REPORT ON THE WORLD FEDERATION OF TRADE UNIONS (WFTU) XVTH CONGRESS AND BATAY OUVRIYE’S INVITED PRESENCE
From the first to the fourth of December 2005, the XVth Congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) took place in Havana, Cuba. Through the Federation of Cuban Workers (CTC), our organization, Batay Ouvriye, was invited to participate as an observer. A preparatory document “of Political Orientation” was, on this occasion, sent to all for comments, discussions and approval at the congress. At the same time, another “… on the situation at the WFTU and its activities since the XIVth congress” was presented and commented at the opening. Elections of the new presidential Council were also included in the agenda.
On the basis of the delegates’ presentations, which, in one way or another, touched on the themes included, the “Political Orientation” document thus was discussed in plenary. Certain partial exchanges also were held in workshops, for final approval in plenary the last day. On the basis of the various presentations and debates a “Final Declaration” was drafted and put up for discussion; it was approved with a few slight changes. Finally, certain “Resolutions” accompanied the initial declaration. They were transmitted to the Presidential Council which, through a work commission, reviewed them before submitting them to the assembly in their final version. The totality of these documents will soon be on the WFTU website, renewed for the occasion.
The main themes considered in the presentations and debates were:
- Imperialism and its devastating neo-liberal interventions (looting, robbery, privatization, structural adjustment, treaties, political, economic and cultural domination…);
- Capitalism as an enemy logic;
- Class unionism, a coherent response from the workers;
- The renewal of the WFTU in front of this and the Struggle against bureaucracy and economism
- The unity of working class struggles as an accumulative method and as qualitative concentration of forces;
- The strategic opening towards alliances (ethnic, peasant, neighborhood, forums…);
- Support for all anti-imperialist and pro-sovereignty struggles.
Others, such as the delocalization of industries, child labor, inequalities in gender within the union environment itself, immigrant workers’ rights, the informal sector, changes in the proletariat’s class structure, orientations among the American working class and scissions introduced in its organization, the struggle for workers’ control on national energy sources, mobilization as a basic tool of struggle, the financing of struggles and independence as a differentiating orientation, firings and tactics to be built to face them, governmental repression and mechanisms of resistance, the obligatory qualitative leap necessary in this historical period… … … were also largely presented and debated.
However, since the debate on a possible fusion with other international federations (IFCTU, WCL) was on the table, the theme of Unity was the principal one with voices for and against. Indeed, while all agreed that, in this historical period, a great concentration of forces was necessary to be able to confront the imperialist-capitalist offensive, all didn’t agree on the desirable degree of opening. Some defended the greatest tolerance and opening, while others (the Classist Union Federation - CSC - of Brazil, Peru’s General Confederation of Workers - CGTP -, Mexico’s Energy Workers’ Front - FTE -, amongst others…), basing their arguments precisely on the fundamental class principle at the heart of the WFTU, conferring it its very nature, did not accept to include in this unity, although large, federation they considered “of conciliation” with the bourgeoisie and that had played a reactionary role against sovereignty struggles and progressive popular powers in Latin America, especially.
As observers, we remained discreet, discussing nevertheless the theme on the side and supporting there the final defenders of independent class unionism that in now way should include in their international organization federations or organizations that don’t respect these fundamental principles. We seized the opportunity to explain the Haitian situation and the fatal deviations that precisely were conveyed by populism; we supported, in a few words that we were invited to render public on the plenary podium, class unionism and the consequences that it should uphold. Furthermore, we insisted on the structure alliances should and our position concerning this, in view of better organization and struggle, not only against our main enemy, imperialism-capitalism, but also in view of fighting and going beyond the deadly manifestation that can happen within the peoples’ camp itself, Populism. This presentation was shown on Cuban television and, at the end of the day, we were interviewed on this question by two radios (Radio Havana and Radio Reloj). Our message is attached and all will be available on the WFTU website as soon as possible.
