Many years have passed since the formation of the first labor union in 1790 and since the establishment of the first internationalworkingmen’s association in 1864. The labor and union movement has traveled a long since then road paved with substantial achievements and very good results.
The first and forejost issue that the appearance of trade union organizations revealed was the role of a then young and emerging new social class — the working class — which rapidly entered the social and political life of the population at large in every country around the world. Moreover, up until the eighteenth century jost people considered social development as having been determined by kings, princes, gods and spirits. A new appreciation came about that social progress was in fact determined by the popular masses. This new understanding greatly affected the path of human history in the 19th and 20th centuries.
This path of human history has been one of unprecedented difficulties. For the trade union movement from 1790 until the present day there have been great successes, substantial victories and also weaknesses, mistakes and setbacks.Contained in this rich experience of history is the role of the WFTU — the World Federation of Trade Unions. Its formation on 3rd October 1945 was a victory in itself for the world trade union movement — a crowning achievement for the international working class. It was a qualitative new step and it was the first serious and stable attempt at global unity and coordination of the world proletariat against fascism, the domination of capital and imperialism.
The authority and dynamism of the WFTU was of immediate concern to the ruling powers in the United States and United Kingdom and capitalism world – wide. For that reason a campaign was launched to undermine and destroy the new world trade union body.The history of the last sixty years of the labor movement is well – known. Many books have been written and there are indisputable historic documents; thousands of protagonists of contemporary history are still living and no one can overturn the facts of history.
During these last sixty years the WFTU has never been on the side of the monopolies nor with the transnational corporations. It has never been on the side of the bourgeoisie and imperialists. It has never been neutral either. It has always remained on the side of the workers’ struggles for basic rights and liberties all around the world. It has always been with those who have fought for peace, progress and the elimination of exploitation of man by man. It played an important role in the movements of Asia and Oceania, Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. In this 60 years history there have also been omissions and mistakes. These however, by no means nullify the positive and rich WFTU course. We are proud of that history and we learn from the victories and the successes as well as from our mistakes.
Now, at the dawn of the 21st century some important overthrows have taken place in the International balance of forces. These overthrows have given serious supremacy to the forces of capital at the expense of the working class. The temporary sovereignty of capital intensifies capitalist exploitation against people and states; the wealth that the working class produces is gathered in the hands of a few strong people around the world. The progress of science and technology in all fields, the rapid use of new technologies in the productive process is developed for the increase of profits of the transnational corporations.
While in a society without exploitation of man by man new technologies should, as a human achievement, be of service to man, in order for him to work less, to earn more, to enjoy better occupational hygiene and safety conditions, to have more free time, better opportunities in entertainment, culture, education and healthcare. That is to live better and longer. Nowadays, this not only does not happen, but exploitation is intensified while such great wealth is being concentrated in the pockets of few. 115 million children remain illiterate. A child dies each 3.6 seconds. In New Orleans, USA, 1.577 poor people died. In the countries of European Union the unemployed exceed 30 million. According to UNESCO more than 921 million people live in dens. This is the true image in jost capitalist countries, independent of whether neoliberal, conservative, or social democratic powers are governing.
In the beginning of the 21st century, we see that neocolonialism is emerging again strengthened, with new characteristics and elements. In Africa, many countries experience intense pressure from the USA. The same is true for Latin America. The USA is worried by the intense development of People’s Republic of China. In the former socialist countries of Europe, the working class works in feudal conditions. Racism, neofascism, xenophobia are gradually reappearing! The revolt of immigrants in France and in the USA proves that.
In our century, the overthrows of 1989 – 1991 brought a new correlation of forces, which led to the USA’s omnipotence. Although we believe, that this omnipotence is temporary, it gives birth to wars, changes to the borders of states, creates millions of refugees, kills innocent people, suppresses the autonomy and independence of some countries and enslaves peoples, turns the UN into a cover of USA’s, UK’s and their allies’ illegalities. Even the official data confesses that contemporary imperialist wars have forced 8.5 million refugees and another 21 million people to change living place within their countries. Using the pretext of the struggle against terrorism, democratic and trade union rights are restricted. The human liberties are also restricted. Peoples, states and governments are threatened. Almighty groups of capitalist control Mass Media and have imposed their antidemocratic terms. They libel, devise news and facts, spread lies and concentrate large profit. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are capital’s mechanisms and their policies cause problems to peoples.
The WFTU holds deep convictions on the substance of these new challenges. It recognizes the changes in the world balance of forces of power. It recognizes the changes in the make – up of the working class, their new needs and demands. But while all these changes take place, the main law of capitalism remains unchanged: The working class produces the wealth but, through the process of production, the wealth is appropriated by capital. So against this overall picture the following issues arise for the international trade union movement:
— What type of trade union do the workers need today?
— What strategies and tactics have to be employed?
— What should be jettisoned and what maintained?
— How new are the economic theories of today against those defined 150 years ago, the commencement of the international trade union struggle?
— Should a trade union be judged by its words or by its actions and inactions?
The new WFTU leadership started on a new path based on the decisions of the XVth World Trade union Congress held in Cuba in December, 2005 and encapsulated in the final declaration entitled the Havana Consensus. In the course of 2006 these principles were developed in substantial dialogue on contemporary issues between affiliates, friendly organizations and individuals from the world trade union movement in a series of meetings organized by the WFTU leadership.Emerging from these discussions and the Havana Consensus paper is a list of ten priorities the WFTU has nominated for itself in these challenging times. They are not listed in any form of priority and the WFTU recognizes that each one of these issues could be a program in its own right.
