A WORLD TO WIN    #22   (1996)



The Bitter Lessons of Betrayal

In a two-week-long operation starting 31 August 1996, the Iraqi army of Saddam Hussein and the forces of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) led by Massoud Barzani joined forces in a surprising alliance and occupied the entire territory of Iraqi Kurdistan. Barzani is one of the pro-US Kurdish warlords who, along with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Jalal Talabani, were brought to power by the United States and their allies through the Operation "Provide Comfort" campaign during the Gulf War and formed the "Kurdish Government". The joint forces of Saddam Hussein and Barzani quickly pushed the PUK forces out of the areas it controlled and into Iran. CIA operations in Arbil (the capital of the Kurdish Government) were driven out and the US evacuated many of its agents into neighbouring Turkey.

Operation "Provide Comfort" was the final leg of the Gulf War in 1991, through which the US forces built a military and intelligence post in northern Iraq, where the borders of Iraq, Iran and Turkey meet. The Turkish army, on the southern flank of NATO, took major responsibility for this operation. In mid-September 1996, after the Iraqi army and the Barzani forces pushed into Iraqi Kurdistan, the US announced that it was abandoning what it called the "Safe Haven" project. This project, which was said to "save" Kurds from the attacks of the Iraqi regime, had the aim of giving a human face to the US occupation of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Iraqi regime was prohibited from setting foot inside this region or flying over the skies of Kurdistan. The UN military and civilian forces were stationed in towns, while the US military stayed near the border with Turkey, in Zakho. The CIA launched its operations out of the main Kurdish cities, like Arbil. Official and non-official organizations of the European powers (mainly German and French) quickly established themselves in this "haven". They busied themselves with intelligence gathering, reconnaissance activities and cozying up to the Kurdish leaders, in order to further their immediate and future imperialist interests in Iraq. Some also carried out the sideline activity of distributing imperialist handouts to the Kurds.

The Operation "Provide Comfort"/"Safe Haven" project was supposed to win a durable foothold for a direct US presence. However, this strategy ran into many unresolvable contradictions. The European powers began to contest US plans. There was also concern that dividing up Iraq could be a destabilizing factor for other imperialist-dominated states in the region, such as Turkey, the Gulf states and Iran, which are already enmeshed in political crises. Moreover, the creation of a viable semi-colonial state in Iraqi Kurdistan proved to be a mammoth task economically and politically. Frequent wars broke out between the PUK and the KDP, the two factions of the "Kurdish Government". The PKK (Workers Party of Kurdistan) from Turkey used Iraqi Kurdistan as a staging area for carrying out its own insurgency against the Turkish regime. The Islamic regime of Iran deployed its military and secret agents in Iraq. The CIA-financed activities of the Iraqi opposition, aimed at unseating Saddam Hussein, did not yield results. The US strategy developed too many cracks to be repaired. So in 1995-96, the US ruling class began to talk about wrapping up the project and pursuing its goals in other ways.

When the forces of the Iraqi regime and Barzani moved into Kurdistan, the US was quick to adjust itself to this new situation: they abandoned "Safe Haven"/ "Provide Comfort" as if just waiting for the opportunity. US newspapers announced that the US had given a coup de grace to Operation "Provide Comfort". Barzani argued that what he did was not contrary to the wishes of the US, because the US had insisted on the sovereignty of Iraq, which meant no Kurdish state, and therefore it was correct for the Kurds to resolve their problems with Saddam. The US had already cut its "Provide Comfort" budget from $600 million in 1992 to $21 million in 1996.

The US imperialists, in the role of world gendarme, cannot tolerate unauthorized moves which would undermine their rule and status. Their ability to punish Saddam has become "proof" of their so-called invincibility. And, as bloodsuckers, every time they want to punish him they punish the masses of Iraq. So they threw their military weight around and launched more of their mass-murder missiles at the Iraqi masses to add to the numbers of those dying daily from the economic embargo they have imposed on Iraq since the end of the Gulf War.

