ILO, social justice and Communist worlds. Competitions, rivalries and convergences

Universalism, social justice and development
By Sandrine Kott

This contribution endeavours to reinvestigate the International Labour Office’s (ILO) basic values and choices in light of its relationship with the Communist worlds in terms of opposition and complementarity. Communist ‘worlds’, in the plural, because contrary to Cold War propaganda, Communism was far from monolithic. Three groups held different positions and expressed a differentiated message within the ILO; they revealed three types of relationships between the ILO and Communist worlds which, in turn, highlight three characteristics of its action. The international Communist movement, first of all, attested to strong hostility to the ILO, accused of a liberal conception of social justice. Then, beginning in 1934, but especially after the Second World War, the representatives of social countries advocated extensive social rights and thus favoured the formulation of a reformist social project. Lastly, as from the 1960s, Communist regime cadres used the expertise provided and encouraged by the ILO to boost labour productivity. This productivist convergence ultimately challenges the very idea of social justice.

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