I) THE FOUNDING CONGRESSThe World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) was established in Paris on 3 October 1945. The First World Trade Union Congress (Paris, 3-8 October 1945) which voted to establish the WFTU was attended by delegates representing 67 million workers from 56 national organizations from 55 countries and 20 international organizations. The First World Trade Union Congress was preceded by the World Trade Union Conference held in London from 6 to 17 February 1945 and which accomplished much of the preparatory work. The London Conference was attended by 204 delegates from 53 national and international organizations representing 60 million workers worldwide. The Conference had as co-chairpersons, representatives of the British TUC, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) of the United States and the All Union Central Council of Trade Unions of the USSR. They were assisted by three vice-chairpersons - from the CGT of France, the Chinese Federation of Labour and the Confederation of Workers in Latin America. Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the British TUC, was the General Secretary of the Conference. The establishment of the WFTU closely followed the San Francisco Conference which created the United Nations Organization (UNO). The U. N. Charter adopted in San Francisco on 26 June 1945 declared: "We the people of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, and for these ends to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples, have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims." The basic aim of the First World Trade Union Congress was nothing other than the objectives quoted above from the U. N. Charter. The U. N. Charter spoke in the name of "We the peoples of the United Nations". The Paris Congress of WFTU spoke in the name of the working people of the world organized in trade unions who wanted a world free from war and social injustices. The foundation of the WFTU was thus seen as indicative of the new era that had opened with the defeat of fascism at the hands of the anti-fascist alliance of states. The working people and the democratic forces saw in that victory the new future of the world, where imperialism and colonialism would retreat and where freedom, peace, democracy and prosperity would advance for all humankind. It was obvious to the working people and the trade unions that mere declarations of governments were not enough. In the anti-Hitler coalition and the United Nations itself, there were governments and states which had built up Hitler and which, even after the victory over fascism, were trying to suppress the liberation movements in those countries whom they held in colonial subjection. So, it was felt necessary to build the unity of the working people and the oppressed nations the world over, in order to achieve the aims of humankind which were enshrined in the Declarations. The unity of governments alone, in the form of the United Nations, was not enough. New organizations of the masses, of the working class in particular, were necessary. Hence trade union unity on a world scale was called for. These concerns were clearly reflected in the Manifesto issued by the London Conference: "Organized labour has made its full contribution both in the field of the armed struggle and in that of production by creating and sustaining the gigantic forces which have already brought fascism to its knees and will tomorrow destroy it completely and forever. "Our historic Conference, meeting in the midst of the armed struggle still raging, is itself a demonstration of the unity of the working class and evidence of the moral victory of the United Nations over the evil forces of fascism. "Organized labour, with so great a part in winning the war, cannot leave to others - however well intentioned they may be - the sole responsibility of making the peace. The peace will be a good peace - an enduring peace - a peace worthy of the sacrifices by which it has been won - only if it reflects the deep resolve of the free peoples, their interests, their desires, and their needs. "We therefore send forth from our World Conference this appeal to all workers of the world, and to all men and women of goodwill to consecrate to the building of a better world the service and sacrifice they have given to the winning of the war."
II) BASIC AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE FOUNDING CONGRESSThe Constitution of the WFTU adopted in 1945 placed among the aims of the WFTU: "To combat war and the causes of war and work for a stable and enduring peace." The first resolution adopted by the Paris Congress declared that "one of the primary tasks of the WFTU and the trade union movements of all countries is to fight for the speedy and complete eradication of fascism. We recognize that the forces of reaction do not want to see the German and Japanese war potentials utterly destroyed and fascism extirpated. World labour must take action to guarantee that these forces shall not prevail. . . ". . .The Congress declares that world labour must be ever-vigilant to prevent any hesitation or weakening in the application of these decisions (the Potsdam Agreements)." The second resolution adopted by the First World Trade Union Congress outlined the principles for a fundamental charter of the rights of the trade unions and their immediate demands. The Paris Congress in its second resolution, strongly reaffirmed the basic demands of the workers: the right of the working people to organize themselves; freedom from every form of discrimination based on race, creed, colour or sex; the right to work and to paid holidays; adequate rates of pay and a higher standard of living (housing, food, etc.); social security providing guarantees against unemployment, in sickness, accidents and old age. The resolution on the "people’s right to self-determination" clearly put forward the slogan of national