses of deserters. To be seen wearing stripes meant suicide.
At various strategic points in the South defeatist units went even further - attacking official party headquarters, ooccupying food warehouses and distributing the food to starving proletarians. They destroyed the secret police headquarters, killing hundreds of policemen. Uprising developed in Basra, Naseriyah and Diwaniyah. Historically, deserters and other proletarians in hiding from the State are concentrated in this area. In previous issues we wrote about military offensive carried out by the Iraqi State on the marshlands a year after the Iran/Iraq war, which resulted in the death of thousands. At that time government figures estimated 10,000 deserters hiding in the area. Now they talk of 1 million, 55,000 of which are armed deserters.
In this part of Iraq, uprisings started as the Allies' land offensive began. The proletarians' situation became increasingly unbearable due to massive bombings of Basra, Ammarah, Naseriyah, Najaf and Karbala. Organised minorities centralized their activities and struggles took place around all these cities. Contrary to everything that has been said about the religious nature of the movement, religion played no part in the proletarians' struggle. Najaf and Karbala are sacred cities for shiites but the uprising had nothing to do with islam, despite what the bourgeois press try to make us believe. Proletarians used sacred sites to hang Baathists. Mausoleums were riddled with bullets and angry proletarians pissed in the mosques. Difficult, therefore, to talk of "religious fanaticism"!
The Allies had reached the gates of Najaf and Karbala at the time of the uprisings there. It is clear that they halted the land offensive to permit the Iraqi Army to carry out an attack on the insurgents.
As the Iraqi Army descended on the cities, chaos ensued and deserters fled in all directions. Some asked for asylum and aid from the Allied troops but were told "we'll give you something to drink if you're thirsty, but only in exchange for your weapons." They were then sent back, unarmed, to the city to be massacred - one example of collaboration between Saddam and the Allies against the uprising.
We have already described how Saddam recalled his troops posted in the North when large units of armed proletarians from the South began to advance towards Baghdad, thus increasing the disorganisation of the State in Kurdistan.
Thousands of militants from various regions converged in the North - Turks from Kirkuk, Iranians who had fled the war and repression at the time in Iran, etc... As cities such as Halabja and Qal'at Dizah had been decimated by Saddam a few years before, they took refuge around Suleimaniya (there were more than 70,000 proletarians organizing themselves into radical groups for self-defence, struggle against state control, against Kurdish or other nationalists). This mixture of proletarians, with varying horizons and experiences, produced a situation in which Kurdish nationalist held very little sway, their usual slogans "Freedom for the Kurdish people" and "Rights for the Kurds" having little effect on the march uprising in Suleimaniya.
In order to counter the large scale uprisings in cities such as Arbil, Kirkuk, Mosul and Suleimaniya... that started with the launching of the land offensive, Saddam signed an agreement for peaceful coexistence with the nationalists. Yalal Talabani; leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Massoud Barsani, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), announced publicly in April and May 1991 that they had reached an agreement with Saddam Hussein. Even more recently, Talabani confirmed that during the war his organisation deliberately avoided taking any action liable to destabilize the State "out of national respect", guaranteeing a mutual respect for territory under the violent monopoly of whichever force. We now know that the "People's Mujahedin" of Iran also took part in these agreements and that their shock troops were used against the proletarian uprising.
In the North, proletarian struggle was outside of and opposed to the official nationalist opposition parties, such as KDP and PUK, from the outset. The internationalist and defeatist proletarian vanguard denounced them as participating in the war.
We now have further information on the context and conditions in which confrontations with the State took place, particularly during the March uprising in Suleimaniya. Before coming on to this, we would like to mention further news we have about a women's demo in Suleimaniya during which 300 women were arrested and later killed. The demo turned violent when a militant woman from Iran tried to take a soldier's gun off him and was shot dead by another soldier on a watchtower. This militant has now become a symbol of proletarian struggle against war and State, a recognized martyr reflecting the image of struggle in Suleimaniya. It is of no consequence to proletarians from Iraq that she was from Iran - what counts is what she did. We have not told this story as an anecdote, but because it expresses the anti-nationalist content of the movement, rising out of a struggle in which proletarians no longer walk in the gutter bourgeois ideology digs to make proletarians confront each other as Iraqis, Iranians, Kurds, shiites...
In Suleimaniya, they decided to attack on the 8th of March at 13h00. Groups were formed and given specific targets - barracks, police stations, secret police and information headquarters, the "United Nations Hotel" (a hotel used by the United Nations, but which turned out to be a secret police base), main entrances to the city and surrounding areas to prevent nationalists and journalists from entering,... All proletarians were delighted with this course of action - tensions had been running for the a while and everyone was expecting something to happen. The army could sense the growing hatred and tension and was forecasting that something would blow. Nevertheless, the offensive on Suleimaniya took them by surprise - the city was attacked from all sides simultaneously.
Our comrades have given us specific examples of how the groups of internationalist insurgents were themselves overtaken by proletarian mass action, driven by their class interests and hatred. This occurs in any insurrectional process and is illustrated by events as a few hundred armed revolutionaries advanced into Suleimaniya and were greeted by the masses of proletarians, all carrying weapons. The proletarians' sole objective was to violently impose their own interests on their oppressors and, in order to do so, much to the surprise of the revolutionary insurgents, they had managed to arm themselves not only with light hand guns, but also heavy artillery, and were preparing to use them against the State.
In the course of the attack of the city, more and more proletarians joined the fighting. When the barracks were taken over, arms were distributed to proletarians prepared to fight. They were given orders to attack milk stores (milk had been rationed), prisons and to release prisoners. Anyone in military uniform was massacred on the spot.
The uprising was particularly violent, proletarians taking revenge for the years of massacre and organized state terrorism. They attacked Saddam's secret police force.
After two days of fighting the hide-out of political police fell into the hands of the insurgents. Fighting was very violent as the highly trained soldiers defended the building. Victory was won as increasing numbers of proletarians joined the battle and hundreds of Baathist police hiding in the building were killed.
The occupation of Suleimaniya got underway starting with the reappropriation of machines, secret documents and weapons and this explains the comments of some nationalist leaders reported in western newspapers:
"Disorder benefits none, there are undoubtedly agitators amongst those sowing the seeds of disorder... they are destroying everything, not only attacking and killing members of Saddam's secret police which is understandable but they are also burning all police files and registers of property and civil status... It is clear to us that agitators, Baathists are responsible, because, as you imagine, we will need all this later - every state organisation needs these documents!"What these bourgeois fail to understand or better put, arose not to admit, is that the aim of the revolt was not to reorganise the state and capital's administration, or to liberate the nation, but like every significant proletarian insurrection, the struggle is against the State itself and aims to attack all of its manifestations - military, police, public buildings, parties and security and property documents.
On hearing that the Baathists had hidden in a park outside the town, proletarians descended on it shouting:
"Long live Shura, abolish the State!"
The nationalists went on to Kirkuk to take control of the city. They arrived first, but were closely followed by militants from the Shura, armed to the teeth. In Kirkuk the PUK and KDP are in the majority and with the balance of power in their favour, they fought against the government and the Shura.
The agreement between Saddam and the nationalists to quell the rebellion, includes a proviso that "Arabs" (deserters from the South who took part in the uprisings in the North) be returned to "their own" area.
After the uprisings "Free Kurdish Radio" made daily broadcasts threatening those in possession of arms or Shura leaflets with execution.
A rift developed between Communist Perspective and the Shura, due to disagreements on positions. However we do not have any details of this. The split demobilized and distanced many proletarian sympathizers, although solidarity was maintained between the groups in the face of nationalist repression.
Briefly, the Shura can be described as an internationalist proletarian organisation, opposed to Kurdish or other nationalists. It fights to strengthen the revolutionary movement, not only in Iraq, but throughout the world. It defines capital as a worldwide social relationship which can therefore only be abolished worldwide by a world revolution (9).
After the uprising the movement died down a bit and the Shura went underground again to escape massacre.
The army and the nationalists retook Suleimaniya in mid-April. The alliance between the government and the nationalists was perfect - the nationalists denounce the militants of Shura and give the State all information they have: names, addresses, activities,...
The Shura called for denunciation of nationalists throughout the world. The Kurdish nationalists organised a radio campaign, claiming that they had liberated Kurdistan, that the cities were free thanks to the PUK and KDP and that their example should be followed to clear the city of anarchists, troublemakers, etc.
On the 30th and 31st of May there were more riots in Suleimaniya. Looting was organised and many soldiers gave up their arms out of fear of being massacred. Government and nationalist forces called for reinforcements. Despite their hatred of nationalists, the proletarians did not kill them and the PUK imposed a curfew by shooting at anyone out on the streets after 7pm. In this way, the PUK remained in control of the situation.
Significant proletarian uprisings also took place in Raniyah, Kirkuk and Arbil. Deserters and armed minority groups played an important part. These minorities described their position as being against all bourgeois factions (governmental and nationalist) and were concentrated and trained in the area of Karadakh. Confrontation between nationalists and internationalists was open. Internationalist comrades know that defeat is synonymous with massacre and that nationalist militias act without mercy.
As for the bloody battles in which Allied "heros" and soldiers of the Republican Guard were engaged, only 5% of the Republican Guard were killed in the war. Proletarian struggle took a far greater toll on the state cracktroops than the whole of the Allied offensive.
As it was to be expected, the maintenance of bourgeois order was much more of a preoccupation and determining factor to the Allies than their conflicts with "damned Saddam". Today (July 1991), the Republican Guards still play essential role in the region. There is no doubt that, over and above their desire to liquidate Saddam, the Pentagon and the most powerful forces of international capitalism in general, consider the Baath party to be a good guarantor for order in the region (this not excluding alliances with nationalist and religious factions - on the contrary). It is clear that the decision not to attack critical sectors of the Republican Guard and to stop the war were motivated by the absolute necessity for a local force capable of guaranteeing social peace. This was illustrated by pictures broadcast by the media, which they themselves considered surreal, showing North American marines protecting soldiers and the Republican Guard from proletarian anger and subversion.
In the same way, fundamentally, humanitarian missions are concentrated efforts to disarm the proletariat. In the camps the U.N. works with the nationalists and nothing is done without their agreement. Food is only given to those who surrender their guns! Nationalists make constant radio appeals in a sometimes threatening, sometimes reassuring tone of voice, calling for wanted militants to give themselves up. They read out their names, say they know where they are hiding and promise them an amnesty and food in exchange for their weapons... "Humanitarian" aid is thus sold to those ready to accept State discipline and submission to order... The Allied forces repay them with a bit of bread and medical attention.
Neither the government, the nationalists, nor the Allied forces managed to control the situation. This is why they had to form an alliance. The government sent several patrols out in every northern city and gave them orders to find proletarians from the South and send them back. But the situation was so tense that soldiers threw down their weapons and expressed their solidarity with the proletarians every time one of them refused to show his identity card.
Out of ignorance - or as a deliberate policy of disinformation - the proletarian rebellion in the North has become identified with Kurdish nationalism and that in the South with Iranian State Islam.
Without underestimating the repressive ideological strength of nationalists and religious forces, we must stress that all struggles described in this article were organised apart from and against them. They never call for struggle against the State and actually constitute some of the state's most reliable defenders.
2. It may seem incredible from the Marxist point of view but there has been a lot of simple-minded persons to consider these divisions stable and fixed once and for ever and to materialize this belief in the programme of their organisations. A centrist organisation like the ICC for instance, does not only consider state capitalism as a new characteristic "dominating the social life" in "the phase of decadence", of which the example of the so-called socialist countries is the best demonstration; the ICC does not only accept the bourgeois ideological division between developed and under-developed countries, but has also fixed these divisions in its platform for years and not only do they talk about three worlds like all the politicians, but also claim to be able to explain all the contradictions and the imperialist wars thanks to the famous question of the blocks (just like the bourgeois press does). Therefore, it is quite easy to understand why, just like the bourgeoisie and its politicians, who spend their time talking about the collapse of communism, the ICC spends its time explaining the collapse of the blocks. While, in fact, what it should try to explain is the collapse of its view of the world.
3. Only a short time before the launching of the land offensive, a military analysist of the Salomon Brothers Company declared: "The whole of the military industrial sector is making profits... while only a very small part of the defensive potentials that have been moved into the Gulf area have gone into action... when the exhibition on television will start, showing the tanks, all the land equipment, the Marines with their material, then the values of the producing companies will undoubtedly rise on the stock exchange market."
4. See "1984... 1985... 87... 89... pire que prévu - La citoyennisation de la vie" in "Le Communiste" No.27.
5. It is obvious that we absolutely do not deny that parties and unions, as real apparatus of the capitalist State, continue to have a fundamental role to dominate the proletariat and to ensure capital's capacity to send them to war. We simply want to stress the fact that they are no longer (as this was the case for instance at the end of last century and until the second world war in some countries, or even until recently in some other countries still) at the center of the "collective" life of the worker, a center for discussion, for meeting, i.e. a reference in regard to the relations with the outside world. Today, nearly everywhere, because of the particular form of counterrevolution, this fiction of "collectivity" does not exist any longer and proletarians have been individualised up to a point never known before!
6. It is obvious that all ideological construction bases itself on reality and on the deformation of that reality. In this case, reality means that for Capital, and therefore for all imperialist sides, nature is only of little importance (because for all of them, only the law of capital exists as an immutable law, i.e. the law of the highest rate of profit that dominates the whole environment). And that's why poor mother nature becomes always -in wartime as well as in times of peace -- more degraded, be it in the middle of huge industrial areas, or in the middle of the always growing desert.
