Southern Insurgency--The Coming of the Global Working Class.

Author:Klikauer, Thomas
Position:Book review
 
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Immanuel Ness, Southern Insurgency--The Coming of the Global Working Class

London: Pluto Press, 2016; 237pp; ISBN: 9780745336008

Based on empirical case studies of India, China and South Africa, Immanuel Ness argues that the working class has not vanished. It simply moved to the South, working in sweatshop factories--and there might even be a 'Southern insurgency' (as the book's title suggests). The North-South move is based on Foreign Direct Investment but 'FDI demonstrates that new investment does not offset underdevelopment and structural poverty' (p 21). Instead of the 'rising-of-all-boats' ideology, many boats barely keep afloat at all. But Ness also has a harsh critique of trade unions (p 31), since compliant Northern trade unions lost twice: they became part of a capital accommodating regime; and they failed to create North-South alliances between trade unions, unaware that outsourcing is a strength as 'Northern capital is completely dependent on the super-exploitation of low-wage Southern labour' (p 33).

The North 'displace [d] its own contradictions of accumulation to the periphery' (p 45), now played out in the global South. '[T]o lure multinational capital, local state managers and politicians either ensured that new industrial enterprise zones were union free, or permitted employers to form company-dominated unions' (p 49), but in reaction to the company-dominated unions, new forms of rank-and-file militancy emerged. These are expressed through worker assemblies, independent trade unions existing outside official codified systems, and those workers pressuring 'traditional unions' (p 55). While today's hegemonic bandwagon claims that 'we are a service industry', in fact, 'more workers are employed in manufacturing than at any time in history' (p 58).

This is so because of push-pull factors emphasising superior survival conditions in destination regions' (p 61). Moving to Southern locations remains 'an involuntary process' (p 63). Much of the global migration of workers takes the form of 'migration that is motivated not only by poverty but also by the demand of advanced industrial societies for labour from rural societies' (p 64). This has pathological consequences when, for example, by '2000, 50% of the entire world population lived in urban areas often in squatter communities afflicted with rundown and makeshift shelters, unsanitary conditions, and inadequate education' (p 73). But 'international migration was [and still is]...

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