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Commentary :: International : Labor
controversy around appearance of Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions in Boston
16 Jun 2005
Modified: 08:15:48 PM
Below are two documents about the appearance in Boston next week of members of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), as part of a tour of Iraqi labor organizers put together by US Labor Against the War. One is an open letter from members of Boston's peace coalition, United for Justice with Peace, to the national coalition, United for Peace and Justice, questioning the wisdom of including the IFTU in the tour. After that is a reply from US Labor Against the War, defending the inclusion of the IFTU. Regardless of where you find yourself ending up in this debate, I think it illustrates the complexities and ambiguities of the situation in Iraq.
Greater Boston United For Justice With Peace
P.O. Box 390449
Central Square Post Office
Cambridge, MA 02139
www.justicewithpeace.org

Contact For Letter
Jennifer Horan
jenniferhoran22 (at) hotmail.com
On behalf of UJP Coordinating Committee

June 2005

Dear Friends,

We are writing to provide some context for the upcoming tour of the Iraq Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU). The IFTU is one of three labor organizations from Iraq that will be touring the United States in June, in delegations sponsored by US Labor Against War (USLAW). The IFTU is scheduled to be in the Northeast from June 10 to 26, with stops in New York City, Vermont, Boston, Hartford, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Atlanta.

After considerable research, Greater Boston United For Justice With Peace finds concerns about the IFTU. We have stated our concerns below, followed by documentation. The statement from our sister organization, US Labor Against War (USLAW) is also included. We hope you will take the time to look at this, so that we can all move forward in our understanding of the situation in Iraq.

∑ The two parties that dominate or influence the IFTU collaborate with the US Occupation regime at the highest political levels. In their public statements and in interviews with the corporate media IFTU representatives deflect scrutiny from the occupation’s brutality and US motives for the invasion and occupation. In England they have championed Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Iraq policy and sabotaged challenges to that policy.

∑ As both parties (The Iraqi Communist Party1 and the Iraqi National Accord ) benefit, politically and materially, from their collaboration with the US occupation, we wonder whether the IFTU can genuinely advocate for workers rights or resist the US neoliberal agenda. Both parties ran in the January 2005 elections on a slate slavishly funded by the US. The British government declared the IFTU the “legal representative” of Iraq’s unions. The formidable TUC (Trades Union Congress), closely aligned with the Labour Party, has favored the IFTU, largely to the exclusion of other unions inside Iraq. The National Endowment of Democracy (NED) has received at least 1.5 million for ‘free trade unions’ in Iraq; according to an article in The Washington Monthly (see below).

∑ The IFTU says the occupation must end but opposes the withdrawal of US forces on the grounds it would plunge Iraq into chaos. Its position is thus identical to that of the US and UK governments. The IFTU sidesteps any discussion of how the US military presence and Occupation regime is propelling Iraq towards civil war.

∑ We are especially concerned about the Iraqi National Accord’s influence on the IFTU. The President of the IFTU is the deputy premier of the INA, second in command to Iyad Allawi. The IFTU has repeatedly praised Allawi. Allawi’s enthusiasm for organizing sectarian militias, death squads, and Saddam-style Baathist security apparatuses to crush Iraqi popular resistance to the occupation has been widely reported. We fear that that currently or in the future the IFTU could be used as a vehicle for repression and surveillance, as trade unions were under the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein.

∑ The IFTU consistently presents itself as the “real democratic resistance inside Iraq.” But it was the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council that decreed it “the sole legal representatives of workers” in Iraq. It was subsequently given the assets to various branches of the former regime’s General Federation of Trade Unions. This transfer not only made it the largest trade union in Iraq, but also led to its receiving funds from the UK, and, perhaps, the US (see below).

∑ Its image as the “democratic resistance,” and as an agent of secular and progressive change in Iraq has been promoted by prowar politicians and journalists, especially in England (many Iraqi expatriates and exiles live in England, including ICP members.) It has also confused and diluted antiwar forces in that country.

In a statement published on its website 5/31/05 USLAW notes that the US “labor movement has an unfortunate history of picking and choosing which unions it will grant legitimacy to in parts of the world where our government is interfering with national sovereignty. We refuse to act in that tradition.” While respecting our sister peace organization’s decision to break with cold war unionism, we think the progressive movement has other responsibilities as well. We have to think about the consequences our alliances will have not only on our own work here in the United States, but also on the efforts of Iraqis inside Iraq to organize resistance to both the military and economic occupation of their country. We are obligated to ally ourselves with and support groups that will end the nightmare of these and other interventions.

