Globalization and Organized Labour in the Commonwealth Caribbean: Opportunity or Threat?

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Table Of Contents

Page 2Overview
“ 4Introduction
“ 5Theoretical Perspectives
“ 8 Threats to Organized Labour
“ 11Opportunities for Growth
“ 13Conclusions
“ 14Recommendations


Globalization has been the buzzword in the latter part of the twentieth century and has continued to generate much discussion by persons in all spheres. In most cases it has been a very emotive subject tied up with fear, on one hand, and unreserved acceptance on the other, which is an indication the level of misunderstanding which surrounds this concept.

Like mercantilism, colonialism, and industrialization, globalization is seen by some as the natural progression of capitalism by way of expansion of its means of production and control over its markets to force lesser developed states into a global economy. This phenomenon was predicted by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto as a natural progression to an “institutional innovation of capitalism” where “the bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most [underdeveloped] nations into civilization…[compelled] on pain of extinction”.

Herein lies the problem which is two-fold. First, the wide reach of globalization subordinates the power and authority of each state to the hegemonic control of the transnational corporations and their leaders. Secondly, the nature of the changes required to facilitate the advance of these global leaders, imposes social, political and economic constraints and controls on the institutions and peoples within these states which are unpalatable at best, particularly to those in the Commonwealth Caribbean which is the focus of this study.

This study, through the use of a review of the literature, attempts to highlight the threats to organized labour in the Commonwealth Caribbean and to determine what opportunities may also exist or be created to cope with the negative impacts of such a complex phenomenon on an equally nuanced environment.


An understanding of the history of the Commonwealth Caribbean and particularly that of organized labour would shed some light on the why any discussion on globalization would be an especially emotive one. The transition from a slave society where the black masses were seen as property and indeed formed part of the means of production, into one where the same masses now have a voice and can take part and even lead in their own political affairs as sovereign nations, was a process inextricably tied to the development of organized labour. Great gains were made in the Caribbean countries as result of the struggles of the trade unions. It is these hard fought for freedoms that globalization seeks to have relinquished, back into the hands of a new absentee colonial master.

“For those who practice [neocolonialism], it means power without responsibility and for those who suffer from it, it means exploitation without redress. In the days of old-fashioned colonialism, the imperial power had at least to explain and justify at home the actions it was taking abroad. In the colony those who served the ruling imperial power could at least look to its protection against any violent move by their opponents. With neocolonialism neither is the case.” (Nkrumah:1965::xi)

Kwame Nkrumah’s summation above of the impact of this tight control on Guyana also aptly describes its impact on the rest of the Caribbean.

Theoretical Perspectives

The term globalization describes an economic system or to be more precise an economic world order. It is by its nature aggressive and far-reaching, and thus results in the transformation of the work and lives of the people within the global economy.

With the dismantling of the Communist stronghold at the end of the Cold War period, Marxist theory played a significantly less dominant role in the economic...
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