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Returning to Political Parties?

The Iraqi Communist Party

Faleh Abdel Jabbar

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1This study addresses the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), one of the most authentic ideological and class-oriented parties in Iraq. It is the legitimate father of centralized hierarchical (Leninist) organization as well as secular and socialist thoughts. The party was victim of organized repression starting 1948 and then 1963, as well as the breakdown of socialist countries in the 80’s and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which led to the downfall of leftist ideologies in the world in general, and prompted the remainder of leftist movements to turn to democratic action, away from radical orientations.

2It goes without saying that the emergence of political parties and social movements is an aspect or a preface to political transformation and regime change, namely during phases of transition on the way to democracy. In Iraq, the emergence of the parties’ phenomenon wasn’t a step towards political change and a transitory step towards democracy. In fact, the external political change and the political economic liberalism imposed from above (by the current coalition authority headed by the US ambassador Paul Bremer) are the main factors that spurred the surfacing of a large number of parties and latent social movements since 2003.

3The situation in Iraq is quite similar to that of the Soviet Union where the foundations of the unilateral power broke down, allowing the latent social movements to break loose and enter the political scene as liberal, nationalist, ultranationalist, leftist, and monarchical movements, and allowing tensions between ethnic groups to resurge and express themselves.

4The social culture evolved from civil-secular ideas to a religious-political culture, allowing popular religiousness- the biggest bearer of political Islam- to grow. In this launch, political powers crystallized on several foundations: doctrinal (ideological), nationalist/ethnic, religious/confessional, clannish/familial, and area-related (extremism in protecting cities and villages). The biggest schism was religious/ confessional and nationalist/ethnic. It is a situation where sub-national identities emerge as major identities and where these sub-national identities are broken down into smaller identities. In this situation, the Iraqi Communist Party and other civil parties worked and still are.

General Background

5The Iraqi Communist Party is one of the oldest known parties in Iraq. It was established in 1934, almost one decade after the new state was created amid the British mandate. Throughout the monarchy (1921-1958) and the next four republics, the party worked in secrecy except for short periods where it worked in a semi-public manner during the first year of the July revolution (1958-1959) or a streamlined public manner (the mandate of the National Front with the Baath (1973-1978).

6The Communist Party presents itself as the political tool of workers, peasants, and intellectuals, stating that its ultimate goal is the establishment of the socialist society on the basis of the Marxist theory (previously). Although the party is, in this respect, an international party that’s part of the World Proletariat and the International Solidarity Movement it has designed to itself several political, economic, social programs and a local Iraqi culture, as it is a national party that operates within the legal framework of the Iraqi state. The party used to divide its actions in the past on the basis of the following stages: the national democratic revolution, the non-capitalist development, and the socialist construction. The party sought on this basis to meet democratic (non-socialist) goals represented in the following priorities: achieving political democracy; agricultural reforms in rural areas/against property-owner feudalism; industrializing the country; leaving military alliances and getting rid of foreign (British) military bases; providing freedom for women and Arab Unity.

7The party gave up the concept of peaceful democratic transformation adopting “violence” as a means of political change in the second congress in 1957. As a result, it encouraged secret military organizations and coordinated with the free officers, thus accelerating the eruption of the July 1958 revolution that founded the first republic. The Communist Party turned to the largest popular Party in 1959, polarizing workers, peasants, and parts of the middle class, which frightened all the liberal, centrist, and conservative movements, as well as the regional and international anti-communist states, the party failed to maintain sociopolitical alliances that support the major changes which were stirred by the July revolution, and this period ended with several schisms that led to the 1963 Baathist coup, and the scattered party resorted to secret (and armed) action in Kurdistan.

8During the Aref brothers’ rule (1963-1968), the party pulled itself together and pursued secret action, suffering the largest dissension in its ranks in 1967. After Baath’s second return to power in 1968, there was a major shift in the party’s strategy towards cooperating with Baath in a national front on the basis of non-capitalist progress towards socialism. As a result, the party enjoyed overt legitimacy that allowed it to publish a daily, a weekly, and monthly magazine, and to open several headquarters.

  • 1  The Communist Party believes that the movement sustained a crushing military defeat; however, it d (...)

