Iraq - The attitude of revolutionary communists towards the "resistance"

Jan/Feb 2007

While unconditional opposition to the US-British occupation of Iraq has been almost unanimous among the British revolutionary left, if only because it was so widespread across the spectrum of British public opinion, attitudes towards political events in Iraqi society and, more specifically, towards the political forces which have been thrown up by the invasion, have been more diverse. Nevertheless, within this diversity, the most common approach has been to blame the social and human catastrophe unfolding in Iraq over the past four years on the imperialist occupation alone, while portraying the so-called Iraqi "insurgency" in more or less "anti-imperialist" colours, because of its success in bogging down the world's most powerful military machinery.

However, given the nature of the political forces which form this "insurgency" and the terrible bloodshed they have proved capable of imposing on the population over the years, it is impossible for revolutionaries to limit themselves to condemning imperialism - which is, of course, their most elementary duty - while turning a blind eye on the real threat that these political forces represent for the Iraqi masses, no matter what difficulties these forces may create for the imperialist invaders.

There can be no ambiguity in such an approach. Readers of this journal are familiar with Workers' Fight's consistent opposition to any form of imperialist meddling in Iraq, military or otherwise. It was expressed in the columns of Class Struggle, as well as in the editorials of our workplace bulletins, long before the war started, at a time when many in the left were going along with, or at best not challenging, the then predominant pacifist illusions in the UN's ability and willingness to stop what was termed an "illegal war" - as if the only law that imperialism follows had not always been the law of the jungle!

There is no question for us, therefore, of equating the role and responsibilities of the imperialist powers in the plight of the Iraqi people to that of the Iraqi "insurgency". In a world which is so totally dominated and shaped by the imperialist system of exploitation and oppression as it is today, the capitalist classes of the imperialist countries are collectively responsible for the damage caused to the populations by their system, regardless of the specific circumstances and agents of this damage. This is why, for us, British capital bears as much responsibility in the Iraqi catastrophe as its US counter-part, despite playing only a junior role - but so does, for instance, French capital, despite playing no direct role in the war at all, because of its long-standing great power games in the Middle East in general and in Iraq in particular.

However, our opposition to the imperialist occupation of Iraq is not based on moral grounds. It is determined by our general objective - which all revolutionary communists claim to share - i.e. the overthrow of the capitalist world order by the proletariat taking political power by means of revolutionary methods. Our attitude is defined by what puts the international proletariat in a better position in its long march towards this goal and what, on the contrary, can be an obstacle to it.

The tightening of the noose of imperialism over the Middle East, which was the objective of the Iraq war, was never meant to bring about "democracy" in Iraq, as Blair and Bush cynically claimed. It could only mean increased exploitation for the whole region's population and its subjection to more "Western-friendly" regimes, that is the kind of bloody dictatorships which the imperialist powers usually sponsor in the poor countries, in order to police the masses - Saddam Hussein's regime being just one typical example of those.

Moreover, given the artificial nature of national borders in the Middle East, owing to the West's past great power games in the region, the brutal overthrow of Saddam's regime by a western invasion, independently from and in fact, against the Iraqi population, was bound to threaten the political stability of the country, if not of its neighbours. It was to be expected that the political vacuum thus created would unleash a struggle for power between rival factions, which were likely to use every centrifugal force available to boost their chances. And the Iraqi masses were bound to be caught in the cross-fire, not having had time to build their own independent class organisations, without which it was impossible for them to take the initiative in the name of their own class interests.

These were - and are - the reasons to oppose both the invasion and the occupation of Iraq. And as the events of the past four years have shown, the worst fears that one might have had in 2003 were proved right: the cost of the invasion has been exorbitant in every conceivable respect for the Iraqi population and the prolonged occupation only makes matters worse.

But recognising and exposing the primary responsibility of imperialism and the threat its military ventures represent for the masses does not mean to say that revolutionaries should stop short of spelling out unambiguously what the different political forces involved on the ground represent, from the point of view of the interests of the proletariat, including and especially when these forces choose to play the card of fighting the occupation - at least for the time being. Quite the opposite. The more "radical" the profile these forces choose to present, the more potential they have to create illusions among the most deprived sections of the population, and the more they should be subjected publicly to critical scrutiny.

It is on this account that the majority of the British left has been remarkably silent since the beginning of the war.