7. As for any other kind of sale of the commodity "workforce", the free decision is determined by the freedom to face starvation; in this particular case, by the alternative: to go to war or to starve! In the United States, since the misery of the lower strata of the proletariat is so violent and since the possibilities to find a job are nearly inexistent, the only way to survive is to join the army! This reality affects more particularly blacks, Portoricans, and also the "sans réserves" of Mexican, Central-American... origins, and that is why there is a much higher proportion of these fractions of the proletariat in the army than there is in the civil population. But in spite of this, in spite of the contradictions that derive from this and in spite of the enormous possibilities for revolt that exist in this army, it is sure that the coherence of any military body is much superior when this body is composed of wage-labourers rather than when it has been composed through forced conscription (as all major wars in history have shown us!).
8. In the beginning, when this city was conquered by part of the Iraqi army, North American television talked about a "mosquito bite on an elephant skin"; but the next day, after the Coalition forces had reconquered the city, the battle all of a sudden became "an important military victory for the Coalition!"
9. This is a description of what Al Shura was initially. However, a widespread "Shura movement" developed with about 54 shuras (workers' councils) in Suleimaniya, some pro-C.P., some marxist-leninist and some along the lines of the original Al Shura and Communist Perspective.
Tehran has 11 million inhabitants and the traffic and activity in the city at night is busier than most European cities during the day. Nearly every Iranian we met asked incredulously "why did you come here?," saying they hate the system and describing how hard life is in Iran. However, it was difficult to find any written expression of the class struggle. Comrades living there confirmed that this is the case and explained that there are Pasdaran ("Revolutionary Guards" - government soldiers) specially employed to whitewash anti-government and anti-religious graffiti. We were unable to find any political leaflets or publications either.
The Pasdaran's most visible concern was with the Islamic dress code for women. Any man in Iran, whether an official Pasdaran or not, can make himself a self-appointed guardian of Islamic moral values and can reproach any woman he considers to be flaunting too much of herself. They are on the street, in the shops, in hotels... always watching to see whose scarf has slipped too far back or who is not wearing the mandatory socks or tights under her overcoat. Women "unsuitably dressed" are barred from offices, museums, will not be served in shops or restaurants.
The only advantage for women in this male-female apartheid is that they rarely get asked for their identity cards and rarely get searched. The examples given here actually represent a major relaxation in the dress code. Previously, women were stoned for showing a strand of hair and black chardors were obligatory. Now people have gradually pushed back the limits imposed on them and wear "Western" clothes covered by European-style raincoats instead of a chardor. They can show their fringe under the headscarf and men are now allowed to wear short-sleeved shirts. This change is also reflected in the distinct decrease in public Islamic fervor. Up until 1987, Friday prayers were held in a major, very long and wide street called Revolution Street. Thousands and thousands of people would go and the street was closed to traffic. We went back there one Friday, to find a Mullah preaching himself hoarse to only eight people, whilst cars and buses drove up and down. The government knows it can only reverse this trend at its peril.
The atmosphere in Tehran is very tense. Many people have told us that "Iran is pregnant with revolution," and this is certainly the way it feels. People are impatient, tempers easily frayed, and they smile and laugh only rarely. Homelessness, unemployment, food prices, the number of drug-addicts and, very visibly, the anger of proletarians are on an upward spiral. Almost everybody we spoke to told us "Life is very difficult here... Everything is expensive... Our revolution wasn't to bring these bastards to power..." As one taxi driver said: "Sometimes I am forced to take on so many jobs that I don't see my wife and children for a whole week and this is certainly the case for most of my colleagues."
In July 1991 there was a demonstration in which people demanded more food. They used a slogan "We have become beggars, the Mullahs millionaires." The demo spread over Tehran, Asfahan and Hamadan. Seven women were killed in Tehran when they discarded their headscarves. Further demos occurred on August 18th 1991, and spread over Tuysarkan, Hamadan, Zinjan, Tehran, and Asfahan. The same slogan was used and there were clashes resulting in 2000 arrests and 5 deaths in Zinjan, 5 arrests in Asfahan, and a further 50 deaths in Hamadan. In Tehran a demonstrator set fire to the City Hall and killed the mayor.
As a result of increasing class struggle, the government has become roughly divided into two main factions - something totally contrary to the philosophy of the supposedly united "Party of God." Rafsanjani realizes that liberalization and increased tolerance is necessary to avert another revolution. Khameini and his followers still favor the hardline approach.
After spending days enquiring about the relative safety of various routes, we went to Sulaimania.
The border between Iran and Iraq is not marked, with often only a single Pasdar sitting at an apparently arbitrary place. He is not so much interested in preventing people crossing or scrutinizing travel documents as he is in assessing their "bribing potential," searching for hidden dollars and goods obviously intended for sale in Iraq. He then frightens smugglers into bribing him to let them pass. This is a further example of the changing social climate, whereby previous "guardians of Islamic morals," prepared to kill anyone threatening to corrupt the Muslim State, are now more interested in personal financial gain. We were not bodysearched - fortunately, as we had leaflets hidden in our underpants and dollars in our shoes.
The first town we entered, Nizarah, is a devastated area, now full of refugees from Sulaimania, Kirkuk, and Arbil provinces. There are several Red Cross and U.N. camps but people overflow in their thousands to the mountainsides. Their only shelter are lean-tos that they have built out of branches and leaves.
Between the border and Nizarah, there are two checkpoints manned by Peshmerga from the Kurdish Front. They levy taxes on smuggled goods and search for Arabs travelling in the area, most of whom are deserters and anti-government militants. In their attempts to keep "Arab" and "Kurdish" communist militants divided, the Peshmerga want to force Arabs out of Kurdistan (except those they can make use of). It is dangerous for Arabs travelling around Kurdistan and to gain any degree of protection they have to be able to prove that they are Peshmerga for the Kurdish Front (KF). The only Party in the Front that will accept them is the Iraqi CP. Any Arab found by Nationalist Peshmerga without KF documents is taken prisoner and then handed over to the Iraqi authorities, most likely to be shot. However, despite the risks involved, some Arab comrades working with the Shuras do manage to travel to and from Kurdistan, holding meetings with Kurdish comrades and taking information back to militants in Baghdad.
When Talabani was in Iran one day in his car he passed many of the refugees fleeing into Iran. At first nobody realized it was him, but when he stopped nearby one old woman recognizing him bent down, scooped up a handful of the mud she was walking barefoot in, and asked him to lean out of the car window so that she might throw the mud in his face. He remained composed. "Of course," he replied. "I will do whatever the Mothers of Kurdistan request of me." The woman dropped the mud and cried limply, "What have we done to deserve this? Why are you doing this to us?"
Since government-Kurdish Front negotiations, the checkpoints around Sulaimania are manned by Iraqi soldiers and Peshmerga of the Kurdish Front (mainly KDP and PUK) working together. The soldiers sent to man checkpoints and to go on patrols in the Sulaimania district are young conscripts and are terrified of the Kurdish Front. Firstly, they realize that a breakdown in negotiations may result in them all being killed in new fighting. Secondly, they know that if they try to desert, the Kurdish Front will round them up and send them back to their army units - to a certain death. Thirdly, and most importantly, the lack of a centralized and well-organized proletarian group in Kurdistan means that there are very few places to which the soldiers can turn for solidarity and mutual support.
At the end of July there was further fighting and Kirkuk came back under the control of the Shuras and other insurgents. Militants found government documents marked "Confidential - Top Secret, June 1991" (when KF-Baathist negotiations were still in progress) in one of the secret police stations. These give orders to shoot "troublemakers from Shuras, Iraqi Communist Party, and Islamic organizations, and to kill, on the spot, any soldier who appears to have deserted or who cannot account for his gun...."
On arrival in Sulaimania, we went straight to see some Shura contacts. We were waiting for a comrade, who was to take us to one of the Shura bases. Suddenly, he rushed into the house, grabbed his gun, cocked it, acknowledged our presence with a hurried "Hi" and rushed out. We all followed, thinking that fighting had started up again. Out on the street we saw a man pointing a rifle at a group of women crouched on the ground. The comrade ran up behind him and shouted "Drop it or I'll shoot." People started running out of their houses, armed with pistols, and surrounded the man. He was forced to give up his rifle - but in the scuffle a few shots were fired and overheard by Kurdish Front Peshmerga out on patrol of the city.
They got out of their jeep and asked A. to show them his license for the rifle. Our comrade replied with derision, "You can wait all year and I wouldn't even show you a license for a bullet." He turned to the crowd and said: "The Kurdish Front want to take our rifles off us and hand them back to the Baathists, just as they returned our commandeered tanks to them." The Peshmerga were livid but they could sense the animosity of the crowd. After a short discussion amongst themselves, they climbed back into the jeep and drove off. Our comrade then took us to see one of the Shuras. They told us that we had arrived at a bad time and that the length of our stay would be determined by the danger of the ever-changing situation in Sulaimania. They had heard that 250,000 soldiers were going to advance on Sulaimania, so it was vital for them to constantly keep up to date with events. They warned us that long discussions may not be possible, as they would have to leave to assess the situation at regular intervals, especially during the day.
There were 56 Shuras in the beginning, each one set up largely according to district. Existing Shuras would call for people to set up further ones in their own areas. However, many of them had widely conflicting viewpoints and so people would tend to join the Shura most closely representing their own ideas.
All leaflets and publications produced by the Shuras and other organizations have, to a greater or lesser extent, democratic tendencies. The movement, as far as "practical activities" are concerned, has been overridingly anti-democratic. However, this dictatorship of the proletariat has gone largely unmentioned, even in publications written by comrades who were amongst the most radically active during the uprising. For example, when secret policemen were taken prisoner by the Shuras the organizers of one Shura consulted the PUK on how they should deal with them, as some members wanted to put them on trial, and convict them accordingly. While they were deciding how best to organize this, radical Shura members took matters into their own hands, breaking into the building and killing all the secret policemen themselves.
During the uprising insurgents had taken control of all government buildings except for the main secret police station. The secret police were shelling the city at random, killing many people, but it was clear that they could not defend the headquarters for much longer. A major mistake was made by the Shuras, mainly due to lack of centralization of information. The pro-nationalist Shuras sent for the Nationalist peshmerga who were in the mountains near Sulaimania, asking for their help in toppling the last Baathist stronghold. These Shuras hailed the Peshmerga as heroes who had saved the day. But the proletarian Shuras, for example Communist Perspective Organization, had been unaware of plans to involve the Nationalists, and were furious.
There is still a major problem with lack of centralization of activities and information today. Some members of proletarian Shuras, who had not heard about very strong anti-nationalist activities had been carried out by other Shuras and had therefore not been able to coordinate with them. In some parts of the city Shuras were welcoming Nationalist Peshmerga as "our brothers," whilst in other areas, Shura people shouted "Down with the Baath regime, Nationalism, and the Kurdish bourgeoisie!"
However, the movement was generally "spontaneous" and pro-working class, with slogans about the poor and exploited of Iraq, etc. Nationalism was initially very weak. The things that enabled the Nationalists to hi-jack the movement were:
1. The Shuras did not have a clear political direction. For example, instead of writing "working class" or "proletariat" in their leaflets and slogans, they used terms such as "the people" of Kurdistan, etc. They did not understand that "People power" - as opposed to "Proletarian power" - is the rule of people as citizens particcipating in capitalist society. It thus signifies the rule of money and profit, contributing to the health of Capital.
2. The Shuras did not have organized and centralized strategies during the uprising and did not take enough precautions against the Nationalists. For example, it did not occur to them to take over the banks and it was only when the Nationalist Peshmergas did so that they realized their mistake. As a result of occupying the banks, the peshmerga strengthened their position enormously, having the means to buy and distribute food and other goods, thus increasing people's dependence on them.
3. All Shuras and organizations had democratic tendencies. Even proletarian Shuras were demanding the right to freedom of expression, demonstrations, publications, etc. It can be seen in all their activities that they did not have a practical grasp of the State as a social relationship, attacking concrete manifestations of the State in the form of Baathist party offices, etc., but neglecting to target anti-communist movements, such as Nationalism, as well. This represented counter-revolution within the Shura movement itself.
4. The western media and western aid agencies built up the Nationalist movement with propaganda and practical help. The Nationalists were able to use the local media to denounce the Shuras as "immature troublemakers and looters."
A dangerous consequence of the militants' open participation in the uprising is that most of them are now well-known as communist militants and, in their present defeat, are at great risk. We reminded them of the massacre of the militants of Sanandaj in Iran in 1980. We warned them to be very much on the defensive, if offensive action against Kurdish Front bases is no longer possible. Because of the geography of the Sulaimania province, winter makes it practically impossible to flee from attack. The only way to flee Sulaimania is into the mountains, and the city itself is surrounded by a 60 mile wide ring-road. This was built as a military strategy for greater control of the city, in response to mass desertion and strong militancy in the region.
During discussions two main areas in which comrades in Europe could be of help were highlighted:
1. Financial. They are planning to send some comrades to live abroad, within easy access of Iraq but where they would be able to form a point of contact. We were very happy to hear this and agreed that we need to support such moves toward centralizing and developing communist activity.
2. Written material - they said that the political climate in Iraq is such that the demand for proletarian publications is very high. They clearly have a lot of practical obstacles in their way with regards to writing leaflets, etc. and want us to send them leaflets so that they can photocopy and distribute them. They also asked for books documenting proletarian history that still remain banned in Iran and Iraq, their working class-oriented reading matter being restricted to Marx and Engels.
We told them that the reason we came was (besides giving financial help and obtaining information) to make a step towards centralizing our activities, to build a basis for continued contact, to develop communist activity through shared experiences and to give direction to the movement. They agreed with all of these points. In discussions, the Shuras members and us agreed on most main points. However, on the whole, they had not thought out clear political principles and our discussions were largely one-sided, with us talking and them listening. They often contradicted themselves which made things quite confusing. They explained how it had been practically impossible to be actively organized for years, up until 6 months before the invasion. They had had to deliberately avoid meeting up with comrades for discussion to prevent the secret police from knowing he had contact with them. Any gathering of more than 3 people was highly suspect in the eyes of the police. Possession of a pot of "TIPEX" (white-out), let alone a typewriter was punishable by hanging, if you had no license for it. Even secretaries had to hand in their typewriters to a private police office every day after work... It was therefore logistically very difficult to produce leaflets, etc. However, 6 months before the invasion, the state appeared to lose its grip and it became comparatively easy to contact comrades, etc. Discussions were then about practical issues of how to arm themselves, how to organize physical attacks and later, how to set up Shuras. Clearly, they have not had much chance to develop opinions on "political theory."
