Iraqi Occupation - Neither Islam nor the West Have Anything to Offer

It is not hard to grasp the evil of the war in Iraq. Over 110,000 civilians have been killed by armies which claimed to be bringing “freedom and democracy”. But torture is still torture however “democratic” the torturers say they are. The assaults in Abu Ghraib prison and by British soldiers on civilians in Al-Amarah have demonstrated that this war is not about saving Iraqis from an evil dictator. The Iraqis don’t count. The war is about “regime change” but what does this mean? It means manipulating the Iraqi ruling class into producing a government acceptable to the West.

The Real Reason for War

Why? Because the real reason for the invasion of Iraq was not to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people (after all Saddam Hussein had been supported for over a decade by the West during which the Kurdish people in Halabja were gassed): The real reason was to control Iraq’s oil. Not only is oil a vital strategic resource for the future of any industrial state but for the US there is an added bonus. Oil, like most commodities traded in the world, is priced in dollars. This allows the US to print money to pay for its own economic crisis while the rest of the world uses it. More than two thirds of the world’s foreign currency reserves outside the USA are held in dollars. This is why the US can print money and still avoid inflation. The countries holding dollars cannot get rid of them all at once as the dollar would go down and therefore so would the value of their reserves. It is no accident that Saddam Hussein had started trading Iraq’s oil in Euros before the invasion. Iran is trying (without much success so far) to do the same. For the US the military is an extension of the economy. Not only do contracts for military spending account for 8% of GDP but US arms firms control 80% of the world’s armaments market. War and the interests of US capitalism in crisis are inextricably linked.

The Democracy Myth

So how do we fight war? Over the last three years millions have demonstrated first against the war and then against the occupation of Iraq by the US and its allies, including Britain. Despite the fact that some of these have been the biggest demonstrations ever (especially that of February 15th 2003 in London) there has been no turn round by the Blair or Bush governments.

So what is the value of these demonstrations and protests if they have had no effect? What does it tell us about “democracy” in the West if the governments can ignore the wishes of their own populations? It tells us that democracy in the West is a myth. Yes, we have freedom but, as Orwell might have said, “some are freer than others”. Those that have the wealth to control the means of production of ideas (the media) determine the ruling ideas. If they don’t want an issue to determine an election result it doesn’t. In the meantime we find ourselves facing declining living standards for more working time (even here the Government/media lies that wages are outpacing prices). We face declining services after thirty years of cuts and now most households have to have two wage earners who bring in less in real terms than one did twenty years ago. And now the war on terror means that even that basic ‘freedom of the individual’, which Western democracy claims as its greatest discovery, is disappearing (see article over the page).

Islam is No Better

But Islamic reaction is no better. Those foolish people who are today calling for support for the resistance in Iraq are traitors to the working class. Our common aim is that we all oppose US and British imperialism. But it does not stop there. We oppose all imperialism including a future Islamic imperialism. Imperialism isn’t a term of abuse. It describes the precise stage which capitalism has reached as one power attempts to make another pay for its own problems. These problems are caused by the capitalist mode of production which depends on the exploitation of workers, wage labour, around the world. Many young Asians here think that Islam is an alternative to it, a “third way” (to socialism or capitalism) but it isn’t. Islam accepts the basic fact of capitalist exploitation (it is a religion founded by a merchant after all) but just encourages the capitalists to be charitable and give 10% of their wealth to the poor.

And the real record of Islamic militants in Iraq is not promising for the working class elsewhere. The insurgents have consistently attacked, kidnapped and killed train drivers, building workers and even the unemployed (the rate is 60 - 75%) queuing for work. These were seen as collaborating with the US-backed regime but in actual fact they were merely trying to survive. Is that the sort of action socialists in the West support? And the situation has become more vicious since the December elections since Sunni militants have begun a sectarian campaign of murder of any Shia they find in order to stir up a religious civil war. It is the same situation as occurred in Northern Ireland where the IRA and the UVF picked out individual workers from the other community and eased the bosses’ job of dividing and ruling.

This is not Islamophobia as many of the Left will say. Islamic reaction and Western imperialism are equal enemies in our eyes (whatever the disparity in firepower between them). They both represent an alien class position. To pretend otherwise is to betray the world working class. Nor can anyone who stands for a unified working class submit to the moral blackmail of those who argue that opposing the Islamists is racist. In any case this is an insult to Asians who reject religion. It is also a gift to the extreme right like the BNP who can carry out their racist propaganda under the claim that they oppose Islamic terrorism. The indiscriminate killings by suicide bombings like those of July 7th or 9/11 (which killed mostly wage workers) clearly reveal the total absence of identification of the perpetrators with the working class. What’s more, they only give justification for more state control over working class lives.

Ending the War or Ending the System?

So how do we end the war in Iraq or Afghanistan or Palestine or wherever? Pleading with governments not to fight each other over the world’s resources has been shown to be a failure. The only way we can stop the war machine is to halt the machinery of capitalist production which we largely operate. The strike of US port workers in 2004 did more to undermine ruling class confidence in their war policy than any other event.

However, a single strike in a single sector is only an inconvenience to our rulers. Present-day capitalism needs war in order to survive so the only effective anti-war movement will be one that challenges the system itself. A working class united across national and sector boundaries would have the collective power to do this. The basis for this to happen is the everyday reality of working class living and working conditions which - from the ‘first’ world to the ‘third’ world - are under attack by rampant capitalism. We need to create the organisations which enable us to collectively resist. This means both short term workers assemblies to coordinate and spread strikes but also, and above all, the creation of a political body which can point the way towards a complete political, economic and social alternative to capitalism and imperialism. So far history has shown only one realistic alternative to capitalism and that is a society which abolishes profit and the wage labour that goes with it, nation states and the national frontiers which we have today. That alternative is socialism or communism. This is by no means the same as the state capitalism that existed in the Soviet Union until 1989 nor can it be compared to the capitalist welfare state that existed in the post-war boom in the richer countries of the world. Communism means a global society where every individual has a say in how the resources of the community are used. It cannot come about overnight nor can it come about without the mass action of millions. It is, however, the only alternative to the infernal cycle of war, famine, human and environmental degradation that capitalism is currently serving up.

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.