(en) Workers' Movement in Iraqi Kurdistan & Middle East (1/3)

Mon, 24 Mar 1997 08:47:43 GMT

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WORKERS' MOVEMENT IN IRAQI KURDISTAN & MIDDLE EAST These notes on the history of Kurdistan, by ITUSC Committee member Raouf Fatah (Committee for the Workers' & Toilers of Iraqi Kurdistan) in his personal capacity, explain the background to present-day problems of the workers' movement in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Middle East in general. These notes will be continued in a further two postings in successive days. They are part of the preparation of a more comprehensive work, which the ITUSC will publish as a contribution towards a better understanding of the tasks facing the workers' movement in this troubled region.

'The Kurdish people have lived for nearly 5,000 years in a large area which is now divided between Iran, Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Until the 15th-16th centuries, they were organised as a tribal collective society, in which everybody was a member of a clan and shared with others.

COLLECTIVE Every state authority in history found it difficult to control these people. People living in tribal collective society naturally tended to be fanatic warriors, sticking fiercely to their own culture and isolated from those outside the collective.

REBELLIONS When Islam established its authority in the region, the Kurds were more distant from it than other nations. It was difficult for them to submit to the new order, which tried to break down the previously-established relations - the unity of the tribal collective, its clans, its families, its culture, etc. - and replace it with tyranny and oppression. Consequently the Kurds played a very important part in the many and widespread rebellions against Islam, like the Quramita revolution, and the Babaky and Baby revolts.

BREAK DOWN OF COLLECTIVE SOCIETY After the Magul invasion the Turkish Ottoman empire and the Safawy empire of Iran came into existence. Kurdistan became a battlefield between these powers. The empires pressurised the Kurds to take their side against the others. They took hold of the clan leaders and gave them land and other riches. The clan leaders became isolated from their people and became something like feudal lords in the feudal society which was developing. Slowly and bloodily, the collective society broke down.

KURDISH CULTURE CONTINUES Right up to today, there are many Kurdish clans that have not been subdued by Islamic rule, for different reasons. For example, in the early years of this century, Mam Raza led a group which refused to submit to Islamic rule. He told his group: `One day a revolutionary movement may emerge alongside ours, built by students and educated people - communists. We should respect them and protect them, because we have the same aim. Ours is a common fight.' There are villages where the Kurdish culture has been continued, where people have not submitted entirely to Islamic rule, where women have maintained their freedoms more than in other parts of the region.

REVOLUTIONARIES For all these reasons, Kurdistan has constantly been under pressure from the regimes. And it has been good ground for rebels, revolutionaries and heretics.

IMPERIALIST RULE In the period of imperialist domination, from the beginning of the 19th century, when all the clan leaders had become tools in the hands of the above-mentioned states and Kurdistan had been divided between those states, the situation for Kurds under Turkish and Iranian rule differed from that in Iraqi Kurdistan. This area was ruled by the new Iraqi government under the control and protection of British imperialism. The people's conditions were better than in those other countries.

STRUGGLE AGAINST IMPERIALISM In the present century, after the second world war, the struggle against British imperialism intensified and the Kurds played a strong and effective part in it. By 1952 the communist movement had become very strong among the peasants in Kurdistan. The communists' influence grew, under conditions of a mounting struggle between the peasants and their half-feudal, half-bourgeois rulers - a struggle which culminated in revolt and armed conflict. British imperialism and the Iraqi government collaborated with the feudal chiefs against this revolt. The communist organisation was very weak: it followed a parliamentary policy and condemned all forms of military struggle.

PEOPLE'S REVOLT In 1958 there was a coup in Iraq, led by officers and radical left generals, which deposed the king and his family and struck a blow against the feudal system. Immediately and spontaneously, at the same time as this coup, people rose up everywhere - in the villages, the factories and the poor districts they attacked anything and everything to do with the old system. The houses, villas and castles belonging to the king and his relatives were destroyed. People stopped paying water bills and electricity bills. Landowners were attacked and theirpeople or increase rents. The people imposed control over the prices of consumer goods. For more than six months, everything was controlled by the people in the streets: there was no legal authority. Throughout Iraq, all the media and propaganda of religious and superstitious ideas had been stopped.

TERRORISM BY FEUDAL CHIEFS Those feudal chiefs who survived managed to escape to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey, London and elsewhere. There they were able to build up terrorist organisations to fight back against the revolution, against the communists, and against the people in the villages, towns and factories.

COUNTER REVOLUTIONARY But the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), which had attained a great influence among the peasants, workers and poor at this time, became a counter-revolutionary party. It helped the reactionary forces and gave them opportunities to recover what they had lost. The media returned and worked to stop revolutionary action, persuading people to put trust in the new government, to make peace with the business compradors linked with the west and with the feudal chiefs. The ICP compromised with the class enemy under the slogan of `peaceful co-existence' which was imposed as a result of the Soviet Union's policy.

RESURGENCE OF REACTION In Kurdistan, the result of this was a resurgence of reaction. The KDP came forward as a leader of the feudal landlords, an umbrella for those who did not escape the revolution. Together with those in exile it built up terrorist organisations. The Baath party played a similar part in Iraq; the KDP and Baathists collaborated together, leading the feudal chiefs against the communist movement. Behind them stood imperialism. CREATION OF KURDISH NATIONALIST MOVEMENT The Iraqi government which held power after the 1958 revolution, and was strongly supported by the ICP, comprised reactionary nationalist generals from powerful feudal and religious families, and the radical left generals. The latter were under the influence of the Soviet Union and the ICP and became increasingly disoriented. Because of the divisions in it this government was not strong. Imperialism wove a conspiracy against it.

Part 2 continued in further posting tomorrow

____________________________________________________________________ This is from the International Trade Union Solidarity Campaign (ITUSC) at:- e-mail: itusc@gn.apc.org website: http://www.itusc.org.uk 'snail' mail: PO Box 18, Epsom, Britain, KT18 7YR Tel/Fax ++44 (0) 1372 817 778 The ITUSC is an international and internationalist association of organised workers and communities, dedicated to rebuilding the workers' movement and to overcoming sectarianism and division in working class organisations. It was founded in 1991 on the following principles: 1) trade unions independent of the state and employers; 2) democracy within trade unions, and; 3) workers' internationalism. Any individuals or organisations that accept these principles and are prepared to work for them, are regarded as comrades by the ITUSC. ____________________________________________________________________


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