Once again the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions are being attacked by some ‘leftists’ for being the wrong kind of trade unionists and the wrong kind of Iraqis.
Because they choose to engage in building a democratic society in which they will claim a strong role for workers’ organisations and refuse to support a ‘resistance’ who have killed an estimated 12,000 Iraqis over the past 18 months they are labelled collaborators with imperialism’ and progressives are being urged to reject any solidarity with them.
Alan Johnson of Labour Friends of Iraq dissects the latest anti-IFTU campaign which this time is finding voice in the US and defends the strategy of the Iraqi trade unionists:
The IFTU has decided to spurn violence, and to work for a swift withdrawal of troops as part of the UN-backed political process. This, and this alone, condemns the IFTU in the eyes of some extremists. For Ramadani-Sustar anyone who supports the UN-backed political process and timetable (elections to a constituent assembly in January 2005, a constitutional referendum in October and further elections in December 2005) is a collaborator and a quisling. For Sustar anyone who stops this process with bombs is an ‘anti-imperialist’ to be supported unconditionally. Every act of critical engagement in the political process, every act of wary participation in its timetable and institutions by the IFTU, every effort to use the political process on behalf of its members, is an act of ‘treachery’ and ‘collaboration’ with the ‘imperialists’.
But ask yourself, are Sustar-Ramadani right? Think about the situation in Iraq. Is the IFTU policy really treachery? Put yourself in their shoes. You are building a union while crawling from the wreckage of three decades of totalitarian repression, your country is occupied by US-UK troops who deny sovereignty but hold back a fascistic Saddamist-violent Islamic Fundamentalist attempt to block democracy and re-impose tyranny. Of course you will seek to critically support the UN-backed political process, codified in UN Security Council Resolution 1546! After all, this political process is backed not only by the United Nations and the international community but also by the Kurds (who see it as the road to a federal Iraq), the Shia and by many Sunni. It is backed by the democratic Iraqi political parties. And, yes, it is also backed by the Iraqi Communist Party, and the democratic left. It provides for elections, a constitution and a feasible way to get your country back from both the US and the Saddamists.
And ask yourself, can all these forces – the great majority of Iraqis – really be mistaken? Can they all be ‘quislings’? Wouldn’t that mean that Iraq is some kind of ‘quisling nation’ that has to be brought back to the ‘anti-imperialist’ straight and narrow by foreign jihadi suicide bombers and ex-Saddamist thugs? This is the logic of the Ramadani-Sustar-Callinicos view.
Have a read of it all if you want to find out what Iraqi trade unionists are struggling to achieve in Iraq and why a section of the western left backs their fascist enemy.
There is a space for common ground between people who, like Alan Johnson, opposed the war in Iraq and those of us who rejected the anti-war movement outright from the begining. The common ground is, of course, the terrain of solidarity and support for the labour movement and democrats in Iraq.
But there simply is no common ground with those who back the murderers of those democrats and trade unionists and the slaughter of thousands of ordinary Iraqi civilians.
Yes, it is only a small minority of the left who actually raise their voice in support of the Saddamite-Islamist death squad alliance against democracy but the problem has always been that this small minority are, in the UK at least, in the leadership of the anti-war movement.
There have been some in the anti-war wing of the British labour movement, most noticably Mick Rix, who have stood up and against such betrayal but show me a mainstream Guardian column-writing anti-war figure who has come out against supporting the death squads and has clearly and unequivocally criticised the anti-war movement for supporting the fascists?
That’s the problem and it is why those of us on the democratic left should never shy away from exposing and opposing not only the SWP but also the likes of Galloway, Tariq Ali, John Pilger and the rest who remain, for so much of mushy leftish anti-war opinion, perfectly acceptable representatives of their movement.