International Trade Union Conference (day 2). Speech by the Member of the WFTU Secretariat Artur Sequeira .Brussels, Belgium 10-11 April 201211 April 2012
I warmly and fraternally salute the Trade Union from the Arab and other countries and also other guests and personalities attending this important WFTU Conference on the developments in the Arab world and the trade union positions.
The peoples of the Middle East, North Africa and of the Arab world in general are facing enormous challenges and threats. Very recently passed nine years since the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which destroyed its state, killed, wounded or caused prolonged diseases and hardship in millions of citizens in what was - after a prolonged criminal blockade – one of the largest imperialist military operations in recent history.
So, we can say that the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the USA, the United Kingdom and their NATO allies, was in fact the starting point of a new stage of the escalation of aggression and reinforcement of imperialist military and political positions across the Middle East, but already aiming at controlling and dominating North Africa and as many Arab countries as possible.
It is the so-called creation of the “Great Middle East”, meaning the US strategy to totally reshape the Arab world in favour of its hegemonic intentions. And it counts on the clear connivance of the European Union and many of its member states.
Of course the strategy of aggression and occupation had started much before, through Israel in 1948 occupying Palestine, aggravated in 1967 and some years later, with the wars of Israel against the neighbouring Arab States and, especially the brutal occupation of Palestine, the Syrian Golan Heights and South Lebanon and Israel’s continuous onslaught on Gaza.
But the big imperialist push, initiated in Iraq 9 years ago, was not only continued but deepened with the aggression and occupation of Afghanistan and with other imperialist interventions, blackmails, and pressures not only in the Middle East, but also in the Arabic Sea and in North Africa.
Recently, we all expressed our profound anger and protest for the shameful Western-backed aggression and destruction of Libya which caused a countless number of dead and wounded and the tearing in pieces of a whole country and people. We are equally revolted with the sufferings currently imposed on the Syrian people, violently hit by terrorist militias paid and supported by foreign big powers and their media and, unfortunately by some countries in the region that pay lip service to imperialism.
We also follow the blackmail, threats and pressure on Iran and other countries. All of these very worrying developments make us clearly perceive the nature of these imperialist adventures but also make us raise our voices to protest against their global aggressive strategy.
The main objective of the imperialist global strategy is to become totally hegemonic in the Middle East and in the Arab world, always using the argument of “protecting human rights”, “help installing democratic regimes” and of “war on terrorism”. We know well that what they really desire, is to increase their influence, their power and that of its regional allies. Their objective is to try to continue to secure and even increase the capitalist exploitation of the region’s workers and peoples as well as to increase the plunder of natural wealth and resources, especially oil, gas and water.
A lot has been said about the so-called “Arab Spring”. We should not let ourselves be fooled by the extremely powerful propaganda operation, commanded by the big Western powers in relation to the changes occurred in countries like Egypt, Tunisia or others. It is a fact that in some of these countries there was and there is a popular feeling and yearning for democratic changes and that progressive trade union and political forces had been fighting for these changes for many years. But capitalism tried to use these sentiments to interfere and limit the people’s struggles and turn the political changes once again in favour of their hegemonic and neo-colonial targets.
The WFTU and the class-based trade union movement are following with great attention the evolution of the trade union and labour movement in the Arab world. The region is undergoing profound political changes resulting from the imperialist offensive, but also from the mounting popular resistance and struggle for national sovereignty and, as far as trade unions are concerned, for labour rights, against capitalist exploitation, for peace and social justice.
In this framework we see, on the one hand, the efforts of class-oriented trade unions of the Arab world to strengthen the workers’ actions against capitalist exploitation and against the imperialist offensive and, on the other, the interference and pressure of the reformist class-collaboration trade unions to weaken and divide the Arab Labour Movement. A shameful example of this is the attack on the unity of Arab trade unions, with the recent proposed decision of the ILO Governing Body of withdrawing the consultative status of ICATU at the ILO.
Whatever attacks are launched against the progressive and class oriented trade union and popular forces, we are certain that our just cause will prevail and win, despite our adversaries’ attempts. In our endeavours, we are all strongly encouraged by the many examples of firm resistance and determination of the Arab peoples in their struggle against colonialism and imperialism.
Of these examples, I particularly highlight the heroic struggle of the Palestinian workers and people:
• Against Israel’s occupation and for their internationally recognised right to a free, sovereign and secure State in the borders of 1967, with capital in East Jerusalem;
• The bringing down of the separation wall
• The abolition of settlements,
• The immediate release of all Palestinian prisoners
• The return of all Palestinian refugees
The right of the Palestinian people to live independently and in peace is a permanent and fundamental source of inspiration for all the peoples of the Middle East and of the entire world who struggle against aggression and interference, against war, for peace, cooperation and social justice. The WFTU and all of us stand on their side, unequivocally.
In conclusion, I salute again the Arab workers and their class-based labour movement, certain that victory will be theirs, that victory will be ours.
Thank you very much.