The Challenge of Worker Activism

  • Tim Pringle
  • Simon Clarke
Part of the Non-Governmental Public Action book series (NGPA)


We have already seen that the initiatives to give the trade unions more independence in representing the interests of their members in the early stages of reform in all three countries were determined primarily by the real or potential threat of worker activism and the emergence of independent worker organisation, exemplified by the rise of Solidarity in Poland, the strike wave across the Soviet Union, centred on the coalmining regions, and the developing support of Chinese workers for the student-led democracy movement in July 1989. On the other hand, legal and constitutional changes had little impact on the activity of trade unions on the ground. The transition from state to market regulation of the activity of enterprises led to radical changes in the orientation of management, now seeking to maximise profits rather than fulfil central directives, but the social structure of the enterprise, and the role and function of workplace trade unions, barely changed. Higher trade union bodies had little leverage over their primary organisations and had no interest in encouraging changes which might stimulate rather than contain conflict, while few trade union officers had any interest in changing their ways of working. Pressures for change could only come from below, from the activism of workers themselves.


Trade Union Migrant Worker Traditional Union Rural Migrant Worker Legal Minimum Wage 
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Copyright information

© Tim Pringle and Simon Clarke 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tim Pringle
  • Simon Clarke
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WarwickUK

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