Activity report (2016)

Report on Activities (March – December 2016)

GLI Board Meeting, December 9-10, 2016

The Political Situation
As I am sure we all realize, the political situation is grim. This year has been the year where power went to thugs, horror clowns, con men and just common criminals, by any standards of natural law. The list is long: Putin in Russia, Orban in Hungary, Kaczinski in Poland, Modi in India, Dutarte in the Philippines, Zuma in South Africa, Ortega in Nicaragua, Maduro in Venezuela, Assad in Syria, Al-Sissi in Egypt, Erdogan in Turkey and, of course, the crowning achievement of this year’s politics: Trump, president-elect of the United -States. The list is not exhaustive, and is likely to get longer next year. The sewers are backing up.

The democratic opposing forces are on the defensive and are losing ground. The conservatives still prepared to work within a democratic framework  are losing ground because they are still pushing the neo-liberal agenda, which, as everyone is now aware, has produced the crisis in the first place,  and the social-democrats are losing more ground because they are supporting enough of the same agenda to no longer represent a credible alternative.

Where are the forces of left and democratic resistance? Some have emerged from civil society: Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, the Sanders movement in the US, the Corbyn movement in the British Labour Party. With all their contradictions, these movements have been inspiration for many. There are too few, as yet…

Then there are the unions. I wish I could say that trade unions still stand as the most reliable  and powerful forces for justice and freedom. In many cases, they are in fact just that.

And yet. In the US, we have heard that the “white working class without a college education” gave Trump and the Republican Party their majority. That is the historical core membership of the labour movement. For decades, top-down management, business unionism together with uncritical support of Democratic administrations, have isolated the AFL-CIO leadership, and many unions, from their membership and their natural constituency. After wisely abstaining from taking sides in the Democratic nomination, the AFL-CIO and some of its unions came all-out for the establishment candidate at the Democratic convention – precisely what many American workers were about to  reject. The future in American labour belongs to the unions that supported Sanders: so far, and thankfully, the Communication Workers of America, National Nurses United, the American Postal Workers’ Union, the Amalgamated Transit  Union and many local unions. Inevitably, there will be more.

Also in a number of European countries far-right parties, with an aggressive anti-labour agenda hidden behind anti-establishment rhetoric, have made significant inroads into working class constituencies, including union members. In too many countries, the trade union movement has been unable to fill the vacuum created by the collapse of social-democracy as a progressive force for change and to stem the shift of political power to the right. This has happened in Sweden, no longer a bastion of social-democratic hegemony, even with a social-democratic government, it is happening in France, it has  happened – to some extent –  in Britain.

When the GLi was founded nearly twenty years ago, we dedicated ourselves to contribute, as best as we could, to make the international trade union movement fit for the battles that we knew were coming. We knew that “social partnership” and “social dialogue” were a sham. We knew that the class war had never ended. We also knew what we were up against: the power of inertia, of denial, of bureaucratic complacency.

Our program was therefore promoting the democratization of the movement at all levels, restoring the radical class-based politics rooted in the origins of the movement, fighting ideological blind alleys legitimizing new, and worse, forms of oppression, declaring ourselves as socialists and redefining socialism as radical democracy.

The world-wide shift of power to the Right not only validates our program, it introduces a new element of urgency. We now need to find allies, to build networks of resistance with those who share our broad analysis, beyond the range of activities we have become accustomed to

