Organisers: Transform! Europe, Indonesia for Global Justice
Date: 30th September 2018
City: Gent (Belgium)
Transform! Europe and the Asia Europe People's Forum have been working together on Commons for some time already. At the last major meeting in Barcelona in June 2018 Rachmi Hertani (Global Justice Executive Director in Indonesia and Member of AEPF International Organising Committee) suggested that this cooperation could be extended to other areas, too. Rachmi proposed the topic of digital revolution as a common project. The societies of both Europe and Asia are affected by the challenges of the digital revolution. In many parts of Europe, the German term Industry 4.0 is now used for specific developments in industry. Interestingly, the Indonesian state has adopted this term, too. Indonesia is currently in the process of creating its own development plan based on the digital revolution in trade and production.
What does this development mean for workers and for the socio-ecological transformation of our societies? The future of these technologies is not only determined by class struggle in the nation states, but at least as important is the influence of international trade policy. Here, agreements such as TTIP, TiSA and the negotiations in the WTO are relevant. We wanted to discuss this whole complex of questions from the digital revolution, future of work, trade policy and intervention possibilities for a radical left politics.
On 30th September 2018 at the APEF Open Space session on “The New Face of Globalization and New Model of Capitalism Monopoly” we discussed these issues. The following speakers discussed different aspects of this bundle of challenges and opportunities:
Roland Kulke gave an introduction focusing on the social construction of supposedly materialistic technological revolution, but also it real-political influence on power politics between states and last not least on possible positive alternatives for the “common women and men”.
Matteo Gaddi from Punto Rosso (Milan, Italy) gave a detailed introduction on what actually industry 4.0 means. What are the specific technical developments, in which way are global value chains restructured by these developments, how do capitalists try control the body and indirectly the “soul” of the workers?
Nadia Garbellini, also form Punto Rosso, “politicized” this analysis in describing the challenges and possibilities of transnational workers cooperation along the world wide web of global value chains. The current state of late capitalism is defined by the strategic positioning of the logistic sector. Punto Rosso does currently research on how this strategic sector can be used for the workers advantage.
Olisias Gultom from Indonesia for Global Justice discussed the critical points of the Indonesian industry 4.0 plan. The challenge for the Indonesian economy is its weak industrial bases so that the plan focuses too much on trade facilitation inside the national economy. Olisias pointed out that the result might be that in the first step capitalistic relations are spreading further into the “arteries” of the Indonesian society, but only in the sphere of distribution, not of production, therefore not having any positive productive input. In the second step international capital (GAFA) might take over these established relations and thereby steering the Indonesian society by remote control.
Tony Salvador from Third World Network connected the discussion from the European and Indonesian examples with the fight on the global level regarding trade rules. The EU is busy preparing the possible next WTO e-commerce negotiations round. The EU appears to want WTO-Members to open public procurement to companies from any other country in the world, even for those who do not have a national presence. This would be the end of policy were LDCs can support their own local economies with public procurement. In the area of data, the EU does not want to have any obligation of local storage although data is the most valuable resource for a nation today.
In the discussion several concrete examples were discussed were workers gained ground because they could find fissures in the new digital economy to intervene in their regard.
In June and September 2017, the two Volvo factories in Ghent (Volvo-cars from the Chinese Geely with 5000 workers and Volvo-truck from the French Renault with 3000 workers) had a strike for several days.
The reason of the strike was not wages or jobs, but the space of production, the lack of respect by the management and what Belgian trade unions call “workable work” related to the new law “Workable and flexible work” that is introduced by the Belgian government in implementation of the European Agenda 2020.
The workers used new ways of intervention in the production process as new technologies can also provide new resistance possibilities. The new possibilities in the Volvo factories were based on the Andon system, which is a Japanese (Toyota Production System) management system. This system enhanced the responsibility of each worker but on the other hand strengthens the power of each single worker, as each one has the ability to stop the whole production line in case of problems such as: exhaustion of components, a defect created or detected, misfuelling of equipment or the existence of a safety problem. Work is suspended until a solution is found.
The same pattern is seen in other shops of “workable work” movement: the will to take position in the shop and use the fragility of the generalized management by stress. During the LIDL strike this was used by blocking the distribution centers. Management of LIDL was obliged to increase the number of workforces in the shops.
It was also mentioned that one of the most important international debates, the one on Commons, is highly affected by industry 4.0, especially if we consider the socio-psychological results of the new management methods which could be called “Taylorisation of the brains”. Current strikes in Poland prove the necessity of active collaboration, both at the microlevel of human relations but at the same time to collaborate internationally. Only transnational strikes can function today in these interconnected times. An open question, which needs further debate and analysis is how we can link the fight on industry 4.0 with the necessary reconstruction of our economies in the face of the increasing climate crisis.