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The Stop the War Coalition and the IFTU (2)

Mick Rix and Tony Greenstein

This private exchange of emails was posted on the UK Left Network by Tony Greenstein, and is reproduced here without permission.


Tony Greenstein to Mick Rix

You wonít know my name, as I am Secretary of the Brighton & Hove Unemployed Workers Centre. NOT a member of the SWP nor do I support Respect.

I am copying an e-mail sent to Alex Gordon re the IFTU, which clearly appears to be a yellow union, giving wholehearted support to the Occupation, failing to make any condemnation of the bombings of cities and has no purchase on those workers actually in struggle. Given its support by the INA I am surprised that you choose this, of all issues, on which to resign. The fact is they did Bush and Blairís work for them at LP Conference.

[ĎBritainís Trade Unions, the Occupation of Iraq and the IFTUí by Sami Ramadani follows.]


Mick Rix to Tony Greenstein

Very sorry to not know you. However you must be doing a good job on behalf of our class, at the unemployed centre, please keep it up. I donít know why you stated you are not a member of SWP or Respect. I am not some Trot hater, or Trot basher. I have friends in SWP and Respect, and I will always listen to opinion from comrades on the left.

My question to you is this, were you at the Labour Party conference? Did you see Abdullah speak? Did you hear him support the invasion and the occupation? My next question to you is this, have you read the coalition statement? Which was sent out to all and sundry "not in my name" and without consultation with anyone in the movement!! My next question is, if you have read the statement, and if you were an Iraqi, and you were accused of collaboration with the UK government, do you not think that is the same as issuing a Fatwa? Can I ask you what right have some middle class people who earn a living on behalf of our movement, what gives them the right to attack trade unionists, socialists, and anti war activists in this way? The issue is, StWC should have been organising a coalition against the war, not entering into the realms of a labour & trade union movement body. They are a single issue body and that is it, nothing else, it is not there right to enter into areas of matters that concern Iraqi comrades, and trade unionists!!!

May I ask another question, on that stupid bloody statement, which was only on behalf of Andrew and Lindsey, because no one else was consulted, do you think it is right to use the phrase "support for the withdrawal of troops, by all and any means at their disposal"? That in reality sent out a message, that "I" support Iraqi religious fundamentalists, nationalists, separatists, Arab terrorists, kidnappers, beheaders, gangsters, Saddam Baíathists, which I donít!!!

I will however support and help, without interference, Iraqi trade unionists and socialists and the rest of the movement being created by Iraqi themselves, for a new and free civil society. If we donít share this opinion, then we are as bad as the forces of opinion and power that supported and sent the US illegal invasion and occupation forces and the UK illegal invasion and occupation forces.

If someoneís only crime is to fight for a better future for their own country, after 30 years of no voice in their country, then thatís a crime most of us in the TU & Labour movement in the UK would support.

However your support and Mr Ramadaniís for an attack on IFTU is your business, I do not expect everyone in the UK Labour & TU movement to support the aims of the TUC. So why should people have to be supportive of the IFTU? However your view against the IFTU is clouded, because whether you agree with IFTU or not as I say is immaterial Ė what is, however, is that basic human decency issues have been crossed, and that Abdullah and IFTU have had a public witchhunt and been outrageously attacked by the issue of the StWC Fatwa, that is the main point. It is a life and death issue in Iraq at the moment, not some tiddlywinks game, that statement loaded the gun, for lifeís crackpots and nutters, no one has the right to, and I mean no one, to choose whether someone lives or dies!!!!

Has there not been enough killing already, and more still taking place. Like I said, if you are justifying the stance taken by StWC, that middle class English white people can have scant regard for fellow socialists and trade unionists, especially in another country, because they may have a different viewpoint, is a step too far, and not within their remit. And they should nicely, go back to being an open, democratic coalition that represents the left truly and democratically, rather than using and hiding behind StWC as a front, for the George/Respect/SWP reactionary and sectarian line, that believes it can issue death sentences!!!

