Latest bombings highlight plight of Iraqi people

Yesterday’s bomb attacks in Iraq have brought the plight of the Iraqi people back into the attention of the whole world. It reminds everyone of the terrible mess that the US-UK war against Saddam Hussein has provoked. Iraq was no threat to anyone. That has been abundantly demonstrated now. So what has been achieved?

Yesterday's bomb attacks in Iraq have brought the plight of the Iraqi people back into the attention of the whole world. It reminds everyone of the terrible mess that the US-UK war against Saddam Hussein has provoked. Iraq was no threat to anyone. That has been abundantly demonstrated now. So what has been achieved? There is no "democracy", no stability. The economy is in a mess. The people are worse off than ever before. And to make matters worse for the imperialists, Al-Qaeda which had no presence in Iraq before the fall of Saddam Hussein now has bases and is clearly operating in the country. So much for the "war on terror".

The imperialists, in particular the US imperialists, have been promising that Iraq would soon be administered by an Iraqi administration, elected by the Iraqi people, with an Iraqi constitution and so on. On March 1, the Iraqi Governing Council had finally agreed on an interim constitution, according to which elections are to be called in Iraq by the end of this year or at the very latest in early 2005. Once a new national assembly is elected this would proceed to draw up a permanent constitution. Some observers considered this a success, as many were expecting that the Council would fail to produce anything at all. In reality the interim constitution solves nothing. For instance it does not clarify the position of the Kurds. It leaves them the right to keep their own militias but does not say anything definite on their final status. There is no clear indication as to what kind of state Iraq is going to be, but it does establish the idea that Islamic law can serve as a basis for legislation.

But even this stunted interim constitution was soon to be overshadowed by yesterday's bombings. In two coordinated attacks over 170 Shias were killed. They were among the many Shias celebrating Ashoura. Under Saddam Hussein this festival had been banned, but now for the first time the Shias were free to take part in a festival that goes right back to the early period of Islam and to the division between Sunnis and Shias. Hundreds more were injured on the same day. At the same time a similar attack on Shias took place in Quetta in Pakistan, obviously part of the same orchestrated attack.

No one has yet officially claimed responsibility for these attacks, but the finger has been pointed at Al-Qaeda, or other Sunni fundamentalist extremists. We have no problems in believing this.

These bombings are cowardly attacks on innocent civilians, men, women and children and they are to be firmly condemned. They can in no way be interpreted as genuine resistance against US imperialism. These fundamentalist extremists behave like, and have the mentality of, fascists. They have no concern for ordinary working people. Yes, they are "anti-imperialists", but with no progressive content whatsoever. They have their own reactionary agenda. We can see this where another form if Islamic fundamentalism actually came to power in neighbouring Iran, where we have a totally reactionary and anti-working class regime.

The aim of these attacks is clearly to increase the instability of Iraq. Last year in August the Shias had already suffered an attack in Najaf when more than 80 people were killed. In mid February we saw a similar attack in the Kurdish north when 109 were killed in two attacks on the main Kurdish nationalist parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdish Democratic Party.

The fanatical extremists behind these attacks are trying to foment conflict between the different communities that make up Iraq. They are trying to pit Sunni against Shia, and Kurds against Sunnis, and so on. This is a criminal manoeuvre that would not benefit the workers of Iraq, whatever ethnic or religious group they may belong to. It also goes against all the long tradition of Iraq. There has always been a very strong Iraqi national identity in the country that cut across the divisions. As Robert Fisk in The Independent (March 3, 2004) explains, "There never has been a civil war in Iraq. I have never heard a single word of animosity between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq." This tradition may work against the reactionary extremist fundamentalists who are trying to foment conflict between Iraqis. Nonetheless the events of yesterday should serve as a warning to the Iraqi masses of what may come in the future.

The problem in Iraq is that the main political forces operating in the country all represent national or religious groups. The labour movement has no real voice. The parties of the left are weak and divided. The Iraqi Communist Party is playing a scandalous role by having a member in the Governing Council. It is de facto collaborating with the occupation. For this it has come under attacks, and some if its offices have been bombed.