9As the Baath ’s rule grew stronger and its bases grew larger thanks to the wealth that was brought by the oil frenzy, relations between the ICP and the Baath collapsed in the Spring and the Summer of 1978 after a group of ICP members were executed for being allegedly involved in developing secret organizations in the army ranks. Once again, the party turned to clandestine action before moving to armed action in the mountains of Kurdistan, until the al-Ansar movement was struck in 19881. After the 1991 revolution, the party turned again to public action in the Kurdish areas that were freed from the central authority, and attempted to rebuild its structures in the Arab part. During the Iraqi-Iranian war (1980-1988) and the siege (1990-2003), the party faced the problem of bringing the democratic orientation in its policy (under the slogan: ousting Baathist dictatorship and setting up a democratic rule) in line with the patriotic orientation: defending Iraq against any Iranian onslaught and then against the American blockade. As a result, several blocs declared dissidence from the party. And so, conflicts of a patriotic character mixed with conflicts on leadership renewal, and many members of the old guard who were barred from leadership councils were able to blow off steam by criticizing the so-called “non-patriotic” aspect of the party’s policy.

10The ICP will run into this problem again in 2002-2003 with the unraveling of the United States’ plans to invade Iraq and alter its political system by force.

The Organizational Structure

11The party adopts the Leninist structure which is based on a very centralized hierarchy that works according to control and guidance restrictions and rules. As per this hierarchy, the lower bodies are subject to the higher ones with quasi-military discipline. Recently, centralization has been mitigated with a series of reforms and amendments in the internal statute in order to cut down on the number of bodies in the center and facilitate communication with the headquarters.

12The Communist Party distinguished itself historically by founding a special organization for Kurds known as “the Kurdistan region committee” given his faith in the importance of giving Kurds the right to self-determination (autonomy). After 1991, the region’s committee evolved into a semi-independent party by the name of “the Kurdistan Communist Party” that chose a central committee and a political bureau similar to that of the root party. However, the Kurdistan Communist Party’s Secretary General is a member of the ICP’s political bureau in order to ensure connection and coordination between the Arab and the Kurdish organizations (there are also several members of bipartisan joint committees).

13The party holds an annual meeting for all the central committee’s members, and this meeting issues a detailed political, organizational, and intellectual report (it doesn’t address financial aspects). After its publication, the report is thoroughly discussed by the party’s bases. The central committee’s regular annual meeting is an opportunity to follow up on the political bureau’s work and renew its election; it just might be the only democratic mechanism in the party’s life. The committee’s meetings produce a general political report and reports on the different aspects of the party’s work. As for the financial report, it is strictly for internal deliberations.

14The party also holds a general conference every four of five years according to the internal statute. However, these conferences are irregular as the party only managed to hold five conferences between 1973 and 2007 (the 8th conference), which is equal to one conference every seven years.

15This gives the political bureau and the Secretary General more freedom in terms of making decisions and restructuring the central committee in a centralized manner. However, general conferences started witnessing delegates’ elections from the bottom, and nobody was interfering to prevent candidacy unless it was for security reasons or organizational rules violations by a candidate.

  • 2  The ICP publishes its central newspaper Tarîq al-sha‘ab (The People’s Path) as well as its intelle (...)

16Membership terms state that members must work on a regular basis in one of the bodies, and that they must be committed to the party’s ideology and organizational rules. They also stipulate that members must pay their monthly membership fees and unconditionally abide by higher decisions (the “execute then complain” rule). Tasks are divided between the members of the political bureau and the central committee who head specialized committees: the ideological action committee; the media committee; the military action committee (back in the days of the Al-Ansar war against the Baath between 1979 and 1989); the trade unions’ committee; the farmers’ committee; the popular organizations’ committee; the foreign relations committee…etc2. Although these committees enjoy a certain level of freedom, their orientations and decisions are controlled by the center, i.e. the political bureau, and specifically the central committee’s secretary general.

17Limiting the decision making process to the political bureau maintains a very centralized structure and gives this structure a very “stiff” character that clearly shows in the fact that the secretary general remained in his position for more than twenty consecutive years and that most central bodies remained intact. And this might greatly impede the accession of the young generation to higher position in the party.

18As a result, the party’s organizational pattern is a Leninist and centralized pattern that is also a modern elitist leadership pattern based on merit and knowledge on one hand and elections on the other. A new organizational pattern was added to the party, i.e. the military pattern, which was introduced in the eighties. However, this pattern was abandoned after the disbanding of the al-Ansârmovement- the party’s military wing- and the integration of its Kurdish members in the Peshmerga forces (the Kurdish militia forces), which in turn became part of the Iraqi armed forces in 2003. Furthermore, former Arab members of the ICP’s armed wing enlisted in the new Iraqi army.