I would seriously hope you agree, if not you are entitled to your view, however I donít think any of us should stop doing something to end this bloody and illegal war.

One last point Ė who says they did Bush and Blairís dirty work, where did you get that info from? Please check facts here, this is another dangerous assertion, and can again have the same threat to life, that the StWC/George/Respect/SWP statement has done!! Surely we are not in that silly ultra-left game comrade, are we?


Tony Greenstein to Mick Rix

I am sure you were also doing a good job on behalf of your members before that awful Brady was allowed to hijack the union on behalf of Blair and the train companies.

I will ask you, did you read the article I appended?

I am not a member of the LP and therefore didnít manage to penetrate the ring of steel surrounding the Conference. What I did pick up, from ALL the reports, was that the IFTU played a crucial role in persuading the Conference not to support withdrawal of the troops now. That means the bloodshed will go on and further that the US & Britain, as in any colonial or imperial situation, are deepening the already deep divisions between the various confessionalist groups in Iraqi society.

As a general principle I support those who are waging war against the occupiers. Of course I donít politically support the fundamentalists etc, but in what is a military conflict then one has to take sides, regardless of what one thinks about the politics of those who are doing the fighting, a politics the US & the West above all, with its sponsoring of the fundamentalists in Afghanistan, before they turned on them, did more than any to create.

The question of the IFTU [being] a yellow/scab union. All the indications are that it is. We work with the Union of Unemployed Workers in Iraq whose views on the IFTU are that they are government stooges. And that was their role at LP Conference and amongst the TUC.

My point about the SWP & Respect was that I am not coming from their positions. Maybe I have less time for them than you do, because I consider their sectarianism destructive of left unity in Britain, but that is another debate.

No I donít consider the STWC statement on the IFTU a fatwa. The attitude towards IFTU people here and in Iraq is coloured by what happens in Iraq, not what happens in Britain. The fact is that thousands of people are dying due to the bombing that the IFTU hasnít in it to condemn and indeed canít condemn because they and the ICP are part of the ruling coalition.

Yes there has been far too much killing in Iraq. That is why I support the withdrawal of the imperial armies. It is not for Abdullah or any other IFTU reps to come here and oppose within our forums the withdrawal of our troops. If so then they cannot protest if they are criticised because that is a risk they themselves assume.


Mick Rix to Tony Greenstein

Hi comrade, thanks for your reply and your honesty. I too do not think all the armed resistance are from those that are painted to be not of our politics. I agree if you invade and occupy, you generally get resistance. However they are not all resistance fighters, and there is a loose coalition of people from different backgrounds and different interests that are part of the resistance.

Yes I did read the statement, it was sent to me prior to you doing so. His point about the war, and the atrocities etc, could anyone on the left disagree? Not sure myself. Could people disagree with his statements, about IFTU and yellow unions? Yes I think many can, and many do.

I think it is very unfortunate though, that people are only calling them a yellow union because the ICP is part of the interim government. There are arguments for and against that. But the record of many of the ICFTU is that they too where persecuted by Saddam, and many were exiled, tortured, imprisoned and executed.

Yes there are other unions in Iraq, and yes they have not done a deal with the interim government. People should make links with working class organisations and help them on an agenda of effective representation and organisation. However because of what IFTU have done with the interim government does not mean they are a yellow union, they are representing people, they have elected the first women to lead a union, they have also lead many strikes. They also condemn the invasion and the occupation. Whether they made a mistake in recognising the interim government to represent its members is a matter for conjecture, I have not been and never been faced with that position. The closet I ever came to anything like that, was when I had to meat the privateers and the multinationals in the railway industry when I fought against them, hardly the same thing.

I am also chair of JFC the TUC-backed organisation NGO on protecting Colombian trade unionists. I have been to Colombia a couple of times, to meet with comrades and set up support networks, and the respite scheme for those under greatest threat of being killed. I have met many a good comrade from Colombia, who are under 24hr daily protection. However they still meet the Government to air their grievances and take part in official process, even though we have proof that Colombian government armed forces are linked to the paras, and have committed atrocities, and they are also backed again by the USA, again what should they do, not meet the government? Should they take part in the official process as well? I too have met those same government ministers, including the minister for the interior, the defence minister, the vice president, president and various others, including army chiefs, police chiefs. Should I not take part in the process?