The other two trade unions touring Iraq have been uncompromising advocates for their members. They are not funded by the US or UK governments, nor do they seek political representation in the Occupation regime. The Federation of Workers’ Councils and the Union of the Unemployed has led numerous strikes and sit-ins to gain better working conditions. The General Union of Oil Employees has, among other victories, successfully fought off Bremer’s attempts to replace longstanding oil company employees with low paid foreign workers, and to slash their salaries. The GUOE is the only trade union on the USLAW tour that is independent of any political party and has been completely consistent in its demand that US troops leave.

Looking into this issue and discussing it with others impressed upon us the need to be more aware and educated of the political and material realities inside Iraq. We hope this letter will spark the kind of thought and analysis needed to ensure that we act with integrity.
Background Documentation
The following information influenced our decision. It is presented chronologically.

∑ May 2003: The Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) is formally established at a conference in Baghdad from the remnants of the Workers Democratic Trade Union Movement, a

∑ June 2003-present: ICP and IFTU make numerous statements asserting that US troops should not leave Iraq until they have restored security, or until they have trained Iraqi forces to do so, less chaos and civil war erupt in Iraq. This is identical to the position held by the US and UK governments. Attached is a letter from USLAW’s New York affiliate to the USLAW steering committee citing these statements as their reason for refusing to support the IFTU tour.

∑ July 2003-present: The IFTU begins stereotyping all armed resistance in Iraq as motivated by a hatred of democracy, and as perpetrated by either Islamic fanatics or Baathist terrorists. One example: In January 2005, IFTU’s Muhsin wrote in The Morning Star. "The forces pushing for violent engagement [with the Americans] are composed of extreme reactionary fanatics. They are mainly ultra-fundamentalist in nature, such as al-Zarqawi, who makes no distinction between innocent civilians, both Iraqis and foreign workers, and foreign armies. Such fundamentalist groups seek to establish a Taliban-style regime. Other groups are composed of Saddam loyalists. These represent an extreme form of nationalism with a dark and violent history drenched in the blood of thousands of Iraqi democrats - communists, trade unionists, progressives and women activists. Saddam loyalists now pretend to be some sort of national liberation movement."

This approach:
o Distorts the anti-occupation motives of many or most in the armed resistance;
o Obscures deaths from US bombs and guns, which provoke the resistance and dwarf the violence it is causing (60,000 to 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed by the US military);
o Obscures the role that US-funded death squads, sectarian militias, and US-controlled media propaganda play in provoking sectarian conflict inside Iraq. The US has been organizing Shiite militias to target Sunni insurgents or insurgent sympathizers (see “Unraveling Iraq’s Secret Militias;” Z Magazine, May 2005, A. Gupta; “The Salvador Option”, Newsweek, Online version, 1/14/05);
o Paints all the varied forces in the armed resistance as fanatics and Saddam supporters;
o Reinforces US propaganda about the resistance. (See IFTU website for numerous press releases about “terrorists, as well as examples of dehumanizing language and simplistic analysis: www.iraqitradeunions.org).

NB: In a February 2005 interview with USLAW representative David Bacon, an IFTU rep. denounces the occupation as “brutal” and discusses its destruction of Iraq’s economy.

∑ July 2003: After some hesitation, then proconsul Paul Bremer appoints the Iraqi Communist Party’s Secretary-General to the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council. The now-defunct IGC has limited powers and is accountable to Bremer.

∑ December 2003: IFTU headquarters in Baghdad are stormed by US troops, and several IFTU figures are detained, some for several days. Following an international outcry, they are released. The IFTU reports that no explanation is given for the raid or detention. The IFTU headquarters remain closed until the formation of the Iraqi interim government in June 2004.

∑ January 2004: The Iraqi Governing Council declares the IFTU the “legitimate and legal representatives of the labour movement in Iraq.” It does this, according to the report given by a leading British Trade Union Council official who met with the IFTU in Baghdad in February, “. . .partly because of its non-Ba’athist past [sic], and partly because it is led by members of parties which are represented on the IGC (the Communist Party, the National Accord and the arab nationalists [sic]). . . .
(“Iraq: unions and the law” by Owen Tudor, Head of the TUC European Union and International Relations Department, member of the ICFTU delegation)

∑ January 20, 2004—In his State of the Union address, Bush declares he will put his money where his mouth is regarding democracy in Iraq: 'I will send you a proposal to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy, and to focus its new work on the development of free elections, and free markets, free press, and free labor unions in the Middle East.' The National Endowment for Democracy has spent $1.5 million for Iraq's free trade union movement. . .(Matthew Harwood, “Pinkertons At The CPA,” Washington Monthly, April 2005)

∑ January 28, 2004: The Washington Post reports that the Iraqi Communist Party’s “emergence from the shadows into the spotlight has been rapid and smooth, with leaders like Mousa [General-Secretary, appointed by Bremer to Iraqi Governing Council] included in major Iraqi political forums and viewed as a moderate force by U.S. officials here.”

