Part-I | Part-II

From the Page to the Screen

The cinematic qualities of Live Working, and the audio-visual and computer skills demonstrated in its promotion, presage a welcome and overdue shift of international(ist) labour communication from the page to the screen. The activist tendency within international labour studies has long been connected with labour education and occasionally with the audio-visual (cinema, sound, video).[28] Yet a marriage between international labour studies and international labour media has been hardly consummated. Today this seems less something to be desired as something required: no new global working-class culture can come into existence without such. Two projects, one based in Britain, the other of expatriates Brits/Antipodeans, suggest to me the way research/reflection and communication/organisation may be moving together.

First a parenthesis. Whilst there has clearly been an explosion in international union computer use over the last 10-20 years, there seems to have set in, at this level, some kind of web-disillusionment or web-fatigue. The prime exemplar here has to be the site of the new social-reformist International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC, founded 2006), a previously adequate if conventional site has been converted into something which combines quite soulless design with information both limited in extent and late in delivery.[29] The various Global Unions sites seem to be also marking time.[30] We might conclude that unions get the websites they deserve. If so, the booby-prize goes to the (ex-?) Communist World Federation of Trade Unions.[31] Unsuccessful attempts to go beyond its index page suggest less WFTU fatigue at the pace demanded by a computerised globalisation, than a failure to yet enter this new reality and master the relevant technology. If the Web had existed in the 1960s, when I worked for the WFTU, this is what its site would have looked like.[32] Finally, or perhaps one should say firstly, none of these sites has a feedback feature, far less provides space for discussion, or significant access to independent research.

Once again, readers may be wondering about the Good News. OK, the two (more or less) British sites I want to mention are New Unionism and Union Ideas Network.[33] New Unionism appears to be based fairly close – in more senses than one - to the Geneva, HQ of not only various international unions but also the International Labour Organisation (ILO). It is, however, institutionally independent. Moreover, it is a quite brilliant new website that seems to me a possible winner of the competition organised annually by LabourStart.[34] It is, however, not only its aesthetics that are innovative:

new unionism›› is work in progress

what? why? how? who? join››

It is also its thematic foci, which break radically with those both customary and predictable from, for example, the ITUC site. The latter has:

About Us; Press Room; Campaigns, Equality, Human and Trade Union Rights, Economic and Social Policy, Members Section, Global Unions.

New Unionism has:

Forums, Younionize, Inspirations, Free Resources, Success Stories, Lessons Learnt, Online Library, Cast a Vote, Union Work, Contact Us, Join.

Whilst this may seem to exemplify the difference between an institutional union website and a labour network one, New Unionism innovates also in relation to other new labour sites. It might, again, be suggested that the New Unionism concept and aesthetic is more likely to appeal to call-centre operators than to sub-contracted motor industry workers. But, then, it is the first rather than the second who are likely to have computer access, and we have no evidence to suggest that the latter, or their organisers, prefer sites designed by, or for, Brother Apparatchik the Union Officer. New Unionism declares boldly that it is a network, not an organisation. We do not have formal meetings, special task-forces, triennial congresses, steering committees, or annual conferences. We do not decide on collective policies, nor do we elect network officials. We do not run collective lobbies, nor across-the-board campaigns. This is what trade unions are for! And that is why we strongly believe you should join them. They, in turn, are often part of global federations and organisations which promote workers' interests at global level. We do not for a moment pretend to be offering an alternative to this. On the contrary, we want to help in the building these organisations.

This involves building input from the ground up. If you want to network with other working people, industrial relations commentators, experienced union reps, labour communicators, and/or social movement activists at an international level, and to work with them in developing a community of support which reaches across borders, then here's the place to start.

My questions about, or challenges to New Unionism start here: with its self-confinement within the existing parameters of the inter/national union institutions. My doubts continue with the self-definition of NU, which seems to be a combination of ‘organising strategy’ (assertive union-building rather than servicing existing members) and ‘partnership’ (the extension of ‘economic democracy’ within and under capitalism). I am not sure whether the combination of a possibly recent US strategy with a certainly old European one amounts to one relevant for labour worldwide in the era of globalisation. But, in any case each of the conditions assumes the institutions, procedures and norms of Northern tradition, with questionable relevance to a globalised and neo-liberalised world of labour.[35] NU adds ‘internationalism’ to the formula, but hardly questions traditional understandings or practices here either. However, I am more concerned that this innovative and original site demands of would-be affiliates that they buy the package! And that they be removed if someone (the owners?) consider their contributions inappropriate! Both conditions seem to me in contradiction with those of networking as increasingly understood, and of the kind of dialogue increasingly practised within the global justice and solidarity movement.[36] Given, however, the energy and originality of the site, it is likely to be one worth watching…and learning from.

