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

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Tue, 25 Mar 1997 10:09:24 GMT


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WORKERS' MOVEMENT IN IRAQI KURDISTAN & MIDDLE EAST by Raouf Fatah (ITUSC Committee) in his personal capacity. (continued from yesterday)

WAR BREAKS OUT In 1964, the alliance between the KDP and the new regime broke down and war broke out between them. The government, which comprised the Baath party and other Arab nationalist groups, was supported by Arab countries and by imperialism. The KDP was supported by Iran, Turkey, Israel and the imperialists. The ICP supported the KDP. Soviet weapons were sold to both sides.

KDP SPLITS The KDP entered into this conflict a split organisation. One wing was led by Barzani, the other, which later became known as the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), by Ibrahim Ahmed and Jalal Talabani. The differences mainly concerned individual egos. When the KDP's negotiations with the Iraqi government broke down the KDP declared an amnesty for supporters of Ibrahim's wing of the movement, in order to unite against the Iraqi regime. But this unity did not last long. Ibrahim took Iraq's side against the KDP. The war continued.

ICP SPLITS At this time the ICP split into many fractions. The most important of these was the Central Command. It believed in military struggle and within a few months became a big popular movement, supported by workers, by the majority of the peasants in the south of Iraq, by students, by street people in Baghdad and by many in Kurdistan.

REJECTED ALLIANCES The Central Command rejected any alliances with nationalist groups and movements. Many communists who had gone into exile in Europe and elsewhere, such as Khalid Ahmed Zaki, returned to take part in the armed struggle against the Baath government.

IMPERIALISM At the same time there were conflicts between the KDP and the PUK. The Iraqi government supported and encouraged the PUK against the KDP. The communist Central Command posed a great danger to the state and to imperialism. Imperialism, principally the US, requiring strong government, supported the Baath party and pushed them to get power. They carried out a long negotiation with the KDP and the result was a new rapprochement between the KDP and PUK.

CENTRAL COMMAND The ICP Central Committee, another of the fractions that emerged from the old ICP, took the Baath party's side. They collaborated with the Baathists against the Central Command, which had the makings of a mass communist movement behind it but had a weak leader and was not able to take that movement forward.

SECRET NEGOTIATIONS In 1974 a new conflict broke out in Kurdistan. On one side was the KDP, supported by the PUK, and also by Iran, Israel and the US. On the other side was the Iraqi government, supported by Arab countries, the USSR, the ICP Central Committee and some other Kurdish nationalist groups. The war was fought on a huge scale. Hundreds of thousands were killed and many villages destroyed. But at the same time there were secret negotiations between Iran and Iraq in Algeria, with former US president Jimmy Carter acting as mediator. Iraq was represented by Saddam Hussein, who was not yet president; Iran was represented by the Shah. As a result of these talks, the US and the Shah's Iran decided to abandon the KDP and to give help to Iraq, and Saddam in particular. They agreed to divide up the Gulf area between themselves.

NAMES OF PARTIES There is an important point which should not be forgotten. Throughout Iraq's history, the communist movement and socialism was always respected by the majority. Therefore every Iraqi political party from left to extreme right named themselves some sort of communists or socialists in order to win more popularity. For example, the `Baath Arab socialists', the `Marxist-Leninist group of Kurdistan' organised by the PUK leader Jalal Talabani, `Kurdish socialist party', etc. The fact that they had these names did not mean they had a socialist programme or policy.

PUK RELAUNCHED In 1975 the PUK was relaunched, under that name, encouraged by Syria and the USSR. Within the PUK groups were created with the sort of radical communist labels mentioned above. The KDP reacted to this by trying to rebuild its organisation in Turkey and Iran.

EFFECT OF GULF WAR After Khomeini came to power in Iran in 1979, the Gulf War broke out. During the war neither Iraq nor Iran had any authority in Kurdistan. The KDP, PUK, ICP and other religious groups started to fight each other. In the eight years of the war, thousands of people were killed and there was terrible destruction - for nothing. Instead of an opportunity to work together, negotiate and build up their country, the Kurdish people got from this war only murder and oppression.

CHEMICAL WEAPONS During the war, Kurdistan again became a battlefield for Iran and Iraq. Weapons, including chemical weapons, were tested. The dirty, reactionary Anfal rule from the Koran, which allows a Muslim army to kill, loot and rape, was revived. Hundreds of thousands died as a result.

NO EXPLANATIONS After the Iran-Iraq war the governments of both countries faced a big dilemma: how would they explain to people what the eight years of fighting was for? Who benefited from the war? People's conditions became worse. Having no answer to these questions, they started to organise. There were uprisings - in Halabja in 1989, in the Solaikh district of Baghdad, and elsewhere. The people had no respect for the government any more. Sometimes, as at Halabja, the army took the people's side. Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was a necessary diversion, to create common problems, to prevent any revolutionary uprising. At this time in Kurdistan, some communists started to organise, to rebuild underground organisation, to make a good relationship with the people.

KURDISH UPRISING The Gulf War provided a good opportunity for an uprising against the Iraqi regime. In 1991 in Kurdistan just such an uprising took place. People fought vigorously and enthusiastically. They killed all the security police, government commissioners and other officials. Thousands of soldiers took part and gave weapons to the people in the street. Sections of the army became like a people's army. The revolution developed to the point where it attacked Kirkuk, the second city of Iraq after Baghdad and a place of economic and geographical importance. The army barracks, military airport and other key points were occupied. Collective councils (shoras) were built everywhere and organised life on a co-operative basis.

ACTIONS IN MIDDLE EAST This uprising caused great difficulties for the US and its allies. At the same time there was a mass miners' strike in Turkey, general strikes and protests in Jordan and Morocco, the intifada in Palestine and an upsurge of struggles in Iran.

US IMPERIALISM USED ITS 'TOOLS' The ground was ready for a revolution in the whole region. Therefore the US used its vehicles - the KDP, PUK, Islamic fundamentalists, ICP etc. - to control and defeat the revolution. In Kurdistan radio and TV were used; propaganda was broadcast, on one hand promising people food supplies and that Saddam would never come back, on the other hand trying to undermine the revolutionary movement.

UPRISING UNDERMINED When the uprising reached its high point with the attack on Kirkuk, all the radio stations - from Monte Carlo, the BBC and Radio America to the smallest local radio station controlled by the local political parties - started a huge propaganda campaign, exaggerating the strength of Saddam's army. They claimed he wanted to use chemical and nuclear weapons. The KDP and PUK commanders ordered people to withdraw from Kirkuk. They used their radio stations and their cadres to persuade people to stop the attack and to leave Kirkuk for Saddam. From that point onwards Saddam regained control.

____________________________________________________________________ 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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