Iraq and the Third Camp

Alan Johnson

[from New Politics, vol. 9, no. 3 (new series),
whole no. 35, Summer 2003]

ALAN JOHNSON is the co-editor of New Politics.


There is taking place a triangular struggle for the world. Three responses to the ending of "the short twentieth century" and its political and economic architecture. Three attempts to control the full throttle celerity of late capitalism and make something solid from the melting air of the 21st century.

The first, emergent for over a century but unleashed since the end of the Cold War, is the United States of America. The U.S. is now the world's hyperpower with a grand strategy to reshape global political and economic relations in its favor and in the interests of global capital. The second -- which cannot be reduced to mere "blowback" -- is an entirely reactionary and frequently terroristic Jihad fundamentalism seeking the defeat of the "infidel" world of women's rights, democracy, secularism, sexual self-determination and individual liberty. These two forces crashed into each other, with the al-Qaeda terrorist atrocities of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The turbulence has capsized parts of the left. To right itself the left needs to turn toward the perspective of a "third camp": the burgeoning global working class leading the progressive social movements of global civil society. During the Cold War the third camp opposed both Russia and the U.S. in the name of all the democratic forces struggling for peace and democracy. The contemporary meaning of third camp socialism is the refusal to be enlisted into some new "Great Contest" as cheerleader or critical supporter of either reactionary camp, and the elaboration of a positive and practical political alternative to both.

Third camp socialism will not survive as a merely negative critique but only as a rounded political program developed alongside progressive social and political movements. Its partisans seek to inform, organize and "revolutionize" -- i.e., help free from the muck of ages and make fit for power -- the third camp of the organized working class and global civil society. To do that we need political clarity about the character and strength of the two reactionary forces we face.

The Hyperpower

THE U.S. IS NOT A MERE GLOBOCOP policing the natural growth of global "free trade imperialism," ironing out the smooth space of a new form of sovereignty. That is indeed part of the picture but so too is the deliberate and unilateral assertion of U.S. power and interest. To use the terms coined by James Fallows in Atlantic Monthly, and fleshed out recently by Alex Callinicos in International Socialism, we are witnessing the implementation of the Grand Strategy of U.S. imperialism: a self-conscious and global political project marked by a combination of pessimism, optimism, and impatience.

Their pessimism: the architects of the U.S. Grand Strategy fear the longer-term emergence of competitors, particularly populous China but also Europe and Russia. Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defense Secretary, has laughed at the idea of an "End of History," warning that China today can be compared to Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, "a country that felt it had been denied its ‘place in the sun,' that believed itself mistreated by the other powers, and that determined to achieve its rightful place by nationalistic assertiveness." The Project for the New American Century (with which Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Bolton were associated during the Clinton era) warned in 2000 of "potential powerful states dissatisfied with the current situation" and called for the elaboration of a "grand strategy [to] preserve America's advantageous position as far into the future as possible." Their ideas about what that "grand strategy" should be are now the common currency of the Bush White House.

Their optimism: After the defeat of the "evil empire," the swift dispatch of the Milosevic, Taliban, and Saddam Hussein regimes, and armed with Rumsfeld's "Revolution in Military Affairs," the unprecedented superiority of U.S. military force -- U.S. military expenditure exceeds that of the combined total of the nine next-biggest powers -- means America feels itself to be, for now, invincible.

Their impatience: it would be ridiculous to dismiss the impact on U.S. foreign policy of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, or to dismiss the very real threat posed by al-Qaeda. I see no reason to think Paul Wolfowitz is just making it up when he says to Sam Tannenhaus of Vanity Fair that he concluded by 9/13 that 9/11 was

just the beginning of what these bastards can do if they start getting access to so-called modern weapons, and that it's not something you can live with any longer. So there needs to be a campaign, a strategy, a long-term effort, to root out these networks and to get governments out of the business of supporting them.

Part of the picture is indeed a real attempt to destroy al-Qaeda, its bases, and its supporters. But it would be naïve to imagine that that is all Wolfowitz or Bush concluded by 9/13. It was not just the events of 9/11 but the combination of long term geo-strategic pessimism and short-term politico- military optimism that led George W. Bush to step up to the podium and announce "an entirely fresh doctrine of pre-emptive action" to the cheers of his West Point audience on June 1, 2002. His strategists perceive a window of opportunity in which the climate of fear created by 9/11 can be used as cover to assert the unilateral power of the United States to reshape the world so that no rival can climb into the U.S. weight class.

Paul Rogers, writing on the openDemocracy website (, has observed that this strategy requires a more genuinely global disposition of U.S. military force:

The aim . . . is to have the ability, when required, to operate in any of the zones of potential threat, taking vigorous pre-emptive action, mostly by using air power, the marines and special forces. This would enable the U.S. to destroy any threats, whether from unacceptable regimes or paramilitary groups.

The Bush administration's reaction to 9/11 certainly included this element of Machiavellian calculation, Rumsfeld playing the part of the Florentine secretary. On September 4, 2002, CBS aired an Evening News story (ignored of course) in which CBS journalist David Martin said "Barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, the Secretary of Defense was telling his aides to start thinking about striking Iraq, even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks." CBS alleged that an aide noted that Rumsfeld demanded the "best info fast" so he could "judge whether good enough to hit S[addam] H[ussein] at the same time, not only U [Osama] B[in] L[aden]." The aide's notes quote Rumsfeld as insisting the White House "go massive . . . sweep it all up, things related and not." Former general Wesley Clark, speaking on Meet the Press on June 15, confirmed there was a drive to exploit 9/11 for the purposes of a wider imperial game.

CLARK: There was a concerted effort during the fall of 2001, starting immediately after 9/11, to pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein.

TIM RUSSERT: By who? Who did that?

CLARK: Well, it came from the White House, it came from people around the White House. It came from all over. I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call from my home, saying "You've got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has got to be connected to Saddam Hussein. I said, "But -- I'm willing to say it, but what's your evidence?" And I never got any evidence.

The short time- frame of the Grand Strategy drives the impatience of the U.S.-Gulliver with the Lilliputian strings of the international legal order, revealed dramatically in the sidelining of the UN before the Iraq war. The preservation of U.S. geo-political pre-eminence into the long range future, the creation of a global "smooth space" for free trade, requires the unilateral assertion, in the short-term, of U.S. military power. Hence the contempt for the United Nations shown by John Bolton, Under- Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Affairs. "There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is an international community that can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that is the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along." Going one better, Condoleezza Rice dismissed the very idea of an international community as "illusory."

The war on terror leads a double-life: now a response to the Jihadi fundamentalists, now a cover for the wider Grand Strategy. The hinge concepts of "humanitarian intervention," "nation-building," and "weapons of mass destruction" connect the two.

America! America! (again)

CONSERVATIZED BY 9/11, paralysed by the rise of the Islamists, fearful for the very survival of liberty and reason, and no longer convinced of the viability of a third camp alternative, elements of the left have decided, just like an earlier generation, to "Choose The West!" Christopher Hitchens, one-time literary jewel of the leftist intelligentsia, certainly one of the most gifted essayists of the twentieth century, is now a critical supporter of the Bush administration on the question of the war in Iraq.

A new collection of his pro-war journalism, Regime Change, demonstrates that his talent for skewering an opponent for hypocrisy or mendacity and slowly turning the spit is undiminished. To the French sophisticate (or sniffy Clintonite), quick to condemn Bush's response to 9/11 as that of a "cowboy," Hitchens has this to say:

To have had three planeloads of kidnapped civilians crashed into urban centers might have brought out a touch of the cowboy even in Adlai Stevenson. But Bush waited almost five weeks before launching any sort of retaliatory strike. And we have impressive agreement among all sources to the effect that he spent much of that time in consultation. A cowboy surely would have wanted to do something dramatic and impulsive (such as to blow up at least an aspirin factory in Sudan) in order to beat the chest and show he wasn't to be messed with. But it turns out that refined Parisians are keener on such "unilateral" gestures -- putting a bomb on board the Rainbow Warrior, invading Rwanda on the side of the killers, dispatching French troops to the Ivory Coast without a by-your-leave, building a reactor for Saddam Hussein, and all the rest of it.

Hitchens exposes Chirac's hypocrisy to good effect but as a subordinate moment in his attorney's defense of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. He lampoons the idea that they are cowboys in order to hide the fact that they are warriors.

Why has Hitchens lost his political bearings? One senses a real anguish underneath the insouciant surface of Regime Change. Do not forget, Hitchens has been a man of the left for forty years. His political odyssey of recent times no doubt has many roots and his was increasingly an idiosyncratic contrarianism rather than a coherent left-wing politics. But part of the picture is surely a question of his own personal "blowback": a [gross over-] reaction to the recent decay of parts of the left. One gains the impression that faced with the amoral don't- bother-me-about-the-Iraqis-or-Kurds chauvinism, summed up in the popular anti-war slogan, "Leave Iraq Alone!" (how can a left worth the name utter such a thought about a totalitarian state?), he just had enough. Confronted by an anti-war movement that hoisted onto its leading platforms a man like the British MP George Galloway, Hitchens just threw up.

An ex-old style Stalinist, and long-time political ally and personal friend of leading figures in the Saddam regime, in January 1994 Galloway appeared on Iraqi Television before the butcher of the Iraqis and the Kurds, the invader of Iran and Kuwait, the Baghdad Hitler, and he genuflected: "Sir . . . we salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability . . . We are with you. Until victory! Until Jerusalem!" Galloway spent Christmas as the houseguest of Saddam's No. 2, Tariq Aziz. Did any of this create a storm within the anti-war movement? Barely a ripple.

Hitchens has been made mad by this decayed left as much as by the decay of his own hopes. And, like another madman, he can find no resting place as he "leaves his village to seek his spirit's home in exile," as Harold Bloom said of Cervantes's Don Quixote. Hitchens may yet make that long trudge of despair all the way over to the neo-conservative right in part because, like Quixote, he spurns the reality principle in favor of a heroic quest.

Embracing the U.S. Grand Strategy as his own Hitchens regales his readers, each of us cast as Sancho Panza, with the idea that the war on terror is not just humanitarian and progressive but even revolutionary. Apparently the Pentagon is leading (or could be persuaded, by people like Quixote- Hitchens, to lead) a "revolution from above." He explains this is "what the colonial idealists used to call ‘the civilizing mission': everything from the education system to the roads. Nobody should underestimate for a second what the magnitude of the task is."

