22 February 2021

Win leadership of resistance

Adopted by the July 24 2004 meeting of CPGB members and supporters. Published in Weekly Worker 539, available on the WW archive here.


1 – The US and UK governments are desperately seeking an exit strategy from Iraq. The recent handover of ‘sovereignty’ to an interim Iraqi government is a gross fiction. The brutal truth is that the US and its British allies remain firmly in control of Iraq (in so far as that is possible). The Iraqi people exercise no sovereignty.

2 – Yet the US and UK governments have no interest in establishing a permanent heavy occupation of the country. They favour a compliant government – domination by remote control. Modern imperialism prefers to rely on its economic might, backed by the threat of military force, to maintain the world pecking order.

3 – The imperialists are not setting the pace of withdrawal. The occupation of Iraq grows ever more unpopular in the imperialist countries. Governments previously signed up to the ‘coalition of the willing’ are deserting the US and UK.

4 – As well as opposition from within imperialist countries, it is the military and civil resistance to the occupation within Iraq that is making the continued presence of US-UK forces so difficult. There has been a shift in the nature of that resistance. While it has not reached the level of an all-out national uprising, the military resistance across Iraq has widespread sympathy, if not outright active support.

5 – Communists work for the defeat of British and US imperialism. Imperialism has no positive role whatsoever to play in Iraq. Imperialism is the main enemy of British workers, of American workers and of the Iraqi people. The imperialist world system is the root cause of the crisis in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Our programme of action for workers in Britain and the US is to force the occupying troops out. We also welcome the problems that the resistance is causing US-UK troops.

6 – However, in Iraq the main question is not the military nature of the resistance. The occupation and national self-determination are the main questions. They are the central democratic issues. Communists in Iraq must therefore fight for the leadership of the political struggle against the occupation. Whether this takes the form of civil disobedience, strikes, mass demonstrations, sabotage or an armed uprising, the tactics are secondary to the strategic fight for working class forces to take the political lead in ridding Iraq of foreign occupation. That means building organisations of workers, the unemployed, women and, in current circumstances, armed militias.

7 – To stand aside from this political struggle against the occupiers in favour of building an Iraqi labour movement under interim US-UK or UN ‘protection’ would be economism of the worst degree. Economism in the UK means paralysis. In Iraq it is an unmitigated calamity, leaving the democratic struggle in the hands of profoundly anti-democratic forces.

8 – The working class in Britain must focus on organising the defeat of ‘our own side’. Again, the building of such an anti-imperialist movement in the heart of empire can and must take many tactical forms: mass demonstrations, industrial action, elections, civil disobedience, mass propaganda and so on.

9 – However, our defeatism does not equate with automatic solidarity with the political leadership of those resisting the occupiers. Given the history of Iraq, and the current balance of class forces within the country, the political leadership of that resistance has so far fallen to various sunni and shia islamist political forces. By and large these are reactionary petty bourgeois forces that would strangle the working class in Iraq as soon as it began to find its feet.

10 – Any ‘alliance’ with the likes of Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia must be episodic. Yes, his blows against the occupiers weaken our common enemy, but they do not build working class, democratic and secular forces.

11 – The political independence of the working class in Iraq is primary in our struggle to end the occupation. Marxists cannot tail behind the islamists, as they did in the Iranian revolution of 1979-81. Yet neither can we equate the imperialist oppression with the islamists: they are not equal and opposite enemies of the working class. On this fight there can be no even-handedness: we would prefer the defeat of imperialism rather than its victory, even if it was at the hands of the al-Sadr militia or other islamists. Yet we must do all that we can to ensure that it is the working class, armed with a consistently democratic and secular programme, that emerges as the leading political force in Iraq. The struggle against the islamists is not suspended in the face of our mutual enemy.

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