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(en) Rebel Worker, Vol.21 No.1 (175) Feb.-Mar. 2002, Globalisation & The Labour Movement

From Jura Books <a-infos-@chaos.apana.org.au>
Date Thu, 11 Jul 2002 05:06:19 -0400 (EDT)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

  "Globalisation & The Labour Movement" from Rebel Worker
Paper of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Network
Vol.21 No.1 (175) Feb.-Mar. 2002 . Subs.$12 a year in Australia
Airmail Overseas $25 a year Postal Address PO Box 92 Broadway
2007 NSW Australia

Two Faces of Globalism
In this article I want to focus upon two concepts and processes of 
Globalisation  the Capitalist/Corporate and the anarcho-syndicalist .
The former involves the  international capitalist economy's closer 
coordination and regulation and the increased role of multinational 
companies and such global corporate oriented economic institutions as the 
IMF (International Monetary Fund), World Bank and WTO (World Trade 
Organisation) and on the military and political scales  the intervention of 
the U.N., NATO, the US Govt. and  the CIA, etc, in various countries affairs.
The latter  concept of  global labour organising  involves the building of 
a mass international labour movement based on ultra democratic and direct 
action principles  to combat Capitalist globalisation associated strategies 
and tactics, and to achieve the collective seizure/self management of the 
means of production by the direct producers. In discussing this concept I 
will provide a critique of main stream bureaucratic union and 
anarcho-syndicalist international organising and the anti-globalisation 
movement associated with the series of protests at meetings/conferences of 
global capitalist institutions in recent years.
Toward the end of WWII saw a major burst in the globalisation process, in 
which the US Govt. has played a critical role with the establishment of the 
World Bank and the IMF.(The President of the World Bank is always an 
American citizen. Whilst the US holds 17% of votes in any IMF decisions.) 
The role of these new institutions at that time was to regulate the 
international economy so as to avoid the re- occurrences of the depression 
of the 1930's. Particularly by providing loans to bail out bankrupt 
economies and prevent harmful flow on effects on the global economy of such 
economic collapses.
In the context of the 3<M>rd World Debt Crisis of the late 1970's and early 
1980's, the Western Powers and these global institutions were able to 
intervene in 3rd World Countries to ensure free trade and establish greater 
control over their economies.(1).
This intervention has taken the classic form of the World Bank and the IMF 
compelling Govts in the 3rd  World to adopt "Structural Efficiency 
Programs", which remove barriers to imports and foreign ownership, 
introduce anti-Labor laws and encourage privatisation. In this context, 
multinational companies based in the West have been encouraged to transfer 
some operations to the 3<M>rd World eg the relocation of multinational 
owned factories from Australia to South East Asia, reorganise company 
operations in many different countries as part of a global strategy and 
dominate 3<M>rd World country economies. This process has been encouraged 
and made possible by containerisation, advances in computerised accounting 
and treaties for the standardisation of measurements in regard to machinery 
                International Privatisation Conspiracy
One of the most important global capitalist strategies has been 
privatisation, which has greatly assisted multinational companies 
domination of  3rd World countries economies. It highlights the interplay 
between  international  institutions and local States in carrying out 
Global capitalist agendas.
The ideological and policy origins of privatisation lie in the rightwing 
think tank  the "Adam Smith Institute" which shaped the policies of the 
British Thatcher Govt. in the 1980's. The success of the Thatcher Govt. in 
privatising industries, particularly impressed the US Govt. and its 
agencies. Consequently, USAID set up in 1981, the Bureau for Private 
Enterprise. 5 years later it became the explicitly titled "Centre for 
Privatisation" sponsored by half a dozen private companies. In 1985, USAID 
organised and hosted an international conference on privatisation where UK 
and USA based multinational company representatives could meet 
representatives of 3<M>rd World Countries to discuss privatisation strategies.