19After becoming able to operate publicly in the Kurdish zone following 1991, the party developed its bureaucratic model by establishing a series of offices in major cities and municipalities in order to manage its work bureaucratically. However, after 2003, the party extended its offices chain to cover all of Iraq, and today, it has more than 90 offices. When the leaderships of organizations (on the local level and above) move to office work, they turn into bureaucratic (administrative) bodies just like government and financial institutions. As a result, their work becomes much more organized, and their correspondences as well as their relations become much more coordinated and orderly with more organized records.

20The bureaucratic pattern is still in its early beginnings and a far cry from complete institutional transformation, which promotes the centralized character- at least for now. The bureaucratic pattern is an organizational form of centralization, while institutionalization is the legal form of centralized organization. Since institutionalization hasn’t been implemented yet due to the absence of laws that regulate the establishment and operation of parties (there is only a an electoral law for the registering of political entities), the bureaucratic pattern allows the higher body to better control financial and human resources, which turn into a top-down guidance and control tool, considering that the party’s cadres who work willingly and are evaluated according to their competence and achievement become paid employees (paid cadres). There is no difference between employees and party members (similar to the British Labour Party). This applies to all the parties that switched to the bureaucratic pattern, whether their leaderships were charismatic (religious), traditional (clannish), or modern elite (secular parties).

21Given all these facts, the policy and decision making processes remain in the hands of the higher elite, regardless of its nature. This takes its toll on the internal democratic character despite its remarkable predominance in the Communist Party. This also makes the transfer of authority (i.e. the change of leadership in the bureaucratic pattern- to a lesser degree compared to the charismatic pattern) slow and bound by the will of the decision-making elite, namely the political bureau, and to a greater extent, the Secretary General.

22It all depends on the Secretary General and his willingness to negotiate authority transfer issues in a democratic manner or otherwise.

23It is generally noted that both traditional and modern parties tends to maintain their leaderships, as an indicator of stability, coherence, and steadiness. This general social inclination marks the Iraqi society (and probably the region’s societies), which lacks specific change dynamics that can be found in modern, industrial societies. Hence, the persistence of certain leaderships for certain periods of time reflects this tendency just as it reflects the leaders’ individual desires.

The Social Environment

24In its organizational and mobilization orientations, the party relies on its Marxist-Leninist ideology that focuses on awareness-raising, the organization, and the mobilization of workers, farmers, and revolutionary intellectuals who belong to the lower and medium categories of the middle class who rely on knowledge or property (or both) as long as they’re biased to socialist choices. As the social structure changed, this abstract theoretical framework changed accordingly during implementation. Given its commitment to secularism, the party was a trans-religious and trans-confessional party, just like it managed to be a trans-ethnic party thanks to its nationalist principles. True to this reputation, the party reached out to Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Aramaics. Practically, it is the only trans-confessional, trans-religious, and trans-ethnic Iraqi party. Hence the party’s strong tendency to strengthen the Iraqi identity besides the interest it dedicated to the Kurds’ right to self-determination and to the minorities’ cultural rights as well the attention it dedicates to Arab unity. And this proves the party’s ability to attract poor classes and minorities that are afraid of marginalization.

25This tendency was reinforced when the party addressed the social question such as workers’ rights, land for farmers, and women’s freedom, and all are class rights that surpass confessional, religious, and nationalist identities. During the period between 1940 and 1970, the party established a trade union movement (despite the decrease in the number of industrial workers), as well as farmers’ movements, a student movement, and a women movement, relying on the social changes that marked the industrial rush in the 50’s and the 60’s, as well as the growth of the proletariat, the collapse of crafts and artifacts that caused craftsmen to turn to the left, and the growth of education institutions which caused the number of poor students to rise. Moreover, the party profited from women’s entry to the job market, which gave them ever-growing social weight.

26Nevertheless, the period between the late 70’s and the late 90’s witnessed several transformations and turning points that took their toll on the party’s popular bases: for example, agricultural reforms in rural areas and the persistence of rural exodus to the cities shrunk the party’s farmer bases and stripped it of one of its mobilization assets, i.e. calling for the distribution of rural lands to farmers. Moreover, and despite its relative expansion, the industrial workers’ class grew under the umbrella of the state that was under the Baath’s authority both organizationally and union-wise, which deprived the party of its power in terms of trade unions. Moreover, the successive blows that were directed to the party in 1963, 1970, 1978, and 2003 by the Baathist security apparatuses weakened its capacity to mobilize and organize. As a result, the party was rendered unable to mobilize the masses, let alone to expand student bases. While the oil revolution that the country witnessed since 1973 stirred a major expansion of the middle class (around 54% of city inhabitants starting the 90’s) that counts on the salary or properties. However, these social powers were attracted to the ruling party under several motives, namely ideological and interests-oriented ones.

