Friday, 27 December 2013
Monday, 16 December 2013
Matteo Renzi, mayor of Florence, was recently elected leader of the Italian Partito Democratico (Democratic Party). All Italians could vote in the contest. Between two and three million Italians (depending on your sources) turned out to cast a vote in the leadership contest with Renzi amassing almost 70% of the vote. With this clear mandate Renzi, at 38, becomes the youngest general secretary of the PD. His criticism of the political class has been scathing and the venom was not reserved for rival political parties. Instead of sparing his left-wing cohorts Renzi built his campaign around the idea that the PD needed a root-and-branch renewal. In this guest post, Darragh Golden assesses the implications of Renzi’s appointment for Italy’s largest left-wing party. Moreover, how will the relationship between political party and trade unions evolve? And what will the implications be for Italian parliamentary democracy in the immediate future?
Friday, 13 December 2013
LO Sweden is starting a high-level commission on a “new Swedish model”. Long ago, Sweden was known for what was called the Rehn-Meidner model. The idea was that union wage strategies and government policy should be combined to promote full employment and fair distribution while respecting the autonomy of unions and employers. The basic element was a “solidaristic” wage policy which would raise the income level of low-income groups and simultaneously speed up structural change and thereby create more jobs in the future. Unemployment benefits and active labour market programmes would give workers security in the process of change; a “security of the wings”, as Gösta Rehn, LO economist at the time, phrased it. In this guest post, Ingemar Lindberg discusses the huge task of this new commission: How to re-establish a strategy for these goals in our times?
Monday, 9 December 2013
Confronting Neo-liberal Capitalism: SIGTUR’s tenth Congress in Perth/Australia, 2 to 6 December 2013.
Last week, I attended the tenth Congress of the Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights (SIGTUR) in Perth/Australia, 2 to 6 December 2013. SIGTUR is a network of more militant trade unions from the Global South with a focus on South-South co-operation. In this post, I will reflect on SIGTUR’s achievements, problems as well as possibilities for the future on the basis of the exchanges at this Congress. I will argue that it will only be through joint campaigns against capitalist exploitation that relationships of solidarity can be established through SIGTUR more widely.
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Trade unions as a battleground for the minds of workers: Trotsky and the role of the vanguard party.
The Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci was not very optimistic about the potential transformative, revolutionary role of trade unions. ‘Trade unionism’, he argued, ‘stands revealed as nothing other than a form of capitalist society, not a potential successor to that society. It organises workers not as producers, but as wage-earners’ (Antonio Gramsci, 'Trade Unions and the Dictatorship' (25 October 1919), in SPWI, 1910-1920, p.110). In this blog post, I will critically engage with a collection of Trotsky’s writings on trade unions - Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay (Pathfinder Press, 1990) – to establish whether he was more optimistic about the potential role of trade unions in resistance to capitalist exploitation.
Tuesday, 19 November 2013
In the summer of 1980, Italian fascists blew up the central station in “red” Bologna. 85 people were killed, more than 200 were wounded. The terrorists had close ties to the Italian military intelligence and NATOs secret stay-behind groups. In Norway in the summer of 2011, two fascist lone wolf terrorist attacks were carried out against the government square block and the Youths Labor party summer camp, claiming the lives of 77 people and wounding more than 300. August 2nd in Italy and July 22nd in Norway are both markers of the worst terrorist acts in post-war Western Europe. In this guest post, Idar Helle, a member of the Transnational Labour Project in Oslo, reviews the book by Eystein Kleven 22. juli-terroren: Angrepet på arbeiderbevegelsen [The terror of 22nd of July: The attack on the labor movement] (Marxist publishing 2011, 42 pages).
Saturday, 16 November 2013
During the last two days, I have attended the conference Keys to the Crisis in Europe, organized by ATTAC Norway in Oslo. In this blog post, I will report on the presentation by a representative of the Spanish social movement PAH (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca), organizing in support of those, who are threatened with eviction from their homes, because they can no longer service their mortgages.
Tuesday, 12 November 2013
The current global economic crisis has been covered extensively within academic literature and the wider (social) media alike. Few, however, have tackled the topic with the ambition of questioning capitalism itself. John Hilary’s book The Poverty of Capitalism: Economic Meltdown and the Struggle for What Comes Next (Pluto Press, 2013) is a welcome exception here. In this blog post, I will provide a critical engagement with this excellent analysis of capitalist crisis and moves towards alternatives.
Friday, 8 November 2013
In Part I of this essay, we have seen some of the oppositions used in thinking about socialist economies (static vs. dynamic, closed vs. open economies, plan vs. market coordination). In this second part, I will deal with some of the premises on which thinking about the social consequences of socialist economies is based. I will look more particularly at the role of consumerist desires and informal networks of relations as a way to challenge how we think about both socialism and capitalism today.
