Rohini Hensman

Rohini Hensman

Doctor of Philosophy

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113
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Introduction
Skills and Expertise

Publications

Publications (113)
Article
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On July 14, 2022, Sri Lanka’s parliamentary speaker announced that he had accepted the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, sent by email from Singapore where he had fled via The Maldives. That this former military commander – known as ‘the terminator’ due to his propensity to get critics assassinated – was forced to resign by an overwhelmi...
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Since Christianity emerged as a movement of the poor, it is understandable that early Christianity was hostile to the wealthy and powerful, and this hostility has been transmitted through the ages to anti-capitalist or socialist Christians in India, Sri Lanka and other countries. However, after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman...
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The personal and the political are intertwined so tightly in Gita Ramaswamy’s Land Guns Caste Woman: Memoir of a Lapsed Revolutionary that it would be impossible to separate them. Another running thread is intersectionality: the way in which different axes of privilege and oppression interact, sometimes reinforcing each other but also sometimes wor...
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This article uses the relationship between Russia and Ukraine to explore what various Marxists have said about socialist internationalism in such a context. It argues that it is essential to support struggles for national liberation or independence against imperialist oppression, which depends on ethnic supremacism to justify that oppression. It al...
Book
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First published in 1993 by the British Refugee Council, Journey without a Destination is the story of Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war, told in the words of those displaced by the fighting. Based on hundreds of interviews, it reveals the complexities of the situation from which they are fleeing, the multiple threats and traumas they face before, during...
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If someone suggested that we could understand the Black Lives Matter struggle without some knowledge of the historical background of slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow and so on, we would find it unconvincing, to put it mildly. But many on the left seem to think that they can comment on the crisis in Ukraine while being totally ignorant of that country's...
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The presumption that you can have only one national identity, belong only to one country, is part of a concept of identity and belonging that has never been realistic. To begin with, nation-states are, in historical terms, a relatively recent development, and were preceded by empires within which people moved from one place to another relatively fr...
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Given the centrality of labour-power to the accumulation of capital, struggles to transform the production of labour-power as a commodity into the production of physically and psychologically healthy, anti-authoritarian, egalitarian, loving, caring human beings is an absolutely vital part of the class struggle against capitalism. Myriads of such st...
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The central argument of this book is that 'Only a theory of strikes that goes beyond a focus on trade unions and the workplace will be able to grasp the forms of labour conflict that affect the majority of the world population, and the global working class, which lives in non-core countries' (p.3). Jörg Nowak states that this claim emerges from his...
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In Capital, Marx argues that capital, value-in-process, which can be studied like a process of ‘natural history’, should be the point of departure and point of arrival. Yet, implicitly, through his language, he recognises that only the activity of the proletariat in all its multifarious dimensions can constitute a dialectically valid point of depar...
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On 25 March 2021, the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA) was presented by a group of over 200 eminent Jewish scholars of antisemitism studies and related fields, some of whom had been engaged in discussion since June 2020. They defined antisemitism as follows: ‘Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews a...
Conference Paper
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This was a presentation at a Wages for Housework Symposium, 4-6 March 2021. It argues that the Wages for Housework campaigners were among the earliest to claim that domestic labour contributes to the value of labour-power, thus making a significant contribution to Marxist theory. However, the practical implementation of its central demand faces num...
Presentation
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This was a presentation on India to a panel discussion on 'Farmers' struggles from India to the US' on 27 February 2021. The other members of the panel were Vikas Rawal (also speaking on India) and LaShauna W. Austria, speaking about the USA. Swati Birla was asking the questions and chairing the discussion. The entire panel discussion can be viewed...
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The struggle for abortion rights continues to rage in the 21st century. On one side feminists, who see it as part of the struggle to establish a woman’s right to control her own body, and a wider constituency, who deplore the injury and death resulting from the lack of access to safe abortions, have campaigned energetically for abortion rights. On...
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Voters in the United States succeeded in ousting Donald Trump from power in 2020, despite concerted efforts by him and his supporters to steal the election. For many people in Third World countries, ousting an authoritarian regime is much harder. Despite manifold flaws in US democracy, the melodrama after the elections has revealed that election of...
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At 8 p.m. on 24 March 2020, a three-week total lockdown beginning at midnight, in just four hours, was announced in India. The worst impact was on informal workers, especially inter-state or intra-state migrants. As transport shut down and they lost their livelihoods and were evicted from their accommodation, tens of millions of them trecked back t...
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What happened in Russia in 1917 was neither the installation of a brutal dictatorship nor the inauguration of socialism. What we see instead is a trajectory that runs from a democratic revolution in 1917, through an undermining of democracy by the Bolsheviks, to a return to forms of absolutism and imperialism under Stalin; then a renewed attempt at...
