The conference is taking place on 20-22 in Bloemfontein, South Africa with the participation of approximately 300 delegates from all over South Africa.
Allow me to convey to you the warm fraternal and militant greetings of the WFTU Working Youth Committee to the NUM national youth conference on behalf of the 97 million members of our class family. It is a great pleasure and honor to be here today in the heroic land of Nelson Mandela, Eric “Stalin” Mtshali and countless other well-known and anonymous comrades who have dedicated their entire lives to the dignity of the working class and the paved the road that will lead in the release of humanity.
Youth have to study and be inspired by the examples of our priceless comrades, the unbowed fighters of the class struggle who, at all regions of the earth and in the tougher and more difficult conditions, ensured that the flame of class struggle, resistance, and hope was still lit. We need to study to judge objectively, to understand and to draw conclusions on the historical truth and the uninterrupted struggle of the classes. We have to answer substantially and with arguments to those who propagate that workers and the ordinary people have the same interests as their exploiters, the bourgeoisie. We have to answer all of them who conceals the fact that society has proceeded with relentless struggles between those who produce everything and have nothing, and those who produce nothing and have everything. We have also to answer even to those who, by “honoring” the popular fighters, aims to abolish the popular struggles. Those who, by using the names of our historic comrades, are opposing the dreams that our comrades fought for. This is the reason that the WFTU is launching an open essay contest on its historical figures and fighters as part of the celebrations of the WFTU 75th anniversary. Because for us, history is not a document about the past. History is the lighthouse that illuminates the present and leads to the future.
Young workers are one of the most vulnerable groups in society as they experience in the most intense way the difficulties that are faced by popular strata. It more difficult for young workers to find a job and when they finally find it they will work in the worst conditions of employment. They are the ones who are paid less, who work with the most flexible terms and who are likely to face dismissal. They are the ones who face barriers and sometimes insurmountable difficulties to cover even at their most basic necessities such as food, accommodation, access to health care, education and recreation. At the same time, young workers are the most vulnerable group of society in the ideological domination and propaganda of capitalism globally. Their objectively small experience on class union struggles and socio-political developments and changes, automatically makes them vulnerable against counter-revolutionary theories of a static and unchanging world where everyone must accept their destiny and pursue “regularity”. They are the ones who will most easily fall into the deadlock trap of individualism, indifference, depreciation of policy and the nonparticipation in the socio-political and trade union action.
But at the same time, youth is the hope and the future of society. Young people who are actively involved in the trade union movement are full of enthusiasm and new ideas. They are the most vibrant and purest part of the working class, and their involvement in the trade union, combined with the experience and knowledge of the older comrades, brings optimism and creates really new prospects for workers. That’s why the World Trade Union Federation prioritizes the new generation and aims for the widespread, active and effective participation of workers in all aspects of trade unions activities. Both in decision making and in the implementation of decisions.
This goal is also pursued by the WFTU Working Youth Committee through the campaign “Youth with rights” which was inaugurated in 2018 and expanded in 2019. In the framework of the campaign, the young workers promote the principles and goals of the WYC as they have been determined in World Working Youth Congress which took place in Rome of Italy with the participation of tens of young trade unionists from the 5 continents.
We believe that during these two years important initiatives have been developed focusing on several issues such as dignified working and living conditions, access to new technologies, trade union rights and freedoms, the abolition of child labor, the full embodiment of the immigrants and refugees both in society and trade unions Particular emphasis was placed on the trade union training of young workers and in the development of internationalist solidarity while regional youth meetings were organized or are under preparations. In this context, we look forward and hope that the working class of South Africa will once again play a leading and pioneering role.
The role of youth and trade unions is even more important in a strategic sector such as the mining which is at the heart of the economy and has been a key factor in the development of production and distribution for centuries. While the continually expanding of the use of metal at an increasing number of aspects of the economy of new technologies and globalization reinforces the crucial role and importance of the sector.
The use of metal in the overall economic activity, in the construction sector, in heavy industry, in the infrastructure and the creation of means of production of every kind, in supplying and support of the primary and secondary production sector, and even in the arms industry, places the metal and mining at the center of production and capitalist interests, since the so-called first industrial revolution.
Simultaneously, the all over the world hard manual labor, exposure to heavy and unhealthy works, increased rates of indirect and direct deaths, from “work accidents” in mining and production to fatal and serious health impacts, are added to the general conditions of exacerbation of exploitation and poverty faced by workers as a whole and in all aspects of their lives.
These objective facts, the acute conditions, and characteristics of the mining, have historically often brought the workers of the industry to the forefront of trade union and social struggles from England to South Africa and from Peru to the Philippines.
As WFTU, we are confident that NUM will continue to follow this steady course. In the direction of class ideology and struggle, against the exploiters and their representatives in the trade unions, that is, the yellow trade unionists, whose the only task is to trap workers in the logic of social dialogue and common interests with the bourgeoisie class by cultivating a slavish attitude in which they will be paid with “peanuts” and they will be grateful.
Yellow “Trade Unionists” such as those of the ITUC, who have been always stood against the popular and labor interests. It is well known, what was the role they played during the apartheid. It is well known what is the role they play today, equating the perpetrator with the victim in Palestine. It is known that they do not say a word about the embargo on Cuba and Venezuela, on the imperialist wars in Syria and all over the world. In addition, their role in fighting the socialist perspective in South Africa is also well known.
On the other hand, there is the international class-oriented trade union movement which is proud of its history and its fighters. There is the WFTU which was never supported by the imperialists and their monopolies. It was never funded by secret services and reactionary imperialist governments. The WFTU has as its sole blood-donors and supporters, the workers all over the world. That’s why the imperialists have never been able to manipulate and control it. Despite any setbacks and weaknesses, the genuine trade union movement cannot be eradicated. This is evidenced by the history of the WFTU itself, despite the difficulties of previous decades, is standing up, is strengthened and is realizing a remarkable upward course in recent years. The WFTU, relying solely on its ideology and on the shoulders of its affiliates, has been able to double its members within a few years and to become active in all regions of the world with affiliated trade unions from 130 countries around the world.
And it will continue to grow because no matter how many resources and means they have, no matter how much they say, how many corrupted trade unionists are made puppets and how big their propaganda is. And those no matters because always the miners who work in miserable holes more than 500 meters below the ground will always know has nothing in common with their bosses who resides in luxurious skyscrapers 500 meters above the earth. This is a reality that exists above and beyond any temporary balance of forces and will continue to exist until the ultimate victory of the working class, the abolition of human exploitation by man.
We honor the 75 years of the WFTU in practice by further strengthening our common class family. We honor the 75 years of the WFTU by building solid, strong trade unions movement on the basis. We honor our historical leaders by continuing their struggle.