Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

September 3, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

LABOR DAY IN IRAQ....Ever since World War II, American labor unions have been instrumental in helping spread democracy and labor rights throughout the world. The AFL-CIO's Lane Kirkland, for example, was one of the first to recognize what was happening in the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk back in 1980, and immediately offered his help to Solidarity leader Lech Walesa. In the end, the AFL-CIO funneled over $4 million in aid to Solidarity, as well as both money and technical assistance to other labor movements in Eastern Europe and around the world. From Poland to Brazil to South Africa, local labor unions have played key roles in stabilizing emerging democracies, and American support for those unions has been instrumental.

So what better way to celebrate Labor Day than to link to one of my all-time favorite Washington Monthly articles, Matthew Harwood's "Pinkertons at the CPA." It's the story of how the Bush administration's anti-labor obsession led it to actively sabotage one of the few cross-cultural institutions that was genuinely happy to see American troops enter Baghdad and genuinely eager to work with us: Iraq's labor unions.

By March 2003, when the first American and allied tanks rolled into Iraq, laborites there, who had been hoping for Saddam's overthrow for decades, were mostly cheering. By mid-May, the IFTU arose out of the labor movement that had resisted Saddam for more than two decades. Composed of liberals, nationalists, and communists who represented Iraq's Mueslix-like mixture of ethnicity and faith, the IFTU was one of the few existing organizations in Iraq whose membership crossed sectarian lines.

But from the time the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) took possession of Iraq, the Americans running the country not only declined to engage the labor movement in the process of building a nation, but also worked actively to undermine labor's ability to play a constructive role.

First, during his tenure, CPA chief L. Paul Bremer repealed virtually the whole Iraqi legal structure with his so-called 100 Orders. He did not, however, repeal Saddam's 1987 Labor Code, which forfeited the right of public sector workers to bargain collectively. That decision, though deeply foolish for purposes of nation-building, made perfect sense to the movement ideologues staffing the U.S. occupation.

Read the whole thing. It's a perfect nutshell description of how Heritage Foundation conservatism took priority over serious democracy promotion and economic planning in Iraq. Multiply it by a thousand, and it's the story of how conservative monomania helped wreck a country. Happy Labor Day, all you loyal Bushies.

Kevin Drum 1:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

[You posting here is an exercise in futility. What is that definition of insanity, again?]

Posted by: mhr on September 3, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

> AFL-CIO's Lane Kirkland, for example, was one of
> the first to recognize what was happening in the
> Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk back in 1980, and
> immediately offered his help to Solidarity leader
> Lech Walesa. In the end, the AFL-CIO funneled over
> $4 million in aid to Solidarity, as well as both
> money and technical assistance to other labor
> movements in Eastern Europe and around the world.

At, I can tell you from personal knowledge, considerable risk to the Americans involved (of course the Poles were at risk) from both the then-Polish Communist Government and also the US Government which no doubt knew what was going on but kept hinting at prosecution under the no-private-citizens-in-foreign-affairs laws and regulations.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on September 3, 2007 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

excuse me mhr, but let me extend your logic:

the united states congress declared war against japan in dec. 1942. republicans voted for the declaration. in 1945, stalin's ussr declared war against japan. republicans therefor are stalinists.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on September 3, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

now i understand why kevin deletes your comments, mhr.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on September 3, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

What mhr omits from his history lesson is that when the national Democratic party decided to finally commit itself to civil rights, all of the racists in the South who had been preventing blacks from voting switched to the Republican party, where they've been trying to prevent blacks from voting right up to the present day. Also, that George W. Bush owes his presidency to such efforts (since Katherine Harris and her crew managed to strip more than 5,000 innocent blacks of their voting rights, a group that votes for Democrats 90% of the time, and Bush only "won" by 500-odd votes).

Oh, and mhr, you need to use an adjective to modify a noun. "Democrat" is a noun. "Democratic" is an adjective.

Posted by: Joe Buck on September 3, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, I sort of wish I'd seen mhr's comment.

Oh wait, no I don't.

Don't remember where but I recently read an article about the oil workers union. Apparently they're still leading the fight against the rip-off of Iraq's oil, and they're being helped by the Teamsters' Union.

Posted by: Cal Gal on September 3, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

FDR's New Deal coexisted with the white racists who ruled the segregationist South, without whom there would have been no New Deal. The Democratic party allowed only whites to vote even in primary elections.

I have to respond quick before it goes to the ether...

Those Democrats you castigate found a home in the GOP after 1964, and you damn well know it. Jackass.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 3, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you write, "it's the story of how conservative monomania helped wreck a country."

Theirs -- or ours? Or both?

Posted by: CMcC on September 3, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

---
the white racists who ruled the segregationist South
---

The happiest day on the Republic calendar was the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which notified the racists that they were now only welcome in the Republic party.

