From email@example.com Wed Feb 28 15:07:32 2001
Waterman on WFTU, 2001
By Peter Waterman, 28 February 2001
Haines Brown replies at impressive length to my personal (and tongue-in-cheek) account of the World Federation of Trade Unions. This is going to take a little more time to respond to than I might have in the next week.
In the meantime, however, let me assure him that I was neither embittered nor demotivated by my experience. I was, rather, I think, developed by it. I consider myself not so much an anti-Communist as a Liberation Communist - one who tries to extract the emancipatory impulse from the repressive shell (the Church and its Theologians). Or, in so far as I distance myself from Communism (and Communism from anything emancipatory), at least a Liberation Marxist.
The epitaph on Communism, incidentally, has not and will not be written by myself, Haines or anyone else I can think of. It was, rather, whispered under Communism, by those proletarians, peasants and others subject to it, in a thousand risky jokes. Such as 'Communism is probably alright, but they should have tried it out on animals first'. Or 'Is it possible to build Communism in one country?', 'Yes, but it is better to live in another one'.
It is not without significance that Communism today continues only in the most isolated states (Cuba, North Korea), and has popular support under (semi) democratic conditions only in the most under-developed areas (poverty-stricken, rural Mongolia and Moldova) rather than urban Santiago or even Moscow.
Haines also appears, on a rapid read, to consider that the WFTU is or was once a trade union organisation - if one or two steps removed from the national or local union (itself with dubiously emancipatory capacity). Depends, really, on how one understands 'international trade union organisation'.As even sympathetic historical accounts reveal, however, the WFTU was itself a child of the wartime alliance between the British, Soviet and (sometime) US state, and was from 1945 profoundly marked by inter- and intra-state politics, as well as by the self-subordination (or nation-state fixation) of the TUC and CIO, never mind the AFL and the VTsSPS (Soviet unions). Check out here the recent book of Victor Silverman (?), reviewed by me in the current/forthcoming issue of International Labour and Working Class History.
Haines also suggests that I did well out of my Communist background. So I did. I made a career out of it. Whether or not that privileged career has been fruitfully used to serve that which inspired my original Communism, and labour internationalism, both he and others can judge from the three publications I am involved with this year: 'Place, Space and the New Labour Internationalisms' (Blackwells, Oxford), 'Globalisation, Social Movements and the New Internationalisms' (Paperback, New Preface, Continuum, London), and 'A Social Clause for Labour's Cause?' (Working USA).
Hoping to get back to you later, Haines.