39th Linz Conference: Labour and New Social Movements in a Globalizing World System
11-14 September 2003, Linz
Conference Report: 39th Linz Conference of the ITH
“Labour and New Social Movements in a Globalizing World System” was the item of this years‘ (39th) Linz conference, September 11th to 14th 2003. The ITH had chosen this highly topical theme in order to discuss it in a historical perspective.
Which phases allow themselves to be made out in the relationship between political movement and free movement of capital? How is the workers‘ movement situated with regard to these economic trends of national ties and international orientation? What is – from the perspective of the workers‘ movement – really qualitatively new about the ‘globalisation’ of our time? In addition to the ‘old’ organizations of labour, new organizations have developed on a global level, which want to form a political counterweight against ‘globalisation’ as a process of the escape of capital from social and political barriers. Many of these organizations, described with the somehow vague term ‘Non-Governmental Organizations’ (NGOs), have constituted themselves as trans-national networks. Which relations to the ‘old’ Labour movement?
The conference assembled historians (in the minority this time), sociologists, researchers in International Political Economy, and Geographers to outline some answers in their papers. Introductory papers on the dynamics of ‘Labor, Globalization and World Politics’ (Beverly Silver) and on changes of the Gender order in the process of Globalization (Ilse Lenz) were followed by panels on Labour in newly industrialized countries, on forms of Labour representation and on NGOs as counterpart to transnational corporations.
Diagnoses differed considerably: Jeffrey Harrod analyzed ‘Globalization’ as a disguise of corporate power not corresponding to a comparable social reality. He denied a qualitatively new intensity of worldwide economic entanglement, Foreign Direct Investment flows for instance having declined since the 1980ies. In Beverly Silver‘s approach on the other hand, ‘globalization’ is a tendency inherent to the capitalist world system.
Globalization of capital, of trade and production corresponds with increasing collision of interest between the representations of Labour in different world regions. Is there any basis for common action left that would allow us to speak of the Labour movement as a world-wide actor? On the evening of the first conference day a panel discussion tried to outline answers to this question: ‘Is world-wide solidarity possible? Political answers to economic globalization’. Chaired by Berthold Unfried, Vienna, participants in the discussion were Eva Belabed (Chamber of Labour, Linz), Willy Buschak (European Foundation for the Improvement of Life- and Labour Conditions, Dublin), Ilse Lenz (Ruhr-Universität Bochum), Marcel van der Linden (International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam), Karl-Heinz Roth (Foundation for Social History of the 20th Century, Bremen) and Ulrich Schöler (bureau of the German Parliament, Berlin). The panel discussion was conceived as a complementary forum to discuss the topics of the conference in a broader perspective.
The papers of the conference shall be edited by Marcel van der Linden and Berthold Unfried until the next conference.
Overview/ Call for Papers
organized by International Conference of Labour and Social History (ITH) and Chamber of Labour of Upper Austria (AK-OÖ)
Bruno Groppo (groppo[a]univ-paris1.fr), Gabriella Hauch (gabriella.hauch[a]jk.uni-linz.ac.at), Helmut Konrad (helmut.konrad[a]uni-graz.at), Gerhard Pfeisinger (gerhard.pfeisinger[a]bmbwk.gv.at), Gustav Seebold (gustav.seebold[a]ruhr-uni-bochum.de), Marcel Van der Linden (mvl[a]iisg.nl), Berthold Unfried (berthold.unfried[a]univie.ac.at, coordinator),
The international preparatory group modified the title of the 2003 Linz Conference as above (the AGM 2001 had voted for “Labour Movement in a globalized world system”) and elaborated a draft for a call for papers. The draft was presented to the AGM by Berthold Unfried and approved by the representatives of the member institutes.
Call for Papers
Whoever speaks about a world market should not be silent about work and protest. „Globalisation” has become an ambiguous and fashionable word. It is supposed to give the impression that a great new beginning is presently occurring in the economy and politics. However, is has been noted that “globalisation” is not really a new phenomenon. The international interconnectedness of the economy had already reached similar proportions before 1914, it is argued.
The 2003 Linz conference would like to analyse these views in historical perspective. This should be the starting point for a historical analysis of the relationship between the workers’ movement and “globalisation” in the practice of politics, organization and the culture of life.
Which phases allow themselves to be made out in the relationship between political movement and free movement of capital? How is the workers’ movement situated with regard to these economic trends of national ties and international orientation? What is—from the perspective of the workers’ movement—really qualitatively “new” about the “globalisation” of our time? And what does “globalisation” mean for the worldwide development of working conditions, workers’ movements, and social protests?
“Globalisation” today is frequently seen as a worldwide process of liberation of the market economy from social and political limitations, as a process of worldwide assertion of the capital-work-relationship, and as a world market which is as unregulated as possible through outside economic intrusions. Unions and social legislation are regarded in this view, as is every government intrusion, as a limitation and distortion of the free labour market.
One phenomenon of “globalisation” is doubtless the disappearance of possibilities of state control over the economy. Were not the organizations of the workers’ movement in Europe (especially in Central and Eastern Europe) created in the process of the formation of national states? Did not the workers’ movement always need the arm of the (national) state to erect barriers to capital? Has not the actual framework of movement for the political organizations of the workers’ movement, within which they could exert their influence, always remained within the national state? After 1945 in Europe, it was developed further into the welfare state, which increased its territorial ties. Will international mobility not become greater in the direction of “capital” and territorial, national ties in the direction of “work”?