A question of "support"?

Among the left groups, the case of the Socialist Workers' Party is probably the most striking. These comrades often highlight, quite rightly, the dominant role they played as the left flank of the anti-war movement, particularly at its peak, just before the invasion. If anything, this role should place an even greater onus on the SWP to spell out a clear revolutionary, class, policy regarding the situation in Iraq. However, this is far from being the case.

So, for instance, in the December 2006 issue of its monthly, Socialist Review, the SWP published an article untitled "Why opposing imperialism means supporting resistance."

First, the issue should be put into perspective. In our view, approaching the problem in terms of "support" does not make a lot of sense in political terms, even though such "support" is often the subject of the most heated debates within the left.

Of course, if there was a workers' revolutionary party in Britain, the problem would be posed in entirely different terms. Such a party would be in a position to carry out defeatist propaganda among the troops. It would be able to put forward an internationalist class policy in front of the Iraqi masses, with a good chance of being heard, if not followed.

But, for the small revolutionary organisations which make up the British left, with no significant influence in the British working class, let alone among the proletarian masses of the Middle East, such "support" is at best token and moral, with a purely propagandistic value among supporters and potential recruits in Britain, no less but no more.

Whether it is small or large, however, fighting imperialism cannot imply for a revolutionary group that it should support just any political force, merely because it appears to wage a fight against imperialism, regardless of its politics and social nature. Yet, this is what the SWP chooses to do by defining its political attitude to the Iraqi "resistance" in terms of a blanket "support". This is no coincidence. This moralistic formulation is, in fact, just a way for the SWP to avoid defining its attitude on the basis of a political characterisation of the "resistance".

This is precisely what the above-mentioned article, written by Chris Harman, a leading member of the SWP, illustrates.

Keeping quiet on inconvenient truths

Let us follow Harman's reasoning. He aims his article at people on the left who object to a parallel being made between the Iraqi occupation and the Vietnam war because of the "the presence of both Jihadist and pro-Saddam Hussein elements in the resistance and (..) the horrific sectarian murders perpetrated by forces claiming to represent Shias and Sunnis." Harman goes on to criticise, rightly, the illusions that many activists on the left had in the Vietnamese National Liberation Front, adding that "neither in Vietnam nor elsewhere in the world was it necessary to have illusions in the leaders of liberation movements to support them against imperialism."

This may be true, although the formulation is ambiguous, whether it is deliberate or not: is it the liberation movements that had to be "supported" against imperialism, in so far as they represented the aspirations of the masses, or it is the leadership of these movements? To avoid any ambiguity, it would have been more accurate to say, in our view, that, in the case of Vietnam, while revolutionaries had to express their unqualified solidarity with the aspiration of the Vietnamese masses to independence from imperialism, they also had a duty to characterise clearly, at the same time, the class nature of the leadership of the Vietnamese NLF (National Liberation Front). But, in fact, this does not seem to be what Harman really means.

Indeed, 30 years after the events, Harman still stops short of giving such a characterisation of the NLF and limits himself to remarking that "those who rose to power after the liberation struggle now welcome not just the mass murderer Bush, but also the multinational exploiters of which he is the political representative." Yet, if the liberation struggle produced such a regime, it is obviously because its leadership, the NLF, was in the hands of petty-bourgeois social forces which were fundamentally hostile to the proletariat.

At the time of the Vietnam war, the social nature of the NLF was no big secret. After all, it was a rebranded version of the old Viet Minh, whose leadership had cooperated with the British army in crushing the Saigon workers' uprising, in 1945, and subsequently ordered the cold-blooded murder of a whole generation of Trotskyist activists. But this did not prevent the members of IS, the forerunner of the SWP, from chanting "Ho-Ho-Ho-Chi-Minh" during anti-Vietnam war demonstrations - i.e. the name of the NLF leader. It was not as if the IS leadership of the time knew nothing about Ho Chi Minh's past. Nevertheless, it was remarkably discreet about the nature of the NLF and few IS members and supporters were told anything about its record!