Following the conference, USAID commenced a global initiative to spur on 
privatisation. USAID missions in various 3rd World countries were to 
pressure Govts to introduce 2 privatisation measures per year with the 
threat of the withdrawal of USAID money. During the 1980's, 83 
countries  privatised state industries, assets and services. Assisting this 
privatisation has been particularly British based international management 
consultancy firms such as Price Waterhouse which has helped Govt's rubber 
stamp privatisations with supporting reports and studies. In 1989, Price 
Waterhouse set up a Department dedicated to privatisation  which has become 
a major source of its income. Whilst in 1990 alone, 51 countries had hired 
privatisation advisers. (2)
                 Hand maidens of Corporate Globalism
An important reason for the success of corporate globalisation 
policies  multinational corporations  internationally expanded  operations, 
a massive global privatisation surge and such corporate reorganisation 
strategies as the world car projects, has been the collaboration on various 
scales of centralised bureaucratic union movements and formally social 
democratic labour parties and Govts.
Recent developments in the railways in Australia, throw light on this 
process. In the case of Freight Corp. in NSW which the Carr ALP (Australian 
Labor Party) Govt. recently sold to Lang Corp and Toll Holdings, the RTBU 
(Rail Tram & Bus Union) hierarchy played a key role in the sell off. It 
completely caved into the privatisation and had been propagandising its 
merits to RTBU members with a Price Waterhouse Report funded by the NSW 
Govt. Treasury Department. Intriguingly, the senior, RTBU NSW official who 
played such a central role in urging privatisation on Freight Corp. workers 
is a graduate of the Harvard University trade union officials training 
course. A notorious CIA recruiting ground. Another notorious cave-in by the 
RTBU hierarchy  to privatisation in recent years involved maintenance on 
the East Hills rail line. It's tender  was given by the Carr Govt. to the 
US based civil engineering giant Fleur Daniel without any opposition by the 
An important process associated with corporate globalisation has been the 
watering down of Govt. legislation implementation to assist multinational 
company activity. A most dramatic move in this direction was the proposed 
MAI Treaty which was to ensure changes in countries' laws to remove 
restrictions on  multinational company activity. Whilst the formal treaty 
has been dropped, there is important and growing evidence that unofficially 
MAI is being introduced. In the case of the NSW Railways, the NSW Govt. 
Department WorkCover turned a blind eye to major breaches of Occupational 
Health & Safety legislation by management associated with the regular 
rorting of OH&S committee elections in City Rail and  unsafe practices 
occurring during the renovation of City Rail stations prior to the 2000 
Sydney Olympics . (3)
In regard to ongoing coordinated global action by the international labour 
movement against global capitalist institutions and  multinational 
corporations and their strategies. Little is going on. Except in the case 
of  isolated major disputes. The one day international maritime strike in 
support of the Liverpool Dockers.  The boycott of the Neptune Jade scab 
ship in San Francisco in 1997 during the Liverpool Dockers dispute which 
involved  members of the syndicalist oriented IWW (Industrial Workers of 
the World).  Scattered actions in support of the MUA (Maritime Union of 
Australia) during the 1998. Whilst most international gatherings of 
"unionists" are often junkets for management stooges who hold positions in 
the bureaucratic unions.
As mentioned, the success of  privatisation strategies has been 
particularly assisted by the union hierarchies and their machines. In the 
case of multinational companies' production re-organisation strategies such 
as General Motor's world car project, union reps in G.M. factories are 
playing a critical role in facilitating the process. At General Motors 
Holden Fisherman's Bend engine plant in Victoria, AMWU (manufacturing 
union) shop stewards who are overwhelmingly management co-thinkers are 
playing a critical role in preventing on the job resistance to speed ups 
and gross breaches of Occupational Health & Safety. Whilst in the late 
1990's the officials of the vehicle builders section of the AMWU assisted 
management at Holden to impose 12 hour shifts on future plant extensions 
via the approval of an enterprise deal.
This close collaboration which often characterises the relations between 
bureaucratic centralised unionism and employers and agencies of the State 
is in sharp contrast to the anarcho-syndicalist approach. It emphasises the 
goal of coordinated direct action by workers within industries and branches 
of countries between countries to challenge global corporate power. It's 
also in stark contrast to the elitist "direct action" of the "activists" of 
the anti-globalist spectacles such as at the Seattle,  S11 and M1 Protests, 
etc. Tiny minorities engaging in symbolic protests against summits of 
global capitalism.
