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From LABOR-L@YORKU.CA Thu Mar 1 15:14:08 2001
Date: Thu, 1 Mar 2001 13:50:32 -0500
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From: Charles Brown <CharlesB@CNCL.CI.DETROIT.MI.US>
Subject: WFTU exists
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World Federation of Trade Unions - 14th Congress: International solidarity

The Guardian (Australia), 12 April 2000

Warren Smith attended the 14th Congress of the WFTU as a representative of the Communist Party of Australia. He is an active member of the Maritime Union of Australia. Warren wrote this report for Guardian readers.

The 14th Congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) was held in New Delhi, India from March 23 to 28. Over 60 countries were represented at what can only be described as an historic conference that sought policies to combat the imperialist policies of neo-liberalist globalisation that are being thrust onto workers in both developed and developing nations.

Hundreds of unions and peak union bodies attended representing in excess of 400 million workers throughout the world. It put paid to any arguments that the WFTU is a spent force.

The conference was held at a time of extreme difficulty when workers throughout the entire world are being subjected to an unprecedented process of negative change carried out by the organisations of imperialism and big capital, namely the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The main report to the Congress was delivered by the WFTU General Secretary, Alexander Zharikov. It summarised the position of the international trade union movement over the past five years since the 13th Congress of the WFTU.

Priorities for action

The main report was accompanied by a document entitled Policies and Priorities for Action which will lay the basis for action and campaigns by WFTU affiliates to combat capitalist globalisation.

The main sections of that document in relation to action are:

  • Defence of jobs, wages and social security;
  • Campaign for better working conditions;
  • For unfettered trade union rights, democracy and for strengthening the institutions and role of civil society;
  • For a policy of full employment and for democratic, people-oriented development strategies;
  • Support to UN campaign: disarmament for development;
  • For the adoption of a code of conduct for TNC's and banks by the UN;
  • For the implementation of international labour standards;
  • Solidarity in the struggle for rights of peoples and nations; and
  • Actions for trade union development.

Each point contains many sub-sections and takes into account the different conditions under which WFTU's affiliates operate.

It certainly provides a good foundation upon which trade unions, operating in many different countries, can work towards improving the conditions of workers internationally and locally.

Common struggle

The nature of the common enemy was made abundantly clear throughout the proceedings of the conference as speech after speech, including the main report, highlighted what is so obviously a process of change in the world directed against the working people of every nation.

Imperialist attempts to roll back the hard won social and economic gains made by unions, including liquidating the welfare state, opening up national economies to foreign capital, intensifying privatisation and eliminating any say the people have over the direction of their economies are matters being faced by the workers regardless of where they come from.

The attack on trade union rights and the elimination of jobs and job security, the promotion of individual contracts over collectively bargained agreements and the massive casualisation being undertaken in so many nations are the means by which the transnational corporations strive to achieve their aims of a world economy completely controlled by themselves at the expense of the ordinary people.

Speakers from both developing and developed nations found themselves united and facing similar problems of unemployment, poverty, attacks on the rights of unions and social services such as health and transport through privatisation and other dictates of the imperialist powers and their organisations.

The capitalist controlled process of globalisation is being used as a tool to expand the sphere of influence and domination of big capital and imperialism, particularly US imperialism with which many identified as the main enemy.

Many delegates from developing countries were correct to assert that the current political processes are resulting in nothing more than the re- colonisation of their countries, creating a position whereby their lives and futures will be in the complete control of the transnational corporations.

The WFTU position on these matters is quite clear that neo-liberal capitalist globalisation must be confronted and defeated and that the international trade union movement must unite, irrespective of ideological and organisational outlooks and affiliations, to act together with all other democratic forces striving for peace, development, justice and social progress.

The WFTU far from opposing the process of globalisation, seeks a globalisation in the interests of the people.

Globalisation for the people

This position was reflected by comrade Manzurul Ashan Khan, speaking on behalf of the Bangladesh delegation when he said, "We are not against globalisation and a global village, but we are against capitalist globalisation, for profit in the interest of the multinational corporations and money power and military power.

"We are for socialist globalisation as Fidel Castro said, whatever name you give it, it should be for the people, for mankind and protection of nature."

The Conference also called for implementation of the UN Declaration for a New International Economic Order which the UN General Assembly adopted in 1974.

The declaration calls for upholding international economic cooperation based on equality of rights of all countries, and seeks to end unequal trade and economic exchanges.


In a world of much negativity, attention was drawn to some major successes that were achieved by organised labour internationally over the period since WFTU's last Congress.

The def

eat of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) was one such victory in the interests of the workers as was the splendid display of the US working class and its allies in preventing the WTO millennium round of trade negotiations at the ministerial meeting in Seattle.

And closer to home was the victory of the Maritime Union of Australia over Patricks and the Australian Government, whose attack on that union represented many of the fundamental aspects of neo-liberal globalisation that the Congress discussed.

It is worthy to note that, in the current climate, very few victories are possible without international solidarity.

The WFTU's recognition of this and the efforts by member bodies and Trade Union Internationals (TUIs) to build that unity are to be admired and of course encouraged.

Twenty-one unions from around the world applied for and were accepted as members of the WFTU at the Congress, signalling that WFTU membership is steadily growing and that an international trade union organisation basing itself on class struggle and socialism is far from irrelevant in today's economic and political climate.

International solidarity

The first part of the Congress was dedicated to an International Trade Union Solidarity Conference against Blockades and Sanctions.

The meeting expressed its opposition to economic boycotts and sanctions against countries that have taken their own path or have failed to implement the dictates of, or subjugate themselves to, imperialist rule.

Many nations are being subjected to this form of attack by the big military powers and imperialist countries, in gross violation of international law and the UN charter.

Boycotts and sanctions are being imposed against Cuba, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, the DPRK, India, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.

These blockades of the various nations have resulted in the deaths of many and, in money terms, have drained hundreds of millions of dollars from national economies.

In Iraq, for example, at least 1.25 million deaths are attributable to the near total blockade of that country, with millions more suffering from under-nourishment and malnutrition.

In Cuba, the 40-year blockade has cost the Cuban people losses amounting to US$67 billion.

Libya over the past eight years has suffered losses to that economy estimated to amount to at least 40 billion dollars.

Congress called for an end to these blockades and sanctions as well as for compensation to be paid to nations that have suffered from these criminal actions.

Expanding membership

Twenty-one unions from around the world applied for and were accepted as members of the WFTU at the Congress, signalling that WFTU membership is steadily growing and that an international trade union organisation basing itself on class struggle and socialism is far from irrelevant in today's economic and political climate.

At the Congress, General Secretary Alexander Zharikov was re-elected to his position for the third successive term and K L Mahendra, the Secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, was elected to the position of President.

Debkumar Ganguli maintained his post as the WFTU Secretary for the Asia- Pacific region and well known Australian trade union leader and activist Stan Sharkey was re-elected to the position of Vice-President of WFTU.

In ending the congress General Secretary Zharikov made the statement that "the Congress has finished, but the struggle continues", recognising that the forces of imperialism are far from finished in their brutal attacks upon the working people of the world.

Very few could disagree and it is refreshing to know that in the future, the WFTU will continue to be in the forefront of the struggles of workers throughout the world.