The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) organised on September 13-14 a two-day international trade union meet in the European Parliament complex in Strasbourg, France, to express solidarity with the fighting people of Arab countries and voice strong protest against the hegemonic interference of US imperialism and its European allies in the internal affairs of the Arab countries. Trade union representatives from around 20 countries including India, Iran, Syria, Sudan, South Africa, Palestine, Greece, Italy, France, Cyprus, Cuba, Peru, and Portugal attended the meet. Swadesh Dev Roye was the only participant from India, representing the CITU.
Based on his own visits and also visits by other WFTU delegations to several Arab countries to stand in solidarity with the fighting working class, WFTU general secretary George Mavrikos, in his inaugural address, gave an account of the ground situation in the countries which have been witnessing mass popular uprisings against authoritarian rulers. US imperialism is playing a dangerous dual role here. On the one hand, it is helping in demolition of the governments led by anti-US leaders, by arming and mobilising the so-called rebels. On the other hand, the same US administration is supplying ‘men, money and materials’ (war weapons) to the autocratic rulers of certain other Arab countries, who are completely subservient to imperialism, to crush the people’s genuine uprising to overthrow the anti-people regimes.
Mavrikos asserted that the international trade union movement must extend powerful support to the fighting people of the region and must strongly condemn the American imperialism and its European allies for their hegemonic interference in the region with the ulterior motive to influence the current course of events, hatching conspiracies to instal in the oil rich countries of Arab regions puppet regimes that would serve the interest of imperialist powers.
Rajab M Maatouk, general secretary of the ICATU (International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions), delivered the keynote address. He dealt with two vital aspects of the situation — the condition of the people and the deep penetration of imperialist influence in the polity and economy of the Arab countries through all sorts of nefarious means and mechanisms. He said the major factors which have brought the people of the Arab countries to the streets are acute economic sufferings. Unemployment, poverty, inequality, price rise and hunger have reached the explosion levels. At the same time corruption, nepotism and repression by the autocratic regimes have surpassed all limits of toleration. The capitalist controlled media have played havoc in creating confusion among the people. He said struggles of the people in Arab countries are bound to be protracted and international solidarity of the working class is very important to carry forward these struggles in a right direction.
The people of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan and some other countries are engaged in grim street battles to overthrow the authoritarian regimes subservient to imperialist powers and for achieving radical political and economic policy changes through establishment of genuine popular democratic governments freely elected by the people. Of course, the decades-long freedom struggle of the people of Palestine is one of the most burning matters before the people of the world. The struggles of the people of Iraq, demanding complete withdrawal of US occupation forces and at the same time the fight for fundamental democratic rights of the people and unfettered trade union rights in Iraq, is another significant issue of the region.
The current Libyan developments have some remote resemblance with the Iraq situation before and after US invasion. Driving the USA- and UK-based giant oil MNCs out, Saddam Hussein had nationalised the oil industry of Iraq in 1972. Now under occupation of imperialist forces led by the USA and under a puppet regime, Iraq’s oil industry has been recaptured by foreign oil giants. Like Iraq, the imperialist war on Libya by US-led NATO combine has also been rightly called “a war for oil.” We may recall that Qaddafi had driven out the western oil companies, though he later allowed them re-entry under the pressure of imperialist imposed economic sanctions.
Shockingly, even before the dust of war in Libya had settled, the aggressors started an exercise to share the booty. US, British, French and Italian oil companies practically participated in the war to dislodge Qaddafi by ensured fuel supply to the pro-imperialist rebel forces. Oil companies of aggressor countries held talks with the rebel leaders and were prepared to recapture the Libyan oil industry. France has claimed to have “tied up an agreement to be given 35 per cent of all the country’s oil in future in return for military help.” According to a report,“Libyaused to produce 1.6 million barrels of oil a day — worth an almighty 1.3 billion dollars a week at today’s crude prices” — the major source of income of the country.
Amid the people’s upsurge in the North African and Middle East countries, the duplicity and deceit of imperialist powers stands totally exposed. Under the false pretext of establishing democracy, the US and its European allies have launched military attacks on the governments of Libya, Syria, Iran and the like, which are not subservient to the former. On the other hand, these powers are openly supporting the heinous and brutal suppression of the people’s upsurge in Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and so on against their autocratic rulers, supporting the latter with money and war weapons. As we know, the autocratic rulers of these countries are pawns in the hegemonic game of imperialism in the Arab world.