Paradoxically, it is the more union-dependent of these sites, New Union Ideas, that seems the more open of the two. It is an initiative, apparently, of the British Trades Union Congress – not a body known historically for its interest in new union ideas. NUI is a much more modest innovation, in terms of both appearance and themes. Yet, whilst clearly also oriented towards the traditional institutionalised union movement, it seems so far to be open ideologically, and to be anyway attracting a rather wide range of (younger?) union organisers, activists and academics. Its major themes are traditional:

Conferences; Economic/ Social Policy; Education and Skills; Employment Law; Employment Relations; Equality and Diversity; Europe/International; Health and Safety; Union Modernisation Fund; Union Organising; Unions and Politics

But its current forums include Union Futures, and Union Engagement with Academia. And contributors to NUI include, for example, Sheila Cohen (see above) and Andres Bieler, coordinating the international Global Working-Class? Project at the University of Nottingham.[37]

Conclusion: From Creep to Leap?

What would be required for me to add a third cheer to the two originally expressed? Well, I would clearly like to see a leap where so far there has been mostly creep. Those of us raised within the Marxist tradition are always awaiting the turning of water into steam, of quantity into quality, of ideology into science, for the transformation of the working class ‘in itself’ to one ‘for itself’, from reform to revolution; we are always searching for the weak link in the capitalist chain (or at least for uneven development that is also combined) and, of course, for the final solution to the capitalism question.

It seems to me, however, that neither in international labour studies nor in labour internationalism are we likely to witness any such apocalyptic transformation. Even less than at state-national level is a transformation within traditional emancipatory paradigms or long-existing social movements/institutions likely to take such dramatic form. Two passages from Raymond Williams, reflecting on Gramsci and Marx (cited Stillo 1998-9), seem here apposite:

A lived hegemony is always a process. It is not, except analytically, a system or a structure. It is a realised complex of experiences, relationships and activities, with specific and changing pressures and limits. In practice, that is, hegemony can never be singular. Its internal structures are highly complex, as can readily be seen in any concrete analysis. Moreover (and this is crucial, reminding us of the necessary thrust of the concept), it does not just passively exist as a form of dominance. It has continually to be renewed, recreated, defended, and modified. It is also continually resisted, limited, altered, challenged by pressures not at all its own.

The key to 'revolutionary' social change in modern societies does not therefore depend, as Marx had predicted, on the spontaneous awakening of critical class consciousness but upon the prior formation of a new alliances of interests, an alternative hegemony or 'historical bloc', which has already developed a cohesive world view of its own.

The first of these passages surely also relates to what is hegemonic within the inter/national labour movement. The second is suggestive of the task before the global justice and solidarity movement.

It seems to me, in any case, that what is crucially required for an emancipatory movement within international labour studies and labour internationalism (whether in the UK or globally) is the creation of autonomous spaces/places where such can be developed. In the 1980s, at a time of the growing crisis and exhaustion of the previous such wave, I argued, unsuccessfully, the necessity of such amongst those writing about or practising ‘shopfloor internationalism’.[38] Given the development of the global justice movement, of the World Social Forums, and of cyberspace today, the possibility of such (relatively) autonomous agoras or foci is today evidently greater (Caruso 2007). And demonstration of such autonomous initiatives can be found not only at global level but also within Europe and the UK itself.[39]

Let us finally reconsider universalism and internationalism. Whilst it is easy to deconstruct or dismiss the naïve Communism of Mariátegui, the desire he expressed predated that movement and survives its demise. So here is a post-Communist formulation, from a new (British-based!) forum of emancipatory ideas, that makes at least a provocative contribution toward the renovation of those intertwined concepts:

