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Radical Unions in Europe and the Future of Collective Interest Representation


Edited By Heather Connolly, Lefteris Kretsos and Craig Phelan

This book analyses contemporary trends in radical unionism in Europe. It contains nine country case-studies that probe the limits and possibilities of trade union renewal with a focus on radical activity. The editors follow a broad definition of radical unionism, including trade union organisations that can be characterised as radical either in terms of ideology and political identity or in terms of organising and mobilising activity. The ongoing economic crisis and consequent austerity measures, and employers’ strategies for increasing labour market flexibility have encouraged the deregulation of capitalism in Europe. The question this book asks is whether radicalised unionism, political action and grassroots activism present opportunities for union renewal and collective interest representation in this economic context. This question is examined in nine national contexts with diverse industrial relations frameworks and trade unions. The editors assess the degree to which we are witnessing the emergence of ‘radical political unionism’ as an alternative model of trade unionism in Europe, focused on class struggle, engagement in social movement activity beyond the workplace, and politicised union strategies aligned to new left-wing political formations.


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Alan Stoleroff: Radical Trade Unionism in Portugal: Between Maximalist Vanguardism and Ongoing Radicalisation


Alan Stoleroff Radical Trade Unionism in Portugal: Between Maximalist Vanguardism and Ongoing Radicalisation This chapter will argue, on the one hand, that a mitigated anti-capitalist radicalism has persisted as an overriding tendency within the Portuguese trade union movement since the revolutionary period of 1974–1975 and throughout subsequent democratisation. This has been due, in large part, to the predominance of Communist leadership in the majority labour confederation, that is, the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (CGTP-IN). Moreover, this orientation has been subject to intermittent processes of radicalisation in its demands and tactics in reaction to changing political and economic contexts. Most recently, the so-called ‘neo-liberal’ offensive to restructure the labour market and redefine institutionalised labour relations and the crisis politics of austerity have stimulated a new radicalisation in the politics of the majority confederation and exacerbated the division within the labour movement between this current and the ‘neo-corporatist’ leadership of the minority confederation. Nevertheless this mitigated radicalism is challenged by an unmitigated radicalism that is still relatively confined to a few niches of the trade union movement and that have not gained much attention in industrial relations research since it has not acquired sufficient critical mass to merit attention. The chapter will argue, furthermore, that in a crisis situation, outbursts of radical action do not require ideologically self-conscious radical trade unionism. The desperation and indignation resulting from the breakdown of the economy and the threat of job loss or the non-payment of wages can lead workers and their local trade...

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