Activity report (2003)

In the period under review (April 1, 2003 to March 31, 2004) the GLI has continued to play an important supportive role in both WIEGO and in the IFWEA (in WIEGO by providing logistic support to meetings taking place in Geneva, in particular in connection with the International Labour Conference, and by participating in ongoing discussions on WIEGO structures and activities; in the IFWEA, where the GLI Chair served as president and assisted with the preparation of the 19th General Conference up to October 2003, then as special advisor to the Executive Committee and to the Secretariat).

The GLI has also continued to provide information, analysis and advice to trade unions, labour related NGOs, political activists, students, researchers and historians.

The past year has not brought any appreciable improvement in the situation of the labour movement world wide: on the contrary, the labour movement, in general, remains in a state of crisis, also internationally. This crisis is manifest at different levels:

· in terms of organization, as unions (barring exceptions) keep losing members and are unable to make significant inroads in the vast and growing mass of unorganized workers;
· in terms of lack of power to resist and defeat repression, either in the form of a systematic campaign of murders, as in Colombia, or of State policy, as in China and many other authoritarian States, or of anti-labour legislation backed by a hostile government, as in the United States;
· in terms of the lack of capacity to resist the neo-liberal agenda, imposed by conservative and social-democratic governments alike, as in most of Europe.

There have been some good news such as, most recently, the successful fight of the IUF for union recognition at the Raffles chain in Cambodia. Such local victories show what solidarity can do, even against very powerful opposition. We need more of them but, in and by themselves, they do not change the general picture. The reason is that, notwithstanding local and limited labour victories, global transnational capital remains in control of all institutions where power is exercised. On that level – global politics – the labour movement has been unable to mount any credible sort of challenge.

Underlying this loss of power and authority is a crisis of identity and orientation. The crisis of identity stems from the disintegration of an overarching concept of society which united the movement in its history. A serious challenge to global transnational capital cannot be mounted unless we have an alternative vision of society. Traditionally, this alternative vision was socialism, but today, and for some time, socialism has also been undergoing a crisis, and that is a crisis of the meaning of socialism.

In practice, the experiences and the politics of the labour movement in different regions of the world have diverged so much that the common identity has been lost: all that remains is the lowest common denominator: a purely defensive agenda bereft of any broader vision offering hope to the peoples of the world, thus playing into the hands of those who would reduce the labour movement to a “special interest group” among many, with no more legitimacy than others.

How do we deal with this? Clearly there is a need to re-define socialism so it again becomes recognizable and accepted as the politics which are naturally ours, those of the historical labour movement. Recovering the meaning of socialism in broad but essential terms, in a form that is profoundly democratic and at the same time firmly anchored in the labour movement, actually its original form, is not as enormously difficult an undertaking as it may seem. Much of the work is semantic. We need to recover our language and learn to express ideas, which are simple in themselves, in simple and clear language.
To recover the meaning of socialism we need to go back to the roots. Our point of departure has to be that we intend to change the world, and since the present world order is perceived as unacceptable by a majority of the world’s population, we have support. So we have to go through the issues, and develop solutions.

The minimum goals should be those which are essential to human welfare. Then come the issues which are central to power relationships: industrial democracy, workers’ control of production. Finally, there is the global political issue. The power of global transnational capital is expressed in political terms: through a variety of formal and informal international institutions and through the leading governments, mainly the US government and the EU. It is clear that the labour movement is not at this time in a position to challenge this power at that level. Contrary to what some like to believe, it is not even in a position to negotiate at that level with any prospect of success. To challenge the system at that level, the labour movement will have to be clear what it stands for: it will have to reconstruct its identity as a movement for social transformation, with a common vision of an alternative, and better, society.

We are not alone. In different parts of the world unions are also grappling with these same problems, and in the margins of the labour movement, socialist scholars, economists, sociologists, historians, various think-tanks, are working on these issues.

The GLI will continue to make its contribution to this work. With its allies, it will continue to participate in the defense of workers’ and union rights and in supporting organizing the unorganized, particularly in the informal economy. At the same time, it will continue to engage in the fight to “win the war of ideas”, by clarifying the fundamental ideas and values that underlie our politics, by deconstructing the ideology of our opponents and by connecting the various strands of socialist thought and activity as part of the process of rebuilding the movement.

