Here at New Syndicalist we have been perhaps guilty of following a tendency within the wider anti-capitalist Left of burying our heads in the sand and waiting for the nightmare that is Brexit to be over. In the hope that someday soon it will be done with and we can get back to “proper politics”. What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is that Brexit and its effects will be defining issues for not just the next few years but most likely the next generation (if not generations). It will shape our politics, our economy and, by extension, out organising and the prospects for radical, social transformation. Unfortunately as activists and organisers we have to recognise that we never really fight in circumstances of our choosing. If we are waiting for the perfect issue to mobilise and recruit around we will be waiting a long time. If we do believe that member-led unions have an important and more transformative role to play in society then we also have to accept that they need to be engaging with the central and defining political issues of the day. For us right now, this is Brexit.
In a wider sense Brexit also tells us much about the strengths and weaknesses of trade unions operating within a labour market with a global reach. For our international subscribers, where Brexit may be of interest but perhaps less immediate and practical relevance, we ask them to consider how Brexit reveals an important challenge of making unions relevant in a global context where the rules are set by powerful and remote multi-state organisations like the EU, IMF, WTO among others.
We felt that while there has been a great deal of comment and analysis on Brexit from all ends of the political spectrum not a great deal has focused on the impact on trade unions and labour law specifically. As a result we decided to structure the episode around areas of priority for union organisers – how has the EU impacted European trade unions? What are the benefits and limitations of EU membership for trade unionists? How might Brexit change the relationship of trade unions to the state? How might we expect trade unions to respond in best and worse case scenarios? And what should the immediate priorities for those group at the sharp end of the Brexit process?
This episode ended up being longer than we would normally plan, however, we hope our listeners see the value in this exercise and if you’d like us to produce more content along these lines where we engage with current affairs from an organising perspective then please let us know in your feedback.
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