We need to think in terms of the circulation of commons, of the interconnection and reinforcements between them. The ecological commons maintains the finite conditions necessary for both social and networked commons. A social commons, with a tendency towards a equitable distribution of wealth, preserves the ecological commons, both by eliminating the extremes of environmental destructiveness linked to extremes of wealth (SUVs, incessant air travel) and poverty (charcoal burning, deforestation for land) and by reducing dependence on ‘trickle down’ from unconstrained economic growth. Social commons also create the conditions for the network commons, by providing the context of basic health, security and education within which people can access new and old media. A network commons in turn circulates information about the condition of both ecological and social commons (monitoring global environmental conditions, tracking epidemics, enabling exchanges between health workers, labour activists or disaster relief teams). Networks also provide the channels for planning ecological and social commons – organising them, resolving problems, considering alternative proposals. They act as the fabric of the association that is the sine qua non of any of the other commons. (Dwyer-Witheford 2007)

When the best that the hegemonic tendency within the international labour movement can come up with by way of inspiration is ‘Decent Work’, this kind of notion would seem to combine the necessary subversion of the ruling commonsense with the equally necessary leap of the imagination.

References and Resources

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Cradden, Connor and Peter Hall-Jones?. 2005. ‘Trade Union Reform - Change is the only Constant’. http://www.world-psi.org/TemplateEn.cfm?Section=Focus _magazine&CONTENTID=7253&TEMPLATE=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm (external link).

Dinerstein, Ana. 2003 'A Silent Revolution: The Unemployed Workers Movement in Argentina' Labour Capital & Society/Travail, Capital & Societe, Vol. 34, No. 2. Pp. 166-183.

Dwyer-Witheford?, Nick. 2007. ‘Commonism’, Turbulence: Ideas for Movement, No. 1. http://turbulence.org.uk/turb_june2007.html (external link)

Ferus-Comelo?, Anibel. 2006. ‘Garment Industry Supply Chains from the Workers' Perspective. Book Review: Research in Action for Workers’ Rights: Threads of Labour’. European Journal of Women's Studies, Vol. 13, pp. 381-4. ejw.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/13/4/381.pdf

Germanotta, Paul. 2007a. ‘On ILO Principles and Social Justice’, International Union Rights, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 12-12.

Germanotta, Paul. 2007b. ‘ILO “Principles” on Freedom of Association: Prospects for Proletarian Power Beyond the State’, WorkingUSA, Vol. 10, June, pp. 163-74.

Global Labor Strategies. http://www.laborstrategies.blogs.com/ (external link)

Godio, Julio. 2004. El MERCOSUR, los trabajadores y el ALCA (MERCOSUR, the Workers and ALCA). Buenos Aires: Biblos.

Gobin, Corinne. 1997. ‘Taming the Unions: The Mirage of a Social Europe’, Le Monde Diplomatique, http://mondediplo.com/1997/11/europe. (external link)

Gobin, Corinne. Pending. ‘La Confederation Europeenne Des Syndicats (CES) et le developpement du marché interieur. Vers une reconnaissance de l’euro-syndicalisme en trompe-l’œil et une devalorisation de la norme sociale?’ (The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the Development of the Internal Market. Towards recognition of the optical illusion of euro-unionism and a devaluation of the social norm). GRAID, Institut de Sociologie, FNRS and Université libre de Bruxelles.

Gobin, Corinne and Domique Mezzi. 2007. ‘La CES, un œil sur l’Europe’ (The ETUC, An Eye on Europe), http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article 6289#top (external link)

Huws, Ursula. 2003. The Making of a Cybertariat: Virtual Work in a Real World. New York: Monthly Review and London: Merlin.

International Association of Labour History Institutions 2007. Conference on Transnational Networks of Labour http://www.ith.or.at/konf_e/zeitpl_2007 _e. htm. (external link)

International Union Rights/International Centre for Union Rights. www.ictur.org. (external link)

International Union Rights. 2005. ‘Sex Workers Organising’, International Union Rights, (Special Issue), Vol. 12, No. 4, pp. 2-13.

International Union of Sexworkers. http://www.iusw.org/ (external link) start/index.html.

