Just as the employers in their cartels and protective organizations are building an ever broader basis for the defence of their interests, so also the workers must turn their attention to creating for themselves by an ever wider alliance of their national and international economic organizations the required basis for solidaric mass adequate for the demands of the time.
--Rudolph Rocker 1938
On Wednesday March 19, 2003, in basements and underground dwellings across the country, 26 million Iraqi's gathered with friends and family, anxiously awaiting an event that would dramatically change their lives forever. In this moment of uncertainty, their concern for the future was frightfully clear. As New York Times correspondent John Burns reported, the Iraqi's "are very, very fearful, of errant bombing, of damage to Iraqi infrastructure, and they are very concerned about the kind of governance... the American military governance that they will come under afterwards."
At home in the U.S., the mood was mixed. While some shared the anxiety felt overseas, many remained calm and placed their trust in their government's president who had just announced it would begin military operations in Iraq "to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger." Comforted by this inspirational rhetoric and reassured by the security of a distant war, many would rest easy, trusting it would all be over shortly.
Nearly two and a half years later Iraqis, Americans, and citizens around the world awakened to a war that continues today. While freedoms were being eroded in the U.S., disastrous tragedies continued to be played out daily in Iraq and soon spread to Europe and parts of Asia. The dramatic transformations to Iraq's political and social institutions had been continuously juxtaposed with reports of military and insurgent confrontations. As a result, the war continued to dominate headlines and direct the flow of the media. With this constant bombardment of seemingly repetitious images of violence and chaos it was difficult to sense what was really taking place in Iraq. Now, much more is clear.
In light of the overwhelming coverage and despite the fact the war had garnered tremendous attention both in the U.S. and abroad, little has been mentioned—at least in the mainstream press—about the struggles of the Iraqi people, particularly the workers, and the challenges they faced during the war and under U.S. occupation.
According to Abdullah Muhsin, a leader of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), union freedom should have been considered essential to the development of a democratic Iraq:
Trade union organizations are fundamental to the development of secure, prosperous and democratic societies...a truly free and democratic society will not exist anywhere in the world without a democratic labour movement that can freely advocate and bargain for the interest of the working people...they (labour unions) are not the voice of an ideology or an ‘absolute truth' but are the motivators for the promotion and improvement of the social, economic and political condition of working people.
The significance of the state/labor relationship is an obvious result of the emergent status of organized labor in Iraq. The term emergent is used here, not to ignore the existence of organized labor prior to and during Baathist rule, but rather, to emphasize that organized labor entered a new phase in the post-Saddam period and to acknowledge that relationships with workers and employees were still being redefined under U.S. occupation.
Repression of organized labor in Iraq began long before Saddam Hussein took power. During the 1930's, labor unions involved in boycotts and strikes were often outlawed, and many leaders were imprisoned. Despite this opposition, unions, who had close ties to the Iraqi Communist party (ICP), enjoyed a great deal of success and influence. This was evident by the May Day demonstrations of 1959, in which an estimated 1 million Iraqi workers took to the streets to protest and join in solidarity.
After the 1958 populist revolution and overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy—established by the British government—the General Federation of Trade Unions was developed, largely with support from the ICP and Arab and Kurdish nationalists. By 1959, GFTU membership totaled 275,000 workers in Iraq's public sector and held significant bargaining power during this time. However, a Baathist coup in 1963 followed by another in 1968, led to the seizure of the state economy and later, facilitated a structural transformation of the GFTU.
When the Baathist party came into power in 1968, the GFTU became an institutional mechanism of repression for the state. Leaders who refused to side with the new regime were expelled from power and quickly replaced by Baathist loyalists. Union elections were held without secret ballot allowing results to be coerced by intimidation and threats of violence. Saddam Hussein's rise to power in the late 70's solidified the new role of the GFTU as an extension of working class suppression.
In 1980, a renewed leftist trend began to emerge. While this revival was limited to clandestine organizing, the movement had a tremendous impact on Iraqi unions. A group of activists formed the Workers' Democratic Trade Union Movement (WDTUM) and began to organize by forming underground alliances. The movement consisted largely of trade unionists, intellectuals, students, women, and various radical groups. While this movement had limited internal success under Saddam Hussein's regime (1979-2003), they managed to develop important external ties in Europe and with other Arab sympathizers.