∑ 2004: At some date after the US-appointed Council issues the above decree, the assets of Saddam's old General Federation of Trade Unions, including buildings, furniture, and, presumably, membership lists, are turned over to the IFTU. According to foreign secretary Muhsin “Under Saddam Hussein there were six unions though officially we said they weren't unions. Nevertheless, they had some type of structure. These unions each had their own accounts, assets, buildings and so forth. The Federation, the GFTU had its own assets and buildings. The assets of the GFTU have been transferred to the IFTU, but there is really no money. (Matt Harwood, “Labor Pains,” Alternet, posted 3/31/05) The IFTU now represents the entire public sector of employees in Iraq, with the exception of the oil unions which formed their own unions shortly after the invasion (The oil industry was one of the few to steadily employ workers during the last 12 years of economy-destroying sanctions, and thus had more workplace cohesion.) The other trade unions in Iraq file a protest with the Geneva-based International Labor Organization, stating that the IGC’s decree violates workers’ collective bargaining rights. The Federation of Workers Councils and the Unemployed Union in Iraq (FWCUI) claims the Iraqi Governing Council “consciously recognized them as the only legal union because they need it to subjugate the protesting working class and limit the effect of their strikes and protests. (www.uuiraq.org/english/135.htm)” (The FWCUI is led by a rival party, The Workers Communist Party.) The other major union tells a newspaper in response to a question on the IFTU: “We know how this federation (IFTU) was initially set up and how its leaders got elected. Its leadership has been selected from the top down and this ‘federation’ is linked to the stooge government.” Hassan Juma’a Awad, head of the General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE). Socialist Party Newspaper, 3/15/05. The GUOE is independent of any political party.

∑ March 2004: “British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, speaking before the House of Commons, named the IFTU as the legitimate representative of Iraq's labor movement, England's union partner in the rebuilding of the war-tattered nation.” See Washington Monthly article, Harwood, above. The TUC has funded the IFTU to train trade union activists inside Iraq (see www.iraqitradeunions.org). IFTU website thanks RMT (the UK Railway, Maritime, and Transportation Union) for help in “establishing’ its website.

∑ May 2004: The IGC appoints Iyad Allawi as Interim Prime Minister to head an interim Iraqi government to govern Iraq in lieu of the Coalition Provisional Authority. US plans for an open-ended hands-on direct rule of Iraq via proconsul Paul Bremer and the CPA collapse amidst huge public protests called for by Ayatollah Sistani, an escalating armed resistance, and other signs that Iraqi popular resentment against foreign occupation may soon reach a ‘tipping point.’ Allawi gives two ministerial positions to the Iraqi Communist Party, including Ministry of Culture.

∑ June 2004: The Bush administration officially dissolves the Coalition Provisional Authority. The following mechanisms for US control of Iraq are left in place: approximately 150,000 troops; a US-controlled development fund of $16 billion, and a stated “willingness to spend more than $50 billion or more per annum on military operations in the country;” more than 40,000 civilian government personnel and contract employees “operating throughout Iraqi government and public institutions at every level.” The US also leaves in place key financial and legal levers including: The Transitional Administrative Law, which essentially mandates a US military presence in Iraq; an agreement with the IMF that ties Iraq’s debt forgiveness to the privatization of its economy, the appointment of several commissioners to five years over various aspects of Iraq’s civil society (one commission governs telecommunications and media and has the power to enforce censorship laws); hundreds of judges and prosecutors, many exiles, all “vetted, trained, and appointed by the CPA.” In addition, the CPA appoints a Council of Judges with sole power to nominate Iraq’s judges and prosecutors. (For election see Carl Conetta, “The Iraqi Election “bait and switch”, Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Report #17, 1/25/05. For a briefer summary, see Milan Rai, “Whoever You Vote For, Washington Wins,” www.jnv.org, January 2005).

