Workers can stop Big Oil’s War for Oil!
Recent evident proves beyond doubt that oil was the prime motive for the invasion of Iraq. Big Oil has gone on to make record profits. We argue that oil workers in Iraq, and in oil producing countries like Venezuela, and workers in the imperialist countries like the US, can unite to close this war and occupation down.
Greg Palast recently reported on the evidence that the invasion of Iraq had been long planned to seize control of the oil resources. The only issue was privatize or not.
“. . .Two years ago today - when President George Bush announced US, British and Allied forces would begin to bomb Baghdad - protesters claimed the US had a secret plan for Iraq's oil once Saddam had been conquered.
In fact there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of "Big Oil" executives and US State Department "pragmatists".
"Big Oil" appears to have won. The latest plan, obtained by Newsnight from the US State Department was, we learned, drafted with the help of American oil industry consultants.
Insiders told Newsnight that planning began "within weeks" of Bush's first taking office in 2001, long before the September 11th attack on the US.
We saw an increase in the bombing of oil facilities and pipelines [in Iraq] built on the premise that privatisation is coming Mr Falah Aljibury An Iraqi-born oil industry consultant, Falah Aljibury, says he took part in the secret meetings in California, Washington and the Middle East. He described a State Department plan for a forced coup d'etat.
Mr Aljibury himself told Newsnight that he interviewed potential successors to Saddam Hussein on behalf of the Bush administration.
Secret sell-off plan
The industry-favoured plan was pushed aside by a secret plan, drafted just before the invasion in 2003, which called for the sell-off of all of Iraq's oil fields. The new plan was crafted by neo-conservatives intent on using Iraq's oil to destroy the Opec cartel through massive increases in production above Opec quotas.
The sell-off was given the green light in a secret meeting in London headed by Fadhil Chalabi shortly after the US entered Baghdad, according to Robert Ebel.
Mr Ebel, a former Energy and CIA oil analyst, now a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told Newsnight he flew to the London meeting at the request of the State Department.
Mr Aljibury, once Ronald Reagan's "back-channel" to Saddam, claims that plans to sell off Iraq's oil, pushed by the US-installed Governing Council in 2003, helped instigate the insurgency and attacks on US and British occupying forces.
"We saw an increase in the bombing of oil facilities, pipelines, built on the premise that privatisation is coming."
Privatisation blocked by industry
Philip Carroll, the former CEO of Shell Oil USA who took control of Iraq's oil production for the US Government a month after the invasion, stalled the sell-off scheme.
Mr Carroll told us he made it clear to Paul Bremer, the US occupation chief who arrived in Iraq in May 2003, that: "There was to be no privatisation of Iraqi oil resources or facilities while I was involved."
Ariel Cohen, of the neo-conservative Heritage Foundation, told Newsnight that an opportunity had been missed to privatise Iraq's oil fields.
He advocated the plan as a means to help the US defeat Opec, and said America should have gone ahead with what he called a "no-brainer" decision.
Mr Carroll hit back, telling Newsnight, "I would agree with that statement. To privatize would be a no-brainer. It would only be thought about by someone with no brain."
New plans, obtained from the State Department by Newsnight and Harper's Magazine under the US Freedom of Information Act, called for creation of a state-owned oil company favoured by the US oil industry. It was completed in January 2004 under the guidance of Amy Jaffe of the James Baker Institute in Texas. . .”
View segments of Iraq oil plans
This plan worked. Not only are Iraq’s oil fields now controlled by Big Oil but oil profits have never been higher The ‘results are in’ according to Evelyn J Pringle:
“By the end of 2004, the big three American oil companies, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobile, and ConocoPhillips, realized profits of $33.6 billion during Bush's first three years in office.
. . .On October 27, 2005, Reuter's reported that Exxon Mobil posted a quarterly profit of $9.9 billion, "the largest in U.S. corporate history, as it raked in a bonanza from soaring oil and gas prices." Exxon's record earnings topped the $9 billion net profit previously reported by Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Reuters said.
Exxon reported third-quarter net income up 75 percent from the year-ago period. "It was among the biggest quarterly profits of any company in history, and amounted to a per-minute profit of $74,879.23 during the quarter," according to the October 28, 2005 Wall Street Journal.
"Shell, the third largest oil company by market value behind Exxon and Britain's BP PLC, said its third-quarter net income rose 68 percent to $9.03 billion, on $76.44 billion in revenue," the Journal reported.
According to the Federal Energy Information Administration, the price of a gallon of regular gas in the same week the profits were announced, was up 28% from a year ago. Natural-gas prices have almost doubled in the past year and the EIA predicts that owners of gas-heated homes will see a 48% hike this winter over last year's already inflated prices, and homes heated with heating oil could see a 32% increase.”
Big Oil’s massive profits are at the expense of workers and poor peasants everywhere. Big Oil must be the main target of worker’s expropriation and control from Iraq, to Caracas to New Orleans!
Iraqi, Venezuelan and US workers can unite to shut down US Big Oil’s War!