These events exposed the fact that the Gulf War alliance the US imperialists put together has unravelled. This time the US failed to rally more than meagre support for its gunslinging against Iraq. Except for the United Kingdom, the major European countries refrained from extending the "no fly zone" prohibiting Iraq from flying over its own skies. So the US extended it unilaterally. Russia vetoed the US proposal to condemn Saddam in the UN and later announced that Iraq has the right to defend itself. Contrary to the US position, these other powers insisted on the implementation of the "oil for food" deal, which allows Iraq to sell some of its oil. They did not approve the establishment of the so-called "protection zone" by the Turkish army along the Iraqi-Turkish border. Nonetheless, the US asked Turkey to go ahead with it. But this did not occur either. Later, Turkish Foreign Minister Ciller retracted Turkey's plans and asked Saddam Hussein to take control of Iraq's borders with Turkey. However, within a week she reconfirmed the plans for the "protection zone". The problems facing the US were highlighted further when Talabani's PUK forces made a comeback in mid-October, with backing from the Iranian regime.

This whole episode is an important sign of the depth of the troubles of the imperialist system and of the failure of the goals the imperialists proclaimed during the Gulf War. A considerable gap has arisen between what the US wants and what it can get. Its vision of the New World Order, which was baptized in torrents of blood in the Gulf War, is not falling into place. Big counter-currents unleashed by the intensification of the major contradictions of the world capitalist system are undermining the US's position and control in many respects.

Imperialist Rivalry

The US imperialists announced their intention to forge a New World Order with the bloody rampage in the 1991 Gulf War, which they carried out in alliance with the other Western powers and the support of the ex-Soviet Union, along with an array of lackeys from the Third World.

The Gulf War came in the midst of the noisy crumbling of the walls of the East bloc. The US imperialists and the other Western powers intended to utilize their victory in the Cold War to deal with their own deep crisis. The easing of contradictions amongst the imperialists which resulted from dismantling a major flank of theirs in the East - the Soviet-led bloc - presented the Western powers with opportunities as well as necessities. At that time, an editorial in AWTW 1991/16 captured the situation clearly: "The arrogance of the US is to be explained not so much by the increased opportunities now that the Soviet Union is acquiescing in the US adventures, but more by the necessity felt by all of the imperialists to reconsolidate and expand their "spheres of influence". Clearly the post-World War II order is coming to an end. Already the collapse of the East bloc has sent the whole imperialist world into disarray. All of the imperialist powers sense that now is the time to grab, and if they fail to do so, their competitors will grab first. Countries long under the domination of these imperialist powers are experiencing increased hardship and unresolvable crisis and are seething with unrest and popular discontent."

The quickening of the pace of events in the Middle East today is not because Saddam Hussein supposedly has "provoked" the US once again. Larger issues regarding the Middle East policies of the imperialists and power relations in the region are at stake. Because of this region's economic, political and geo-strategic importance - in particular its oil resources and location at the convergence of Asia, Africa and Europe - it has always been one of the flash points of the world imperialist system. Events here frequently mirror much of the intensity and complex intertwining of important global contradictions, especially those amongst the imperialists and between the imperialists and the peoples of the world.

The imperialist alliance and consensus which the US led through the Gulf War have become quite relative. Frequently, on matters of global and regional importance, there are a series of collisions before a fragile consensus is reached - if indeed one is reached at all. There is intense rivalry amongst the powers over profit and power grabbing in the Middle East. The major European states keenly take note of any problems in the US's ruling position and structures here and utilize every opportunity to advance their own immediate and long-term interests. For example, the favourable re-organization of the Iraqi economy, centred around its petroleum, is being actively pursued by the European powers - already French oil companies have secured major concessions from the Iraqi government for the extraction and sale of oil in northern Iraq.

Shortly after the Saddam-Barzani forces took over most of Iraqi Kurdistan, the French sent a commercial attaché to Baghdad - the first and only Western power to have done so. This infuriated the US more than Saddam's incursion into Kurdistan. The French also played an important role in mediating the recent conflict between Israel and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, who are backed by Iran and Syria. It will not be easy to determine whether the French had a role in funnelling arms by Iran through Syria to the Hezbollah, but the imperialists have a long tradition of working out their "peacetime" rivalries through proxies.

