Nadia Mahmood of the Worker-communist Party of Iraq spoke to Martin Thomas about a split within her organisation.
Nadia: The resignation of our comrades Muayad Ahmed and Yanar Mohammad was announced after the central committee’s decision to take away Falah Alwan’s membership of the party.
MT: There must have been some political issues behind it, like the referendum?
Nadia: We always have different political views in our party. We always take decisions based on votes. That is basic. As regards the referendum, we had our differences but we set them out. So it wasn’t an issue. And the referendum had been finished for months. There wasn’t a split then.
We debated the referendum question and Muayad Ahmad’s view was the dominant view on the political bureau. He opposed the referendum, other members of the PB defended it. However, a press release was written by Muayad Ahmad, it didn’t say clearly whether we agreed or disagreed, it was left open. The party made a very vague statement on the referendum, the press release said the referendum vote was the right thing for the people. So the referendum was not the issue. However, that was in September 2017.
In May 2018, what happened was not to do with the referendum. The thing is that Alwan is 80% of the reason for our comrades to leave. But they brought the issue of “political differences” up as a reason for their resignation, as they feel it is not enough to say “this is because of Falah Alwan”. It’s not about different political views. We will always have different political views and settle them with votes.” If there were different political views, there would be articles and debates. In our 33rd Central Committee’s meeting, we all agreed upon our political resolution including Muayad and Yanar. But once the central committee discussed and announced their descion about Falah, they resigned, from the Central Committee, in a CC meeting and then they resigned from the party altogether.
Falah was a big issue. Later they declared that they wanted to leave the party altogether and set up a new political organisation. They have started doing this. They now say that they have different political views. Why didn’t they say so before? He was secretary of the party for 6 years. And we were about to elect him again. From where did these differences come?
MT: Could it be that there are political differences which are present, but not expressed clearly?
Nadia: I think that Muayad and [indistinct] weren’t happy about the discipline in the organisation of the party. [That is] when we started our reorganisation of the party following the CC 32nd meeting, and a new phase of our political work, to act as a united party regulated by our agreed rules and principles. Yanar, Falah and Muayad and [indistinct] were not happy about this. They said that if we re-organised the party we would destroy it. And the reality was we did not have strong organisation, no-one knows the full size of our organisation, and the kind of activity they do was unclear.
While the main thing was that some members work as paid staff for the Organisation for Womens’ Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), or they are surrounded by Falah’s organisation, the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI), very limited work has been done for the party itself. We don’t know exactly who is a member and who is not. The members and in particular the new ones were confused and mistook OWFI’s work or the FWCUI work with the party’s work. The party’s work is let down.
We have to assert that OWFI work is not party work. Party cells have to meet. But OWFI workers would not attend separate party cell meetings or do party work.
The party at the organisational level became divided: those who implement our party plan for organising members in cells; and those who advocated not doing this and work instead for OWFI and the FWCUI. A majority of the Central Committee voted to exclude Falah. He will have the chance to come back before Congress to correct this. But he did not accept that.
MT: What are the party’s main plans for activity now? What are the things you plan to do in the next months?
Nadia: We are guided by our CC meeting’s political resolution that society has suffered economically and politically and we have to organise our working class and those who believe in the neccessity of changing the current political situation.
We believe the post war political arrangement based on power sharing should be ended. Of course our ultimate aim as communists is to establish a socialist state. Towards this end, the most important thing is that we have our members organised in their districts and their places of work to influence, organise their soundings. To organise protests in their areas for electricity, jobs, services. Also to have our members organise protests in their work; organise and build networks with people sharing the demand of political change, political freedoms, end militias, end sectarianism in Iraq.
We opposed the fake “ political representation” that was introduced through the current parliamentary elections, which proved to be completely corrupt.
To achieve all this, we always followed the formula, Propaganda, Agitation and Organisation. Thus, in every aspect, whether political, social we work to have our members reach out and make propaganda for our ideas: for example, about workers’ councils, and attract the workers to our party. Attract them to our ideas, through our newspaper, meetings, educational sessions for the members and non-members.
So, our plan is to work with the working class, this is the first thing. The second thing is working with youth. The latter suffered a lot from lack of jobs and unemployment or under employment. There are always threats on their life if they act politically. There are even attacks on their personal freedoms. Now, we can see that there are tendencies within the youth in Iraq towards Marxism.
Young people are so upset with Islamic parties that some are attracted to our party. In the last election, the Iraqi Communist Party allied with Sadr. So some young people were very angry with the Iraqi Communist Party and came to join our party. So we have to educate young people in Marxism, and work with the youth.
Of course we want to reach out for women, but this seems more difficult as women are mainly the first victims of the economic and political situation.
Learning from difficulties
We plan to follow this interview by one covering the same sort of issues with Muayad Ahmed, also a worker-communist activist in Iraq.
Workers’ Liberty has worked with the Worker-communist Parties of Iraq and of Kurdistan for many years, though always with political debates and differences between us.
In May 2018, however, Muayad Ahmed, secretary of the Central Committee of the WCPI for many years, Yanar Mohammed, leader of the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, and others, resigned from the WCPI. The division is public — on Facebook, in Arabic, at least — but its consequences are unclear to us.
The immediate occasion was the Central Committee’s decision to expel Falah Alwan from the WCPI. Falah Alwan is the leader of the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions of Iraq. We met him when he visited Britain in 2005, and have spoken with him by phone many times to get reports of workers’ struggles in Iraq.
The background to the expulsion was anger against a public article written by Falah Alwan in 2017 denouncing Rebwar Ahmed and other WCPI leaders in vehement terms over their support for the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan held in September 2017.
The referendum was called by Kurdish president Masoud Barzani in June 2017, after Kurdish victories against Daesh which for a while established Kurdish control over some territories which before Daesh had been governed as part of Arab Iraq.
The referendum returned a huge majority for independence, but Baghdad, with Iranian backing, responded by a military operation to retake control of Kirkuk and other areas. Barzani backed down, "froze" the referendum result, and subsequently resigned.
At the time we, AWL, criticised the approach of the WCPI and the Worker-communist Party of Kurdistan to the referendum as not posing the issues in working-class internationalist (or realistic) terms (bit.ly/wcpi-letter).
There have been other contentious issues. The WCPI committee has supported a breakaway union federation alongside the FWCUI. There are differences over the precise attitude to take to the Iraqi government reconquest of Mosul. Muayad Ahmed, with hindsight, is critical of the WCPI’s "Iraqi Freedom Congress" formed in 2005.
Some say that an underlying issue is the tension between organising WCPI party work, and the pull of activity with FWCUI and in the OWFI. OWFI, unlike the WCPI, has some funding, some paid employees: it runs a number of women’s shelters, and had its deputy director, Jannat Al Ghezi, given an International Women of Courage Award in 2017 by Melania Trump on behalf of the US State Department.
Neither side names any of these differences as the decisive issue in the split, and we can’t judge from a distance.
We will continue to discuss with comrades on both sides, and to try to clarify and learn from the political difficulties.