What Is Socialism, and Why We Oppose The Invasion of Iraq
By Steve Argue
Capitalism is a system of legalized exploitation, discrimination, war, oppression, and environmental degradation. In this capitalist world enough food is produced but people go hungry. We work if we are lucky, but the riches produced by our labor go into the pockets of the wealthy. Yet it is the working class youth that are sent to go fight and die so that U.S. oil monopolies can get direct control of 84 billion dollars worth of oil under the Iraqi sand. Meanwhile those same capitalists use their control of the government and the economy to keep the U.S. economy dependent on detrimental fossil fuels. In doing so the capitalists have brought on global warming, an environmental and human catastrophe that has only just begun.
Capitalism is guilty of many crimes, from the murder of 3 million Vietnamese with the U.S. war in Vietnam, to hunger, as well as the degradation of the planet itself. For many of us who recognize capitalism is the problem we see socialism as the solution, but what is socialism?
As I see it there are four main currents of socialist thought. There are those who are of the social democratic type who usually reject socialist revolution as impossible or counter-productive. Instead their leaders use toned down socialist rhetoric to fool workers and other progressive minded people into supporting them while the leaders get cushy jobs in the unions or capitalist government offices. In these offices they promote an agenda of class collaboration, masking the fact that they are betraying the interests of the working class with false arguments about the common interests of workers and exploiters and arguments about what the situation is rather than struggling for what the situation should be. Examples of these types of “socialists” are Prime Minister Schroeder in Germany, Former President Francois Mitterrand in France, and Mike Rotkin on the Santa Cruz California City Council.
The second kind of socialists are those who are uncritically inspired by the real gains of the socialist revolutions that created the Soviet Union, the Peoples Republic of China, and the revolution in Cuba that ended the U.S. backed Batista dictatorship. They point to how these revolutions freed their countries from foreign imperialist control; defeated Nazi Germany; eliminated barbaric practices such as the foot binding of women in China and racial segregation in Cuba; and overturned the capitalist system of exploitation making sure that everyone had work, housing, was fed, had healthcare, and free education. Yet these socialists (or communists as they are often called) often ignore the inequalities and repression faced by the working class from a privileged ruling bureaucracy that are real components of these systems.
The third type of socialist completely rejects both the pro-capitalist social democrats and the dictatorial communists and argues that the socialism they struggle for has nothing in common with either. In this respect part of their philosophy is very similar to that of the anarchists. It is a philosophy that is easily understood, but over-simplifies more complex realities.
There is a fourth type of socialist that I represent here. We recognize the gains made by the Soviet people in overthrowing the Czar and later smashing Hitler, but we do not forget the crimes of Stalin. Likewise we recognize the fundamental flaw made in that “communist” model in every subsequent socialist revolution since. That fundamental flaw is the lack of real workers democracy. To counter this flaw we struggle for socialism on a different model, socialism without capitalism yes, but also socialism with democracy.
For many this flies in the face of their simple concepts of the world where everything is either good or bad. When socialists point to the break down of the Russian economy with emergence of unemployment, homelessness, and a 10 year drop in life expectancy since the capitalist counter-revolution led by Yeltsin it does not mean that we supported everything under Soviet Communist rule, only that for the average person things were better than under capitalism.
Today in Russia where most Soviet youth once dreamed of being astronauts or doctors, they now dream of being a hitman for the mob or a greedy oil tycoon.
In opposition to the Russian model (that being the capitalist program of counter-revolution, privatization, and austerity against the working class being carried out now) we call for the preservation of the planned economy coupled with a political revolution that replaces the bureaucratic caste in power in Cuba, North Korea, China, and Vietnam. In doing so we recognize that this kind of political-revolution will only come from the people of those countries themselves and that the intervention of the governments of the U.S., Britain or any other imperialist country will only bring death, destruction, and all the miseries of capitalist counter-revolution. The American capitalist class has already murdered around 6 million people in its wars against the people these four countries, so the socialist movement stands uncompromisingly in total opposition to any continued intervention in these countries as well as standing in support of their right to defend themselves militarily.
Just as the main classes of the capitalist countries are divided between the interests of the capitalist class and its drive for profits at the expense of the working class, the interests of the world are divided between those of the weak, poor, and subjugated nations on the one hand and the interests of the capitalist classes of the rich imperialist countries on the other.
