Third World Resistance and Western Intellectual Solidarity 

by James Petras *)

April 7, 2004 "ICH" -- Falluja, Baghdad, Ramadi, Nasiriya--an entire people has risen to confront the colonial occupation army, its mercenaries, clients, and collaborators. First in massive peaceful protests, they were massacred by US, British, Spanish and Polish troops: Bare hands against tanks and machineguns. The armed resistance, in the beginning a minority, now indisputably the most popular force, backed by millions. 

The colonial armies, fearful of every Iraqi, shoot wildly into crowds and retreat; they encircle whole cities, fire missiles into crowded working- class neighborhoods, helicopters pour machinegun fire into homes, factories, mosques. In the eyes of the colonial soldiers, the enemy is everywhere. For once they are right. 

The resistance resists--every block, every house, every store rings out with gunfire, the resistance is everywhere. Every house takes hits, the resistance fights on. The people aid the wounded fighters, wash their wounds. They provide water to the thirsty to quench their parched throats and cool their hands--the automatic weapons are hot. 

And where are the western mercenaries? The $1,000-dollar-a-day hired guns with their flak vests, dark glasses--their swagger and insolence--have disappeared. They too have seen the charred bodies of their ex-partners of death. 

Hundreds of Iraqis have been killed, thousands have been injured, many more will die but after each funeral tens of thousands more, the peaceful, apolitical, "wait and see" ones have taken up the gun. 

'It's a civil war', brays the press. This is wishful thinking. Shia and Sunni are in this together, brothers and sisters (yes, women street fighters) in arms, each covering their comrades' backs as they confront the tanks. 

And the resistance is winning. Never mind the "proportions"--five or ten or twenty Iraqis for each colonial soldier. The Iraqi Resistance has won politically: No appointed official has any future: They exist as long as the US military remains but they will flee from the rooftops of their bunkers as the US withdraws. 

Militarily, the US and the mercenaries are taking thousands of casualties-- scores of deaths and wounded everyday. In Washington, the civilian militarists, the architects of the destruction of Iraq are panicking. "Send more troops!" say Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and the would-be president Kerry. 

From his Texas ranch, Bush proclaims the resistance leader Moqtada Sadr a "killer". Far from the fire, the mayhem, the massacres, his television doesn't show the child with the mangled face. Bush once again is far from the killing fields--Vietnam and now Iraq. Now he can claim a draft deferment--he is nominally the President who unilaterally declared the end of the war in May 2003. 

Now, April 2004 there are more than 600 dead US soldiers as the Iraqi resistance rose to meet Bush's challenge "Bring them on" and took the streets from the colonial army, then they came on and conquered the cities and with sheer courage and absolute determination they hold their ground. 

The "Arabs" resist, while the overstuffed cabbage Sharon is silent. His once loquacious agents--Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams and their underlings--are strangely silent. Are they worried that there might be a mass backlash against those who cooked the data to get the US into a war in which thousands of US soldiers will die and be maimed--in order to "protect" Israel's undisputed claim to dominance in the Middle East? 

In the early spring of 2004, in April to be exact, the dreams of a new colonial empire came crashing down on the masterminds of the New World Order, an undisputed, unilateral Empire. The end of the Sharon-Wolfowitz-Blair-Cheney "Greater Mid-East Co-Prosperity Sphere". The Iraqi resistance has turned the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz dream of a series of wars against Syria, Iran, Cuba, and North Korea into a nightmare of bloody street battles on every block in Falluja and Sadr City, Baghdad. 

The heroism, the valor, the inspiration, the mass resistance is all the more so as the Iraqi people draw on their resources, their own solidarity, their own history, their belief that they will be free or take down every colonial soldier as they fight to the death. 

The phrase "Patria o Muerte" takes on a special and very specific meaning in Iraq. It is not a slogan of a leader, a vanguard, to arouse and inspire the people--it is the living practice of a whole people. Patria or Muerte comes out of the mouths of teenage street fighters as well as street vendors and widows with black scarves. 

The "Iraqi April Days" are a lesson for the whole Third World and other would-be imperial colonialists: Mass armed resistance cannot be politically or militarily defeated. The heroism of the Iraqi resistance stands in stark contrast to the cowardly self-styled Arab leaders: 

The Jordanian and Saudi monarchs, the garrulous corrupt "President for Life" Mubarak, the Iranian Ayatollah collaborators. Not one has moved a finger to aid the Iraqi national liberation struggle. They fear the example of the successful Iraqi resistance will light a fire under their ample buttocks. 