In the period under review the GLI Chair participated in the following meetings:

In 2003:
(1) June 21-22: Center Praxis Conference: “The Anti-Totalitarian Left: Between Past and Future”, Moscow (speech: on GLI web site)
(2) August 20-22: LO-Skolen: Conference on Globalization 2003, Helsingør (speech: on GLI web site)
(3) November 17-18: UNRISD Conference: Corporate Social Responsibility and Development: Towards a New Agenda?, Geneva

In 2004:
(4) February 14: Walter Kendall Memorial Meeting, London
(5) March 26 – 27: Rotschuo Discussion Group, Rotschuo (Schwyz)
(6) August 19 – 23: Transport & General Workers’ Union: Seminar on Globalisation, Development and the International Trade Union Movement, Eastbourne

In his capacity as president of the International Federation of Workers’ Education Associations (IFWEA) (until October 5, 2003):
(7) April 1-2: Global Network Coordinators Meeting, Helsinki
(8) April 3: SOLIDAR International Co-operation Committee, Helsinki
(9) April 4: SOLIDAR Seminar on WTO: “Cancún: What is at Stake for the People?”, Helsinki
(10) April 5-6: Solidarity Days of SASK (Trade Union Solidarity Center of Finland), Lahti
(11) April 11-12: SOLIDAR General Assembly, Brussels
(12) May 22: WEA (England and Scotland) Centenary Celebration, London (speech: “Rebuilding the Movement”, on the IFWEA web site:
(13) May 31-June 1: IFWEA EC, Oslo
(14) June 4-19: International Labour Conference, Geneva
(15) June 27-28: Euro-WEA EC, Brussels
(16) September 22-23: Institutul Muncii Moldova (Moldova Labour Institute): Round Table on: “The Role of Trade Union Education in Developing the Trade Union Movement”, Chişinău (speech: The Independence of the Trade Union Movement as a Condition for Progress, published by IMM/CSRM in a volume containing the materials of the Round Table (in Romanian, Russian and English), Chişinău, 2004)
(17) October 1: IFWEA EC, Albufeira, Portugal
(18) October 2-5: 19th IFWEA General Conference, Albufeira, Portugal
In 2004:
(19) March 5 – 6: IFWEA EC, Manchester

In his capacity as member of the Steering Committee of Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO):
(20) April 24-26, 2003: Latin American Regional Seminar: Challenges for Workers in the Informal Economy, Lima (jointly with PLADES, IFWEA, ORIT, War on Want and Global Network)

In other capacities:
IUED: Board meeting: December 10, 2003; Gender Workshop, January 22-23, 2004, in Geneva.
SOLIFONDS: Board meetings in 2003: May 15 (Bern), November 20 (Zurich)
Pages de Gauche: Editorial Board meetings in 2003: April 11, May 11, June 15 (Lausanne)Cercle d’Olten/Oltener Kreis: May 9, June 14 (Lausanne)
Collège du Travail: Board Meeting: August 28 (Geneva)

Karin Pape participated in the following meetings in the period under review:
November 12-14, 2003: OECD-World Bank-IOM Seminar on Trade and Migration, Geneva (representing GLI)
December 15-16, 2003: Worker Organizations’ Consultation on International Labour Migration: Challenges and Responses (prep.meeting for ILC 2004), Nyon (as DGB-delegate)
March 18-19, 2004: Organisieren – nicht resignieren: Das Recht auf Vereinigungs-freiheit für die informelle Wirtschaft, Internationale Fachkonferenz, Berlin, organized by DGB and Justitia et Pax (representing GLI). Karin wrote the summary record of the meeting, which is still to be published.

Dan Gallin: Syndicalisme – le retour (in “Choisir, Jesuit review”, Carouge, Switzerland, April 2003, and on the GLI web site)
Dan Gallin: The International Sex Workers’ Movement (on the GLI web site)
Karin Pape: Informalität-Globalisierung: NeueFormender gewerkschaftlichen Organisation am Beispiel StreetNet (on the GLI web site); a shorter version appeared in “Die Mitbestimmung” (journal of the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung), Nr. 9/2003 (“Die Welt der Strassenverkäufer”).
Lucia Rosales: La economía informal en América latina (on the GLI web site)
Argentina: el movimiento piquetero (on the GLI web site)

Work in Progress, Projects, Networks, Contacts
In December 2003, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) invited Dan Gallin and Pat Horn, co-ordinator of StreetNet International, to produce a background paper as part of its Gender Policy Report to be published in 2005 (Beijing Plus Ten Anniversary). The subject of the paper is how women informal workers are organizing themselves. A provisional draft (Organizing Informal Women Workers, 40 pages, 18,000 words) is currently with UNRISD for their appraisal and comment.

