Over the weekend more than 1,000 businessmen and political leaders from all over the world gathered in Jordan for a meeting of the World Economic Forum to discuss the situation after the latest Gulf War. Every speech was full of plenty of promises as usual of a brighter future for the Iraqi people and the entire Middle East.
However when the US governor of Iraq Paul Bremer stood up and began to explain the US's plans for the reconstruction of post-war Iraq, probably most of the Arab rulers presented started shivering in their boots at the prospect of what is to come.
The changes, according to Bremer, will include introducing new property rights and anti-trust laws, cutting subsidies, opening up the country to trade and foreign investment and privatising government run businesses.
"I want to say to them (the businessmen) that I am optimistic that the coalition will succeed in transforming the Iraqi economy from a closed, dead-end system to an open vibrant place to do business," said Bremer. "Without the discipline of the market, state-owned enterprises not only failed to create value, they destroyed it," he added. (Source: http://ipsnews.net). In this "free market", as we have already commented, those who will take the whole of the cake will be "the best competitors", i.e. US companies.
Of course, Bremer does not ignore the fact that there will be some problems "The negative impact of the transition on workers and pensioners, who may be affected by the closure of certain state-owned firms, will be cushioned by Iraq's oil revenues", he added.
But how will Iraqis be able to benefit from these revenues, if even the state run oil company is going to be privatised? Probably what Bremer really means (but doesn't say openly) is that only some of crumbs will go to them. It is clear that after the military war, the Americans are preparing an economic war, a class war that will affect millions of Iraqis for many years to come.
That is why the Arab rulers are very worried. This is not because these bourgeois have a more "humanitarian" approach. What they fear are the consequences of the opening up of the class struggle and of a war of national liberation in Iraq that could spread to their own bordering countries. They also fear that the methods being applied by the US in Iraq could be used against them if they dare to break the rules dictated by Washington.
Demonstrations and guerrilla attacks are growing
Despite the US administration's desires it is becoming ever clearer that reconstruction is not going according to plan. Not only are the basic services still seriously damaged, the delays are now also affecting the oil trade.
Iraq in fact resumed limited oil sales on Sunday from storage tanks at the port of Ceyhan in Turkey - the first Iraqi oil exports since the US-led invasion began on March 20. But on Monday morning an explosion hit a fuel pipeline near Iraq's border with Syria. There was another blast at a pipeline in the northern town of Hit on Saturday. The US have already classified it as an "act of sabotage".
The result of this bomb attacks is that now Iraqi officials are saying they will not be able to start pumping oil from the northern fields of Kirkuk to Ceyhan because the pipeline remains damaged. The interesting point is that the population is not coming out against these attacks. A common refrain among ordinary Iraqis is, "if they want to steal our oil, it is better to destroy it."
So the guerrilla attacks have not been stopped after last week's clampdown of the US armed forces. On the contrary, they have grown in intensity and now for the first time organised groups are appearing on the scene, such as the previously unknown group, calling itself the Iraqi National Front of Fedayeen. In a video only released last Saturday, this organisation vowed to intensify its assaults on US troops until they leave Iraq. And on Friday in Baghdad 20,000 people gathered in front of US Forces central command protesting against the lack of water and electricity.
Despite the fact that in Iraq there are more than 200,000 "allied" troops what we see emerging is a clear vacuum of power. The US have destroyed the old Saddam state apparatus but they have not yet found anything to replace it with. In some areas Shiite militias are filling the vacuum, but in some cities the situation is not so favourable to the fundamentalists.
Nassiryia is a town of more than 1,200,000 people, mostly Shiite. This is where one of the most bitter battles in the Iraq war took place. But it is also a town of great militant traditions. Here the Iraqi Communist Party in 1958 got more than 60% of the votes (see our previous article). Under Saddam Hussein, many left and religious leaders paid for their opposition to the regime with their lives
A high-ranking city dignitary recently explained something that reveal the potential for the left in Iraq. Talking to a journalist from the Italian left wing daily "il Manifesto" he said that, " The Communist Party should take the situation into its own hands, take the arms and stop all the thieves. Instead they are all sitting in their Party headquarters, what are they waiting for?"
The Italian journalist reveals all her reformist prejudices, when she points out to the same official, " but if all the political parties were armed, there would be a civil war!" The official reproaches her by explaining that, " I am not talking about all the parties, I am talking about the Communist Party, and here if they launched a demand everybody would follow. Here nobody follows the Islamists. This is the city of Fahed al-Khaled, the founder of the Communist Party"("il Manifesto", 22/06/2003)
Unfortunately the Iraqi Communist party leaders have no intention of follow this advice. The Communist Party local Secretary, Said Sahib el Hossuna, only recently returned from a long exile in Syria, explained in the same article that, "Everyone is against the occupation, but the occupation is a fact. When we will have a government, then it will be the time when we can negotiate peacefully their [the US's] departure".
This is a completely legalistic attitude! "When we will have a government!" He ignores the fact that any government that the US will allow to exist will only be a puppet government. The only real people's government that could exist is one where the American will have been forced out of the country, and only the masses can fulfill this task.
So now the immediate task is to build workers' and people's councils with the immediate aim of driving the US out of Iraq and allowing the working people of Iraq to rule their own country for themselves.
The fact that this is entirely possible in today's Iraq is shown in another part of the article. All the political parties in Nassiryia have established a joint coordinating committee and have appointed a candidate for the post of Governor, Taklif Mohammed al-Manshaad. He is a secular leader, just returned from London. In the same article he is quoted as saying that, "If the coalition forces ask us to set up a force to guarantee security, we could do it within seven days, and this would guarantee peace and security throughout the entire province, even for the future" ("il Manifesto", 22/06/2003) In other words, ‘we could take power, but we don't want to'! We wait for the US's kind permission.
The attitude of these leaders reminds us of the attitude of the Communist and the Socialist Party leaders in Italy at the end of the Second World War. They had enormous forces at their disposal. There were 300,000 armed partisans, mainly in Northern Italy. The bourgeoise state had collapsed. Instead of taking this historical opportunity to drive on and snuff out capitalism, they waited and collaborated with the US and UK armed forces (they entered a government of national unity with the Christian Democrats) to re-establish bourgeois power, an Army and a police force. Eventually the Christian Democrats, backed and advised by US imperialism, thanked the left parties for their "help" by kicking them out of government once they were no longer of any need and the mass movement had calmed down! That was followed by years of repression and retreats for the Italian working class that lasted throughout the 1950s and a large part of the 1960s and only really came to an end with the workers' movement of the late 1960s.
If the present Iraqi Communist Party leaders do not change course they could contribute to a similar fate for the workers of Iraq today. The workers and youth of Iraq are thirsting for radical change. Saddam has gone, but that is not enough for them. They now want genuine control over their lives, and in particular they want to see the backs of the US imperialists.
As we can see the imperialist intervention in Iraq, far from solving any problem, has set the whole region on fire, as is clear from the latest events in neighbouring Iran. Iran is not the only country where such mass protests have been taking place. The potential for such movements exists right across the whole of the Middle East and beyond. Huge opportunities are opening up for the masses in this part of the world.
However, the potential fort such movements is not enough to change society in a fundamental way. The lessons of the past must be absorbed by today's worker and student activists. This is the first task for today's revolutionaries.