By Amir Iskander
Translated by Hassan Selim
Part II Chapter 7
The role of the party supersedes the technocrats
Having reached this point in the thoughts of Saddam Hussein there are a
number of important questions, some purely theoretical and others more
practical, which must be asked. For instance, can economic growth of the
type referred to lead to the creation of socialism? What guarantee is there
that it will not go the same way as other experiments in the developing
world, also carried out under the banner of socialism, and turn into state
capitalism? Looking back at his ideas about the developmental process
and the way it should be applied in Iraq, what in Saddam Hussein's
opinion is the role of the Iraqi masses? And how is this role represented?
What guarantee is there that it will continue, not only amongst the
masses, but also amongst the leaders themselves, who may be goaded by
success in "battle" imagine that they have won the "war", and
consequently make light of the role of the masses, or ultimately do away
with it altogether?
Saddam Hussein first of all says: "Not all development is a step along the
road to socialism in any country or regime. There has been development
in Europe, America, Japan and other countries, but it has not resulted in
socialism. The activities of the state in these places have been no more
than a form of state capitalism, which is part of the general process of
building capitalism. In such instances, the state with its authority is rather
ensuring that the capitalist system is maintained (1)." But on the other
hand: "Without development, the creation of a flourishing social system
which can serve as a model in this area of which we are part, and which
can increase the people's well being and provide the where-withal to
defend itself and its principles, is unimaginable. Similarly, development
in our country cannot but accurately express the socialist roots of the
system with its related programmes, to which again it is inescapably
There is therefore a close relationship between this and the principal
guidelines of our party in both social and economic fields (2)."
An important conversation held during the meeting between Saddam
Hussein and Fidel Castro on the morning of December 15th, 1978, which
was also attended by a number of those behind the Cuban revolution,
serves to confirm the above and is reproduced here in part:
CASTRO: You are certainly wise in saying that we should gain time,
because time works in the interests of revolution. Iraq can advance
politically, socially, economically and militarily. The uneducated gained the first victory for the Cuban army, and we are now summoning the
army's middle ranks, and so we are better trained and prepared. They are
more skilled in the use of arms. In the case of Iraq, time is working in
your favour, because you're developing the whole country and rallying
the masses, which they didn't do in Egypt.
SADDAM HUSSEIN: There was no revolutionary party and no one
apart from Abdul Nasser. He was a revolutionary, but in different
circumstances to yours. You made sure of having revolutionaries before
assuming power and he didn't. In Iraq we also made sure we had
revolutionaries before taking control. The party made sacrifices and there
were martyrs and those who suffered prison and torture; but this had to be
done in order to create revolutionaries who knew how to keep the
revolution going and benefit the people. That's why we weren't worried.
Our worry was how to develop our programmes faster, and what methods
we should choose for applying socialism, as well as how, in three years,
we could wipe out the illiteracy affecting a sixth of the population. Now
we have one and a quarter million enrolled in literacy centres.
CASTRO: Despite the difficulties we are optimistic.
SADDAM HUSSEIN: Certainly, otherwise we wouldn't be
revolutionaries. The people work with goodwill, and whatever the
imperialists have gained they will never be able to make an accurate
estimate of the people's strength.
They aren't experts in this field. They only knew how to exploit and carry
out undercover work; but as to how the people are able to act in its own
interest, experience has always shown us that they miscalculate (3).
In this meeting with one of the most important socialist (Marxist) leaders
in the world, the role of revolutionary power, of the revolutionary party,
and of the rallying of the masses was confirmed. An obvious comparison
was also made between the Nasserite experience on the one hand and the
Cuban and Iraqi experience on the other. However, neither Castro nor
Saddam Hussein attributed the reason for the first's disastrous end to the
neglect to create a revolutionary party and rally together the masses.
Instead they merely said that Abdul-Nasser failed to ensure that there
were revolutionaries like himself before he took power, and to form a
revolutionary party after. Saddam Hussein expresses the same ideas
"So that ideas can be applied and then take root and build tradition, they
must be expressed in a practical form. If they remain in mere book form
any counter operation is made simple, and any person who takes power
into his hands can return the book to the library, as it were, thereby
destroying or weakening any counter influence (4).
Even so, the question still remains. Is it not possible for a party in power
to be so proud of its victories and so conceited about its achievements that it relaxes its muscles, its arteries harden, and the blood in its veins
solidifies? In many instances throughout the world there have been
parties, which, before they assumed power, were ablaze with revolution.
Then no sooner had they gained power than their flames died and their
revolutionary spirit grew cold, becoming nothing more than a set of
archives which the new bureaucrats take out of their drawers to look at
like an old photograph album, or something which is spoken about on
national occasions and official feast days.