Kester, Gerard. 2007. Trade Unions and Workplace Democracy in Africa. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Kloosterboer, Dirk. 2007. Innovative trade union strategies: Successful examples of how trade unions meet the challenges of the 21st century. Amsterdam: Federatie Nederlandse Vakbonden. 128 pp. http://www.fnv.nl/helpjezelf/lokaal/achtergrond/publicaties/vakbondsvernieuwing_rapport.asp. (external link)

Lorwin, Lewis. 1929. Labor and Internationalism. London: Allen and Unwin.

Mariátegui, José Carlos. 1923-4/1986. ‘Internationalism and Nationalism’, Newsletter of International Labour Studies (The Hague), Nos. 30-31:3-8).

Mather, Celia. 2004. Garment Industry Supply Chains: A Resource for Worker Education and Solidarity. Manchester: Women Working Worldwide. 80 pp. http://www.poptel.org.uk/women-ww/pdfs/www_education_pack.pdf. (external link)

Moody, Kim. 1997. ‘Towards an International Social-Movement? Unionism’, New Left Review. No. 225, pp. 52–72.

Munck, Ronaldo. 2002. 'Labour and Globalisation: A New Great Transformation? London: Zed Books.

Munck, Ronaldo. 2003. Labour and Globalisation: Results and Prospects, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Networked Politics. http://www.networked-politics.info/index.php/Main_Page. (external link)

Networked Politics. 2007. Networked Politics: Basic Reader. Rethinking Political Organisation in an Age of Movements and Networks. Berlin, June 2007. http://networked-politics.info/index.php/Main_Page. (external link) 26 pp.

Ness, Immanuel. 2005. Immigrants, Unions, and the New US Labor Market. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

New Labor Forum. www.newlaborforum.org. (external link)

No Border Network. http://www.noborder.org/news_index.php (external link)

Prol-Position?. http://www.prol-position.net/ (external link)

Ross, Andrew (ed). 1997. No Sweat: Fashion, Free Trade and the Rights of Garment Workers. London and New York: Verso.

Salman, Ton. 2006. ‘Book Review: Spaces of Work: Global Capitalism and Geographies of Labour’, Anthropological Theory, Vol. 6, No. 2, 259-261.

Santos, Boaventura de Sousa. 2006. ‘De lo posmoderno a lo poscolonial y más allá de ambos’ (From the Postmodern to the Postcolonial and Beyond Both), in Conocer desde el Sur: Para una cultura política emancipatoria. Lima: Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos.

Stillo, Monica. 1998-9. Antonio Gramsci. http://www.theory.org.uk/ctr-gram.htm (external link)

Streetnet International. http://www.streetnet.org.za/english/page10.htm. (external link)

The Big Sell-Out?. http://www.thebigsellout.org/bongani.html (external link)

Trott, Ben. 2005. ‘Gleneagles, Activism and Ordinary Rebelliousness’, in David Harvie et.al. Shut Them Down! The G8, Gleneagles 2005, and the Movement of Movements. Also: http://www.shutthemdown.org/. (external link)

Wahl, Asbjorn. 2004. ‘European Labour: the Ideological Legacy of the Social Pact’, Monthly Review, Vol. 55, No. 8. http://www.monthlyreview.org (external link) /0104wahl.htm

Waterman, Peter. 1989. ‘“New Realism” at ILR?’, International Labour Reports, No. 31, pp. 26 27.

Waterman, Peter. 1998. ‘The Second Coming of Proletarian Internationalism? A Review of Recent Resources’, European Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol.4, No.3, pp.349-77.

Waterman, Peter. 2004a. ‘Trade Unions, NGOs and Global Social Justice: Another Tale to Tell, in Craig Phelan (ed.), The Future of Organised Labour: Global Perspectives. Oxford: Peter Lang. Also:

Waterman, Peter. 2004b. ‘Adventures of Emancipatory Labour Strategy as the New Global Movement Challenges International Unionism’, Journal of World-Systems? Research, Vol. 10, No. 1. Also: http://jwsr.ucr.edu/index.php. (external link)

Waterman, Peter. 2004c. ‘Ronaldo Munck, “Labour and Globalisation: Results and Prospects”: A Review’. http://www.nu.ac.za/ccs/default.asp?3 (external link),28,11,1110

Waterman, Peter. 2007. ‘Clouds of Complicity and Compromise or Swords of Justice and Solidarity? Labour at the World Social Forum, Nairobi, January 20-25’, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, No. 46, pp. 25-31.

