Trade Unions

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  • Topic: Marxism, Socialism, Capitalism
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  • Published : June 5, 2009
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Over the years a number of theorists have attempted to explain union action and behaviour. The trade unions were formed during the period of rise and growth in capitalism. Capitalism is characterised by exploitation of workers, low wages inequality, this ideology is seen as beneficial to the economy. The trade union as a revolutionary agency will be discussed. Different interpretations of Lenin and Trotsky will critically analyse trade unions as revolutionary agencies. To fully comprehend this essay you need to understand why trade unions developed. Unions developed as means of redressing the imbalance of power between workers and employers, whereas workers had virtually no power as individuals, through a collective organization their influence was considerably increased (Giddens: 2006,754). Trade unions occurred in the capitalist system because of the polarity of social classes and social stratification, which consisted of those whom own the means of production and the labours. All this exploitation resulted in social inequality which made people aware of social consciousness.

Aim of revolution
The aim of the revolution was to create socialism, which is a world wide classless society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of producing the distributing wealth (Ross:1998,175). For Marx the central feature of socialism is that work would no longer be monotonous drudgery (Kelly: 1988,10). Here the individual will only be recognized just as another tool in the production process. The bourgeoisie regard their system as eternal, not subject to fundamental change. This differs radically from Marxism, which teaches us that capitalism is a transitory social formation. Like feudalism and slavery, it will have to give way to a higher form of society. The bourgeoisie cannot be given an objective assessment of the real trends in capitalist society. Everything they do is calculated to serve self-interest for the most malicious type.

Emergence of trade unions
Trade unions did not instantaneously occur as a strong force but it was assisted by the First International. Like any other movement trying to convey a point or create change it needed guidance and coordination this is where the First International comes into play. According to Kelly " Under the guidance of Marx and Engles, it devoted much of its time and resources to assisting trade union economic and political struggles throughout Europe (1988,21).

Economic and political struggle
Many economist believed that trade union economic struggle would of itself develop revolutionary class consciousness and improve the condition of the working class (Kelly: 1988,29). Therefore economist believed that if trade unions strike and fight for things of monetary value e.g. wages that their conditions would increase. Lenin argued this, he insisted that economic struggle alone could not possible bring significant improvement in the working class. He argued that economic and political struggle cannot be separated. According to Kelly "The economic struggle develops the workers political consciousness and spurs the workers on to think of state political questions" (1988,29). This is because if the workers are constantly fighting with the capitalists this would bring them in conflict with the capitalist system and the workers could only be political and economically set free and achieve their goals only through exerting they influence in the political system. In a capitalist system the bourgeoisie who are the owners of the means of production determine the political system which is in their interests. It is important to note that even though the workers standards of living may slightly increase, economic improvement, their social position declines. Therefore an economic struggle was not sufficient to completely change the problems that the working class was experiencing. An example of this is South African trade unions due to their...
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