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From LABOR-L@YORKU.CA Fri Mar 2 06:04:02 2001
Date: Thu, 1 Mar 2001 21:49:49 -0000
Reply-To: peter waterman <waterman@antenna.nl>
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: peter waterman <p_waterman@HOTMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: WFTU exists
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Re: WFTU exists

By Peter Waterman, 1 March 2001

Charlie Brown, in forwarding material from the WFTU website (1100 visitors including Charlie and me, unrefreshed since mid-2000), provides more evidence of what the WFTU thinks about itself, some of which would be useful to a project to find out whether the rhetoric has any expression outside its offices and conferences. Thanks, Charlie.

He failed however, to include this interesting element from the website:

'The 14th World Trade Union Congress convened by the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) was inaugurated in New Delhi, India, by Mr Krishna Kant, Hon'ble Vice President of the Republic of India, on 25March, at the International Conference Centre Vigyan Bhawan. Mr Satyanarayan Jatiya, Labour Minister, Government of India, released a souvenir devoted to the Congress on this occasion. Indrajit Gupta, M.P., President of the WFTU and other Vice Presidents ofthe WFTU and K.L.Mahendra, General Secretary of the All-India Trade Union Congress and the National Preparatory Committee for the Congress constituted the Presidium.'
This sucking up to Presidents, Prime Ministers and their representatives, is, it is true, replicated by the ICFTU, which is one reason I am critical of the ICFTU. In both cases it expresses the nation-state orientation and dependence of the international organisations concerned.

Another element Charlie failed to quote (though referred to by an Australian Communist he also copied through to us) is its claimed membership.

'Four hundred and twentyone delegates and observers from 74 countries representing a membership of 407 million from throughout the world participated. Messages wishing the success of the Congress were received from the President and Prime Minister of India, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the President of Syria as well as Mr Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General. The representative of the ILO, P.R. Naidu and a delegate of the World Confederation of Labour (WCL) greeted the Congress.'
I am hoping Charlie can tell us which 'non-white and anti-imperialist countries' the 407 million come from. Even the ICFTU, which continues to gain ex-WFTU members, only claims 155 million. If this includes Russian unions, they have largely now joined the ICFTU (increasing its membership from 124 to 142 or possibly the 155). If it includes the Chinese unions, we must note that the Chinese are still avoiding being present on its presidium (they were forced out of the WFTU in the later-1960s by the Soviet bloc and its Western allies). Although myself widely travelling in many 'non-white and anti-imperialist countries', including Mexico, South Africa (6 months), Peru (maybe 8-9 months over the last 6 years) and elsewhere, I have noticed little evidence of the 407 millions. This goes for Peru, too, from where there hails a WFTU leader, Valentin Pacheco.

Charlie should let us know about the significant Third World or Southern unions in the WFTU, because they do not include the CUT from Brazil, the COSATU from South Africa, or the KCTU from South Korea - all of them visible, past and present, in major national and international struggles and debates (e.g. about the social clause). All of them recent affiliates to the ICFTU. Before Charlie offers us the AITUC and CITU from India - which remain true to their competing Communist heritages - he should be aware that they only represent maybe 10 percent of unionised workers in India, since most Indian unions are unaffiliated to centres they consider adjuncts of political parties. And most Indian workers are not unionised and - on the admission now of the CITU - have been badly ignored by the union movement.

Much of what I am saying above is, of course, also true of the ICFTU, equally a child of the epoch of national-industrial capitalism, but rather more open to the impact of the new global social movements, and to new analyses and strategies for confronting capital. As I have said of the ICFTU, it has 155 million members but is invisible in the international public sphere, and unknown to the members of its members. But if the ICFTU with its modest 155 is invisible, how does one characterise the WFTU with its 407 million? Three times as invisible?

Those who identify with the WFTU and even, like Charlie's Australian Communist, assert that it is socialist (something the WFTU is scared shitless at claiming for itself), are stuck in a Cold War groove that believes the alternative to 'white imperialist countries and unions' (?) is a binary opposite, representing revolutionary virtue. Remember the 'imperialist nuclear bomb' and the 'people's nuclear bomb'? I do, and recall, in my salad days, defending the latter against the former. The CND in Britain and then the anti-nuclear movement worldwide went beyond this false alternative and contributed significantly to the end of the Cold War. The alternative to the top-heavy, distant, bureaucratic, nation-state constituency, international union confederation is not another one (with another ideology), it is, as is evident all around us, the social movement network and a networked labour internationalism. This is what is evidenced on Labor-L and a dozen other sites on the web. As well as at Seattle and everywhere the workers protest against globalisation (WFTU banners, or leaders, being notable by their triple invisibility). WFTU fans are, of course, free to huff and puff this collapsed balloon into life again. Militant workers and unions will be elsewhere.

One reader of Labor-L complains rightly that this debate has gone on too long. He is right. So Haines Brown will have to do with my earlier reply. I do, myself, have to prepare for an international consultation between international union officers, NGOs and social movements on how they can collaborate to defend workers and unions under globalisation. This will take place in the real world. And in the current century. Watch this space.