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Labour Worldwide in the Era of Globalisation:

             Alternative Union Models in the New World Order

Peter Waterman and Ronaldo Munck (editors)

Contents, Preface, Contributors and Acknowledgements


1. Labour Dilemmas and Labour Futures. 
Ronaldo Munck


2. The Crisis of Trade Union Representation: New Forms of Social Integration and Autonomy-Construction. 
Ana María Catalano

3. A Critique of Economic Reason: Summary for Trade Unionists and other Left Activists. 
André Gorz

4. Multiple Identities and Multiple Strategies: Confronting State, Capital and Patriarchy. 
Amrita Chhachhi and Renée Pittin


5. The Future of the U.S. Labour Movement in an Era of Global Economic Integration. 
George De Martino

6. The Russian Trade Unions: From Chaos to a New Paradigm. 
Kirill Buketov

7. The Future of the Japanese Automobile Industry: Coexistence with the World, Consumers and Employers. 
Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers' Union

8. Five Alternative Scenarios for West European Unionism. 
Richard Hyman


9. The Labour Movement, Radical Reform and the Transition to Democracy in South Africa. 
Glenn Adler and Eddie Webster

10. The Restructuring of Labour and Trade Union Responses in Brazil. 
José Ricardo Ramalho

11. Labour, Industry and the State in India and Pakistan. 
Christopher Candland


12. Ecology and Labour: Towards a New Societal Paradigm. 
Laurie E Adkin

13. Global Unionism: The Challenge. 
Vic Thorpe

14. Trade Unions, Computer Communications and the New World Order. 
Eric Lee

15. The New Social Unionism: A New Union Model for a New World Order. 

Peter Waterman


This book is intended for teachers and students, as well as a growing public concerned with labour and other social movements, with international politics and with democratisation as a worldwide issue. It joins a growing number of studies concerned with developing a credible radical alternative to the new world (dis)order. We hope this work will be useful to labour and other social movement activists not only in Western Europe and North America, but also in the Third World and in the ex-socialist countries. 

Labour worldwide in the era of globalisation is, undoutedly, in difficult straits. The trade union movement internationally has been increasingly stymied or peripheralised by a series of increasingly interlocking crises. One is the on-going world economic crisis. Another is the uneven transition from an industrial to an information phase of capitalist development. A third is the deleterious effect on labour and unions of the economic policies of neo-liberalism. A fourth is the collapse of Communism and Thirdworldism (radical nationalism), two international political projects with which major union tendencies have been allied. A fifth is the gradual decline of the reformist option traditionally associated with labour and social-democratic parties. The last is globalisation - economic, political, social and cultural - which seems to be undermining the very nation-state to which labour's hopes have been pinned and to the fate of which it seems to be tied. 

Labour's loss of direction or, at least, uncertainty on the way forward is not confined to those countries in which it has been most dramatically undermined by neo-liberalism or marginalised by the growth of new social movements. It can also be found in such countries as South Africa and Brazil - countries in which the unions have played a major, if not leading role, in recent processes of democratisation. The trade union crisis is not confined to the national level either. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, major union beneficiary of the collapse of communism and radical nationalism, is seeing its West European reformist member unions increasingly dwarfed by its new or potential members from the ex-communist East, from East Asia and Latin America. As a reformist international centre of nation-state-defined and nation-state-oriented unions, it seems as needy of re-orientation and transformation as the United Nations. 

The editors of this volume, and many of the contributions to it, would argue that the crisis outlined above has, paradoxically, provided an opportunity for labour to recover itself both politically and as a moral force for progress. This will not happen by harking back to a mythical golden era however. Nostalgia about labour's past should be replaced by a critical engagement with the waves of energy coming from the so-called new social movements such as those of women, ecology or human rights. 

This collection opens with a broad overview chapter by Ronaldo Munck which seeks to lay out the dilemmas and the prospects for labour in a global or comparative context. A survey of the `new times' and the `new theories' allows Munck to chart a way forward for the political and theoretical renewal of the labour movement. The recent recognition of the international trade union movement of the reality of globalisation means this is a timely moment for renewal and reorientation. Having "cleared the decks" and set the context we move on to some of the interesting new theoretical perspectives emerging from the labour and other social movements. 

Ana María Catalano, in Chapter 2, argues that trade unions need to break decisively with what she calls class essentialism and develop a clearer communicative function in the period ahead. Given the increasingly fragmented and dispersed nature of social relations Catalano finds trade unions to be no longer representative of the working class (if they ever were). From a culture of mobilization based on assumed homogeneous interests Catalano directs us, instead, towards a culture of permanent construction of trade union autonomy and of reconstruction of the social fabric of late capitalism. Trade unions, in short, need to develop new forms of representation to more adequately represent the new forms of identity and social solidarity. 

