Introduction: International Labor, 1800-2000
INTRODUCTION: INTERNATIONAL LABOR, 1800-2000
The worldwide labor movement that was a central social reality of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was formed from many and diverse sources and traditions. Its development and history coincided with that of the growth and spread of factory industry and of similar forms of capitalist and public enterprise, such as transport, primary production, and the many divisions of labor in societies economically connected to mass markets and advanced public utilities.
This labor movement originated in Europe. However, its spread around the world was determined less by imitation of the European model (although that played its part) as by similar responses from industrial or quasi-industrial workforces to equivalent problems of the workplace and living environment, and above all by conflict with employers.
Given the character of modern production, it was inevitable that organizations of workers aiming to defend their members' interests would emerge sooner or later, unless repressively prevented, but the shape of the labor movement and its precise nature and development were the outcome of contingent circumstances and actions that might well have taken place under other situations. There was nothing inevitable about the structure of more-or-less nationally unified labor unions supporting labor parties, which evolved as the general rule (outside the United States), not only in the original centers of modern industry, but also in what was later to be termed the Third World.
Early Trade Associations
The decades of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were eras of economic, social, and political transition and upheaval. In Western Europe and Britain, protocapitalist market forces (developing in Britain since the previous century, if not earlier) made growing inroads into traditional standards and practices. Handicraft artisans found themselves increasingly threatened with deskilling, reduced incomes, and tighter subordination to the mercantile elements on whom they were dependent for supply and marketing, and they protested vigorously as a result. The French revolutionary government of 1790 regarded workers' coalitions as troublesome enough to outlaw them under the Le Chapelier law, and at the turn of the century, the Parliament of Britain, where there had already been workers' riots leading to fatalities, reinforced the already existing prohibition against "combinations in restraint of trade" by means of the notorious Combination Acts of 1799 and 1800.
Combinations nevertheless continued, both in Britain and elsewhere. They were feared by the propertied classes, not only on account of their immediate objectives, but for the possibility they could be infected by the democratic virus of the French Revolution, which, although defeated, continued to inspire many at the bottom of the social pyramid.
By the 1820s, with the accelerating penetration of steam-powered machinery into the production process, a further development became apparent—concentrated masses of factory operatives in expanding urban areas. The growing reliance upon coal required new factories to be sited in towns for ease of transport, first by canal and subsequently by railway. The latter generated entire industries, and coal mining also expanded prodigiously.
The Emergence of Modern Labor Movements
In these circumstances, a European labor movement of a more recognizably modern type began to evolve. A new social layer of workers entirely dependent upon minimal subsistence wage payments as their sole source of income, lacking any alternative resources of land or capital, multiplied in the new industrial centers of the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and Germany. Although divided by age, gender, occupation, and cultural traditions, these workers shared the miseries of overcrowded slums bereft of space, sanitation, clean water, and access to adequate diet or medical care. Plagued by adulterated foodstuffs, alcoholism, crime, violence, and the narcotic substances of the time, they were also subject at unpredictable intervals to a total loss of income, whenever economic depression or an overstocked labor market produced long-term unemployment.
These circumstances, together with memories of the French Revolution—or rather its image of mighty elites overthrown and social equality enforced for all citizens—combined to determine the shape of the European labor movement. Out of that revolution in its later stages had been born the idea of socialism, with its core idea that the enormous productive forces that new technologies were releasing should be collectively owned and operated for the common good rather than private profit. However, it was not predestined that socialism would come to dominate the consciousness of European labor in the nineteenth century, for other options were available. Socialist ideas did not prevail among labor in the United States, and only by the narrowest of margins did they become the accepted mainstream ideology of British labor in the twentieth century. It was even less inevitable that the Marxian variety would emerge as the prominent form of socialism in most European countries, yet by the turn of the century, with the notable exception of Britain, it indeed had.
