Trade Unions, Globalisation and Internationalism

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

by Ronaldo Munck

This piece reports on recent research around the relationship between trade unions and internationalisation in the context of globalisation. It argues for a more open, less pessimistic view than the dominant one. This view builds on the experiences of the 1970s and is cognisant of the depth of the current crisis.


Unions and the workers they represent have always been part of a transnational system of labour relations. Capital has always been mobile and the capital/wage-labour relation has never been hermetically contained within national boundaries. However, until quite recently, the dominant system of industrial relations had been confined, almost exclusively, within a national frame. In the 1970s, a ‘new’ international division of labour emerged as the ex-colonial countries began to industrialise and the multinational corporations became central players in the neo-colonial global system. This period saw a major flourishing of transnational labour activity and the hope, soon dashed, that union internationalism could act as a ‘countervailing power’ to that of the multinationals.

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Abundance, utopia and degrowth in popular history



Popular utopias have always demanded abundance, and when empowered with technology, have established it in very similar terms to those we use today. Degrowth, on the other hand, only has historical roots in the Church’s reaction to feudal decomposition.

The country of Jauja is a typical example of the popular utopias of the Middle Ages and the beginning of Modernity. It’s a good reflection of the aspirations of the lower tiers of society, which were crushed by hunger and misery. Abundance, which is the end of work forced by need, free [gratis] food, and the end of conflicts and violence due to its scarcity, conjures up the image of a world we deserve to live in.

At the end of the nineteenth century, when the first “modern utopias” appeared as part of the popular cultural flowering that led to the First International, the impulse was rationalized, was argued, was developed didactically by imaginary local societies. But abundance continues to be the inspiration, the engine of hope that connects with the aspirations of millions of people. The first utopias of this time in the Western Latin world,Pensive, by Juan Serrano Oteiza (1876) and New Utopia, by Ricardo Mella (1889), were written when Prodhounian mutualism was still hegemonic in the workers’ movement. Both focused on developing a concept familiar today to readers of Juan Urrutia: the economy of abundance.

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Degrowth or abundance?



The changes spelled out as possible today can’t wait for the spoiled children of the middle class to feel “guilty” about enjoying economic rents in a world of growing inequality, or to realize once and for all that they’re not the center of the universe and quit pompously asserting that the fate of the species depends on their little acts of consumption. The changes that will make things whole and coherent, which will make a place for everyone, will be driven by those who love life and abundance, those who keep alive the dreams of Fourier and the utopians, of Lafargue’s The Right to Laziness and of the multispecialist, reborn and made visible by the Internet.

Paul LafarguePartly as a consequence of the 15M movement , “degrowth” has become a new, hegemonic view. Argumentatively aged in French think-tanks and promoted on the peninsula by the local branch of the “peak-oil” movement, it quickly gained a foothold among ecologists, and then among the Left.

The degrowth approach was presented as a consequence of energy catastrophism at a time when the Iraq war and rising fuel prices had grabbed the attention of large audiences. According to its proponents, the exploitation of natural resources and especially of energy sources is unsustainable — not just over the long term, but even in the short term. An energy catastrophe (“oil depletion“) is imminent (in fact, “peak-oilers” have been announcing it regularly in cycles of between five and fifteen years since the ’70s, although, so far, it hasn’t happened on any of these occasions). Continue reading

The historical origins of P2P thought on the Iberian Peninsula



The conversations begun by Garrido, Pi i Margall and Salvochea, with Fourier, Proudhon and Kropotkin in the background, and even those of the foralismo involved in the defense of the commons it took on after the Mounierist self-management discussion, are still alive today. For those who know how to listen to them, they sound like a counterpoint, like a subtle rhythm, in the conversations and the voices of new luminaries.

Fernando GarridoGerald Brenan describes in The Spanish Labirynth (1960) how cooperativism on the Iberian Peninsula is the product of the evolution of communal forms of property and labor to incorporate new productive technologies that emerged from the Industrial Revolution. The first modern Iberian cooperativism, he asserts, “…precedes the European co-operative movement  [the Rochdale Pioneers] by at least sixty years.”

Within that evolution, the first “socialists” would appear, disciples of Fourier who would see in the adoption of industrial technology by communal organizations (the commons) the beginnings of a solution to the “social question.” One of the most famous would be Fernando Garrido, the driving force behind dozens of cooperatives and author of History of the Working Classes, which, in its final volume, passionately describes the expansion of cooperativism throughout the peninsula and its social effects.

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Chicago: police violence at NATO protests — in pictures

By Jerome Roos On May 22, 2012

Post image for Chicago: police violence at NATO protests — in picturesThousands descend upon Chicago in a large demonstration against capitalism, austerity and war during a 4-day summit of NATO leaders in the city.Original photography by Paul Weiskel. N.B.: Paul works on a volunteer basis and freely contributes his photography to indy news outlets associated with the movement. If you have a minute and a buck to spare, please consider a donation to help Paul fund this trip to Chicago.

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15M: a year on, the struggle of the indignados continues

By Jerome Roos On May 15, 2012

Post image for 15M: a year on, the struggle of the indignados continuesAnniversary of 15-M movement marked by deepening crisis, massive bank bailout and fears of eurozone break-up. The indignation only grows stronger. 

We are witnessing an remarkable convergence of historic currents. Today, as the indignados celebrate the first anniversary of a movement that shook the very foundations of Spanish society and sparked a global wave of occupations, the representatives of the Old World are once again gathering in Brussels and Berlin to discuss contingency plans for the increasingly likely break-up of the eurozone. As the old world crumbles, the new one struggles to be born.

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Blockupy Frankfurt: taking the struggle to the next level

By Jerome Roos On May 16, 2012

Post image for Blockupy Frankfurt: taking the struggle to the next level

Tens of thousands descend upon the continent’s financial capital for one of the most anticipated pan-European demonstrations since the G8 in Genoa.

There is something different about Blockupy Frankfurt, the pan-European days of action on May 16-19. Not only will Blockupy be the largest transnational street demonstration of the Occupy movement so far; it is also expected to introduce innovative new tactics into the movement that could see an escalation of direct non-violent confrontation with the corporatist state and the global financial institutions responsible for causing the current capitalist crisis.

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Indignados take back square on movement’s anniversary

By Jerome Roos On May 13, 2012

Post image for Indignados take back square on movement’s anniversaryHundreds of thousands flock into Puerta del Sol as part of a global day of action to commemorate the first anniversary of the 15-M movement.

Why would we need political parties if we can have a political party? That’s the question that rang through my head as I roamed around Puerta del Sol last night, climbing on top of the metro station to see a crowd of hundreds of thousands amassed in the square. In one corner, people were actively debating alternatives to capitalism and representative democracy — in another, hundreds were dancing wildly to the revolutionizing beats of a professional drum circle.

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Blockupy Frankfurt: fotos, video, report and reflection | Occupy Amsterdam

May,22, 2012

Yesterday I came back from Frankfurt, the financial centre of Europe, home to the European Central Bank (ECB), where I participated in the demonstrations against the attack on social and economic rights as a supposed solution to the economic crises, against the Austerity Treaty, the ESM, the Troika, the Six Pack, and for a truly democratic Europe, which is based on the principles of equality, solidarity and sustainability, where people are more important than money, where the power of banks and large corporations is curtailed so that in the future never again we will see these obscene profits be privatised while the inevitable losses are socialised.

Organisers had called on people to participate in four days of , including a peaceful blockade of the ECB on friday, an act of civil disobedience that would symbolise the level of discontent and determination of the protesters. Authorities responded by prohibiting all forms of  during wednesday, thursday and friday.

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