Ah, the old "revolution from above." Now we have been around this track before. Hitchens may not know it but he has (to move from a literary to a political fantasist) donned the clothes of the late historian and writer Isaac Deutscher (more about those clothes in a moment). After the Second World War, Deutscher would have preferred a revolution from below in Eastern Europe but he educated a generation to settle for being critical supporters of Stalin's totalitarian substitute. He wrote, "The revolution which Stalin now carried into Eastern and Central Europe was primarily a revolution from above. It was decreed, inspired, and managed by the great power predominant in that area." Today Hitchens would prefer a revolution from below across the Middle East but he is educating his reader to view the unilateral assertion of U.S. military power as an acceptable substitute, ignoring the fact that this power works to extinguish any hope of revolution from below.

Hitchens is fond of classical and literary allusions. In clothing himself in the raiments of "revolution from above," has he not put upon his back a Shirt of Nessus? In the Greek legend the shirt soaked by Deianeira with the poisonous blood of the centaur Nessus was placed on the back of her husband Heracles. So excruciating was the pain, Heracles had himself burnt on a funeral pyre. Having opted for the poison of "revolution from above" Hitchens' political self-immolation has already begun. Of the 20th century crimes of U.S. imperialism (and he so recently their chronicler!) all he can now muster is the pathetic line that the U.S. "wasn't exactly free of blemish or shame."

Nation-Building to the Sound of Wagner

HITCHENS MAY OBJECT that he could yet be proved right. Could the U.S.-UK establish a free, democratic, and prosperous Iraq and then spread that model throughout the Middle East? If it could it would have been progressive in a way Deutscher's Russia never was. There are two responses one can give to this question. First, even if one thought Hitchens' judgement sound (which I do not) there would still be no good reason to preach trust in Bush and Blair. The work of the left is to help prepare the third camp to go beyond any limited bits of progress (tied to dependence) L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, can bring. That means combining a fierce political independence from the occupation forces with urgent practical solidarity with the beginnings of a third camp in Iraq (see the statements which follow this article).

Second, anyone who has been soberly tracking the occupation will be aware of how fantastic Hitchens' portrait of a "civilizing mission" is. Power outages occur several times a day (though southern Shia farmers who could irrigate their fields for only one hour a day under the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam now get twelve hours of supply per day, according to Jason Burke of the London Observer July 6, 2003). Sewage systems are backed up into streets that fill with waste. There has been a surge in violent crime throughout Iraq (though the 40,000 criminals released by Saddam as war began are a key factor). As of June 30, 22 American soldiers had been killed in combat in Iraq since President Bush declared on May 1 that major combat operations were over. Six British soldiers died on June 24 alone. Potential investors are being told the chances of the country sliding into open revolt are about even (though this seems unlikely as the violent resistance is largely confined to the Sunni triangle to the north and northwest of Baghdad, Saddam's tribal and political base).

The organized sabotage and arson by Baathists of Iraq's infrastructure -- oil pipelines, electricity systems, a liquid natural gas plant, even, it seems likely, the weather station at Baghdad international airport -- is certainly taking its toll. This report in the New York Times of July 1 is typical:

In a junkyard in the Sheik Omar neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, a warehouse full of second-hand spare parts for the city's electrical system was on fire. On Saturday, men who work in and around the junkyard said today, another warehouse had burned. The workers said that on both occasions four or five men, heavily armed, had arrived in a Land Cruiser and set the warehouses on fire.

Rumors of the formation of a loose network of Saddam supporters, named "Return," and threats to cut out the tongues of collaborators are also a factor. There is reason to take these rumors seriously. The manager of power distribution for half of Baghdad, Haifa Aziz Daoud, a mother of five, was killed in her home on June 25.

But nation- building from above and outside cannot unleash the one force able to resist the Baathist sabotage and death squads. The occupiers have capped the democratic hopes of the Iraqi people along with the burning oil wells.

There is a widespread celebration of Saddam's overthrow and a near-universal desire for elections and a rapid transition to self-rule. But an election for the Mayor of Najaf -- prepared in an atmosphere of local jubilation -- was summarily cancelled by Bremer on the grounds that the people would not have voted the right way (prompting an unnamed American military officer to comment "We should've had this election. What are we telling them?"). The broadsheet newspaper, As- Saah, ran the headline "Bremer is a Baathist" (June 18) in reaction to his censorship of the media. Bremer's edict bans the media from "inciting violence" not only against any "individuals or group including racial, ethnic, religious groups and women" but also "against coalition forces." NGOs are being pressured to become "an arm of the U.S. government" by threats from Andrew Natsios, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and by fatuous attacks from the corporate-funded witch-hunting Yahoos over at the American Enterprise Institute (the intention clearly being to separate the NGOs from the global anti-war movement). Iraq's leading Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has opposed the U.S. plan to impose a constitutional convention, calling for general elections, a constitutional assembly, and a referendum on a draft constitution. All of which is Democracy 101 of course (and shows that the left should not imagine all Shias are Khomeini-ite fundamentalists).

Meanwhile, Bremer is plowing ahead with a neo-liberal economic blueprint for Iraq centered on the privatization of state-owned assets and companies and economic deregulation. Unemployment will sharply increase. But there is to be no welfare state. Only a bare "social safety net," says Bremer (New York Times, June 23, 2003). No assembly of the Iraqi people has decided on this economic and social program. It is being imposed without Iraqi agreement by the U.S. occupation forces and largely to the benefit of U.S. companies: the vassalization of Iraq. Without democracy the forces of liberation, ipso facto, become forces of colonization.

Hitchens may dream of a "civilizing mission" but it is the long shadow of Da Nang and McNamara which is cast by two recent press reports. First, USA Today (June 18, 2003) notes that "Two top U.S. defense officials (Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Marine General Peter Pace) signaled Congress on Wednesday that U.S. forces might remain in Iraq for as long as a decade and that permanent facilities need to be built to house them there." Second, Reuters (June 21, 2003) reports that "U.S. Troops psyched up on a bizarre musical reprise from Vietnam war film Apocalypse Now before crashing into Iraqi homes to hunt gunmen on Saturday." They were playing Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries.

Nation-Building Kipling-Style

THE TRAGEDY unfolding in Iraq is not due to a lack of resources nor to the absence of advance planning by the Pentagon (though the latter does beggar belief: such a big agency, such a lack of intelligence). Rather, we are witnessing only the latest and most visible expression of the inherent limits of nation-building from above and from outside. Paul Rogers points out that the neo-conservatives' basic assumption, "that a ‘threat' can be dealt with in a rapid military operation, to be replaced by the early imposition of a benign peace [is] deeply flawed."

To understand why this is the case we can turn to Michael Ignatieff's useful little book Empire Lite: Nation Building in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Ignatieff is a supporter of "humanitarian interventionism" and so his portrait of the shocking record of nation-building is all the more telling.

Ignatieff spends a lot of time out in the world and is clear-sighted about U.S. objectives, which makes him a more useful source than Hitchens. He bluntly points out that the U.S. uses military force "for imperial reasons: to consolidate its global hegemony, to assert and maintain its leadership, and to ensure stability." The result is a "new imperialism" that is "creating a form of sub-sovereignty, in which states exercise sovereignty in name without real independence in fact as formal or informal protectorates of the great powers."

Writing before the invasion of Iraq, Ignatieff saw the approaching war in these terms: "its goals are imperial . . . to wipe out the leader of Arab rejectionism and to go on to reorder the political map of the Middle East on American terms." In fact, after apologizing to his U.S. readers, he points out that "America's entire war on terror is an exercise in Imperialism . . . what else can you call America's legions of soldiers, spooks, and Special Forces straddling the globe?" Scoffing at the naïve hope of "liberal international lawyers" that the U.S. Gulliver might be tied down by the thousand Lilliputian strings of a transnational legal and economic order, Ignatieff points out that the U.S. is as unsentimental in reality as it is sentimental in its public rhetoric. America "signs on to those pieces of the transnational legal order that suit its purposes (the WTO, for example) while ignoring or even sabotaging those parts (the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol) that do not."

As we follow Ignatieff's tour through the protectorates of the new imperium we watch him get more and more dispirited. There are achievements to celebrate and he does so: the return of a whole people, the Kosovars, to their homes for one, the opening of the schools in Kabul, and the rise in attendance from 5 to 35 per cent, for another. But the basic pattern is clear: the nation-building project has stalled. Yes, the murderous Serbian assault upon Bosnia was ended. But in Bosnia today "international disillusionment is palpable," "rule of law is next to non-existent," and community leaders "meet only for photo opportunities," just often enough to keep the aid flowing. Yes, the ethnic cleansing of the Kosovars by Milosevic was stopped. But today there are "daily shootings," "petty feuding among the Kosovar princelings," and "the stubbornly unchanging reality of Kosovar backwardness." Yes, the al-Qaeda training camps have gone and the Taliban driven out of Kabul. But "in the vacuum where an Afghan state ought to be, there are warlords like Distum and Atta" and "children with legs ripped apart by mines push themselves along in the dust on home-made carts."

Ignatieff sets as his highest hope for Afghanistan the creation of a "sort of ordered anarchy among loosely controlled regional fiefs" (92). As the saying goes, he should be careful what he wishes for. According to Syed Sallem Shahzad of Asia Times (June 13, 2003) "such is the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, compounded by the return to the country of a large number of former Afghan communist refugees, that United States and Pakistani intelligence officials have met with Taliban leaders in an effort to devise a political solution to prevent the country from being further ripped apart." But this will only make matters worse. Sarah Chayes, field director of Afghans for Civil Society, an organization that sponsors democracy initiatives, writing in the New York Times (July 1, 2003), points out in some desperation that

The American alliance with warlords also discourages ordinary Afghans from helping rebuild their country. And without the people, the process is doomed. Afghans I have met and worked with share a fierce desire to live in a normal country. They have demonstrated that desire. In the face of tremendous adversity, they have managed to open schools, clean irrigation ditches, plant trees and dig sewers. But seeing warlords regain power is making people waver. I have found in my work that more and more Afghans are withdrawing to the sidelines, subtracting their life force from the battle to reconstruct Afghanistan [emphasis added].

And so it goes.

