Iraq: Rethinking the period of Qasim


Comments by Lars Akerhaug

Following considerations are a comment to "On the pending Political Front of the Iraqi Resistance" by Willi Langthaler reproduced on this website.

While the general view on the left was that the support of Qasim materialized in the slogan "No leader but Qasim" (la za`im ila qarim`) was opportunistic, I consider this a mistake. The position was at the time a correct assessment of the situation. Qasim was the only Iraqi leader who had the potential of uniting Iraq on an anti-imperialist basis and also creating a political unity between Shia`s, Kurds and Sunni Arabs. This position triggered the old classes, the Sunni arabs, `Ulama and the Mosuli Turkmen, and forced them partly to apply an anti-imperialist guise in their opposition to Qasim.

If we draw a parallel to Venezuela the situation becomes very clear. In Venezuela today the conflict is a class conflict, but also a conflict about nationhood, blacks vs. whites, natives vs. spanish-descendants. In this situation the popular movements and especially its revolutionary parts is dependent on strong leadership, symbolized by General Chavez. The support of Chavez is a prerequisite for further organizing. The push for arming the peasants and ordinary people also seems to win ground, the announcement that Chavez will arm the people is a major achievement.

If the communists in Iraq had faults it was their slowness in adapting themselves to this situation, and the doubts about Qasim that occurred in the ranks of the CP when the situation started to "heat up". Of course the CP was also under heavy attacks, re. the Kirkuk and Mosul infighting. But the conclusion from this should never have been reluctance in defense of Qasim, to the contrary the tragedy was the inability of the CP not to compromise on the existence and build-up of the people`s militias when Qasim in an attempt on compromise tried to dismantle this and finally the terrible mistake of atomizing the leadership of the cadres in the military. Had the leadership remained steadfast, the tragic coup and massacre of the communists would have been avoided, and finally the communists could have become the leading force of the state.

Also, partly, this is a question of propaganda. The bourgeois pan-Arabism`s anti-imperialist credentials is obvious. The historical solution of this question was the Marxist-pan-Arab fusion led by Habash which however came too late to Iraq - already Ba`thism was on the field. However Ba`athis even in its original wrappings is a totally unscientific ideology unable to resolve the questions of national minorities and build national unity. While Habash represents a real Marxist vision of the Arab nation not based on ethnic criteria Aflaq`s position was more a subordinating of minorities under the rule of Sunni Arabism.

Because of Ba`athis this current never grew in Iraq. Also we must remember the terrible position of Moscow for sub-ordination to the Aref regimes. With these two bricks in play, the guerrillas formed in the sumps in the late 60s were doomed to fail, even if their political program probably could have struck a major accord in those days. But the militarism of the movement was premature and crushed.

This is the eternal problem of the Iraqi CP, which after the leadership of comrade Fahd, which historically was really great, and his death a great loss, has always pended between total submission to reaction at the one side, seen in the "praha-communists" and the later national-democratic progressive front and on the other side the "children communists" which destroyed the communists in the fifties, had a reappearance in strategic concepts in the late 60s markazi-branch and which still plagues Iraq today in the WCPI which is an exact replica of the children communists who staged a coup within the party after Fahd, down to the question of militarism and laicism.

Lars Akerhaug, Norway