@HEAD - 2 ˙  Anarcho-syndicalist           International Organising
In terms of achieving this goal of international coordinated direct action 
on the job, the anarcho-syndicalist record has been poor. However, there 
has been significant steps to achieve some measure of cooperation between 
anarcho-syndicalist mass labour movements in different countries. The most 
significant development in this direction was the formation of the 
International Workers Association in the early 1920's, with initially 
affiliate unions mainly based in Europe and Latin America with several 
million members.  Concurrent with this international organisation and 
expansion of syndicalist movements  was the crest of the post WWI 
revolutionary wave, whose pinnacle was the Russian Revolution and other 
upheavals, which raised workers morale and inspired militancy.
This growth was short circuited by a combination of 
disastrous  factors.  The sudden mushrooming of syndicalist movements in 
the post WWI period with many drawn into the movement due to disillusion 
with existing social democratic unions with little grasp of syndicalist 
principles led to short lived stability. Later causing splits to form 
independent unions which subsequently were drawn into Communist Party 
orbits such as with the German FAUD (Free Workers Union of Germany) which 
lost most of its heavy industry membership base in the Ruhr and most of its 
entire national membership after a few years to an independent union which 
soon became a Communist Party satellite.  Whilst in France, the Communist 
Party was able to takeover the initially syndicalist oriented CGTU (General 
Confederation of Labour United) giving birth to a split - the CGTSR 
(Revolutionary Syndicalist) of some few thousands of members. Later in the 
20's and 30's, fascism and dictatorships contributed to the crushing of 
many mass syndicalist labour movements. Most significant being the Spanish 
CNT (National Confederation of Labour) which at its peak in the late 30's 
had several million members.
Anarchist groupings such as sections of the Iberian Anarchist Federation 
(FAI) influential in the Spanish CNT, also contributed to this crushing of 
mass syndicalist movements by dictatorships with their 
unrealistic/simplistic revolution around the corner views and 
incitement  of ultra militant and insurrectionary adventures which 
encouraged ruling classes to resort to ultra rightwing measures. The ultra 
sectarian orientation of such groups led to purges of other more coherent 
anarcho-syndicalist groupings in mass syndicalist unions (in the CNT 
sections of the FAI were instrumental in the purging of  the Revolutionary 
Syndicalist Committees, later to be known as the BOC(Worker & Peasant Bloc) 
and the Trientistas and encouraged a hysterical  climate unfavourable to 
informed debate and the development of more realistic revolutionary 
strategies. In those countries unaffected by massive State repression and 
Fascism, syndicalist minority union movements confronted  by a tightening 
web of labour legislation, competing majority bureaucratic union 
federations and an emerging welfare state, gradually took on orthodox union 
features, as in the case of the  Swedish Workers Centre (SAC). (4)
Consequently with the exception of the Spanish CNT, the various affiliates 
of the IWA underwent massive membership declines after the early 20's and 
the IWA was unable to coordinate  direct action within industries between 
different countries. The most significant cooperation of various 
anarcho-syndicalist/anarchist formations and IWA affiliates focused upon 
support for the CNT during the Spanish Revolution and Civil War 1936-39. It 
involved the supply of finance, medicines, arms and soldiers on a limited 
and inadequate scale. By the late 1950's, the IWA was reduced to 
essentially a micro bureaucracy and was left without any union affiliates 
and only propaganda groups in a few countries.
With the re-emergence of the CNT in Spain in 1976 following the death of 
Franco,.(its resurgence occurred on a large scale with the CNT claiming 
300,000 members by the late 70's but as more a cultural movement/political 
party rather than as a classic labour movement), there was a renewed 
interest in the anarcho-syndicalist label and an attempt to revive the IWA.
