Already 65 years passed since the foundation of the WFTU in France, Paris on October 3, 1945. During this course of 65 years the WFTU was present in all small and big developments around the world. Great action, big successes, seriously positive impact on the global working class and the trade union movement. There were also mistakes, weaknesses and delays in this great course but they could not reduce the overall positive course. There were also difficulties that at some moments put in danger even the functioning of the WFTU.
But what kept and keeps this organization alive? What helped to overcome the obstacles? What are the reasons why the WFTU after going through great difficulties in the 1990’s managed to stand up against persecutions, against injustices, against slanders and anti-labor approaches?
There are three main reasons:
1. The firm belief of WFTU in the working class, in the vanguard role of the working class to liberate society from capitalist exploitation. The firm belief that together the working class in alliance with the poor farmers, the self-employed, the landless and the progressive intelligentsia can claim a better present and a brighter future. In this course of 65 years, of course, the working class did not keep the same characteristics of 1945. It acquired new characteristics, new possibilities, new knowledge, new needs, new qualitative and quantitative features. But all these new elements did not change for a moment its main characteristic, which is that this is the class exploited by the capital. This is the class that generates the surplus value that enriches the capitalists. The belief in this solid Marxist position helped the WFTU to stay upright and to struggle in any kind of conditions.
2. The acceptance and respect for the principles of class struggle, for the principles of class-oriented struggles gave the WFTU the moral, trade union and political superiority over international trade union organizations that were converted into branches and servants of monopolistic and transnational corporations. In all WFTU Constitutions the commitment to militant principles was underlined. And it was not a coincidence that in any period when such principles were violated by an occasional leadership, the WFTU went through difficult moments.
3. The effort to closely relate the struggle for the current, immediate problems with the political perspective and political way out. The insistence to relate the economic struggle for survival to the struggle to overthrow the exploitative capitalist system. The willing to serve with its tactics, its strategic purposes. To open new paths across the old and rotten capitalism in order to propose the alternative of a new society, free of exploitation of man by man. Instead of the rotten colonialism to propose its abolition. Instead of racism and fascism to propose the slogan “Proletarians of all countries, unite.”
These three factors made the difference in favor of the WFTU against other international trade union organizations whose life, action, tactics and goals are extinguished within the limits of the capitalist system.
And today here from the floor of the 16th World Trade Union Congress we make a call upon you to strengthen even more the above three elements. Under the present conditions of deep crisis of the capitalist system, it is necessary to keep the wheel firmly, to meet the demands of the times and the contemporary needs of workers and popular strata. We call you to work as we worked in the previous five years with confidence and boldness; to pay even more attention in the new period, to care and perseverate even more in order to strengthen the necessary foundational characteristics of all unions, affiliates and friends of our great family; to open up new paths with innovative ideas, pioneering action, innovation, radical initiatives; with our eyes and our minds towards the future. In order to move steadily ahead we should not forget:
We are Internationalists
Proletarian internationalism, labor solidarity and support, struggle coordination and international cooperation, the struggle against imperialism and imperialist wars have a main role in the founding principles of WFTU. In the last years we have improved our activity in these areas but we still have serious deficiencies and delays. We ask all WFTU affiliates and friends to develop their reflects and self-motivation in the practical expression of internationalist solidarity. A good example is the quality and quantity in expressing solidarity with the Palestinian People and their struggles. And a negative example is the great struggle of the workers in the Panama Canal who struggled to demand their right to strike. We asked for solidarity but you were delayed. At the same time we should never forget that by developing class struggles within our own country we are helping to strengthen the class conception at international level too. So first we are judged by what we do in our country, and after by what we do outside at international level.
We pay attention to the preparation of struggles
Until now we pay always and everywhere the attention needed to prepare struggles. This task is fundamental. First, to formulate the right demands to unite all workers. The demands to reflect the current needs of workers. To give perspective and a way out, to radicalize. Secondly, to choose the right format and the right time, at the right period. The aim is the form of the struggle to bring out the content and the timing to create problems for the employer.
Third, to organize timely information for workers and to provide wider information and publicity to strengthen solidarity and moral and material support. If the company is multinational we should evaluate in advance the international coordination and mutual help.
We respect the democratic functioning
The open, wide, democratic functioning is a key characteristic of the class-oriented trade union movement. We ask you to try to constantly improve the democratic functioning. With control to the leaderships by the affiliates. With fraternal emulation. With respect to collectiveness. With criticism and self-criticism. With democratic and free elections. With open general assemblies, with democratic functioning of the Executive Committees. With workers’ control and open war against careerism and corruption.
We pay attention to the base
A strong WFTU, powerful unions means to be strong in the workplaces, in factories, in the working class neighborhoods. We will build a strong WFTU when we are strong at the base. With stable, qualitative and quantitative relations with workers. Strengthening from the bottom means hitting the bureaucracy of the routine. Strengthening the base will help new cadres from the base to stand out and emerge. New cadres are new blood for the trade union movement. We will become stronger at the base every day by affiliating new members to the unions and you know that so far the participation and the number of members are in low levels.
We take care of youth, women, migrants
The situation within the trade union movement will improve as long as more young people, women and immigrants get involved in the life and activities of trade unions. With boldness and courage we must elect in our leaderships young workers, women and immigrants. We must reject discrimination against working women. We must hit xenophobia, racism and neo-fascism. We can use the conclusions and final resolutions of the International Conferences organized by the WFTU for Young Workers in Peru in 2009, for Women in Brussels in 2007, for Immigrants in Belgium in 2006. Remember what was said and written by Karl Marx “social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex.” Do not forget that the new generation will organize the big struggles tomorrow. The new generation will build the new society.
We educate, we train our cadres and also workers
Especially nowadays, education, trade union training and seminars are becoming more and more important. In modern conditions for the proper and efficient organization of the struggles, it is required more knowledge, more information, more preparation. The task of training is immediate in order to get better in the struggles. In this framework, the knowledge of the history of the national and international trade union movement is a positive help. The history gives us both positive and negative conclusions. These conclusions can be used for the present and the future. We learn to recognize our mistakes and to correct them; to face our weaknesses with courage. We defend the history of WFTU and the history of workers’ struggles against slanderers. We uncover those who distort historical facts and rewrite history in favor of the interests of the capital. We do not copy the history. We are taught and enriched by the lessons of our history to be more effective in the class struggles of our time.