The benefits of these alliances were soon made clear. The WDTUM's affiliation with the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU), International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), Kurdish trade unions, the World Federation of Trade Unions, the ICP, and Arab nationalist and Kurdish democratic parties, had a tremendous influence on the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), which officially recognized and showed support for the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU). The formation of the IFTU, which now claims more than 200,000 members and is the only union officially recognized by the state, has become a driving force in the union movement and is a direct result of this underground alliance.
Finally in a position to organize without the fear of Baathist retaliation, Iraqi unions quickly realized authoritarian rule had not ended. While Saddam Hussein had been removed from power, a new more powerful regime had replaced him.
Bombs over Baghdad: U.S. Invasion and Forced Transition
"When something is ‘invaded,' it's violated, attacked, assaulted. There is no choice or voice by the invaded group. There is no sense of democracy or self-governance. The operative principles, instead, are force and power." This quote from Greg Coleridge, an authority on the effects of corporate corruption, was written in reference to economic and corporate invasion. This definition is widely applicable to both the U.S. economic and military invasion of Iraq.
Hindsight revealed a substantial amount of conflicting evidence behind the United States claims for entering Iraq. This only reinforced the opinions of some scholars who have argued that the U.S. invasion marked a return to 19th century imperialism. Internally, many people in Iraq shared this sentiment from the beginning. According to Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, and founding coeditor of the Journal of Democracy, "too many Iraqis viewed the invasion not as an international effort but as an occupation by Western, Christian, essentially Anglo-American powers." This view had also been reflected by global opinion,where polls demonstrated the significance of the U.S.'s refusal to work with the international community and the United Nations prior to invasion and later during occupation.
Several aspects of the invasion had been particularly critical to Iraqi Unions: (1) it led to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's oppressive military regime; (2) it eliminated the chance for labor's participation in regime change; (3) it created the necessary framework for U.S. occupation; (4) finally, hostility generated by the U.S. invasion sparked early support from workers and unions across the globe.
Union Participation in Regime Change
While few if any argued against Hussein's removal from power, the nature of his departure provoked international outrage and effectively eliminated any role for the participation of organized labor after "regime change." Participation after such change is fundamental for any organization seeking to secure legitimacy, especially in post-dictatorial societies. Over the last few decades, case studies in Europe and Latin America have shown this to be a near truism. Perhaps more comparable transitions with regard to Iraq are the changes from authoritarian and dictatorial regimes to varying forms of democracy in Latin America. An example of this is Chile, where Pinochet was ousted by movements supported, among others, by Chilean trade unions. As a result, Chilean unions secured a strong influence in following years and secured their position as a legitimate institutional actor in the Chilean political economy.
It is also essential to point out that while under authoritarian control, popular movements in Islamic countries have historically gained enough momentum to oppose and eventually overthrow militant and repressive regimes. According to Stephen Zunes, associate professor of political science at the University of San Francisco and a renowned scholar on Middle East affairs and U.S. foreign policy, "The Islamic world has seen a disproportionate number of successful unarmed insurrections in recent decades, including Bangladesh, Indonesia and Mali. Despite the return of authoritarian rule, massive nonviolent resistance also toppled such dictatorships as the Shah of Iran (1979), the Nimieri regime in Sudan (1985), and Zia al-Huq's regime in Pakistan (1988)."
Iraqi labor unions under Baathist rule were quite limited by comparison to those unions in the countries mentioned above. At the time of invasion, these unions were still very much controlled by a militant government. Thus, Iraqi unions were not a significant feature of the political context nor were they active agents in the political arena. The invasion compounded these problems by eliminating their chance to create internal change while marginalizing them in the process.
Dictating Democracy: U.S. Military Control and Occupational Governance
While the U.S. invasion eliminated any chance for Iraqi unions to participate in regime change, it created an even greater obstacle for unions by establishing the occupation. The occupation has largely excluded Iraqi unions from reconstruction efforts, consciously restricted their actions and marginalized their influence in the transition process. According to Joane Landy, co-director of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy:
To the extent that the United States succeeds in sustaining its occupation, it is in a stronger position to dominate not only Iraqi politics but the political and economic life of other countries around the world; it is precisely imperial domination that not only is a major cause of terrible misery in the Third World but also strengthens, especially in the absence of a strong global democratic left, authoritarian and theocratic forces everywhere.