The revived IWA since the early 1980's  has been a shadow of the IWA of the 
interwar period and has failed to develop as a mass international labour 
movement. The CNT since the late 1970's began a down hill slide stemming 
from several splits and state repression, and today may only have an 
estimated 1,000 or so members. (5)
This splitting process has particularly affected  IWA affiliates. In the 
case of the Spanish and French CNTs it has focused on the issues of 
participation in State controlled elections to workplace committees and the 
associated cooptation of union reps via petty privileges. Differences over 
the issue of alliances and pacts with other alternative unions  led to a 
major split in the revived Italian Syndicalist Union (USI) in the 1990's. 
Most of the rest of the IWA has consisted of propaganda groups with little 
if any industrial influence and strong tendencies towards becoming 
sects  ideological groups which are existential in character - ends in 
themselves. Currently the IWA looks to becoming an obstacle to a genuine 
resurgence of anarcho-syndicalism on an  international level and seems to 
be encouraging the crystallisation of weird sects with syndicalist regalia.
What international syndicalist activity has been taking place inside and 
outside the IWA  certainly involves little coordinated direct action within 
industries.  It consists of supporting of strikes/resistance conducted by 
bureaucratic/centralist unions due to grass roots pressures such as the 
British Miners' Strike of 1984-85 and the Australian Maritime dispute of 
1998, embassy protests, email/snail mail protests, international 
pickets/boycotts eg borders bookshops in various countries over a sacked 
IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) member and IWW organising drive in 
the USA, the boycott of the Neptune Jade during the Liverpool Dockers' 
Lockout, and participation in anti-Globalist protest demonstrations.
In conclusion, as I have argued the international syndicalist movement as 
an  internationally organised force is at a low ebb and unable to play its 
appropriate role. Whilst the employer offensive is sweeping the world as a 
raging torrent. It lacks significant organisations of industrial direct 
action resistance with few exceptions. Let alone organisations to prepare 
workers for the self management and collective seizure of the means of 
production in the world.
The following are a series of suggestions for  re- building the global 
anarcho-syndicalist labour movement. The most important steps  must occur 
in our own industrial backyards.
1.      To assist on the job organisation in the context of the 
contemporary ferocious employer offensive, a greatly expanded "outside the 
job organisation" including various catalysts for workers militant self 
organisation is an urgent priority.
2.      The harmful and very pervasive Leninist, Stalinist and  Vanguardist 
legacy upon the anti-capitalist movement in many countries needs to be 
3.      To achieve this goal, a wide ranging discussion process  involving 
cycles of conferences developing a critique of Leninism needs to be 
inaugurated. Such a process would change the culture of the anti-capitalist 
movement and facilitate a syndicalist orientation. As occurred in the years 
of the initial rise of syndicalism in the late 19<M>th and early 20<M>th 
4.      The winning of a major victory in the class struggle to change the 
psychological climate, and raise greatly workers' morale and countering the 
employer offensive is  crucial.  In this context, a major resurgence of 
anarcho-syndicalist style unionism and its international coordination 
within industries would start to come on the agenda.
5.      A most  important focus of such a victory would be the USA rather 
than some backwater, particularly in regard to its key role as a the 
world's super power and media publicity.
6.      The publication of  anarcho-syndicalist oriented workplace papers 
in a range of different strategic industries on a long range basis with the 
support of appropriate "outside the job organisation" including experienced 
motivated personnel and infrastructure. Supplemented by a wide periphery of 
supporters and helpers.

Mark McGuire

(1) See "Globalisation, Imperialism, the Debt Crisis, UN, IMF & World Bank" 
in RW     Vol.19 No.2 (164) April-May 2000.
(2) See "Privatisation as the Tool of Imperialism Today" by Dick Curlewis" 
in RW Vol.13 No.8 (117) Aug.1994.
(3) See "NSW Railway News" in RW Vol.19 No.4 (166) Aug.-Sept. 2000.
(4) See "Revolutionary Syndicalism: An International Perspective" edited by 
Marcel Van Der Linden & Wayne Thorpe.
  (5) See "Spain Today" in RW  Vol.20 No.3 (172) Aug.-Sept. 2001.

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