In February 1917, in the midst of the First World War, a revolution erupted in Russia, in the course of which the Tsar was overthrown and a bourgeois-democratic republic was established. Even before the overthrow of the Tsar, the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, called on the workers and peasants in the armed forces to turn their guns round and overthrow the governments that sent them to the slaughter. But throughout Europe most socialists sided with their imperialist governments, supporting their countries’ war effort under the slogan “defence of the homeland” or “defence of democracy.”
After the overthrow of the Tsar, many Russian socialists joined the camp of supporters of the Russian war effort, replacing the old slogan (“for the defence of the homeland”) with a new one – “for the defence of the revolution”. But most of the Bolsheviks did not fall into the trap: they kept thinking, and saying openly, that the workers and peasants in Russia had no interest in defending a revolution that brought to power their class enemies, the bourgeoisie. The Bolsheviks continued to struggle against the war, and for another, socialist revolution.
The February Revolution, in whose defence the Bolsheviks rightly opposed fighting, brought to power in Russia a far more enlightened and progressive leadership than the governments currently ruling Iran and Iraq. Yet today there are many communists and socialists who claim to be “Leninists” but come out in support of the “defence of the achievements of the revolution” – whether the “achievements of the Islamic Revolution” in Iran, or the “achievements of the Ba’ath revolution” in Iraq.
The Bolshevik slogan of 1917 is undoubtedly also appropriate for the Iran–Iraq war. The workers and peasants serving on both sides of the front have no interest in fighting each other. They have no interest in defending the “revolution” that brought their exploiters and oppressors to power.
Their real enemies are not in the trenches facing them. Their real enemies are those who send them to slaughter in the name of nationalism (“liberation of the Arab lands”) or of religion (“defence of Islam”); their real enemies are the destroyers of workers’ and leftist organizations in the name of “Unity of the ranks”; their real enemies are the oppressors of national minorities in the name of “Unity of the Homeland”; their real enemies are the hangmen in Baghdad and Tehran, who execute anyone who deviates from the standard they set from time to time: communists and Kurds, prostitutes and homosexuals.
The only revolutionary slogan in today’s Iran and Iraq is the old Bolshevik slogan: Soldiers, workers and peasants, turn your guns round! Turn the war into a civil war! Down with the Iran–Iraq war, Long live internationalist solidarity, Long live the socialist revolution!
If this slogan is correct for Iranians and Arabs in the armies fighting each other, it is all the more correct for Kurds on both sides of the border, and especially for those who believe that in exchange for loyal service to the government in an emergency they will be granted “rights” at the end of the war.
The war between the regimes of exploitation and oppression in Iran and Iraq is a golden opportunity for the exploited and oppressed, the workers and the peasants, the women and the national and religious minorities, to work hand in hand to free themselves from the yoke of exploitation and oppression.
The revolutionaries in the world owe solidarity to the exploited and oppressed in Iran and Iraq, not to the regimes of exploitation and oppression.
Matzpen Editorial Board
[See also the Symposium on the Gulf war in Khamsin no. 12, 1986]