The occupational authority had consisted of two forms: (1) U.S. military control, and (2) a series of transitional governments. Both presented serious challenges to Iraqi labor unions. Throughout the occupation, U.S. military forces played an active role in disrupting union organization in Iraq. Prominent labor journalist David Bacon noted that, according to Zehira Houfani, a member of the Iraq Solidarity Project in Canada, military hostility emerged as early as July 29, 2003, when U.S. forces arrested a leader of a new labor movement along with 20 other members of the Union of the Unemployed. In this case, military forces said they were simply enforcing the first public notice of Paul Bremer, the head of the U.S. occupational government, the Coalition Provisional Authority. This notice, along with order No. 19, essentially outlawed public protests and demonstrations.
A similar account of military suppression (reported by Matthew Harwood) took place in December of 2003, when coalition troops ransacked the headquarters of the IFTU. Eight members were arrested and their office was shut down for seven months. During his time in jail, Turkey Al Lehabey, General Secretary of the Communication and Transport Workers Union, an IFTU affiliate, said that a local American commander named Kelly had told the men, "Iraq has no sovereignty and no political parties or trade unions. We do not want you to organize in either the north or south transport stations." He added, "You can organize only after June 2004; for now, you have an American governor."
The rise in the insurgency had also presented barriers to Iraqi unions. Due to the fact that most unions supported the shift toward democratic governance, insurgents, who were staunchly opposed to any transformation influenced by the United States, had become increasingly hostile. In many cases, the insurgency responded to union organizing by applying the same methods of terror used in combat against the U.S. military. From the start of the invasion and throughout the occupation, union members had received numerous threats which have been carried out in the form of kidnappings and murders of influential union members.
Acting separately and supposedly at war with one another, U.S. military and insurgent forces had (unknowingly?) combined their efforts to suppress Iraqi unions. Despite their claim to supposedly liberate the masses, secure freedom and promote democracy, the U.S. military had made a concerted effort to stifle union organizing by incarcerating Iraqi workers, banning their right to protest, and prohibiting freedom of association. The insurgency, relying on more lethal ideology, had managed to carry out more physical assaults on the Iraqi workforce. As a result, unions were highly critical of the U.S. led transition and believed that military occupation had only increased insurgent hostility.
However, military and insurgent forces had not represented the only obstacles to union revitalization. The military's close ties to the CPA introduced another significant aspect of Iraq's transition, particularly because the military was responsible for protecting the policies they implemented. This protection was necessary because the U.S. was unable from the start, to persuade the world, including the Iraqi's, that the U.S. had legitimate reasons for entering a foreign country, destroying it, and rebuilding it in their image.
Iraq's Reconstruction: The CPA and the American Way
The CPA was significant to organized labor in Iraq because during their year long stint as legislators and policymakers, they were in control of both the legal frameworks and structural policies that significantly affected the lives of Iraqis and the rights and freedoms of their trade unions. By June 2003, the CPA, headed by Bremer, assumed control of Iraq's political and economic responsibilities from the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, formerly run by Lieutenant General Jay M. Garner of the U.S. Army.
There is a substantial amount of controversy over the development of the CPA because it remains unclear whether the CPA was formulated by Washington through executive power of the President or whether it was a product of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483. This uncertainty fueled criticism and reasserted the claim that the CPA was established solely in the interest of the United States and not the people of Iraq.
In an attempt to add legitimacy to their policies the CPA formed the Iraqi Governing Council in July of 2003. The 25 members of the IGC were chosen by the CPA and included a proportional representation of the religious and ethnic diversity of the country. The purpose of the council was to "achieve stability and security, revive the economy and deliver public services." In reality, the IGC was ultimately subject to the veto power of the CPA, although it was emphasized this power would rarely be used.