Ignatieff is even aware of the basic reason for these failures: you can't do it from above and outside. "The problem" he says, "is that those who believe in the use of imperial means do not practice what they preach. We say we believe in self-determination, and we confiscate all power into our own hands; we say we respect local cultures and traditions, and yet we are often as contemptuous behind the locals' backs as the imperialists of old. Finally, we say we are going to stay the course, when we are always looking for the exit."

Nation-building from above is now a multibillion-dollar business and "wherever the traveling caravan of nation- builders settles it creates an instant boomtown, living on foreign money and hope. But boomtowns inevitably go bust. In Sarajevo, for example, the internationals arrived in 1996 after Dayton with $6 billion to spend. Now, six years later, the money is all but gone, and the caravan is moving on to Kabul."

Most important, the nation-builders suck up all the political oxygen. In Pristina "the ‘internationals' run everything . . . streets are clogged with the tell-tale white Land Cruisers of the international administrators, and all the fashionable, hillside villas have been snapped up by the Western aid agencies." In Kabul, "the reality, as in all nation-building cities, is ferocious competition among donors, United Nations agencies, and non-governmental organizations for a market share in money and misery." In these places the "illusion of self-government [is] joined to the reality of imperial tutelage." The effusive rhetoric of capacity-building is matched only by the "reality of capacity confiscation." In Afghanistan "the relationship between the locals and the internationals is inherently colonial. The locals do the translating, cleaning. and driving while the internationals do the grand imperial planning."

The internationals are not knights on white chargers: "[their] first priority is building their own capacity -- increasing their budgets and giving themselves good jobs. The last priority is financing the Afghan government." The new Afghan Minister of Finance tells Ignatieff that of the 350 projects of the international organizations and NGOs not one promised to consult with the Afghan interim administration. Though there are exceptions -- the work of building grass-roots capacity in community forums by the UN urban regeneration program run by Samantha Reynolds is of interest -- it seems many NGOs have happily taken up what the British poet of imperialism, Rudyard Kipling, called the "white man's burden," now rebranded as "humanitarian intervention."

Empire Lite

OF COURSE IGNATIEFF HAS TO conclude in true rabbit- from-hat style that imperial power and self-determination can be reconciled. As nothing in his own book supports this hope, he reaches back to the British Empire as proof that "self-determination and imperial rule are not incompatible." But they plainly are. The Indian National Congress had to drive out British imperial rule in order to win self-determination.

Ignatieff thinks the problem might be "Empire Lite" (trying to do nation-building on the cheap and too quickly). He really wants what we might call Empire Full Strength. More troops. More engineers. More money. Empire Full Strength has the task of mopping up where "two botched decolonizations" -- of the Soviets from Eastern Europe and the Europeans from Africa and Asia -- have created "an ongoing crisis of order in a globalized world." Empire Full Strength is to simultaneously reorganize and democratize the country it controls and hand over power to the locals and get out.

I do not find Ignatieff's intentions ignoble. I do not share the relish some seem to feel when presented with the failures of nation-building in the new imperium. I do not share the idea (never stated but often implied) that it would be better to have things the way they were, under Milosevic's Serb murderers, the anti-woman acid-throwers of the Taliban, or Saddam's gassers and torturers, greedily pushing ordinary Iraqis into the plastic shredders at Abu Ghraib prison right up to the arrival of the U.S.-UK forces. Ignatieff is plainly not looking to exploit or oppress but to relieve enormous human suffering.

But to follow Ignatieff and cede our political independence to the new imperium would be a tragic error for the left for two reasons: it will not work, and we can do better.

It will not work: Ignatieff should take much more seriously his own observation that "Achieving democratic goals through imperial means is, of course, an exercise in contradiction." This is the crux of the matter. The self-determination of Iraq is not the goal of Bush and never will be. A controlled, pliant, semi-sovereign, and semi-democratic Iraq as part of a reordered Middle East friendly to U.S. elite interests is the goal. We are not witnessing a repeat of the democratization of occupied Japan after World War Two. In fact, as John Dower, the pre-eminent historian of twentieth-century Japan and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Embracing Defeat has argued, the more instructive comparison is with the short-lived Japanese Empire in Asia of the 1930s and 1940s: "In each instance we confront empire-building embedded in a larger agenda of right-wing radicalism. And in each we find aggressive and essentially unilateral international policies wedded to a sweeping transformation of domestic priorities and practices" (The Nation, July 7, 2003).

Already this neo-conservative Grand Strategy is unravelling. As Paul Rogers has observed,

the real significance of what is happening in Iraq, and indeed Afghanistan, may relate to the very viability of the pre-emptive strategy of U.S. neo-conservatives. The United States has formulated a military strategy designed to "keep the violent peace" by the use of short sharp bursts of vigorous military force; but its likely result is to embroil U.S. forces in dangerous, complicated, costly regional occupations -- the very opposite of what was intended.

At this moment over half the U.S. Army's deployable troops are engaged in peacekeeping and stabilization operations. Little wonder then that Donald Rumsfeld is floating the idea of a new global peacekeeping force, operating outside the purview of the UN or NATO, led and trained by the U.S., with a core of U.S. dedicated peacekeeping troops, but composed mainly of international soldiers (Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2003). The point, of course, is that he could assemble an army of Jedi Knights but, without democracy and self-determination, they could not guarantee peace.

We can do better: Ignatieff could also use a little of what Gramsci called optimism of the will. He is paralyzed by the fear that if "democratic imperialism" is not the route to democracy and self- determination then there is no hope and, immediately, no bulwark against the Jihadi fundamentalists, the ethnic cleansers and the totalitarians. But this is too pessimistic by half. It overestimates the strength and coherence of the Jihadi fundamentalist threat and it fails to see the scale and potential power of the gathering forces of the third camp. The rest of this article will consider these two contenders in turn.

Jihad Fundamentalism

A FORMER LEFTIST LIKE Christopher Hitchens has lost his political bearings because the rise of a fascistic Jihad fundamentalism has filled his political vision, leaving room for nothing else. He is Jihadphobic, if you like. That does not mean he opposes the fundamentalists too much, which would be an impossibility. It means he has allowed the force of his opposition, married to a loss of hope in a third camp alternative, to capsize his judgement about the U.S. (this was a common phenomenon in the Cold War and it devastated the ranks of the third camp).

Hitchens claims that "The Government and peoples of these United States are at war with the forces of reaction." Of course it is true that anything less than mortal hostility to the political Islamists is to disarm politically. Islamic fundamentalism is not identical with but is analogous to fascism. As the British socialist Clive Bradley has written, political Islamism is a collection of "organized political forces, the violent enemies of workers, trade unionists, socialists, feminists, women generally, non-Muslim minorities, oppressed nationalities and so on. It is also a fact, increasingly, that they express their violent hostility through the mobilization of a mass movement." In consequence it is "a fantasy" for genuine democrats as well as socialists to think that they are tactically on the same side as the Islamists against a common enemy.

However, to imagine ourselves in a short-term war to the death with the Islamists, and so to conclude we must side with the Pentagon, is equally fantastic. This is the perspective of writers such as Stephen Schwartz and Paul Berman as well as Christopher Hitchens. Each offers variations on the idea that we are in a duel to the death with an old enemy now on the march again in new religious garb: totalitarianism. Each calls, in effect, for a new Schlesingerian "vital center." Each has valuable insights, but fails to locate the cause of the rise of the Islamists, fails to take a realistic measure of their capabilities, and fails to map a viable strategy for their defeat, other than cheering on the Pentagon.

Stephen Schwartz (a convert to Sufi Islam) indicts Wahhabism (the branch of Islamic theology favored by the Saudi royal family and bin Laden) as Islamofascism and indicts the House of Saud, awash with petro-dollars, as its paymaster and promoter: "The Wahhabi-Saudi regime...embodies a program for the ruthless conquest of power and a war of extermination."

Paul Berman argues that political Islam is just the latest ripple produced by the stone of "European irrationalism" which splashed rudely into the quiet pond of Western liberal culture around the late nineteenth century. These dreams of transcendence come and go, don't you know. We suffered Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin and now we have Osama bin Laden. We faced them down. We will have to face bin Laden down. A new "vital center" must once again take up arms (or, at least, once again cheer on the arms of the Pentagon) against totalitarianism. The book really is -- some interesting passages about the Islamic theorist Sayyid Qutb aside -- as crass as that. It meets a widespread late-modern yearning for complex problems to be wrapped up in simplistic explanations, tied with bows of pseudo-profundity (in this case borrowed from Albert Camus) and moral certitude. The book is a measure of the disorder of our intellectual culture.

More optimistic alternatives to these writers are ex-CIA analyst Graham E. Fuller's The Future of Political Islam and Noel Feldman's After Jihad. But theirs is an ungrounded and dangerous optimism. The CIA has been looking for the new Ataturk, the strong man who will create a stable authoritarian Islamic semi-democracy friendly to U.S. interests, for a very long time. Feldman is in this tradition: he hopes Pakistan could be an Islamic democracy if "its latest military leader proves better than those who came before." Even the oil monarchies may "surprise the world" and create democracies. Well, I will not be holding my breath. While Wolfowitz and the neocons have rejected this kind of thinking (which gave us Saddam in the first place) it survives over at State and in the op-eds written by Brent Scowcroft. The idea that Colin Powell is better than Wolfowitz is a mystery to me. He is a throwback to the worst kind of cynical "he may be a bastard but he is our bastard" school of U.S. imperialism.

If . . . If . . . Then

WE NEED A MORE SERIOUS, historically grounded approach to the rise of Jihadi fundamentalism and a more compelling political program to combat it. When he was a socialist Max Shachtman argued that if capitalist society continued to decay and if the organized working class failed to lead an alliance of forces to a progressive democratic collectivism then a totalitarian doppelganger, Stalinism, could emerge as a reactionary alternative to impose a "bureaucratic collectivism." While history never repeats itself, we can use the logical structure of Shachtman's analysis -- "if . . . if . . . then" -- to fathom the rise of Jihadic Islamic fundamentalism.

