A number of groups in the middle-class left have attempted to paint up resistance to the U.S. occupation as a national liberation movement. The most prominent among them in the United States is the Workers World Party. An article by Richard Becker in the May 15 Workers World, the party's newspaper, concluded with the following: "Having achieved their victory…the occupiers now confront a people who have a long and proud history of resistance. The anti-war movement here and around the world must give its unconditional support to the Iraqi anti-colonial resistance." A more recent article by Fred Goldstein in the November 6 Workers World stated, referring to the guerrilla attacks on U.S. and other occupation forces in Iraq, "The war of resistance is moving in the direction of a genuine people's war with widespread popular support."
The logic of these statements is a stance of political support for the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein and favoring its return to power. The recent attacks on U.S., Italian, and other troops in Iraq have been largely carried out by remnants of the brutal party-police state the Baathist Party led, not a popular guerrilla force like the National Liberation Front of Vietnam that earned that popularity through its decades-long fight against French, Japanese, and U.S. imperialism. The attacks have been concentrated in the Sunni-dominated region of central Iraq, which had been the Baathist Party apparatus's main stronghold. That's why the claims by the U.S. forces of support or at least acceptance of their occupation by many, if not most, Iraqis are not simply a hoax.
Most news reports from Iraq show that U.S. forces have faced far fewer attacks in southern Iraq than they have in the Sunni heartland.
The reason is that much of the population in the south is from the Shiite Islamic majority and had faced fierce discrimination from Iraq's predominantly Sunni ruling clique, including bloody repression by the Hussein regime during the Shiite rebellions at the end of the 1991 U.S-led Gulf War.
A November 24 New York Times article stated, "Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite group, has established a significant presence in Iraq, but is not taking part in attacks on American forces inside the country…. Iran is believed to be restraining Hezbollah from attacking American troops." Tehran fears Washington's concerted efforts to undermine Iranian sovereignty and push for another "regime change" in the region.
Not only in Iraq and Iran but throughout the Mideast, anti-imperialist-minded workers and farmers have no leadership that represents their interests. Decades of Stalinist counterrevolutionary policies, both by Moscow and by Stalinist organizations throughout the Middle East, created a void that bourgeois nationalist organizations waving Islamic banners fill today—groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and al-Qaeda, which have nothing in common with the popular liberation movements that marked an earlier period.
Years of Stalinist betrayals in Iraq helped pave the way for the Baathist regime to come to power, which under Hussein beheaded the 1958 popular democratic revolution and dealt crushing blows to the working class.
As the editorial in the November 17 Militant put it, "Revolutionists in Iraq today would fight for Iraqi sovereignty, which the U.S. armed forces prevent. At the same time, they would be opposed to the return of the Baathist regime. They would use whatever civic space exists to build and consolidate a revolutionary organization that could lead working people there down the road to get rid of the U.S. troops and keep the United Nations out as well."
The Militant - December 8, 2003 -- What's the 'war on terrorism,' resistance in Iraq?
Liberal and radical critics of the Bush administration have made many predictions. Prior to the invasion they claimed that large peace demonstrations—or the United Nations, or the "peaceful" imperialist hyenas in Paris and Berlin—would stop Washington from going to war. When the Anglo-American armies launched the war anyway and the pacifist rallies collapsed, they predicted massive resistance and a "quagmire" for the U.S. troops. They claimed Washington was going to inflict huge civilian casualties. These claims proved false as the regime collapsed like dry rot and the invaders easily took Baghdad while avoiding a bloodbath or the total devastation of Iraq's infrastructure.
Today, similar voices assert that there is massive popular resistance to the occupation. The burden of proof, however, is on them. Tariq Ali, a prominent radical academic in the United Kingdom, for example, asserted in a December 4 radio debate in New York with pro-occupation commentator Christopher Hitchens that the imperialist occupation is an unqualified failure, that there are "great, growing armies" of Iraqis joining the armed opposition, and that "what we're seeing in Iraq is classic first-stage guerrilla warfare." Ali, however, has no facts to back up these claims. What does "classic" refer to? To the popular liberation movement that successfully fought the French and U.S. imperialist armies in Vietnam, or the mass struggle led by the National Liberation Front in Algeria that defeated French colonial rule? The remaining forces loyal to the former Baathist regime have not an iota in common with these popular anti-imperialist movements. They are hated by the big majority of Iraqi people—and are incapable of waging a fight against imperialism, as they proved when they were in power.
Revolutionists in Iraq today would not call for a victory by the pro-Saddam thugs or for Hussein's return to power, however unlikely, explaining that it would not be a step forward for working people in Iraq. It is the last thing that millions of Iraqis want, especially the majority of the population that bore the brunt of the former regime's brutality, the Shiite Muslims and the Kurds. That reality allows the U.S.-led forces to enjoy a certain level of acceptance today, in contrast to countries where working people have been able to resist an imperialist invasion even under unfavorable conditions and misleadership, from Panama in 1989 to Somalia in 1993, to name just two examples.
Is there any substantial resistance beyond these Baathist remnants? Again, the burden of proof is on those making these assertions. One thing is certain, however: Tariq Ali's claim of "very severe demoralization inside the ranks of the U.S. army" is a fiction. In the U.S. armed forces today, which is made of highly trained volunteers, not draftees, the morale of the ranks will not take big blows until they encounter the kind of terrible casualties inflicted by the workers and peasants of Indochina in the last half of the 20th century.
The stance of class-conscious workers in the United States and other imperialist countries is to demand the unconditional withdrawal of all occupation troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and beyond. The struggle to free Iraq from imperialist domination, however, is not short-term. It can only be carried out by workers and farmers, not by a stand-in for working people. Revolutionists in Iraq today would use the civic space that does exist, however limited, to build organizations that can lead the toilers toward this goal. Developing the necessary leadership will take time and experience and will be influenced above all by developments in the class struggle worldwide. The biggest obstacles facing the imperialist rulers' aggressive course are world capitalism's continuing tendency toward financial collapse and, most importantly, the resulting resistance among workers and farmers throughout the world, including in the United States. It is this relationship of forces between the main contending classes—the capitalists and working people—that class-conscious workers must accurately assess and act on.
The Militant - December 22, 2003 -- What's the nature of Iraqi resistance?
The U.S. takeover of the city of Fallujah in November was a powerful military blow to Baathist groups and their allies. Following the brutal U.S.-led assault on Fallujah, more evidence has been made public of the central role played by remnants of the Hussein regime in organizing the attacks on U.S. forces and the Iraqi interim government.
Having lost their territorial base in Fallujah, the Baathist-led forces have tried to regroup in sections of Mosul and other former Baathist strongholds, and more and more are turning to desperate attacks on civilians. The isolation of these armed groups is also demonstrated by the fact that the two largest Sunni-based political parties have decided to participate in the elections, along with the parties with majority support within the Shiite population and the Kurdish groups in the north.
Washington has taken advantage of these kind of attacks to push ahead with the January 30 elections as the only "democratic" alternative for Iraqis, and increase the pressure on the Syrian regime to clamp down on Baathist forces operating from its territory....
The Militant - January 11, 2005 -- Killings of civilians in Iraqi cities show desperation of Baathist forces