In this compelling study of labor and nationalism during and after Namibia's struggle for liberation, Gretchen Bauer addresses the very difficult task of consolidating democracy in an independent Namibia. Labor and Democracy in Namibia, 1971-1996 argues that a vibrant and autonomous civil society is crucial to the consolidation of new democracies, and it identifies trade unions, in particular, as especially important organizations of civil society. In Namibia, however, trade unions have emerged from the liberation struggle and the first years of independence in a weakened state. Dr. Bauer gives a lucid explanation for this phenomenon by tracing the origins and evolution of the trade unions in Namibia and discusses the implications thereof for the future of democracy in Namibia. Based on material not widely available before independence in 1990, this study takes a critical look at the nationalist movement in Namibia.
Through the use of dozens of interviews with political leaders, trade unionists, community activists, and others, Bauer offers the controversial suggestion that there are many within the nationalist movement (now the ruling party in government) who would rather not see a strong trade union movement (or any other potential rival) emerge in independent Namibia.