∑ June 28, 2004: On the day Bremer departs Iraq and formally dissolves the CPA, the Iraqi Communist Party celebrates with a party in the parking lot outside its headquarters. It unfurls a banner reading “The Communist Party congratulates our people for ending occupation and restoring sovereignty.(www.back-to-iraq.com, blog of Christopher Allbritton, former AP reporter, former blogreader-supported journalist in Iraq)"

∑ July 2004: Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions website www.iraqitradeunions.org refers to Rasim Alawadi as the IFTU president. Alawadi is a former Baathist and former official in Saddam’s state-controlled General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU). He is also the deputy premier of the Iraqi National Accord and second-in-command to Iyad Allawi. His prominence in the IFTU dates back at least to October 2003, when he greeted an international labor delegation on behalf of the IFTU in its headquarters in Baghdad.

∑ July 14: At a traditional holiday rally to commemorate the 1958 overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy, ICP members surprise an International Herald Tribune reporter with their openness to a free market economy. “We want a market economy” says one, adding the qualification “There should be some kind of social safety net." Other party members agree. “We are working to empower the private sector.”


∑ August 12: The Financial Times of London is similarly bemused by the Iraqi Communist Party’s sanguine approach to Iraq’s economy: “. . . the most striking aspect of the Iraqi Communist party is that it just does not seem very communist.... Hamid Majid Mousa, the party's central committee secretary, is all for encouraging the private sector, as long as the state is not abandoned in the process. The Financial Times goes on to describe Mousa “aside from his Communist label, the US’s ideal partner.”

∑ NB: The Iraqi Communist Party (and the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions), have given numerous statements and interviews, especially to the progressive press, strongly condemming privatization and vowing to defend Iraqi economic sovereignty from neoliberalism.

∑ August 14, 2004: Britain’s The Guardian newspaper publishes a letter from IFTU foreign representative Abdullah Muhsin urging that the Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi be allowed to address the Labor Party Conference, asserting that his Baathist past shouldn’t be held against him as “many decent people joined the Baath party.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,,1285085,00.html Allawi was an active Baath party member from the early 60s on, when party membership only numbered a few hundred, and together with Saddam Hussein is credited with helping establish the Baath party’s formidable state apparatus of repression and surveillance. (For Allawi’s background see 1/31/05 New Yorker profile by John Lee Anderson. The usually safely bland Anderson gives credence to reports that in August 2004 Allawi personally executed several prisoners at Abu Ghraib. For background on early Iraqi Baath party history see Hana Batatu’s OLD SOCIAL CLASSES AND THE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENTS OF IRAQ, Princeton University Press, 1978.)

∑ October 2004: Controversy erupts in England over reports that the IFTU’s Muhsin was lobbying delegates at the Labour Party conference to drop a plank calling for the immediate withdrawal of UK troops. Muhsin, writing in The Guardian (“We Are Nobody’s Pawns”), states that “I did not offer voting advice to trade unions on Labour's Iraq motions..." Unbeknownst to him, his open letter to delegates is released in which he does just that, urging delegates to drop the Out Now plank because the “multinational force is there to help our democracy.” http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/B1571.pdf. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1334208,00.html.)

∑ January 2005: In Iraqi elections, the ICP runs on Allawi’s “Iraqi List” slate of candidates. Despite heavy funding and technical from the US, Allawi’s slate fares poorly at the polls. Running separately, the ICP garners a mere .08% of the vote.

∑ January 2005: IFTU International Secretary Hadi Salih is tortured and murdered. The corporate and progressive press near unaminously portray his assassination as an assault on workers rights and the forces of secular democracy. Almost all these accounts omit or downplay the fact that Salih was a leading figure in the Iraqi Communist Party, a member of a party collaborating with the occupation and in alliance with the foreign occupier’s favored client. As International Secretary for the Federation, he was engaged in winning international support for his party’s chief ‘asset.’ Common sense, not to mention a cursory glance at Iraqi history, suggests that Salih could have easily been killed for his party affiliation. The pro-occupation liberal left in England use Salih’s murder to stereotype the armed resistance as fanatical terrorists and discredit the antiwar movement for allegedly supporting them. The title to a piece by Observer columnist Nick Cohen’s article is typical: “Cowards of the left: Our so-called liberal elite stands back and lets Iraq's fascists fight freedom with terror.”

∑ March 31, 2005: IFTU foreign secretary Abdullah Muhsin tells progressive journalist Matt Harwood in an interview published on Alternet: “We are the resistance. We are resisting the occupation.” He later goes on to say about Allawi: “We do respect and support him, but more importantly, we support the [US/UN] political process, and Mr. Allawi was part of that process.”


