The capitalist necessity for war
Capitalism cannot live without war. It is not by chance that war permanently exists in this or that part of the world, it is not by chance that it is generalizing. The reason is: this society cannot live without war.
War is nothing else but an inevitable expression of private property of the means of production, freedom of trade and competition.
Moreover, looking through the historical development of Capital and the consequent exacerbation of all the contradictions, we can see that this system only grew up thanks to successive wars and that the cycle it needs to survive is: crisis, war, reconstruction, expansion, new crisis,... and so on. Concretely, capitalist progress and development are made possible through barbarity and war.
Briefly explained, the reason for this is that the mass of capital grows more quickly than its possibilities of valorization. Thus comes a time of overproduction of capital, which leads to the situation that part of the worldwide social capital is excluded from the valorization process, by and on the benefit of another part of the same worldwide social capital; the conditions for a new valorization process will only be regenerated from and on the basis of a violent devalorization of a part of capital; or, to put it in a better way, on the basis of the fact that part of capital stops working as such (bankruptcy or physical destruction of the means of production).
Closing down factories or putting part of constant capital on the rubbish heap, as it happens daily through the "normal" application of the law of value, are never enough. That's the reason why regularly a generalized depression takes place and leads to a generalized devalorization of all existing capital, capital that does not meet any possibility of profitability and must "normally" lead to generalized bankruptcy of the less profitable capitalists. This is a question of life or death for the latter (as well as all the others) to resist this inexorable law of Capital. That's how, for example, the profitability of a sector can be altered on the basis of protectionism,... which only leads to pass its own sentence on other capitalists. The organization of capitalists, on different levels of centralization, aiming at leading and aiming to lead this war with the best possible conditions (societies, cartels, national States, imperialist blocs,...) periodically gives birth to war: this war is a partial solution to the problems of worldwide capitalism. Beyond the fact that wars develop as interimperialist struggles to seize means of production and markets; beyond the fact that in the consciousness of part of the bourgeois this war looks like a war against other bourgeois (which it is as well); war, as a matter of fact, through the destruction of an important part of world capital, improves the general conditions of valorization of the whole of the international social capital.
This is the reason why it is a reactionary utopia to want to stop war while keeping this society that generates war. To stop the run for war, it will be necessary to give up the economic capitalist development; to stop the barbarity that capitalist progress means, it will be necessary to stop the development of bourgeois economy, that of national production, etc. Capitalism is reproduction, growth, development,... this is the reason why only the destruction of capitalism will suppress wars.
The more Capital develops, the more the whole of its contradictions and atrocities develop; more progress and growth means more depressions, crises, necessities of new wars. The criminal role of those apologists of development and progressive clerics becomes clear.
As to peace that follows war, far from being the real negation of war, it only exists as part and product of the latter, as momentary and unstable formalization of a given correlation of terrorist forces, a correlation that other terrorist forces will inevitably consider as unfair and imposed by violence, and thus a pretext for a future war.
The proletariat and the communist revolution: the only alternative
The only and unique total and radical negation of war is the total and radical negation of the worldwide bourgeois society. This negation is the international communist revolution.
While the bourgeois solution to the crisis of society can only be a partial solution, the communist revolution is the general solution par excellence. While only war -with peace, reconstruction and, in the best case, the expansion they mean- can boost a new infernal cycle towards a new depression and a new war, social revolution appears as the unique alternative able to break once and for all from the permanent barbarity of war.
But, as bourgeoisie only is the class that represents Capital and embodies its historical agent, proletariat is the historical agent of the revolutionary negation of Capital, the historical class of the social revolution.
Bourgeoisie is the one that enforces all determinations of Capital and cannot escape from any of them. The struggle for the maximum profit, the competition, the commercial war and war as such are as essential to this class as breathing is to human beings.
On the other hand, whatever illusions proletarians may have about improving their lot in this society, or about war, proletariat as a class is historically forced by its own social situation to deny the whole of capitalist society, to impose through revolutionary violence the destruction of the society based on the dictatorship of profit, competition and war; it is historically forced to make the worldwide revolution.
Communist revolution is not an alternative among alternatives, it is the unique alternative to this society of misery and permanent war. In this sense the contradiction: war/revolution is just an expression of the contradiction: capitalism/communism, an expression of the antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat.
This is where our Party's invariant position against war and for revolution comes from. This position is expressed in our thesis 26 (Cf. Theses of programmatical orientation):
"Workers have no homeland, one cannot take away from them what doesn't belong to them. Any form of defense of the nation, under whatever pretext, is an attack against the worldwide working class. Under the reign of bourgeoisie, all wars are imperialist wars opposing two or more factions or groups of interests of world capital. Proletariat launch and claim only one war: the social war against the whole bourgeoisie. Independently of the direct intentions of the protagonists, the essential role of wars is to affirm Capital and to smash objectively and subjectively the subversive class within this society. In this sense, wars are never merely wars between National States, between the forces of "national liberation" and the "imperialist" forces, or wars between "imperialists", they are essentially wars of Capital against communism.
Opposed to all interbourgeois antagonisms between "progressive" and "reactionary" factions, "fascist" and "anti-fascist" factions, "left wing" and "right wing" factions,... the logical consequences of which are imperialist wars, the proletariat has no other solution but the intransigent struggle against all sacrifices (against all truce, all national solidarity): revolutionary defeatism, turning its weapons against its "own" direct exploiters, against its "own" direct oppressors. The proletariat's aim is to transform (for the international centralization of this community of struggle against Capital) capitalist war into a revolutionary war of the world proletariat against the word bourgeoisie."
The development of the antagonism between war and revolution
The more Capital developed, the more it developed its barbarity, its historical antagonism against humanity, and, by this, the historical agent of this antagonism: the proletariat. The more national economy progressed, the more it transformed itself into an economy of war; the bigger the growth of the notorious Gross National Product is, the stronger the military production is, not to mention that all big progresses are made within the military sector. All this meant even more sacrifices for the human beings (but isn't it precisely this humanity we are asked to sacrifice on behalf of the economy and the nation?!?), even more negation of the human necessities of the proletariat.
War in itself, the open declaration of the hostilities, contrarily to what pacifists say, is by no means a change of nature of bourgeois society; it is by no means a break from its progress; it is only the most natural result of economic development, of competition, of social and interbourgeois peace.
On the other hand, from the point of view of humanity, war means a qualitative step in the antagonism between Capital and the human being, between bourgeoisie and proletariat, between war and revolution. To schematize, let's say that the reasons are:
because war means the destruction of the means of life and of life itself, which is just another exacerbation of the general antagonism between the capitalist rapport of production (that overwhelm and... humanity) and the productive forces of humanity.
because war means that the realization of bourgeois interests means denying the proletariat as a class; the affirmation of economic nationalism and imperialism means the slaughter of the proletariat.
because war supposes a general level of general exacerbation of relative and absolute misery of the proletariat as well as an exacerbation of all social contradictions; because the more Capital needs social peace and national adhesion, the more it requires national unity, the more obvious the contradiction becomes between the interests of the nation, of capitalism and its war and those of the proletarians sent to the slaughterhouse.
because war is always the war of destruction of the proletariat, because those sent to kill and die are proletarians, because in the affirmation of people in war, the subject of the communist revolution itself is destroyed.- because of all these reasons, the proletariat is more than ever forced to fight, to take over and to recognize its historical antagonism with bourgeois society, because in a period of open war, the smallest defence of interests of the proletariat (although it's about its bread, its life, the life of its sons and comrades) is considered to be an attack against the national state (which, in fact, it is), a betrayal of the fatherland (idem),... and because the struggle against its immediate enemy, "its" recruiting officers, "its" bourgeoisie, "its" state has only one alternative: the revolution and directly is on the terrain of the universal struggle of the proletariat against war and for revolution.
This is confirmed and concretized all throughout history. The highest moments of the universal revolutionary struggle have always been linked to the struggle against imperialism, since the proletarian movement in Paris during the Commune up to the international revolutionary wave of struggle of 1917-1919, not to mention the war and revolution in Spain in 1936-1937. This can be seen also in the fact that when counterrevolution is total and national, war can carry on its work of general destruction, as it did during the Second World War, for instance.
Interimperialist war, war against the proletariat
Imperialist war is often opposed to war against the proletariat. Even revolutionary militants are frequently involved in controversy to determine if the function of war is the struggle between bourgeois, between national States or against communism.
As we said it before, we consider this a false polemic, a false opposition. In reality, every national war in the capitalist system is at the same time an imperialist war and a war to destroy the proletariat. This needs some more explanation.
The point is not that each faction of the bourgeoisie, when going to war seeks to destroy the proletariat or to provoke a general devalorization of capital to improve the general condition of valorization. These factions generally go to war to destroy the enemy they are in competition with, to take over their competitors' means of production and/or markets, to prevent the devalorization of their own products by taking over part or the whole of their enemy's means of production. But, while considering all this as objective facts and beyond the consciousness of those who enter into the war, it is important to see that they realize the immanent tendency of capitalist production to destroy the productive forces of Capital (means of production and labour force), provoking this way the devalorization of capital that will later make reconstruction and valorization of the rest of world capital easier, destroying at the same time the real subject of communism.
To put it more clearly, let's consider the basis of capitalist society. Capitalist society cannot exist through simple reproduction, as we have already said it; it cannot exist without the development of the productive forces, without the constant revolution of the mode of production. The slightest historically-empirical observation enables us to understand that technological progress is part of the life of Capital. Nevertheless, from the point of view of the whole, from the point of view of the social capital, it does not improve the conditions of profitability; on the contrary, inasmuch as it is concretized by (or as it takes shape in) an increase of the organical composition of Capital (we don't take into account here the case of a development of the technical composition of Capital thwarted by a reduction of the composition in term of value), technical progress would tend to a reduction of the world rate of profit if there where no conditions thwarting this law (such as the increase of the rate of exploitation). The question will then be: why do capitalists impulse technical progress if it tends to reduce the average rate of profit and to devalorize the existing capital (an increase of the productivity of labour does not only reduce the value of what's going to be produced, but also the value of what has already been produced, according to the fact that the value is not the time of labour required to produce something, but the time of labour required to produce it again, to reproduce it?
The answer is: the essence of Capital is competition, anarchy and opposition of capitals; Capital only is a whole of opposed and struggling capitals; it is not "Capital in general" that economically decides, but each capitalist, each specific faction of capital; of course, all of them are interested in technical progress since on the basis of that they can make "extraordinary surplus value". Indeed, each individual capitalist or (which, at a certain level, is the same) each faction of Capital increasing the productive force of labour it exploits, obtains a time of labour of the produced commodities lower than the time of labour of the mass of the same article produced within the average world social conditions. That is to say, what is wrongly called "the individual value" is then higher than its social value. Of course, the real value of a commodity is not its individual value but its social value (which is not measured by the time of labour needed in each case, but by the time of labour socially required for its production), thus, the faction of Capital that uses the more performant technique obtains the same products, and therefore the same value as its competitors with less work: that's where the extraordinary surplus value comes from.
Capitalists don't bother developing productive forces,... they have to! The same way, and although they do so to get a higher particular valorization, willingly or not, (in reality they don't want it!) capitalists provoke a general devalorization of Capital. This is why long before we did, other revolutionary militants understood that the contradiction of Capital lies in Capital itself.
Among the general tendencies necessary to Capital, it is important to distinguish, on the one hand, the tendency to war of devalorization and destruction of the historical enemy, and on the other hand, the forms it takes, that is to say, that the form in which the coercive law of competition imposes itself appears like a motivation in the consciousness of the different factions of Capital (trusts, cartels, coalition, National States,...).
That is the reason why, while the whole of bourgeois society is busy with interbourgeois problems -interimperialist problems-, while before and during wars the media inform about the relation of forces between the two opposed camps or talk about governmental and diplomatic chitchat trying to formalize this relation of forces into this or that kind of agreement or peace treaty or convention, we stress the fact that imperialist war is a war of affirmation of capitalism, a war against proletariat, against communism.
War is as much interimperialist as capitalist and against proletariat. In the face of this objective reality, both classes have their own interests and their own class point of view. The bourgeoisie (and the public opinion it makes) is on the belligerent and interimperialist terrain (terrain from which come the discourse of the Pope and the other pacifists, and more generally, the diplomatic agreements); the proletariat, and mainly the most decided and organized elements of this class, i.e. the communists, are openly on the terrain of the revolutionary struggle against war.
Our material against war
All along the historical struggle against war, the proletarian vanguard never ceased clarifying all the aspects we have schematized here in a general and abstract form. Since the Manifesto of the Communist Party claiming that the proletariat has no country or the Roig de San Martin's order at the end of last century claiming that "to be a patriot is to be an assassin", through the explicit claim of revolutionary defeatism in the "first" and "second" world wars and all the work done later by the communist factions for the programmatical reappropriation, revolutionary theory of the proletariat affirmed itself each time more in that sense.
The International Communist Group, as part of the large work done by our historical Party since its origins up until now, has always centred its efforts on revolutionary defeatism and has impulsed in this framework theoretical clarification; we have published historical material of our class, we have taken position against all wars of Capital and, in so far as we were able to, our group participated in different actions and meetings trying to organize the revolutionary minorities leading the proletariat in its struggle against Capital.
Once again we claim the general coherence of the material we published in this sense in our central reviews, not only because we think they can contribute to explain the Gulf war and what they call now (April 1991) peace in that area, but also because they still are essential for the understanding of the future.
Beside the Theses of Programmatical Orientation of our group that are an attempt to put forward the evidence of the relationship between the contradiction capital-communism and imperialist war-social revolution, material we have published (without being exhaustive) can be divided into three groups. They are as follows:
1) fundamental works about capitalism and wars;
2) revolutionary defeatism and organization of the community of struggle against Capital and war;
3) analyses of military forces and positions against war and for the revolution.
1) Fundamental works about capitalism and wars:
Against the myth underlying national liberation (in French and Spanish only);
Worker memory: causes of the imperialist wars; position of the Hennaut's tendency, position of Jehan's tendency and our position (idem);
Capital, totality and imperialist war (idem);
They talk about peace (idem).
