Thursday, April 21, 2005

Iraqi Labor: End the Occupation

Over at, photojournalist and labor reporter David Bacon interviews Felan Alwan, president of the Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions of Iraq (FWCUI). Alwan argues the U.S. should go home and be replaced by a U.N. peacekeeping mission from countries not associated with the occupation. Alwan's FWCUI is much more oppositional towards both the occupation and Iraq's transitional government than the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), at this time Iraq's largest and most powerful labor federation.

Alwan also makes a rather convincing argument regarding the illegitimacy of the recent elections. And while I tend to agree with him that these elections certainly weren't democratic and that one election doesn't create a democratic society, I'm still happy they occurred in defiance of the insurgency's explicit wish to stop them.

More importantly, the FWCUI has announced the creation of the Freedom Congress. Here's how Bacon describes it:
The union called it "a broad organization committed to establishing a free, secular and non-ethnic government in Iraq," composed of "political parties, trade unions, people's councils, associations and institutions." The FWCUI sees the present situation as a "civil abyss," in which "the fabric of the civil society in Iraq has been torn apart under the US occupation and the domination of the Islamic, tribal and political gangsters."
As I argued in the April issue of the Washington Monthly, found here, Iraq's labor unions can play an enormous role in creating a free and secular civil society that provides the foundation for democratization and that empowers people to create the organizational strength to make demands on the transitional government as well as the occupation forces. Otherwise, Iraqi civil society will be the haven for hierarchical religious organizations, largely Shiite, intent on imposing their brand of Islamic law on what was once a secular, modern country.