Thursday, June 8, 2023

Review A People’s History Of Iraq, The Iraqi Communist Party, Workers’ Movements, and the Left 1924-2004

Salucci, Ilario, A People’s History Of Iraq, The Iraqi Communist Party, Workers’ Movements, and the Left 1924-2004, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005


Ilario Salucci wrote a very short and concise history of the Communists in Iraq. The Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) used to be the largest in the country, leading protests and being one of the main opposition groups. However it consistently undermined itself following Soviet doctrine and policy. The author documents how the Communists constantly subordinated themselves to other groups believing that a nationalist bourgeoise and capitalism had to develop before socialism could be established. The party therefore faced defeat after defeat at its own hands.


The ICP had a long history in Iraq. In the 1920s various small Leftist groups were formed mostly from students who’d gone abroad to study and learned about socialism and communism. In the 1930s the Communist Party was founded. In 1935 it issued its party platform calling for the end of British imperialism, Kurdish independence, cultural rights for minorities, distributing land to peasants, end of all debts and land mortgages, and power to the workers and peasants. The party went on to lead strikes and protests throughout the following decades earning it the ire of various governments that arrested its followers and executed its leaders. At its peak the ICP had several thousand members and was the largest party in the country. That’s because it was one of the only to try to organize amongst workers, peasants and students and condemned the British who created Iraq and maintained influence over the country and the landed elite who ran a semi-feudal economic system.


Salucci brings up how the ICP constantly undermined itself leading to its near total destruction several times. This was due to Soviet ideology and dictates. The USSR told Communist parties they needed to support a nationalist bourgeoise who would lead their countries away from imperialist control and establish capitalism before Communists could take power and build socialism. This led the ICP to back General Abdul al-Karim Qasim who took power in a coup in 1958, Colonel Abdul Salam Arif who seized the state in a coup in 1963 and the Baath Party after its 1968 coup. All of them ended up arresting and executing party members. Aligning with the Baath was the most glaring as it had killed thousands of Communists after the 1963 coup. The ICP also joined a national front with the Baath and disbanded all its own organizations which left it powerless when the inevitable crackdown came. Not only that but during World War II Moscow ordered its affiliates to back the Allies which meant the ICP went from attacking British imperialism to now supporting it which cost it followers. The fact that the Iraqi bourgeois was always a miniscule group incapable of leading the country never led the party to veer from its stance because it was committed to following the USSR. The result was the ICP made alliances with parties that were diametrically opposed to it and almost wiped out the party several times.


The Iraqi Communist Party attracted thousands of followers and helped organize some of the largest protests in Iraq during the monarchy. It was unable to bring about any lasting changes because of its subordination to the USSR. Moscow’s policies led the ICP to commit political suicide as the author puts it by joining with three autocracies. If one wants a short introduction to this history then A People’s History Of Iraq, The Iraqi Communist Party, Workers’ Movements, and the Left 1924-2004 would be a fine place to start. It packs a lot of information into a very short tome.


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