That Saddam Hussein is fully aware of this is evident, not only from the
active days of his youth, but also from the long hard struggle he waged
within the party ranks before it took power, and after as its head. He did
not acquire the seat of power by design as, for him, to rule was not an aim
in itself. On the contrary, he asked more than once to be relieved from top
executive positions to retain only his position as an active member within
the party ranks. This, however, he only did after the revolution was
purged of saboteurs on July 30th, 1968, for the first time, although not for
the last. When preparations for the revolution were being made, he told
his colleagues that once they had assumed power he only wanted to be
considered as an ordinary member of the party. Naturally, they refused
his request, which in any case was not viable at the time; but after July
30th, 1968, knowing that the party was assured of full control, he told
President Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr following the declaration that his
former wish could now be carried out. But al-Bakr and his fellow leaders
again refused his wish, this time even more decisively, but he continued
to feel the same, even after spending many years as Vice-Chairman of the
Revolution Command Council. From -time to time he still now
experiences similar feelings, but he can no longer escape from his major
responsibility towards his people and the countries of the world as leader
of the country.
Indeed, this true party member is not forgotten, nor does he forget his
party, for an instant. As far as he is concerned, the state is the instrument
by which to administer the revolution, and it is therefore no surprise that
he should constantly urge his colleagues to transfer the party traditions to
"Colleagues, in your task of leading the country you would do well to
seek guidance from the party traditions.
They should provide a firm base for your daily work and serve a practical
use within the advanced state as need wants. Do not attempt to borrow the
state's traditions and substitute them for those of the party, because there
is a great qualitative difference between the political and systematic
construction of the state and that of the party, even though the state itself
is the party's. If there were no difference between the power of the state
and the party, the party would become the party of power instead of the power remaining the power of the party. In this case, we would lose the
quality we have of fighting to affect the good of society by a qualitative
change for the better.
Alternatively, we would be seriously weakened, and the party would
become a conventional tool of the state. The state itself would no longer
remain a non-static entity always led by the party in the interests of
Saddam Hussein also recognizes that criticism and self-criticism are vital,
and asserts to his party colleagues "we must not stray from the open
criticism to be found in democracies "(6). But does criticism for pure
criticism's sake mean that the leadership is democratic?
Indeed not. " At the same time, we must not allow mistaken ideas to go
by without being pointed out and resolutely dealt with. This is because
there are renegades hidden amongst us, or within Iraqi society and the
state organizations, and these remain strong because they are present,
intellectually and psychologically, in each state sector and emerge in
different forms according to circumstances (7)." Beware of renegades is
what he always tells them, not because he suspects that his people will
rule with an iron hand, but because he knows that the enemies of any true
revolution are many, both at home and abroad. He therefore constantly
reminds his colleagues to keep their wits about them and not
automatically assume there will be none. In his view, this requires a firm
supervision of ideas from the top, as well as which the invulnerability of
principles should be strengthened.
"We should not disregard our role in supervising the internal life of both
party and state, just as we should neither ignore to have supervision by
the masses of the state organizations, and even of the small pockets where
reactionary or right-wing elements have no specific hold.
We must work unswervingly to purge those vital positions within the
state organizations where there are influential right-wing elements, and
we must strengthen our control as regards the inviolability of the system
and its principles within the party itself (8).”
Renegades, however, have many guises, the most recent of which they
have borrowed from the need of various developing societies for
technology and modernization. Several revolutions in the third world
have gradually lost their hold and been replaced by bureaucrats and
technocrats. Technology becomes a hidden secret, which the new high
priests keep to themselves and use when required. Under the cover of
technical accounts of the applications of modern technology, the revolutionaries, because of their lack of knowledge, were always spreading the spurious secrets of
the high priesthood, thus providing openings for counter-revolution. However, Saddam Hussein realizes that there are those with good intentions and those with bad. "Many technicians, including Baathists, often find themselves dealing with the issue at stake from a technical point of view, and they forget the link between technical treatment and the general train of thought of the revolution, which is the way to build a new society (9)."
He does not hesitate to clearly state that which, in another time or place,
would surely lead to the failure of any leader's experiments: "Here we
say, and responsibly so, that you must not deal with major economic and
technical questions without consulting the technical experts. But do not
leave the task of economic leadership to them. Give them no opportunity
to assume the role of leader. Instead, they must always work under the
direction and leadership of the revolution, which has unlimited capacity
and expert technical knowledge. It knows the revolution, understands the
methods by which to alter society in general, and which direction the
change should take, and uses every economic movement to serve itself
and its aims (10)."
One might wonder, for instance, had matters been left to the
conventionally minded technical experts when battle was being prepared
to nationalize oil, would Iraq have been able to achieve its economic
independence and begin to apply its ambitious projects for development?
Technical experts have their own religion and revolutionaries have
another. In the majority of cases, the revolutionaries are closer to God's
heart for no other reason than that they always listen to the voice of the
1) Saddam Hussein, Hawla Iqamat al-Ishtirakiyya.
3) From the meeting between Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro in
Havana, December 1978.
4) Saddam Hussein, Unqulu Taqalid al-Hizb...