PCOF: Polemic on the Gulf War

Polemic from La Forge, January 1-15, 1992

“Polemic.” A lively general debate between different or contradictory ideas and positions.

Polemics serve to make dynamic the exchange of points of view, to submit them to close criticism, to advance correct ideas. It requires the taking seriously of the points of view which it is proposed to criticize, and excludes all anathema, distortion or simplification. This is our ambition in today beginning this column in our paper. It will deal particularly with political and ideological questions… concerning the positions of the parties and organizations which consider themselves Marxist-Leninist. These differences are known by all those who have access to the publications of the parties, that is to say, they are widely known publicly (especially by the bourgeoisie!). They coexist without a real public polemic having been engaged in by the Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations, with the goal of clarifying, deepening and finally arriving at correct formulations. We have assessed that this situation is all the more harmful because today it is more than ever necessary to revive Marxism-Leninism, to go over the criteria with the fine-toothed comb of experience and to submit them to the fire of practice and of the actual development of the class struggle on a national and international level.

For a long time it has been the custom within what is called the international communist movement (a notion that, in itself, deserves a full analysis) of “not displaying our differences an front of the class enemy.” The result: the class enemy knows perfectly well these differences while the parties prohibit public polemics among themselves. This attitude has contributed to a certain sclerosis of Marxism-Leninism, of which one can today measure the dangers and the damage. It has also been able to create a certain extra distance between the parties which consider themselves Marxist-Leninist and all those who are interested in Marxism-Leninism, for whom Marxism-Leninism is a reference, but who, for different reasons, are not members of a Marxist-Leninist party.

We begin this column with an article about the differences that appeared concerning the Gulf war.

Polemic Concerning the Gulf War

The “new world order” is being built with fire and blood. The war in the Gulf has been a macabre illustration. The “war itself” was nothing other than a slaughter, with aerial bombardments of towns, of Iraqi soldiers buried alive by U.S. bulldozers. The Iraqi population is the principle victim of the blockade that the great powers are continuing to carry out against this country which has been destroyed economically.

This war has led to the taking of different positions among the forces and parties that consider themselves Marxist-Leninist. These differences are essentially about the attitude to adopt towards the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The first one advocates support to this regime against the imperialist coalition. [Translator’s note: the text here has a bad typo, saying “the anti-imperialist coalition.”] It stems from the idea that the policies and actions of S. Hussein weaken the world imperialist system by damaging the interests of the great imperialist powers, particularly those of American imperialism. It is the reaction of these imperialist powers themselves that, according to the partisans of support for S. Hussein, furnish proof of the correctness of their position. This support is presented as a tactic comparable to that of the CPSU during the time of Lenin and Stalin, when the Bolsheviks supported Sultan Kabous of Afghanistan against the imperialist powers of that time, particularly England.

We have defended a different position, taking as our target the imperialist coalition and working to develop a popular opposition to this reactionary war, without creating illusions about the regime of S. Hussein and therefore without calling for supporting him.

The existence of these differences has, among other consequences, made it practically impossible to carry out a coordinated action of the Marxist-Leninist forces. But if we return to this question today, it is because this problem will inevitably arise again. In effect, the “new order” of world imperialism is characterized by a profound disruption of the relationship of forces, of alliances and of zones of influence among the imperialist powers.

The breaking up of the USSR, the deepening of the crisis in the world capitalist imperialist system which is functioning at present along one model (symbolized by the notion of a “market economy”) is sharpening the contradictions among the different imperialist countries, between the imperialist countries and the less developed capitalist countries. The end to the bi-polarization of USA-USSR is disrupting the zones of influence and is creating “voids”. These provide opportunities for the imperialist states to redraw or consolidate their zones of influence, and for capitalist countries with a certain economic and military development to cut out a regional zone of influence. This is necessarily done against the interests of other states, particularly against those of the imperialist powers, but still within the framework of the imperialist system. This is the case, among others, of Turkey, India, Brazil, China… This is what S. Hussein dreamed of realizing in annexing the petroleum riches of Kuwait, which would have increased his economic and military power within this strategic region of the planet (major petroleum deposits and main known petroleum reserves). He could believe that the imperialists would let him do it. The USSR and France had over-armed him during eight years of the reactionary war with Iran, and the USA had given proof of a great understanding in this regard (see insert).

