By Nikolas Theodorakis, PAME International Secretariat
December 21, 2022
Workers’ struggles have nothing to do with the filth of the ITUC- ETUC, just as these organisations have nothing to do with the working class.
The recent arrest of the General Secretary of the ITUC, International Trade Union Confederation, and just hours before, the arrest also of the General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation – ETUC, has brought to the fore again the multifarious interference of the monopolies and the imperialists in order to control the trade union movement.
This at a time when the leaders of class unions around the world, WFTU cadres in Colombia, Ecuador, Palestine, Turkey, France, Italy, Greece, Sri Lanka, and around the world are being persecuted for their struggles and action in defense of the working class. (See in Greece President of OENGE, President of the General of the Federation of Builders, former President of the Commerce Employees of Thessaloniki, etc.)
Attempts of bribery and takeover have always existed. As there are threats, blackmail, slander, attacks, dismissals against militant trade unionists. But there is a qualitative difference here in that these organisations are themselves a mechanism of venality and corruption.
Really, what is the biggest scandal? International “trade union” taking bribes under the table from Qatar with 6,500 dead workers in the World Cup projects or ITUC and ETUC being funded over the table by organizations and institutes to promote anti-worker policies and measures and even justify wars, interventions and blockades with millions of workers killed?
These same organisations fund/subsidise openly trade unions and trade unionists to support the interests of the monopolies, to promote “social peace”.
On the question of “class struggle” or “class cooperation” ITUC-ETUC unequivocally reject the first and promote the second in every way. Their basic mission is to promote the logic of class cooperation, of “social dialogues”, of the integration and subordination of the workers to the plans and aspirations of the monopoly groups.
It is characteristic of their role and their tactics to organise seminars, events, workshops where participation in a seminar of the ETUC or the ETUI (European Trade Union Institute) Institute of the ETUC can have a subsidy payment that exceeds the wages of a worker in Greece.
They use NGOs and Institutes, funding from Ministries of Foreign Affairs, to organise European trade union activities in… Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. In general, wherever the EU, the USA, where missionaries used to go, nowadays NGOs and ITUC-ETUC trade unionists are going as volunteers.
It is no coincidence that the ETUC in a publication about its greatest successes in its 40 years of life, highlighted as its top action its contribution to the action of the notorious Lech Walesa’s Solidarnosc (Solidarity) in Poland to overthrow the workers’ power in Poland.
Trade unionists, who in their own countries went on strike for even half a day’s, are going with suitcases full of (wonder what?) to “civilize” the trade unions of the developing countries. Qatar is an exception, it seems, only in that this time the suitcases were going in the opposite direction. The scandal for the EU is that instead of the EU buying up unions, another country bought up one of the EU’s offspring.
For this let us recall some facts from the ITUC-ETUC’s “Black Book”
The ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation)
The ITUC is a renaming of the ICFTU, i.e. the infamous CIA-created “International Confederation of Free Trade Unions” as a mechanism for USA, UK, etc. intervention in trade unions. The main reason for its creation was to provide a counterweight to the growing prestige and influence of the WFTU-World Federation of Trade Unions and the class-based unions of the Soviet Union, France, Italy, India, etc.
The imperialists needed trade unions that would serve the struggle against the “Communist threat” by every means. And this was put into practice with leaders of the type of the American “trade unionists” James Carey, who declared: “In the last war, we joined with the Communists to fight the fascists. In the next war we will join with the fascists to defeat the communists.” Or the infamous American AFL-CIO president George Meany, who declared in the New York Times of December 10, 1955, “I never went on strike in my life, I never ordered anybody else to go on strike in my life, I never had anything to do with a picket line. I had no experience with that kind of power.”
The ITUC-ICFTU’s stance historically, and based on gradually declasssified CIA documents, was to act as a “Fifth Column” against forces that spoke out for any progressive idea. This is why they supported the puppet unions in the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, the Colonels in Greece, the whites in the apartheid era in South Africa, just as they now support the racist Israeli organization Histadrut, which advocates and promotes the murderous Israeli occupation of Palestine.