The Europeans, especially Germany and France, also have acute contradictions with the US over Iran. This is reflected in their serious opposition to the US economic embargo (and the US's possible military plans) against Iran, which is aimed at destabilizing the Islamic Republic government and/or forcing a favourable re-organization of power amongst the comprador-feudal classes in Iran, as well as affecting the regime's position in the region.

After the revolution in Iran, the European powers played a major role in blocking Soviet influence on Iran's economy and politics and keeping the country tightly knit into the Western bloc. This was done on behalf of the bloc as a whole, including its leader, the US, whose influence in Iran had been shaken by the 1979 Iranian revolution. Now that the Cold War is over, these European powers, mainly Germany and France, want to turn their influence in Iran into a strategic presence, giving them more leverage in the Middle East. German imperialism never abandoned its "Berlin-Teheran, Berlin-Baghdad" slogan, which is meant to express the need and drive of the German imperialists to carve out an area of influence in the Middle East.

Other regional policies of the US are also being contested. For its part, the US has launched important initiatives to organize regional security structures. To this end, the Turkish and Israeli armies are formally working together to build a powerful axis to bully the region. Egypt is said to be preparing to join the axis. This regional gendarmerie will be integrated with the help of the direct US military presence in Turkey and the Gulf. Other countries like Iran are being asked to accept this framework. But whether this vision will succeed this time, no one can say; as one song goes, "don't speak too soon, the wheel's still in spin".

Inflaming the Masses of the Region

Many US efforts to re-organize and consolidate its rule in this region, in particular the so-called Middle East peace process, are at best in a precarious and changing state. Even though Yasir Arafat's sell-out of the national resistance of the Palestinian people was a great service to imperialism and the Israeli state, the "peace" process has failed to tame the masses of Palestine and resolve many acute problems that the imperialists and the reactionary states face in this part of the world. The contradiction has intensified between the imperialist system and the peoples, who are being increasingly squeezed and trampled upon, but are also being thrown into struggle.

This is also reflected in the shaky situation of the Yankee client states in the Middle East. Some of the Gulf states are boiling with political and economic crisis, and US bases in Saudi Arabia have been targeted by bomb attacks. Bill Clinton complained that if the US uses ground forces or its pilots land on Iraqi soil, he is afraid that the humiliation they suffered in Somalia will be repeated, with US soldiers dragged and kicked in the streets by the people. In this most recent crisis between the US and Iraq, even the Turkish ruling class refused to allow its Incirlik bases to be used for bombing Iraq. Saudi Arabia also refrained, and Kuwait only agreed after dragging its feet. These US clients are now afraid of intensifying their own political crisis by being too closely identified with the US. (This tendency is increased by the fact that European states like Germany have considerable influence over regimes such as Turkey, even while the US remains the dominant imperialist power.)

The Kurdish peasants in Turkey are in revolt, and the new so-called "modern" Islamic government of Turkey was seriously challenged and exposed by the heroic struggles of the revolutionary political prisoners, who staged a hunger strike during the summer of 1996. The masses of Jordan recently rioted against King Hussein's tripling of bread prices, a result of the liberalization policies of the imperialist economic agencies. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak is trembling at the thought of similar revolts by the hungry masses in his country. Moreover, the people will not forget and forgive the killing field created by the US and the other imperialists and their lackeys in the Gulf War.

"Kurdish Government" - Eager Agent of Imperialists

This round of events in Iraq was particularly important because it brought to a logical conclusion the so-called "pragmatic" policies of the bourgeois-feudal leaders of the Kurdish national resistance. During the Gulf War, these leaders welcomed the occupation of Iraqi Kurdistan by the imperialist forces in return for a little piece of power for themselves. These leaders promised the Kurdish masses a better destiny under the guardianship of US imperialism. They told the people that the US imperialists - who had just slaughtered tens of thousands of Iraqis and are still hated around the world for the millions of Vietnamese they massacred in the hope of crushing their just struggle for national liberation, and who are the only power on earth to have ever used nuclear weapons - will liberate the Kurdish masses from their national oppression and misery. What sick and twisted logic! They promoted the US imperialists among the masses and put up pictures of George Bush on walls as the "father" of the Kurds. US Rambo cowboys from Washington came and went, gave speeches, proclaimed "democracy for the Kurds" and together with the CIA acted as overseers of the Kurdish government.