That his calculations failed and that he served up on a silver platter a pretext for the imperialists to intervene and break his back, does not change the problem at all as to knowing what interests S. Hussein was pursuing in annexing Kuwait.

To this question we answer: that of a bourgeois who aspires to a bigger piece of the pie, of a bourgeois who wants to have a greater share within the framework of the world imperialist system.

Iraq is a link in the imperialist chain, a country largely dependent on the imperialist great powers, particularly in the domain of the supply of arms, but also in the economic plane (imports of agricultural products, construction of means of communications…). The Iraqi bourgeoisie aspires, as does every bourgeoisie, to develop itself and to exercise its domination, at first regionally. The instrument of its politics is a militarist and police state and the only party in power: the Baath party. As so many other regimes in Africa and the Middle East, it has kept a socialistic speech, basing itself on a real economic development, a social politics particularly in the realm of the struggle against illiteracy and on the secular character of the state. Compared to the reactionary, obscurantist and corrupt regimes in the region, it could have passed all the more easily as a “progressive” regime which had the support of the USSR. But its class nature is openly manifested in two areas:

– The policy of brutal repression against the opposition of the left. In 1978, S. Hussein distanced himself from the USSR in order to draw closer to the emirs of the Gulf with the hope of playing the role of gendarme in the region in place of Egypt (discredited by its policy of conciliation with regard to Israel). So it eliminated the militants of the Iraqi CP. The prisons are full of opponents, particularly those who opposed the Iran-Iraq war. The Kurdish population has been the victim of many military operations, including, in 1988, the use of poison gas.

– The policy of military aggression against Iran, ordered and sustained by the imperialist powers who wanted to liquidate the anti-imperialist struggle of the Iranian masses. At that moment in 1980, the struggle in Iran between the anti-imperialist forces and the reactionary mullahs had not yet been settled. S. Hussein played the role of the military arm of imperialism. That war plunged the Iraqi people into misery, and served to squelch every form of internal struggle.

Among the reasons which S. Hussein had to invade Kuwait, there is clear evidence of the desire to divert the anger of the Iraqi population weary after eight years of war, of deprivations and of the absence of democracy. The popular surge on which S. Hussein counted did not take place, far from it. The imperialists by means of their barbaric war, the economic blockade and all their interference after the military phase (particularly in Kurdistan), have in the final analysis contributed to maintaining the regime of S. Hussein, preventing a democratic, progressive and anti-imperialist alternative from being formed.

We know well that imperialism utilizes the question of human rights to try to justify their reactionary policies of domination and destruction, although its spokespeople are the last to be able to give lessons in democracy. But should that lead the revolutionaries, the communists to refrain from denouncing the violation of bourgeois democratic rights by the Iraqi regime, under the pretext that it is today in the gun-sights of the imperialist powers? This would mean abandoning to imperialism and reaction the terrain of democratic liberties with all that follows, such as falsifications and manipulations. This would bring grist to the mill of all the anti-communists, who have not ceased to claim that communism is the antithesis of democracy and who have been able to draw from numerous examples from the image given by the revisionist countries.

The argument according to which the support for S. Hussein is a purely tactical question, relies on a confusion full of consequences. In effect, in the elaboration of its tactics, a communist party takes account of its forces, of its capacities and the means to put them into operation. Concretely, in the era of Lenin and Stalin, the CPSU and the USSR had a considerable weight in all fields, which permitted them very bold tactics in relation to the governments of dependent countries. Now, the least that can be said is that, for a long time we have not had that!

