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The Stop the War Coalition and the IFTU

Mick Rix and Andrew Murray

On 11 October the Stop the War Coalition published a statement condemning the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions. The statement accused the IFTU representative in Britain, Abdullah Muhsin, of helping persuade trade unions at the Labour Party conference in September to vote down a motion calling on Blair to set an early date for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq. It further accused the IFTU of collaborating with the occupation of Iraq and supporting the Allawi government.

Mick Rix, the former general secretary of the train driversí union ASLEF, resigned from the steering committtee of the StWC. The following is an exchange of letter between Mick Rix and StWC chair Andrew Murray, together with correspondence between Rix and Morning Star editor John Haylett. (Some corrections to punctuation and spelling have been made.) Also included is the text of the StWC statement and a reply by the IFTU.


Mick Rix to the Stop the War Coalition, 19 October 2004

Subject: Re: Steering Committee Meeting

Please could you send my apologies, also I wish to resign my position on the steering committee. There are two reasons, one I am not able to make the meetings due to work pressures, secondly I do not agree with assertions made over the conduct of union delegations at the Labour party in the recent statement, and indeed the attacks made on Abdullah. I think in these difficult times, the recent outbursts that have been made, and the personalisation has vastly reduced our influence and support, in the movement. I thought it would have been better and more democratic, before these statements were made, they should have been discussed, and wider views sought. There is nothing wrong with criticism, and people from time to time will have and hold different views, but there are better ways of making this critique, and there were better ways of inviting views on this critique, before it was published.

I wish you all future success, but I believe at the moment damage has been done that is long lasting, I also feel that Abdullah should receive an apology for some of the stupid and wild accusations made about him. I also believe that the vast majority of union delegates at the Labour Party who hold strong views on the war, and the vast majority are anti-war, should also receive an apology for the vitriol that has been whipped up against them. At least they debated and discussed the position before doing what they did, likewise the statements that have been made, by representatives and close associates of STW, have not been debated prior to their publication, nor were their views sought as well.

Mick Rix


Andrew Murray to Mick Rix, 20 October 2004

Dear Mick

I am writing to you because I have been unable to reach you by phone since our conversation 24 hours ago. It now seems clear that as well as simply resigning from the Coalition Steering Committee you have, simultaneously, circulated your resignation letter with a lengthy and critical covering note to a variety of people in the movement (I have no idea how many) who you feel may be interested in your action. Unsurprisingly, this has already reached hostile media and is being picked up and used against the Coalition.

I must say that I cannot regard this as anything other than a betrayal. If you wish to resign from the Committee (which, as you note, you have never attended anyway) then that is ultimately your affair. But to publicise the fact as you have done is either a deliberate attempt to damage the Coalition within the trade unions or simply very naive. I also note that you neither tried to discuss this with me, in spite of our very close political relationship over recent years, nor even had the courtesy to copy me in on your round-robin e-mail.

Your resignation is now a public political act. As I said to you yesterday, before I was aware that you had already broadcast your decision far and wide, your reasons simply do not hold water. The StWC statement re. the IFTU does not attack any trade union in Britain, nor has any union affiliated to the Coalition asserted that it does. You were given the same opportunity to comment on the IFTU statement prior to its publication as other Steering Committee members, yet you chose not to do so, at a time when your input might well have been very helpful. And you agree that comment by the Coalition on the pro-occupation vote at the Labour Party conference (a decision which you yourself say you disagree with) was unavoidable. Since your resignation has been made public by yourself, I will have to consult with colleagues in the Coalition as to whether we wish to publicly respond to your charges. Should we do so, I guarantee I will advise you of any statement in advance.

I had hoped that you would reconsider your resignation, mostly because I believe that it will damage your own standing on the left. As we speak, the US is preparing a bloody assault on Fallujah, and British politics is in uproar over the redeployment of British troops to facilitate this. The occupation of Iraq remains the central question in world politics, far more important than the bruised feelings of particular trade union delegates to the Labour Party. The government is on the ropes once again and, as part of its crisis, is co-ordinating the heaviest attacks on the anti-war movement since March-April of last year. Under these circumstances, resignation will inevitably seem self-indulgent at best, or desertion at worst. It will, I fear, be remembered by your comrades long after the row re the IFTU is forgotten.