On the other hand, the workers’ movement has always understood itself as an international, globally active movement. An expression of this claim were its attempts at international organization. These international attempts at organization, however, were not equipped with concrete instruments of power to allow an international claim to be carried out materially. Also, unions never developed the international cultural practice in organizational structure and lifestyles which is present in globally active corporations. On the side of labour, no trans-national layers have been educated comparable with those in the management of trans-national corporations. Should the employees’ representation necessarily be less “globalised” in appearance and lifestyle than the management of a trans-national corporation like “McDonald’s”?
Today, the organizations of the workers’ movement in the centres of the world system appear to belong to the least globally active forces. They appear much more bound to the social homogenous national state in the form of the welfare state. The economic and social developments, which one summarizes under the term “globalisation,” weaken the classical workers’ movement as they also do the social state in the centres, and they have a tendency to dissolve them in many contexts. Is capital escaping the control of the state and the organizations of the workers’ movement developed by the state in these centres or are there areas where the organizations of the workers’ movement appear not only reactive but also as participants in the process of “globalisation?” In the “newly industrialised states”, a new working class is also growing up as a phenomenon of “globalisation.” Here, there is no talk of a crisis in the workers’ movement. How are these movements reacting to the phenomenon of “globalisation”?
In addition to the unions, new organizations have developed on a global level, which want to form a political counterweight against “globalisation” as a process of the escape of capital from social and political barriers. Many of these organizations, described with the somehow vague term “Non-Governmental Organizations” (NGOs), have constituted themselves as trans-national networks. Can these globally active organizations represent labour at the level of multinational corporations or at multilateral organizations like the IMF, World Bank, and WTO?
The 2003 ITH Conference would like to attempt to evaluate research results from all continents. The debate should centre around three major topic areas:
1. Globalisation of working conditions (world market factories, export processing zones, transcontinental worker migration, worldwide competing employment markets, „McDonaldized” work forms). What is new about these? What does this development mean for our core term “working class,” which was developed in the North Atlantic-European context? Which developmental tendencies are there worldwide in the working class?
2. Unions. The international union movement (IBFG, WVA) came into being in the North Atlantic region and continues to be dominated by the OECD countries. How does this “old” movement conduct itself with regard to the new workers’ movements in Brazil, South Korea, South Africa, India? Are union organizational forms bound to historical shapings of working conditions and will they disappear with these? Which organizational and structural problems need to be solved in order not to passively be at the mercy of the developments of “globalisation,” but to contribute to actively form them? What can be learned in this regard from the radical changes in the international workers’ movement of the 19th Century (Transition from sub-national to national organizational forms in affiliated unions.)?
3. Social Movements. These movements have developed new action and organizational forms to some extent. Partially, these new organizations have spurned strong debates about their behaviour: Can NGOs, for example, not also be seen as financed by metropolises and, thus, as apparatuses loyal to their interests, which foster a brain drain of the most advanced thinkers and leaders from endogenous social movements? The problem of the absorption of local elites by multilateral organizations in conjunction with development programs also belongs here. Which connections exist between NGOs and unions in the centres and at the periphery of the world system and which examples of cooperation between new social movements/NGOs and unions are there?
The concrete presentation topics should be developed out of these three major topic lines. Every topic line should be introduced with a main presentation and two commentaries. Following this, a podium discussion will be held, which will attempt to integrate the three aspects.
Christine Schindler, ITH, Wipplinger Str. 8, A-1010 Wien, e-mail: christine.schindler[a]doew.at,
Tel. +43 1 534 36 90 329 (Schindler), Fax. +43 1 534 36 99 90 319
The Linz Conferences are gatherings of the member institutes of the ITH. Participants pay only a – compared to similar conferences – modest fee (€ 80 with, € 40 without accomodation) for the conference materials, simultaneous interpretation and meals. All other expenses — insofar as they cannot be covered by subsidies of the Austrian government and of Austrian labour institutions and by financial support of private sponsors — are borne by the member institutes. For that reason the delegating of participants is up to the member institutes of the ITH; individual registrations can be accepted only in justified cases (please enclose a short paper with reasons to your registration application)!
organized by ITH and AK-OÖ (Chamber of Labour of Upper Austria)
Thursday, September 11, 2003
Registration of the participants at AK-Bildungsheim Jägermayrhof, Römerstr. 98a, A-4020 Linz
2:00 pm to 3:30 pm:
Meeting of the Executive Committee and the International Advisory Board
3:30 pm to 3:45 pm: Break
3:45 pm to 6:30 pm:
General Assembly of the Member Institutes of ITH
Conference Opening by representatives of the University of Linz (Rector Univ.-Prof. Dr. Rudolf Ardelt), the City of Linz (Vice Mayor Hans Nöstlinger), the Provincial Governement of Upper Austria, the Chamber of Labour of Upper Austria (AK-OÖ President Hubert Wipplinger) and by our host Mr. Erwin Kaiser from AK-Bildungsheim Jägermayrhof.