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One common explanation for the growth of the far right and simultaneous decline of centre-right and centre-left parties is the espousal by the latter of neoliberal policies which have led to job losses, widespread poverty, and growing inequality. In many instances, they have also pandered to anti-immigrant sentiment instead of combating it. Since t...
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There have been many articles attempting to explain the crushing defeat of the Labour Party in the UK election of 12 December 2019. Some of them are very insightful, and list reasons that undoubtedly played a part in that defeat. However I have not come across any which highlight two factors that are important, namely insufficient internationalism...
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In the push and pull between authoritarianism and democracy in Sri Lanka, the former has won out more often than not. But the fact that the country is not a full-blown dictatorship today is a testament to a spirit of resistance that can’t be snuffed out.
Presentation
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Presentation for a panel on ‘Syria, the Eros Effect, and Pseudo-Anti-Imperialism’ at the eighth biennial International Herbert Marcuse Society Conference, ‘Critical Theory in Dark Times: The Prospects for Liberation in the Shadow of the Radical Right,’ held at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), October 10-12, 2019. All four panel pr...
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Review of Socialism and Commodity Production: Essay in Marx Revival by Paresh Chattopadhyay, Leiden, and Boston: Brill, 2018; pp xiii + 300, `8,175 (hardcover).
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Within each religion there are currents which embue it with very different and even diametrically opposite meanings. Versions of almost every religion span the entire spectrum from life-affirming love and respect for all humans to destructive hatred and violence against those who are defined as inferior or different. Therefore sweeping generalisati...
Presentation
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A presentation by Rohini Hensman at the launch of her book Indefensible: Democracy, Counter-Revolution, and the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism in the School of African and Asian Studies, University of London, on 16 July 2018. It was followed by a lively discussion chaired by Gilbert Achcar, Professor of Development Studies and International Relations...
Chapter
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Introduction to Indefensible: Democracy, Counter-Revolution, and the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism (Chicago: Haymarket Books) 2018
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Lenin, influenced by non-Russian Marxist parties in the empire's periphery, supported the right to national liberation of the former colonies of the tsarist empire, but after his death, Stalin carried out policies that were the polar opposite of those that Lenin subscribed to.
Presentation
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Presentation at a panel on 'Make in India: Indian Labour Reforms and Perspectives from Global Best Practices' at the 7th National IR Conference on 'Changing Labour Market and Industrial Relations, Changing Times: Make in India and Ensuing Labour Reforms' at XLRI, Jamshedpur, 9-10 January 2016.
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One of the most striking features of the report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Investigation on Sri Lanka, 2015 is its consistent effort to be even-handed in its view of Government of Sri Lanka and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam responsibility for atrocities. Significantly, it does not find evidence that the government or...
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The notion of ‘races’ divided by such fundamental and immutable differences that they cannot live together has long been rejected as unscientific and ideological. The notions of ‘nationalities’ and ‘ethnic groups’ at first seem more acceptable, yet they too are increasingly being used to refer to supposedly monolithic entities that are permanently...
Article
Change in Sri Lanka cannot end with the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa. An overhaul of the executive presidency and accountability for all war crimes going back to the 1970s need to be established and a new economic and social programme needs to be undertaken. A manifesto for the new Sri Lanka.
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A tribute to the Tamil doctor, feminist and human rights defender of Jaffna, Rajani Thiranagama, on her 25th death anniversary. She was killed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. This is an occasion to revisit the issues of self-determination, the strategy to prioritise certain forms of struggle over others, and the question of rebuilding the...
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Modern India’s relationship with the capitalist world economy has been through three broad phases. First, British colonialism ruined a flourishing textile industry in India and converted the country into a source of raw materials for its own manufacturing industry, forcing India into the position of a colony subordinate to an imperial power. Second...
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The conference on historical materialism in New Delhi recently was a major step towards the creation of a new culture of the left. Left-wing teachers, students, writers and activists from around the world and from diverse political backgrounds sharply disagreed in some of the sessions but the debates were respectful rather than polemical.
Conference Paper
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The debate on the veil or headscarf is often posed as a choice between supporting a racist and/or Islamophobic Right which is opposed to the veil, and supporting the right of Muslim women to wear the veil. Some left-wing political formations have opted unambiguously for supporting the right of women to wear the veil. This position draws heavily on...
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Book review of Godse's Children: Hindutva Terror in India by Subhash Gatade (New Delhi, Pharos Media and Publishing, 2011) and The Saffron Condition: The Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India by Subhash Gatade (Gurgaon, Three Essays Collective, 2011).
Presentation
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This is the text of a talk introducing my book Workers, Unions, and Global Capitalism: Lessons from India (Columbia University Press, New York, and Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2011) at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, on 23 January 2012. It was subsequently published as NMML Occasional Paper: Perspectives in Indian Development, New Se...
