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(en) Workers Solidarity #79 - The Fight for a Free Iraq

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 5 Feb 2004 10:04:34 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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George Bush's claim that the war in Iraq was won last May now
seems very premature. Saddam may have been caught but US troops are
increasingly confined to their bases or to mounting large patrols out
of them, at constant risk of ambush. But what is life like for the Iraqi
workers caught under the occupation and all too often in the cross-fire?
A United Nations/World Bank report issued in October estimated
that in a country of 26 million people, 50 percent of Iraq's workforce
were unemployed or underemployed. The economy has been
destroyed not only by three wars but also by over a decade of
sanctions. The occupation forces have brought back many of the
Ba'athist death squads who kept workers down under Saddam. But
despite all this Iraqi workers are organizing to improve their lot
under the new regime.

Trade Union delegations from across the globe have been visiting
Iraq to observe events. One such British trade unionist, Alex
Gordon (of the NURMT) reported: "In the Baghdad Bicycle
Factory, for example, they held a one-day strike on 27th September
and raised their wages from 17,000 to 60,000 Iraqi Dinar a month"
(about £30). He went on to describe how in the Railway Works
several weeks ago members of the US civil administration turned
up to meet with the management and representatives of the former
Ba'athist 'yellow' unions.

In response 600 railworkers at the depot held a mass meeting and
elected three representatives to inform the US occupation
authorities that the railworkers wouldn't tolerate being represented
by former Ba'athists and to demand recognition for their own
democratic union. The US troops pulled guns on the workers who
stood their ground with the result that their union is now the only
de-facto recognised organisation at the workplace. Getting legal
recognition out of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council
however, is another matter.

David Bacon, who travelled to Iraq as part of a delegation from U.S.
Labor Against the War (USLAW) reports that the Occupation
authorities have kept Saddam's anti-union legislation on the books.
What's more "in June, Bremer issued another regulation about
'prohibited activity.' Item B under prohibited activities is
encouraging anybody to organise any kind of strike or disruption in a
factory or any kind of economically important enterprise. And the
punishment for this is being arrested by the occupation authority
and being treated as a prisoner of war."

Ewa Jasiewicz, of the International Occupation Watch Center in
Baghdad described the struggle of workers at a brick factor near
Baghdad In October 3Ú4 of the workforce who are paid $1.50 for
a 14 hour day marched on the management's office and demanded a
wage increase, a formal contract, on-site medical facilities and
retirement payments.

"The owner had no idea that a union had been formed and told
them, 'Fine, strike go, I will dismiss you, others will come to take
your place,'' 'The workers responded by going to their homes,
bringing out their guns and spontaneously forming an armed picket

"Manned with machine guns and Kalishnikovs, workers guarded
the factory and defended their strike from demolition by scab labor.
The owner, overpowered, ended up granting the workers a raise of
500 dinars - 25 cents- and agreed to enter negotiations regarding
social and health benefits. The strike was regarded all around as a
massive success".

She also "visited a worker unaffiliated to the trade union but
working for the Southern Oil Company in his company supplied
home. His wages have improved but still amount to just $10 per
day. He can't and never will be able to afford to move out of his
2-room caravan, unless he gets a raise. He tells us that the
management, the same dictatorial and murderous Ba'athists
responsible for the ordering of hundreds of oil workers dead, are
still running the show. 'We threw them out, every single one, but the
Ministry of Oil / CPA ordered many of them back in'.

As might be imagined the US/UK occupying force is not too happy
that Iraqi workers are organizing themselves rather then obeying
the puppet Iraqi Governing Council. U.S. Labor Against War
circulated an appeal in mid-December from Iraq which described
how "The American occupation forces, using a force of about ten
armored cars and tens of soldiers, attacked the temporary
headquarters of Iraqi Federation of Workers Trade Unions (TFTU)
in Baghdad) at 10.30 am, Saturday 6/12/2003, and arrested 8 of its
leaders and cadres, who were handcuffed and taken away to an
unknown destination.

The attackers ransacked and destroyed IFTU's possessions,
tearing down banners and post-ers condemning acts of terror,
tarnishing the name of WTU and that of the General Union of
Transport Workers (on the building's main front) with black paint
and smashing window glass, without giving any reason or
explanation." Those arrested were released the following day, this
is part of a series of arrests by the occupation armies of trade union
leaders and protesters.

Iraq is to be made safe for capitalism one way or the other. For over
20 years the job of caretaker was given to Saddam Hussein until in
the 1990's he got too big for his boots. Now the occupation forces
are searching for another suitable strong man they can leave in
charge when they depart for other wars.

by Andrew Flood

See www.occupationwatch.org for many of the articles from which
these quotes are taken.
Internal Exile for Shannon Protester

In Shannon, one of the protesters, a resident of Shannon town,
charged with blockading the airport road at an anti-war
demonstration, was fined ¤200 and ordered to leave his home and
Shannon Town whenever the gardai inform him that a protest is
happening at Shannon Airport. The last time we heard of courts
handing down sentences of internal exile was in Stalinist Russia!
See also

* Anarchism and the fight against Imperialism
* Stop refuelling at Shannon warport
This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper
'Workers Solidarity'. http://struggle.ws/wsm/paper.html
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