Tag Archives: trade unions

Workin’ It interview available as download

Jackie Guerra’s Workin’ It radio interview with Abdullah Muhsin and Alan Johnson, authors of Hadi Never Died: Hadi Saleh and the Iraqi Unions (TUC, 2006) is now available to listen or download.

“Workin’ It” interviews authors of history of Iraqi trade unions

Workin’ It is a weekly radio show focusing on working life in America, hosted by comedienne and author Jackie Guerra. Tomorrow, 06Jan07, the show will feature Abdullah Muhsin and Alan Johnson, authors of a new book on the history of Iraqi unions and the 2005 assassination of one of its leaders. There’s more info at the American Rights at Work Website.

Shalom Lappin responds to Tristan Stubbs

Stubbs claims that I have mistakenly identified Third Way politics with the neo-liberalism of the Thatcher era. Instead, he suggests, it aims to achieve prosperity by promoting entrepreneurial energy and freeing business from regulation in order to generate investment. This view is, from what I can see, indistinguishable from a vintage neo-liberal approach…

Setting aside the tone of Tristan Stubbs’ remarks let me respond to what I take to be his main points.

1. Stubbs seriously misinterprets my account of the rise of radical Islamism. The fact that I identify this movement as, in part, conditioned by the failure of secular nationalism to deliver democracy or prosperity in post colonial third world countries certainly does not entail that I regard poverty as the major cause of Islamism, nor is my proposed description of this phenomenon “materialist” in any obvious sense. It is unclear to me on what basis Stubbs arrives at these thoroughly unmotivated inferences. I was simply suggesting that radical Islamism has been filling the political void left by the collapse of secular revolutionary nationalist ideologies thoughout the third world. This claim seems to be uncontroversial in that it amounts to little more than a straightforward description of the facts.

2. Stubbs asks how free trade unions can be established in third world countries that are ruled by repressive regimes which do not respect the rights of organized labour. This is a reasonable question. I suggested a partial answer in proposing that global free trade agreements be used as instruments for promoting democratic institutions, as well as social investment in the developing world. The obvious precedent here is the demand for democratization and respect for human rights that defines a necessary condition for entry into the European Union. It is also worth recalling that when union activists struggling against an undemocratic government enjoy widespread popular endorsement within their own country and receive strong support from abroad, they can, in some cases, effectively challenge their government. This is how Solidarity established itself both as a free labour union and the main engine of democratization within Communist Poland in the 1980s.

3. Stubbs claims that I have mistakenly identified Third Way politics with the neo-liberalism of the Thatcher era. Instead, he suggests, it aims to achieve prosperity by promoting entrepreneurial energy and freeing business from regulation in order to generate investment. This view is, from what I can see, indistinguishable from a vintage neo-liberal approach. It is unclear how it differs from the model proposed by conservative devotees of liberalized markets, low corporate taxation, and reduced business regulation. On this approach, a rise in living standards will invariably accompany the economic growth that is generated by reducing the burden of taxation and regulation on business activity. The problem with this theory is that it stands in marked contrast with the observed facts. The social gap between the richest and poorest segments of the population in Britain has grown considerably under recent Labour as well as the preceding Conservative governments. The wages of large sections of the labour force have grown very slowly or remained static in real terms. The quality of social services like the NHS and higher education, as well as the public transportation system are suffering from massive underinvestment. This pattern Is even more acute in the United States. In the Third World, rapid development through economic liberalization and investment has indeed led to the emergence of an expanding middle class and a reduction of poverty in countries like China and, to a lesser extent, India. However, large sections of the populations in these countries have been left out of the new economy and are sinking even deeper into poverty and dispossession. It should be clear that I am not calling for the destruction of the market, but for its deployment in a manner that maximizes social benefit across the population at large, as well as economic development.

4. Finally, Stubbs suggests my criticisms of Third Way politics and my proposals for a robust renewal of social democracy in internationalist terms will alienate people who might otherwise sign up to the Euston Manifesto’s project. This is, at best, a puzzling assertion. I am presenting a personal view in the context of an open discussion on how best to renew social democractic policies in a global economy. Other contributors to the forum have taken alternative positions, some of them closely aligned to New Labour. Stubbs’ comments here appear to exclude free discussion and to seek political orthodoxy in terms of Third Way policies. If this is the case, then these comments are entirely incompatible with the diversity of opinion and free debate that we wish to encourage on these issues. If such debate prevents some people from joining the Euston Manifesto Group, then one wonders in what sense they could possibly be democrats and political liberals.

Shalom Lappin is Professor of Computational Linguistics in the Department of Philosophy, King’s College, London

Towards the Renewal of Social Democracy

Global trade unions and social trade agreements are the foundations of a 21st century global social democracy.

Trade Unions and Democracy In The New Iraq

The London Euston Group is holding a meeting—“The Other Iraq: Trade Unions and Democracy in the New Iraq”—on Tuesday 18th July at 7.30pm at Waterloo in London.

Speakers at the meeting will include Gary Kent, Director of Labour Friends of Iraq (in a personal capacity) who recently led a soldarity delegation to Iraq, and Alan Johnson, co-author with Abdullah Muhsin of Hadi Never Died: Hadi Saleh and the Iraqi Trade Unions, just published by the TUC. There will be lots of time for questions and discussion.

Come along if you are interested in the under-reported story of Iraqi reconstruction and the role that the Iraqi trade union movement has in building the new Iraq.

Please email londoneuston at the domain googlemail.com to confirm your attendance and so you can be sent directions.

Mobile Phone Appeal To Support Iraqi Trade Unions

The TUC has launched an appeal for unions and their members to pass on their used mobile phones to the Iraqi trade union movement. You can help too, by passing on your old phones and/or chargers.

Unions representing workers in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan face incredible challenges in defending working people and rebuilding democracy. One of their requests for solidarity from British trade unionists is the provision of mobile phones—crucial for any union organiser these days, but especially in Iraq where travel can be dangerous and landlines aren’t sufficiently reliable or widespread.

But mobile phones can be expensive to buy in Iraq (and UK phone systems don’t work there yet), so buying new ones could eat up scarce union resources. Instead, the Iraqi trade union movement has identified a way of easily converting old European mobile phones for use in Iraq. So now the TUC Iraq Solidarity Committee has opened an appeal for used mobile phones alongside Labour Friends of Iraq.

Old mobile phones (and their chargers, of course) should be sent to the TUC Aid for Iraq appeal at Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS. Or bring them to the Euston Manifesto Group launch.