André Gorz, in Chapter 3, deconstructs the significance of work in the modern era. After examining the crisis of work today, part of a broader societal crisis, Gorz points to the dangers of trade union neo-corporation as a response. For Gorz the attitude towards time as part of a broad reorientation of trade unions beyond the narrow confines of the workplace. The alternative, for Gorz, is societal segmentation and disintegration accompanied by growing violence and injustice. 

Amrita Chhachhi and Renée Pittin, in Chapter 4, recognise that multiple identities lead to multiple strategies for social and political change. That the working class has two genders may seem obvious but its implications are not usually followed through. This chapter helps us place gender at the heart of labour's theoretical and strategic development. The authors demonstrate how the distinctive working lives of women and men have major consequences for labour strategy. Classist and ethnocentric preconceptions are criticised and a new perspective to transcend the divisions created by capitalism, patriarchy and the state. 

In the next section we move to consider the experience of labour in a number of major areas. George De Martino, in Chapter 5, speculates on the future for labour in the capitalist heartland of North America. He sees the forces of globalisation and the moves towards economic integration not as a new crisis but the final straw for the already faltering U.S. labour union model. Focusing on the question of union identity, De Martino addresses the current union crisis and explores two possible scenarios of change. One would lead to more of the same while the other would entail a radical re-working of union identity and a decisive turn towards labour internationalism. 

Kirill Buketov, a new generation Russian labour activist, takes us in Chapter 6 to the one-time socialist heartland in a lively exposition of the new Russian unions. Buketov traces the moves from chaos, as state socialism collapsed, to the suggestion of a new paradigm for the Russian trade unions and labour organisations. The end of socialism and the savage development of capitalism in Russia has created a crisis for Russian workers and unions. This, argues Buketov, can only be overcome by a new model of social development and a fundamental reorganisation of the trade union movement. 

The Japanese Auto Workers Union study, reproduced in Chapter 7, makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of labour in another crucial core country, from an insiders perspective. Against common pre-conceptives about Japanisation and the myth of stable life-time employment, this chapter shows a union strategy in considerable crisis. The dissent which has been brewing in the Japanese labour movement finds expression in this interesting document. The Japanese auto workers, ask "have we not been working for the company for too great portion of our lives?" They argue for a broad reconceptualization of workers' relationships with their employers, the society outside and the world at large. 

Richard Hyman, in Chapter 8, provides a broad framework for comparative analysis of trade union policy orientations within a West European context. For Human there are five main alternative scenarios, namely radical unionism, integrative unionism, business unionism, political economism and trade unions as populist companying organisations. This analysis contributes not only to an understanding of alternative union scenario in Europe but further afield, including in the developing countries. 

We turn in the third section of the book to the peripheral countries where so many interesting union developments have occurred in recent years. Glenn Adler and Eddie Webster, in Chapter 9, provide a broad overview of the dynamic labour movement in South Africa. They examine the role of labour in the recent transition from apartheid and the development of a new democratic society. In a dense analysis the authors trace the emergence and consolidation of the democratic and non-racial trade unions in recent decades. They also provide valuable insights into the dilemmas facing labour under the new ANC (African National Congress) dominated government of National Unity which labour helped bring to office. 

José Ricardo Ramalho, in Chapter 10, examines the case of Brazil, which is often seen as the epitomy of the new dynamic Third World unionism and a model of a new labour party, namely the PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores-Workers Party). Ramalho takes us behind the superficial outside view, examining in detail the restructuring of production and the new ways of managing the workforce, which have emerged in Brazil in recent years. In spite of their historic gains over the last 15 years, the Brazilian labour movement now face an uncertain future as the effects of globalisation are played out at the local level. 

Christopher Candland, in Chapter 11, carries out a broad survey of the new labour movements in India and Pakistan. He focuses in particular on the relationship of trade unions to the political parties, and on workers representation by the trade unions. The impressive development of political unionism in India is compared to the assertive but highly repressed labour movement of Pakistan. Also concerned with the impact of globalization at a national level, Candland addresses the way in which each labour movement is responding to the broad structural economic changes brought on by readjustment. The signs of a new unionism, with deeper community links, are also pointed to in this chapter. 

The next section of this book looks at key issues labour will need to address in years to come. Laurie Adkin, in Chapter 12, examines a crucial, yet understudied issue, namely labour's attitudes towards ecology. Through a detailed case study of the ecology movement in Canada, Adkin develops this theme beyond the usual pious platitudes and token committments to sustainable development. Adkin argues that the insights of socialism and the projects of the new social movements should come together. However, if trade unions move towards this new societal paradigm they will need to carry out a radical overhaul of their structures, practices and priorities. 

