Vol. XLI No. 21 May 21, 2017

WFTU Presidential Council Meeting in Havana


MAY Day in most of the capitalist countries is an occasion to remember the Chicago Hay Market martyrs and their struggle for eight hours work. It is a day to express solidarity with the workers all over the world who are still continuing their struggle on the same demand, over 130 years after the Hay Market episode. It is a day to affirm the determination of the working class to continue on the path of struggle, overcoming the depredations and oppressions of the ruling classes to achieve the ultimate goal of emancipation from all exploitation.

The atmosphere in socialist Cuba is totally different. May Day in Cuba is an occasion to celebrate achievements of the working class and the toiling people in a socialist society established in 1959. May Day, declared a holiday, is celebrated as a big festival across the country.

The Cuban Workers Trade Union Central (CTC) organises the May Day rally in Havana every year, inviting fraternal trade union leaders from all around the world. Representatives of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) have been participating in the May Day events every year.

May Day this year was the first after the passing away of Fidel Castro, the legendary leader of Cuba who steered the Cuban revolution to victory and then led the country till 2008. The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) chose to hold the meeting of its presidential council, the first after its 17th Congress, in Havana to honour the memory of Fidel Castro, who took great interest in the revival and reactivation of the WFTU. This meeting was scheduled on May 3-4, 2017, immediately following May Day. Hemalata, president and Swadesh Dev Roye, secretary of CITU, who are both members of the presidential council of WFTU were nominated by CITU to participate in the May Day celebrations in Havana as well.


The huge rally in Havana reflected the festive mood of the people. The CTC has reported that around eight lakh people participated in the rally in Havana and six million people all together in rallies that were held in all cities and towns in the entire country. This, in a country with a total population of only 11.39 million!

The foreign guests of CTC were taken to the Revolution Square at 5 o’clock in the early morning. People were already gathering by that time. By around 6 o’clock, hundreds of thousands of people were standing patiently behind the main banner. Workers from all sectors and peasants, women and men came with their entire families. Small children, young men and women, the old marched in the rally that started at 7.30 am; many parents carried their toddlers on their shoulders; the differently-abled persons participated in the rally in their wheel chairs. Almost all of them carried banners, flags, festoons and pictures of Fidel, Che and Raul Castro. The peasants carried sugarcane plants, the major crop in Cuba. Almost everyone was enthusiastically waving to the spectators and shouting slogans hailing Cuban revolution and socialism.

Thousands of foreign spectators witnessed the rally from the side earmarked for them near the Jose Marti memorial museum. Many of them were from Europe and the USA; most of them were from Latin America. In the last two years, Americans comprised the second largest foreign delegation participating in a show of solidarity with Cuba.

The leadership of CTC and the Communist Party of Cuba led by Raul Castro, president of Cuba stood all along waving to the participants in the rally from the beginning till the last person crossed the square. There were, however, no speeches. Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, general secretary of CTC alone made a brief speech before the rally started. He asserted the commitment of the working class of the country to a socialist, independent and prosperous Cuba. He strongly criticised the USA for not lifting the economic, financial and commercial embargo despite all the hype about restoring bilateral relations. He demanded compensation for the serious damage caused to Cuba due to the embargo and also return of the territory of Guantanamo occupied by the USA.

As every year, on May 2, an international solidarity meeting was held in the modern auditorium of the International Convention Centre in Havana. More than 1000 delegates from across the world participated in this meeting to express solidarity with the Cuban people and also with the people fighting against the interventions of US imperialism in different Latin American countries. Representatives from Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela spoke about the conditions in their countries. George Mavrikos, general secretary of WFTU addressed the meeting. Hemalata conveyed solidarity on behalf of the CITU. CTC honoured George Mavrikos and Valentin Pacho, senior leader of WFTU from Peru for their contributions to the international trade union movement.


The first meeting of the presidential council of WFTU, after its 17th Congress in Durban was held on May 3-4. 55 members of the presidential council from across the world attended the meeting.  Mzwandile Michael Makwayiba, president of WFTU presided over the meeting. 40 participants spoke on the report presented by George Mavrikos. The initiatives taken by the WFTU headquarters during this period to implement the decisions of the 17th Congress were appreciated by the speakers. At the same time the need to develop ideological consciousness of the working class to enable it to face the present challenging situation and strengthen the organisation were also emphasised. Hemalata spoke on behalf of the CITU. Swadesh Dev Roye, deputy general secretary of WFTU and in-charge of the Trade Union Internationals (TUIs) presented a report about the functioning of the TUIs.

The presidential council of WFTU decided to organise international conferences of young workers in November in Rome and of women on International Women’s Day next year in Panama. It has also decided to celebrate the centenary of the Great October Revolution by organising seminars on three important topics – ‘The rights achieved by the working class in socialism’, ‘The leading role of the working class in emancipation of society’ and ‘The overthrow of socialism and the impact on the people due to the changes in the international correlation of class forces’. WFTU has decided to focus on trade union training and education in 2018.

The CTC organised a visit to Expo Cuba, a pavilion of Cuban industry which showcased the various products that are being produced in the country to meet the requirements of the people of the country, overcoming the difficulties due to the inhuman blockade imposed by the USA.