Consulting

I have consulted trade unions both in Germany (ver.di, IG Metall) and Britain (Unison) in following areas: – membership development and engagement – organizing drives – industrial disputes I’ve also worked as an independent researcher for a Trades Union Congress (TUC) Project.

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Talks

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Academic Presentations

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Teaching

Taught Courses I have taught and lectured in following undergraduate and postgraduate courses at Queen Mary University of London, School of Business and Management Comparative Employment Relations (PGR) Work & Employment in Context (UGR) Employment Relations (UGR)    

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Book Reviews

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Publications

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Academic Writings

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Curriculum Vitae

CV 2017 2018 Teaching Position QM MB by Mark Bergfeld on Scribd

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Public Engagements

Bergfeld, Mark, 20 Nov 2013, Paper Presenter at Generations of Protest: Marxism Matters?, De Montfort University, Title of Paper: The role of anarchists in Occupy Bergfeld, Mark, 14 Nov 2013, Panelist at Essex Radical Conference, University of Essex, Social Movements and Activism Today Bergfeld, Mark, 3 Nov 2012, Paper presenter at ‘Our universities are not […]

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Public Sociology

2017 Willkommenskultur durch Arbeitsmarktintegration? Ansatzpunkte gewerkschaftlicher Arbeit mit Geflüchteten, labournet Germany & express – Zeitung für sozialistische Betriebs- und Gewerkschaftsarbeit (September 2017)  2016   2015   2014 Bergfeld, Mark, 11 Jan 2014, Beyond the Hashtags? Gezi Park and the AKP’s Media Power, ROAR Magazine Bergfeld, Mark, Jan 2014, Regime Crisis in Turkey, Counterfire  Bergfeld, Mark, […]

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Consulting

I have consulted trade unions both in Germany (ver.di, IG Metall) and Britain (Unison) in following areas:
– membership development and engagement
– organizing drives
– industrial disputes

I’ve also worked as an independent researcher for a Trades Union Congress (TUC) Project.

Talks

Academic Presentations

Teaching

Taught Courses

I have taught and lectured in following undergraduate and postgraduate courses at Queen Mary University of London, School of Business and Management

  • Comparative Employment Relations (PGR)
  • Work & Employment in Context (UGR)
  • Employment Relations (UGR)

 

 

Book Reviews

Publications

Academic Writings

Curriculum Vitae

CV 2017 2018 Teaching Position QM MB by Mark Bergfeld on Scribd

Public Engagements

Bergfeld, Mark, 20 Nov 2013, Paper Presenter at Generations of Protest: Marxism Matters?, De Montfort University, Title of Paper: The role of anarchists in Occupy

Bergfeld, Mark, 14 Nov 2013, Panelist at Essex Radical Conference, University of Essex, Social Movements and Activism Today

Bergfeld, Mark, 3 Nov 2012, Paper presenter at ‘Our universities are not supermarkets’ Conference at SOAS, London. Title of the Paper: Can students strike? Lessons from the Quebec student movement

Bergfeld, Mark, 7 Jul 2012, Paper presenter together with Hossam El-Hamalawy at Marxism Conference at UCL, London. Title of Paper: Revolution 2.0? Social movements and Social Media

Bergfeld, Mark, 22 Jun 2012, Speaker, ND-Haus, Was ist ziviler Ungehorsam?, Marx‘ is Muss-Kongress, organised by Marx21 (Die Linke)

Bergfeld, Mark, 15 Jun 2012, Paper presenter at For a Public University! Conference at Nottingham University Title of Paper: Neoliberal universities, neoliberal students? – Rediscovering the subjectivity of students

Bergfeld, Mark, 23 May 2012, Crisis & Resistance in Europe: How can the 99% win?, Augustine United Church, Edinburgh

Bergfeld, Mark, 6 Apr 2012, Discussant, with Sukant Chandan, What’s really behind Syria’s uprising, Shia Ithna’ashari Community of Middlesex (SICM)

Bergfeld, Mark, 11 Dec 2011, Discussant with Andrej Hunko MdB, Nicole Gohlke MdB, Haris Triandafilidou SYRIZA, „Krise und Protest in Europa. Ein Erfahrungsaustausch”, Studierendenkonferenz der Fraktion DIE LINKE. im Bundestag, Berlin