2) Revolutionary defeatism and organization of the community of struggle against Capital and war:
Contribution to the gathering of revolutionaries (idem);
International proposition: to groups and militants fighting for the world revolution (in Communism No.4);
Invariance of our international activity and some practical elements to concretize this proposition (in Communism No.4);
About an international meeting, "some remarks about the worldwide relation of forces between the classes" (only in French and Spanish).
3) Analyses of the military forces and positions against war and for the revolution:
A new jump in the course to war (only in French and Spanish);
The army and the military politics of the United States (idem);
Falklands: against imperialist war, world communist revolution;
War and peace against the proletariat (idem);
Iran-Iraq: class war against imperialist war (in Wildcat No.10);
West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem,... in response to the proletarian struggle the bourgeoisie is once again preparing a massacre (in Communism No.5);
Massacre in Hallabja (in Communism No.6);
Against the peace and the war of this fucking world (only in French and Spanish).
Of course, this classification is arbitrary and more than a text could be in two or in all sections. On the other hand, even if we consider the whole of these texts as the fruit of our Party, of the historical Party of the proletariat, some were not written (or exclusively written) by our small group.
The framework of our analysis of the Gulf War
The recent war in the Gulf has been an unquestionable demonstration of the validity of the analysis done by revolutionary Marxism.
Against all bourgeois discourses claiming that, at last, the epoch of eternal peace has arisen, once again capitalism has showed its truly warlike nature.
The imperialist war once again confirmed itself as war of Capital for its conservation, as war against proletariat. That is to say, it proved itself to be at the same time war for big money and destruction of productive forces, to be an international window for arms industries and to be the moment of the massacre of proletarians.
About the immense forces in the Gulf war, the analysis of the military power of the USA (and more particularly the general reorganization of the army, done in this country to take over the role of super-gendarme of the international bourgeois order even better) is important enough to call the reader to read our text "The army and the military politics of the United States". In the Gulf war it appeared as a whole what we described as the reorganization of the army and the military politics of the United States, it found in this war its rightest confirmation and application. Since we wrote the text, the only thing that has changed within the most powerful military force of the world is the growing importance of conflicts of the so-called "medium-intensity" (such as the Gulf war) in relation with other so-called conflicts of "high-intensity" (unlikely to happen -momentarily- with the end of the Warsaw PPact, and determined by the interimperialist contradictions within the Warsaw Pact itself) and the conflicts of "low-intensity" (diminution of the relative importance of guerrilla groups); but even this variation is nothing but an application of the general flexibility that we analyzed in our texts.
While taking up this subject starting from the area of war, it might be useful to read some of the articles in which our group, against the current, insisted on the importance of the development of the contradiction between "war and revolution" in that region. While no one saw anything but a war between two countries, in these articles we put forward that in Iran and Iraq, it was a capitalist war against the proletariat. We insisted on the fact that it was a war against the revolutionary action of the proletariat in the area (especially in Iran, where the bourgeoisie played the radical card of Khomeini to stop the proletarian revolt that had managed to disarm one of the strongest armies of the world), we said that it was a war to affirm counterrevolution. All along these texts we have always presented peace as a moment of war, and for this reason, when Iran and Iraq signed a peace treaty and everyone thought the question was out, we kept on insisting and calling revolutionaries to carry on and organize the work of the community of struggle of the proletariat against war and peace in Iran and in Iraq, and we made an international meeting with this aim.
We did so as much on the basis of our global conception (peace and war as expressions of the same totality against the proletariat) as on the basis of information we had thanks to contacts (confirming that the military mobilization carried on). It is essential to read the Manifesto written by our comrades in the area in 1982 (in Le Communiste No.24) as well as "Iran-Iraq: class war against imperialist war" (in Wildcat No.10), or "Massacre in Hallabja" (in Communism No.6), because, on the basis of our comrades' information we put forward that beyond the contradiction between imperialist forces at war in Iran and Iraq and at different moments of the past, the principal contradiction between capitalist war (and peace) on the one hand and proletariat on the other hand reaches impressive levels of exacerbation.
Starting from this framework of analysis for years, our group considers the Iran-Iraq area as a key area for the development of the contradiction between bourgeoisie and proletariat, capital and communism. In this sense, the realization of an international campaign against capitalist war, and more particularly against war and peace in Iran and in Iraq, has been the central axis of our internationalist activity (cf. "The invariance of our international activity: some practical elements to concretize this proposition" in Communism No.5 and "Massacre in Hallabja" in Communism No.6).
Although at the level of analysis there is nothing to add, seeing the development of the Gulf war, its quickness, the continuation of internal interbourgeois wars in the area, it could be interesting and useful to make a consequent description, starting from our class point of view and against all media lies.
Open war against the proletariat
The first thing we want to underline is, opposite to all that was said, that the Gulf war was a war against us, a war against proletarians.
Once more in the history of capitalism tens and hundreds of thousands of proletarians were sent to butchery, to massacre on behalf of the peace of the homeland, of democracy, of the liberation from imperialism and/or dictatorship. Once again behind the proletarians killing each other there lay nothing else but a problem of money, a lot of money, a problem of value fighting to valorize, of capitalist war, of war of capital.
Everything was set up for the generalized best massacre. In August '90, the Iraqi State cleared up the prisons. Proletarians considered to be the most politically dangerous ones were slaughtered. It was a current practice during the war with Iran. It was interrupted when the two countries signed a truce. Then the State granted an amnesty to most of the so-called "common law" prisoners as well as to lots of ex-deserters. It offered them some money to justify it and sent all of them (most of whom were not prepared to fight) to the front.
On the battlefield in Iraq and in Kuwait these proletarians (remember that immigrant proletarians were the first to be recruited by force in the Iraqi army and sent to the front) were literally buried, obliged by guns pointed in their back to stay in the trenches dug in the desert. In front of them there were minefields to prevent desertion and surrender, in their backs there were the elite troops (the republican guard) assuring summary execution to anyone who tried to go backwards or to run away.
Once the land offensive had been unleashed, the Coalition Forces crew over their victory and claimed they had put three quarters of the regular forces of the enemy out of the fight (although there were only ten percent of the republican guard amongst the latter). According to our point of view this clearly is the cynical confession of the fact that the massacre was concentrated on proletarians wearing uniforms. These cries of victory confirm that tens of thousands of human beings without any possibility to defend themselves were sacrificed by the Iraqi State and the Coalition Forces. For the Iraqi State still shooting at its own troops that were massively deserting the day before, this deployment of forces was essential: these tens of thousands of beings transformed into cannon fodder would hold up (even just a few days) the irremediable advance of the enemy. For the Coalition, these troops keeping still, buried and without any sophisticated weapons were a very easy target on which the whole of the killing material could be checked with very few risks for themselves.
Long before the official launching of the combats, the Iraqi civil population had been taken as hostages (the other "hostages" -the bourgeois- managed to be released) and undergone for months a situation of generalized shortage because of the total blockade (health care and food included) organized and controlled by the whole of the Coalition countries with the support of the United Nations. Here as well, the Iraqi State will take over the blockade subordinating life to the requirements of its war, imposing an even higher level of militarization on the whole of society and, doing so, ever more strongly submitting proletarians to the interests of the nation. By the way, let's notice that it's this situation of food embargo and blockade that most of the pacifists claim. As good humanists, it is to this situation they proposed to go back, once the bombing had started, in order to go right to the end with the blockade.
About bombings themselves, no one tried to hide the hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs dropped on the Iraqi and Kuwaiti territories, sowing death and destruction. On the contrary, media make all they could to convince the whole planet that it was just a "surgical operation" destroying only military targets. Starting from the same hypocrite distinction between civilian and soldier (those enrolled by force for instance are "naturally" considered as military targets), the aim of the propaganda is to make the proletariat of the rest of the world accept the development of "such a far away" massacre. We know these are our class brothers who have been oppressed to the extreme by war, who have undergone this nightmare and have fallen under tones of death material dropped on them day after day.
Given the political-military weakness of the block led by Saddam Hussein, the proletariat of the Coalition countries didn't directly suffer from the bombings or from other atrocities inherent in wars (only the troops of elite count a few deaths), but nevertheless, it endured a violent attack against the conditions of the reproduction of its life (and thus its struggle) materialized as well in an increase of the exploitation rate as in the generalized increase of repression. In most cases, the increase of the exploitation rate took the shape of exceptional price rises -without wage compensation- under the pretext of the rising of oil price (due to speculative questions and not at all to shortage). It also took the shape of levying taxes to finance the national effort of war. The generalized increase of repression was especially directed at any struggle making an attempt on national unity and at any insubordination to war politics. In the United States, in Turkey, in North African countries, in Thailand, military speeches of the governments were accompanied by draconian and terrorist measures of persecution of the deserters, by the imprisonment of tens of thousands of proletarians who rejected the criminal imperialist politics of "their own" bosses, of "their own" National State. Lastly, during this short period, the State intensified the measures of police control of the whole of the population in many countries while it did everything to detect, catch and terrorize anyone who fought against "their own State", i.e. internationalist militants.
The big swindle was that at the same time the World State was organizing the most incredible concentration of deaths and terror machines in the Middle East, and presenting itself elsewhere as the champion of antiterrorism and, under this pretext, pursuing revolutionary militants!!!
In Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria,... war allowed direct repression to rain on the proletarian struggles. In Turkey, the end of 1990 and the beginning of 1991 were marked by a lot of very radical and hard strikes in the mining area (Zanguldak), but also in the metallurgical industry and the car industry. In Tunisia, while rejecting the gendarmes of the World State represented by the Coalition, proletarians' massive and regular demonstrations -expressing the generalized discontent- were violently repressed as being pro-islamist demonstrations: another attempt to divert and channel these demonstrations, while giving credit to the Ennhada movement, always extremely loyal to the government. A similar situation existed in Algeria, where the government, to prevent another "October '88", mobilized, just as if it was also participating in the war, troops were stationed and concentrated in big cities, reservists were recalled, and young soldiers doing military service were obliged to prolong their presence and fight for the Algerian colours. On December 14th, 1990, in Morocco, the State crushes a proletarian revolt (40 deaths).
In France, England, Belgium,... bourgeoisie doesn't waste time and intensifies its racist and xenophobic politics. In England, for instance, Iraqi refugees (whose majority fled from the jails of Saddam Hussein's state terrorism) were imprisoned into detention camps (real concentration camps) and anyone coming from the Middle East was suspicious, put on files and prosecuted for being a potential terrorist. At the same time in Belgium, more than 6,000 Moroccans were threatened with expulsion.
On the other hand, with war, companies having rentability problems, saw the volume of their sales falling down and took profit of the situation to make the proletarians responsible for it. Pan American, Air France and British Airways, for instance, made thousands of redundancies.
In the United States, the generalized silence of the population towards the war politics of the government, the consensus so often commented in the press, didn't prevent this government from violently repressing a lot of demonstrations against war (although most of these demonstrations were led by pacifists) or from arresting some 15,000 persons according to Cuban media. While during the first days of the aerial war one suddenly noticed for the first time for years an alarming deficit, the State violently repressed groups diffusing leaflets against war in recruitment centres and to soldiers sent to war whether they liked it or not. In the United States, an association of soldiers' defense called "Horreo Counseling Network" denounced the fact that "many hundreds of North-American soldiers staying in Germany were forced to embark to the Gulf, bound hand and foot when necessary".
The framework of our analysis of the interimperialist struggle
From our point of view, imperialist antagonisms are of course less important than the immanent tendencies that push Capital to war against proletariat; that is the reason why, on these pages, the reader will find few paragraphs dedicated to the analysis of these antagonisms. It is nothing but an application of our class position that makes us take the side of the camp fighting against war; it is a materialization of our invariant line: to focus everything on what constitutes the central dynamic of this society and its negation.
Nevertheless, as we said before, protagonists don't make war because they feel like killing proletarians (although there are no doubts that in many cases they make agreements, on the basis of a military bourgeois front, to do so; especially when it is a matter of quelling a proletarian revolt), they make war to confront their competitors. To do this, and seeing the importance of the capitalist confrontations in the Gulf, we find it necessary to briefly analyze the imperialist contradictions that determined this war, without pretending those lines could be a sufficient explanation.
We have already put forward that the development of the Gulf war (or of other wars to come), as war against the proletariat didn't surprise us, considering our framework of analysis; we shall see now that there is nothing to be surprised at as far as the development of interimperialist contradictions leading to the Gulf war is concerned.
Analysts of international politics (as well as groups claiming to be revolutionaries) were almost all totally bewildered by the changes of alliances, by the disappearance of this or that block or unity, and by the affirmation of the polarization that had led, in the Gulf, to a war between the Coalition led by yankee imperialism on one side and by Saddam Hussein and his allies on the other side.
According to our point of view on the contrary, the reconciliation of the imperialist forces, relegating other contradictions to a position of secondary importance and making the Gulf war materialize, didn't surprise us, either.
Indeed, in capitalist society putting yesterday's alliances back into question is something permanent and particularly when the crisis is aggravating; the disruption of imperialist shares made in any kind of peace framework is implicit in the essence of Capital itself and in the kind of unity the latter realizes. As we say in the "Theses of Programmatical Orientation", the bourgeoisie is in general opposed to the proletariat, because while, in the midst of the proletariat, unity is the product of a total community of interests, bourgeois unity is always unity against others, unity of opposed interests unified against others who, in these circumstances, look like the first to confront.
Our thesis number 19 says:
"This is how the world character of capitalism gives birth to the proletariat as world class, without any regional, sector-based or national interests to defend. Opposed to the proletariat, the bourgeoisie did not only realize its revolution affirming its particular interests, but its own essence (competition) forces it permanently to violently tear one another and confront each other at all levels for the distribution and re-distribution of the means of production and commodities. Unity among the bourgeois (limited companies, agreements between monopolies, National States, constellation of states,... World State) is always realized to face commercial war and/or class war in the best possible conditions. This unity may explode at any moment and burst into different particular factions. That's the reason why the more "unified" and generalized the action of the bourgeoisie is, the more it contains the division; peace is only a stage of the war to come. For the proletariat, however, any action, even the most partial one, contains universality: one single action of our class against capital, even if it is regional or sector-based, contains the affirmation of our proper interests in every part of the world and the struggle for the universal social revolution."