This is one of the reasons why they are so desperate for written material. They kept interrupting, asking us to send them communist literature on our return. "Before the war, which was obviously planned to crush and manipulate the expected uprising, the working class was beginning to start and lead activities to destabilize the State. Events, particularly because of the war, are developing at a much faster pace than the proletariat is prepared for," said a comrade.
1. Since the existence of capitalism the world has consisted of two opposing classes, and despite competition amongst themselves, all states are united in a common interest - exploitation of the proletariat.
2. Communism cannot be built in one country. The Iraqi state cannot be abolished by armed uprising confined to Iraq. Uprisings like the one in Iraq are products of the historical experience of the working class, revolution being a continuous - and not isolated - process.
3. We do not advocate guerilla warfare alone as a means of bringing about communist revolution. However, we are under direct armed attack by capitalist forces and on occasion our class needs to retaliate and if possible, go on the offensive. Obviously, sometimes it is against the interests of the struggle to take up arms and expose ourselves further to capitalist attack. We are an historical class fighting the capitalist class in the form of a social movement, not as one machine against another.
4. Nationalism is a capitalist policy to crush the communist movement, its aim being to hide the true nature of the class struggle. Neither workers nor capitalists are national, they both belong to international opposing classes. "Nationalist" workers have been brainwashed.
We disagreed that nationalism is a planned capitalist policy. The nation exists as a result of the capitalist mode of production. Nation and Nationalism, the differentiation made between Black and White, Men and Women, Queer and Straight, Arab and Kurd, etc, reflect the needs of capitalist society and are not cynical policies. Patriotism is a real characteristic of the bourgeoisie. In this regard, international capitalists seem to be opposing each other, but this only constitutes the competition they need. It is their nationalism which unites them as an international class against the proletariat. Nationalism is not something imposed forcibly by the state on society. It is an integral part of the capitalist social relationship and is not confined to the ruling class. Millions of workers have died and are still dying in defense of the Nation. We cannot say that they have been brainwashed and are sacrificing themselves out of a robotic subjugation to the state. Their sincere patriotism results from the capitalist social relationship and class contradictions.
They contradicted themselves many times, but still insisted that nationalism is a planned capitalist policy rather than a movement evident in human beings subjected to capitalist social relationships.
5. A large proportion of our time was taken up with stories of events in Sulaimania.
6. Party and Class.
Party: All communist struggle and activity aiming to destroy the capitalist way of life since its emergence represents activity by the party of the proletariat... so that your participation in the uprising, our journeys, etc, represent, whether we like it or not, activity by the party, albeit only very weakly centralized. The ICG, for instance, is a centralizing force of existing class struggle. The reason why past revolutionaries were defeated is not because of the absence of the Party, but because of the balance of class power between proletariat and capital.
Class: For us, being "proletarian" is not synonymous with being a "worker." The proletariat as an international class is determined by its struggle against capitalist society and has a deep meaning which cannot be defined solely on the basis of income, degree of exploitation, etc. In short, the communist movement consists of the anti-capitalist activity of the proletariat. They agreed that, although it is an international class, globally the proletariat is very weak and does not centralize itself internationally as a "class" and a "party." We discussed how the power of the proletariat in any one country is dependent on the our power throughout the world. The same interdependence is true for capitalism - if Bush catches a cold, Saddam sneezes.
7. We had a discussion about Marxism and Marx. A comrade said he considered Marx's work to be a product of class struggle and Marx to be a fallible militant. We all agreed that capitalism had portrayed Marx's work as the be-all and end-all of communist theory and Marx as the God of the working class. Communism is a dialectical and social movement and did not start from, nor does it stop at, Marx. It is a movement that digs a grave for idol worship. To illustrate these points, we talked about class struggle before Marx, e.g., the Qaramita and Mazdaq revolutions, and how individuals and organizations existed in Marx's lifetime, who were not members of the 1st International, did not know Marx and yet had very similar programs to him, e.g., El Productor in Cuba.
8. Peace and War. They totally agreed with the statement used by the ICG in our leaflet: "They drag us to work as they drag us to war." They agreed that the existence of capitalism signifies war in itself, and "peace-time" can never exist for the proletariat. However, they criticized us for saying "Neither peace nor war," which we explained was a reaction to the very strong peace movement in Europe, which sees war only as military conflict, not as illnesses, accidents, isolation, work, etc.
9. We strongly criticized and rejected the contents of their publications (and some comrades totally agreed). They by no means reflect the nature of the movement in Iraq, nor even the eyewitness accounts they related to us. They tried to justify the weaknesses of their articles by explaining that they wanted to write them in a language that people would understand and that the situation appeared to demand. Our reply was that we wouldn't be surprised to hear such excuses in Western Europe, where "social peace" reigns and "getting the communist message to the masses" has assumed a disproportionate degree of importance. However, to hear this in Iraq, where the issue of the class struggle forms part of everyday conversation, was disappointing. The bourgeoisie does not only try to crush us by the use of prisons, massacres, torture, isolation... but also makes us feel we have to modify the language of communism, so that "people will understand." However, the result is to distort our history and our positions. We pointed out all the leaflets in which they had made demands for the "the right of free political discussion, the right to hold political meetings." Some comrades told us that it is impossible to find an ideologically sound, or in the communist point of view, a good leaflet produced in Sulaimania.
We asked them where and when they have seen a State grant communists "the right to destroy all States" (!), which can be the only historical program of our movement. In many places they have written "people" instead of "proletariat," which is not a mere word, but reflects ideology and we pointed out the danger of this. They explained that as far as they were concerned, "people" means proletariat and that the bourgeoisie are not "people!!" The most striking thing is the contradiction between what they say and what they do. In practice they are against democracy, the nation, free rights... As we mentioned earlier, the past political climate prohibited them from reading communist literature, active discussion, etc. Another reason was that they underestimated the movement, thinking that the "people" would never understand concepts such as the "proletariat."
* Shortly before the invasion the government stopped the conscription of farmers and their sons and announced an amnesty for many prisoners, on the proviso that they return to and start working their land for agricultural production.
* Conscription (from the age of 17 to 45) was reinstituted as soon as Kuwait was invaded. However, vast numbers of soldiers deserted, especially in Sulaimania and in the Marshlands. Many of them couldn't desert, because they didn't have any money and had been sent there without their official papers. In general, most people, in the hope of getting rid of the Baath regime, did not want the government to withdraw from Kuwait. (Another sign of the hopelessness and desperation of the movement.)
* At the beginning of February the Clan Army leaders in Kurdistan tried to calm the populace, spreading rumors that a Republican Guard Unit had been set up in Sulaimania. They warned that any popular uprising would result in the decimation of the area in which it arose by the Republican Guard.
* On the 5th of March 1991 (just before the uprising) there was a meeting between the Clan Army leaders and a representative of the Baath Party in Sulaimania. The Shuras have the documents recording the minutes of this meeting, in which the Government gave the Clan Armies free reign to kill all those involved in any uprising.
* The night before the uprising, militants (who were to go on to form Shuras) paid a visit to the Jash (Clan Army soldiers) and asked them to help them by giving them weapons. They were given 2 pistols and a Kalashnikov going on to use them to attack houses belonging to the Jash and disarm them. Some of the Jash immediately and willingly came over to fight on their side.
* One organization, Communist Perspective Organization, was set up about 6 months before the uprising. Shortly before the uprising, another one was formed, called "Uprising Group." This was based purely on direct action and did not publish any leaflets, etc.
Communist Perspective Organization had developed their political positions and organization before the uprising. They had coordinated their activities with other militants and had clear political objectives. Some of them had already been arrested for militant activity before the uprising.
The militants who took weapons from the Jash had been in contact with Communist Perspective Organization and had asked to work with them in practical anti-State activities. Communist Perspective Organization wanted, above all, to avoid becoming a populist organization only serving to coordinate anti-government attacks, regardless of individual insurgents' positions. They only wanted to work with proletarians dedicated to the same aim.
* The allied bombing was in progress and the uprising had not yet started in Sulaimania. Deserters came back to Kurdistan from the South and told people that an uprising had started in Kut, Ammarah, Naseriyah, Samawah, and Hellah.
* On 2/29/91 deserters reported that Basra had been taken over by insurgents and that army units, complete with weapons and tanks, had come over to their side. There was also an insurrection in the Al-Thawra area of Baghdad. The comrades and people we saw also assured us that the movement in the South is far from being lead by the Shiites. In a rare moment of honesty - and against the best interests of capitaalism - the media divulged that:
"All the damage was the result of anarchists and saboteurs... They were anarchists, criminals. They drank whisky inside the shrines, and made love to women..."* On the 5th of March insurgents took control in Raniyah. Their main slogans called for people to set up Shuras.
(London Independent, July 1991)
* 3/6/91 - City of Chwar Korna joined the uprising.
* 3/7/91 - Militant groups and individuals made preparations to attack government offices and installations in Sulaimania. Some insurgents who were unaware that militants had been planning an uprising for months and that much of the points of attack had already been organized, tried to inspire others to join the rebellion. They did so by spreading a rumor that the police headquarters had been occupied by the Peshmerga, thus inadvertently spreading very useful propaganda for the Nationalists (which was very successful!).
* There were armed insurgents in every area of Sulaimania. Some had been given weapons by Jash sympathizers, others had forced the Jash to hand over weapons if they refused to fight with them. 2-3 hours after the fighting started on the 7th, some insurgents "decided" to form Shuras, which actually came about as a result of communist militant activity, past and present, and the influence of the 1979-80 Shura movement in Iran.
2. A need to prevent massive looting. Opportunistic sharks were clearing the city of, for example, hospital beds and electrical equipment and taking them to Iran to sell. As hospitals came under the control of the insurgents and increasing numbers of rebels were wounded, such items became vital to the struggle.
3. They saw a need to organize militant action - where their main targets should be and how they should attack them. For example, 48 conscript soldiers were picked up and then hidden by one of the Shuras, to protect them from indiscriminate killing by the Nationalists. They were later released in a safer area. They also aimed to develop their activity and spread it to other parts.
* The same day nearly 30,000 people, some armed and some not, converged on the Shura headquarters at Awat School, where Shura members talked to the crowds through loudspeakers. "These are our headquarters, a base for councils of the exploited. Set up your workers' councils. Make the Shura your base for long-term struggle. Bring looted goods and food here and we will distribute them. Class consciousness is the arm of freedom. Revolutionary people, revolutionary exploited, the achievements of the revolution have cost us our own blood! Keep it going! Don't waste it!"
Shura supporters captured six hundred secret policemen and brought them to the headquarters. Some Shura members went to consult PUK leaders in the mountains regarding the 600 prisoners. Noshirwan, a military commander, said that they should not be killed: "they could be useful later." The Shura members themselves wanted to parade the policemen, listing their catalogues of torture in front of the crowds before killing them. However, the crowds were livid at Noshirwan's suggestion and even prevented the Shura from parading the men, pouring into the building and killing them all themselves.
* By the time the city came under control, there were 56 Shuras in existence, including the Refuse Collectors, Cement, Cloth, Cigarette, and Sugar factory workers' Shuras.
* Communist Perspective's Shura (CPS), which included some of their members and many sympathizers, were in close contact with the above 5 workers' Shuras. They held meetings in which they discussed how the workers had taken over the factories, killing Baathist managers and employees, etc. Communist Perspective Shura stressed that factory machines should be protected and not destroyed in the heat of the uprising. They anticipated a time when the uprising would be cut off from any external supplies and would have to support itself for food, clothes, etc.
* 3/10/91 - Shuras were set up in Arbil and took control of the city in 3 hours; there were 42 Shuras.
* 3/12/91 - Shura's representatives from Sulaimania went to Arbil and held meetings regarding the centralization of work. The Awat Shura told all the other Shuras that a central committee should be formed. This was set up and they started to produce Shura membership cards, to be able to identify those attending their meetings and armed Shura militants. However, there was some conflict and unity broke down as a result of three different viewpoints:
1. Members of the central committee must be politically pro-working
2. The Shuras represent "the people" and anyone should be allowed to sit on the central committee, not only communist militants.
3. The members should be democratically elected and anyone opposed to the Baath regime should be allowed to vote.
* The peshmerga arrived in the city shortly before it came under the complete control of the insurgents. They occupied all the commandeered government vehicles, the bank, and took over government properties, thus influencing people to concentrate on looting rather than the struggle.
* 3/16/91 - The anniversary of the Halabja Massacre. A memorial was organized by the Shuras, Kurdish Front, religious parties, Iraqi Communist Party, RF, and some small leftist groups. There were more than 10,000 Shura sympathizers, and the first speeches were made by various Shura groups. The CPS spoke about working class struggles in Turkey, Brazil, etc, how the proletariat and communism are against all nationalist movements, and the conflict in Kurdistan is the same as all others, between labor and capital, bourgeoisie and proletariat. The main slogans used were:
"Bread, Work, Freedom"The Kurdish Front, nationalist Shuras and the religious people shouted them down, mocking and ridiculing their political positions.
"Bombs, tanks, planes will not chase us from this city."
"Only workers can bring about a different life."
