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Anti-war Protests Mount Around the World-
ILWU Local 10 Delegate's Report from Europe
Feb. 27, 2003

ON FEBRUARY 15-16, IN 600 cities around the world record numbers of people, estimated at 30 million, marched and rallied to protest the U.S. and British push for war with Iraq. Significantly,  countries with right-wing governments supporting Bush's bloodlust experienced the biggest demonstrations. In Italy, 2 million marched in Rome. In Spain another 2 million took to the streets, 1 million in Madrid and 1 million in Barcelona. In Britain, the largest political protest in that country's history took place in Hyde Park, estimated by the news media at between 1.5 and 2 million people, demanding Prime Minister Tony Blair stop his goosestepping to war. Participants included trade union contingents, the Muslim Association of Britain, socialist organizations, peace groups, Palestinian rights advocates and many who had never marched before. Organizers of the mobilization had to start the march early in order to accommodate all the protestors. Even then marchers were still streaming into the park four hours later when the last speaker, Jesse Jackson, was at the podium.

Other rally speakers included Ahmed Ben Bella, former Prime Minister of Algeria, Ken Livingstone, mayor of London, various Labour Party Members of Parliament, leftist intellectual Tariq Ali and many trade union officials. I represented ILWU Local 10, the San Francisco longshore local.  The speakers represented many different points of view: religious, both Christian and Muslim, pacifist, socialist and trade unionist. As protestors marched with their own groups and signs and expressed different views, all rallied with one common goal, to stop the war.

Referring to the hypocrisy of Bush's and Blair's criticism of Saddam Hussein's use of weapons of mass destruction, I pointed out that the U.S. and Britain are preparing to use depleted uranium and possibly tactical nuclear weapons in the war against Iraq. The only country, I said, to have used nuclear weapons of mass destruction on a civilian population is the United States of America.  A resounding applause was heard from the huge demonstration when the militant General Secretary Bob Crow of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union (RMT) who had just returned from an anti-privatization conference in South Korea warned that if Blair didn't represent the democratic will of the people that once the bloodbath in Iraq began, British workers should be prepared to occupy the industries to stop the war. One of the loudest ovations was for Rick Mix, General Secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers union, whose members refused to move a train loaded with military cargo in Scotland a few weeks ago. (visit www.labournet.net for a transcript of the speeches) In Italy the CGIL which represents millions of workers including dockworkers in Genoa and other ports has called for a general strike on the first day of the war.

It has been said that the first victim of war is truth.  The U.S. news media has unabashedly been beating Bush's war drums.  The fact is that Saddam Hussein, a ruthless dictator, was supported U.S. and British imperialism when he used gas against Iraqis and committed other crimes. He poses no real threat to the West and is viewed by Osama bin Laden, the avowed terrorist who has eluded capture, as an enemy of Islamic fundamentalism.  World peace, an objective of the preamble of the ILWU's Constitution, is threatened by the U.S. government, by a president who neither received the majority of votes nor has a mandate for war.  London's Daily Mirror (Feb. 25, 2003 pg. 5) states: "US embassies worldwide are telling the White House that the President is seen as a bigger threat to peace than Saddam." Somehow that point is not seen as "fit to print" by the U.S. news media.

At the beginning of longshore contract negotiations last year,  when Bush was supposedly waging a "war against terrorism", ILWU President Spinosa received intimidating phone calls from both Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Homeland Security Czar Ridge warning that job actions on the docks would jeopardize "national security". The government further threatened that if the union didn't comply troops would be called in to occupy the ports and that repressive anti-union legislation would be forthcoming. Now government threats are being made against protestors in an attempt to deny them their right to assemble and speak. In New York demonstrators were not allowed to march in front of the UN. In London marchers were banned from marching to Hyde Park but when the government realized that the protestors were prepared to defy it, the ban was lifted.  And, during the sporadic strikes of the Fire Brigades Union (to whom ILWU Longshore Caucus voted to send a message of solidarity thanks to the Liverpool dockers) British troops have been called in as strikebreakers. One FBU official said that ironically those troops used for strikebreaking can't be sent to Iraq.

Some Arab and Muslim governments have appealed to Bush not to attack Iraq because it will inflame the Middle East, already humilated by the bloody Zionist repression of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. In Turkey 90% of the population is already opposed to the U.S. use of military bases to invade Iraq. The pro-U.S. governments of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt would be destabilized if not overthrown whether it's an American blitzkrieg or a more protracted debacle and occupation. The key European governments backing the U.S.-- Spain, Italy and Britain--all experienced record protests by millions in the streets which will almost certainly translate into "regime changes".  It is problematic that there is no mass political party to represent the working class in those countries.

In the past few weeks ILWU locals in various ports and other divisions have taken stands against the impending war. Local 10 joined U.S. Labor Against War (www.uslaboragainstwar.org) and sent a delegate to its founding convention at Teamsters Local 705 in Chicago last month. Now 200 labor organizations and federations, comprising 550 trade unions with 130 million members in 53 countries, have signed a joint statement urging workers to actively oppose the war.

During ILWU's contract negotiations we saw the ugly face of government oppression at the behest of maritime companies. Under the guise of fighting a "war on terrorism" and citing bogus "national security" issues,  Bush shackled the ILWU with Taft-Hartley and threatened us with other repressive measures.  This is not our war. It is a war concocted to deflect attention from the serious problems of the U.S. economy, to steal Iraqi oil and to declare to the world that U.S. imperialism is the sole nuclear superpower and any challenge to its "new world order"  whether by a tinpot dictator like Saddam Hussein in Iraq or by China, France, Germany or Russia will not be tolerated.  It is a war waged to ensure that U.S. capital alone will determine the rules of world trade, i.e. free of the power of trade unions.

Historically the ILWU International has stood up to U.S. imperialism.  In 1947, under President Truman at the start of the anti-communist witchunt the ILWU opposed both the Taft-Hartley legislative repression at home and the Marshall Plan abroad which sought to undermine leftist-led trade unions in Europe and confront the Soviet Union. In 1990, the International Executive Board issued a policy statement in opposition to war in Iraq.  Waiting until the convention in April to adopt a position on this war is too late.  The slaughter of innocent civilians will have begun.  The time for the ILWU International to take a stand consistent with our proud history is now.

Jack Heyman #8780

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