WAR AND OCCUPATION OPENED THE DOOR TO IRAQ’S VIRUS PANDEMIC

To fight COVID-19, Iraqi workers want political change
By David Bacon, © 2020
The Nation, 4/8/2020


Union leader Falah Alwan, president of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions of Iraq, and leather goods factory workers argue with the plant manager about their union rights in 2003.

Solidarity, Then the Virus

Many U.S. union activists remember Falah Alwan. As the occupation of Iraq unfolded in the summer of 2005, he and several Iraqi union leaders traveled here to make clear the impact of sanctions and invasion on his country’s workers. From one union hall to another, on both coasts and through the Midwest, Alwan and his colleagues appealed for solidarity.

In the end, the war’s damage went virtually unhealed, but the ties forged between workers and unions of the two countries have remained undiminished. Last week, as both face the coronavirus pandemic, Alwan wrote to the friends he made in those years. “The news from New York is horrible,” he commiserated. “I believe the days to come will be much worse than they are now, not only in Iraq but for you also.”

In 2005 the Iraqis effectively dramatized the human cost of U.S. policy. Today, as both countries face the coronavirus, the devastating situation of Iraq’s people calls for revisiting that question of responsibility.

On paper, the virus’s toll in Iraq today stands at 1,031 officially confirmed cases, with 64 deaths. While Iraq’s per capita count is still much smaller than that in the U.S. – 22 cases per million people to the U.S.’ 910 – the numbers don’t tell the real story. In Iraq very few people can access medical treatment, and the number of infections and deaths is much higher than that given in official statements.

This past week Reuters reported that confirmed cases numbered instead between 3000 and 9000, quoting doctors and a health official – a report that led the Iraqi government to fine the agency and revoke its reporting license for three months. The higher figure would give Iraq a per capita infection rate higher than South Korea, one of the virus’ early concentrations.

Unions and civil society organizations must now try to make up for Iraq’s political paralysis and the partial dysfunction of its government. “Because of our ruined healthcare institutions,” Alwan explains, “the government hurried to impose a general curfew [a stay-at-home order] to stop the outbreak and a rapid collapse in the whole situation.”

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Philippine Banana Farmers:
Their Cooperatives and Struggle for Land Reform and Sustainable Agriculture

From FoodFirst,
by David Bacon, © 2020

PANABO, DAVAO, PHILIPPINES (8-31-19) – Workers harvest bananas in the field of the DARBCO cooperative in the Mindanao city of Panabo. Denmark Aguitas catches the bunnch of bananas on his shoulder as it’s cut from the tree, and carries it to the cableway where it’s hung from a hook and then pulled to the packing shed.
Copyright David Bacon

Thirty years ago many banana workers in the Philippines made a radical change in their work and lives. They transformed the militant unions they had organized to wrest a decent living from the multinational corporations that control much of the world’s food production. Instead of working for wages, they used the country’s land reform law to become the owners of the plantations where they had labored for generations.

It was not an easy process. They had to fight for market access and fair prices against the same companies that had been their employers. But they developed a unique organization to help them, that provided knowledge and resources for forming cooperatives. Twenty years ago FARMCOOP and these worker/grower cooperatives defeated the largest of the companies, Dole Fruit Company (in the Philippines called Stanfilco). As a result, today the standard of living for coop members has gone up, and workers have more control over how and what they produce.

FARMCOOP became the source of everything from financial planning and marketing skills to organic farming resources and political organizing strategy. FARMCOOP then developed an alliance with one of Mindanao’s indigenous communities, helping it start its own coops that combine the use of local traditions with organic and environmentally sustainable agriculture.

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CCDS JOINS PEACE FORCES IN SAYING ‘NO WAR WITH IRAN’

January 5, 2020

The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS) joins with progressive, peace, and socialist movements everywhere in condemning the United States assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on January 3, 2020. We endorse the statements below by the United States Peace Council and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). We also support the protest demonstrations against the illegal and immoral US assassination that were held January 4, 2020 all across the United States in over 80 communities with thousands of participants. We wish to express our solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of Iranian and Iraqi citizens who also mobilized against this act of war by the United States.

We condemn this political assassination as one more terrible crime committed by US imperialism and US capital in a generations-long history of attacks on the rights, land, and sovereignty of the peoples of the Middle East in the drive to obtain oil and other resources for US multi-national corporations and the US capitalist system.

We agree with the coalition of peace forces who organized the protest rallies on January 4 that along with the violations of international law and morality that we, in the United States, have a responsibility to organize a large peace and anti-intervention movement to stop US war aims, or this war will “engulf the whole region and could quickly turn into a global conflict of unpredictable scope and potentially the gravest consequences.”

We in CCDS join with our brothers and sisters at home and abroad in demanding:

  • No War Against Iran
  • The Elimination of Crippling Economic Sanctions Against Iran.
  • The Withdrawal of United States Military Forces and Bases, and the End to Arms Transfers in the Region
  • And a Qualitative Shift From Militarism to Diplomacy in Relations With the World

National Executive Committee
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS)

Statements:

United States Peace Council
Democratic Socialists of American (DSA)