Wednesday, 6 November 2013
Monday, 28 October 2013
The increasing reliance on temporary agency workers by large German manufacturers has changed industrial relations, reported Hajo Holst, Associate Professor at the University of Jena, to the transnational labour project at the Centre for Advanced Study in Oslo. Large car manufacturers, for example, have used temporary agency workers to secure short-term profits and to bypass statutory dismissal protection. Trade unions and workers, on the other hand, have increasingly come under pressure as a result.
Friday, 18 October 2013
Last summer, Turkey has witnessed an unprecedented social mobilisation, maybe the most significant and intensive one in the post-1980 military coup period. Between the 28 and 30 of May, a group of environmentalists, who were camped in the Gezi Park to prevent the destruction of the park for the re-construction of the 18th century Ottoman Taksim Barracks, were violently evicted by the police. While the activists were beaten and tear gassed, their tents and equipment were burned by the officials. This sparked a massive outrage and paved the way to the subsequent demonstrations and clashes with the police forces that lasted for almost four months. In this guest post, Ertan Erol assesses the wider implications of this moment of social mobilisation in Turkey.
Friday, 11 October 2013
Roland Erne is currently a research fellow at the Centre for Advanced Study in Oslo, where he is part of the project on Globalization and the Possibility of Transnational Actors – The Case of Trade Unions. The purpose of his subproject is to investigate different case studies of translational labour in order to move to a conceptual understanding of the circumstances under which transnational solidarity is possible. In this guest post, he reviews in this respect the book Le salaire, un enjeu pour l’euro-syndicalisme. Histoire de la coordination des négotiations collectives nationales (Presses Universitaires de Nancy, 2011) by Anne Dufresne.
Tuesday, 8 October 2013
During the academic year 2013/2014, Prof. Knut Kjeldstadli leads the research project Globalization and the Possibility of Transnational Actors - The Case of Trade Unions at the Centre for Advanced Study in Oslo/Norway. In this guest post, he outlines the purpose of this collective research project.
Monday, 7 October 2013
On 9 September 2013, a red-green alliance led by the social democratic Labour Party lost the Norwegian general elections. Only two weeks later, the German Social Democrats (SPD) only came a poor second with just over 25 per cent of the votes in their country’s general elections. Even if it ends up as thefor junior partner in a grand coalition, the clear winner was the centre-right Christian Democratic Party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, which missed only narrowly an absolute majority in parliament. In this post, I will assess the general situation of social democratic parties in industrialised countries and speculate about their potential future role.
Thursday, 26 September 2013
The welfare state has been under pressure since the mid-1980s and the onset of neo-liberal economic policies across Europe. Capital has used the current crisis to intensify this pressure further. In Southern Europe, this is often directly enforced through the Troika in exchange for bailout packages, but in other countries such as the UK too, drastic cuts are justified by reference to increasing national debt and the global financial crisis. Trade unions and civil society organisations have struggled hard to defend the welfare state, but it has been a defensive struggle all the way and many aspects have already been lost. Trade union rights have been curbed in many countries, key industries such as telecommunications and postal services privatised and core services such as health and education increasingly marketised. Full employment policies have been a thing of the past for quite some time. In this blog post, I will reflect on the nature and contents of the welfare state and the possibilities of defending its achievements.
Sunday, 15 September 2013
Globalisation has put national labour movements under severe pressure due to the increasing transnationalisation of production and informalisation of the economy. A new research project on Globalization and thePossibility of Transnational Actors: The Case of Trade Unions, led by Prof. Knut Kjeldstadli at the Centre for Advanced Study in Oslo, investigates to what extent trade unions may be able to develop into transnational actors in order to counter these pressures successfully.
Thursday, 5 September 2013
As part of the austerity programmes across Europe in response to the economic crisis, European Union (EU) institutions have increasingly become involved in an attack on trade union rights. In this guest post, Anne Dufresne highlights especially the attack on national wage formation and considers potential responses by European trade unions.
Monday, 2 September 2013
Democratic global Keynesianism as a way out of crisis? Critical reflections on Heikki Patomäki’s The Great Eurozone Disaster.
When the financial market crisis in 2007 and 2008 threatened the global economy, governments around the world stepped in and bailed out many financial institutions, which were on the brink of collapse. Large amounts of private debt were transformed into public debt. In the Eurozone, this resulted in the sovereign debt crisis. In his excellent book The Great Eurozone Disaster: From Crisis to Global New Deal (Zed Books, 2012), Heikki Patomäki not only provides an insightful analysis of the crisis, but he also makes clear recommendations for the best way out of crisis.
