The purpose of this blog is to provide analytical commentary on formal and informal labour organisations and their attempts to resist ever more brutal forms of exploitation in today’s neo-liberal, global capitalism.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

How the West came to Rule? Challenging Eurocentrism.

The notion of uneven and combined development (U&CD), introduced by Leon Trotsky in his assessment of the Russian political economy and the possibilities of transformation toward communism in the early 20th century, has gained increasing attention within International Relations. In this blog post, I want to engage critically with the recent book How The West Came To Rule (Pluto Press, 2015) by Alexander Anievas and Kerem Nişancioğlu, which draws extensively on U&CD in its analysis of the emergence and spread of capitalism.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Future of UK-China Relations post-Brexit - China as a Hope Project

With Brexit on the horizon, the UK is currently in search for alternative trade agreements, not only with European countries, but also other economies around the world. The emerging market of China plays a key role in this strategy. In this blog post, I will assess the potential and implications of future UK – China relations.

Photo by Sergeant Paul Shaw LBIPP/MOD

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century

Despite the ongoing ramifications of the global economic crisis of 2007/2008, capitalism continues to reap super profits. In his fascinating book Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation and Capitalism’s Final Crisis (Monthly Review Press, 2016) John Smith unravels the underlying dynamics of global capitalism. By tracing the production of the T-shirt, the cup of coffee, and the iPhone, he demonstrates how these generate the transfer of enormous surplus value from countries in the Global South to transnational corporations in the North. In this blog post, I will outline several of the key contributions of this book and offer a number of critical reflections.  

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Struggle of organising Migrant Workers

With precarious forms of work increasingly also emerging within the core of industrialised countries in the global economy, the issue of how to organise migrant workers has become an ever more pressing concern. In his talk at Nottingham University on Tuesday, 17 October, Aziz Choudry reported on related challenges, drawing on two of his recently co-edited books, Unfree Labour? Struggles of Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2016), together with Adrian Smith, and Just Work? Migrant Workers’ Struggles Today (London: Pluto Press, 2015), together with Mondli Hlatshwayo. In this blog post, I will draw out a couple of key insights resulting from Choudry’s analysis of a large range of different forms of migrant labour organising.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Proposals for Alternatives to Neo-liberalism: SIGTUR's Futures Commission.

The Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights (SIGTUR) launched its Futures Commission in Johannesburg, South Africa, in June 2013 with the assistance of the Chris Hani Institute and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s regional office for Southern Africa. This Commission, a group of left-wing intellectuals and trade union representatives, was entrusted with the task of undertaking first steps towards developing concrete alternatives to neo-liberal globalisation. 

As a first step, the Futures Commission has now published the booklet Challenging Corporate Capital: Creating an Alternative to Neo-liberalism. It includes proposals for labour and tax justice, a fair trade regime, a democracy-driven, public sector transformation as well as a response to the climate crisis. In this blog post, I will provide brief overviews of the contributions as well as links to the larger versions of the papers, freely available on the website of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Johannesburg/South Africa.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Stretching to make ends meet – The struggle for a Living Wage at Nottingham University.

Inequality in Britain is on the rise. Deteriorating employment conditions and low wages are one of the main reasons. In this post, I will report on the LivingWage/Anti-casualisation campaign at Nottingham University, demanding a living wage and secure employment for all employees at the university. The campaign group consists of a broad alliance of the three trade unions on campus, Unison, Unite and UCU, together with Nottingham Citizens as well as the Labour Students society, UoN Feminists, Socialist Students, the Young Greens, the Left Society and the Palestinian Society.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Standing Up For Education!

On Tuesday, 20 September, Standing Up For Education, the latest publication by Spokesman Books, was launched in the Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham. It provides an excellent compilation of insights from different perspectives including students, teachers, trade unionists and parents into the devastating processes of destruction of primary and secondary education. Emphasising the situation in Nottingham, the volume provides a snapshot into processes affecting also other local communities across the UK. In this blog post, I will report on the contributions by four of the authors, who were present at the book launch.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Towards Labour Centred Development

In 2014, Ben Selwyn published the book The Global Development Crisis (Polity, 2014), in which he critically engages with market-led and state-led developmental models alike. Importantly, he puts forward the novel concept of labour centred development. In this blog post, I will discuss the main contributions of this remarkable book and explore further the possibilities of labour centred development. 

Monday, 29 August 2016

Chinese labour in the global economy: capitalist exploitation and strategies of resistance.

China is generally regarded as the new economic powerhouse in the global political economy. Some even talk of an emerging power, which may in time replace the US as the global economy’s hegemon. And yet, there is a dark underside to this ‘miracle’ in the form of workers’ long hours, low pay and lack of welfare benefits. Increasing levels of inequality have gone hand in hand with widespread working conditions characterised by super-exploitation. Nevertheless, Chinese workers have not simply accepted these conditions of exploitation. They have started to fight back. In a new special issue of the journal Globalizations, co-edited by Chun-Yi Lee and myself, the contributors have analysed these various forms of resistance by Chinese workers and the way they are organised. In this blog post, I will provide a brief overview of the contents of this special issue.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Fighting for the heart and soul of Labour!