[1] I am here inspired by a particular argument of Boaventura de Sousa Santos (Santos 2006:35-64), someone little known outside the Lusophone world, despite having six or seven books in English on Amazon when last checked! He, coming from post-imperial Portugal, is pondering the question of his capacity or right to speak on emancipation universally. He seems to think that he/we can, providing we think of emancipations as plural. Although no one in either the Global North, South (or ex-East) is likely to be anxious about the British hegemonising global discussion on the emancipation(s) of labour, it is in this spirit that I write.

[2] One would be Celia Mather, a former editor of International Labour Reports (ILR), who has played this role both for traditional trade unions and for the new labour networks. See, for example, her excellent workbook for women workers in the global clothing industry (Mather 2004). Others would be the two founders of ILR, Dave Spooner and Stuart Howard. The first became a leading figure in the International Federation of Worker Education Associations, the second in the International Transportworkers Federation.

[3] One of these has to be the quarterly International Union Rights, currently, I think, the only autonomous international labour solidarity magazine in the world. In both style and appearance the UK-based magazine is reminiscent of International Labour Reports. But the origins of IUR lie not in the shopfloor internationalism of the 1970s-80s but in the sclerotic World Federation of Trade Unions (see below). As the WFTU followed the downward path of its Communist-bloc sponsors, its labour rights network – coordinated in the UK by Tom Sibley - broke away and gave birth to this magazine and associated activities. It is my impression that ILR has been becoming simultaneously more open, more relevant and more radical, whilst showing little if any relationship to the new global justice and solidarity movement. It has a broad left Editorial Board. It deserves closer attention.

[4] I draw here, and elsewhere in this review, on an autobiography underway as well as earlier reviews (Waterman 1998, 2004a, b, c). Compare Munck (2002, 2003).

[5] In case anyone should consider I disregard the newest international labour studies/resources from the non-UK, I list a number of such: Global Labor Strategies, Kloosterboer 2007, Prol-Position?, The Big Sell-Out?, International Association of Labour History Institutions 2007, Asia Monitor Resource Centre, No Border Network, New Labor Forum, Streetnet International. To these I think one should add studies of national-immigrant relations, or ‘internationalism in one country’, most advanced probably in the USA. An example would be Ness 2005. For details, check Bibliography and Resources below.

[6] This is why I do not here consider the undoubtedly pioneering work of Ursula Huws (2003), which is certainly both aware of and relevant to understanding the new global world of work. The book of Huws on the ‘cybertariat’ does occasionally touch on consciousness and protest, but what it is primarily concerned with is the complex nature and implications of a new kind of labour - primarily carried out by women. It is, of course, essential reading for (would be) organisers.

[7] This would seem to be a limitation of even the most recent European analyses and proposals for worker participation or economic democracy. See the review of the New Unionism site below, and Kester (2007). Yet challenges to what is produced and how it is sold – as well as various other ‘managerial prerogatives’ is a rising labour and social concern, as suggested, again, by the review of Hale and Wills below.

[8] However, a (presently low-profile) anti-corruption campaign of the international unions does list BAE’s dubious dealings, going back several years (http://www.againstcorruption.org/corruption newssub.asp?Organisationid=7795). A first glance at this informative site suggests that the unions are supporting state or interstate initiatives rather than expressing an autonomous and assertive labour-oriented policy. For directly critical views of BAE and its role in a globalising world we therefore still have to go beyond the unions to campaigns directly concerned with the arms trade or its implications for British relations with Arabia (http://www.caat.org.uk/about/about.php, http://www.angloarabia. (external link) com/).

[9] This was for its various dependent institutes, http://www.google.co.uk/search?sourceid (external link) =navclient-ff&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGGL,GGGL:2006-13, GGGL:en&q=etuc+budget

[10] Dated though it may be, a piece by Corinne Gobin (1997) suggests the structural/ideological problems that then beset the ETUC. 10 years later, she argues, any radicalisation remains rhetorical (Gobin and Mezzi 2007). Gobin is not only a persistent but also, surely, the most serious critic of the ETUC (Gobin Pending), regrettably little known because she publishes mostly in French.

