The Workers‟ and Trade Union Workshop meeting at the Fourth International Assembly of the ILPS calls for genuine trade unions everywhere to create an anti-imperialist united front to fiercely resist the intense attack on public services, pensions, and workers‟ rights in all countries by big finance capital, and secondly to educate and mobilize a global workers‟ movement for democratic pro-people transformation of our economies.
The Great Recession of 2008-09 was centred in the biggest capitalist economies in the USA and Europe, and arose from the nature of capitalism as a system based on the need for ever-expanding profits and super profits. The biggest capitalist interests are now struggling to turn the ongoing global capitalist crisis that they themselves have created, to their advantage, by directly extracting public funds and by big attacks on workers‟ and people‟s rights. The Great Recession of 2008-09 is far from over, nor is the global economy experiencing „recovery‟. It is now a global depression, if this is measured as more than two quarters of shrinking or low growth with continuing high or rising unemployment. This applies in big economies like the USA, UK, Japan, France and Italy, and smaller ones like Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Iceland, and most of Eastern Europe apart from Poland. On the positive side, Latin America and the Caribbean are doing comparatively better.
As well, the global ecological crisis as manifest in global warming, is already creating climate refugees, causing deaths, and threatening the lives of hundreds of millions of people now and the prospects for future generations.
Economic crisis is now striking at people everywhere with renewed violence. And the big increase in food and energy prices all over the world is another result of the capitalists‟ financial strategy and has helped spark the historic democratic peoples‟ revolts in North Africa and the Middle East, with underground trade union organisations and associations playing a vital role in the peoples‟ victories so far.
Agricultural workers and peasants are greatly impacted by the wave of free trade agreements and also the ongoing impact of the 1995 World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture. The free market in foodstuffs is itself creating a profound food insecurity across the world.
Workers‟ struggles in China and India are pushing back the extreme exploitation they have suffered and slowly denying the old and new capitalists the super-profits they have enjoyed for the last two decades. In Africa, especially South Africa, trade unions have stopped the privatisation drive in its tracks and fought hard to improve wages and living standards, but face staggering levels of unemployment.
Poor countries, especially in Asia, were buffeted by the Great Recession, but were not at its heart. Their chronic high unemployment and under-employment and low-value adding export sectors make them profoundly dependent on external conditions. The huge calamity in Japan on March 11 and subsequently is having a sharper impact as Japanese production plummets and its imports from these countries and export of components to them is disrupted.
The capitalist institutions which drive the assault on the people are the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation, and the European Commission. The G8 and the G20 provide the political coordination for this strategy.
Trade union and workers movements in all countries have mobilised to some extent to confront these dramatic challenges, but have largely accepted the framework of global capitalist production and marketing relations in their efforts to develop a policy response. Therefore the main demands have been to increase government spending and borrowing to maintain welfare payments and to stimulate corporate production and consumer spending, and to protect trade union organising and bargaining rights. But during 2010-11 these policies have been rejected by global capitalist interests, and in any case, the Great Recession itself is a product of the unfettered free trade policy framework which the bulk of the trade union and workers‟ movement has so far failed to question.
While union leaderships around the world may be trapped in outdated frameworks, working men and women everywhere are deeply questioning the system and in many countries have taken to the streets to fight for deep change, in both rich and poor countries.
In Latin America in particular, decades of education and organising work has already produced many governments which are striving for a deeper democracy and have succeeded in creating some alternative economic systems and new development pathways which are independent of the global capitalist market. An important workers‟ control movement is growing in Venezuela and Argentina. In Cuba the people have created a more resilient and diversified economy in the teeth of the US blockade and after the collapse of their main trading partner, the Soviet Union. Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia have created the ALBA – the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean, a pro-people trading bloc. ALBA is expanding.
A new international movement of working men and women will help transform the global workers‟ struggle because all genuine union leaders are open to new ideas about how to meet today‟s challenges, and democratic unions can renew their leaderships as the campaigns and struggles develop in the coming months and years. Workers cooperative and worker organizing centers and other organization from the informal sector must be part of the new global workers‟ movement.
At the 3rd ILPS International Assembly in Hong Kong in June 2008, the workers and trade union workshop analysed the impact of the global economic crisis on the workers, particularly looking at privatisation, flexible labor initiatives, and direct repression of workers, as well as workers‟ resistance. The papers presented at this workshop have been published, but not circulated widely. The concept of a new international workers‟ movement to push for people‟s alternatives to capitalism and to oppose wars of aggression has been explored and debated in the three years since.
Now at the conclusion of the ILPS 4th International Assembly, we resolve to make an organisational advance and to develop new educational materials to help bring this potential for a global workers network to life:
√ Create links using low-cost technology with all union and workers movements in struggle.
√ Create education materials to explain the unfolding capitalist crisis to workers in all sectors.
√ Create educational materials on workers‟ alternatives to capitalism, including cooperatives, workers‟ control, public ownership, pro-people international trading relations, and socialism.
√ Mobilise in solidarity with specific trade union and people‟s campaigns, such as those now underway in Greece, Spain, Ireland, the USA, and in Egypt, Tunisia, Palestine, Iraq, Colombia and other countries in North Africa, the Middle East, and in the Asia-Pacific region.
√ Defend and consolidate the achievements of workers‟ struggles and defend against repression of organized labor by the capitalists.
√ Link up the workers movement to the peasant, women‟s, migrants, student and other militant social sectors.
Let us create “Workers International Struggle Initiatives” as a platform for workers’ campaign network.