Bergfeld, Mark, Nov 2011, Discussant with Vegard Velle from Norwegian TUC, After Breivik: The fight against fascism in Europe, Marxisme, Copenhagen, Denmark

Bergfeld, Mark, 6 Oct 2011, Panelist with Owen Jones, Laurie Penny, Alan Whitaker UCU, Education Against Austerity, London School of Economics Students’ Union, London

Bergfeld, Mark 1 Oct, 2011, Panelist with French, Greek and Spanish student activists, Coalition of Resistance Conference ‘Europe Against Austerity, Camden Centre, London

Bergfeld, Mark 22 Jun 2011, Panelist with Mark Serwotka, John McDonnell MP, Unite the Resistance Meeting, Friends Meeting House, London

Bergfeld, Mark, 22 May 2011, Panelist with Tony Kearns Vice-President CWU, Communication Workers Union Congress, Meeting ‘Stop the Cuts’, BIC Bournemouth

Bergfeld, Mark, 12 May 2011, Paper presenter at Euro-Mediterranean conference ‘Rivolta di una generazione’ at Political Science, Faculty at La Sapienza, Rome, Italy Title of paper: Yearning for autonomy?  – Global youth revolts in context

Bergfeld, Mark, 29 Apr 2011, Panelist with Len McLuskey, George Galloway, Rally to Defend the Right to Protest, Strathclyde University, Glasgow

Bergfeld, Mark, 12 Feb 2011, Panelist with Michael Chessum (NCAFC), A people’s convention to build resistance to cuts and austerity, Right to Work Campaign, Friends Meeting House, London

Bergfeld, Mark, Dec 2010, Speaker, Solidarity with the Student movement, RMT Union Underground Engineering branch, London

Bergfeld, Mark, 15 Nov 2010, Main speaker,Where next after the national demo?, Education Activist Network, King’s College London.

Bergfeld, Mark, Nov 2010, Speaker, Solidarity with the Student movement, Financial Times, NUJ Chapel, London

Bergfeld, Mark, 31 Oct 2010, Panelist with John McDonnell MP: Time to Fight for Education, London Region UCU

Bergfeld, Mark, 15 May 2010, Panelist with Owen Holland (Sussex University), Stop the Cuts – Defend Jobs and Education, Steve Biko Building, University of Manchester

Bergfeld, Mark, 28 Oct 2008, Main Speaker: Another Education Is Possible Conference, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Public Sociology

2017

Willkommenskultur durch Arbeitsmarktintegration? Ansatzpunkte gewerkschaftlicher Arbeit mit Geflüchteten, labournet Germany & express – Zeitung für sozialistische Betriebs- und Gewerkschaftsarbeit (September 2017) 

2016

 

2015

 

2014

Bergfeld, Mark, 11 Jan 2014, Beyond the Hashtags? Gezi Park and the AKP’s Media Power, ROAR Magazine

Bergfeld, Mark, Jan 2014, Regime Crisis in Turkey, Counterfire 

Bergfeld, Mark, Jan 2014, Tot pot canviar un dia d’any nou…, En Lluita (Catalan)

Bergfeld, Mark, Jan 2014, The world according to Merkel, Al-Jazeera English

2013

Bergfeld, Mark, Sep 2013, The Many Faces of Frau Merkel, Al-Jazeera English 

Bergfeld, Mark, July 2013, ¿Por qué Marx tenía razón, GRUNDmagazine #4

Bergfeld, Mark, July 2013, The Pop-Up Union at Sussex: Start with Solidarity, Socialist Review

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Brasilien: Die Bewegung ist ein Schlachtfeld, Neues Deutschland, 28/06/2013

Bergfeld, Mark, June 2013, A Brazilian Autumn? An Interview with Miguel Borba de Sa, Jacobin Magazine

–          Translated into Spanish by José for GRUNDmagazine

–          Translation into Norwegian by Joakim Møllersen for Radikal Portal

–          Featured on Salon.com, Left Unity, Socialist Worker (US)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, How #OccupyGezi could transform society, New Statesman

–          Translated into Norwegian by Helle Håkonsen for Radikal Portal

–          Featured on Pluto Press

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Food Fights Against Austerity, Climate & Capitalism Journal,

