People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 28

July 10, 2011


A Global Response to Globalisation


Suneet Chopra


HELD in Paris from June 20-27, 2011 under the banner of Democracy, Social Progress, Struggles, Peace and Solidarity, the third conference of the Trade Union International of Workers in Agriculture, Food, Commerce, Textiles and Allied Industries gave a clear direction to the global meet that immediate demands and economic issues, divorced from their social and political moorings, were not likely to bring long-term satisfaction and relief to workers in the field of food and agriculture, much less resolve the crisis in the agricultural economy that grips the world today. The extent of the crisis can be gauged from the fact that over 150 delegates from 82 countries attended the conference: 29 from Africa, 20 from Asia, 16 from Europe and 17 from South and Central America. 




The Indian delegation consisted of AIKS president S R Pillai, who was this time re-elected the vice president of the Trade Union International; AIAWU joint secretary Suneet Chopra, AIKS (Windsor Place) general secretary Atul Kumar Anjan, BKMU general secretary Nagendra Nath Ojha who was elected co-executive committee member this time, and Namdev Gavde and Ajit Kumar Mukherjee, both of the AIKS (Windsor Place). Alexander Davydov of Russia was present as the honorific president. Among the other unions, a two member Chinese delegation led by Jian Nan, vice president of the Chinese Trade Union Federation (Agriculture), was present. The delegation from the DPR Korea delegation was led by Kim Sang Bong, vice president of the Korea Agricultural Workers Union. Bac Quoc Khang, president of the National Union of Agriculture and Rural Development Workers, led the delegation from Vietnam and Pheng Xenghua led the one from Laos. The Palestine delegation was led by Mohammad Yahya, general secretary of the General Union of Palestinian Workers, different streams from Egypt were represented by Hamdi Mahmood Hossain Mohammed, Mohammad Abdul Halim and Khoury Mubashar. The Tunisian delegation was led by a woman, Souad Mahmoud. The Cuban delegation was led by Juan Jorge Castro Oritz, general secretary of the National Trade Union of Agriculture and Fisheries. There were also important delegations from Venezuela, Ecuador, Chile and Nicaragua. Africa was well represented with delegates from Senegal, Congo, Mali, Bourkina Faso, South Africa and Zimbabwe, to name only a few.


The host delegation was represented by leading functionaries of the trade union movement of France, like Jean Luc Bindel, general secretary of the French Federation of Agricultural Workers and Farmers; the TUIWAFCT was represented by Freddy Huck, its president, Andre Hemmerle the secretary and Julien Huck, secretary of its European unit. There were important European trade union delegations from Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Greece, Cyprus and Portugal.  In fact, most countries were represented by their leading trade unionists in the field of agriculture and allied industries. But what is significant was the greatly increased participation in the third conference in comparison to the second one held at Paris between April 7 to 14, 2004, which was attended by delegates from 53 countries. It is evident that the alienation of the peasantry and agricultural labour is growing with the increasing onslaught of neo-liberal policies that has led to the widespread ruin of farmers and rural masses all over the world and notably in the developing countries, forcing them to fight for alternative policies. This has naturally forced an agenda of coordinated global resistance to pro-multinational policies that have been thrust on one country after another, irrespective of the harm these have caused to millions of people worldwide. So, a number of common issues have come to the forefront over the last decade or so.




Since its second conference, the Trade Union International has been highlighting certain common global issues like the significant growth of the wealth of the wealthy and the increasing poverty of the poor under the policies dictated to different states by the IMF, favouring the plunder of the agrarian market by multinationals, co-opting local mafias, landlords, wholesale merchants and even sections of the peasants and some unions as well, to align themselves with these. In these conditions, the trade union movement had no alternative but to distinguish between those unions that stand for class struggle and those that stand for class collaboration. In fact, different struggles of the poor for better wages and against hunger, illiteracy and oppression; of the young against unemployment and of migrants, women and indigenous peoples against gross social and economic discrimination have been on the upswing over the last few years. Now they have come together as a global response to global exploitation, discrimination and oppression by the rich, the multinationals and imperialism.


This has not happened too soon. Today, the imperialist onslaught led by US imperialism has left no part of the world untouched. Whether it uses virtual acts of war like its blockade of Cuba, or that of Palestine, sanctions against states like Iran and DPRK or even brutal attacks on countries like Libya and Iraq, and the presence of US troops in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti and South Korea, resulting in the global spread of insecurity and tension that can only feed more and more acts of violence. In such conditions it had become necessary for the working class movement of the world to put up common resistance to imperialism, with the open and clear commitment to the setting up of the socialist ideal as an alternative strategy. In the present situation, this means making political demands like the cancellation of the debts of developing countries.


