Letter to Ewa in Iraq - and her reply

Attention Ewa Jasiewicz

March 8, 2004

Dear Ewa,

Myself and my comrades here in Portland, Oregon, read your articles on Indymedia with great interest. One can find hardly any information about Iraq, and your reports are among the few which concern the class struggle. We also think it is incredibly brave to go to a place like Iraq at the moment.

The most comprehensive report to date has been 'Working Class Struggle in British Occupied Basra' (

Most of the article is the kind of factual reporting we need. The fact that the main problems in Iraq are basic things like making a living, repression from the authorities, the lack of security, and the continuing existence of the old socialist parties. Obviously, though, you express your opinions, and we would like to take issue with you on one point. You say

"Most if not all the workers I met did not clearly understand what a union was or why it would be in their interest to join one. They did not comprehend union structures, the right to strike, the right of free association and collective bargaining and the idea of challenging the boss in a sustainable way (rather than just rioting or kicking him)".

OK, so why *would* it be in the workers' interests to join a union? Do you really believe unions in Europe and the US "challenge the boss in a sustainable way", or do they rather try to channel that challenge into harmless dead-ends? As for the "right" to strike, etc., what use are rights? Perhaps we can best explain what we mean by an example. Any American woman has the right to walk down any street in the USA at any time of the day or night. In some countries, she does not have that right. But her decision which street to walk down, and at what time, has nothing to do with whether she has the right to do so, but whether it is dangerous, and so on. There is no connection between the right to do something and the ability to do it. Iraqi workers have a tradition of rioting and kicking out bosses, a tradition you dismiss in favor of the traditions of the British Labour Movement. It may be that you can learn something from the Iraqi workers.

To reiterate, though, most of what you write is dead useful, and we hope you are not offended by the above remarks.