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Iraq's Communist Party Becomes A Fading Influence

Like so many world Communist and Socialist organizations since the downfall of the old Soviet Union, Iraq's small Communist Party has seen its power dramatically decline in more recent years. But this small party was once an influential leftist force against the government of Saddam Hussein, and united the secular left of Iraq, and once boasted as many as 25,000 members back in 1959 shortly after the rebellion that ended the British occupation of Iraq that lasted from 1922-1958.

Unknown to most Americans, the Iraqi Communist Party was even invited by the American occupation forces to become a junior member of the Interim Iraqi Governing Council after the 2003 war because the party was seen as a relatively moderate and trustworthy partner in the new government. The party's Secretary, Hamid Majid Mousa, an economist, took this position as representative on this governing council.

In 2005, the Communists joined with Socialists and moderate Shiites and Sunni parties on the moderate National List coalition of Ayad Allawi, whose more secular and forward looking agenda was crushed at the polls by the much more extremist Shiite and Sunni religious parties who were heavily aligned with militia organizations in Iraq such as the Badr and Wolf Brigades or the huge 100,000 member Kurdish Peshmerga Militia.

The country became much more unglued as Shiite and Sunni extremists advanced their secular warfare against each other and to jockey for ultimate political and religious control of Iraq, taking it far from the more secular vision of Ayad Allawi and his National List partners.

It's funny how the Iraqi Communist Party now seems like a very mainstream and moderate political force in Iraq compared to the religious or militia extremists who are now in commanding control of both the Parliament and government of Iraq. In a recent interview on the Iraqi Communist Party website, one of the top party leaders, Salam Ali strongly condemned the cycle of sectarian violence and the serious lack of security in the nation. Despite this, the party did manage to hold a small recent party conference in Baghdad.

But the overall future for this party is bleak, like most other world Communist organizations who have lost favor worldwide from a peak strength rooted in the past, and by support for a political and economic system that has been largely discredited worldwide as a political dinosaur and now only has strong support in just a few nations such as China, Vietnam, North Korea or Cuba. Of these nations, there is a strong trend towards capitalism in China and Vietnam, as the reality of becoming a viable world community member seems contingent on this reality and purely Socialist economic models are a fast fading phenomenon.

The political circumstances in Iraq may be far different, but the Communists are not likely to ever regain a standing as an important uniting force for the left in Iraq, as religious extremism is so dominant today. The Communist's role is effectively over in Iraq.

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Comments (11)

Lee Ward:

I was fortunate enough to see a preview of this column before publication, and I have to say it is absolutely outstanding reporting, Paul.



Steve Crickmore:

Somehow I think a Communist banner that quoted Marx about religion: "it is the opiate of the people," wouldn't go over very well in present-day Iraq.

Thanks so much for the very positive comments. While in the conventional Western way of thinking, a Communist government may not be the most desirable of all forms of government, in the case of Iraq, the nation would look far different today.

Iraq is nearly a prehistoric society, and the role of extremist sectarian Shiite and Sunni elements only will promise years, decades, if not centuries of continued sectarian conflict. The Communists would have at least reorganized this primitive society around a more modern and secular role model and have stopped sectarian violence, Al Qaeda terrorists, provided good free health care, opened schools, and provided a network of reliable electric power and clean drinking water, compared to the failure of the religious extremist and militia dominated Shiite government in all of these areas today.

Since the Communists main international supporters are form China and Vietnam, and not Cuba or North Korea, building a constructive international economy that provides jobs based on exports to the U.S. and other Western states would be a high priority as well. If the U.S. needs Iraq's oil, then the Communists certainly would allow the U.S. to invest in developing this rare material asset just as Nike invests in Vietnam, or numerous American firms invest in China, as they would allow any other nation investment opportunities, and these oil assets would help to fund building a modern and peaceful nonaligned nation state. In Afghanistan, the Communists might have had some similiar eventual success in modernizing this society, although hampered with a connection to the old Soviet Union, and not the nonaligned states like China, but with the support of the Reagan Administration in the Cold War 1980's, this government was brought down and the religious extremist Taliban elements eventually grabbed power from slightly less extreme Mujahideen elements, which included Osama Bin Laden and others who received billions in U.S. financial and military support.

Certainly Communism has some serious drawbacks in freedom or bureacratic nightmares that hinder progress for a society. But compared to the current dysfunctional and violent system in Iraq, the Communists like other members of the moderate umbrella of political parties under centrist Ayad Allwai, would have created a more modern secular based Iraq that would have avoided the slip into a primitive religious extremist state that the disasterous 2005 elections brought to Iraq. Iraq was not socially ready for a democratic form of government, and some sort of an authoritarian, secular based government, that did function with a "human face" was needed to modernize Iraq and counter the slide into darkness under the religious extremists.


Very informative and well written, Paul.




Authoritarian secularist. God, you're transparent.

Kim, socially Iraq is not an advanced enough society yet to have free and democratic elections as the disasterous elections of 2005 have proven in Iraq. In the Palestinian Authority region, the victory of Hamas was yet another reminder. And look at Iran's elected president. Mr. Bush's doctrine calling for democracy in this region has been an outright disaster. This region of the world is not yet socially advanced enough for such democracy. That's hardly a racist view, but a realistic one.

A moderate, but authoritarian government in these developing world Mideast nations until a strong economy based on production of goods, jobs, stable services and security can be established is probably the only viable path to preventing anarchy such as in Gaza or in Iraq.

With the growth of international trade and the world use of computers, democracy is growing in Communist nations such as China, where the elected officials are listening to voters concerns, and responding in positive ways, so even in a one party system like China, democracy is a growing phenomemnon as the society also evolves. In this way, Communism did provide order to a primitive developing world society like China, but is now responding to the reality of international trade and moderate international relations with all states and a growing sense for some democracy within an evolving system to become a major world economic and political entity.


Democracy is only for the socially advanced, huh?

Jefferson, oh Jefferson.

Kim, the Pilgrims sailed to the U.S. after living for years in self-exile in Holland, which was a very liberal and tolerant society. Jefferson was an eventual heir to long-held traditions of moderation under a civilized order, so his political views were workable for American society and influenced Europe as well.

Mideast society has no tradition of democracy except for Israel, which is a transplanted ideology. Without a long tradition of established moderate political parties suitable to rule, and illiteracy sometimes approaching 50% in some Mideast states, the region was not ready for recent democratic elections yets. Iran, Iraq and the Palestinian Authority region prove my point. The Bush Doctrine pushed democracy on a region not yet ready for it, and with disasterous results.

The U.S. would have done far better with Allawi appointed by the U.S. and ruling with a coalition of moderate Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis and the Communists and Socialists and other secularists. And Fatah is far better than Hamas in the Palestinian region as well. Democracy doesn't always work if a people are not ready for it.


What about the inalienable right to liberty? How do you propose that without Democracy.

Look, the Muslims have a closely related concept called justice. Basically, everyone within the community is supposed to have equal rights, well except for the distaffs.

The Iraqis eagerly embraced democracy, and their representative elections hardly deserve the monicker of 'disastrous'. That government is still struggling to make a whole out of what probably should be three.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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