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17th Congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU)

Between October 4 and 8, the 17th Congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) was held in Durban, South Africa. Marcos Wolman, general secretary of the National Coordinating Table of Retirees and Pensioners Organizations, secretary of Social Security of the CTA Capital and brand new vice president of the International Union of Retirees and Pensioners of America of the WFTU was present and told us about some aspects of that international meeting.

How to describe what was the meeting of the WFTU in Durban?

Marcos Wolman (MW): It was the 17th Congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) in which 71 years of the federation were commemorated and had the participation of 1,200 delegates from trade union organizations from 111 countries, 79% belonging to companies of private sectors and the remaining 21% to state. We worked with two central documents: a balance report for the period 2011 to 2016 and with the action platform that considers the period 2016 to 2021.

How was the work dynamic?

MW: We worked in plenary sessions where each delegate expressed their thoughts on the issues under consideration, both the balance and the work plans. An analysis was made of the situations in each country through each delegate, almost all agreeing on the existence of a crisis of the capitalist system, which manifests itself in a particular way in each country, and on what paths the organizations that They belong to the WFTU. In general, the need to build class organizations was expressed, in defense of class interests, of class struggle, with anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist proposals. Thus, it was also pointed out that the fundamental struggle does not have two phases: it is the struggle to claim wages, health, education, against the unemployment that is worsening in each country,against setbacks in social security by the states, etc. The fight must take place in a single time and it is against the capitalist system.

What was the general atmosphere of the opening?

MW: It was a very important act. The opening was made with the general secretary of the WFTU, George Mavrikos, who is also a leader of the Workers’ Militant Front of Greece, PAME. And the president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, also attended, who made a speech on the importance of the congress. The South African Workers’ Center COSATU sponsored the congress and in the sessions of the Congress we spoke 112 speakers from 103 countries.

Many comrades describe the current scenario as an offensive by capitalism. How was that perceived?

MW: Clearly, an offensive by the ruling classes is perceived. The theme of the congress was capitalism and its concentration, social inequality, the economic and military offensive of the system. The emphasis was placed on how to build the anti-capitalist struggle throughout the world, because it is a phenomenon that is taking place in developed countries, in emerging ones and in the most backward ones.

Today the path passes through the role of the working class. It was very hopeful for those of us who participated, because progress is being made in the content of the struggle against the capitalist system, because there is talk of socialism, of the need to talk about the experiences carried out so as not to fall into new frustrations, because there are new generations with a conscience of class and that creates prospects for the future.

On other occasions, it could be assumed that there was a gap between the situation in Latin America and that of Europe or that of Asia and Africa. How was that seen, is it more even ?

MW: Yes, it is more equal, with different degrees of development of capitalism. The South African delegation could be heard with great enthusiasm and combativeness. When the representatives of Africa spoke, a climate of great joy was created by the delegates. Both the president and the leader of COSATU spoke about the struggle that the workers were giving against inequality, to be able to dispose of wealth, etc. Something was noted that is related to what we noted in the years of development of the class struggle in Latin America, a great disposition to fight, the existence of young union leaders in all continents and in particular those in Africa who gave the Congress a special tonic.

Voices were heard from India, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the United States, from the situation and the struggle in Syria, in Palestine, from all over the world. An English leader, for example, pointed out that there are currently more than 1 million English people queuing to receive a food parcel. A German leader spoke of the importance of commemorating the centenary of the October Revolution, a Russian representative mentioned that since the fall of the Soviet Union the unions played a role of class conciliation but the fact of significance is that unions were incorporated into the WSF and a headquarters of the Eurasian trade unions is opened in Moscow.

There were three union leaders from new countries incorporated into the Presidency Council of the WFTU, which were Angola, Russia and the USA, the latter with a leader from a construction

What was your balance?

It was an open, democratic, class-oriented congress, the members of the presidential council were increased from 40 to 47, with 11 vice-presidents. The new President from Africa was elected and the Secretary General, George Mavrikos, the Presidential Council, the Financial Control Committee, the Secretariat and all the positions were renewed by a large majority of votes by secret ballot.

Today the total number of affiliates of the different organizations that make up the WFTU has reached 92 million and the goal is that for the next congress we reach 100 million. This scenario presents us with the need to deepen the contents and experiences of this important and transcendent 17th Congress of the WFTU, at this stage of the class struggle in Argentina and in the world.

You were also representing the Autonomous CTA, what did you point out about the Argentine situation?

MW: When I spoke about Argentina, I referred to the new situation of the right-wing offensive with the government of Mauricio Macri and also to the Unity of Action strategy promoted by the Autonomous CTA to push for the necessary general strike against the adjustment, where the retirees and retirees we include together with the whole of the labor movement, our demands for the 82% mobile, the emergency increase and the recovery of the PAMI for the movement of retirees and workers.

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