WFTU Celebrates Seventy Years of Foundation
Swadesh Dev Roye
FOUNDED on October 3, 1945 at the Paris Congress, the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) is celebrating the glorious 70 years of its foundation. The setting up of the World Federation of Trade Unions was a major victory of the champions of proletarian internationalism and the unity of the international workers’ movement. Right from its very foundation, the new World Trade Union Organisation has been characteristically different from those which had previously existed. The most significant features of WFTU have been that it was open to all, really united, bringing together all the workers not on the basis of their political beliefs or their affiliation to one or the other trend in the working class movement, but based on their class interests. Louis Saillant was elected the founder General Secretary of WFTU. In his historic speech in the founding congress he said, “The WFTU is the Child of Unity, of the workers’ joint struggles against fascism, of the will to build peace and to liberate colonial people, of the struggles for better living conditions, the battles against exploiting monopolies and warmongers”, The character and aims and objective with which the WFTU was founded is clear and loud in the lines quoted above. Fight against imperialism is the foundation pledge of the WFTU. It is committed to fight for national liberation, human rights and trade union rights, pro-people transformation of society and against war and for peace in the world. Right from its foundation, the WFTU has been in solidarity struggles with the liberation struggles of the colonies of imperialist powers. The countries of Africa and Latin America have been the top priority of the WFTU. Today, the WFTU has a greater significance in the people’s movement in the developing countries of Africa, Asia, Middle East and Latin America. According to Mavrikos, general secretary, WFTU, “We cannot afford to be neutral when the Cuban and Palestinian struggles for self-determination are threatened by US imperialism and world institutions under imperialist control such as UNO, ILO, WB, IMF, and WTO.” WFTU’s resolute, open and vociferous opposition to Western imperialist powers against hegemonic design and cruel interference by the US and its allies in the sovereign rights of the countries of Africa and Middle East has been receiving the appreciation of the working class of these countries. More and more trade unions of these countries are joining the WFTU. Palestine, Africa and Arab countries’ concerns are widely propagated by the WFTU all over the world by holding seminars, observing day of protest and solidarity actions. In the meantime in Europe very encouraging organisational development is taking place on an increasing scale. Important Confederations and Federations have been formally joining the WFTU. TRADE UNION INTERNATIONALS (TUIS) The TUIs form part of the WFTU structure. The TUIs have their own constitutions which should, however, be in harmony with basic aims and objectives of that of the WFTU. The policies of the TUIs shall also be in keeping with that of the WFTU. At present there are ten TUIs covering the following industries/services: TUIs: agro, food, commerce, textile & allied industries (2) banks, insurance & financial unions (3) construction, wood and building materials industries (4) hotel & tourism (5) energy, chemical, oil, natural gas and allied industries (6) mining, metallurgy and metal industries (7) public services & allied workers (8) World Federation of Teachers Unions (9) transport (10) pensioners Encouraged at the anti-imperialist stand, the WFTU entered into friendly and cooperative relations with the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU); Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU); the All-African Trade Union Federation (AATUF). Another important regional forum with which the WFTU has been cooperating with importance is composed of ACFTU of China, the WFTU, OATUU, ICATU and GCTU) of the CIS countries. NEO-LIBERAL DOCTRINE AND ROLE OF WFTU WFTU affiliates have been conducting militant struggles including strike action against neo-liberalism driven by finance capital under imperialist globalisation. Beginning with the countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa and ultimately the working class of Europe and US came on the streets in billions against the onslaught of neo-liberalism. In fact, the WFTU provided the ideological leadership in the struggles and took a leading role on the streets. With the Wall Street Crash of 2008, the WFTU has emerged as the champion in the fight against imperialist globalisation. At the same time, the crisis has also exposed the class collaborationists for their policy of collaboration with the forces of capitalist globalisation nakedly compromising the cause of the working class. In the face of onslaught of employers’ class against right to strike, WFTU is committed to defend right to strike by exercising this fundamental right itself. Since the 15th World Trade Union Congress which took place in Havana, Cuba the WFTU has been in a course of organisational rejuvenation, broadening of its collective and democratic functioning and intensification of its activity for all issues concerning workers struggles internationally. The institution of the International Action Day every year organised by the WFTU since 2009 has been a major step forward in fostering international solidarity. The day is observed by organising campaign, propaganda, agitation and action on common burning issues of the time under common slogans. The popularity and participation on the Action Day programme has been significantly expanding. The organising of strong protests highlighting the workers and people's problems and demanding the fulfillment of their demands happened on various occasions and for various issues. Worth mentioning is the protest outside the WTO in Geneva that was held in 2007 demanding the abolition of its offices in the