Frozen out of the new Iraq
Much was made in the build up to the invasion of Iraq about how this was to be a war for freedom and democracy. One would have thought that given the history of US-led interventions around the world such mendacious cant would have been laughed out of the country. Of course, large swathes of the media lapped it all up enthusiastically and continue to promulgate thinly-veiled propaganda to that effect.
Many Iraqis have first hand experience of the cold-hard reality and few have felt the costs of the occupation as harshly as the nascent trade union movement. While the occupiers have sought to rewrite or ignore large swathes of the Iraqi constitution they pointedly left Saddam's 1987 law banning union membership (on the basis that there were no workers, only civil servants!) in place. Apparently deciding that continuing to rely on Ba'athist legislation was either politically untenable or simply inefficacious they introduced a new decree in September of last year declaring all trade union activity illegal. Perhaps the latest measure of how much better the current situation is than life under Saddam should be the number of lawyers it keeps in employment concocting new ways of prohibiting anything threatening the fundamental human right to make money at all and any cost.
Given that the occupiers have even harassed the broadly pro-occupation Iraqi Federation of Workers Trade Unions (IFTU) it shouldn't be particularly surprising that they aren't all that keen on the militantly anti General Union of Oil Employees in Basra. The union has an unequivocal position in opposition to the presence of foreign troops, the privatisation of Iraqi oil reserves and Iraq's odious debts. More to their point their commitment to these demands and the rights of the oil workers they represent has been backed up by effective action. While the GUOE don't seem to have let the various pieces of anti-union legislation bother them, the Iraqi government's decision to freeze all the union's accounts both inside and outside of Iraq may be rather more difficult for them to shrug off.