[Marxism] Iraqi oil workers' union wants US out

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Mar 2 23:30:58 MST 2005

Leave Our Country Now!


February 18, 2005 By Hassan Juma'a Awad,The Guardian (uk).  Hassan
Juma'a Awad is general secretary of Iraq's Southern Oil Company Union
and president of the Basra Oil Workers' Union


We lived through dark days under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship.  When
the regime fell, people wanted a new life: a life without shackles and
terror; a life where we could rebuild our country and enjoy its natural
wealth.  Instead, our communities have been attacked with chemicals and
cluster bombs, and our people tortured, raped and killed in our homes. 


Saddam's secret police used to creep over the roofs into our homes at
night; occupation troops now break down our doors in broad daylight.
The media do not show even a fraction of the devastation that has
engulfed Iraq.  Journalists who dare to report the truth of what is
happening have been kidnapped by terrorists.  This serves the agenda of
the occupation, which aims to eliminate witnesses to its crimes. 


Workers in Iraq's southern oilfields began organising soon after British
occupying forces invaded Basra.  We founded our union, the Southern Oil
Company Union, just 11 days after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. 


When the occupation troops stood back and allowed Basra's hospitals,
universities and public services to be burned and looted, while they
defended only the oil ministry and oilfields, we knew we were dealing
with a brutal force prepared to impose its will without regard for human
suffering.  From the beginning, we were left in no doubt that the US and
its allies had come to take control of our oil resources. 


The occupation authorities have maintained many of Saddam's repressive
laws, including the 1987 order which robbed us of basic union rights,
including the right to strike.  Today, we still have no official
recognition as a trade union, despite having 23,000 members in 10 oil
and gas companies in Basra, Amara, Nassiriya, and up to Anbar province.


However, we draw our legitimacy from the workers, not the government.
We believe unions should operate regardless of the government's wishes,
until the people are able finally to elect a genuinely accountable and
independent Iraqi government, which represents our interests and not
those of American imperialism. 


Our union is independent of any political party.


Most trade unions in Britain only seem to be aware of one union
federation in Iraq, the regime-authorised Iraqi Federation of Trade
Unions, whose president, Rassim Awadi, is deputy leader of the
US-imposed prime minister Ayad Allawi's party.  The IFTU's leadership is
carved up between the pro-government Communist party, Allawi's Iraqi
National Accord, and their satellites.  In fact, there are two other
union federations, which are linked to political parties, as well as our
own organisation. 


Our union has already shown it is able to stand its ground against one
of the most powerful US companies, Dick Cheney's KBR, which tried to
take over our workplaces with the protection of occupation forces. 


We forced them out and compelled their Kuwaiti subcontractor, Al
Khourafi, to replace 1,000 of the 1,200 employees it brought with it
with Iraqi workers, 70% of whom are unemployed today.  We also fought US
viceroy Paul Bremer's wage schedule, which dictated that Iraqi public
sector workers must earn ID 69,000 ($35) per month, while paying up to
$1,000 a day to thousands of foreign mercenaries. In August 2003 we took
strike action and shut down all oil production for three days. As a
result, the occupation authorities had to raise wages to a minimum of ID


We see it as our duty to defend the country's resources.  We reject and
will oppose all moves to privatise our oil industry and national
resources.  We regard this privatisation as a form of neo-colonialism,
an attempt to impose a permanent economic occupation to follow the
military occupation. 


The occupation has deliberately fomented a sectarian division of Sunni
and Shia.  We never knew this sort of division before. 


Our families intermarried, we lived and worked together.  And today we
are resisting this brutal occupation together, from Falluja to Najaf to
Sadr City.  The resistance to the occupation forces is a God-given right
of Iraqis, and we, as a union, see ourselves as a necessary part of this
resistance - although we will fight using our industrial power, our
collective strength as a union, and as a part of civil society which
needs to grow in order to defeat both still-powerful Saddamist elites
and the foreign occupation of our country. 


Bush and Blair should remember that those who voted in last month's
elections in Iraq are as hostile to the occupation as those who
boycotted them.  Those who claim to represent the Iraqi working class
while calling for the occupation to stay a bit longer, due to "fears of
civil war", are in fact speaking only for themselves and the minority of
Iraqis whose interests are dependent on the occupation. 


We as a union call for the withdrawal of foreign occupation forces and
their military bases.  We don't want a timetable - this is a stalling
tactic.  We will solve our own problems.  We are Iraqis, we know our
country and we can take care of ourselves.  We have the means, the
skills and resources to rebuild and create our own democratic society. 

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