On the fourth and final day, the congress was honored by the presence of the President of the Cuban Assembly, Mr. Ricardo Alarcón Quezada. In his accurate communication, he highlighted the extremely important role the working class has to play worldwide with the extraordinary offensive advances, totally illegal, of the imperialist governments, counting as they can on the complete impunity that only emerges from their use of brutal force. The force, however, on the contrary, that carries the whole world on its shoulders, the main antagonism opposite this devastating imperialism-capitalism and, because of this, the most important in view of the accomplished emancipation of humanity as well as for the present struggle, the working class is fundamental “… simply for the world not to disappear”! The ideological struggle that will tend to be waged, then, represents, today, one of the toughest ones ever seen. Indeed, confronted with the misrepresentations, lies and disinformation the imperialists and their allies spread, the search for the truth remains fundamental. A clear example is the total blackout accompanying the judgment of the five Cuban prisoners in the USA which, on top of having ignored all legal decisions, blocked the diffusion of any information concerning it. Fortunately certain comrades (from Costa-Rica, specifically) maintain a permanent mobilization in their country (on the fifth of every month, in front of the US embassy). A resolution proposal to undertake this action everywhere was then immediately formulated and adopted.
Closing the event, on the last day, we visited the Medical School of Latin America where students from the popular classes of various countries in the region benefit of free training and a high level scientific level. During the afternoon, the electoral process was held and the presentation of those elected was confirmed by the Assembly. The official names will be diffused though the same Web medium.
Certain other activities also took place in the margins of the main meetings. Thus, during rest hours, delegates interested in various themes met. Those which interested us first concerned the Textile, Energy and also Construction industries. The syntheses of these formal discussions will reach us by electronic means and will be available in our offices for open, popular consultation, just as a very large number of magazines and other documents were given to us by those present, naturally closest to us.
In organizational terms, the congress was a great success. Concerning the various positions discussed and agreed upon, we would say that, nevertheless, in our opinion, there lacked of lucid criticisms of certain bureaucratic or economicist federation practices (or those of members and/or sympathizers). In fact, even when we noted a clear will to go beyond such limits, the lack of concrete mechanisms allowing such a transformation was also clear. At the same time, the extremely difficult situation of a large number of workers throughout the world weren’t mentioned, nor (even less) denounced; we’ll mention, particularly, that of the Chinese textile industry workers, whose salaries are those of misery, their work conditions horrid and severe repression abounds.
Despite this, we can say that this meeting was very fruitful and its debates, although at certain times polarized, to the contrary reveal the - necessary - revitalization taking place in the classist union movement worldwide.
Batay Ouvriye Delegate’s Message to the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) XVth Congress
In the name of our Batay Ouvriye comrades, in the name of the workers and the popular masses of Haiti, before all, we give thanks for having been invited to such an important meeting, that of the World Federation of Trade Unions’ fifteenth congress, allowing us exceptionally to speak directly. We thank also for simply being able to be in Cuba, the revolutionary. And, last but not least, for being able to be with the Cuban people, its workers, its working class, side by side with the serene content of all these and their naturally upright stature.
Allow me, then , to take the occasion to salute the on-going Cuban revolution as well as the Bolivarian revolutionary process headed by Venezuela, radicalizing day by day. To these processes that are setting the total satisfaction of the workers demands, their true historical emancipation, we transmit our most sincere support. Similarly, we salute and transmit our total solidarity with the struggles of all peoples. Those of today, as those historical, highlighting, particularly, the victorious Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese… proletarian revolutions, without forgetting the tremendous struggles of the American working class that, in 1886, left us with their blood the “eight hours” or, even, those of the French people that managed, in 1871, to open, with the Commune, the doors towards “workers’ power”.
In this direction, we highly salute the process of renovation and restructuration within the WFTU that we wish profound, as its classist orientation that some have emphasized with great energy. Indeed, this orientation is the only one capable of concentrating us sufficiently to carry us ahead successfully in these so hard battles that we are carrying out, leading us not only towards a change in the situation in view of the offensive but also, thus, guaranteeing the qualitative leap necessary.
Presently, in Haiti, the situation is extremely serious.
After a large popular movement which, despite its inherent limits, had managed not only to kick out Duvalier and his consorts but also carried out a permanent struggle for its own demands, we are witnessing a true deviation, followed by a great usurpation of these struggles by the leaders, various at the beginning, the great majority finally.