DG : Dan Gallin, KP: Karin Pape; DS : Dave Spooner
April 13 (DG): Meeting with Bernard Thibault (CGT), Paris
May 6-8 (DG): LabourStart Solidarity Conference, Toronto
May 25 (DG): Thibault book launch, ILO, Geneva
May 29 (DG): Meeting with Kamal Abbas (CTUWS Egypt), Geneva
May 30 (DG): Meeting with Habib Guiza (CGTT, Tunisia), Geneva
May 29 – June 11 (DG, KP): International Labour Conference, Geneva
May 31 (DG): Meeting with BWI and Kamal Abbas, Geneva
June 4-5 (DG, KP): WIEGO ORP Advisory Committee, Geneva
June 10 (DG): Réseau de Réflexion (Denknetz), Lausanne
June 24 (DG) : Meeting with Adrien Roux (ReAct), Geneva
July 4 – 8 (DG, DS) : GLI International Summer School, Barnsley UK (speech unpublished)
September 3 (DG): Summer Seminar, Socialist Party Vaud (speech on GLI website, French),Vevey
September 17 (DG): Meeting with Adrien Roux (ReAct), Geneva
September 20 (DG): Memorial Meeting for Patricia Plattner with showing of Made in India, Geneva
September 29 (DG, KP): Memorial Meeting of the 150th Anniversary of the first Congress of the International Working Men’s Association (Geneva 1866), Geneva
October 20-21 (DG): Trade Unionist Network Europe, Brussels
October 27-29 (DG): UNIA Congress, Geneva
I UNIA meeting, “Friends of GLI”, Bern
Collège du travail:,  March 21, May 11, April 15, May 11, May 25, June 15, June 20, July 27, November 16 (Geneva)
Solifonds : May 3 (Bern),  October 25 (Zurich)
Olten Circle : May 21 (Bern);
Pages de Gauche : April 8, June 17,
SP Foreign Policy Commission : November 28 (Bern)

GLI International Network
Please refer to Notes to the Agenda, Item (6)

Composition of the GLI Board
Vasco Pedrina wishes to retire from the GLI Board as from December 31, 2016. He intends to remain active in support of the GLI, in particular  in connection with the creation of the “Friends of he GLI” group in UNIA, composed of the alumni of the GLI International Summer School.

The Board is invited to take note of his decision, with warm thanks for his contribution as a member of the Board since 2013.

The Board is also invited to welcome Adrien Roux as a member of the Board (see also Notes to the Agenda, Item 6).

Legal Status of the GLI
Please refer to Notes to the Agenda, Item (8)

GLI Library
As a first step to enable Board to arrive a decision on the future of the GI library consistent with the purposes and interests of the GLI, and also to meet a request by the Auditor, the Chair decided to request a professional evaluation.

On the recommendation of Rebekka, we contacted Götz Perll, who owns ABC Antiquariat Marco Pinkus in Zurich, a second-hand bookshop specializing in radical and labour movement literature. Perll has worked for many years with Theo Pinkus, the  founder of the bookshop, and later his son Marco, and he can now be considered a leading expert on left-wing literature in Switzerland.

Götz Perll visited the GLI premises for a total of eight days in June, July and September, reviewed all the books in the library as well as the periodicals. His report is attached to this activity report (Appendices  I, II and III). The German original is available.

Perll charged a total of CHF8’205.00 for his work which was covered by a donation from Dan and Joëlle.

The Library was also visited on July 4 by Michel Gorin, who teaches at the Higher School of Management (Haute Ecole de Gestion) in Geneva (Department of Documentary Information/Training for Librarians and Related Professions for Western Switzerland) to view the library. His comments are as follows:

There are two solutions:
a) either a simple inventory, with the title, the publisher and the year of publication, which makes an overview of the stock possible. This would take  approximately 800 hours of work for a student, representing approximately CHF16’000 (5000 books, 6 per hour, that is 820 hours at CHF20 per hour).This is  not a very interesting option, neither for the student nor for the library.

b) or a real catalogue. But such a catalogue is not very useful if one doesn’t know the future of the library: if it is to remain in its resent location, if it will be open for use or not and, if so, to whom and how; and finally if it eventually will be integrated into another institution – library, research center, archives, etc.

Having looked at the shelves, Michel Gorin suggests a more comprehensive approach:

A student studying for bachelor degree might be interested to examine the question of the library as a whole as the object of a degree. This would be a general study of “adding value” to the library, starting with the history of the library and its constitution and its purpose, in order to understand its internal logic. The study would be precise and analytical. It would evaluate its user value in relation to what exists elsewhere. The study would also formulate proposals for the library to remain or to become a tool for reference or research known and accessible to interested persons.