Having thus avoided any discussion of what could or could not have been said of the NLF during the Vietnam war, Harman proceeds to explain IS policy at the time by saying: "the US' involvement was part of an overall scheme to exploit people of the whole world and there could not be any progress in Vietnam until it was defeated, even if the Vietnamese then had to fight their own rulers. But that was not all. In weakening US imperialism, the Vietnamese people gave a boost to people fighting elsewhere - the black and women's movement in the US, the rebellions against Portuguese colonialism in Africa and white rule in Rhodesia and South Africa, the struggles against fascism, that still existed in Spain and Portugal and the workers' movement in Chile and Argentina, France and Italy."

It is hard to figure out in what way the Vietnamese resistance had such an impact on the workers' movement in Chile and Argentina, let alone in France and Italy. But then, maybe Harman is confusing the workers' movement and the students' movement??

As to the boost given to the national liberation movements of other poor countries by the US' failure in Vietnam, so what? What Harman fails to say is that in every single one of the countries he mentions, it was the nationalist petty-bourgeoisie which was reinforced, not the proletarian movement - including in countries, where, like in South Africa, the industrial working class was, in fact, the decisive social lever in the struggle against apartheid. The proletarian masses of these poor countries are still paying very dearly today their failure to draw the lessons of the Vietnamese experience - i.e. the need to build their own independent class organisations. Instead, the masses were lured into thinking that a nationalist policy using guerilla methods was all that was needed in order to achieve their emancipation. And, just as in Vietnam, they soon discovered that the nationalist leaders they had brought to power, were merely ambitious politicians, who in many cases, immediately embarked on bloody internecine wars with their rivals, for which the populations had to pay a very heavy price.

The point, however, was that there were very few voices to be heard at the time, warning the proletarian masses of the poor countries of the threat that the petty-bourgeois liberation movements represented for them, and certainly none that was loud enough to be actually heard. But in any case, IS was certainly not one of these isolated voices.

Of course, the failure of the IS to emphasise the social nature of the NLF and warn against the future it had in store for the masses did not change anything to the course of events, neither in Vietnam nor elsewhere, nor was the IS in a position to change anything. But it did at least help to foster illusions within the ranks of a generation of left activists and supporters in Britain, who never quite understood why the mass mobilisation engineered by the NLF in Vietnam had finally produced a regime which was so clearly geared against the masses.

Going back to Iraq, "the same logic applies today", says Harman, "despite the attitude to women of some of the resistance groups and those whose religious bigotry leads them to direct their fire against other Iraqis as much as against the occupying troops. (..) The resilience of the Iraqi resistance indirectly aids all those who would be next in line if the US were not bogged down in Iraq. This includes forces such as Hizbollah in Lebanon, and also those in Venezuela and Bolivia who are beginning to struggle to turn the dream of 'socialism in the 21st century' into a reality."

It is significant that Harman shows more concern for the fate of the Hizbollah fundamentalist militia than for the Lebanese population, which was dutifully bombed by Israel despite the "resilience of the Iraqi resistance." This concern for self-proclaimed "anti-imperialist" forces (anti-Israeli and anti-American, in the case of Hizbollah) rather than for the population is not a slip of the tongue, any more than its past "support" for the NLF - it is an integral part of the SWP's reasoning.

As to whether or not the fact that US forces are bogged down in Iraq appears as an expression of weakness, which boosts the moral of workers in the shanty-towns of South America is anybody's guess and, in any case, not the most likely development.

But this rosy picture of the impact of the US' setbacks in Iraq has at least one function for Harman: avoiding to spell out the real nature of the "resistance" forces that he proposes to "support".

A sleight of hand

In fact, Harman must have felt that his argument was not very convincing, since he goes on to explain away the sectarian nature of a large part of the "resistance" by the "divide and rule" policy of the occupation forces - which is undoubtedly part of the truth, but only part of it. He then concludes by saying: "There are forces on the ground in Iraq resisting the poison spread by the occupation. No-one can guarantee they will ultimately be successful. But the precondition for them even having a chance is the removal of the sources of the poison - the occupying forces(..)"

The reader is left hanging high and dry. What are these mysterious forces "resisting the poison spread by the occupation"? Are they part of the armed "resistance"? If so, what are they fighting for and what do they have to offer the population?

Surely, like any revolutionary communist, Harman would agree that fighting sectarianism cannot be done effectively, except on the basis of class unity and proletarian internationalism. But surely too, a political current fighting along these lines would not be using the methods of terrorism, like the resistance. It would be seeking to work towards a conscious mobilisation of the masses. Why doesn't the SWP argue for such a policy then?