27This social change (the growth of the cities, the expansion of the middle class), political change (the rise of the only party regime), and economic change (the oil frenzy) accompanied by the state’s rising economic might took its toll on the party’s growth. Moreover, security blows brought down the party’s apparatus from 70 000 members in 1978 to around 10 000 a year later. However, the biggest setback that the party sustained was the fall of the socialist camp in the late 80’s and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, which seriously undermined the attractiveness of the socialist thought globally and on the Iraqi scene of course, just like Germany’s defeat by the Soviet Union in 1945 was a major factor behind the reinforcement of communist movements in the world. The party showed no flexibility in addressing the expanding middle class and largely remained trapped in its old methods by only reaching out to social classes and categories that lost their significant efficiency (workers) or their popular majority (farmers) or started organizing themselves directly (minorities: Turkmen, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Aramaics); and to make matters worse, the party remained trapped in its inert ideological vision.

28The situation worsened due to several other factors. The great urban exodus allowed the workers’ ranks to be infiltrated by several rural categories that have a cultural and traditional tendency to natural organization: the tribe and tribal solidarity networks were transferred to the city, as well as the Shiite clerics (Sayyed) and philanthropic organizations (husseiniyates). And since the party was deprived of unions (the Baathist ban period) and public action (during the Iraqi-Iranian war and the blockade 1980-2003), the void that if left was quickly filled by the Baathist State at first, and by tribal and religious solidarity networks during the blockade (1991-2003) that was marked by a partial fall of the Baathist State and its services.

29Thus, when the middle class started falling apart during the blockade (particularly after 1995), the party wasn’t present on the scene to mobilize people and attract them. In fact, the emergence of tribal and social solidarity networks in the social field that was previously filled by the Communist Party was reinforced by the rise of Shiite Political Islam and replaced in a later stage by political Islam with its substantial financial and symbolic resources after the fall of the Baathist regime subsequent to the United States invasion of Iraq.

Sociology of the Leadership and of the Popular Bases

30The sociology of sociopolitical structure transformation is mirrored in successive parallel transformations, such as the stability or the change of the ICP’s leadership and its main cadres’ social structure. It is generally noted that the period between 1967 and 1985 witnessed relative stability in the leadership structure despite the major schisms and some block formation.

31Before, several dissidences as well as the security forces’ constant pursuits and physical liquidations (executions, people dying under torture) led to quick changes in the leadership structure to a degree that prevented any stability or accumulation of political and organizational expertise. However, the period between 1967 and 1985 witnessed leadership stagnation without any changes. This stagnation hindered the accession of a new generation of leaders. However, the collapse of the front with Baath(1978-1979) and the outbreak of the Iraq-Iran war shook the party and stirred an overwhelming current that called for the replacement of the most of the “old guard”. During the fourth (1985), the fifth (1993) and the sixth (1997) general conferences, the majority of the old guard had left the party and some of them took hostile stances towards the new leadership. One by one, the estranged leaders objected the party’s policy that was against that of the Baath during the Iraq-Iran war (1980-1988) and the blockade (1991-2003), cunningly calling for cooperating with the Baath under slogans similar to “defending the homeland” and “anti-imperialism”, or protesting the party’s understanding with Iraqi Liberal forces by considering them “imperial forces”. This orientation materialized in a “defensive” block that is still operating under different names.

32It is worth mentioning that during the sixth general conference (1997), the new central committee was made of 21 members, 7 of whom were elected as members of the political bureau. As for the structure of the other conference delegates, it reflects the aforementioned social transformations. 40% of the delegates were Arabs, while 55% were Kurds and 5% were other ethnic groups. This major Kurdish rise was the direct result of the liquidations that targeted the Arab section of the party’s organization a lot more than its Kurdish counterpart. Among the delegates 12.5% were made of the “old guard”. More than 52% of the new leaders weren’t students in the Soviet parties’ schools, and were pretty practical and flexible as opposed to the old guard’s dogmatic stubbornness. 32% of the delegates were workers, 32.5% were farmers, 42% were city middle class intellectuals, 14% were from the upper middle class, and 66% of the delegates had college degrees.