Marxism and Labor
The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1847), was written by the young revolutionaries Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. The Manifesto sketched their vision of historical development, rational and purportedly scientific, which denoted the bourgeoisie as the revolutionary class that through technology and market relations had transformed the world so that the society of universal abundance had moved from the realm of utopia to that of the possible. Having acclaimed the historical role of capital, Marx and Engels went on to condemn its current reality as an obstacle to the great possibilities it had created. They pronounced that it was both necessary and inevitable that the proletariat should displace the bourgeoisie and institute its own rule, making the transition to a society of abundance feasible. Their text thus provided both inspiration and confidence that a historic role awaited the proletariat, indeed the most momentous role of all time—in abolishing capitalism, this social class would abolish itself and all class-based society. Marx's analysis of economic relationships in the first volume of Capital (written in 1867, but not published until 1887) was equally important. This analysis claimed to demonstrate how, under the misleading guise of freedom and equality, the wage contract was inherently exploitative, and the wage worker, although not bound like a serf to any individual capitalist, was just as tightly bound to capitalists as a class.
It took time, however, for Marx's influence to make itself felt. After the social and political traumas of early industrialization, which had been marked by massive economic slumps along with intense discontent, the 25 years following the failed European revolutions of 1848 were years of comparative social peace, underpinned by relatively consistent high growth rates both in Britain and the continent (the large-scale construction of railway systems had a lot to do with this). During this period Marx's theoretical impact became evident, and labor organizations that based their programs on his analysis began to emerge.
Challenges to Marx
Marx's theoretical superiority did not go unchallenged. It was contested by representatives of the anarchist movement, particularly the French reformer Pierre Joseph Proudhon, in the 1840s, and Mikhail Bakunin, the Russian revolutionist, in the 1860s. Anarchism established a strong presence among workers in Switzerland, Italy, Spain (especially), and to a lesser extent, France. The movement was attractive principally to independent artisans and small farmers rather than factory workers, a reflection of the different positioning of these classes in relation to the state. A more substantial rival to Marx appeared in Germany. The radical lawyer Ferdinand Lassalle, a brilliant demagogue, admired Marx and claimed he could recite the Manifesto by heart. However, Lassalle was the first leader of a successful German workers' movement, the German Workers' Association, which he founded in 1863 in opposition to the exiled Marx. Lassalle supported reform, rather than revolution, and was willing to make deals with the landlord-dominated Prussian state led by Bismarck in opposition to the big capitalists. Given that Prussia was developing into the most industrialized society on the continent, with an attendant growing factory proletariat, and would soon amalgamate with smaller German states in 1866 and 1871 to create the mighty Kaiserreich, this workers' movement represented the greatest obstacle to Marx's intellectual hegemony.
Marxism Takes Hold
Lassalle's death in 1864, without any significant political heir, left the field clear for Marx's followers, who succeeded in bringing the rapidly growing German labor movement under their aegis. They absorbed the dead leader's very considerable following, establishing the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1875. It was not, however, historical accidents like Lassalle's death in a duel that determined Marx's ascendancy, but the depth and coherence of his comprehensive theoretical undertaking, which provided a ready-made understanding of the social world and a guide to action.
Marx was the moving spirit behind the establishment of the International Workingmens' Association (IWMA) in 1864. Known as the First International, the IWMA was an attempt to bring together political and trade union movements from a number of European countries to concert their actions, especially against strikebreaking. In reality, although it alarmed a number of governments—particularly after the Paris Commune, the bloody insurrection of 1871 for which the IWMA was in no way responsible—it remained small and marginal. Internal wrangles, above all between the followers of Marx and of Mikhail Bakunin, wrecked the organization and brought about its dissolution in 1874. Matters were very different when a successor organization, the Socialist, or Second International, was set up in Paris on the centenary of the French Revolution in 1889. By this time, significant labor movements, the majority and most important basing themselves on Marx's ideas, were well established throughout western and central Europe. The Socialist International benefited from the fact that it was a loosely structured organization and that its headquarters in Amsterdam served a coordinating, rather than executive, function. This reduced friction between its constituent parts that a more centralized organization would have found difficult to handle.
The Influence of the SPD
The flagship of the Socialist International was its German component, the SPD, with a million and a half voters. Although it had been outlawed in 1878, and in 1889 was still formally illegal in its own country, the SPD was nonetheless thriving. It was clear that the ban could not long be maintained, and it was lifted in 1890. The SPD was more than a political party, more even than a political-industrial organization. With its multiplicity of journals, its attached women's and youth organizations, its cultural and athletic societies, its cooperative retail network, and of course its mighty trade union arm, it provided an alternative subculture for the working masses. The SPD had rivals in the Catholic and Liberal workers' unions, but these were a pale shadow of its own dominant strength. No other labor movement in Europe could claim this breadth of support combined with depth of cultural penetration.