Enforcing Saddam's Anti-Union Legislation
Despite removing Saddam Hussein from power, his legislative legacy in the form of the Iraqi labor code continued to reign supreme under CPA authority. In 1987 Hussein passed a series of legislative measures banning union formation in the public sector, Iraq's largest employer at the time. Saddam's amendments to the Iraqi labor code including, the abolishment of Decree No. 150 and 151, re-classified all state employees as civil servants, thus banning all union organization in the public sector. This was a serious blow to Iraqi workers, the majority of which (80%), worked in the public sector. Meanwhile, the private sector was controlled by the GFTU which served as an extension of Baathist repression. These series of laws essentially made it illegal to build an organized labor movement in Iraq, although, as was mentioned earlier, certain groups continued to organize underground.
The CPA was well aware of this law and used it to their advantage to suppress union organization in the public sector while they rapidly privatized it. Knowing that union organization is much more difficult to achieve in the private sector they rushed to establish a strong private base before transferring sovereignty. Likewise, they also recognized that extremely high levels of unemployment and competition from imported labor would defeat most attempts to unionize the private sector as Iraqi's would be more concerned with sustaining themselves and their families.
Shortly after assuming command, on June 6, 2003, Bremer released a public notice titled "Regarding Organization in the Workplace" that would set the tone for CPA rule. In an effort claiming to "maintain security and order", the notice stated that employees of the government and state enterprise would not be allowed to elect their own Directors or Directing staff due to the existing Iraqi labor code. The notice concluded by saying "industrial and labor relations" would be matters best left up to a future Iraqi government.
In Umm Qasr, on February 20, 2004, these laws were essential to suppressing labor in an area occupied by U.S. forces. Early in the war, The United States Administration of International Development had awarded the Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) a contract to repair and maintain the port there. Shortly after, the IFTU traveled to Umm Qasr to meet with dock workers there about forming a union. They were quickly stopped by Abdul Razaq, former administrator of the Iraqi Port Authority under Saddam Hussein (reinstated by U.S. occupational authorities), who informed both groups that they would not be recognized under the existing 1987 Law. While many questioned the rational behind retaining such a law, others such as Richard Haas, former Director of Middle Eastern Affairs on National Security Council, clarified the U.S. position by saying, "our policy is to get rid of Saddam Hussein, not his regime."
Although it is important to illustrate how the CPA used Saddam's existing labor code to restrict union organizing, it is more important to understand why. The CPA was not interested in changing repressive laws but they clearly used them to drastically alter Iraq's economy. By restricting unions from organizing, the CPA strengthened their ability to introduce neo-liberal policies without protest from below.
Neo-liberal Ambush: Bremer's Orders and the Privatization of Iraq
A critical element of neo-liberalism and increased privatization is the speed or rate at which it is implemented. In the case of Russia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rapid rate of privatization had harsh consequences on Russian unions as opposed to those unions in Ukraine, which experienced a much slower process. Additionally, labor laws, such as those mentioned above, share a direct relationship with the implementation of neo-liberal policies.
The difference between Iraq and Chile is that political transition in the latter occurred after neo-liberalism was introduced to the economy. Since labor unions in that country had already gained a level of influence politically and certainly played a key role in regime change, extant neo-liberal policies were easier to reform when more democratic political institutions were created. Conversely, Iraqi labor unions had been forced to challenge neo-liberalism while struggling to assert themselves during transition.
Iraqi labor unions thus faced huge challenges resulting from restrictions posed by anti-union legislation and the privatization process. This process, was argued by labor sympathizers such as Dr.Abd Ali Kadim el-Ma' mouri, Professor of Political Science at El-Nahrain University, to represent strategic attempts to implement neo-liberal policy, exemplified by the privatization of the Iraqi corporations. As el-Ma'mouri observes,
The law of privatization of Iraqi assets has not given Iraq the right to take measures if the new owners break the law and cause economic, ecological or human damage. This lack of accountability even violates corresponding laws in the US. Iraq in the future will not be able to change or oppose the laws made under the Bremer administration during the occupation of Iraq. Outside the US corporations it is only the sycophantic capitalist stratum of the Iraqi society that possibly stand to gain something from the laws that have been passed during the occupation.
Almost immediately after military forces invaded Iraq, the CPA under the direction of Paul Bremer, began to lay the blueprints for economic transformation. At the forefront of these changes was a conscious effort to implement neo-liberal policies including increased privatization, deregulated trade markets, and generous tax breaks for corporations and foreign investors. The combination of economic shock therapy and repressive labor laws demonstrated a clear lack of historical perspective and reasserted a widely held belief in international community as well as within the U.S., that foreign policy is largely influenced by private corporations.
