[act-ma] 11/21 Marco Berlinguer: "The Bubbles, the Crises and the Need for Real Economic Alternatives" Friday at 7pm, e5

Suren Moodliar suren at fairjobs.org
Wed Nov 19 05:46:55 PST 2008

The Global Economic Alternatives Network (GEAN) is sponsoring the event
below. Please circulate this announcement widely among your friends
and networks.

Please make every effort to attend this discussion with Marco Berlinguer:

"The Bubbles, the Crises and the Need for Real Economic Alternatives"

Friday, November 21, 2008
7:00 p.m.
encuentro 5, 33 Harrison Ave, 5th floor, Boston, MA, 02111

See background article by Bruno Ciccaglione at bottom of announcement.

Marco is part of the Labor and Globalization network in the World
Social Forum. It is a 2007 initiative at the WSF in Nairobi, Kenya,
which developed mainly in Europe, around the European Social Forum
held this past September in Malmo, Sweden. The L&G network is now
building toward the next WSF, planned for January 27 to February
1,2009 in Belem,
Amazonia, Brazil (http://www.fsm2009amazonia.org.br/)

The aim of the network is to give more centrality to labor issues
and actors in the WSF process; to reinforce cooperation between
unions and new social movements and initiatives on work; to intensify
transnational exchange of experiences and of cooperation; to contribute
to an expanded and renewed concept and political culture of labor in

See the appeal as discussed in Nairobi,here:
And in general, you can get more info at that address(it's a wiki system
created around the Social forum process):

Marco's Bio:

Marco Berlinguer was born and lives in Rome. He has a degree in
Philosophy. He is coordinator of Transform! Italia, a centre of research
connected with the Italian political left; and he is coordinator of
Lavoro in Movimento, a project connected with CGIL, the main Italian
Union. In the last years he has been very active in the global movements
and he contributed to the foundation of different European and
International networks, such as: Transform! Europe; Charter for Another
Europe, Networked Politics, Labor and Globalization. He is mainly
engaged in studying and experimenting new forms of connection between
social and political action and research; and between new ICTs and new
forms of political and collective action. He has been editor of: "World
Social forum: A Debate On the Challenges for Its Future" (2003); "La
Riva sinistra del Tevere - Mappe e conflitti nel territorio
metropolitano di Roma" (2004); "Pratiche costituenti - Spazi, reti,
appartenenze: le politiche dei movimenti" (2005); "Parole di una nuova
politica" (2007); "Networked Politics" (2007).

Contact: marco.berlinguer at transform.it

Background reading on the event.

New post at "Global Labor Strategies"
A Letter from Europe: Labor at Malmo

By Bruno Ciccaglione

The European Social Forum held in Malmo, Sweden from September 17-21
marked another step in the reappraisal by European trade unions of how
to approach the neo-liberal policies of the European Union. The Forum
featured a vigorous and productive debate on new directions for labor
among traditional unions, the alternative labor movements, and allied
social movements.

The debate could not come at a more opportune time. As the impact of the
global economic crisis spreads throughout Europe, labor movements can
not expect that the so-called European Social Model will protect workers
from its consequences. That model, which emerged in the decades
following WWII, was characterized—with national differences—by a
generous welfare state, collective bargaining, and more or less full
employment. It was the result of a tripartite "social partnership"
between trade unions, employers, and the state.  But the reality is
that, today, even before the crisis fully envelops the continent, you
can barely recognize many of the model's traditional elements. And yet
while trade unions increasingly realize that the European Social Model
has been undermined, they still tend to look back to the model as
strategy for the future.

Neo-liberal Europe

But the good old days are gone. Today, the fundamental goals of the
European Union are guided by the principles of neo-liberalism.
Collective social programs such as health insurance, pensions, and
educational systems have become partially privatized in some countries
as politicians seek to open new markets to private capital. "Precarity"
of work now extends to the entire life of an increasing number of
workers. And collective bargaining is under direct attack by many
European institutions. For instance, in the last two years, the European
Court of Justice ruled on cases –filed by both corporations and the
European Commission itself—which, while acknowledging that fundamental
labor rights such as the right to strike and the right to collective
bargaining exist in Europe, also ruled that they are less important than
the right to freely compete by the employers. And the EU is just about
to approve a new Directive (the term for European laws) which not only
allows companies to increase working time to more than 60 hours per
week, but also introduces individual bargaining in place of collective
bargaining on this issue.

