Break with yellow unions

Houzan Mahmoud of the Worker-communist Party of Iraq reports on how one British left group continues to side with the Ba'athist oppressors who once ruled Iraq

On November 30, a rally was organised by the so-called Workers Revolutionary Party to mark the 34th anniversary of their organ News Line. They invited two Ba’athist trade unionists, Karim Hamza and Jammel Aljabouri, secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions in Iraq (these trade unions existed during the previous regime).

I went along to this meeting to distribute the publications of the Union of the Unemployed in Iraq, a post-war union established by unemployed workers to demand their rights. But what I came across was disgusting and outrageous. The generous welcome and applause offered to these Iraqi Ba’athist trade unionists was unbelievable. Members of the WRP told me and my friend, Dashti Jamal, who represents the UUI in London, to leave and stop distributing our literature.

Despite this I tried to continue, in case they were not aware of the affiliation of those Iraqi trade unionists. The funny thing was that they were exchanging niceties and international greetings and solidarity in the name of workers in Iraq. My attempts to inform the audience of the true nature of the trade union that their guests were representing were in vain. The General Federation of Trade Unions in Iraq is widely known in Iraq as the yellow union - it was a Ba’athist union.

During the Ba’ath regime there were no independent unions. The trade unions were controlled by the regime and were a tool in the hands of the Ba’ath regime to suppress workers and exploit them. These unions played a crucial role in sending thousands of workers to the war fronts during the Iran-Iraq war. The union leaders took pride in reporting people to the security forces for refusing to go to the front. Countless numbers of workers met their death as a result of the actions of these so-called trade unionists.

Also these unions implemented the Ba’ath regime’s policy of replacing the word ‘worker’ with ‘officer’ in an attempt to eliminate workers’ demands and imply that there is no such thing as a working class in Iraq. The history of the Ba’athist trade unions is as grim and bloody as the history of the Ba’ath regime itself.

The workers in Iraq have managed to present a radical agenda of change and to carry forward their demands. There has been the establishment of the Union of Unemployed, the workers’ councils, and the Union of Oil Workers in the north of the country, along with the preparatory committee for the establishment of workers’ councils and trade unions, which held its first conference in Baghdad on December 8 to build real workers’ unions - these are just a few examples of the extent of the current workers’ movement in Iraq. All these workers’ organisations have been set up with direct participation of workers themselves to advocate and promote their rights, welfare and freedom.

The WRP is trying to help to restore the rule of the Ba’ath party in the name of workers’ solidarity. The working class in Iraq has been the silent victim of the regime and has suffered untold hardships at its hands and those of its so-called trade unions.

Promoting these kind of people who have the blood of Iraqi workers on their hands is a disgrace. Supporting and providing a platform for these people is an affront to the Iraqi working class and is tantamount to collaborating in the atrocities committed against the workers in Iraq.