Posted by: eightnine2718281828mu5 on September 3, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm, one would think that Iraq celebrates Labor Day on May 1st, just like pretty much like the rest of the world.

Posted by: ogmb on September 3, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Those Democrats you castigate found a home in the GOP after 1964, and you damn well know it. Jackass.

There is nothing to back this theory up out in the real world. I'm sure this myth is immensely comforting to Democrats, but only one party has a former Klansman in a leadership position.

Leaving aside the actual post-1964 election statistics, look at this:

...white Republicans nationally are 25 percentage points more likely on average to vote for the Democratic senatorial candidate when the GOP hopeful is black.

But...

Democrats also desert their party when its candidate is black, Washington found. In House races, white Democrats are 38 percentage points less likely to vote Democratic if their candidate is black.

Off the high horse, please.

The more likely theory is that the South left the Democratic Party when the Democratic Party decided that Leftism was more important than Americanism.

Posted by: elmendorf on September 3, 2007 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

I can't wait to see Kevin's Halloween anti-Bush post.

Posted by: harry on September 3, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

The more likely theory is that the South left the Democratic Party when the Democratic Party decided that Leftism was more important than Americanism.

yeah, that must be it! And you support this theory with...nothing. Maybe you should stop sharing a brain with mhr.

Posted by: haha on September 3, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

The Heritage Foundation is leading a communist conspiracy, I am sure of that. No other organization in history, except the communists, have ever demanded a government imposed solution to almost any irritant they see.

Posted by: Matt on September 3, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

haha:

I posted a survey. What do you have for your thesis other than repetition?

The South went Republican when you ran leftist George McGovern, and switched back when you ran "mainstream" Jimmy Carter. When they figured out who Carter was, it switched back to Reagan. In 1992, it was split between Clinton and Bush I. In 1996, split again. 2000, back to the Republicans. We'll see what happens in 2008.

To me, that says it's about liberal politics, not racism. And that's at least as much "evidence" as your side has provided.

Posted by: elmendorf on September 3, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Um, might we also remember that the AFL-CIO's support for Walesa was part of a much larger pattern of labor support that had more to do with cold war paranoia/politics than with concern for the plight of the workers in distant lands. The AFL-CIO was very much opposed to labor movements, especially in Latin America, that were deemed insufficiently anti-communist by the powers that be, among them the CIA and the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD). It was, finally, the leaders of OTHER labor unions that forced the AFL-CIO out of the CIA's bed. Google the acronyms and read up. . .

Posted by: james on September 3, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

The more likely theory is that the South left the Democratic Party when the Democratic Party decided that Leftism was more important than Americanism.

Hmmm. See here, here,, and here,

But it was the Democrats that put David Duke on the ballot decades after Byrd denounced his clan membership. Oh - wait - no it wasn't.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 3, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

The white backlash was underway before the Civil Rights Act. That was the icing on the racist cake.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 3, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

oops. Klan, not Clan.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 3, 2007 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe you should read your own links, particularly the Lublin paper.

Posted by: elmendorf on September 3, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Actually I included that link because it offers a broader view and is not singularly focused.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 3, 2007 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

"What do you have for your thesis other than repetition?"

The head of the RNC of all things apologized to the NAACP because the Southern Strategy that Republicans have relied upon since 1968 was based primarily on appealing to Southern white racism. You're own party's official mouthpiece has admitted this. Your party is the one that made Trent Lott the Senate majority leader. If Republicans haven't tried to appeal so much to racism, why have blacks tended to overwhelmingly vote Democratic?

Posted by: Reality Man on September 3, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent point, Kevin. It is heart-warming to remember that unions were pivotal in starting the Soviet collapse. It is surprising that we(maybe I'm just deaf)don't often hear unions presented as a top tier response to the dogmatic right wing assertion that Reagan's boldness caused the demise.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O/F in 08! on September 3, 2007 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Good article, Kevin. I must have missed that one when it was published in 2005. It illustrates a point I have made several times on this blog - American conservatives have always supported terrorist activities, as long as the terror was directed against groups they didn't like. Examples include supporting the mujaheddin in Afghanistan against the Soviets, the Contras in Nicaragua against the Sandinistas and the Baathists in Iraq against the Communists in 1958, when Communists and labor union leaders were slaughtered by the hundreds after the overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy. Our own CIA explicitly supported this purge, or at least didn't lift a finger to do anything about it.

That is why it is completely false and disingenuous for fascist-leaning conservatives like Bush and Cheney to assert that they oppose terrorism. They only oppose terrorists who attack people they like.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 3, 2007 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

I think more right-wing trolls ought take a cue from GOP operative Mary Matalin (currently shilling for Frederick of Hollywood), and start throwing inanimate objects when arguments don't go their way. That most always wins people over.

