Labor studies in Latin America have undergone important transformations in the early 21st century. Workers in several countries have contested the flexible processes of labor and work that were common through the 1980s and 1990s and the labor movement has transformed some of its traditional strategies. As a consequence, the field is witnessing important debates, such as those linked to the spatiality of labor strategies, the emergence of a broader notion of work, and the potential networks among labor and other struggles.
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Omar Manky Bonilla
Jens Ladefoged Mortensen
In a time of trade wars, free trade skepticism, tech rivalry, and multipolar disorder, the European Union (EU) cannot evade its responsibilities the last defender of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Yet, it raises the question of whether the EU has power to defend the WTO. The EU is a multilateralist-oriented power of global magnitude. Unlike the United States, the EU is openly defending the WTO in the current crisis created by continued refusal to appointment WTO Appellate Body members. Like the United States, the EU is concerned with the illegitimate trade practices of China. Yet, the EU uses diplomatic pressure on China within the rules of the WTO. The EU is actively trying to rescue the rule-based trade system. Yet, it cannot do so alone. It needs support, not just form other WTO members but also from within Europe itself. The current crisis is in part rooted in the inability of the WTO members to update the WTO rulebook. The focus will be on the potential clash between a more assertive EU on sustainability and the absence of updated WTO rules on sustainable trade issues. This may force the EU to confront a deep-rooted policy dilemma. The question is whether the EU should continue to refrain from using its market power to promote sustainable trade in respect of the WTO. As the EU is about to ratify several bilateral trade agreements of commercial, geo-economic, and indeed geo-political importance, such as the EU–Mercosur or EU–Vietnam agreements, the rule-orientation of the EU faces growing domestic opposition as well as external contestation. Furthermore, the EU is modernizing its trade defense weaponry, the antidumping instrument, and has recently declared its intent to impose unilateral climate-related trade policy measures, the carbon-adjustment tariff, in the future. Thus, an incident such as the burning of the Amazon forest may force the EU to take a tougher stance on sustainability at the risk of bringing the EU on a collision course with the WTO itself, its rules, process, and member states. Consequently, the complex setup of the EU as a trade power could make it difficult to ratify WTO-compatible trade agreements in the future.
Ransford Edward Van Gyampo and Nana Akua Anyidoho
The youth in Africa have been an important political force and performed a wide range of roles in the political field as voters, activists, party members, members of parliament, ministers, party “foot soldiers,” and apparatchiks. Although political parties, governments, and other political leaders often exploit young people’s political activity, their participation in both local and national level politics has been significant. In the academic literature and policy documents, youth are portrayed, on the one hand, as “the hope for the future” and, on the other, as a disadvantaged and vulnerable group. However, the spread of social media has created an alternative political space for young people. Active participation of young people in politics through social media channels suggests that they do not lack interest in politics, but that the political systems in Africa marginalize and exclude them from political dialogue, participation, decision-making, and policy implementation. The solution to the problem of the exclusion of young people from mainstream politics would involve encouraging their participation in constitutional politics and their greater interest and involvement in alternative sites, goals, and forms of youth political activism in contemporary Africa.
Scholars of Latin American social movements since the 1980s have sought to explain the apparent upswing in cycles of contentious politics, the innovative characteristics of these new movements, and variations in how they interact with or sidestep conventional institutional politics. The regional context for these developments is very different from the postmaterialist conditions said to have spawned European “new social movements” since the 1970s revolving around identity and values, such as ecology, peace, gay rights, and women’s movements. Relevant causal factors for Latin America’s contemporary movements include popular reaction against neoliberal policies imposed by international financial institutions and brokered by national governments. Another factor was the transition from military authoritarianism in much of the region, inaugurating a struggle between political elites with a liberal-representative vision of democratization and social movements favoring radical/participatory democracy. The era of globalization also brought reexamination of the citizenship pact and of the hegemonic (mestizo) construction of the nation-state, fueling a reinvigoration of indigenous movements, some with their own cosmovisions of buen vivir (living well) that destabilized mainstream notions of the political. The interplay between party-electoral politics and grassroots movement activism took place against the backdrop of the “pink tide” of elected leftist governments, which swept much of the region in the first decade of the 21st century and subsequently appeared to recede. Throughout this period, scholars and activists alike debated whether fundamental change could best be achieved by movements pushing parties and governments to use state power to enact reforms or by movements themselves adopting radically horizontal and inclusive patterns of organizing—“new ways of doing politics”—that would transform society from below. The January 1, 1994, Zapatista uprising among mostly Maya peasants in the poor southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, launched the day the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect, became emblematic of new ways of doing politics from below. What began as a rebellion of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional [EZLN]) quickly morphed into a social movement that both criticized national and global power structures and sought to empower local communities through everyday practices of de facto autonomy. Negotiations with the state over indigenous rights and culture quickly broke down, but the Zapatistas proceeded anyway to develop their own structures of self-government, autonomous education, healthcare, justice, and agrarian and economic relations, among other innovative practices. The Zapatista movement continues to raise important issues such as the role of culture and identity in popular mobilization, the social spaces for organizing in an era of globalization, the new characteristics of movements that practice alternative forms of prefigurative politics, and the possibility of redefining power from below. Scholars of the Zapatista movement have also posed probing self-reflective questions about the adequacy of conventional definitions of politics and Western positivist epistemologies and about the need for decolonizing research in indigenous and other oppressed communities.