The so often commented changes in the East are nothing else but the exacerbation of the crisis of Capital. Perestroika or any pseudo-alternative of the economic politics of Capital are nothing else but different names to hide the old bourgeois politics of austerity and belt-tightening proper to crisis periods (under the high universal patronage of the International Monetary Fund!!!). In the same way, the death of the Warsaw Pact and the interbourgeois struggles in some East European countries, which undoubtedly conditioned the redistribution of the imperialist forces and allowed not only the Gulf war but also the present cease-fire, are a confirmation of our analysis.
We can say exactly the same about the changes of alliances amongst the different forces of the Middle East or amongst the Occidental powers that invaded the Persian Gulf. Changes of alliances that we comment on Communisme No.32 and Comunismo No.27, where we described the sudden transformation of the big ally of the Western States, Saddam Hussein, into a machiavellian and fascist monster; while the same Western States were flirting and dancing with the terrorist regimes of Syria and Morocco on behalf of a fight "against dictatorship". That is to say that the States of England, France, the United States,... are not the only ones which, on behalf of the struggle against the violation of the international right (right that they create -considering their terrorist power- and which is nothing else but the ideological expression of this relation of force), form the Coalition and this way easily legitimate any violation on behalf of this right, but also the State of Syria maintaining its occupation in Lebanon, the Israeli State maintaining occupied territories for years in open violation of the same right, the State of Turkey assuring terrorism in Cyprus, the State of Morocco doing what it wants against all international norms in Western Sahara. All those powers form a Coalition that cannot present itself with its own legitimacy, a Coalition that can only appear as any bourgeois unity, that is to say as a circumstantial and without principles unity against an as much circumstantial enemy.
At the same time, it is beyond doubt that if today this circumstantial contradiction internationally prevails, it is because the old war contradiction (NATO-Warsaw) solidified during the other war, or, which is the same, in the other peace (Yalta agreements) was not so important any more and could be considered as something of secondary importance (or even less). Our framework of analysis, always based on the essence of Capital, always distinguishes itself from superficial analyses that could only consider war as a war between two stiff blocks, a "capitalist" one and a "socialist" one, or a "pro-Yankee" and a "pro-Russian" one (1). All those who play with these journalistic stupidities are disarmed as much in their explanations of the interimperialist wars that are taking place in the East, as in the polarization that made the Gulf war possible. Those for whom the world was effectively cut into two or three (we have always fought against these ideological prejudices in our central reviews as well as in our Thesis -see thesis No.27) are today obliged to doo "political" gymnastics about the changes of nature of the Eastern countries, or about the end of the Eastern block. On top of all that there are those who could see essential differences in the social nature of Western and Eastern regimes, considering them either as "socialist" or as "state capitalist" (2).
According to us, this change of alliance, this modification of intercapitalist blocks is by no means extraordinary, it is just the inevitable consequence of the essential determinations of Capital and can be seen all throughout the history of this mode of production. This is what can explain, for instance, and against all these ideologies, that the same imperialist power (although called socialist) may sell weapons to both camps of a local interimperialist war (just like Czechoslovakia did during the Biafra-Nigeria confrontation); this is the explanation for the changes of alliances in Ethiopia as well: there the imperialist penetration insured by the State of Cuba supported first "the liberation struggle of the people of Eretrea" and later, on the basis of an agreement with the State of Ethiopia (agreements determined by the advent of a pro-Moscow government) and on behalf of "the defence of territorial integrity of Ethiopia", considered yesterday's allies as its worse enemies and sprayed them with napalm and bullets. There are thousands of examples of this kind, but to show the invariance of this feature of capitalism, let us take an example from the past century: after a while, the capital originated from Europe became autonomous and waged war against the factions that wanted to maintain the status quo. In every case, capital breaks from its national origins: the capital originated from England (and Europe, in general) and solidified as North-American capital, confronted England in a war for independence, and creole capitalists in South-America allied with England to wage an imperialist war of independence against Spain.
Reasons for the launching of the imperialist military action
Of course, our framework of analysis given, we are not very interested in speculations about how the alliance broke, who allies with whom, which government changes imperialist camp, which imperialist block allies with which, which one takes the initiative for war,... It could only be interesting in relation with the forces of the different alliances to control and channel the proletariat, or in as much as the justification of alliances and wars, once transformed into forces by parties, unions, means of (dis)information,... are ideological forms able to give a framework to the proletariat. It is from this point of view that in the midst of a generalized war campaign we put forward the limits these polarizations could contain:
"This is not the place to put our oar in the generalized speculation about future launching of a war. We just want to stress that the present repolarization of the world and the coming confrontations do not seem to be mature enough for the constitution of new blocks and new mystifications to realize the supreme aim of the bourgeoisie: to lead the worldwide proletariat to war.
We do not underestimate the adhesion aroused by Saddam Hussein of important parts of the international proletariat because of their hatred for the gendarme States of the great powers, but it seems to us that the "Baghdad Butcher" is far too discredited in the eyes of his own troops and population (just like Kadhafi and Arafat are) to reach the supreme aims of Capital. Nevertheless, we do not exclude the development of the polarization and military conflicts in the short term, but we want to warn of the danger of an international bourgeois polarization "clearer", more "attractive" and thus more dangerous for the worldwide proletariat, if Saddam Hussein's flags are to be taken by factions of Capital less discredited in the eyes of their own population."
That is to say that, as we were claiming the need for Capital to generalize war (a need which is always more violent seeing the exacerbation of the crisis and the necessity for devalorization), we were also defining the limits of the interbourgeois polarization of the "Gulf war" from the point of view of its capacity to give a framework to the proletariat (no capacity meaning no generalization of the war). Taking into account the development of the antagonisms during the latest decade, we considered Saddam Hussein's camp very weak (the man as well as the party) and we estimated that it was impossible for him to create an international alternative to the judeo-christian imperialism, as he claimed to be able to do. All this was confirmed by the total lack of support to Saddam Hussein's regime, on the internal, as well as on the international level, and above all, by the total lack of fighting spirit of "his own troops".
The imperialist initiative of the State of Iraq to invade Kuwait was not the produce of a force but of a whole of weaknesses. This did not surprise us, given that generally these bourgeois factions have the biggest problems to accumulate, as well as to control their own population. They feel compelled to break the framework of imperialist peace by this or that kind of armed action, which unveils them as aggressor and therefore gives the advantage to their adversary in the military confrontation (since the old Clausewitz systematized it in his book "On war", everyone knows that defence is strategically superior to offence). This can be checked all throughout this century's big European wars called first and second world wars. The most disadvantaged imperialist powers in the prior peaces, the ones which were therefore less favoured by the share of the productive forces and pre-existent markets, were those that took over the initiative of the first invasions, which led them to grant a strategic advantage that proved fatal for them.
The same applies to the Iraqi State: its situation in the interimperialist competition was a disaster and worsened by the deterioration of exchange materialized in a commercial balance-sheet getting more and more unfavourable, as well as in a huge external debt ($70 to 90 billion in August 1990). In this sense, the breaking off the agreements on the OPEC prices by part of the States the most submitted to the imperialist politics of the Western powers, as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, was seen by the Iraqi bourgeoisie as an aggression on the whole of their accumulation cycle. Invading and annexing Kuwait (and seeing the new conditions imposed on Saudi Arabia), the Iraqi State wanted to change this situation and not only did it want to reappropriate new productive forces (raw material, fuel, and an exit to the sea), but also to increase the percentage of petrol production controlled by the Kuwaiti bourgeoisie, to improve the relation of forces in the OPEC, as well as the relation of forces (idem) of the latter in the world, and revalorize this way its first source of foreign currency. Simultaneously, the Iraqi State wanted to find new reasons to justify the permanent militarization in the eyes of the proletariat and to solidify a new opposition "against imperialism". It was looking for a national adhesion that it never achieved although it had crushed by military force the big wave of revolutionary defeatism that had swept through the country a short time before (cf. our texts about the Iran/Iraq war).
It is clear, that from the point of view of world Capital, this invasion questioned it in a way which was too generalized to be acceptable. Loosing the control of such an important part of the means of production meant that a huge percentage of petrol passed under the control of other factions, it also was a great attack against the accumulation cycle of an important part of the world bourgeoisie. Add this to the geo-political interests of the great powers of Capital (any negotiation between the opposing forces -cf. the denial of the negotiations betweeen Saddam Hussein and the military power of the United States through their embassy in Kuwait, negotiations in which the United States committed themselves not to use their military force) and it will easily be understandable that the invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi State was to be considered as an aggression on the other imperialist powers' interests.
From the point of view of the United States these facts formed a whole of circumstances perfect to confront the great difficulties of the Capital management of that productive area and to strengthen its military power. In relation to this, we want to stress the following points:
In the face of the generalized crisis of accumulation in the productive area of the USA that could be seen for months and about which the economists were talking as "vertical fall", war appeared as the old Keynesian solution to increase public expenditure (without a high increase in the deficit in this case, given that it was financed by other forces), to increase effective demand and thus reactivate national economy (and seeing the importance of the latter, the world economy).
Geo-politically, war was the dreamed situation to affirm the United States' role as a big international gendarme. On the one hand, they presented themselves more than ever as the ones keeping the flag of international right flying, and on the other hand they conquered in practice a strategic situation of unquestionable geo-military value.
In the same way, the national and international militarist mobilization under the US flag against a much weaker enemy strategically strengthened the role of that State in the face of all its possible adversaries and solidified at the same time the army by providing it with new real motives to make war (against dictators, terrorists, invaders,...). This point is very important considering the general deterioration of the image of gendarme given inside as well as outside the country by the war of Vietnam and other later wars.
It was the ideal situation to try to impose a kind of Capital order (against others) on one of the most coveted areas in the world, an area that has been a receptacle of contradictions for decades. Indeed, the consolidation and the general recognition of the State of Israel with Jerusalem as internationally recognized capital (in return for this or that kind of minor concessions so that, as the world bourgeoisie says, "the Palestinians have their State") are only possible under the general and military protection of this imperialist colossus, the State of the USA.
This short enumeration is not exhaustive and we are not interested in going into deeper details. But it is clear that in the decision made on launching this imperialist war itself we have to take into account the more particular interests of a whole of bourgeois factions directly involved, such as those so politically proud of "restoring the American honour", such as the military "lobby" including key-men of the Pentagon and directors of big arms industries (that is to say big industries as such!!), the Jewish "lobby", etc.
We are not interested either in analyzing the other international factions of Capital and their alignment with the United States. About the more general reasons for the war let us say that it is evident that if the invasion of Kuwait had been transformed into an occupation, it would have seriously affected the cycle of international Capital because a new balance of power on the petrol price would have led to a redistribution of the surplus value internationally extracted in favour of the bourgeois controlling the raw material, probably against the ones distilling it and surely against the ones industrially depending on it. The fact that the UNO appeared much more a real agency of the USA than the usual web of intrigue where interimperialist antagonisms are diplomatically expressed, is due to this general fear that pushed all the factions to coincide about the restoring of the imperialist order prior to August 2nd. In the same way, it is clear that the old alliances that this occasion strengthened (NATO), weighed as much as the without-principles-unity against a common enemy (cf. the fact that the States of Israel and Syria can be found in the same military block, for instance).
In the medium and the long term, a petrol power as big as the USSR would have benefited from the occupation and it did not have any reason to align against Saddam Hussein. If, in the beginning, the Russian State legitimated the Coalition imperialist force, it was:
because of the objective weakness of its own imperialist power. Given its internal contradictions, this weakness, it could not present itself as a unified force.
because the governing faction seems to represent each day more clearly the most dynamic interests of world Capital. Opposing to the protectionist interests of the local productive area, when necessary. Nevertheless, as this legitimation of the Coalition against Iraq could be verified as an objective transfer of imperialist rights against its traditional rival that was solidifying itself as total gendarme for the first time (tendency to change from a shared international hegemony to a near-monopoly), the violence of criticisms of the militarist factions (linked to the army leadership, the internal security and the navy) and the military-industrial establishment redoubled. Even the press echoed it. It was said that the situation in the Gulf put the security of the USSR in danger and the Soviet armed forces journal even wrote that the direction of foreign policy was "the less intelligent ever developed by a Minister of Foreign Affairs, tsarists and Soviets included". This compelled the government to try -unsuccessfully- to boost a little the image of the State as being one of the great protagonists of the imperialist decision made on sharing the world. This is the explanation for the tragi-comical show played by the government of the USSR unceasingly proposing peace treaties and cease-fires. But none of these attempts could reach their goal because there was no military force decided enough to impose a cease-fire agreeing with its contradictory interests.
The big business of war
Finally, we would like to stress - as one of the reasons for the launching of any kind of interimperialist action - the importance of the interest of big business that gets large profits out of the war, i.e. the interests of different types of bourgeois factions from different countries, who benefit from the war and from the reconstruction that will follow.
Capitalist war is not only profitable to Capital in general for the different reasons we have mentioned, it is not only profitable to the bourgeois faction that becomes victorious in the interimperialist contradiction, but it also brings about profit for a whole set of particular capitals which make important commercial deals during and after wartime.
Of course, one thinks straight away about the bourgeois factions which are directly linked to the military, such as capital that is involved in arms' production and military sectors as such, all these, without exception, benefit from the increasing of the military budget; but there are also other factions that directly benefit from the war this way. For instance, all the big car factories produce also different kinds of war-vehicles (to transport troops, armoured cars, etc.). To produce these products other kinds of raw material are required, the producers of which also directly benefit from war. To stick to the example of the car industry, we can see that the producers of metal, plastic, rubber, computers,... also get involved, as well as banking services, accountancy services, etc.. For each of these numerous sectors, tens if not hundreds of big and smaller factories will get involved in this lucrative market and will compete with each other in order to increase their parts and benefits of the war market.