You will appreciate it gives me not the slightest pleasure to write to you in these terms, since I have greatly valued your comradeship and will always remain grateful for your support (and Debbieís) during the productive years we shared at ASLEF. Indeed, I have always acknowledged that without your support, it would scarcely have been possible for me to play the role within the StWC that I have done. However, just as you would always have put the interests of ASLEF above any personal considerations, so I have to do now in respect of my obligations to the Stop the War Coalition.

Yours

Andrew


Mick Rix to Andrew Murray, 21 October 2004

Dear Andrew

Firstly I am at a loss to understand why as a comrade you have taken it upon yourself to write to me in the way that you have. When any message that I may have sent to anyone in the movement who are friends and comrades, was in defence of socialists and trades unionists, and was not overtly critical, nasty or personalised as your letter appears to be.

I would invite you to read again the comments I made, also the comments made to John Haylett. Are you saying my comments to John are phrased like yours? Yet I am astounded that I should receive the written abuse that I have from you.

My resignation to the coalition was polite, accurate, and comradely. Firstly I have already sent you a message, giving you a reason why I was unable to return your call. I now discover when I arrived home this evening you have sent me this unwarranted, political and personal assault. The language that you use and the way they have been phrased, tends in part to be very similar to the StTW statements put out without any consultation. In fact the language you are using, to be frank, shows that some of you in the coalition are on the verge of losing the plot.

Firstly letís get a few things straight and letís stick to the facts as they are. I am and always will be a committed vociferous opponent and activist against the illegal invasion, occupation and bloodshed that has been caused in Iraq. Secondly I really do not require a lecture from you, over what has taken place, or what is about to take place in Iraq.

I do not know where you think you have the right to threaten me as you so did, with the remarks in your letter, thus "under these circumstances, resignation will inevitably seem self-indulgent at best, or desertion at worst. It will, I fear, be remembered by your comrades long after the row re the IFTU is forgotten".

I am not aware that you have now been elected the official spokesperson for the left, after all comrade, it was myself that fought for an anti war policy in the left of the TUC, and who persuaded the left in the TUC to take the actions that they did, when some had very grave personal reservations about doing so, and who they were joining forces with!! Also remember this comrade, unlike some, I personally lost an election due to my personal and political support for the anti war position, and I donít remember too much, the real practical support from some comrades, in helping the left in my union to fight the reactionary right wing stance, that eventually won. Mainly because some had a blind naivety, in thinking that I and the left could just stroll it, and because others were just too busy, doing other things for other people, despite the fact of the very practical help and support we in the left in ASLEF needed at that time, and which we readily gave others, including yourself.

So yes as a casualty, and so too my comrades in the left in my former union, I think I have demonstrated more than others that I put my neck on line for this cause, and many other working class causes. I not only think your remarks are silly and totally unwarranted, but at best reflect a statement, which you have no standing in the movement to make, and at best reflect an over indulgence in your own self opinion.

Again with respect you have no right to say that I should not inform comrades in the movement of my decision, when you think you have the right to send out a statement, in "my name" as a member of the steering committee, may I add without any consultation. If you believe you have the unilateral right to write and publicise a statement, and send it out to all and sundry, inside and outside our movement, attacking working class trade unionists and socialists, and the Iraqi trade union movement, and the Iraqi representative of the IFTU, then I think I have the very same right to send my tame letter of resignation to comrades and friends in the movement.

If you think my actions were a betrayal, I will be quite honest, I think your public statement, without consultation, is a worse act of betrayal, for I have made a tame critique over the StTW statement, you made a public and unwarranted attack on working class, trade unionists and socialists, also the Iraqi trade union movement and their representative. I have resigned because I do not agree with your right to attack socialists, trade unionists and anti-war supporters, and our Iraqi comrades. I think betrayal is at your door.

The movement that I was brought up in, comrade, allows constructive criticism, yourself, StTW and Respect crossed the line, in terms of human decency, and was an all out assault. The language that was used was deliberate, archaic, violent, and plain downright stupid and dangerous if you happen to be an Iraqi at this present time. Then again you are not.

