Iraq: analysis must be our starting point (A reply to Dan Randall)

Submitted by martin on 20 July, 2007 - 2:46 Author: Paul Hampton

The main problem with Dan Randall's article (Questions and answers on Iraq) (Solidarity 3/144) is methodological. Dan says: our starting point is not, therefore, “who is currently the strongest force in Iraq?” or even “what would happen (or probably happen, or certainly happen) if the troops left?” Our starting point is “what will build the third camp?”


Submitted by lost tango on Fri, 20/07/2007 - 19:17 that this article too is mostly conjecture. You say "..the consequences of the troops scuttling would be the break up of Iraq, the opposite of self determination and the crushing of the workers movement in most areas". While this seems one plausible outcome, no evidence is produced to support it. The simple fact is that none of us know what would happen if the coalition troops withdrew.

Even if it did lead to the breakup of Iraq, is that necessarily something the left should concern itself with? As far as I'm aware the AWL has supported the proposal for Kurdish self-determination for many years. Why now the concern for a united Iraq? Sometimes partition IS self-determination.

Finally, if the Iraqi workers movement is actually calling for Troops Out Now as you say, shouldn't the AWL be supporting that rather than equivocating? It seems a bit odd to support the workers' movement but ignore its opinion on the occupation.

Submitted by Clive on Fri, 20/07/2007 - 22:18

The issue, surely, isn't the break-up of Iraq in the abstract (about which, on one level, who cares?) but a bloody, sectarian civil war resulting in break up - with 'ethnic' (and religious) cleansing, and so on. Sure, if it's just a matter of the peaceable separation of the Kurdish north, that would be fine. But that's not what's at issue.

Of course it's conjecture, in the sense that nobody has a crystal ball. But I think it is by far the most likely immediate scenario - already underway, and likely to be exacerbated by sudden withdrawal, ie, the collapse of the existing (bad, and unsustainable) state. I don't think it's beholden on the AWL to give chapter and verse for this scenario: it's the one generally accepted by most commentators, and that general assessment can, at least to some extent, be taken for granted.

I think it *is* beholden, though, on those who dispute it to give some convincing account of why they do so. And by convincing I mean: you can say up to a certain degree of certainty that there will *not* be sectarian civil war.

I don't think the opinion of the Iraqi workers' movement is as unanimous and unambiguous as you suggest - not enough to just say 'this is their view, and all we can do is support it.'

Submitted by Tim on Sun, 22/07/2007 - 15:44

In reply to by Clive

The only two on this thread and others opposing the inclusion of "troops out" as a slogan are Paul and Clive and now even those seem at odds.
Clive says to the pro-troops out inclusionists "I don't think the opinion of the Iraqi workers' movement is as unanimous and unambiguous as you suggest" and yet it is Paul who says "it is a matter of fact that all sections of the Iraqi labour movement already use slogans against the occupation"-who is right?
Paul's argument consists of opposing claims that the inclusionists do not make-such as that the inclusion of the slogan will miracously transform the workers' movement into the dominant force in Iraq. What IS suggested is that it makes the argument clearer-the tool will become sharper not an all dancing cure all!
So we are left with the central argument that the pro troops out position must prove there wil not be a sectarian civil war. That people working,campaigning,agitating and struggling in Iraq who have to face the lethal consequences of a sectarian civil war have not given this great consideration is frankly ridiculous. We are not talking about people who have no access to information here-we are talking about people who can access the same newspapers,exile groups and internet that Paul and Clive use and also have their experience of the reality on the ground and that they and their families will face consequences rather more severe than an internet discussion. When I have spoken to activists who have returned from Iraq and ask them why they don't take more part in discusions about slogans etc here they say that in Iraq there is lively debate and people can be persuaded to change because the persuasion of an argument that could improve things ,or even save their lives, is compelling whereas in the UK leftists take positions and won't change because it is too often an academic exercise.I fear watching this debate unfold that that will be the case-but it would be nice to be proved wrong.For an example of union leaders arguing why they argue for solidarity with workers' movement AND troops out see Iraqi Union Leaders Call for an End to the Occupation
By David Bacon
TAP talks to Faleh Abood Umara, general secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, and Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein, president of the Electrical Workers Union of Iraq.
The American Prospect online, July 6, 2007
Tim Cooper

