Oil Workers, Trade Unions and the Emergence of Oil Nationalism in Libya, 1956-1969
Title: Oil Workers, Trade Unions and the Emergence of Oil Nationalism in Libya, 1956-1969
Author: BINI, Elisabetta
Series/Number: EUI MWP; 2012/27
This paper analyzes the ways in which U.S. oil companies transformed Libya’s economy and society between the Suez Crisis of 1956 and the rise of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in 1969, as the country became one of the main oil producers in North Africa and the Middle East. It examines the forms of exploitation and resistance that were carried out in American oil fields and the role oil workers had in challenging U.S. labor policies by organizing trade unions, promoting strikes, and sabotaging pipelines. This paper argues that oil workers in Libya challenged the politics of informal empire pursued by U.S. oil companies and shaped the emergence of oil nationalism. They resisted the forms of segregation and discrimination introduced in oil camps and company towns, by demanding the right to redefine labor relations through trade unions. In the early 1960s, a concerted effort led by the Libyan government, conservative Libyan trade unions, the U.S. administration and the main American trade union, the AFL-CIO, marginalized them. Nevertheless, during the Six Day War of 1967, oil workers constituted one of the main forces behind Libya’s attempt to promote oil nationalism, by placing an embargo on oil exports. By doing so, they set the stage for the emergence of Qaddafi’s regime in 1969.
Subject: Oil Politics; Libya; United States; Labour; Cold War; Decolonization; Trade Unions; Communism
Type of Access: openAccess