Last year I was asked to do something on behalf of Tribune and the TUC. It involved sharing a platform with Jack Straw and Peter Hain. Should I have done so? Was I right to turn up and criticise them over their handling of the war, invasion, occupation, and their abysmal treatment of trade unions during the second term? Abdullah had a Fatwa for speaking on a unison platform with jack straw, where he spoke against the invasion and occupation this was at the Labour Party. I will send you his statements to the Labour Party. He did not do the things that you have been told about, it is basically a lie, which has started with people in the SWP/StWC so they can promote their own favourite unions, one of whom is the one you work closely with. However my point is, I think we should be working with all good comrades and helping them in the unions. I just think people have certain agendas which they have not been telling people the truth about.

Abdullah did not come here to speak at the Labour Party conference from Iraq to get a longer stay of the occupying forces. Abdullah was exiled her in Britain many years ago, and is the overseas rep for IFTU. His point about the occupying forces and withdrawal is different from what you have stated, if you look at the speech he made, it is quite unequivocal, it is totally in line with the UN resolution. People I accept may dispute the UN resolution, but in the absence of anything else, that is all we have got.

I also think that we have to look at the position of withdrawal of troops, I would have thought it more sensible at this time, especially with the UN resolution, that there should be no occupying troops, except the only troops to be deployed, until a proper government is elected, are the blue helmets of the UN. That is not happening, no one is calling for it, in any official capacity, so I support the troops home policy myself, because I do not believe in the notion we have the right to occupy another country. However I do have some reservations, about pulling away from the mess we have created, and what we have stirred up, and what will happen inside Iraq, if we pulled out just like that. However, in saying that, my overriding principle is one that we should not be occupying another state, so we should not be there.

It has been good to have this exchange of views, I have found it very useful, I hope you have too.


Tony Greenstein to Mick Rix

Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately child care responsibilities postponed my reply.

I think we agree that what is called the resistance is not homogenous and there are many, like the Zarqawis who are reaction personified. Unlike Vietnam or Algeria, there is no national liberation movement or indeed a movement with a social programme. However none of this excuses the TUC in this country from dancing to Blair and Bushís tune.

I can remember many years ago, campaigning over the issue of Palestine in the Labour Party, ringing up the International Secretary of the Labour Party, the late Jenny Little, and inquiring why pro-Palestinian resolutions at Conference never got translated into action by the International Department. After a certain amount of parrying, I said that the problem with Labourís International Department is that it has always been run by the Foreign Office, i.e. the Americans and I inquired if Jenny was on secondment. In the inimitable words of the Guardian, click brr....

But this is not a matter of history. Each year, as steward at the TUC, I have to prevent myself from being physically sick when I hear the "fraternal delegate of the Israeli trade union movement, Histadrut" being introduced to Conference. Naturally this delegate is always an Arab. Who would have though that Histadrut till the 1960s barred Arabs from membership and even today corals them in an "Arab" section? Who would have known that the Histadrut bears a greater responsibility for the divisions between Arab and Jewish worker than any other single organisation in Israel? It not only created the State (its personnel interchangeable between the Israeli Labour Party and itself) but its primary campaigns up till 1948 were Jewish Labour, Land & Produce, i.e. a boycott of Arab Labour and Produce & confiscation of Arab Land. It has fought to keep Arabs out of "Jewish" factories and willingly built settlements in the West Bank/Gaza via its wholly owned subsidiary, Solel Boneh. But then Histadrut used to be Israelís second largest employer as well as a "trade union".