In July 2003, the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University requested Dan Gallin to contribute a chapter on the labour movement for a textbook on social movements (working title: “Claiming Global Power: Transnational Civil Society and Global Governance”). DG delivered a first draft in June 2004 (The Labor Movement, 25 p., 12,000 words), which turned out to be problematic because the editors asked for a paper of 6,000 words and cannot accommodate a chapter double this size. The paper is now with the editors who have offered to edit it down to the required size. In its original version, however, it could form the basis of a brochure for the educational program of IUF Asia/Pacific, who has requested the GLI to produce such material.

Denknetz/Réseau de réflexion is a Swiss think-tank established in November 2003 by trade unionists, researchers, editors and political activists to deal with current economic, social and political issues. Its objective is to “promote a society inspired by the fundamental values of freedom, equality and solidarity”. DG is a founding member of Denknetz, and the GLI contributed its list of Labour Related Research and Education Institutions (on the web site under Resources) and an article by Susan George (with her permission) highlighting the role of think-tanks in shaping political opinion (“How to Win the War of Ideas”, Dissent, Summer 1997) to the Denknetz documentation.

The Global Union Research Network (GURN) was established in January 2004 by the ILO Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV), in co-operation with the ICFTU and the TUAC, in response to a demand by GUFs and others. One of the activities of the GURN has been to establish a list of research and education institutions and the GLI contributed to significantly advance this work by contributing its own list (as for Denknetz). Exchange of information is continuing. DG also participated in a debate on the future of international labour movement within the GURN network.

The GLI has been exploring the possibilities of securing further ratifications of the ILO Home Workers’ Convention (Nr. 177). This convention defines the rights of home workers and is an important tool in support of organization of home workers into unions. It was adopted by the International Labour Conference of 1996 with a small majority, against strong opposition from the Employers’ Group, which announced at the time that it would oppose its ratification wherever it could. In fact, only four countries have so far ratified (Albania, Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands). To strengthen the authority of the convention, and to prevent it from being undermined by employers’ organizations inside and outside the ILO, more ratifications are needed. The GLI is working to secure such ratifications where favourable political conditions have developed.

The GLI web site has been developed in the period under review, particularly in 2004. New material has been added in all language sections, but mostly in English (also by different authors in the English, French and Spanish sections).
The GLI Chair has continued as an editorial board member of Antipode, a journal of radical geography, a member of the advisory editorial board of Federation News, the journal of the General Federation of Trade Unions (UK) and of the editorial boards of International Union Rights, the journal of the International Centre for Trade Union Rights (London) and Pages de Gauche (Lausanne), the monthly publication for French-speaking Switzerland of the Left in the Swiss Social-Democratic Party.

GLI Board
In October 2003, through consultation by correspondence, the Board decided to invite Mel Doyle, former deputy general secretary of the Workers’ Education Association (England and Scotland) to become a member. Mel attended his first Board meeting on December 18, 2003.

GLI Advisory Board
We were very sad to lose two good friends: Daniel Benedict died in Ottawa on September 16, 2003 and Walter Kendall died in London on October 27, 2003. An obituary for Daniel Benedict and a speech by Anthony Carew at the Memorial Meeting for Walter Kendall appear on the GLI web site
In view of the practical difficulties encountered in participating in Board meetings, Giampiero Alhadeff and Vic Thorpe agreed to leave the Board and to become instead members of the Advisory Board.

Demetrio Boersner (Venezuela) has accepted to join the Advisory Board. Boersner is a political scientist with a distinguished career in academic institutions and in the Venezuelan foreign service. He has been active in the Venezuelan socialist movement since the 1960s, in the social-democratic party, Acción Democratica, then in left-socialist parties MEP and Izquierda Democrática.

Karin Pape has continued working part time as an administrative assistant (since January 1, 2004 on a voluntary basis), and as a researcher and writer on informal economy issues.

As in the past, Oscar and Nora Payuyo have been responsible for cleaning and maintenance.

Financial Administration
Ms. Mariane Grobet-Wellner has kept the GLI accounts in the period under review. The accounts for 2003 have been audited, as last year, by Mr. J.J. Mermier (CIFISOR S.A.). The auditor’s report is available on request (French only).

A statement of income and expenditure and a balance sheet for 2003, are attached:

Download accounts:
Income & expenditure; Balance sheet