Bureaucratic labor unions are under assault throughout the world. The decline of labor unions has exposed workers throughout the world to capitalist absolutism, where trade unions are unable to defend workers’ interests under capitalism. As financial capital controls investment decisions on a global scale over the past 30 years, most unions have surrendered the achievements of the mid-20th century, when the working class was a militant force for change throughout the world. As unions implode and weaken, workers are independently forming their own unions, rooted in the tradition of syndicalism and autonomism—and unions rooted in the tradition of self-directed action are auguring a new period of class struggle throughout the world. In Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, workers are rejecting leaders and forming authentic class-struggle unions rooted in sabotage, direct action, and striking to achieve concrete gains.
Against the backdrop of independent labor militancy, global corporations can count on the support of states that share the interests of capital to repress independent workers they cannot dominate. States are going to war against their own citizens through expanding police powers against workers who defy their employers. Today, workers are routinely sacked, arrested, jailed and even killed for organizing independent labor unions. New Forms of Worker Representation: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class Struggle Unionism is the first book to compile workers struggles on a global basis, examining the formation and expansion of radical unions in the Global South and Global North. Signaling a return to militancy, the new unions forming in the 21st century struggle against to capitalist efforts to divide workers, engage in direct action, sit-down strikes and factory occupations, and form solidarity unions and bonds of solidarity among workers throughout the world and that equalize pay among workers, are prepared to struggle against their bosses and the state to improve working conditions and safety in the factories, mines, and other workplaces, and demand that industries do not pose a threat to the health and ecology of their communities.
In the foreword, Staughton Lynd sets out the significance of the formation of new syndicalist workers’ unions that reject intermediaries and bureaucracy that have failed the working class on a global scale. Immanuel Ness presents a compelling case that labor unions are at a turning point that will change the character of worker representation that was crafted in the U.S. and imperialist states in the mid-20th century. This collection is composed of chapters by activists and scholars from China, India, Russia, South Africa, Madagascar, Colombia, Argentina, Italy, Sweden, the U.K. and the United States who are closely monitoring the formation and activities of new independent worker’s unions: Au Loong-Yu, Bai Ruixue, Arup K. Sen, Shawn Hattingh, Piotr Bizyukov and Irina Olimpieva, Genese Sodikoff, Aviva Chomsky, Dario Bursztyn, Gabriel Kuhn, Verity Burgmann, Ray Jureidini and Meredith Burgmann, Erik Forman, Gabriel Kuhn, Steven Manicastri, and Jack Kirkpatrick. The continuing struggles examined in this collection provide examples of the diverse tactics and strategies that new workers’ unions are using to confront capitalism as it appears in diverse forms throughout the world. The tangible evidence marshaled in this book serves as a handbook for understanding the formidable obstacles and concrete opportunities for developing strategies for workers to challenge neoliberal capitalism that envelops the entire planet as the Neanderthal unions of the old decline and disappear.
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