2nd Pan-African Trade Union Meeting of WFTU Affiliates and Friends
Speech by WFTU General Secretary George Mavrikos
Dear brothers and sisters,
The participation in this Pan-African Meeting is larger than ever before. 37 countries of Africa have registered their participation which is double than our last meeting.
This massive participation shows the agony, the militant will and simultaneously underlines the prestige, the recognition and the respect that WFTU is gaining every day with its position, its action and its initiatives.
Today’s meeting in Pan-African level is a great moment for the contemporary African trade union movement and an initiative that will give a new impetus to the class-oriented trade union movement in the African countries. In any case it proves the special attention and priority given by the World Federation of Trade Unions to the most exploited and most looted continent of the world, the continent which is the richest in natural wealth with the poorest workers.
Since the foundation of the WFTU in 1945, it has been struggling on the side of the African workers against colonialism, against racism, against slavery and has substantially supported the organizing of the workers and the creation of trade unions, their e n h a n c e m e n t and strengthening in ideological and trade union level. WFTU supported and continues to support all the struggles of the workers. The role of the African unions in the WFTU has been significantly e n h a n c e d. For the support of the initiatives and the coordination of the English-speaking African trade unions the WFTU opened a new office in South Africa, in Johannesburg and conducted there is last Presidential Council. We are intensifying our efforts in order for our regional offices in Africa as well as the sectoral organizations of the WFTU to reach up to the demands and the needs of the African trade union movement.
Today’s meeting is a proof that the more powerful the WFTU gets, the more stable and substantial steps it makes towards the support of the class-oriented trade union movement in Africa.
Along with the members and friends of the WFTU in Africa we can build a powerful trade union movement which will fulfill the contemporary needs and will struggle for the rights of the African workers, against the multinationals and the monopolies, against the exploitation of human by human. It is needed to promote the UNITY of the Working Class. For a social system with social justice and labour power.
The WFTU strongly believes in the dynamics of the class-oriented trade union movement in Africa and the realistic solutions that can be provided to the acute problems of the African workers and the peoples’ of Africa with the development and use of the wealth-producing resources and the production exclusively in their benefit and not for the profiting of the monopoly groups and the local bourgeoisie. The class-oriented trade union movement in Africa must be prepared and capable to lead effectively the movement of the workers under the frustration and anger that will inevitably bring revolt, for the victorious outcome of the struggles according to the interests of the workers and the poor people; To transform the agony to class consciousness and conscious struggle. To radicalize the struggles and not to separate the economy from politics.
The leadership of the WFTU over the last five years has prioritizes and paid special attention to the African Continent. It visited many countries and discussed the needs of the trade unions in their countries, it organized dozens of seminars and trade union training for African trade unionists, it supported the African trade unionists to participate in international fora, in ILO, UNESCO and FAO activities. It welcomed in the WFTU Central Offices in Athens many delegations from African Countries. It organized in the European Parliament important conferences with subjects relating to Africa and its working class. IT organized many meetings with ACFTU of China.
WFTU expressed in many ways its solidarity and internationalism in various times. Without fear and with stability it defended the right of each people of Africa to decide on its own for its present and future. WFTU exposed the plots of the imperialists, it organized a special protest at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva demanding the erase of the depts of the African Countries. During these five years dozens of trade union organizations of Africa decided to affiliate to the WFTU. Those are saller and larger trade union organizations which play an active role in their countries and their regions. We consider as an important step for the militant trade union movement that the central confederations of Egypt, South Africa and other countries have decided to affiliate to the WFTU.
The Secretariat of the WFTU evaluates the functioning and the action of the Regional Offices of Africa which is based in Johannesburg of South Africa as positive. We invite all the members and friends of the WFTU to strengthen their communication and relations, their inter-communication, the cooperation amongst them, their militant coordination.
The Secretariat of the WFTU is at the same time worried for the inactivity of the Regional Office of the Francophone Africa. During the 16th World Trade Union Congress in Athens, we had discussed in a special meeting the situation and the organization problems of the office in Senegal. Based on these discussions and the proposals of our members from the Francophone Africa we proposed the seat of the Regional Office to be transferred in Gabon and the responsibility to be undertaken by the organization CGT-FL and the WFTU affiliates in the country.
