International Trade Union Conference (day 1). Speech by the General Secretary, George Mavrikos. Brussels, Belgium 10-11 April 201210 April 2012
Subject: “The developments in the region of Northern Africa, the Middle East and the Arab world”
The class-oriented movement that struggles through the ranks of the WFTU, the World Federation of Trade Unions, is obliged to examine, analyse and inform the working class about the developments in international relations, providing it with the best possible tools for its struggle against the capitalist exploitative system, against imperialism thus assisting the intervention of the trade union movement and the struggles of the working people.
From this point of view, the discussion today about the developments in the region has its own importance because we are in a critical period, in a period that the imperialist aggressiveness is being strengthened and the inter-imperialist rivalries are being intensified creating a very dangerous situation in the Middle East, Northern Africa, the Persian Gulf, the Eastern Mediterranean and the wider region. This situation might possibly lead even to general military conflicts, following the previous imperialist wars that we experienced in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
At the same time, under the conditions of the deep synchronized capitalist crisis of capital over accumulation the working class is experiencing the overall attack of the forces of capital which uses all means in order to place the burden of the consequences of the crisis onto the working people.
It is actually a very deep crisis of capitalism, which is bred and fed by the sharpening of the main contradiction between the social character of production and the private capitalist appropriation of its results.
We highlight this issue because the experience which has been accumulated over this period revealed the unrealistic and dangerous character of the positions that characterized this crisis as an alleged crisis of “neoliberalism” or as a financial crisis. Even if they are not promoted deliberately in order to disorient the working people, these positions lead to the whitewashing of the capitalist system, which is in decline and has exceeded its historical limits.
The crisis and the recession of the economy in the EU and other capitalist countries has lead to an unprecedented increase of unemployment, to the reduction of salaries, pensions and social spending leading to the expansion of the absolute destitution and poverty. The Middle East is the region with the highest rate of unemployment in the world, confirmed the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which reports that unemployment in the region is 10.3% compared to 6.2% on average globally.Unemployment is extremely high for young workers in the region with an average rate of 23% and 31.5% in the case of young women.
The deep recession of the capitalist system has ser
ious negative consequences for the working people in our region. Unemployment in all countries of the Arab world is increasing. The popular strata that live in conditions of poverty and destitution have also been multiplied. The young people, the women and the pensioners are receiving hard blows on their rights. The salaries of the working people continue to be very low. Privatizations are generalized.
Thus, we consider necessary to stress that there is a need for coordinated struggle against imperialist aggressiveness and the attack of capital against labour and people’s rights, a struggle that will bring to the agenda the abolition of the causes that breed exploitation, crisis and wars.
Allow us to pose several basic issues concerning the developments in our region.
First: the struggle of the Palestinian people for an independent democratic state, with its own borders and East Jerusalem as its capital continues to be a top priority for the international class-oriented trade union movement, for all the affiliates and the friends of the WFTU! The stance of the USA, Israel and the EU has been condemned in the consciousness of the working people. We demand the immediate recognition of the Palestinian state in the borders of 1967.
Second: the Intervention of the USA, the EU, Turkey and a series of Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, in the international affairs of Syria is being strengthened aiming at the overthrow of the Syrian government. This goal is part of the imperialist plan for the so called Middle East and the imposition of a solution that corresponds to the interests of the powerful capitalist interests.
We want to clarify from the very beginning that any critical position regarding the policy followed by the Syrian government towards the working class and the popular strata has as its starting point the defense of the popular interests as the class-oriented movement should do.
This stance is combined with the unwavering struggle against any imperialist intervention, stressing that the working class, the popular forces are responsible for the course of the developments in their country, as well as for finding the best possible solution for their own interests.
The imperialists who plunder the people and kill them in order to take their natural resources have no right to talk in the name of “democracy” in order to justify aggressive actions.
The reactionary regimes which exploit the working people and ban the trade union and political activity have no right to talk about “human rights” and use this pretext to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries.