[11] For which consider http://laborstrategies.blogs.com/global_labor_strategies/2007/05/ (external link) why_labor_can _a.html

[12] It would be nice if one could report that European unions - or at least Left unionists in Europe - were doing better. A quick search on relevant keywords suggests that these may be even more trapped within the institutional parameters of their organisations or parties, even more bereft of new ideas, than their UK counterparts. Consider the EuroLeft? union network: http://www.european-left.org/positions/work (external link) groups/trade.

[13] Contrast here the contributions of Berlinguer, Ince and myself to Networked Politics (2007).

[14]See www.plutobooks.com/cgi-local/readingroom.pl and her own self-critical review, http://uin.org.uk/content/view/170/71/) (external link)

[15] http://www.solidarity-us.org/atc. (external link)

[16] ‘Decent Work’ is the slogan and campaign that presently joins, in subordinate partnership, the international unions to capital and state in the International Labour Organisation.

[17] For a more complex view of the matter, see Castree (2000) and Castree et. al. (2004). Noel Castree and his colleagues have, indeed, written a pioneering work on labour and labour solidarity, which considers workers as not only existing in particular social spaces and at particular scales, but also as productive of such spaces. Such a view leads them to consider, in technical terms, previously unexplored aspects of labour internationalism. Given that this is, again, a British work, it should have been included in this review. By way of compensation, see the review by Ton Salman (2006).

[18] Flora Tristán (1803-1844), a French-Peruvian? woman, was the author of The Workers Union (1843), considered by many as a precursor to the Communist Manifesto of 1848 (Lorwin 1929:23. She clearly considered the working class as a national entity. And - as a socialist and feminist cosmopolitan - of its interests nationally as embracing or expandable to workers everywhere.

[19] A starting point here might be Sousa Santos (2006), a substantial compilation on labour and social emancipation, which considers contemporary non-capitalist forms of production and land-based movements, as well as new forms of labour internationalism.

[20] Evidence for these criticisms can hopefully be found in those of my works already cited. For a provocative case study written in the same spirit, consider Dinerstein (2003). Interestingly, this is about an innovatory workers’ movement in Argentina, and Dinerstein is another UK-based Argentinian. The struggle may have been short-lived and its international impact more notional than demonstrable, but of its radically innovatory nature there can be little doubt. Another Argentinean phenomenon that demands attention, particularly for its particular international relations, would be the relatively young and innovative CTA (Central de los Trabajadores Argentinos), the website of which is itself a source for consideration of its internationalism http://www.cta.org.ar/base/principal.php3. (external link)

[21] For some (very rare) criticism of this quite central yet profoundly-ambiguous international labour hegamon, see Germanotta 2007a, b.

[22] This book invites comparison with the pioneering one on ‘fashion, free trade and the rights of garment workers’ (Ross 1997). Ross, British born but US based, pioneers in drawing the connections between production, workers, labour-organising, consumers and commodity culture internationally.

[23] I was intending to also review a new book on the globalised sex industry by Laura María Agustín (2007), a brilliant writer and activist, sometimes based in the UK, but who here focuses on Spain and Latin America. I was particularly intrigued by a chapter title, ‘From Charity to Solidarity’. In so far as this reproduces the purpose of her whole book, to critique the ‘rescue industry’, it turns out to be a radical deconstruction of the understanding and use of ‘solidarity’ by those working with – or on – sexworkers. In so far as Augustín questions the good intentions of top-down, or centre-periphery solidarity, the book is a salutary warning to all involved in international labour solidarity projects. If, however, one wants to compare the international self-organisation of garment workers with that of sexworkers, one might need to consider such operations as the International Union of Sexworkers (actually a UK union of international sexworkers) or the sexwork issue of the UK-based International Union Rights (2005).

[24] For extensive further discussion and comparison, see the excellent review article by Ferus-Comelo? (2006)

[25] This is a Spanish figure which has the advantages of surpassing the much-abused ‘comrade’ and of combining the male and female form.

