World Federation of Trade Unions

2nd Pan-African Trade Union Meeting of WFTU Affiliates and Friends
Khartoum, 4–6 February 2013




Speech by George Mavrikos, General Secretary, WFTU




Dear comrades,
Dear brothers and sisters,
      We want to thank the Sudan Workers’ Trade Union Federation, one of the historic organisations of the WFTU, and Comrade Ibrahim Ghandour, a great personality of Africa and a member of the WFTU Presidential Council., as well as all those who worked for this meeting to take place in Sudan with the great hospitality of the SWTUF.
      The participation in this Pan-African Meeting is larger than ever before. Thirty-seven countries of Africa have registered their participation, which is double that of our last meeting. This massive participation shows the agony and the militant will and simultaneously underlines the prestige, the recognition and the respect that the WFTU is gaining every day with its position, its action, and its initiatives.
      Today’s meeting at the pan-African level is a great moment for the contemporary African trade union movement and an initiative that will give a new impetus to the class-oriented trade union movement in the African countries. In any case it proves the special attention and priority given by the World Federation of Trade Unions to the most exploited and most looted continent of the world, the continent that is the richest in natural wealth but with the poorest workers.
      Since the foundation of the WFTU in 1945 it has been struggling on the side of the African workers against colonialism, against racism, against slavery, and has substantially supported the organising of the workers and the creation of trade unions, their enhancement and strengthening, at the ideological and the trade union level. The WFTU supported and continues to support all the struggles of the workers.
      The role of the African unions in the WFTU has been significantly enhanced. For the support of the initiatives and the co-ordination of the English-speaking African trade unions the WFTU opened a new office in South Africa, in Johannesburg, and conducted there its last Presidential Council. We are intensifying our efforts in order that our regional offices in Africa, as well as the sectoral organisations of the WFTU, will reach up to the demands and the needs of the African trade union movement.
      Today’s meeting is a proof that the more powerful the WFTU becomes the more stable and substantial steps it makes towards the support of the class-oriented trade union movement in Africa.
      Along with the members and friends of the WFTU in Africa, we can build a powerful trade union movement that will fulfil the contemporary needs and will struggle for the rights of the African workers, against the multinationals and the monopolies, against the exploitation of human by human, for a social system with social justice and labour power.
      The WFTU strongly believes in the dynamics of the class-oriented trade union movement in Africa and the realistic solutions that can be provided to the acute problems of African workers and the peoples of Africa with the development and use of the wealth-producing resources and production exclusively to their benefit and not for the profiting of the monopoly groups and the local bourgeoisie.
      The class-oriented trade union movement in Africa must be prepared for and capable of effectively leading the movement of the workers under the frustration and anger that will inevitably bring revolt, for the victorious outcome of the struggles according to the interests of the workers and the poor people: to transform the agony into class-consciousness and conscious struggle, to radicalise the struggles and not to separate the economy from politics.
      The leadership of the WFTU over the last five years has given priority to and paid special attention to the African continent. It visited many countries and discussed the needs of the trade unions in their countries; it organised dozens of seminars and trade union training for African trade unionists; it supported the African trade unionists to participate in international forums, in ILO, UNESCO and FAO activities. It welcomed to the WFTU Central Offices in Athens many delegations from African countries. It organised in the European Parliament important conferences with subjects relating to Africa and its working class. It organised many meetings with ACFTU in China.
      The WFTU expressed in many ways its solidarity and internationalism at various times. Without fear and with stability, it defended the right of each people of Africa to decide on its own for its present and future. The WFTU exposed the plots of the imperialists; it organised a special protest at the World Trade Organisation in Geneva, demanding the erasure of the debts of the African countries.
      During these five years dozens of trade union organisations of Africa decided to affiliate to the WFTU. These are both smaller and larger trade union organisations that play an active role in their countries and their regions. We consider it an important step for the militant trade union movement that the central confederations of Egypt, South Africa and other countries have decided to affiliate to the WFTU.

Dear comrades,
      The Secretariat of the WFTU evaluates the functioning and the action of the Regional Offices for Africa, which are based in Johannesburg, as positive. We invite all the members and friends of the WFTU to strengthen their communication and relations, their inter-communication, the co-operation among them, their militant co-ordination.
      The Secretariat of the WFTU is at the same time worried about the inactivity of the Regional Office of Francophone Africa. During the 16th World Trade Union Congress in Athens we discussed in a special meeting the situation and the organisational problems of the office in Sénégal. Based on these discussions and the proposals of our members from Francophone Africa, we proposed that the seat of the Regional Office be transferred to ........................ and the responsibility to be undertaken by ........................
      Hence we have made significant progress, and we continue in an upward course. But we have weaknesses: we have delays. We need to discuss these weaknesses and to find ways of confronting them.

The plundering of the natural resources of Africa

Dear brothers and sisters,
Dear comrades,
      We consider it our duty to denounce once more from this podium the imperialist intervention in Mali, led by France and supported by the European Union and NATO, with as its pretext the cracking down on the extremist groups moving for the independence of Northern Mali.
      The intervention of France in Mali exposes the following facts:
      1. While world capitalism, especially the EU and the USA, is getting deeper in crisis confronting its own contradictions, while the life-and-death competition between the large monopoly groups is intensified, while they seek for new sources of energy, of natural wealth and wealth-producing resources, and while the rivalry for spheres of influence by the imperialist forces is increasing, more fires and new wars will be prepared. Developments in Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean with the attack against Libya, the dangerous continuing intervention in Syria and the threats against Iran prove exactly this point. No people are safe while the monopolies and their political representatives are ruling.
      2. These are wars that have at their centre the oil, the uranium, the gold etc. and have no relation with the pretexts that are utilised for “democracy,” “against terrorism,” “against a nuclear danger.” Where the enemy does not exist he is manufactured. This is obvious in the case of Mali, where the enemies of today were a few months ago the allies of the imperialists against Libya and for the overthrow of Kaddafi.
      3. A year after the so-called Arab Spring—which proved to be a dark winter—it is now internationally obvious that the only ones who have benefited are the multinationals, the European cartels, NATO, which builds new bases, the EU, and monopoly capital. The losers are the workers and the people of the region.
      4. In our times it is clear that the position that each national and international organisation holds towards the imperialist war is a defining criterion of that type of trade union force it is. Whether it is a class-oriented or a collaborationist one becomes obvious by whether it puts the interest of the international working class above the games of the bourgeoisie of its own country and international capital. The denouncing of the imperialist interventions, of the plots of the monopoly groups, and the defending of our brothers and sisters who are hurt in other countries is a basic principle of the class-oriented trade union movement. The slogan “No more blood for the profit of the multinationals!” must be a common slogan for all the members and friends of the WFTU in Africa.
      5. On the occasion of the imperialist intervention against Mali we want to warn the people of the region that the imperialists are preparing their next murderous plots. Nigeria, Niger, Algeria, Chad, Burkina Faso and other rich countries have whetted the appetite of the capitalists. The inter-imperialist competition for new spheres of influence, for new borders, for control of energy routes, confirm that the struggle against the imperialist interventions cannot be isolated from the struggle against exploitation and the anti-capitalist struggle.

Proved by the numbers

The numbers themselves prove it, but it is important to study the statistics and to expose the truth that the transnational monopolies and their mass media want to hide.
      Africa is a rich continent in wealth-producing resources. 85 per cent of African oil production comes from Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Egypt, and Angola. In Africa there is uranium, natural gas, diamonds, gold, ivory, oil, cobalt, iron, coal, platinum, agricultural production, etc.
      As a share of world production, the African production of cobalt reaches 57 per cent (DR Congo, Zambia, Morocco), 53 per cent of diamonds (Botswana, DR Congo, South Africa, Angola, Namibia), 39 per cent of manganese (South Africa, Gabon, Ghana), 31 per cent of phosphate (Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, South Africa, Sénégal), 21 per cent of gold (South Africa, Ghana, Mali, Tanzania), 9 per cent of bauxite (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana), 7½ per cent of nickel (South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe), 5 per cent of copper (Zambia, DR Congo, South Africa), according to data for 2005. Oil production accounts for 12½ per cent and gas 6½ per cent, with very low percentages of consumption at the same time (3.5 per cent and 2.8 per cent, respectively), according to the data for 2007–08.
      Uranium has an enhanced importance in the global market, while an increase in the exploitation of uranium in Chad and Sudan, as well as plans for its exploitation in the Central African Republic and Namibia, are on their way. 18 per cent of the global sources of uranium are in Africa and in particular in Niger, Namibia, and South Africa, while consumption is at 0.5 per cent.