Wednesday, 28 August 2013
As a result of austerity policies in response to the global financial market and Eurozone sovereign debt crises, policies of wage cuts and dismantling or hollowing out of collective bargaining have been implemented across the European Union (EU). And yet, as a new wage map by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) illustrates, the general situation of European people has not improved.
Friday, 23 August 2013
|Poster by freestylee|
Importantly, however, politics is always about choices and deciding on priorities. There are always several possible ways forward. In this post, I will reflect on some elements of an alternative, anti-austerity economic policy.
Sunday, 18 August 2013
Since coming to power in 2010, the current coalition government in the UK has implemented drastic austerity policies across the public sector. During the Spring semester 2013, the local University and College Union (UCU) association at Nottingham University organised a series of talks on local anti-cuts initiatives. The purpose of this post is to bring together the various reports from these talks.
|Photo by Dean Thorpe|
(1) austerity policies have nothing to do with cutting back national debt. Rather, they are intended to open up the public sector to private investment;
(2) downward pressure on terms and conditions of those working in the public sector is the general result;
(3) austerity policies are mainly directed against the weak and vulnerable in society;
(4) austerity policies are decided by those, who will not be negatively affected by them. Cuts in education and health have no implications for the rich, who are already accessing private education and health services; and
(5) many current policies had already been initiated by previous New Labour governments. Turning austerity around will, therefore, need to go beyond defeating the current government. It also requires an internal struggle for the direction of the Labour party.
Overall, austerity is a class project against working people’s gains since 1945!
The reports collected in this post highlight the dramatic implications of cuts, but they are also a testimony to the continuation of resistance and the possibility that austerity can be defeated.
Monday, 29 July 2013
Europe is haunted by austerity. Public sectors across the EU are cut back and working class gains from the post-war period seriously undermined (see also Reflections on the Eurozone crisis). In this blog post, I will assess the causes of the crisis, its implications for workers and discuss the politics of labour in response to the Eurozone crisis.
Thursday, 25 July 2013
Trade unions are still searching for an adequate response to the onslaught on workers’ rights as a result of neo-liberal globalisation, manifested in an increasing transnationalisation of production processes, the emergence of an integrated global financial market and the informalisation of working contracts. Employers increasingly play off different national labour movements against each other as a result of global restructuring. SIGTUR, the Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights, is a specific international response by labour movements from the Global South. In this guest post, Rob Lambert, the co-ordinator of SIGTUR, outlines the organisation’s objectives, history and strategies towards a better world order.
Monday, 22 July 2013
‘A mother walks four and a half miles through the snow to a food bank for some handouts to feed her family. With her are two small children, their shoes full of holes. She has put plastic bags around their feet so that they are at least shielded against the wetness, if not the cold.’ This is not a sentence from one of Charles Dickens’ novels. This is a real story in 21st century austerity Britain.
In the fifth session of the series on the local impact of austerity policies, the UCU association at Nottingham University welcomed Nigel Webster, the Director of the Bestwood & Bulwell foodbank, for a talk about the proliferation of food banks in and around Nottingham.
Monday, 8 July 2013
|Photo by Council of the EU|
Tuesday, 2 July 2013
On 24 and 25 June, I participated in the first meeting of the Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights’ (SIGTUR) Futures Commission. The meeting was hosted by Eddie Webster in the Chris Hani Institute in Johannesburg/South Africa and supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. A group of left-wing intellectuals and trade union representatives was entrusted with the task to undertake the first steps towards developing concrete alternatives to neo-liberal globalisation. In this post, I will reflect on some of the key discussions during the two days.
Friday, 28 June 2013
Since 2001 it has become common to speak of a group of “rising powers”, rapidly developing countries which will overtake the established powers of Europe and the USA. This BRICS group, composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, have been heralded as the new drivers of the global political economy. Recent protests in Brazil have cast doubts on such a narrative. In this guest post, Phil Roberts analyses the underlying dynamics as well as key agents in these mass demonstrations in cities throughout the country.
Thursday, 20 June 2013
Do not abandon the state as a site of social struggle: Lessons from the Asian Financial Crisis for the Eurozone!
In 1997, Asia experienced its own financial crisis. In this guest post, Mi Park analyzes the root causes of the Asian crisis and the current Eurozone crisis and compares the politics of the anti-austerity movements in Asia and Europe. She asks what lessons Europe can learn from the Asian experience.