On migration there is a dual strategy: on the one hand, with the "Blue
Card Directive"  the EU is promoting access to Europe by highly skilled
and educated workers. On the other hand, policies toward undocumented
workers are becoming increasingly xenophobic, legitimating current laws
in some member states by "regulating" detention for up to 18 months as
well as allowing repressive "deportation" policies.

Overall, conditions for workers in Europe are worsening. According to
official EU statistics—which in many cases are underestimates—around 8%
of all employees in the European Union are officially registered as
unemployed. More than 16% of the EU population, that is 72 million EU
citizens, are currently considered at the risk of poverty (with an
income below 60% of the median income in their country). Furthermore,
since the 1980s real wage increases are no longer in line with
productivity growth and the wage share (the workers income in relation
to the overall national income) has declined in almost all European
countries. (see European Commission, European Economy, Statistical
Annex, 2006.

A developing discourse

Many trade unions are increasingly becoming open critics of neo-liberal
Europe, and the European labor movement is trying to find ways to
respond to the attacks that it is now under. This includes the European
Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which is the formal representative of
trade unions within the EU's tripartite structure and which is deeply
enmeshed with the bureaucracy which runs the EU. They formally support
both the Lisbon Treaty—the latest attempt to redesign the institutional
and political framework of the EU along neo-liberal lines, and the
aggressive free-trade agenda of the EU Commission (see Global Europe
Competing in the World).

This contradiction between support and criticism made the recent
European Social Forum (ESF) (Malmo, Sweden, September 17-21) an
important laboratory for further developments. In fact, this sixth ESF
had the largest trade union participation ever. It is likely that if the
ETUC's strategies of the last few decades had been successful, we would
not have had such a big trade union participation in the Forum.

Although still in a germinal form, and at a moment of weakness for trade
unions and social movements in Europe generally, this participation is
part of an attempt to think differently about the role and practices of
trade unions as they face the challenges of globalization. One
indication of this is that at the Malmo ESF, the labor events and
activities were many and well attended, with trade unionists and
activists coming from every part of Europe. This gave labor issues a
greater centrality and visibility than in any previous forum.

In general, forum events occurred along two strategic tracks, not
necessarily in competition with each other, sometimes with exchanges,
and even with some participants involved in both tracks. On the one hand
representatives of the traditional European tripartite strategy of
social partnership with employers and institutions mainly focused on the
"decent work" campaigns which aim to grant decent work for all through
the negotiation of social clauses. On the other hand, representatives of
more radical trade unions and social activists searched for new forms of
collaboration with other social movements based on a more comprehensive
definition of work and a wider agenda covering issues beyond the work
place. The ambiance of the social forum permitted these two trends of
thought to be expressed in dialog rather conflict, although a distance
sometimes remained evident.

The Labor and Globalization Network

An important role was played by the Labor and Globalization Network(L&G
Network) comprised of trade unions, other labor groups, and related
social movements. Born within the World Social Forum process, it has
been most fully developed in Europe and it proposed many of the labor
events at the Malmo Forum. The L&G network contains within it actors
with a range of expectations and different political strategies but the
network is shaping a discourse on many issues, including the most
controversial ones. Specifically at Malmo, the network helped focus the
debate on the urgent need to mobilize against the neo-liberal social
policies of the EU. As a result, the L&G network succeeded in launching
a common campaign against the social policies of the EU. The first step
of this campaign is the struggle against the working time directive
which will involve actors far beyond the trade union movement. The
campaign will also include a counter summit of European social movements
in Brussels in March 2009, to challenge the EU Council of Ministers.

Other well attended sessions at Malmo, which included representatives
from the ETUC, debated recent anti-labor rulings by the European Court
of Justice and ended up calling for mobilizations/demonstrations against
the decisions.  Although the participants in the sessions urged the ETUC
to promote these mobilizations/demonstrations, they decided to stage the
protests even without formal ETUC support.

Many labor participants at Malmo—but not the ETCU—also  called for
support to  stop  the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty in the
countries which still must approve it (for instance, Sweden), thus using
the ratification process as leverage for including progressive social
clauses. In addition, participants called for protests in Brussels, in
December 2008, during the European Council of Ministers, and urged the
ETUC to support hem.