I mention all this because the TUC attitude to the IFTU has to be seen in context. It is not unusual. No one doubts that some IFTU leaders have been tortured and experienced horrendous repression. But I have to be frank with you when I say I meet people who have been horrifically tortured all the time. They usually go by the name of "bogus refugees" and Blair, Blunkett & Straw are the ones responsible for their attempted removal, something the TUC has been remarkably quiet about since Bill Morrisís departure. Asylum policy is markedly absent from that useless Warwick Accord.

The IFTU or rather the Iraqi Community Party has a history of blind stupidity and crass political errors. They used to be the largest Communist Party in the Arab world, truly a force to be reckoned with before they went along with Stalinís recognition of the Israeli State in 1948. As Sami Ramadani points out, the Iraqi CP collaborated during the 1970s with Saddam and its cadre paid the price when Saddam turned against them. Nor were they unique. The same is true of the Syrian and Egyptian CPs and both also paid the same price for liquidating their politics with radical Arab nationalists and burying class independence.

You sent me 2 documents, the second of which contained, amongst many statements that by IFTU General Secretary and ICP member, Subi Abdullah Hussein, that "Contrary to the allegations against the IFTU we must state emphatically that we have never voted or campaigned for the current interim Iraqi government". Well of course it is true that formally the IFTU is not represented in the puppet Government the US has established, the ICP is instead. It is this level of dishonesty that makes any genuine debate difficult.

The other document you sent me was a letter to the Morning Star by Abdullah Muhsin which proclaims that "The IFTU is opposed to the occupation of our country by the military forces of the US, Britain and other countries". It is indeed a strange form of opposition to occupation that leads you to enter the Government of the Occupier! And it is a strange form of opposition that leads one to lobby trade unions at the LP Conference to oppose a motion calling for immediate withdrawal of troops from that country. A cursory examination of the IFTU website makes no mention of demands for withdrawal, the use of torture and secret detention, still less the war crime of bombing cities. The nearest the IFTU comes to any criticism is that "These secretive and dangerous forces cannot be defeated by F16s and helicopter gunships attacking Iraqi cities". Apart from anything else, the US and its "coalition" is going from Iraq, they have neither the means nor willpower to stay. What do you really think that collaboration on this scale will result in, other than horrendous attacks on workers who are tarred with the IFTU brush?

Yes there are other unions, such as the Federation of Workers Councils and Workers in Iraq and the Union of the Unemployed in Iraq. Why have they not been invited to TUC soirees? They represent half a million workers. They have really been in the forefront of opposition to the occupation AND the Islamic fundamentalists. Their members have been shot up in demonstrations, unlike the IFTU whose membership, whose affiliates, when they have gone on strike have done so in opposition to their union (not much change from the TUC I agree).

But it is actually worse than that because Decree No.16 by Bremerís IGC recognising the IFTU also meant that all other unions were thereby illegal organisations. Have you not read, Mick, the letter signed by literally hundreds of trade unionists internationally, including Mark Seddon, to the ILO protesting that the US Occupation Authorities have forcibly singled out one union, forcing workers to join it in defiance of international labour law and ILO Conventions 87 and 88, which defends the right of workers to join the union of their choice. No the IFTU is not a yellow union because some of us believe that to be the case but because unions which have refused to collaborate with the occupation say so and further demonstrably prove it.

And as you full well know, Mick, meeting with the enemy is not the same as working with him/her. Like you, I face the employer over the bargaining table when defending workers who have been sacked or at Employment Tribunal. We all do that. What I donít do is meet them behind the back of said workers and agree to join the boards of their Company. Neither did you. That is why I am surprised that, regardless of your friendship with Abdullah, that you back this "union".

You know and I know that Colombian trade unionists situation is not that of the IFTU. Yes they have to meet with the Government that finances and instructs the death squads. You might also reflect that this same Government is being given massive military help by the same Blair and Bush who are bringing "democracy" to Iraq. US Foreign Policy is not different in different parts of the world. It pursues the same economic interests in Colombia that it does in Iraq. Itís just that some trade unionists cannot see that a genuine union in Colombia does not equal a yellow one in Iraq. I repeat, why do you not establish relations with the Unemployed Union and the union of Basra Oil Workers? These are the people at the sharp end, not the ICP bureaucrats who spend most of their time in different international conferences.