Thursday, 13 June 2013
Austerity in the UK affects the public sector across the board, whether it is the National Health Service, Primary and Secondary Education, Further and Higher Education, disability services, social housing, etc. The fourth event of the series The Age of Austerity about Nottingham anti-cuts campaigns by the local UCU association at Nottingham University on 12 June dealt with the Bedroom Tax. It affects people in social housing, who are deemed to have a spare bedroom. Becky Kent and her mother Karen Wood spoke about the Nottingham Bedroom Tax Campaign, the devastating impact the tax has on people as well as the attempts to resist the attack on some of the most vulnerable members of society.
Monday, 3 June 2013
On 18 May, the first People's Assembly took place in Nottingham to organise local resistance against the cuts by the coalition government. In this guest post, Alan Story, reflects on the lessons to be learned from the process of organising this event.
Thursday, 30 May 2013
The Great University Gamble – Privatising English Higher Education against the background of global economic crisis.
Similar to other public sector areas in the UK, Higher Education (HE) is currently under attack. The introduction of tuition fees of up to £9000 per year, the downward pressure on wages and the attack on pensions imply a fundamental transformation of the sector. In The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the Future of Higher Education (Pluto Press, 2013), Andrew McGettigan unravels the true objectives underlying restructuring in English HE. In this post, I review this fascinating book and provide some additional reflections on aspects of resisting restructuring.
Tuesday, 21 May 2013
Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to be unopposed in Germany at the moment. Her incorrect story about the Eurozone crisis along the lines of "Germany did it best" rather than "Germany wins at the expense of others" puts her above criticism within the German domestic context. In this guest post, Werner Sauerborn reflects on the situation of left-wing policies and trade unions in Germany with a specific focus on the conflict around Stuttgart 21, the planned new railway station for this city in the South-West of the country.
Thursday, 16 May 2013
UK Higher Education (HE) is being transformed. The introduction of tuition fees of up to £9000 per year induces changes across the whole system including the public purpose, administration and culture of universities. In this guest post, Hugo Radice assesses the transformation of HE as part of wider processes of neoliberal restructuring.
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Austerity and cuts affect especially women. In the third talk on local anti-cuts initiatives, organised by the UCU association at Nottingham University, Melanie Jeffs, manager of Nottingham Women’s Centre, illustrated the triple jeopardy women are currently facing as a result of government policy: (1) cuts to jobs; (2) cuts to benefits; and (3) cuts to services.
Thursday, 9 May 2013
BBC News, 15 April 2013). And yet, resistance is fragmented and weak. A coherent, united movement against austerity has not emerged in the UK. On 18 May 2013, a People’s Assembly Against Austerity will be held in Nottingham. In this post, I will discuss the importance of local People’s Assemblies for the revival of resistance to austerity in the UK. In particular, I will highlight four reasons: (1) the collapse of resistance at the national level; (2) the importance of a broad space to bring together the diverse groups and people opposed to austerity; (3) the fact that the impact of cuts is felt at the local level; and (4) the need to unite various existing local movements of resistance.
Tuesday, 7 May 2013
Today in Britain, we are, unmistakably living in a period of economic crisis. Whilst a triple-dip recession has just been narrowly avoided, the Coalition’s plans for austerity to deal with Britain’s deficit are beginning to bite, threatening long-fought for welfare rights, job prospects and cherished services such as the NHS. In this guest post, Chris Hesketh discusses the lessons we in Britain, resisting austerity, can learn from the Zapatistas in Mexico. Most importantly, this includes challenging the idea that there is no alternative.
Saturday, 27 April 2013
The local UCU association at Nottingham University is currently organising a series of talks on local anti-cuts initiatives. The purpose is to highlight the broader dimension of the coalition government’s attack on the public sector and welfare state. This post provides an account of the second event in this series, the presentation by Andrea Oates from the local anti-academies initiative ‘Hands Off Our Schools’ on Wednesday, 24 April.
Friday, 12 April 2013
Trade unions find themselves in difficult situations during times of economic crisis. Should they negotiate with the government and potentially become co-opted into austerity policies or should they resist any cuts in public spending and risk being completely excluded from the policy-making process? In this guest post, Roland Erne raises some crucial questions in relation to current developments in Ireland.
Wednesday, 3 April 2013
Since its first meeting in Porto Alegre/Brazil in 2001, the World Social Forum has provided a key focus and meeting point for groups opposed to neo-liberal globalisation. Considering the current crisis of the global economy, success of the Forum process has become ever more urgent. In this guest post, John Hilary assesses the most recent World Social Forum, which took place in Tunis from 26 to 30 March 2013.