The struggle today is for food security, for widespread revolutionary land reforms, for the protection of land dedicated to the production of food crops grown at home, against the price and tariff mechanisms of imperialism, for negating the vagaries of the world market, for a spread of the public distribution system and for other things that may make the life of the vast mass of people better, for protection of indigenous and peasant farming, for protecting the local skills and the right to seed, for state aided cooperative efforts for buying inputs and marketing the produce. These are some of the necessary demands to mobilise the people around the globe and to fight for. But this cannot be done at the level of issues alone. That is why the conference proposed that plans for action be formulated on the basis of concrete conditions prevailing in different countries, with the help of continental and regional bodies to coordinate broader levels of resistance above the country level. Already such bodies have evolved in Europe, Latin America and Africa, and now India has taken the responsibility of helping to organise the Asian regional conference. The task is not an easy one as Asia has many ex-colonial states that are pursuing the bankrupt path of capitalism with a crisis-ridden agricultural sector, as well as socialist states at different levels of development.


This is what the union has subscribed to. It was noted by its former president, Freddy Huck, in the conclusion of his report, saying: “Contrary to reformist trade union practice, which follows the decisions of the ruling classes, the bourgeoisie, of capitalism that ensnares the wage-workers in a world characterised by inequality, injustice and poverty, our union fights for a liberating trade unionism that breaks the chains of capitalist slavery, for a trade unionism of new victories and of social progress. We are fighting for a society where all the wealth will come back to the workers.” For this, he recalled Marx’s slogan in the Communist Manifesto: “Workers of All Countries, Unite!”  




The conference issued a “Call from Paris” in the hundred and fortieth year of the Paris Commune, offering unconditional support “to all peoples and workers in the struggle to satisfy their immediate demands and to abolish capitalism and build a socialist society that will put an end to the exploitation of people by their fellow men and women.”


To achieve this aim, the conference called “upon workers in our industries and upon peasants, indigenous peoples and the rural masses to band together and unite under class-based trade union organisations, to reinforce the international class movement and to join our trade union international.”


It noted the “clear signs that the class conflict between the exponents of capitalism the bourgeoisie, and the working masses is coming to a head, reaching a heightened level of violence and ferocity” that will lead to an era of “emancipating struggles, insurrections, revolts and revolutions..…with a clear social and class content.” Despite the oppression of “imperialism, the ultimate manifestation of capitalism,” with its massacres, wars, impoverishment of the people, denials of rights and economic blockades,”  workers on every continent are engaging in and furthering the fight for wages and employment, against unemployment, for better working conditions and right to free health care for all.”


The conference vehemently condemned “the use of food as a weapon by imperialism and the major capitalist societies.” The subjection of farming to feudal and capitalist landowners was responsible for the poverty and underdevelopment around us and for the low prices of agricultural output. These features of the agrarian crisis have been worsened by the operations of the WTO, IMF and free trade agreements, embroiling various countries in malnutrition, pauperisation, famines and wars. So the fight for food sovereignty is central to our emancipation: democratic, political and cultural. This means each country has the right to protect its agriculture and food through economic and social support, protect its national production through tariffs, reject privatisation and nationalise the strategic industries related to food security.




The conference also raised issues regarding landownership as the basis of the rural producer’s capacity to survive as a creative force despite the attempts of corporates and speculators to dispossess him and reduce him to landless labour, despite the gene-plunder and food monopoly practised under the guise of patents on organic materials and genetically modified organisms, and despite the attempt to privatise and commercialise many vital things including even water. This struggle is in fact against the plots reduce a farmer to the status of a bonded labourer on his own land, leading eventually to his total dispossession. Obviously, protection was called for at every level of the agrarian cycle, including legislation to protect the trade unions and ensuring adequate consumption through a state-run public distribution system.


To ensure that the struggle is broadbased, a new president, Aliou Nadiaye from Senegal, replaced France’s Freddy Huck, while a young man, Julien Huck, became the general secretary. From India, S Ramachandran Pillai was re-elected vice president. This was also the first time that a woman, Souad Mahmoud from Tunisia, is among the office bearers. The conference reminded one of the common issues confronting agriculture today and also of the need to lead concrete struggles in a coordinated manner to prevent the ruin and plunder of small producers by agro-business monopolies backed by international financial agencies whose corruption and plunder are beyond imagination today. Uniting in the face of the divisive and oppressive politics of imperialism, and remapping the road to socialism, which was disrupted by its collapse in Russia and Eastern Europe, has once more become a world-wide aim to be realised for a future of peace and prosperity, for a future free from exploitation and oppression.