* 3/17/91 - The Kurdish Front had not been paid the respect they felt they deserved at the memorial day and realized that the Shuras had widespread mass support. They started to broadcast lies on the radio about the Shuras, saying that many of them were ex-Baathists, looters, troublemakers and emphasizing how the Shuras despise religion, in an attempt to alienate any Muslims from supporting them. They tried to spread rumors that the Shuras had collapsed because of their inability to lead the people and run the city and they announced the establishment of a Kurdish Peace Force.
* 3/18/91 - On hearing this, the Shuras arranged a meeting and decided to send 5 representatives to see the Kurdish Front, to discuss the rumors and solve the problem. However, many Shuras did not agree with this and organized demonstrations, using loudspeakers denouncing the reactionary and dangerous policies of the Kurdish Front.
CPS made it clear that they are not only against the Kurdish Front, but also against the Kurdish Nation and, along with the members of Hasta and Militant Front (Shura), disrupted the meeting...
This dispute clarified the positions of various Shuras and their individual members and they divided into three main factions:
1. Communist Perspective Shura
2. Radical Leftist Organizations
3. PUK and KDP, or Kurdish Front
* 3/18/91 - Fighting began in Kirkuk. CPS and Leftist Shuras went to support the struggle. Many peshmerga went and returned with looted expensive cars, etc.
* 3/20/91 - Kirkuk was taken over and six Shuras were set up.
At this time the radio reported that Jalal Talabani was in Sulaimania and called for all inhabitants to go to the Peshmerga headquarters to hear "what good news he has to give you." The only people that went were their supporters and when they realized that support for the Shuras had increased and spread to other cities, they started rumors that government and Mujahadeen Khalq army units had arrived in Chamchamal. They frightened people into leaving en masse; first, because there was a great fear of the Mujahadeen Khalq and secondly, because they heard that that evening Jalal Talabani had been at Sheikh Salari Havids' house and had told him to advise all peshmerga families to leave as soon as possible. That same day the peshmerga and their families left the city and told people "The Army is coming.." as they went. Thirdly, the Shuras' propaganda against the Kurdish Front and the Nationalists had been grossly inadequate and insufficient to convince people of the Kurdish Front's lies and quell their fear, particularly in the light of past massacres.
On the same day the Shuras organized a demo, telling people through loudspeakers, "We will stay and fight... those who are leaving are cowards and the gravediggers of this city..."
70% of the city left. 5000 soldiers and 60 tanks arrived the following day. Sulaimania was taken over after a fight, but there were no subsequent "gratuitous" killings carried out by the Peshmerga against the population. However, in Kirkuk and Chamchamal, revenge was wreaked on insurgents, including old people, children and even hospital in-patients...
* The cities of Kirkuk, Sulaimania, Chamchamal, etc, were recaptured soon. This was done mainly by the Iraqi Communist Party, CPS, and other Shura militants. Tanks and military vans were burned down. Nevertheless, the end result was the same, as the State (Kurdish Front, Nationalists) returned and took over remaining property, "to keep it in a safer place," i.e., to give it back to the government. Some Shura members got "very angry" (in an entirely ineffectual way) and argued with the Kurdish Front, telling them that issues of life and death were at stake and should not be played like a game of chess.
* 5 days after the start of the uprising in Sulaimania, Shuras were holding daily meetings in Amin Zaki Bak School, attended by about 1000 people. Representatives from all the different Shuras came and raised various points for discussion. There were many arguments and some representatives stormed out of the assembly. The main points put forward were:
1. The need for solidarity with Shuras in the South.
2. Religion should be separated from the State.
3. The need for political freedom (Democracy).
4. Rule by the Shuras or by Parliamentary Democracy?
5. Self-determination for the Kurdish nation.
6. Equal rights for men and women.
7. The Allied Forces must pull out.
8. Class struggle or Nationalist struggle?
* 3/21/91 - one of the Shuras was keeping 9 secret policemen hostage but killed them without consulting the Kurdish Front.
* 3/23/91 - The Shura in Kirkuk took over the radio station and broadcast to the city. They also distributed all the food they had found in government supermarkets, and divided the houses of secret policemen up amongst the homeless.
* During the second uprising in Kirkuk, the insurgents went to take over the oil and gasoline plants outside the city. We were told that there was a battle lasting about 2 hours around one factory. The insurgents were being shot at as they approached, but they outnumbered the factory's defenders. After a while, the shooting stopped and people were surprised to see nationalist Peshmerga coming out of the building, signalling for the people to hold their fire, which they did. The Peshmerga explained that the factories must not be looted as they are needed by the Kurdish state. (There you have it!)
* 4/3/91 - A demonstration was organized by CPS, SWE and proletarian Shuras. They counteracted rumors spread by scaremongers about the imminently advancing Iraqi forces and the collapse of the Basra uprising, attempting to curb the tide of people fleeing Sulaimania. Slogans used were "We will stay and fight!," information was broadcast about the strength of the Shuras, not only in Sulaimania, but throughout Iraq and people were encouraged to stay and support the movement.
That afternoon fighting started up again in Sulaimania. The army only held out against the rebels for a very short time, being rapidly disarmed following a fierce attack. Yet again, the Kurdish Front returned captured heavy artillery to the army.
* 6/29/91 - At the same time as the Nationalists were holding demonstrations in Duhok and Panjwin against the withdrawal of the Allied presence in Kurdistan (in contrast to Shura-led demos demanding that they get out) offices, shops, and police stations continued to be attacked in Arbil, Sulaimania, and Dehok, the insurgents commandeering further food and weapons whilst under fire by the Peshmerga. Similar struggles were also taking place in the Al-Thawra district of Baghdad.
* July '91 - the Iraqi Communist Party Peshmerga, Shuras and other radical leftist group members went to Kalar (a town on the main route to Sulaimania) as they had received information that the Mujahadeen Khalq, who had massacred the whole population of the town of Tchiman shortly before, was advancing on Sulaimania. Kalar is very small and is split down the center by a dual carriageway. The insurgents hid themselves on the roofs of the houses and told everybody to be quiet until the unit entered the town. But when a woman saw that the soldiers were dressed in Kurdish clothes and had hung a portrait of Jalal Talabani on the tanks, she happily (stupidly) rushed out towards them. They then realized that the houses were inhabited and turned the tank guns on them and fired, first aiming at and killing the woman... the insurgents then started shooting, managing to blow up the tanks and kill all the Mujahadeen. Some of them didn't believe that they were Mujahadeen until they searched the bodies and found their papers.
* 7/13/91 - Food Aid had been given to the Kurdish Front to distribute to the "needy." Naturally, the Peshmerga had shared it out amongst their closest friends and were living well while the poor waited, for over a month, for food and medical supplies.
By the 13th people could not be fobbed off any longer... They attacked the Kurdish Front headquarters in Zakho, injured and disarmed many Peshmerga and distributed the food supplies, going on to burn down the headquarters and the food warehouses. Some of the Peshmerga fled to Raniyah to get help and on their return searched houses for suspected "ringleaders," imprisoning them, making them pay fines, and releasing them after shaving their heads as an extra humiliating touch.
* 7/17/91 - There was a violent demo in Arbil which the Peshmerga again tried to bring under control, extolling the virtues of peaceful demonstration, suggesting people wait for the outcome of negotiations with the government. However, they were ignored and the Shura led attacks on government buildings under a slogan "Bread, Work, Freedom."
* 7/18/91 - Some of the Shuras held a meeting in Sulaimania and decided to support the struggle in Arbil by carrying out similar activities. They tried to keep their plans secret but Kurdish Front spies had infiltrated the Shuras, and knew that continued uprisings were inevitable but were determined to avoid a repeat of Arbil, where the movement left them behind. They thought of ways in which the struggle could be given the direction they desired:
1. By preventing the Shuras from organizing themselves.
2. By manipulating the movement into a purely violent struggle (guerrilla warfare, guns against guns, instead of class against class) a very successful policy, diverting people's attention from the true nature of the struggle.
3. By broadcasting propaganda denying that they had supported the Iraqi Army, preventing looting and aided police in Arbil thus denouncing Shura members as liars, as they had published accounts of such Peshmerga action in Arbil.
The Peshmerga changed tack, shooting soldiers and burning their vehicles, but soon realized that they had nowhere near as much support as the Shuras, whose influence was increasing daily. They tried yet another tactic, calling for a stop to the bloodshed, parading the streets as if on a victory march and then announced "The agreement has been signed. We have autonomy for Kurdistan, democracy for Iraq!"
* 7/20/91 - CPS, SWC and other leftist organizations organized another demo in Sulaimania. Their principal banner was again "Bread, Work, Freedom." Shura members heard that Barzani had given the Kurdish secret police permission to infiltrate the demos. The demo remained a peaceful march through the city, with the Shura members taking a back seat, only talking quietly to individuals, denouncing the Kurdish Front as the enemy, calling for formation of anti-nationalist Shuras, but this time from the sidelines only. The Shuras made the mistake of underestimating the degree of mass support for them, largely as a result of insufficient contact with Shura militants in central and southern Iraq. The Kurdish Front attacked them during the demo, destroying their banners, beating them up and imprisoning some of them. The Shura missed their chance of rallying massive public aggression against the Kurdish Front, which could have been sparked by a few militants turning their weapons on the Peshmerga. Instead the Shura members turned and ran - and they still cannot find words strong enough to express their regret for such a gross error.
* In the beginning of September Communist Perspective Organization received a letter purportedly from the Shuras, asking to arrange a meeting with them in Halabja. On the day of the meeting, CPO members were waiting in their headquarters for them. However, when a comrade saw approximately 400 armed Peshmerga advancing toward the area, the comrades realized they had been set up. They positioned themselves on the roof to defend themselves and many Shura and CPO sympathizers joined them.
The PUK had intended to disarm them and had written the bogus letter in order to be sure that active CPO members would be in the building at the time... The Peshmerga realized that they were ready to retaliate and told them that they just wanted to talk, but CPO replied that there can be no point of common discussion between them and the Peshmerga. When the Peshmerga realized that the crowd were on the CPO's side, they turned back, telling people that nobody can to them, they are very aggressive...
"Do the Kurdish Front and Nationalists share common interests with the Baathists? If not, how can it be explained why, when we attacked the secret police headquarters, the Kurdish Front seemed to share their pain and called for us to 'Calm down... you have got them surrounded in any case...' Why should it be that the KF shot soldiers, but spared the lives of secret policemen? And how is it that the day after the attack on the headquarters, the policemen were in position on the roof of the building fully armed? We saw how Peshmerga handed back commandeered tanks and artillery to government forces. Does this not mean that the KF is in fact protecting the State and its Baathist Regime? The answer is yes and we must recognize them as the enemy of the people."
(NEW LIFE - SSFA)
"The proletariat must distinguish itself from nationalism and the Parties of God and proletarian socialism cannot survive if it does not realize this separation. Nor can it remain standing without a powerful autonomous organization that can effectively take on the tasks of the proletariat and the exploited in general. In their daily struggles, proletarians and the exploited masses must express their autonomy, must show everybody that they have a social movement of their own, a different social perspective and that they are not followers of capital and its free market. They are not linked up with any American strategy (the New World Order), nor with any Arabic or Kurdish nationalism or any other Parties of God.
On the contrary, they must show that they oppose all of these and that they have a completely different aim - dictatorship of the proletariat and universal liberation. This is why it is essential for proletarians in their daily activities, in assemblies, in strikes, in their claims and watchwords... to put forward their political interests. In this process socialist proletarians, radical factions, and the avant-guards of the movement have the practical task of assuring the formation, propaganda and organization of proletarians within a different framework. We have to confront the miserable conditions of life, the economic blockade... If we are told that our unity and protests are inappropriate and serve the interests of the Baathist power, then the socialist proletariat's answer is clear:
We do not want to sacrifice ourselves to inter-bourgeois antagonisms, and whilst against the economic blockade, proletarians are demanding wage rises for those contributing to production... Proletarians must fight against the pressure of the imperialist United Nations police force in Kurdistan and in the South, because these forces are not only not helping people, but on the contrary, put into practice capitalist policies to destroy revolutionary forces.
There is no doubt about the fact that current working class struggle throughout the world, and particularly in Iraq, has shown that the proletariat cannot achieve anything whilst divided. This is the reason why we must stick together and fight to set up general assemblies, to organize a centralized movement that can give strength to proletarians to "mount the world stage" and become truly active, representing the needs of their struggle... Only as a centralized and united movement will the proletariat be able to confront the bourgeoisie and get their message across to proles throughout the rest of the world. It is only in this way that, in the face of other tendencies existing within the movement, socialist proles and socialist groups will be able to develop and realize the communist content of proletarian struggle..."
(WORKERS' VIEW #1, CAG)
"The contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the working class, the development of proletarian perspectives and social change were all at the heart of the March uprising. Since then, struggle by the exploited in Iraq against the capitalist way of life has been apparent in repeated agitation against the state.
Widespread reinforcement of self-organization and the creation of workers' shuras signifies an important qualitative step in the revolutionary development of proletarian political activity.
Workers were fully involved in setting up shuras in many liberated towns. In Arbil, cigarette factory workers, weavers and chicken farmers set up shuras and subsequently a center for workers' shuras was established. The aim was to have a headquarters through which the activity of various shuras could be coordinated. Similarly, in Sulaimania, cigarette, electricity, clothes and municipal workers including "Tahir" and "Hmurabi" factory workers formed shuras at "Nassir" camp. Chicken farmers and the unemployed in Sulaimania set up a joint shura with petrol workers in Kirkuk.
The main point of discussion during the first workers assembly was the need for self-organization and its importance in class struggle. Speeches were made about the Shuras and their formation.
In subsequent meetings, workers, who were thrilled to take part, elected representatives in free and direct voting. Economic and political suggestions were made and basic aims and principles agreed. Municipal workers from Sulaimania read out a report, which was later published about links between workers and political parties.
