David Broder had an exchange of views with Alys Elica Zaerin, chair of School Students Against the War.
David: At the G8, SSAW will be using the slogan “fight poverty not war”, making the point that the US government spends billions more on war than on aid. But aren’t you missing the point that if debt is cut or more aid given to the Third World, it can still be squandered by corrupt regimes. Isn’t it more important to show positive solidarity with progressive forces like the workers’ movement, which can really end poverty?
By Rhodri Evans
One hundred and fifty trade Iraqi trade union activists — members of the General Union of Oil Employees, other trade unionists from the southern cities of Nasiriyah and Amara and Basra, and representatives of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions — came to a conference in Basra on 25-26 May to start organising a campaign against US-imposed plans to privatise the Iraqi economy.
Behind all the press and TV reports of new governments and constitutions, and bloodshed by both US/UK troops and Al Qaeda types, there is another story in Iraq.
It is that of the new Iraqi labour movement, re-establishing itself in difficult circumstances. Iraqi workers have set up trade unions, evicted old Ba'thist bosses and new American contractors, won pay raises, campaigned to save jobs, demanded jobs or benefits for the unemployed, and resisted privatisation.
The war in Iraq was an event that sparked mass protest when over 1 million people marched on the 15th February 2003 in London. Despite this, as we all know, the USA and UK troops continue to occupy Iraq and bomb its civilians and destroy its infrastructure. The result was the devastation of the work and livelihoods of huge numbers of Iraqis. The occupying forces still have done little to rebuild this as the capitalist oil corporations carved up Iraq for oil profits without even caring about the Iraqi people all. This was no war of liberation, but a war for capitalist profit! The media has afterwards portrayed the battle between the occupying forces of the American and British troops fighting the Islamic guerrillas.
By Houzan Mahmoud, on behalf of the campaign to support students in Basra against Islamic repression
The first student congress since the US-led invasion will be held in Iraq on June 15th, 2005. Student committees set up in December last year have been working hard under extremely dangerous conditions to organise students and create a progressive student organization to defend the rights and freedoms of young people in Iraq.
By Sacha Ismail
George Galloway’s performance in front of a US Senate committee charged with investigating Iraq’s former oil-for-food programme has been hailed as a triumph by both his mouthpiece Socialist Worker and substantial sections of the bourgeois press.
No doubt these sentiments are shared by broad swathes of pseudo-leftist punditry and public opinion, delighted to see a plucky “Brit” stand up to the tyrannical string-pullers in Washington.
See the story on the Iraq Union Solidarity website.
Support oil union's campaign
By Colin Foster
Three and a half months after the 30 January elections, Iraq now has an elected government, a coalition of the Shia and Kurdish alliances, with some seats set aside for Sunni Arab politicians. The Sunni-Islamist “resistance” has marked the occasion with a new surge of bombings.
Houzan Mahmoud from the Worker-communist Party of Iraq talks about her recent visit to Iraq. Houzan is a UK representative for the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Union in Iraq. Interview by Martin Thomas
In Baghdad, you have the feeling that this society has been abandoned. There is a vacuum of state institutions. All the news is of explosions, kidnappings, and beheadings. From six or seven in the evening, in some areas, it’s too risky to move around.
May 25-26 will see Iraqi trade unionists and civil society activists gather at the Oil Institute of Basra for a two-day conference aimed at fighting the privatisation of Iraqi oil.
The conference is organised by the General Union of Oil Employees, a union strong in Iraq’s south but unaffiliated to any of Iraq’s main union federations. Six papers written by professors from Basra University on the subject of privatisation will be presented and discussed on the first day of the conference. The following day will be dedicated to international contributions and messages of solidarity.
Yahia Said, a researcher at the London School of Economics who has visited Iraq a number of times since 2003, spoke to the April meeting of the Iraq Workers' Solidarity Group about the student movement, university life, and the resistance in Iraq. Read more!.
By Colin Foster
According to the Independent, probably the major newspaper most sharply critical of the US/UK military in Iraq, “the tide is turning”.
Patrick Cockburn writes: “American forces are on the retreat throughout Iraq.