If you wish to stick by your terrible statement, that is personalised and a character assassination, then so be it. I think when you are wrong, you should apologise, not make excuses, or avoid apologising, which you are doing. I also think it high time you got back to observing some decent movement traditions, instead of aping certain traditions that some of your colleagues are famous for in StTW and Respect.

I donít think you also realise the danger that your actions and those of the Respect colleagues in the StTW have placed Abdullah and perhaps others in the IFTU against attacks from extremists. Some people talk about life and death situations, some unfortunately have to live it and so do their families in Iraq and I donít see why you, Respect or the coalition have a right to think you can place them in that situation, when they are living daily with those consequences, because they are not the "new" friends of yourself, George, StTW or Respect such as extreme nationalists, or religious fundamentalists. It is you who have attacked the IFTU and Abdullah. So much for the bold statement the StTW will not interfere in Iraqi internal politics, your statement, and that of the StTW at worst, did, the statement has probably placed these good trade unionists and socialists at a terrible risk. I also find it hard to believe you as a communist, would place a fellow communist in that position deliberately, however you, George, Respect and StTW may have done so.

I also passionately disagree with your assertion that consultation was afforded on the StTW statement, did you ring up the affiliated trade unions, prior to making the statement? Did you consult with the broad lefts of those unions, prior to the statement being issued? You also made the point on the telephone when we spoke that the email sent from yourself and Lindsay was unfortunate and not clear. However you have omitted to mention that in your letter.

May I also print what was actually sent to me in the email, I think you will agree, there is no misunderstanding, and there never was any intention of consultation:

"FROM Stop the War Coalition 8th October 2004 12.04PM

Dear Friends

The attached statement is to be issued on Monday by the Coalition in response to the pressing political questions for the anti-war movement which have arisen from the Labour Party conference. It has been endorsed by the officers and will of course be on the agenda for discussion at the Steering Committee meeting to be held later this month.

Kind regards

Andrew Murray and Lindsey German"

I am sorry comrade, your email with the attachment of the statement was not a consultation, and was only to be "discussed by the steering committee later this month" on the 19th October 2004. Do you call that an invitation to consult? That is my whole point, I was never consulted and in "my name", a statement is put out, that attacks trade unionists, socialists, and Iraqi comrades and their organization.

Was this act, not really in response, due to the unfortunate public and personal assault by George Galloway printed in the Morning Star, and the deserved outrage of reaction, that the said (article) received. In so doing, in trying to prop up support for Respect, you all then rush to put out another statement, this time in the name of the StTW, which virtually does the same thing, to take away some of the heat generated by that vicious, incorrect and unwarranted rant by George. A total knee jerk reaction, but with the same dangerous, and familiar hallmarks of ultra-leftist impatience and stupidity. When a mistake is committed, people with an ounce of common sense usually do not try to repeat it!!

However in this case, the mistake by supporters of Respect and yourself in StTW gets worse, in not distancing themselves from the George rant, you then put in the statement some of the most politically motivated and contradictory points that I have seen for some time, that have probably caused the most massive rift, and the most dangerous attack on an individual, you all may as well have loaded the gun for the extremists.

I totally disagree with the statements that this was indeed the object of Abdullah, in fact in talking to Rob Griffiths GS CPB yesterday, over what you said to me, that Abdullah had overstepped the remit of the IFTU, Rob confirmed to me, that indeed the IFTU now deny saying this. If Abdullah has done something incorrect, as an Iraqi trade unionist, and socialist, I think that is for the Iraqi movement to say so, that is now not the case, according to Rob, who made it clear to me, that indeed the IFTU representatives, some days later withdrew those remarks. It also proves the point about a knee jerk response, and impatience shown, and the lack of clarity in terms of evidence that indeed Abdullah personally acted above and beyond his remit, on behalf of the IFTU.

The IFTU is now officially supported by a number of trade unions, and the TUC. Which has a pretty good policy in relation to the situation in Iraq. Letís also remember comrade when you were at ASLEF, after an approach from the CPB, which you knew and were aware of, that I was asked to approach and encourage the TUC, to recognize the IFTU, a socialist and CP Iraqi TU Federation. They are a legitimate Trade Union federation the same as our TUC, what rights have the coalition to place these people in danger with the language used in the StTW statement? It took some time to get support for the IFTU through the TUC, but it has been embraced after a battle with the ICFTU. You now want to throw all that away, by wild statements and an attack on fellow socialists and communists who happen to be Iraqi? Your statement, again without any consultation, is deliberately aimed at Abdullah, and makes the assertion he supported the original invasion. The StTW statement did not name him, but your statement may as well have done, and is equally abhorrent as Georgeís article a few weeks ago. Which is now an all too familiar approach of Respect and StTW, and it now seems, surprisingly, the same approach used by you.