The KDP, which struck an alliance with the Iraqi regime on 31 August 1996 and for the moment took over the areas controlled by Talabani's PUK, has a long history of being propped up by the CIA. [For a history of these parties, see AWTW 1986/5] In 1975, the KDP, led by Molla Mostafa Barzani (Massoud's father), surrendered the Kurds' national resistance to the Iraqi regime; this has come to be known as the Great Ashbatal, the great surrender. This came as a result of the US stabbing the Kurdish forces in the back and helping the Iraqi regime. In the aftermath of the Great Ashbatal, the PUK was formed by Talabani (who had earlier split from the KDP), in collaboration with a group of young revolutionaries, in order to resurrect the Kurdish national struggle. For years the PUK led a just war against the regime of Saddam Hussein. Later it degenerated first into a pro-Soviet imperialist group and then into an openly pro-US force.

After the Gulf War, the US and other imperialist forces united these two parties in the "Kurdish Government" they set up in northern Iraq. The pillar of this "Kurdish" political power was the imperialist occupation forces themselves. The two parties carved out areas of rule for themselves and relied on the local feudals and bigshots to build their respective power structures. Most of the big feudals and bureaucratic and military bigshots, who once were allies of Saddam Hussein, retained their economic and social privileges and positions under the protection of the PUK and the KDP. However, soon sporadic wars broke out between these two parties over power and money grabbing (of funds channelled by the imperialists to this government, revenue from border checkpoints, and prospective receipts from the "oil for food" deal).

Under this puppet government, the situation of the masses grew even more desperate. The villages burned and emptied by the brutal aerial and land attacks by Saddam's army lay idle. The masses were never encouraged to go back and develop agriculture in order to become independent both from the Iraqi regime, which had placed an embargo on the region, and from the pitiful imperialist hand-outs, most of which went straight into the pockets of the Kurdish ruling parties and their corrupt cronies.

The most important economic activity of the Kurdish government was collecting the revenues from Iraqi commercial transactions across Turkish and Iranian border customs checkpoints, which went respectively to the KDP and the PUK. This situation outraged the masses of Kurdistan. They started to rebel. On numerous occasions, PUK and KDP forces opened fire on the people. In late winter of 1992, for example, when this government still was new, the masses in the township of Nassr near As Sulaimaniya demonstrated against the local authorities because the PUK had been stealing food from them while its cadres took special privileges. The PUK forces shot and killed three people.

Under this government, feudal practices, especially against women, flourished: men could freely kill their wives, daughters or sisters on grounds of "infidelity" or "flirting". According to a report by a local group, 75 women were killed in the town of Dihok alone in a few months in 1996.

It is not surprising that the Kurdish government not only failed to turn the region under its control into a base area for the advance of the Kurdish national movements of Iran and Turkey, but it even cooperated with the regimes of those countries to chase and hunt down the revolutionaries from there. One of the hallmarks of its mercenary activities on behalf of the reactionary regimes of the region was to initiate a war against the PKK from Turkey. Propaganda preparations for the war were launched by Talabani personally. He made a speech in the Kurdish parliament and explicitly defended the "New World Order" and the "democracy" which it supposedly gives birth to, and said, "We are told that we are traitors, sell-outs and puppets. But the US and the British have warned us that they will not help us if the PKK uses our soil. The PKK are terrorists. We tell them to go negotiate and compromise with the Turkish regime."

The Kurdish government also gave a blank cheque to the secret services and military forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran to assassinate Iranian revolutionaries and attack the Kurdish forces of Iran, who for more than 10 years have been using Iraqi Kurdistan to organize their struggle against the Iranian regime. In the summer of 1996, the PUK forces gave cover to a 2000-strong military unit of the Islamic Republic to pass 150 kilometres from the Iranian border almost up to the doorstep of the Iranian KDP headquarters inside Iraqi Kurdistan, in order to stage a vicious attack on them.