independence: "Victory over the fascist powers was based both upon the united military might of the United Nations and the active struggle of the peoples to secure their full enjoyment of our basic liberties and the right of self-determination and national independence. "It would indeed be but incomplete victory if the common people in the colonies and territories of all nations were now denied the full enjoyment of their inherent right of self-determination and national independence." The Congress supplemented this demand for political independence with the call for economic independence as well. The Paris Congress decided: To increase industrialization and agricultural technical progress under democratic control in all backward countries, in order to free them from their present position of dependence and to improve the standard of living of their population; To see that this program is not used for monopolistic profiteering interests, native or foreign, which would harm the legitimate national and social interests of these countries; To support the assistance which may be given to these countries by the technical and financial resources of advanced countries in terms of long-term credits and other means without permitting the latter to interfere in the internal affairs of the needy countries or to subject them to the influence of international trusts and cartels; To insure international coordination of these measures, so as to achieve a harmonious evolution of all peoples; To enlist all peoples within the framework of this movement, not merely those of the backward countries, but also those of advanced countries, whose real interests coincide with that of the former. The founding Congress of the WFTU heard powerful arguments for international trade union cooperation and trade union unity. Sydney Hillman, delegate of the CIO from the United States, said: "History - that harsh teacher - has taught us a costly lesson in the last tragic and bloody decade - the lesson that unity among the democratic forces of the world is the one condition without which peace and progress are impossible. . . The international labour movement (before 1939) was a weak and ineffectual force in the anti-fascist struggle because it lacked the unity that is our sole source of strength." The delegate of the AUCCTU of the Soviet Union, V.Kuznetsov, supporting Sydney Hillman, declared: "The members of the Soviet trade unions unanimously call for world trade union unity and stress the fact that the establishment of personal contact with the workers of the democratic countries is a serious step forward in bringing this unity into being." But there were acute controversies and sharp differences at the Congress on several issues. For example, on the question of national independence for colonial countries, there were differing attitudes. When, for instance, Shripad Amrit Dange (India) welcomed the prospects opened up by the establishment of the WFTU in the following terms: "For our working class, the simple thing is national independence and for that our people join the international trade union movement," Walter Citrine of the British TUC replied that he did not think the WFTU was "the medium whereby this is to be done. If once we get into the maze of politics. . . . this International will perish." When the Standing Orders Committee proposed a resolution condemning colonialism in Vietnam and Indonesia, Kupers, delegate from the Dutch trade unions, came to the rostrum to deny the justification of the Indonesian people’s struggle for independence. However, the spirit of the times was such that unity prevailed and all the Congress documents were adopted. The Congress thus became an outstanding event in the history of the world trade union movement. The Congress elected Walter Citrine (British TUC) as President and Louis Saillant (French CGT) as General Secretary, with headquarters in Paris.
III) ACHIEVEMENTS OF A UNITED MOVEMENTThe first four years of the WFTU - 1945 to 1949 - showed the great potential of a united world trade union movement. Despite the initial opposition of certain bureaucrats, the WFTU was given consultative status at the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The WFTU took the initiatives for the adoption of ILO conventions on the right of association and collective bargaining. Powerful support was given to workers’ struggles for their rights and demands. The WFTU organized an intense solidarity campaign in support of the anti-fascist forces in Spain and Greece and managed to convince the U.N. to recommend to member states the withdrawal of their ambassadors from Madrid. The defense of trade union rights was at the heart of the solidarity actions with workers who were victims of repression, including workers in colonial territories. On two occasions, July 1946 and February 1947, special missions were sent to Iran when trade unionists were arrested and democratic liberties suppressed. A similar mission was sent, in March 1947, to South Africa following the brutal repression on striking miners. But as the democratic upsurge of the peoples advanced, asserting their right of association and united action for their economic and social demands, they were faced with the staunch resistance of the imperialist and reactionary forces. The veritable democratic upsurge and the victory of the national liberation movements in the colonies in the post-second-world-war period were marked by an active role of the working people and the trade unions in these great struggles for human progress. The WFTU and its affiliates actively supported the national liberation movements and the struggles against military and fascist dictatorships. The growth in membership and influence of the trade union movements all over the world has been most remarkable during this period. The world trade union movement actively helped the organizing process in the newly-independent countries.
IV) INTERVENTION OF THE COLD WAR - SETBACKS AND SPLITSThe international situation took a turn for the worse with the cold war which came to prevail in the late 1940s, along with the rearmament, the arms race and the politics of confrontation. United national trade union centers were disrupted by the advocates of the cold war and trade union unity was seriously weakened. The anti-fascist alliance of states was split and was soon replaced by armed confrontation between two powerful military blocs. The United Nations and all international organizations were seriously affected by the politics of confrontation. Within the WFTU, following the positions taken by the different national trade union centers, acute policy differences arose on important questions. This related to the role of the International Trade Secretariats, attitude to the Marshall Plan, etc. Analyzing the developments of that period, Louis Saillant, the then WFTU General Secretary, wrote: "One must not try to foist the views of a national trade union centre on to a united international trade union organization, as the American unions wanted to do with regard to the Marshall Plan. We proposed at the time, since we had different points of view, that we should simply take note of the existence of the Marshall Plan, and that the WFTU should not be put in the position of having to adopt a decision for or against. This attempt was made, in spite of everything, to impose a decision, even though there was a majority against the Marshall Plan in the WFTU. We did not ask for this majority to be used. But there were some people who were seeking to see the majority vote used in order to provoke a split." The split came in the shape of a letter from the British TUC, read out by its President Arthur Deakin at the WFTU Executive Bureau meeting in Paris on 19 January 1949, demanding "suspension of all WFTU activities for a period of 12 months". He said that if this was not accepted, the British TUC would withdraw from the WFTU. James B. Carey from the United States was more direct and blunt: "It is no use pretending that the WFTU is anything but a corpse. Let us bury it." The motion was rejected as it did not fall within the competence of the Executive Bureau. The matter was referred to the Executive Committee and to the Congress. Following this, Arthur Deakin, James B. Carey and E. Kupers (Netherlands) walked out of the meeting. Soon afterwards, several organizations withdrew from the WFTU. The split was formalized. In December 1949, those who withdrew met in London and formed the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). It is thus clear that those organizations which now constitute the WFTU never intended to divide the world trade union movement. They have always been striving to promote the unity of workers the world over. The WFTU held its Second World Trade Union Congress, as planned, in Milan from 29 June to 9 July 1949. Delegations from 61 countries were present at the Congress representing around 71 million members. The Congress rejected the British TUC’s proposal to cease activities. An Open Letter was adopted by the Congress addressed to trade union activists in the United States, Great Britain and other countries whose centres had pulled out of the WFTU, urging them to find a way to reach an agreement around common aims. The Second World Trade Union Congress established priorities in the struggle for peace, democratic rights of the peoples and international trade union unity. Resolutions were adopted on the economic and social demands of the workers and on the special problems of migrant workers. The Congress also decided to set up the Trade Union Internationals (TUIs) to organize activities in the various trade branches. Guiseppe Di Vittorio was elected President and Louis Saillant was re-elected General Secretary. Vice Presidents were: V. Kuznetsov (USSR), A. Le Leap (France), V.Lombardo Toledano (Mexico), Lui Chao Chih (China), B. Blokzil (Netherlands), F. Zupka (Czechoslovakia), S.A.Dange (India), L. Pena (Cuba) and A. Diallo (Guinea). During the last five decades, reflecting the great changes in the world, the composition of the WFTU has also changed significantly. Ideological and political splits and changes in policies also influenced certain trade union organizations. Reviewing developments in the past period, the Policy Document adopted at the 13th World Trade Union Congress made the assessment that "economically and socially speaking, ‘bloc’ politics seriously handicapped the action, form and influence of world trade unionism, and more especially its international structures. These upheavals bring to the fore the central issue of the role and place of the social movement and the trade union movement." (Paragraph 23) The Policy Document further stated that "trade unions and their international organizations could not, did not know how to, and did not want to avoid taking a stance in this global confrontation. The resulting decision within the international trade union movement weakened its action and its role in promoting international solidarity, and hampered its ability to take stances and act concertedly in resolving the problems of the workers. "Internationally, and domestically in certain countries, the issues of the independence and the purpose of trade union action in defending demands, meeting the needs of the workers, and responding to their desires for democracy, the defense of human rights and unity, have often been considered to be of secondary importance in trade union practices and concepts. The responsibility of each individual and of the masses is decisive. The upheavals that have occurred have merely strengthened the demand for trade unionism to maintain independence in its judgments, decisions and action, whatever the circumstances, and to be fully democratic. This constitutes the basis of the respect for the principles of trade unionism." (Paragraphs 24-26) Thus the basic principles laid down by the founding Congress of the WFTU have been strongly reiterated. Eleven World Trade Union Congresses have been organized by the WFTU over the 46 years since the Milan Congress in 1949. These Congresses which have all been highly representative in character confirm the correctness of the decision of the Milan Congress to continue