Your assertion that there was no attack on trade unions is not read in the same way as myself or others. I suppose you have to make the statement, even though you know itís not really the reality of the situation, because of the position you hold!! I suppose we will have to disagree. I also think your name calling of good comrades in trade unions, whose support we seek, for our anti-war position, in your email/letter to me, when you assert the notion of their "bruised feelings", is at best showing scant regard to the very same trade unionists, that actually put the notion of opposition to war on the front pages of newspapers and helped develop the mass movement that we now have. Prior to [that], it was really only some of us, as the so-called usual suspects, that did this. These so-called bruised people are central to winning our demands, and it now clearly shows a lack of foresight on the bigger picture demands.

It is time that instead of name calling, being belligerent to others in our movement, and worse, being arrogant and personal, was stopped, it is not winning people over, itís driving them away. It is creating a split amongst all sections of the left. That was my original point, ultra-leftist posturing and name calling never won anything, except disrespect and avid followers of sectarianism. It is also the same behaviour used often by the Blairtes. In fact one could assert your actions are giving credence to the Blair war agenda, because you have concentrated too much effort on the personalization and attacks on good people, outwith your and the StTWís remit. Instead of concentrating on keeping a fragile coalition of left unity that is united against the position of invasion, occupation and possible further massacres that may happen in Fallujah and elsewhere, you are creating a sectarian diversion that is weakening our opposition to war, and further changing the foreign policy of the government.

The StTW statement and the other Respect articles that have been written have lead to interference being made in unions, in a negative way, and in one union in particular an attack on their General Secretary in the run up to an election. However I have not heard a denunciation of this, by you. I think it important to remind you of the personal role that Dave played, in assisting me and others, in pursuing the position we managed to achieve at the TUC, on war. His was a crucial intervention, and helped pave the way for the position we reached. He was also very supportive all the way through. Please donít tell me this has nothing to do with people in StTW or Respect behind it, when we all know the reality of what really takes place in life, and the reality of what is taking place in that union.

I also take exception that you think my actions are akin to splitting the anti-war movement, from the trade unions (a similar charge you made of Abdullah in you StTW statement). I suppose that is less dangerous for me, than what it is for Abdullah, however, you and others, undemocratically put out a statement, without any consultation. You then expect it to be discussed some weeks after it was sent out, and it contains some of the worst political vitriol, and personalized character assassination, that would make an ultra-leftie/new labour lovie pleased to sign up to. Please do not accuse me for creating a split, by your own actions, you have not consulted anyone, and you think no one then has the right to reproach you, for your blatant disregard for decent movement principles. If your politic has changed to accommodate the worst tendencies, by some of the people you are working with, that have a reputation for entering into at will this despicable and downright dangerous type of dialogue, please do not expect me to follow you down that road, nor support what you are saying, or even consult with you also.

Again I repeat the trade unions, after democratic and open debate in their delegations, did what they did. Their delegations contained decent socialists and trade unionists. They acted in a decent and democratic fashion. Yes I may not agree, but I will not attack them for the way they conducted themselves, with fairness, openness and dialogue. What openness? What dialogue did you give to Abdullah in your statement? What consultation, openness and dialogue did you give to me in your statement? I also think it is rich, comrade, that you are someone who has made a living out of the trade union and socialist movement in Britain, you then think it correct for you to support an attack on those same people.

I will always consider you a friend, I may disagree with your recent shift in political analysis, and perhaps movement in your personal politics too. I hope you understand where I am coming from, I have no reason to harm the coalition or yourself, I think your own actions are doing that. It is also harming the Morning Star. I just do not want to be associated with the StTW, Respect Party political direction, of repeated personalization and character assassination. Rather than concentrating on the issues at hand, and fighting for peace and end to the occupation and the establishment of free and democratic Iraq state. Those are issues that unite us and the movement, however you want to divide those issues, the issues that really matter, because of you and your supporterís journey into areas and territory that are not the business of the StTW, but of the Iraqi people themselves. You are indeed doing Blairís job, better than what he could have ever expected. The old saying comes to mind, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!!!