You mention the lies that you alleged the SWP/StWC have told about Abdullah Muhsin. I have no contact with the SWP. My information comes from those who have contacted us from the unemployed unions, from the Workers Communist Party of Iraq and those like Sami Ramadani.

Unlike you I have no faith in the United Nations. Did you not read the excellent article a week ago in the Guardian by Naomi Klein? "Why is war-torn Iraq giving $190,000 to Toys R Us?" in which she details how the UN Compensation Commission has managed to extract nearly $2 billion in "reparations" from Iraq since the invasion. Coupled with sanctions and the first Gulf War, the last people Iíd trust would be the UN. They are the US in blue. Or maybe you have forgotten other UN operations on behalf of the US such as that in the Congo, when Patrice Lumumba was murdered by their troops so that Mobutu could be installed in his decades long murderous rule.

You say you have reservations about leaving Iraq because maybe we should clear up our own mess. This, Mick, is the traditional reason offered by Fabian imperialists such as the Webbs for maintaining the Empire. They called it "trusteeship". In reality staying on in India, Palestine, Ireland and Cyprus meant Partition and the creation of the very conditions which caused so much bloodshed. It is the very presence of imperialist troops in Iraq which are causing the divisions that are resulting and causing the appalling bloodshed. We are part of the problem and it is tragic that the IFTUís ICP leadership cannot draw lessons from all the other bloodbaths in the Middle East. It was not long since the Iranian CP, Tudeh, was proclaiming the wonders of Ayatollah Khomeini before being butchered. That is the road the ICP are going down and they taking many good working class militants with them.

That is also why your resignation from the StWC for the reasons you have are wrong. Yes the SWP and friends are guilty of all sorts of undemocratic practices. In that they are no different from TUC leaders, old and new. But the reasons you gave, support for the IFTU, simply donít stand up.

I too have enjoyed this dialogue and I earnestly hope you will reconsider.


Tony Greenstein to Mick Rix

Further to our previous discussion. You sent me a copy of Abdullah Muhsinís statement from the Morning Star of 12th October in which he said that: "Mr Gallowayís assertion that I offered voting advice to trade unions on the Iraq motions is also untrue. The big four trade unions made their own decisions and, for my part, if and when asked, I confined my remarks to urging solidarity with Iraqi workers." How can this possibly be reconciled with Tony Woodleyís letter in yesterdayís (October 26) edition of the Morning Star, when he states: "it was clear advice from Abdullah Muhsin which tipped the balance" referring to the TGWU decision not to support a resolution calling for a date to be set for the early withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

In addition I understand the IFTU also distributed a letter to TU delegations urging exactly the same. So we clearly have Abdullah saying diametrically opposite things depending on who he is talking to. Why should he lie so needlessly? Because that is the way with US sponsored unions and outfits. The CIA set up hosts of such groups in South America during the 1960s. Iím sure you are old enough to remember Phil Ageeís Inside the Company, a book detailing his experiences as a CIA agent in Ecuador where he detailed the modus operandi of the CIA and its fronts.

You are of course well aware, through your involvement with Colombian unions, of how the US is operating in that country. It used to be called the war against drugs, but I guess now theyíve liberated Afghani heroin onto the market theyíre rethinking that particular slogan. But that doesnít excuse you continuing to defend Abdullah and his many tongues.

Since I know you are sincere in what you wrote, I would expect that you will inform Abdullah and the rest of the crew that you canít continue to support those for whom lies and duplicity come with the job.

You will also no doubt have read in the papers today of the request by the IFTU for funding by the British Government.

None of this excuses the behaviour of the SWP inside the StWC, but it also doesnít excuse support of what is clearly a US sponsored "union".


Mick Rix to Tony Greenstein

Hi there, good to hear from you. Sometimes people need to read between the lines, about what is being said, what was said, what is written, who distributes what, and for what purpose.

