[OPE-L:2450] Re: The transnational working class?

From: nicola taylor (nmtaylor@carmen.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Mon Feb 28 2000 - 20:32:11 EST

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Hugo R writes (OPE-L, 2449):

>it seems plain to me that, unless we assume a peculiarly
>restricted vision on the part of workers in struggle, that if production and
>markets are becoming more transnational (as the evidence seems to
>show), then workers' struggles and the wider processes of class
>formation and politics are also likely to become more transnational.
>Which brings us then to the central questions of.. how, and to what

Why is it plain to you? It isn't plain to me, and I worked in factories
for 15 years. In fact, I fail to see what mechanisms could possibly drive
the process you describe; ie 'globalisation' will create international
solidarity. If that's what you are saying, I can't agree. The reverse
effect seems more 'reasonable' - from a workers point of view.

Say, for example, that I am a textile worker in Melbourne, Australia. It
is likely that I will have been involved recently in very militant actions,
motivated largely by a real fear that I will lose my job to a worker in
Indonesia. The Australian textile industry - 'inefficient' in comparison
with the Asian textile industry - survives only because of high tariffs.
Workers rightly perceive that the current drive to reduce tarriffs to zero
will result in hugh job losses (as happened in our automobile industry)...

Seeing an international problem as a local problem is not necessarily
'restricted vision' on the part of workers; I see it as a rational response
to a real problem. The paradox is this: capital is mobile across borders,
but labour is not. Indeed, workers will never be able to cross borders
with the same ease as capital (in the e-commerce world this disparity is
more pronounced, not less). Given that labour is not mobile across borders,
a focus on 'national interests' will always capture workers when the going
gets tough (and swings to the 'nationalist' right should not be any
surprise in an era of increasingly globalised industries).


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