This is just one more proof that any movement, however just, that is led by feudal and bourgeois forces will surely end up "cutting" separate deals with the enemies even against their own national brethren, because this is what the bourgeoisie and bourgeois ideology are - self-centred. The Iraqi regime's horrendous crimes against the Kurdish people will never be forgotten nor forgiven by the oppressed masses and the revolutionaries in this region. But this cannot justify jumping on the bandwagon of big imperialist criminals. In fact, in the Gulf War, one of the goals of the imperialists in targetting a criminal like Saddam Hussein was to cover their own mis-deeds. The liberation of the oppressed masses anywhere in the world cannot be sought at the expense of other oppressed peoples. This will only lead to disaster for all the people.

Talabani and his PUK, who have a reputation as "left"-leaning, were very proud of themselves for formulating the "clever" policy of begging for some kind of Kurdish state by offering their services to the imperialists in exchange. Yet begging for a little power in Iraqi Kurdistan in return for services to the imperialists has always been the policy of the CIA-paid clan leader Barzani - but without the decorous label of "Realpolitik". Talabani scorned every revolutionary principle and claimed to be a "practical leader", unlike his "dogmatic" critics who only "preach" revolutionary principles; he talks as though revolutionary principles are for hoodwinking people and collecting soldiers from amongst the masses while reactionary, pragmatic, narrow nationalist policies are for "practicality"! Using this same logic, the PUK applauded Soviet social-imperialism when it was a strong imperialist power. These mis-leaders' practicality has always been very unpractical for the masses, because it only has served to prolong their oppression and intensify their misery. With this logic, political principles were bought and sold on the auction block. With this logic, revolutionaries from Iranian and Turkish Kurdistan were served up to their hungry regimes. This is what Massoud Barzani's father and then his brother and he himself have been doing for the past three decades to the revolutionaries from Iran and Turkey and even to the militants of the PUK.

Talabani claimed that the formation of this CIA-backed Kurdish government was the first step to an independent Kurdish state. Instead, it was the decisive step in liquidating the Kurdish national resistance as it has existed since the aftermath of the Great Ashbatal of the KDP in 1975. We cannot say whether Barzani is more "practical"-minded than Talabani. They can decide that for themselves. In any case, it is crucial that the oppressed masses be armed with the truth: that the only road, and for that matter the shortest and most practical road to their liberation, is the proletarian internationalist road charted by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. For people such as Talabani and his class, however, the shortest way to "power" is to hook up with the reactionary and imperialist powers. The oppressed Kurdish masses must be consciously armed with the understanding that their own class interests and those of the bourgeois-feudal and bigshot Kurds are not the same. The paths promoted by these bourgeois-feudal forces cannot lead to anything good for the masses.

Some Kurdish forces are now complaining about the "US abandoning the Kurds". The US, France and Britain have a long history of playing the "Kurdish card" to further their colonial and neo-colonial interests in this region. At the time of the Gulf War in 1991, they played it, and now they are playing it again. The imperialists have actually been very consistent towards the Kurds. In the "practicality" game, no one can beat them.

Some Bitter Questions

Let us look squarely at reality and ask the bitter questions. The masses and progressive and revolutionary forces in Iraqi Kurdistan have a long history of resisting their national oppressors and waging revolutionary struggle as well as inspiring and assisting revolutionaries from other countries. Their national aspirations have been betrayed and trampled upon more than once by the imperialist powers - first the British and later the US. Why then in Iraqi Kurdistan did unity with imperialism replace unity with the oppressed peoples of the region against imperialism?

It was the bourgeois-feudal class forces in Kurdistan who led this alliance with imperialism and formed the heart and backbone of the so-called "Kurdish Government". No other political force would have been chosen by the imperialist powers for this matter; the bourgeois-feudal forces are the class allies of world capitalism within the oppressed nations. But the bitter fact is that their policy won a widespread national consensus and following. In other words, some other class forces, mainly representing the outlook and aspirations of the urban middle bourgeoisie and petite bourgeoisie, adopted a line and policy that, intentionally or unintentionally, fed into the imperialist policies of the US and its allies on Iraq and Kurdistan and strengthened the pro-imperialist policies of the PUK and the KDP. Many revolutionary-minded forces who did not really intend to help the formation of a pro-imperialist consensus, but who failed to wage the necessary struggle that the aggression of the imperialists against Iraq demanded, landed in the same corner as the Rambos.