The most acute problems

This large wealth would be enough to cover the vital needs of infrastructure, agricultural production materials, transport, telecommunications, and energy—so necessary in Africa. However, raw materials and agricultural production are a target of exploitation by the monopolies and the local capitalists, while the people and the working class of the African countries are suffering from acute problems.
      In sub-Saharan Africa, 69 per cent of the population survive with less than $2 per day. Life expectancy is 54 years; in Nigeria, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Mali it is 49 years; in Angola, Congo, Lesotho and Chad it is 47 years.
      Unemployment reaches dramatic proportions, especially for the young and the female population. The official data do not show clearly the hard reality that millions of educated and unskilled workers are facing.
      At the same time we witness a huge increase in the price of commodities and a fourfold or fivefold increase in the prices of metals. From 2001 to 2007 the price of maize rose by 83 per cent, of fish meal by 142 per cent, of palm oil by 173 per cent, of round timber by 408 per cent, of cotton 32 per cent, of coffee robusta by 215 per cent, and of cocoa by 83 per cent, while the data for 2010 shows that the price increases have broken every record of the last thirty years in wheat, oil derivatives, vegetables, and legumes.
      While prices rise, huge profits are being announced by monopolies in the food industry, such as Nestlé, Cargill, Kraft, General Mills, Pepsico, Coca-Cola, etc.
      The dramatic truth is that, with agricultural productivity and the present climate, if there were no monopolies and cartels controlling the food industry to keep the prices high, agricultural production would be enough to cover the needs of twice the present population of the earth.
      Some 300 million people in Africa do not have constant access to clean drinking water, tens of thousands die each year from polluted water, while at the same time scientists talk about a rich amount of unused aquifers and the rivalry between countries of the Nile for the use of water is intensifying.
      Equally in the field of education the situation is tragic, with a third of the children in sub-Saharan Africa not going to school and the rate of illiteracy in the 21st century being extremely high: 23 per cent for boys and 32 per cent for girls in sub-Saharan Africa alone; in Sierra Leone the figures reach 36 and 56 per cent, in Burkina Faso 53 per cent and 67 per cent, in Mali 64 per cent and 77 per cent. The right to free quality public education must be a constant priority.
      The problem of housing is a burning one for the people of Africa. A large part of the population lives in huts or in slums. The struggle for cheap and safe housing must be among the top demands of trade unions. The delay in electrification and the problems in the reliable infrastructure of electric power are important issues that are not connected with natural the deficiencies of Africa but with political choices.
      Moreover, the policy of the multinationals and the cartels in the production of pharmaceuticals is murderous, as they create patents and limit the production of medicines to keep prices high. Diseases that could have been extinct or controlled continue to kill and afflict millions of inhabitants of Africa. The figures reach a record in Swaziland (26 per cent), Botswana (23 per cent), Lesotho (23 per cent), and South Africa (17 per cent). It is tragic to note that in Africa are 90 per cent of deaths and 80 per cent of child victims of malaria.

Action! Action! Action!

Comrades,
      The WFTU strongly believes that only the people and the workers of Africa have the power to change their lives. No charity from the stolen wealth of African workers can smooth the barbarity of capitalism. No “non-governmental organisation” can heal this situation. Only organised class struggle can bring results for the fair demands of the class-oriented trade union movement. This struggle must be well prepared, with a plan, proper content, and suitable forms of struggle.
      We have a duty to tell the truth to the workers and expose the ITUC and the other trade union leaderships from European countries, from the USA, Canada etc. who materialise the dangerous trade union imperialism. Our objective is pan-African co-ordination with OATUU and ICATU. We want those organisations to become stronger, to strengthen the African trade union movement.
      We want the strengthening of the trade unions in Africa so that the workers in Africa are not manipulated by the strategies of the multinationals coming from USA, Britain, France, Germany, Belgium etc. to invest in African countries, also from the looting of the wealth-producing resources in Africa as part of the labour aristocracy in Europe gains and becomes richer.
      The struggle against corruption and against bribery is crucial for the orientation of our unions. The matter today is not how shiny our banners are but what their slogans are.
      For us, besides the description of the pain of the workers in Africa which each one can do, what is crucial is to discuss substantially how we will organise that movement at the African and the international level that will effectively form demands and dynamic against these conditions and especially against the causes that give birth to these conditions.