Vic Thorpe, General Secretary of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), develops in Chapter 13, an insider's analysis of how trade union leaders themselves view globalisation and the need for labour internationalism. Thorpe develops and enriches the analysis of globalisation carried out in some of the above chapters adding a vital practical or policy dimension. He declares that: "The international trade union industrial federation that I represent is trying to spearhead the creation of really global networks between workers organised within the far-flung subsidiaries of individual multinational companies." The extent to which this project is successful will, largely determine how labour worldwide will fare in the era of globalisation. 

Eric Lee, a labour journalist and computer communication specialist, looks in Chapter 14 at how the new era of electronic communications might impact on the labour movement. For some years now, mainly on the fringes of the trade unions, computer communications have assisted activists in national and international campaigns. Lee points to the new possibilities for labour internationalism opened up by the Internet. The possibilities are stunning but the obstacles, as much political as financial remain considerable. 

In a final section on the perspectives for labour, Peter Waterman (Chapter 15) argues for a new general model of trade unionism appropriate to the era of globalisation. The new `social unionism' outlined here is contrasted with earlier models of economic and political unionism. This novel approach to trade unionism, implicit in many of the chapters above, addresses civil society as a whole, recognises new terrains and levels of struggle, and draws heavily from the experience of the new social movements. Unlike conventional trade unionsim this approach also seeks to go beyond the nation-state and national labour strategies seen as outdated in the era of globalisation. 

This volume seeks to provoke discussion, debate and dissent. It is ambitious in this sense but it does not supply a magic answer. It is labour worldwide which, in practice, will develop the new models appropriate to the new century. Our optimism of the will is thus tempered by a considerable scepticism of the intellect. 

Ronaldo Munck            Peter Waterman


To: Verso for permission to reprint A Gorz "Summary for Trade Unionists" from "A Critique of Economic Reason (1989). 

To: Macmillan for permission to reprint A Chhachhi and R Pittin `Multiple Identities and Multiple Strategies from A Chhachhi and R Pittin (eds) Confronting State, Capital and Patriarchy (1996). 

To: Sage Publications for permission to reprint G Adler and E Webster "The Labour Movement, Radical Reform and Transition to Democracy in South Africa' from Politics and Society (1995). 

To: Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars for permission to reprint C Candland `Trade Unionism and Industrial Restructuring in India and Pakistan'. 

To: Black Rose Books for permission to reprint L Adkin `Ecology and Labour: Towards a New Societal Paradigm' from C Leys and M Mendell (eds) Culture and Social Change: Social Movements in Quebec and Ontario

To: Nueva Sociedad for permission to publish a revised version of A M Catalano `La crisis de representación de las sindicatos: del esencialismo de clase a la función comunicativa' from No 124 (1993). 


Laurie Adkin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where she teaches comparative politics. She received her doctorate from Queens's University in Kingston, and has written extensively about environmental and labour politics in Canada, and in the area of social movement theory. These are the subjects of her book, `The Politics of Sustainable Development (Citizens, Unions, and the Corporations)' published by Black Rose Books, Montreal and New York, 1997. She is presently involved in comparative research on the political ecology movement in France. 

Glenn Adler is Senior Lecturer in the Sociology Department and a staff associate of the Sociology of Work Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He is also a part-time Senior Researcher at the National Labour and Economic Development Institute, a research unit associated with the Congress of South African Trade Unions. He is co-editor of Union Voices: Labour's Responses to Crisis (Albany, 1993) and is co-editor of Trade Unions and Transition in South Africa: Democratisation in a Liberalising World (London: Macmillan, forthcoming). His current research projects are on labour and democratisation and the impact of international financial institution on development in Africa. 

Kirill Buketov is the Editor-in-Chief of Rabochaya Politika (Workers Politics/Labour Policy) which is the magazine founded in Moscow to develop trade union' and labour strategy. He graduated from the Department of History of the Moscow Pedagogic University with the diploma on the history of Polish KOS-KOR 1976-81. He is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Microeconomics of Ministery of Economics of Russia where he is involved in studies on the trade union movement and economic issues. His main publications are "Who is Who in the Russian Labour Movement" (1995) and "Russian Trade Unions and Political Parties" (1996). He also produces the National Labour Weekly Radio Show for Radio Russia. 

Christopher Candland obtained his PhD from Columbia University in 1996. He is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow and Lecturer in the Political Science Department at the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests include the re-organisation of labour processes and labour representation in developing Asia. 

Ana María Catalano lectures in Sociology at the University of Buenos Aires, she is also a research consultant for the ILO project `Technological Change and the Labour Market.' Catalano is a consultant for the Ministry of Culture and Education on educational reform and production restructuring. She is currently researching the new system of labour relations in Argentina. 