Thursday, 28 March 2013
Against the background of the global financial crisis and the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis, the public sector and services have come under heavy restructuring and privatisation pressure across Europe. In this guest post, Christoph Hermann assesses a variety of different strategies, European trade unions have adopted in defence of the public sector. Ultimately, he argues, the strengthening of the link between service producers and service users has to be at the centre of a successful strategy of resistance.
Sunday, 24 March 2013
Restructuring in Higher Education around narrow objectives of employability with a focus on economic benefits is not only occurring in the UK. Turkey too is experiencing increasing pressures along this line. In this guest post, Nuray Sancar outlines some of the authoritarian methods with which restructuring is imposed, but also the fledgling movement of resisting and contesting neo-liberal restructuring.
Friday, 22 March 2013
Higher Education (HE) in the UK is under attack. Members of staff see a year on year decline in their real income and their pensions undermined, students face tuition fees of up to £9000 per year. There are clear signs that more and more parts of HE are to be privatised. And yet, HE is not the only sector suffering from cuts and austerity in the UK. The national health service, provisions for disabled people and Schools are subject to similar restructuring. In order to highlight the broader dimension of the coalition government’s assault on the welfare state, the local UCU association at Nottingham University organised an event on Friday, 15 March to discuss the impact on the health service and some local moments of resistance.
Monday, 18 March 2013
The Trouble with Indonesian Labour: Notes on Recent Struggles of Labour in Post New Order Indonesia.
President Suharto's authoritarian regime came to an end in 1998. 15 years later, the Indonesian labour movement is still highly fragmented and without real impact on policy-making. In this guest post, Anisa Santoso assesses the current situation of the Indonesian trade unions.
Friday, 15 March 2013
Why is austerity the dominant response to the global financial crisis and how can it be resisted? How is privatisation affecting sectors such as health services and education? These and related questions were discussed at the workshop A Political Economy of the Privatisation and Internationalisation of Public Services in a Time of Austerity, held in the Business School of the University of Hertfordshire on 1 and 2 March 2013. In this post, I will draw on some of the themes discussed at this workshop.
Sunday, 10 March 2013
Renewal through strike - this was the title of a highly important conference of left-wing trade unionists in Stuttgart/Germany from 1 to 3 March 2013. Organized by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation and supported by the second biggest German union ver.di, more than 500 trade unionists came from all over Germany and from nearly all industrial sectors to discuss the challenges of neoliberalism for the labour movement. In this guest post, Marianne Bieler and Markus Peiter provide an overview of the key discussions at this conference.
Friday, 15 February 2013
In 2007 the Finnish employers’ confederation withdrew from the comprehensive tripartite, multi-sector bargaining system, a step which had been taken by the Swedish employers’ federation 17 years earlier. In Sweden, it signalled to some extent the demise of the so-called Swedish model. In Finland, by contrast, Finnish employers organised in EK and here especially the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries, which represents Finnish export companies, did not succeed in enforcing company level bargaining and, thus, more flexibility in wage structures. Instead, a sectoral collective bargaining system, giving sectoral trade unions significant power, was established. How can we understand this failure in comparison to the more successful attack of the Swedish employers in the 1990s? In this blog post, I will argue that the far lower degree of transnationalization of production in Finland explains to some extent why the attack on the established class compromise happened much later than in Sweden and has been less successful. Nevertheless, I will also conclude that trade unions must remain vigilant in their protection of the welfare state as further attacks are likely.
Friday, 1 February 2013
Exactly one year ago, on 28 February 2012, the Occupy camp next to London's stock exchange was evicted. In this guest post, Vera Weghmann will share her experience as an activist at Occupy London Stock Exchange (Occupy LSX) and evaluate the lasting legacy of the Occupy movement.
Saturday, 26 January 2013
Over the last 14 months, I have published several posts dealing with aspects of the Eurozone crisis and the struggle against the imposition of austerity across Europe. In this post, I will bring them together in one narrative. My general focus is on uneven and combined development in Europe as the underlying structural dynamic of the crisis, neo-liberal restructuring and its limits, the move towards authoritarian government as well as issues of resistance in the European core and periphery.
Tuesday, 15 January 2013
The increasing transnationalisation of production and informalisation of labour relations has undermined the traditional power resources of national labour movements (see Bieler, Lindberg and Sauerborn 2010). And yet, globalisation has not left workers without weapons. In his book Solidarity Transformed: Labor Responses to Globalization and Crisis in Latin America (Cornell University Press, 2011) Mark Anner investigates how labour movements in Latin America have developed new power resources. In this blog post, I will provide a critical appraisal of this remarkable book and add some theoretical considerations on how to conceptualise trade unions’ agency within the changing structures of globalisation.