Interview With Pedro Ross Leal, General Secretary of the Confederation of Cuban Workers

XV World Congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU)

The decision to allow our country to host the XV World Union Congress, which was ratified in the recent Presidential Congress of the WFTU (celebrated in Paris), is a decision which union leaders consider to be historic and transcendental, because the event will be celebrated in the continent which is the basis for the jost important changes that workers have gone through recently, expressed Pedro Ross Leal, Secretary General of the CTC.

Interviewed close to the time of the event, which will take place in Havana, from the first to the fourth of December 2005, he clarified that he would like to acquire a greater notoriety for the moments that humanity and the workers in general are living; characterized by the neoliberal offensive that devastates the conquests and rights of the workers and places the towns in misery and dependency of the empires and their transnational companies.

This determines the necessity of having an organization that will represent the workers, now that our bosses' interests are leaning towards the neoliberal politics that they are applying in the world, he emphasized.

In an adverse context — he indicated — we must also mention the fact that the United States has arrogantly appointed itself "the international policeman" and is starting wars worldwide with the objective of adding to its wealth of power and natural resources, which are quickly running out.

This is the genesis of the war against Afghanistan and Iraq, of the threats against Syria and Iran, of the creation of military bases surrounding the Orinoco River: an attempt to control the countries which possess these natural resources, like Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, and Paraguay.

The complex economic, political, and social panorama has shown that the unemployment rate is steadily rising, and workers are losing stability in their jobs, now that their bosses can fire them at any time or transfer factories from one country to another in search of greater profits.

"These measures are applied not only in Third World countries, but also in developed nations. They were the cause of the recent strike in France. 

In all the countries in the European Union, the unemployment rate has increased and the process of privatizing social security has began, which will place the youth, workers, and pensioners in a very bad position.

All these aspects — Ross emphasized — have to do with the present and future life of the workers and are on the analysis agenda of the XV Congress of WFTU, where they have a very important meaning. 

What subjects will be the object of debate in the Congress? 

"Deep structural and leadership changes have been introduced which allow us to face the challenges that the present situation has imposed. This has made us accountable, because the CTC is partly the cause of these changes and together with other unions it must make the decisions which will defend the economic, political, and social rights of the people, especially the workers. We are a class conscious organization and this is what distinguishes us from other international working associations." 

The Congress — he added — plans to make the participation of the affiliated organizations a priority after focusing its attention on the changes in the FSM. It has not excluded any unaffiliated organizations from working with them in order to see these changes take place.

"As I have indicated, the XV Congress of the WFTU is going to make radical changes in its structure and the organization, and will have to make decisions about new approaches, methods and style of work, subjects that will be topics of much debate." 

Ross also indicated that the Presidential Council formed an integrated committee composed of Cuba, India, Vietnam, Syria, Cyprus, Portugal, Senegal, Brazil and Russia, that will be in charge to proposing documents to debate and worldwide and regional changes in leadership to the General Council. 

"This committee is presided over by (K. L. Mahendra), of the AITUC of India, one of the jost prestigious organizations affiliated with the FSM." 

After its foundation 60 years ago, are the principles and objectives of the WFTU still effective? 

"Their principal objectives, the essence of the organization, remain, but a single-minded neoliberal world can cause them to change their dynamic action, and they are changing for this reason. 

"The methods of struggle have changed, we must know the role played by the social and political character-institutionalized masses such as the Worldwide Social Forum. The union movement is called to carry out the role of the protagonist, to compromise itself with those new forms of struggle. 

"Before, continental forums and the neocolonizing threat of ALCA did not exist, aljost a quarter of a century ago there wasn't a neoliberal offensive; and neoliberal policies didn't have the meaning that they do today, therefore is necessary to take into account all those changes so that we dont antagonize, dogmatize, or mechanize ourselves. 

"We must consider the other social factors that play an important role in society: people who are unemployed; the continent's indigenous people, the farmers (campesinos) without land, immigrants, student organizations, religious groups and intellectuals tied to the interests of their people. These factors did not have the meanings that they do today when the FSM was founded. 

"One of the aspects of the force that drives Cuba is that of of international solidarity, not only between the workers, but between the people. It is a solidarity of actions, not of words, such as that practiced in Cuba, Venezuela, and other nations that support our cause. This is the type of solidarity that is present and will still have to be reinforced in the WFTU.

What responsibilities does the Cuban union movement assume with this Congress?

"Although the decision to grant us the honor of hosting this event was a very recent one, we are taking all the steps to make sure that we are a worthy and dignified host. Being a working-class congress, this will be austere, as it corresponds to the workers, but without a doubt those participating in the event will experience solidarity and the hospitality of the Cuban people and workers.

"We will be able to show the delegates of this world congress the capacity of a people dedicated to defending their rights, sovereignty and independence against the jost aggressive superpower known to humanity." 

The General Secretary of the CTC considered that the XV World Congress will set standards: for the history of the world union movement, the Cuban Revolution, in particular; and the Latin American union movement, that bases its hopes and strategies of struggle on the integration of the continent through the Bolivarian Alternative for the Américas (ALBA), which without a doubt constitutes a reference for workers worldwide. ALBA not only means a greater economy, greater employment, and more security, but also national sovereignty and independence, true integration, more hope and more life, and also the certainty that we are part of the construction of a different and better world. 

Cuba, the people and the workers are also a reference, added Ross, and he mentioned that it was important to evaluate the state our country is in after 15 years of a "special period", when many thought that Cuba would disappear. 

"The gains of the resistance, of persevering with our principles, of not resigning our profits and principal social, political and economic conquests, indicate that the country is blossoming, as Fidel has expressed." 

Ross observed that the Congress of the WFTU will take place on the final days of this year, during which we will reach 9% growth of the gross domestic product.

"And when important goals towards the betterment of the people's life, health, education, food, housing, and wages are reached, we are on our way towards 100% employment. 

"While in other countries around the world workers' wages are lowered and pensions, social security, and health care are in danger, in Cuba everything improves and will continue to improve. The only thing that can stop to us is an aggression of imperialism, because we would have to dedicate ourselves to defending our country, fighting against this enemy, and defeating it.

"We have found ourselves in one of the jost important points in history, a product of everything we have done throughout all of these difficult years. For this reason I emphasize that Fidel's Cuba will be a worthy host of the XV World Union Congress", he affirmed.

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