The following documents were received from Kurdistan in the summer of 199I. Originally in Kurdish, they've been translated as accurately as possible. Obviously we don't agree with all that's said in them but the information is invaluable.
In 1979, at the time of the fall of the Shah of Iran, the western media acknowledged the existence of Shora Workers' Councils in the Iranian social upheavals, although, even then, it falsely limited their scope to the country's oilfields, Now, this same media, reaching even greater depths of stupefaction, doesn't even mention shoras in the continuing Kurdish revolution - and perhaps also in southern Iraq! In their disinfected account of events, workers don't even exist now.
However, as to be expected, there are complications. The document on "A government of Workers' Shoras" produced early April'91 stating their aims, hasn't been produced but we get a good idea of what it was about by reading the remarkable second letter from Kurdistan published here. The shoras were workers' councils expressing many of the contradictions workers' councils have almost always faced: in particular, the confusion over whether to openIy attack the political parties as external authorities with their own separate interests or to compromise with them and thus weaken the power of the councils. Some tendencies pushed towards the shoras becoming autonomous revolutionary bodies (an armed people answerable to and protecting the shoras' authority, all power to the shoras; permanently revocable deIegates, etc.). But this tendency also coexisted with those pushing for social democratic demands and deals with, in particular, the Kurdistan Front. The point, however, is to first of all consider the practicaIities of Kurdistan at this time. The shoras were borne of pressing survival necessities in a pretty desperate, though also euphoric, situation concerned with food distribution, clothing, housing and first aid. Initially set up in Sulliemania, they spread an over Iraqi Kurdistan, including the oiI-rich area around Kirkuk. In many instances, they continued after the return of the refugees from the mountains, into the beginning of the summer.
Whilst the demands of the shoras (when dealing with survival, expressed within the framework of political economy and the seemingly eternal worId of money; when dealing with 'politics', demanding liberal 'rights', bourgeois 'democracy', etc.) are an aspect of their confusion, equally important is the fact that this workers' democratic forum can move against capitalist social relations and the capitalist mode of production (the market economy), depending on the changing tempo of what is still a very volatiIe situation in that area of world capitaI. More concretely, many strands of the shoras' practice implicitIy went beyond their explicit demands.
Conflicts immediately arose within the shoras and, like the past history of Workers' Councils elsewhere, were prey to all kinds of political racketeering. They have yet to become the authentic voice of the exploited and alienated creating a new world. Kurdistan, so far, has been no exception. The first letter from Kurdistan verifies some of this, with its very confused angle on the conflicts within the shoras. Whilst it condemns the Marxist-Leninists for their politicking, it also attacks them from a silly liberal stance: it wants the shoras to involve everyone - bourgeoises, cadres and professionals included (If this means including doctors, o.k. - but he's also implying that all the other sections of the professional and bourgeois class be included). At one and the same time, it criticises the Kurdistan Front, whilst feeling some sympathy for these pigs. Its tone seems to insist on some independent stance, reflecting partly a tendency moving towards autonomy, but then ends up wanting to compromise with the KF and places all its hope in the negotiations with the regime. In fact, its attitude could well be a prelude to some kind of reformed social democratic take on things. The last 20 years or more has seen, in the vast majority of instances, the beginning of an insightful critique of Marxist-Leninism fall into this trap or worse - an unfettered market individualism. Real steps towards a theoretically clearer autonomous grasp have been pitifully weak. Nevertheless, in its confusion, it raises practical nitty-gritty points about concrete problems (such as whitecollar v. blue collar workers) and the facts are very interesting. On the other hand, the second letter is crystal and a joy to read. This account of the Kurdish shoras, dealing with real problems raised within fheir expanding parameter is relevant to workers everywhere in the world, including those in the English-speaking nations: Third World status doesn't come into it.
To end on an affirmative note. After the party politicking which discredited somewhat the shoras among the population of Sulliemania in early April '91,two texts are reproduced here illustrating that perhaps the shoras are getting into their stride once again, at least in the early summer months: although one has clearly Marxist-Leninist sympathies, the other, from street hawkers, is basic and straight forward. Both condemn the discredited Kurdistan Front and their attack on the forum of a genuine workers' democracy, and it's now known that many of the peopIe who made the uprising in Iraqi Kurdistan haven't quite been marginalised within the shoras, despite suffering from heavy calumnies. What this might portend remains to be realised.
English/Kurdish comment (September 1991).
Photo: IMAGE OF A DICTATOR A giant billboard representing Saddam Hussein astride the ancient Babylonian gate of Ishtar. The megalomaniac Saddam farcically sees himself as completing the reign of Nebuchadnezzer.
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