Iraqi union label:
An interview with David Bacon
February 21, 2004
America is today, as it has been throughout nearly all of its history, a nation at war overseas, as well as against elements of its own population. Activists like California-based David Bacon, and organizations such as the one to which he belongs, U.S. Labour Against the War (USLAW) are, in terms of the Bush Doctrine, enemy elements within enemy elements. Seven Oaks’ Charles Demers recently sat down with Mr. Bacon at the Canadian Autoworkers hall in New Westminster.
SEVEN OAKS: You were recently on a delegation to Iraq?
BACON: Yes. I went with the former secretary-treasurer of the San Francisco longshore union, Clarence Thomas. The two of us were sent by U.S. Labor Against the War to go to Iraq in October, make contact with the new unions that have been organising there and find out about the conditions of work, and the wages, and the general condition of Iraqi workers under the occupation.
S.O.: That’s not the Clarence Thomas that Canadian readers will think you’re talking about?
BACON: No, we call Clarence the real Clarence Thomas.
S.O.: The real Clarence Thomas, okay. We’re definitely not encouraged to talk about class in terms of our own political situations here in North America. How do people in North America react when you start talking to them about “Iraqi workers” or the “Iraqi working class”?
BACON: First of all, I think, people are very interested in finding out what is happening to workers in Iraq. It’s, I think, sometimes a surprise, certainly a surprise for workers in Canada and the U.S. to find out that there are unions in Iraq, and even to think about Iraqi people as being workers, partly because the images that we’re getting from the media from Iraq are all about war, essentially. And, Iraq is being shown to us as sort of like a place of terrible destruction -- which in a lot of ways, it is -- but in which there’s no sense of what life is like for ordinary people there, or working people. And Iraq is a huge country of 24 million people, with Baghdad as a city with 5 million people and, by and large, those people are pretty completely invisible, and so the first reaction that we’re getting is interest, because we’re telling a story that people have not heard before. And then, I think that people in both Canada and the U.S. are finding that there are things they can recognise very easily that are going on with Iraqi workers, that they can recognise from their own experience.
Full interview: http://www.sevenoaksmag.com/features/01_iraq_bacon.html