Photo by Jason
The Labour Party is currently embroiled in a bitter internal struggle over the election of its next leader. While the challenger Owen Smith enjoys the predominant support of the Labour MPs in Parliament as well as the party establishment, the vast majorities of constituencies and individual labour members endorse Jeremy Corbyn. Critics of Corbyn argue that he lacks the necessary leadership qualities, visible in his allegedly weak role in the EU referendum, and is unable to ensure a victory by the Labour Party against the Conservatives in the next general elections. In this blog post, I will argue that this kind of criticism misunderstands completely what the current movement around Jeremy Corbyn is about.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Super-exploitation and resistance: different forms of workers protests in China.

China is frequently considered to be an example of successful developmental catch-up. And yet, the country’s impressive growth rates are to a large extent based on the super-exploitation of its workforce expressed in long working hours, low wages, and a general lack of basic welfare benefits such as medical insurance and work-injury insurance (Chan and Selden, 2014, p. 606). In our recently published article ‘Exploitation and resistance: a comparative analysis of the Chinese cheap labour electronics and high-value added IT sectors’, published in the journal Globalizations and freely accessible online, Chun-Yi Lee and I compare the electronics sector in the area of Shenzhen, based on cheap labour assembling goods for export, with the IT sector in the area of Shanghai, relying on a more skilled workforce manufacturing high-value added goods. It is asked in what way these rather different locations within the global political economy condition the form and contents of resistance in these two sectors.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

The Hidden Cost of Everyday Low Prices

As consumers, we reap the benefits of globalisation. We enjoy ever-expanding product lines at ever-shrinking prices. Preoccupied with this penchant for low prices, we often accept the claim that globalisation delivers growth and prosperity to countries around the world without question. However, this blithe acceptance of global capitalism obscures some of the shocking realities faced by workers worldwide, which have arisen as a result of the processes of global restructuring that have been taking place since the 1970s. These developments, rooted in neoliberal principles which aim to achieve the conditions for the mobility and free operation of capital, are presenting significant new challenges for workers across the globe. In this guest post, Louise Elliot assesses in more detail the implications for workers in the Global North and South in an analysis of the operations by the large international retail giant Wal-Mart.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Neoliberalism’s Exploitation of Women Workers: the true price of our clothing.

Neoliberalism has faced intense scrutiny over the years from Trade Unionists and Marxists alike for its exploitation of workers and insistence of an economic ‘trickle down’ effect that has yet to materialise. When you look closer, however, another troubling aspect of this industry emerges. Again and again, it seems to be women who are left behind by this system. In many countries in the global South, women are drawn into employment in the lowest paid and most undervalued work in the global economy at the end of Global Commodity Chains in the manufacturing, fresh produce and garment industries. In this guest post, Zoe Kemp analyses the plight of female workers in the Bangladeshi textile sector.

Monday, 27 June 2016

What a victory for the ‘internationalist’ pro-Brexit left!

All European citizens have just been stripped of their European citizenship rights in Northern Ireland and Britain. Hence, no right to vote in local elections, no European social rights (e.g. no European Health Insurance Card), and no right to be treated equally anymore. What a ‘success’ for the ‘internationalist’ pro-Brexit left of Britain and Ireland! As a result, European migration to the UK will be reduced significantly. But note, I mean student migration not labour migration. In this guest post, Roland Erne assesses some of the implications of Brexit for EU nationals working in the UK.  

Friday, 24 June 2016

Brexit and the rise of the nationalist right: Where next for the British left?

Photo by Rareclass
‘I don’t mind Germans, Italians, the Spanish, but I hate them Bulgarians and Romanians. Thieves the whole lot of them.

My brother in law cannot get a job in the warehouses, because these agencies favour Polish immigrants.

All our companies are owned by foreigners, German electricity company, French in the water industry. I’d nationalise the whole lot’ (Local Resident in Beeston, Nottingham/UK; 24 June 2016).

As the Brexit vote sinks in, the first nationalist and xenophobic statements can be heard on the streets. In this blog post, I am analysing the wider causes underlying the Brexit vote and reflect on the struggles ahead. I will argue that there have been two campaigns against increasing austerity and the destruction brought about by global capitalist restructuring, the progressive left campaign around the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party in the summer of 2015 and the predominantly right-wing Brexit campaign. Last night, the latter won a significant victory, when 51.9 per cent of the people voting endorsed to leave the EU against 48.1 per cent, who had voted to remain in the EU.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

What position for the labour movement on the EU referendum?

