3 IMCWP, Contribution of National Democratic Trend

6/22/01 12:58 PM
  • 3rd IMCWP En Asia Communist and workers' parties
Bahrain: The Left and The Workers Movement
By: A.N. Mansour/ The National Democratic Trend
Athens 22-24 th. June      

Bahrain has been witnessing dramatic developments since the
new Amir, Shaikh Hamad Al-Khlifah took over on 6th
March1999 upon the death of his father who ruled the
country since 16/12/1960. The first year of his rule
witnessed positive but not conclusive gestures. He issues a
limited and conditional amnesty covering 789 political
detainees and about 30 exiled families. A margin of freedom
of expression was tolerated. Unprecedent Seminars were
allowed, where public affairs were raised without penalty
and the press was opened for relatively critical
commentaries.

       On the occasion of the National Day, 16th Dec. 1999,
the Amir delivered Key statement, where he addressed
chronic problems, such the naturalization of (albedun-
stateless), unemployment, discrimination among citizens,
housing. He urged the intellectuals to criticize the
officials who should accept criticism. He emphasized that
he is against discrimination and favoritism. Little
substance was delivered, few stateless were naturalized.

Most of the year 2000 witnessed nothing important. The
21st.Oct. witnessed the beginning of the third term of
Al-Shrua (Consultive) Council (appointed), where few
pro-opposition were appointed. The turning point was the
key address by the Amei to the members of Al-Shura Council.
He announced his grand project to " The Renaissance of
Bahrain". He revealed that he will appoint a committee to
draft "National Charter", which will pave the way torwards
"Constitutional Monarchy". The committee was headed by
senior al-Khalifah Minister of Justice, Shaik Abdulla bin
Khaled, and composed of 47 members of al-Khalifah
ministers, and independent personalities. It was peculiar
that 6 members represent the opposition and the workers
movement. 
      The Amir, needed the popular support to the national
Charter to reaffirm his legitimacy thus the support of the
opposition was critical in this respect.The opposition was
in need for ending the reign of repression, but through a
decent compromise. The representatives of the opposition at
the Charter committee demanded the following:
The refusal of the Charter draft proposed by the
government. The text falsifies the heroic struggle of the
people and glorifies its oppressors.
The emphasis on the supremacy of the elected National
Assembly on the appointed Al-Shura Council.
The amendments of the constitution should be through the
National Assembly.
4-The supermacy of the constitution over the charter
     Upon the refusal of the committee by small margin, due
to the government domination, 4 out of the 6 resigned.
These pro-opposition personalities presented and
distributed an alternative National Charter, which had
strong impact. The leadership of the opposition (both the
Islamests and the democrats) coordinated their efforts and
demands.

The unconditional release of all political prisoners,
detainees and the  return of the exiled. The Amir gave
consecutive orders to implement this in face of obstacles
by the Ministry of Interior. Still there are hundreds of
political exiles, denaturalized upon deportation, by the
intelligence service.
The Amir ordered that all those covered by the Amiri
Amnesty to be granted passports with their families, to
return to their jobs ,to endorse their employment, and to
facilitate their housing. While granting passport and
freedom of travel was guaranteed for most ,securing jobs
and housing is far from being guaranteed. The state has
declared grand project for housing and envisaged a national
plan for employment.
The opposition demanded that the state should declare
explicitly that the constitution supercedes the charter and
that the elected council is solely responsible for
legislation.

      The Amir ordered the Minister of Justice to give the
necessary clarification. The opposition, then, was
satisfied and agreed to support the National Charter in the
referendum on 14-15th Feb 2001, which secured 98.4%
approval of both males and females above 21 years (217
thousand).

Upon the popular approval of the National Charter, new
epoch has started affecting all aspects of life on both the
state and the society, through what is to be called
"Transitory Period."

A- At the state Level.

      The Amir envisaged his project, which secured the
popular consent but he was faced with inherited state
apparatus that was responsible for 25 years of stagnaton
and repression since aborting the constitution on 25th Aug
1975. His uncle Shaik Khalifah al- Khalifah, the
prime-minister  has been steering the state since
independece on 14th Aug 1971. The Amir reform project was
not appreciated by the ruling Al-Khalifah family, which
gave facial consent. The Amir was faced by two choices:
either to dismiss his uncle and his cabinet and top
security commanders who are responsible for the ugly past.
Or to co-exist with the inherited apparatus with grafting
some royalist into it and to opt to compromises concerning 
state restructering. 

     It seemed the balance of power, keeness to preserve
the unity of the ruling family, and the influence of
neighbors, especially  the Saudi Kingdom, did not permit
the Amir to resolve the command of power. So, he opted to
co-existence with his powerful uncle and the inherited
state apparatus, with some modification. The uncle in
return ,showed restraint and cooperation, while diminishing
the reforms to the minimum. The resultant is as follows:

The Amir repealed the State Security Law and the State
Security Court, which were the legal means of State
repression for 26 years. This has liberated the people from
the nightmare, and motivated openess of the political life.
The Amir, on advise of the Prime Minister formed "The
Committee for Constitutional Amendment", which was faced
with popular apprehension, as it was agreed,( the Amir and
the opposition) that such an amndements are entrusted to
the elected council (to be formed in 2004).
The Amir entrusted his pro- reform son, Crown Prince, Shaik
Salman Al-Khalifah, to head the Committee for Charter
Vitalization, composed of ministers, high ranking officials
and independent personalities. In general the majority were
pro- reforms, but non represents the national democrats
(the secular trend). The committee was entitled to envisage
plans and to draft legistlations for the transitory period.
The committee enviged plan to  the chronic problem of
unemployment (15-20%) and project for the chronic problem
of housing. This is in parallel to the government plan and
project.
The committee is to detail the proposed National Auditing
Council ,National Administrative Security Council, and the
Constitutional Court.
The committee is to amend existing laws that contravene
with the constitution and to draw new legistlation to
activate the constitution. This includes the Electoral Law
and Municipal Law. The Crown Prince appointed sub-
committees of mostly professionals, each headed by
committee member.

In fact, there is official government headed by the Amir
uncle and shadow cabinet headed by his son. Nobody knows
how this conflict is to be resolved, or how far the state
would advance in the reforms. There are contradictory
directions and statements.

The Amir, not awaiting the amendments of the laws or the
legistlation of new laws, gave the green light for urgent
changes, such as the formation of trade union, and
licensing new societies, including those of political
nature. It is expected also that new journals will be
permitted, representing the political factions.

B- At the Society Level:
       The society has never witnessed such vitality and
dynamism. The underground political organizations,
Islamests and secular, had come to surface working openly.
There is alive dialogue within each trend and among the
various trends. The open atmosphere, the sense of security,
and the keeness to facilitate the democratic transformation
has influenced all towards moderation and central current.
      The society has suffered of chronic official policy
of sectarianism, which reflected itself negatively on the
society. The political feuds between the Islamests and the
secularists and the conflicts within each current had
prevailed for decades, except the truce during the
constitutional resistance since 1994. It seems that the
competition to gain wider base in preparation for the
coming elections is an alarm of ominous political conflict.

The left and the Trade Union Movement:

      The Left is in the process of transformation. The
historically established left was composed of the
communists (the National Liberation Front- Bahrain) and the
Marxist (The Popular Front in Bahrain). Through the past
three decades, the left receded in influence. There are
many factors such as the repression, the Islamest surge,
and the collapse of the socialist group and the Arab
national setbacks. The majority of members deserted the two
organizations , recruitment of new members halted. And
stagnation prevailed .But as  the new epoch started , there
is renewed interest in political activism. Even before the
new epoch, there had been efforts to form the National
Democratic Forum (NDF) to gather the two organizations and
the individual democrats. By March 2001, a draft program of
the NDF was phrased and distributed widely within this
trend. Political and organizational difference still
obstruct the formation of NDF.
In the meantime, national democrats opted to establish a
forum " The Society for National Democratic Action: which
is to be licensed as political society. It is expected that
this society will facilitate the formation of NDF.

   On the otherhand, the workers movement is witnessing
radical transformation. The licensed organization the
General Committee of Bahrain Workers (GCBW) is short of
workers union and limited to 18 private and mixed
companies. At the same time there was clandestine
unlicensed " Bahraini Workers Union" with international
representation. The GCBW had been striving for
transformation to workers union. Amid the new atmosphere,
the Amir received the newly elected administration of the
GCBW, and gave the green light to its transformation to the
Bahraini Workers Union. The GCBW is in process of such
dramatic change, which require incorporating thousands of
workers and employees at the private and public sectors.

      The Left has enjoyed substantional influence among
the workers and their movement until now. But we are faced
with new situation characterized bye the following:

The Islamest forces strive for influence within the workers
ranks and their trade movement.
There is a sense of independence within the ranks of the
workers movement. Directions by the political organization
,sideline political deals and political creditenals are not
accepted.These cadres to stand for election should depend
on their merits.

The  future relation between the left and the workers trade
union depends on many factors of which:

The consolidation of the left ranks into well defined forum
with clear program. This program should be characterized by
its consideration for the workers interest.
The GCBW should undertake the responsibility of defending
the rights of all workers and employees and thousands of
unemployed ..The unmployed  formed their own committee
which is not related to GCBW, whose members belong to
Islamest trend

The relation is subject of different possibilities and
speculations. Much depends on how the Left manages its
internal affairs ,and thus be able to deal with this anfd
other tasks.