In the aftermath of the party’s fourth congress in October 1985, a group of 11 members led by an ex-alternate member of the central command of the party were expelled from the party. They had violated the party’s constitution by publicly circulating a memorandum attacking the new policy adopted by the party after its turn against the Baath rule in 1979, a document ratified by the 1985 congress. The document criticized the past experience of alliance with the Baath party on the grounds that the CP had accepted the possibility of the Baath leading Iraq’s transition to socialism. Consequently, according to the document, the CP had abandoned its political, ideological and organizational independence vis-à-vis the ruling party. The new party line emphasizes a break with the past policies of playing the role of a pressure group, and stresses the need for the re-establishment of a mass independent party. The party could have partly avoided the heavy blow of government repression in the late 1970s if the leadership had more realistically assessed the nature of the relations with the Baathists. Its overly optimistic line led to exposing virtually the whole party network to the state’s intelligence apparatus. Hence the vast number of exiled communists abroad today. The party was left with two options: semi-permanent exile or exploiting every possibility to re-enter Iraq and rebuild the party’s organization and presence among the masses.

Iraqi Kurdistan represented an excellent springboard because of its mountainous topography, and the surviving presence of the party’s organization there almost intact. Thus the party had no Maoist or Guevarist illusions when it chose to work from this difficult region.

But the expelled group accused the party of adopting an ultraleftist strategy. They also claimed that the present leadership of the party is dominated by Kurds. Ironically, the most prominent member of the expelled group is himself a Kurd.

The party responded that around 70 percent of the new leadership is Arab and the rest Kurds and other minorities. This composition reflects the distribution of Iraq’s population.

The main issue of conflict now concerns the connection between ending the war and overthrowing the Iraqi regime. Regarding the war, the expelled group raises the slogan of defending the homeland; as for the regime, they speak of establishing a democratic regime without reference to overthrowing the present one.

The CP accuses the expelled group of trying to find a common ground with the regime. The main obstacle to defending the homeland, according to the party, is the survival of the present regime, which is destroying the political, social, economic and ideological prerequisites for defense and popular mobilization.

This group does not represent a split in the party. It is composed of very few members, mainly confined to the community of exiled communists. It has no presence inside Iraq, and the dissidents themselves do not regard their group as an organization.

How to cite this article:

Isam al-Khafaji "A Split in the Iraqi Communist Party?," Middle East Report 151 (March/April 1988).

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