Submitted by USRed on Sat, 21/07/2007 - 15:39

Recommended reading:

Submitted by USRed on Sun, 22/07/2007 - 15:54

If this isn't enough to demand "troops out now"...

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Political Islam, Christian Fundamentalism and the Left Today

Submitted by Anon on 20 July, 2007 - 12:54 Author: Sean Matgamna

In many countries, religion and disputes about, or expressed in terms of, religion have long been central to political life — in Christian Spain, Portugal, Ireland, or the USA; in Muslim Iran or Algeria; in Lebanon; in Israel-Palestine. Today, since Islamist terrorists attacked New York on 11 September 2001, religion, or concerns and interests expressed in religion, are at the centre of international politics to a degree without parallel for hundreds of years.

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Workers are organising in Venezuela — the question now is: with what politics?

Submitted by PaulHampton on Fri, 20/07/2007 - 00:24

There are signs of a revival in worker organising in Venezuela, but it is not clear whether it will be independent of Chávez.

Last week a “unification commission” of the two major factions within the UNT union federation met to organise elections for the leadership, which are long overdue. Leaders of the pro-Chávez Colectivo de Trabajadores en Revolución (CTR) and the more independent Corriente Clasista Unitaria Revolucionaria y Autónoma (CCURA) said they want to organise elections later this year.

Free Mansour Ossanlou! + Interview

Submitted by PaulHampton on Thu, 19/07/2007 - 14:25

Mansour Ossanloo, the president of the Iranian independent bus workers’ union was kidnapped by plain clothes police on Tuesday 10 July and taken to the notorious Evin prison.

Ossanloo was stopped while he was returning home by a public transit bus in Tehran. According to Iranian workers’ sources, a Peugeot car stopped the bus and unidentified plain clothes agents attacked him - beating him severely while telling people that he was a thief! Ossanloo tried to identify himself as the president of the union for the witnesses in order to get help but the agents stopped him.

The Mind of Political Islam and the New Al Qaeda Threat of Mass Murder:

Submitted by sm on 17 July, 2007 - 12:59

By John O'Mahony
The Al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahri has (July 10th) threatened Prime Minister Gordon Brown with mass murder in Britain, in retaliation for the award of a knighthood to Salman Rushdie. The knighthood, al-Zawahri said, was an "insult" to Muslims. This once more expresses, and in its most brutish and blood-thirsty form, the paradoid intolerance that governs political Islam.

We analysed the "moderate" version of this mindset, in this comment on the outcry that immediately greeted the award of the knighthood.


Submitted by Daniel_Randall on Tue, 26/06/2007 - 16:08

"I'm inclined to congratulate those, whoever they are, who decided to give [the knighthood] to him, despite the predictable outcry from the bigots who would rather see him dead than "honoured"."


Do you think they knighted Rushdie to strike a blow for secularism against religious bigotry? That the scurrying bureaucratic staff of the Queen - "the defender of the faith" - are making their own protest against the forwards march of organised religion?

Of course not. You may recall that Iqbal "homosexuality is a disease" Sacranie (ex-leader of the MCB) is also a "Sir". You don't have to line up behind the institution of knighthood to be clear about what's going on here. In fact, doing so somewhat muddies the waters.

Submitted by lost tango on Fri, 29/06/2007 - 15:03 quite obvious that Rushdie is being honoured for being a successful and acclaimed writer - as with Sir Arnold Wesker, Sir Arthur C Clarke, Sir Michael Holroyd and others.

Religion doesn't really enter into the decision to grant him a knighthood. However, as Sean says, this insane outcry was predictable, and in this respect we should certainly support those who were prepared to risk it.

Honours of this sort don't I think come from the Palace but from the PM's office and while Blair (with his love of faith schools including Islamic ones) is hardly anti-religious, the decision to defy the clamour of religious bigots IS clearly a stand in favour of secularism. I think Sean gets it exactly right.

Incidentally, it's a long time since I read The Satanic Verses, but I'm not convinced it does attack Mohammed. As I recall it suggests that certain verses were excluded from the Koran because they were considered unsuitably feministic. It's probably less blasphemous than The Da Vinci Code or The Last Temptation of Christ.

Submitted by lost tango on Tue, 03/07/2007 - 16:02

...the idea that freedom of speech and democracy are "western" values is not the property of the AWL, or even of "the West". You will find that the Islamists share this view, and in fact appear to have come up with it first. You should read their actual writings before making cosy assumptions about what they represent.

Liberal democracy and the AWL's kind of socialism have in common that at some level they hold that the will of the people is the highest law. Islamism holds that the word of God (as expressed in the Koran) is the highest law. (And since God is not available to submit to, people are required to submit to the Islamists).

To the extent that Marxism is a western system of thought, Marxists certainly do unashamedly privilege "western" ideas, but then the test of the validity of an idea is hardly its geographical provenance.

I have no idea who this "frantz" is, but if s/he was ever a marxist or a socialist s/he clearly ain't any more. But then fuzzy multiculturalism and/or sloganising anti-'westernism' is so much more sexy these days...

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What is Wrong with “One Solution, Revolution!”?

Submitted by Anon on 16 July, 2007 - 11:52

by Albert Glotzer
Many of the core activists of today’s left had their thinking shaped by the dramatic struggles of 1979-84, or of the late 1960s and early 70s — times when capitalism seemed to be in intractable crisis, and mass working-class action to change society was a prospect near at hand.

Adjusting to the huge expansion of capitalism since the 1980s, and the ebb of labour movements (a temporary ebb, but a long temporary ebb) is difficult.

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40 years after the Sexual Offences Act

Submitted by cathy n on 13 July, 2007 - 3:07

By Tom Unterrainer

“Frankly it's an extremely unpleasant Bill and I myself don't like it. It may well be twenty years ahead of public opinion; certainly working-class people in the north jeer at their Members at the weekend and ask them why they're looking after the buggers at Westminster instead of looking after the unemployed at home. It has gone down very badly that the Labour Party should be associated with such a Bill.”
Richard Crossman, 3rd July 1967, The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister, Volume 2

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Marxists and the green challenge

Submitted by Anon on 10 July, 2007 - 12:23

Paul Hampton reviews 2006, Marxism and Ecological Economics by Paul Burkett (Amsterdam: Brill)

The conventional wisdom among Greens is that, so far as environmental struggles go, the organised labour movement is only occasionally an ally and often an opponent. Most ecologists dismiss Marxism as having little to offer today’s environmental concerns such as climate change.

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Campaign to save union voice in Labour Party to be launched

Submitted by martin on 9 July, 2007 - 10:47

A meeting to "launch the campaign to save Labour Party conference democracy" has been set for 11 September.

It will be a fringe meeting at the TUC congress.

The initiative is welcome. But worryingly late as a response to Gordon Brown's drastic plans.

A comprehensive briefing on and response to the plans can be found on this website.

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Defend Malalai Joya!

Submitted by Anon on 9 July, 2007 - 9:18

By Amina Saddiq

AT 28, Malalai Joya is Afghanistan’s youngest member of parliament, one of only a handful of women MPs. And Joya is a consistent fighter for women and girls.

She has taught literacy classes and ran an orphanage and health clinic. She has spoken out against the continuing dominance of the warlords, religious fanatics and drug traffickers in Afghanistan’s stitched up and botched together post-Taliban parliament.

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