On Thursday, 23 June, a referendum will be held to decide whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union. When Jacques Delors, then EU Commission President, announced his vision of a social dimension for European integration in the late 1980s, in the UK he won large parts of the British trade unions over into a pro-EU position. Against the background of neo-liberal restructuring by consecutive Conservative governments, social regulation at the European level offered advances, which would have been impossible in a purely domestic context. Is this situation still the case today?

Photo by Descrier

In this post, I will first assess the current state of affairs for social policies in the EU. Then I will focus on the dangers of nationalism and xenophobic reactions to migration, implied in a no-vote, before concluding in the third section that the focus of the debate should be redirected on what kind of EU we want, rather than the issue of further or less integration.  

Monday, 16 May 2016

How The West Came To Rule – Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Marxism Reading Group at Nottingham!

This semester, the Marxism Reading Group of the Centre for the Study of Social andGlobal Justice (CSSGJ) in the School of Politics and IR at Nottingham University will celebrate its 10th anniversary. In this blog post, I will briefly outline the main purpose and achievements of the group over the years. Moreover, I will provide information about our anniversary workshop on How The West Came To Rule, on 7 June 2016.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Mobilising through Solidarity: the social clinic in Drama and the refugee crisis.

While the Syriza government had to submit to the dictate of the European Union in July 2015, the concrete resistance against austerity has continued unabated on the ground in Greece. In this blog post I will discuss the experiences of the social clinic Solidarity Community Clinic – Pharmacy of Drama (KIFA) in Drama and its recent efforts at helping refugees living in a camp close to town. I will draw on experiences and discussions with activists from a recent visit to this city in Northern Greece.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Killing TTIP - The struggle against corporate power!

While Obama is visiting Europe to drum up support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the 13th round of negotiations of the treaty is currently taking place in the US. As John Hilary, the Executive Director of War on Want and one of the key initiators of the Stop-TTIP campaign in Europe, declared, TTIP is not only important in itself covering the EU and US. It is also significant, because it is regarded as a blueprint for all future trade deals. In this blog post, I will report on the key themes of his public lecture at Nottingham University, delivered on 26 April.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Towards principles of an alternative fair trade regime

Multilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), praised as engines of development by their supporters, have experienced a revival recently in a number of multilateral negotiations including the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). In this blog post, I will critically discuss the record of FTAs and suggest potential key principles of an alternative trade regime from a workers’ perspective, including one set of principles around national sovereignty and another against the increasing structural power of transnational capital. I will, thereby, draw on my freely downloadable paper ‘From ‘free trade’ to ‘fair trade’: proposals for joint labour demands towards an alternative trade regime’, published by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung in Johannesburg/South Africa.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

In or Out? The UK and EU membership: Asking the wrong questions.

The British public is gripped by the campaigns around the EU referendum and the question of whether to stay in the EU or leave European integration behind. In this blog post, I will argue from a left perspective that this debate asks the wrong questions. EU membership is made into a big issue, while the real problems in British society are not addressed.

Friday, 26 February 2016

The Corbyn Factor: What does it mean in practice?

When discussing the revitalisation of the Labour Party, many people refer to the Corbyn Factor. And indeed, the rise of the left-wing, rebellious back bencher Jeremy Corbyn to become the leader of the Labour Party, elected by a clear majority of party members and sympathisers only a few months after the party’s defeat in general elections in May 2015, has been an astonishing development (see Corbyn’s Campaign). In this blog post I will assess the dynamics of this development in practice by comparing two local Labour Party meetings in the area of Nottingham, one in Beeston North in September 2014 and one in West Bridgford in February 2016.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Corbyn’s Campaign: The story of a remarkable summer.

Only a few months after the Labour Party’s defeat in national elections in May 2015, the socialist, left-wing Jeremy Corbyn was elected as the party’s new leader carried by a wave of enthusiasm in- and outside the party. The book Corbyn’s Campaign (Spokesman, 2016) provides interesting insights in crucial aspects of this campaign and reflects on the possibilities for a socialist renewal in Britain today. In this blog post, I will report on the book launch with three of the authors, Tom Unterrainer, Adele Williams and Tony Simpson, which took place at the Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham on 27 January 2016.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Fighting for Public Water in Europe: The ECI Water is a Human Right.

Jan Willem Goudriaan, General Secretary of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), has written regular updates (see 1, 2 and 3) on where the European Citizens' Initiative  (ECI) Right2Water fits in the broader struggles of the European Water Movement and how it links with the struggle for Another Europe. In this latest guest post, he gives an update following the European Parliament vote on the ECI report.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Argentine elections 2015: a shift to the right and the need for a popular response.

The electoral victory of Mauricio Macri in the recent Presidential elections in Argentina (22 November 2015) signifies a dramatic change in Argentine and Latin American politics. Despite Mauricio Macri's campaign promise to ‘keep the good policies’ of the former center-left government, the reality of the first month in office is strikingly different. In this guest post, Bruno Dobrusin analyses these changes as well as the reasons for, and broader implications of, the turn to the right in Argentina.