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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Emancipating Labor Internationalism

  • Author(s): Waterman, Peter
  • et al.

The secular trinity of c19th socialism was Labor-Internationalism-Emancipation. As early-industrial capitalism developed into a national-industrial-colonial capitalism, the internationalism of labor became literally international, and simultaneously lost its emancipatory aspiration and capacity (or vice versa). The dramatic – and labor-devastating – development of a globalised-networked-informatised capitalism is raising the necessity and possibility of a new kind of labor internationalism, capable not only of defence against neo-liberal globalisation but also of an emancipatory challenge to capitalism as such. This implies self-liberation from the traditional (understanding of the) working-class, the trade-union form and socialist ideology. Such an emancipation can be assisted by a recognition of the work and workers produced by a globalized-networked-informatized capitalism. Positively it requires a close articulation of labor with the global justice movement (a.k.a. 'anti-globalization', 'anti-corporate' and 'anti-capitalist'), and serious address to processes, discontents, social actors, movements and alternatives previously considered marginal or irrelevant. An emancipatory labour internationalism will also need to re-discover utopia. The paper responds to the 'New Labor Internationalism' theme of a major international research project on 'Rethinking Social Emancipation'.

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