Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Independent trade unionism in Iraq

Most of the pro-war left puts great stress on the democratic credentials of the al Maliki government, and frequently argues that the 2003 invasion – sorry, ‘liberation’ – of Iraq opens the way for free trade unionism in the country. Wrong.

Meanwhile, most of the anti-war left – blinded by its hero-worship of ‘the Iraqi resistance’ - remains incapable of even basic solidarity with organised labour. SWP theoretician Alex Callinicos, for instance, last year disgracefully dismissed the ‘resistance’ murder of an Iraqi trade union leader as ‘a hullabaloo’. Wrong again.

Here’s a press release from Naftana, the Iraqi oil workers’ union, that should give both sides something to think about:


‘We have just confirmed reports that the Iraqi regime has frozen all the bank accounts of the Iraqi oil workers' union, both abroad and within Iraq.

‘Wave of anti-union activity by government:
The Iraqi regime's decision comes in the wake of a series of anti-union measures, including the disbanding of the council of the lawyers' union, freezing the writers' union accounts and the September 2005 decree making all trade union activity illegal. For that anti-union act the regime used the pretext of promising the promulgation of a future law to 'regulate' trade union organisations and their activities.

‘This action follows in the footsteps of US administrator Paul Bremer:
In 2004 Paul Bremer, the occupation's then pro-consul in Iraq, declared trade union activity in the state sector illegal. That decision re-enacted Saddam Hussain's 1987 decree banning workers' unions in the state sector by declaring them to be 'civil servants' rather than 'workers'.

‘Hamstringing opponents of oil rip-off:
Iraq's enormous oil wealth is being groomed for Production Sharing Agreements, which would transfer effective control over all aspects of oil policy, production and marketing to multinational oil companies. The oil workers' union is one of the most effective opponents of this policy, organising an anti-privatisation conference last year and another one to come this year.

‘Naftana member Ewa Jasiewicz is prepared to deal with enquiries. You can call her on 07749 421576.’

The only consistent democratic socialist position is to start from the premise of full support for the self-organisation of the working class. That so few forces on the left can any longer understand such a basic principle is a sure sign of just how bad things have become.

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