DEFENDING WORKER SOLIDARITY: TRADE UNION CONFERENCE IN SYRIA
by Yasemin Zahra
Why Syria? Our obligation to building the international working class is seldom the easy thing to do, especially in a time of open economic war and aggression. The mainstream media channels, bought and sold by big business, are not worker institutions and do not represent the interests of working people. Undeterred by corporate pressure, our delegation of 20 brave-hearted laborers accepted the invitation to the World Federation Trade Union Conference by Syrian trade unionists as opportunity to build relationships with fellow workers and witness the country for ourselves.
The generous hospitality of the Syrian trade unionists was felt the moment we stepped off
the plane. From patiently maneuvering our delegation through visa checkpoints to welcoming us to the GFTU-owned hotel, trade union officials went far and beyond to ensure the comfort of their international guests. The conference, attended by 200 delegates from 50 countries, focused on the economic sanctions and imperialist interventions in the region. Heart wrenching accounts from workers and their families about the impact of war and speeches of solidarity and camaraderie from the international union community filled the two day forum. I
was told stories about Syrian trade union martyrs like pilot Firas Ali, who had his car blown up by US-Saudi backed Al-Qaeda and ISIS “rebels” while heading to the airport.
During our off time, we were free to travel around the country as we wished. Walking through Old Damascus and its timeless historical sites and markets, I saw a resilient people determined to continue a normal life after a majority of the region was liberated from the terrorist “rebel” forces. A mosque standing peacefully next to a church was not uncommon. However, in all its architectural beauty, the impact of the war and crippling sanctions in some regions was apparent in infrastructure. Free healthcare and education can only go so far when the working class economy is being squeezed by coercive, imperialist powers. Sanctions have a debilitating impact on the working class economy and only hurt the poorest of people, not governments. Syria is no exception.
Whether articulated by Republicans or Democrats, U.S. intervention to destabilize other countries violates the U.N. Charter and international law. Interference in Syria’s internal affairs serves the interests of wealthy elites, multinational corporations and US hegemonic aims, not the interests of the Syrian or American people. It is always the workers who end up paying for these interventions in suffering and loss. There is no case in which U.S. intervention in the internal affairs of other countries has led to greater democracy and better conditions of life for the workers. In the richest country in the world―riches profited off the backs of slave labor and of Native American genocide―there is little controversy in the US Congress about the sanctions and spending over $700 billion on the war machine while horrendous cuts are being made to almost every program designed to help our families and communities survive.
US Labor Against the War stands in solidarity with all the victims of U.S imperialism. Lines of difference – whether it’s race, gender, religion, language – have long prevented us from building trust and relationships with one another. We participate in these worker-to-worker delegations for the sake of building bonds of solidarity and disrupting the divide-and-conquer institutions of the global bosses. After eight years of war, my hope is that one day soon the Syrians will experience peace from US interventions and you, too, will get the opportunity to witness the beautiful land and its generous people.
Solidarity with workers everywhere in the world. May we come to know the fruits of our labor and exercise our power. Let us fight for a free world with the workers on top — to do away with racism, war, and poverty.
Long live international solidarity! Long live working class unity!
More pictures from our delegation trip: