The Lenin Problem — Social Movement versus Business Unionism

imageInaugural Alex Macdonald Lecture

The Lenin Problem: Social Movement versus Business Unionism

to be presented by Professor Margaret Levi

Thursday 14 May

WILLIAM GALLOWAY AUDITORIUM
2nd Level
QCU Building
16 Peel Street, South Brisbane

Refreshments 6pm
Lecture commences 6.30pm

Entry by GOLD COIN DONATION.

Left-wing longshore union members give up time and money to fight on behalf of social justice causes from which they can expect no material return.

Basque nationalists make vulnerable their freedom and their lives for the sake of seemingly unattainable goals.

Parishioners at churches throughout the United States risk jail to shelter political asylum seekers.

Altruism is common enough, and so are volunteering, political commitment, and unselfish service to others.

Why and how do some organizations produce membership willing to self-sacrifice on behalf of a wide range of political and social justice issues? While much of the literature focuses on the factors affecting individual choice, the “Lenin problem” examines how organizations induce members to take costly personal actions that do not seem to have connection to the reasons people joined the organization initially.

The paper investigates a specific type of organization: labour unions in democratic countries.

It examines both “business unions,” whose sole commitments are to the welfare of members, and “social movement unions,” those committed to the social welfare of members and the larger society.

Almost all unions ask members to contribute personal time and money or approve organizational resources for charitable purposes, electoral campaigns, and lobbying.

Only a very few, however, advocate political and social justice causes that seem unrelated to the achievement of better wages or working conditions.

The paper argues that, in appropriate circumstances, organizational membership changes the beliefs of constituents about the nature of the world and subsequently reveals a preference for actions on behalf of others or for a cause, actions that entail unrequited costs in time, lost income, and possible bodily harm.

This seems to be what is happening within a subset of religious, political, and labour organizations.

6 responses to “The Lenin Problem — Social Movement versus Business Unionism

  1. Radical history conference

    Radical history conference: A century of struggle

    Laborism & the radical alternative. Lessons for today

    Saturday, May 30; 9.30am (registration) – 5.00pm,

    AMWU offices, 251 Queensberry St, Carlton

    Speakers include:

    Verity Burgman, author of many books on labour movement history

    Jamie Doughney, economist National Tertiary Education Union state president

    Tim Gooden, Geelong Trades Hall secretary

    Chris Spindler, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union organiser

    Socialist Alliance is organising a one-day conference on the struggle to build a radical alternative to the deadening hand of the ALP and the lessons we can draw for today. The seminar will draw on the experiences of the communist and trade union movements in Australia over the last century. This will be an important seminar given the global economic meltdown, the crisis of climate change and the dampening impact that the federal ALP government has had on the trade union movement.

    Topics include:

    The formation of the ALP. Was it ever a workers’ party?
    The record of the ALP. High hopes and big disappointments
    The Wobblies. Achievements and limitations
    The vehicle of socialism? The NSW Socialisation Units in the 1930s
    Communism in Australia. Some of the issues
    Left alternatives in the trade unions
    Fighting under Labor governments today
    Looking to the future

    Rego $15/$5. Organised by Socialist Alliance; Sponsored by Green Left Weekly. For info ph 9639 8622.

    Like

  2. Dear BLHA members and friends,

    A reminder of tomorrow’s

    Inaugural Alex Macdonald Lecture –
    The Lenin Problem: Social Movement versus Business Unionism
    to be presented by Professor Margaret Levi

    Thursday 14 May

    WILLIAM GALLOWAY AUDITORIUM
    2nd Level
    QCU Building
    16 Peel Street, South Brisbane

    Refreshments 6pm
    Lecture commences 6.30pm

    Entry by GOLD COIN DONATION.

    Please find flyer attached. Spread the word!

    Kind regards
    Dale Jacobsen
    Secretary Brisbane Labour History Association

    Dale Lorna Jacobsen
    PO Box 456
    Maleny Qld 4552
    Ph: 07 5494 4046
    Mob: 0413 843 652
    Web: dalelornajacobsen.com

    Like

    • Dear members of BLHA and friends,

      These are exciting times for the Brisbane Labour History Association. Planning is well underway for the one-day conference, Red, Green and In-between: Reviewing Labour and the Environment in Historical Context, to be held on Saturday 6 February 2010, Griffith University (South Bank campus), Brisbane, Australia.

      Equally as exciting is

      the Annual General Meeting of BLHA
      To be held this Saturday [5 Dec 2009] commencing 3pm
      Venue: LHMU, 27 Peel St, South Brisbane
      (opposite the QCU building).

      Some positions on the committee will fall vacant: an excellent opportunity for new people to step into the decision-making roles of the BLHA.

      If you have not renewed your membership, its not too late!

      Perhaps now, more than ever, the aims of the BLHA are an important contribution to understanding a changing world
      to encourage and promote:

      * the study,
      * teaching,
      * research,
      * publication of labour history, and
      * preservation of labour archives.