You and your comrades can make what ever statement you care to like about me, I am not so sure that people will really be that interested. I think you all have totally alienated people, with the myths and falsehoods, and character assassinations that you are peddling. I also could not care less, whether I am notified in advance, or have prior sight of any statement, that is made about me, by the StWC/Respect/SWP alliance. I have had enough personal attacks and statements written about me that could be used to wallpaper our flat, that one more incorrect, rant will not make any difference at all. I feel the whole event of the StWC statement, the sneaky and untruthful way that it has been peddled, and your subsequent letter to me, are very much in the same realms of fantasy and in the same journalistic category that one expects from a Jimmy Barnes diatribe. I just feel totally saddened and disgusted that someone of your calibre can descend into this type of ya boo politic, you are indeed usually smarter than that, and I think you have allowed anger and poor judgment, and poor allegiance, to cloud your usual good thinking.

I would also assert that if you wish to support the aims of Respect/SWP whose real intention was to support the aims of the StWC statement that promotes "an end to the occupation and withdrawal of troops by any means possible" is bordering on the lunatic. I am sorry if you think I am going to sit back and agree with beheadings, kidnappings, torture and brutality, and out right terrorization of ordinary Iraqi and others, then you can forget it, I will not be involved whatsoever, to me it is akin to supporting the same brutality and oppression inflicted on Iraq by Saddam, and the invading and occupying forces of the USA.

It gives me no great satisfaction in replying to you in these lengthy terms. I have always had a high regard for you as a friend and comrade, however I understand your position, and what you have to do to protect the StWC/George/Respect/SWP alliance. So be it. I just hope that you understand I will not stand by and say or do nothing, when decent trade unionists and socialists in the UK and good committed socialists and trade unionists in Iraq or elsewhere are being attacked, by people who politically have made alliances with and are supporting religious fanatics and people who are basically against everything that our movement really stands for.

I still repeat my original assertions, Abdullah should receive an apology for the attack that has been made. You should stand by the same demands, that you make of Blair, when you are wrong, there is nothing wrong with admitting it and saying you are sorry, unfortunately I think you may all be a little similar in this matter.

You say the door is always open, comrade, the same olive branch from me to you, also applies, always will.

Yours

Mick

P.S. I have copied you into the following emails to John Haylett, my information to comrades in the movement, my resignation, the email sent to me over the statement from yourself and Lindsay with the horrendous and offensive statement.

I again will be distributing same to comrades, as I think it high time this matter was brought to a head. You also have no damn right to accuse me of the things, that in actual fact you, StWC/Respect/George/SWP is doing.


Mick Rix to John Haylett, 19 October 2004

You may be interested in what has taken place here. I do wish the coalition every success, but I am afraid for very obvious reasons I cannot be associated with remarks that attack decent trade unionists and their unions, and indeed Abdullah himself. Very much in the same way that George Galloway article did in the Morning Star. However my assertion is, whether people agree with what the union delegations did at the "Party Convention" they did arrive at for the most part at a decision in their own delegations after debate and discussion. I also know many personally, who are excellent representatives of their unions, and the movement. Many are committed anti-war activists. However these statements that have supposedly been put out in the name of STW have not been debated, nor views invited before publication. (They are printed below.) I find that somewhat ironic!!! Although the statement from STW is a little less personalised than Georgeís rant in the Morning Star the other Saturday, I still feel that this statement is wrong, factually, and is personalised also. I also think that it has driven many TUs and their reps away from the position of support for the STW, because of its clear emerging political allegiance to its dominant political party, rather than the broad based coalition support that any movement organisation needs to achieve success. It is hoped that, in future, the comrades at STW can learn their lessons again, that maturity, respect and tolerance, which were the hallmarks in the early days, achieved a unifying stance (despite some in the movements reservations over their politics), which enabled some of us to drive that policy through into the TUC and elsewhere in the movement. I think STW needs encouraging to come back to that politic, and I am sure comrades, who have more influence than myself, and are more able to put that view across more eloquently, may meet with some success again.