Amrita Chhachhi is a Lecturer in Women's Studies at the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague. She has published numerous articles on and continues her research on women and insutralisation, and on the state, legal systems, identity politics and fundamentalism in South Asia. She is Co-ordinator of an ongoing action research project on Working Women and Organisational Strategies in India. She is also involved with feminist networks in South Asia. 

George DeMartino is Assistant Professor of International Economics, Graduate School of International Studies, University of Denver. He received his PhD in Economics from the University of Massachusetts (USA), and an MA in Industrial Relations from the University of Warwick (GB). He has served as a Staff Representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO; his current research interests include global economic integration, labour, and distributive justice. 

André Gorz (Vienna 1924) was closely associated with Sartre and de Beauvoir, and deeply involved in French Marxist debates in the 1950s and 1960s. He became known internationally for his innovatory studies on the working class - most (in)famously his `Farewell to the Proletariat' (1980). He has written on ecology and socialism, on economic rationality, on the future of work and welfare. He is rightly considered a post-industrial utopian. 

Richard Hyman is a member of the Industrial Relations Research Unit at the University of Warwick. His publications include The Workers' Union, Strikes, Industrial Relations: a Marxist Introduction, The Political Economy of Industrial Relations, and (with Anthony Ferner) Industrial Relations in the New Europe and New Frontiers in European Industrial Relations. His current reserarch focuses on European industrial relations and the comparative analysis of trade unionism. 

JAW (Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers Unions) was formed in 1972 and is the industry-wide organisation. The JAW is the confederation of the enterprise-based labour unions of automobile manufacturers, parts, makers, sales dealers and other automobile related companies. Its current membership is 815,000. The JAW is composed of 12 federations which organise various labour unions along the enterprise framework such as Federation of All Toyota Workers Unions, Federation of All Nissan and General Workers Union, etc. 

Eric Lee is a member of Kibbutz Ein Dor, Israel. He has edited the quarterly magazines Workers' Education and The New International Review, and is the author of The Labour Movement and the Internet: The New Internationalism (Pluto Press, 1996). 

Ronaldo Munck teaches Sociology at the University of Liverpool where he is Director of the MA programme and director of the Rowntree Project on social exclusion and community organisation in the city. His books include The New International Labour Studies (Zed, 1988) and Argentina: From Anarchism to Peronism (Zed, 1987). He is currently working on globalisation and social movements and on labour and economic restructuring in Latin America. 

Renée Pittin is an Associate Professor in the Women and Development Programme at the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague. She has written extensively about women and industralisation, particularly in Nigeria and West Africa. She is engaged in an international research project on Women, Technology and Employment, and continues also her research on issues of changing ideology and economic access in relation to women. 

Jose Ricardo Ramalho is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Head of the Graduate Program in Sociology and Anthropology - Instituto de Filosofia e Ciencias Sociais, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His main areas of research are the sociology of work, historical sociology, sociology of the social movements and history of labour and trade unions. His publications include `Estado-Patrao e Luta Operaria: o caso FNM,' (Paz e Terra, Sao Paulo, 1989) and `Terceirizacao - Diversidade e Negociacao no Mundo do Trabalho. Introduction and Editor (with Heloisa Martins). (Hucitec/NETS-Cedi, Sao Paulo, 1994). 

Vic Thorpe was elected as the General Secretary of the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) at the federation's founding congress (Washington, November 1995). That congress set the seal on a merger between the internationals of the chemical, energy and allied workers and of the miners. Headquartered in Brussels, the ICEM is an industry-based global labour federations dedicated to practical solidarity. By 1997, 410 industrial trade unions in 113 countries had joined the ICEM. The ICEM sees itself as the forerunner of the new global institutions of labour. It aims to unite workers irrespective of race, nationality, gender or creed. It advocates global trade unionism as a counterweight to the immense power of the global corporations. 

Peter Waterman is a semi-retired Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Netherlands. He worked for the World Federation of Trade Unions in the 1960s, and was editori/publisher of the `Newsletter of International Labour Studies' in the 1980s. He has published widely on third world and international labour. His next book will be `From Labour Internationalism to Global Solidarity: Globalisation, Civil Society, Solidarity', to be published by Cassell in London. 

Eddie Webster, is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Sociology of Work Unit, University of the Witwatersrand. His current research include Unions, transition and policy making in a comparative perspective; changing forms of workplace representations in Germany and South Africa; welfare states in transition; the impact of globalisation on economic and social policy. He is a founder and member of the Editorial Board of the South African Labour Bulletin, and member of the Review Committee of the Labour Market Commission, 1996. He was awarded a Fulbright Senior African Researcher Award and a CSD Established Researcher Award in 1995 to study industrial relations in societies in transition at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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