The explanation seems to lie in just this one statement - "the precondition for them even having a chance is the removal of the sources of the poison - the occupying forces." The logic of the argument seems implacable. Remove the source of the poison, the occupying forces, and it will become possible to deal with sectarianism. In a different context, Harman would probably deem such a way of reasoning as typical Stalinist stageism. Not so in the case of Iraq, apparently! But this stageism is only there as a convenient argument to justify "supporting" any force which can speed up the departure of foreign troops, that is, by definition, this all-encompassing "resistance". In the SWP's book, the only way to help with the fight against sectarianism is to "support" the sectarians themselves - QED!

Leaving aside this paradoxical conclusion, there are two glaring flaws in this reasoning.

The first flaw is the idea that nothing can be done as long as the occupation forces are in Iraq. The occupation is certainly the cause of the ills suffered by the Iraqi population, it is certainly part of the problem rather than part of the solution, but it would be powerless if it was confronted with the development of a conscious class-based mass movement. No-one can tell whether such a movement can be built in the present context. But working in that direction, right now, is certainly the best way to prepare for the future, particularly for when the occupation forces leave. This is certainly a very difficult task, which it is far easier to talk about from the comfort of London than from a working class suburb of Baghdad or Basra. But, like it or not, this represents the only way forward for the Iraqi masses. However, it does require a clear view of the nature of the political forces in Iraq.

And this is where lies the second flaw in Harman's reasoning, namely his characterisation of the political forces which form the "resistance" and his failure to acknowledge the fact that the poison of sectarianism also comes from these forces, and will remain after the end of the occupation as long as these forces believe they can gain something by whipping up sectarianism.

The truth is that the SWP plays on the romantic and implicitly anti-imperialist undertones of the word "resistance". But it is nothing but a sleight of hand designed to conceal what really lies behind the all-encompassing label of "resistance".

What has been taking place in Iraq since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime is the emergence of rival factions fighting for political power. Some of them accepted readily to be co-opted by the western powers to form the first governments. Others were either left out, or made the choice of developing their power bases before getting their fingers into the government pie. All these factions went on to arm their own militias. Most of those which remained outside the early institutions sought to capitalise on the rising discontent among the population by posturing as "resisting" the occupation. The rivalries between these factions increased in parallel with the resentment of the population against the occupiers. This led to an overbidding between these factions, resulting in more "radical" military actions (but also more bloody bombings and murders of civilians). Above all, it led to their systematic use of sectarianism as a means of carving out a power base for themselves.

In fact, describing these factions as a "resistance", let alone an "anti-imperialist resistance", or describing them collectively as a movement for "national liberation" is merely a sleight of hand, which, once again, allows the SWP to avoid having to characterise them politically. Killing soldiers (and Iraqi civilians into the bargain) is one thing. It allows these factions to terrorise supporters of rival factions, make a show of their strength in front of the population, get the attention of the occupation authorities and hopefully convince them that they must be co-opted with honours into the political process. This was illustrated by Moqtadah al-Sadr, the "radical" Shia cleric whom some SWP writers have had starry eyes about in the past, who ended up forgetting about his vow to boycott the US-backed institutions as long as foreign troops remained in Iraq and joined the government. But fighting imperialism, with the social mobilisation this would require, is quite another thing, which not one of the so-called "resistance" leaders is prepared to risk.

The reality is that these factions are primarily the instruments of ambitious politicians (or clerics-cum-politicians) vying for power. Beyond that, their use of military methods has nothing to do with fighting the occupation - it is simply the "normal" behaviour of warlords protecting their patch against their rivals.

The SWP's crusade in defence of Islam

As mentioned earlier in Harman's article, among the misgivings that one may have about going down the road of the SWP's policy of "support for the resistance", there is the fact that many of its components are fundamentalists of some description, with all the consequences that this has in political terms.

So, the SWP has gone out of its way to counter such misgivings by calling the Bolsheviks to the witness box, in an article entitled "The Bolsheviks and Islam", which was published in last Spring's issue of the SWP's quarterly, International Socialism (#110).

The core argument developed in this article is to show that the Bolsheviks had a flexible policy towards religion in general and Islam in particular and that the dictatorship of the proletariat that came out of the Russian revolution was a non-religious state rather than an anti-religious state.