Historians generally agree that the main consideration behind the hegemony of the SPD in the German workers' movement was that the dominant classes and parties in the state disdained the working class and its organizations and provided no alternative avenues for their political participation. This state of affairs was very different from that prevailing in other parts of western Europe, including the United Kingdom, where labor parties were much less hegemonic among their working classes. There is also general agreement that everywhere the SPD succeeded in establishing itself, the labor movement—although only occasionally imposing formal discrimination upon women—was institutionally misogynist (not unlike other societies of its time and since). How far that attitude toward women retarded its progress is impossible to guess, but probably a good deal.
Labor Movements Outside Western Europe
By the time the International was founded, embryonic labor movements had already been established in North America and the British settlement colonies, and were starting to appear in eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America, where modern industry was beginning to be introduced. These embryonic organizations were frequently subject to persecution, often clandestine, and sometimes more forcefully revolutionary than their formally Marxist (but generally pacific) counterparts in Western Europe, North America, and Australasia. By the end of the 1890s they had become embedded in the working classes, combining trade union activities and political propagandizing. By the beginning of the twentieth century, trade union organizations were beginning to form in India, and in Japan, socialist ideas, albeit rather eclectic ones strongly influenced by Christianity, were appealing to circles of intellectuals.
Labor in the Twentieth Century
The Early Twentieth Century
At the beginning of the twentieth century, existing labor movements with an orientation toward political action as the long-term solution to labor's problems—with socialism as their ultimate goal—were facing a serious rival in the form of syndicalism (the name is derived from the French word for trade union). This trend of thought regarded political approaches, whether reformist or revolutionary, as inadequate to the vital interests of the workers. Instead, syndicalists envisaged taking direct action to overthrow capitalism. This action would involve the formation of wide-embracing industrial unions, followed by a general strike as the final act leading to the establishment of workers' power. As frustration grew with the existing unions and labor parties in the United States, Western Europe, the United Kingdom, and the British settlement colonies, the influence of syndicalism, taking as its icon the physically powerful male industrial worker, proliferated and strengthened. Its most effective and successful component was the organization called the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), popularly styled the "Wobblies." The IWW put down strong roots in many trade unions, becoming dominant, for example, among the Welsh miners, produced many notable agitators, and left behind a heritage of labor movement songs and legends.
The years between 1873 and 1914 were a period of long-term economic recession (although never of negative growth) punctuated by short-lived inflationary episodes of boom conditions. This period also saw the introduction and initial development of major new technologies, from electrical apparatus to motor vehicles. Industrial workforces increased in number and spread to new parts of the world, as did workers' organizations and working-class ideologies, along with dramatic working-class struggles. The climax of European imperialism was reached with the partitioning of Africa and "opening" of China. Working classes in the imperial countries, their unions and parties, were inevitably drawn into these developments, for the most part giving them a qualified approval. Increasingly frenetic imperial rivalry brought with it the threat of general European war. The danger was foreseen, and on more than one occasion the Socialist International at its congresses committed its member parties to spare no effort in bringing such armed conflict to a stop. Regrettably, when the long-predicted war finally arrived in 1914, these resolutions were consigned to oblivion, and the International shattered. Various International sections in France, Germany, and Britain, along with labor movements, parties, and trade unions, with few exceptions, enthusiastically gave their governments all the support they could by voting war credits, suppressing strike action, encouraging recruitment, and the like. When the chips were down, each national component of the International, whatever its reservations, viewed its existing national state as the best guarantor of its future.
The Rise of the Bolsheviks
This outcome was to have reverberations for global labor movements and for world politics during the remainder of the twentiethcentury. Up to that point, the labor mainstream had been more and more accommodating to the realities of capitalist market economies, the concern (in spite of bitter industrial struggles and ceremonial revolutionary rhetoric) being to obtain for labor a tol erable niche in terms of material resources and social opportunity within the structures of a capital-dominated universe. Certainly there were elements like the Wobblies and some small parties who seriously envisaged the total overthrow of the existing state and complete social overturn, but these were marginal groups, either politically or geographically or both. Among the latter were the Russian Bolsheviks, one of the factions of what had been intended to be a unified Russian socialist (Social Democratic and Labor) party, but immediately upon its foundation in 1903 had splintered over policy and organizational issues, reflecting support for or disagreement with the unbending revolutionary will to power of the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, who had adopted the pseudonym "Lenin."
By the late nineteenth century, capitalist industry was developing strongly in parts of Russia amid the most miserable conditions for its workforce (employers tended to pay minimal wages irregularly, whenever it suited their convenience). Illegal workers' organi zations soon sprung up, and these were encouraged and guided by circles of Marxist-influenced intellectuals. These same Marxists promptly fell into bitter disputes regarding the correct interpretation of Marxism and its implications for revolutionary strategy in the Russian Empire. The division in 1903 was a reflection of these disagreements; nevertheless, the Bolsheviks (the name means "majority people") and their principal rivals, the Mensheviks ("minority people") were both part of the International, which vainly struggled to reconcile their differences.
Lenin concluded that the collapse of the International's parties into what he termed "social-patriotism" following the outbreak of World War I took place because leaders at all levels of the European working classes had been seduced and debauched by profits derived from imperial exploitation, but that the murderous European war now in progress would shortly open the eyes of the masses to the way in which they had been deceived. Accordingly, from his place of exile in Switzerland, Lenin set out to establish a new genuinely revolutionary International. In the circumstances it appeared to be a completely harebrained scheme, but the outbreak of revolution in Russia in February and March 1917 transformed realities. Seven months later the Bolsheviks had taken control of the Russian state.
The revolution of October and November 1917 was one of the workers, the only example in history. The Russian workers had trans ferred their political allegiance to the Bolsheviks, not because of mass conversion to Marxism, but because that party promised an end to the war and the resolution of the urban supply crisis. The Bolsheviks also temporarily won the approval of the peasantry by endorsing their seizure of the landlords' estates, and that of the conscripted soldiers by promising peace. The revolution was con tingent on a series of contingent events, a very unlikely outcome in historical perspective, but it set the agenda for most of the re mainder of the century. Revolutionaries everywhere, especially Marxist ones, now had what they had previously lacked, a model and a point of reference, as well as the material support of an established state. For the Bolshevik leaders, the revolution in Russia was merely the initial episode in a workers' world revolution that they regarded as imminent, and in the midst of a desperate civil war to retain power, they established in 1919 a new, revolutionary International, the Third (Communist) International, or Comintern.
According to Lenin, the Comintern was to function as the general staff of the world anticapitalist revolution, and its first impera tive was to establish Bolshevik-style parties in as many parts of the world as possible. The principal strategy for accomplishing this was to hive off the more revolutionary elements from the existing labor movements and parties and form these into communist par ties subject to the discipline of the International, although in a number of countries the Comintern had to settle for amalgamating a number of small radical, left-wing sects to form its communist party.
The Failure of the Global Labor Movement
Overall this strategy was only moderately successful. Although within a few years communist parties made their appearance in most countries and major colonies around the world, Lenin's expectations were not realized, and no new revolution emerged out of these developments. Instead the global labor movement was disastrously and irrevocably split; bitter hatred and rivalry, including bloodshed, became the prevailing relationship between the social democrat and communist contenders for the workers' allegiance. A turning point arrived in Germany in 1919 when the working class there solidly supported the Social Democrat government (it had taken office upon the Kaiser's downfall) in using military elements of the old regime to crush communist revolutionaries led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, who were both murdered thereafter. The Bolsheviks/Communists now rejected the Social Democrat name they had accepted up to that point and left it to their constitutionalist labor movement rivals.
The experience of Soviet Russia (from 1924 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR), which emerged from the Revolution and Civil War, demonstrated that whether or not a workers' state was a feasible project, it certainly was not practicable in the circumstances of an isolated and devastated Russia. Even before Lenin's death in 1924, the regime had fallen into the control of a largely unaccountable bureaucracy and the labor organizations reduced to ciphers, their main remit being to exhort their members to intensified production. The world revolution had been expected to make limitless resources available for Soviet Russia's desperately needed reconstruction. When the revolution failed to materialize, Lenin's successors quarreled fiercely among themselves over what should be done. The hitherto unimpressive Josef Stalin took advantage of this to quietly accumulate power through the party's administrative apparatus. He displaced and exiled his main opponent, Leon Trotsky, and by 1929 Stalin had established his own personal dictatorship.