–          Translated into German by Rosenrot for DieFreiheitsliebe.de

–          Translated into Norwegian by Hallgeir Opdal  for Radikal Portal and Ni Tyd (print only)

–          Translated into Spanish by José for GRUNDmagazine

–          Translated into Greek by George Venizelos (forthcoming)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Interview with Dan Swain: Marx’s Theory of Alienation, Socialist Project (Canada),

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Interview with Francisco Louҫa, leading member of Bloco and Economist, Monthly Review Zine

–          Translated into Italian by Giuseppe Volpe for Z Net Italia

–          Translated into Spanish by Viento Sur

–          Translated into French by Presse-Toi A Gauche

–          Featured in International Viewpoint IV461, Socialist Worker (US)

Bergfeld, Mark, 22 May 2013, Der Anfang einer Krise des Regimes, Neues Deutschland

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, New struggles, New unions? On the Pop-Up Union at Sussex University, Ceasefire Magazine,

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Portugal: I Prefer The Horses In My Lasagne To The Donkeys In The Government, Monthly Review Zine

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Portugal: Police Batons for Protesters and Rubber Bullets for the Kids of Bela Vista, Monthly Review Zine

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, Victory for Quebec students! Lessons from a strike, Adbusters Online

Bergfeld, Mark, Dec 2012, Crisis and Resistance in Portugal, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=12165

–          Featured on RC44 – Research Committee on Labour Movements, Socialist Project (Canada), Global Research (Canada), Left Unity, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, Portugal: When ‘good students’ turn sour, Trade Union and Global Restructuring, source: http://andreasbieler.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/portugal-when-good-students-turn-sour.html (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, Occupy: How Do You Build A Movement?, The Occupied Times London, source: http://theoccupiedtimes.org/?p=6448 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, Germany: The Rise of The Pirate Party, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=12051 (accessed 13/06/2013)

–          Translated into Dutch by Socialisme.nu

http://socialisme.nu/blog/nieuws/29967/hoe-rebels-is-de-duitse-piratenpartij/

 

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, From Quebec to London: Is Student Power on the Rise?, The Occupied Times London, source:  http://theoccupiedtimes.org/?p=5945 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, New Battles in Higher Education, The Occupied Times London, source: http://theoccupiedtimes.org/?p=3099 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2010, Education Demolition, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=11440 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2010, „The Birth of the Climate Justice Movement”, The Essex Graduate Journal of Sociology, Vol.10, source: http://www.essex.ac.uk/sociology/documents/pdf/graduate_journal/10-11/the_essex_graduate_journal_of_sociology_2010.pdf (accessed 13/06/2013)

 

 

Reviews

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013 (forthcoming), Ed. Laura Khatib – We Are Many: Reflections on Movement Strategy & Graeber, David – The Democracy Project, Contention Journal

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013 (forthcoming), Book review: Luis Suarez-Villa-Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013 (forthcoming), Alice Mattoni- Media Practice and Protest Politics: How Precarious Workers Mobilise, Interface Journal

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Shelley Streebey – Radical Sensations: World Movements, Violence and Visual Culture, Left Eye On Books

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Book review: Richard Wolff – Democracy at Work: The Cure for Capitalism, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=12252 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Book review: Campbell Jones – Can the Market Speak, Berlin Review of Books, source: http://berlinbooks.org/brb/2013/04/can-the-market-speak/ (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, Book review: Eds. Sasha Lilley – Catastrophism, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=12202 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, Book review: Eds. Tad Tietze & Elizabeth Humphreys – On Utoya, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=12007 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, Book Review: Stefan Collini – What Are Universities For?, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=11972 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2011, Book Review: Lucio Magri – The Tailor of Ulm: A Possible History of Communism in the Twentieth Century by Lucio Magri, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=11847

Bergfeld, Mark, 2011, Book review: Lars T Lih – Lenin (Critical Lives series), Marx & Philosophy Review of Books, source: http://marxandphilosophy.org.uk/reviewofbooks/reviews/2012/602 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2010, Film Review: No Impact Man, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=11390 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2010, Book Review: Meszaros, Istvan – The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time, International Socialism Journal 125, source: http://www.isj.org.uk/?id=628 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2010, Book Review: Derek Wall – The Rise of the Green Left: Inside the Worldwide Ecosocialist Movement, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=11454 (accessed 13/06/2013)

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Where’s the Power in the Union? Some considerations on trade unions and social media

By on February 1, 2015 in internet, social media, Social Movements, Trade Unions

The chorus to IWW labour organiser Joe Hill’s song “Power in the Union” (1913) reads “There is pow’r there is pow’r in a band of workingmen, when they stand hand in hand. That must rule in every land—One Industrial Union Grand”. Where’s the power of the union today?