Firstly the article in the Morning Star by Tony Woodley was a pretty good one, and I doubt for one minute any serious person would disagree with the assertions and point of view that were made in that article. I think it summed up perfectly were most people stand in the movement, on this issue.

If I may answer your points:

Abdullah did not speak to the T&G delegation at the Labour Party. TW spoke to him!!

Abdullah did not offer any advice on how union should vote on any composite.

Abdullah made the statement to the fringe meeting, which I copied you into.

Even if TW asked Abdullah what was his view if the troops were pulled out now, and what would be the potential effect, if Abdullah told him what the truth was that there may be a civil war, why should you, I or TW disagree, we donít know.

However all the above is not the same as Abdullah giving advice to union delegations on how to vote is it? After all that is what he is being accused of.

If the Labour Party produced a letter with Abdullah telling delegates on how to vote, could you provide a copy please, of the so-called letter.

Andrew Murray, a comrade and friend of mine, is chair of StWC, he is also the Communications Director of the T&G. He writes Tonyís articles. AM was also responsible for drafting the 8th October StWC statement, which was not put to any steering committee member, nor affiliate union for consultation, that is the one that makes all the allegations about Abdullah. Even his political party (CPB) have had to withdraw remarks about Abdullah, because they now know there is no substance to them.

The statement said that Abdullah was instrument of the state, well my friend he was there as a guest of UNISON.

Is Sam still a member of the SWP!!!! Why is it that only the SWP/StWC/Respect/GG alliance making these allegations!!

What is wrong with unions seeking government funding, all British TUs get government funding, does your unemployed centre get government/local authority/union funding?

The funding is also administered by the TUC for these special projects. By the way did not the article in the Guardian say the IFTU have yet to put an application in?

Have you ever worked out, how you can get something like that into the Guardian, then another article from Sam, then another very quick article from TW in the Star? Very strange, perhaps Seamus helped at the Guardian, and perhaps John helped at the Star, very funny all supportive of Respect, but letís not be conspiracy theories here, too many are doing that about so called yellow unions.

Have you ever stopped and thought, why did the Iraqi Kurdish unions flourish, and why they are stronger, because for the last 13 years Saddam was not able to bomb the living shit out of them. Are they yellow unions, because they hid behind the Yanksí and Britsí air cover??

The ICFTU, TUC, ETUC and some other unions visited Iraq this year, and made contact with all unions, all you are seeing is the further development process taking place, of building up strong and independent unions. Whatís wrong with that? I hope nothing.


Tony Greenstein to Mick Rix

Nice to hear from you too. I agree about reading between the lines, but I think what Tony Woodley wrote was quite clear, viz:

"I will not weary readers with the whole story, because for me our voting decisions were influenced by one factor above all others Ė the representations made to us by the spokesman for the Iraqi trade unions. I make no apology for listening to the representative of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions in Brighton. Our traditions of solidarity and internationalism could not let us do otherwise. And let me make it clear that, as far as the T&G was concerned, it was clear advice from Abdullah Muhsin which tipped the balance. He made a compelling case about the disasters which might follow if troops withdrew before the Iraqi trade union movement felt their country was secure."

Tony W. speaks about representations "made to us" Ė and that accords with all the reports that came out in the press and elsewhere about why unions which had been previously intending to support withdrawing the troops changed their position. So given the choice, I believe Tony Woodley rather than Abdullah.

I think that was absolutely wrong and the article in todayís Lancet about 100,000 Iraqis having died, mainly as a result of the US bombing of cities, bears that out. This is an enormous war crime and of course it is workers and their families who have been primarily affected.

The IFTU has acted, quite consciously as the agent of the State, or more precisely the occupiers of Iraq. The fact that he was there as a guest of UNISON, which is my union, is neither here nor there. I hope that next time my Executive will invite the non-state unions, the Federation of Workers Councils in Iraq and the Union of Unemployed in Iraq.

I think the SWP behaved abysmally in issuing the statement without agreement from the National Committee/Council. That was wholly undemocratic, but the substance of the statement I would have agreed with.

