The crisis and disorientation of trade unions in Sri Lanka, as well as in the global South more broadly, highlight the need for an urgent reassessment of ongoing union practices aimed at renewing worker solidarity as the basis for mobilisation. A main reason for this crisis is the inadequacy of dominant union strategies to build worker solidarity, in order to generate a social movement. The experience of unions in Sri Lanka is not that dissimilar to most other places, particularly in the global South. Under globalisation, the inability of the working classes to capture or even influence their own organisations has led to working-class “paralysis”, “disorientation” and “degradation” (Moody 1997: 1). The capture of the labour movement by ethno-nationalist projects is a key factor in restraining working-class
influence. The “national competitiveness” agenda of neo-liberal state strategies is grounded in undermining collective class identities and class interests of workers while reinforcing patriarchal, xenophobic and racist tendencies. What is alarming and often ignored is the spread of violence and insecurity in the everyday lives of people that directly relates to the character of militarised ethno-nationalist projects in Sri Lanka, and across South Asia.