Challenging Global Corporate Power in the 21st Century
Chapter 1. Trade Unions, the Labour Movement and the First Wave of Globalisation
TRADE UNIONS, THE LABOUR MOVEMENT AND THE FIRST WAVE OF GLOBALISATION
This chapter provides an overview of the historical development of the trade union movement and its relationship to the wider labour movement. In so doing we will highlight the choices made regarding overall vision, strategies and tactics at crucial junctures in the history of the trade union movement and the consequences of these choices for its development over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is the consequence of these choices that have, in part, helped to shape the current crisis of the union movement and that provides the context for understanding the place of developments in technologies, and digital media in particular, in current forms of worker resistance. Indeed many accounts of the trajectory of the union movement in the twentieth century have tended to reify these choices as though they were inevitable or natural in the context of the development of capitalism and the nation-state system. On the contrary, we argue that there were always powerful alternatives open to the labour movement and trade unions, choices that were part of their libertarian heritage of independent working class action, choices that were, in fact, pursued in many places, often against authoritarian tendencies within the trade unions themselves. Ultimately the libertarian idea and practice of an independent labour movement was suppressed or marginalised because of a variety of political and economic factors in the twentieth ← 19 | 20 → century, although it was certainly...
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