People's Democracy

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


No. 10

March 04, 2012


WFTU for Intensification of Struggles, Solidarity Actions


                                                                    A K Padmanabhan


MEETING at Johannesburg, South Africa, from February 8 to 10, the presidential council of World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) called for intensification of struggles and solidarity actions, and worked out detailed programme of actions for the year 2012.


The meeting was the first of the presidential council after the sixteenth congress of the WFTU, held in Athens, Greece, in April 2011.


Thirty members of the council, which includes the members of the Secretariat, vice presidents and other members and 19 invitees including regional office representatives, some of the TUI leaders and some leading trade union leaders of different countries attended the meeting.  The council members included leaders from India, Cuba, Vietnam, Brazil, Syria, DPR Korea, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sudan, Venezuela, Chile, Palestine, Bangladesh and Nepal.


Among the invitees were the ACFTU, China.  Thus high level trade union leaders from 38 countries of five continents attended the meeting.


From India, CITU president A K Padmanabhan and secretary Swadesh Dev Roye attended. H Mahadevan (deputy  general secretary, AITUC) and C H Venkatachalam (TUI Banking and Finance) was other presidential council members to attend.  Debanjan Chakraborty was an invitee as general secretary of the TUI Construction.



Though the business session was to begin on February 9, the proceedings got an emotional beginning earlier with a grand reception and dinner.


South African president Jacob Zuma, who was to address the presidential council, could not be present due to the State of the Nation address on the 9th, but delivered his speech through a video link. The president, who is also the president of African National Congress (ANC), agreed to meet a delegation from the WFTU and the meeting took place in the capital city of Pretoria, at his official residence, on the 11th morning.


Regretting in his address his inability to be there in person, President Zuma referred to the centenary of the ANC and the great contributions of the WFTU in support of the struggles of South African People against Apartheid and colonial oppression. He referred to great leaders of the trade union movement who contributed much to the liberation movement.


President Zuma listed poverty, inequality and unemployment as three major challenges facing humanity today.  He expressed hope that the WFTU meeting would reflect on all these challenges.


A video on the history of the WFTU from its foundation to the 16th congress, depicting many of the struggles world over was also screened.


WFTU general secretary George Mavrikose was given a warm reception and he addressed the gathering referring to the historic role of WFTU in Africa.  He also referred to the current struggles in the wake of the worldwide crisis of capitalism.


The highlight of the evening was an award giving function from WFTU in honour of the seven great leaders of the then South African Confederation of Trade Unions (SACTU) who had contributed also to the growth of the WFTU. The SACTU was an active constituent of the WFTU from its early days. Only Eric `Stalin’ Mtshali was able to receive the award in person, and he came from the hospital to receive the award. The honours for the departed leaders were received by their family members. It was an emotional function, with songs and slogans of the yesteryears resounding in the hall.


Leaders from Palestine, Cuba, Vietnam, Italy, Sudan and India were called to the dais to hand over the mementos and honour the veterans along with the general secretary of the WFTU. From India, A K Padmanabhan honoured Comrade Mtshali. The latter, in his brief speech, referred to the past struggles and called upon the present leaders of trade unions to strengthen the WFTU and the struggles for socialism. He wondered how the COSATU could be away from the WFTU considering the past relations.




Before coming to the proceedings and decisions of the council meeting, we may refer to the situation in which the meeting was being held in Johannesburg.


At present, a big churning is going on within the central trade union organisation of South Africa, i.e. COSATU. Though the COSATU is an affiliate of ITUC now, four nationwide unions, viz. NEHAWU (representing education, health and public services), NUMSA (metal workers), CEPPWAWU (energy, chemicals and pharmaceuticals) and POPCRU (police personnel), jointly came forward to host the meeting. These unions are working to see that the aberration or historical failure, as they call it, of the COSATU’s affiliation is corrected at the next COSATU congress in September.


Alongside the council meeting, thee also took place inauguration of the African regional office of WFTU in Johannesburg for English speaking countries. A regional office for the French speaking countries is functioning in Senegal.


The business session began on the 9th morning, paying homage to the memory of the departed leaders. A seven-member presidium was elected to conduct the proceedings and new members took over in each session.


COSATU president Dlamini addressed the council before the presentation of the report. He made it clear that he firmly believed in the unity of the working people being the need in this period of a severe crisis and in socialism being the answer. Cooperation with the WFTU would have to be enhanced and the issue would resolved at the eleventh COSATU congress in September. He underlined the role of proletariat as the most revolutionary class and quoted extensively from Communist Manifesto to present his views on this role.




George Mavrikose presented his report in two parts. One was an activity report for the year 2011 and another, a future programme of action for year 2012, with the current economic situation explained in detail. The activity report gave details about increased struggles and the WFTU’s interventions.


The report contained details about what the general secretary called the three basic facts of workers’ reality and life. First was the capitalist crisis, with an effort of the bourgeoisie to minimise its losses by transferring a big part of the burden on to the working class and the masses. Second are the inter-imperialist conflicts and their expression. Third was the struggle of the working class and the masses, which have become more intense and give hope and a perspective to workers and other people.


The report referred to a series of struggles in various continents, saying the working class and its allies have to choose between two options today. Either they sacrifice the quality of their life hopelessly or even their life for the profits of capital or they choose the hard way of struggle against exploitation of man by man.


The report called for more aggressive struggles and underlined the necessity of international solidarity.


The general secretary also placed his proposals for activities during 2012. The budget 2012 was also presented by the finance committee convener C H Venkatachalam.


It was also informed that 38 unions from 23 countries have been given new affiliations by the secretariat since the 16th congress.




There were 39 participants in the discussion including three women. All the participants agreed with the contents and proposals and also gave details about the situation in their region and also in their countries.  They informed of the general acceptance and enthusiasm over the decisions of the 16th congress and increased participation in the International Day of Action on October 3.