Martin Revayi Rupiya
In post-conflict states, the establishment of institutions, as part of state formation, is carefully managed in order to prevent the resumption of fighting amongst former armed groups. In the transition from colonial Rhodesia to present Zimbabwe, the process was guided by the provisions contained in the December 2, 1979 Lancaster House Agreement (LHA) reached in London by parties in dispute. The LHA provided for a finely balanced political power sharing arrangement during the first decade between the minority white and the majority African population. This was divided and embedded for the next ten years, in a ratio of 20 to 80 seats, respectively, in the new National Assembly. The accord’s underlying assumption was, therefore, that the African majority represented a cohesive and united group. Given the end of the conflict with a ceasefire signed by the political entities, each with a highly charged armed group—comprising the Rhodesian Security Forces (RSF), former combatants of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), and the Zimbabwe Peoples’ Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA)—an urgent, parallel process to establish an integrated force was also in support of the new administration that would emerge from the two scheduled electoral processes. Since the creation of the Zimbabwean state, in April 1980, the security establishment has evolved into a highly politicized institution in support of the ruling party and executive, ultimately serving as the alternative to electoral legitimacy, placing them at odds with the citizenry. In examining the transformation over nearly four decades, the evidence reveals three distinct steps that began by invitation, between 1980 and 2001, against actual and perceived political opposition. This was followed by the second step, made explicit on January 9, 2002, when the full repertoire of top generals in full regalia appeared on television redefining the criteria of the presidency, outside the electoral norm but in support of the incumbent in an incestuous relationship. This position persisted from January 2002 until November 2017. On November 21, 2017, President Robert Mugabe was compelled to tender his resignation following his isolation after the violent seizure of power through Operation Restore Legacy on November 14–15. From that moment on, the military establishment in Zimbabwe, working closely with a political faction of the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF), fully grasped political power. On December 18, 2017, a formal announcement ending Operation Restore Legacy was made together with the parallel retirement and appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lieutenant General Constantine Chiwenga as the new first Vice President of the country, accompanied by the Air Marshall, Perence Shiri, who became the Minister of Agriculture, and Major General Sibusiso Moyo who, at dawn on the November 15th had appeared on television announcing what has since been described as the military-assisted transition (MAT), appointed as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs among others. All the senior officers cited also became members of the ruling party, ZANU (PF)’s highest decision-making echelons of the politburo and central committee, which was now headed by Major General Engelbert Rugeje, also immediately retired, to become the new commissar or secretary general. Relying on secondary sources, observation, and minutes of confidential meetings, the discussion provides a better understanding of why and how the political role of the military emerged almost in parallel with independence in 1980, how the institution evolved, away from the LHA plan, and what it became following the reticent and acrimonious departure of Mugabe, expelled from ZANU (PF) and compelled to resign after 38 years in power and at the helm. In the aftermath, the military has become the arbiter and kingmaker, again continuing to negate the electoral processes while observing minimally constitutional and normative provisions for purposes of retaining sub-regional, SADC, and African Union continental, multilateral support. Significantly, even with the naked politicization of the military amid the militarization of Zimbabwean politics, woven into revolutionary neo-colonial rhetoric, there has been no sufficient expectation or resolve to have Mugabe or the country’s institutions observe norms of democratic governance, particularly as leaders of the majority of African states appear convinced that, in fact, the crisis in Zimbabwe is about the continuing decolonization agenda against which revolutionary, violent methods are justified. To this end, the involvement of the political opposition receiving explicit support from the former colonial power—for instance, Joshua Nkomo exiled in Britain during the 1980s, and later the expressed support by British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, for Morgan Tsvangirai and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)—only reinforced these impressions. Consequently, amongst the African member states, there is an unrealistic expectation that political changes will emerge from ZANU PF reforming and aligning itself to the democratic agenda. In their view, the opposition MDC is but merely a protest movement, not credited as a possible alternative government in waiting.
The persistent and changing forms of military interventions in global politics present continuing challenges for democratic agendas. Authoritarian regimes in Africa bolstered by militarist structures limit the possibilities for democratic alternatives. This can lead to desperate hopes that some form of militarism is a necessary prerequisite for democratic transition sometimes with the assistance of a popular sense of appeal. The outcome of such interventions is often a prelude to yet another round of authoritarian politics. In countries like Zimbabwe embedded in a Southern African region with a history of armed liberation struggles the narratives of a liberating militarism remain strong, as does the official ownership of the liberation narratives and the purported trajectory they should follow. However as these liberation parties face growing challenges from opposition voices that contest for their own claims on liberation histories, divisions and factions within the dominant parties have increased. The future of these struggles remains uncertain but there is a growing danger that a global preference for any form of political stabilization will marginalize the more difficult challenges of developing democratic alternatives.