Aside from the obvious destruction resulting from military occupation, the economic liberalization of Iraq's economy proved to be the major obstacle for labor unions in Iraq. Through a series of orders (100 total) promulgated by Bremer, the CPA was able to mold the future political and economic landscape of Iraq. In an article for the Los Angeles Times, Antonia Juhasz, outlined the specific consequences of Bremer's very under publicized orders. Order No. 39 stands out as the most blatant example of the U.S. run government's attempt to transfer Iraq's centrally planned economy over to market forces. The order allowed for the "(1) privatization of Iraq's 200 state-owned enterprises; (2) 100% foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses; (3) ‘national treatment'—which means no preferences for local over foreign businesses; (4) unrestricted, tax-free remittance of all profits and other funds; and (5) 40-year ownership licences." Order No. 39 also reduced the corporate tax rate from 40% to a fixed 15%. Later, Order No. 40 allowed foreign banks to purchase 50% of Iraqi banks, while order No.12 suspended all tariffs and import taxes for goods entering and exiting Iraq.
The consequences of these orders were not difficult to foresee. Still restricted legally from organizing in the public sector, Iraqi unions were forced to stand idle while the CPA sold off 192 formerly state run companies to foreign investors. The new investors, despite possessing an abundant labor pool, decided against hiring Iraqi workers and imported cheaper labor from areas like Southeast Asia. This created a dramatic increase in the unemployment population and forced Iraqi's to compete for even lower wages.
Based on these policies—which many perceive to be an attempt at global domination by the United States government—the invasion and occupation was met with staunch opposition from the international community. Whereas regime change had historically been an isolated process for unions, the war in Iraq has generated international attention from unions across the globe. United in their opposition to the war, the international community expressed the desire to stand alongside Iraqi unions as confronted the challenges posed by the war.
Union Growth and International Solidarity
In the wake of the challenges, Iraqi labor unions responded by taking advantage of opportunities found within the context of war and during political and economic transformation. The obstacles posed by the U.S. invasion and occupation created opportunities for revitalization by provoking the political if not moral consciousness of the international labor community.
Beginning on May 16, 2003, 350 Iraqi unionists gathered in Baghdad to hold the first official union meeting since 1970. This meeting led to the establishment of the IFTU, Iraq's largest union federation, comprised of 13 individual unions and now more than 200,000 members. Iraq soon boasted three union federations, the IFTU, the FWCUI, and the GUOW which constituted Iraq's largest individual union with 23,000 members.
Members from the IFTU and the Iraqi Teachers Union returned from Jordan where they took part in union training facilitated by UNISON. According to Ali Shari Ali, from the Iraqi Teachers Union, not only did their union boast nearly 400,000 members (75,000 of which reside in Baghdad) but nearly one third of the members were women, which signified another important direction towards a new Iraq.
Another promising aspect of the Iraqi union movement was their direct action. In an interview, UNISON international officer Nick Cook acknowledged that unions in Iraq were beginning to take industrial action in the form of strikes and demonstrated that "they are capable of organizing." In September of 2005, Iraqi mechanical union workers, whose membership totals 6,000, along with Iraqi textile workers, engaged in mass strikes against employers threatening to shut down industrial plants and hand them over to private companies.
Earlier that year, American workers had the opportunity to witness firsthand the sensational achievements of the Iraqi union movement. In a momentous occasion which took place June 10, 2005, several members representing Iraqi unions were invited to the United States by U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) to take part in a twenty city tour to meet with U.S. workers, labor leaders, and members of Congress. Shortly after the event, the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI) had this to say about their visit:
It was noticeable that the delegation was very well received and warm welcomed in anywhere they visited which showed the great interest and curiosity of the people to know or get information far from the effects of the corporate media who dominated the news cast and distorted the truth and many times lied about the nature of the war and the interests behind this vicious war.
Stops during this tour, generated large crowds and inspired a pledge of solidarity between U.S. and Iraqi workers. The spirit of this occasion was captured in a statement signed by members of both parties which read, "With the strength and solidarity of workers across the U.S., in Iraq and internationally, we are confident that we can build a just and democratic future for labor in Iraq, the U.S., and around the world."
