Imperialism, Iraq, and the Right to Resist

March 25th, 2005 - by admin

Megan Cornish / The Freedom Socialist, Vol. 26, No. 2 – 2005-03-25 23:26:35

(April-May, 2005) —Every day on the news, readers and viewers see images of an Iraqi resistance that seems ever more terrorist and even unhinged. In part, this is thanks to the bias of the US media.

At the same time, however, many ordinary Iraqis who have no love for the US occupation are themselves outraged. On March 1, over 2,000 people reportedly demonstrated in Hilla against the bloodiest suicide bomb attack yet, which killed 115 and wounded 148.

So it’s no wonder that the Freedom Socialist Party’s call for support to the Iraqi resistance is a minority position. Most antiwar and left organizations do not even address the issue.

But the FSP believes that not only do antiwar activists have an obligation to back the resistance, but that it’s exactly what the movement needs in order to grow and become politically stronger.

Where does this obligation come from?

The Right to Self-determination
We live in the age of imperialism, which V.I. Lenin defined simply as the monopoly stage of capitalism. The great corporate monopolies literally rule the world.

Nations, which are a byproduct of capitalist development in the first place, function more and more openly as the servants of business interests. The nations fronting for the largest corporations are the imperialist countries, which subjugate less developed countries economically and, when required, militarily.

This is where the right of nations to self-determination comes in. It’s a basic democratic right like freedom from racism, sexism and heterosexism. This principle includes first of all the right to expel occupying armies!

The people of imperialist nations have a special responsibility to defend in any way they can the nations their own countries are subordinating. The U.S. regularly overthrows the governments of other nations; it needs to be stopped, and its people need to have the guts to say so and take action. In the real world, this means the movement against what is happening in Iraq must do more than simply be pacifist or antiwar.

There are two sides in the Iraq war. One is an imperialist aggressor waging a ferocious war for profits and global domination at the expense of the lives, social conditions, and rights not only of Iraqis, but of its own people. The other is a resistance that, by defending besieged Iraq, is challenging the very right of imperialism to exist. The question boils down to: which side are you on?

Vietnam: Defeat for the Exploiters
This same question was posed during the Vietnam War. Like today, liberals and many radicals kept their demands minimal, assuming this would draw the most people into the movement. The Socialist Workers Party, which organizationally dominated the antiwar mobilization committees, insisted on the single-issue slogan “Out Now!” and nixed more far-reaching demands or any relating to life in the U.S. They kept radical viewpoints off the podium, preferring to put forward Democrat politicians who supported imperialism in general but disagreed tactically with the war.

The FSP, on the other hand, educated on the capitalist cause of the war and the need to side explicitly with the Vietnamese. And this position was vindicated in the streets.

As the movement grew, “Victory to the Viet Cong!” became a popular rallying cry. GIs took up this sentiment with a vengeance and, ultimately, the great US military machine was stalled by US troops in revolt. This allowed the determined Vietnamese people’s army to prevail — a victory that scared the power elite so badly that they did not dare commit troops to another occupation for thirty years.

Of course, the current Iraqi resistance is no Viet Cong, which had socialist ideals (although deformed by the backward dogma and bureaucratism of Stalinism). So what about the Iraqi resistance?

A Multifaceted Iraqi Opposition
National liberation struggles under capitalism have a dual nature; some aspects tend to advance the interests of working people, others to work against them.

In oppressed nations, for example, the homegrown ruling class itself exploits the working class, and invariably makes deals with imperialism as well. Often its authority rests in part on remnants of the feudal past, which it allows to survive for that very reason. In the Middle East today, this reactionary side of nationalism is represented primarily by Islamic fundamentalism; in Iraq, Hussein loyalists are also part of this current.

But oppressed nations also have progressive aspects that come from combating imperialism a battle that working people have the biggest stake in and most logically should lead. How dominant they actually are determines how progressive the liberation movement will be.

So the contradictory nature of the Iraqi resistance is to be expected. The religious reactionaries are not fighting on a working-class basis, and this explains their willingness to resort to unjustifiable terrorism against Iraqi civilians, including women, labor activists, and people working for the U. just to survive. It bears remembering, though, that some of the attacks, like the murder of popular aid worker Margaret Hassan, may be carried out by the CIA or other US forces. After all, the US has the most to gain from sectarian violence.

Much of the popular sympathy for the Islamist right comes from the failure of the Stalinist Left to seize the initiative when it was theirs to take, after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958. Today, the discredited Iraqi Communist Party, true to its opportunist past, supports the occupation and participates in the puppet governments.

Other leftists, however, are active in the opposition, and are contending for far different goals than the reactionaries: a secular state, full rights for women, public ownership of oil and other industries. They are part of the picture of the resistance that the U.S. media isn’t showing — an armed resistance that is in reality politically diverse, plus mass movements of labor unions, organizations of the unemployed, socialists, and women. (See previous FS articles at

The resistance in Iraq reflects both an external and an internal conflict: against the US, and between reactionaries and progressives. Of prime importance to the outcome of this battle is the role of women within it — a topic on which Russian revolutionaries like Lenin and Leon Trotsky had a lot to say. Their perspective was borne out during another revolution, the one that ousted the Shah of Iran in 1978.

Bank workers in Iran, most of them women, stopped the fleeing shah from stealing national wealth. Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against reimposition of the veil when the reactionary mullahs began their march to the top.

But when the FSP and its sister organization, Radical Women, supported female Iranians against compulsory veiling, we were told we were “insensitive to the cultural norms” of an oppressed country — by other feminists and socialists! We believed, however, that if the repression of women succeeded in Iran, the revolution would be killed.

Tragically, we were right. The fundamentalist regime of Ayatollah Khomeini rose on the bodies of women. Many leftists paved the way by refusing to defend women against attack; their turn came when Khomeini repaid them by wiping them out or exiling them.

Because the resistance movement is so mixed, the support of antiwar activists to the progressive elements within it, like the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq, can make a real difference in the direction it takes — and in what happens when the imperialists are finally kicked out. Abstention and hand-wringing from the sidelines, on the contrary, won’t do a damn thing to keep the Islamic right out of power.

Their Fight is Ours
Backing the Iraqi resistance will also provide a much-needed shot in the arm for movements in the US. A persuasive anti-imperialist message will give courage to many still afraid of being called traitors and terrorist-lovers, put the police state on serious notice, and connect the struggle for a better life for U.S. working people to freedom for Iraq.

Oppressed and exploited people in the US and Iraq have the same enemy. Who benefits when teenagers and middle-aged reservists die for oil? When children are denied a decent education, or any education at all? When “family values” or Sharia determines how women live their lives?

When retirement is spent working at MacDonald’s or scrounging its dumpsters? When people’s gifts for creating art, or poetry, or music, have no room to breathe? When the Pentagon ravages and poisons the globe? Who benefits?

Every person on the planet has a stake in the messy, contradictory, inspiring, heroic Iraqi resistance. It’s time to take a side, and fight.

Freedom Socialist Party

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