33By looking at the quantitative data of the conference’s delegates’ social structure, we conclude that workers and farmers are still the majority, and this proves the yearning to remain attached to class purity and ideological purity that are inherited from Stalinist traditions. Actually, according to the last available statistics (the 90’s), the demographic weight of social groups belonging to the working class in the Iraqi society is under 24%.

  • 3  We rely on data that was offered in 1997 by the party’s secretary general Hamîd Majîd Mûsâ and the (...)

34What’s new to the Communist Party’s structure is the healthy increase of the middle classes’ representation in the conference (42%), knowing that their relative weight in the cities amounts to 54% (before 2003). And during the seventh and eight conferences, the delegates’ social structure also showcases the growth of the middle class and people who hold college degrees3.

35Perhaps these sociological characteristics of the party’s structure explain partially at least the increase of openness and flexibility in the party’s policies in general, despite the fact that the old dogmatic orientations were never gone.

36This openness and flexibility are mirrored in the intellectual, organizational, and political domains. Intellectually, the party replaced Marxism-Leninism with the broad Marxist legacy; organizationally, it expanded the rights of grassroots organizations and internal elections; and politically, it showed high flexibility in political and electoral behavior whether with the provisional coalition authority that was set up by the United States in June 2003, or the sundry centrist and Islamic factions.

37However, it is also worth mentioning that women’s representation in the main leadership bodies (the central committee, the political bureau, or general conferences) is still very low, even when compared to somewhat conservative nationalist parties such as the Kurdistan Democratic Party or the Kurdistan National Union. For instance, there is only one woman in the Kurdistan Communist Party’s central committee and two women in that of the mother Communist Party. On the other hand, the weight of people under 40 years of age increased in conferences and leadership bodies, and we don’t have accurate data on women, age categories, and social classes in the party’s general structure, which renders these observations rather general and limited to leadership bodies.

  • 4  Idem.

The Participants of the Kurdistan Communist Party’s Fourth Conference, spring 20084

Table 1. Number of Participants










Table 2. Ethnicities



















Table 3. Classes
















Table 4. Level of Education

Educational Level

Reading and Writing

Elementary School

Middle School

High School



Higher Studies

















Table 5. Age Categories







66 and above















The Party and the Authority

38On the eve of the American-British invasion of Iraq in 2003, the party said it was against the war and called Iraqi social and political forces to take political change into their own hands in order to topple the one party dictatorship and set up a democracy. This position reflected the party’s embarrassment from supporting the toppling of the regime by the United States, considered to be “an imperial power”. This ideological barrier was and still is standing. Moreover, we have pacific aspects (world peace) in the party’s ideology and its legacy that calls for world peace and objects any war on Iran, the occupation, and the war on Kuwait. This is why the party was not able to support the war, even if it profited from its results. Still, it remained attached to its open objective: getting rid of the Baathist dictatorship.

39After the toppling of the regime in April 2003, the party saw that the situation was going in two directions: the country’s occupation on one hand, and the fall of the dictatorship on the other, which allowed the party to enter the political process despite the fact that this process was under the US influence. This tactic was aimed at avoiding isolation and seeking to meet the practical objectives. Based on this, the party participated in the governance council that was set up by the provisional coalition authority and in the first two provisional governments, where it was represented by the minister of culture Moufid al Jazaeri, and member of the party’s political bureau. The party’s Arab wing was weak in terms of financial and human resources, and suffered from the yoke of long-lasting repression since 1963 as well as the repercussions of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the breakdown of the leftist thought. It had to rebuild its organization amid the political and security chaos, as well as the rise of Islamic and radical populist movements and the emergence of armed violence against the occupation, which the party considered to be a return of the old regime and a fundamentalist terrorist movement (al Qaeda).