∑ April 2005: The day the British go to the polls in a countrywide vote that amounted to a public referendum on Blair’s support for the US invasion of Iraq: The Guardian publishes a letter from the IFTU’s prolific foreign representative Muhsin. Responding to a letter from an antiwar Iraqi published just two days hence, Muhsin writes “Some Iraqis remind voters about the negative consequences of the war, which I and my colleagues also opposed. But positive changes are taking place in Iraq.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,,1477381,00.html.


British Iraqi exile and antiwar activist Sami Ramadani describes the IFTU as an organization that "gets backing from the occupation authorities in preference to all other unions and federations; does not campaign within Iraq against the occupation; says not a word about Iraq's real ruler at Saddam's Republican Palace in Baghdad, US ambassador John Negroponte; attacks all those resisting the occupation as terrorists and echoes Bush and Blair in their portrayal of popular resistance to occupation as one and the same as the criminal acts of a hoodlum like Zarqawi; supports the prolongation of the occupation by opposing the setting of an early date for the troops' withdrawal; actively supports an occupation-imposed puppet regime that, following a Bremer decree, enacted Saddam's 1987 law banning strikes and unions in the state sector; and fails to campaign against the US bombardment of Iraqi cities." (The Guardian of London, http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1336687,00.html)

We realize this letter will be perceived as prejudicial against the IFTU. But our conversations with people revealed that many people who may participate in the IFTU events seem unaware that the above analysis, and of the information that it is based on. We want peace activists to look carefully at the array of forces in Iraq, see where the IFTU fits, and assess the impact that supporting them could have on Iraqis' work for peace and democracy as well as ours.

####

U.S. LABOR AGAINST THE WAR

USLAW Statement on the Iraqi Labor Solidarity Tour of U.S.

US Labor Against the War has organized an unprecedented national tour of Iraqi trade unionists from June 10-26, touring two dozen cities, and providing opportunities for thousands of US trade unionists to meet and talk with representatives of Iraq’s labor movement who are fighting for a progressive, secular and democratic future. At the same time the tour will build the USLAW network to oppose the war and occupation. The response to the upcoming tour has been dramatic and we are confident that this project will succeed in expanding our movement and our goals. This tour represents an important opportunity for Iraqi unions to be heard. All those trade union leaders invited have already undergone significant hardship in the complex, onerous and ultimately successful struggle, with USLAW backing, to obtain visas.

We have invited three of the most important trade union organizations in Iraq - the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI) and the General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE). These three organizations represent a wide range of workers and industries as well as a range of strategies to represent their members under occupation while fighting for a future free from occupation. All three of these organizations have made significant contributions on behalf of Iraqi workers and we decided to invite them after considerable discussion about how to best represent the complex and diverse workers’ struggle in Iraq to the US labor movement. Each organization decided who their own representatives will be.

Since a USLAW-supported delegation visited Iraq in October 2003 and met with Iraqi workers and unions, we have maintained relationships with most of the important labor groupings. We recognize that our labor movement has an unfortunate history of picking and choosing which unions it will grant legitimacy to in parts of the world where our government is interfering with national sovereignty. We refuse to act in that tradition.

U.S. Labor Against the War has from its inception called for immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all occupation forces from Iraq, for the right of Iraqis to determine, free of foreign interference, the future of their country, and full respect for labor, human rights and the rights of women. Our policy has been to work with and offer solidarity to all genuine labor organizations in Iraq.

The role of US and international trade unionists is to oppose the occupation while supporting all forces genuinely representing workers and fighting to assure that Iraq implements full internationally recognized trade union rights. The workers of Iraq will decide who they want to represent them as this process unfolds.

We recognize there are differences between the various major labor organizations in Iraq, as well as different tendencies within them – just as there are in our own labor movement. Each of the labor federations reflects the complex ethnic, religious, regional and political diversity of the larger Iraqi society. Giving US trade unionists an opportunity to learn about this is an important goal of the tour. These Iraqi labor leaders’ voices will be the first to be widely heard in the U.S. Essential to building an antiwar majority is that they be heard by as many workers as possible.

All three federations are aware of USLAW’s opposition to the U.S. occupation. Their purpose in coming is not to debate their differences but to inform Americans about the daily reality working people confront in occupied Iraq and their resistance to it. In addition, by accepting our invitation to tour the U.S., starting with five days they will spend together in DC before splitting up to travel across the country, all three groups took an important unifying step.