Reception by the Mayor of Linz, Franz Dobusch, in JägermayrhofLectures and Sessions
Friday, September 12, 2003
from 9:00 am:
Welcoming of the participants by Gabriella Hauch, President of ITH.
Marcel Van der Linden / Berthold Unfried
Historical phases on the relation of Labour and Globalization
Beverly Silver (Baltimore): Labor, Globalization and World Politics: Contemporary Dynamics in World-Historical Perspectives
Discussion (Commentators: Jürgen Hofmann / Günther Benser [Berlin])
Ilse Lenz (Bochum): Veränderungen der Geschlechterverhältnisse in der Globalisierung der Wirtschaft
At noon: Reception by the Provincial Governor of Upper Austria, Josef Pühringer, in the Youth Hostel of Linz
from 2:00 pm:
New and old forms of Labour in the NIC (Newly Industrialized Countries)
Ricardo Aronskind (Buenos Aires): The impact of global trends and local changes on the Latinoamerican workers
Christof Parnreiter (Vienna): Folgen der wirtschaftlichen Umstrukturierungen im Zuge der “Globalisierung” in Mexiko
Zhang Minje (Hangzhou): Labour Migration and Social Development in China
Dinner at Jägermayrhof
8:00 pm: Public Panel Diskussion at Jägermayrhof
Politische Antworten auf die “Globalisierung”. Ist weltweite Solidarität möglich? Und wenn ja, zwischen wem und in welchen Formen? (Political responses to the “Globalization” of the Economy. Is worldwide solidarity possible?)
On the panel: Willy Buschak • Karl-Heinz Roth • Uli Schöler • Marcel Van der Linden
The discussion will be held in GERMAN without translation!
Saturday, September 13, 2003
from 9:00 am:
“New social movements”, NGOs: New forms of representation of “Labour” on a worldwide scale?
Peter Newell (Brighton): Managing Multinationals: Lessons from the environmental movement
Leo Gabriel (Vienna): Die andere Globalisierung: Strategien der sozialen Bewegungen in Lateinamerika
“Old” forms of Labour representation: Can unions act globally?
Andy Herod (Athens/USA): Impacts of the Transition on Unions in Eastern Europe
Lunch in Jägermayrhof
from 1:30 pm:
Jeffrey Harrod (Amsterdam): Can unions act globally? Examples and perspectives of Labour representatives in the Global Economy
Willy Buschak (Dublin): Diskurs über “Globalisierung” in der internationalen Gewerkschaftsbewegung in den 1930er Jahren
Marcel van der Linden (Amsterdam): Der IBFG als transnationale Arbeitervertretung?
John French (Durham/USA): International Trade Unionism and the Fight to Reshape the World that Trade Built: The Fight for International Workers Rights in a Globalizing World, 1959-1999
Final discussion (Commentator: Peter Waterman [The Hague])
6:30 pm: Dinner at Jägermayrhof
Sunday, September 14, 2003
Departure of the participants after breakfast
Simultaneous translation into English, French and German
Time for the speakers: 20 minutes maximum.
Breaks within the sessions will be decided by the respective chairpersons.
Beverly J. Silver, Sociology Department, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA
Labor, Globalization and World Politics: Contemporary Dynamics in World-Historical Perspective
During the last two decades of the twentieth century, there was an almost complete consensus in the social science literature that labor movements were in a general and severe (some argued terminal) crisis. By the end of the 1990s, however, a growing number of observers were suggesting that labor movements were on the upsurge, most visible as a mounting popular backlash against the dislocations being provoked by contemporary globalization. Yet, in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, with strikes and demonstrations being canceled around the world, questions were raised about the future of movements that had appeared to be on a strong upward trajectory. Then, just fifteen months later, on February 15, 2003, with war looming in Iraq, some of the largest demonstrations in world history – with strong labor movement participation – were held. Even more impressive than the size of any of the individual demonstrations was the global coordination and planning that was in evidence – including unprecedented levels of international labor movement coordination – in the actions that took place around the world.
Analysts had tended to focus their attention on world-economic processes in explaining both the crisis of labor movements in the 1980s and the resurgence of labor movements in the late 1990s. The ups and downs of the last few years, however, focus our attention on the dynamics of world-political processes. The inter-relationship among labor movements, war and world politics should come as no surprise to us. There is a long tradition in the labor studies literature (and in the social science literature on war and social unrest more generally) pointing to a strong nexus between domestic and international conflict.
The purpose of the paper is to derive important lessons for understanding the nature of the contemporary link between domestic and international conflict from a comparison with past dynamics – especially the late-nineteenth and first-half of the twentieth century. Elaborating on my recent empirical research including a major new database on world labor unrest*, the paper first describes (what I call) the «vicious circle» of war and labor unrest that characterized the first half of the twentieth century (or the period of transition from British to U.S. world hegemony). The second section takes an even longer-term view and asks in what significant ways warfare has changed over the past two centuries; and what the changing nature of warfare has meant for the way in which workers and workers’ movements have been embedded in world politics.
Two transitions are emphasized: (1) the shift from relying on old-style armies of mercenaries, paid professionals and «gentlemen» to the patriotic mobilization of worker-citizen-soldiers to fight bloody wars in the late-nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century; and (2) the transition in the aftermath of the Vietnam War to an increasing reliance by First World states on high technology strategies through which these states sought to reduce casualties among their own (First World) worker-citizen-soldiers to a minimum (tending towards zero). The paper analyzes how each transition in war strategies has meant a transformation in both the impact of war on workers and the bargaining power of labor movements vis-à-vis their states.
The paper will conclude by exploring whether «September 11», the «war on terrorism» and the 2003 Iraq War might be seen as the start of another major transition; and if so, whether this ongoing transition is likely to bring us back to a situation similar to that which characterized the first half of the twentieth century, or to an entirely new type of dynamic linking labor movements, war and world politics.
Günther Benser / Jürgen Hofmann, Förderkreis Archive und Bibliotheken zur Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung, Berlin
Die langen Wellen der Globalisierung und die Arbeiterbewegung
Die Debatte um die meist als Globalisierung bezeichneten gegenwärtigen Entwicklungstendenzen der Weltwirtschaft und deren sozialen, ökologischen, politischen und kulturellen Folgen schließt die Frage ein, ob und inwieweit wir es mit einer völlig neuartigen Erscheinung zu tun haben oder ob und inwieweit es sich um den bisherigen Gipfelpunkt eines länger wirkenden geschichtlichen Trends handelt.
In historischer Sicht zeigt sich, dass die Wurzeln heutiger Globalisierungsprozesse weit in die Vergangenheit zurückreichen, dass beträchtliche Teile der Weltbevölkerung auch schon früher von enormen Entwicklungsschüben betroffen waren und dass sich die Arbeiterbewegung seit ihrer Entstehung mit Problemen auseinanderzusetzen hatte, die mit heutigen Herausforderungen vergleichbar sind.
Im weiten Sinne beginnt Globalisierung mit dem Zeitalter der Entdeckungen – der Begriff sagt es -, als die Erde, der Lebensraum der Menschen, als Globus erfahren wurde.
Der zweite Schub fällt mit dem Zeitalter der Industrialisierung zusammen, als die maschinelle Erzeugung von Waren eine Massenproduktion ermöglichte, die einen internationalen Rohstoff- und Absatzmarkt erforderte. Das Industrieproletariat, die Trägerschaft der klassischen Arbeiterbewegung, ist soziales Produkt dieses Entwicklungsschubes. Es erfolgte die Unterwerfung des gesamten Erdballs unter die kapitalistische Produktionsweise, was nicht heißt, daß jegliche vorkapitalistische Produktionsweisen verschwunden wären. Um mit Marx zu sprechen: Die Bourgeoisie schuf sich »eine Welt nach ihrem eigenen Bilde«.
Nun könnte man meinen, dass sich die praktischen Folgen dieser langen Wellen der Globalisierung zunächst in engen Grenzen gehalten hätten, also in keinem Verhältnis zur heutigen Entwicklungen und zu deren Tempo stünden. Das erweist sich aber bei genauerem Hinsehen nur als bedingt richtig. Vor allem, wenn die gegenwärtige Globalisierung auch nur als Durchgangsstadium gesehen wird, dessen Dimensionen sich nach einigen Generationen auch wieder relativiert haben werden.
Dass zurückliegende Prozesse auch sehr tief greifend waren, wird deutlich, wenn man sich zum Beispiel die internationale Dimension folgender Entwicklungen bewusst macht:
* Die mit den Entdeckung verbundene Kolonialisierung der außereuropäischen Welt führt zum Abbruch oder zur Deformation autochthoner Entwicklungen und zur Ausrottung ganzer Völker.
* Die Warenströme erfahren eine gewaltige Ausdehnung. Zahlreiche traditionelle Produktionszentren unterliegen der ausländischen Konkurrenz, nicht nur infolge des ungleichmäßigen technischen Fortschritts, sondern auch infolge von Billiglohnprodukten aus unterentwickelten Ländern und aus den Kolonien.
* Die Verkehrs-, Transport- und Kommunikationssysteme erfahren eine stetige Erweiterung und Beschleunigung (Dampfschiff, Eisenbahn, Automobil, Flugzeug, Telegraph, Telephon). Nur in extrem abgeschotteten Regionen gibt es noch Abgeschiedenheit vom Weltprozeß.
* Es kommt zu riesigen Bevölkerungsbewegungen (Auswanderung, Einwanderung), wie es sie seit der Völkerwanderung nicht gegeben hat.
* Christentum, Islam, Buddhismus werden zu Weltreligionen.
* Kriege werden Weltkriege.
Die frühe Arbeiterbewegung, die in der Regel nicht in nationaler oder regionaler Abgeschiedenheit entstand, war sich der internationalen Dimension ihrer Situation und ihres Handelns mehr oder weniger bewusst. Ihre Theoretiker begründeten die Mission der Arbeiterklasse aus den internationalen Gemeinsamkeiten der Arbeitenden. Die frühen Arbeiterorganisationen kannten keine nationale Abgeschiedenheit, waren sich der Abhängigkeit von internationalen Entwicklungen bewusst und drängten auch schon bald auf internationale Zusammenschlüsse. Das Kommunistische Manifest und die Dokumente der Internationalen Arbeiterassociation sprechen hier eine deutliche Sprache.
Auch fürderhin durchzogen die mit den langen Wellen der Globalisierung verbundenen Entwicklungen die Diskurse und die politische und organisatorische Entwicklung der Arbeiterbewegung. Das äußerte sich zum Beispiel
* in der Verquickung von Arbeitskämpfen mit »Standort«-Problemen, wie auch in der Drohung der Unternehmer mit Kapitalflucht,
* in den Debatten um die Kolonialfrage,
* in der Diskussion um die Vereinigten Staaten von Europa,
* in der Konfrontation der Arbeiterbewegung mit den Problemen von Migration und Emigration,
* im Bestreben der politischen, gewerkschaftlichen, genossenschaftlichen, kulturellen, sportlichen Arbeiterorganisationen, sich international zusammenzuschließen.
Als zwischen 1917 und 1989 die internationalen Integrationsprozesse zunächst in zwei sich gegenseitig bekämpfenden Lagern stattfanden, trennten diese Lager auch die Arbeiterbewegung. So gesehen kann mit der gegenwärtigen Stufe der Globalisierung auch für die Arbeiterbewegung beziehungsweise für ihr entspringende oder ihr nahe stehende soziale Bewegungen ein neuer Kampfboden gewonnen werden.
Es darf gefolgert werden, dass sich eine wissenschaftliche Diskussion über die Rolle sozialer Bewegungen in der gegenwärtigen Globalisierung nur auf dem Hintergrund der langen Wellen der Prozesse der Internationalisierung und Globalisierung sinnvoll führen lässt.
Ronaldo Munck, Department of Sociology, University of Liverpool, Großbritannien
Globalization, Labour and the Polanyi Problem
The ‹Polanyi problem› concerns the way in which free market economics can be reconciled with a degree of stability in society. Towards the end of the Second World War, Karl Polanyi wrote of how the notion of a self-regulating market «could not exist for any length of time without annihilating the human and natural substance of society» (Polanyi 1957:3). However, Polanyi believed that there was a «double movement» at play here whereby the ever-greater extension of free market principles generates a counter movement of social regulation to protect society. Against an economic system that creates «a dislocation which attacks the very fabric of society» (Polanyi 1957:130) a social counter movement arises based on «the principle of social protection aiming at the conservation of man and nature» (Polanyi 1957:132). Recognising the ‹Polanyi problem› is central to the era of globalisation as crucial to an understanding of how labour may develop a counter hegemonic strategy today (see Munck 2002).
Economic liberalism was the organising principle of society when Polanyi was writing much as neoliberalism is today. Then as now this economic ideology «evolved into a veritable faith in man‘s secular salvation through self-regulating market» (Polanyi 1957:135). International free trade, then as now, was a central tenet of this utopian dogma. What has largely been fulfilled today though through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is Polanyi‘s forecast that «Nothing less than a self-regulating market on a world scale could ensure the functioning of this stupendous mechanism» (Polanyi 1957:138). The ‹Globalisation Revolution› has led to another ‹great social transformation› every bit as far-reaching as the Industrial Revolution, which Polanyi was writing about. Thus the ‹Polanyi problem› today needs to be ‹scaled up› to help us understand the issue of global governance and the ways in which the ‹double movement› discerned by Polanyi might be playing itself out today.
If the nation states and their international relations once served adequately to global capitalism in a world scale today this ‹fix› no longer suffices in an era of ‹global complexity› (Urry, 2003). States can no longer control the global flow of capital and problems when they arise are beyond the capacity of states to resolve. Multilateral economic organisations such as the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank now play a key role in maintaining or building a stable system of global governance. As James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, recognised in 1998: «If we do not have greater equity, and social justice there will be no political stability and without political stability no amount of money put together in financial packages will give us financial stability». In the second half of the 1990‘s there was a paradigmatic shift beyond the so-called Washington Consensus. While once the buzz words in the corridor of power were unambiguous proclamations of deregulation, liberalism and privatisation, now a ‹softer governance› gave us the words civil society, social capital and transparency. Polanyi may prove a useful guide to this emerging global order where ‹governance› assumes many of the functions of the ‹double movement› he referred to. It is now clear that the institutions of global governance include a social dimension. Governance is clearly contested by global social movements not only outside in the streets of Seattle but often at the core of the multilateral institutions. As Robert O‘Brien and co-authors show, on the basis of detailed case studies of how the social movements intervene in these institutions, how «the foundations of global governance go beyond states and firms to include social movements» (O‘Brien et al 2000:22) a relationship which may well play a key role in determining the political sustainability of the model. Where Polanyi‘s insights – scaled up to the global level – would be most relevant would be towards understanding how transnational social forces emerge to counter global market forces. It is not that these movements are spontaneous or generated automatically by globalisation, but that they are an integral element in the architecture of global governance now being constructed.
So what might a global strategy for labour in the 21st Century look like, bearing in mind the ‹Polanyi problem›?
Munck, R (2002) Globalisation and Labour: The new Great Transformation. London: Zed Books.
O‘Brien, R , A.M., Scholte, J and Williams, M (2000) Contesting Global Governance. Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Polanyi, K (1957) The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of our Times. Boston: Beacon Press.
Urry, J (2003) Global Complexity. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Ricardo Aronskind, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The impact of global trends and local changes on the Latinamerican workers
During the 90‘s, several global trends became deeper:
a) the state‘s weakness in opposition to the market strength
b) the labor‘s weakness in opposition to the capital pressures
c) the productive capital weakness in opposition to the speculative – financial capital
d) the peripheral state‘s weakness in opposition to the dominant central states and others international actors.
Those trends found Latinamerican economy lacking in financial and institutional resources after the serious crisis in the 80‘s – called the «lost decade» – when the troubles to continue the post-war industrialization process were mixed with the indebtedness after the 73‘s crude oil shock. This scene of economical, political, and ideological fragility allowed the adoption of structural adjustment policies claimed by creditor banks, international financial organisms, central country goverments and the local interests linked with the foreign capital. It was an attempt not only to deepen the engagement between the local economies and the global enviroment, but also to reduce the regulation capabilities of the peripheral states, in a context of hard financial and commercial competition worldwide. In spite of the existence of several experiences and remarkable national differences, we can affirm that Latinamerican states, after receiving a very important flow of foreign capital, selling their state companies, opening their economies to imports, weakening the social insurance and undermining the labor laws, showed low rates of growth and precarious international placement. It was supposed that pro-market changes would help to modernize the economic structures and to eject again the growth, but actually they strengthened the way to underdevelopment, poverty and dependence. The labor world has been strongly affected by this process: The regressive redistribution of income has become deeper, the unemployment has increased, the labor precarization has spread, the workers rights have been really reduced, the trade unions have lost weigth in the national scene. Reversing the situation of labor in LA depends on an universal effort: to regain the control of the global economic process to the world citizens, taking it from the hands of the private corporations.
Christof Parnreiter, Institut für Stadt- und Regionalforschung, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien, Österreich
Folgen der wirtschaftlichen Umstrukturierungen im Zuge der Globalisierung in Mexico
Mexiko ist seit dem Beitritt zum GATT 1986 und vor allem durch den Abschluss der nordamerikanischen Freihandelszone NAFTA ein massiv in die Prozesse der Globalisierung einbezogenes Land. Der Vortrag untersucht die Folgen dieser Globalisierung auf die mexikanische Wirtschaft, und zwar insbesondere in Bezug auf die Industrie und die Landwirtschaft. Gezeigt wird, dass die beeindruckende Steigerungen der Exporte und der ausländischen Direktinvestitionen keine Dynamisierung der mexikanischen Wirtschaft brachte, sondern ihre Verwandlung in eine Enklavenökonomie: Die Wertschöpfung vor allem der Exportindustrien in Mexiko ist sehr gering und besteht vor allem im Gebrauch billiger, flexibler Arbeitskräfte. Umgekehrt haben jene Wirtschaftsbereiche, die nicht in Exportenklaven verwandelt werden, wenig Zukunftsperspektive, weil sie auf dem globalen Markt, der wegen des Freihandelsabkommens sich auch in Mexiko findet, kaum konkurrenzfähig sind. Schließlich wird gezeigt, welche Auswirkungen diese wirtschaftlichen Umstrukturierungen auf die Arbeitswelt haben. Hervorgehoben werden der Trend zu (weiterer) Informalisierung der Arbeitsverhältnisse sowie die drastische Reduktion der Reallöhne in den letzten 15 Jahren.
Zhang Minje, Department of Social Work, Hangzhou University of Commerce, China
Labor Migration and Social Development in China
The economic growth of China has entered an era of globalisation. Since the introduction economic reform in late 1978, rural China has undergone an impressive economic transformation, and rural laborers have migrated into off-farm works in both rural and urban areas. This paper based on the data from Wenzhou, one of the earliest districts to carry out the reform of labour system of the state to reflect the general tendency of labor migration in China. What is peculiar about the development of Wenzhou to date is that since the early 1980s hundreds of thousands laborers migrant from rural areas to cities and other parts of the country every year. How could this occur in Wenzhou? What does this development mean for the changing condition of orking class.
Firstly, the paper outlines briefly the changing patterns of labor migration in China from historical perspective. The relationship between the migrate laborers and lobalisation in the practice of politics, organization and the culture of life is analysed. Under the planned economy and the segmented labor market characterized by people commune system and household registration system, there was no unemployment happened in China, because rural laborers were strictly restricted in rural areas and agricultural sector and urban employment was guaranteed by the government. From the mid-1980s onwards, the urban economy grew rapidly and demands for labor increased. More and more farmers left their rural areas and flooded into the cities and more economically developed coastal areas in search of employment. This led to an ever-increasing scale of inter-regional labor migration, or what has become known as the migrant worker tide In the late 1990s there were 80 million migrants in China cities.
Secondly, the paper examines the positions and roles of migrate laborers within a range of the enterprise studies. It shows that labor migration has contributed much to local economic development in an era of globalisation. The contemporary phenomenon related to mobility is multifaceted, and influenced by social economic and political context. With the economic restructuring, trade liberalization and the adoption of open economic policies, the attitudes and desires of the mobility labor have changed dramatically, and have seen rapid and extensive social mobility. Upward mobility has taken the form of engaging in better-paying enterprises, advancing to authority position, and becoming entrepreneurs. Downward mobility among those laborers who work in some state enterprises declared reorganization or bankruptcy and unemployment resulted. Existing literature on social stratification and mobility in China has mainly focused on the mechanisms by which individuals attain current socioeconomic status and made comparisons with those in the previous period.