      Attached is a membership form. You can now renew by Direct Deposit:
      v Direct Deposit: CBA BSB 06 4000 Account # 10005764
      (please note your name and membership & send notification of payment to Secretary)

      OR
      v Cheque: mail to:

      The Secretary,
      Brisbane Labour History Association
      PO Box 5299
      West End Q

      Individual: waged $20 unwaged $10
      Organisation: $50
      Kind regards
      Dale Jacobsen
      Secretary Brisbane Labour History Association

      Dale Lorna Jacobsen
      PO Box 456
      Maleny Qld 4552
      Ph: 07 5494 4046
      Mob: 0413 843 652
      Web: dalelornajacobsen.com

      *************************************************************************

      The Past is always with us

      Membership Application / Renewal Form

      Name:

      Street address:

      City or Suburb: P/C:

      Phone:

      Mobile:

      E-mail:

      Signature:

      Areas of Interest, Research, Activities:

      Cost of Membership

      Individual

      : waged $20 unwaged $10

      Organisation

      : $50

      Note a years membership extends from 1st July to 30 June.

      Your membership dues include:

      Membership in the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History (Federal body)

      Membership in the Brisbane Labour History Association (Brisbane branch of ASSLH)

      A copy of The Queensland Journal of Labour History (published twice a year)

      !

      I enclose a cheque for $ Date

      !

      Direct Deposit: CBA BSB 06 4000 Account # 10005764 $ Date

      (please note your name and membership & send notification of payment to Secretary)

      Please forward this application and payment to the Secretary at the above address.

      For further information contact the Secretary at 07 5494 4046 or

      sr.music@bigpond.com

      About the BLHA:

      The association was formed in September 1990 to encourage and promote the study,

      teaching, the research and the publication of labour history as well as the preservation of labour archives.

      There are no limits to the study of labour history and the diverse membership reflects the many different

      areas of concern. Membership is open to all individuals and organisations who subscribe to the objectives

      of the association.

      BLHA is the Brisbane branch of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History (ASSLH)

      Brisbane Labour History Association PO Box 5299 West End Q4101

      Brisbane Branch of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History

      Like

  3. Viola Wilkins

    Gurgaon Workers News– Newsletter 17 (May 2009)

    Like

    • Workers BushTelegraph

      Viola,

      I could not see the relevance to the BLHA forum so I cut back your comment to a reference to the Gurgaon Workers News.

      What exactly is the Gurgaon Workers News?

      in solidarity
      Ian

      Like

      • Viola Wilkins

        Hey Ian,

        Fair enough if not relevant for your meeting there … though your
        speaker may know of this network in context of “social movement
        unionism” ?

        Here in Melbourne there are many Indians amongst the International
        students most of whom are casualised workers.

        Amidst them is is a “push” of young unionists eg taxi-drivers
        uprising/occupation of city intersection for 24+ hours last year after
        the stabbing of a fellow worker.

        Some of these worker students also work with UNITE which is trying to get justice for same milieu 7-Eleven workers under-paid at rates as little as $8 an hour…see http://www.unite.org.au/

        Back in India itself here is a struggle on between Biz unions and Party affiliated hierarchies, outside them are the majority of wage slaves of course just like here.

        The “internationalist” GWN project in their own words:

        ” Gurgaon Workers’ News is a project independent from political parties or unions, trying to support workers’ self-organisation in their
        struggle for a better life. One of the projects aim is to document the
        development and workers’ struggles in and around Gurgaon, one of the current boom regions of global capital. For this reason we publish a monthly electronic newsletter on this site.

        GWS is not meant to be a purely documenting project, it is not supposed to be a one way street. We distribute a regular newsletter/leaflet amongst workers in the area which, apart from local news, contain workers` information of related industries, companies or boom regions from other places in the world. If you want to have your information distributed to workers of a specific company, see list of companies on this site, or if you would offer to do the same at your place, please get in touch. ”

        It is interesting that the current they reflect upon comes out of
        workers vs Fiat which is currently about to taker over Chrysler etc.
        see http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/workers-theory/

        “Mirafiori goes Udyog Vihar – Material on “Operaismo”: Marxism from a Workers’ Perspective

        Intro: Some thoughts on the ‘revolutionary potentials’ in Delhi’s
        industrial south Mirafiori used to be FIATs biggest car factory in Italy, employing over 80,000 workers in the 1960s. In 1969 the factory was occupied by the workers, it became a focus for social unrest, a meeting point for young student groups, a reference point for other workers’ struggles at the time. Italy was at the brink of social revolution.

        Some smaller groups consisting of workers, CPI dissidents and other activists ‘re-read’ Marx and questioned the official interpretation of the CPI. Their current was denounced as ‘Operaismo’, ‘Workerism’. “

        Like

Leave a Reply to Workers BushTelegraph Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.