War etc

Union of the Unemployed

Monday’s Washington Post has an article about the Union of the Unemployed in Iraq, which some commenters to Harry’s Place have cited as the sort of grass-roots organization leftists should be supporting in the post-Saddam era.

The communist-led union– which claims 300,000 registered members– seems intent on working non-violently within the opening created by the ouster of the Baathist regime. For now it appears more interested in finding jobs for its members than it does in ideology.

By its leaders’ account, the group has succeeded by denouncing the failures of the U.S.-led reconstruction. But that same success in organizing from the ground up — among the homeless squatting in government buildings and the jobless idle in Baghdad and elsewhere — has come only through the fall of Hussein, who brutally repressed independent activism.

The union represents the nascent, unexpected shape of Iraq’s new civil society, where religious revival and economic demands are shaping the discourse of a country struggling to redefine its identity.

But The Post reports that the organization engaged in a “short-lived dialogue” with occupation authorities last year “that the union called off in frustration.”

That’s unfortunate. It’s very much in the interest of the coalition to help prove that peaceful civil action can produce results.