[26] http://www.liveworkingordiefighting.co.uk/. (external link)

[27] http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/03/loach.html (external link)

[28] A pioneer here, and a survivor where others have faded or died, is Steve Zeltzer’s San Francisco-based LaborTech?, http://www.labortech.net/. (external link) A visit to this site and its links reveals the extent to which this project combines researchers, media-makers, computer specialists and internationalists. For a recent labour-relevant video see The Big Sell-Out.

[29] http://www.ituc-csi.org/spip.php?rubrique1&lang=en. (external link)

[30] http://www.global-unions.org/. (external link) When last visited it was still carrying an item on China dated January 26, 2005. That happens to be my birthday. But, aged 71, I no longer consider my 69th birthday news.

[31] http://www.wftucentral.org/. (external link)

[32] The WFTU also got the history it deserved (Ganguli 2000). Rambling in style, restricted to conferences and declarations, sycophantic in tone, it has a back-cover Congress photo, showing an ageing, portly and exclusively male leadership paying respects not to some working-class or popular hero but the President of an increasingly neo-liberal and globalised India.

[33] http://www.newunionism.net/ (external link), http://uin.org.uk/. (external link)

[34] http://www.labourstart.org/lwsoty/2007/results.shtml. (external link) LabourStart was the pioneer international union website, with increasingly worldwide news coverage and regular solidarity campaigns. It also has lots of bells and whistles (labour radio, labour videos), and discussion of the latest technologies. What it does not have, at time of writing, is regular open discussion on the crucial international labour issues.

[35] For a summary statement of the Organising Strategy + Partnership strategy, see Cradden and Hall-Jones? 2005. For a critique of the West European tradition of social partnership, see Wahl (2004).

[36] Consider here the earlier-mentioned Networked Politics. This is a Wiki site, meaning one designed for collective thought. As a project, however, Networked Politics also has at least a couple of print publications. And it is taking an interest in international labour networking. In both content and procedure it suggests to me a more radically-democratic model than does NU.

[37] http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/politics/gwcproject/. (external link) This project, which was present and active at the World Social Forum, Nairobi, 2007, is currently producing a book.

[38]‘It is one thing to recognise the limitations of our own efforts. It is another to concede to traditional unions which are themselves in crisis and moving, in typically contradictory fashion, in a direction we have ourselves mapped out. We need to recognise their influence, financial resources and representativity. We should also dialogue with them (but when will they provide us access to their publications?). But we also need to preserve our own resources: our institutional autonomy, our political integrity and out theoretical/ideological originality. Progressive forces within the traditional trade unions may value these even more than we do!’ (Waterman 1989:26).

Whilst, then, I was whistling against the wind, I think the argument likely to be found more acceptable today – both outside and inside the union institutions!

[39] For the WSF, Nairobi, 2007, see Waterman 2007. At European level, consider the already-mentioned Networked Politics project, initiated by British socialist-feminist Hilary Wainright and based at the Transnational Institute, Amsterdam. This has been giving specific attention to labour, as suggested by the publication released before the Anti-G8? Protest, at a workshop in Berlin (Networked Politics 2007). At this later event the suggestion was aparently made of having a meeting specifically on labour in the UK itself. Within the UK, finally, we should note the earlier-mentioned Global Working-Class? Project at Nottingham University. As with other initiatives mentioned above, the understanding here of the working class or classes allows for the un-unionised and non-unionisable. Another new UK-based project, related to the GJ&SM, and first appearing at the G8 protest, would be the e-journal, Turbulence http://turbulence.org.uk/turb_june2007.html. (external link) Although, like Networked Politics, this project is addressed to the movement more generally, I was impressed by the extent to which it incorporates an interest in inter/national labour – not to mention historical labour concerns such as the Commons and the Utopian. And in what one contributor, Ben Trott, calls the ‘directional demand’, but I would rather think of as the ‘subversive demand’. The latter, in any case, would be the kind of reasonable, realistic and incremental demand which is nonetheless subversive of not only neo-liberalism but also capitalism. The examples given by Trott include the guaranteed basic income grant (subversive of the wage-labour relationship), and the free movement of labour internationally (subversive of the national(ist) self-definition of labour movements). I would expand such to include: subversive demands on the institutions of ‘social partnership’, such as the ILO; and of the institutionalised international labour movement, by insisting that its policies be determined by labour on the ground globally, not by officers raised above them, in offices.

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