They talk about democracy in Iraq whilst doing their best to stifle it at home.
Politicians from both the main parties attacked the Fire Brigades Union when scheduled industrial action seemed likely to coincide with final preparations for war. The Labour Government revealed it is considering legislation that would make strikes by fire fighters illegal, whilst the Tories denounced the union as friends of Saddam Hussein. In reality, criticising the FBU was an attempt to damage the union.s widespread public support. Such language betrays the contempt in which organised workers are held by the ruling elite. The hate screamed by the state and the press at any group of workers daring to hold its own political views may seem vicious, but it is justified by the logic of war. In war you are either a patriot or a traitor.
An organised body of workers poses not only an immediate economic threat, but also carries the potential to seriously disrupt ‘order'. Capitalism demands that everybody meekly do what they are told in the interests of the rich. At a time of war, this means risking your life for the state. Anyone who believes that the war is about freeing the Iraqi people is hopelessly mistaken - it is a war for oil, profit and power, simply to keep the rich rich.
Capitalism is a fragile economic system, and so, capitalists take threats to its stability seriously. Throughout modern industrial history, workers have used direct action to secure great advances for themselves, their families and their communities. During the First World War, Glasgow workers threatened a general strike on the Clyde when the local Sheriff was asked by landlords to arrest the wages of rent-striking shipyard workers. The powerful landlords in the city had colluded to raise rents to profit from the influx of people seeking work in the munitions factories. The state was so scared of an industrial strike during wartime that it introduced controls restricting rents to affordable levels, a policy which was to last right up until 1989, when it was abolished by Thatcher. The Clydeside workers would doubtless have been condemned as traitors in their day, but their action brought about a great improvement in the lives of millions.
Direct action for political ends swiftly exposes poorly concealed divisions between the nation's political leadership and ordinary working people. To shy away from such confrontation is to accept the agenda of the state and capitalism and to defer to the structure in which us workers invariably lose out. By creating time and space where we can meet, plan and co-ordinate our struggles, we can intensify our offensive on the system that causes us, our families and our communities perpetual misery.
The friends of Saddam are not the workers who organise to improve their families lives, but the companies that armed him and the states that supported him. The real enemies of democracy aren't just in Baghdad, they are also in London.