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30 June 2009

Total's fat fingers in every pie

THE CONSTRUCTION workers at Lindsey won a magnificent battle for the working class. They managed to turn back the cost-cutting plans of Total, the multinational energy giant rated as one of the world's six 'supermajor' oil companies. Total has its fat fingers in many pies.
Phil Whitehurst, a senior GMB union shop steward at Lindsey, spoke about the dispute to big crowds at last weekend's Glastonbury festival and linked up with a group campaigning against Total in Burma.

Total operates a huge natural gas pipeline from Burma to Thailand, despite the European Union imposing sanctions against Burma's military regime. Phil Whitehurst handed over a 500 cheque on behalf of the British trade union movement to the campaign.

Total is also one of 32 oil companies who are bidding to take over six oilfields and two gas fields in war-shattered Iraq, which still has one of the world's largest untapped oil reserves of 115 billion barrels.

Since 2003, US and British troops have been occupying Iraq, bringing death and bloodshed to the civilian population and to the soldiers. Now, Iraqi and foreign oil contract workers could face the prospect of violence on the streets and oilfields in an attempt to get their employers a profitable foothold in Iraq.

If their plans succeed, this would mainly benefit the oil monopolies, their executives and shareholders. These Western-based firms want to make a fortune from stealing Iraq's oil.

But the Lindsey dispute shows that the organised working class is potentially the strongest power on earth. The workers' movement should take confidence that, by fighting for policies based on workers' unity and socialist internationalism, the ruthless plans of Total and the other oil giants can be defeated. We can then put the idea of transforming society along socialist lines back on the political agenda again.

Roger Shrives