The purpose of this blog is to provide analytical commentary on formal and informal labour organisations and their attempts to resist ever more brutal forms of exploitation in today’s neo-liberal, global capitalism.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Global Capitalism. Global War. Global Crisis: new research monograph published.

Global Capitalism. Global War. Global Crisis. How can these conditions be understood in terms of their internal relationship so as to capture capital’s connection to the states-system of uneven and combined development, social reproduction, and the contradictions facing humanity within world-ecology? These are the puzzles Adam David Morton and I are investigating in our recently published book with Cambridge University Press.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Greece under the Troika: colonialism and resistance in the 21st century - the struggle for public water.

When in May 2014 98 per cent of Thessaloniki’s citizens voted against the privatisation of their municipal water company EYATH and the Greek constitutional court, the Council of State, ruled out the privatisation of Athens’ water company EYDAP as unconstitutional shortly afterwards, the public ownership of these two companies seemed to have been secured (see Resisting water privatisation in Greece and Portugal). And yet, when the Syriza government signed the third bailout agreement of Greece in July 2015, the privatisation of water was back on the agenda. In this blog post, I will report on the struggle over public water since July 2015, based on a set of semi-structured interviews with water activists in Thessaloniki and Athens in April 2018. 

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Serving the interests of capital: the role of economics as an academic discipline.

Photo by 401 (K) 2012
Two months ago, I sat in the coffee bar of the Quinn Business School, University College Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. While responding to some emails, I happened to overhear the conversation of some excited students at the neighbouring table. They had just learned about how private equity (PE) firms can come in, buy up ailing companies and still make high profits when they get rid of these companies again, even if these companies should ultimately fail. There was no concern about the implications for the workers of these companies, who would be made unemployed in the process. There was no concern for the wider community around this company, suffering from high unemployment in the area as a result of the PE firm’s involvement. In this blog post, I am reflecting on the role of economics as an academic discipline resulting in an education of this type. In particular, I will argue that instead of being an academic discipline focusing on the critical enquiry of societal developments, economics has deteriorated into an ideology in the service of capital.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The historical origins of Colombia’s FARC: class struggle towards ‘La Violencia’.

In this guest post, Oliver Dodd analyses changes to Colombia’s political economy in the period preceding the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (FARC) founding to reveal the organisation’s historical roots. He argues that processes of political economic development in Colombia did not take place in an orderly and steady manner, but rather involved conflict and antagonism between various social-class forces engaged in a struggle for hegemony. Ultimately, Colombia’s economic development encouraged the spread of political terror, which was sponsored politically largely by Conservatives to combat the threat of a growing independent labour movement. In turn, this trajectory of violence permitted the Communist Party to establish ‘safe communities’ eventually resulting in FARC’s founding.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

‘We shall strike, we shall fight, water is a human right!’ Defending public water in Ireland.

When the Irish government decided in 2013 first to establish the company Irish Water and then introduce water charges for users in order to comply with obligations of the Memorandum of Understanding with the EU over its bailout agreement, resistance erupted across the Republic. While resistance against austerity had been isolated and sporadic in Ireland until then, a large, national level movement emerged in 2014. Water had been the straw, which broke the camel’s neck. In this blog post, based on interviews conducted during field research in Ireland between 25 February and 2 March 2018, I will analyse the broad alliance underpinning this movement as well as the specific strategies employed.

Friday, 16 March 2018

UCU’s ‘Syriza moment’: Putting university managements on notice!

Despite strong support from the Greek people, in July 2015 the Greek government by Alexis Tsipras gave in and accepted major further austerity measures in exchange for a third bailout agreement with the Troika, consisting of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF (The Guardian, 13 July 2015). Against the background of a bitter dispute over cuts employers in British Higher Education (HE) want to impose on the USS pension scheme in pre-1992 universities (see Britain: Universities on Strike), here too, UCU negotiators felt they had no other option but to accept an agreement, which involved major cuts (see UCU ‘agreement’, 12 March 2018). Nevertheless, pushed by its members, UCU ultimately did not buckle and rejected the ‘agreement’. In this blog post, I will analyse the underlying reasons for this different outcome.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Asserting power: The political economy of USS pension fund valuations.

The University and College Union (UCU) and the employers’ organisation of pre-1992 Higher Education institutions UUK are currently involved in an industrial conflict over plans by the employers to impose draconian cuts to the USS pension scheme. At the heart of the conflict is the valuation of the fund in 2017 by USS, apparently revealing a large deficit of about £6 billion, which needs to be addressed. In this post, I do not want to engage in economics arguments over how big the deficit actually is. Rather, I will focus on a political economy analysis of the actual struggle over who is in charge determining the criteria for the valuation in the first place. The valuation of the health of the fund is not an objective, economic task. It is ultimately a political decision on how to estimate the risk and especially on how to spread the risk across staff and employers