Hill refers to organisational power vis-à-vis the collective action of working people. However, workers also possess other forms of power. While trade unions and labour scholars have concentrated their efforts on the above as well as institutional and structural forms of power, symbolic and (social) media power play less of a role in theory and practice. This piece is a starting point for a debate on what role symbolic and (social) media power can play in organising workers.

The Loss of Institutional Power

Union’s institutional powers are economic, political and legal. Unions in Germany, for example, have relied on their institutional power rather than their structural or organisational power following WWII and during the time of the expansion of the welfare state. They continue to do so despite shedding millions of members, real declining wages since the 1990s and a reconfiguration of the social partnership.

Collective bargaining agreements, recognition, political representation and rights such as the right to strike are the source of union’s institutional power within capitalist societies. Yet, declining union membership and ever fewer number of workers covered by collective bargaining agreements undermine union’s institutional power. Too frequently, this loss of institutional power is popularised into “workers don’t have power”.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Industrial relations scholar Klaus Dörre rightly points out: “The erosion of institutional power as it occurs in metropolitan capitalisms today is not allowed to be equated with the general disappearance of workers’ power” (my transl.) (Dörre 2008:4)

In some cases, unions’ loss of institutional power has facilitated a shift to concentrate on their organisational or structural power through organising projects in key industries (the new economy, call centres, food factories) or amongst new groups of female and migrant workers.

Is Structural Power Enough?

The loss of institutional power facilitates the view that unions have moved away from organisations of working class representation to special interest groups. Dörre develops the view that this facilitates a schism between structurally powerful groups of workers and those who have lost their institutional power (rf. Dörre 2008:7).

Structurally powerful groups of workers include train conductors, dock workers and airline pilots to name a few. Their power defines itself through their position in the production and circulation of capital. The fact that an increasingly small number of workers hold ever greater structural power is one of the great paradoxes of globalization. Yet, this form of power is primarily objective insofar that it does not depend on levels of class consciousness, organisation or their activity. It is a potentiality. The recent train conductor strike of the GdL, the Lufthansa air pilot strike or the 2010 BA cabin crew strike illuminate that structurally powerful groups of workers have used their power most recently.

Paradoxically, structurally weak white collar professionals (i.e. public school teachers, social workers etc.) can become to structurally powerful groups due to shortages of supply in the labour market. It is unclear whether groups of workers have used this source of structural power to their advantage, and fought for higher wages.

Recently, I spoke to a union organiser of university cleaners. He argued that unions such as the British RMT simply could rely on their “industrial muscle”. They could shut down the tube and live with negative press coverage, the demonization of their leaders or non-reporting. Does this suffice, or do we need to account for other forms of power?

Organisational Power

In light of these developments, workers’ organisational power is crucial if labour is to increase its share of wealth within the current framework of capitalist social relations or point to alternatives beyond. Organisational power comes about when a group of people start to organize together and pursue their interests through collective organisation and common action. That is, when workers strike, picket, or occupy, for example.

The dominant form of rebuilding organisational power has been through organizing drives spanning from short-lived projects to a number of years. Re-building organisational power has been seen as a means to regain institutional power first and foremost. This is at one and the same time, a product of union’s waning institutional power as well as a strategic choice.

In the past or under different institutional arrangements

“(t)he great movements (…) mobbed the houses of the rich, helped steal the slave property of the south, shut down the mines and factories and even occupied them, rioted in the big cities” (Piven in Eds. Khatib 2012:378).

More recently, French workers have made use of the tactic come to known as “bossnapping”. Journalist Paul Mason has described these actions as the “power of mayhem” (Mason, 2012). This power is only used infrequently by unions in countries such as Germany or the UK.

