International Labor Communication by Computer: The Fifth International?

Peter Waterman
Institute of Social Studies, Netherlands


The old internationalism, both provoked by and modeled on the capitalism of iron, steam, and rail, is dead. An informed and globalized capitalism provides both the provocation and the means for a more advanced type. The old international labor and socialist movements did not understand communication or the media, seeing them primarily as a means to an organizational and institutional end. The new social movements are creating a new kind of internationalism, or global solidarity, this being in large part a "communication internationalism."

Communication is increasingly understood here as both means and end. The development of international labor communication by computer results in large part from (1) an initiative by the "alternative" international labor organizations, and (2) a response from the traditional international union organizations. Examples of both are presented. As these two distinct forces interact and converge, they reveal problems facing the project. The two have been able to collaborate by avoiding discussion on the major political, communications, and computer issues. These are identified and solutions suggested. It will become increasingly necessary to research, theorize, and strategize international labor communication by computer if the development is not to reproduce dominant international relations and communications practices-or traditional international labor ones, for that matter.