Unions and authoritarianism
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UNIONS AND AUTHORITARIANISM. Reflections on the emergence of democratic unions from authoritarian regimes Prof. Krastyo Petkov – Bulgaria International Summer School-Northern College, Manchester, July, 2012. Why discuss this issue?.

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Unions and authoritarianism


Reflections on the emergence of democratic unions from authoritarian regimes

Prof. Krastyo Petkov – Bulgaria

International Summer School-Northern College, Manchester, July, 2012

Why discuss this issue
Why discuss this issue?

  • Not exceptional cases, but growing trend in CEE /15 countries belong to the category “Authoritarian regimes- AR/”;

  • Ongoing crisis creates conditions for spread of AR in other regions;

  • Mantra “ Strong power creates better economies”

  • AR are efficient in combating TU’s;

Reflections based on
Reflections, based on:

  • Personal experience /Bulgaria after 1989/;

  • Field work-Action Research Projects /Hungary, Georgia, Serbia/;

  • Local analyst contributions /Romania, Albania/;

  • Special missions /Tunisia, 2011/;


  • Supportive/partner organizations: ILO,


Why new authoritarianism
Why new authoritarianism?

New-after 89:

-post-totalitarian /comparative features-see next slide/;

Born by:

-ethnic/nationalistic developments;

-economic crisis: mass disappointment/anger;

-pressure from the oligarchic circles , etc.

-self-maid/charismatic personality;

Supported by: global neoliberal networks;

  • Important: usually - mixture of reasons

Four cases four authoritarian personalities
Four cases-four authoritarian personalities

  • Hungary: personal-party dictatorship /Orban-”Victator”/;

  • Bulgaria:one man management /B.B./;

  • Georgia: extreme neoliberal state /police controlled society /Saakashvili/;

  • Tunisia: special case-dictatorship/nepotism Ben Ali/;


    Important trend: growing authoritarianism in CEE during and after transition; in most cases the new AR came after free elections;

Common features
Common features

  • Coercive power;

  • Oligarchic society;

  • Corrupted regimes;

  • Anti- trade union policies;

  • No clear ideology: pragmatic/nationalistic/populism;

  • Strong promoters of extreme neo-liberalism;

  • Lack of free media;

    Important facts:

    -the first tree-EPP/right wing political leaders; suported by the USA;

    - Ben Ali: Socialist International member!?/

Comparative features hungarian and bulgarian authoritarian regimes
Comparative features: Hungarian and Bulgarian Authoritarian Regimes

Existing and emerging unions four types
Existing and emerging unions:four types

  • New/oppositional and old/reformed TU’s / in the beginning – Bulgaria, Hungary, Tunisia/;

  • Totally new/alternative TU’s: difficult/impossible option /Georgia/;

  • Union-like networks: self- employed and informal workers/enterpreneurs;

  • Social /protest movements /”syndicalism- without syndicates”/

Challenges to the existing unions focus on cee countries
Challenges to the existing unions: focus on CEE countries

  • Back to social movement model / incorporating protest networks; increased militancy and broader civil dialog/;

  • Strategic alliances with the protest movements /Occupy and others/; civil type and community based trade unionism;

  • New politisationand actions from bellow / in 1989- due to the change of system; now- new goal: “Change The System”/;

Challenges 2

  • The first strategy is difficult /perestroika from inside-FNV case/;

  • The second option happens-Tunisia, Italy, Spain etc;

  • The third development brings back the old TU dilemma: be politically independent or “Get involved”!

    Not many success stories-especially in CEE; Emerging prototype-Syrisa; Brazil: special case-prototype;

Dangers of not responding properly
Dangers of not responding properly

  • Lack of identity/TU’s are more and more seen as part of the System!/

  • Marginalization/alienation/ Macedonian case with protest groups/;

  • Power dependence /the case of Hu/;

  • Personal/paternalistic dependence / Azerbaidzan coming up in BG, /

    > As a result: shrinking/symbolic membership