Hence, we have made significant progress and we continue in an upward course. But we have weaknesses; we have delays; we need to discuss these weaknesses and to find ways to confront them.
The plundering of the natural resources of Africa
Dear brothers and sisters,
We consider as our duty to denounce once more from this podium the imperialist intervention in Mali led by France and supported by the European Union, the NATO with the pretext of the crack down of the extremist groups moving for the independence of Northern Mali.
The intervention of France in Mali exposes the following facts:
i) that while the world capitalism, especially the EU and the USA, is getting deeper in its crisis confronting its own contradictions; while the life and death competition between the large monopoly groups is intensified; while they seek for new sources of energy, of natural wealth and wealth-producing resources and while the rivalry for the spheres of influence of the imperialist forces increasing, the more fires and new wars will be prepared. They want to exploit a cheap labor force. The developments in Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean with the attack against Libya, the dangerous continuing intervention in Syria, the threats against Iran prove exactly this point. No people are safe whilst the monopolies and their political representatives are ruling.
ii) These are wars that have in their center the oil, the uranium, the gold etc. and have no relation with the pretexts that are utilized for “democracy”, “against terrorism”. “against a nuclear danger”. Where the enemy does not exist he is manufactured. These is obvious in the Mali case when the enemies of today where a few months back the allies of the imperialists against Libya and for the overthrow of Kaddafi.
iii) Now a year after the so called “Arab Spring” which proved to be “a dark winter” it is internationally obvious that the only ones who are benefited are the multinationals, the European cartel, the NATO which builds new bases, the EU and the monopoly capital. The losers are the workers and the people of the region.
iv) In our times it is clear that the position that each national and international organization holds towards the imperialist war is a defining criterion of that type of trade union force it is. If it is a class-oriented or a collaborationist one it becomes obvious by whether it puts the interest of the international working class above the games of the bourgeoisie of its own country and the international capital. The denouncing of the imperialist interventions, of the plots of the monopoly groups and the defending of our brothers who are hurt in other countries is a basic principle of the class-oriented trade union movement. The slogan: “no more blood for the profit of the multinationals!” must be a common slogan for all the members and friends of the WFTU in Africa.
v) On the occasion of the imperialist intervention against Mali we want to warn the people of the region that the imperialists are preparing their next murderous plots. The Nigeria, the Niger, Algeria, Chad, Burkina Faso and other rich countries have opened the appetite of the capitalists. The inter-imperialist competition for the new spheres of influence, for the new boarders, for the control of the roads of energy confirm that the struggle against the imperialist interventions cannot be isolated from the struggle against the exploitation and the anti-capitalist struggle.
PROVEN BY THE NUMBERS
The numbers themselves prove it, but it is important to study the statistics and to expose the truth that the transnational monopolies and their mass media want to hide.
Africa is a rich continent in wealth-producing resources. 85% of the African oil production comes from Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Egypt and Angola. In Africa there are: Uranium, natural gas, diamonds, gold, ivory, oil, cobalt, iron, coal, platinum, agricultural production etc.
In comparison to the world production, the African production of Cobalt reaches 57% (DRC, Zambia, Morocco), 53% of diamonds (Botswana, DRC, South Africa, Angola, Namibia), 39% of Manganese (South Africa, Gabon, Ghana), 31% of Phosphate (Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, South Africa, Senegal), 21% of Gold (South Africa, Ghana, Mali, Tanzania), 9% bauxite (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana), 7,5% nickel (South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe), 5% copper (Zambia, DRC, South Africa) according to the data of 2005. The oil production reaches 12,5% and of gas 6,5% with very low percentages of consumption at the same time (3,5% and 2,8% respectively) according to the data of 2007-2008.
The uranium has an e n h a n c e d importance in the global market while the increase of the exploitation of the uranium in Chad and Sudan as well as plans for its exploitation in the Central African Republic and Namibia are on their way. 18% of the global recourse of uranium are in Africa and in particular in Niger, Namibia and South Africa while the consumption is at 0.5%.
The most acute problems
The large wealth would be enough to cover the vital needs for infrastructure. Agricultural production materials, transport, telecommunications, energy that are so necessary in Africa. However, the raw materials and the agricultural production are a target of exploitation by the monopolies and the local capitalists while the people and the working class of the African countries are suffering from acute problems.
In the Sub-Saharan Africa 69.2% of the populations survives with under $2 per day. The life expectancy is at 54 years of life. In Angola, in Congo, in Lesotho, in Chad it reaches the 47 years. 49 years is the life expectancy in Nigeria, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Mali.
The unemployment reaches dramatic percentages especially to the young and female population. The official data do not show the exact hard reality that millions of educated and unskilled workers are facing.
At the same time, we witness a huge price hike in the commodities and a multiply of the prices of the metals for four to five times up. From 2001 to 2007 maize has risen 82,7%, fishmeal 141,9%, palm oil 173,1%, round timber 408,1%, cotton 31,9%, coffee robusta 214,5% and cocoa 82,6%. While the data of 2010 show that the price hike has broken every record of the last 30 years in wheat, oil derivatives, vegetables and legumes. While the prices rise, huge profits are being announced by monopolies in the food industry such as Nestle, Cargill, Kraft, General Mills, Pepsico, Coca-Cola Company etc.
The dramatic truth that with the agricultural productive abilities and the current climate conditions, if there where no monopolies and cartels controlling the food industry to keep the prices high, the agricultural production would be sufficient enough to cover the needs of a double population of earth.
300 million people in Africa do not have constant access to clean and drinking water, dozens of thousands die each year from polluted water whilst at the same time the scientists talk about a rich amount of unused aquifers and while the rivalries between the countries of the Nile for the use of water are intensifying.
Equally in the field of education, the situation is tragic with 1/3 of the children in Sub-Saharan Africa not going to school and the rate of illiteracy in the 21st century being extremely high (23% for boys, 32% for girls in Sub-Saharan Africa only) In Sierra Leone the percentages reach 36 and 56%, in Burkina Faso 53% and 67%, in Mali 64% and 77% for boys and girls respectively. The right to free qualitative public education must be a constant priority.
The problems in habitation are burning for the people of Africa. A large part of the population leaves in slums and huts. The struggle for cheap and safe housing must be in the top demands of the trade unions. The delay in the electrification and the problems in the reliable infrastructure of electric power are important issues that don’t have to do with n a t u r a l deficiencies of Africa but with political choices.
Moreover, the policy of the multinationals and the cartels in the production of pharmaceuticals is murderous as they create patents and limit the production of medicines to keep the prices high. Diseases that could have been extinct or controlled continue to kill and afflict millions of inhabitants of Africa. The percentages strike a record in Swaziland (26%), Botswana (23,4%), Lesotho (23,3%), South Africa (17,3%). It is tragic to note that from Africa comes the 90% of deaths and the 80% of children victims of malaria.
ACTION! ACTION! ACTION!
The WFTU strongly believes that only the people and the workers of Africa have the power to change their lives. No charity from the stolen wealth of the African workers can smoothen the barbarity of capitalism. No “Non Governmental Organization” can heal this situation. Only the organized class struggle can bring results for the fair demands of the class-oriented trade union movement. This struggle must be well prepared, with a plan, proper content and suitable forms of struggle.
We have the duty to tell the truth to the workers and expose the ITUC and the other trade union leaderships from the European Countries, from the USA, Canada etc. who materialize the dangerous trade union imperialism. Our objective is the pan-african coordination together with OATUU and ICATU. We want those organizations to become stronger, to strengthen the African trade union movement. We want the strengthening of the trade unions in Africa so that the workers in Africa are not manipulated by the strategies of the multinationals coming from USA, Britain, French, Germany, Belgium etc. to invest in African countries. Also from the looting of the wealth-producing resources in Africa a part of the Labour Aristocracy in Europe gains, becomes richer.