In sum, an increasing number of trade unions and activists are
questioning both the political approach and the forms of action, that
have until now been exclusively based on the traditional ETUC
social-partnership approach.  To address  this increasingly open
critique  to the EU Policies by its own members, the ETUC has just
announced its own campaign called Fight the Crisis: Employment, Wages,
and Workers Rights are our Priorities.It will include a demonstration in
Strasbourg on December 16th, when the European Parliament will discuss
and vote on the Working Time Directive. Although this can be seen as a
positive step, it is less than is needed and hardly capable of helping
the convergence of the whole labor and social movement.

Open questions

It is good news that an increasing number of trade unions understand
that establishing a new balance of power more favorable for workers is a
precondition for any further negotiation with EU institutions. However,
it is clear that actually rethinking a new development model in a global
perspective remains a difficult process.   Questions abound: what to
produce? for whom? what kind of social relationships should production
be based on? what kind of democratic mechanisms are needed to implement
a new model?

One critically important issue is the dialog between European unions and
those in the Global South over the aggressive agenda of the Global
Europe strategy. This strategy—which the ETUC supports—is  based on
strengthening the competitiveness of European companies and the
continued exploitation of energy and natural resources of the South.
This issue of North-South relations has not been resolved within the
ETUC or by many trade unions in Europe and this makes hard to build the
forms of international solidarity that would be needed to face the
challenges of globalization.  Emblematically, as the trade unions of
Latin America and Asia were celebrating the failure of the Doha Round of
the WTO in Geneva last summer as a successful result of their struggles,
the ETUC was basically silent before the negotiations started and did
not even release any comment about their failure.

 On climate change in Malmo we saw the first European attempts to open
a dialog between environmental movements and trade unions. The trade
union movement increased its awareness on the need to face this crisis.
Still there are strong contradictions, especially for those trade unions
who still consider workers only from the perspective of the work place
rather than workers as a class with interests that transcend the
workplace. That is why the decision of many European trade unions to
join the mobilizations on climate change to take place in Copenhagen,
December 2009, during the United Nations meeting on climate—although
just a first step, is important.

As the financial system collapse announces the biggest economic crisis
since the Great Depression, the axioms of neo-liberal ideology which
poisoned the planet in the last decades is collapsing too. Building new
forms of international solidarity, capable of avoiding a race to the
bottom typical of globalized capitalism requires new strategies and new
actions--in Europe no less than in the rest of the world.

For latest info on the GEAN projects and Belem seminar go to:


For more info on these events go to:


Mass Global Action has graciously agreed to be the GEAN's fiscal sponsor.

You can make a secure Paypal, tax deductible contribution to the GEAN
project, by clicking on: http://www.massglobalaction.org/home/esf-pc.htm.


Address: 33 Harrison Ave, floor 5, Boston, MA 02111
Telephone: 617-482-6300

e5 is convenient to the MBTA lines as well as to the intersection of the
93 and 90 interstate freeways.

>From I-93:

Take exit 20B-A toward Purchase St/Surface Rd/Surface Artery S
Take exit 20A toward Purchase St/Surface Rd/Surface Artery S
Slight left at Purchase St/Surface Rd/Surface Artery S
Turn right at Summer St
Turn left at Kingston St
Turn right at Ave de Lafayette
Turn left at Harrison Ave Ext
Continue on Harrison Ave

After 7 PM there is free parking on nearby streets.

For $10 you can also park at the Boston Common Garage or the Beech
Street Garage.

>From the subway lines

* Red Line: Downtown Crossing (Chauncy Street Exit)

1. Take Chauncy Street Exit

2. Go right on Chauncy - go 0.3 mi

3. Arrive at 33 Harrison Ave (on right hand side)

* Green Line: Boylston Street Stop (All Lines)

1. Head east from Boylston St - go 0.2 mi
2. Turn right at Harrison Ave - go 0.1 mi

* Silver & Orange Lines: Chinatown Stop

1. Head east from Essex St - go 0.1 mi
2. Turn right at Harrison Ave - go 0.1 mi

encuentro 5 is a project of Massachusetts Global Action


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