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ILO Histories

Essays on the International Labour Organization and Its Impact on the World During the Twentieth Century


Edited By Jasmien Van Daele, Magaly Rodriguez Garcia and Geert van Goethem

In 2009, the International Labour Organization (ILO) celebrated its ninetieth anniversary. The First World War and the revolutionary wave it provoked in Russia and elsewhere were powerful inspirations for the founding of the ILO. There was a growing understanding that social justice, in particular by improving labour conditions, was an essential precondition for universal peace. Since then, the ILO has seen successes and set-backs; it has been ridiculed and praised. Much has been written about the ILO; there are semi-official histories and some critical studies on the organization’s history have recently been published. Yet, further source-based critical and comprehensive analyses of the organization’s origins and development are still lacking. The present collection of eighteen essays is an attempt to change this unsatisfactory situation by complementing those histories that already exist, exploring new topics, and offering new perspectives. It is guided by the observation that the ILO’s history is not primarily about «elaborating beautiful texts and collecting impressive instruments for ratification» but about effecting «real change and more happiness in peoples’ lives».


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4 Albert Thomas, the ILO and the IFTU: A Case of Mutual Benefit? 91


8=6EI:G Albert Thomas, the >AD and the >;IJ: A Case of Mutual Benefit?* Reiner Tosstorff “The >AD does not solely exist to register uncertain balances, but is also there to achieve a programme, as the convention states” In essence, the impetus for the International Labour Organization (>AD) came from the international trade union movement. Its practical imple- mentation, however, as well as the determination of its functional and legal framework were accomplished solely by a commission that had been appointed by the victorious powers of the First World War during the first months of the year . The trade union organizations of the Allied Pow- ers only played a secondary role in that commission. The International Federation of Trade Unions (>;IJ), which at that time was in the process of reconstituting itself, was not able to push through most of its far more com- prehensive ideas that had been articulated at a conference in Bern in Febru- ary . The main points where the international trade union movement fell behind concerned the binding character of the resolutions of the future organization, the weight that workers’ representatives would have in it, and the direct determination of quite a number of programmatic demands. At the congress in Amsterdam at the beginning of August – which implemented the formal re-founding of the >;IJ – the >AD Charter [here- * I am especially grateful to Geert van Goethem for his valuable suggestions. Report of the Director, International Labour Conference , quoted in: Bonvin, L’Organisation internationale du travail,...

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