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GLI 2012 International Summer School
Presentation of the Summer School

Participating Global Union Federations:

International Union of Foodworkers
International Transportworkers Federation
Building & Woodworkers’ International

International Summer School 9-13 July 2012

The Political Agenda of the International Trade Union Movement

Why? Trade unionists throughout the world are
organising and fighting hard to defend workers’
livelihoods and rights against an unprecedented
attack from financial markets, corporations and
governments, in the context of economic, ecological
and political crisis. There are some causes for
optimism – a new international agenda for strong
industrial organisation, evidence of increasing
corporate vulnerability to well-organised and targeted
campaigns, and a new generation of activists
emerging from movements for democracy and
climate justice.

Yet there is a political vacuum. Union members want
an international political alternative to neo-liberalism
and corporate capitalism, but little emerges beyond
rhetoric. Many of the formal institutions of the
international labour movement have retreated into a
bland lowest common denominator of politics, shy of
even basic principles of social democracy, let alone
any mention of democratic socialism. Yet this is the
time when radical political solutions are required, a
new sense of political direction for the international
trade union movement.

Hence the idea of a political summer school – an
opportunity to debate and question what are, and
what should be, the politics of the international trade
union movement.

Aim: To stimulate discussion on democratic
socialism, radical democracy, and the political
agenda of the international trade union movement, in
the context of the global economy, of the general
attack on the labour movement, financial crises and
environmental destruction.

Venue: Northern College, Barnsley, South
Yorkshire, UK (one hour by road from Manchester

Participants: Trade union activists, labour
movement researchers and educators. Perhaps 50-80
people in total, including 15-25 from the UK unions,
the remainder from overseas – all dependent on
funding, of course. Strong emphasis on attracting
younger participants. Strict gender balance (as near as
possible to 50:50)

Approach and Methodology: The
school will be delivered through a mixture of
participatory debates and discussions, interspersed
with high quality stimulating and provocative
interventions from speakers and presenters from a
wide range of labour movement political

Regrettably, the school will be in English only, unless
substantial funds are raised to enable some
simultaneous interpretation.

Programme: The summer school will include a rich and varied programme of discussion over four days (Monday lunchtime to Friday lunchtime).

Main themes will include:

The Big Picture

 How did we arrive here? 100 years of
democratic socialism in the trade union
movement, and now this…
 The new capitalism – financialisation, the
banks and the state
 The Fall and Rise of Labour: What will
the international labour movement look
like in 2020?

Global Unions – Global Politics

 The political challenge for global unions
 Precarious and informal work – the
politics of the “precariat”
 International democracy and rank & file

Unions, Freedom & Democracy

 China – Has the international democratic
trade union movement lost the plot?
 Unions in the Arab Spring
 Recapturing labour democracy? Unions in
Eastern Europe
 Unions & social movements for political
and economic democracy

Emergency Exit

 What do we do with the global
 Public Services – Public Ownership
 Facing finance capital
 Going Green – unions, climate change,
green jobs and a post-carbon economy
 Political education in trade unions – time
for a new wave?
 Prospects for a new political agenda for
the international trade union movement

Conclusions and Next Steps

 Opportunities for political refreshment
 Reflections conclusions and proposals