If the national, secular, often state-capitalist, modernizing projects of the bourgeoisie and state elites fail to develop the society and culture, and become stalled in corruption, tyranny and cultural stagnation, leaving the rulers unable to secure the support of large sections of the middle class; if global capitalist competition, penetration, and dislocation presses on that middle class, sending it into panic and rage, disintegrating welfare systems established by the state- capitalist regimes in the post-war period, ravaging old social relationships but not creating new ones, threatening the old exploiting classes -- the bazaar merchants, the religious establishment, sometimes landlords; and if the political leaderships and organizations of the left are widely discredited for having tailed the nationalist projects of the bourgeoisie (the Egypt's Communists dissolved into Nasser's front in the 1960s, for instance); and if the working class is weak and not organized independently, then not only the middle classes (small manufacturers, shopkeepers, artisans, peasants, market merchants, frustrated university graduates) but also those classes created by primitive capital accumulation and pauperization, a cast-off sub-proletariat, a mass of marginalized semi-proletarian poor and distressed petit-bourgeois (who were, in truth, never really won over to secularism during the post-war years) are "opened up" for recruitment by the traditional intellectuals of political Islam, the ulemas.

These forces can be swept up into a mass movement aimed inchoately at "the West" or "imperialism" or "the infidels," chasing the entirely reactionary "solution" (actually incapable of implementation) of using modern military technology and, they hope, state power, to turn back the clock to the pure Islamic state of the seventh century based on sharia law.

Each of these pre-conditions for the rise of political Islam can be found, with national peculiarities of course, in the countries that have suffered its spectacular rise.

The Islamic fundamentalists appeal to a deep sense of humiliation. Bernard Lewis, in his book What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response, is right (whatever his political failings) to focus attention upon that anguished question which torments the Islamic world: how did the very fulcrum of civilization become dependent, defeated, backward, corrupt and poverty-stricken? The fundamentalists say "they did it!" pointing to a cast of villains such as "infidels," "westernizers," corrupt oil sheiks, Jews and uppity women.

Fundamentalist Islamic intellectuals such as Sayyid Qutb, Mawlana Mawdudi, and Ruhollah Khomeni laid the foundations for the rise of political Islam. When modern secular nationalism stalled amid defeat and failure in the 1970s and 1980s, and the Stalinist-led workers' movements lost the allegiance of major social layers, then the Islamists became the repository of the hopes and dreams of millions. In turn, the Islamists worked tirelessly to redefine those dreams as nihilist fantasies (even now they are out daubing the walls of the hitherto secular Iraqi universities with slogans about the veil making women beautiful). The result has been a wave of Islamist political militancy and violence from Iran to Algeria, Sudan to Afghanistan, Kashmir to Chechnya, and, in the form of al-Qaeda, a global Jihadic terrorist network.

How does this mayhem connect up to Shachtman's idea that "capitalism is decaying?" It depends how "decay" is defined. If Shachtman meant the "decline of the productive forces" then he would have been just wrong. The global explosion in the productive forces of the post-1945 world, and the surge in life expectancy and living standards associated with it, speaks for itself. World GDP increased six-fold from 1950-1998, with an average growth rate of nearly 4 percent a year, according to the OECD. Real GDP per capita rose by 2.1 percent a year between 1950 and 1998. That compares with less than 1 percent a year between 1820 and 1950.

In fact Shachtman defined decay rather differently: "To say that capitalism is decaying is to say that it is increasingly incapable of coping with the basic problems of society, of maintaining economic and political order." That is an accurate indictment of the "runaway world" of the 21st century: a voracious, amoral capitalism eats up the resources of the planet, churns up communities, mocks social institutions from the family to representative democracy, and turns everything it touches -- and it touches everything -- into a commodity to be bought and sold. This pathology generates a counter-pathology: an irredentist throwback to a simpler time of order, tradition, tribe, and blood. Benjamin Barber has called this the dialectic of McWorld and Jihad.

We have tamed the irrational forces of nature but we remain at the mercy of irrational social and political forces we have created, from the religion of the market to the market place of religions. Humanity is kept in a state of suicidal macro-irrationality "increasingly incapable of coping with the basic problems."

The Jihadis offer no answer to any of this. They are a desperate, anti-modern reaction to the impasse. In power the Mullahs may ramble on about sex and the Jews but they run the economy like good capitalists. The youth of Iran take all this in and can't wait to throw the religious shackles from their bodies and minds. And half the region are aged 25 or under. The Jihadis are not the power Hitchens imagines them to be. Gilles Kepel, in his book Jihad, argues that in reality Islamic fundamentalism has been on the decline since the early 1990s: September 11 itself was an expression of the desperation and isolation of the most militant Jihadis, not their strength. Of course this decline may be temporary. In any case, if the progressive forces of the third camp are to push them aside, and reconnect with Muslim workers and diverse progressive elements in society who experience the fundamentalists as their mortal foe, then we must first define them correctly as a deadly enemy not a potential ally. And here elements of the left are sometimes confused.

The Left and Fundamentalism

WHEN ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISM first emerged, sections of the left defined it as analogous to fascism. The Arab Trotskyist Salah Jaber wrote in 1981 that "Islamic fundamentalism is one of the most dangerous enemies of the revolutionary proletariat." He pointed out that "the fundamentalist movement shares many of the characteristics of fascism outlined by Trotsky: its social base, the nature of its political ideology, its fierce anti- communism and its totalitarianism."

But there were also differences between classical fascism and fundamentalism. In some respects "the fundamentalist movement is, in fact, more backward than was fascism." It drives the historical clock backward to a reactionary utopia with more faith and zeal than the classical fascists. But the fundamentalists, as part of this "more reactionary" drive backwards, can also challenge big private capital. This contrasts to the role of classical fascism as the brutish guarantor of big capital in the face of a mass workers movement. All this means socialists will find themselves on the same demonstration, protesting the same social ill, from time to time. However, "any compromises proposed by the fundamentalists as a result of this type of situation pose enormous dangers for all sections of the left, both moral and physical."

Tactical flexibility must be balanced against the overriding political conclusion that it was "absolutely and under all circumstances necessary to combat its ‘reactionary and medieval influence.'" Even the so-called "anti-imperialism" of the fundamentalists, Jaber pointed out, does not amount to what socialists mean by that term. It represents only an inchoate reactionary hostility to "the hated ‘west' . . . all the political and social gains of the bourgeois revolution."

However, once fundamentalism gained a mass base and, all-importantly, came into conflict with the U.S., then some parts of the left (forgetting that the possession of a mass base was also typical of classical fascism, forgetting that totalitarian Russia was also in conflict with the U.S.) allowed their rhetoric about the U.S. being "the heart of the beast" to merge with the political Islamists' talk of "the Great Satan." Reactionary Islamic fundamentalism was now redefined as "radical Islam" and the anti-Semitic zealots of Hamas, for instance, were redefined as bona fide "anti-imperialist" forces.

This redefinition was part of a wider collapse of independent working class socialist politics. There is very little positive support for regimes such as Saddam Hussein's Iraq, of course. We are not repeating the Stalinist experience in that sense. But to register only that is to miss a certain collapse of the sensibility of parts of the left. Too often leftists halt at a merely negative and inchoate oppositionism to whatever the U.S. is doing. A complex world is reduced to a face-off between two camps, "imperialism" versus "the resistance." These leftists define the political Islamists as part of "the resistance," and, of course, in that act redefine themselves as the critical supporters of the political Islamists. Clifford Geertz is a little over the top when he says "Marxist thinkers of every stripe began to credit Islamic activists with socialist virtues," but only a little.

The price paid in the West has been the loss of independent political judgement and much idiocy about, for instance, the "anti-imperialism" of groups like Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Elsewhere the price has been much higher. In 1977 in Pakistan the left sided with Jamat al-Islami against Bhutto, imagining a tactical alliance against a common enemy. They were used and then jailed. During the Iranian Revolution negative oppositionism and inchoate "anti-imperialism" pushed the left into the arms of Khomeini, the so-called "objective anti-imperialist." They were led to his gallows.

Our job is to push on past a stalled modernity and a demented reaction. How? By a consistent and principled fight for democracy.

The Third Camp and The Fight for Democracy

Interviews with dozens of Iraqis suggest that there is one force that unites them: an almost messianic belief in ‘demokratiya.' (David Rohde, New York Times, June 22, 2003)

WHO WILL LEAD THE FIGHT for consistent democracy? A vibrant global social movement of movements took the "End of History" discourse and buried it at Chiapas, Seattle, Prague, Genoa and Porto Alegre. As Daniel Bensaid puts it, we have given History back its color. And when on February 15 many millions around the globe took part in a day of protest against the war, even the New York Times had to acknowledge "the rise of a new global superpower." But how can this movement of movements move history onto new tracks? How can we advance from symbolic forms of protest to a rounded politics of self- emancipation? The writer and activist Kim Moody surely hits on the essential point:

By itself, and despite its ability to breach police lines, this ‘movement of movements' lacks the social weight to carry out the very task it has set itself -- the dismantling of the mechanisms of capitalist globalization . . . As scores of activists and analysts alike have stated, the great need is to pull two forces together: the mobility and audacity of the movement in the streets with the social weight and numbers of the organized working class.

But this program -- the organized working class leading a coalition of civil society movements in a consistent fight for democracy -- a new "historic bloc" to use Gramsci's phrase -- is not the common sense of the left. In part this is because there is no question about which the left is as weighed down by poor theory than the question of the working class. We have lost our nerve in the face of real working class defeats and surreal academic advice to bid the working class "farewell" (Andre Gorz) or to view it as having "all but disappeared from view" (Michael Hardt and Toni Negri). And yet there are 165 million trade unionists in the world. There are more trade unionists in South Korea today than in the entire world when Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto. In truth the global working class has been growing explosively.

Perhaps there are good reasons to look again at the notion of working class politics. That notion was not always just a quasi-religious talisman to ward off awkward political realities (though it frequently was). It was also, and can be again, the basis of a rational politics of hope. For it remains the case that the unique combination of interest, capacity, and social weight possessed by the global working class can still provide a foundation on which a rational and radical democratic politics and a viable strategy and tactics could be elaborated.

If we study just fifteen countries (China, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, Indonesia, Argentina, South Africa, Thailand, Iran, Philippines, Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Nigeria) we find a seven-fold increase in the number of industrial workers alone over the past half century: 45 million in 1950, 358 million by 2000. Each has entered into class struggle and forged its own organizations. Cultural hybridization, for instance in the form of world music, continues apace. International links, though weak, exist.

The brute fact is that the best hope for democracy and progress in the world -- for winning, not just bearing witness to our dissent or living out a personal ethic of refusal -- is the global working class leading a broad alliance of progressive forces.

