The Guardian April 12, 2000


World Federation of Trade Unions 14th Congress:
International solidarity

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.

Successes

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 defeat 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.

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