the activities of the WFTU as an organization striving for unity and international solidarity of workers and trade unions in all countries, to carry forward the aims and objectives of its founding Congress in Paris in 1945 and seeking areas of agreement to promote unity and united action in the world trade union movement. These Congresses became broad platforms for the world trade union movement to exchange views and to decide on strategies and policies to advance the struggles of the workers in all countries for their rights. The policy of the WFTU to hold such Congresses as open forums has actively helped the development of international trade union cooperation. The 13th World Trade Union Congress (Damascus, 1994) was attended by 418 participants from 160 national, local, regional and international trade union organizations, representing more than 300 million workers from 84 countries on every continent. The constitutional amendments approved by the Damascus Congress define WFTU’s current aims and objectives as follows: I. DEFINITION: As set forth in the declaration adopted by the London World Trade Union Conference in February 1945 and the resolutions and principles adopted by the First World Trade Union Congress in Paris in October 1945, the WFTU is a democratic, class-based international trade union organization of struggle of all wage-earners, which supports and encourages action by trade unions in every country to obtain the independent rights and demands of the workers, to defend their interests, to combat all forms of domination and subservience, exploitation and oppression, and to bring about socioeconomic development, and which develops and coordinates cooperation and solidarity. Trade union organizations from all countries in the world that wish to unite on the basis of the principle of independence in order to achieve common aims join the WFTU on a voluntary basis, irrespective of differences in their political, philosophical and religious beliefs, in the race of their members, or in social regimes. As an international organization, and notwithstanding the relations established at national level by member organizations, the WFTU maintains its independence from governments, political parties and employers. The WFTU considers the renewal of the world trade union movement to be essential in achieving these objectives, to effectively defend workers’ interests. This concept, which is as closely rooted as possible to the workers and to concrete acts of solidarity, takes as its basis, struggles at the national, regional and industrial level, and is applied in order to give them all the necessary momentum and coordination. Its role is that of a centre of cooperation, of dialogue, the putting forward of proposals, genuine exchanges of information and experience, and the mobilization of workers for common aims and for solidarity initiatives amongst member organizations and, of course, any others who so desire. All this should serve the renewal and unity of the international trade union movement, based on the principle of respect for independence. It is for this reason that the WFTU intends to transform itself into a flexible, light and operational general structure capable of adapting to the needs of member organizations, a structure which in effect aims to see itself being placed within a thoroughly transformed international trade unionism. II. OBJECTIVES: The WFTU therefore proclaims its prime objective is to contribute to the emancipation of the working people by means of struggle: against all forms of exploitation of people and for obtaining and guaranteeing living and working conditions for all workers which would allow them the widest possible benefits from the fruits of their labour, in order to obtain for them and their families the time and the means to live in conditions appropriate to our epoch which is one marked by the headlong progress of science and technology: against colonialism, imperialism, domination and expansionism in the economic, social, political and cultural spheres; for the elimination of racism and underdevelopment; to guarantee sovereignty, freedom and security of nations, non-interference in their internal affairs, respect for their political, economic and social independence and the establishment of a new and just international economic order; for the right to full employment and the guarantee of this right; for full and adequate social security legislation to protect workers and their families in the event of sickness and old age, and every other type of assistance and social security; for training, education and culture for all workers, thus enabling them to gain access to any responsibility or position within their capabilities; for protection of the working environment, effective measures to maintain and promote ecological standards and sustainable development; for the achievement of social, economic and political democracy, the defense and development of workers’ and trade unions’ rights and freedoms, respect for human rights and the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Trade Union Rights; for the prevention of a nuclear war and the dissolution of all military alliances and blocs; against aggression and war and to promote international detente, the establishment of a just and lasting peace, peaceful coexistence and mutually advantageous cooperation amongst all peoples and among States; an end to the arms race, especially in nuclear arms and the total prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons; and progressive arms reduction leading to general and complete disarmament. III. MEANS To encourage and promote these objectives, the WFTU takes initiatives to contribute to the mobilization of all the forces of the international trade union movement. To this end, the WFTU, its affiliates, the professional and regional structures: Use every available means to publicize and explain these objectives to the workers of all countries, together with the programs and decisions adopted by its leading bodies, and the actions for unity which it adopts; make every effort to organize, inspire and coordinate international solidarity; to promote and encourage all democratic debates and exchanges of opinion and experience on problems of common interest to all workers and