While the working class of the capitalist countries around the world often face clubs, tear gas, and even bullets and torture chambers for organizing to assert our interests against those of the capitalists; So to do the leaders of the weaker capitalist countries face the wrath of the imperialist capitalist class when they try to assert their power to control their own resources. This is the essence of the Anglo-American war against Iraq.
In the 1970s Iraq nationalized its oil fields. This helped the Iraqi people by taking a chunk of the profits made off of oil out of the hands of the international oil monopolies and instead keeping them in Iraq. This money helped pay for free healthcare and education. As such this was a socialist measure carried out by Saddam Hussein’s capitalist government. It was also a measure that stood up to the interests of the rich and powerful nations. For both reasons socialists supported the nationalization of Iraqi oil while those measures infuriated the imperialists.
The world was very different in the 1970s. The strength of the Soviet Union and its value as a trading partner alongside the defeat of the U.S. in its imperialist war of aggression in Southeast Asia helped Iraq in developing its own independent course in dealing with its own internal affairs and resources.
Does this mean that socialists support Saddam Hussein. No. We merely defend the right of Iraq as a weaker nation to run its affairs as it sees fit without US and British imperialist intervention and we support the nationalization of the oil industry. We also understand that a defeat of U.S. imperialism in Iraq would strengthen the entire world against the seemingly invincible might of U.S. imperialism making other countries better able to shape their own destinies and independent courses as well as taking other countries out of the sights of the imperialists as the next target for war. A defeat for the imperialist governments would also strengthen the revolutionary working class movements within the imperialist countries themselves.
While defending Iraq against imperialist attack and supporting their right to defend themselves socialists also recognize that Saddam Hussein is a capitalist leader and that the Iraqi people have their own scores to settle with him. Yet any government set up by a US occupation army will not be democratic and will only lead to the privatization of the resources that American oil monopolies intend to steal.
America’s so-called concern for human rights can be seen in the past US interventions in Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party first came to power in 1963. Immediately after taking power, based on lists provided by the CIA, they rounded up 5,000 leftists and trade-union leaders and murdered them. After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait we were shown pictures of Iraqi Kurds killed by poison gas in the U.S. media. What we were not told is why the US was silent when this was happening and the fact that the US supplied the gas to kill the Kurds and to kill Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war. While we are now told of the Iraqi repression of the Kurdish people we are not told of how the Turkish government is carrying out the same policies of genocide against the Turkish Kurds, and doing it with U.S. weaponry.
Many of the Kurds know that their national interest to self-determination, without the genocidal repression they currently face throughout their homeland, will never be established by the “liberating” forces of Turkey, Iran, or US imperialism. British imperialism divided Kurdistan, a country with its own unique language and culture, into a minority inside the nations of Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran. Today the Kurds are the largest nation without a homeland in the world. Yet while the U.S. government supplies the military hardware to kill Turkish Kurds they cry crocodile tears for Iraqi Kurds. Imperialism, with its motto of divide and conquer, never has and never will solve the Kurdish question. A free and united Kurdistan will only be born through a sweeping socialist revolution that overthrows the capitalist regimes of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria while challenging the dictates and military of the United States.
Just as U.S. imperialism will never solve the Kurdish question, nor will it ever solve the question of women’s liberation in the Middle East. Unlike all of the US supported governments and forces in the Arab World, Iraqi women have many rights found nowhere else in the Arab World except in the Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. Over 50% of Iraqi doctors are women. Iraqi women are allowed to walk unescorted in the streets. They are allowed to drive. Iraqi women can even freely criticize men. In addition Iraqi women have the right to work and control their own funds. This is in stark contrast to the treatment of women under the repressive U.S. backed governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia where women have no rights what-so-ever.
The U.S. ruling class hates governments like Iraq, Libya, and Venezuela who use the profits of their oil resources partly to benefit the people with social programs. Likewise they love governments like that of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait that strip the people of all their rights and keep the oil profits in the hands of the international oil monopolies and their corrupt local servants. Today in the United States we face unemployment, homelessness, and a lack of health care. The billions of dollars the U.S. is squandering on killing Iraqis to steal their resources should be spent to benefit the working class and poor of the United States.
The Peace and Freedom Party is a socialist party with 80,000 registrants in the state of California. As a political party that calls for a democratic and socialist change in American society we’ve opposed all U.S. wars since we were founded in 1967 and call for sweeping changes in American society to feed, house, employ, and provide health care for every person.
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