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From the partition of British India to the civil war in Sri Lanka, the attempt to impose national borders in accordance with ethnic, linguistic or religious identities in South Asia has spawned civil wars and crimes against humanity, resulting in almost unimaginable suffering and bloodshed. This is all the more preposterous in a region where migrat...
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The report by a UN panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka found credible allegations of war crimes as having been committed by both the Sri Lankan government's armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam at the end of the civil war between September 2008 and May 2009. Predictably, reactions from both the government as well as the...
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In a minor replay of 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Indian media have been gloating at the defeat of the Left Front in West Bengal especially and have repeatedly suggested that this signals the “end of the Left in India”. Even at the best of times our news channels tend to avoid serious analyses of the underlying trends within the countr...
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Introduction to Workers, Unions, and Global Capitalism: Lessons from India
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The class-struggle under capitalism is shaped by the fact that for capital, labour-power is merely a factor of production and source of profit, whereas for workers it is an element of their own lives. Given the centrality of labour-power to the accumulation of capital, it is surprising that Marx nowhere describes or analyses its production. The dom...
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Chapter 2 in Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Political Theory (ed. Mangesh Kulkarni, Sage Publications, India, 2011). Globalisation has become a buzz-word, yet there are widely differing conceptions of what it means. Part of the problem is that those who use the word seldom bother to define it. Prima facie, it would appear that a globalised world...
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The rushed passing of the 18th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution by parliament-allowing for greater powers and removal of term limits for the executive presidency-has precipitated the descent of Sri Lanka into a dictatorship. Both the ruling and the main opposition parties-not to mention the lax supreme court-are responsible for the current...
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If we define sovereignty as residing in all the people of a country, then they must have all the democratic rights and freedoms that enable them to exercise their sovereignty; and if we define self-determination as self-determination of the people, they too must have all these rights and freedoms. Defined in this way, there is no contradiction betw...
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The contemporary relevance of this film derives from the fact that, as the recent UN Report on the State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (United Nations 2010) reminds us, there are still 370 million indigenous people in the world, and many are still being subjected to displacement and dispossession, and suffer physical abuse, imprisonment, tortur...
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The economic liberalization programme begun in July 1991 initiated the globalization of the Indian economy. Faced with a crisis resulting from foreign exchange reserves sufficient for just a fortnight’s imports, the Congress government undertook some of the measures recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in the late 198...
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Workers’ rights in India were weakened since Independence by the large proportion of informal employees in the labour force. From the late 1970s, the situation deteriorated further, with attacks on unions by employers assisted by government policy. The attacks peaked during 1998-2004, after the globalization of the Indian economy from 1991 onwards,...
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The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been destroyed, but the future looks dismal for the Tamils and indeed for all of Sri Lanka. There are three critical and interlinked steps that need to be taken if the country is to have a political and economic future: demilitarisation, restoration of the rule of law (including curbing the powers of the ex...
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I was surprised to see that a piece I wrote recently for Groundviews was mentioned prominently in two articles in The Island last Saturday and Sunday. Since the original article was not published in the Island, and since the rejoinders misrepresent my argument in various ways, I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight. For t...
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Throughout the last stages of the civil war, the government of Sri Lanka claimed to be engaged in a hostage rescue mission on behalf of civilians in the Vanni who were being held against their will by the LTTE. How far are its words borne out by its actions? It is certainly true that the LTTE was keeping hundreds of thousands of civilians hostage a...
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The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's inhumane methods and the government of Sri Lanka's indiscriminate use offeree are responsible for the continuing slaughter in the Vanni region. With the LTTE facing imminent defeat, the renunciation of a purely military solution by the government is an alternative strategy that should help end the ongoing trag...
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Most explanations of the US-led global economic crisis in 2008 argue that it began with a financial meltdown triggered by the subprime mortgage crisis and bursting of the housing bubble from 2006 onwards. This paper, using Marx’s Capital and other Marxist writings, argues the opposite: that financial turmoil was just one symptom of the profound cri...
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The conflict in Sri Lanka arises from the irreconcilable goals of the Sinhalese political elite and the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Can a shift in emphasis from devolution to democracy help resolve this ethnic crisis?
Chapter
Introduction: The Challenges Facing Garment Workers in Defending Their RightsRegular Workers in Large-Scale UnitsIrregular Workers in Large, Medium and Small UnitsInformal WorkersConclusion Notes
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Book review of Women Workers and Globalisation: Emergent Contradictions in India by Indrani Mazumdar; (Kolkata: Stree, for Centre for Women’s Development Studies, Delhi, 2007).
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Book review of 'Erasure of the Euro-Asian: Recovering Early Radicalism and Feminism in South Asia,' by Kumari Jayawardena, Social Scientists’ Association, Colombo, 2007, iv+312 pages + photographs The significant contributions to history of Euro-Asians – a term coined by Kumari Jayawardena to encompass Burghers, Anglo-Indians and Eurasians – are d...