In other words, what weight, what pressure could the Marxist-Leninist movement — much less the Marxist-Leninist parties taken individually — exercise so that their support to S. Hussein could lead to a reinforcement of the interests of the peoples, of the revolutionary and anti-imperialist movement? Frankly, this support could not be anything but “lost money.” And very logically, those who supported S. Hussein would feel and present his failure as a failure for the workers and popular movement, reinforcing again a little more the idea that it is very difficult to fight, and even more so to overturn imperialism.

It would be dangerous if tomorrow, either there or in another region of the world, another Saddam Hussein would engage his people in the same bloody adventure and the forces who consider themselves Marxist-Leninist would come to his aid.

The Iran-Iraq War

Iran and Iraq bought about $65 billion dollars worth of arms between 1981 and 1988. This war caused 1,250,000 casualties. 41 countries supplied the arms, of which 21 supplied them to both countries at the same time.

Among the public suppliers of arms are the great French arms manufacturers: Dassault-Breguet, Aerospatiale (missiles, Matra-Manurhin (shells), Thompson (electronic equipment)…

From April 28 to May 5, 1989 a big fair was held in Baghdad in which 200 exhibitors participated. Besides the suppliers of heavy and sophisticated equipment one notes the presence of manufacturers coming from medium-developed countries, such as Avibras (Brazil), which concluded a deal for missiles and launch-missiles (SS-60s) of a million dollars, and the Chilean company Cardoen.

MBB, the large German consortium, was also very much present, notably in the area of missiles and the production of poison gas.

The array of products sold ran from troop transport trucks (Iveco-Magirus, Daimler-Benz…) to ground-to-air missiles “Roland” (MBB-Euromissile) to Alphajet helicopters (Dornier-Dassault), not to mention engineering for the enrichment of uranium, the production of munitions and trucks (more than 100 companies involved). The financing and the guarantees were assured on the German side, by Deutche Bank and Hermes.

As to the USA, if it did not officially supply arms to Iraq, it largely supported the war effort. During this period Iraq was crossed off the “black list” of terrorist states, which permitted the farmers in the Mid-West to sell large quantities of wheat and other agricultural products.

At the end of the war, the Iraqi debt reached $70 billion, leading to the greater and greater reluctance of the suppliers to deliver the new arms insistently demanded by S. Hussein.

The Suppliers of Arms to Iraq (between 1970 and 1989) in millions of $s in percent (1985 value)

USSR 19,237 61%

France 5,538 18%

China 1,664 5% (1)

Brazil 1,121 4% (1)

Egypt 1,108 4%

Czechoslovakia 703 2%

other 2,166 6%

Total 31,537

Source: SIPRI (Sweden) 1990

(1) These two countries are known to have greatly increased their sales of arms on an international level between 1982 and ’87. Brazil went from $670 million for the period 1976-81 to 2.6 billion (for the period 1982-87). As to China, it went, in the same periods, from $1.25 billion to $7.8 billion. As a point of comparison, North Korea, Israel and South Korea each exported between $2.1 and $2.4 billions in arms.

Besides these figures it is necessary as well to take into account the type of arms sold. The large suppliers often sold expensive and sophisticated weapons (planes, heavy tanks, electronic material…), the middle level suppliers are more specialized in the area of light arms (automatic machine-guns, anti-guerrilla arms…) used in particular to maintain internal order and to fight against resistance movements.

How could the Iraqi regime pay for all these arms, and for what were they used. Because the debts had accumulated, the regime paid its suppliers. This was done very evidently to the detriment of the Iraqi masses, at the price of a terrible training of the population by the army, the different police forces and the Baath party, the only party in power. Among the “chief events” of the regime of S. Hussein, we note the liquidation of the members of the Communist Party of Iraq, following a reversal of international alliances (S. Hussein distanced himself from the USSR to reconcile himself with the emirs of the Gulf). Let us also recall the gassing of the Kurdish population in March, 1988, in the region of Halabjeh.

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