The Interwar Years
The working classes in the developed economies of western Europe and the British white Dominions, where they were most numerous and best organized, preferred in the main to trust their political fortunes to parties that worked within the guidelines of the constitutional politics of representative democracy and to unions that conducted industrial relations according to accepted constraints on the behavior of both sides, stretched though these bounds might be from time to time. The balance on the whole remained in favor of the employers in the 1920s, as chronic recession and high unemployment greatly impeded industrial militancy, and workers had to compromise on the best terms they could get. Their parties also tended on the whole to be weak and on the defensive within imperfectly democratic structures. In the 1930s, the situation worsened, except in Scandinavia (especially Sweden), where social democrat governments and strong union movements were able to establish a regime that combined greater levels of welfare than existed anywhere else in Europe, combined with a centralized system of wage bargaining not too disadvantageous to the unionized workforce.
However, even Scandinavia suffered from the economic hurricane that struck the world in October 1929, beginning with the collapse of the U.S. stock market. Elsewhere in the world the effects were catastrophic, both socially and politically. Italy had already provided an indicator of what was to come, with the total destruction in the 1920s of political democracy and workers' movements. In the 1930s, the political system of fascism, which Italy's elites had pioneered to mobilize terrified lower middle-class masses against the left, spread throughout Europe in even more virulent forms, and analogous types of politics appeared elsewhere around the globe, from Argentina to Japan. The years following 1929 were particularly calamitous for labor movements everywhere except for Scandinavia (less Finland) and the United States.
A considerable part of the disaster was due to the policy laid down by the Comintern as a reflection of developments in the USSR, where the workers of the workers' state were being reduced to near-serf conditions in the breakneck industrialization demanded by Stalin. According to the Comintern, the capitalist world was entering the paroxysms of a final crisis (an analysis superficially confirmed by the crash of the U.S. stock market), and capitalism was ripe for overthrow. Social democracy, allegedly deceiving the workers, was stigmatized as the last obstacle to victorious revolutionary advance ("social fascists" indeed) and targeted as the deadliest enemy of the Communists and proletariat. The real fascists were dismissed as a near irrelevance. The unbridgeable antagonisms and divisions caused by this viewpoint greatly undermined the labor movement everywhere it had once flourished, and in Germany produced unparalleled disaster, contributing in no small measure to the success of Adolph Hitler. Thus abstruse expositions of Marxist theory in the councils of the state and the Comintern produced calamitous consequences for workers on the ground almost everywhere throughout Europe and perhaps further afield. Following these manifest catastrophes, the policy began to be relaxed (although without any admission of fault) and in 1935, at the final congress of the Comintern, it was replaced by the policy of the "Popular Front," a complete reversal that called for antifascist unity among all democrats, not merely among organizations of the working class.
The embryonic labor movements of the Third World were also attacked and repressed during the interwar years. Throughout their colonial sphere from Jamaica to Malaya, and especially in India, the British crushed labor unions and jailed trade unionists (although a general strike in the British Caribbean in 1938 won some concessions). The authoritarian military government in Japan, entering into a project of aggressive military expansion, outlawed what had earlier been a significant labor movement. In China, the workforce organizations of the coastal cities were annihilated and the workers massacred when the nationalist general Chiang KaiShek turned against his communist allies. The Communist Party, however, survived by abandoning its urban base and turning itself into a peasant movement, and after many traumatic episodes embedded itself among the villagers of remote northwestern China, where its military forces controlled an extensive territory.
Labor During the Cold War
Most labor movements were destroyed or driven deep underground in the years leading up to World War II and the period of Nazioccupation. With the total defeat of the Axis powers in 1945, however, their situation was transformed. It would hardly be an exaggeration to suggest that in the brief period between the Allied victory and the onset of the Cold War, the world was moving to a labor agenda, and communist parties (on account of their resistance records) were popular with wide sections of the liberated
European electorate, as reflected in their votes in the elections of that period. Social Democrats were also popular, and even surviving conservative parties such as the Christian Democrats in Germany and Italy were at pains to distance themselves from unregulated capitalism. A unified world trade union movement, the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), was established in 1945.