It is recent history not old texts that prompt that conclusion. In Brazil and South Korea the working class was the central force in the overturn of military rule. In South Africa, it was when the weight of the working class was added to the heroism of the students, youth, and women's organizations that apartheid was overthrown. In Thailand workers rallied to thwart the military coup in 1992. In Indonesia the strike wave of the 1990s prefigured and inspired the movement against Suharto. In Pakistan the working class has been the only force to oppose both the military and the fundamentalists. In China the struggles waged for independent unions and the repeated and heroic strikes against super-exploitation, including revolts against the Chinese Gulag, remains the greatest hope for the democracy movement.

Labor movements in all these countries have contested the neo-liberal economic model and have fought for welfare states and democratic rights. Rapid industrialization has been met by militant unionism. Developments have not been linear. Explosions have been followed by periods of stagnation. Political participation and representation has been uneven. The Workers Party in Brazil has not yet been matched by workers' political representation elsewhere. Nonetheless the underlying trend is clear: the growth in social weight and political assertiveness of the working class is the greatest global force for democratization and for a "third camp" politics able to oppose the other two reactionary contenders.

Yet old texts also have their place. They can help us to see past the immediate conjuncture and gain a longer- term perspective, for one thing. Max Shachtman set out the reasons why the working class is the most likely spearhead of democratization and I will now quote him at length. I risk the reader's irritation perhaps but please bear with me. Allow the possibility that the serious, democratic, eds. and working-class based sensibility for which Shachtman once stood might be the very sensibility we need today. Perhaps measured against the waves of theoretical absurdity that have crashed over the left in the last thirty years his ideas can be a useful starting point for our own thinking:

The working class is least able to conform because the accumulating burdens rest primarily upon its shoulders. To protect its economic interests it is compelled to oppose the prevailing trends. To resist effectively it must have and exercise those democratic rights that, valuable to all classes, are absolutely indispensable to the working class. The more it exercises these rights out of the simple necessity of defending its economic position -- the stronger is the tendency of the bourgeois state, out of simple necessity of defending its position, to curtail these rights and even nullify them entirely. Self-preservation generates in the working class a craving for democracy and dictates the fight for it against the bourgeoisie. The socialist movement which is (or should be) nothing but the conscious expression of the fight of the working class, can be restored to a decisive political force if it realizes that, today far more than ever, the all-around and aggressive championing of the struggle for democracy is the only safeguard against the encroaching social decay, and the only road to socialism. We are or must become the most consistent champions of democracy.

But Shachtman's ideas retain validity today only if we grasp two new overarching facts about the condition of the contemporary working class and develop creative political responses to those facts.

The Working Class Today

THE FIRST FACT IS THAT the international working class is being simultaneously universalized and differentiated under the impact of globalization. In other words, while the experience of wage-labor is pushed into every nook and cranny of the world system (the commodification of the planet) the experience of wage-laboring is highly uneven, and interwoven in complex ways with axes of oppression rooted in the systemic oppressions of "race," gender, and nation.

In short, the lived experience of workers is highly varied. Production processes spread across the globe and organize labor into gendered, racialized, and spatial hierarchies. Saskia Sassen, in her study of The Global City, notes the rise of a new labor aristocracy in the "highly concentrated command points in the organization of the world economy," in global cities such as London, New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. Simultaneously, in favelas, shantytowns and sweatshops around the globe other "wage-laborers," often part of the same circuits of capitalist production, distribution and exchange as the "aristocrats," face capitalism red in tooth and claw recreating the horrors of 19th century Manchester. As Martin Thomas has put it, "Capital today creates a workforce simultaneously more universalized (wage labor spreads ever wider); more mobile, versatile, educated, and able to communicate [yet] more differentiated and variegated."

This is not to write off the radical potential of the working class in the West by any means. The explosive militancy of the French working class in recent years, and the astonishing votes for candidates of the far left, is enough to scotch the idea that the Western working class has been incorporated or silenced, and enough to remind us that to have climbed out of the worst poverty through collective struggle and organisation is not necessarily a deradicalizing experience. The point, rather, is that questions of political mediation across difference -- different experiences not only of "race," gender, and nation, but also of basic economic situation -- lie at the heart of any viable global working class politics today.

The second overarching fact about the contemporary working class is that this global economic restructuring is taking place amidst the implosion of the two hegemonic 19th and 20th century traditions of working class politics -- social democracy and Stalinism. Nothing has yet replaced them. For now the crash of the old political forms has produced -- like the dust clouds thrown up when a decayed block of flats is dynamited -- a return to pre-1848 utopian socialisms.

To state this bluntly is not to dismiss these new political forms. They express the stubborn refusal to accept that the end of history has been reached with the Dow Jones and the WTO. As a scream of revolt these new movements are, of course, priceless. Disobedience must be ranked a virtue above almost all others at this time. But the hallmark of all these new utopian socialisms (John Holloway's "scream of resistance," Tony Negri's politics of "Refusal," even the various appeals to ethics made by Rawlsian egalitarian liberals, first wave analytical Marxists, the writers at Dissent, or figures like Richard Rorty) is that they see themselves as post- proletarian forms of politics. As such they are also post-strategic politics and politics without a viable social agency.

Of course no one can say they have the answers to the problems and opportunities thrown up by these two new facts. And no one can ask for guarantees. But so much of recent history suggests that it is premature to conclude that we are living through an irreversible secular decline of the working class as a political force rather than a conjunctural crisis. There are many reasons to be more optimistic. Things can change. Defeats can be reversed. But the painful processes of economic restructuring and political atomization do dictate the range of plausible answers that can be given.

If the working class is to be reconstituted as a practical force today, it will not be as a simple reflection of raw experience, as Shachtman perhaps thought, but as the long-term result of complex acts of political mediation, aggregation, and organization across difference and through popular struggles many of which will not chime with an orthodox view of what "working class politics" should look like.

No one can spell out what these acts will be with exactitude. When it comes to reviving a global working class politics then, as the Zapatistas say, we will have to talk while walking. But this will not be a stroll down memory lane but a walk into the future. For what lies prostrate and in a critical condition today is not the working class per se but a certain form of reformist working class politics which was based on projecting the common sense of mass labor movements, based on mass fordist manufacturing processes, into nation-state parliaments (as far as capitalism could accommodate that common sense).

The slow process of economic restructuring and de-social democratization has pulled the rug from under that entire political world. Labor parties have become barely distinguishable from their conservative and corporate rivals. But this exhaustion of national reformism, while it certainly produced the torments and defeats of the eighties and nineties, has also opened up exciting new opportunities. First and foremost, the road to a new labor internationalism from below. Second, together with the impact of three decades of social movement agitation, and the transformation of the gender and racial composition of the global working class referred to earlier, the demise of fordist laborism has opened up a new political space in which labor movements can be reforged as anti-oppressive movements.

Perhaps labor movements can only prosper in the twenty-first century as the "all around and aggressive champion" of every oppressed group. We can be feminist, green as well as red, gay as well as straight. Pressure from the independent organizations of the oppressed (provided these are not merely professionalized middle class lobby groups integrated with the status quo) has been and will remain indispensable to the reforging of the labor movement. A two-way movement between the labor movement and the struggles of the oppressed, each submerging itself in the other, each fructifying the other, can create something more than the sum of its parts, a movement for human emancipation.

And, this not the least in importance, we have an opportunity to cast off the puritanical inheritance of those dark satanic mills and embrace a socialism with the sensuality and exuberance of the carnival or the rave as well as the quiet integrity and solace of the chapel and friendly society.

Whither Iraq?

WHAT CAN THIS PERSPECTIVE mean for Iraq? Where is the third camp in Iraq? It is to render words meaningless to say "self-determination" and "anti- imperialism" are represented by the remnants of the totalitarian Baath Regime-Party and the thugs of the Fedayeen, currently regrouping after their exertions torturing dissidents and murdering prisoners before the war began, now shooting at American and British soldiers and setting buildings ablaze, even as the mass graves of the ordinary Iraqis they murdered are being uncovered.

A stand alone "anti-imperialism" is not even close to being an adequate basis for contemporary left-wing responses to the occupation of Iraq. Without a positive, democratic, and anti-capitalist program mere "anti-imperialism" can be a demagogic, even reactionary discourse. For instance while democracy in Iraq depends on local politicians, freely elected, taking over the running of Iraq from the occupation forces, and this means that the troops must leave, this does not mean that the main job of the left is to unthinkingly rally behind every political force shouting "Troops Out Now!"

For us to recognize that the return of Saddam would not be a progressive alternative nor represent the "self-determination" of the Iraqi people, but merely the return of a minority totalitarian tyranny over the Iraqi people, is not to support the occupation. But it is to escape the politically disastrous framework of "imperialism" versus "the resistance." It is to see that the job of third camp socialists is not passive propaganda but urgent political action and positive opposition to both the occupation forces and the Baathists by building up the progressive forces of the third camp, the emergent labor movement and civil society, the bearers of a progressive alternative to the Baath and to Bremer. It is to understand that what distinguishes the third camp socialist on Iraq is the progressive democratic movement we are trying to build, and the objective of international socialism, not that we are the most militant "anti-Americans."

Their Anti-Imperialism and Ours

MOREOVER, THIS IS THE genuinely "anti-imperialist" perspective. It is important to grasp that the American ruling class is attempting to create a certain kind of "civil society" over the ruins of the old regime. That is to say, it is striving to engender a native capitalist ruling class and install it over Iraqi society. How? By means of dismantling rather than democratizing the statist Baath economy, and contracting out the restructuring and rebuilding of Iraq to American capitalism -- Halliburton, MCI, Brown and Root, etc. Iraqi capitalism will be fostered as fully integrated subcontractors of American imperialism from the outset. In short, America is in the process of vassalizing Iraq.

Consequently Iraqi labor struggles, strikes, and demonstrations will, from the outset, carry an implicitly dual character: challenging both western capitalism and national oppression. Such labor action is therefore immediately political. As in most societies struggling for independence, we will see two emerging patterns of struggle: the more nationalistically-oriented one, subordinating all social struggles to the struggle for national liberation, and the more revolutionary trend that realizes that national problems cannot be solved without social revolution.