This research of “adding value” – by a student, not a professional – would be overseen by a professor of the School specialized in historical studies.

The final document – for the student his/her degree work – could also be the basis for decisions to be taken by the gGLI Board as well as for requests for subsidies from public or private funding entities.

A compensation of CHF1000-1500 would be appropriate for its author who would have spent approx. 60 hours, next Spring, on this project.

The French original of the transcription of Michel Gorin’s comments is available.

Financial Issues
Please refer to Notes to the Agenda  Item (9)

GLI Board Meeting, December 9-10, 2016 – Agenda Item (4)                                         

Appendix I

The GLI Library: A report by Götz Perll
I first did an evaluation of the library, in two visits: from June 21 to 23 and from July 19 to 21. For this purpose, I divided the library in sections, then checked every book within each section. The estimated total value amounts to CHF36’100.00. In the appendix there is an Excel list of the value of each section.

As a rule, I checked the value of each fifth book in the Internet. I used principally the virtual data bank and the catalogue of the ABC Marco Pinkus bookstore (or Pinkus Cooperative). In the case of books not commercially available, I checked their availability in public libraries. I did not check books and publications known to me where I could estimate their value without further checks.

During a third visit on September 6 and 7 I reviewed the collection of reviews and journals. Each title was checked for missing copies and the value of the collection was estimated with the help of The total value is CHF5’800.00. The appendix includes an Excel list of all periodicals at the GLI that were reviewed: title, place of publication, period covered. available issues, missing issues, comments, estimated value and recommendation.

The library is relatively recent: the GLI was founded in 1997. Consequently, a large part of the material is also recent could easily be replaced in case of a loss. However, it is also a personal library, where the history and the interests of its founder are reflected. For this reason it also contains older, rare and very interesting material, but a large part is of limited relevance. This personal character of the library and above all the lack of a catalogue makes it difficult to use the material at its location, and impossible to use it at a distance. In the presence of the founder, however, an outside user could access contents which would otherwise only become accessible through an extensive research into sources.

For a future use of the library, there are two possibilities:

1. Continuing the library as an independent entity.
2. Inclusion of the library in a larger library.

If the library is to be continued on an independent basis, the material needs to be catalogued. This would have to be done with a professional program that makes it possible to relate it to material existing in other libraries and thus makes lending to distant users possible. Such a catalogue should be established in close collaboration with Dan Gallin to make possible a deeper description/analysis of the contents. Such an independent continuation would probably be the most expensive solution. To the cost of establishing the catalogue one would have to add the cost of the premises and administrative costs.

Reasons not to continue the library as an independent entity are the relatively small quantity of material and the fact that when the founder would no longer be available it would become dead as a library, since presumably it could no longer be expanded for financial reasons and because it could become difficult to find a professional caretaker for such a modest quantity of material. The small size of the stock could also limit the motivation  to consult the stock on location.

In order to secure the future use of the material it would be appropriate to linked or donate the stock to another institution. The larger that other institution, the more likely can the future use of the material be guaranteed.

The following could be partners resp. recipients of the stock:

The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva
International Center for Research on Anarchism (CIRA), Lausanne
Sozialarchiv, Zurich
International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam

The simplest way would be to invite these institutions for a visit to examine the stock. In order to make an examination of the stock possible in a reasonable amount of time, the material should previously be put in order. During that process, the stock could, resp. should, be cleaned out.

In my view, the most advisable solution would be the Institute in Amsterdam.

A comment on the estimated values: these are insurance values, which would be relevant if it was a matter of replacing losses. In thee case of a commercial sale, for example to a second-hand bookshop, the amount recovered would be significantly lower, because of the collapse of book prices brought about by Internet.

Bibliothek GLI Genf.xlsx (Annex II)
GLI – Bibliothek.docx (Annex III)

Activity report
Income & expenditure (French)
Balance sheet (French)