The struggle against corruption and against bribery is crucial for the orientation of our unions. The matter today is not how shinny our banners are, but what their slogans are.
For us, besides the description of the pain of the workers in Africa which each one can do, what is crucial is to discuss substantially on how we will organize that movement in African and international level that will effectively form demands and dynamic against these conditions and especially against the causes that give birth to these conditions.
ACTION PLAN FOR AFRICA 2013
We cannot refer to a trade union movement in Africa if this does not include a consistent resistance against the policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. These mechanisms are the ones who forced the African countries into the complete privatization of their resources, they facilitated the international capital to loot the African people and then they left the African countries in dept.
The WFTU struggles for substantial trade union liberties and democratic rights everywhere. For the respect of the right of each worker for participate and struggle for his rights. We will continue our efforts for the respect of the trade unionism for all.
• The WFTU is clear and continues to act demanding the right for complete cancellation of the depts of the African countries. Therefore we propose a Panafrican day of action with this demand with mobilizations, demonstrations and activities. In top of this the WFTU will organize in the framework of the ILO Conference, an international conference exposing the policy of the IMF. We propose this panafrican day of action to be on the 25th of May in the “African Day”.
• Next crucial issue where we believe we must have substantial and concrete intervention is the issue of the salaries and the wages. As WFTU we struggle for the substantial increase of the salaries and the establishment of a minimum salary as a result of the negotiation between the employees and the employers under the national collective agreement. We propose the collection of data and facts though the WFTU Offices with the help of the trade unions for the preparation of a campaign per region for the rises of the salaries. We will demand everywhere collective agreements that will satisfy the needs of the working people in each country.
• For the vital issues of food, water, medicine, books and housing against the plundering of the wealth-producing resources by the multinationals, the WFTU organized on the 3rd of October an international action day with the participation of dozens of countries. We propose the escalation of these demands with the organizing of a new international day of action in 2013. We believe that the militant participation with strikes, demonstrations and activities in all African countries for these crucial demands is very important and the contribution of everyone in the coordination and the success of this struggle is necessary. This day we demonstrate on the streets, on the squares our fair demands.
• With such an action and such orientation the dynamic or our trade unions will be e n h a n c e d , more workers will enroll in the trade unions, more young people will understand the value of the organized struggle. New life will enter into the trade unions, new forces will be aligned in the trade union movement.
• Furthermore, we are in the position to announce the opening of a permanent Trade Union School – Training Center of the the WFTU in cooperation with ETUF in Egypt where the African trade unionists will study the history of the trade union movement in the world and Africa, politico-economic issues and the experience of the movement in all fields.
• Moreover, already we are organizing in cooperation with members and friends of the WFTU trade union seminars in various countries. We believe that these seminars are important opportunity for the exchange of experience, formation of common positions, and preparation for better and more effective coordinated struggle. Such seminars will take place within 2013 in Gabon in March for education, in Uganda in June for the Mass Media and later again for the Education, in Rwanda on September for the rural employment, in Nigeria on October against poverty.
• Finally, on the occasion of the celebration of the 70year anniversary of the WFTU in 2015, there will be a series of initiatives in all countries, as well as publications, renaming of squares into “International Trade Union Movement Square”. The WFTU will award books that will be written under the subject: “70 years of the WFTU – together with the workers and the people of Africa”.
Dear brothers and sisters,
The national organizations and the Regional Offices in Africa will coordinate all our action and activities.
We request from you here to discuss openly, democratically, freely. We request you proposals, your criticism. The Secretariat of the WFTU will examine all the proposals and opinions that will be addressed here, very carefully.
The discussion which will take place here will make our action plan for 2013 more rich and more complete. Give us your proposals and feel free to send in the central offices and the regional offices all your thoughts, your remarks, your criticism.
WE WILL JOINTLY MOVE FORWARD IN UNITY.
ALL THE WORKERS OF AFRICA UNITED UNDER THE BANNERS AND THE OBJECTIVES OF THE WFTU.