Mick Rix


From: John Haylett to Mick Rix, 20 October 2004

Subject: Re: Resignation from STW

Dear Mick,

Itís your decision, but it would have been good to discuss this with you before you made your announcement.

My impression is that those most closely involved in recent sharp exchanges are doing their best to rebuild relationships rather than consolidate divisions.

Did you read Robís statement in the paper on Monday?

I realise that it would be difficult for you to retract your resignation now, especially if itís been fairly widely distributed, but I think that it would be a pity if the huge efforts that went into building up the StWC were to be dissipated by cracks appearing in the movementís unity.

If you think itís worth discussing it with me, please give me a call, comrade.

In solidarity

John


Mick Rix to John Haylett, 19 October 2004

Hi comrade, many thanks for your kind words of wisdom. I am sure that your advice would have been its usual excellent value. I have made a decision, and it is something that I did not do on the spur of the moment. It was done with careful thought. I am keen to have a chat with you about this. I have no hesitation in doing what I think was the correct course of action to take. I have not circulated it as wide as what some people think, neither did my resignation contain some of the things that it ought to have done, but that was mainly out of my friendship and loyalty to Andrew, who has done a tremendous amount of hard work on this matter. Can we talk tomorrow? And I will explain further.

Thanks comrade

Mick


Stop the War Coalition to Steering Committee members, 8 October 2004

Subject: Steering Committee Meeting

Dear Friends,

The next Steering Committee Meeting will take place on Tuesday 19th October at 6:30pm in the Drayton Room (the same room as the last meeting) at Friends Meeting House, Euston Rd.

Please could you confirm your attendance or send your apologies by way of an email or by calling the office on 020 7278 6694?

Many thanks

Francesca


Stop the War Coalition to Steering Committee members, 8 October 2004

Dear Friends,

The attached statement is to be issued on Monday by the Coalition in response to the pressing political questions for the anti-war movement which have arisen from the Labour Party conference. It has been endorsed by the officers and will of course be on the agenda for discussion at the Steering Committee meeting to be held later this month.

Kind regards

Andrew Murray and Lindsey German


STOP THE WAR COALITION AND THE IFTU

Since the bloody and illegal invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq by US and British armies, the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) has consistently called for the withdrawal of foreign troops and the ending of the occupation. This position commands the support of the great majority of the British people, and was recently reaffirmed as the unanimous position of the TUC. It also commands the support of the majority of the Iraqi people, as evidenced by opinion polling carried out by the occupation forces themselves.

At the same time StWC has always refrained from taking any position on the internal development of Iraq, since this is solely the preserve of the Iraqi people themselves. Affiliates of the Coalition have, of course, developed their own links with Iraqi organisations, according to their particular policies or spheres of interest.

However, the recent activity of the representative of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) in Britain compels the StWC to make its position clear. In recent weeks the IFTU representative has:

  • Urged that the Labour Party conference welcome the puppet Iraqi premier Allawi, at a time when the entire anti-war movement was demanding that the invitation be withdrawn, which it subsequently was.
  • Shared a platform with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the UK governmentís "human rights envoy" to Iraq Ann Clwyd, respectively a leading architect of and an indefatigable apologist for the war and the occupation.
  • Most shamefully of all, energetically lobbied the trade union affiliates of the Labour Party to oppose a motion, reflecting the unionís own agreed policies, calling on Blair to set an early date for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.

In this last undertaking the IFTU representative worked as the direct instrument of the government and the Labour Party apparatus, which prepared and distributed his statements to delegates and ensured him access to union delegations. Indeed, the statement by the IFTU representative issued by the Party was not merely supportive of the continued military occupation of his country, but could also be read as supportive of the original invasion of Iraq.

There is little doubt that this intervention played a significant part in persuading some major trade unions (and perhaps constituency delegates too) to abandon their agreed policy on the occupation (affirmed at the TUC just two weeks earlier).

It is understandable that British trade unions should wish to express their support to the working class of Iraq in its extremely difficult struggles, and the StWC has always encouraged such support insofar as it falls within our political remit. The IFTU is one of a number of trade union and workersí organisations in Iraq, distinguished from others by its support for the Allawi government and, it is now apparent, for the foreign occupation on which that government depends for its existence.