It is important to note that the US and its European allies are targeting the Syrian government due to geo-political reasons. Syria is close to Iran, supports the Hezbollah in Lebanon and openly stands with the fighting people of Palestine. The protest by the people of Syria and promise by the Syrian government to carry out progressive political and economic reforms, including the lifting of the state of emergency and the process of development and modernisation, is appreciable. However, imperialist interventions in the internal matters of Syria must be stopped.
Criminal acts of the hated Zionist regime against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza have been continuing for decades. However, Israel could not have carried out its uncivilised and inhuman acts of cruelty and barbarism without the economic, diplomatic and military support given by the USA. In the post- Mubarak situation, the Egyptian people have openly raised their voice in support of the Palestinian freedom fighters and have organised sit-ins and a million-man march to the Israeli embassy in Cairo, demanding the expulsion of the ambassador of Israel from Egypt. Another significant development is that the imperialist instrument of “Camp David Accords” is being declared to have expired.
To understand the evil design of imperialist powers in the region, it is very important to remember that North Africa and the Middle East have the lion’s share of oil reserves in the world. Moreover, another important thing is that reserves in other countries are being depleted more rapidly than in the Middle East countries. It is to be noted that the US is the highest consumer and importer of oil in the world. The devil design of US imperialism concerning oil is clearly captured in a statement of the former US president George Bush, “It is important for Americans to remember that . . . America imports more than 50 percent of its oil. . . . [T]his dependence on foreign oil is a matter of national security. To put it bluntly, sometimes we rely upon energy sources from countries that do not particularly like us.” Moreover, Iraq has not only the world’s second largest proven oil reserve, its oil is also high grade and extraordinarily cheap in production. Exploration and development of oil in Iraq costs 2.5 dollars a barrel, compared to about 5.00 dollars in Malaysia and 20.00 dollars in Canada.
Imperialist powers have resorted to all uncivilised and inhuman means to instal puppet regimes by demolishing the cherished dream of the fighting people of Arab nations to establish people-oriented democracies. Things have already taken a turn in that direction in Egypt and Tunisia. The lesson from the current Arab situation is that massive spontaneous public mobilisations, as we have witnessed, do not automatically translate into desired socio-economic changes in the nation-states. Struggles for independence and democracy cannot succeed without defeating the enemies of the toiling people. The situation reminds us that there is no alternative to class struggle.
The international working class movement must focus on and prioritise solidarity support to the mass uprising of the people of Africa and West Asian countries and defeat the imperialist design to destroy the struggles for democratisation of the polity of the region. Such a perspective is all the more important in view of the conspiracy of the crisis-driven capitalist economic powers to save capitalism from ruin by transferring the burden of the crisis on to the people and on to the developing countries of Africa and Asia.
All the speakers came out heavily against the aggression of NATO forces in Libya, Syria, Bahrain and so on, and noted that the people’s uprising is the fallout of the ongoing economic crisis. The people have taken to the street shouting bread, freedom, dignity and social justice. Speeches made by representatives from Greece, Italy and South Africa were rich in working class orientation. They stressed the need for international working class solidarity with the fighting people of North Africa and Middle East.
The two-day meeting was divided into different sessions on the basis of resolutions. A comprehensive resolution on the overall situation in North African and West Asian counties was the major thrust of the meet. Separate resolutions on Palestine and Swaziland, Libya and Syria, Bahrain and Egypt were discussed and adopted in separate sessions. The meeting was of the unanimous view that the present popular struggles in North Africa and West Asia are not merely a fight between the people and the authoritarian regimes but also against the imperialist powers.
The meeting resolved to undertake a worldwide campaign to mobilise support for the people’s uprising in the Arab world. Further, broad-based unity of all anti-imperialist forces comprising the working class, peasantry, youth, student, women and other mass movements, must be forged all over the world to fight the hegemonic aggression of imperialist powers.
Taking note of the depth of current crisis of in capitalist countries including the US and Europe, the continuously intensifying attack of the capitalist class on the working class, and the historic spread and depth of the ongoing struggles of the working class worldwide, international solidarity of the working class is of utmost importance today. The trade union movement has to comprehend that fight against imperialist aggression, as in the Arab countries, and the fight against crisis-ridden capitalism, as sharply manifested in European countries, are absolutely interrelated.
Swadesh Dev Roye is the Secretary as well as the Head of the International Department of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, a member of the WFTU Secretariat, and the President of TUI Energy. This article was first published in People’s Democracy on 25 September 2011; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.
var idcomments_acct = ‘c90a61ed51fd7b64001f1361a7a71191’;