Sorry, you lost me with references to Sam. Clearly I donít mix in the same circles as you. Nor do I know who was responsible for getting what articles into the Guardian, not having made a habit of writing for it!

Well I have to confess Iíve never supported the TUC or Trade Unions in this country receiving funding from the state. It makes them soft. The same New Labour that privatises whole stretches of the public sector, which whips up racial hatred with its attacks on asylum seekers, which sends Straw to Europe to bat for the CBI and oppose the Agency Workers Directive and much more, throws a few pennies to the TUC to keep it sweet. No, I donít agree.

And no, our Unemployed Centre doesnít receive local authority or state funding. We split with those in the Unemployed Centre in Brighton 7 years ago precisely on this question, because the local New Labour authority wished to tie funding to us ceasing campaigning. Those we left behind also kicked all TU reps off their Executive. But we are the only independent Centre in Britain. Most Unemployed Centres have become little more than Govt. training agencies, getting involved in cheap labour New Deal schemes and the like. Itís difficult to bite the hand that feeds you.

I guess what is galling is that the trade union movement has given virtually nothing to Unemployed Centres. There isnít one left in London, for example, yet they are happy to pour millions of pounds into the neo-liberal New Labour Government we have.

BUT there is a world of difference between British unions accepting money from the British Government and Iraqi unions accepting it from the occupiers of their country. If Britain was invaded by an imperialist country, which carpet bombed its cities, I hope that British trade unions wouldnít accept such danegeld.

I hope you reconsider your support for the IFTU because it is supported by the US Interim Government, indeed it is part of that government via the ICP. Why not support those unions which are at the sharp end?


Tony Greenstein to Mick Rix

You stated in your last letter that "If the Labour Party produced a letter with Abdullah telling delegates on how to vote, could you provide a copy please, of the so called letter." In fact what I said was: "In addition I understand the IFTU also distributed a letter to TU delegations urging exactly the same."

It would seem that you resigned from the StWC without fully being appraised of the facts of what happened and the direct interference, on behalf of Blair & Bush, in the internal proceedings of the British labour movement. In the circumstances it would have been quite correct for the StWC to issue the statement they did, albeit that the SWP should not have issued it before obtaining agreement from other leading members. Below is the Open Letter that was distributed.

[ Text of ĎTowards a Progressive, Free Iraqí by Abdullah Muhsin follows.]


Mick Rix to Tony Greenstein

Hi Tony, thanks for your advice, in that I resigned with only half the information. I can assure you I have not. Thank you for supplying the letter. I do not see anything wrong with it at all. The Iraqi trade union movement have a right to have their point of view as I have mentioned to you. We may disagree with that point of view, but they have the right to talk about their country, and request assistance.

On too many occasions, people think they have the knowledge from the British movement, in a colonial way (without knowing it) that we think we know best, about others!!! Sometimes it pays to understand what is at stake here. For over 30 years, there has been no freedom for trade unionists in Iraq. Now we have the situation where we see trade unions springing up all over the place. Some that have alliances, some that dont. Some that are socialist and working class, some that are religeous. Its a far better situation, than what occoured before. However, in all of this, I have not seen one statement, or heard that any of the Iraqi trade unions supported the invasion, or occupation, so again I cannot understand why you are attacking the Iraqi trade unions.

It seems as bad as what StWC did in their misguided way. Which of course is not their right. Please understand they are a "stop the war movement", they are a single issue organisation, FULL STOP, not an expert opinion on trade unions, or the movement. They come from all shades of opinion and all backgrounds. They have no right to speak on behalf of the TU movement, and I fundamentally disagree if you think that outside organisations can speak on behalf of the TU movement. You are wrong, only the democratically elected in those organisations can do that.

You are also wrong if you think statements can be put out, in the names of others, without consultation. You would not agree with not being consulted. Why should I, and others, have to agree to what you would not think is appropriate behaviour!!!!

