Labor Advocate Online

Iraqi Troops Aren't the Only Ones Surrendering
Liberals, Union Bureaucrats Run Up White Flag Without a Fight

by Bill Onasch

When a resolution praising Bush's handling of the invasion of Iraq came before the House of Representatives only ten Democrats and one independent summoned up enough courage to vote no. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, before assuming leadership, had voted against the original resolution authorizing Bush to go to war. Now she did a good job in getting her colleagues on the war bandwagon. Pelosi's counterpart in the other chamber, Tom Daschle, perhaps stung by criticism that he sounded like he supported France instead of America, did even better. The Senate vote was unanimous. A whole lot of good all our faxes and e-mails did for us with this group.

Meanwhile the central organ of liberal Democrats, The American Prospect, did some quick caving as well. The web editor issued a joint statement with the editor of on their online sites. They explained,

“Liberals held a wide variety of views on the necessity of war during the months leading up to invasion. We were no exception: One of us fully supported the administration's war plans while the other was critical of the president's unilateral course. But that is all in the past. War is now a reality. And it seems to us that the only moral and practical option for liberals is to begin immediately campaigning for a more ambitious, comprehensive and compassionate reconstruction of Iraq than the one the Bush administration is likely to embrace—while supporting the war effort that will lay the groundwork for such plans to be enacted.”

Prospect stalwart Robert Reich, former labor secretary under Clinton and a booster of NAFTA, main complaint in the same online edition is that Bush is straying from globalization with his unilateral action!

Taking his marching orders from this political leadership, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, who had held a moderately antiwar position, also promptly made a u-turn. 

“The Iraqi regime is a brutal dictatorship that is a threat to its neighbors and its own citizens. We support fully the goal of ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. We sincerely hope this conflict will result in a more democratic and prosperous Iraq and a more peaceful and stable region, and that it will be resolved with little loss of life.”

Contrast this to the situation in Canada, where many AFL-CIO affiliates also have a presence. The Canadian Labor Congress, and nearly all of its affiliates, have not only issued strong statements against the war; they have also played a prominent role in antiwar actions. So has the Canadian labor party, the New Democrats.

Okay, you might say it's easier for them because their government is not involved, no Canadian troops are under the gun. How about the example of Britain then? British troops are on the line. It's a Labour government. But that hasn't stopped the trade union movement from not only issuing antiwar statements, not only helping to mobilize huge antiwar demonstrations, but in a few cases even refusing to handle munitions headed to Iraq. And the Labour Party is being torn apart by Blair's neoimperialist policies.

Are the Brits and Canadians smarter than we are, braver than we are? I'm not ready to concede that just yet. The main difference is that workers in those countries are much more advanced in their understanding of class forces at work in society. They think as a class and act as a class on a much greater scale than we do. This explains not only why they have a better response to the war; it is also what made possible their far superior health care, pensions, vacations, school systems, and much, much else.

There are some honorable exceptions to the epidemic of capitulation in our country.

At least so far, US Labor Against the War has hung in for the fight despite Sweeney's reversal.

The independent United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers (UE) responded to the launch of the war with a statement that ended 

“We support our troops, but we believe this war is wrong. We say, remove them from harm´s way! Bring them home”!

The Labor Party's statement on the war drive provides a class analysis and some political direction. The statement's concluding section is entitled Labor Must Lead

“Working people, both here and abroad, reject the path of preemption and war. War, terror and the destruction that they visit on working people must be repudiated as substitutes for negotiations and diplomacy.

“The drive to war and the attack on workers at home has produced willing accomplices in both political parties. We reaffirm our call for independent working class politics. Both political parties are beholden to the same corporate interests that drive the global policies of the Bush Administration. With this war, they are prepared to sacrifice not only our economic well-being but also our very lives—and the lives of thousands of innocents around the world—to the global corporations who are this policy’s only beneficiaries.

“The Labor Party opposes the launching of military force against Iraq. We re-affirm our stand against appeals to ‘homeland security’ as pretext for attacks on the rights of immigrants, working people and their unions. We endorse U. S. Labor Against the War and urge all Labor Party members, affiliates and endorsers to support and participate in this national union coalition opposing the Iraqi war.

“We call upon our brothers and sisters to rise up in defense of our country by opposing the pernicious doctrine of preemption and this war without end.”

Yes labor should lead—not follow the liberals as they run away from any real fight against war.