This leaves the initiative to the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois political formations, and in particular it leaves room for the Islamic clergy to play a role. In a country where 60% of the population is Shia this can create a very dangerous situation. The Shia clergy have called for elections based on a simple majority rule. This would give them most likely a majority in any future parliament. The Sunnis have reacted by demanding an equal representation of all the communities. Meanwhile the Kurds hold on to their fragile "autonomy".

On the basis of capitalism this is an explosive situation. None of the basic problems facing ordinary Iraqi workers and poor can be solved so long as power remains in the hands of the bourgeois elite, whether it be with the Islamic clergy or with the US imperialists. A programme of widespread privatisation is being imposed on the Iraqi people. This, following on from the bombing of large parts of the basic infrastructure, has led to a nightmare situation.

At least 50% of the working population is unemployed and 60% live below the poverty line. Inflation is currently running at 15% a month. There are weekly demonstrations of the unemployed both in Baghdad and in Basra in the south. Unemployment does not discriminate; it applies equally to all groups! The new administration is corrupt from head to toe and is based on "jobs for the boys". Each party in the Governing Council applies the old and tested method of nepotism in dishing out the few jobs there are. Many areas still suffering long periods of power cuts. The water supply has also been severely damaged.

What has happened to the education system is a clear indicator of the state of affairs. Twenty years ago, according the UN's Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator, primary school enrolment in Iraq was very close to 100%. So even the poorest of children had access to a basic education. Now the number of children not going to school is 65%. Many children are forced to leave school to earn a meagre wage to help keep the family alive. During the war 2700 schools were looted and burned. Those that weren't are in a terrible state and either need to be renovated or totally rebuilt.

This fact alone serves to show what Bush's "civilising" measures mean. As if this were not enough, workers face the wrath of the US occupation forces if they dare to protest seriously about their plight. After the fall of Saddam Hussein the workers began to organise their own organisations. One of these was the Union of the Unemployed. One of its leaders is Kacem Madi. He organised a protest, a sit-in, against the way Iraqi unemployed workers were being treated by the occupying forces. The response of the US army was to arrest Kacem together with 20 other members of the Union, hold them overnight and totally humiliate them.

The tragedy of all this is that there is no political force yet capable of uniting the workers of all communities around a fighting class programme. It is in this vacuum that the various reactionary forces can assume a disproportionate role. And it is in this context that we have to understand the recent bombings. The lack of political cohesion of the Iraqi working class allows other forces to take the initiative.

There is another side to this scenario. Although the US forces are not behind the attacks (some have seen some kind of conspiracy theory that the US may have planted the bombs for their own purposes) the actions of the terrorists do play into the hands of the US imperialists. Some have speculated that by sowing chaos and possible ethnic and religious strife, the US could force their own plans on the Iraqi people. This proves the point once again that the terrorists and the imperialists while clearly in conflict at the same time they feed off each other. The terrorists justify their attacks as part of their war to remove the imperialists, and the US imperialists can justify their presence and repressive measures in Iraq, to "maintain order".

Marxists oppose the imperialist occupation of Iraq. We also condemn yesterday's bomb attacks. But we should always remember that the main responsibility for the present mess rests on the shoulders of the imperialists. They went into Iraq with their own interests, which were economic, military and strategic. We warned that the taking of Iraq in conventional warfare might not be so difficult, but holding down the country would be far more complicated than the simple mind of a Bush or a Rumsfeld could have anticipated.

We explained that the task of overthrowing Saddam Hussein belonged to the Iraqi people, to the Iraqi workers in particular. As it was not the workers of Iraq to carry out this task, we now have the present bloody mess. But it is never too late. There are honest workers, left activists in Iraq in different organisations, such as the Communist Party, the Communist Workers' Party and the Emanation Movement of the Communist Workers' Party of Iraq. There are workers attempting to build trade unions. They are working against the stream in a difficult situation. It is among this layer that the rebirth of genuine Marxism in Iraq can come about. It is a difficult task but the work of building the forces of genuine Marxism in Iraq is an urgent one. It is the only way that hope can be restored to the Iraqi masses.