Participating in the discussion, A K Padmanabhan conveyed greetings to the people of South Africa on the occasion of the ANC’s centenary celebrations and referred to the historical relationship between the people of India and South Africa. He highlighted the united struggles in India and the countrywide preparations for the general strike on February 28.


He assured the presidential council that the CITU will continue to do its utmost to uphold the banner of class struggles and international solidarity.


Swadesh Dev Roye, in his intervention, referred to the worldwide struggles and the solidarity support extended by the WFTU to those struggles. Referring to the developments in the South African trade union movement and COSATU in particular, he said the WFTU alone can provide a political and ideological platform to the South African trade union movement to carry forward the struggle in consonance with its ideological conviction.  He also stressed the importance of trade union education with correct class perspective as proposed in the report.


Debanjan Chakraborti, general secretary of the TUI Construction, explained the activities of his organisation since its last congress and stressed the necessity of more united and concerted efforts under the close guidance of WFTU in the activities of the TUIs in general and that of TUI Construction in particular. 


H Mahadevan and C H Venkatachalam also participated in the discussion.


In his concluding address, the general secretary finalised the future programme of action on the basis of the discussions and proposals in the report.


The meeting adopted resolutions on solidarity with Greek workers for their two day strike on February 10 and 11, on solidarity with workers of Swaziland fighting against monarchy, on Palestine and Syria, on workers in Panama Canal, on bank employees in Malaysia who are fighting against victimisation, and on the proposed February 28 general strike in India. Messages of greeting to South African workers and also to workers in Africa were also approved.




In a special address in the council meeting, Blade Nzimade, general secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and minister for higher education in South Africa, said that trade unions are the only guarantee to safeguard the interests of the working people. He also said that the collaboration of a section of trade union leaders with neo-liberals has weakened the trade union movement but that the SACP is committed to supporting and strengthening class oriented trade unionism. He called upon the trade unions to expose the class collaborationists and ‘business trade unionists’ and build up class oriented trade unions.


Referring to South Africa, he said that the struggle for emancipation of the majority in the country, the black people, has to continue; what has been attained since 1994 is only political power and not economic power.


The presidential council meeting concluded with the call for strengthening of struggles and solidarity actions. The meeting raised hopes for more activities on various fronts and in various regions.


The next meeting of the presidential council is scheduled to take place at Lima in Peru in 2013.


Programmes of Actions for 2012

1) October 3 this year will be observed as an International Day of Action with the demands of food, housing, clean water, free and public health care system, free medicines.

Details on all these demands are to be collected in every country and massive preparatory campaigns to be organised.

2) The issue of unemployment will be taken up as a major issue confronting workers and youth in particular in every country.  Struggle against unemployment will be a main and basic issue for the WFTU activities this year.

3) Activities in Africa will be strengthened. The role of imperialism in Africa has to be exposed. The understanding is that the working class of Africa needs WFTU and the WFTU needs the class militant trade unions of Africa.

4) Serious efforts will be made to strengthen trade union education. There have to be more coordinated efforts and exchange of information.

5) Various decisions have been taken on regional activities, TUI programmes,

6) March 8 (International Women’s Day) and May Day will be observed.

7) The second international conference of working youth will be in Havana on April 29 and 30 and a working women’s meeting will be organised in New Delhi.


Strike in South Africa against Contract System

THE COSATU has called for a day’s shut down of all work spots on March 7.


This countrywide protest is against the increasing contract system in the country. In South Africa, they call contractors as labour brokers.


The COSATU has been demanding total ban on labour brokers, which according to them has reached a stage where more than 33 per cent of workers are forced to a near slavery system.


In his State of the Nation address, President Jacob Zuma said that “The government seeks to eliminate all forms of abusive practices inherent in labour broking, in order to strengthen the protection of vulnerable workers. We trust common ground will be found this year on this matter.”


In reaction to this the COSATU said it wanted a total ban and expected the president to announce that the labour brokers would be banned. But the announcement in the State of the Nation address was not satisfactory. So the COSATU would go ahead with the total strike call for March 7.


In a seminar organised in Johannesburg on February 10, after the conclusion of the WFTU presidential council meeting, leaders of the trade unions like NEHAWU, NUMSA, CEPPWAWU and POPCRU, which are part of COSATU, said nothing would move on March 7 when every work spot will be shutdown.


It is noteworthy that a countrywide strike is being organised on a single demand and that this is going to be a complete success.


WFTU Delegation Meets President Zuma


A DELEGATION of the WFTU, led by its general secretary, met South African president Jacob Zuma on February 11. The meeting took place in the official residence of the president in Pretoria.


The delegation consisted presidential council members from India, Vietnam, Cuba, Palestine, Sudan, Venezuela, South Africa and a special invitee from China. India was represented by WFTU vice president A K Padmnabhan.


The delegation apprised the president of the decisions of the presidential council meeting at Johannesburg and thanked the president for sending a video message to the meeting  amid his pre-occupation.


It was because of the president’s inability to address the meeting in person that he had agreed to meet the delegation.


Each member of the delegation conveyed greetings to the president and to the ANC, which is celebrating its centenary.


President Zuma had a detailed discussion with the delegation on various issues confronting workers. He welcomed the decisions of the presidential council and also the opening of a regional office of WFTU in Johannesburg. He expressed hope that this office would help to build up a strong WFTU organisation in Africa and also to develop consciousness among the workers. He touched upon various political and organisational issues during the wide-ranging discussions.


President Zuma, WFTU general secretary George Mavrikose and COSATU president Dlamini addressed the media at the doorsteps of the oresident’s residence on the meeting of the delegation with the president.