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Review of 'Tomorrow is Ours: The Trotskyist Movement in India and Ceylon, 1935-48,' by Charles Wesley Ervin, Social Scientists’ Association, Colombo, 2006, xiii + illustrations + 366 pages
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Globalisation has become a buzz-word, yet there are widely differing conceptions of what it means. Part of the problem is that those who use the word seldom bother to define it. Prima facie, it would appear that a globalised world is one in which there are no barriers (other than purely natural and technological ones) to the movement of people, pro...
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In the recent past, the debates around sexuality and gender unfolding in the country are beginning to resonate with the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual peoples and communities who are fighting for their rights. Emerging articulations exploring connections and tensions around gender and sexual expression, identity, state repressio...
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Marx and Engels refer to the working class family as a mere instrument in the production of capital. But the family is not a purely ideological construction and has a material basis in the need that all human beings have for personal care. Evidence suggests that blood and marriage alone cannot bind families and communities together; some other ceme...
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The costs of sustaining the US's new 'Empire' will become apparent to its public only when these costs directly accrue to them. This will happen, as this article suggests, only when (i) other nations stop subsidising the US's imperial adventures by colluding in them and (ii) the dollar loses its role as the world's reserve currency.
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From the standpoint of women workers, especially those in the third world, the 'anti-globalisation' agenda makes no sense. It would simply deprive them of considerable employment opportunities as also the possibility of improving employment conditions through global solidarity and coordination. A much more sensible objective would be concerted acti...
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The only way to put a definitive end to the war is to force a withdrawal of the coalition forces. The UN now has a chance to redeem itself as an institution standing for a just and democratic global order. A new superpower has emerged - world public opinion - and for the first time has challenged US domination over the UN. The anti-war movement nee...
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Preliminary ClarificationsOpposition to GlobalisationOpposition to the WTOOpposition to Any Link Between Workers' Rights and the WTOChild LabourHow Will It Be Implemented?Conclusion EndnotesReferences
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The labour force in India is as diverse as Indian society itself, divided by gender, religion, caste, region, ethnicity, language and history. In this context, the issue of equality assumes extra importance, yet trade unions have failed to tackle it with the seriousness it deserves. This failure has had an adverse effect on all sections that suffer...
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The carving out of a communally defined state in 1949 from a formally secular India with a dominant Hindu leadership and the proposal to partition another such state in Sri Lanka whose secular democratic status has already been undermined by Sinhala Buddhist nationalism presents strikingly similar situations. Given these irreconcilable nationalisms...
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Globalisation has had a twofold impact on working women - growing informalisation and fragmentation of work on one hand and expansion of opportunities, on the other. However, the onus of protecting worker rights lies with the government, which more often than not abdicates its responsibility. A recent international workshop in Seoul concluded with...
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The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas raises a fundamental issue - of national sovereignty. It may be argued, after all, that since the Buddhas were situated in Afghanistan, its rulers have the right to do as they wished with them. Clearly, the outrage felt by the world at the fate of the Bamiyan Buddhas implies a widespread belief that these monu...
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The ongoing strikes on Afghanistan have once again focused attention on the dual strands of terrorism that bases itself on communalism and imperialism. Both strands seek to repress various freedoms and in cases, even justify the human rights violations on the part of their perpetrators. The need then is to uphold virtues of secularism, for only a t...
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Indian and other developing countries' opposition to linking trade and labour standards is not so much anti-imperialist as pro-domestic business. Allowing exploitation of labour anywhere in the world undermines the rights of all workers around the world. It is possible to incorporate labour standards in trade agreements to help workers everywhere....
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Although it was claimed that the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests of May 1998 were greeted with popular jubilation in both countries, in reality they were followed by heightened fear and insecurity among many people and a deep sense of loss at the abandonment of nuclear disarmament in favor of nuclear deterrence, implying the willingness of their...
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What accounts far the consensus among employers, the government and national trade union leaderships on rejection of the social clause specifying minimum labour standards in multilateral trade agreements? Does it represent the interests of rank-and-file workers? Who will benefit from this opposition?
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In the mid-1990s, thanks to the work of feminist historians who have painstakingly excavated the evidence buried by a male-biased view of history, it would be hard to deny that women have played a significant role in resistance struggles and national liberation movements. What I want to argue here, however, is a stronger position: namely, that in t...
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Women workers are women, and they are workers; in theory, it should be possible for all their rights as women workers to be fought for through the women’s liberation movement and the trade union movement. Yet if we look at the case of Bombay, India, where both movements have been very vital and active, it appears that the interests of women workers...
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With the renewed expansion of foreign capital in India, the issue of how multinational companies react to trade unionism has become increasingly significant. As global competition intensifies, international capital chooses to attack workers' rights as a way of reducing costs.

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