|I suppose it was only a matter of time before New Politics editor and
Council on Foreign Relations alumnus Joanne Landy would get involved in the
brouhaha over slain Iraqi trade unionist Hadi Salih. She really has a nose
for "third way" sanctimoniousness when it comes to matters such as these.
As an acolyte of Max Shachtman, she has perfected the art of striking
moralistic poses when US imperialism is on one of its periodic crusades
against evil. She initiated the Campaign for Peace and Democracy during the
waning days of the Cold War in order to differentiate herself from both the
evil Pentagon and the evil Kremlin. That's how Max Shachtman started off
obviously, but as his career in the Cold War establishment took shape, he
began to discover that some evil empires are more evil than others.
Entirely missing from his equation and those of his followers is any sense
of class. Politics becomes a struggle between good and evil. Ronald Reagan,
George Bush Senior and Junior, Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein and Milosevic
are evil. The people who sign her stupid petitions are good, of course. The
admission for entry into the kingdom of heaven in these days of diminished
expectations is pretty low, I guess.
Landy makes sure to cover her left flank by writing, "we disagree strongly
with the IFTU's support of UN Resolution 1546, which supports the U.S.
military presence in Iraq." This is in line with her support for the Cuban
fifth column that was quite rightly jailed by the government after it
conspired with the US consulate James Cason. Back then, she wrote, "Many
dissidents (and non-dissidents) in Cuba look to the United States, some
because they actually favor an unbridled U.S.-style capitalist system,
others because they sincerely believe that the U.S. is interested in
promoting genuine political and social democracy in Cuba. The latter are
terribly mistaken, because Washington's interest is in reconstructing a
society of private wealth and privilege and in promoting a conservative,
and probably repressive, pro-U.S. government in Havana." The phrase
"probably repressive" sums up the foolish and altogether dangerous terrain
that Landy and her friends operate on.
For some interesting comments on the murder of Hadi Salih, you can turn to
Doug Ireland's blog. Although Ireland has joined up with Landy's campaign,
he was at least forthright enough to circulate a contrary position:
Boston University Prof. Assaf Kfoury, a member of the editorial team at
Watch whose judgment I respect, analyzed this history in private
correspondence a few days ago (from which I quote with his permission):
"This IFTU business, and the wider context of what happened to Iraqi
communists (I should perhaps write Communists with an upper case "C"), has
been a really sad story. The Iraqi CP is the oldest political party in
Iraq, with separate socialist groups started in the early 1920's coalescing
into a single party in the early 1930's. The ICP was perhaps at its apex of
power and influence in the Arab world during the 1958-1963 period, after
the British-installed monarchy was abolished and before the first Baathist
coup and mass slaughter of ICP members and sympathizers (some 12000
activists and labor organizers) in 1963. From that time and on, it has been
downhill for the ICP. Yes, they were among the most persecuted by the
Baathists, but I think the ICP lost its bearings completely since the early
"Perhaps you are familiar with this history. The ICP is now riven with
dissent, factionalism, and debilitating internal struggles. The official
leadership of the ICP has two ministerial posts in the Allawi government,
one very minor and one of average importance, while the big posts (defense,
foreign affairs, interior) are occupied by representatives of the
pre-occupation exile groups or the two pro-US Kurdish parties.
"The ICP people inside the Allawi government are targets of the resistance,
just as much as other members of the government. But there are ICP factions
against the government, one of them called the "ICP-cadre wing (or
faction)" (my poor rendering of the Arabic), which is vociferously
attacking the US, Allawi and the rest. To confuse things even more, the
ICP-cadre faction refuses to split and considers itself the "'egitimate'
ICP. There are other communist/leftist groups around, such as the Workers
Communist Party of Iraq.
"Because the ICP has been historically rooted in the labor unions of the
large cities (Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, etc.), with really dominant positions
in them at one time, they still have a very strong presence among labor
organizers (not much heard of in the US corporate media) who are of course
paralyzed by the internal factionalism or utterly confused. I think, in
time, the current ICP will turn into a relic of the past, surviving but
with no significance, somewhat like the CP USA....
"...It is most unlikely that Salih was killed by 'fascist Saddam loyalists'
[as the IFTU is claiming]. Much of the armed resistance is carried out by
an assortment of unemployed city and small town people, politically
marginalized groups, often using religion to find an ideological context,
some of them disabused ICP people who had been suppressed by the
Baathists.... I think we should condemn the targetting of all trade
unionists, many of whom are not in the IFTU or have broken with it (I can't
give you statistics or firm evidence on this, but there are many anecdotal
stories that point to this)."<<
In any case, the petition is not about trade union rights. It is about
creating a kind of anti-antiwar movement. In Great Britain, where the
controversy around Salih's murder first arose, it was used as a cudgel
against the British antiwar movement. New Labor ideologues demanded that
the movement take a stand against Salih's murder even though it was already
on record against killings of this sort. For a skillful analysis of this
affair, I recommend the Lenin's Tomb blog
(http://www.leninology.blogspot.com/) once again. He writes:
The 'open letter' also conflates the actions of a few lunatics on the
fringe of the resistance with the resistance tout court, and attempts to
imply guilt by association with a flimsily constructed syllogism: You
support the right to resist the occupation; some of those alleged to be
part of the resistance carry out acts of extreme brutality; you must
therefore support these acts. You would think that any fool would notice
that the conclusion does not follow from the premises, but not these fools.
The bulk of the LFoI's "open letter" is therefore based on nonsense and
spin. The fact that it has been sent to local StWC groups supports the
claim that this is part of an attempt to split the coalition before the
elections. LFoI enjoys rather convivial relations with some senior Labour
ministers, including the surrealist Ann Clwyd MP who is a leading member.
Its sole political accomplishment to date has been to contribute to
achieving union backing for the Blairite stance on the occupation of Iraq
at the last Labour conference. It, of course, supports continuing the
occupation and does not support the right of Iraqis to resist that occupation.
You can excoriate them at: email@example.com
Landy really gets to the heart of the matter when she writes:
"We also oppose the victory of those elements of the resistance whose
agenda is to impose a repressive, authoritarian regime on the Iraqi people,
whether that regime is Baathist or theocratic-fundamentalist."
In other words, she is neutral between US imperialism and those who take up
the gun to resist it. Given the relationship of forces in the *class
struggle* between US imperialism and those who have the audacity to resist
it, this is about as much of a "third way" as Max Shachtman's. Shachtman
developed a career out of this kind of duplicity. One imagines that you
still can nowadays.