In the specific circumstances of Iraq, it will be increasingly impossible to impose a purely nationalist solution to the problem because Iraqi capitalism will be unable to disentangle itself from the U.S. economic structure. Nationalism per se will increasingly become the provenance of reactionary Islamist forces that will make their appeal to the Arab world on that basis, folding Iraqi nationalism into a sectarian religious mold. The only counterbalance to this is an Iraqi working class in motion. Their resistance can be expected to begin the erosion of all existing authority in the Arab world, which has neither momentum nor popular support, thereby placing themselves in direct confrontation with the only other dynamic force in the region -- Islam -- in the struggle against U.S. hegemony.

The struggle for a consistently independent and democratic Iraq is therefore crucially dependent on the revival and mobilization of the Iraqi working class, which in turn is critically dependent on the political and material support of democratic Iraqi forces here in the West. That, and not mere piety to a Marxist orthodoxy, is the reason why we must turn our face to the Iraqi working class.

These forces are just beginning to breathe. Today, in Baghdad, socialists have opened offices and can distribute literature, independent trade unions are being discussed, and the forces of democratic civil society are beginning to stir. Disobedient theatre productions are being staged. Against the Baathists, the Islamists, and the occupation forces the first line of defence is to build up this network of grassroots power in unions, and in civil rights, students', and women's organizations. These offer a social base and an alternative moral system, a different conception and practice of solidarity, and an image of democracy in action. Around this trelliswork our weak forces can thread their growing tentacles. Socialists should put aside insurrectionary fantasies and dig in for the slow organic work of building this base.

Our forces can be found at the Basra refinery, the second largest in Iraq, striking against the Baathist management foisted on them by the UK occupying force. Though the action was limited, one could glimpse a political actor and a new politics emerging from the Baathist darkness and blinking into the light. Workers at the state-owned Iraqi Airways are battling the U.S. occupiers over both wage rates and the removal of the airline's general manager, a cousin of Saddam Hussein and a Baath party official.

Our forces can also be found among the women who are organizing for equality and for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And among those forces calling for a secular Iraq, a constituent assembly, and a rapid transition to democracy.

Our forces can be found among the unemployed workers who took over a building that used to belong to the Baathist run unions and set up a Union of the Unemployed in Iraq (UUI). (When the Baathists returned to demand the return of the building they were arrested by U.S. troops.) It is impossible to know how accurate these figures are, but as of late June the UUI was claiming 15,000 members with centers in Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Nasiriya and had appealed to "all labor unions and organizations throughout the world" for support as it demanded "Jobs or Unemployment Insurance" of the occupying forces (see the UUI statement below).

And there is a history of working class struggle throughout the Muslim world. There were mass workers' strikes in Egypt before the coup of 1952 (repressed by the coup leaders), and again in 1977 forcing Sadat to change economic policy. There was intense working class militancy in Iraq after the 1958 revolution (repressed by the Baathists after 1968). The militant trade unionism in the Sudan (to which the military coup of 1989 was a reaction) and the still powerful workers' movements of Algeria and Tunisia are capable of self-assertion. The Iranian working class, which built the shoras or workers' councils in 1979, waits in the wings as the students battle the regime on the streets. And in Indonesia the workers were a vital factor in the fall of Suharto.

Solidarity Forever

IT IS THE URGENT TASK OF THE left to solidarize with the Iraqi working class and democratic civil society. Raise money for its fledging organizations. Send delegations. Twin union branches and feminist organizations. Seize every opening.

On May Day, Denis MacShane, the British Foreign Office Minister, issued a press release requesting that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the umbrella body for most global unions, become involved in the creation of democratic trade unions in Iraq. The MacShane May Day Statement looked to the free trade unions to aid the establishment of secular and representative trade unions in Iraq. While no trust should be placed in the ICFTU (which has said it wants the World Bank, the IMF, and the OECDs Trade Union Advisory Committee to be involved) and while there remains a danger of business-friendly unions being established with few democratic structures, there are real possibilities to create genuine international union-to-union links "from below."

Two British Labour MPs -- Harry Barnes and Peter Lloyd, and trade union leader Kevin Curran -- issued an appeal for a workers' campaign in solidarity with the fledgling trade unions in Iraq. The MPs pointed out that:

Iraq's labor movement was once a vibrant part of society. In 1959, one million people joined the May Day march in Baghdad. The population of Iraq was then 14 million and this illustrates the tremendous social weight of its working class. But Saddam demonized independent trade unions and hundreds of union leaders were imprisoned, tortured and executed.

In Iraq today, the independent trade union movement is seeking to re-establish itself. It supports a unified, federal and democratic Iraq that transcends religious, ethnic, and nationalist divisions and also guarantees political and trade union rights. It backs the transfer of power from the occupying forces to an interim and broadly based coalition government that could remove the remnants of Saddam's dictatorship and prepare a permanent constitution. This would provide the basis for free and fair elections under UN supervision. The International Labour Organisation and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions [should] become involved in the creation of democratic trade unions in Iraq.

By late June a labor-based international solidarity movement, organized in the United States by U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) had emerged. USLAW has produced a report, The Corporate Invasion of Iraq: Profiles of U.S. Corporations Awarded Contracts in U.S./British Occupied Iraq which provides much needed information to Iraqi workers about the U.S. companies that are their new employers. (Copies can be downloaded free at or ordered for $5 from USLAW, P.O. Box 153, 1718 M St NW, Washington, DC 20036.)

The report was discussed by the labor representatives of the Workers' Group of the ILO in Geneva, June 14-15. That meeting established the Campaign for Labor Rights in Iraq (see statements below). The Appeal Statement can certainly be faulted. It pledges its signatories to oppose "the destruction of labor and democratic rights in Iraq" but of course none existed under Saddam! So called trade unions were state-run fronts for Saddam's propaganda.

There is also a worrying one-sidedness about the idea that the post-war chaos in Iraq has been "promoted deliberately by the occupation forces." The Appeal fails to mention the role of the Baathist death squads and arsonists who seek a return of Saddam. And, unlike the British Labour MPs who are clear that trade unions were viciously repressed in Saddam's totalitarian Iraq the Appeal makes the false claim that "Iraq has a long tradition of trade unionism and workers rights codified in legislation." There are a variety of forces involved in the Campaign and the Appeal may represent a compromise. Practical solidarity is the overriding priority. Nonetheless, the failure to clearly define the old regime is not at all a good sign.

More positively, USLAW argues for a new labor internationalism. Amy Newell, USLAW national organizer, says their report "aims to establish an international labor network of unions interested in organizing these companies on a global scale." Gene Bruskin, the co-convenor of USLAW, sees the privatization of Iraq as an opportunity to further the new labor internationalism: "U.S. and Iraqi workers now have a direct link because our companies are over there . . . there is a potential to connect and build real solidarity in a way that people haven't done before." Newell sees a clear link between this union solidarity work and progressive resistance to the occupation of Iraq. In a splendid, though of course not deliberate, reprise of Shachtman's argument about consistent democracy she argues,

Clearly you cannot have trade union rights without basic democratic rights. The appeal issued by the trade unionists in Geneva for this labor rights campaign explicitly condemns the illegal occupation of Iraq. A Statement issued by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) makes the point that democracy has to have roots in the people, and the best way to do that is to have a strong and independent trade unions; they are the anchor of democracy.

USLAW argues:

There is a critical role that we as trade unionists can play in bringing true democracy to Iraq. Unable to produce the weapons of mass destruction that the Bush administration used to justify its invasion of Iraq, ‘democracy for the people of Iraq' has now become the administration's strongest rationale for the war. As trade unionists, we know that central to any democracy must be fundamental trade union rights -- the freedom to assemble, to organize, to bargain collectively and to strike if necessary, to protect and improve workers' standard of living.

Shachtman's call for the labor movement to become the "all-around and aggressive champion of democracy" is also echoed in Newell's view that "U.S. labor must be part of the broader international labor movement against war -- for peace and social justice."

ADVOCATES OF THE THIRD CAMP will urgently but patiently build this kind of long-term practical solidarity with the organized Iraqi working class and with pro-democratic Iraqi civil society as the rational basis of peace, democracy, and progress. Out of that soil a new socialism could emerge. The third camp will not mistake the remnants of the old regime as "objectively anti-imperialist" as they seek to re-impose the old Baath dictatorship, nor imagine its role is to cheer on clerical reactionaries as a "national liberation movement."

In the triangular struggle it is our task to plant a firm fixed point between the military Visigoths and the fascistic theocrats. We seek to make that third camp conscious of itself, of its relation to the reactionary contenders, and of its potential to turn the whole world upside down. And then truly we who have been nought shall be all and the world shall rise on new foundations. Let others take care of their own. Let us stand up and say what we believe in and fight for our forces. We have a world to gain.


Editorial Note

We have reproduced four statements from the emerging labor solidarity movement. The first, written by Alan Benjamin of the San Francisco Labor Council, traces how the Appeal for a Campaign for Labor Rights in Iraq emerged, and the crucial role played by U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW). The second is the Appeal itself, issued in Geneva on June 15, 2003, together with a list of its initial signatories. The third is a statement from the Labor Group of the ILO. The fourth is an appeal from the newly formed Union of Iraqi Unemployed (UUI) about which little information is available at this point.

1. Presentation: Campaign for Labor Rights in Iraq Launched in Geneva on June 14-15, 2003

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

I had the privilege of travelling with Amy Newell, national organizer of U.S. Labor Against War, to the International Conference in Defense of ILO Conventions and Trade Union Independence held in Geneva, Switzerland, over the weekend of June 14-15, 2003. I represented the San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO) at this gathering, which was attended by 130 labor officials from 30 countries.

This International Conference was held for the 10th consecutive year at the initiative of the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples (ILC). As every other year, it was scheduled to coincide with the annual yearly session of the UN-affiliated International Labor Organization (ILO). A large number of the participants at the ILC's conference were official delegates to the ILO's 91st Yearly Session.

Sister Newell and I travelled to Geneva with the purpose of joining forces with broad sectors of the international labor movement to launch a Campaign for Labor Rights in Iraq. The proposal to organize such a campaign originated with Iraqi and Arab trade unionists and was relayed to USLAW and to the international labor movement by International Liaison Committee Coordinator Daniel Gluckstein. Last May 15, in fact, Brother Gluckstein travelled to Washington, D.C. to meet and discuss this initiative with the two national conveners of USLAW, Bob Muehlenkamp and Gene Bruskin.