Action plan for Africa, 2013

We cannot refer to a trade union movement in Africa if this does not include a consistent resistance against the policies of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organisation. These mechanisms are the ones that forced the African countries into the complete privatisation of their resources; they facilitated international capital in looting the African people, and then they left the African countries in debt.
      The WFTU struggles for substantial trade union liberties and democratic rights everywhere, for respect for the right of each worker to participate and struggle for their rights. We will continue our efforts for respect for trade unionism for all.
      The WFTU is clear and continues to act in demanding the right for complete cancellation of the debts of the African countries. Therefore we propose a pan-African day of action with this demand, with mobilisations, demonstrations, and activities. On top of this the WFTU will organise within the framework of the ILO Conference an international conference exposing the policy of the IMF. We propose this pan-African day of action to be on 25 May, Africa Day.
      The next crucial issue on which we believe we must have substantial and concrete intervention is the issue of salaries and wages. As WFTU we struggle for a substantial increase in salaries and the establishment of a minimum salary as a result of negotiation between employees and employers under a national collective agreement. We propose the collection of data and facts though the WFTU Offices with the help of the trade unions for the preparation of a campaign per region for increases in salaries. We will demand everywhere collective agreements that will satisfy the needs of the working people in each country.
      For the vital issues of food, water, medicine, books, and housing, against the plundering of wealth-producing resources by the multinationals, the WFTU organised on 3 October an international action day with the participation of dozens of countries. We propose the stepping up of these demands with the organising of a new international day of action in 2013.
      We believe that militant participation, with strikes, demonstrations and activities in all African countries for these crucial demands, is very important and that the contribution of everyone in the co-ordination and the success of this struggle is necessary. This day we demonstrate on the streets and in the the squares for our fair demands. With such an action and such orientation the dynamic of our trade unions will be enhanced, more workers will enrol in trade unions, more young people will understand the value of organised struggle.
      New life will enter into the trade unions, new forces will be aligned in the trade union movement. Furthermore, we are in a position to announce the opening of a permanent Trade Union School and Training Centre of the WFTU, in co-operation with ETUF in Egypt, where African trade unionists will study the history of the trade union movement in the world and Africa, politico-economic issues, and the experience of the movement in all fields.
      Moreover, already we are organising, in co-operation with members and friends of the WFTU, trade union seminars in various countries. We believe that these seminars are an important opportunity for the exchange of experience, the formation of common positions, and preparation for better and more effective co-ordinated struggle. Such seminars will take place in 2013 in Gabon in March on education, in Uganda in June on the mass media and later on education, in Rwanda on September on rural employment, and in Nigeria on October against poverty.
      In March, in co-operation with ACFTU, a delegation of the WFTU consisting of fifteen women trade unionists from the Arab-speaking countries will be visiting China and will take part in a seminar on the role of women in the national and international movement.
      Finally, on the occasion of the celebration of the seventieth anniversary of the WFTU in 2015 there will be a series of initiatives in all countries, as well as publications and the renaming of squares as International Trade Union Movement Square. The WFTU will award books that will be written on the subject “Seventy Years of the WFTU: Together with the Workers and the People of Africa.”

Dear brothers and sisters,
      The national organisations and the Regional Offices in Africa will co-ordinate all our action and activities. We request from you here that you discuss openly, democratically, freely. We request your proposals, your criticism. The Secretariat of the WFTU will examine all the proposals and opinions that will be addressed here very carefully.
      The discussion that will take place here will make our action plan for 2013 more rich and more complete. Give us your proposals, and feel free to send to the central offices and the regional offices all your thoughts, your remarks, your criticism.
      We will jointly move forward in unity!
      All the workers in Africa united under the banners and the objectives of the WFTU!

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