The following is from Fight Back! News:
Athens, Greece – Under banners reading, “Class Unity and Struggles; Internationalism and Solidarity,” 800 trade union leaders from around the world came together here, April 7, for the start of the 16th Congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).
This is the largest WFTU Congress, with participants from nearly 100 countries, including 13 observers from the United States. They were joined at the opening ceremony by more than 3000 workers from Greece for a political and cultural event that featured working class songs from around the world, thunderous chants and slogans of international solidarity and a video celebrating the 65-year history of the WFTU. The WFTU is a grouping of trade unions from more than 100 countries with a membership of more than 70 million workers. Its aim is to build a militant, class-oriented, internationalist, democratic trade union movement.
A highlight of the opening event was the speech by WFTU Secretary General George Mavrikos, where he discussed the conditions the people of the world are facing. On the one hand, the deep economic crisis of the capitalist system and the escalating war against workers has caused massive unemployment, misery, poverty and migration. Around the world, capitalist governments, in facing the insurmountable difficulties in managing the crisis, have launched an unprecedented attack on the labor rights and achievements that have been won through years of workers struggles. Salaries, social security and collective union contracts are all under attack. Unemployment and poverty are on the rise. Privatization of health, education and other services are being carried out all over.
The working class around the world has strongly resisted these anti-labor initiatives, with protests, massive strikes and other events. WFTU unions organized protests in April, 2009 in 45 countries and in September, 2010, mobilizations were held in 56 countries, under the slogan, “We will not pay for their crisis.” In New Delhi, alone, more than one million people participated.
Mavrikos called on participants to soundly condemn the imperialist aggression and wars being carried out around the world, including the current bombing of Libya. The imperialists claim that they are protecting civilians, when their real interest is controlling the oil fields and gaining access to sub-Saharan Africa and its great mineral wealth.
In closing, Mavrikos asked event participants, “What type of international trade union movement does the global working class need? A movement that is compatible and allied with the capitalist system to ‘modernize it?’ Or a movement that will represent the working class and its allies and will be in conflict with the capitalists to overthrow the exploitation system? A movement that will support the imperialist wars in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya, in Yugoslavia? Or a movement that is against imperialist and unjust wars, and that will struggle for peace and friendship among all people?
A movement that seeks to unite the working class to cooperate with the monopolies and multinationals in the line of class collaboration? Or a movement which will follow the line of class struggle and unite the entire working class based on its class interests?
A movement that support’s Israel’s policy, which slanders Cuba, defames Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Iran and North Korea? Or a movement of proletarian internationalism that is firmly on the side of Palestinian people to have its own homeland, to support the Cuban revolution and defend the right of every people to decide alone on the present and future?
“A movement of bureaucratic elite with luxurious offices and rich salaries? Or a movement whose local, national and international leadership are identified with the working class, poor peasants, youth, women, immigrants and indigenous peoples?”
To resounding applause by all present at the opening ceremony, Mavrikos stated, “For the WFTU, our answer is clear: We continue the path of class struggle, against imperialism and capitalism. For a world without exploitation of man by man. For a future world that belongs to workers!”