But this did not mean that the Bolsheviks gave up the fight for communist ideas and gave in to religious prejudices, as the above-mentioned article admits: "The crisis of tsarism in 1917 therefore radicalised millions of Muslims, who demanded religious freedoms and national rights denied them by the empire. On 1 May 1917, the First All-Russian Congress of Muslims took place in Moscow. Of 1,000 delegates, 200 were women. After heated debates the congress voted for an 8-hour working day, the abolition of private landed property, confiscation without indemnity of large properties, equality of political rights for women and an end to polygamy and purdah." What was voted by this congress was not the institutionalisation of Islam - which is the goal of political Islam, fundamentalist or otherwise. On the contrary, Islam's oppression of women was restricted and the Islamic religion remained, as any other religion in the Soviet Union, a private matter.

But at the same time, a measure of the degree of radicalisation of the Muslim populations is given by the wholesale measures taken against landed property. And, it was on the backdrop of this radicalisation, that the Bolsheviks chose to make allowances to religious beliefs in some Central Asian parts of the Soviet Union.

Their problem was to build on the radicalisation which had swept the oppressed nations and minorities of the former Russian empire, following the collapse of tsarism, and pushed them to rally to the new Soviet Republic. The dictatorship of the proletariat had to win over the trust of the former oppressed peoples in order to keep them within the Soviet Union. And it was for this reason that the Bolsheviks made certain concessions to Islam.

But even when they did, they never failed to demand and obtain parallel concessions for the Soviet system. For instance, as this article points out, at the end of the civil war, sharia courts were introduced in Central Asia, but some of the harshest penalties provided for under the sharia were banned. The sharia courts operated in parallel with the Soviet courts and people could choose which court they went to, just as they could appeal, for instance, to a Soviet court against a decision made by a sharia court.

These are the historical facts. But having made a fair description of these facts, the writer concludes with a sentence which, in one fell swoop, puts reality on its head: "So, in standing up for the right of Muslim women to wear the hijab in Europe today, marching alongside Muslims against the occupation of Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan, defending the right of Muslims to oppose these occupations by force, and joining with left-wing Muslims in united front coalitions such as Respect, socialists are upholding a tradition going back to Lenin and Trotsky."

How can one possibly make such parallels? On the one hand, the concessions made by the Bolsheviks to religion, almost a century ago, in regions of Russia where social development had sometimes not even reached the feudal stage, what is more in a period which was marked by the upheaval and radicalisation of the Russian revolution; and, on the other hand, the SWP's shameful concessions to the reformist Muslim Association of Britain, with which it formed Respect, that is to the prejudices of a section of Britain's educated urban petty-bourgeoisie, which chooses to use religion as a community identity. How can one compare the Muslim masses of 1920, reaching out for their newly-acquired freedoms as part of a general movement towards social emancipation, with the narrow reactionary outlook of self-seeking petty-bourgeois aspiring to a special status under the cover of religion! Where is Lenin's and Trotsky's tradition in the SWP's policy?

As to "defending the right of Muslims to oppose these occupations by force", of course, but why only Muslims? Why not the right of every Iraqi? This being said, once again, where do the fundamentalist militias, which make up most of the Iraqi resistance fit in with Lenin's and Trotsky's tradition? Their so-called "radicalism" is turned towards the past, harking back to some sort of ancient "purity" and pre-feudal social practices. Their aim is to establish yet another form of theocratic dictatorship against the proletarian masses, in which women will be reduced to non-citizenship and degradable at will. What parallel can there be between such forces and the Muslim masses of the Russian revolution, or their organisations, whose radicalisation was turned towards the future, towards the building of a new social order freed from any form of social exploitation?

Calling the Bolsheviks to the witness box is simply not enough to justify an opportunist policy!

What the SWP fails to say

The same issue of International Socialism carries an article entitled "Marxism and terrorism" which is devoted to an analysis of the nature of terrorism from an historical perspective, of the use of terrorist methods by the Iraqi "resistance" and to showing that there is nothing specifically Islamist in these methods, including in the use of suicide bombings which are extensively discussed. There is nothing very controversial in all of this and we will not dwell longer on these aspects.

There are however two points of interest in this article.