These meetings showed workers what strength can be found in unity and they began to feel that Big Brother was no longer watching them. From time to time, from every corner, workers would stand up and describe the poverty and misery of life imposed by capitalism and the repression and intimidation they suffered under bosses and capitalists. They gave accounts of barbaric and inhuman behavior and the unbearable life of workers. Following on from previous world-wide historical experience, the bell of liberty, equality, and workers' government rang throughout Iraq... The creation of shuras is not only expressed in workers' power against the bourgeoisie by way of determined self-organization, but also gave them a useful and necessary instrument with which to acquire the unity of political and social demands and establish widespread political organization.
The sight of a liberated town gives an idea of the scale of battles fought by workers for freedom and true equality. As a socio-political force, workers emerged from the depths of society to a serious social and political role. As large militant organizations and workers' power bases, shuras have become a reality, setting a precedent in the history of the Iraqi working class. However, they result from the experiences of more than 10 years social change within Iraq, as well as from the history of workers' shuras throughout the world.
As the despotic Baathist regime weakened, workers were able to breath more easily and began to carry out more large scale class activities...
The shura movement spread like gospel amongst the workers... The movement developed in spite of the weaknesses of our movement. However, it was weakness of organization, the isolation and separation of radical socialist avant-guard militants and a lack of communist vision and socialist perspective that allowed reformists to take over. As a result of this, the brutality of the state's counter-offensive, the reinvasion of the towns and the short duration of the uprising, the workers did not have enough time to overcome their weaknesses with regard to the shuras.
The "exploited" had organized themselves into shuras in most camps, villages, and towns in liberated areas of Kurdistan, but the weakness of workers' shuras had a bad influence on the creation and running of such "poor people's" shuras.
The bourgeois opposition parties tried desperately to put their policies into practice, for fear of the class demands and economic, social and political program of the shuras enabling the workers to take power. The opposition parties made use of the institutions and organs of repression of the former regime.
In the south of Iraq, the reactionary "Shiite" movement set up its own "Islamic shuras" in order to discredit and manipulate the only radical workers' shuras. In Kurdistan, the Nationalists didn't hesitate to use all necessary force against workers' associations. They shot at striking workers, threatened their leaders, protected and armed the bosses and broadcast workers' demands as originating from "anarchists" and "troublemakers." This antagonism between Nationalist forces and workers' shuras determined the political climate in Kurdistan.
Now, following the reinvasion of towns by the Barbaric Baathist regime, social and political perspectives are as before with famine, misery, poverty, unemployment threatening the lives of workers more than ever. However, the dissatisfaction that sprung up well before the uprising will continue to spur on a battle against this world, carrying the memories of the uprising with it.
The military counter-offensive on the regime, the alliance between Kurdish Nationalists and central government can not be erased from workers' memories and activities..."
(PROLETARIAT #6, CPO)
A few members of the Shuras know from experiences in the Sandaj revolution that when the Nationalists scatter and desert a city without warning the inhabitants, a massacre is imminent. They are therefore on the lookout for mass movements of Kurdish Front forces.
One day a man in Kurdish clothes was shot dead, who was known to be a secret policeman. The documents he had on him showed that he had permission from Masoud Barzani to pose as a peshmerga. It is unclear who killed him, but it was definitely not the Nationalists.
On our way back, one of the interesting things we were told was that the agreement between the Baathists and the Kurdish Front was signed ages ago. It was kept secret because the issues of "compromise" and "autonomy" have become a farce and the PUK and KDP are aware of the mass support for the Shura movement. Proletarians are fed up with compromises and want to continue the fight instead.
Considering, from a worldwide point of view, the past ten years, we can assert without much risk of making mistakes that there have been social tensions, confrontations, struggles, which confirm, if there has ever been any need to do so, that even in periods of profound social peace the proletariat is never crushed totally, that it never disappears completely from the scene of history. Of course, taking a closer look, we notice at once that those explosions of anger are weak, that the demands are confused, etc. The same weaknesses can be found in almost every struggle wherever it breaks out and the events in Burma are not exceptions to the characteristics of today's struggles, which are sporadic, rarely concomitant in different countries, and occur within sectorial, national or other sorts of frontiers. The reader will find in our reviews different attempts to understand, analyze and draw lessons of the struggles of our class: hunger riots in Morocco in 1984 and in Tunisia in 1986, the conflicts in Poland, in Gaza and the West Bank, in England during the miners' strike, in the Iran-Iraq war, in Algeria and in Argentina,...
As to the struggle of the proletariat in Burma, we want to underline some quite important qualitative differences in comparison with other struggles close in time. They are of relative importance of course. Their importance only exists in relation with the context of social peace, the context of our class anaesthesia.
First, the struggle in Burma can be distinguished by its duration: it lasted at least seven months. Then by its massiveness; indeed, even if we know very well that never during its history has the proletariat been defeated by the lack of numbers (the lack is rather qualitative than quantitative), it's to be underlined that there were not just one or two sectors, one or two factories in the foreground, even though that's how the movement had started - like anywhere else. In Burma, all what the bourgeois press calls "the population", "the people", very quickly committed themselves in the struggle: some helped insurgents to hide, giving them shelter and food; others demonstrated in the streets or looted the shops, attacking all symbols of wealth, others, like the soldiers for instance, refused to shoot or even deserted. Many proletarians joined the general strikes and entire cities were paralysed.
Finally, the third important point of this struggle is the organization of the insurgents. We know that entire cities and ports were emptied of their administration and ruled by the insurgents for a while. We know that the targets of the looting were not chosen by chance and that facing the bourgeois terror a proletarian counter-terror was organized: self-defence groups were set up, police headquarters looted, the defence of large areas of the suburb of Rangoon assumed. We think we may affirm that for the past few years there have been many attempts to lead the struggles a proletarian way.
But, unfortunately, in this case even more than in that of the struggles in Iran and Iraq we depend on the information given by the bourgeois press. Therefore we have tried to gather as much information as possible from the largest number of newspapers available. We consulted the press of a lot of countries from China to France, from Cuba to Italy. But no information is reliable and the result is not the same as it would be if we could have gone there or received news from militants.
From October '88, the news items got rarer and fewer, so meagre, so poor that we don't really know what has been going on there since about December '88.
However, this doesn't mean that the bourgeois order has been restored or that the proletarian movement has been crushed. Experience taught us that the death of a struggle movement is generally proclaimed, shouted out and praised by the bourgeoisie as the victory of democracy over this or that dictatorship, as the triumph of a national liberation movement over a government paid by this power or that bloc. The withdrawal of the troops, the creation of a new independent State, the promises of elections very soon, the recognition of the opposition,... usually mark the defeat of the movement, the end of the struggle. We haven't heard anything like this about Burma. We haven't seen any clear signs of the political publicity generally mobilized by the bourgeois to mark their victory against the proletarians, the crushing of a proletarian struggle.
The bourgeois black out, the very fact that the subject of "Burma" almost completely disappeared from the pages of newspapers, have proved again that the bourgeoisie wants to divert the attention of all those who might have a feeling of community with this struggle. According to the bourgeoisie, of course, the proletarians in Burma set a very bad example to their brothers all over the world. The bourgeois world State does everything to repress the movement in the Burma itself by supporting the Burmese bourgeois on the one hand, and to smother its example, preventing its spreading outside, thanks to the powerful media. But the silence the bourgeoisie tries to impose does not mean that the bourgeois order has been restored in Burma. The social situation and the hatred for the State make the equilibrium the bourgeoisie tries to impose by terror extremely precarious. To live, the proletarians are forced to negate the laws and to confront the bourgeoisie. From this and the past waves of struggles the proletarians in Burma have drawn lessons which will make it possible for them to be in the vanguard of the world proletariat in this region for the big fights to come.
However, in this region, Burma is a little different from the other countries. In the beginning of the fifties, the bourgeoisie applied there a stalinist social democratic "anti-imperialist" policy with nationalizations and one-party system (the BSPP). The leader, U Nu, put forward a policy of virulent nationalism. He had fought against the British in the colonial times. U Nu tried to arrive at a synthesis between "marxism" and buddhism. He was the first translator of Marx into Burmese. His faction represented an anti-imperialist-social-democratic-buddhist line, which means, in practice, the reinforcing of the "Independent National State" and the crushing of the proletariat in the name of nation and democracy (a well-known method from the Philippines to Nicaragua, from Europe to China). U Nu, overthrown by General Ne Win in 1962, went into exile and later came back to take the lead of the "democratic opposition".
The proletarians' economic situation has become catastrophic during the past years: the average wage was worth one cup of tea daily for each member of a family of 3 members, in 1988. The black market is the only way to survive. In September '87, the government removed 70% of the banknotes without warning or compensation.
Even so, the proletarians in Burma do not live in conditions as miserable and extreme as our brothers of Bangladesh and India do. The rapid concentration of capital, and of exploitation determined in Burma the development of the proletariat and of its struggles, even though the latter were controlled and repressed by a national union of the stalinist kind. Due to this "development", on the one hand, there is an "educated" proletariat, "organized into trade unions", but on the other hand, the traditions of struggle are much stronger than in the neighbouring countries.
In Burma, religion is not of much importance, but it is interesting and characteristic that there, the same way as in Russia (where the Orthodox Russian Church coexisted with the one-party government and took an active part in the military mobilization of proletarians for the 1939-45 war), the Stalinist faction of the bourgeoisie has maintained a considerable number of Buddhist priests, even though their ideological influence on the proletariat has been insignificant (this isn't true for India, for instance). The religious institutions have served as a kind of security reserve for the bourgeoisie and during the last period of the uprising, Buddhist monks would do the job for which they have been kept in reserve: pacifying the movement, imposing the banner of non-violence and democracy, fighting (sometimes physically) the violent manifestations of the need of the proletariat.
The past three decades have seen the slowly increasing militancy of the proletariat (violently expressed in the '70s) determined by the deterioration of the living conditions. To face this, the bourgeoisie had to develop a lovely range of different and competitive bourgeois factions to channel the revolt, to enrol the proletarian fights in fights which are absolutely alien from the causes of their revolt, from their needs. Until 1988, the most efficient factions were the guerilla movements, the pro-Chinese, pro-Indian, pro-British, pro-Russian,... nationalist groups (1).
That assortment proved to be enough during more than twenty years to enrol the discontent proletarians and to kill them slowly in fights between the various armed groups and in the army of the State. But inside the army a growing discontent was developing because of the deterioration of the living conditions there also, the weariness, the lassitude of the endless combats. The relative equilibrium expressed by a relative social peace, with continuous combats in the mountains and along the borders on the one hand, and, the violent imposition of work in most areas, and first of all in the big cities, on the other hand, thus, this relative equilibrium worked thanks to (and in) a context of relative economic stability.
But, since the deepening of the world economic crisis in the seventies, problems began to accumulate: the world market prices moved violently up and down, the competition between various groups of capitalists sharpened and the exploitation increased. In Burma, the ruling faction was in a dilemma as to how to adapt to the changing international conditions while facing the real menace of working class uprisings. This phenomenon became more and more acute, because, facing the development of the wrath of the working class, the bourgeoisie had already been forced to put forward its radical faction. But if Stalinist reformism (considered erroneously as a "violation of general norms of capitalism") is necessary to fight against the working class; on the other hand, Stalinism as a ruling bourgeois faction is a trump the bourgeoisie burns, making it useless for the future. So the hands of the Stalinist governments are more or less tied when they have to consider (because of the local concretizations of the world crisis) the possibility of reforms. They have to shake the status quo in which they feel at ease to avoid the weakening of their country in the international competition. But they know by experience that shaking the form of their extremely static government might cause even more trouble because the proletarians might see a breach and rush into it.
The bourgeoisie won't forget the "destalinisation" in Russia which resulted in "outflankings" it would rather have done without. "Conservative" forces following the letter of the stalinist dogma refuse any kind of reforms, because their fear of the proletariat is greater than the weight of the necessity to make the country competitive in the world market (cf. Ceausescu, Brezhnev,...); the "reformists" rather choose a general reform of the economic - and, accordingly, political - structuress, they incline to favour "a sort of westernization" (cf. Yeltsin,...). Eventually, the "pragmatic" faction overcomes (cf. Gorbachev, Ne Win,...) undertaking half-hearted reforms and trying to conserve the essence of the old version of bourgeois government.
Of course, it is not a question of choosing a "better" or a "worse" solution, it is a question of emergency in the context of the deepening world crisis of capitalism. One expression of this is the pendular movement, the oscillation movement swinging to "the right" then to "the left"; pendulum movement between taking reform measures and their withdrawal, one step towards the "westernization of the economic politics", then another step towards the reinforcement of central control; measures to change the political structures, then (in the form of "counter-reforms" or sometimes of a "military coup") measures to consolidate the old structures.
In the seventies, this swinging movement was characteristic to Burma: political opening, loans on the international financial market, encouraging people to learn English,... and then, isolationist moves with increasing efforts to pay the debt back, increasing central control in the political life, a ban on the English courses at the schools,... But all this couldn't stop the local effects of the world crisis of Capital and the worsening of the social situation. The bourgeoisie, no matter what their ideology is, necessarily MUST diminish the social wage, increase the exploitation, deteriorate the working conditions, directly or indirectly (shortages) raise the prices, reinforce state terror making reference to the interests of the "true" (parliamentarist) democracy (reforms), or to those of the "people's democracy" (called "dictatorship of the proletariat" by stalinists).
We mustn't forget that the situation had already been tense in Burma since the fifties which implied, even before the deepening of the world crisis, a local militarization of the State administrative apparatus and the economy.
From the bourgeois point of view, the worsening of the social situation meant the accumulation of problems with the industrial and agricultural production (in '87 they decreased drastically and the exports went down to a minimum level mainly because of internal tensions), the weight of the debt,... The fragile stability was disappearing with the price-rises, the increase of the pressure of capital on the working class; the situation of the latter became unbearable. For the proletariat, life was getting more and more expensive every day and the wages were insufficient to feed the families, which compelled the workers to work ever more to buy rice.