40The party defined its pragmatic political path on the basis of participation in building the new state on the democratic model on one hand, and working on the other hand on what it called “regaining national sovereignty”, a diplomatic political expression that stood for resisting the occupation using gradual peaceful and political means. Given this course, communists participated in the formation of several provisional local governments in the governorates that were set up by the Provisional Coalition Authority under the presidency of the US ambassador Paul Bremer between 2003 and 2004 as part of what is known as a bottom-up approach to building democracy. Moreover, the party attempted to rebuild the dismantled union movement, and the largest block of industrial workers was concentrated in the state sector (the socialist department) that was made of around 200 major production units that include around 399 000 workers. However, this sector was and still is dysfunctional, and trade unions had registered around 1 164 000 workers in 1986, which is equal to 34% of the inhabitants of urban areas and around 22% of the national labor force at the time. Nevertheless, Trade unions were dismantled during the Baath’s reign according to the law number 150 of 1987 that canceled the title “worker” as well. As a result, the workers’ block was deprived of its legal significance and its organizational and institutional frameworks, and found itself confronted to a massive crowd of marginalized categories and unemployed people who totaled more than 50% (according to the World Bank statistics).

  • 5  These numbers are based on the data of the Iraqi elections’ higher independent body. The numbers w (...)

41The Communist Party participated in the first constitutional and local elections in January 2005, when it ran with an independent list that bore its name; the Kurdistan Communist Party participated in the elections as part of the list formed by the Kurdistan alliance. The ICP scored meager results which came as a terrible shock; from a total 8.266.456 votes, it managed to get 69920 votes in parliament, which is equal to 0.83%. Moreover, in the parallel local elections, and out of 7.900.920 votes, the party managed to get 140.890 votes, which equals 1,78%5.

42During and after the electoral campaign, Shiite movements in general started exhibiting extreme hostility towards the ICP and other non-Islamic movements by considering them secular (laic) parties and movements that is infidels according to the “Islamic” interpretation that distorts secularism. The majority of voters in Shiite areas chose to assert the Shiite identity rather than the party’s class-oriented identity, especially that there was a compelling Fatwa to vote for the Shiite list, the united Shiite coalition, from the higher Shiite reference the Great Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani. Although there are several doubts regarding the issuing of this Fatwa (due to the unavailability of such texts), Shiite mosques and holy places promoted this idea and prompted large blocks of voters to embrace it and consider it a compelling “legal duty”.

43However, the voters who abided by this Fatwa during the constitutional elections didn’t abide by it during the local elections on the basis that Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani’s Fatwa was limited to the constitutional elections and wasn’t biding for the local governorates council. In fact, the Shiite coalition ran for these elections with a united list, while its components ran for the local elections each on its own, and this is why they were unable to use Sistani’s name to ask people to support different factions, despite them being Shiite. This dualism in electoral behavior that was shown by the ICP’s bases in Shiite areas clearly indicates the presence of another dualism in the concept of legitimacy, belonging, and identity, as well as the religious/confessional concept and the civil/social-class concept.

44Moreover, the fraud, forging, and violations that were carried out by the Islamic forces’ armed mobs also weakened the party’s representation (100 000 votes were cancelled after the first elections and 300 000 were cancelled after the second elections).

45With its independent electoral efforts, the party managed to get 3 seats in the parliament, and got 2 additional seats thanks to the Kurdistan Front. However, the party fared much better in the parallel local elections, which guaranteed it local government seats in the following governorates: Nasiriyyah, Basra, Hulla, and Baghdad. However, the party lost its only government seat in April 2005 after the appointment of the first Prime Minister Ibrahim Al Jaafari, who is known for his extreme hostility towards communism and a firm, dogmatic political vision.

46In spite of the fraud and violations, the elections revealed the weakness of civil secular movements in the Arab part of Iraq as opposed to the great power and influence of nationalist-civil-secular parties in the Kurdish part. This situation prompted the ICP to adopt a new tactic of allying with several centrist factions within the framework of the Iraqi List presided by the former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to run for the general parliamentary elections in December 2005. The list won 25 seats including 2 for the ICP, which enabled it to regain its seat in Al Maliki’s government (Spring 2006) with the ministry of scientific research that was filled by official Raed Fahmi. In the Kurdistan region (Dhouk, Erbil, and Suleimaniyyah), the party also has a ministerial seat (the ministry of Transport) as well as 3 other seats; furthermore, the Kurdistan Communist Party has several seats in the governorates’ council, two in Erbil, one in Suleimaniyyah, another in Dhoun, and two in Kirkuk.

47The ICP has a calm and flexible stance regarding political change, and attempts to retake its position through participation despite the weakness of its popular and politico-institutional influence. And amid the aggravation of violence, confessionalism, and corruption, as well as the spread of Islamic parties that seek to impose conservative values by means of their armed militias, the ICP takes a critical and opposing stance, hoping to regain composure to build a centrist civil block that will benefit from the public rage towards political violence (militias), and the confessional conflict, and benefit from the growing repulsion (since 2006) by conservative Islamic movements, and use all these factors in a different orientation. Moreover, considering itself a trans-religious party, the ICP hopes to polarize this anger and recover its position.

