Letter on Iraq - No War But The Class War

Internationalist response to an article in the Merseyside Anarchist Newsletter, which implied support for an Iraqi victory in the Gulf War

On 2nd September, Hackney Solidarity Group called a meeting in London to discuss a revolutionary response to the Gulf crisis. As well as the HSG, people from Class War, Anarchist Communist Federation, Direct Action Movement, Wildcat and various individual class struggle anarchists and anti-state communists all attended. The Anarchist Workers Group also turned up and argued that we should take sides and support Iraq in the conflict. This view was unanimously rejected and it was decided instead to set up a group on the basis of "No War but Class War".

The front cover of Merseyside Anarchist no.20 - "Class War not Gulf War" - suggested a similar position, but the article inside contradicted this. Despite arguing against supporting Ssddmm Hussein, it stated that "it's in all our interests for the West to lose". Since one side can't lose without the other winning, wanting the West to lose has to mean hoping for an Iraqi military victory.

When a country wins an inter-capitalist war it is always at the expense of the working class. This is because to win the victorious side has to be best at:

  1. destroying or at least seriously defeating enemy military forces, i.e. killing working class soldiers.
  2. destroying enemy communications and industry, usually through bombing. This always involves massive working class casualties, as it is mainly working class people who work in, or live near to, such targets.
  3. crushing working class resistance to the war effort at home.

Supporting a defeat for the West isn't like wanting Cameroon to beat England in the World Cup. The West will only lose in the unlikely event of it being less successful at massacreing proles then Iraq is.

Of course not supporting Iraq doesn't mean supporting the US and its allies. But the removal of Western forces from the Gulf has to be through internationalist working class action, not through the action of the Iraqi state's armed forces. Nor is it pacifist to refuse to take sides- revolutionaries call for class war, with the working class of all countries turning its weapons against our rulers in a social revolution.

Instead of arguing that the working clams has no country, the author of "Yankee go home" seems to think that some countries have no working class: "you can't apply strict class definitions to all arab countries- some of them haven't even finished their industrial revolutions yet" . This is a eurocentric approach, i.e. it looks at class relations worldwide solely in terms of the european experience of industrialisation. You don't have to be a an industrial worker to be working class. In all arab countries and everywhere else there is a clear class division betseen a wealthy ruling class on the one hand and the dispossessed class on the other, made up of factory workers and the unemployed, landless ax-peasants, prisoners, etc.

In any case the industrial working class in the region has a long history of struggle of which the author seems ignorant. For instance in the years 1946-47 there were major strikes by railway, port and oilfield workers in Iraq, resulting in the massacre of strikers. Only a month before the Iraqi invasion, oil workers went on strike in Kuwait for a 6.4% pay rise.

Talk of a working class perspective on the Gulf crisis is also dismissed on the basis that the Arab working class is divided, some supporting 'their' governments, some suppoiting foriegn governments. This is like saying that we can't talk of a working class revolution in Britain because some vote Tory and some Labour. What counts is not what particular groups of working class people think at any one time, but what the interests of the class as a whole are- interests that are broadly the same right across the world. This is not "snappy sloganeering" but a basic principle.

"No War but Class War" has produced leaflets, a banner for demos ("No War but Class War - neither Washington nor Baghdad") and picketed BP headquarters to demonstrate the link between oil profits and war. It would be good if people formed similar groups around the country. Perhaps all those interested could get together at the anarchist bookfsir, including hopefully those of you in Liverpool with similar views to "No War but Class War".

Neil (South London)

This letter was written by a member of No War but the Class War in response to an article, 'Yankee Go Home', published in Merseyside Anarchist Newsletter. The letter was published in Merseyside Anarchist Newsletter Number 21, October 1990.

Taken from the Practical History website.