An example: the daily wage of a worker amounted to 10 kyats in 1988 (officially, in August '88, one dollar was worth 6 or 7 kyats while on the black market the exchange rate was 40 kyats for one dollar). In 1988 the price of the rice increased by 400%, we can imagine the situation of the proletarians whose average wage was 10 kyats while it cost 50 to feed one family!
What's more, the commerce totally aligned itself to the black market prices, that is to say goods were sold at a price six times higher than the regular ("official") price. For the proletarians it became impossible to avoid the deepening of poverty, even trying some funny business, working overtime,... weren't enough any more.
From the point of view of the capitalist order, the everlasting solution to escape the crisis is the massive destruction of commodities (mainly the proletarians, because they are the most dangerous ones). This destruction will then make it possible, just like a good breath of fresh air, to re-invest, re-build, give work... Therefore, this capitalist order has to massacre the proletarians: "peacefully" starving them to death, if possible, or by killing them more rapidly and efficiently in internal or international wars.
In Burma, the decrease of wages went thus under the minimum level of daily existence, and this situation, permanent in Bangladesh or in India, provoked here a real shock. The difference between "life" in 1988 and twenty years before was all the less bearable since all the expectations that the situation would take a change for the better had gradually vanished. On the other hand, the situation of the soldiers (proletarians in uniform) followed the same pattern: problems of food, permanent wars against the autonomists, families ruined by the crisis and on the verge of starvation, etc. These elements led to desertion and refusal to shoot at demonstrators.
In May and June '88: further strikes and demonstrations, further looting. General Ne Win imposed the martial law and the curfew. As it often happens, the social movement in Burma started from the "student" sector, which isn't surprising, considering how faint their hopes were to get a job and how dark the future they had to confront was - "they": the proletarians not yet unleashed in the employment arena. But the worsening of the economical situation rapidly made thousands of people go down to the streets and support the young "student" proletarians. General Ne Win mobilized the elite troops in the capital to crush the movement.
During the summer, the number of rioters increased. In August '88 some reports spoke about millions of demonstrators. Several police quarters were looted. "Protesters seize guns", China Daily wrote on 11th August, "A number of police stations are in the hands of the demonstrators and they have seized the weapons from the police". The Burmese bourgeois reacted with the well-known mixture of promises and repression. The government promised to introduce reforms in the economy, and, as it always happens in countries ruled by a Stalinist government, stressed the "westernization", which "will bring welfare to the people". At the same time, the police and the army fired at the crowd and killed several demonstrators.
Since July proletarians had gone to the offensive: more and more often in Rangoon, but also in other big towns like Mandalay, rioters undertook an active fight against the state and the private property. They fought with iron clubs and sharpened bicycle spokes, with knives and swords, machetes,... they beheaded militaries, attacked the villas of government officials, etc.
In the port of Rangoon the workers refused to unload the freighters. Those carrying food were looted. The insurrectional pressure was so strong that General Ne Win resigned on 23rd July. General Sein Lwin, called "the butcher of Rangoon" for his role in the bloody repression of the March demonstrations, took his place. It was him who gave his soldiers the following order: "Hit to kill, shoot to kill". General Sein Lwin pledged a total reform of the economy and the introduction of a multiparty system in Burma. "General Sein Lwin's reputation for brutality has been balanced (sic) in recent weeks with a rare show of pragmatism in promoting reforms" - The Guardian, August 11.
Although the press tried to underestimate the insurrectional elements of the demonstrations (and will always do so), stressing (as it always does) the democratical aspects of the struggles, the latter reached, at the end of August, such a violence that the press just didn't talk about it any more. Only a few lines filter here and there, as for instance the burning of the houses of 36 ministers and deputies by angry demonstrators.
August was a month of continuous riots. The proletariat took the power in several towns. In the port of Kowsong, the inhabitants assaulted the office buildings and threatened to set them on fire. They expelled the employees and the police. In Pegu, a lot of soldiers joined the insurgents and together they prevented the arrival of military reinforcement coming from the capital. In Prome, some soldiers refused to shoot at the crowd. In Toungoo, an officer is said to have been killed by his soldiers who also refused to shoot at demonstrators. In Rangoon, different units of the army shot at each other, which shows the social confrontation existing within the army; all the accesses to the city were closed to prevent the inhabitants of other cities from going to help the insurgents of the capital. The buddhist clergy interceded and implored the government to give the proletarians some concessions in order to be able to impose law and order again. On 10th August, an incident quite revealing of the depth and the extent of the social confrontation, an airplane was dropping leaflets on Rangoon threatening to bomb the city if the people kept on resisting the army. On 14th, a diplomat holding a post in Rangoon said: "Hunger is the engine of the uprising, democracy comes after"; and the French newspaper "Libération" wrote on 30th: "Burma is drifting (off), the insurrection has spread all over the country and is on the capital doorstep..." It is quite significant that the government accused (and therefore recognized the existence of) "a network of clandestine organisation that feeds and coordinates the movement". "The present instability is due to the organization and the intervention of these trouble-makers", it said. Liberation on 14th August added: "The movement is structured into closed cells, gathering a few individuals knowing each other very well and trusting each other". Contacts were made with old militants who had participated in the movements of '70 in Burma and '73 in Thailand (those movements directly belonging to the worldwide wave of struggles of 1967-1973). The press talked about at least 6 clandestine groups acting together, and about 30 secret leaders acting through the student union created on 17th March and banned by the authorities without any delay. The bourgeoisie might spectacularly stress the aspects of organization and leadership of the struggle, which does not always exist, to frighten the citizens, nevertheless this kind of campaign there was based on real aspects of organization and leadership of our class.
During August, thousands of demonstrators were massacred by the army. Reports speak of 3,000 deaths in only one week. General Sein Lwin, unable to calm down the confrontations in spite of the promises and massacres, resigned on 12th, giving his place to Maung Maung, a lawyer. The bourgeoisie tried to calm down the situation, placing a puppet at the head of the government. Straight away the latter demanded peace and tranquillity, a sine qua non for the recovery of the economy. He suppressed the martial law to show his will of pacification (but of course the army kept on shooting at demonstrators). Maung Maung's fight against the proletariat was supported by part of the "democratic opposition", like General Aung Gyu, a reformist military leader, who had accused the former governments of corruption and had been arrested in July for having "attacked the state". Confident in the "good image" his past of "an oppressed of the regime" gave him, this general stood for non-violence on both sides "to avoid anarchy and more bloodshed", as he said. Maung Maung introduced an amnesty for some prisoners, most of whom (but it was kept secret) were members of the bourgeois factions jailed by the military regime: democrats, nationalists, liberals,... Many thousands of proletarians remained in jail, which later led to one of the biggest massacres in Burma.
It is important to stress that the common efforts of the government (promises of reforms, amnesties and police terror) and of the opposition (discourses on anarchy, participation in the demonstrations to impose non-violence and the respect for property) didn't manage, at this stage, to pacify, calm down or crush the movement of resistance, which was threatening to escalate into a general insurrection.
The opposition supported the government and cooperated with the army, while always stressing the importance of "pacific protests against dictatorship" and of the necessity of avoiding chaos. Monks also participated in the struggle against subversion, calling the army units to defend a factory attacked by "a gang of more than 500 criminals", then they organized an "alternative system" of self-management, shouting loud and clear their submission to the rioters interests! Another figure of the opposition came into the limelight: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (nicknamed by the media "the Burmese Cory Aquino"), the daughter of a Burmese independence leader, Aung San killed by a bourgeois rival faction in 1947. With this aura of prestige, she fought for democracy and multiparty system, with the clear conscience of the bourgeois humanists, exterminators of the working class in struggle.
By the end of August, the proletarians' movement gained importance in the army as well as in other capitalist institutions. Defections from the army became massive, soldiers turned their arms against their officers. At the same time, there were proletarian revolts in several prisons of the country. Some escaped and many prisoners were massacred. 13kms from the capital, in the prison of Insein, surrounded by the army, rioters set the buildings on fire and tried to break through the military cordon to escape. 2 of 6 thousand managed to fight their way out but at least 1,000 prisoners were killed in the continuous outfire of the army. Later, the government ordered a new amnesty and freed the rest of the prisoners from the jails, which had become in all cases unusable and uncontrollable, almost everywhere in ruins... In August and September, more and more soldiers could be seen with other proletarians. Rifles appeared side by side with the bicycle spokes and machetes, though the latter remained the dominant weaponry and beheading the dominant method to kill the bourgeois.
At this point it is important to go into details speaking about the role played by the different bourgeois factions, and, on the other hand, about the way the international press reported the events. Two kinds of pacifism, of non-violent discourses have emerged:
The two stars of the opposition, Daw Aung San Kyi and General Aung Gyi, issued then a call to create an "interim" government "to give democracy to the people". The call didn't take any effect. Looting continuously spread and in almost every case the targets were stores of food (mostly rice). To crush the proletarian resistance, the bourgeoisie resorted to massacres.
The discontent and the resistance of the proletarians wearing a uniform increased day after day. Soldiers participated in looting. Mutinies burst in several military bases. In at least 3 towns soldiers went over to the side of the rioters. But in spite of all this the army did not disintegrate; it always remained master of the terrain and, in spite of defections and mutinies, the proletariat could not emerge out of and against this structure of the bourgeois state.
At the beginning of September the government rejected the call for an "interim government". Maung Maung seemed to have understood the overriding general interest of his class: to preserve an opposition whose influence on the movement might become important. Neither the world capital nor its local managers had any interest in destroying the nascent credibility of the opposition by letting it enter the government.
Moreover, it is much likely that this premature opening would not have been sufficient to channel the movement, while it would have risked to weaken the local bourgeois. Far from being able to understand it, Daw Aung and her friend, the old General, as well as the grandson of the ex-secretary general of the United Nations, U Thant, and other democrats would have been ready to decredibilize themselves in exchange for government power. But, to let it happen would have been stupid of the bourgeoisie. It was much more useful that the general strike paralysing several towns and carried on in Rangoon, could remain a "protest action" claimed by the "democratic forces", which had just got on the moving train. U Nu, an anti-fascist bourgeois leader of the early 60s, formed a "transitional anti-government" with his "League for Democracy and Peace" joining Daw Aung San to try to channel the general discontent towards the claim for a multi-party system, for democracy and for the human rights - rights of the good citizen, faithful patriot, good worker and serious family man!
At this stage, world capitalism had already begun to prepare the future arrangements and inter-imperialist struggles after the smashing of the proletarian movement. Since long many countries had already fought to get a part of the territory surrounded by the Burmese borders, and some of them were still interested in setting up military bases along the Indian Ocean coastline.
On 11th September, the parliament decided the ratification of the pledge to have free elections and establish a multi-party system (3). The New York Times reported on 13th Sept.: "demonstrators do not follow the official democratization line or the oppositional groups", which "can not offer any immediate leader or organization" acceptable for the insurgents. U Nu, the self-made leader of the "rival government" "appears to have been mostly ignored by the demonstrators". Tin Oo, former defense minister who had defected from the Socialist Program Party (the governing party of the country), Aung San Kyi and Aung Gyi asked protesters "to be patient", saying that "the people should continue peaceful demonstrations, using the weapon of moral courage"... By the middle of September, as Time wrote, Burma was "at the edge of anarchy", because "the government agreed to elections, but mass protests continued". At this moment, and for a little while, the balance of forces between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat seemed to be hanging on, the struggle seemed to have arrived at a key moment when any action matters concerning to the future events.
The army went on reinforcing its positions. The government went on pledging to do this and that and the oppositional factions went on preaching democracy and tolerance as well as the need to avoid anarchy. Then came the call for the general strike "to demand democracy at once": a bourgeois attempt to recuperate at least the apparent leadership of the events, which progressed in fact towards a general refusal of work. We may compare this situation with that in Poland in 1981, when the Solidarnosc was forced - in order to protect the state and channel the radicalization of the struggles - to threaten the government with a general strike. The threat led to a vast military repression, a coup. In Poland, the same way as in Burma, the general strike declaration followed a movement that - in practice - had already refused to work and had organised strikes for a long time.
The opposition tried to recuperate and transform the struggle. But public order hadn't been restored, the proletarians refused to go home or to go back to work. After the failure of the attempts of a "soft" recuperation, the pendulum swung to the other pole: after the carrot, the stick! On 18th September General Saw Maung seized the power, and imposed curfew. The day before, in the evening, a group of insurgents had fought against army units outside of the Ministry of Commerce. Proletarians captured soldiers who had shot at the crowd. They wanted to kill them, but "the opposition leaders intervened and pleaded for peace" (Reuter, 19/9/88). Soldiers had their life saved.
On the other hand, there were no "peaceful methods" used by the army, which had several reasons to practise the hardest repression: on the one hand, the general interest of the bourgeoisie was to put an end to the insurrectional state of the country (surely because of the possible repercussion and contagion in the neighbouring countries, or elsewhere in the world, where proletarians can easily identify their own situation with that of their brothers in Burma); on the other hand, within this general interest, the particular interest of the Burmese army was to stop the defections. According to reports, in only one week before the coup some 6,000 soldiers, marines and airmen joined the insurgents.
Some other factors are also to be taken into account - factors that push the bourgeoisie to use the "heavy-handed" method: the anger of the old governing generals confronting the oppositional factions' refusal to collaborate and the necessity to put an end to the violence raging against the army, the police and all the signs of richness.
From the moment of the coup (which was a real butchery) strikes and demonstrations were banned. This coup, as well as that in Poland in 1981, was not a real change of government (in the sense of the replacement of a bourgeois faction by another one) but only a purification of the state carried out by the former local leaders because of the need to get straight to the point: to protect itself from disorder and anarchy.