The IFTU, FWCUI and GUOE all oppose the occupation and demand that all foreign forces leave their country and that their sovereignty be fully restored. Their stand on this issue has been well documented in the press, in speeches delivered at international meetings, and in discussions and interviews with representatives of USLAW. (See the background articles posted on the USLAW website at www.uslaboragainstwar.org for more detail.)

One criticism of the IFTU is that they are dominated by the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), which chose to participate in the Interim Governing Council and in the elections. By extension, it has been charged that this means they favor the occupation and are thus collaborators with the U.S. and British occupation forces. The IFTU, a federation which reports a membership of 200,000 who hold a variety of viewpoints - just like members of our own unions - in a range of industries, is supported by multiple parties with a broad spectrum of often conflicting views. The IFTU is organizing strikes and other militant actions against U.S. plans to privatize the economy.

The FWCUI, itself supported by another Marxist political party, is opposed to the occupation but also strongly condemns the armed resistance, characterizing it as an instrument of “political Islam” (extreme religious fundamentalism) intent on imposing theocratic rule, and deposed Ba’athists seeking to recover power. It opposed participation in the elections and Interim Governing Council.

The General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE) opposes the occupation and calls for immediate withdrawal but was neutral on participation in the election. Whereas the GUOE wants all foreign troops out immediately, both the IFTU and the Workers Councils call for replacement of US and British forces with neutral forces from the UN, the Arab League and other nations as a transition.

There are other trade union forces and civil society formations in Iraq which similarly differ on a range of issues confronting Iraq, including how to relate to elections and the ongoing political process. Iraq is a society which is easily as varied in its range of views and political allegiances as is our own.

All three of the union federations we invited have been targets of the occupation. The IFTU had its offices raided and trashed by occupation forces and its leaders have been arrested and harassed. Its leaders have been kidnapped, tortured and assassinated by elements of the insurgency that clearly do not support or care about the rights of workers. All three federations continue to be subject to the 1987 Hussein decree banning unions in the public sector and public enterprises, notwithstanding the fact that the IGC (though not the Provisional Governing Authority) granted the IFTU official recognition and that the transitional law states that unions have the right to organize. All three organizations continue to call for enforcement of the ILO standards that would allow workers to freely choose which organization should represent them and have struggled to create a labor law that provides genuine trade union rights for workers in Iraq in a pluralistic labor movement.

Most of us in the US know little about Iraqi history and the current situation on the ground and need to be careful in making judgements on selective news reports or internet postings that pick and choose quotes to attack one or another of the federations invited.

For example, some have portrayed the IFTU and the Iraqi Communist Party as pro-occupation. Here is a statement that was made by the ICP to an international meeting of Communist and Workers Parties in Athens, Greece on October 8-10, 2004. The ICP observed:

"Resisting occupation is a right enshrined by the UN Charter. The Iraqi people, therefore, have a legitimate right to resort to various forms of struggle to end the occupation and restore national sovereignty. But resisting occupation is not limited to employing violent means in struggle, but rather includes various forms of political struggle. The lessons of history teach us that peoples only resort to armed struggle when they are forced to do so after exhausting political means....

"Conferring international legitimacy on occupation through UN Security Council Resolution 1484 in late May 2003, instead of handing over power to an Iraqi broad coalition government as all political forces including our Party had demanded, created further serious obstacles. The setting up of the Governing Council, with limited but important powers, and with the participation of all major political parties at the time, was therefore a compromise,reached with active mediation by the UN....

"Our Party stressed that the Council was only one arena and one platform, among others,for our struggle to achieve national sovereignty and independence. We always emphasized the need to continuously combine between our work within the Council, and in the present interim government, and our efforts of a mass character,as well as strengthening relations with all forces that want to achieve the transition to end the occupation and build a united federal democratic Iraq. [http://www.iraqcp.org/framse1/0041019icp.htm] "

USLAW representative David Bacon interviewed Ghasib Hassan, an IFTU railway workers leader and national executive board member, in London in February, 2005. Here is an excerpt:

"Q: What is the attitude of the IFTU toward the occupation?