Third: Along with the intervention against Syria the imperialist aggressiveness against Iran is also strengthening and the conditions for a military confrontation are being created which might possibly take on a general character.
We condemn the embargo against Iran and the threats of the USA, NATO, the EU and the Israeli government.
We stress that it is necessary to reinforce the anti-imperialist activity, to demand the withdrawal of the imperialist military forces from the region, to strengthen the anti-imperialist struggle.
Fourth: Turkey increases its threats against Cyprus; the relations between Turkey and Israel are sharpening, while Israel is increasing its aggressiveness against the people of Lebanon and the Lebanese resistance.
Fifth: it is obvious that the bourgeois class of Turkey is utilizing its economic and military power, that it seeks to play a strategic role in the field of energy as a powerful regional force and works according to a plan for the expansion of the Turkish monopoly interests in the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the Middle East in order to take a bigger share from the natural resources and the markets in the region utilizing the religious spirit.
While the occupation of 37% of Cyprus by Turkey continues, the Turkish government is turning against the Republic of Cyprus by means of provocations and threats, against the sovereign rights of Cyprus, against its right to determine and exploit its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Another important element of the developments is the tension in the relations between Turkey and Israel that expresses the contradictions between the two powerful regional imperialist forces for the control of the region.
We are obliged to inform the people, to enlighten them so as to understand that the actions of Turkey against Israel do not express the people’s interests but the interests of the Turkish bourgeois class and the general plans that aim at the “New Middle East”.
Sixth: In Algeria the European imperialists seek an even tighter control of the natural resources and mainly of the natural gas.
On the developments in Egypt and Tunisia.
The WFTU supported the people’s struggle in these countries and considers the developments a result of both internal and external factors, with the internal factors playing a dominant role.
It is a fact that the labour and popular forces opposed the anti-people governments and fought for their rights, playing a significant role in the overthrow of the Mubarak and Ben Ali regimes.
In parallel, it needs to be stressed that parts of the bourgeois class have participated and still participate in the process of changes in order to modernize the economic base, to liberate branches and sectors of the economy that are still under the control of the state as well as to adapt the political system to a bourgeois parliamentary model so that it corresponds to the development of the capitalist economy.
This assessment does not underestimate the role of the USA, which link its interests to the region and act in the frames of acute inter-imperialist competition on the basis of the plan for a “New, Greater Middle East”. In order to strengthen its position the USA devises transitional political solutions, which do not exclude the so called “political Islam” as in the case of Turkey.
It is well known that the class-oriented movement did not use the term revolution, since it is a deeper concept referring to a change of the class in power.
The class-oriented movement adopted low profile towards descriptions such as “the Arab spring”. In our opinion, this position has been confirmed by life and developments, namely by the anti-people orientation of the policy of the Tunisian and Egyptian military governments as well as the leading role of forces that try to confine the developments to political-religious solutions that do not serve the interest of the people.
The class-oriented movement does not support every political change uncritically. It examines the role of the social classes, of the political forces and takes into consideration the content of the political positions.
It assesses the essence of the changes, whether they serve the popular interests. On this basis it opposes positions that support e.g. the so called anti-regime forces in Libya that came to power by means of the imperialist bombing and have reactionary positions.
Furthermore, it opposes the so called anti-regime forces in Syria, which are organized, financed and supported by foreign imperialist powers.
Concerning the developments in Libya
We revealed that the war in Libya was waged for the control over oil reserves and opened a front against the imperialist war. We demanded the immediate cessation of the bombing and all military action by NATO, the EU on the side of the so-called anti-regime forces. Today the vast majority of the workers have realized that the analysis and positions of the WFTU were correct.