Thirdly, the paper draws a general picture of labor migration on a nationwide scale in China. It explores why so many Chinese farmers leaving agricultural production and migrating from rural to urban areas, and question what development consequences and the barriers the migrate laborers are facing as a new working movement emerging in China. The suggestion is that social protection should provides welfare to the migrate laborers, and also improve their social and economic status.
Andy Herod, Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, USA
Impacts of the Transition on Unions in Eastern Europe
In this paper I outline how the model of labor unionism that was adopted during the post-World War Two era in Eastern Europe is fundamentally different from the model that is now being followed after the collapse of Communism throughout the region. Specifically, whereas under Communism the role of the trade union was to serve as a transmission belt between party planners and the factory or mine, the new models which are being adopted seek to have unions serve as representatives of the workforce. However, there are a number of problems which have emerged with regard to the impacts upon unions of the political and economic transition towards a market economy. For instance, whereas under a «Western model» of unionism the primary axis of conflict is expected to be between capital and labor, in many Eastern European countries major conflicts exist between different groups of workers, especially between those who belong to new / reformed unions and those whose allegiances are still to some of the old Communist parties and their labor organizations. Equally, the experience of strong centralized control of labor organizations under Communism has made some workers highly protective of very decentralized union structures. Although this may increase worker democracy, it also makes it more difficult for national unions to develop strategies for dealing with national-level issues (such as unemployment or tax policy) or with corporations from abroad who wish to invest in the region and who can more easily play different areas of a particular country against each other. In analyzing such transformations I argue that it is important to appreciate that the language of what Michael Burawoy has called «transitology» (i.e., the discourse that suggests that the Eastern European countries will eventually become just like the Western European countries) fails to consider that the different histories and contexts of Eastern European nations will impact the course of transition, and may result in the end in a hybrid situation in which the legacy of the institutions established during 50 years of central planning distinctively shapes the way in which the market economy unfolds in the region -leading to a distinct Eastern European brand of capitalism and labor relations.
Jeffrey Harrod, ISHSS, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Niederlande
Can Unions Act Globally? Examples and perspectives of Labour representatives in the Global Economy
I have been asked to present a paper under the above title but I will focus on the «perspective» dimension. Organised labour will be considered from the perspective of a category of labour embedded within a complex of different patterns of power found within the world labour force. The changes which have occurred in the configuration of the world labour force will then be projected into the global political economy permitting some final observations concerning the possibility or the desirability of unions acting globally.
What does an approach or theory of labour which includes all groups, occupations and categories with different types of social arrangements contribute to answering a question about organised and institutionalised labour’s ability to act globally? Viewing the global labour force by the criteria of patterns of power relations reveals changes both in the numerical scope and positions of influence and importance of such patterns. In particular, the rise of the corporation, seen as large non-state productive organisation and its special use of labour, together with the massive increase in those persons described as casual, precarious, or marginalised has dramatically changed the global configuration of the labor force.
The second part of the paper applies this analysis to global level. The myth of globalisation has had the role of rationalising the increase of corporate power and contributing to the decrease in state and union/civil society power. At the same time it has hidden the continued destruction of global markets (at least in the neo-classical economic sense) through corporate concentration. This has meant that the inputs into global politics increasingly become the residues of the economic tactics and political appeals aimed at sustaining cooperation with the casual and unorganised labor, rather than organised labor.
In conclusion in the last 50 years it could be argued that there have been three phases of possible global action by unions. The first was immediately after World War II when tripartite coporatism was dominant and unions were partially representative of a globally recognised form of government incorporating mediation, state-social welfare, import substitution industrialisation and various form of non-communist socialism. The second phase was when the corporation was emerging on the international level and was still an economic rather than an organisational entity. The third and current phase occurred when the inputs from the first phase had been weakened and the possibilities of the second phase reduced by the narrowness of the corporate headquarter base and the breath of its cross-national spread. Each phase provided its different opportunities for global union action but the last phase is the least compatible with such action. If this analysis is sustainable then the national union response, even to globally-sourced issues, assumes an even greater strategic priority.
Marcel Van der Linden, IISG, Amsterdam, Niederlande
Der IBFG als transnationale Arbeitervertretung?
In attempting to reconstruct the historical development of trade-union internationalism, we must bear in mind that we are dealing with complicated, ever changing causal configurations. In each new historical situation, different combinations of factors are of significance. The present paper distinguishes five periods: (1) years of labour movements’ self-definition until about 1848; (2) sub-national internationalism, 1848-1870; (3) first transition, 1870s-1890s; (4) national internationalism, 1890s-1960s; (5) second transition, since the 1960s. The paper argues that this periodization is helpful for understanding possible trajectories of the international trade-union movement in the 21st century.