General Saw Maung, chief of the military committee, who had been minister of defense in Ne Win's government (a post he took up again later) rapidly committed himself, just like Jaruzelski had done it in Poland, to "carry on" with the reforms, democratization,... Later, the General declared that he had used the army only "in order to halt social chaos in Burma and ensure that the elections could be held". The bourgeois oppositional factions reacted to the coup with mild protests and demanded talks with Saw Maung. They rebuffed offers of support from the autonomist groups. The Buddhist monks also lent a hand, issuing a statement calling for the "dialogue" (remember the role of the church in Poland). At the same time, army patrols shot to kill without any warning when they saw any group of more than 5 people in the streets.
But the proletariat, weaker and weaker, wasn't yet defeated. On 20th September the suburb of Rangoon still put up a fierce resistance to the army. The latter could not enter the quarter, or demolish "the barricades made of cut pipes and trees. These positions were defended thanks to wooden spears, bottles of acid mixed with gravel, molotov cocktails and 'jinglees' (catapults and darts)" -Liberation, 20/09/88.
The day after the coup, groups of proletarians raided police stations in Rangoon, taking rifles and ammunition. Rangoon radio spoke of a "mob" of 1,000 attacking police and "killing seven policemen, including two deputy station commanders". On 21st September, three days after the coup, "the barricades of the worker suburb of Okkalapa, one of the resistance bastions, were defeated". Instantaneous executions were innumerable, and the crematoriums of the country worked day and night to wipe all traces of the slaughter as soon as possible.
We never got any news of what happened next. The blackout became complete, concerning the following events of the class struggle in Burma. But in spite of the silence, we know that violence against our class has increased, we know that the bourgeois, conscious of the weakening of the proletarian forces, have increased the cruelty of the white terror to an enormous extent.
The difficulty met by the bourgeoisie to crush the proletariat locally in Burma, shows more clearly than any discourse that the proletarian forces did not fight for "more democracy", for "a changing of the ruling faction" (i.e. the change of torturers), but did fight to defend our class interests. The answer of the bourgeoisie was and will always be a deluge of fire and blood, accompanied by discourses on the "necessary reforms". The clear refusal of the proletariat forced the bourgeoisie to develop a very strong repression immediately. But it could not isolate the most combative and radical vanguards by granting reforms and making promises. This solution would have made it possible to isolate the vanguard to massacre it and this way to crush the proletariat, repressing, torturing slaughtering it massively. For the bourgeoisie, it would have had the advantage of opposing one faction of the proletariat against other ones, of imposing its own lessons, of trying to make people believe that the repression applied by one particular sector of the bourgeoisie (the army, the fascist,...) was due to the excesses of a minority of irresponsible proletarians (hooligans, "terrorists", agent provocateur of the enemy,...). The bourgeois in Burma do not seem to have been able to arrive at this level of division of the proletarian forces.
This partial failure is very encouraging for our class and its future struggles. It means that lessons of this movement will remain alive for most of the proletarians. If it is true, these lessons will permit the movement to start again straight away or to reach a higher level of force more quickly (centralization, political clarity, refusal of divisions and reforms, knowledge of the enemy's methods and of the necessities of the revolutionary struggle, etc). Besides, it is possible, even probable, that some of the (clandestine) structures set up by the proletariat during these seven months of confrontation have slipped through the net of repression and are working to maintain the indispensable continuity between the different moments of the social confrontation, which can't do anything but develop. The proletarian movement in Burma wasn't strong enough to prevent the repression (it couldn't be in just one country), but it has probably been strong enough to slow it down, to diminish it. The bourgeoisie can only develop its repression WITHOUT LIMIT when the proletariat has lost its capacity of resistance. Facing a movement of those dimensions, the bourgeoisie was obliged to restore social peace by repression. But when the proletariat remains strong, the bourgeoisie has to prevent it from reacting against repression and must therefore modulate it, limit it.
In Burma the situation has remained quite explosive. The national economy, paralysed for months during the struggle as well as during the repression, continues to be hit by (and to contribute to) the effects of the deepening crisis of the world capitalism. There are shortages, unemployment, misery, and many proletarians have been fired for having participated in strikes. All these factors, the depth of the economic and social crisis prevent the proletarians from respecting the laws.
Although we do not say that the proletarian struggle in Burma during those months of 1988 can be considered as something of crucial importance as to the development of interclassist confrontations, it was, at the same time, an important event of class struggle (also because of the concentration of proletarians, the proximity of China and therefore, the point of the possible contagion from one "bloc" to another,...); the exceptionally high level of confrontation between the two classes in this local case proved what we had already said many times before: There is not ONE centre of the revolution that should be the reference or the leadership, the guide for the struggles everywhere else.
These divisions between "developed" and "underdeveloped" countries, between socialist or non-socialist, between "aggressive" and "less aggressive" countries, etc. are based on moralist, progressist and racist conceptions. They only divide the world proletariat and slow down its struggle. As many times in other periods and in other places, the proletariat in Burma has proved that there is only one working class and only one way to make its (our) revolutionary project triumph. The world proletariat doesn't draw strength from those who give lessons, or from the experiences of the "mature proletariat" of this or that area, but indeed from its own practical struggle against the bourgeoisie to re-appropriate its own history.
Instead of looking for privileged areas and dividing the proletariat by this way, it is much more important to understand that the emergence of our class and of its vanguard everywhere in the world is historically and universally determined by the antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
The development of the social confrontation, when it becomes acute as in Burma, tends to revolve around the question of the military confrontation. This question is essential for the proletariat because it is forced to turn the weapons of the criticism into the criticism by the weapons (to prevent the cannibalism of counter-revolution), as it involves the danger of the social confrontation to be transformed into militarist interbourgeois confrontation. In order to satisfy its needs and to defend itself, the proletariat in Burma was capable of retaliating by the arms against the bourgeoisie. It undertook the military confrontation and the preparation against the police in a more and more global and general way. Thus organized and armed structures were created for the self defence of workers' areas, for the attack of state buildings, for the looting and re-appropriations. It is important to stress the numerous attempts of the proletariat to organize itself. Through the information that have filtered, it seems evident that structures like that emerged. Of course, according to its Machiavellian vision of history, the bourgeoisie always talks of one unique centre of subversion, but it seems, that on the contrary, these structures were and remained strongly decentralised (we regret it but understand it very well). On the one hand, it can be explained by the will to resist the extremely violent repression, but, on the other hand, it scatters the proletariat and slows down its tendency to constitute into one unique centralized force.
So, not having forgotten the lessons of the past, the proletarians in Burma put forward the necessity to organize and protect themselves very quickly. But this vigilance against repression, expressing a level of understanding the real nature of the antagonism, must be surpassed by structuring different levels of contacts and centralization to reinforce the struggle by giving it a unique leadership. If, at the beginning, it's mostly the homogeneity of living conditions, the starvation,... which determined the quick development and extension of the struggles, very quickly, attempts to generalize the movement, making contacts between different towns appeared. It is highly probable that those structures played a role in the refusal of the solutions the bourgeoisie proposed.
Tens of structures were set up, militants went to ask the militants of the previous struggles to give them advice on what the necessities of the struggle are. Many of these newly created groups were opposed to China, to the USA, to Cuba, USSR,... considering them all alike, as they are in fact, even if sometimes, still under the influence of nationalism, these groups stressed the "will for independence of the Burmese people" as the reason for their opposition (4).
During the violent workers' uprisings that burst out recently (Algeria, Venezuela, Morocco, Tunisia, Mexico,...) the proletariat confronted the bourgeois repressive forces - armed with machine guns and armoured cars - with stones, knives and sticks as their only weapons. In Burma it was different: partly due to the continuity they were able to give to their struggles, the proletarians had drawn lessons and refused to let themselves be slaughtered, disarmed. First, proletarians used home-made weapons, then, whilst the movement was developing, they showed that the bourgeoisie would not have to disarm bleating sheep but proletarians fighting, determined to defend their struggle. This determination as well as the large number of deaths in the ranks of the army pushed a lot of soldiers (proletarians wearing a uniform) to refuse to assassinate their brothers, to desert, to struggle against the state.
This permitted the proletarians to get more weapons and increased the destabilization of the state. But, if it is clear that the proletarian struggle destabilized the army to an extent that soldiers confronted other soldiers, nevertheless, this destabilization was never deep enough to really threaten the state. To reach that level the struggle must overpass a lot of limits, and, for example, practically and directly internationalize itself, knocking about ideologies such as the "bad management", the false opposition between "socialism" and capitalism, the "specifically national" problems, etc.
On the other hand, during their struggle against the state and its repression, the proletarians did not only refuse to confront the state with bare fists, they chose the targets according to their/our needs: the needs of our struggle. They also systematically refused to go where all the forces of opposition, all the ex-members of the regime, the monks... wanted them to go, that is to say: to confront the machine guns of the army. Such a refusal expresses the change from a reaction against misery to an organized action against the whole society, and it also undoubtably expresses a step forward for the proletariat. But it is very difficult to give a continuity to it because of the isolation of the proletarians in Burma. This is the reason why the bourgeoisie has been able to transform the social confrontation into a purely militaristic interbourgeois confrontation, a terrain on which the bourgeoisie is of course dominant today. In the course of such a development those who gradually take the lead of the movement against its own interests are the "military specialists": armed groups for national liberation, guerrilla groups, etc.
Right from the beginning of the movement the Karens tried to contact the insurgents and form "activists" for the combat. Though after the coup, 5,000 to 10,000 young men joined the Karens to learn the army drill; no autonomist-type demands occurred during the struggle, nor did the proletarian militants let themselves be enroled by separatist groups during the fight. Today there are at least 9 groups supposed to be united within the National Democratic Front, which comprises about 30,000 armed fighters who are in a constant discord.
2. By these "tendencies to anarchy" we mean disrespect towards private property, law, etc., we mean disrespect for the bourgeois values and norms, for those who defend them and for those who teach them. We support this kind of anarchy and stand for it as the struggle of our class for the satisfaction of its needs.
3. These declarations had very little effect upon the demonstrators. No trace of quietening down, content or satisfaction was expressed.
4. It is almost sure that, just as the opposition campaigns and the slaughters by the government, the autonomist and guerrilla groups participated in the crushing of the movement, recuperating for themselves the militants who managed to escape from repression. Enroled as they are, those militants deviate their hatred for the bourgeoisie into the hatred for the governing faction and wage war against the latter. Separatist groups lead astray the armed struggle of our class towards an interbourgeois militaristic fight for the national autonomy of this or that piece of land.
The first issue of the central review of the ICG in Hungarian
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In July 1991, our group published the first issue of the new central review of the ICG in Hungarian. In conformity with our other central reviews, the title of this review is KOMMUNIZMUS (Communism), and its subtitle is "Dictatorship of the proletariat for the abolition of wage labour". KOMMUNIZMUS will be released twice a year (in spring and in autumn).
This new publication of the Internationalist Communist Group (ICG) is a factor and a product of the activity of our group in the region called "Eastern Europe". Hugarian is a language spoken by relatively few people: 10 million in Hungary, 3-4 million in the neighbouring countries -Russia/Ukrania, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Austria-, another million dispersed all over the world from the USA to Australia, to which some more million should be added for whom Hungarian is not the native language but who speak this language due to family links and friendship. In spite of the dispersion of people speaking Hungarian, this language is a means of communication among proletarians in a big region where the open confrontation between bourgeoisie and proletariat is becoming more and more important.
In the regions mentioned above, the communist publications were practically inexistent since the 20's. So besides the necessity of having a central review in a language which is directly or indireclty accessible for the majority of militants, sympathizers and contacts of the ICG in Eastern Europe, and besides the fact that this review represents a new step in the framework of the efforts of our international and internationalist group to reinforce the organic centralisation of the proletarian struggle even in this period of victorious counterrevolution, KOMMUNIZMUS fulfills a historical function as the first concretisation in the region, in the form of a review, of the reemergence of the organized, conscious and voluntary action of the avant-garde of the proletariat fighting against Capital.
Of course, the publication of this review is only a small step forward in this gigantic fight, and the ICG is determined to give a continuity to the efforts made in this direction. In this sense, the structures of the ICG in Eastern Europe prepare texts in other important languages of the region (mainly in Russian and in German). Our group is planning the publication of the "Thesis of Programmatical Orientation" soon in Hungarian and in Russian, and later we intend to publish the first texts in German.
We call on the Internationalist Revolutionaries to contribute to this important historical task.
Read, distribute, KOMMUNIZMUS.
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Proletárdiktatúra a bérmunka megszüntetéséért !
"The capital", says Marx in The Capital, "was born running with blood and mud from every pore, from head to foot."What is called "the discovery of America", as well as the conquest and colonization, which followed, is nothing else but the process by which, at one very precise moment in the past, the capital placed its terrorist conditions of reproduction. Whereas in Europe the primitive, bloody and terrorist accumulation of the capital took centuries, during which producers were evicted and deprived of their means of production (meanwhile, the other pole of the globe was experiencing a concentration of the capital), it was done in a few decades on the American land and the global process only lasted one or two centuries (1).
During the history of the human race, this barbarity, inherent in the development of the capital, and carried out successfully through civilization, is one of the most horrifying events that has ever taken place.
It is no use making comparisons between atrocities, just because the death of one single human being who resisted the capital's civilization should move each of his brothers, who all over the world struggle for the suppression of the system.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that some genocides are given publicity whereas others remain systematically hidden, at least we want to claim that the slaughter of human beings which the capital brought about with the conquest and colonization of the American continent is even worse than the one of the two World Wars together, including, of course, all the murders in the concentration camps built by the European and North-American progressive bourgeoisie in the course of this century!
