AINKAWA, Kurdistan Region, Iraq — More than 100 people attended a meeting here April 6 sponsored by the Kurdistan Communist Party to hear talks and discuss politics with leaders of the Socialist Workers Party in the U.S. and the Communist Leagues in the United Kingdom and Canada. The topic was “Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Capitalist Crisis, the Working Class, and the Transformation of Learning,” referring to the title of a recent book by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the SWP.
Those attending included Kawa Mahmoud, secretary of the Central Committee of the Kurdistan CP; Hiwa Omar, a member of the KCP Political Bureau, who chaired the meeting; Nazem Qoda, a leader of the Iraqi CP; Rebeen Hakeem, a leader of the Kaldo Ashour branch of the Youth Union of Kurdistan; as well as leaders and cadres of the KCP, ICP, Kurdistan Toilers Party and others.
A man who spoke from the floor during the discussion expressed the views of many when he welcomed the speakers, saying: “It’s really significant to have a communist party joining us here from the world’s most important capitalist country.”
Steve Clark, a member of the Socialist Workers Party National Committee and editorial director of Pathfinder Press, pointed out that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the world communist movement and that the SWP is celebrating the party’s centennial as part of that historic occasion.
The other panelists were Alyson Kennedy and Osborne Hart, the SWP’s 2016 candidates for president and vice president, and Ögmundur Jónsson, a leader of the Communist League in the U.K.
Participants asked questions and made comments on a variety of issues, from current U.S. politics, the SWP’s positions on the Middle East and on the Kurdish struggle for national self-determination, to the kind of work the SWP carries out in the U.S. labor movement.
Crisis of capitalist order
In his opening remarks, Clark thanked the KCP leadership for organizing this opportunity to exchange political experiences and views.
“What’s happening today is the greatest crisis of the capitalist world order in our lifetimes,” Clark said. “All the treaties, alliances, and so-called peacekeeping structures imposed on working people by the victors of two world imperialist slaughters in the 20th century” — including on working people in the Middle East, with no regard for the national aspirations of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Jews and others — “are being pulled apart at their seams by sharpening conflicts between and among rival capitalist ruling classes and their states.”
Today’s never-ending wars, mass displacement of peoples, and social calamities are especially devastating for working people in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere in this part of the world, Clark said. “These are not plagues of nature. There’s nothing ‘natural’ about them. They are the economic, social, and political products of capitalism.”
Clark quoted from Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? to explain that in the coming battles forced upon working people by the capitalist class “workers will begin to transform ourselves and our attitudes toward life, work, and each other. Only then will we discover our own worth and learn what we’re capable of becoming.”
Clark also cited Barnes’ 1991 talk “The Opening Guns of World War III: Washington’s Assault on Iraq.” Barnes said that coming out of the U.S. rulers’ murderous Gulf War that year, the Kurdish people had come “to the center stage in world politics as never before, not primarily as victims, but as courageous and determined fighters for national rights.”
In response to a question, Clark affirmed that the SWP unconditionally supports the right of the Kurdish people — divided against their will by imperialism between Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria — to their own nation-state. “Your struggle is one working people around the world should support,” he said.
Working-class political independence
Kennedy and Hart described the impact of the capitalist crisis on workers and farmers in the United States. When party members talk with working people on their doorsteps or at labor and political actions, the two SWP leaders said, they discuss why we need our own political party, independent of the Democrats and Republicans, the two main parties of U.S. imperialism.
Another participant asked what the SWP thinks about Democratic Party presidential contender Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a “socialist.” The questioner noted that the SWP presidential ticket had gotten “only 12,000 votes” in 2016. In contrast, he said, the Democratic Socialists of America, one of whose most prominent members is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was growing rapidly since the election of Donald Trump.
“Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez believe it’s possible to make capitalism work better,” Kennedy responded. They’re trying to convince working people to support the Democratic Party. “The subordination of the U.S. working class to the capitalists’ parties and their state is among the biggest obstacles facing the working class,” she stressed.
Clark added that the Democratic Party’s record as an imperialist war party speaks for itself. “It is the party that led the U.S. into World War II, the Korean War, the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and the Vietnam War. Democrats in Congress overwhelmingly backed the 1991 and 2003 U.S. wars on Iraq.”
Another man asked, “Isn’t it time to end the war between the supporters of Trotsky and the supporters of Stalin and unite in order to fight more effectively?”
“The issue is fight effectively for what?” Clark responded. Communists in the U.S. can’t “get together” with other groups to fight to strengthen the bosses’ political parties and their state, which are waging wars around the world and attacking working people’s living and job conditions at home. “We have conflicting class interests.”
“It’s necessary for all those who support the interests of working people to fight for an independent working-class party,” Clark insisted.
Fear of and contempt for workers
Jónsson addressed the fear of and contempt for working people promoted by meritocratic middle-class and professional layers who serve the capitalist rulers in the U.S. and U.K. He gave the example of Brexit.
“In the U.K., the capitalist rulers and their apologists couldn’t believe it in June 2016 when millions of workers refused to vote the way they were told by ruling-class institutions,” Jónsson said. Nearly three years later, “the government still hasn’t implemented the referendum results, which was to leave the European Union. Some politicians in both the Conservative and Labour parties even say people have to vote again. Vote again until you vote the way we tell you to!”
The Communist League calls for “U.K. out of the EU now!” he said. That would help create the best conditions for workers to defend our class interests and those of our allies, and to build a revolutionary workers movement.
“Isn’t your position on Brexit the same as the Tories?” one man asked. Jónsson replied that a substantial majority of both Conservative and Labour party leaders oppose British capitalism leaving the EU. What’s more, the CL has nothing in common with the nationalist, anti-immigrant politics of bourgeois politicians who campaign against the EU.
The European Union is an international bosses’ organization, Jónsson said. “The Communist League calls for solidarity with the ‘yellow vest’ protests by working people in France,” he added. “We champion workers and farmers in Greece squeezed for decades by the bourgeoisie through the EU and related ‘European’ banking and financial institutions.”
Before and after the meeting, participants came over to look at a table of Pathfinder titles. They bought 15 books and took copies of the Militant newspaper. Several visited the Pathfinder stand at the Erbil International Book Fair to continue the discussion and get more books by leaders of the SWP and of the Russian and Cuban socialist revolutions, as well as other titles.