Support builds for labour leader attacked for solidarity with Syria
One hundred trade union delegations from around the world gathered in Damascus on September 8-9, for the Third International Trade Union Forum in Solidarity with Syrian Workers. The purpose of the meeting was to build opposition to imperialist intervention against Syria and the economic sanctions against Syria.
The forum was organized on the initiative of Syria’s General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU), in cooperation with the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU) and World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU). Among the trade unions who participated were the Arab Labor Organization (ALO), the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), and several national labour organizations from throughout the world.
The war and sanctions have caused over $90 billion USD in damages and losses to Syria. More than 9000 Syrian workers have been killed by terrorist attacks, with another 14000 wounded and 3000 kidnapped. The Trade Union Forum agreed to develop a worldwide campaign to confront those governments and organizations that support terrorism and sanctions against Syria and the Syrian people. This includes exposing the corporate
media, which the forum statement noted use “false slogans to justify the policies of imperialist intervention, domination, aggression and terrorism.”
The forum also expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle and demanded an end to the Saudi aggression against Yemen. Participants saluted the resistance of the peoples of Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia against imperialist attacks and provocations.
Canadian labour participant attacked
Donald Lafleur, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress, attended the meeting and spoke to Telesur TV. “The sanctions on Syria are completely unacceptable. The Canadian labour movement does support the people in Syria and we’re here to put pressure to take the sanctions away.”
Almost immediately, Lafleur was attacked in the mainstream media in Canada, who questioned why a Canadian labour representative was calling for an end to sanctions. CBC News claimed the forum was “organized by the Assad regime” and repeated the usual US-NATO narrative that the Syrian government is clinging to power despite its “authoritarianism” and “crimes against humanity.” Postmedia’s Terry Glavin went further, calling
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad a “mass murderer and war criminal” and claiming that the forum was made up of false trade unions from “fictional” countries.
Lafleur’s comments were principled – he simply said that workers in Canada support workers in Syria, that the sanctions were unacceptable, that the purpose of the forum was to build pressure to end them. He could have also pointed out that Bashar Al-Assad is the legitimate president of Syria, that the Syrian working class and trade union movement is strongly united behind the Syrian Armed Forces and the defense of the country
against imperialist intervention, or that an estimated 90% of anti-government “freedom fighters” are foreign mercenaries and conscripts who have been recruited and armed by the US and its allies in NATO and reactionary Gulf governments. He could have said all of these very true and provable things, but he did not. What he gave was nothing more than a minimal – yet very welcome – expression of solidarity.
Following the media attacks, the CLC stated that the union central “had no interest in being represented there [at the Trade Union Forum]” and said they were going to investigate Lafleur’s participation. Subsequently, CLC
President Hassan Yussuff suspended Lafleur from his responsibilities.
Solidarity with Lafleur
Labour and solidarity activists have been quick to respond, calling for Yussuff to reinstate Lafleur and demanding that the CLC take a stand against the sanctions.
The Communist Party of Canada issued a statement, calling the media attacks “McCarthyist” and criticizing the CLC for its “clear support for the imperialist aggression” against Syria.
That statement follows:
“The news that the Canadian Labour Congress has stripped Vice-President Donald Lafleur of his duties and put him on administrative leave raises many troubling
questions. This action runs counter to the urgent need for labour to adopt a more militant fightback strategy, to strengthen the role of trade unions in the struggles
for peace and international solidarity, and to promote a more democratic and inclusive leadership style, from the top levels of the CLC down to the provincial federations,
labour councils, and union locals.
“The Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Canada joins with other progressive activists calling for the reinstatement of Brother Donald Lafleur
to his elected position in the CLC leadership. Despite the vicious media attacks and lies in recent days, Lafleur attended the Third International Trade Union Forum in Solidarity with Syrian Workers at his own expense, during his vacation time, and he did not address this forum or claim to be representing the CLC.
“To his credit, Brother Lafleur took the courageous step of attending this conference in Damascus, “to listen and learn.” Convened to build opposition to imperialist intervention and economic sanctions, the event was organized by Syria’s General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU), in cooperation with the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU) and World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU). Other participating bodies included the Arab Labor Organization (ALO), the
Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU),and several national labour organizations from variouscountries.
“We note that since 2011, the war and sanctions have caused over $90 billion USD in damages and losses to Syria. More than 9000 Syrian workers have been killed by terrorist attacks, with another 14000 wounded and 3000 kidnapped. The Trade Union Forum agreed to develop a worldwide solidarity campaign to confront those governments and organizations that support terrorism and sanctions against Syria and the Syrian people.
“The McCarthyist attacks against Donald Lafleur in Canada’s mainstream media began almost immediately. CBC News and Postmedia’s bitterly reactionary Terry Glavin falsely claimed that the forum was “organized by
the Assad regime,” and both condemned the forum’s call for an end to the deadly sanctions against Syria.
“By throwing Donald Lafleur under the bus and repeating the media attacks against the elected government of Syria, the CLC leadership has indicated its clear support for the imperialist aggression aimed at forcing “regime change.” As we have seen in other countries in the region, this would not lead to democracy and social justice - it only opens the door for terrorist organizations to seize control. We urge labour activists to reject the CLC’s statements which closely reflect the US-NATO storyline, and to call on the Congress to change course - reinstate Brother Donald Lafleur and
begin building true solidarity with the trade unions and working class of Syria.”
Shortly after the CLC launched its criticism of Lafleur, a group of trade unionists in the United States launched a campaign to get labour organizations in the US to send letters to Yussuff, encouraging the Canadian union central to defend Lafleur and, in the process, take
a stand for peace and international solidarity.
Labour and solidarity activists in Canada,
part of the Hamilton Coalition to Stop War and the Syria Solidarity Movement,
have started a petition campaign at change.org,
calling for Lafleur’s full reinstatement. A link to that petition is available
The above article is from the October 1-15,
2019, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles
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