The USLAW conveners and coordinators endorsed this campaign and agreed to send their national organizer, Amy Newell, to the ILC's June 15th conference in Geneva. They also agreed to produce a document, or White Paper, profiling 18 U.S. multinational corporations that have been awarded contracts to "rebuild" -- i.e., privatize -- Iraq. This 34-page document, produced with the collaboration of the Washington, DC Labor Committee for Peace and Justice, was ready just in time for the ILC Conference and the ILO's 91st Yearly Session. Thanks to the help of the ILC, more than 600 copies of the USLAW "Profiles" document were printed and distributed in Geneva, both to the ILC conference participants and to the 410 labor delegates comprising the Workers' Group of the ILO.

In order that a more complete discussion among the key players in this Campaign for Labor Rights could take place prior to the ILC Conference on June 15th, ILC coordinator Daniel Gluckstein, Algerian Member of Parliament Louisa Hanoune, and renowned Iranian antiwar activist Subhi Toma invited Amy Newell of USLAW, the representative of the San Francisco Labor Council, leaders of the major Arab trade union federations, and representatives of the ILC to participate in a planning meeting the evening of Saturday, June 14th. The meeting, hosted by Geneva Socialist Party leader Alexandre Anor, was held at the office of the Geneva Socialist Party.

One of the mail goals of the meeting was to adopt a written Appeal for the Campaign and to designate speakers to introduce this campaign to the following day's ILC Conference.

The planning meeting was opened with four major reports. The first report, by Daniel Gluckstein, explained the origins and importance of this campaign. The second report, by Iraqi activist Subhi Toma, focused on the current situation in Iraq and the urgent need for the Iraqi workers to have genuinely independent trade unions and full labor rights to defend their most basic interests. [Brother Toma presented a written report to the meeting on his recent trip to Iraq, which we will send out in a separate posting, together with excerpts from his oral presentation to the June 14th planning meeting.]

The third report was presented by Amy Newell, who described the origins, goals and achievements of USLAW and then summarized the White Paper profiling the 18 U.S. multinational corporations awarded contracts in Iraq. Sister Newell explained that this report was not simply aimed at helping the workers of Iraq; it was also a tool to promote union organizing drives of these corporations in the United States and around the world.

The final report was presented by Hacene Djeman, General Secretary of the 35-million-member International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (CISA). Brother Hacene expressed his federation's full support for this campaign and informed the gathering that a few days earlier, he and other official representatives to the ILO's 91st yearly session presented a statement to the 410 members of the ILO's Workers' Group urging the ILO to launch a campaign for labor rights in Iraq and to send a fact-finding mission to Iraq -- a mission that would be open to the participation of all national and regional trade union organizations.

This Statement On Iraq was adopted by the ILO Workers' Group and was then submitted to the ILO yearly session [see statement below]. Not surprisingly, Brother Hacene explained, the representatives of the ILO's Governmental and Employer Groups did not endorse this resolution. Brother Hacene expressed his view that despite the ILO's refusal to embrace this delegation, the ILO Workers' Group would collaborate with the ILC, USLAW and others in promoting this campaign and this fact-finding trip to Iraq later this fall.

Following the reports, the other participants in the meeting presented statements in support of the campaign and recounting the effects of the war on Iraq in their own countries. Speakers included the central leaders of the United Trade Union Federation of the Arab Maghreb (USTMA), General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA), Committee of Working Women of Lebanon, Lebanon Workers General Confederation (CGTL), Sudan Workers Trade Unions Federation (SWTUF), General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT), and Tunisian Committee in Switzerland. A central point made by all was the historic importance of USLAW for the international labor movement.

In the course of the discussion, Brother Ibrahim A. Gandour, General Secretary of the Sudan Workers Trade Unions Federation (SWTUF), said that his federation would translate into Arabic -- no later than June 28th -- the USLAW "Profiles" document. [The following day, trade unionists from Japan, Brazil, Spain and France said their unions or federations would translate this document into their respective languages.]

After the discussion on the reports, the participants in the June 14th planning meeting read a Draft Appeal for the campaign prepared by Subhi Toma, Louisa Hanoune and Daniel Gluckstein. A lengthy discussion followed, with numerous amendments proposed to the Draft. By the end of the evening, the participants had agreed to the text of the Appeal for the Campaign for Labor Rights in Iraq [see appeal below]. They also agreed to constitute themselves as an Organizing Committee of an International Labor Delegation to Iraq -- a delegation scheduled to take place before the middle of October 2003.

The meeting ended with the designation of Amy Newell, Subhi Toma and Hacene Djeman as the three reporters on this campaign to the June 15th ILC Conference in Defense of ILO Conventions and Trade Union Independence.

On June 15th, following the presentations and the discussion, trade unionists from around the world added their endorsements to the Appeal for the Campaign for Labor Rights in Iraq. [See first list of endorsers below.]

As a representative of the OWC Continuations Committee and San Francisco Labor Council, I was honored to have been able to participate in this June 14th planning meeting and in the June 15th Conference.

Sister Newell's participation in these gatherings was made possible by a fund drive launched by the OWC Continuations Committee and S.F. Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Walter Johnson. To date, our campaign has gathered $482 -- which is way short of the $1,200 needed to cover Sister Newell's travel and lodging expenses. In addition, we in the OWC Continuations Committee want to contribute at least $3,000 to the overall campaign.

This is why we continue to appeal to you for your financial support. To those of you who have already sent donations, we want to express our deepest appreciation. To those of you who still have not sent in a donation, please don't delay -- we need your support urgently. Contact us at

Thanks, as always, for your interest in this important effort to promote labor rights, peace and social justice.

In solidarity,

lan Benjamin,
OWC Co-coordinator,
S.F. Labor Council representative
to the June 15th Geneva Conference


2. Appeal For International Campaign for Labor Rights in Iraq

Barely two months have passed since the end of the war, and already the facts are there for all to see: The war waged against the people and nation of Iraq had nothing to do with democracy, the liberation of the Iraqi people, or so-called weapons of mass destruction. All these were just a pretext.

It is now clear that it was a war for oil, a war of domination of the region and the world, a war that threatens all countries and peoples. That is why we the undersigned who opposed the war say: "No to the Occupation of Iraq!" There can be no democracy if the Iraqi people do not have the right to freely determine their fate and establish their sovereignty over the resources and future of their country.

We issue this appeal to the international labor movement to organize in every country an International Campaign For Labor Rights in Iraq. As trade unionists and union officials of various origins and countries, we mobilized -- together with millions of working people and their organizations the world over -- to say: "No to the War in Iraq!"

Together, we pledged that whatever the circumstances we would pursue the fight against the war, occupation, and destruction of labor and democratic rights in Iraq, and against the dislocation of the Iraqi nation -- and beyond that, of all nations.

On June 15, 2003, in Geneva, we came together at the initiative of the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples (ILC). We heard a report on the situation of the workers and people of Iraq now under occupation: Baghdad and the entire country are facing a situation of total disarray. Unemployment is rampant as widespread vandalism, chaos and terror -- promoted deliberately by the occupation authorities -- have prevented the resumption of all activities. Wages have not been paid. The privatization of public enterprises is under way.

The armies of the United States and Great Britain, armies of occupation, protect the interests of the U.S. multinational corporations, which are poised to super-exploit the Iraqi people without hindrance and to plunder the resources and wealth of the Iraqi nation.

We also heard a report from a representative of U.S. Labor Against War, a coalition that regroups trade unions representing several million trade unionists in the United States. USLAW organized this past February 19th an international press conference to present an International Declaration of Global Labor Against the War in Iraq. This declaration was supported by trade unions and federations representing 130 million unionists in 53 countries, all of whom came together on a world scale to speak out with one voice against the war.

USLAW has prepared a White Paper on the U.S. multinational corporations that have been awarded contracts in Iraq. This document presents in great detail the systematic denial and violation of labor rights, as well as the corruption and financial scandals that characterize the large bulk of these corporations. This report is being translated into Arabic, and will be brought to the attention of the Iraqi workers, who need to know the record of these corporations.

We also heard reports from the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (CISA), the United Trade Union Federation of the Arab Maghreb (USTMA), the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT), the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA), the Sudan Workers Trade Unions Federation (SWTUF), and the Committee of Working Women of Lebanon. They explained the dire consequences of the war and U.S. occupation in their own countries. The privatization drive implemented in the Arab countries these past years, for example, has already led to an increase in unemployment from 12 million to 19 million workers.

Once again, in this most difficult situation confronting workers and peoples everywhere, it is more than ever the task of the labor movement to unite and take action on a world scale to fight for labor rights, peace, and democracy.

Those who launched the war against the Iraqi people speak about democracy, but democracy requires that the workers be able to organize themselves freely. Democracy presupposes the existence of independent trade union organizations.

The workers of Iraq urgently need trade unions to fight for their interests. They must be able to organize themselves freely to build unions of their own choice. These basic labor rights, these anchors of democracy, have been codified in International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions 87 and 98.

ILO Convention 87 concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize stipulates:

Each Member of the International Labor Organization for which this Convention is in force undertakes to give effect to the following provisions." (Article 1) "Workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organization concerned, to join organizations of their own choosing without previous authorization. (Article 2) Workers' and employers' organizations shall have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organize their administration and activities and to formulate their programs. The public authorities shall refrain from any interference which would restrict this right or impede the lawful exercise thereof."(Article 10)

ILO Convention 98 concerning the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organize and to Bargain Collectively stipulates:

Workers shall enjoy adequate protection against acts of anti-union discrimination in respect of their employment. (Article 1) Workers' and employers' organizations shall enjoy adequate protection against any acts of interference by each other or each other's agents or members in their establishment, functioning or administration.(Article 2)

This last Convention was ratified by the Iraqi government on November 27, 1962.

ILO Conventions 87 and 98 -- just as the other ILO Conventions -- must be ratified, translated into law and implemented for all Iraqi workers over the entire territory of Iraq. We affirm that no one can speak about democracy so long as these rights are not the law of the land.

Iraq has a long tradition of trade unionism and workers' rights codified in legislation. From 1919 to the beginning of the 1980s, Iraq ratified 66 ILO Conventions*. Will these be respected and implemented today?

Together, we have mobilized against the war. We are convinced that the international organization and mobilization against the war, particularly within the international trade union movement, points the way forward for the labor movement as a whole.