While Big Oil makes record profits, Iraqi, Venezuelan and US workers have the power to shut down Big Oil and its oil for war. In Iraq the rebuilding of the Oil workers unions provides a platform for workers to fight to gain control of the nationalized oil industry back from Big Oil. At the same time Big Oil profits has driven up the cost of oil to US workers. Chavez provision of cheap heating oil to US workers opens up the opportunity for a higher level of class unity between Venezuelan and US workers that can block the supply of US oil for the war machine in Iraq!
Iraqi Oil Workers Against the Occupation and for Workers Control of Oil
The formation of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) independent of both the main union federations is a significant step forward. Representing over 23,000 workers in the key oil industry, across 3 provinces and nine state oil and gas companies, the union has a militant record and strong positions against the occupation and against privatization of oil.
“The union has on two separate occasions halted oil exports through strike action over unpaid wages, repressive Baathist managers and officials in the Ministry of Oil and land allocations for employees. It has successfully reconstructed infrastructure, port equipment, drilling rigs and pipelines without the help of foreign companies. It has succeeded in canceling the last two tiers of the Occupation’s Order 30 wage-table and raising the minimum wage for Iraqi oil workers from 69,000 Iraqi Dinar (US$32) per month to 102,000 ID (US$60) per month.
The union’s ‘Troops Out’ policy calls for the immediate withdrawal of all occupation forces from Iraq.” It’s policy on ownership states “The privatization of oil and industrial sectors is the objective of all in the Iraqi state/government. We will stand firm against this imperialist plan that would hand over Iraq’s wealth to international capitalism such that the deprived Iraqi people would not benefit from it.”
While Big Oil can maximize its superprofits from the control of Iraqi oil without privatization (see previous story) the IFOU has the potential to take control of the oil industry from below and close down the imperialist siphoning of Iraq’s oil wealth. But they cannot do it alone. It is necessary for workers in the imperialist countries to shut down Big Oil at home, and for Venezuelan oil workers to take the lead in shutting off the supply to US oil for war.
Venezuela: for workers democracy in the oil industry
Chavez is using V oil as a ‘geopolitical weapon’ threatening US supplies, offering cheap oil to US workers, making plans for an alternative energy bloc in LA etc. But there is a problem. Chavez and his LA partners are national leaders who will not go all the way to nationalise and put under workers control the most powerful imperialist corporates – Big Oil. At best Chavez, Lula, Kirchner and Morales (the likely new Bolivian President) can only negotiate shares of the oil wealth to be retained in their countries. This leaves the giant share being of oil and gas being pumped out of LA and used power monopoly capital and its war of Terror. Only real worker ownership and control of oil and gas can reverse this process, stop the war for Big Oil, and make oil available to meet the needs of the masses of the world.
As we pointed out in the last issue, under Chavez’ control oil is being used as a weapon against workers. Not only to fuel the war in Iraq, but to strike break in Ecuador and at home in Venezuela where anti-strike legislation can be used by Chavez to lock out oil workers. Even the deals done with the Caribbean states and with China for cheap oil may not end up benefiting workers but the capitalists who are on the way back in Cuba and raking off huge profits from China. Unless oil is under real workers control it becomes a subsidy from the Venezuelan people to monopoly capital. The only way to ensure that workers benefit is to make sure that the ownership and control of Venezuelan oil is in the hands of the workers, so that its production and distribution can be planned by workers for workers.
US Workers: Hurricane Katrina and cheap oil
We can see how this would work in the case of the supply of cheap oil to the US. Chavez offer is for cheap oil to be administered by the Venezuelan owned Citric collaborating with local authorities. But Venezuelan oil workers could do better than that by offering free oil and demand that it be distributed by rank and file union groups in the US. This would become a platform to launch real workers control in Venezuela so that workers could renegotiate the current deals with Big Oil for exploration and exploitation of oil and gas. Chavez and the Bolivarian state energy policy of creating an alternative Latin American energy company called Petrosur, which would integrate regional oil and gas industries. But this plan is not based on the expropriation of the key Big Oil players in Latin America, Repsol, Petrobras, Exxon etc. It is an attempt to negotiate better terms with Big Oil. The limits to this collaboration with Big Oil are evident in Chavez deals with Kirchner, supplying oil to Ecuador to replace that lost by strike action, and his plans to introduced no-strike laws in Venezuela.
Real workers control will only result form the transformation of the workers organizations that co-manage nationalized industries along with the state taking complete control of industry from the state. The oil workers can show the way by fighting to take control of production and distribution of oil, setting the price and end use of oil.
No Oil for War! Iraqi and Venezuelan oil workers unite to smash Big Oil’s monopoly!
Oil for the Poor! Iraqi, Venezuelan and US oil workers unite to defend the rights, wages and conditions of oil workers! Unite to distribute oil to the workers of the reserve army of unemployed in the US under rank and file control!
No Oil to strike break! Follow the lead of the Venezuelan oil workers who condemned Chavez’ sale of oil to Ecuador as strike breaking!
Workers control of production and distribution of oil to meet the needs of the world’s workers!
From Class Struggle 64 Nov 05/Jan 06