People's Democracy

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


No. 39

September 30, 2012



WFTU Calls for Actions on Peoples’ Demands, Oct 3


                                                                              A K  Padmanabhan


THE World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), the only class oriented trade union organisation at the international level, has called upon the working people of all the countries to observe October 3, 2012 as the International Day of Action. One may note that October 3 is the Foundation Day of this 67 years old organisation. The call has been given to highlight the demands of the working people regarding the basic necessities of life. Some of these, to be highlighted through mass actions, are food, water, health, education and housing.


These basic demands are not the demands of the workers alone but the demands of the toiling masses as a whole.

The WFTU has pointed out that in the present day condition of neo-liberal offensive on the livelihood of the masses, it has become very much necessary for the trade union movement to raise these issues and expose the efforts of the multinational corporations to exploit the natural resources and loot the public with the connivance of the ruling classes in various countries.

As a part of this neo-liberal offensive, all the existing practices of state intervention in these areas are being curtailed. The WFTU has called for taking up these issues and fight for ensuring the rights of the people for decent livelihood.



The issue of food security is being discussed at various forums at the national and international levels. With the prices of essential items going up in every part of the world, “food for all people” has become an important demand.


The food prices started increasing dramatically in 2007 and in January 2011 the Food Price Index, prepared by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, reached the highest level so far. Even the World Bank had cautioned in 2008 that an additional 50 million people were made poor because of the high food prices.


According to the World Bank’s index, global sugar prices reached a 30-year high, after increasing 12 per cent since January 2010.  The price of wheat, the bread of every people, has increased the most --- more than double between June 2010 and January 2011.


These increases, as the WFTU has noted, have pushed the lives of the masses into peril while the super profits of the MNCs in food sector are soaring high. A handful of these MNCs have been looting the poor people all over the world and amassing huge assets. The Nestle, Cargill, Kraft, General Mills, PepsiCo, Coca Cola are some of the monsters in this category.


The result of this loot has been that more than 850 million people are undernourished or starving because of low income. Even the countries among the so-called developed world are no exception to this. About 11 million Americans are undernourished and another 22 million find it difficult at times to meet their nutritional needs.  This is taking place at a time when the USA is the largest producer and exporter of agricultural products.


The WFTU has pointed out that this is a contradiction of the capitalist mode of production itself --- that the products rot in the fields and in storages while people do not have the capacity to buy their essentials.


Another issue is that large quantities of foodgrains are being diverted to biofuels. In addition to this, large scale purchases of lands are going on in the third world countries for production of biofuels, thereby denying the traditional farmers and others their right to exist.


On the whole, a people oriented policy of ensuring increased food production, ensuring food security and guaranteeing the right to life is the essence of the WFTU demand on the issue of food.



Right to clean, potable water is a basic and universal right. But today it has become a saleable commodity for the big business houses. A small number of the MNCs have taken over this natural gift in many of the countries for the purpose of amassing huge profits.


The WFTU has noted that more than 460 million people around the world are depending on private companies for water supply today, while their number was only 51 million in 1990. Just 10 big multinationals are dominating this sector.


Trade agreements and loan conditions are the tools through which the governments in the third world countries are forced to accept the privatisation of water resources and of supply schemes. India, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Nigeria, Mexico, Malaysia, Australia, Philippines are among the main victims of this offensive.


The WFTU has demanded that water should be made available to each and every citizen, as a public good. Water for human use should not be treated as a commercial product and should not be made amenable to the laws of market.


With the environmental disasters threatening the ecosystem in various parts of the world, water has become a precious item in the world, and sustained struggles are required to ensure that the needs of the people are adequately met.



Literacy and education are one of the major issues in the world even today because the great achievements in science and technology and the numerous innovations have not eradicated illiteracy in the world. One out of eight children does not attend even a primary school. The number of illiterates in the developing countries is more than 75 million and 55 per cent of them are girls.  The number of those who leave the school halfway is increasing, as unemployment and hunger spread.


Even in the developed world, education and related issues have become serious issues, leading to massive struggles of students.  Public education system is being dismantled everywhere.


To top it all, as the WFTU has noted, education systems and their products are being commercialised and made less and less people oriented.


It is not just a question of extending solidarity to the students. The trade unions need to be in the forefront of struggles for free, public and qualitative education for all.



The WFTU is of the firm belief that health is not a commodity for business. The life of a worker or any other person cannot be used to amass profits and do speculations.


Social security was one of the foremost achievements of the trade union movement in most of the developed world and in some countries of the developing world. Today, however, people are facing retrograde attacks in this sphere as well. Health has become a big business of the MNCs. Social security schemes are being dismantled almost everywhere.


The WFTU has demanded that in every country there should be a public, universal, obligatory system of social security with full coverage, free medicare, a reduction in the retirement age and an increase in pensions.


Production of medicines should be brought under the state and the loot of the people, which often endangers even their lives, should be brought to an end.



The WFTU has demanded that everyone should be ensured the right to housing, which means that all the persons have the right to occupy a safe, secure, habitable and affordable home in peace and dignity, free from forced eviction.


This has become an urgent need as the world as a whole is experiencing a global housing crisis. According to an estimate, about 1.6 billion (160 crore) people are living today in substandard housing in slum areas while 100 million (10 crore) are homeless.



It is clear at the very first glance that each one of the above demands raised by the WFTU are of prime importance to every section of workers in India and to the other toiling masses.


Therefore the Indian affiliates of the WFTU and other, friendly organisations have decided to observe the International Day of Action and ensure massive participation in the related actions on October 3. Meetings, rallies, demonstrations and seminars are to be organised in this connection --- in work areas and also in residential areas. The message of the International Day of Action and its demands have to be taken to each and every worker.


As the government of India, like those in several other countries, is adamant about going ahead with its neo-liberal agenda, these demands need to taken up in right earnest, and the consciousness of international solidarity has to be developed and strengthened.


As the WFTU has noted, these campaigns are to be a part and parcel of our campaign and struggle against the barbarity of the capitalist system itself.







WFTU Action Programme


The Presidential Council of the WFTU has decided upon the following broad programme of action for the International Day of Action on October 3, 2012.

1) We must unite the workers, poor and other peasants, the indigenous populations on our militant platform.

2) We must publish handbills, posters, articles, memorandums, letters of protest that will add to the information base of the working people.

3) We must organise activities in workplaces, e.g. in factories.

4) We must present our demands to the national governments as well as international organisations, and demand immediate solutions.

5) We must link our campaigns with the contradictions and limitations of the capitalist system and the crisis that has engulfed it, and we must put forward our clear-cut pro-people alternatives.