A Global History of African Trade Union Education in 'East', 'West' and 'South'. (Im)Mobilities, Transfers and Exchanges during the Cold War 1960s.

Immanuel Harisch, BA BA MA MA

Supervisor: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Kirsten Rüther

For most young people on the African continent, the expansion of the post-World War II socialist world system and the collapse of European colonial empires in Africa that began in the late 1950s had created new, mostly state-regulated channels for international mobility between the "Second" and "Third" worlds or "East" and "South" (Schenck 2016; Burton 2016, 2017; Matusevich 2012; Saint Martin et al. 2015; Storkmann 2012; Unfried 2016; van der Heyden et al. 1993, 1994).

Mobility assumed a central position in times of global systemic conflict between communist and capitalist social designs and became a lived experience for a number of Africans on the continent (Schenck 2017: 59). The African trade union movement and its trade unionists occupied an important place in these predominantly state-controlled regimes of mobility from the 1950s at the latest (Glick Schiller/Salazar 2013). The communist-oriented World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and its rival from the capitalist industrialized countries, especially in Western Europe and North America, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), and the national trade union headquarters from "East" and "West" respectively, wooed trade union headquarters on the African continent with scholarships, expert deployments, and material support.

As far as African trade unions and trade union education at home and abroad were concerned, the late 1950s and 1960s marked a period of intense "acceleration" and "compression" as the trade union movement went through a number of crucial periods within a few years.First, African trade unions, often walking hand in hand with the emerging nationalist parties, were a key player in gaining political independence from the colonial centers through their effectiveness at economic hubs such as ports and railroads through strikes and threats of strikes; soon trade unionists (very rarely women trade unionists) occupied important positions in the newly formed African governments. But as African nationalist parties increasingly monopolized power, trade unions either became integrated into the ruling party, following the Ghanaian model, or formed an important wing of opposition to the ruling elites.

In the field of trade union education for African trade unionists, the African Labor College of the ICFTU in Kampala (*1958) emerged within a few years, the African Labor University (Université ouvrière africaine) of the WFTU and the UGTAN in Conakry (*1960), and the "Foreigners' Institute" for African and Asian trade unionists at the Fritz Heckert Trade Union College of the East German Free German Trade Union Confederation (FDGB) in Bernau near Berlin (*1960), new institutions that sought to meet the great demand for well-trained trade union leaders and functionaries.

Based on multi-local archival research and interviews with contemporary actors, my dissertation, written in English, is dedicated to the three trade union schools ("Arenas and Spaces") as sites of African trade union education in a comparative perspective.

In the part on "Networks, Transfers, and Exchange Processes," I highlight the connections between a variety of institutions and actors in the field of international trade unionism and African trade unions. One focus is on the activities of European and African trade unionists in the field of trade union education. One such "West-South" network that continuously worked for better rights for women workers and better access to education for women trade unionists was the Women's Committee of the ICFTU and the International Trade Secretariats (ITS).

Using the Ghanaian trade unionist J. A. Osei's study visit to the FDGB Trade Union College, I show how mobile African trade union leaders cultivated and maintained South-East links during the Cold War. Personal correspondence between Osei, as an alumnus of Bernau College, with the director of the institute reveals a productive and mutually beneficial exchange of books, journals, and newspapers between Accra and Bernau.

On a broader level, I am interested in showing how intensely the "global 1960s" of the Cold War era (Christiansen/Scarlett 2013) decisively shaped the shaping of (im)mobilities, transfers, and exchange processes between "East," "West," and "South" in the field of labor unions. Situated at the productive intersection between the research fields of global history and mobility studies, and focusing the zoom lens on the African continent, my research aims to highlight the multiple entanglements and disentanglements that emerged in the field of unionization for Africans during the 1960s.