And of course, the Gulf war also mobilised and militarized hundreds of thousands of men and kept them far away from their sources of supply. All this shows clearly how big the problems of logistics were. And this, of course, has attracted a lot of different sectors of capital, which also increased their turnover spectacularly, e.g. the sectors involved in tinned food, water supplies, etc..
This is why the news of the outbreak of the war was cheerfully welcomed by the different bourgeois factions. We don't know if this is true, but certain newspapers reported that in Houston, Texas, for instance, -an important center of the oil refinery- the day after August 2nd, not a single bottle of champagne could be found in the supermarkets, since the bourgeois of that town had already celebrated the war that would reactivate- so they figured -their enterprises. What we are sure about, however, is that a few months later, the stock-exchanges of the whole world welcomed the beginning of the war with euphoria! As Thomas McCarrol wrote in an article of El Pais (January 27th):
"The day after the launching of the air-raids on Iraq, the people present at the New York Stock Exchange started the day with a minute of silence to honor the North-American troops fighting in the Gulf. But this moment of meditation was the only break of the whole day. The opening was soon to be followed by a wave of outcries: BUY! BUY! BUY! When all this agitation calmed down, the Stock Exchange had lived one of its most active days! The Dow Jones climbed 114 points, the second most important rise of its whole history... The Stock Exchanges of the whole world shared the same euphoria... In Germany the Frankfurt Stock Exchange marked the highest daily rise of its history and rose by 1.6% while the Japanese NikkeÃ¯ in Tokyo rose by 2.4%."
No need to be an expert in bourgeois balance-sheets to understand the meaning of these historical records related to the outbreak of the war. No need either to be an economist to see that the notorious CNN, as well as the other television networks, during all these days of war and massacres of our class, showed a real "weapon fair", an incredible industrial and electronical market, which for the first time in history and on such a massive scale displayed numerous arms, machines, missiles, means of transportation, high-tech equipment, etc. All this meant billions of dollars of increase in the sales of North American industry; and this is also the reason why the economic results during the first days of the war, were extraordinary! (3) This is what Julian Martinez writes in El Pais, on January 27th, 1991:
"The results of the first days of the war could not have been more optimistic for all sectors related to the defence. In Wall Street, nearly all values related to military industry have risen. For instance, during the first few days of the war, some of them gained 37%, like General Dynamics, which produces the powerful Tomahawk missiles, the F-111 fighterplanes as well as the M1 tanks. General Dynamics's rival, Mc Donald Douglas, increased its profit by about 25%, thanks to the TV news which showed fighter planes F-15, F-18, Apache helicopter and also Tomahawk missiles. Enterprises that produce bombs, orientation equipment, and electronic systems for air navigation increased the value of their shares. It is expected that when the army and the Marines get into action, the companies producing new arms will also benefit from the boom in the Stock Exchange [one can easily notice here how each sector of Capital has its own particular interests, even in this particular kind of war -our comment]. The constructor of "the star" of the war, the famous Patriot Missile, is particularly satisfied with the enormous publicity its product received all over the world. The factories and the enterprises which produce components of this missile -Raytheon and Martin Marietta- increased tthe value of their shares in Wall Street."
No need to be a scholar to know that if these marvellous expectations did not come true, it is because the situation of the world economy is disastrous and because the Gulf war was not important enough to reverse the process of economic crisis. The level of war and destruction that Capital needs to regenerate itself and to eradicate -on this basis- its existing depression, is much bigger!
As far as the big business of the after-war period is concerned, it is worth mentioning that in the middle of the war, while they were still busy heaping up thousands of corpses and destroying not only military targets (as they pretended), but also the complete industrial infrastructure, as well as the communications and sanitary networks, the large international trusts were already competing with each other over the distribution of the tremendous contracts for the reconstruction of the war zones -just like gigantic vultures fighting over carcasses and litter! The amount of the multinational contracts that were signed for the reconstruction of the industrial infrastructure of Kuwait, was estimated at about one hundred billion dollars, and the financial arrangements for the reconstruction of Iraq were estimated to amount to more than two hundred billion dollars!
The capitalist vultures did not wait a second to share the carcasses. They did not even wait for the ex-allies to transform themselves into enemies. When finally the hour arrived to share the profitable dividents from the biggest of all capitalist trades -war and reconstruction- they all rushed, without any hesitation, onto their preys.
In "Le Monde Diplomatique" of March 1991, J.D. writes:
"More and more plans are being elaborated for the reconstruction of Kuwait and for the reinforcement of the Saudi power. At the heart of the industrial-military complex, stands the Bechtel firm, which already has important political and financial experience in the region. The same is true for Motorola, Mc Donald Douglas, General Dynamics, ATT. Forty-five billion dollars could possibly be "picked up" in Kuwait only. In Saudi Arabia, the promises are just as juicy, because Ryad says it will reinforce its airforce and buy a few hundred more tanks. Even though nobody is talking about the reconstruction of Iraq, everybody is thinking about it. Only the stubborn liberals disapprove that these contracts do not respect the Right - the right of competition. And in all these cases, Washington imposed its views: Saudi Arabia is not to be entrusted to some French firms as this has been suggested in the beginning, but to E-Systems from Dallas. The modernization of the phones? The French and the Swedish were on the lists, but when the American Secretary for Trade and, later on, Mr. Bush himself intervened, now ATT and Motorola have better chances. As it seems, the British Prime Minister would have expressed his dissatisfaction! Such a loyal ally...
But after all -if one neglects the number of those who were killed- perhaps this war will turn out to have been only an even operation for the USA. Besides the fact that this war is being paid for by a large number of countries, the US will also benefit from the large amounts of private dividends that will wipe out the public expenditures. Thanks heaven, the defence of international law is safe,... if not, one would easily get inspired about some simple truth, and this is total sacrilege in these days of international sacred union."
This means that the international sacred union had only some validity against Saddam, and, as "Le Monde Diplomatique" seems to regret it, today again the law of the jungle is surpassing all other considerations between capitalists. Those who are the most powerful in the military field, those who invested most in this big war business are the ones who will get the better dividends from this war.
The media as instruments of power and war
In this chapter we will pay special attention to the role played by the media. We do not think that during this war they played a role which is at all different from their ordinary one when they assume a central function in order to mobilize proletarians for the sake of Capital. No!, if in this chapter we are especially dealing with this aspect, it is only because today they are assuming in society as a whole, and they assumed during the Gulf war in particular, -compared to other State apparatus- a more important role than in the past.
As a matter of fact, the type of the process of citizenization, (we published an article on this process (4) which is dominating the proletariat today, coincides with a phase of massive desertion by proletarians of the old bourgeois apparatus, such as parties and unions, which serve the purpose of framing up all proletarian revolt. The influence such bourgeois organisations may have had is slowly but surely eroding. This process also implies that life is becoming more separated, compartmentalized, more individual, more family-like, more locked up inside each house or apartment... This means that the media -and especially television- become essential means of communication, and transform themselves in decisive means -directly related to their own armed forces- for the framing up, the mobilization and the militarization of the proletariat.
Before, the main intermediary between the worker and his mobilization for the State, his war-like militarization, was the party (the "workers'" party, preferably), the union, the "workers' movement"(5). The press and radio were only supports to increase the efficiency of these organizations. But the more individualism is developing, the more television as well as all other means for the production of ideas are transforming themselves to become central intermediaries for the mobilization of proletarians for the fatherland, for sending them to the army and to the butchery! We must not forget that -because of the citizenization process and the generalized isolation- that for many proletarians who do not have any fellow-workers to talk to and to discuss with, the television (but the radio and the newspapers, as well) seems to become the unique (fictitious) ("human") relationship with the outside world.
On the whole, the campaigns orchestrated by the different means of communication try to hide the real and fundamental causes of what is going on, and they make this or that individual be guilty for all what is wrong; therefore, in view of the needs of the foreign policy of their own State, these campaigns depict the actions of the enemy as being barbarous, criminal, dictatorial, terrorist,... and at the same time, they justify the criminal actions of their own imperialist camp as humanitarian actions, as a struggle against dictatorship and for democracy...
During the Gulf war, even more so than during previous wars (Vietnam, Falklands, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan) the Heads of States and the Commanders in Chief of the Allied Armed Forces were particularly attentive to the means of communication: this time they were transformed into real instruments for brainwashing, for militarization and national mobilization.
During the North-American invasion of Grenada and Panama, the Pentagon had already requested and obtained from the press that they would use the word "intervention" rather than "invasion", but during this war, the journalists went a lot further still when they started talking about "our boys" or "us" when talking about the troops of the U.S. coalition. In the same manner, several generals from the Pentagon succeeded each other daily on the television screens of different international networks, which became nothing less than the true spokesmen of the Pentagon (the real public relations offices of the imperialist command). So the journalists started adopting progressively the language of the generals and that's how the bombings became "surgeon attacks" and the civilians killed became "collateral" losses, while the areas that had not yet been bombed, became "lucrative" objectives. In the face of an American POW that had been beaten up, they talked about "war crime" (!!!), but at the same time the terrifying bombings that were killing the population in Baghdad were being presented as "incursions" by "our freedom fighters".
Nothing was left uncontrolled! Each word, each image was checked, analysed, censured... and even sometimes, when there was no image to go with the message that the military and political command had decided to broadcast, they did not hesitate to produce such a suitable image -out of nothing- in their laboratories.
The big bosses of the broadcasting firms, the speakers, the journalists and all the other shitbags accomplished faithfully and wholeheartedly the adaptation and presentation of reality according to the wishes and needs of the military command. The lack of independence, the hypocrisy, the submission and the cynicism of all these press people have already often been denounced... but we think that it would be more proper to speak about the complete and total militarization of this particular instrument of domination, about its achieved integration, by the imperialist State, into the full military action. And as a matter of fact, each time journalists accomplish more perfectly their true role as intermediaries of the military action, as the obeying officers of their superiors, as the indispensable conveyor belt that aims at turning each proletarian into a patriot, a soldier, an assassin!
In the face of such an always growing symbiose between the army and the television networks, between the generals of the armed forces and the professionals of the spectacle, between the military command and the journalists, we should ask ourselves whether the revolutionary and insurgent proletariat should treat these agents of the means of communication in the same way as it has always treated the officers of the armies, who send the proletarians to the butchery, i.e. by turning their arms against them!? We will get the response from the future history of the war and of the struggle against war, but it is clear that as far as we are concerned, this answer lies already in today's war.
We could multiply here the always more impressive examples of what those craftsmen of the spectacle have achieved to "model" the information according to the needs of the fatherland and of war. We will not go into any more details about the lies that they believed themselves, e.g. when the bosses of the Pentagon declared that about 90% of the military potential of the Iraqi army had been annihilated (after "only" 24 hours of bombings), a piece of information that the media quickly broadcast over the whole planet! We will not go into any details about the praise from all the press people for the "heroism and sacrifices" consented by the pilots of the Coalition (indeed, how courageous it must have been to drop bombs with an absolute power of destruction, from a height of 10,000 meters!). And it is not worthwhile either to insist on the sheer hypocrisy and the total partiality that completely dominated the propaganda on the use of chemical weapons by Baghdad (in reality, Baghdad has only used such weapons against its own troops and population) while nothing was ever said about the use of napalm and fuel bombs by the Allied forces. Nor will we insist on the total partiality with which the "daily horror that Israeli citizens had to go through" was described (mentioning only the Jews; the horror for the Palestinians surely was not the same -as a matter of fact, a government decree stated that there were not any gas masks available for them!- while the horror that came pouring down on the population of Iraq was systematically omitted!
No, all this is only normal for these shock troops of the Western Christian army. We would rather like to denounce here some elements in this manipulation of the news. We already knew that they created images, and that a large number of them -shown on television- were created in computer laboratories. This was the case for instance for those images that showed missiles hitting their military target exactly in the middle: in fact, these images had been shot several years ago in the United States. But undoubtedly, this is when the modern Goebbels of the little screen excelled: when they tried to accuse their opponent of not only wasting oil, but also of exterminating nature and the environment (6). This is when they built up the pitiful story about a bird covered with black liquid, the bird that they had found dying in the sea. This story, and these images showing that dying bird, representing the destruction of nature -something only "bad" people could possibly desire and provoke on purpose- were circulated around the world. And probably public opinion has been more influenced and upset about this dying bird... than it has ever been about any other victim being shown on TV (and of course, they do not talk about these real deaths). This shows how extreme the manipulation can be, this gigantic collective idiocy produced by Capital. Everything seemed to work out just fine... until a specialist turned up to explain that this kind of bird does not live in the Persian Gulf area, but lives on the European coasts... and that's how it became obvious that this story as well was nothing else but a pure strategic laboratory invention, launched with some political-military goal.
But we do want to mention - as a significant example of this war -the sudden general discovery of the massacres committed by the regime of Saddam Hussein, massacres that we have denounced for years, against the stream, in spite of the fact that our contradictors accused us of "exaggeration" or even "invention". For several years we have denounced the tens of thousands of deaths that (during the war and after the signing of the cease-fire between Iraq and Iran) were caused by the bombings that the Iraqi State carried out against its own population, while we also denounced the systematic destruction of tens of cities and small villages. Speaking about the tens of thousands of deaths, about the hundreds of cities destroyed, has been considered to be an enormous exaggeration on our part, including at the time when we called for an international meeting that we had organized against the war and the peace in this region. As a matter of fact, nobody talked about all this, while all of a sudden, during the war, the Western bourgeois press "discovered" the massacres that it had been hiding for years! It was the "Figaro" newspaper (accusing its allies of yesterday and excusing those of today) that wrote (8th of March, 1991):
"Neither in Iran [sic!], nor in Syria [sic!] or in Turkey [sic!] did the Kurds experience such a brutality in repression. This brutality reached a peak at the end of the Iran-Iraq war, in 1988. In March of that year, while Saddam was winning every battle against the Khomeini troops and was forcing them to accept a cease-fire, he finally finds himself free enough to clean up Kurdistan. 'The Kurdish rebels are like ants, we will crush them,' warns an Iraqi general. And just like on ants, Saddam will use chemicals on the Kurds. More than 5,000 will get killed in the city of Halabja alone, the city will be completely destroyed and will be rebuilt 30 kilometers further away; altogether 4,000 cities and villages will be wiped out, erased from the map, and their population will be transferred to other areas that are easier to check for the Iraqi army. The poor and miserable families are packed in sordid townships with large alleys where armed vehicles can take up position at any moment. In the middle of the desert, the Iraqi State has installed real concentration camps, disguised as military basis, to imprison the most rebellious amongst the population. According to Sami Abdulrahman, the General Secretary of the People's Party of Kurdistan, 50,000 Kurds have disappeared in this sand-goulag."