The question has much more focussed on how organisational power can translate into membership empowerment vis-à-vis participatory and democratic structures. In their study on female union leadership, Kirton and Lieberwitz write that

“union leaders should deploy power to include members in decision-making and the purpose of gaining power should be to serve members’ interests, rather than to gain positional power for the sake of personal aggrandizement or to dominate others by deploying personal and technical power resources.” (Kirton & Lieberwitz in Eds. Kirton & Healy 2013:122)

This shifts the focus of the debate on how unions can use and expand their power from the macro level to the intra-organisational level. In doing so, Kirton et al. raise pertinent questions as to how power can be distributed and asymmetries can be challenged at a time when institutional power is waning, structural power might exacerbate schisms and inequalities amongst workers and organisational power has to be re-built from bottom-up.

Toward Symbolic and (social) media power

To their disadvantage, trade unions and labour scholars often dismiss forms of symbolic or (social) media power. The following quote highlights this:

 “Our vision of trade unionism is realized through in practical work through many small steps. Given fields of activity need to be used successfully. Ideologically-motivated symbolic politics doesn’t lead us anywhere.” (Schmoldt in Schulte 1996:66)

This is a mistake when Greece’s 32 general strikes since 2010 had no significant economic effect according to Wall Street journalists and analysts (Moffat et al. 2012) yet SYRIZA’s electoral victory sends shivers down the spine of the German Bundesbank, and the European Central Bank. What implications does this have for union organising and rebuilding organisational power?

The organizer of the cleaners’ campaign claimed that positive articles about their campaign in the Guardian and the Independent contributed to building power in two inter-related ways. Firstly, they boosted the morale of the strikers as their demands were legitimized by the press. Secondly, they created reputational damage to the university itself. These two forms of power fit into neither of the three above-mentioned categories. The organiser defines a new type of power which has been so eloquently summarised by media scholar Paolo Gerbaudo: “It is communication that organises, rather than organisation that communicates.” (Gerbaudo 2012:139)

Of course, communicating one’s point of view through symbolic actions or the media will not suffice to stem the tide of union decline but expands a union’s power in novel ways. This flashmob by Wal-Mart workers in Raleigh, North Carolina (below) is not only an innovative tactic but consciously engages with media power by recording their action for YouTube. In doing so, the workers build their organisational power and at the same time mediate themselves in front of three audiences: (1) management, (2) customers and (3) a digital audience. Especially the latter outshines quantitatively with its 1.375million YouTube views. This group of workers show that symbolic and media power can and should play a role in union organising.

Similarly, a group of hotel workers fighting to win a fair contract and affordable health care at a hotel in San Francisco, USA performed “Don’t get caught in a bad hotel” – a parody of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. By getting help from a group of LGBTQ activists they displayed the usefulness of this “outside” and “external” power.

Harnessing symbolic and (social) media power could particularly help campaigns of non-traditional, fragmented, casualised, migrant and female workers who don’t fit the mould of the typical union member and activist. Writing about the movements of 2011, Gerbaudo writes:

“social media have been chiefly responsible for the construction of a choreography of assembly as a process of symbolic construction in the public space which facilitates and guides the physical assembling of a highly dispersed and individualised constituency.” (Gerbaudo 2012:5)

While unions could expand their power through the use of such tactics, there’s a need for labour scholars to come to terms with what this means for the future of trade union activism and how it relates to the traditional forms of union power.

References

Dörre, Klaus (2008) Die strategische Wahl der Gewerkschaften – Erneuerung duch Organizing?, WSI Mitteilungen 1/2008

Gerbaudo, Paolo (2012) Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Forms of Activism (Pluto Press)

Eds. Khatib, Kate (2012) We Are Many: Reflections on Movement Strategy from Occupation to Liberation (AK Press)

Eds. Kirton, Gill & Healy (2013) Gender and Leadership in Unions (Routledge)

Mason, Paul (2012) Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere (Verso)

Moffett, Matt; Brat, Ilan; Kowsmann, Patricia (2012) Big Europe Strikes Have Little Effect, Wall Street Journal 14 Nov 2012, source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324556304578118263611154772 (accessed 26/01/2015)

Eds. Schulte, Dieter (1996) Global denken – sozial handeln: Neue Perspektiven der Gewerkschaften (rororo-aktuell)

 

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