Vol. XLIII No. 27 July 07, 2019

TUI of Workers in Agriculture, Food, Commerce & Allied Industries Meets in Paris

Suneet Chopra

THE discussions took place in the background of a war imposed on Syria using the weapons of the USA, France, Britain, Israel and Saudi Arabia. According to FAO figures more than two billion people live in countries experiencing conflict and violence today. It is the poorest and most vulnerable who are affected physically. Nearly 900 million are victims of hunger and malnutrition in these countries which are concentrated in four regions: West Asia, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and Eastern Europe. The UN high commissioner for refugees estimates that 64 million people were displaced in 2016, 16 million being forced to flee and 36 million being internally displaced. The majority of these are rural people linked with the agrarian economy which has collapsed as a result of wars of destruction unleashed against them by countries profiting from the arms trade.

In yet another document that was preparatory to the executive committee meeting in Paris, a powerful appeal was made to combat imperialism and its inhuman wars to establish a world of social progress freed from capitalism. These wars naturally destroyed the agrarian sector, displaced populations and forced neighbouring countries to accept far more people than they could afford. The advanced capitalist countries not only created walls around themselves to prevent the entry of immigrants but also harboured the arms industry making a fortune selling the instruments of death and mass destruction. This process not only led to the deaths of war victims in the countries invaded but also to those of no less than 50,000 refugees who have died in the Mediterranean sea during their migration to Europe.

These conditions force the illegal entry of refugees into the very countries that unleashed wars on them, while at the same time competing for jobs with the local labour force and reducing wages. So this plunder and warfare creates conditions in which the rich countries become richer and the poor poorer. 11 countries in the world’s largest economies have plundered the fruits of the labour of their employees at unprecedented rates. In Asia this plunder was 8 per cent in one year, 7 per cent in the USA and 2 per cent in Europe, while the vast majority of the people are living in dire poverty.  

The rich are not averse to using the control over the food chain to further expand their profits. 77 per cent of the fertilizer market is controlled by five multinational companies, six account for 85 per cent of the cereal grain trade, eight share 60 per cent  of the world coffee trade and three control 80 per cent of cocoa sales and 80 per cent of the banana sales. This massive control over the agricultural market clearly prevents the farmers from growing crops to help self sufficiency and large sections of them are being driven off their lands into slums. Moreover their helplessness is used as a weapon to increase their exploitation and control over the land and forests of the peasantry and the indigenous people.  

Under these conditions, struggles are coming up everywhere. In Africa, structural adjustment plans of the World Bank and IMF impose austerity policy plans on workers through economic partnership agreements while looting natural resources at the same time. Local bourgeoisies, dictators and armed gangs have built up huge fortunes in collaboration with MNCs and imperialist powers. The second African conference in Dakar (Senegal), which was chaired by the president, Aliou Ndiaye the president of TUI and Julien Huck, general secretary among others worked out detailed plans to develop our unions and struggles all over the continent.

 In Latin and Central America, armed counter revolutionary offensives are being unleashed with the bourgeoisies being supported by the USA. This is the case in Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Panama, according to the information shared during the meeting of the union held in Panama in 2017. Areas of struggle have also developed in Colombia, Peru and Brazil. Cuba, which has been facing a continued illegal blockade by the USA since its independence, is a beacon of hope in the region and its bureau in Havana is an important centre for training union activists.

In Asia, the situation varies from country to country. In India, where a right wing government has just come to power is using all means to win elections, the policies of a government supporting the MNCs are aggravating poverty, hunger and malnutrition, with the highest figures of unemployment in 45 years and unending suicides of farmers and agricultural labourers. There are many struggles going on all over the country, bringing together agricultural workers, small farmers and rural landless, with the participation of organisations linked to the TUI and WFTU. Recently 200 million workers were on strike in India, which was a major aspect of ongoing struggles.  Similar conditions obtain in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The view was expressed that the planned regional conference of South Asia will be organised by the New Delhi Bureau by April 2020. In this area, the victory of a Left led government in Nepal is a very positive development and should inspire unions in struggle in all the neighbouring states.

In Vietnam, where another branch of the TUI functions, economic and social policies have eliminated hunger and created conditions for food self sufficiency and independence. The country has become a leading exporter of rice. The organisation affiliated to TUI is concentrating on improving the conditions of workers in every way including their education and professional skills. In China, hunger has been eradicated and further economic and social progress is planned for by organisations sympathetic to the TUI and the socialist state. The DPRK too has been able to resist the blockade imposed by US imperialism through direct talks with the US president as well as to considerably advance the demilitarisation of the borders of North and South Korea bilaterally.

There is not a single European country where social rights are not being called into question, where there are no infringements on existing trade union rights and on the freedom to unionise. Struggles and attacks are being pursued in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, Belgium, Britain and the Nordic countries. Politically the misery of the working class creates conditions for the growth of xenophobic, racist, fascistic ideologies and incubates populism. Elected representatives with these ideas have emerged in Austria, Hungary, Italy and in France, Germany and Russia. In these conditions the trade union movement must come forward to fight to defend the rights it has won previously. What is important is how the activity of the TUI will contribute to the strengthening of the rights of hundreds of millions of workers now under attack by these governments.

The secretariat and executive committee have translated the fourth conference decisions into practice by setting up bureaus in all continents on the basis of decisions of the secretariat in Havana and their co-ordination with not only the WFTU, but also with the ILO and the FAO with the help of like-minded organisations. It was obvious from the discussions in which all participants took an active part that struggles were not only developing all over the world but were being met with firm resistance.

The meeting concluded with an appeal of the TUI and a final declaration of 16 points asserting their support and solidarity with unions to defend the need to live, self sufficiency and food security. It called for exposing and resisting the plunder of natural resources and unleashing of brutal wars to impose imperialist and MNC control on them. They called for a rejection of the retreat from social protection, trade union rights and privatisation of nationalised and public sector industry by governments committed to neoliberalism, or under the pressure of international institutions controlled by global finance capital imposing austerity measures on them. The rights of workers, working farmers and indigenous people to feed their people, farm their land and survive with dignity had to be defended unitedly.  Embargos and boycotts must be firmly condemned and resisted with solidarity and unity especially with regard to Palestine, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and the DPRK.

The executive committee called on employees of the food industry, farmers, rural masses and indigenous people to strengthen the unity of workers and peasants, defend their social gains and to create conditions for a new international economic order on which the development of mankind could be based. This could only be done effectively by ensuring  that the regional centres in all continents function effectively, building concrete struggles in concrete conditions in different countries and in defending rights already acquired and advancing towards an alternative world.