This is only one example among many others. In reality, the whole of the main information agencies of the Christian Western world, mobilized for this new crusade, all of a sudden discovered what they had decided to ignore for years, and at the same time the heads of the Kurdish nationalist opposition parties were for the first time well received in the Western imperial centers of power, and indeed, in the Pentagon itself. Their declarations were widely echoed by television and by the other different means of production of the reality of public opinion.
On the balance of forces between the different blocs and on the short duration of the war
The deployment of military troops by both sides does not leave any doubt about the fact that a longer lasting military confrontation was expected. On the other hand, the analysis by military experts all concluded about the same perspective of a longer lasting war and -as far as the Western Coalition was concerned- a more murderous one! The tens of thousands of plastic bags that the American authorities had delivered in the area to "go back home" (as it was worded in certain songs by American soldiers) do not allow for the slightest doubt about this.
If the war - in its phase of more general confrontation between the Coalition armies and the troops of the Iraqi State - has met a definite limit (while we're writing this text, the war between different bourgeois factions inside Iraq is still going on), this is surely due to the complete lack of support that the imperialist policy of Saddam Hussein has encountered and to the ensuing weakness of his imperialist bloc and this has allowed its enemy to reach its objectives with much less damage than was initially estimated.
We already announced the weakness of the imperialist bloc directed by the Iraqi State, precisely because Saddam Hussein has been completely discredited in the face of his own troops and population (cf. the editorial of "Communisme" -French central review- No.32). Today we ccan affirm clearly that this constituted the main obstacle -and indeed the real break- for the continuation of the war.
We do not think it is necessary to go into any other explanations about the decisive importance of the adhesion of the proletariat to the imperialist war... since without such adhesion there simply cannot be any war like that, as all the burden of bourgeois war, from the battle ground unto the production lines, lies on the shoulders of the proletarians.
In Iraq, nearly ten years of war and of struggle against war did not take place in vain. Those hundreds of thousands of workers in uniform were no longer ready to sacrifice themselves for the national cause of the war. From the very beginning of the war, the only non-official information that we received from Iran and Iraq stated that those who had been forcefully sent on the battlefronts, tried to escape from there and that there had been many desertions and executions. Comrades from that region also confirmed - a long time before official sources fromm both sides could no longer hide the fact that the Iraqi troops were not ready to fight any more, and before the mass surrenders were shown on television- that the butchery was looking more and more like a war of extermination and that the common Iraqi soldier was trapped between two enemy fires: the fire of the Coalition and the fire of the Republican Guards.
To put it clearly, from the point of view of the Iraqi State, everything had been going wrong from the very beginning: there had been no decisive international support on the military and political level (the small support the Iraqi State did receive -like from the PLO e.g. - did not have any real significance); it failed in its attempt to make Israel get directly involved in the war and to build up this way a general front against it; there was very little credibility of Saddam's so-called anti-imperialism with the international masses, and this resulted in the complete lack of positive response to Saddam's different calls, including the lack of response concerning his call for terrorist attacks,... Even the Republican Guards did not show any full disposition for fighting and here also desertions were more massive than initially expected.
In view of the composition of the Coalition forces - composed of all the bigger international watchdogs of imperialism (USA, France, England,... and also with the complicity of the Soviet Union) and also in view of the intrinsic secular hate that the world proletariat feels for them (in general, it is these powers which always intervene to put down proletarian revolts and which always support the local bourgeois when the national State can no longer cope with an insurrectionary situation!), Saddam Hussein hoped to be able to raise the banner of the struggle against imperialism, as some others had already done -with more success though- before him. Saddam Hussein is not Nasser, nor Peron or even less so Che Guevara; Saddam is nothing else but an already ancient agent in that region, having the same interests as those who he is pretending to fight today. He is the agent of France, of the Soviet Union,... and above all, he is a tyrant having lost all credibility in the face of his own population that he has bombed without mercy; he is a tyrant incapable of achieving national unity which is the indispensable condition for the realization of an international front capable of forcing the big powers to negotiate.
Of course, there have been some demos in several countries, like in North-Africa or in Europe, in the Far East or in Latin America, where the crowds -amongst other claims- shouted some slogans in favour of Saddam, but without any real conviction and more as a provocation in the face of their own State (like in Spain, e.g.) when it was being considered to be too submitted to the Western Christian bloc. In quite a few cases also, the slogans in support of the Iraqi State, were nothing else but the result of the manoeuvres and manipulations by the local national State so as to take away all credit from the struggle against the war by assimilating this struggle against the bourgeoisie and its State as a struggle in support of the external enemy.
Even the bourgeois organizations of the radical left of the Western countries, always eager to sell their anti-imperialist speeches - and indeed, Saddam and Arafat hoped these would take their side - had only little autonomy in the face of their own national State (probably this is due to the general down graded situation of these organizations) and they all just claimed some vague pacifist rethorics: indeed, it was difficult to distinguish between the speeches held by a Stalinist, by a Castroist or by a Trotskist and the speeches held by the pope!
There were some "remarkable" exceptions to the cause of international Trotskism: for the Argentinian MAS e.g. it was no problem to take up the imperialist side of the butcher of Baghdad. The leaflets of this group, defending one imperialist camp against another, while hiding systematically all references to the murderous past (and present) of the Baghdad regime, for sure are part of the anthology of this war. We will just quote a small part of one of the leaflets of this group:
"When the war breaks out, there will be two clearly defined opposite military camps. One will be the aggressor camp, under the lead of the yankees and the support of Gorbatchev, as well as a long list of lackey governments. Through war, these will pursue, on a higher level still, the aggression that they triggered 5 months ago, through their military blockade and their economic genocide. The other side will be the side of Iraq. On this side we will find the Palestinians of the Intifada, millions of inhabitants from the Arab and Islam countries, as well as thousands of militants amongst the workers and the people who everywhere in the world, oppose the aggression. The Movement for Socialism (MAS) calls on all workers and on the people of Argentina, to support the Iraqi side. We are in the same boat as during the Falklands' war (THIS IS CLEAR! It is the same boat that they share with the Argentinian head of State terrorists who are guilty of killing and torturing, and of the disappearance of tens of thousands of our comrades - our comment!) when received the support of the majority of the people of Latin America and of large parts of the people of the Middle East, including the Iraqi people."
(quotation from a leaflet "Yesterday the Falklands, today Iraq; Yankees, out of the Gulf" calling for a "day against the imperialist aggression".)
The military superiority of the coalition forces - against the myth of technology
Let's get back to the essential, to the real limits of the war, since there existed an undeniable superiority of the Coalition forces. From all sides they tried to make us believe that the impressive triumph of the Coalition forces is due to their technological development, to the astonishing efficiency of their military equipment, etc.
The bourgeoisie tries to make us believe that nothing depends on us, that everything depends on technology, that the latter is opposed to us (even though it is our own product) as an alien power that is oppressing and controlling us. The interest of the bourgeoisie is obvious. With such propaganda, they are telling us: "I'm almighty", "you can do nothing", "In the face of the State, you don't stand a chance".
But when thinking about this, one soon realizes that all this is nothing but a big lie. During the Vietnam war, the North-American State had a complete technological superiority, but was unable to win the war. The same happened to the Russian army in Afghanistan. Even more so, the same technology that supposedly destroyed one of the best equipped armies of the world, cannot manage to defeat a few hundred of guerilleros in other parts of the world, like in Peru, for instance.
Every military strategist, from Clausewitz until today, knows that the keyfactor in all wars, is the human factor, the adhesion of the part of the population to the military policy, and it is this factor that determines the moral of the troops, the efficiency of the production front, the logistic capacities, etc. And it is sure, from this point of view, that there was -as we just wrote- an enormous difference between the two sides. On one side, a well disciplined army, ready to go to war, and on the other side, hundreds of thousands of men, forced to go to war at gunpoint and here every soldier was a potential deserter. On one side, a very mobile army with a nearly unlimited capacity to deploy itself, the soldiers of which -at least a large majority of them- are frree citizens who signed a contract to sell their capacity to kill ("workforce") (7); on the other side, a kind of formation and deployment on the battleground where the officers and the pretorian troops have to maintain a permanent pressure on their subordinates in order to prevent massive desertions.
All this determined a type of war with positions that favoured even more the Coalition. Indeed, the type of army and armement that was being used by the Coalition proved to be very appropriate to attack and destroy the fixed positions of the enemy. The situation is completely different when an army of this kind must transform itself into an army of occupation and for maintaining law and order, and when it is confronting a kind of popular war, facing autonomous military units. In such situations, the strategic advantage that derives from the support for the war effort by large parts of the population, disappears as time goes by. This is exactly what is happening today to the Israeli State for instance, since it is caught up relatively powerless in a war of occupation without any perspectives for a positive evolution - quite to the contrary of what happened during its blitz-victories in the past. If the North-American command of the Coalition forces interrupted its military actions before destroying the whole of the Iraqi military potentials, it is because they know that after all Saddam Hussein is a good guardian of bourgeois order. Even though it would have been relatively easy for the Marines to go further as far as Baghdad, it would have been much more difficult for them to pacify the population in this region, in the face of an Intifada a hundred times more powerful.
The technological superiority of one of the imperialist sides, and the never ending bombings that lasted for days and days without any possibility for the adversary to do anything about it, functioned exactly on the basis of these two fundamental conditions: the lack of eagerness to fight and the kind of war of positions that this determined (and also the acceptance of the classical bourgeois diplomacy by Saddam Hussein and the consecutive liberation of all the important persons belonging to the enemy camp by Saddam Hussein -because without this for sure the bombings would have encountered less national and international support). After weeks of bombings that accentuated even more the generalized weaknesses of Saddam's troops, the initial difference in the moral of troops between both sides became even bigger, and Saddam's imperialist army decomposed without having fought one single important battle (in spite of the press' exaggerations about the "Khafji battle") (8).
On the other hand, these intensive bombings disintegrated the whole regional system of political control of the Iraqi State! The orders from Baghdad did not get through any more to the troops, nor did they reach the remote villages of the southern provinces; it took days and days for news from different geographical points to reach Baghdad, and this -in such a situation of lack of national unity- was fatal to the Iraqi military command.
So tens of thousands of new deserters united with the numerous deserters from the Iran-Iraq war, as well as with those who had never submitted themselves and those who had organized themselves from the very beginning of the war and who were just waiting for the right moment to desert or surrender. Desertion became even more massive as officers themselves deserted and as the lack of food became more and more widespread. That's how the Coalition got a much easier victory than expected: besides, it did not really know what to do with such a victory, because it was no longer possible to hide that the cohesion of the enemy had been exaggerated for the sake of propaganda, and also because it had not prepared to round up such a high number of prisoners. The Coalition military Command was very embarrassed having to take care of more than a hundred thousand men... so embarrassed that on several occasions the American officers ordered to shoot on the Iraqi soldiers who came running towards them - in spite of the white flag they were waving as a sign of surrender. For sure the Allied Command would have preferred desertions to be less massive on the Iraqi side, and the imperialist war to last a bit longer - so as to account more easily (as well as in the face of the ordinary American citizen, as of the parliamentarians of the bourgeoisie) for the 500,000 men they sent to the Gulf together with all other military and logistical efforts.
The struggle of the proletariat against the war
Historically, the proletariat has proved its enormous creativity in the struggle against war: the sabotage of military trains, the execution of officers, internationalist propaganda, revolutionary defeatism, massive organization of deserters, the constitution of unitary workers' and soldiers' associations, strikes, demos,... In the face of the highest level of barbarity of capitalist domination, everything is valuable and every action against "the holy union" transforms itself into an action of internationalist solidarity against the war.
We could draw up a list of the proletarian actions against the war that occurred in different countries. But it is more important to draw up a much more global balance-sheet of the forces that existed during the struggle against the war, and we must cry out the truth that imposes itself and that we must recognize: the proletariat has been incapable of stopping the war, and especially on the side of the Coalition; capitalism reached its objectives of national mobilization and of the submission of the proletarians to the interests of the national States. Indeed, it is more important to stress this, than to mention the number of national flags that were burnt, the international leaflets that have been circulated, the schools that have been occupied (like in Italy and in Spain), the occupation of/or demos against recruitment offices, the number of deserters that have fled.
For us this general situation is logical, since counter-revolution is dominating on a nearly generalized scale, and in such a context we are rather glad that some violent actions against the war did take place. But the situation is really tragic, and every apology of some acts of resistance as if the proletariat finds itself in a revolutionary period, can only serve counter-revolution. We have to start out from this very elementary truth, that cannot be hidden: hour after hour, day after day, week after week, we were unable to stop one of the largest massacres in history, one that can be compared to the massacres in Hiroshima, Nagasaki or Dresden during the second world war. The massacre of our brothers took place while the bourgeoisie placed the world proletariat in front of the television screens so as to show them the horrible spectacle!
In relation to the weakness that we already talked about concerning the army of the Iraqi State, we must stress that the strength and coherence of the Coalition armies is shocking, especially as far as the passive but massive support by the rear-guard for these armies is concerned. The strength of the armies of the main international watchdogs of Capital lies within the weakness of the struggle of the proletariat in these countries.
