Friday 3 August 2007

Tony Cliff on working class and the oppressed

Recorded in 1994, Tony Cliff on the relationship between organised workers and the oppressed.

Cliff is a Palestinian Jew who was expelled from Palestine by the British in 1947. He is the founder of the International Socialists

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Iraqi oil minister enforces Saddam law on trades unions

In a disturbing development, the Iraqi oil minister Hussein Shahrastani has ordered his ministry to apply a 1987 law issued under Saddam Hussein's regime to ban the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU).

The directive, dated 18 July 2007, states:

"The minister has directed that all members of all unions be banned from participating in any committee if they use their union identification, since these unions have no legal status to work within the state sector. They should not be permitted to use the offices and equipment of the [ministry’s] companies, because they do not have legal status within the state sectors."

All necessary measures should be taken to implement the minister’s directive within a maximum of two weeks, it concluded.

In a message to Naftana oil campaign, the oil union leader union Hassan Juma`a affirmed that the union would not recognize the decision, stressing that the oil minister has been fighting against trade union work because of the patriotic stand.

“We are working for Iraq," he declared.

In flagrant violation of the principle of free association, the governments since occupation have continued to treat all trade unions as illegal, until such time as a ‘legal framework is enacted’.

Thus the directive upheld Saddam’s infamous decree 150 of 1987 that banned all trade union activity by deeming workers in the state sectors to be ‘civil servants’ without the right to organize. It should be remembered that, in spite of strenuous efforts by the occupying powers to privatize the Iraqi economy, the overwhelming majority of Iraq's industrial workers belong to the state sector.

Last year the government froze the assets and bank accounts of the oil workers’ union along with that of all other unions. The new directive is seen by the union as a preemptive measure to weaken the union’s successful campaign against the proposed oil law, which was instigated and is being imposed on Iraq by the occupation governments.

The proposed law, popularly known in Iraq as the ‘thieves’ law’, has attracted the hostility of Iraqi workers and technical oil experts alike. Popular opposition is such that the government has failed to meet several deadlines laid down for it by the Bush administration and US Congress to enact the law.

We call on all trade unions and supporters of democratic rights to protest the Iraqi government’s dictatorial measures and to support the IFOU and Iraq’s workers in their struggle for freedom and democracy.

Sami Ramadani – 07863 138748
Kamil Mahdi –
Sabah Jawad – 07985 336886

Thursday 2 August 2007

Bad Men: Guantanamo Bay And The Secret Prisons

A first hand account of the fight to free some of the deatinees of Guantanamo Bay by their legal representative. The book is a damming insight into the treatment of the prisoners and a country that can incarcerate, not as a result of tested evidence, but on the judgement of George W Bush, who said 'The only thing I know for certain is that these are bad men'.

Click on the header for link

Wednesday 1 August 2007

Britain's Klaus Barbie

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights has launched a campaign to put on trial British officer Ian Henderson—the “butcher Bahrain”—for crimes against humanity.

Ian Henderson is renowned for his use of torture to put down the Mau Mau independence uprising in Kenya in the 1950s.

Later he plied his trade in Bahrain where he became head of the security services and director of intelligence.

He gathered around him mercenaries notorious for the use of electric shock equipment.

One victim describes his experience at the hands of "Britain's Klaus Barbie":
"My first experience of Henderson took place in 1982 when I was hanged like a chicken at the office of Adel Flaifel, one of Henderson's henchmen.

"I was hanged by my arms and legs when Henderson entered the room and said: 'Do you want to confess?'. He immediately assaulted me in an immoral way and after a while he left the room."

Hassan said he was naked at the time and Henderson beat him over the buttocks. He went on: "The encounter lasted about 10 minutes during which I was in severe pain.

The three torturers - Flaifel, Abdulla Al Tanak and Abdulla Al Dowsari - stopped when he entered the room awaiting further instructions from him, but upon receiving satisfactory approval from him, they resumed their beating.”

World Against War Conference

To be held in London on 1 December 2007

Dear Brother/Sister

This is to formally notify your organisation, as part of the global movement against war, that the Stop the War Coalition in Britain will be holding the above conference here in London and would like you to be represented at it.

This conference follows on from the highly successful International Peace Conference we held in December 2005, which was attended by delegates from peace movements from many countries, as well as by representatives of the Iraqi people.

That conference played an important part in developing the international dimension of our movement, in establishing stronger links between our campaigns and in allowing the voices of the Iraqi people to be heard.

The Stop the War Coalition believes it would now be useful to hold a further conference, with the aim of broadening our work still further.

We are therefore proposing that the conference this December, as well as maintaining a clear focus on our key demands for a complete end to the occupation of Iraq and opposition to any attack against Iran, also look at the broader struggle against war around the world and for independence against the threats of the US administration.

As well as inviting representatives of the Iraqi people once again, we shall also be seeking the participation of representatives of Palestinian, Lebanese, Pakistani, Venezuelan and Cuban movements, amongst others, and looking to highlight the continuing occupation of Afghanistan.

We are also hoping for the strong participation of anti-war movements in the USA, Canada and across Europe (including those in Poland and the Czech Republic opposing the Bush "missile defence" plan).