John D. French, Duke University, DUS History, Durham/North Carolina, USA
International Trade Unionism and the Fight to Reshape the World that Trade Built: The Fight for International Worker Rights in a Globalizing World, 1959-1999
This paper examines the historical trajectory of trade union proposals for changes in the structure of international trade through a multilateral «social» or worker rights clause, of near-universal coverage, via the GATT or WTO. It unravels a largely unknown history of such proposals to remedy the social and democratic deficit in the world capitalist economy and polity. In doing so, it sheds light on both the «nationalism» and «internationalism» that characterized the policies of the dominant sectors of the North Atlantic labor movement across the transformations in the international arena since the 1950s. In particular, it explores the links between the economic crises of the 1970s, the transformation of the export profile of the South, and the range of Northern labor responses to these developments. Most significantly, it offers a systematic examination of the positions staked out by major trade union confederations from both the global North and South, as set forth by their leaders and staff, as well as the positions staked out by the supra-national federative structures including the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.
This examination of the trade politics of the organized labor movement pays full attention to the most recent debates of the 1990s, while offering a frank discussion of the tangled politics of the «social clause» idea. Reaching back into the economics and politics of the twentieth century, it explains how the issue emerged and why sharp recent divergences have taken the form, at different points, of disagreements between the U.S. and Western European labor and between the rich and poor countries (the North and the South). In its refusal to downplay the social, economic, political, and even moral problems that have plagued many past proposals, it tackles the key obstacles-political, institutional, and conceptual–to the elaboration of a social clause proposal that would be truly international in scope and positive in its outcome for the working and middle class peoples of North and South.
The North/South configuration of the contemporary debate must be convincingly addressed if we are to establish an international consensus on the social regulations necessary to control an increasingly globalized world economy. After all, even many trade unions in the Global South see trade-linked worker rights activism in North as «protectionism dressed up as humanitarianism» (Malanowski 1997: 12). And they will continue to do so unless Northern worker rights activism is «marked by intensive collaboration with Southern workers and their unions» and «carefully consider the important insights and experience that Third World workers, trade unionists, and activist intellectuals bring to the discussion of how best to resist the free-trade model of a globalized economy.» (Compa 1996: 64). As part and parcel of this effort, it offer some reflections about the role of a trade-linked «worker rights» clause should play within labor’s transnational and international strategy.
Finally, this paper’s focus on the trade union dimension of the contemporary globalization debate rejects the common view of workers and their organizations as primarily victims of economic and political events beyond their control. In doing so, it explores the role of organized labor as a social and political actor at a moment when a rapidly increasing transnational integration of investment, production, trade, and communication has presented new and unique challenges to trade unions as distinctly national organizations. In particular, it tackles the issue of how organized workers have responded to a new context in which capital is increasingly mobile while workers and government jurisdictions compete within and across national boundaries for investments and the jobs, as well as the tax revenues they bring with them.
Compa, Lance. «…and the Twain Shall Meet? A North-South Controversy Over Labor Rights and Trade.» Labor Research Review, no. 23 (1996): 51-68.
French, John D. «From the Suites to the Streets of Seattle: The Unexpected Re-emergence of the ‹Labor Question,› 1994-1999.» Labor History 43, no. 3 (2002): 285-304.
«The ILO’s Declaration of Philadelphia and the Global Social Charter of the United Nations, 1944-1945.» In International Labour Standards in the Globalized Economy: Issues, Challenges, and Perspectives, edited by Werner Sengemberger and Duncan Campbell. Geneva: International Institute for Labor Studies, 1995.
«Towards Effective Transnational Labor Solidarity between NAFTA North and NAFTA South.» Labor History 44, no. 4 (2003): 451-59.
Malanowksi, Norbert, ed. Social and Environmental Standards in International Trade Agreements: Links, Implementations, and Prospects. Munster: Wesfalisches Dampfbook, 1997.
Globalizing Protest: The Fight for Worker Rights in World Trade <Forthcoming from Duke University Press, 2004.>
Chapter 1. The Road to Seattle: Globalization and Its Discontents
Chapter 2. In the Suites and in the Streets of Seattle
Chapter 3. Power, Exchange, and Development:
Conceptualizing the Social Dimension of International Trade and Investment
Chapter 4. Something New, Something Old in Today’s Globalized World
Chapter 5. History is Bunk: Worker Rights, the International Labor Organization, and the Continuing Relevance of the Past
Chapter 6. The North Looks South/The South Goes North? The World that Trade Built, 1948-1978
Chapter 7. U.S. Labor and Trade in the Golden Years of the «American Century» Aggressive Unilateralism at the Service of International Worker Rights?
Chapter 9. The Politics of Labor Rights in the North American Free Trade Agreement
Chapter 10: The Worker Rights Issue at the Founding of the World Trade Organization: Marrakesh 1994 and its Reverberations
Chapter 11: The Road from Seattle 1999
Peter Newell, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Großbritannien
Managing Multinationals: Lessons from the environmental movement
This presentation will look at the different ways in which environmental activists have been challenging and confronting the power of multinational companies in the new global economy. It will review a diverse range of cooperative, as well as more confrontational strategies adopted by groups in the developed and developing world aimed at holding increasingly mobile corporations to account for their social and environmental responsibilities. Reflections on which strategies work and in which settings will be used to draw out lessons about the impact of these forms of activism that may be relevant for labour movements. It is acknowledged that while the movements are sometimes in a position to work together, their goals and strategies diverge and so it is important to keep in mind the differences between the movements in forming an assessment of what one can learn from the other. The lesson-learning and strategy-sharing runs both ways, however, and there is much, I will argue, that environmentalists can learn from the rich history of struggle that has engaged unions and labour movements for hundreds of years.