The Party’s Main Causes

48The ICP’s main causes can be regarded from two sides: the first is the intellectual position that is occupied by these causes in the party’s official documents (the eight national conference’s political report and the program that was ratified by the conference), and the second is all about the practical causes that the party is working on in a direct manner.

49According to the program, the current objectives are: achieving the country’s independence and its national sovereignty and building the civil society”, and the long-term objectives are the following: “social progress and socialism”. The party dropped “Marxism-Leninism” from its program, replacing it with “Marxist thought and socialist legacy” in general, thus declaring its rupture with the closed Russian model of socialism -in terms of socioeconomic policy. It is worth mentioning that the party still insists on its stance regarding the preservation of the public sector

50(The State’s capitalism) and giving the State a major economic and cultural role; however, it temporarily agrees to allow the private sector and foreign investments some maneuvering space in order for them to contribute to the country’s development. In fact, the party clearly addresses diversified ownership patterns, the stance towards privatization, how to deal with foreign investments, and the oil policy. In general, the party’s stances are opposed to neo liberalism orientations that seek to impose its own pattern and model. The stance towards the private sector and the necessity of supporting it, as well as dealing with investments based on economic criteria and even reviewing State projects based on economic feasibility isn’t a temporary one according to the party’s leadership. It considers “the public sector…a main foundation of the national economy”. This is based on the party’s assumption that market economy leads to “brutal capitalism” (the term is borrowed from the French left) and doesn’t necessarily lead to democracy on the basis of separating the political authority and the economic authority.

51The party doesn’t think that the State’s ownership of industry and oil sector can lead to authoritarian tendencies (anti-democratic), nor does it see any structural bon between the State’s hegemony over the economy and the emergence of dictatorship. Despite the presence of numerous economic experts in the party’s ranks, the theories of the welfare State, and the relation between hegemony on one hand the impact that was left by the absence of separation between the political and economic fields are totally inexistent in the party’s thought, or at least they’re nowhere to be seen in the party’s official documents.

52It is worth mentioning that the program addresses new economic sectors, such as tourism as well as internal and foreign trade, health, education, water, the environment, culture, media, and telecommunications. The party calls on the “State” to “manage the cultural process” in terms of expenditure, and this request doesn’t address the State’s hegemony over culture through funding and the threats that this problem poses to the independence of the cultural situation, considering that the latter needs to enjoy the highest level of independence from the State’s restrictions. The party focuses on abrogating decision 156 of 1986, issuing a new Labour code, and maintaining the amended personal status code 188 of 1959. The program also includes new paragraphs on parties thought such as “children’s rights”, “the environment”, and “civil society organizations”, all of which are titles that reflect the legal and political awareness to the new forms of modern life.

53The program concludes by reaffirming the Kurdish State’s right to self-determination (including separation or the federal or confederal union) as well as the guarantee of ethnic, administrative, and cultural rights of Turkmen, Chaldo-Assyrians, Armenians, Aramaics, and Yazidis. The ICP no longer ended its programs with the issues of socialism around the world, and replaced them with study of the relations with Arab and regional countries, and Iraq’s ties with the rest of the world.

54In its practical activity, the party focuses on trade unions; it always makes sure to organize a Labour Day rally every 1st of May, and dedicates considerable efforts to rebuild the disintegrated trade union movement. Moreover, the party focuses on commemorating the July 14th 1958 revolution in an attempt to revive its national symbolism and take pride in its individual symbolism; in fact, it represents the ICP’s golden age where several achievements were reached, such as the personal status code and agricultural reforms. Moreover, the party organized several women rallies and mobilized women while the constitution was being written in order to defend women’s rights and the personal status code from conservative Islamists. Perhaps the most important thing that’s missing is activity related to living conditions (prices, fuel…), a kind of activity that’s almost monopolized by the Sadr Movement.

55Despite the low number of communist MPs, the ICP plays a pivotal role in the constitution and constitutional applications. In fact, the parliament entrusted the party with a special committee to study the Kirkuk issue and the problematic implementation of article 140 that pertains to that particular issue.

56This trust in the ICP is based on the fact that the party adopts a worldly ideology that respects all ethnicities and defends their rights. Thus, its bias towards Kurdish federalism and the Kurdish nation’s right to self-determination doesn’t prevent it from upholding the ethnic, cultural, and administrative rights of ethnic minorities.

57The Fact that the ICP was entrusted with this task represents recognition of its impartiality among the clashing ethnicities and its expertise and understanding of the ethnic issue and its problems. However, the Kirkuk committee’s activity remained limited due to the parliament’s weakness and lack of expertise. In fact, the parliament allocated no funds to the committee, and it remained held up. The party is able to positively play a positive role in reinforcing cross ethnic ties; it is also able to expand its role in order to solve the public sector’s problem by developing its services and liberating it from the State’s control by providing it with more independence and responsibility.

58Finally, the resurgence of the Iraqi culture as a shield in the face of confessional discrimination opens new horizons for the party, knowing that it is one of the oldest parties that bear the Iraqi identity in both its ideology and its structure.


59The ICP represents a model in the region (and maybe the world), which States that social, cultural, and political change led to the fall of leftist ideologies and the rise of political Islam and ethnic trends as alternatives grounded on identity politics and not the conflict of classes. It also led to the reduction of the social bases of the leftist movement in general (the reduction of the proletariat, the drain of the agricultural rural areas) and the fact that the rural displaced people turned to natural leaders (the sheikhs of clans that moved to the cities) instead of turning to modern unions, and the expansion of the middle class that is constantly looking for social progress opportunities. All these factors as well as others took their toll on the ICP’s influence, and perhaps the breakdown of identity politics and its failure might pave the floor for a resurgence of the left, albeit limited.



Abedl Jabbar Faleh, 1995, The State, the Civil Community and Democratic Evolution in Iraq, Cairo, Ibn Khaldoun Center.

Al Kathimm Nassir, 1986, The Communist Party in Iraq and the Agricultural Issue, Beirut, Socialist Studies Center.

Batato Hanna, 1990, Iraq: Social Classes and Revolutionary Movements from the Ottoman Rule to the Rise of the Republic, translated by Tarraz Afif, Beirut, Publishing house.

Group Work, 2006, Ethnicity and the State, Beirut, Iraqi Studies Institute.

Sluglett Peter, 2000, Iraq from Revolution to Dictatorship, London, I.B.Tauris.


The Iraqi Communist Party, 1998, Seventh National Conference Documents (26-29 July 1997), The People’s Path Publications, May.

New Culture magazine, various releases.

Documents and conferences

“Documents from the Iraqi Communist Party’s Fourth National Conference,” 10-15 November 1985.

The Iraqi Communist Party’s program, “In Order to Carry out the National Democratic Revolution and Move on to Socialism,” stated after the party’s fourth national conference, 10-15 November, 1985.

The Iraqi Communist party’s internal order, ratified during the party’s central committee’s meeting – May 1988.

Into the fifth conference, two projects for discussion, “The Program, the Internal Statute and the Political Report,” stated after the party’s central committee full meeting, September, 1991.


“The Iraqi Communist Party’s Seventh Conference”, 25-28 August 2001: go to the following website:

 “Documents from the Iraqi Communist Party’s Eighth National Conference,” 10-13 May 2007:


1  The Communist Party believes that the movement sustained a crushing military defeat; however, it didn’t collapse, and many cells-including ours- remained intact and several armed groups remained in border zones and managed to regain contact with the internal groups.

2  The ICP publishes its central newspaper Tarîq al-sha‘ab (The People’s Path) as well as its intellectual magazine al-Thaqâfa al-jadîda (The New Culture)in Arabic. As for Kurdish, the Kurdistan Communist Party publishes the Rekai Kurdistan newspaper in both languages, and has one regular publication entitled the New Thought, it also owns the Dâr al-Ruwwad publishing house. Moreover, the Kurdistan Communist Party has 3 TV stations: Azadai (freedom), as well as radio stations Azadai in Erbil, Dohouk, Suleimaniyyah, and Kirkuk. The KCP also has a TV station in Rania and Kermian as well as 11 local radio stations.

3  We rely on data that was offered in 1997 by the party’s secretary general Hamîd Majîd Mûsâ and the member of the party’s political bureau Mufîd al-Jazâ’irî.

4  Idem.

5  These numbers are based on the data of the Iraqi elections’ higher independent body. The numbers were compiled by ICP official Raed Fahmi on January 2005 after the constitutional elections.


Dr Faleh Abdel Jabbar is Director of the Institute of Iraqi studies in Beirut

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