People's Democracy

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


No. 41

October 13, 2013





International TU Forum Meets at Beijing


 Swadesh Dev Roye


IT was in the year 2004 that the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) and International Confederation of African Trade Unity (ICATU) had jointly launched the International Trade Union Forum on “Economic Globalisation and Trade Unions” (heretofore: the Forum). Thus the Forum has been in existence for about a decade, over which period it has attained the stature of being the biggest annual trade union initiative of the world.


This year the Forum held its session at Beijing on September 3-5, with around 150 delegates from 54 countries and nine apex international trade union organisations participating in it. Representatives of the BMS, AITUC and CITU participated in the event from India while the INTUC representative dropped at the last moment. This year the theme of the Forum was, ‘Equal Opportunities; Common Development.’ Apart from the inaugural and closing sessions, there were two sessions with panel presentations on (1) Dispatched Workers and Their Rights and (2) Social Protection Floor and Economic Recovery.




The Forum was inaugurated by Li Jianguo, a member of CPC Polit Bureau, vice chairman of NPC Standing Committee and chairman of the ACFTU. He explained the economic situation and the role of working class in the People’s Republic of China, focussing on sustainable rapid growth, honesty and integrity, role of China in global economy, industrial restructuring and upgrading, financial crisis and protectionism of western economies and the new international order, peace and development, inclusive and balanced growth, green revolution, peaceful coexistence, harmonious industrial relations, inequality and discrimination, socialist market economy, socialism with Chinese characteristics, recognition of country specific situation, respect for labour, labour inspection, collective bargaining, training and skill development, etc.


The inaugural session was marked by the keynote presentations made by ACFTU general secretary Chen Hao, WFTU general secretary George Mavrikos, OATUU general secretary Owei Lakemfa and ICATU general secretary Rajab Maatouk. Chen Hao’s address was a brief account, with some data, of the socio-political and economic policies pursued by China.


On the economic performance of China, Chen informed that “In the first half of this year, China’s economy maintained its momentum with a growth rate of 7.6 percent, employment kept stable with 7.25 million newly-added jobs and a lower registered unemployment rate of 4.1 percent in urban areas; the people’s living standards grew steadily and social security systems got further improved.  But we also know that China’s economy has its concerns, including the unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable factors entrenched in the economic development.”


Regarding the ACFTU’s vision and mission, Chen said, “Chinese trade unions have always concentrated on the social goal to follow and to develop socialism with the Chinese characteristics, explore and meet the requirements of socialist market economy, and to progress on the development path of trade unions with Chinese characteristics.” Talking about how to safeguard the workers’ interests, he added, “We believe that no matter how much the technologies advance and how the economy and society develop, all have to rely on labour and workers.” Regarding the right of the trade unions and the recognition of workers’ role in China’s economic development, he noted, “So we adhere to the guiding principle of respecting labour, knowledge, talent and creativity, actively promote the social norm that recognises labour as most honourable, glorious, noble and beautiful.” Focussing on collective bargaining as a priority in protecting the labour rights and interests, Chen said the ACFTU has made great efforts to improve the negotiation competency and skills of union representatives and promote collective wage bargaining at enterprise, regional and sectoral levels.”


As for the ACFTU’s views on international political situation, Chen was forthright in his criticism of the aggressive role of western powers. He stressed the need for cooperation among the countries of the South to fight the politics of hegemony and trade protectionism in all its forms, strengthen North-South dialogue and South-South cooperation to assist the developing countries and regions, and achieve common development and shared prosperity across the world. “In this process trade unions shall play the constructive role as an active social partner,” he added.




While Amitav Guha represented the CITU at the Forum, the WFTU delegation led by George Mavrikos included Swadesh Dev Roye, deputy general secretary of the WFTU. The closing plenary session of the Forum had seven speakers. Apart from ACFTU and WFTU, there was one speaker each from the different continents. While Dev Roye represented the WFTU in the panel of speakers, Amitav Guha represented the Asia-Pacific region.


The paper submitted by Dev Roye mainly dealt with the current systemic crisis of capitalism, deepening economic divide between the nation states and between the rich and the poor within nation states, austerity onslaught, unsustainable export-led growth and the ongoing worldwide struggles of the working class.  


The paper noted that thanks to the scientific and technological revolution the toiling people are producing immense riches which are robbed by capitalist class, thereby aggravating the fundamental ills of capitalist societies like poverty, exclusion and inequality, hunger, malnutrition and suicides. This is contributing in accelerating the crisis of capitalist system due to acute absence of purchasing power of the common people, resulting in lack of domestic demand and persisting market stagnation.


The paper also highlighted how in India the trade union movement has total unity and is conducting united struggles against the neo-liberal policies of the government of the day and on basic economic demands and fundamental trade union rights. During the last four odd years the Indian working class has repeatedly come out in the streets in strikes or militant demonstrations. The next phase of the struggle has been declared and accordingly, on December 12, 2013, New Delhi, the national capital, shall witness a ‘March to Parliament’ by about a million workers. 




Apart from the ACFTU, the other three co-sponsors of the International Forum, viz the WFTU, OATUU and ICATU, have their own historical characteristics. China has already achieved the stature of a top ranking economic power of the world and has emerged as a vital player in the task of pulling the world economy out of the current crisis. Thus, thanks to the vastness and various strengths of its country, the ACFTU is the biggest trade union of the world.


As for the WFTU, it is the only trusted and tested trade union international today and has been providing revolutionary ideological leadership to the class oriented trade union movement the world over, while strictly adhering to the transparent, democratic principles of organisation. The OATUU and ICATU are acclaimed organisations of the working class in the continent of Africa, and enjoy international recognition.      


The participants were therefore quite hopeful that the four co-sponsors of this international forum would collectively lead the working class of the world in the struggle to defeat the capitalist onslaught and imperialist machinations and to forge people oriented alternative policies that may usher into a world free from class exploitation and from crisis. Quite naturally, the world working class has great expectations from the ACFTU, the largest trade union of the world, in this mission.