It is obvious that the fact that nearly all deaths were only on one side, and that on the side of the Coalition the war did not cost much in terms of life or in terms of survival (the increase in misery cannot be compared to what happened on the other side), all this facilitated national unity, the submission of the proletariat to its own State, and the coherence of the armies of the US-led Coalition. The existing correlation of counterrevolutionary forces could only be put into question if the proletariat of the Coalition countries had also had to support the burden of the war, and if, on top of an intensification of the austerity-policies in those countries, thousands of plastic bags "bringing home" the "heroic freedom fighters" had arrived at the airports of the Coalition countries. In today's circumstances, when the "bourgeois" and "proletarians" are together celebrating the allied military victory, sharing the same criminal satisfaction about the fact that the victims remained in Iraq and Kuwait, in such circumstances it is counterrevolution itself that can fortify the perception of the proletariat as an organic and single body, by the exacerbation of the misery it causes!
So we must assume this sad reality where the international proletariat is standing, incapable of stopping the war (and we must remember that the most important limit to the Vietnam war, was the North-American proletariat itself!) or even of assuming really important actions of struggle against it! We do not want to devalorize the actions of some proletarians who refused, e.g., in certain harbours, to load arms to be sent to the Gulf region, nor the violent actions against this or that center for recruitment in the USA, but it is tragic that there was no uprising amongst the troops that were sent to fight on behalf of the Coalition; it is tragic that there were only a few tens of deserters (while on the other side, there were several tens of thousands!), that there were no important attacks against official buildings of the Coalition forces; it is tragic that the military production, as well as production in general, did not get paralyzed, so as to fight against the criminal politics of our "own" States. And finally, the most tragic of all is the terrible state of atomized individuals to which large parts of the proletariat are reduced today, sitting in front of a television screen, or participating in some pacifist demo that reinforces the national mobilization and the military actions of the imperialist State.
Without any doubt, one of the most difficult problems to solve, as well in the past as for the future of the worldwide revolution, is this tragic difference between the development of the struggle in one or another country: this is how the bourgeoisie can afford to send troops from one country to repress the insurrection that is going on in another country, as it happened so many times in history, transforming the proletariat in one country into the accomplice of the State repressing the proletariat elsewhere. There is no doubt about the fact that the trajectory of the States of the Coalition and more specifically of the North-American State, as well as the present affirmations (practical and military, as well as in all official speeches) as the international police force of the State of "International Law", designate these States to be the watchdogs against insurrectionary movements in other countries. In the struggle against this, the responsibility of the proletariat in these specific countries is obvious. But this also requires the necessity for a general staff of the international proletariat, the importance of the centralisation of the proletarian community of struggle based on the communist programme. In relation to this, the critique of the complete failure -through opportunism, centrism, euro-centrism, federalism, nationalism- of the Third International (that, from the 2nd Congress onward, adopted the tactic of national liberation that objectively divided the proletariat and this way became the accomplice of the bourgeoisie) is essential.
The situation in Iraq
On the Iraqi side, defeatism was general. We already described how the Iraqi State sent tens of thousands of proletarians in uniform to the front, to serve as cannon-fodder. But in the face of this situation, the proletariat did not remain passive. Struggles occurred even before the beginning of the bombings by the Coalition armies. In Mossoul, in the North of Iraq, in Kurdistan, people rioted against the famine that resulted from the "war restrictions" that had been imposed jointly by the Iraqi State and the Coalition. In Sulaimaniya, in the North also, demos against the war were organized by women. The Republican Guards intervened and fired at the crowd. 300 women were arrested and executed a bit later. But in the South of Iraq also, the situation remained very tense in the face of the perspectives of the bombings and the launching of this war, in which proletarians knew they had nothing to win.
So even before the launching of the terrestrial offensive, the general situation in Iraq was very explosive, and for this reason, for fear of an insurrection, Saddam Hussein made thousands of leaflets to be thrown down by airplane, recalling the Halabja massacre. This is how he wanted proletarians who were ready to rise up against him, to remember that the State would not hesitate to bomb or gas them if they refused to submit themselves to his war-plans. Saddam Hussein did not have time to execute his threaths since the Coalition offensive was launched even before he could put down this defeatist resistance.
This is how, from the very moment that the warplanes from the Coalition had started dropping their tons of bombs on the South of Iraq at first, crushing the proletarians who were hiding in shelters or in caves, these proletarians started moving up to Baghdad, fleeing the areas of famine and desolation; they were immediately joined by thousands of starved deserters. In the face of this situation, the Iraqi State had no other solution but to move more reliable troops from the North into the area to prevent these thousands of proletarians from fleeing to Baghdad. But while moving these more loyal troops to the South, the Iraqi State destabilized even more the situation in the North, where the uprisings were the most violent, straight after the terrestrial offensive.
This resistance of proletarians in Iraq and the defeatism they were capable of -even before the launching of the terrestrial offensive- were the first cause for the ending of the war between the Coalition and Iraq. Even more so since on the front, right after the beginning of the war, tens of thousands of other proletarians surrendered and refused to sacrifice their blood for the imperialist crusade of Saddam. During these few days when the Republican Guards had to confront an enemy that was really armed, one could easily see that their eagerness to fight was much weaker than when they were fighting proletarians who refused to go to the battlefields. On this occasion, tens of thousands of proletarians got completely "out of control", and at the same time when they were fighting for their own survival while attacking private property, they were clashing with their enemy of always, their "own" State.
From the first days of March 1991, the news agencies of the whole world had to mention the attacks and arson of official buildings and Baath' party buildings, but as we already mentioned, the struggle did not start nor did it end here: as a matter of fact, a real tendency for generalization existed. The press mentioned only certain attacks by the proletariat against the State in Iraq, in order to better justify the Coalition's massive massacres as a "public health operation". The Coalition wanted the actions against the war, the desertions of proletarians, the uprisings against famine,... to be depicted as struggles against a detested tyrant, and not as a more general struggle against capitalist war. For the State organized around the Coalition, the biggest danger lies in a possible contamination of these defeatist struggles within its own army. In the face of a generalization of the desertions and struggles in Iraq, the soldiers of the Coalition could easily have become aware that they were not fighting against thousands of fanatic "Saddamised" terrorists, as they had been made to believe, but that they were in fact participating in a butchery that had been organised against the masses of proletarians in Iraq and in Kuwait.
The worldwide bourgeoisie had a feeling of general terror when considering the possibility that the defeatism against the State of Saddam Hussein might affirm itself as revolutionary defeatism. This is one of the reasons that made Bush decide -in spite of the many international calls for the destruction of the complete military potential of Saddam- to stop the war only a few days after having launched the battle against the Republican Guards. This is how he tried to ensure the integrity of this anti-proletarian and repressive organ, the Republican Guard. General Kelly declared explicitly:
"It is a defeated army that is going back home. A beaten army always constitutes a political threat."
The Washington Post itself reproduced declarations by Iraqi bourgeois opposition leaders that were in contradiction with the general analysis which pretended that what was going on, was a national or religious problem. For instance, this paper reproduced the following declarations by Muhammad Bahr Ulum:
"This is not a religious problem, but the first popular uprising in 20 years against the reign of Saddam Hussein. His defeat in Kuwait has broken the reign of terror."
And as a matter of fact, while they were trying once more to make us believe that the struggles that erupted after the war are about religious problems, or even about national questions -as far as the Kurdistan area is concerned- we know, as far as we are concerned, that these struggles are much more the direct continuity of the struggles that occurred before and during the war.
And for this reason, the Coalition's interest was for Saddam Hussein to assume himself the continuity of repression organized by the means of the Republican Guards.
Uprisings took place nearly everywhere, as soon as the war stopped. Bassorah, in the South, Mossoul, Arbil, Kirkouk, Sulaimania, in the North, were in a state of insurrection. The rest of the defeated army, the deserters, the inhabitants of the cities, united themselves to cry out their anger and hatred of the State in the face of those who had sent them to war. In the South, clashes were particularly violent, but the Republican Guards were prepared for it: they had already been concentrated in this region because the State knew very well the explosive situation that prevailed here. In the North, Saddam hoped for some respite since he knew he could count on the nationalists. He hoped that they would be capable of framing up and defeating the proletariat, and he knew for sure that they would not engage in any action against him. Indeed, from the very beginning of the war, Saddam Hussein and the nationalist parties had reached some secret agreement via the PLO and its beloved leader, Yasser Arafat, guaranteeing the pacific coexistence between these two bourgeois factions for the whole duration of the war. This is why repression first hit struggles in the South.
But the uprisings in the North took place in spite of all official "opposition", and in spite of and against the KDP, PUK and all other Kurdish nationalist organizations. From the very start, these factions were recognized as being "war-participationists" and their attempts to frame up the insurgents by putting forward nationalist perspectives, did not work out. Other groups rose up, such as "Communist Perspective" in Sulaimania, an internationalist organization that resulted from the lessons of the preceding struggles. And other groups as well, all more or less formal, and which all clearly designated the nationalists as enemies as dangerous as the`Republican Guard. The insurgent proletarians refused to let nationalists enter the cities. The latter then tried to encircle the cities, meeting this way many soldiers on their way home from the front. These soldiers did not want to fight any more, but on several occasions, the nationalists forced them to join their ranks and fight. As one can see, a nation-to-be uses the same terrorist methods as the nation it is fighting against. Here, Saddam Hussein and Talabani stand hand in hand to send proletarians to the front at gunpoint. The encircling of the cities by the nationalist parties, allowed them to make the world believe that they were "in control" of these cities; but the only control that they actually assumed, was the control of the repression of proletarians returning home from the front. These pieces of information that have been reported directly to us by contacts, sympathisers and comrades from that region, are corroborated by the fact that Talabani e.g., the boss of the PUK, has not been able to return to Sulaimania even though this city was considered to be his stronghold before.
It is exactly in this city, that the insurrection was particularly violent: here proletarians took revenge for years and years of massacres and organized terror that they had been submitted to. They attacked the terrifying secret police of Saddam Hussein, killing some 2,000 Baathists, who were hiding in the buildings of the political police. The anger of our fellow proletarians turned against everything that represented the Iraqi State, as they burnt, looted and entirely demolished all buildings belonging to the police, to the Baath' party, courts, etc. During all this time, the nationalist parties tried to oppose this, arguing that the material that could be found in these buildings, would be useful to the future Kurdish State!
To put down this generalized proletarian revolt, Saddam Hussein sent his most loyal troops to clear the region, after Bassorah and the other insurgent cities of the South had been crushed! As soon as the Republican Guards got closer to the North, and as the first reports about their atrocities arrived, as soon as the proletariat realized that the Republican Guards had succeeded partially in crushing the South and that white terror was coming up North, towards the Kurdistan region, as soon as the insurgents realized that the Coalition armies had left the Republican Guard nearly unharmed and in any case sufficiently powerful to organize the terror against them, they withdrew from the cities towards the mountains, with their arms, luggage, children, trying to escape by all possible means the repressive hell that was about to hit them. We already gave some examples of the violence with which the insurgents struggled against local authorities and it is easy to understand that they expected the worst of the Republican Guards. For tens of years they had been submitted to the repression by the shock troops of the Iraqi regime, and they knew they should not expect any mercy of them.
The whole of the information was transmitted to us directly by comrades from that region who had participated in these struggles. We do not possess yet all the details about the different clashes and confrontations that we have mentioned (one can easily imagine all the difficulties for these comrades to communicate with us, in view of the horror of the defeat that they are submitted to today!), but of course we will continue to centralize all the information that these comrades will give us. As soon as the war started and at the very moment when the bombings started, these comrades also circulated an "appeal against the war" that was produced by our group, in Arabic. Other material produced by our group was also circulated, before and during the war.
A few days after the "anniversary" of the Halabja massacre, while the struggle was fully going on, particularly in the North of Iraq, in the Kurdistan region, our group sent a leaflet there, in Kurdish, which was also circulated in the area. Here are some excerpts from this leaflet that was called: "No Kurdish nation! No Islamic republic!" and that focused mainly on the critique of nationalism, in all its forms.
"The Halabja massacre and all other filthy nationalist actions are the arms of democracy (...) The proletarians and the exploited from Kurdistan, as all the exploited of the world, can only abolish misery by turning their guns against the Kurdish nationalists and by treating them the same way as they have been treating the Baathist State. The bourgeois are our enemy, wherever they may be. So, what can be the difference that the nationalists make between "the external enemy", the "momentaneous enemy", the "main enemy", small or big? (...) The Halabja massacre is the direct result of the law of this class society, as history has proved us a thousand times. As soon as the revolutionary movement fights against Capital and its nationalists, as soon as Capital loses control, the only response by the bourgeoisie will be the massacre of proletarians!
History has given us many examples: Kronstadt and Petrograd in Russia, Dresden in Germany, Sabra and Shatila by Israel and the Arab States, Halabja by the Baathist party... without mentioning all the examples that have been hidden from us.
The official media of the whole world, together with all types of Marxist-Leninist groups, have collected money in the name of the Halabja massacre by spreading their lies about these events. In this job, all their lies have been cautioned by the dogs Talabani (PUK) and Houshiar Zebari (KDP) (...) The nationalist bourgeois have prevented the population of Halabja from leaving the city before the chemical bomb attacks, while letting their own relatives and militants go (...) Capital itself engenders war, misery, illness and repression. The Halabja massacre is the direct product of money and work. This massacre has been perpetuated with the help of the Western countries. They arranged themselves to put all the blame on Saddam Hussein, while putting their horrible pictures in their papers. (...).
Down with the State!
For a classless society!
Towards the victory of the struggle for communism!"
Taking into account the insurrectionary movements that spontaneously shook many Iraqi cities, before, during and especially after the war, one can easily understand why the Coalition powers did not have any interest in completely destroying the Republican Guard, once they were sure about their own victory. If the Coalition army had destroyed the Republican Guard, then it would have been up to them to confront the insurgents and to ensure social peace and this would have implied a very high political and military cost for them. On top of this, none of the other bourgeois factions in Iraq represents a valuable alternative for the main power involved in the Gulf war: the imperialist giant called USA.