We shall send you further details of our proposals as soon as possible, including a list of invited speakers, and we would of course be most grateful for any suggestions your organisation might like to make regarding the agenda and format of the conference. We would also hope to circulate the drafts of any proposed declarations that the conference may be asked to consider well in advance, for your input.

At this stage we would like you to indicate whether you would be able to send delegates to London. The Stop the War Coalition will endeavour to organise accommodation in London for those who require it.

We look forward to hearing from you.

In solidarity

Andrew Murray (Chair Stop the War Coalition)
Lindsey German (Convenor Stop
the War Coalition)

Tuesday 31 July 2007

Hassan Juma'a on the Iraq oil law

Hassan Juma'a is president of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions. He visited Britain in July 2007 as part of a campaign against the proposed Iraqi oil law. Below is a the text of his meeting with journalists.

‘At last I managed to get to London after the British embassy in Amman Jordan rejected my first application for a visa nearly two weeks ago.

‘We wanted to participate in the Marxism 2007 conference held recently in London to express the voice of the Iraqi people people facing difficulties at the moment and to link up with the peace loving people in the UK and express our thanks for the solidarity they have given us.

‘The main issue concerning our union and the Iraqi people at the moment is the proposed oil law. A lot of people are questioning why we take a stand against the law.

‘We are proud to state that our union, as a popular organisation in Iraq, was the first body to voice its opinions concerning the proposed oil law in iraq.

‘We held a conference in Basrah, attended by 500 people, including those with expertise in this field, we discussed in detail the proposed law and voice our opinions regarding the many issues contained within it.

‘the role of the union was instrumental in getting people to contribute to the debate around the law, and people were looking to the union to get clarity over the law and its impact on the industry and the country. Oil experts, researchers contributed to the union initiative.

‘One of the indicators of how influential the union was in this proposals was that the first draft of the law, there was an interfering to production sharing agreements, this disappeared from the second draft.

‘Our criticism of the proposal law is not exclusively regarding the production sharing agreement, but other aspects of the law, and our position was made clear. We gave a submission to the Iraqi cabinet, to the Iraqi parliament and to the presidential council.

‘One of our major criticisms regarding the law is the way it was drafted in secret , not many people knew about it, and this contravened the articles of the new Iraqi constitution which states that Iraqi oil and gas wealth is the property of the Iraqi people.

‘As well as being critical of the production sharing agreement, we are critical of the process, how it was written, and kept behind closed doors and how they kept the Iraqi people in the dark about important details of this proposed law.

‘We demanded that Iraqi National Oil Company be reconstituted and made effective.

‘There is a reference in the constitution that the National Oil Company has a role in the production of oil, but it does not go far enough in stressing that the company should have sole ownership over the oil fields and the oil industry.

‘Part of this proposal is that they envisage a reconstitution of the national oil company, is that they have the right to new oil fields that at the moment they want to hand over to multinationals.

‘The greatest problem are the references to the four appendixes to the oil law and this specify which oil fields are part of the national oil company.

‘Appendix one and two state that production in existing oil fields remain within the control of the national company, but appendix 3 and 4 state that all newly discovered oil fields are handed over—or explored— to foreign companies.

‘And they are giant oil fields that will be handed over to multinationals, to allow them to explore these fields. One example, there is a huge field in Wasat Province called the Ahdat field, the reserve in this oil filed alone is two million barrels. This is a newly discovered oil field.

“This is put in the category of the multinational companies.”

“The truth is that all the major oil fields in Iraq have already been discovered, the oil law gives these multinational companies the concessions and exploitation of these fields.

“If the opportunity os given to the Iraqi National oil Company to explore and develop these fields we do not need the help of multinationals companies.

“Iraq today produces up 2,100,000 barrels of oil a day, the revenue from that is $43 billion in revenue. Therefore Iraq potentially has a huge amount of revenue to develop future operations and a programme of reconstruction.

“We are not against the participation of foreign companies in the reconstruction of the industry. But this has to be within the so called service contract framework where the ownership and production is in the hands of the Iraqi people.

“There it is a false assumption that we are against the participation of foreign companies in the participation of the industry.

“We support participation in the redevelopment of the Iraqi industry but it has to be on our conditions and in the service of the Iraqi nation.

“This is an important issue for us because oil revenue accounts for 85-90 percent of our national income.

“The oil workers in Iraq play a pivotal role in the production of oil. Since the occupation started, Iraqi workers, engineers and experts have under very difficult conditions maintained production.

“Whoever is watching Iraq at the moment will conclude that we are lagging behind in technology—that we are a century behind. But we have been deprived of technology for a long time. But the oil workers work and live under very difficult conditions at the moment.

“Whatever you see on the TV about Iraq, the misery of its people, I tell you that the conditions on the ground are much worse. Hundreds of people are being killed everyday.

“We hold the United States directly responsible for this situation, and we warned from the beginning that the occupation will be a disaster. The must have the lion’s share of responsibility for the deteriorating security situation.

“The occupation only brought us destruction and misery. Despite what is being said that they brought democracy to Iraq. Believe me when I tell you that democracy in Iraq is not like the democracy that you have in the west.

