IGC Considers New Elections and Democratic Trade Unions
According to ash-Sharq al-Awsat, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim has revealed that the Interim Governing Council has still not finally come to a compromise on how to hold elections this spring for a transitional government. Al-Hakim wants general, one-person-one-vote elections, whereas the majority agrees with the Americans in wanting more easily controlled caucus elections based on US-appointed local councils.
Meanwhile, members of the IGC continue to lobby Paul Bremer to let them stay on after the elections, to function as a sort of upper house or Senate. Bremer is said to fear that the IGC and the transitional government will clash and produce deadlock, but the Americans may be weakening just because they are so eager to find someone to turn the civil administration of the country over to.
The Interim Governing Council has also taken up the issue of how to set up democratic trade unions in Iraq. IGC member Raja’ al-Khuza’i said that the pressing issue was how to enable the trade unions to function so as to empower their members, in the crucial period leading up to the election of a transitional government. She said it was crucial that the unions develop a new role, given that under Saddam they had been instruments of state control rather than grass roots organizations.
US audiences will find this latter subject dry as dust and uninteresting. Only about %13 of American workers are unionized, and most newspapers do not any longer have a labor reporter. (The low rates of unionization partially result from the decline of smokestack industries where workers were easy to organize on the shop floor, and partially from rightwing US judges winking at corporations’ systematic union-busting activities.)
But for a largely working class society like Iraq, the unions are extremely important potentially, and it is hard to see how you get democracy there without democratic unions. This is a point made by historian John Dower in his work on the post-war reconstruction of Japan. Grass roots constituencies were found for democracy there, including free farmers, e.g. The New Dealers who crafted a new Germany and Japan recognized the importance of strong trade unions. The laissez faire American administration of Iraq appointed by Bush is deeply hostile to the Iraqi working classes, and favors shock therapy in hopes of jerry-rigging a new Iraqi bourgeoisie (which is likely to consist of robber barons, as in Russia).
So, Raja’ al-Khuza’i, who works hard on women’s issues, is now pushing another key set of issues, around organized labor, that will have an enormous impact on how Iraqi society develops long after Halliburton has made its money and disappeared. One fears she will not get much meaningful support from Washington on either issue.