Confronting Change: Globalization, Migration and Precarious Labour in the Age of Brexit

precarious2

Gareth Curless
University of Exeter

On Wednesday 11 January 2017, the University of Exeter and the TUC’s European Union and International Relations Department will host a public conference at Congress House, London. To register for this event please visit the Eventbrite page for the conference. The event is free to attend and all are welcome but space is limited.

The EU referendum has brought to the fore debates concerning the effects of globalization, migration and casual or ‘precarious’ labour in twenty-first century Britain. These issues are not limited to the U.K., however. Over the course of the past three decades the dominance of neo-liberal economics, and the associated processes of privatisation and de-regulation, have contributed to widening inequality and a decline in formal sector employment across the globe. For organised labour movements these pressures have brought ever greater challenges, as trade unions have fought to resist the erosion of hard won labour rights and protect the living standards of their members. On these issues trade unions have won some notable victories but it is clear that further challenges lie ahead.

precarious

Indeed, for all neo-liberalism’s dominance over the past thirty years, the world finds itself at a crossroads. The 2008 financial crash; the debt and migration crises within Europe; the election of Donald Trump and rise of protectionism in the United States; and Brexit have all served to shake the foundations of the established global order. In turn, these events have led to a polarised debate between those who favour a renewed push for ever-greater levels of global inter-dependence and those that advocate a return to economic nationalism. For trade unions the challenge is not to allow this uncertainty to accelerate recent changes within the labour market, particularly with regard to the exploitation of migrants and undercutting of existing workforces, the rise of precarious labour and the imposition of stricter trade union laws. Instead trade unions should continue their active role in shaping debates about the deleterious effects of casualization and the infringement of labour rights by both states and employers.

The aim of this one day conference is to bring together academics, policymakers and trade union activists to reflect on the impact of globalization, migration and precarious labour and to consider the role of trade unions in the age of Brexit. The workshop will investigate the following questions: Continue reading “Confronting Change: Globalization, Migration and Precarious Labour in the Age of Brexit”

7. Allende, the Third World, and Neoliberal Imperialism

Editor’s Note: It is hard to believe that the Imperial & Global Forum went live just a year ago. In the weeks leading up to the new year, please help us celebrate by checking out the year’s 10 most popular posts.

7. Allende, the Third World, and Neoliberal Imperialism

Chris Dietrich
Assistant Professor, Fordham University
Follow on Twitter @C_R_W_Dietrich

allende“Allende was assassinated for nationalizing the . . . wealth of Chilean subsoil,” Pablo Neruda wrote on September 14, 1973. Neruda was lamenting the overthrow and death of his friend, Chilean President Salvador Allende, a week before he himself succumbed to cancer.  “From the salt-peter deserts, the underwater coal mines, and the terrible heights where copper is extracted through inhuman work by the hands of my people, a liberating movement of great magnitude arose,” he continued.  “This movement led a man named Salvador Allende to the presidency of Chile, to undertake reforms and measures of justice that could not be postponed, to rescue our national wealth from foreign clutches.”  Unfortunately, Allende’s flirtation with economic nationalization ran up against the country’s multinational business interests, particularly those that had support from the U.S. government. His socialist reforms were also ill timed; the U.S. government’s ideological view towards the global economy tended towards the Manichean.

So what was the American role in Allende’s overthrow? [continue reading]

Allende, the Third World, and Neoliberal Imperialism

Chris Dietrich
Assistant Professor, Fordham University
Follow on Twitter @C_R_W_Dietrich

allende“Allende was assassinated for nationalizing the . . . wealth of Chilean subsoil,” Pablo Neruda wrote on September 14, 1973. Neruda was lamenting the overthrow and death of his friend, Chilean President Salvador Allende, a week before he himself succumbed to cancer.  “From the salt-peter deserts, the underwater coal mines, and the terrible heights where copper is extracted through inhuman work by the hands of my people, a liberating movement of great magnitude arose,” he continued.  “This movement led a man named Salvador Allende to the presidency of Chile, to undertake reforms and measures of justice that could not be postponed, to rescue our national wealth from foreign clutches.”  Unfortunately, Allende’s flirtation with economic nationalization ran up against the country’s multinational business interests, particularly those that had support from the U.S. government. His socialist reforms were also ill timed; the U.S. government’s ideological view towards the global economy tended towards the Manichean.

So what was the American role in Allende’s overthrow? Continue reading “Allende, the Third World, and Neoliberal Imperialism”

Reading Mao’s Little Red Book in Divided Germany

MaoBFLPQuinn Slobodian
Assistant Professor, Wellesley College
Follow on Twitter @zeithistoriker

Professor Slobodian tells a remarkable story concerning the controversial Cold War German reception of one of the world’s most printed books: Mao’s Little Red Book.

In 1967, West Germans bought over one-hundred-thousand copies of Mao’s Book of Quotations, also known as the Little Red Book. Three editions were sold, each bearing a distinct ideological imprint.  Alongside the familiar, plastic-bound edition of the Beijing Foreign Languages Press was a paperback published by the left-liberal Fischer Press. Translated and edited by West German students of Sinology, the Fischer edition provided a scholarly perspective on the Cultural Revolution that was broadly sympathetic, signaling its orientation with a cover photograph of a young girl and an elderly woman in a benign moment of intergenerational MaoFischerMaoBreviercommunication [left]. The third edition [right] of Mao’s book of quotations, published by the anti-communist Marienburg Press had the title, The Mao Zedong Breviary: Catechism of 700 Million. The editor, a minor functionary in the Economics Ministry, Kurt C. Steinhaus, warned of a coming race war led by the Chinese against the world’s white populations. The publishers declared that their goal in releasing the book was to “show Mao in all his severity.” “It is necessary,” they said, “to give Germans and Europeans the creeps.” Continue reading “Reading Mao’s Little Red Book in Divided Germany”

Human Rights, Neoliberalism, and 1989

Robert Brier
Research Associate, German Historical Institute, Warsaw
Cross-posted from Humanitarianism & Human Rights

“1989” has become shorthand both for the triumph of human rights over state-socialist dictatorship and the subsequent implementation of a “neoliberal” reform agenda. Yet the coalescence of these two phenomena in Eastern Europe twenty-five years ago is quite surprising once we focus on the prehistory of 1989. Following the crooked paths that led to the annus mirabilis is thus a great opportunity to assess the transformation of human rights discourses during the 1980s.

Round Table Talks, Warsaw, Poland, 1989
Round Table Talks, Warsaw, Poland, 1989

Twenty five years ago, on 6 February 1989, representatives of Poland’s government and of the illegal democratic opposition began negotiations on political and economic reforms. Inaugurating their meetings at a round table that had been crafted specifically for this occasion, they set events in motion that became a major catalyst for the collapse of the “Soviet bloc.” Continue reading “Human Rights, Neoliberalism, and 1989”

The Limits of Globalization

Marc-William Palen

Inimese_tegevusruumAfter last week’s post extolling the seemingly limitless avenues of historical inquiry offered through the study of globalization, it seems only fitting that I should now offer a somewhat contrary one on the limits of globalization.

Sycophantic proponents and adamant critics alike view globalization — the process of speeding up global integration via capital flows, markets, ideas, people, and technology — as an omnipresent and inexorable process. For devout acolytes from Richard Cobden to Thomas Friedman, it appears as a benign process that will one day make the world’s markets so interdependent that war itself will become anachronistic. For its harshest critics, and despite historical evidence and scholarship to the contrary, globalization remains an unstoppable force led by a secretive cabal of powerful multinational corporations hell-bent upon undermining national sovereignty in an endless search for profit. Continue reading “The Limits of Globalization”