Shared Solidarities: the interaction of parties, unions and social movements

Sheffield Hallam University

MeCCSA Social Movements Network, now in its second year is hosting a one day workshop  on 10 September 2015  at Sheffield Hallam University. Further details will be posted on the MECCSA list in April. Contact:

The aims of the workshop is to reconsider some of the traditional organisations like trade unions and political parties of the left in the light of new social movements; how these might work together in the future and what they have in common. In the latter part of C20 and at the beginning of the C21, social movements and single issue politics are said to have replaced traditional style political parties of the left, trade union affiliation and collective action. This transition has been described as moving away from political organizations based on hierarchical structures towards ‘dense’ networks organized horizontally and increasingly globally. Theories of social movements have defined them in terms of cycles of protest/contention, collective action and identity, informal networks and density.

Where does this situation leave progressive parties and trade unions? Can they, or should they, adapt to meet the challenge of the new politics? And what might social movements and single issue networks learn from the older organisations of socialism and social democracy? How do social and traditional media portray these social and political formations? Do they offer a representation of shared solidarities or are they pitted against one another? The ‘Shared Solidarities’ day workshop will examine all these questions with invited speakers and representatives of political parties, trade union organisations organizations and social movements:  from examples of  campaigns against austerity, the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Trade Council, Unite the Community and the Climate Alliance.

Solidarity is key to this process, as Rodotà (2014) has argued recently in his book, ‘solidarity  is a necessary utopia…an egalitarian and inclusive concept which can’t be reduced to a mere logic of profit’. Solidarity has been banished by individualism and neoliberal ideology and all the more reason that this should be newly at the centre of the drive to action. ‘Shared Solidarities’ will put solidarity back on theagenda in its interrogation of the relationship between social movements, trade unions and progressive political parties. This discussion will feel particularly appropriate given the likely realignment of political formations following the results of the British election; although it is as yet not know if it the realignement will bolster the ‘austerity’ ideology or reintroduce solidarity at the heart of society.

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