ALMOST everywhere in Europe, and in some of the countries of Asia, the position of labor has changed radically since the International Labor Organization was created after the First World War. The ideas dominant at that time will therefore have to be carefully reconsidered when, following the present conflict, the United Nations turn to the task of reorganizing the structure of the ILO and determining its future functions.
From the outset the policy of the ILO was strongly influenced by what might be called the philosophy of "evolutionary" Socialism. In terms of this philosophy, organized labor, as represented by the powerful trade unions, was charged with the task of defending -- and possibly enforcing, by means of strikes and otherwise -- the claims of the working class to better working conditions and an increasingly larger share in the social dividend. The ILO was thought of as an instrument for promoting social peace by assisting labor to win this fight. The assumption was that, in principle, the interests of labor were identical in all countries. It was further assumed that an international labor front existed and that it could serve as a bulwark against the aggressive policies of nationalistic political parties. This united front was formally represented by the International Federation of Trade Unions, with headquarters in Amsterdam. In practice, the Amsterdam federation largely determined the policy of the ILO.
Another assumption was that the interests of the employers were strongly influenced by international relationships. It was argued that substantial and continuous progress in the improvement of labor standards might be frustrated without the enactment of collective agreements under which the costs of such improvements were imposed upon all competitors for international markets. In practice, as employers' representatives participated regularly in the work of the International Labor Organization, a kind of united front of employers developed as a counterweight to the international labor front. Where conflicting views developed, the governments were assigned the task of influencing the discussions and decisions in accordance
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