As in Libya now and in Syria, Iran, Nigeria and Somalia the imperialists once again use the UN and its resolutions. We would like to make clear that those in power who speak of the legalization of imperialist assaults by the resolutions of the UN Security Council pose a danger and should be decisively countered by the peoples. It is necessary for the peoples to be informed that the UN has long been put in the service of the imperialist plans, especially after the counterrevolutionary overthrows in the Soviet Union and the other Socialist countries.
The international law, which represents the international balance of forces and which has become very negative for the peoples is used to support the imperialist aggression.
The ITUC positions are in favour of the imperialists:
The positions of the WFTU on the one hand and those of the ITUC on the other hand concerning the developments in the region were completely different. The positions of the WFTU were internationalist, democratic, had class characteristics, were against the imperialist interventions and opposed the plans of the international capital.
The positions of the ITUC and of the so called “independent” trade unions were on the side of the imperialists. In Libya they supported the bombing by NATO, the EU and the USA. In Egypt and Tunisia they have supported and still support the strategy of the capitalists. In the Palestinian issue they constantly support the positions of Israel. In the Persian Gulf they support the positions of the reactionary monarchs and kings. In Syria they are on the side of the imperialist intervention. In Lebanon they ally with the anti-labour forces.
In Europe trade unions such as CCOO in Spain and others in France, Germany, Britain, the North European countries and elsewhere adopt the same positions as ITUC. ETUC also adopts the same positions in favour of the imperialist interventions.
The role of many NGOs
The trade union movement in the Middle East and around the world needs to pay attention to the role that many NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) are trying to play. In almost all Arab countries there are some people traveling from country to country staying in expensive hotels, living with all amenities without working, etc. and trying to get into the unions, inside social organizations, to cooperate, to give advice etc, etc. In many countries around the world it has been proved that governments are behind many NGOs, or corporations, or kings, or intelligence services, or other obscure mechanisms. The class trade union movement should expose the role of such organizations and urge workers not to get captured, not to become victims of such mechanisms.
Such mechanisms are actually designed to promote specific plans of governments, to get inside trade unions, inside political parties or to work to wreak reformism and defeatism in the minds of workers. No government, no multinational, no monopoly would ever give money to any NGO if it would not promote their obvious or hidden purposes.
In conclusion, we underline that these developments stress that in our region, the region of Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the broader region including the Persian Gulf is a region of great military importance since it has vast oil and gas reserves and includes important energy and key maritime channels.
This region is already being exploited by major monopoly and economic groups of powerful imperialist and regional states that compete for the control and the exploitation of the energy wealth. The race among the USA, France, Great Britain, Germany, Turkey and Israel as well as with Russia, which have penetrated the region by launching various businesses, has been developing in the past years.
The analysis of the WFTU takes into consideration that imperialism is a system in which the capitalist states participate according to their level of development. On the basis of their economic, political and military strength they retain a certain position in the imperialist pyramid and fight for a better one for the sake of their monopolies. This is a process of competition, balance and realignments resulting from changes in the balance of forces.
The solution for the peoples is the eradication of the cause that creates the contradictions, conflicts and wars. This cause is the private capitalist ownership of the means of production, the capitalist super-profit.
All the countries of our region have significant wealth and resources. If they were used in the interest of the peoples, the peoples would live in much better conditions. So our struggles for better salaries, for better social security, for free public education and healthcare systems for all workers are our priority. At the same time our struggle for democratic and trade union freedoms and for full rights for women and youth remain our basic target.
The aim of the class-oriented movement, the struggle for the workers’ power and the building of a society devoid of exploitation of man by man, determines the line of struggle and the aims of the workers’ and popular movement. Therefore, our main task is to fight at the same time for the contemporary need of the workers as well as for the overthrow of the capitalist system.
On this basis peoples can live in peace.
Otherwise the vicious circle of capitalist crises and wars will go on.
The class-oriented movement condemns the unjust imperialist wars knowing that the wars, which are the continuation of the policy by violent means, are inevitable as long as the society is divided into classes and as long as exploitation of man by man exists.