This article summarizes the results of the work of a commission of the German Trade Union Confederation, Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (DGB), on the memory cultures of social democracy and trade unionism in Germany and highlights its recommendations on how to strengthen the public memory of the achievements of trade unionism in German society. It argues that the contemporary memory cultures are highly deficient and in need of a major boost in order to make trade unionism fit for the struggles of the twenty-first century. Memory will be a crucial resource for trade unions, as it gives them a “practical past” with which to operate in the presence with a view to strengthening and protecting workers’ rights in the future.
German Trade Unions, Their History, and the Use of Memory
STEFAN BERGER is professor of social history and director of the Institute for Social Movements at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany. He is also executive chair of the History of the Ruhr Foundation, president of the German Labor History Association, and an honorary professor at Cardiff University in the UK. He was chair of the DGB Commission on Memory Cultures of Social Democracy from 2017 to 2020. He has published widely in comparative labor history. Among his recent publications are Making Sense of Mining History: Themes and Agendas (coedited with Peter Alexander, 2020); Marxist Historical Cultures and Social Movements during the Cold War (coedited with Christoph Cornelißen, 2019); “Industrial Heritage and the Ambiguities of Nostalgia for an Industrial Past in the Ruhr Valley in Germany” (2019); and “The Revival of German Labour History” (2019).
Stefan Berger; German Trade Unions, Their History, and the Use of Memory. Labor 1 September 2021; 18 (3): 144–155. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-9061563
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