Port worker unions in France and Italy recently protested and struck, keeping Saudi ships from being loaded with weapons bound for attacks on Yemen. In early May, the ship Bahri Yanbu was forced to sail without the planned cannons when dock workers, joined by other anti-war protesters in northern France, kept the freighter from mooring.
The strikers then tipped off longshoremen in Genoa, Italy that the ship was headed their way. The entire Port of Genoa was closed by a strike and the ship was met with banners that read, “This port closed to arms, open to migrants.” Union leaders declared, “We will not be complicit in what is happening in Yemen.” The Saudi ship was forced back to sea.
After that, on May 20, another Saudi ship, the Bahri Tabuk, was stopped from loading ammunition in the southern French port of Fos-sur-Mer. The Italian government announced plans to move the artillery shells and drone parts by train to La Spezia, an Italian military port, where civilians are banned. So far, the ships have not been loaded.
As this cat-and-mouse game proceeds, French President Macron contends the weapons are used only for self-defense. However, three French journalists published leaked government documents that proved Macron lied. Officials knew that armaments sold to Saudi Arabia — including laser-guided missile systems and tanks — were being used against civilians in Yemen. These reporters now face up to five years in prison for protecting their sources. Furthermore, European unions and supporters cite public records that show the war in Yemen has caused nearly 100,000 civilian deaths and the world’s worst famine in a century.
European port workers have a proud record in the anti-war movement — stopping weapons shipments and organizing material aid — that stretches back to the 1950s. Now, international working-class solidarity by port and other unions, joined by other activists, can throw a big wrench into the military supply machine, cut into weapon-makers’ profits, and bring the world closer to stopping imperialist war!