"A: We oppose the occupation absolutely. We know they’ve said many things about it. One is that it’s for the liberation of Iraq. This is what the American politicians and media tell us – that they’ve come to liberate our country. This is not liberation. It is occupation. It’s led to the total destruction of the economic infrastructure of Iraq, with the aim of controlling its wealth and resources. Another disastrous policy was the dismantling of the Iraqi Army, which had a long nationalist tradition. There’s been a deliberate destruction of our national and cultural heritage, like the looting of the National Museum, and stationing occupation forces in historical places like Babel, Ur and Nineveh. That will lead to the destruction of these sites, and they can never be replaced. The Iraqi people are calling today, not tomorrow, for the removal of the occupation. US policy toward Iraq is not clear – it can change in a moment. The key political forces in Iraq are in discussion with the occupation forces in line with UN Resolution 1546, calling for the withdrawal of the troops and attaining the full sovereignty of Iraq.

"...On a daily basis, at least 10-15 people die, and this can’t be good. This is a result of terrorism, but terrorism wasn’t present prior to the war. You can see that the US administration has imported terrorism into Iraq in order to fight it, but at the expense of the Iraqi people. I want to talk about the brutality of the occupation. The war has resulted in extreme destruction of our country. Whole factories and workplaces have been destroyed. Some of those which survived were then destroyed later by the occupation forces. The occupation has increased unemployment, which has now become a major problem for Iraqi workers. It is very dangerous to have such high unemployment in a country with such wealth.

"We call on your solidarity to end the brutal occupation of our country. At the beginning of the 21st century, we thought we’d seen the end of colonies, but now we’re entering a new era of colonialization. We are campaigning to end the occupation of Iraq, to build a democratic, federal Iraq which will guarantee the rights and jobs of its people.

"...Workers should be free to join the union of their own choice. We campaign for social, economic and political advances in the interest of working people. We want a strong working class positioned to engage fully in building a federal, prosperous and democratic Iraq. [http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/033105LA.shtml] "

These quotes are provided not to advocate for the positions of the IFTU but to make clear that it is a legitimate force for a progressive democratic sovereign Iraq, as are all the federations invited to the US. Each deserves to be heard.

The objective of the tour is to build understanding and solidarity with Iraq's labor movement and working class among US trade unionists and the anti-war movement and we hope that everyone will seize upon this tour as an opportunity to learn and understand more about the Iraqi working class and labor movement. From each we can learn much about Iraq, Iraq’s labor movement, and the resistance to occupation. Across the country, we need to engage with all the Iraqis in a real discussion - including even critical questions for them - that will help us understand their thinking and vice versa.

Our responsibility to the workers and labor movement of Iraq is to get the U.S. and other foreign powers off their backs and out of their country, to let the Iraqi people determine for themselves what form of government, constitution, legislative structures, labor law, and labor movement they will have once their sovereignty has been restored.

If Iraq is to achieve a secular, democratic and pluralistic future, the labor movement and other civil society forces must play a central role. Iraq’s unions need genuine working class solidarity, especially from those of us who oppose what our government has done and continues to do in our name. We look forward to working together to make this tour as successful as possible by enabling the largest audiences we can attract to hear the truth of what working people face in Iraq.

U.S. Labor Against War Co-Convenors
Gene Bruskin
Maria Guillen
Fred Mason
Bob Muehlenkamp
Nancy Wohlforth

Issued: May 31, 2005
See also:
http://stangoff.com/index.php?p=130

This work is in the public domain
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Re: controversy around appearance of Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions in Boston
16 Jun 2005
good work, UJP, finally recognizing that an antiwar group should not only call for the end to occupation, but also not stereotype and condemn those resisting that occupation, including those resisting by means of armed struggle.

Maybe you will start seeing Palestinians as full human beings who also have the right to resist the unjust 57 year occupation they are still struggling against. I hope you will learn that Zionism is a form of racism and that apartheid Israel should not be defended by any who claim to work for true peace founded on sincere justice.
Re: controversy around appearance of Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions in Boston
17 Jun 2005
Against imperialism! Against the Iraqi working class in its struggle to resist clerical fascism!
stangoff.com article about IFTU etc
17 Jun 2005
Here's a link to some other information about Iraqi trade unions, from Stan Goff's useful website.

http://stangoff.com/index.php?p=130

In some ways, a controversy about the national, reform-minded middleclass antiwar group UFJP seems beside the point.

Q: Who in the United States is actually stopping the War and the Occupation in Iraq?

