What looked like carte blanche for corporate-led globalization just a few years ago is now increasingly contested. The brave new vision of market fundamentalism has been challenged on several fronts, from massive demonstrations in Seattle and Genoa to contested trade and environmental summits at Johannesburg and Cancun. The critical insights of highly placed insiders have undermined the dominant neo-liberal ideology and given credence to mounting protests and opposition viewpoints (e.g. Soros 2002; Stiglitz 2002). Economic stagnation, inequality, desperate poverty and violence— whether in Japan, East Asia, Russia, Germany, or the United States and Latin America—have belied optimistic predictions of the positive effects of unbridled globalization. Economic policy makers from the rich countries are challenged both by domestic opposition and by a growing reluctance in the global South to acquiesce in one-sided trade deals. The future shape of the global economy and its international, as well as national and local economic policies, are now open to wide- spread and growing debate.
Yet, debate is clearly not enough. What is also required are strong organized actors to promote alternative viewpoints and to build the progressive coalitions—global, national, and local—that can turn policy around. While together they cannot yet match the power of multinational corporations (even if they could act together consistently), many such actors are already present, and many of them are increasingly ready to contest the dominant policies. Opposition forces include a broad range of international and domestic non-governmental organizations (NGOs), from environmental to health and human rights groups, swelling protest movements from global justice, and antiwar to land reform, from Jose-Bove-inspired farmers to religious and cultural defence movements, as well as increasingly independent governments across the global South (from Brazil and Argentina to South Africa, India, and China). And one clearly indispensable actor in present and future reform efforts is organized labour, the subject of this book.