Trade unions, yesterday, today and tomorrow: Workers' Liberty 3/60

Ramparts for the workers against the bosses

Published on: Wed, 13/12/2017 - 16:32

Karl Marx

From Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy

In England… permanent combinations have been formed, trades unions, which serve as ramparts for the workers in their struggles with the employers... The organisation of these strikes, combinations, and trades unions went on simultaneously with the political struggles of the workers, who now constitute a large political party, under the name of Chartists.

The first attempt of workers to associate among themselves always takes place in the form of combinations.

Large-scale industry concentrates in one place a crowd of people unknown to one another.

Unions as centres of organisation

Published on: Wed, 13/12/2017 - 16:27

Hal Draper

From Hal Draper's book Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution

The historical problem in the socialist movement [before Marx] was seeing the positive side of trade-unionism; there was never any lack of denunciation of the limitations, deficiencies, and faults of trade unions. The socialist orthodoxy that Marx overturned leaned exclusively on the latter.
[Marx, by contrast, argued] that “the working people, in the management of their colossal Trade Societies” also prove themselves “fit for administrative and political work”. This applies not only to the training of union officials — who sometimes

From the "organising agenda" to the "democracy and mutual-aid" agenda

Published on: Wed, 13/12/2017 - 16:04

Martin Thomas

Union density is falling, and has been falling for decades, almost across the world.

New independent trade union movements made great advances in Brazil, South Korea, and South Africa in the 1980s; Sweden’s high level of union density continued to increase until about 1990; Brazil’s unions gained a rise in density between 2000 and 2006, after a decline in the 1990s; some Scandinavian countries, and Belgium, where unions are intertwined with the welfare system, have limited their losses; but generally the picture is of decline through the neoliberal decades from the early 1980s.

Falling union

"We can cause the bosses some mayhem"

Published on: Wed, 23/04/2008 - 17:42

Mike Treen

Mike Treen is National Director of Unite New Zealand, a union which has successfully organised young workers in fast food. In February 2008 he toured Britain speaking to meetings organised by No Sweat, and we published his speech to the London meeting Solidarity 3/127. After that meeting Mike Treen spoke to Colin Foster.

Your approach contrasts with most other union organising drives these days, in that you started with a clear declaration of across-the-board demands that the union was going to fight for, rather than trying to recruit individuals on the basis that if they had a individual

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