A: Only the military-age resisters who decide not to enlist or try to avoid deployment, and other folks who help this resistance.
Re: controversy around appearance of Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions in Boston
18 Jun 2005
Hi Aimee Smith! I mean, "hope".
Re: controversy around appearance of Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions in Boston
18 Jun 2005
Clearly any Iraqis who are against clerical rule are pawns of US imperialism.
Pardoned Turkeys on Thanksgiving
18 Jun 2005
Clearly any Iraqis who are In bed with US imperialism are not against US imperialism reguardless of the smoke they blow your ass.
The Iraqi working class is currently unemployed and near death and its resisting occupation and brigindage. "clerical fascism" is new zionist demonization speak for thoes who organize to resists war for greater israel. Throw in a few "they beat thier wives and dog" stories and youve got the war to liberated muslim women (for greater israel).
Re: controversy around appearance of Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions in Boston
18 Jun 2005
"clerical fascism" is new zionist demonization speak for thoes who"
blah blah blah. zionist demonization speak whatever. i guess not supporting one religious statist movement means i must support another.

look, I don't care about IFTU. i'm excited to hear people from the oil workers' union speaking. armed struggle is OK by my book but i do happen to care about who's pulling the trigger, and if that and that alone makes me an imperialist lackey we've hit on the reason "anti-imperialism" alone makes for inane politics. lots of people die and whether or not the a given "movement" wins, the result is a military-backed capitalist state. I can understand why lowest-common-denominator Get Off Muh Land politics might resonate with some people, but you don't have to ram it down the throats of people who are trying to build a movement on a more substantial notion of autonomy.

Yes troops should withdraw. Yes it sucks that as always the capitalists are investing in building certain "workers" structures to protect them against ones that pose more of a threat to their order. But I'm much more interested in supporting all Iraqi labor organizations, despite their differences, because whether or not they're going to be resisting bosses backed up by a viscious foreign occupation or bosses backed up by a viscious clerical regime they're still my comrades and counterparts. Including the unemployed who conceive of themselves as unemployed workers. And if you're really so eager to support what's clearly a religious state-in-waiting over a progressive labor organization, because that organization has responded to a difficult situation (that they and not you are in) with a political line you don't approve of, and because your crude politics inspire you to support anyone and everyone who happens to be aiming a gun at US troops, then you and I are fighting for different futures.
Turkeys gobble
19 Jun 2005
My politics are that I support everyone and anyone who happens to be having a US troops gun aiming at them. Im not that hypocritical to be selective in my support of thoes who resist but not for thoes who colaborate. Claiming that the occupations vichy henchmen are progressive and aginst a greater evil and giving blanket enthuisatic support for them ( but not thoes who resist) because they organize under the banner of labor is frankly unbelievable.
Get off my land is the common denominator because the land is the source of sustainable autonomy. Some one who gains thier political base from thoes who exploit others people land wouldnt appreciate that or what it means to resist imperialism. But they might have well organized oil worker unions that say occupation is bad, but still better than...
Re: controversy around appearance of Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions in Boston
19 Jun 2005
"But they might have well organized oil worker unions that say occupation is bad, but still better than..."

You have terrible reading comprehension. The oil workers aren't the union being accused of being "vichy henchmen" here. If you had read the article in question before spouting off you would have read this paragraph:

"The other two trade unions touring Iraq have been uncompromising advocates for their members. They are not funded by the US or UK governments, nor do they seek political representation in the Occupation regime. The Federation of Workers’ Councils and the Union of the Unemployed has led numerous strikes and sit-ins to gain better working conditions. The General Union of Oil Employees has, among other victories, successfully fought off Bremer’s attempts to replace longstanding oil company employees with low paid foreign workers, and to slash their salaries. The GUOE is the only trade union on the USLAW tour that is independent of any political party and has been completely consistent in its demand that US troops leave."

I don't care about the "banner" of labor; I care about labor-based politics because it's inherently a politics that concerns people's actions and not which men have a deed to which land. And when you say "land is the source of sustainable autonomy" I disagree. People are the source of sustainable autonomy. Fighting for legal sovereignty over a territory can be and is often an important stepping stone in struggles for liberation, but whether the internal structure of that sovereignty is actually a structure of liberation is every bit as important as whether the territory is won. It's frustrating and disappointing to see that second question absolutely written off and mocked. Elements of Iraqi society who are in a position to contest that in some way deserve support. I'm sure you'd be delighted to see Iraq turn into another Iran, but I don't see any weight to the argument that it would move any substantive struggle for freedom forward.
Re: controversy around appearance of Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions in Boston
19 Jun 2005
"My politics are that I support everyone and anyone who happens to be having a US troops gun aiming at them."

Unless, apparently, you feel their strategy for getting those guns lowered is insufficiently hardcore and romantic for your tastes.