Participation of the WFTU in the International Worker’s Symposium: The Role of Trade Unions in Workers’ Education: the Key to Trade Union Capacity Building. ILO, Geneva 8-12 October 20078 October 2007
“… Seek out the school, you who are homeless!
Sharpen your wits, you who shiver!
Hungry man, reach for
the book: it is a weapon …”
Dear colleagues, The education and training of the Working Class and trade unionists is a useful weapon for the Working Class and to this end it is and always has been one of the priorities of the World Federation of Trade Unions (W.F.T.U.).Particularly in our days, when capital’s forces launch an attack with scientific accuracy and organization against the Working Class and class oriented unions, trade union education is now more than ever indispensable. Science and technology are in the multinationals’ service and the capacity for wealth and goods’ production is only developed in order for the capitalists to multiply their profits. Even though we are in 2007, there are 115 million children uneducated and more than 800 million people illiterate worldwide. Even in countries where there are laws for trade union education, for the organization and functioning educational institutes, there is a basic question that everybody should answer honestly:
· Which orientation do we want the schools and courses to have andwhose interests do we want to serve.
It is no secret that education is a tool which promotes ideas, forms consciousness and reproduces the system in which it is designed. The 21st century is characterized as the century of knowledge and of quick and easy access to information. Multinationals try to reserve knowledge and specialization for their cadres and managers. They also try to increase their profits by altering science, knowledge and education from a social good into a commercial product.Trade Union education through schools, seminars, institutes is essential and useful. Research and science have become necessary tools for the Trade Union Movement to obtain the necessary basis to address the youth, women, intellectuals, economic immigrants. The heightened educational level of trade unionists and workers, the use of the new technologies, can improve our work
· For these reasons we have to define which orientation we want the schools and courses to have and whose interests we want to serve.We believe that there are two lines within the trade union movement which can never be reconciled. One is the line of consensus, subjugation or silent toleration and management of the system which permits the exploitation of man by man. And the other is the red line, the line of struggle for the Working Class’ interests, which is definitely harmful to the interests of capital. Therefore it is a logical necessity that trade union education is adjusted to the targets and aims of the trade unions according to their line.
The World Federation of Trade Unions (W.F.T.U.) during its 15th congress in Havana set 10 current priorities which show the orientation of its trade union members. According to these priorities, we think that in order for trade union education to be useful for the World Working Class’ interests, it has to be guided by the principles of class struggle and militant orientation. It should not be subjugated, controlled or influenced by monopolies and multinationals. It must steel and equip unionists in their struggle for Democratic and Trade Union liberties, for world peace, it should be orientated to promote ideas like Internationalism, Solidarity, Workers Solidarity.
It has to distinguish the causes that produce and reproduce problems for the world Working Class, to reveal the role of the sold out trade unionists and reformist trade unions. It ought to educate the youth in the principles and values, so that they love the Working Class, their class, to respect ordinary people, ordinary workers and not to become servants of wealthy people. All the workers should have the right to knowledge, education, culture and training, without economic obstacles and restrictions. Consequently, class oriented trade unions should design and carry out programs that will reinforce class struggle and will steel working class in the struggle for its rights.
Programs that will consider and set as a priority workers’ contemporary needs, the abolition of exploitation of man – by – man and not the dictates of capital’s representatives.We all know that there are huge differences among countries in relation to the potential of trade unions, workers rights, trade union and popular liberties etc. Today there are countries where militant workers are imprisoned, prosecuted, disappeared etc. There are countries where the workers used to have rights, conquests, big educational institutes which had a tradition in trade union education and training, but now all these have been restricted to a minimum or have disappeared.
The WFTU, in spite of the difficulties in the world trade union movement, having a clear orientation and persistence for the strengthening of the trade unions, is taking initiatives which help in this direction.Many trade union organizations that are WFTU members have their own Universities and Institutes where thousands of students and workers study (like in Cuba, Vietnam, Syria, Cyprus, etc.). In this spirit the WFTU organized a seminar for economic immigrants on May 29, 2006 in Brussels. The WFTU also organized an educational congress for working women on September 13th – 14th, 2007 in Brussels where 100 women from 80 trade unions all over the world participated.
Within 2008 the WFTU is planning to found a labor educational institute which will be connected to the educational and training centers of its members. Thank you.