Ten Current Priorities of the WFTU
1. In order, for the Labor and Trade Union Movement to be capable of expressing the contemporary demands of the Working Class it has to be guided by the principles of class struggle and militant orientation. The study of labor movement’s history the last 200 years proves that what the International Working Class has achieved had been achieved by struggle. Nowhere in the world, no employer and no capitalist government has ever resolved working class problems by its own initiative. Our movement does not accept the theories of rejecting class oriented struggles.
2. WFTU believes in the Independence of Trade Union organizations from monopolies and transnational corporations. We live in a society divided into classes; therefore trade unions represent Working Class with its contemporary characteristics, aiming at a wide coalition with broad popular strata. Trade Union movement must be organizationally independent from political parties. To fight back against the policies of governments that is harmful to popular strata. To be financially independent so as not to depend on secret sources.
3. Today, there is a serious drawback in the issues of Democratic and Trade Union Liberties due to employer terrorism and state violence. The latest examples against the strikers of South Korea, the governmental violence against the striking teachers in Mexico, the barbarity of the Colombian regime against struggling trade unionists and the modern surveillance systems in Europe, the threats against the construction workers in Australia, and thousands of other cases are undeniable facts. The WFTU is ringing the bell of danger for progressive people about human rights that are been attacked under the pretext of the struggle against terrorism, by the governments of the USA, the UK and their allies. The struggle for democracy and free trade union action is constant but also concrete.
4. In a period of imperialist madness, the struggle for Peace is for the class oriented trade union movement a principal task. The first victims of USA’s and NATO’s aggressiveness are workers and popular strata. They are killed in battlefields, in their homes and workplaces; they are burdened with the task of recovering from wars’ consequences. International Peace will help all peoples in all developing countries. Therefore, WFTU is present in the development of a wide, mass antiwar movement and underlines that Internationalism and Workers’ Solidarity are key points for the struggling movement with a new and rich content. WFTU is in favour of the abolition and destruction of all nuclear weapons from all countries without exception.
5. The whole of humanity realizes that in the last 15 years the negative correlation of forces which dominates in International Organizations such as the UN, legalize the illegal and aggressive acts of US governments. This is a very negative development. The Labor and Trade Union movement, developing a wide, mass movement, demands for a UN just and independent from the powerful of the earth. Our era needs such International Organizations.
6. WFTU’s new leadership assesses that trade unions need to obtain a constant front against bureaucracy and elitism, so as to regain authority, trust and acceptance. History teaches us that the principles of collectiveness, criticism and democratic functioning help the movement. Trade union leaders should be simple, be with simple people, love the Working Class and not become themselves wealthy allies of capital. True trade union leaders ought to educate the younger on the principles and values of labor movement. They ought to respect the base. To respect ordinary workers.
7. We live in the century of knowledge and information. Transnational corporations try to keep knowledge and specialization for their cadres and managers. The necessity for workers to have access to and the right to knowledge, culture and Education is more imperative than ever before. Within this framework, Trade Union Education providedthrough seminars, schools, groups, and institutes is useful to all workers. Research and science are necessary tools. They give further advantages to the trade union movement for it to address youth, women, intellectuals, economic immigrants whose entering trade unions will revive the labor movement. It is essential that new trade union members have a higher educational, cultural and intellectual level.
8. WFTU fights for the improvement of workers’ lives, for the solution of their economic, social security and labor demands. Demands, which are being formed according to the era and its needs. According to the time and the place. They work for the participation of all workers in Trade Unions. For the establishing and the free functioning of Trade Union organisations in every country. At the same time, it is stated in the statute of the WFTU that the organisation will struggle for the abolition of exploitation of man by man. This qualitative element gives impetus to the Working Class’s struggle and makes it the moving force of history in the construction of a society without social injustice, without wars, with democracy and freedom. With a right to knowledge and democratic media.
9. WFTU struggles against cultural imperialism, which aims at the distortion of History, which does not respect traditions, culture and the particularities of each nation, which tries through a multisided propaganda to impose the American way of life everywhere. Each nation, each country, each trade union movement has its own history, its own characteristics. WFTU respects and values this. And calls upon the youth to study the culture and history of their nations.
10. WFTU states in the new page it has turned after its XVth Congress that it is ready to cooperate and act along with other international trade union organizations, with national, regional and branch trade unions, independent from existing ideological and political differences, for the promotion of the international working class interests. The only criteria for every WFTU cooperation are equality, mutual respect, the acceptance of each other’s differences and each time, a mutual designation of aims. The WFTU of today does not view trade unions as enemies. It sees enemies in capital and the Imperialists. A fundamental principal of WFTU was and is the promotion of UNITY of all workersindependent of ideology, religion, colour, language and sex. This unity should promote the fighting characteristics of all trade unions and rally wide forces so that the struggle against capital is more massive and effective. In this fighting unity, poor peasants, the landless, self-employed, groups of people, who are concerned and worried about the world we are living in and its future, have a place. We live in the era of Globalisation, whose dominant element is neoliberalism and the accumulation of excess power in the hands of the few. The international balance of forces has, we hope temporarily, been disturbed! Let us work in order to oppose this Globalisation, with a globalized struggle. WFTU with its 60 – year experience and activity and with its renewed and contemporary class attitude is the hope for the revival of the International Labor and Trade Union Movement.