Duncan McFarlane has produced this response to an item I posted back on 29 January which was entitled "A Reply To Duncan On Iraq".
The discussion we are having is about the nature, role and significance of the Iraqi Trade Union Movement. Duncan has produced a serious and well argued response, although I will dispute some of the grounds upon which he seeks to open up disagreements with me. In responding to him I face a further complexity, which I explain below.
Duncan's Wider Framework
His reply to me is only one item in a linked series of 12 articles about the situation in Iraq. These are introduced here. As I am mentioned in this introduction and links are then provided to my blog in three of his articles, I obviously need to respond to more than just the item that he presents on Iraqi Trade Unions. For the points he makes on Trade Unionism need to be seen through the prism of his wider concerns.
Because of his approach he has a tendency to link the views of Nick Cohen, the Euston Manifesto, Bush, Blair, Labour Friends of Iraq and myself together in some sort of loose alliance. Yet I am, of course, on record as being rather critical of the first four in this list.
So it might take me a little time to come up with a full response.
In The Meantime
I have, of course, posted many items in the past about Iraq's Trade Unions. My basic stance appeared last October 23rd and was entitled "Iraq: The Third Big Issue". The main changes that I would now make in that article are the claims about the size of the Iraqi Trade Union Movement outside of Iraqi Kurdistan. It seems to me that there are a number of factors which indicate that my past assessments were on the optimistic side.
Continuing legal bans on the operations of Trade Unions and on their funds, terrorist attacks on their members, emigration and mass unemployment will all have taken their toll. There is no doubt about the continuing strength of the Trade Union Movement in Iraqi Kurdistan, where legal restraints are not in place and where the other factors I have mentioned are less of a problem.
I have no doubts, however, that the Iraqi Trade Union Movement is worthy of our active support in its efforts to improve the conditions of life of the Iraqi people. No doubt, Duncan shares this position. But its within our wider frameworks towards reaching such shared conclusions that we are likely to reveal the differences in our approaches.