None of these forces who call themselves revolutionary, anti-imperialist, "proletarian" and "Marxist" vigourously opposed the imperialist rape of Iraq. They did not expose andoppose the presence of the imperialist occupation forces in Iraqi Kurdistan. They did not organize the masses to understand the nature of imperialism as a class enemy and as a national enemy which has never hesitated to trample upon the national independence of the Kurds and all the oppressed nations of the world, nor did they use Kurdistan's own history to show this truth in a living way. They did not call upon the masses to reject an alliance with the biggest criminals on earth, to oppose them and wage struggle to oust their forces from Kurdish soil. They did not vigourously expose the nature of the "Kurdish government" as an imperialist appendage, a government of feudal-bourgeois class forces and national sell-outs. They did not expose the leaders who promoted the Israeli model of "national salvation".

To the extent that some of these forces criticized the "Kurdish government", it was merely for not providing enough freedom for the opposition to organize unions, to hold mass rallies to protest against unemployment, and so on. They were content to hide their basically nationalist and reformist outlook behind "workerism". They did not try to broaden the vision of the masses and train them to be sensitive and raise their fists against every aspect of oppression of the different strata of people in the society and worldwide. Is this not a key difference between the proletarian outlook and a narrow-minded bourgeois outlook which takes the specific forms of nationalism, economism, and pragmatist expediency?

The idealism and reformism of some these forces is revealing. For example, in July 1995, a group called the Workers' Communist Party of Iraq (WCPI), which had a base of activities in some urban areas controlled by the PUK, issued a programme for the resolution of the problems of Iraqi Kurdistan. While this organization itself is not very important, its line and programme is illustrative of the dangers of an economist and social-democratic approach. They called for "Complete withdrawal of the military and police forces of the central state [meaning the Iraqi regime - AWTW] under the supervision of the UN forces and the international authorities" and "initiation of a referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan under UN supervision in order for the people of this region - Kurds and non-Kurds - to decide whether they want to form an independent state or stay in the framework of Iraq. The outcome of this referendum will be official and lawful and binding."

This is a typical social-democratic illusory outlook of the reformist, petit-bourgeois and bourgeois intellectuals in the oppressed nations. These people even consider themselves "anti-imperialist". They have denounced the PUK and the KDP as nationalist parties who are "pawns of the US and the West and the states of the region" (Resolution of the Political Bureau of the WCPI).

But this group will pardon us some questions: Are the "international authorities" different creatures than the same "US and the West"? And is not the UN an international forum of these powers and their client states? Did not the "Kurdish Government" come into being also through an electoral process which was "supervised" and sanctioned by the "UN forces or international authorities"? Was not this same programme carried out by your "international authorities" already? And was it not because of this that objectively or programmatically you abided by it?

Unfortunately, no force, however small, came out to rip away these bourgeois and petit-bourgeois class blinders and show the reality of the world to the masses through a revolutionary proletarian internationalist prism. This kind of outlook and politics was the only alternative to the pro-imperialist slavish philosophy that the feudal-bourgeois forces were dripping into the veins of the Kurdish workers, peasants and intellectuals.

Some say it was justified to adopt the policy of supporting this CIA-organized government against Saddam Hussein in order to stave off his crimes against the Kurds. But excuse us, why should you run from the criminal Saddam Hussein into the laps of the US imperialist baby-killers and beg for justice? Why run at all from one reactionary to the other? Why tail this dead-end tradition of Kurdish feudal-bourgeois forces who only see the masses as pawns, and are total strangers to concepts such as "self-reliance"? The fact that some Iraqi Arab forces who oppose Saddam Hussein also adopted the strategy of relying on the imperialists to struggle against Saddam Hussein shows that this is a question of class outlook, not nationalism per se.

It is true that some of these Kurdish forces called for solidarity and unity between the Arab and Kurdish masses of Iraq. That is good. But solidarity and unity between the proletarians and oppressed peoples of the world, which we Maoists call proletarian internationalism, is not a question of morality or mutual aid, nor is it optional. It is an outlook and policy which is a life-and-death requirement for every real revolution. This requirement is dictated by the way the world is organized and functions, by the class structure prevailing in the world. This global structure is the setting for and interpenetrates with the class alignment of forces in each and every country. Not grasping this relationship has always led to deviations among the revolutionary forces - including separating the nature and positions of the local reactionary regimes from the imperialist powers that dominate these countries.