The first point of interest concerns Al Qaida. The writer starts by quoting some academic "expert" who argues that Al Qaida's motivations in its terrorist attacks against the West are based on "secular, not religious rationales (..) to 'punish the unjust and tyrannical America'" and that these attacks are "a form of self-defence". The SWP writer then goes on to conclude: "The goal of Al Qaida is no different from other national liberation movements - to achieve independence by forcing the imperialist powers to retreat. It may express itself in religious terms, but in essence it pursues the same aim as previous secular-nationalist movements in the Middle East - the defeat of US imperialism and its allies in the region."

Once again the main purpose of this reasoning is to show that Al Qaida's references to political Islam should not alter in any way the attitude of revolutionaries towards it, since it is no different from other national liberation movements.

It certainly should not, but not in the sense that the SWP means. In the case of Al Qaida, just as in the case of any national liberation movement, it is indeed the duty of revolutionaries to expose clearly the reactionary nature of its politics and the fact that it is an enemy of the proletarian masses!

However this is not on the writer's agenda. Instead, he proceeds to characterise the "terrorist logic" of Al Qaida's targeting of ordinary Americans on 9/11, as follows: "It is the policy of despair. It is also the consequence of seeing the fight against injustices in non-class terms. It is the same logic that led sections of Irish Nationalists to see British people as part of the problem."

Except that in a society which is shaped by its class divisions, seeing the fight against injustices in non-class terms inevitably means lumping the exploited masses together with their exploiters, and targeting the exploited masses themselves. For revolutionary communists, this characterises a class enemy!

Beyond that, the SWP writer does not see the point either, in giving a more precise characterisation of Al Qaida's political aims. Not a word about its fundamentalist agenda and the theocratic yoke it aims to impose on the populations of the Middle East. Are all these things so unimportant that they are not worth mentioning? Yet, while they may seem secondary from London, they are of primary importance for the Middle Eastern masses who might find themselves at the receiving end of this agenda at some point, as was the case in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

This article is just as silent, and this is its second point of interest, about the political agenda of the Iraqi fundamentalist factions: why do they resort to terrorism, against the occupation forces, but also against their own people? Yet, in an article dealing with terrorism, at the time when the terrorist attacks were creating mayhem in Iraq, one would have expected this issue to be examined.

For the Iraqi militias, terrorism is a means to terrorise the masses into obedience as part of their bid for power. In this respect, sectarianism is a powerful too for the militias. It turns each section of the population into a "legitimate target" for the factions which claim to represent other sections of the population, thereby leaving the individuals targeted with no option other than to seek protection with "their" own militia.

The sectarian turf war thus becomes a mechanism through which the rival militias cooperate in subjecting an increasing part of the population to their diktats, under threat of death. It is also a mechanism of recruitment. What else is there to do, for the youth who has nothing to lose? At least, with an automatic weapon in his hand he can fight for his life and feel like being "somebody" in the streets. Even before they come anywhere near the political power they are vying for, the militias' first objective is to establish their dictatorship over the masses who happen to live on their patch.

Indeed, for the petty-bourgeois elements who form the leadership of the Iraqi militias there is one main enemy: it is not the US or British armies, nor the Iraqi police and army, it is the Iraqi masses. Only the Iraqi masses could have the power to expurgate the militias from the urban areas in which they are embedded. The factions' strong men are all too aware of this and they take no chance.

Just as in the case of Al Qaida, it is this political characterisation of the fundamentalist factions as sworn enemies of the proletarian masses that the SWP consistently fails to formulate. This is no coincidence of course. It would not fit in very well with its policy of "support for the resistance". Indeed, had the SWP's ideas any influence at all in Iraq, this policy would simply amount to handing over the Iraqi proletariat into the hands of its worst enemies.

But by the same token the SWP also fails in another of its duties. With such a policy it turns its back on any possibility of training internationalist proletarian activists, at least among Iraqi exiles in Britain.

But then, of course, there is a rationale for the SWP's silence. A clear class assessment of the fundamentalist resistance in Iraq would not go down very well with its MAB allies within Respect and might well threaten to break up the coalition.

This is a risk that the SWP will not take, regardless of its internationalist duties to the Iraqi and Middle Eastern working class, not to mention its duties to the British working class in front of whom it is lying about the true nature of the "Iraqi resistance" and the real threat it represents for the Iraqi masses. But then, it should not come as a surprise if an unprincipled electoral coalition can only be kept afloat by resorting to unprincipled contortions.