Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Iraq And Trade Unionism

The TUC Publication On Iraqi Trade Unions

Iraqi Kurdistan has an active and influential Trade Union movement. Here is a valuable contribution on the role played by women in their Trade Union structure.

I visited Iraqi Kurdistan with Labour Friends of Iraq and fellow Trade Unionists in April 2006 and on the anniversary of the visit a year later I came up with the following lessons. Which I have taken from here -

(1) Iraqi Trade Unionists deserve and need our understanding and practical support.

Sue Rodgers the Chair of the TUC's Iraq Solidarity Committee was part of our delegation. The TUC provides a clear avenue through which people can help - numbers of these developed out of our visit. Specific Trade Unions such as UNISON have their own linked programmes of assistance.

(2) The Iraqi Government needs the continued pressure of the world's Trade Union Movement to repeal two major pieces of anti-Trade Union legislation.

First, Saddam Hussein's decree 150 is still operative in banning the operation of Trade Unions in the major public sector. Secondly, there is a post Saddam Hussein decree 8750 which sequests Trade Union Funds until such time as the State decide who it will recognise as registered Trade Unions. Neither of these decrees are, however, operative in Iraqi Kurdistan.

(3) Iraqi Trade Unionists (mainly those outside of Iraqi Kurdistan) face persistent terrorist activity, with occasional harassment from American and Iraqi forces.

Activists in the wider Trade Union and Labour Movement in the UK should not turn a blind eye to this when determining which actors to support and criticise within Iraq.

(4) Whilst Iraqi Kurdistan is not free from its own strains and stresses, it is important in its own right as an area of growth, development and democratisation. It is also important as an example and as a link to the rest of Iraq.

The Kurdistan Workers' Federation, their Teachers' Union and the professional Trade Unions we met have important links with their equivalents in the Arab areas of Iraq, as well as internationally.

(5) The economic development of Iraq is a key to its future.

In Iraqi Kurdistan there is a wide acceptance of the need for inward investment (even by their Communist Party) and for the democratisation of their form of command economy. They don't, however, wish to be taken over by a form of turbo capitalism and look for formulas in which public controls can direct private involvement. This is relevant to the development of the rest of Iraq. Democratic socialists throughout the world can fruitfully apply their minds to the development of such a project.

(6) Iraq, of all places, does not act in a vacuum.

In addition to the pressures of Coalition Forces and their Governments, we need to be aware of the complex range of interests coming from neighbouring Middle East Governments and internal groupings in their countries. These impact on legitimate and illegitimate trade, provide military problems and create diplomatic and religious/political pressures - including the impact of imported forms of terrorism.

(7) The complex nature of an often fractured Iraq is to a large extent a consequence of economic collapse over a period of more than three decades.

The Iraq-Iran war, the invasion of Kuwait, the Gulf War, smashed Shia and Kurdish uprisings, the hideous actions by Saddam Hussein in pursuing his shifting strategies, UN sanctions and the Coalitions invasion and subsequent insurgencies and mass acts of terrorism have had massive economic and social costs. Ethnic, tribal and religious divisions have been built upon in years of brutalisation under Saddam Hussein.

There are wide but battered elements in Iraq who have an alternative vision of peace, secularism, co-operation and democratisation. Their problem is that they have to operate in circumstances where many can not look far beyond than their daily needs of survival. Yet these people are part of a brave tradition within Iraq. They have shown their love for education, cultural development, urbanised communal values and solidarity. Helping to allow these elements of Iraq to come to the fore in association with those who bravely lead the struggle for such values (as did the late Najim Abd-Jasem) is the best task we can apply our minds to.

These lessons seem to me to have survived the test of time. Although the harassment from American forces (in 3 above)was essentially confined to the earlier period

Hat Tip - Iraqi Federation Of Trade Unions.


Anand said...

Merry Christmas!!!

Harry Barnes said...

Anand: Sorry, I had PC problems over Xmas. A Happy New Year.