Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hadi Never Died: Hadi Saleh and the Iraqi Trade Unions

Trade unionists and progressives around the world should be shouting about this small miracle from the rooftops. A clandestine and repressed trade union movement with only a hundred or so cadres, under the thumb of a fascist-type state, develops almost overnight into a powerful movement with more than 200,000 members.

But the story of the Iraqi trade union movement – and its potential to help stabilise Iraq as a decent democracy and help spread democratic, pluralist and trade union values throughout the Middle East – has not yet appeared on the radar screens of all labour activists.

This invaluable, detailed and passionate book is a tribute to the life and times of Hadi Saleh who was jailed, nearly executed and then exiled for his union activities. He returned before Saddam’s regime fell and, together with his comrades, set about re-establishing the movement. He was well known to a wide range of free trade union leaders, and others throughout the world, as he tirelessly criss-crossed the globe to muster international support for the new Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions.

He was flesh and blood to many who decided that the key priority was solidarity with the Iraqi movement. His murder was brutal in the extreme. One small consolation is that it doubled the determination of many who had met him to increase solidarity with his comrades.

I was one of those lucky enough to meet Hadi when he addressed MPs and supporters of Labour Friends of Iraq in the Commons on two occasions. Hadi was a quiet man with a permanent smile and his words energised those who met him.

This books pays a handsome tribute to Hadi and reminds us that the most fitting way to acknowledge his courage is to concern ourselves with the needs of our brothers and sisters in the new and unified General Federation of Iraqi Workers

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