And here's to hoping that mhr starts with their hard drives.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on September 3, 2007 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Labor unions can accomplish good things, but you got to be kidding in suggesting that a significant problem in Iraq is that public sector unions are not allowed to bargain with the government.

Posted by: brian on September 3, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Labor unions can accomplish good things, but you got to be kidding in suggesting that a significant problem in Iraq is that public sector unions are not allowed to bargain with the government.

So unions and progressive labor laws were good enough for the Polish but not good enough for Iraqis?

Maybe if the US were more interested in creating a civil society in Iraq and less interested in creating a "free market year 0," there'd be fewer problems in the country.

Posted by: Tyro on September 3, 2007 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Elmerdork, regurgitates RNC spin once again. Look Fudd, how many Southern Democrats changed to Republican? How many of the southern states have changed from being solidly Democratic to solidly Republican?

I know it is an article of faith among those who parrot RNC talking points that the Republicans are real Americans, but given their long history of failure at national security and Domestic concerns, it is the Democrats who represent America and its interests.

Also, if you weren't such a moron you might have noticed that the only Democrats that have gotten Presidential votes from the south have also been southerners - in other words, their racism is trumped by their provincialism.

Finally, as people like BGRS know very well, the proportion of racists isn't that great. The problem is that if you have 48% D, 48% R and 4% racist, then the R's win by 4 points every time. They don't have to be a majority, they don't even have to be a significant minority. They just have to blindly vote for those, like George W. Bush who do the right dog-whistle.

Posted by: heavy on September 3, 2007 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

So brian, our local expert on all things Iraq, thinks throwing away the support of one of the very few groups who might have greeted us as liberators wasn't a significant problem.

No wonder everyone thinks he's too stupid to treat with even a modicum of respect.

Posted by: heavy on September 3, 2007 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

brian:

You may have a point. Iraq has no goverment - that's why all this nonsense Bush is talking about "progress in al-Anbar province" on his stealth trip today is so much poppycock. No "progress" is sustainable if you don't have a functioning government.

However, I don't think Kevin's (or Matthew Harwood's) point is that Iraq's problems arise from the lack of collective bargaining. It's more that Paul Bremer's bad, ideologically constipated decision-making, which included maintaining Saddam's prohibition on labor unions, strangled any hope of kindling democracy in Iraq in it's infancy.

Have a nice day.

TCD

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 3, 2007 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

wapo's take on the racist electorate theory:

---
In fact, white Republicans nationally are 25 percentage points more likely on average to vote for the Democratic senatorial candidate when the GOP hopeful is black,
---
---
Her analysis suggests that GOP "white flight" in the Maryland Senate race could mean at least an additional 1 or 2 percent of the vote goes to the Democrat, and perhaps more
---

So the 25% increase is on the order of 1% to 1.25% nominal, which is *not* the same as 25% of the Republican electorate.

And the article sheds no light on the 38% increase they talk about on the Democratic side.

An increase from .000001 to .00000138 would be a 38% increase.

The wapo article is intended to inflame, not inform.

From the actual paper:

http://www.econ.yale.edu/ddp/2006/ddp0016.pdf

---
From 1982 to 2000, in House elections, Black Democratic candidates won 88 percent of their elections while Black Republicans succeeded only 4 percent of the time. In the Senate Black Democrats were victorious 14 percent of the time and Black Republicans never.
---

Posted by: eightnine2718281828mu5 on September 3, 2007 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

Consistent with the Repugs turning Iraq into a Right to Work and a Right to Die State.

Of course, that right to die only comes when Shrub's God decides for one to take a bullet or a bomb blast. No Oregon law, please.

And the Shrubian government is how different from the Soviets with their Political Kommisars and the Nazis with their Party Ideologues attached, even to U-Boats?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 4, 2007 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

I know I shouldn't be amazed any more by the blinding incompetence of the people who planned and executed the occupation of Iraq, but the Bush administration has seemingly-never-ending powers to amaze.

Posted by: TW Andrews on September 4, 2007 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

it's the story of how conservative monomania helped wreck a country.

You'll have to be more specific. Are you referring to Iraq, the US, or both?

Posted by: ckelly on September 4, 2007 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Hi , it's Labor Day! I'm enjoying my extra day off, and I am planning to make something fun that will probably involve a car trip and seeing something new in North Caldwell I haven't seen yet.
You write something new on this Monday at the labor day? ... HAPpY BloGgIng!

Posted by: aristokratio on September 6, 2009 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK

Appears we are likely to have a great year for birding this year, loads of stuff about by now and also it is really still early. Anybody have any kind of notion the reason why this is? I'd have thought that the cold might have made it worse for them.

Posted by: Mildred Stoke on January 14, 2011 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly