Support Iraq's trade unions

Submitted by AWL on 15 August, 2004 - 10:07

Organising, growing, campaigning

By Martin Thomas

By Martin Thomas

In Baghdad, the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions has marched successfully to reoccupy the offices from which they were evicted by a US army raid in December last year.
Iraq's new unions - the IFTU, the Union of the Unemployed and Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions of Iraq, and other unions not affiliated to a federation - are organising, growing, campaigning.

On this new Iraqi labour movement rest all hopes for a democratic, secular Iraq free of foreign occupation troops.

The various groupings in that labour movement have their differences between themselves, but all the main factions are unanimous on two points. They oppose the occupation and want democratic self-rule for Iraq. And they insist that the various Islamist and neo-Ba'thist militias are no national liberation movement. Those militias are reactionary movements, promising only an ugly future of communal strife and clerical dictatorship.

Basic international working-class solidarity means we must support Iraq's new labour movement. That support is beginning to gain momentum.

The National Union of Journalists has financed printing an appeal by the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions for funds for a bus for a travelling workers' theatre group.

The lecturers' union NATFHE has put in a motion for the Trades Union Congress in mid-September for the TUC to organise a solidarity campaign, including direct links between British and Iraqi union organisations.

It is important we get that motion passed without abridgement and dilution. But it is not enough. We cannot rely on the TUC leaders. The TUC's record on dozens of issues over decades shows that its working model of a "campaign" is a few press releases, photo-opportunities, web pages, and cheques sent to good causes. It does not get far outside the walls of Congress House.

The TUC will be more energetic on this issue than the others only if it has an organised rank-and-file trade-union solidarity campaign putting pressure on it.

And even if the TUC can be pushed into doing more than its norm, a solidarity committee set up at the level of top union officials cannot possibly do the job of getting the solidarity message out to grass-roots activists and giving them open structures to get involved and link up with other grass-roots activists.

We need an open, public campaign, accessible to every trade unionist active promoting solidarity in his or her workplace or union organisation.

Every activist can help now by:

* collecting signatures on the appeal to support the NATFHE motion;

* inviting speakers to their organisations from the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions or other Iraqi labour or feminist groups;

* circulating information to their members about the existence and activities of the new labour movement in Iraq;

* getting their organisations to donate to the IFTU's bus appeal and to the Iraq Labor Solidarity Fund.

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