“Democracy in Iraq today is democracy of suppression and repression and the silencing of all voices that are raised for the national interest.

“We say very clearly that is is unwise and unwelcome to introduce laws that will bind future generations. Iraq is under occupation and no such law that affects the future should be introduced at the moment.

“Such a law should be passed when we have full sovereignty, when the wishes of the people are given uppermost priority.

“If this law is carried now it will affect future generations, and will impact the reconstruction program. Iraq needs every penny to rebuild shattered lives and a shattered economy.

“I express on many occasions, in meeting and interviews that even if in the future the United States ends its military occupation over our country its economic occupation will continue for many years to come."

Questions from journalists:
Q: Your union was recently involved in a series of strikes. Can you update us on the dipute?

“Many outstanding issues remain between us and the government over working conditions, and our opposition to the oil law. There are negotiations are taking place at the moment. But during the strike an arrest warrant was issued against the union leaders in the south, including myself.

“We are planning a big demonstration in Basrah outside the municipality on Monday 16 July. It is one of the many actions we are planning.

“We are still negotiating over 17 demands, including over health care, wages etc. Until now we have not received sufficient answers over these demands."

Q: What are the conditions in the south, and do you have much confidence in a British withdrawal?
“We do not distinguish between the British and US conduct in Iraqi. Occupation is occupation, irrespective who is taking part in it.

“They use the same methods and tactics. They repress people and arrest people.

“When the foreign troops withdraw from Iraq we might face a period of chaos, but we have enough good leaders in our country to solve our own problems.

“Despite the total collapse of law and order, the grave situation facing the economy and security matters. If this calamity faced any other peoples of the world they would face similar problems. But despite this life goes in Basrah and in Iraq.

“The way we see it is that there is no crisis in Iraqi society. the problem is the divisions among the political elites, and the problems between the occupation and the elates.

“Basrah differs from other provinces in terms of security situation. But despite the relative calm in Basra in comparison to other provinces, we no see no programme of reconstruction. A lot of people predicted that because of relative calm in Basrah there would be more reconstruction and that this would become an example for the other provinces. But this is not the case.

Q: What is the role of US, Britain and multinationals in drawing up oil law?

“The US government is behind this law. We think the US and British are exerting maximum pressure on the Iraqi government to pass such a law. Because George Bush failed in the military aspect of the occupation. But if he can force this law through then he could claim some kind of victory and justify the invasion.

Q: What is happening to the law in the parliament?

“I am very happy that the highest authority in Iraq, the Iraqi Consultative Council have discussed and put some points regarding this law. The ICC raised 13 points to the law and forwarded it to cabinet and parliament. But there are important blocs within the parliament that oppose the oil law.

“We predict a long discussion regarding this debate.

“Even though within the political process there are people who have views regarding this law.

“There is also disagreement from among the Kurds regarding this agreement. The Kurdish parties oppose some elements to the appendix.

Q: Is there any truth in rumours that Muqtada al-Sadr and Sunnis-based resistance are forming a national movement?

“Sadr’s opposition is well known. We would welcome any alliance which aims to end the occupation. On condition that they must serve the national interest and not serve a narrow sectarian agenda. The sectarian and ethnic conflict started after the occupation began, we did not have this conflict before.

Q: What proof do you have that the Iraqi prime minister is being pressured by US, to pass this law?

“One of the indicators is that the way the law was proposed, and the whole process, how it was developed and came into being and was presented is a strong indicators.

“Statements coming out of the US administration itself regarding the law.

“It’s not logical for the US to leave Iraq empty handed, they want to leave Iraq with their hands full of Iraqi oil.”

In Hull, northern England

Around one year ago I was in Lebanon writing a story on the impact of Israel's war. I was struck by the humble dignity shown by ordinary people whose lives had been ruined. Now I'm on the road again, this time to northern England talking to people about floods that devastated their lives.

Again I was struck by the silent determination mixed with seething anger.

That is Joan Mulholand, all her furniture is rotting outside her house after the floods swept through her working class community. These floods were the result of cuts in the maintenance of the drainage system that should protect the city. The company responsible was privatised in 1989 and has since made over £12 billion in profits... she has nothing left.

She is waiting for a £150 compensation payout... and you guessed it, her son is a soldier in the British army.

Click on the header for the story in Socialist Worker.

Sunday 29 July 2007

Eamon McCann on Sectarianism

Eamon McCann is a veteran civil rights organiser from Northern Ireland. He will be speaking in Beirut on sectarianism. Get to see him of you can. McCann was one of the driving forces behind the civil rights movement in 1960s that drew in Catholic and Protestants in a struggle to change a sectarian system.

Leftist Assembly For Change - Civil Society Movement
Invite you to participate in a meeting on
"The Roots of Sectarian Conflict in Northern Ireland"
With the Irish writer and activist Eamonn McCann

Place: Civil Society Movement, Social Movement Building,
185 Badaro Street,
1st Floor
Time: Wednesday 1 August 2007 @ 7 PM

For More Information, please contact
or Bassel Abdallah 03-587346