Once in power, they suffered a harsh coup against them, after which, however, they returned to power through the same imperialist forces that had kicked them out, not without having abandoned the quasi totality of their populist program. They committed themselves then to the perpetuation of a generalized corruption that allowed accumulation amongst themselves, and facilitated (and organized) a strong imperialist penetration. Military, to begin with, with the American intervention of 1994 and later with the signature of an agreement allowing the North American Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)’s forces total control of the territorial waters and aerial space within Haiti: political, then, allowing full deployment of the neo-liberal reforms launched by the IMF. Also, in the strictly economic domain, we have witnessed, after the preceding destruction of the national economy lead by the duvalierist regimes, the implementation with greater velocity of the implementation of the exploitation of cheap labor, now available and for the moment depressed, with the signature of various free trade zones frankly uncontrolled and the construction of the first of them on a frontier region. In this profuse neo-liberal ambience, it is not surprising that this was the historical moment in which the most rapid concentration of capital took place, through the large development of the monopolist sectors, especially the financial ones.
All of this at the cost of the popular dynamics of struggle, at the cost of the well-being of workers, peasants, artisans, in our sweat and, sometime, at the cost of our very lives, as happened in highly antagonistic conflicts in which the bourgeois or other ruling classes always took place in this period of governmental support.
With these avenues traced, the power, just as the bourgeois opposition - eternally in a solely opportunistic contradiction between themselves- called, both, for a new occupation! Then, truly, presently, we are faced with a complete, veritable imperialist invasion that, little by little, is taking the form of a tutorship. Indeed, the UN forces not only invaded peasant and workers’ offices, arresting unionists, humiliating workers in their work positions, but furthermore organized clear killings in the popular neighborhoods where, under the guise of fighting “terrorist” insecurity, they launch their offensives against the people themselves. Furthermore, the political control is designed by Washington, working through UN and OAS diplomats in the country. A supposedly interim agreement, the CCI (but that will remain in vigor until mid-2006 - that is, six months after the new government elect takes reign and then, until 2025!) definitely orients the country on the neo-liberal path and de facto permanent occupation.
That it be these forces under the command and control of American, French or Canadian forces… surprises no one. That they be, also, under Brazilian, Argentine, Uruguayan… progressive governments that have acceded to power through the only trust of the workers or thanks to the tremendous resistances and popular mobilizations, is something else… that leaves us perplex and obviously faced with a major contradiction! Populism, Haitian as Latin American, teaches us all, if necessary, its dangers.
Because of this, a theme, amongst the discussions in workshops and assemblies, leaves us with a thought that we find worrisome and that we wish to share with the assembly: it is that of alliances. The Lebanese comrade spoke to us of such alliances in his own country, being formed between the bourgeoisies (international and national) and the feudal ruling classes, all under the direction of the large capital and their local governments. We realized then the structural precision of the enemy practice: within its Camp, various classes exist that, by their own historical logic, may naturally be vanguard. In ours, as well. By principle, and faced with the real breadth of the opposite attack that presently concerns us all, the Peoples’ Camp’s alliances are crucial. However, in order to to carry them out, opposed to Capital - the true enemy in this neo-liberal plan - and populism, as well - whose limitations we know as well, its fatal aspect with regard to a consequent struggle - our Camp as well needs to be structured. Highly and strictly structured. Not only for a clearer mobilization, not only in view of a better orientation but also, and especially, to ensure the permanent and uninterrupted advance of our struggle. Thus, such unstructured alliances cannot exist, in which all classes mix and are “at the same level”. If we are clear on imperialism’s objectives, if we are clear on the fact that this is a more advanced form of properly capitalist implementation, we need to oppose it with the most clear anti-imperialist logic: the anti-capitalist logic.
This, only the working class can carry it through. Being, by its position in production as well as because of the humiliation it suffers day after day frontally, the one concretely antagonist to capitalism. From which, our role as the dynamic vanguard that we have to assume anew, in peasant alliances, in neighborhood organizations, in mobilizations and forum orientations, local, regional and worldwide… From which, the role we need to take responsibility for, contributing to convey it to the WFTU!
FORWARD, THEREFORE, THE RESTRUCTURATION OF THE WFTU, FROM THE BASES AND IRRADIATING TOWARDS ALL THE SPACES OF STRUGGLE!
FORWARD, THUS, THE STRUGGLES OF ALL THE PEOPLES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD WITH THE WORKERS AS CENTRAL POST AND UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE WORKING CLASS!