Together, on June 15, in Geneva, we hereby commit ourselves to organize this international mobilization and we state:

We believe it is necessary to unite our efforts with the goal of constituting an International Labor Delegation that will travel to Iraq on a fact-finding trip to evaluate the situation of the working class, labor rights and status of the trade union organizations. We have already learned that the first labor strikes and walk-outs have taken place. At the same time, the repression against trade union leaders has been unleashed, with a number of unionists now facing death threats.

Through this campaign, we seek to mobilize the support of the international labor movement for the workers of Iraq so that they can build the trade unions of their choice.

This initiative is not in competition with any other. We have learned that similar concerns to ours have already been expressed by various international organizations such as the International Labor Bureau of the ILO, the Workers' Group of the ILO, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), and Education International (EI), among others. Our initiative simply seeks to bring together the broadest forces in the framework of an international campaign for the defense of the ILO Conventions and for social justice, peace and democracy.

We issue this appeal to labor organizations throughout the world and call upon them to support this campaign so that together we can organize this fact-finding delegation to Iraq later this fall.

We, the undersigned, constitute ourselves as an Organizing Committee of this International Delegation. Our campaign is independent from all international institutions. It will seek support among workers and their trade union organizations the world over.

AMY NEWELL, National Organizer, U.S. Labor Against War (USLAW); ALAN BENJAMIN, Representative, San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO (United States)

HACENE DJEMAN, General Secretary, International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (CISA); FAROUK SOURIG, International Director, International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (Syria); ABDELMAJID SAHRAOUI, United Trade Union Federation of the Arab Maghreb (USTMA); AMAR TAKDJOUT, General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA); LOUISA HANOUNE, Spokesperson, Workers Party of Algeria; SUBHI TOMA, Iraqi antiwar activist; KHADYE EL HUSAINI, Committee of Working Women of Lebanon; ABDEL AMIR NADJA, Lebanon Workers General Confederation (CGTL); IBRAHIM A. GANDOUR, Sudan Workers Trade Unions Federation (SWTUF); MOHAMED TRABELSI, General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT); MOHAMED BEN HENDA, Tunisian Committee in Switzerland

DANIEL GLUCKSTEIN, Coordinator, International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples; OLIVIER DORIANE, Workers Party (France); MARIE-CLAUDE SCHIDLOWER, ILC Working Women Commission; JEAN- PIERRE BARROIS, Antiwar activist (France); LUC DELEY, Hosting Committee, International Conference in Defense of ILO Conventions (Switzerland); ALEXANDRE ANOR, Socialist Party member (Switzerland).

(Appeal Issued in Geneva,
Switzerland on June 15, 2003)


BELGIUM: Roberto Giarrocco, General Federation of Belgian Workers (FGTB).

BENIN: Marie-Antoinette Toudonou, President, Women's Committee of the Confederation of Workers of Benin (CSTB).

BRAZIL: Julio Turra, National Executive Board member, Unified Workers Federation of Brazil (CUT).

CHAD: Djibrine Assale Hamdallah, General Secretary, Confederation of Trade Unions of Chad (UST); Gami N'Garmadjal, General Secretary, National Union of Education Workers of Chad (SET).

COTE-D'IVOIRE/IVORY COAST: François Yao, General Secretary, National Union of Energy Workers (SYNASEG); Céline Yassine, Deputy International Relations Secretary, National Union of Energy Workers (SYNASEG).

FRANCE: Jacques Paris, national education sector trade unionists; Pascal Grasso, trade unionist; Xavier Boiston, oil & chemical sector trade unionists; Eliane Juquel, trade unionist; François Le Pivert, trade unionist; Véronique Pépers, chemical sector trade unionist; Clarisse Delalondre, EDF energy sector trade unionist; Denis Langlet, metalworkers' sector trade unionist; Christian Savidan, community sector trade unionist; Jean Markun, trade unionist; Michèle Coullet, national education sector trade unionist; Jean-Charles Marquiset, trade unionist; Patrice Sifflet, trade unionist, Manifesto for Trade Union Independence; Jacques Girod, trade unionist; Marie Bordes, national education sector trade unionist; Daniel Chalier, healthcare sector trade unionist; Pascal Samouth, trade unionist; Christiane Buf, trade unionist; Michèle Simonnin, public sector trade unionist.

GABON: Maixent-Hubert Ndong Odzame, President, Confederation of Trade Unions of Gabon (CO.SY.GA); Camille Mombo-Mouelet, General Secretary, Federation of Mines and Energy Workers (FLEEMA).

GERMANY: Frey Henning, Ver.di; Karlheinz Gerhold, SPD, Ver.di; Klaus Schüller, SPD, DGB Thuringe.

GREAT BRITAIN: Colette Bradford Calderdale Trades Council, Warren Ellison Calderdale Trades Council

GUADELOUPE: Jocelyn Lapitre, MPTPG.

INDIA: H. Mahadevan, General Secretary, All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC); Sharad Rao, General Secretary, MAZDOOR trade union federation.

JAPAN: Osamu Yomono, Vice President, National Rail Workers Union of Japan (JRU); Mari Takenouchi, JRU.

MEXICO: Raul Dominguez Alcala, General Secretary, Transportation Workers Union of Oaxaca (SUTCAO).

SPAIN: José Miguel Villa, General Secretary, FES, General Union of Workers of Madrid (UGT); Conrado Soria Garcia, UGT of Barcelona.

SWITZERLAND: Alain Charbonnier, Member of Parliament , Socialist Party; Françoise Schenk-Gottret, Member of Parliament, Socialist Party; Claude and Pierrette Iseli, Union of Circles for Workers' Policies (UCPO); Michel Gindrat, UCPO; Adriano Crameri, General Secretary, SIB; Myriam Lonfat, Former Member of Parliament, SSP-VPOD; Max Robert, Public sector trade unionist (SSP); Simone Girodo, Public sector trade unionist (SSP); Rania Madi.

TOGO: Tétévi Norbert Gbikpi-Bénissan, General Secretary, Federation of Independent Unions of Togo (UNSIT); Claude Ameganvi, Organizational Secretary, Workers Party of Togo.

TUNISIA: Halim Chaabane, Spokesperson, Iraq-Palestine Trade Union Solidarity Committee.

UNITED STATES: Paul Germanotta, European Support Commitee, Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC, AFL-CIO); Claude Piller, Education sector trade unionist; Dan Kaplan, Delegate to June 15th Conference, California Federation of Teachers (CFT).

3. ILO Workers' Group Statement on Iraq

In a statement in March 2003, the Workers' Group of the Governing Body of the ILO deplored the onset of the War on Iraq. It then called for a speedy end to the hostilities and urged that an urgent rehabilitation program should follow in which the ILO should play a major role.

The Workers' Group of this 91st International Labor Conference endorses that earlier statement. The group now calls for a speedy end to the occupation of Iraq and for every assistance to be given to ensure the establishment of a transitory national government under the auspices of the United Nations, free from military or any other autocratic control.

The Workers' Group requests the ILO urgently to send a needs assessment mission to Iraq to determine what forms of technical support and assistance the ILO can properly provide in the rehabilitation and reconstruction program. This Mission should allow for the inclusion of cooperating International and regional trade union organizations.

The Workers' Group believes that in the rehabilitation exercise support must be provided for all the people of Iraq, especially the poor, the disabled and vulnerable groups. The Group calls for the immediate resumption of work for all Iraqi workers, with due protection for their wages. It also demands that the oil resources of Iraq be used solely by the people of Iraq and exclusively for their benefit.

In the new Iraq there must be, consistent with ILO standards, full freedom of Association guaranteeing the Iraqi workers the right to organize and to bargain collectively; there must be true democracy with full civil liberties, permitting trade unions to choose their own leadership independently and without interference; there must be the right to self-determination by the Iraqi people.

4. Official Letter from the Union of the Unemployed in Iraq -- UUI

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

To: All labor unions and organizations around the world

In the aftermath of the U.S devastating war on Iraq and on the following May Day, we, a group of activists in the labor movement, have founded the Union of the Unemployed in Iraq-UUI. Our decision to form this union was an essential response to the extraordinary circumstances in which Iraq has gone through.

Thirteen years of economic sanctions as well as the dominance of the Ba'ath regime have had its greatest impact on imposing the minimum standards of living, the most inhuman working conditions, and a large- scale unemployment on the masses of workers.

The Anglo- American war, which ended with the occupation of Iraq, has pushed further up the unemployment rates to dreadful levels. Most of the industrial and service facilities and institutions were rendered out of service and thousands of factories and smaller workshops have closed their doors either due to lack of water and electricity, or due to lack of security. Rumors are widely being spread around that the U.S is thinking of privatizing the public sector. This clearly means an increase in unemployment among workers. Millions of workers are out of work with absolutely no means of earning a living, threatened with hunger while the food ration, distributed by the previous regime is rapidly running out.

We have formed our union to bring all unemployed workers together and to push forward their basic demands. The Union of the Unemployed in Iraq has currently around 15,000 members across the country, with centers in 3 major cities in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Nasiriya. Since founding our union we have organized weekly demonstrations to draw the attentions of the occupying forces to our status and conditions, but there has been no response to our demands so far. Our demands could be summarized: either Jobs or Unemployment Insurance. We also demand: emergency allowances to all unemployed and full payments to all those who lost their jobs because of war.

Since May 24th, 2003, we have been in continuous negotiations with the U.S Civil Administration, in vain. They are clearly postponing and maneuvering.

Dear Friends,

Our union has decided to organize a big demonstration across Iraq on Thursday, July 3rd, 2003. We, therefore, entreat you to support us in our demands. You could express your solidarity with us either through organizing protesting rallies or demonstrations or holding big protesting gatherings on the day of our demonstration, in front of those authorities that are responsible for our current situation i.e. the British and the American authorities. You could also send us letters of solidarity to our union and letters of protest to the U.S. and British consulates and embassies in your countries. We call on the workers of the U.S. and Britain in particular to raise their voices against their governments which deny us our simplest demands.

Your solidarity with us will certainly reinforce the impact of our protests to compel the occupation forces in Iraq to submit to our demands.

In Solidarity,

Issam Shukri,
International Relations Coordinator
Union of the Unemployed in Iraq -- UUI
Bab Al-Sharki, Al Rasheed St.,
Old Labor Union Bldg. Baghdad, Iraq


[colored bar]

Contents of No. 35

New Politics home page