Matters changed once the Cold War became an unmistakable reality from 1947, and the developed world was divided into two hostile camps, with the labor movements in the Third World assiduously courted by both sides, with varying outcomes. In 1949 China was swept by communist revolution brought from the countryside to the cities, and its urban labor movements, paralyzed since 1927, came under state control as part of the communist bloc. The same happened to labor movements in eastern Europe, when in 1947 and 1948 the continent became divided between the spheres of the United States and the USSR. Not surprisingly, the international labor movement also split, when trade union centers aligned with the West broke away from the Soviet-dominated WFTU to form the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in 1949. In Western countries, such as Italy and France, where significant communist movements survived, the parties and their associated unions and labor organizations became isolated in a political ghetto, although they continued to exercise political leverage in legislatures, to control local authorities, and to carry out the routine union functions of collective bargaining with employers.
The period of the Cold War was also an era of decolonization, as European empires disintegrated around the world. Economic development there, modest though it was by "first world" standards, resulted in the formation and development of trade unions, except in cases where they were forcibly suppressed. The trade unions participated in the independence struggles, although only very occasionally, as in Kenya, were trade union leaders also major political figures. Paradoxically, once independence was achieved, trade unionists, and industrial workers in general, tended to count among the privileged classes of the post-colonial regime, enjoying higher incomes and living standards than the mass of the rural peasantry. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966-1970, wage demands by urban workers were denounced by the Maoist Red Guards—in a state theoretically led by the working-class vanguard—as "sugar-coated bullets."
Since 1945, where workers' uprisings or even insurrections have occurred, they were directed against the supposed workers' governments of the Soviet bloc, from East Berlin in 1953 (and the less well-known simultaneous industrial unrest in Czechoslovakia), through to the strikes in Poland in 1956, the Hungarian armed insurrection immediately afterwards, and to the mass strikes along the Baltic coastline in 1970, 1975, and finally 1980. Of necessity, these actions, provoked by material, political, and national grievances, were spontaneous and inchoate, for the official trade union organizations were under tight regime control, and represented the government to the workers, not the other way round.
During the 25 years or so following World War II, trade union organizations in Western Europe (even those controlled by communists) and in the Western sphere generally enjoyed unparalleled strength, prosperity, and prestige in what was later referred to as the world "long boom." With a labor market favoring the organized workforce, income levels reached unprecedented heights, and the consumer society blossomed. Governments, even conservative ones, were careful to take account of labor demands and aspirations. Social policy fell into a recognizably social democratic mode. Full employment and welfare characterized Western society during the 1950s and 1960s.
Great changes occurred after the onset of a long-term recession following the fuel crisis of 1973. Although unions in Britain were to overthrow a Conservative government in 1974, and in France the Socialist and Communist Parties entered government in coalition in 1981, the overall trend was toward a triumphant reassertion of neoliberal values, reduced taxation, and curtailed welfare, combined with an intensification of corporate business power. Unions found their membership declining as unemployment rose, business grew more hostile, and governments moved to curb their legal powers. Social democratic parties (and electorates) increasingly accepted the new climate of low taxation, market values, and minimum social intervention by government.
The End of the Cold War and Beyond
In eastern Europe, the peaceful revolt by the Polish workforce beginning in the Gdansk shipyards in 1980, although temporarily suppressed, proved to be the overture to the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the USSR itself. With this collapse went not only the command economy and the all-embracing state ruling ostensibly in the name of the working class, but the entire tradition of the October Revolution (even among the purportedly communist parties that survived). Unregulated market capitalism became the order of the day, and full employment and the basic welfare structure of these states were repudiated. In the less-developed of these countries, including Russia, the living standards of the industrial workforce, despite their now-free trade unions, plunged catastrophically.
At the beginning of twenty-first century, labor movements around the world, whether industrial or political, were not facing happy or promising circumstances. Nevertheless, they still retained very considerable assets—human, material, organizational, and intangible—and the rise of the Workers' Party in Brazil beginning in the 1980s demonstrated that their potential was far from exhausted. Of one thing it was possible to be sure: their future role and success would be determined by how far labor movements succeeded in imaginatively facing up to the new challenges that confronted them—the recomposition of workforces everywhere, the reality of globalization, and the environmental issues that increasingly dominated the beginning of the twenty-first century.
The history of the labor movement is extraordinarily convoluted, with more than its share of tragedy and horror as well as achievement and triumph. This volume is intended to highlight, recount, and explain in context the central episodes of that process and to serve as a reference work for the benefit of scholars, of people who participated, and those of the general public who want to be better informed about this remarkable social and political phenomenon.