The IFTU has, however, attempted to divide the anti-war movement from the trade unions by taking advantage of the goodwill towards it shown by a number of unions for honourable reasons of solidarity, the lack of understanding of the actual nature of different organisations in Iraq, and the climate of pre-election pressure from the government on trade union delegations.

As a result, several affiliated trade unions at the Labour Party conference voted for a policy of effectively open-ended license for the occupation and against the early withdrawal of British troops.

The StWC hopes that the leading unions will restate their previous policy of an end to the occupation. The coming weeks and months are likely to see still bloodier battles within Iraq, with a growing number of deaths both of Iraqis and of British and US soldiers. It remains most likely that the war and the occupation will remain the dominant political issues in the months leading up to the next British general election. The trade union movement must find a voice on these developments and cannot remain within the confines of the statement agreed at the Labour Party conference.

With regard to the IFTU, the StWC condemns its political collaboration with the British government, exemplified at the Labour Party conference and its view that genuinely independent trade unionism in Iraq can develop under a regime of military occupation (including the daily bombardment of major Iraqi cities) by the USA and Britain.

The StWC reaffirms its call for an end to the occupation, the return of all British troops in Iraq to this country and recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary, to secure such ends.

Stop the War Coalition October 2004


[Editorial note: Before the above statement was officially issued on 11 October the final paragraph was amended. The published version read: "The StWC reaffirms its call for an end to the occupation, the return of all British troops in Iraq to this country and recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of the Iraqi people to secure such ends."]


IFTU Statement: Replying to Slander and Falsification, 15 October 2004

We are deeply shocked by reports we have received of attacks on the IFTU emanating from the London-based daily Al-Quds al Arabi (30 September 2004) and the Morning Star (2 October 2004).

In an article published in Al Quds, George Galloway made the false and dangerous allegation which he repeated in an article published in the Morning Star. Alleging that the IFTU collaborates with British government is a blatant attempt to undermine the process of rebuilding an independent Iraqi trade union movement which only can be in the interest of enemies of the Iraqi people who want to sabotage the its struggle to regain full sovereignty and independence, end the presence of foreign troops and empower our people to decide their destiny in free and democratic elections.

IFTUís policies have attracted widespread support among workers in Iraq and internationally. That is why we have grown from a founding conference of 400 trade unionists in May 2003 to 12 national unions. Despite the terrible security situation, IFTU affiliates are organizing on the industrial and legislative fronts. We have organised strikes, marches and we are entering into negotiation with both public and private enterprises in defence of workers rights to just wages and better working conditions. And we are campaigning for a labour code that adheres to the ILO conventions. We oppose privatisation and, to correct one of the slanders against us, we have ALWAYS opposed the war and the occupation.

On this and other issues, our position, and that of our official representative, Abdullah Muhsin, has been entirely falsified. Firstly, we deny absolutely that the IFTU and Mr Muhsin have received support from the British State. Mr Muhsinís presence at the conferences of both the TUC and the Labour Party was at the invitation of the FBU (& the TUC) and UNISON respectively. No voting advice was proffered at either of these conferences. As we understand it, unions make their own decisions based on their own policies. We were very grateful to receive such warm wishes and practical solidarity from the trade unions at both conferences. Mr Muhsin spoke on our behalf at fringe meetings at both conferences at which he presented the policy of the IFTU in opposing the war and the occupation, calling for the removal of troops and the transfer of power to a democratically elected sovereign government as envisaged in UN resolution 1546. We are amazed that some have thought fit (for reasons best known to themselves) to wilfully misrepresent the IFTU position on these matters. It should also be noted that some of the hostile reports contain factual inaccuracies as well as vicious slanders. Mr Muhsin is not the President of the IFTU (as claimed in Al-Quds), he is our foreign representative and has never received assistance from any State or government.

Contrary to the allegations against the IFTU we must state emphatically that we have never voted or campaigned for the current interim Iraqi government. We are an independent federation supporting a political process to keep Iraq together and to rebuild a civil society in which the rights and freedoms of working people are respected.

The IFTU will continue to work for organizational, political and social progress of Iraqi working people. We will continue to work with all sections of the International Labour movement that support our aims.

IFTU General Secretary Subhi Abdullah Hussien