This gives rise to two kinds of deviations, both of which could be seen during the Gulf War in 1991 and afterwards. First, some forces (along with many masses who yearned to hand a defeat to the imperialist powers) desperately hinged their hopes on Saddam Hussein and his army to fight against imperialist aggression, forgetting that the Iraqi regime was organized by the imperialists themselves to serve their system and could not and would not put up serious resistance to imperialist aggression. When it serves their interests, the imperialists even resort to toppling some of their own client regimes. Some of these regimes might resist being shoved aside, but that does not change their nature. Counting on the so-called "anti-imperialist" Arab regimes has been a widespread illusion among revolutionaries in the Arab countries. This form of nationalism has been a hindrance to the development of a real proletarian internationalist fighting detachment in the Arab countries.

The other wrong tendency has been to side (intentionally or not) with imperialist forces under the illusion that the imperialists would extend their system of rule in their own countries - bourgeois democracy - to their neo-colonies. Nothing is further from the truth. Fascistic dictatorial rule in the neo-colonies and the bourgeois-democratic form of bourgeois dictatorship in the imperialist countries are two sides of the same coin: the latter is possible because of the former, just as the prosperity of relatively large sections of people in the imperialist countries is possible because of the heart-wrenching poverty of the broad masses in the oppressed nations. The imperialists rule these neo-colonies through their alliance with the big pro-imperialist bourgeoisie and feudals and their reactionary state. The strategy for overthrowing the reactionary states should be based on this reality. These states and their imperialist masters are both targets of the new democratic revolution, as a prelude to the socialist revolution.

The end of a period in the national resistance movement of Iraqi Kurdistan also calls for another look at the nature of and solution for the national question. This experience once more sheds light on the deep Marxist-Leninist-Maoist truth that the national question is a class question. This means it cannot be solved by bourgeois-feudal forces and narrow nationalist ideologies.

National oppression within the state boundaries of countries dominated by imperialism is built into a bigger structure of dependency on imperialism, and it cannot be solved in separation from the overarching national question of the epoch, which is the enslavement of whole nations and peoples by imperialism. National oppression, like other democratic problems, chiefly feudal oppression and exploitation, must be solved through a democratic revolution. But this democratic revolution can only be led by the proletariat in alliance with popular class forces (principally the poor and landless peasantry). It must be guided by a proletarian revolutionary programme, goal and perspective, that is, as a transitional step to the socialist revolution and as a base for world proletarian revolution.

For the national question, like every other problem in this world, different classes have different solutions. That is why we say that the national question, in the final analysis, is a class question. It can be and must be solved as a subordinate part of the process of carrying out the new democratic and socialist revolutions. This means the whole process of revolution needs to be led by a single party based on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and rooted among the oppressed of all nations within the country.

To implement revolutionary, far-sighted, proletarian politics is not an easy task, especially on difficult terrains such as Kurdistan. But all terrains have their own kind of difficulties. These difficulties act as a pull and a burden on the minds of the revolutionaries to deviate to nationalist, pragmatic and reformist politics. These pulls act upon weaknesses inherent in the outlook of revolutionaries who do not have a communist ideology. Therefore, adopting correct ideology is key in arriving at correct political solutions for problems. In short, revolutionaries need to arm themselves with the scientific ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.

The lessons of the last six years in Kurdistan must be summed up and the masses armed with this understanding. The advanced revolutionaries, including the revolutionary intellectuals of Kurdistan, should lead them in doing so - but they must be guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism to be able to do a thorough job of turning a bad thing into a good thing.

Furthermore, these are not lessons to be summed up only by the masses and revolutionaries in Iraqi Kurdistan. The same classes and the same tendencies, the same comprador-feudal aspirations in the garb of "national liberation" and even "Marxism", exist in other movements, certainly in the Kurdish national movements in Iran and Turkey, but also beyond. These bitter experiences must be synthesized and their lessons brought to bear on other revolutionary struggles that the proletariat and peoples are waging. The Revolutionary Internationalist Movement exists as an embryonic centre, a key task of which is to help the advanced forces in each country to grasp Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, which is the concentration of the world-historic experiences of our class in its quest to wipe out the reactionaries and imperialists from the face of the earth. This is the best way RIM can assist the advanced revolutionary elements and groups in Iraq and throughout Kurdistan. Together, we must make the hard lessons of the past illuminate the future. As Chairman Mao says, the road is tortuous, but the future is bright.