trade unions of the world; work with and within international and intergovernmental institutions; work for action organized and carried out at regional level to stimulate and develop consultation, cooperation and solidarity, so as to respond best to their specific concerns and interests, and at industrial level to reinforce the place and role of the Trade Unions Internationals (TUIs); advocate and act in favor of the achievement of unity; cooperate with trade union organizations and the institutions concerned with workers’ trade union training. IV. METHODS OF WORK To achieve its objectives the WFTU applies the following principles and working methods: The WFTU makes constant use of forms of work aimed at unity and cooperation with all national, branch and inter-branch organizations, irrespective of affiliation, in the struggle for common objectives and in a spirit of workers’ international solidarity. The democratic functioning of the organization at all levels requires consultations and the strict application of collective work in the governing and deliberative bodies laid down in the Constitution, as well as respect for all opinions expressed in the interests of the defense of the workers. Adherence to decisions taken and to the regularity of meetings of the statutory leading bodies and regional, branch and WFTU assemblies, together with the creation of Working Commissions as decided by the statutory bodies, constitutes one of the forms of the organization’s democratic functioning. The observance of full respect for democratic principles in relations with trade union organizations, based on the recognition of the right of member organizations to draft their policies, programs and actions independently and in accordance with the interests of the workers of their countries and the specific conditions in which they are working, as well as with specific national circumstances. Relations between the WFTU and its member organizations and between member organizations within the WFTU or at bilateral level are based on mutual respect, complete equality of rights, reciprocal independence and non-interference in internal affairs. Relations are also based on the following principles: * Consultations in order to seek the broadest possible agreement, after sufficient debate, in the statutory bodies on all important and fundamental matters. * Such consultations do not exclude the need to engage in debate on each issue analyzed. * If, after sufficient discussion has taken place, a consensus cannot be achieved, decisions are reached by vote in accordance with the Constitution. * Decisions of the statutory bodies of the WFTU are adopted by a simple majority. A two-thirds majority is required if the issue concerns (1) amendments to the WFTU Constitution; (2) the establishment or modification of its Program of Action, (3) the adoption of its budget. Election of leaders of the WFTU should take place by direct secret ballot. * It is necessary to pursue consultations, notwithstanding any possible vote, on questions on which agreement cannot be reached within the bodies concerned or in the supreme body. In all cases, democratic and unity-oriented principles shall be observed, allowing member organizations which have expressed a position or aim different from the others to associate with the life and activities of the WFTU both in spirit and in accordance with the Constitution. Concerning relations between the WFTU and its member organizations: * An organization’s membership of the WFTU does not, in any case, entail renunciation or reduction of its independence and national autonomy in the implementation of resolutions or decisions of WFTU statutory bodies. * Member organizations will carry out the decisions of the WFTU statutory bodies taking into account the situation in their respective countries, thus recognizing the right of each organization to take into consideration the specific conditions in which they work. * The right is recognized of any member organization not to be bound by any decision, stand or action in the formulation of which it was not involved or with which it did not agree. The WFTU’s relations with associate member organizations, as well as the rights and duties of those organizations, are defined in the present Constitution. The WFTU’s relations with non-member organizations are based on fraternal and voluntary cooperation in the constant search for common objectives and the planning of common activities. In this spirit, the WFTU shall seek contact and establish cooperation with the other international trade union organizations, as well as with regional or continental trade union organizations.
V) THE WFTU AT THE PRESENT TIMENEW PAGE Following the 15th Congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions, the WFTU turns page and traces a new, modern, fighting course. We develop the history of 65 years, we develop the weaknesses and hits of this course and we attempt to correspond to the current and future needs. We build the present and open our wings for the future. Our basic principles and values are found in the key-words : analysis, action, unity, struggle, democracy, solidarity, independence, co-ordination. Analysis of current reality and action for the demands of Working Class. Struggle for the worker’s rights. Unity of all workers towards monopolies and Imperialists. For peace and progress. Solidarity with the people suffering threats and attacks from USA and their allies. All peoples to have the right to self-determination. Right to education and training, to free health for all children of the working class without discriminations and class barriers. Equal rights for men and women. Criticism, self-criticism, collectiveness, democratic freedoms and trade-union rights. Transparent proceedings. Independence of International Organizations from the USA bondage. Independence of International Trade Union Organizations from the capital. Co-ordination of all militant Trade Unions, no matter what their differences are, in order to repulse capital’s attack against social security, full and stable work, privatizations, environmental pollution, quality of life. Confidence in the workers role for a world free from exploitation, wars, poverty, children’s prostitution and exploitation.
- Agenda & Events
- Contact Us