Labour Group Report

WORLD PEACE FORUM: LABOUR FORUM

We acknowledge the role of the labour movement in Canada and throughout many countries of the world in successfully helping to mobilize so many participants in demonstrations prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, such as the 250,000 who were on the streets of Montréal, which helped to ensure to government of Canada and of other countries did not join the invasion.  We also need to acknowledge that our mobilizing efforts were largely secondary to the peace movement’s efforts and those of other social justice groups. 

The labour movement needs to be more active in the peace movement.  We need peace committees in the labour movement and at the same time we need to ensure that our efforts in all areas, combating racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. are evaluated through the “lens of peace” in the same way we ensure that our efforts in all areas are scrutinized to ensure we promote equality.   We must stand in solidarity with Muslims who have been discriminated against because of their religious beliefs or appearance.  We need to personalize the consequences of war so that our members will understand the personal toll of injuries and death among those from the invading countries and of those in the invaded countries. 

The labour movement can serve as an important translator of the costs of war.  When bloated military budgets are squandered on war and war profiteering corporations, social programs are cut.  When privatization of vital human resources such as water occurs because governments claim they lack funds, we must explain the need for public services and the role of public sector unions in protecting the public good.  We must challenge government priorities in which they claim that spending billions on warplanes instead of child care benefits security.  In Canada we must explain that the high petrodollar which has resulted from wars in the Middle East has cost Canadians hundreds of thousands of good jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector. 

We need to work with trade unionists throughout the world, especially among trade unionists living in countries which are part of the Iraqi invasion, from the belly of the monster in the United States to countries as diverse as Australia and Romania to ensure that the “coalition of the willing” which is invading Iraq becomes a coalition of none.  In order to do this, we need to support the efforts of trade unionists in these countries such as the U.S. to work in solidarity with veterans’ groups opposed to the war, military families against the war as well as the rest of the peace movement, the women’s movement and the immigrants’ rights movement.  We must acknowledge how U.S. trade unionists have worked extremely hard to build opposition to the war from the bottom up, at the local union level, culminating in the resolution at the AFL-CIO convention calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, unlike the situation during the Vietnam War where the U.S. labour movement was complicit.  We must support calls for the closing of permanent U.S. military bases that have been established in other countries around the world.  We must call for an end to war profiteering by U.S. companies in Iraq and insist that money instead be given to Iraqis to rebuild their own country.

We need to make the Iraqi conflict real by ensuring that films such as Meeting Face to Face are distributed and seen widely so people in other countries can understand that the struggle of Iraqi workers for peace, a just society and an independent labour movement is an important one to support.  We need to support tours of Iraqi workers, especially women workers, throughout other countries, including North America to ensure their voices are heard.  We should use our solidarity funds to support peace work.

We need to ensure that trade unionists throughout the world understand that there really is such a thing as international working class solidarity which has a common interest in opposing war and that our real enemy is not workers in other countries, but rather the capitalist class which benefits from war such as the oil companies who are the friends of the U.S. Bush administration.  War is the extension of and takes place in the context of the capitalist agenda of globalization, deregulation, privatization and free trade.  We need to support efforts for sustainable energy production such as renewable sources of energy to reduce world dependence on oil.  We must support countries such as Venezuela and Cuba which present alternatives to U.S. imperialism.

As the activities of Canadian troops become more aggressive and warlike in Afghanistan, giving the lie to Canada’s perceived role as peacemaker, we need to congratulate the CLC (Canadian Labour Congress) for its call for the immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan.  To make resolutions like this active, not passive, we must popularize it among our membership at the workplace, local union, national union and international labour organization level so they will understand the difference between their instincts in wanting to help people in other countries, and the reality of the Afghanistan situation for the lie that it is.  We must support genuine efforts to improve the lot of the Afghanistan people in solidarity with them and their needs. 

The strategic location of Israel in the oil-producing Middle East makes Israel a critical supporter of U.S. imperialism.  We need to address the important question of Palestine and recognize that opposition to the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is not anti-Semitism against Jews. 

We need to ensure that trade unions have an independent voice against war and not remain mute if social democratic parties with which we might have been aligned, such as the Labour Party in the UK support war.
 
We must continue to mobilize in demonstrations and activities this fall and beyond among trade unionists and the people of the world who are opposed to war.