Putting Marxism-Leninism-Maoism on the Political Stage

The post-World War II structures of the political and economic rule of the imperialists in different parts of the world are crumbling. In many places, in the absence of a revolutionary alternative powerfully coming to the fore to forcefully replace them, a lot of anarchy results on the political scene. In addition to the different popular forces who come to resist the obsolete and miserable system of imperialism and seek change, the decay of the system is giving rise to many centrifugal forces. For example, the fall of the East bloc unleashed contradictions that had almost seemed frozen. The resurgence of warlords in different countries and regions is a sign of how much the old imperialist world order has broken down and how existing power structures are unable to tame and subordinate these reactionary forces.

The political scene in different parts of the Middle East appears messy and confusing. Some reformist forces (including the Workers' Communist Party of Iraq) deplore these kind of situations as "dark scenarios". By this they mean that the "forces of backwardness" (religious obscurantists, but also others such as the peasantry!) are setting the political terms, as opposed to the so-called "forces of progress", meaning the workers, but also the bourgeoisie of these countries. So what should the masses and revolutionaries do when confronted with the "dark scenarios"? Help to keep the imperialists and their reactionary semi-colonial state structures from falling apart?!

Their "bright scenario" is this: a tidy stage on which the forces of "progress" are lined up on one side and all the reactionaries on the other side, while the reactionary states and their imperialist overlords are able to prevent the various forces from talking through the barrel of a gun. These people warn the revolutionary forces against messing up the scene even more by resorting to armed revolution! But the truth of the matter is that the lack of proletarian armies on the stage is the main problem in these situations.

Only an army led by a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party can rise above the divisions stemming from national and local boundaries and unite the oppressed around their class interests against imperialism, semi-feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism and lead a self-reliant war against all kinds of oppression, including national oppression. The presence of such an army would have sharply polarized the field in the interests of the people and the revolution and broken out of the vicious circle of fighting to replace one reactionary clique of bourgeois-feudals with another one.

The political stage in many countries will be increasingly occupied by a wide range of forces. Flags with false claims designed to enlist the sacrifices of the masses will cloud the sky. This is already the case in many places: feudal warlords with religious obscurantism and feudal-bourgeois as well as petit-bourgeois forces with nationalist ideologies are all claiming to lead the masses out of the madness of class society and imperialist domination.

The rivalry of the imperialist powers to influence the reactionary class forces in these countries and sow seeds of instability in each other's backyards will encourage illusions about these powers among the masses (and among the revolutionaries, for that matter). As Lenin pointed out, even the reactionaries cannot do much without the masses in today's world. Reactionary and imperialist forces will cynically play with the longing of the masses to fight against their arch-enemies and will try to enlist them as cannon fodder. So this complex situation is bound to present the revolutionary communist forces with difficulties in carving out the road of the proletariat and people, including to initiate people's war and build the people's own armies.

Nonetheless, this same complex and contradictory situation will weaken the relative cohesion and stability of the central state structures and will increase the ability of the masses, if led by a genuine Maoist party in people's war, to deal blows to the reactionary states and make revolution. The complexity of the situation acts as a pull on many revolutionaries and even the masses to hold back and wait for a clearer sky. But revolutions are made in the midst of turbulence. The revolutionary communists must study the contradictions in today's situations and find the ways to hew the proletarian revolutionary path amidst confusion and disorder. It is key to establish an unmistakable proletarian revolutionary identity and programme in sharp contrast to the nature and programme of all other forces and show the class nature and interests behind the different flags waved before the masses. And more importantly, to fight to turn this into a material force, to fight for our flag to be held by the masses and to find ways in the midst of difficulties to project this proletarian programme through bold revolutionary political struggles and principally through a people's war guided by and imbued with this proletarian revolutionary programme.