By Martyn Hudson
The toppling of Saddam's regime by coalition troops has led to some interesting political debates on the left. One of the most intriguing was Ian Donovan's response to AWL criticism of the CPGB/Weekly Worker "victory to Saddam Hussein for the gutless" take on the war.
For arguing that Weekly Worker's "Victory to the people of Iraq; defeat for US/UK imperialism" headline basically amounted to the same line as that of the perennially foolish "anti-imperialists" Workers' Power, the AWL is lambasted as racists: "For the AWL, the Arab people of Iraq only have the right to resist the conquest of their homeland when they first establish a democratic regime. Otherwise, they had better learn to like the coalition jackboot." And laughably, "It is quite obvious that the AWL doesn't really like Arabs very much, and does not regard them as having much in the way of national rights," (Weekly Worker April 10).
This is because we stood for consistent third camp politics - against the invading forces and against the brutal Saddam Hussein regime and for the working peoples of Iraq.
To say that, because we support the Arab and Kurdish peoples of Iraq against their torturers and murderers, we are racist against Arabs is both libellous and ludicrous. And in what sense did the Saddam regime defend the national rights of the Iraqi people rather than their own survival as a semi-fascist caste?
While we stood both against the war and against Saddam, it is clearly true that the post-Saddam regime opens up a series of possibilities - a constituent assembly, the emergence of workers' parties of one sort or another, the development of trade unions and the free expression of the Iraqi working class (some jackboot).
It will also allow a clearer assessment of class forces on the ground and an empirical assessment of both political consciousness and any surviving remnants of oppositional forces. Of course the post-Saddam era also holds the potential for new violence against the peoples of Kurdistan, and attempts to destroy their autonomy - as well as of the re-emergence of the militarism of the PKK. There is also the possibility that the military victory of the coalition could in the long run lead to its political defeat at the hands of the Iraqi working class. The assessment of those forces and the molecular rebuilding of the workers' movement demands of us consistent principles of solidarity.
What the CPGB/Weekly Worker were offering in the guise of military defeat for the coalition (using the correct slogan that the main enemy is at home) may have led to the undermining of the British ruling class and it may not have done. It was unpredictable and may have led to other political outcomes not necessarily conducive to the health of the left in this country. We do know, but for certain an outcome such as that desired by the CPGB would definitely have left the peoples of Iraq in serious trouble at the hands of the regime. But still, as Jack Conrad clearly pointed out in last weeks Weekly Worker, defeat for Iraq was "inevitable" (Weekly Worker April 10). So why even bother with the formula of "Defeat for US/UK" in the first place?
Clearly the CPGBs "revolutionary defeatism" was an opportunist blip to recruit along the lines of the SWP but of course, objectively it means de facto advocacy of victory for the Ba'athists. And we shall see in due course whether the second People's Assembly becomes the proto-soviet formation the CPGB/WW seems to think it is
Perhaps more interesting was the introduction of the concept of the New American Century into Weekly Worker discourse last week. Jack Conrad argued that the shift from the bipolar USA/USSR world to a unipolar world civilisation has led to the emergence of a neo-conservative ideology based around the ideas of Rumsfeld, Fukuyama and others. Without referring to the flawed, neo-Hegelian dialectic which is the basis of this project, Conrad postulated a new "ruling ideology and operative practice" of the Wolfowitz draft - which is that the USA as a unipolar civilisation must deter any country or regime destined for a regional or global role which can challenge unipolarity.
The Wolfowitz draft also clearly noted that the USA must address instability anywhere across the globe as if it were next door. The problem with Conrad's article is that it equates the project's idea of itself with global capitalism as it exists in reality. World-historic forces are often refracted through individuals, but the Project for a New American Century and its programme are expressions not of global capitalism but of one important national component - American foreign policy strategists. To conflate makes it easier to buy into the anti-Americanisms of the global "anti-capitalist milieu" and support all kinds of reactionary movements which oppose US foreign policy without being necessarily pro-working class.
In any case, yes, rather defeat for the New American Century than victory. Yet it is clear that defeat for the coalition forces would have made that larger defeat look less likely in the long run - particularly from the standpoint of the working peoples of Iraq.