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Call for Papers: Volume 4 Issue 2 of Interface: A Journal for and about social movements 

Special Issue Theme: For the global emancipation of labour: new movements and struggles around work, workers and precarity

Special issue editors: Elizabeth Humphrys, Peter Waterman, Alice Mattoni, Ana Margarida Esteves


Once, the labour movement was seen as the international social movement for the left (and it was the spectre haunting capitalism). Over the last century, however, labour movements have been transformed. In most of the world membership rates have dwindled, and many act in defence of, or simply provide services to, their members in the spirit of interest or lobbying groups. Labour was once a broad social movement including cooperatives, socialist parties, women’s and youth wings, press and publications, cultural production and sporting clubs. Often it was at the core of movements for democracy or national independence, even of social revolution. Despite the rhetoric of ‘socialism’, ‘class and mass trade unionism’ or, alternatively, technocratic ‘organising strategies’, most union movements internationally operate strictly within the parameters of capitalism and the ideology of ‘social partnership’ (i.e. with and under capital and state).

New labour organising efforts are increasingly moving beyond traditional trade union forms, dependence on the state or parties of the left, and have found new forms linked to ethnic or geographical communities, working women, precarious workers, migrants and other radical-democratic social movements.

These changes may relate to the neoliberalisation and ‘globalization’ of capitalism, and its result in restructured industry and employment. They may also relate to the consequent disorientation of the left. Transformations at the political and economic level have not, however, meant the disappearance of labour movement. Multiple new expressions of labour discontent arise from the bases and the margins of the world of work.

New forms of organising and/or a revival?

Firstly, from the bases we find movements of workers, often in alliance with local communities or other social movements. They are to be found not only in advanced industrial and postindustrial economies, but also — more dramatically — at the capitalist periphery. Labour movements were important in the recent Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. In the world’s second biggest economy, China, labour has been flexing its muscles in the most repressive and difficult of circumstances. Labour struggle has also begun to revive in the United States, and in the most dramatic fashion with the occupation of the legislature in Wisconsin.

Secondly, we see those who are situated at the margins of labour markets and who experience continuous uncertainty. Increasingly addressed as the ‘precariat’, this includes both high-skilled and low-skilled workers in the rich metropoles of the global North as well as in the slums and fields of the global South. The precarious are younger people, women and migrants, but increasingly those previously full-time workers whose rights and conditions are under attack due to the current economic crisis.

New and emergent movements are taking place at the local, national and transnational level, signaling the ongoing transformation of workers’ struggle all over the world. As capitalism reorganises, expands and reinvents, so too does resistance to its exploitation and subjugation. Some trade unions have encountered difficulty in working amongst workers who do not conform to the model of the full-time, male, family-wage-earning worker, and are seeking new ways of mobilizing and organising. This has been equally true amongst landless workers inBrazil, as with ‘undocumented’ or ‘excluded’ labour in California. Both at the bases and at the margins of the labour realms, women, men and youth are experimenting with radical new forms of struggle, new demands, new places / spaces of articulation, and perhaps re-discovering or re-inventing a global movement for ‘the emancipation of labour’.

Some places to start?

This issue of Interface: a journal for and about social movements seeks to reflect both this immense richness of experiences and the attempt to articulate what has been learnt in one place in ways that may be useful for activists elsewhere. We are looking for articles that tackle questions such as:

How are the geography and politics of labour struggles changing in the 21st century?

What use, and clarity, is there in the distinction between ‘old’ (labour) and ‘new’ social movements?

Is the historically central link with political parties and the state dead or can it be reinvented, and if so, how?

Have strategies such as ‘social movement unionism’, ‘community unionism’, ‘bio-syndicalism’, recognising precarity or movements organising informal workers been effective and how far? Where and to what extent are they successful?

What are the strengths and limits of labour organising among those for whom wage labour is only a part of their livelihood?

What are the relationships between trade unions on the one hand, and on the other hand solidarity economy movements, organisations working with precarious and unemployed workers, and identity- or community-based groups and the labour movement?

How are trade unionists engaging, or failing to engage, with the global justice and solidarity movement?

Are there new trade union or labour internationalism(s), and what form or forms demonstrate this?

What is the significance of information and communication technology (ICT), ‘knowledge workers’ and labour’s own cyberspace activities to such new worker movements?

We intend to explore such matters in this special issue of the new open-access, online, copyleft academic/activist journal, Interface: a Journal for and about Social Movements:  (

General submissions

Finally, as in all issues of Interface, we will accept submissions on topics that are not related to the special theme of the issue, but that emerge from or focus on movements around the world and the immense amount of knowledge that they generate. Such general submissions should contribute to the journal’s mission as a tool to help our movements learn from each other’s struggles, by developing analyses from specific movement processes and experiences that can be translated into a form useful for other movements.

