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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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Radical Trade Unionism in Spain: The Re-Invention and Re-Imagination of Autonomy and Democracy Within and Around the Union Movement During the Past Century



Spain is a country that has a rich and diverse tradition of radical trade unionism and a variety of labour movement discourses of self-management. These have developed in a variety of ways and have reflected the uneven post-imperial economic development of the country during the 19th and 20th centuries. Linked to newly industrial regions as well as agriculturally backward regions, the character of the more radical and revolutionary elements of the labour movement consisted of both utopian beliefs and agitation. The influence of French anarchism was one factor that generated an important commitment to a politically oriented trade union movement (Woodcock, 2004). However, much of this radical tradition – along with those from a social democratic heritage – has had a chequered history due to the repressive features of the Spanish state in relation to liberal and radical ideas and movements at various points in the past two centuries. Hence, the history of these features of the labour movement consists of serious ruptures and inconsistencies. However, these traditions of struggle emerge and re-emerge at different points, reinventing themselves around different collectives and constituencies within the working classes. ← 111 | 112 →

To this extent, any discussion of the nature and character of radical unionism needs to have a broad and sensitive approach in historical terms and in organisational ones. Radical unionism in the context of Spain is not just an ‘informal’ or unofficial tier of the ‘official’ or ‘labour’ movement – it is in part that – but is...

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