In an attempt to erase its sordid past, the ICFTU in 2006 renamed itself as the ITUC. But within a few months it again had to pay tribute to its masters. So at its first congress in Toronto the keynote speakers are the President of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and the Prime Minister of Greece’s first antiworkers’ Memorandum, George Papandreou.
Moreover, at the same Congress, without even keeping up appearances, it takes a clear pro-Israel position, rejecting a resolution tabled by South African trade unionists in favour of Palestine.
For those who want to say that these were mistakes of an old leadership, at the ITUC Congress in November 2022, in the midst of an imperialist war, the ITUC welcomed the butcher US President Biden who thanked the ITUC again and again for its great work. A week later Biden banned the US railroad workers’ strike and the newly appointed ITUC General Secretary was arrested on a bribery scandal.
The ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation)
The openly proclaimed raison d’être of the ETUC is “… The trade union movement has a responsibility to defend democracy and the European social model, the most important achievement of the last century” (p. 2, ETUC Declaration, 2019-2023). And how could it not be since the budget of the European Trade Union Confederation is 75% financed by the European Union itself.
The leadership team of the ETUC, are in the majority careerists of the European Union apparatus, with no connection to the working class, as PAME had revealed after the Vienna Congress in 2019
“The ETUC leadership is a group of Brussels bureaucrats, executives specialized in imposing anti-working-class policies, in the service of big capital and the monopolies, who all together find it difficult to present 5 years of work. On the contrary, all of them have previous experience in Brussels, in various EU and social-democratic committees, service in institutes and government positions, and one of them can boast that he was once at a workers’ rally!” PAME, 7/6/2019, “The Golden Boys of the ETUC leadership”
At the ETUC congress in Vienna, before Juncker kissed the ETUC President’s bald head, he was shouting with joy “Long live the unions”, meaning of course the unions that support competitiveness, entrepreneurship, capitalist development, the EU, and NATO.
ETUC in the period of the great struggles of the workers of Greece against the Memoranda, held with the leadership of the GSEE in Greece seminars on “Crisis Management” and in the Referendum for the Third Memorandum they supported the YES vote in favour of the Memorandum.
For these services they are richly rewarded, for example by their participation in the so-called European Social and Economic Committee to promote the logic of “social peace” and “class cooperation”. A similar situation that PAME has denounced and therefore withdrawn from in Greece is the famous Workers’ Academy of INE-GSEE.
We do not forget that ITUC-ETUC had called on the Greek authorities to take repressive measures against trade union organisations that expressed their disagreement with the GSEE leadership in the infamous congresses of riot police and repression.
They even spoke of “violent, Stalinist minorities, of the minority group PAME”. This, of course, did not stop them from repeatedly “stealing” images and videos from PAME rallies in order to decorate their texts with them. And the list does not end…
A Failed “Facelift”
The ITUC, after the failure of the previous facelift, attempted, with the appointment of a new General Secretary, to present a new, more active profile, so that it could play the role of a buffer against the growing anger and indignation of the workers. Regardless of how the QatarGate develops, the working class must get rid of the forces defending the profitability of its exploiters. The basic dividing line of the trade union movement will always be the question “With the workers or with the bosses”. You can’t be with both.
You can’t be with forces that cultivate waiting, inaction. Forces that turn unions from associations of organization and struggle into mechanisms of support for one government or another. Forces that call on workers to choose an imperialist camp, that supported and support the interests of the exploiters.
Workers around the world, young people, women, immigrants, are coming back into contact with the unions. They are mobilizing, struggling, striking. This is why governments, monopolies, imperialist organisations are trying to cultivate frustration, isolation, defeatism. With lies and slander, with intimidation and threats, with money and other means they have tried and will continue to try to strike the workers’ struggles.
But the working class has experience. It has the values of solidarity, of selfless service, of internationalism, of the conflict between the working class and the capitalists.
We expose the crimes of imperialism in Qatar, Palestine, Ukraine, in our own country. Guided by the values or the working class, we march forward, we meet with militant unions in other countries, we coordinate our action. We strengthen the struggle for a society without exploitation, poverty and wars.
EDITORS NOTE: PAME is the main left-wing trade union organization in Greece.