Kurdish nationalist autonomy is being considered to be too destabilizing for the whole region, and besides -as soon as the outcome of its military confrontation with Iraq was clear- the Pentagon stopped flirting with the Kurdish nationalist leaders. In the same manner, Washington is considering the establishment of an Iran-like Islamic republic to be dangerous and contradictory with the other imperialist interests in that region. This is why, during the decisive days when the fall of Saddam Hussein seemed most likely, all observers were surprised once more by the support the Coalition powers gave to the Iraqi leader whom only a few days earlier they had called "the new Hitler". For us, this stands as an additional proof for our analysis of Capital, as far as the fragility of inter-imperialist alliances is concerned. For sure, the Coalition would prefer the same Baathist party to maintain law and order in Iraq, but headed by somebody with more credibility than Saddam Hussein.
The war and its perspective
It is the proletariat that constituted the real limit of the war, and above all, the proletariat in Iraq that broke national unity and assumed defeatist struggles. But the limit was also made up by proletarians from other countries who did not participate in the imperialist crusade that Saddam and some others -under the cover of anti-imperialism- had called for. The disequilibrium between imperialist powers was such that it became impossible to continue generalized war.
Nevertheless, from the point of view of the US and of its allies, the whole operation did bring about a positive political and military outcome, especially because of the lack of struggle and of proletarian autonomy against the war. A bourgeois outcome of course, not only in relation to the commercial business of the war (who would still buy Russian tanks today?) but also and especially, because of the national and international mobilization and because of the reconstitution and consolidation of the spirit of the most important military power in the world!
From the latter point of view, the war has reached the capitalist and imperialist objectives that were searched for. However, from the most global point of view, from the point of view of the general need for destruction, which will only serve to open a new phase of reconstruction and expansion, there is no doubt about the fact that the Gulf war was completely inadequate. However lucrative the commercial deals are, the ones that many different factions of Capital contracted during the war and during the period of reconstruction in this area, the destructions caused by the war were very small compared to today's necessities for the destruction of capital.
Capitalism needs war still a lot more. This is why we insist that much on the actual limits of the war, because the tendency for a more generalized war remains acute. And nobody can guarantee that today's limits of this war will also be the limits capable of preventing the generalisation of another war tomorrow. The difference between today's blocs and the lack of adhesion to one of them, cannot be a permanent limit for other wars to come. As a matter of fact, because of the rapidity in the changing of interbourgeois alliances -engendered by the depression and today's crisis- and also because of the experience from this last war that will push the weaker factions of the bourgeoisie into making concession to an even higher degree so as to reinforce their bloc and engage into military actions - one can foresee the coming of more equally balanced polarizations, in terms of military power, that will be much more dangerous for the world proletariat. In the future war, there will not be on one side a giant and on the other side a dwarf, but there will be two opposed giants, and not only in military terms, but also in terms of the power that derives from the different myths about the "causes to defend the nation".
Here we have to mention that the weakness of Saddam Hussein does not exclude the possible coming of much more radical factions that will be capable of raising the banner of "third world" ideology or radical anti-imperialism in a much more coherent manner. These factions would also be capable of giving rise to a popular mobilization of the entire nation for waging war in a much less conventional way and therefore in a much more murderous way in regard to the troops of the main imperialist watchdog. Neither can we discard at all the possibility that there might be a more general decomposition of the stronger bloc in this war and the birth of new polarizations between the main industrial powers, including from within the bossom of each country. We cannot either discard the possibility that the standards of international trade will completely explode, opposing e.g. the bourgeois factions in favour of the complete application of the law of international value to other more protectionist factions. Such a polarization would be the most logical and profound one to develop during the coming years: however, it will only become a material force if it manages to crystallize itself in a discourse capable of mobilizing the masses and of inducing the proletariat to kill and die for the fatherland. Such a polarization will appear with completely different discourses and ideological justifications (we discard the reappearance of the old fascism/anti-fascism form) which, however, are not ripe yet.
Our action against war, for the centralisation of all international forces
We are not creators of parties, nor do we create "Internationals". We start from the existing reality of which our group is also a product. However, by reappropriating the historical program of our class and Party, we try to transform ourselves to become active factors, i.e. organised, disciplined, conscious agents.
The community of struggle against capitalism and war is an objective reality that emerges from the interests of the proletariat in opposition to the interests of Capital, its economy, its wars. With its strength and its weaknesses, the common action of the proletariat forges it as a class, as a unified force. The ICG is an expression of this process and it fights, on the highest possible international level, to centralise this force, so as to build up an international direction according to the interests of the proletariat and the historical program of communism.
We repeat here each one of our calls for revolutionary defeatism and for the organisation of the community of struggle against the war. This is why we advise our readers, who have not read all our publications, to read more in particular the following issues of the French language review "Communisme" (before "Le Communiste"): 7, 25, 27 and 29 in which we have developed a whole series of appeals and propositions. In very concrete terms of activity, our group proposed in all these texts:
the coordination of the internationalist activity together with the whole of organisations and proletarian groups that fight against the war, to turn back our arms against those who send us to war, for revolutionary defeatism.
the organisation of the circulation of information about struggles of this kind, and especially about the Middle East, in view of the very explosive character of the contradiction between war and revolution in this area.
to reinforce and centralise the different networks for the survival of proletarians in struggle, prisoners, fugitives, exiles,...
to circulate the different texts and material in different areas of the world, such as texts about the struggles and other internationalist activities, as well as more historical texts that lay out the never changing perspectives of communism.
Whatever might be the immediate developments of the war situation in this region, the Gulf war has re-actualized the contradiction of always: war or revolution, capitalist civilization or communism, and therefore it has given more validity than ever to our plans and proposals.
During the war itself, we experienced the general weakness of our class in everything we have tried to organise or to encourage. While it was important to take up and circulate different information, while deserters and fugitives, in different places, had to be backed up, or also, in order to assume on a larger level some direct action of propaganda and agitation against the war, we were objectively very isolated, mainly here in Western Europe, since we already mentioned how defeatism in Iraq did allow for more centralised action.
As there do not exist any larger class organs to participate in in order to promote and reinforce revolutionary defeatism, as there do not exist any forms of coordination of proletarian action against the war, we had to limit ourselves, here in Europe, to the organisation of some action of propaganda, and this is how, with our own forces as well as with some of our close contacts, we circulated leaflets and reviews, and we produced and put up posters. For us, communist militants, it is a real tragedy that our class was led to die and to kill, without putting up any massive or significant resistance; it is a real tragedy that - in the hour of truth - when it was necessary to prevent the depparture of troops and assume massive and violent action against the enemy "in our own country", we found ourselves to be alone, we, the comrades of the ICG together with some other militants and close sympathizers, and with a balance of forces that was completely paralysing.
Denying this sad reality, denying the impressive force of counter-revolution today, comes down to being its accomplice! From our point of view, this terrible reality does not discourage us. It confirms the invariant road we are following, the struggle of always, against the stream and far away from all popularity.
Today capitalism is stronger than ever. Nevertheless, it has not been able to avoid depression, crisis, and neither will it be able to avoid complete bankruptcy tomorrow, nor a new merciless commercial war that will finish in a new war altogether. Capital has bypassed partially one imperialist contradiction, but it continues to exacerbate the whole of the general contradictions of its system. Sooner or later, the contradiction WAR or REVOLUTION will polarize once more the entire world. Everything that is being done to diminish or postpone the contradictions, in fact only delays the moment when these contradictions will explode, when they will again come to the forefront of the international scene, but with much more power still!
Sooner or later also, with this new and inevitable explosion, the proletariat that has been so absent as an international autonomous class during the ultimate convulsions, will again stand at the centre of the historical scene, and again the contradictions of capitalist society will fuse in the contradiction between war and revolution, between capitalism and communism.
Revolutionary defeatism in Iraq
In the last chapter, we wrote that as long as comrades in Iraq can manage to get information to us, we intend to continue to centralize information from the region. Since then, we received new information directly from comrades and proletarians, some of them writing from the front line of action. They want to make it understood, as soon as possible, what situation they have been faced with. The new details confirm and reinforce our previous conclusions: proletarian revolutionary defeatism and autonomous struggle against all capitalist factions, including nationalist and islamic factions, was extremely significant.
We have attempted to put the main points down in this chapter. We apologize for the relatively disorganised and sometimes bitty presentation - bear in mind that some of this information was obtained by very indirect means, by communication with comrades and proletarians, some of them in the midst of armed confrontation with the State.
We have already mentioned that significant proletarian struggles against the State had already broken out before the star of the war: food riots, anti-war demos, etc... we have now got further information on the situation and the state of mind of soldiers and proletarians in general, before the allied bombing began.
As a result of the Iran/Iraq war, it is difficult for the State to control the area, particularly the cities. Ten years of war have literally armed the majority of proletarians. The marshlands, for example, have become an area of convergence for deserters and other proletarians. Soldiers who have been fighting for ten years will no longer put up with a system now demanding taxes or a boss or foreman giving orders. Moreover, in glorifying soldiers returning from the battle front (indispensable war propaganda), the State indirectly encouraged insubordination and resistance to its control over daily life. It responded in a confused manner to try to maintain social peace, but was unable to halt disobedience and generalized disorganisation.
In Baghdad itself, before the bombings, everyone was preparing to flee the city and there was a flourishing trade in forged laissez-passer documents, organisation of hide-outs, etc. Everyone had organised their desertion well in advance of the first bomb dropping on the city: privates, but also some officers who had ripped off their stripes and were sometimes the first to leave. The biggest barracks in Baghdad began to empty as the first shells fell and not a single shot was heard in defence of the barracks. There were desertions and officers were executed. Soldiers and other proletarians made up a corps of shock troopers fighting the Baathist forces. During the war, they managed to gain control of two areas of the city: Al Sourah and Al Sho'ela. Within Baghdad, these areas became magnets for further deserters. Hundreds of soldiers from all over the country escaped from the main barracks in Baghdad and went to such supportive districts, whose inhabitants enabled them to return to their homes, by providing them with rest, food and civilian clothes.
As the threat of a new war became more and more real, resistance to it took on various forms - from passive reaction to violent and armed action against army recruiters. A decisive role was again played by the core of armed proletarians, who responded so significantly to the Iran/Iraq war. Before and during the war, they directed resistance against the military at various levels and were now able to transform initial passive resistance (refusal to sign up, to accept superiors' orders, to go to the front - often supported by the family and friends) into conscious military confrontation with recruiters and others supporting the army.
As always, executions of a few officers carried out by the most resolute minority were initially not openly supported by proletarian conscripts. Although they sympathized with this kind of action, state campaigns against defeatism were still maintaining state terrorism. However, they gradually overcame their fear and executions of officers reached massive scales. Soldiers carried out mass lynching of "their own officers" and it got to a stage where the hierarchy required for cohesion of the army no longer existed. Officers were terrified and lost the balance of power. Soldiers did whatever they wanted and the officers were reduced to apologizing and asking forgiveness. They tried to pretend that they were also against the war and had nothing to do with re-mobilization.
The situation within the army became so chaotic that when the Allied military offensive began, officers ripped the stripes off their uniforms for fear of being recognized and executed on the spot by the masses of deserters. To be seen wearing stripes meant suicide.
At various strategic points in the South defeatist units went even further - attacking official party headquarters, ooccupying food warehouses and distributing the food to starving proletarians. They destroyed the secret police headquarters, killing hundreds of policemen. Uprising developed in Basra, Naseriyah and Diwaniyah. Historically, deserters and other proletarians in hiding from the State are concentrated in this area. In previous issues we wrote about military offensive carried out by the Iraqi State on the marshlands a year after the Iran/Iraq war, which resulted in the death of thousands. At that time government figures estimated 10,000 deserters hiding in the area. Now they talk of 1 million, 55,000 of which are armed deserters.
In this part of Iraq, uprisings started as the Allies' land offensive began. The proletarians' situation became increasingly unbearable due to massive bombings of Basra, Ammarah, Naseriyah, Najaf and Karbala. Organised minorities centralized their activities and struggles took place around all these cities. Contrary to everything that has been said about the religious nature of the movement, religion played no part in the proletarians' struggle. Najaf and Karbala are sacred cities for shiites but the uprising had nothing to do with islam, despite what the bourgeois press try to make us believe. Proletarians used sacred sites to hang Baathists. Mausoleums were riddled with bullets and angry proletarians pissed in the mosques. Difficult, therefore, to talk of "religious fanaticism"!
The Allies had reached the gates of Najaf and Karbala at the time of the uprisings there. It is clear that they halted the land offensive to permit the Iraqi Army to carry out an attack on the insurgents.
As the Iraqi Army descended on the cities, chaos ensued and deserters fled in all directions. Some asked for asylum and aid from the Allied troops but were told "we'll give you something to drink if you're thirsty, but only in exchange for your weapons." They were then sent back, unarmed, to the city to be massacred - one example of collaboration between Saddam and the Allies against the uprising.
We have already described how Saddam recalled his troops posted in the North when large units of armed proletarians from the South began to advance towards Baghdad, thus increasing the disorganisation of the State in Kurdistan.
Thousands of militants from various regions converged in the North - Turks from Kirkuk, Iranians who had fled the war and repression at the time in Iran, etc... As cities such as Halabja and Qal'at Dizah had been decimated by Saddam a few years before, they took refuge around Suleimaniya (there were more than 70,000 proletarians organizing themselves into radical groups for self-defence, struggle against state control, against Kurdish or other nationalists). This mixture of proletarians, with varying horizons and experiences, produced a situation in which Kurdish nationalist held very little sway, their usual slogans "Freedom for the Kurdish people" and "Rights for the Kurds" having little effect on the march uprising in Suleimaniya.
In order to counter the large scale uprisings in cities such as Arbil, Kirkuk, Mosul and Suleimaniya... that started with the launching of the land offensive, Saddam signed an agreement for peaceful coexistence with the nationalists. Yalal Talabani; leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Massoud Barsani, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), announced publicly in April and May 1991 that they had reached an agreement with Saddam Hussein. Even more recently, Talabani confirmed that during the war his organisation deliberately avoided taking any action liable to destabilize the State "out of national respect", guaranteeing a mutual respect for territory under the violent monopoly of whichever force. We now know that the "People's Mujahedin" of Iran also took part in these agreements and that their shock troops were used against the proletarian uprising.