Interestingly enough, prior to the war, labor unions in the U.S. received an early dose of the abuse awaiting the Iraqi workforce. In 2002, the U.S. military was ordered by President Bush to disrupt striking dock workers in Los Angeles. Bush evoked the seldom used Taft-Hartley Act to claim that such protests were a threat to national security. According to Jack Heyman, a business agent for ILWU Local 10,
By invoking Taft-Hartley against the longshore workers, Bush is effectively
declaring war on the working class here and the Iraqi people simultaneously,
Heyman told Socialist Worker. We must either go forward, or we will go
backwards. But never before has there been so much solidarity for a union
as has been expressed for the ILWU in our struggle now.
Early recognition and expressed solidarity for the Iraqi people were significant for two reasons. One is that it demonstrated a global consciousness by international labor organizations prior to the events of the occupation. Second, it emphasized a movement rooted in socio-political consciousness rather than economic motivations. This provided unions with the ideological sustainability to grow in their opposition throughout the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation.
As a result, Iraqi unions aligned themselves with the international community in order to generate support (both financially and in the form of developmental and organizational training), and promote long-term sustainable alliances. Iraqi trade unions such as the Southern Oil Company Trade Union (SOC), IFTU (branches include oil and gas workers, railway workers, printers, mechanics among others ), Kurdish General Workers Union (KGWU), Iraqi Kurdistan General Workers Syndicate (IKGWS), Iraqi Teachers Union (ITU), Iraqi Journalists Union (IJU), General Union of Students in the Iraqi Republic (GUSIR), joined forces with such international labor organizations as the International labor Organization (ILO), British Trade Union Congress (TUC), and U.S. Labor against the War (USLAW), among others.
On June 11, 2005, at a meeting for the Administrative Council of the International Centre for Trade Union Rights in Geneva, several members of the IFTU along with the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, met to discuss current obstacles and tried to generated solutions. A main concern was the current labor code. According to ICTUR vice president Fathi El-Fadl, an independent legal resource center should be established. Additionally, the ILO—a branch of the United Nations—has been consistently focused on supporting trade unions in Iraq by working to effectively address reforms to the existing labor code passed on by the CPA.
This kind of collaboration was crucial because a very important part of the 1987 labor code still existed, "the labor law of the former regime still in force prohibits collective bargaining in the public sector" (U.S. Department of State 2005). According to ILO conventions 87, 88, and 135, which mandates that all nations support freedom of assembly and association and prohibits retaliatory measures against the exercise of such freedoms, the labor code during CPA rule was directly in violation of international law. In order to combat those measures and the newly revised code now state law, the ILO alongside the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, drafted their own revisions.
British workers from the TUC had also been working with Iraqi unions on several projects, including the development of an independent media with the Iraqi Journalists Union, and also provided training for the Kurdish Teachers Union. The TUC has been able to hold many conferences and send much needed organizational support to Iraq. In addition to training seminars, both the TUC and organizations like the USLAW had generated substantial amounts of money toward the development of Iraqi unions.
In addition to this support, Iraqi Unions had received letters of solidarity from unions across the globe including: (UNISON), (TUC), Cambridge Trade Union Council (CTUC), Philippine Railway Workers Union (PRWU), British Fire Brigades Union (FBU), AFL-CIO, Italian Metalworkers Union (FIM-CISL), Australian Workers Union (AWU), Liquour, Hospitality, and Miscellaneous Union of Australia (LHMUA), Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) (Australia, French SUD-Railway Union Federation, TUC-Rengo (Japan), Comisiones Obreras (CC.OO) (Spain), Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), Pakistan WAPDA Labourer's Union (PWLU), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) and many more that cannot be included here. These international alliances constituted a growing voice in anti-war protests and strongly supported the Iraqi union movement which increased its numbers in size and type.
In the midst of such optimism, reality assures that there are still many challenges ahead. Increased militarization and the spread of neo-liberalism is a serious threat to the lives and liberties of workers everywhere. If anything is to be learned from Iraq, it is the need for urgent resistance to counteract these trends. United in their struggle, unions across the globe must seek to create "an ever wider alliance" and continue to forge new paths towards international solidarity.