You are also wrong that organisations have the right to put out statements, without genuine debate taking place in the first instance in that organisation, never mind not having any consultation. Again inappropriate behaviour.

You are also wrong in agreeing with statements that are little more than a Fatwa, against an individual. That behaviour is also wrong. If you believe that organisations have the right to do such things, then we are entering into the barbaric, and sorry I do not wish to drag myself down to the level.

You are also wrong that a statement can call for the support of the so-called resistance movement when, again, no debate or consultation has taken place on this matter. Also, I do not support people who go round kidnapping, beheading people, swearing Fatwas at people, terrorising people, setting off car bombs against working class people, crooks, gangsters, religious fanatics, separatists, Arab invaders, Iranian insurgents who want a piece of Iraq. I cannot ever support your notion, nor your theory on this matter.

So we see, we have a fundamental difference in opinion and approach. I believe it is the right of elected trade unionists, in their own countries, to be able to make their own way forward, they also have the right to make their own mistakes and misjudgements, just like you, me or anyone else has the right to do here.

I am afraid it appears you have swallowed the line, that disgraceful behaviour is acceptable, just because certain individuals in our movement may have got it wrong on an issue or be wrong in opinion. The hallmark of our movment is respect and tolerance to each other. that is why we have one TUC movment. That is our strength.

On the letter issue you mentioned in your email, it was my understanding the Abdullah letter was used by the Party hacks, to be photocopied and distributed by them as a way of swaying support for their statement. That why I mentioned the point there, not in relation to what you had quoted me.

Anyway, as I have said, I am a supporter and activist in the anti-war movement, and will keep on doing so. You may want them to be your unelected mouthpiece on the trade union movement, but they are not mine.

I can also tell you that the vast majority are appalled at the StWC statement, but also the vast majority are not going to pull away from an anti-war position. Also the vast majority will not go down the colonialist line, of telling trade unionists in other countries what to do all the time. Solidarity and assistance is what required for the new movements in Iraq. Thatís what builds strong working class organisations.

Thatís what myself and many others will also be doing, helping support the new organisations, and also calling for an end to war and occupation, and helping the StW Coalition stick to what it is fantastic at, and that is building a united anti-war movment.


Tony Greenstein to Mick Rix

Without prolonging this debate, you have not read what I wrote.

I do NOT support the SWP/StWC leadership putting out statements without debate or discussion internally and therefore bouncing people into positions. I believe the SWPís attitude to democracy is outrageous. Ok? I do not go along with it.

However I believe we should support unions which do oppose the occupation of Iraq and the IFTU do not. The Federation and UUI do. I find the idea that a union supports the occupation of its own country absurd, hence why I find it difficult to believe it is a genuine union.

Yes one by-product of the US occupation is a growth in genuine trade unionism. The US is also quite adept at harassing and repressing unions in pursuit of its neo-liberal approach to privatising Iraqi industry and the Interim Govt. which the IFTU are part of, via the ICP, is wholeheartedly going along with it.

I have said nothing and will say nothing in support of the barbarians who behead people or commit other atrocities, including the Fatwa issuers. However I also put these things in the context of the 100,000 people whom the Lancet has found have been killed thanks to the Americans. Those who planned this war are war criminals, and I mean Bush & Blair in particular. If you condemn one, you must condemn those who created a situation where Al Quaeda elements have now established a base in Iraq.

The TUC has long gone along with the line of telling other trade unionists what to do. That is why it sponsors the US-backed IFTU rather than genuine unions. That is why the TUC backs Histadrut in Israel and why along with the AFL-CIO it supported the US "unions" in Central and South America in the 1950s and 1960s. The TUC has an appalling record when it comes to internationalism, preferring to hide its record behind the most obvious black and white issues such as apartheid (in South Africa, not Israel).

I also believe you were wrong to resign as you did from the StW Coalition. Instead you should have issued public criticism and demanded that the leadership should be held to account and that the StW Coalition be democratised. However that was your decision not mine.

Anyway, I think weíll have to agree to disagree!