economics


Along with so many unions and groups within the wider labour movement, the New Unionism Network has voted overwhelmingly to support the Occupy movement*. As a contribution, we are producing a series of leaflets by network members who have fully developed alternatives to the current system. (David Schweickart’s model here; Michael Albert’s model here).

Among the hundreds of unions and federations that have endorsed the movement and offered support are:

  • ITUC – the International Trade Union Confederation (the world’s leading international union body) (details);
  • WFTU – World Federation of Trade Unions (the second largest international body) (details);
  • EI – Education International – largest of the sector-based “global union federations” (details);
  • UNI global union – another of the global union federations (details);
  • ITF – the International Transport Workers’ Federation (details);
    (We are still trying to find out about the other global union federations)
  • AFL-CIO – the largest union federation in the U.S.A. (details);
  • SEIU – largest union in Change to Win – the second largest federation in the U.S.A. (details);
  • AFT – the American Federation of Teachers – largest union in the U.S.A. but independent from both of the federations above (details);

(Other U.S. unions…)

The movement went global in October. More than 2,500 Occupy groups are currently listed on the global hub, Occupy Together. However, OccupyWallStreet – the group who catalysed the movement in the U.S.A. – has since been evicted. Similar actions have closed sites across many other cities. There have been 1200 arrests in New York alone. With 2012 approaching, we are about to find out if this is a movement or just a moment. (more…)

“We are a movement that builds, not destroys.”
César Chávez, U.S. union organizer

Some people see history as a battle of ideas — each attracting adherents in a struggle for rational progress. Others see it as a battle of forces — each recruiting supporters in a struggle for power. Taken together, these two traditions have been busy lately — producing a powerful new critique of capitalism. It can’t be dismissed as the usual lefty rhetoric either… the contributors include a growing number of Nobel-winning economists, World Bank staff and consultants, senior figures at the IMF, Wall Street traders, corporate executives and other defectors from free market ideology. (1)

If you’re not keen on reading any of the key works in this 21st century critique (2), then try watching The Corporation, Capitalism – A Love Story, Inside Job and/or The Shock Doctrine. Here are some extracts from another recent movie:


Between them, these writers and film-makers have revealed the dreadful costs of free market economics. They have shown its flawed rationale; its necessary links to crisis and despotism; and its recurrent failures in practice. They have put hard numbers on the transfer of wealth into the hands of those who had the most already. They have shown what this has cost the poor, and how it has left us all with a looming crisis in “externalities” that threatens our survival on this planet.

Too bad to be true? Remember – this is not just a view being pushed by “the usual suspects”. This is coming from those who have been there when decisions were made. It comes from primary sources, first-hand testimony, key documents, independent reviews, official statistics, analysis by Nobel-winners, and even (especially since Enron) legal affidavits and court records.

BUT

No matter how well-reasoned the argument, criticism will get us nowhere unless it also inspires people to act. As He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named once said: “Philosophers have merely interpreted the world… the point, however, is to change it.” (3)

Such change, when it comes, can be expected to feature an escalation in protests and strikes. We are certainly seeing this. It will also be accompanied by a thirst for new ideas. So what has been tabled in the past ten years, beyond calls for a return to social dialogue, state socialism, and/or the regulatory regimes of the twentieth century?

The point of this article is to look at some recent arguments for a new way forward. As you’ll see, each of them has something rather interesting in common. If you take nothing else away from this article, just make a mental note of this: each of these proposals is predicated upon the democratization of work. That’s right – workplace democracy – the same idea that Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky have been promoting (eg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgoyyoHs4pk and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ugGqJcro2w). Perhaps the left is not as divided as the right would have us believe. (more…)

Following the 2008 global economic crisis, many in the labour movement have been supporting a fundamental reform of taxation systems as an alternative to neo-liberal public spending cuts.

The campaign for ‘tax justice’ has, at its heart, the reform of the tax havens, a phenomena that has grown dramatically in recent decades and attracted the critical attention of many NGOs and academic researchers. Foremost amongst these is the global wide ‘Tax Justice Network’ (TJN), which provides much of the intellectual ammunition contained in Tax Havens – how globalization really works by Ronen Palan, Richard Murphy, Christian Chavagneux (Cornell University Press, 2010).

Richie Leitch reviews the book for us below. You can order a copy here. (more…)

I get carried away. I do. So when I say this is the greatest book ever about work (in all its forms), you probably need to apply a couple of filters. That said, I’d go one step further. Guy Standing’s new book “Work After Globalization: Building Occupational Citizenship” offers us the kind of foundation we need to launch a new social-democratic program. And let’s face it, the old one is long since dead. And starting to get a bit smelly. This review will attempt to summarise the book, but do yourself a favour, don’t take my word for it. You need to read this book for yourself. We’ve even arranged a 35% discount for you. Click here for details. And no, we aren’t taking a cut!   🙂 (more…)

The New Unionists of the late 19th century built trade unions as we know them by organizing the proletariat – the working class of the day. Similarly, today’s new unionists are beginning to organize the precariat – workers without security. To say this latter group represents the most rapidly growing sector in society entirely misses the point. The labour force has fundamentally changed. And according to many labour analysts, the real jolt is still to come:

“Most of the full-time jobs lost in this recession won’t come back. Most of the employees laid off in the past year won’t find permanent work. When the statistics catch up to the reality, people will be forced to confront the new normal.” [i] (more…)

meltdownFor many trade unionists the financial events of the last year have been troublesome, to say the least. What has been going on to create such economic turmoil: massive job loss, bankruptcies, credit freezes and incredible amounts of debt and bailout funds? Moral condemnation is easy – and certainly justifiable. But what lies beyond this – in the realms of analysis and political response? Paul Mason’s Meltdown: the end of the age of greed (2009) provides one answer, in its attempt to relate the spectacular economic events of autumn 2008 to long–term economic and political trends within contemporary capitalism. (more…)

faceless2The recent crop of stimulus packages presents us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compare economic strategies. The sums involved are staggering. How will we feel when we look back on this period in 10 years? Will we wish we had all adopted Thailand’s “trickle up” model, giving money straight to those who need it most? Or will we wish we had followed the US example, covering as many bases as possible? The European Union is turning the crisis into an opportunity, and taking significant steps towards a greener world. And then there’s the option of the big spend-up on infrastructure, as exemplified by countries like Norway. 

One thing is certain: unions must help bring economics under democratic control. The Age of Ideology is over. (more…)

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