In this context, we welcome contributions by movement participants and academics who are developing movement-relevant theory and research. Our goal is to include material that can be used in a range of ways by movements — in terms of its content, its language, its purpose and its form. We thus seek work in a range of different formats, such as conventional articles, review essays, facilitated discussions and interviews, action notes, teaching notes, key documents and analysis, book reviews — and beyond. Both activist and academic peers review research contributions, and other material is sympathetically edited by peers. The editorial process generally is geared towards assisting authors to find ways of expressing their understanding, so that we all can be heard across geographical, social and political distances.

We can accept material in Afrikaans, Arabic, Catalan, Croatian, Danish, English, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Maltese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Zulu. Please see our editorial contacts page for details of who to submit to.

Deadline and contact details

The deadline for initial submissions to this issue, to be published November 2012, is May 1 2012. For details of how to submit to Interface, please see the ‘Guidelines for contributors’. All manuscripts, whether on the special theme or other topics, should be sent to the appropriate regional editor. Submission templates are available online via the guidelines page.


Elizabeth Humphrys

Oceania &South-East AsiaEditor



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Interface: a journal for and about social movements


Volume three, issue one (May 2011): Repression and social movements Issue editors: Cristina Flesher Fominaya, Lesley Wood

Volume three, issue one of Interface, a peer-reviewed e-journal produced and refereed by social movement practitioners and engaged movement researchers, is now out, on the special theme “Repression and social movements”. Interface is open-access (free), global and multilingual. Our overall aim is to “learn from each other’s struggles”: to develop a dialogue between practitioners and researchers, but also between different social movements, intellectual traditions and national or regional contexts.

This issue of Interface includes 296 pages with 20 pieces in English and Portuguese, by authors writing from / about Angola, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, Guatemala, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, South Africa, the UK and the US.

Articles include:

Cristina Flesher Fominaya and Lesley Wood, Editorial: repression  and social movements
Theme-related articles:

Peter Ullrich and Gina Rosa Wollinger, A surveillance studies perspective on protest policing: the case of video surveillance of demonstrations inGermany

Liz Thompson and Ben Rosenzweig, Public policy is class war pursued by other means: struggle and restructuring in international education economy

Kristian Williams, Counter-insurgency and community policing

Fernanda Maria Vieira and J. Flávio Ferreira, “Não somos chilenos, somos mapuches!”: as vozes do passado no presente da luta mapuche por seu território

Roy Krøvel, From indios to indígenas: guerrilla perspectives on indigenous peoples and repression in Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua Action / practice notes and event analysis from:
    • Musab Younis, British tuition fee protest, November 9, 2010
    • Dino Jimbi, Campanha “Não partam a minha casa”
    • Mac Scott, G20 mobilizing in Toronto and community organizing: opportunities created and lessons learned
    • Aileen O’Carroll, Alessio Lunghi, Laurence Cox, “I’m in the news today, oh boy”: smear tactics and media bullying

Other articles:

Eurig Scandrett and Suroopa Mukherjee, Globalisation and abstraction in theBhopalsurvivors’ movement

George Sranko, Collaborative governance and a strategic approach to facilitating change: the South East Queensland Forest Agreement and the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement

John Agbonifo, Territorialising Niger Delta conflicts: place and contentious mobilisation

This issue’s reviews include the following titles:
    • Laurence Davis and Ruth Kinna, Anarchism and utopianism
    • Fiona Dukelow and Orla O’Donovan, Mobilising classics: reading radical writing in Ireland
    • David Graeber, Direct action: an ethnography
    • Nathalie Hyde-Clarke, The citizen in communication: re-visiting traditional, new and community media practices in South Africa
    • Gabriel Kuhn, Sober living for the revolution: hardcore punk, Straight Edge, and radical politics
    • Alf Gunvald Nilsen, Dispossession and resistance in India: the river and the rage

A Call for Papers for volume 4 issue 1 of Interface is now open, on the theme of “The season of revolution: the Arab spring” (submissions deadline November 1 2011).

We can review and publish articles in Afrikaans, Arabic, Catalan, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Maltese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Zulu.

The website has the full CFP and details on how to submit articles for this issue at

Volume 3, issue 2 on “Feminism, women’s movements and women in movement” is due to be published in November 2011. A Call for Papers for volume 4 issue 2, on “The global emancipation of labour: new movements and struggles around work and workers” will shortly be published (deadline May 1 2012 for publication in November 2012).

Interface is always open to new collaborators. We need activists and academics who can referee articles in Chinese, Indonesian and Russian in particular, and translators to help with our multilingual project more generally. We are also looking for people willing to help set up regional groups in East Asia and Central Asia. We are also looking for collaborators for our existing groups, particularly but not only the African, South Asian, Spanish-speaking Latin American, East and Central European, and Oceania / SE Asian groups. More details can be found on our website:

Please forward this to anyone you think may be interested.


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