In the North, proletarian struggle was outside of and opposed to the official nationalist opposition parties, such as KDP and PUK, from the outset. The internationalist and defeatist proletarian vanguard denounced them as participating in the war.
We now have further information on the context and conditions in which confrontations with the State took place, particularly during the March uprising in Suleimaniya. Before coming on to this, we would like to mention further news we have about a women's demo in Suleimaniya during which 300 women were arrested and later killed. The demo turned violent when a militant woman from Iran tried to take a soldier's gun off him and was shot dead by another soldier on a watchtower. This militant has now become a symbol of proletarian struggle against war and State, a recognized martyr reflecting the image of struggle in Suleimaniya. It is of no consequence to proletarians from Iraq that she was from Iran - what counts is what she did. We have not told this story as an anecdote, but because it expresses the anti-nationalist content of the movement, rising out of a struggle in which proletarians no longer walk in the gutter bourgeois ideology digs to make proletarians confront each other as Iraqis, Iranians, Kurds, shiites...
Despite the media's insistence on the entirely spontaneous nature of the uprising in Suleimaniya, it is now clear that it was the result of intense organisation undertaken by vanguard minorities. Their militant activity was intense in the six months before the uprising. A group called Communist Perspective was formed and their publication, "The Proletarian", was distributed mainly amongst militants. Links between militants had been severely limited over the years due to repression and the memory of recent massacres. Militants organised themselves in secret. When riots broke out during the occupation of Kuwait, comrades from Communist Perspective organized debates with other militant minorities. In the course of analyzing the situation and "what should be done", the Shura ("Shura" means "workers' council" in Persian and Kurdish) movement was born. Initially there were about 300 militants (from both Iran and Iraq) who decided to organize themselves, homogenize their positions, deal with technical and medical problems, commandeer weapons,...
In Suleimaniya, they decided to attack on the 8th of March at 13h00. Groups were formed and given specific targets - barracks, police stations, secret police and information headquarters, the "United Nations Hotel" (a hotel used by the United Nations, but which turned out to be a secret police base), main entrances to the city and surrounding areas to prevent nationalists and journalists from entering,... All proletarians were delighted with this course of action - tensions had been running for the a while and everyone was expecting something to happen. The army could sense the growing hatred and tension and was forecasting that something would blow. Nevertheless, the offensive on Suleimaniya took them by surprise - the city was attacked from all sides simultaneously.
Our comrades have given us specific examples of how the groups of internationalist insurgents were themselves overtaken by proletarian mass action, driven by their class interests and hatred. This occurs in any insurrectional process and is illustrated by events as a few hundred armed revolutionaries advanced into Suleimaniya and were greeted by the masses of proletarians, all carrying weapons. The proletarians' sole objective was to violently impose their own interests on their oppressors and, in order to do so, much to the surprise of the revolutionary insurgents, they had managed to arm themselves not only with light hand guns, but also heavy artillery, and were preparing to use them against the State.
In the course of the attack of the city, more and more proletarians joined the fighting. When the barracks were taken over, arms were distributed to proletarians prepared to fight. They were given orders to attack milk stores (milk had been rationed), prisons and to release prisoners. Anyone in military uniform was massacred on the spot.
The uprising was particularly violent, proletarians taking revenge for the years of massacre and organized state terrorism. They attacked Saddam's secret police force.
After two days of fighting the hide-out of political police fell into the hands of the insurgents. Fighting was very violent as the highly trained soldiers defended the building. Victory was won as increasing numbers of proletarians joined the battle and hundreds of Baathist police hiding in the building were killed.
The occupation of Suleimaniya got underway starting with the reappropriation of machines, secret documents and weapons and this explains the comments of some nationalist leaders reported in western newspapers:
"Disorder benefits none, there are undoubtedly agitators amongst those sowing the seeds of disorder... they are destroying everything, not only attacking and killing members of Saddam's secret police which is understandable but they are also burning all police files and registers of property and civil status... It is clear to us that agitators, Baathists are responsible, because, as you imagine, we will need all this later - every state organisation needs these documents!"
What these bourgeois fail to understand or better put, arose not to admit, is that the aim of the revolt was not to reorganise the state and capital's administration, or to liberate the nation, but like every significant proletarian insurrection, the struggle is against the State itself and aims to attack all of its manifestations - military, police, public buildings, parties and security and property documents.
On hearing that the Baathists had hidden in a park outside the town, proletarians descended on it shouting:
"Long live Shura, abolish the State!"
"We want soviets!"
Slogans supporting "Kurdish autonomy" are practically non-existent. Proletarians organised into militia to prevent Peshmergas (fighters of nationalist organisations) from entering Suleimaniya. It is clear to all the insurgents that the nationalists are working hand in hand with Saddam.
The nationalists went on to Kirkuk to take control of the city. They arrived first, but were closely followed by militants from the Shura, armed to the teeth. In Kirkuk the PUK and KDP are in the majority and with the balance of power in their favour, they fought against the government and the Shura.
The agreement between Saddam and the nationalists to quell the rebellion, includes a proviso that "Arabs" (deserters from the South who took part in the uprisings in the North) be returned to "their own" area.
After the uprisings "Free Kurdish Radio" made daily broadcasts threatening those in possession of arms or Shura leaflets with execution.
A rift developed between Communist Perspective and the Shura, due to disagreements on positions. However we do not have any details of this. The split demobilized and distanced many proletarian sympathizers, although solidarity was maintained between the groups in the face of nationalist repression.
Briefly, the Shura can be described as an internationalist proletarian organisation, opposed to Kurdish or other nationalists. It fights to strengthen the revolutionary movement, not only in Iraq, but throughout the world. It defines capital as a worldwide social relationship which can therefore only be abolished worldwide by a world revolution (9).
After the uprising the movement died down a bit and the Shura went underground again to escape massacre.
The army and the nationalists retook Suleimaniya in mid-April. The alliance between the government and the nationalists was perfect - the nationalists denounce the militants of Shura and give the State all information they have: names, addresses, activities,...
The Shura called for denunciation of nationalists throughout the world. The Kurdish nationalists organised a radio campaign, claiming that they had liberated Kurdistan, that the cities were free thanks to the PUK and KDP and that their example should be followed to clear the city of anarchists, troublemakers, etc.
On the 30th and 31st of May there were more riots in Suleimaniya. Looting was organised and many soldiers gave up their arms out of fear of being massacred. Government and nationalist forces called for reinforcements. Despite their hatred of nationalists, the proletarians did not kill them and the PUK imposed a curfew by shooting at anyone out on the streets after 7pm. In this way, the PUK remained in control of the situation.
Significant proletarian uprisings also took place in Raniyah, Kirkuk and Arbil. Deserters and armed minority groups played an important part. These minorities described their position as being against all bourgeois factions (governmental and nationalist) and were concentrated and trained in the area of Karadakh. Confrontation between nationalists and internationalists was open. Internationalist comrades know that defeat is synonymous with massacre and that nationalist militias act without mercy.
It is an absolute lie that the Allies only bombed military targets and "collateral" civilian targets during the Gulf war. There are two possibilities: either their lies about the Allies' force and technological strength were even greater than we had thought and wrote about in the previous chapter of this text, or military installations were not the targets of the bombings in the first place. We now know, thanks to internationalist comrades in Iraq, that 80% of the bombings were carried out on civilian targets. We also know that Iraqi military installations are practically intact and that chemical weapons and nuclear research centres were left untouched. Baghdad still has the same capacity for producing chemical weapons and building nuclear warheads as before the war.
As for the bloody battles in which Allied "heros" and soldiers of the Republican Guard were engaged, only 5% of the Republican Guard were killed in the war. Proletarian struggle took a far greater toll on the state cracktroops than the whole of the Allied offensive.
As it was to be expected, the maintenance of bourgeois order was much more of a preoccupation and determining factor to the Allies than their conflicts with "damned Saddam". Today (July 1991), the Republican Guards still play essential role in the region. There is no doubt that, over and above their desire to liquidate Saddam, the Pentagon and the most powerful forces of international capitalism in general, consider the Baath party to be a good guarantor for order in the region (this not excluding alliances with nationalist and religious factions - on the contrary). It is clear that the decision not to attack critical sectors of the Republican Guard and to stop the war were motivated by the absolute necessity for a local force capable of guaranteeing social peace. This was illustrated by pictures broadcast by the media, which they themselves considered surreal, showing North American marines protecting soldiers and the Republican Guard from proletarian anger and subversion.
In the same way, fundamentally, humanitarian missions are concentrated efforts to disarm the proletariat. In the camps the U.N. works with the nationalists and nothing is done without their agreement. Food is only given to those who surrender their guns! Nationalists make constant radio appeals in a sometimes threatening, sometimes reassuring tone of voice, calling for wanted militants to give themselves up. They read out their names, say they know where they are hiding and promise them an amnesty and food in exchange for their weapons... "Humanitarian" aid is thus sold to those ready to accept State discipline and submission to order... The Allied forces repay them with a bit of bread and medical attention.
Neither the government, the nationalists, nor the Allied forces managed to control the situation. This is why they had to form an alliance. The government sent several patrols out in every northern city and gave them orders to find proletarians from the South and send them back. But the situation was so tense that soldiers threw down their weapons and expressed their solidarity with the proletarians every time one of them refused to show his identity card.
Out of ignorance - or as a deliberate policy of disinformation - the proletarian rebellion in the North has become identified with Kurdish nationalism and that in the South with Iranian State Islam.
Without underestimating the repressive ideological strength of nationalists and religious forces, we must stress that all struggles described in this article were organised apart from and against them. They never call for struggle against the State and actually constitute some of the state's most reliable defenders.
* 20th April 1991 *
1. These ideologies prevent them from being able to explain the contradictions and the imperialist wars that made in the past the Russian bourgeois State oppose the Chinese State, and the latter oppose the Vietnamese State, or this one oppose Cambodia...! And instead of understanding these contradictions as being part of the general imperialist contradictions in the struggle for the raw material, for markets, for good deals,... they give us this wishy-washy soup in which the determinants are analyzed from the point of view of the ideologies of the different bourgeois dictators (heirs of Stalin against heirs of Mao, the latter ones against Ho Shi Min's, these against Pol Pot's,...). The materialist explanation of opposed economical interests is substituted for this ideological soup, as if there had ever been in history one war that might have been explained on the basis of the ideas of its protagonists!!!
2. It may seem incredible from the Marxist point of view but there has been a lot of simple-minded persons to consider these divisions stable and fixed once and for ever and to materialize this belief in the programme of their organisations. A centrist organisation like the ICC for instance, does not only consider state capitalism as a new characteristic "dominating the social life" in "the phase of decadence", of which the example of the so-called socialist countries is the best demonstration; the ICC does not only accept the bourgeois ideological division between developed and under-developed countries, but has also fixed these divisions in its platform for years and not only do they talk about three worlds like all the politicians, but also claim to be able to explain all the contradictions and the imperialist wars thanks to the famous question of the blocks (just like the bourgeois press does). Therefore, it is quite easy to understand why, just like the bourgeoisie and its politicians, who spend their time talking about the collapse of communism, the ICC spends its time explaining the collapse of the blocks. While, in fact, what it should try to explain is the collapse of its view of the world.
3. Only a short time before the launching of the land offensive, a military analysist of the Salomon Brothers Company declared: "The whole of the military industrial sector is making profits... while only a very small part of the defensive potentials that have been moved into the Gulf area have gone into action... when the exhibition on television will start, showing the tanks, all the land equipment, the Marines with their material, then the values of the producing companies will undoubtedly rise on the stock exchange market."
4. See "1984... 1985... 87... 89... pire que prévu - La citoyennisation de la vie" in "Le Communiste" No.27.
5. It is obvious that we absolutely do not deny that parties and unions, as real apparatus of the capitalist State, continue to have a fundamental role to dominate the proletariat and to ensure capital's capacity to send them to war. We simply want to stress the fact that they are no longer (as this was the case for instance at the end of last century and until the second world war in some countries, or even until recently in some other countries still) at the center of the "collective" life of the worker, a center for discussion, for meeting, i.e. a reference in regard to the relations with the outside world. Today, nearly everywhere, because of the particular form of counterrevolution, this fiction of "collectivity" does not exist any longer and proletarians have been individualised up to a point never known before!
6. It is obvious that all ideological construction bases itself on reality and on the deformation of that reality. In this case, reality means that for Capital, and therefore for all imperialist sides, nature is only of little importance (because for all of them, only the law of capital exists as an immutable law, i.e. the law of the highest rate of profit that dominates the whole environment). And that's why poor mother nature becomes always -in wartime as well as in times of peace -- more degraded, be it in the middle of huge industrial areas, or in the middle of the always growing desert.
7. As for any other kind of sale of the commodity "workforce", the free decision is determined by the freedom to face starvation; in this particular case, by the alternative: to go to war or to starve! In the United States, since the misery of the lower strata of the proletariat is so violent and since the possibilities to find a job are nearly inexistent, the only way to survive is to join the army! This reality affects more particularly blacks, Portoricans, and also the "sans réserves" of Mexican, Central-American... origins, and that is why there is a much higher proportion of these fractions of the proletariat in the army than there is in the civil population. But in spite of this, in spite of the contradictions that derive from this and in spite of the enormous possibilities for revolt that exist in this army, it is sure that the coherence of any military body is much superior when this body is composed of wage-labourers rather than when it has been composed through forced conscription (as all major wars in history have shown us!).
8. In the beginning, when this city was conquered by part of the Iraqi army, North American television talked about a "mosquito bite on an elephant skin"; but the next day, after the Coalition forces had reconquered the city, the battle all of a sudden became "an important military victory for the Coalition!"
9. This is a description of what Al Shura was initially. However, a widespread "Shura movement" developed with about 54 shuras (workers' councils) in Suleimaniya, some pro-C.P., some marxist-leninist and some along the lines of the original Al Shura and Communist Perspective.