“Slowly, the great American adventure in the country, which started with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, is coming to an end.” (Independent, 12 April)
Jonathan Steele, in the Guardian, takes the opposite view:
Iraqanalysis.org has produced a report on the use of napalm and other firebombs by US forces in Iraq. Its site includes links to a lot of other
A Sydney group has been formed to raise money for and build links with Iraqi unions. In July a meeting initiated by Workers Liberty held at the Gaelic Club led to the formation of the Australia/Iraq Trade Union Solidarity group. Frustration with the refusal of most of the left to support the struggle of the workers’ movement in Iraq gave rise to this development.
Reprinted from Solidarity 3/68
Extremists threaten teachers and students who take Saturday off.
By Haidar al-Moosawi in Baghdad
The Iraq interim government's decision in February to extend the Friday weekend to include Saturday has led to a climate of fear in schools south of Baghdad where religious fundamentalists have threatened teachers and students with beheading if they take off a day associated with the Jewish sabbath.
An article on Iraq's new trade unions by Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian journalist kidnapped by a "resistance" gang, eventually released, and then shot by American troops on her way to the airport. It was written shortly before she was kidnapped, and is translated from Il Manifesto.
“$100 unemployment benefit now.” This is the demand that the Union of the Unemployed in Iraq (UUI) has been placing on the new Interim Government these last weeks since the “transition of power.” This is not to say, however, that the UUI has any illusion in the abilities of the new government.
The Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions of Iraq (FWCUI) — a union federation in which the Worker-communist Party of Iraq is influential — is calling a workers’ conference in Baghdad on 2 April. In Britain, No Sweat has helped organise fundraising events to support this conference.
Two months after the 30 January elections in Iraq, there is still no new government, despite repeated announcements by the Shia and Kurdish alliances which came out top in those elections that they are about to finalise an agreement.
From the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI). Students at the University of Basra went on strike for over a week in March. They organised demonstrations outside government buildings in Basra. The strike and demonstrations were about a vicious attack on Basra students by the Islamists in the city.
Carol Lang, an employee of the City University of New York (CUNY) and for many years a militant trade unionist, was arrested on Tuesday 11th March at her workplace by four plain-clothes policeman.
She had demonstrated the previous Wednesday against the presence of a group of recruiters from the American army (1) who came to propagandise on the campus. Carol, along with several other people, had been faced an aggressive response from the campus security.
See report on the Iraq Union Solidarity website. Also on that website:
Respect and the SWP in Cambridge have launched a veritable campaign against any support for the Iraqi workers' movement and for Iraqi trade unionists facing murder threats.
By Stan Crooke
At the March meeting of Cambridge Trades Council I moved the following motion on behalf of my Amicus branch:
“1) Cambridge and District Trades Union Council welcomes:
In October 2004 Subhi al Mashadani, general secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) was shouted down at the European Social Forum. The meeting was abandoned.
After the ESF Sami Ramadani, an Iraqi leftist living in Britain, wrote a partial defence of the shouting-down. It was originally a letter to Alex Gordon, of the railworkers’ union RMT. The article was printed, abridged, in Socialist Worker on 30 October, and another article by Ramadani on similar lines was in the Guardian on 27 October. Martin Thomas critically examines the arguments.
This article by Sami Ramadani appeared in Socialist Worker, 30 October 2004
“Reactionary socialism… half lamentation, half lampoon; half echo of the past, half menace of the future”
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto
“We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare;
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love”
W B Yeats
Capitulators of today and yesterday
An example from the history of the USSR will also shed some Marxist light on the question of the attitude Marxists take when alien, anti-working class forces, are, or seem to be, doing work we want done, and would like to be strong enough to do ourselves, in our way.
In the mid 1920s, Trotsky and the Left Opposition, then the United Opposition (with Zinoviev), advocated a programme of industrialisation for the USSR. Their opponents, the Stalinists and the Bukharinites, scoffed at such an idea.
Not a penny for this system!
Amost instructive misunderstanding occurred when one of the New Blairites took issue with an editorial preface to some texts from Lenin and Luxemburg in Solidarity (3/52, 27 May 2004). The preface said:
By Sean Matgamna
[This is an edited and reworked version of an article by Sean Matgamna which first appeared in Solidarity 3/63 to 3/65. That can be found on this site: part 1; part 2; part 3. It was a reply to Don’t think twice, it’s alright, published in Solidarity no 3/62. More on the Iraq page of this website.]