The Socialist 9 October 2004 |
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Labour and war
Union Leaders' Rebellion Fizzles Out
THE UNION leaders' threatened revolt against Blair on Iraq at the Labour
Party conference evaporated quicker than you could say 'stitch-up'.
Content with defeating the leadership on rail renationalisation and housing
earlier in the week, and general promises of improved workers' rights, the
main union leaders voted with the submissive constituency delegates not to
inflict a defeat on Blair on Iraq.
The resolution calling for a timetable for withdrawing the troops, was lost
with only 28% of conference delegates voting in favour.
Union leaders have been able to use the weakness of the anti-war movement's
arguments over how to end the occupation to avoid a showdown with Blair.
In particular, the fact that most of the anti-war movement does not put an
alternative which addresses the concerns many working-class people have about
the prospect of inter-ethnic or religious conflict and a civil war if the
troops are withdrawn.
The Socialist Party supports the withdrawal of the troops. But in contrast
to the rest of the Left in the anti-war movement, we also point out that on a
capitalist basis, one consequence of a rapid withdrawal could be a bloody
ethnic or religious conflict.
This is why a democratic and equitable solution to Iraq's problems is only
possible with the working class in the lead, uniting all groupings on the
basis of a socialist and democratic programme.
A LOT of arm-twisting and emotional blackmail was conducted before the
vote. Blair himself had a 30-minute meeting with the Amicus union delegation.
Abdullah Mushin of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions was taken to the
Transport and General Workers' Union delegation to warn them that if troops
were "pulled out too soon, trade unionists in Iraq could die in a civil war. "
He also warned of the "Balkanisation" of Iraq in urging British trade unions
to allow the troops to stay.
This may have touched genuine concerns amongst some. But Abdullah Mushin
conveniently glossed over other equally crucial question facing trade
unionists in Iraq, which can only be addressed by the removal of the occupying
forces and allowing the Iraqi people to decide their own future.
The imperialist powers have detained and imprisoned most of the genuine
Iraqi trade union leaders and destroyed their structures and offices since
occupying. Paul Bremer and the interim government reintroduced Saddam's 1987
Labour laws banning strikes. Over a dozen trade unions are still not granted
legal status by the puppet government.
At the same time, how many trade unionists died in Iraq because of the
invasion and how many trade unionists in Iraq actually support the
continuation of the occupation?
During the conference debate, foreign secretary Jack Straw said of the
continuing occupation that it was the Iraqi people's call. "If they say we
leave, we leave." This is like a landlord saying he's willing to hand over the
deeds of a property any time the tenants ask for it.
Would Straw be prepared to act in the same way towards requests from the
people of Fallujah to stop the bombing of that city immediately, or to
straight away grant any requests to be released from those who have been
wrongly imprisoned and tortured?
The big four unions ignored all these glaring contradictions and -
displaying less critical faculties than the United Nations secretary general
or even the Tory party leader - used their votes to shore up a liar and allow
the continued oppression of the Iraqi people.