Saturday, 29 October 2011

What Does it Take to Make a Movement?


I am just having a quick look through the Annual Report 09-10 and Strategic Plan to 2015 of the Wikimedia Foundation - the people behind all things Wiki.

What's interesting is the way in which the Founation presents itself as a 'movement'.

The Strategic Plan, for example, makes this point unequivocally:

Wikimedia is and will remain adecentralized movement comprised of readers, editors, the Wikimedia Foundation andchapters, advisers and like-minded organizations — each playing different formaland informal leadership and support roles.

This plan captures our common aspirationsand priorities. It articulates the work we will undertake to achieve our shared goalsover the next five years, and reflects our collective vision for the future.

From a labour movement perspective it is interesting to question to what degree the Wikimedia projects can truly be determined as a movement. Some of the standard literature here tends to be fairly prescriptive.

For example Beverly Silver's 2003 publication Forces of Labor: Worker's Movements and Globalization since 1870 emphasises:

- Voluntarism as the dominant method by which aspirations are identified and progressed
- Collectivity
- Progressive ideals
- Alliance with political wings either formally or looser

Much of Silver's (and others) theoretical positioning however, is quite significantly challenged in more recent literature which encompasses a more contemporary focus on broader social movements which create alternative considerations.

The work of people like Pete Waterman (and others) suggests that new determining factors include:

- The impact of and relationship to globalisation
- Internationalism - and in particular the concept of global social movements
- The inter-dependency of workers in globalisation, and as such a transition to cross-border activity as a move away from nation state-specific movements

I am not suggesting that the Wikimedia concept cannot fit easily within historic or more contemporary definitions of the conceptualisation of 'movements' moreso that we need to be able to create a flexible, modern notion of the inter-relationship of movements - particularly to identify and exploit over lapping agendas.

Any questions/comments welcome as ever.

In Solidarity


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Modern Face of an Ancient Problem


Apologies for the long gap since posting an item, the pace of work at the GFTU and Ruskin College has simply been so great as to keep me away from the blog.

There is a phenomenal degree of activity and developments, both academically and practically, to write about at the moment in the field of labour and trade union studies and so I have carefully selected a conference which I feel focuses on a central challenge to organised labour in the UK; forced labour.

Through support from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation there is going to a seminar on 1st November in Manchester which will explore the experience of forced labour amongst Chinese migrants.

You can register and see more detail here:

The invitation to the attention describes the focus as:

We are writing to invite you to join us at an event where the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) will be launching research conducted by Manchester Metropolitan University in partnership with the Wai Yin Chinese Women Society, Manchester, and in collaboration with the Chinese Welfare Association in Belfast and the Chinese Migrant Network in London.

This research drew on the experiences of 32 migrant Chinese workers, mostly in the Chinese catering and hospitality business and it explores the experiences of exploitation among low-skilled Chinese migrant workers in the UK. It highlights the extent of exploitation at work, examines what makes workers vulnerable to forced labour, and considers the complex relationships between migration, work and family.

The body of material and activity focused on the global issue of forced labour provides a stark illustration of the continuing nature of the problem both in advanced, mid-range and developing economies.

The issue remains a central focus of the ILO predicated as it is on fundamental human rights. To this extent the ILO provides a specific web area for this issue:

If you want to get a sense of the volume/scale of this issue I strongly encourage you to take some time to look at the material on the ILO site and, if you can, to get to the JRT event in Manchester.

In Solidarity