Denying the festivities that the upper classes of Europe and the whole American continent are preparing to commemorate the 500 years of such a "glorious epoch" means opposing ourselves in practice to the ideology that the capital is forcing on us and means stressing the fact that the terminology used is a sign of it. "The discovery of America", in the language used every day at school, at work, in the shops, in the street, etc., may seem to be no more than the mere, innocent and neutral description of an event. Nevertheless, if we take the time to think about it, we can realize that it is, on the contrary, precisely the subjective and interested vision of the colonizer, the exploiter and of the European dominant class which carried out a successful conquest and colonization: from its point of view and only its, a continent was discovered. The natives who lived on that land never discovered America! Unfortunately, what they discovered at that time was rather THE BARBARITY OF THE EUROPEAN CAPITALIST CIVILIZATION. The very grammatical subject of the "discovery" (who discovered?) doesn't hide very well the historical subject, which shows clearly that it is, in fact, an interested and partial vision of history.
In the eyes of the capital (the genuine historical subject of the "discovery" and of the conquest and colonization that followed), it was, indeed, the discovery of an enormous productive labour force to be used for its valorization and to enable the capital to set up itself as a mode of reproduction of human race. In the eyes, let say, of the members of a primitive communist society that lived on a land called later America, it was a military, political and cultural INVASION; the beginning of the end of its community, the beginning of slaughter, work, exploitation and oppression.
What was, on the one hand, the development of the social form of the reproduction of the European white human race and of its Judeo-Christian culture with its specific forms of exploitation and cannibalism was, on the other hand, and according to the faculty for adaptation to that form of exploitation, either submission in complicity with the local exploiter classes (only the societies in which the exploitation of man by man had existed could adapt themselves to that form of exploitation), either a general physical extermination.
A few months before the 500th anniversary of that fateful day when the capital started imposing the barbarity of civilization on the whole American continent, the dominant classes in Europe and in America are preparing the festivities for 1992 and have got the nerve to talk about celebrating the "discovery" and the "meeting between two worlds", as if two civilizations had met on a voluntary basis to improve their respective way of life, whereas, in fact, the capital led a terrorist and bloody fight to impose itself on the human beings who then lived in "America".
Therefore it is easy to understand why, among the exploited of that continent, a still vague movement started to reject and deny this campaign carried out by all the characters of capitalism: the Church, the Spanish and American (North, Central and South American) governments, the political parties, the media, the cinema..., was born.
"The Farmers and Natives Organizations in the Andes, The National and Native Organization of Colombia (ONIC), The National Association of Users Farmers - Unity and Reconstruction (ANUC) and the Union and National Unitarian Federation of Farmers and Breeders of Colombia (FENAGRO), The National Federation of Farmers and Natives' Organizations (FENOC-1), The Confederation of The Native Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and The ECUANRUNARI Movement of Ecuador, The Farmers' Confederation of Peru (CCP) and The National Agrarian Confederation of Peru (CNA), The Single Union Confederation of Farmers of Bolivia (CSUTCB) and The No Land Movement of Brazil, who met in Bogota (Colombia) on 14th, 15th and 16th July, considering that:
1.- Whereas the 500 years of the wrongly called 'discovery' and conquest of America are near, the governments, churches, institutions, media, advertising agencies and the big transnational building entrepreneurs have taken a series of initiatives to 'celebrate' what they call 'the meeting of two worlds'.
2.- There was no meeting on that fateful day, 12th October, 1492, but rather a military, political and cultural invasion led by the European continent and more particularly by the Spanish State, which submitted our population to a brutal genocide and cut down the political, economic, cultural and mental evolution of our ancestors. So, what could have been a fruitful exchange of different cultures led to one culture, the conquistadors', dominating the other using arms and evangelization on a discriminating and unfair social basis poisoned by racism.
3.- Death, in all its forms, was the expression of the European civilization on the American land from slaughters to the physical extermination due to over-exploitation, including tortures and exports of illnesses and epidemics. 90 million people died as a result of the killing of the Indian communities: one of the worst crimes against humanity, which is still going on today, but in more subtle ways, which are not, for all that, less brutal and ruthless!
4.- On behalf of the European civilization, supposedly superior, the conquerors ruined a large part of the scientific and technical progress, of the artistic and cultural expressions, of the languages and the social organization of the indigenous peoples to take over everything by evicting the farmers from their lands, by plundering the resources and seizing the fruits of the work of the conquered.
5.- The 'discovery' also meant that Latin America would be, for centuries, enslaved to the interests of the great European powers of that time and to the United States of today. This conditioned the existing drama of poverty, misery and under-development against which our peoples are struggling; this drama being worsened with the oppressive burden of the external debt.
6.- Therefore, it is natural that, as the main victims of these outrages and of the deprivation of our homeland, we want to claim that we reject such "festivities" and want to take the opportunity to think over that fifth centenary and to transform it into a self-discovery of our America, into a reason to bring our support to all the oppressed, or the appropriate time to do so.
ratify the meeting of the Farmers and Natives' Organizations of South America, Central America and the Caribbean, convened on 7th and 12th October, 1989, in Bogota (Colombia).
We decide to
This meeting aims at centralizing and unifying the various dynamics impulsed by people's organizations in the countries of America about the 500-year domination and exploitation, as well as making an opportunity to think over the big challenges of today and give a common answer to the theme."
Billions of dollars have been invested in the festivities and in the campaigns through which they will build the public opinion they need and through which they will harass the exploited of the five continents and more particularly those from America. We appeal to the avant-garde proletariat to take action against such campaigns; we call on them to make of every factory, every school, every mine, every office... the place to denounce parties, trade-unions, governments, media, which take part in the campaign, to make it the sphere of activity against all the previous capitalists as well as against the capitalists of today, who, all, with no exception, have Indian, half-cast, black, white,... blood on their hands.
The ways direct action will be led depend, of course, on the possibilities and on the balance of forces in each place at a time when the international weakness of the proletariat facing its historical enemy is acknowledged; any general recipe would be no more than a mere vain statement. The fact that we don't call on a generalized sabotage or on an insurrectionary and revolutionary strike doesn't mean we don't agree with that kind of action, but it is because, first of all, the proletariat having no international guidance or conscious common action at the moment, it would only be a dream and also because throwing rotten eggs or a few Molotov cocktails during the festivities, going on strike here or occupying places there don't deserve yet the name of sabotage, neither do they imply there to be any general leadership. It will rather be a modest expression of the present rejecting movement that we are struggling for to generalize it and hardenit.
We intend to radicalise it in the deepest sense of the word, that is to say to go back to the roots. And, as we have already said it, the root of the problem is our old-aged enemy: the capital, our well-known enemy, the bourgeois society on the whole, which forced the human race to submit itself to it. That is why hardening the movement against the so-called festivities is, and can only mean, a struggle against the whole capitalism. Moreover, we talk about "generalizing" both in the quantitative and qualitative expansion of the proletarian participation in this struggle, in the sense of the confrontation against all the capitalist forces, and finally, in the sense of the historical relation between this struggle led by the exploited and the oppressed of the five continents during colonization to resist the capital, and the nowadays proletariat's struggle, the everyday struggle against austerity, against capitalist exploitation and the struggle for the suppression of that criminal system. That's the reason why denouncing the festivity campaign and confronting it is not a different struggle, but is rather an additional aspect of the social war between the exploiters and the exploited.
If the struggle is divided, if its contents which is to be a struggle against capitalism, turn out to be a struggle for peaceful coexistence between classes (whether it be on behalf of the meeting between two worlds or of Latin-American unity against yankee imperialism), that would be a reactionary obstacle. That's why,through our struggle against these festivities, we launch an appeal to face and denounce all the bourgeois, left-wing or right-wing forces, which will try to make of the historical struggle against capitalism a mere contradiction among its own factions, between the "imperialists" and the "others", or, which is even worse, among nations: between Europeans and Americans, between inhabitants of South-America and inhabitants of North-America.
This is being done consciously or unconsciously, considering as grammatical subject what is not the historical subject: Latin-America; and suggesting continuity between the previous exploited and submitted in all America and this non-subject which is Latin-America. There is no doubt that this position corresponds to the Latin-American bourgeois' interests (and consequently, to those of capitalism), the very bourgeois who stand as a victim of a genocide in which it deliberately took part.
This conjures up an old story: a South-American journalist, who was considering Juan Ramón Jimenez responsible, harassed him saying: "... you, the Spanish, the colonizers,... responsible for the slaughter,... the obscurantists,... your grand-fathers..." He answered quite rightly: "It will be yours, mine, the poor, are overseas in Spain, well buried."
And this is true not only for the Latin-American exploiting class of Latin and European origin, but also for the bourgeois of Indian origin, seeing that in many cases the indigenous dominant classes contributed to the barbarity of colonization. In fact, as we already said above, the natives who didn't live in a society with class exploitation resisted wage labour to the death and/or were exterminated (or killed themselves in many ways, including conscious and deliberate collective infanticide); that's why most natives of today, who are exploited proletarians, are descendants of societies in which exploitation already existed; and besides the fact their own exploiters may have sold them to capitalist bosses, they could accept wage labour capital imposed on them because they were used to working for others, to producing overwork for their "own" native bourgeois. For example, in the Inca Empire, the "mita" and the "yanaconaje" were forms of overwork appropriation that the capitalism later was going to subsume in its being, thanks, in many cases, to the caciques, who watched over labour force.
Latin-Americanism clearly expresses the counterrevolutionary interests of the left-wing bourgeoisie, who, on this occasion, and as every time a proletarian movement expands, tries to turn the class war into an international war of capital (between nations).
The only bourgeois solution to that is:
To what extent is the protest movement against the festivities infested or dominated by the left-wing bourgeoisie? It is difficult to respond to that point so far and, in fact, the very happening of the festivities and the denouncing of them will tell us about the proletariat's autonomy from that left wing or, on the contrary, the proletariat's subordination to it. That's why the determined struggle against the festivities must always imply the denunciation of the pseudo anti-imperialist left-wing bourgeois.
What seems to us to be objective is, that in all structures and organizations which existed before or which have been developing for two years to denounce the festivities there is an important position of struggle in this respect. In the various spheres for discussion and reflection that have come out both at international level and in each country, we can see that proletarians and proletarian organizations coexist with old leftist or unionist structures (among which many signed the first communique mentioned above). So, we notice that a lot of left-wing capitalist structures, from the Cuban State to the many American intellectual groups or unions of the different countries, which, at the beginning seemed to be opposing the festivities, submitted (in many cases sold themselves), little by little, more or less barefacedly, to the 1992 festivities, and, in many cases, today, they even come to condemn (sometimes, they quell) those who don't sell themselves.
In the first place, with this article we aimed to expound our position on the whole, as a group, against the festivities and, more particularly, we aimed to set out our stand on several topics we received to be denounced and thought about. Nevertheless, seeing the diversity and contradiction they contained, we have chosen, in this first text, to limit ourselves in explaining that our position in the struggle stands against the festivities (denouncing also, on the whole, the left-wing bourgeoisie).
We must also add that all those, calling themselves Marxists, who praise progress and civilization, are making themselves accomplices of all this. In our opinion, it is clear that wavering between supporting resistance to exploitation (the essence of the historical communist position even during precapitalism) and supporting the whole of the progress of Capitalism (the essence of the historical position of counter-revolution, social-democracy), Marx and Engels will come to support, on behalf of civilization, bourgeois positions such as, for example, the war launched by the Yankees against "lazy Mexicans" (3). The Theses of our programme clearly fight against such positions. They denounce progress, civilization (see thesis 32, a.o.) and they claim that the present struggle of the proletariat is not the successor of progress and bourgeois revolution (as social-democracy says), it is the successor of all the exploited classes of the past. We also include, among those whom we denounce as accomplices, the so-called followers of "Communist Left". Indeed, all those who defend that capitalism was in a progressive phase till 1914 or any other date, all the supporters of the theory of ascendance and decadence of Capital, inevitably support the criminal work of the capitalist civilization. Therefore, we are neither astonished by the fact that in the face of the gigantic generalised campaign of the Bourgeois State for the festivities of the 500th anniversary those people didn't say a word, nor by the fact that they have made themselves the accomplice of the festivities.
We shall end this article on the 1492-1992 festivities by repeating
our call for social war against capital:
Long live direct action of the proletariat against all the forces of Capital, which are the only ones having true reasons to commemorate five centuries of exploitation and oppression !
2. On that subject, see: "La cuestión de la deuda: basta de versos" in Comunismo 19, June 1985, "Deuda externa: las fantasías sin salida" in Comunismo 21, February 1986 and "La question de la dette: assez de prose" in Le Communiste 27.
3. This position is clearly explained in an editorial, which was not signed, in Neue Rheinische Zeitung: "Democratic Pan-Slavism", a reaction to "An appeal to The Slaves" of Bakhunin in which it is said, word for word: "... Will Bakhunin reproach the North-Americans for waging a 'war of conquest', which, of course, meant a severe blow to his theory based on 'justice and humanity', but which was carried out successfully to the advantage of civilization only? Or is it by chance that the wonderful California was snatched from the lazy Mexicans, who didn't know what to do with it? Is it a misfortune for the wonderful Yankees to exploit the gold mines there, to increase the means of transport, to make, in a few years, of the most appropriate coast of that peaceful ocean, a place with a high density of population and a busy trade, to build big cities, steamboat lines, a railway line from New-York to San Francisco, to really open for the first time the Pacific Ocean to civilization and, for the third time in history, give a new orientation to world trade?"
As we can see, it's the traditional bourgeois position in favour of progress and civilization, against resistance to work and exploitation, which Marx and Engels support here.
Some tried to exonerate Marx saying that he was not the direct author of that article but, as we know, the editorial staff of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung was under the sheer and mere dictatorship of Marx. (Engels MEW t.XXI p.19). Moreover, Engels undertook to stress, in a letter to Herman Schüler on the 15th May 1885, that this was, indeed, Marx's position: "As well as the article against Bakhunin and Pan-Slavism, Marx's work and mine of that time can hardly not be separated, since there is division in work."