Third World Countries, the International Campaign in solidarity with the Palestinian People calling for a three-days boycott of all Israeli Vessels and the International Day of Action for the release of the Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli jails, the demonstration outside FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy demanding affordable nutrition for all, the demonstrations in favour of the rights of the migrant workers organised in Italy, in Greece, in Cyprus in 2015. Ideological strengthening of the WFTU has been a continuous process through trade union education, seminars at national or regional level, trade union training schools in the central offices. In the process, young workers have been receiving priority attention and of course the working women too. International conferences have been organised on vital issues concerning the trade union movement and in solidarity with the people in struggles. Such initiatives provided great ground for exchange of experience, for cultivation of common ground and strategy, for the expression of international solidarity and for the organisational strengthening of all participants who carry back the experience gathered from such exercises. Examples of such important conferences are the ones that WFTU jointly organised along with its affiliates around the issues of the international capitalist crisis, the social phenomenon of immigration, for the youth and women’s rights, in solidarity with the people of Colombia, Palestine, Venezuela, Cuba, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan etc, against imperialist onslaught on the internal matters of the countries. The presence of the WFTU in the international organizations has been increased and its voice has been strengthened. Massive activities of the WFTU are held on the sidelines of the international conference of the ILO every year. WFTU missions are seen in all countries of the world and WFTU delegates participate in more and more activities of the affiliates and friends in solidarity. The WFTU believes that the exploitation of the working class can be ended only by socialising all means of production, distribution and exchange and establishing a Socialist State. Holding fast the ideals of socialism, the WFTU stands for the complete emancipation of the society from all exploitation. WFTU firmly adheres to the position that no social transformation can be brought about without class struggles and shall constantly repel attempts to take working class along the path of class collaboration. In course of its proud and eventful journey through the path of class struggles for the last 70 years, the WFTU has remained loyal to its lofty ideals and carrying out the organisational functioning strictly within the framework of trade union democracy. It has grown in size, and its authority has also substantially increased among the working class. Precisely because of its loyalty to the cause of the working class, social progress and to the most treasured aims of the human race, WFTU has earned its unique place in the international trade unions map The historic 16th Congress of the WFTU held in Athens, Greece from April 6-10, 2011 firmly reinforced the organisational path charted in the foundation congress: ‘Open – Transparent – Democratic – Class Oriented’ broad based united movement of the working class, which is fundamental to the organisational principles of WFTU. FORWARD TO CELEBRATION OF 70 YEARS OF WFTU The presidential council meeting of the WFTU held in Geneva on June 6-7, 2015 has adopted and launched various programmes to mark the celebration of 70 years of the WFTU. The central function would be held on October 3, 2015 in Brasil where WFTU representatives from all over the world will take part. World-wide people oriented public programmes have been going on. One of the earliest programmes was organised by PAME, the WFTU affiliated TU of Greece on April 26, 2015. Writer of this article has also attended. The total attendance was more than the capacity of the Olympic Stadium (5000) of Athens. Significant was the presence of around two thousand very young workers with a mix of both boys and girls. Altogether it was a spectacular and memorable event. It was really befitting to the stature of the city which hosts the international headquarters of the WFTU. In the period since the 15th congress of the WFTU, there has been significant development concerning the relations of the CITU with the WFTU. Consequent upon formal affiliation of the CITU with the WFTU multifold organisational responsibilities have been assigned by WFTU to the different federations affiliated and friendly to the CITU. The contributions of the CITU comrades in the presidential council and the secretariat of WFTU and also at the level of different TUIs are visible and acknowledged by the WFTU headquarters and also by the affiliates of WFTU from different countries. The recognition achieved by the CITU is the recognition of CITU’s total commitment and strict adherence to the doctrine of class struggle and the internationalism of the working class. And CITU’s distinctly visible wide and massive participation in the ‘Day of Action’ on October 3 ever since it has been instituted by the WFTU is also the true reflection of ideological and political unity with WFTU. Obviously the October 3, 2015 ‘Action Day’ bears an extraordinary significance. CITU affiliates and the fraternal industrial and service sector federations must organise various programmes like seminars, conventions, departmental and shop level meetings during the month of September 2015 and organise public meetings, rallies, demonstrations etc on October 3, 2015. The state and district committees of CITU are expected to take due initiative well in advance in their respective jurisdiction to chalk out detailed programmes of the celebration. Well it goes without saying that all other affiliates of the WFTU must be effectively coordinated in drawing and implementing the programmes of celebration jointly.