Dan Gallin on the international labor movement

by Stuart Elliott

Dan Gallin’s book Solidarity was officially and fittingly launched at the recent LabourStart “Global Crisis, Global Solidarity” conference. Gallin, now in his eighties, is a legendary figure in the international labor movement, having served for many years as General Secretary of the IUF, the international trade union secretariat of food workers union. Gallin transformed, modernized, and democratized the IUF. Unafraid to break new ground, guided by the values of “third camp socialism” he learned in the American Independent Socialist League, he embraced the organization of domestic and informal workers decades ago. Currently, he is  Chair of the Global Labour Institute (GLI), a labor service organization established in 1997 with a secretariat in Geneva, with affiliates in Moscow and New York . In this video, he is introduced by Eric Lee, founding editor of LabourStart.


Gallin has become a mentor to a new generation of trade union activists through his work with the GLI and the Global Labour University. Liza Merliak, an activist with the Belarusian Independent Miners Union, was asked to make a response to Gallin’s talk.

Solidarity is  collection of 19 essays by Dan Gallin, the former general secretary of the Geneva-based International Union of Foodworkers (IUF). The essays include two autobiographical articles, three pieces from the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the remainder from the last two decades. Gallin writes about a broad range of issues including the Algerian revolution, the French Left, Victor Serge, Scandinavian social democracy, the international labour movement, domestic work, the informal sector and much more. Often controversial, always interesting, this is essential reading for social change activists, trade unionists and everyone on the left.

In his introduction, LabourStart  editor Eric Lee writes

LabourStart is very proud to publish this collection of essays by Dan Gallin, the former general secretary of the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF).

Gallin’s writings over the course of the last six decades are an important contribution to thinking about the labour movement and, we hope, will reach a wider audience through the publication of this book.

In the course of these essays you will learn much about the history and the future of the labour movement, and the principles and values that must be at the core of its existence.

Dan’s criticisms of the labour movement, from a movement insider, are often sharp. I expect that some of you reading this will find parts of this book difficult going. For Dan, there are no sacred cows. He says what he thinks.

The independent, democratic labour movement has nothing to fear from sharp criticism. Indeed, we thrive on it.

Talking Union will review Gallin’s book in the near future. For now, enjoy the video and order it on-line.

One Response

  1. Dan Gallin gives a marvelous talk here which focuses on his experience as general secretary of the IUF. Since Dan’s essays in SOLIDARITY were mainly written before and after his tenure at the IUF, this talk fills in the gap.beautifully. We can learn a lot from Dan’s reflections on his 60 years as a socialist/labor activist. I had the privilege of working with Dan at the IUF, but still learn something new from him every time I read something he has written.

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