The British-based International Transport Federation (ITF) has issued a joint statement with Nautilus International (often referred to as the ‘merchant navy union’) that reflects no credit on either union.
Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson, referencing the detention of the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the strait of Hormuz, assures us: “Our thoughts are with the seafarers being held, and with their families.” However, appealing to imperialism to send in the gunboats against Iran is not the way to serve the welfare of the crew.
Incredibly, that is exactly what Dickinson proposes, informing us that he “wrote to the minister of defence supporting and encouraging joint naval interventions in response to the heightening tensions in the Gulf”!
The crew of the Stena Impero most certainly have a legitimate grievance, but not against the Iranian authorities, who were obliged to detain the ship pending investigation of an incident involving an Iranian fishing boat. The blame lies rather with imperialism, which treats the lives and welfare of seafaring workers like pawns in a game.
The object of the game is to prevent Iran from selling her oil, thereby strangling the economy, and to prevent Syria from importing oil (to compensate for the occupation of her own fields by US-backed Kurdish militias).
Over the summer, imperialism has been raising tensions on the high seas, culminating in the seizure of a supertanker bearing Iranian oil, the MT Grace 1, in early July. In an act of outright piracy by Britain, this commercial vessel was detained in a joint raid by British Royal Navy Marines and the Gibraltar police. The police arrested four officers of the ship, including the captain.
The excuse for this brigandage was the allegation (unproven, and denied by Tehran) that the ship was bound for Syria, and was therefore in breach of European Union sanctions against that country. (Presumably this pretext was chosen because officially the EU and Britain do not support US sanctions against Iran, only against Syria.)
Then, a couple of weeks after this transparent provocation by British imperialism, came the Stena Impero episode. The import of that episode can only be grasped in the context of all the provocations that preceded it.
Yet the statement put out jointly by the ITF and Nautilus concerning the Stena Impero episode makes no mention of the fate of the MT Grace 1. There is no solicitude expressed for the kidnapped crew of that ship, let alone any hint of complaint about the way that imperialism arrogates to itself the right to bully and blockade any country with sufficient backbone to resist imperial diktat.
Instead, Dickinson is proud to relate that he “wrote to the minister of defence supporting and encouraging joint naval interventions in response to the heightening tensions in the Gulf”!
British workers must recognise that British and US imperialism are the joint enemy of both the British working class and the people of Iran, and workers’ organisations must make their own policy on this basis, instead of blindly following the war games of our imperial masters.
We have no doubt that Bob Crow, the late and much-lamented general secretary of the Rail and Maritime Transport union (RMT), which is affiliated to the ITF, would have condemned the ITF’s appeal to gunboat diplomacy. It is to be hoped that the present RMT leadership will uphold the internationalism of the hero whose memory is so beloved by their members.
No war for oil!
No war with Iran!
No cooperation with war crimes!