And the Western intellectuals? Since the resistance began a year ago, not a single US intellectual--of the dozens of progressive, critical thinkers ("Not in My Name")--has dared to declare their solidarity with the anti-colonial struggle. They have "problems", I hear, "about supporting Arab fundamentalists, terrorists, anti-Semites, etc." 

Echoes of the French intellectuals who also opposed the popular armed resistance movements against the Nazis because the "Communists had taken over." Or later because the 'colons' in Algeria also had a "right to be in Algeria" (Albert Camus). In his book "Listen Yankee", C. Wright Mills challenged US 'progressives' who balked at supporting the Cuban Revolution in the early 1960s. "This is a real blood and guts popular revolution", he said. "You can make a difference, you can be part of the solution or part of the problem." 

The Western intellectuals are a problem. They are not ordering the troops, even less are they (or their children or grandchildren) pulling the triggers murdering Iraqi school kids. They are sitting on their hands. "But", they protest, "we oppose the war" while they scramble to endorse candidate Kerry who does support the war and even calls for 40,000 more troops to pour missiles into crowded neighborhoods--under UN auspices to be sure. 

So where are the Western intellectuals in these days when the Iraqi people have risen arms in hand to resist the US military juggernaut? There are two sides: An entire nation fighting a colonial occupation army and US imperialism. Serious and consequential political intellectuals must make a choice: 

To refuse to take sides is tantamount to complicity. Intellectual complacency is a luxury for intellectuals in the empire which doesn't exist in Iraq. Over 1000 Iraqi intellectuals and professors have been murdered during the occupation. The issues are not obscure or complex. One side demands free elections, a free press, and self-determination while the other--the colonial officials--ban newspapers, appoint puppet rulers and murder their opponents. 

The paralysis of the US leftist intellectuals, their inability to express solidarity with the Iraqi resistance is a disease which afflicts all "leftist" intellectuals in the colonial countries. They are fearful of the problem (the colonial war) and fearful of the resolution (national liberation). 

In the end, the comforts and freedoms they enjoy, the university applause and adulation they receive in the colonial motherland weighs more heavily than the mental costs of a straightforward declaration of support for the revolutionary liberation movements. 

They resort to phony "moral equivalences", against the war and against the "fundamentalists", the "terrorists", the 'whoever' who is engaged in their own self-emancipation and has not paid sufficient attention to the self-appointed guardians of Western Democratic Values. It is not difficult to understand the absence of solidarity with liberation movements among the progressive intellectuals in the imperial countries: they too have been colonized, mentally and materially. 

Thousands of humble people in Iraq are giving these erudite intellectuals a practical lesson in solidarity: on April 4, 2004 in the midst of hostile tanks and helicopter gunships, thousands marched from Baghdad to Fallujah carrying food and medicine to the embattled and encircled people in that city which will forever be remembered as the cradle of emancipation. 

Will our intellectuals take note? Can they at least circulate a statement "In Our Name" in solidarity with the Iraqi resistance? 

In the meantime, the mass popular resistance in Iraq takes on the well-fed, over-armed armies of occupation in hand-to-hand warfare. They do not ask if their neighbor, friends or comrades are Sunni, secular, Shia, Baathist or Communist, they do not stand aside when a mosque, a school or a housing project is bombed or machine-gunned. They have made a commitment to engage in the struggle, to join in one national movement to oust the invader, the oil thieves, the murderers at hand and afar. 

It's a pity--more for themselves than for any material contribution they could make to the historical struggle--that the US progressive intellectuals have chosen to abstain and once again demonstrate the irrelevance of the Western intellectuals to Third World Liberation.

*) James Petras, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, State University of New York, Binghamton, and Adjunct Professor of International Development Studies at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Author of 36 books and 300 articles -  Foreign Affairs, Z-Magazine, Monthly Review, Socialist Worker - on issues of Latin America and world development. Recent publications include: Globalization Unmasked: Imperialism in the 21st Century (2001), Neoliberalism and Class Conflict in Latin America, and Hegemonia dos Estados Unidos no Nova Milenio. Currently working on two books, Globalization in Historical Perspective: Myths and Realities and Beyond Neo-Liberalism: Alternative Strategies of Development. He received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967., ...

Petras' web site in english is at: A superset list of his articles in Spanish is at: