INTERVIEW WITH GEORGE MAVRIKOS, FORMER WFTU SECRETARY GENERAL, PUBLISHED IN "REBELIÓN" (PART I, II AND III)
Today we publish the three parts of the interview with George Mavrikos, former general secretary of the WFTU, conducted by Luis Miguel Busto Mauleón and published in the electronic magazine "Rebelión".
English translation by Maria Barouti.
George Mavrikos was born on the Greek island of Skyros 72 years ago. Since his childhood he understood that exploitation is the basis of labor relations in a capitalist system and that the solution for the emancipation of the working class demands the overcoming of this criminal system. Educated in socialist principles, he was a trade union leader in his homeland, Greece, fired from 7 companies for defending his class and a very important trade union cadre. His far-sighted internationalist vision was fundamental to his work in the World Federation of Trade Unions, as its Vice-president and finally as General Secretary from 2005 to 2022.
Last May, the WFTU held its 18th Congress in Rome and George Mavrikos left his position, as he had announced at the 17th Congress in Durban. This does not mean a total retirement, since at the same Congress he accepted his nomination as Honorary President of the international union.
In this interview we want to highlight the indispensable role that a worker and trade unionist born on a tiny Aegean island has played, contributing to the advance of the international working class. If the working class, in the everlasting class struggle, took the lead against the bourgeoisie, there would be no doubt that the name of George Mavrikos would figure in the pantheon of great men of our history.
First Part: « A trade union leader is not magically "born" like Athena from the head of Zeus, he is "forged" on the anvil of Hephaestus. »(published July 18, 2022)
I. From Skyros to Athens
1- What are your first experiences in the labor and trade union world?
From a very early age in Skyros, all the children worked in the fields, with the animals, in the forests. But we were ignorant of social demands. For example, when at the age of 8 I broke my arm, a "healer" tied it with boards and ropes and we had to wait 4 days for the boat to pass to go to a hospital in Athens. Then all this seemed normal to our childish eyes. Every year I would watch my father fight with the merchant who came and bought our lambs without being able to understand the cause of this fight. I would listen to my mother - who had never been to school - cursing the merchants, but I was left in ignorance. All these events happened on this small island. Actually, it is a rock in the middle of the sea with an area of 210 km2 and 2.000 inhabitants in those years. Today it has 3.400 inhabitants.
In 1965, at the age of 14, I left for the capital, Athens. My father wanted to keep me on the island to become a shepherd. We had a herd, I was the eldest son and he wanted me to succeed him in animal breeding. My mother, while tolerant and obedient to my father in everything, was furious when she heard that her sons would stay in Skyros. It was the only issue for which she opposed my father, "forget about it, no child will stay here to suffer what we and our parents have suffered..."
I settled in a small room of six square meters and in July 1965 I participated for the first time in a demonstration. A relative of mine had taken me to the demonstration. That day, the police killed the student Sotiris Petroulas, for whom the great Mikis Theodorakis wrote the song that has been sung ever since in all workers' demonstrations. This was my first experience.
This is how I started. In the years 1966-1967, after school, in the afternoons, I worked on a local farm digging and planting flowers. There, old experienced workers opened our eyes and ears.
In April 1967 there was a military dictatorship in Greece. At school I participated in all the student strikes.
Athens, 1977 (Commemorating the Polytechnic School Uprising)
In the summer of 1969 I worked for three months in the German textile industry HUDSON. There I went on my first strike and was dismissed for the first time for that strike.
The following year, in the summer, when I went to Skyros to help my family with household chores, the police arrested me for the first time because we were writing slogans against dictatorship on the walls at night.
In 1973 followed the Polytechnic School Uprising when 27 militants were murdered.
I was studying and at the same time I was always working and developing a trade union activity.
At the beginning, I was elected President of a factory committee, then President of a company union and I later became elected General Secretary of the GSEE, Vice-President of the WFTU, Coordinator of its European Regional Office, and finally General Secretary of the WFTU.
For my trade union, social and political activities I have been fired 7 times, I have been arrested several times by the police and I have been tried and convicted by the bourgeois courts of my country.
2-From the beginning you present yourself as a trade union leader. How does a trade union cadre come into being?
I think this question goes beyond the trajectory and union experience of a simple militant, revolutionary and class unionist. It is something much broader that has to do with a big issue that has concerned -and should concern- class-oriented unions around the world. In other words, it is about the characteristics that a revolutionary, anti-capitalist and internationalist trade unionist, a class-oriented union leader should have and how these elements are "born" in the fire of the class struggle, in the conflict with the class enemy, in the daily work in the industry, in the area, in the working class environment.
At the same time, I believe that the question has also the dimension of how these elements are developed and maintained throughout the trade union trajectory of the leader so that the leader himself becomes better, more effective, more firm in the world system of the revolutionary struggle of the working class. Because we all know that the class struggle is not a "100 meters race" but a "marathon". I remember Brecht's phrase: There are men who struggle for a day and they are good. There are men who struggle for a year and they are better. There are men who struggle many years, and they are better still. But there are those who struggle all their lives: These are the indispensable ones.
Reviewing the characteristics that give rise to a class-conscious trade union leader, a leader and a son worthy of the class that gave birth to him, we look first of all at the key element: the awareness that as a trade unionist and as an individual, all his thought and action, all his physical, mental and spiritual strength is dedicated to the struggle for the abolition of capitalist exploitation, to the improvement of the living conditions of his class brothers and sisters.
But this perception is not just an opinion, it is not a theoretical assumption. On the contrary, such a perception in itself compels you, if you believe in it and embrace it, to act and develop specific individual characteristics:
- To have belief in the working class and its historical mission. Belief makes you bold during the battle, courageous in the struggle.
- To improve every day your knowledge and your ideological-political level because with knowledge you learn to struggle correctly.
- To know the history of the workers' movement at the local, sectoral, regional, national and international levels.
- To fulfill your internationalist duty above all inside your own country. Everyone is judged above all in his/ her country, sector and workplace.
- To be internationalist, anti-fascist and anti-racist and to respect migrants and refugees.
- To be judged by the results of your work, by your actions and not by your words.
- To be courageous and fearless in the face of the class enemy, the exploiters and their instruments. To mercilessly unmask the slanderers of the authentic militants.
- To respect and love your comrades, your family environment.
- To take care of your mental, psychological and physical health so as to be prepared for the struggle and resistant to the difficulties of the class struggle.
- To have a warm heart, a cool mind and clean hands.
It is easy to see that these characteristics are not developed in a sterile environment, in isolation, in narcissism, in introversion and in the mold. They are not acquired by a bureaucrat who crawls behind his chair, his comfort and the complaisance of the class enemy. On the contrary, these elements ferment, are born and flourish in conflict. After all, life itself "breathes in conflict". So one could say that a union leader is not magically "born" like the mythical goddess Athena from the head of Zeus. He is "forged" primarily on the anvil of Hephaestus.
3-The General Confederation of Greek Workers and PAME. Do you think that in Greece currently exist special circumstances in the world of work?
I have a firm conviction and I have emphasized in many speeches, writings and texts of mine over the years that one has to be very careful when talking about special circumstances within a country and its movement. In any case, it is the same historical experience that forces us to be careful, especially if one takes into account that historically great concessions, unacceptable compromises and shameful regressions from the revolutionary line of the movement were made in the name of the "special circumstances" of a country. And your country, after all, the Spanish State, has a rich experience with the precedent of Eurocommunism and the recipes of Santiago Carrillo and company, when a lot of water was poured into the wine of the movement and thus changed the line with the excuse of national particularities. The working class of your country has suffered the tragic results of this policy for decades and you know them best.
A second hidden trap in such a discussion of the "particularities" of each movement lies in chauvinism and the desire to appear more important than one is; such behaviors can be nurtured by some movements. I often say that one of the worst things that can occur to a workers movement is that it considers itself better than others. And here we have always walked very carefully, especially since PAME took over the leadership of the WFTU from 2005 to 2022. We never considered ourselves the absolute teachers of the movement, we never mechanically tried to transfer the Greek experience to the international trade union scene, we never pointed the finger at other movements, but in an atmosphere of comradeship we tried to bring any experience - positive or negative - of our national movement to the international level to avoid, as far as possible, errors and omissions, always with a view to strengthening the class-oriented current in the international trade union movement. That is to say, we never believed, as some do, that the WFTU should function as a Ministry of Foreign Affairs of any country or movement.
Now, the analysis of the Greek trade union and political reality is a matter of another quality. It is true that after the sweeping changes in the international correlation of forces in 1989-1991 and the counterrevolutionary overthrows, we saw entire movements that lowered their red flags, spoke of social collaboration, worshiped the principles of the European Union, renounced their revolutionary past; entire organizations with a history of struggles and sacrifices ceased to exist overnight or mutated into servants of capital. Of course, in many countries there were forces that resisted; in some countries in a stronger and in others in a weaker way; sometimes in better and sometimes in worse conditions.
The example of Greece and its class-oriented movement shows - in my opinion - a correct attitude with positive reflexes. The forces which, on the occasion of the counterrevolutionary overthrows, took the opportunity to call for class collaboration, left after an intense ideological and political struggle, were isolated, distanced themselves also from an organizational point of view. Therefore, at that time a long and arduous period of reconstruction, reorganization and regrouping began, with the results you see today. So we could say that the division of those times helped, it did not weaken the movement. It strengthened it, it allowed it to be a workers and trade union movement by and for the working class. So I believe that the results are tangible for the same standard of living of the working class in my country. Very carefully said, it can be observed that many anti-worker policies, several anti-popular directions of the European Union in Greece were delayed in relation to other European countries whose movements embraced class collaboration. For example, the directions already seen in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, the reactionary reforms envisioned in the EU White Paper and other legislation have been greatly delayed or passed at a greater political cost to capital in Greece. In contrast, in countries where trade unions "deified" social dialogue and class collaboration, the losses for the working class were greater, faster and, to some extent, more severe. I am not saying that in Greece this was the only factor, but it certainly had a beneficial effect and delayed a process of dismantling of workers' gains that elsewhere came like a "steamroller".
4- Is the experience of PAME the model to be followed in the new trade unionism?
You know, I believe that trade unionism is "new" only if it brings us closer to the "new world" of the working class. It is young and fresh, only if it has really progressive and class ideas, strategy and tactics. If it defends our class and at the same time organizes its attack to take more gains from capital. A trade union movement is "new" only if it brings us one step closer and paves the way for the final emancipation of the working class. Let us think what a fuss they made about the "new" trade union values of the "new" world created by the imperialists after 1991. At that time we were told that the new face of trade unionism is tripartism with bosses and governments, the "regulation" of the right to strike, the brotherhood of workers and bosses. In fact, none of this was new; these were musty visions straight out of the swamp of reformism and social-democratic retrogression. And, in fact, these were the same views that were opposed by consistent working-class forces in the time of Marx, in the time of Lenin and in the time of Stalin, etc. It is just that now they are served with a new wrapping which, however, fails to hide their decay.
May Day in Athens, 2004
The basic lines within the trade union movement of each country have always been two: Struggle or Collaboration? Rupture or Compromise? In this sense, the struggle between the two is and will be irreconcilable as long as there are societies divided into classes, regardless of the correlations between the two camps: whether these correlations are favorable to the militant camp, as in 1945 during the founding of the WFTU, or negative as today, with the reformist current dominating.
Now, to answer the core of the question, if the "PAME" model should be followed in class unionism with the characteristics that we have defined, it should be taken into account that PAME was created as a product of the workers' traditions, of the history of class struggles in Greece, in function with the national experience of the workers' movement. That is to say, when the very needs of the class struggle in Greece marked the task of independent intervention of the class-oriented current outside the reformist GSEE. However, the organizational form of PAME is a choice of the Greek class-oriented unionism as it was reflected in my country at a specific historical moment of the development of the movement. In other words, PAME is the form chosen by the militant workers of Greece to "dress" their movement. Now, the way in which the class-oriented trade union movement of each country will choose to advance organizationally depends on itself, on its collective processes, on its working class traditions and customs, on the level of development of the class struggle, on the correlations, on the intensity of state repression, etc. But what is always at stake is the content: the content of the demands, the rupture with reformism and social democracy, the clash with the illusions and the current of subjugation that still exists in many countries and their movements. In other words, the goal is that the class-oriented forces develop the action that corresponds to them everywhere, that they be worthy of their name and the title of "red unions", that they act under all circumstances, at all times. This is the content, the essence of being a class-oriented union movement. In other words, the form can be something flexible that adapts to the needs of life and submits itself to the strategy of the workers and trade union movement. But the issue of the class-oriented content of our action, in the sense of anti-capitalism, of struggle against exploitation, must be common to the proletarians of the whole world. And in this content we are never allowed to accept any concession.
ΙΙ. From Athens to the WFTU
5- The 13th Congress of the WFTU in Damascus is crucial for the future of class-oriented unionism. What do you think are the most important decisions to be taken?
I will speak to you from the bottom of my heart and as an eyewitness of what happened in those days of November 1994 in Damascus when I was present on behalf of the Greek class-oriented trade union movement, as then General Secretary of ESAK (United Militant Trade Union Movement) and General Secretary of the GSEE (General Confederation of Greek Workers). In fact, recently, in my farewell speeches as General Secretary of the WFTU in Rome, I referred to some events of the decisive 13th Congress of Damascus. I truly believe that the momentous importance of this Congress for the world working class will be studied in the future, and there are many who will review its decisions and the struggle that took place there. The events that took place at that time left their deep mark on the world trade union future, they defined us and marked us deeply.
The general global political context in which the Damascus Congress took place is more or less known. The global geopolitical correlation of power between the forces of socialism and capitalism has just been overthrown. The Soviet Union and the socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe no longer exist. Their mass trade unions that were the backbone of the WFTU have ceased to exist or have mutated. The WFTU is "shedding its leaves". In the midst of an avalanche of events, others hide that they are affiliates of the WFTU, while others hasten to sign declarations of repentance to the ICFTU and to the ETUC, asking for their affiliation there. It seems to the bourgeoisie an excellent opportunity to get rid once and for all of the WFTU, to settle old scores, to give a final blow to the class-oriented forces. The 13th Congress in Damascus is the field where this struggle was expressed, where it was judged whether the WFTU would continue to exist. That is to say, it was there that we saw unfolding the organized plan for the dissolution of the WFTU. There the bourgeoisie, the social democrats and the international trade union reformism believed they could take revenge.
Delegate Card, 13th WFTU Congress, Damascus, Syria, 1994
The operation to dissolve the WFTU was orchestrated by the European opportunists, led by the then leading group of the CGT France with the assistance of the Italian CGIL and other countries. In such a climate of dissolution, it was resolved to convene the 13th Congress of the WFTU. You know, the choice of a host country that could cover the high financial needs of a world trade union congress was not easy. And while in the past all countries competed to host a WFTU congress, now there was no offer. Therefore, Syria was chosen, as its leadership under President Hafez Al-Assad agreed to organize and cover all the expenses of the Congress.
Almost 30 years later, we can say that the international anti-imperialist militant trade union movement has a debt of gratitude to the Syrian working class and to the G.F.T.U., because, in the midst of conditions of persecution, they agreed to organize the Congress in Damascus and together with the C.T.C. of Cuba, the A.I.T.U.C. of India and the V.G.C.L. of Vietnam led the rejection of the proposals aimed at the dissolution of the WFTU.
At the Damascus Congress, which was held on November 22-26, 1994, everyone expected that the life of the WFTU would end. The French leaders of the CGT were so sure of this that they even called African delegations not to attend the Congress because, as they said, it was a meeting of mere formality that would decide the dissolution. However, given the critical situation, in addition to the opportunists and the trade union aristocracy of the Western world, trade union leaders from many countries of the world had arrived in Damascus, regardless of whether their unions were affiliates of the WFTU or not. They were political and trade union cadres who every night, during the whole Congress and in special meetings, analyzed the situation and fixed the tactics for the next day of the Congress.
In these meetings, Pedro Ross Leal, General Secretary of the Cuban C.T.C. and member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba, was the first to speak; then it was K. L. Mahendra from A.I.T.U.C.-India, as well as other leaders of the class-oriented movement. Also the veteran Vietnamese communist and General Secretary of the V.G.C.L., Cu Thi Hau, the Syrian leader of the G.F.T.U. Iz Al-Din Nasser, Adib Miro from Syria, the Libyan trade unionists and many others, stood out for their intransigent position. At the end of the day, the Damascus Congress resolved by a majority the continuation of the operation of the WFTU and took measures for its strengthening and modernization.
At the same time, when we speak of ideological struggle, we must say that on the occasion of the debate on the existence or non-existence of the WFTU, in the Damascus Congress key points of struggle were deployed around the analysis of the working class; such as whether or not there is a working class, whether the class struggle existed or had been abolished by class collaboration and much more. It was a generalized conflict because both poles and both lines were strong.
Alexander Zharikov from Russia was re-elected General Secretary of the WFTU and Indrajit Gupta from India was elected to the post of President. The Cubans and many other delegates proposed to replace Alexander Zharikov from the post of General Secretary, but without making a realistic different proposal. Therefore, since it was not possible to find another willing trade union leader, in the end the reelection of the Russian comrade was agreed, although the Russian trade unions had already alienated themselves from the WFTU.
In general, we can say that although the 13th Congress did not resolve -and could not resolve to a large extent- issues that continued to torment the existence of the WFTU in the future, it laid the foundations for the counterattack, educated a generation of trade unionists, "galvanized" a part of our forces and gave a practical answer to those who said that the class-oriented movement was clinically dead. There was still a long way to go, but the foundations had been laid, now we could start building from a base.
Those of us who were in Damascus in 1994 and aligned ourselves with the right side of history of the class struggle, today feel a human satisfaction for the current level of the WFTU.
6- At the 14th Congress in New Delhi you are appointed Vice-president of the WFTU and Secretary of the European Office. What goals do you set from the leadership?
I take the thread directly from the end of the previous answer to show you that the period between 1994 and 2000 has not been an easy one. The negative correlation and the consequences of the counterrevolution weighed more and more everywhere. Dozens of trade union organizations disaffiliated from the WFTU and rushed to bow to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. In fact, many, fearful, faint-hearted and worried about their jobs, signed several documents rejecting their past and their history. Tragic figures of people without principles or values. Until 2000, the trade unions of all the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe, as well as many African and Asian countries had disaffiliated from the WFTU.
The negotiations, i.e. the role of intermediary for the disaffiliation of these organizations from the WFTU, as well as the discussions for their affiliation to the ICFTU, were assumed by the then leading cadres of the French CGT, the Spanish CCOOs and the Italian CGIL. In this way, these leaders gave "exams" of loyalty and devotion to their bosses. They became servants of the monopolies and transnationals. The then leadership of the French CGT of the years 1993-1995, certain about the coming dissolution of the WFTU, loaded the archive of the organization from the Prague headquarters into two big trucks and brought them to Paris. Later, when the WFTU headquarters moved to Greece, efforts were initiated to recover the archives, but unfortunately to no avail so far.
It was therefore under these circumstances that the 14th Congress of the WFTU was held in New Delhi, India, on March 23-28, 2000. This Congress was attended by 421 delegates and observers from 65 countries. The actual membership of that period should have been around 30 million workers. The Congress was financially supported, above all, by the Indian workers who raised money and collected the necessary funds. The whole organization of the congress was based on the work of the AITUC and the other affiliated and friendly organizations in this country.
On the other hand, a positive element was that nine years had already passed since the overthrows of the period 1989-1991 and, little by little, several union leaders saw more clearly that the new situation generated many problems for the world working class; they observed that capitalist globalization brought great poverty to many and great profits to a few. In this same period, it was demonstrated once again that the ICFTU not only had not changed, but also had become an even more faithful partner of the imperialists. It openly supported the NATO war against Yugoslavia, it supported and spread propaganda in favor of the bombing of Belgrade, while the trade union leaderships in Italy, with CGIL at the head, applauded the Italian government which organized the NATO air strikes against Serbia from the Aviano air base. Moreover, the ICFTU openly positioned itself in favor of the imperialists during the U.S. war against Iraq and Afghanistan. It became clear that in the new circumstances, the reactionary role of this organization, its action and practice helped an important number of progressive trade union leaders to realize the truth and put their trust in the WFTU again.
The 14th Congress in New Delhi took decisions covering all international developments in all fields. All comrades from India contributed and worked with enthusiasm and effectiveness. Moreover, their contribution has been significant to the orientation of the WFTU towards more correct, anti-imperialist and anti-monopoly positions. In addition, in India, the election of a new General Secretary was again discussed. Indians and Cubans insisted on his replacement. But finally, Alexander Zharikov from Russia was re-elected, who must be credited with helping to keep the WFTU alive, even with a few forces. Had it been dissolved, the course of its reconstruction would have been even more difficult. Alexander Zharikov was a political cadre of Komsomol, with significant action in the world student and youth movement, he was cultivated and well educated. His candidacy for the position of leader of the WFTU was presented and proposed in 1990, mainly because of the experience he had acquired at the international level through his previous positions. His election as General Secretary in 1990 coincided with the transcendental period of the overthrows. Therefore, when the world had been turned upside down, Alexander Zharikov had no previous experience of the trade union- workers movement and its organizations. Consequently, the WFTU, although it had considerable strength throughout the world, was simply watching how things changed.
Now, in a general analysis, we can say that the period of the 14th Congress coincides with the unmasking of the "new era" announced by the imperialists after the overthrows and the revelation of the "brutal face" of the new order of things. The Congress "pushed" the WFTU towards more correct positions and analysis and helped it to restore many of the class characteristics it had lost. Thus, the New Delhi Congress gave another kiss of life to the WFTU, but remained "reluctant" in the changes in which it would further encourage its action and deepen its intervention. Ambitious goals were set, but at a suitable moment for the organization of our counterattack with better conditions, valuable time was lost to initiate an upward course as the one unleashed by the Havana Congress of 2005.
7- -In Havana you were elected General Secretary in 2005. In what situation was then the WFTU?
Note that even after the New Delhi Congress, some misconceptions and illusions still existed in parts of the leadership and affiliates of the WFTU. Some even had illusions about the possibility of a "cooperation" with the ICFTU. I should mention that even a meeting of an official WFTU delegation with a 6-member ICFTU delegation (including its then General Secretary Bill Jordan) took place at its headquarters in Brussels in 2001, where we simply agreed to... disagree. Prior to this meeting, the three of us in the WFTU delegation had different perspectives on both the goal and our tactics during the meeting. But the goal of... "a joint action" proved very quickly to be ridiculous when Bill Jordan started to attack us and slander the WFTU; therefore, when A. Zharikov showed them a photocopy of the CIA economic balance sheet which showed some amounts that the ICFTU had benefited from, the yellow ones... really "turned yellow" and started to accuse us that the KGB was financing us. Thus, those who had illusions about the role of the ICFTU leadership were forced to come down to the earth. You know that I have even experienced conversations with WFTU cadres who were anxious to know if the ICFTU would invite the WFTU to its next Congress!
Meeting ICFTU-WFTU, Brussels, Belgium, 2001
At the same time, in the period after the 14th Congress in New Delhi, the action of the WFTU, especially at the central level, remained very weak. It was timid, introverted and closed in on itself. In addition, some other organizations disaffiliated from the WFTU, such as those of Kuwait, Libya, Angola, etc.
In the meantime, however, the situation at the international level was beginning to look clearer. Communist parties in coordination and cooperation with class-oriented trade union movements began to elaborate their strategy in the new conditions. New elaborations and analyses helped the class movement to rise again. In this context, discussions began on the role the WFTU should play, the need to update its program and the change of its leadership group.
So the conditions were already ripe enough for proceeding with the workers' counterattack and the reorganization of the Federation. At the WFTU Presidential Council meeting held in Athens from October 31 to November 1, 2004, the Cuban delegation was the first to openly take the initiative in the respective discussions. This led to a special meeting in Geneva with trade union leaders from Cuba, India, Greece, Syria, Cyprus and France. In addition, bilateral meetings were held in Damascus between the GFTU-Syria and PAME-Greece. All the organizations that remained affiliated to the WFTU, in a fraternal and comradely spirit, unanimously considered changes at all levels as necessary. The new conditions required new measures as well. Action and concrete initiatives were required. In this sense, from December 1 to 4, 2005, the 15th Congress of the WFTU was held in Havana, Cuba, with the participation of 870 delegates from 87 countries of the world. During the Congress, serious discussions were held in separate regional meetings of delegates from Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Arab world. It is well known that the Congress closed with the approval of the new program and the change of leadership. Those of us who were present remember that during the closing of the 15th Congress there was a climate of enthusiasm; hope was awakened for a new direction for the WFTU. I believe that many conclusions about the spirit of that time and the priorities that we set ourselves as a class-oriented trade union movement can be found in the first official document of the new stage of the WFTU under the title: "the 10 new priorities of the WFTU".
In this sense, indicative of the new course of the WFTU are the first decisions taken by the new Secretariat: the headquarters of the WFTU moved from Prague to Athens. The main reason for this move was that in the Czech Republic the organization was under persecution by the state and its services and, unfortunately, there was no trade union organization in the country that could support the WFTU in a trade union and financial way in its new endeavor. Consequently, on the basis of the unanimous decision of the competent bodies, the new headquarters of the WFTU were prepared with the voluntary work of Greek workers and the financial support of the Federations affiliated to PAME. As of January 1, 2006, the Central Offices began to operate in Athens with a new team and new finances. The new era had begun.
Second Part: "In the modern world, with the great changes and technological advances, there are still two basic social classes: the exploiters and the workers." (published July 25, 2022)
In this second part of the interview with George Mavrikos we review his work in the World Federation of Trade Unions between the Havana Congress in 2005, where he was elected General Secretary until the 18th Congress in Rome.
III. From Havana to Rome
8-What have been the achievements in the WFTU since Havana?
Well, the "Great Leap", as comrade Quim Boix called it! We made an effort to give a comprehensive answer to this question in the publication of the same name on the occasion of the last 18th Congress of the WFTU. There we gave in a graphic form, as far as possible, a panorama of the course followed by the WFTU in the last 17 years, with the advances - the achievements as you say - and the growth of this great class-oriented family of the world working class.
Without wishing to repeat the figures exhaustively, it is worth mentioning that from 48 million members, grassroots workers, that the WFTU had in 2005, in 2022 the WFTU has 110 million members, i.e. we can speak of an increase of 129%. At the same time, it can be said that this increase is not only quantitative but also has important qualitative elements, since large organizations of great social significance and global reach rejoined or affiliated to the WFTU for the first time. The example of COSATU of South Africa (whose existence has always been so inextricably linked to the WFTU) that returned to our family, the powerful CITU of India, the dozens of federations and grassroots unions of the CGT France, the millions of agricultural workers of FAC in Mexico attest to this qualitative development. Simultaneously, the TUIs -the International Trade Union Organizations of the WFTU- from 4 that were before the Havana Congress, are 11 in 2022, and, in fact, are present in strategic sectors of the economy where the contemporary working class works and suffers (Metal, Energy, Transport, Banks, Hotel-Tourism, Pensioners and Retirees, Textiles, Garment and Leather etc.). In other words, we are talking about an increase of 63,6%. We see a similar picture in the Regional Offices with 5 of them operating in 2005 while in 2022 there are 7. At the same time, while the WFTU had no Sub-Regional Offices before the 15th Congress, today it has 6. Moreover, 4 International Committees were set up (Working Women, Working Youth, Refugees and Migrants, Legal Advisory) that have developed a rich action. In addition, the International Action Days of the WFTU were launched, which had a great international impact, mobilizing millions of workers around the world under joint demands. The intervention of the WFTU in the international organizations where it has a permanent and general consultative status (UN, UNESCO, FAO and ILO) was reactivated on a different basis and with another point of view; international strikes, solidarity campaigns with the peoples groaning under imperialism were organized; books were printed and various ideological-political trade union publications were released; international poster and book contests were organized; international missions were held to more than 100 countries around the world; historical anniversaries of the working class were commemorated and so many other initiatives were undertaken to which one can refer.... I believe that each of these aspects of action could even be the subject of a separate question and analysis.
In general, it can be said that the WFTU once again became an opponent to be taken into account by the bourgeoisie and imperialism. Once again, the working class "got its claws out" against the class enemy at world level and all together in the class family of the WFTU we showed that history does not end as some bourgeois "scientists" hastened to predict. And honestly, for me the main criterion that the WFTU was developing and growing was - besides the indisputable evidence of the figures - the attacks that the WFTU suffered in the last years: both by enemies and by "friendly fire".
After all, it is a classic rule of the class struggle that "to be attacked by the enemy is not a bad thing", but a confirmation that the route you have chosen is the correct one; a route that worries and annoys the enemies of social progress. And while before 2005 almost nobody cared about the WFTU, after Havana we heard all kinds of accusations: first that the WFTU is a "sick man" on mechanical support that resists to be disconnected, then that we cultivate "hydroponic Stalinism", that we are remnants of the past that only raise flags and shout slogans, that we are the separatists of the world trade union movement, that we are anti-democratic, that we support dictatorial regimes, that we support terrorists...
Visit to Palestine, 2003
Our leaders have been imprisoned and assassinated by reactionaries and the bourgeois state in Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Indonesia, Paraguay, Peru, Israel and many other countries. Militants of the WFTU have been fired from their jobs all over the world or taken to court for their internationalist actions. Even members of the team of the WFTU Central Offices were persecuted or threatened in trade union missions to Colombia, Israel, Panama and other places...
And all this because we did not bow down to imperialism, because we did not enter into "the ministries" of the imperialist instruments of Brussels and the USA, because we did not become a "NGO of trade unions" as the ITUC is today. We had to do something very simple and everything would be for us "a bed of roses": to affirm that the class struggle is over and that capitalism is eternal. But if we said that, we would not be who we are. Therefore, all this course of ours inspired pride and moral and political superiority towards our opponents.
9- Who were your greatest enemies throughout this time?
As I told you, the main enemy of the WFTU is the main enemy of the world working class itself: the bourgeoisie and its instruments. In other words, the definition of our main enemy arises from the Marxist-Leninist analysis of the world and the fundamental contradiction that exists in our epoch, which is the epoch of imperialism, of the parasitic existence of the global capitalist system. So the fundamental contradiction of our time remains between capital and labor; between those who have everything and those who have nothing but their labor power. Therefore, for the working class the "main enemy is in their own country" as Karl Liebknecht said in 1915, in the midst of the First World War.
So all these years, the bourgeoisie with its mechanisms, its powerful means, the huge sums of money it spent on anti-union propaganda and buying consciences, hindered, threatened, terrorized and fought the WFTU in any way it could. Sometimes it even resorted to direct attacks, such as the one orchestrated by the bourgeois state in Italy shortly before the organization of the 18th World Trade Union Congress, with the raid of the carabinieri in a premeditated manner and with fabricated accusations in the offices of the USB, which was also the host organization of the Rome Congress. Here let me also add that these tactics are usual for the bourgeois states when they choose to persecute the WFTU and its class-oriented line. I remind you that the French state had organized a similar kind of raid in 1950 on the then WFTU offices in Paris, just as the Austrian state did on the WFTU offices in Vienna in 1956 with a night raid, looting archives and documents and confiscating sums of money.
Was not the banning of my entry to the USA in my capacity as WFTU General Secretary in 2018 a direct attack on the WFTU? Much more so since the reasons for my visit were purely of political and trade union nature and my purpose was to participate in a UN event? Here again I should add that the bourgeois state has continuity both in its practices and in its list of "enemies". Interestingly, the U.S. state had issued a similar ban to the Italian WFTU President Giuseppe Di Vittorio - known in your country for his involvement in the Spanish Civil War - in 1952, forbidding him to enter the U.S. to speak at the UN. Therefore, the bourgeois know very well that we are enemies. The key is that we do not forget it.
The second enemy was and is the imperialist organizations, the imperialist transnational unions and alliances that have caused so much suffering to humanity and the peoples of the whole world. Would it be possible that we were not bitter enemies of imperialism and its instruments? Rivers of blood separate us, millions of dead fighters who fell with a weapon in hand, fighting from the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Greece and the" maniguas" of Colombia. The WFTU has the anti-imperialist struggle engraved on "its skin" as a "birthmark".
With Raúl Castro on May Day 2016, Havana, Cuba.
I remind you of the fourth resolution of the constituent congress of the WFTU in 1945 regarding its position towards imperialism and colonialism, around which there was a great controversy: "It would be an incomplete victory if the peoples of the colonies and the territories of all countries were deprived of the rights of self-determination and National Independence". In short, our movement has always been on the right side of history, on the side of the real producers of wealth, on the side of the proletarians. Look at the position of the WFTU against imperialism everywhere: in Greece, in Cyprus, in Cuba, in Nicaragua, in Venezuela, in Angola, in Mozambique, in South Africa, in Vietnam, in Korea, in Afghanistan, in Libya, in Yemen, in Syria, in Kuwait, in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Palestine and so many other countries. Where imperialists assaulted peoples, created waves of uprooted, immigrants and refugees to redraw borders and plunder resources, the WFTU defended these peoples with an internationalist solidarity in practice, with its affiliates and cadres in all countries and continents in the front line of the struggle.
The third enemy, I believe, is to be found in the collaborators of the bourgeoisie, in its lackeys, in its representatives in the labor movement: labor aristocracy and the bureaucratic trade unionists. These individuals, most of whom have never worked in their lives, sometimes appear as progressive ones, sometimes as environmentalists, sometimes as anti-sexists, sometimes as humanists, or even pretend to show empathy for the suffering of workers. They are "test-tube" trade unionists, "manufactured" in the schools of various ministries and class-collaborationist foundations. The experience of your country with the yellow union leaderships of CCOO and UGT is a photographic representation of what I am describing. Internationally this tendency is expressed through the ITUC: with guaranteed high salaries, these trade unionists in name only do not belong to the working class and their main mission is to transform the unions from mass workers' organizations into mechanisms and servants of the capital; they seek to restrain the working class, subdue it and disorient its struggles, propagating the "make-up" of the capitalist system and rejecting the role and mission of the working class. For all these reasons, they feel a deep hatred towards the class-oriented trade union movement and militant trade unionists. They fabricate various false theories to make themselves appear important and useful. They establish links with the media, invent news and take advantage of digital advances of science. At the ideological level, they are, in other words, the bearers of bourgeois ideology within the workers' movement, the "fifth column" against the class-oriented workers' movement.
Finally, I have to confess to you that there is one more enemy, a more dangerous and often invisible enemy: this is our own mistakes, our own oversights and errors. Without confronting them, without studying them, the progress of our movement is impossible. Their existence is inevitable, but their repetition is not. After all, let us consider that much of the experience of the workers and trade union movement is the product of mistakes and the lessons we draw from them.
Let me give you an example: is it the duty or not of the class-oriented trade union movement to always be a judge of the authorities from the point of view of the interests of the working class? Should not the "ABC" of the labor movement be to defend and raise the standard of living of the working class regardless of the economic system of each country? Does not the achievement of this goal always pass through criticism from the point of view of the workers? What criticism did the trade unions of the socialist countries make of the mistakes they saw being made in front of them in the socialist construction? For example, at the 11th Congress of the WFTU in East Berlin in 1986, unions from 75 countries participated. Were there any delegates who criticized Perestroika and the imminent capitalist restoration?
There were gathered there trade union leaders with a significant role who saw, understood -of course with the limitations of the time- what was wrong. Thus a great opportunity has been wasted for the world working class to give important help to the Soviet Union, opening a front of criticism and reveal the true objectives of Perestroika, against the methodically prepared capitalist restoration. So, in short, knowledge of the workers' movement does not come without a cost. The key is to take advantage of it, to appreciate it, to always know that we get it with difficulties and hardships.
10- -What do you think has been the key to the great growth of the WFTU?
I believe that the great growth of the WFTU, the great leap we were talking about before, is not found in a single factor, but in a combination of tactical and strategic objectives, specific aspects that I also shared in the recent Congress; in other words, it is found in qualitative and quantitative keys.
First, I believe that it was achieved with belief, the deep belief that in the modern world, the working class needs a weapon of its own. It needs its own tool to elaborate its strategy and tactics; strategy and tactics for itself as a social class with a particular historical mission. Against the reformist, revisionist concept that claims that there is supposedly no Working Class today and identifies the Working Class with the manual workers of previous centuries, we have answered and are answering scientifically that in the modern world with the great changes and technological progress, two basic social classes remain: The capitalists, the exploiters on the one hand and the workers and employees on the other. Of course, the working class is also evolving, developing, acquiring more knowledge, is more educated than before, has accumulated more knowledge and experience and its basic needs are constantly expanding. All these changes exist and we take them into account. But despite all these changes, the basic criterion remains: Exploitation. The production of surplus value and the stolen sweat that goes into the pockets of the bourgeoisie. So we move forward with the belief that in the modern world there is social injustice, there is social exploitation which is even crueler and we still believe that the present Working Class with its great knowledge and experience is closer and holds the switch of the production process in its own hands. This thinking and awareness has been the "lighthouse", the basis that has guided us in the development of our tactics during these 17 years.
14th CITU Congress, India, 2013
The second factor has to do with the practical organization, the internal articulation of our forces and the combative spirit that characterized our militants. I am talking about collectivity and the common militant position of the great majority of our members and cadres. What we have achieved did not come as a result of a single person. It came mainly as a collective effort, a common pursuit and a common stance of all of us. Together we built this edifice. We do not nullify the role of personality. We know that in social history personality certainly influences developments. But it is the masses that write the developments, the progress, and the move forward; it is the collective groups who do that and not kings, cardinals or princes.
The third factor had to do with an important rule that we strictly observed in the struggles we gave: We paid attention to the base and we tried not to lose touch with the base; with our unions, with the workers, the unemployed, the immigrants, the refugees, the homeless and the excluded. We reinforced internal democracy in our operation. I personally visited 87 countries over the 20 years and some of them many, many times. Members of the Secretariat and the Presidential Council have done the same. Many more of our TUIs and R.O. cadres traveled and were close to the base. With all these contacts we were getting strength from the base and encourage the struggles. We were trying to have our ears and our eyes open to the struggles and demands of the base. This is how one gains the trust of the base and the base becomes more militant, more aggressive because they realize that they are not alone in their struggles. We loved and supported the base of the WFTU and the base is returning its love and appreciation. After all, this was the brave force of the WFTU, its everyday heroes in their workplaces and countries.
The fourth key to the revitalization of the WFTU, I believe, was the use of criticism, self-criticism and emulation that are the law of our progress and improvement at the collective and individual levels. As cadres of the class and international trade union movement we must objectively analyze the situation at all times. We must have objective knowledge of the reality in our sector, in our region, in our union and in the world, as the WFTU leadership. To achieve this level we need self-awareness, critical and self-critical examination of our decisions and actions. We have a duty to foster collective emulation, militant ambition for improvement and global personality development in our cadres. And above all, our basic law was and will be the obligation to learn from our mistakes; to study our weaknesses and our mistakes; to analyze them. The intelligent militant learns from his mistakes. The frivolous one never!
The fifth factor is certainly the study of the history of our class and specifically of the WFTU itself. In this two-decade course we have walked by utilizing our rich history. With its positive and negative points, with its forward and backward steps; with its dignified compromises and its unacceptable concessions; with its great successes and its few but existing mistakes. For us today, historical experience, both positive and negative, is a positive asset and a positive weapon for the present and the future. As I have mentioned before, history is an open window to yesterday and to tomorrow; to build tomorrow, one needs to utilize the experience of yesterday.
The usefulness of the history of the trade union movement at sectoral, local, national and international level is great today. And at the same time defending ourselves and counterattacking against the dirty attempt to rewrite history is a key task. We have been defending the historical truth. So we did with special courses on the history of the trade union movement, so we did with special seminars, with book and poster competitions, with publications, articles and speeches. As I said at the 18th Congress, in 17 years we had more than three thousand of our cadres, mainly young people, attending relevant seminars.
The sixth factor that raised the WFTU was the very heat of the battle, the action itself. We took over the WFTU in a state of paralysis, so the immediate task was action. That is why we launched the slogan "Action - Action - Action" at the 15th World Trade Union Congress in Havana, Cuba. We could not waste time with introversion, inaction and endless discussions. We stressed that we will bring the WFTU back to life "in action". It was through action that we would prove whether and what we could achieve. And we developed all this rich action that you all know, that is described in the texts and main documents of our Congress and is available in our "Statistics 2005 - 2022" Handbook, in our videos and publications. So the lesson and the conclusion is action, the action with our goals and priorities. In action over the past years we have organized trade union education and many trade union training courses.
The seventh "pillar" was none other than the economic policy that characterizes a class-oriented union, a trade union organization by and for the working class: We relied financially only on our affiliates, on the base, on the ordinary workers. We received the WFTU in December 2005 with a financial debt of 200 thousand dollars. In Rome we delivered the WFTU not only without any debt, but also with a considerable remaining balance. The WFTU does not owe a single penny! The key actors in this achievement were all the organizations that during all these years have supported the WFTU despite the fact that they were "poor". Their support gave strength to the WFTU and allowed it to deploy its class-oriented action. It was their support that allowed all the expenses of the 18th Congress to be covered by the fees and financial support exclusively from the affiliates of the WFTU. Financial sovereignty, operating solely on the basis of the workers' affiliation fees is both a criterion for the class character of an organization as well as a guarantee of its commitment to the working class. After all, the criterion "show me your sponsor and I'll tell you who you are" is usually correct....
11- Were there any mistakes during your period of leadership?
It is true that in the years that I had the main responsibility in the elaboration of the strategic and tactical options of the WFTU we have made mistakes. In my village we say "the housewife who washes dishes will also break dishes". The right leader must learn from mistakes and not repeat them.
The risks of mistakes will always exist and that is why the leadership of the class-oriented trade union organizations needs to be vigilant at all times. Mistakes are either practical or ideological in nature. And while errors in practice are easily corrected, ideological errors are more substantial, more complex and often critical.
The long, living history of the international trade union movement has demonstrated both right-wing and left-wing ideological errors. The tool to limit these errors is deep theoretical knowledge by the leadership.
In my 50 years of trade union and political activity I have met right opportunists, right-wing reformists, who condemn everything and characterize it as sectarianism, and on the other hand, left opportunists, sectarians who condemn and characterize others as opportunists and reformists. This way of interpreting situations is called "voluntarism" in Marxist theory. Which in simple language means that I judge everything according to what "I want" and not by the objective reality.
The WFTU and all militant unions must draw their line by analyzing and synthesizing the objective reality, the real picture.
In the last century, the labor union movement often turned towards sectarian errors. This is explained by the excitement, exaltation, abnegation that dominated the consciousness of the workers. They went so far as to launch the slogan "now or never".
After the world historic changes of the period 1989-1991 that overturned the international correlation, with the decline of the struggles, the difficulties of the trade union movement, the emergence of multiform NGOs, the aggressiveness of the international bourgeoisie and its governments, the dangers of right-wing errors, that is to say of opportunist and reformist deviations, are greater. Taking advantage of labor aristocracy, the international bourgeoisie nurtures frustration and defeatism in parts of the world working class, which pushes to opportunism. Then it is not enough to say that we are protected from right and left opportunism and that we have thus fulfilled our duty. NO. We must analyze the objective reality. For example, if the WFTU tries to change, alter or disguise its anti-system characteristics and become a partner of the system, it is certain to lose. The character of the WFTU has been forged since 1945 until today as an insurgent battalion; a battalion that many times goes against the current, that enters into conflict, that has a subversive strategy and a radical tactic; a fearless and brave battalion in the face of the enemies of the working class and always on the same side. After all, there are within the trade union movement at all its levels, the original systemic ones in whom capitalism trusts and supports; those are all barking dogs, but the caravan moves forward.
Third Part: "The 'specter' of the working class is haunting once again the whole world and makes the bourgeoisie see, even today, the workers' struggles in their nightmares." (published August 1, 2022)
The third (and last) part of the interview deals with the basic ideological pillars of the WFTU as well as Mavrikos' withdrawal to the rear guard of the workers' movement.
IV. Rome, final point
12-The 18th Congress of the WFTU has ended and you leave the responsibility of the General Secretariat. The problems of the workers, are they still the same or have they changed?
The same causes that have dictated the positions of the WFTU over the years on impoving the standard of living of the working class continue to exist. The exploitation of man by man is here; the core of capitalist exploitation, i.e., the extraction of surplus value from the working class is here; the stolen sweat of our class brothers and sisters is still ending up in the pockets of the bourgeoisie; the imperialist wars and interventions are still here. In short, the roots of all the basic problems for the workers of the world remain intact.
I might even say that to a large extent the terms on which the world working class sells its labor power have worsened not only in the so-called "developing" countries but also in the big capitalist centers where the working class has traditionally had a relatively better standard of living. This happened either as a result of serious and massive class struggles, of continuous claims, or as a result of "concessions" of the bourgeois class of these countries to their workers in the face of the socialist system in order to shield their own power. Since 1991 there has been a systematic "dismantling" -as I said before- of great achievements of the working class, which was produced by the decline of the class-oriented current of the trade union movement, the retreat of the struggles, the dominance of reformism and illusions in a large part of the working class.
With Evo Morales Ayma in Cochabamba, Bolivia, 2014
Therefore, the problems facing the working class in this phase of the final decay of the capitalist system are even more complex, and although the core of these problems remains unchanged, their form may change. I think a typical example of this is the discussion about the so-called fourth industrial revolution, which is in fact a central point of analysis in many discussions about the future of work and others. There are talking about automation, disuse of productive forces, total replacement of the human factor by machines, and so on.
It is well known that the productive forces and the productive potential derived from them are the result of an endless process in which both the means of production and human labor evolve progressively, depending on the utilization and improvement of humanity's existing knowledge, know-how, science and technology. Even under capitalism the productive forces do not cease to evolve. And human knowledge and know-how, as well as the most advanced and innovative means of production (e.g., the much-talked-about artificial intelligence) are all a constantly evolving social process. The "new" reflections on the relationship of the working class and technology should illuminate the essence of the problem which is the contradiction between the social character of knowledge, the means and techniques of production on the one hand, and the individual ownership of the means of production on the other.
In other words, the products resulting from this aforementioned process are in the hands of a small minority of the society. At the same time, there are possibilities for the working class to work less, to be better informed and to participate more in political and social life - to live better, to put it simply – but it sees its living conditions deteriorating. Therefore, when one speaks of "new problems" of the working class, perhaps one forgets that similar problems troubled the labor movement also in other historical periods. Surely you remember the Luddites, that movement in England during the industrial revolution in 1810-1812, who broke machines and threw them into the street because they believed that they were to blame for their poverty and not their employers. So it is a big gamble for the modern working class not to fall into the errors of the past, not to succumb to neo-Luddism.
The same analysis can shed light on other new phenomena that aggravate the difficult situation of the working class today, such as teleworking that become widespread in the period of the pandemic. It is clear that the new technologies were once again utilized to squeeze the working class even more, for a greater extraction of surplus value. On the other hand, we must not underestimate the facts; the class-oriented unions have the duty to analyze reality with our revolutionary tools, to respond scientifically based on the principles of our worldview to the new phenomena that life will never cease to give birth to; always being clear that only the abolition of capitalist property, the "expropriation of the expropriators" will end once and for all with the capitalist barbarism that is the root cause of these problems.
13-The WFTU calls itself anti-imperialist. How does imperialism influence the world of labor?
Anti-imperialism, the anti-imperialist stance of the class-oriented movement is part of its DNA. It is not just a theoretical assumption, it is not "evangelical goodwill". It derives from a particular view and analysis of the world and, at the same time, engages class-conscious forces with a particular attitude and action on a range of issues. The anti-imperialist struggle can be said to be a criterion for separating consistent class-conscious forces from reformist ones. The consistent class-oriented position recognizes that imperialist wars are the continuation of imperialist politics by military means, that is, it is the other side of the policy of capital that attacks the gains of workers. In fact, I believe that the experience of the First and Second World War is rich and useful. The WFTU itself, as we said before, was born as the fruit of the anti-imperialist action of the workers after the Great Anti-fascist Victory of the Peoples in 1945.
Indeed, today, when imperialist aggression and rivalries between powerful imperialist blocs for the control and exploitation of markets, natural resources and energy routes are even greater, imperialist brutality generates more negative effects on workers: more anti-worker and anti-people policies, hunger, food crisis, poverty, modern slave trade. Do not all these factors force at least 71 million people around the world -according to UN data- to leave their homes? Among them are some 26 million refugees and every minute an estimated 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution and terror.
Let us consider specifically what sufferings imperialist rivalries have caused to the peoples of various countries: the sanctions imposed by one imperialist camp against the other, what consequences have they had for the peoples of Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Belarus, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, etc.? Especially each open war, each open intervention provoked by imperialist interests, what situations did it generate for the peoples and workers of these countries? In Libya, which was razed to the ground after the NATO intervention of 2011, in Yemen with the dirty war that has been going on for more than 7 years, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yugoslavia... A large part of their population, civilians, perished in the conflict while millions were forced to leave their homeland.
In Madrid, at the Memorial to the International Brigades, 2018
The imperialists redraw borders with the blood of the peoples for their own geopolitical interests; they crush countries in which they will find a profitable field of exploitation for their monopolies when the time of "reconstruction" comes; at the same time they generate whole armies of desperate people that are formed by refugees and immigrants who will serve as cheap reserves for capitalist production. Since its first steps, capitalism has exploited the uprooted as cheap labor force in miserable and dangerous working conditions, paying them peanuts, when it wants to increase production.
But the future that the imperialists are preparing for the peoples looks anything but rosy: The NATO 2030 Strategy, the "EU Common Foreign and Security Policy", the "Strategic Compass for a stronger EU security and defense" and the "EU Global Gateway", the war plans and the focus of the imperialist interest towards the vast Indo-Pacific region, the role of QUAD (USA-Japan-Australia-India) and AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom and EU) are plans that should concern workers all over the world. At the same time, "hot spots" are multiplying in a number of countries, while the arms race has broken all records, with $2.1 trillion spent in 2021!
Precisely for this reason, in the face of such a complex reality, the correct reading of imperialism is of enormous importance for the work and action of the class-oriented trade union movement itself. Because if we do not understand the economic roots of this phenomenon, if we do not take into account its political and social importance, we cannot take a single step in defining the practical tasks of the trade union movement. The analysis that reduces imperialism, for example, to the aggressive foreign policy of the USA or the powerful EU states and excludes other capitalist states, eliminates the basic criterion, i.e. the domination of the monopolies, the economic basis of imperialism. This analysis which clings to the unequal relations formed by the uneven development of the system, exonerates not only the bourgeois classes of the states that are not at the top of the imperialist pyramid, but also the role of the bourgeois states that express their interests, thus making the workers' movement to drag behind the bourgeois class of each country and leading it down very dangerous paths. These positions form the basis of the so-called "multipolar world", which is based on the logic of "bad" and "good" monopolies and capitalist states; their criterion is the attitude of those towards the U.S. Thus, such positions leave aside the essence of imperialist antagonisms and lead entire workers' movements to side with one or another imperialist center. In short, I believe that this line is a dead end and causes great damage to the workers’ movement. It is necessary to further intensify the struggle against these positions, to fight the illusions that they generate and to realize the decisive importance of the monopolies that constitute the cell of the economic base of imperialism, of the relationship between economy and politics.
14-It is also anti-capitalist. In your opinion, is capitalism in decline or is it living its best moments?
Both on a theoretical and practical level, this question is inextricably linked to the previous one. It is the Leninist theory of imperialism itself that scientifically proves that imperialism, as the highest stage of capitalism, is the era of the final decay of a system that no longer has anything to offer to humanity. In monopoly capitalism all the contradictions which have characterized capitalist society since its birth are sharpened. Although capitalist monopoly "inevitably engenders a tendency of stagnation and decay" leads at the same time to the most extensive socialization of production and is the best "material preparation", the last step before the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. In other words, the domination of the big joint-stock companies in the capitalist economy functions as a precursor of the new society, as evidence that the material conditions for the overcoming of capitalism have matured.
Everything around us attests that capitalism is incapable of overcoming its contradictions. We can still say that it has not yet overcome the consequences of its crisis of the 1970s and although it is in a prolonged decline, it refuses to die. Certainly the counter-revolutionary overthrows of the 1990s gave it an extension, a breath of life, with new fields of profit, new "virgin" markets that had remained outside the capitalist economic sphere for more than half a century. The global and synchronized crisis of 2008 shook capitalism and, on the occasion of the pandemic, the world capitalist economy is already entering a new cycle of crisis, deeper and sharper, as the bourgeois analyses themselves admit.
That is why capitalism shows every day more and more its reactionary and old face as well as its incapacity to solve basic issues of survival of the people. See for example the period of the pandemic, when the "fig leaf" of the powerful capitalist states fell and it was shown that the king is naked; when we saw the collapse of the health systems of the USA, Italy, etc., patients dying in the corridors of hospitals, "allied" states stealing ventilators and medical equipment from each other... But also on the other hand, what did the course of vaccinations show next? For example, the fact that African states had no vaccines and suffered from almost zero vaccination coverage rate, doesn't it show the failure of capitalism? You know, this reminds me of Fidel Castro's great phrase: "They talk about the failure of socialism, but where is the success of capitalism in Africa, Asia, Latin America?"
See even the most recent example of the hypocritical concern of the bourgeois about the world food crisis they "discovered" after the NATO-Russia war on the territory of Ukraine. It is a fact that Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of grain and fertilizers (together they account for about 30% of world wheat exports and 20% of corn exports, while Russia accounts for 14% of world fertilizers exports) and, of course, the war operations on the Ukrainian territory, the blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, the coordinated Euro-Atlantic sanctions against Russia and Russian countermeasures have multiple consequences on the critical food sector. But, in parallel, a continuous increase in the number of starving people is recorded in all international reports. Specifically, it is stated that "the number (of starving people) has increased by 80% since 2016, when around 108 million people in 48 countries were facing acute food insecurity and were in need of urgent help", while "the number (of starving people) almost doubled between 2016 and 2021 after rising from 94 million to 180 million." So imagine the absurdity of a system that so blatantly marginalizes people's needs: at the same time that wealthy tycoons are going into space in their private spaceships, at the same time that productive capacities have reached unprecedented levels, humanity is still discussing whether there are people who are hungry. Capitalism is breathing its last breaths and this reminds me very much of a phrase of the Roman philosopher Cicero when he said that "the closer the collapse of an empire, the crazier its laws are". In our case, the greater the absurdity of the system....
15- How does the working class movement fight against fascism?
Over the last decades, the need for an anti-fascist struggle of the unions has indeed re-emerged. The rise of xenophobia, racism, neo-Nazism, nurtured and grown by the money of the EU and the USA in the fertile ground of the crisis, misery, mass impoverishment and the demassification of the unions, put back on the agenda the issue of anti-fascist struggle through the union ranks.
The history of the working class movement shows that in historical periods in which capitalism feels threatened, the bourgeois class has the capacity to be flexible in its tactics, to make new political representatives appear and sell them as something "fresh"; likewise, it pushes into the bourgeois political arena political forces that previously vegetated in the darkness. The character of fascism as a bourgeois political force is clearly demonstrated by its own historical experience, which should not be forgotten. After assuming governmental power in Italy and Germany, with the generous support of monopoly capital, fascism proceeded to a multifaceted support of the interests of the capitalists, crushing the workers' movement and attempting a counter-revolutionary armed overthrow of the vanguard of the world workers' movement, of Soviet power.
On the other hand, the movement, both in my country and yours, knows very well from its historical experience that the existence of fascism fulfills another function, less obvious but very important for the system: the social-democratic parties take advantage of the fear of "ultra-rightists" to ensure support for their own policy of managing the system, thus presenting themselves as the so-called "lesser evil" for the popular strata. After all, we have seen this scenario dozens of times in many countries.
At the third Congress of PAME, 2007
However, in substance, all fascist forces are part of the system and everywhere actively and decisively promote the main axes of the bourgeois strategy for capitalist development. More generally, they support the dictatorship of capital. They promote class cooperation in the name of the uniform national interest, obscure the capital-labor contradiction and seek to crush the workers' movement by presenting labor struggles and demands as responsible for high unemployment. Throughout the years of the crisis, the fraudulent "anti-plutocratic" and "patriotic" rhetoric of these organizations aims to disorient and entrap popular discontent, leaving the real enemy, the bourgeois class, alone, and presenting immigrants, certain speculators and bankers, etc., as the culprits.
That is why the struggle of the workers' movement against the fascist formations is an indispensable condition for the workers' counterattack of which we speak. With this perspective, the class-oriented trade union movement must realize that fascism is synonymous with capitalism, "flesh of its flesh" and its gold reserve. Then, the authentic anti-fascist struggle is also an anti-capitalist struggle. Brecht had characteristically put it in his text, "Writing the Truth : Five Difficulties":
"But how can an opponent of Fascism tell the truth about Fascism, unless he is willing to speak out against capitalism, which brings it forth? What will be the practical results of such truth?
Those who are against Fascism without being against capitalism, who lament over the barbarism that comes out of barbarism, are like people who wish to eat their veal without slaughtering the calf. They are willing to eat the calf, but they dislike the sight of blood. They are easily satisfied if the butcher washes his hands before weighing the meat. They are not against the property relations which engender barbarism; they are only against barbarism itself. They raise their voices against barbarism, and they do so in countries where precisely the same property relations prevail, but where the butchers wash their hands before weighing the meat."
Therefore, any approach that separates fascism from the system that engenders it is doomed to failure and bankruptcy. Thus, the trade union struggle that targets fascism as theory and as practice in the service of capital can emerge victorious.
At the same time, I apologize for the long parenthesis I am about to make, but I want to highlight a useful point about something that takes away impetus from the anti-fascist trade union struggle: tolerance towards social democracy that historically has fed or collaborated with fascism on many occasions. Not only does fascism share historical origins, to a large extent, with social democracy, in the sense that many of its main leaders in the interwar period came from social democracy (Mussolini - former editor of the newspaper "Avanti", central organ of the Italian socialists, Piłsudski - former leader of the Polish Socialist Party, Mosley - former minister in the second MacDonald Labour Government); moreover, the ideology of fascism derives mainly from the line elaborated by social democracy. The ideology of social democracy was actually the breeding ground for fascism in the interwar period. Social democracy emerged from the war with two clear characteristics: First, the alignment of each party with its own "national" - i.e. imperialist - state and the rejection of all kinds of internationalism except the innocuous one. Second, class collaboration in the form of alliance with the government and of trade union consensus to help build capitalist prosperity as a necessary condition for working class prosperity. It will be seen that these basic principles are already close to the basic principles of "National Socialism."
After World War I, social democracy took on two tasks: First, to defeat the revolution of the working class; second, to help rebuild the damaged structure of capitalism. The first task brought the social-democratic leadership into close alliance with reactionary, militarist and White Guard circles and "trained" it to assume governmental responsibility for exterminating militant workers. The second task of capitalist reconstruction, once the period of direct civil war was over, required an ever closer collaboration of social democracy and the trade unions with monopoly capitalism.
At the same time, social democracy historically helped both fascism in many cases to rise to power, and the reactionary elements to crush the action of the class-oriented workers' movement. Consider the traitorous role of the German Social Democratic leaders in the German revolution of November 1918, when in connivance with reactionary armed groups they massacred the leaders of the German proletariat Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg and crushed the revolution. Therefore, the front against social democracy must be brought to the fore of our anti-fascist action. Stalin's conclusion that "it is not possible to put an end to capitalism without putting an end to social-democratic ideology in the workers movement" is no coincidence.
16-In recent years the struggle of women for gender equality and against the patriarchal system has also been reborn. Has the WFTU risen to the occasion?
In recent years, and on the occasion of the ILO campaign for the ratification of Convention 190 on violence and harassment at work, an intense conversation has started about "gender equality" and "the patriarchal system". So, some people automatically wondered what role do trade unions have to play in this? What could be their contribution to such a struggle?
First of all, let me tell you that for the WFTU no new debate was opened; the struggle of working women was not "reborn", simply because for us the struggle for women's equality, for real equality between the two genders, never died. For us in the WFTU, in the class-oriented trade union movement, the role of working women is fundamental. The role of working women in the work process, in the unions, in the political struggle, can give additional strength to the popular struggles of the present and the future. The class-oriented trade union movement has always held a firm position and has constantly fought for equal rights for working women, for equality at work and in all aspects of life; it fought to end slavery and trafficking of women, for the right of women to vote, for their right to participate in trade unions, in political parties, for their presence in government and state positions as well as for women's participation in social and cultural activities. Many of these rights became a reality in socialist countries where working women had the status they deserved. These achievements of women in the then Soviet Union and the rest of the socialist states generated the social force and pressure to advance certain gains in the capitalist states as well. In the latter, for example, the granting of universal right to vote to adult women was significantly delayed, not because it was an element incompatible with capitalist functioning, but because the survival of capitalism is also based on the mobilization-integration of pre-capitalist reactionary forces, for example the mechanisms of manipulation of popular forces possessed by religious denominations and their ecclesiastical structures.
Unfortunately, after the counterrevolutionary overthrows in the period 1989-1991 and the change in the international correlation of forces, many of the rights and achievements of women and men were taken away from them. Today in all capitalist countries, working women are subjected to relentless exploitation. They have mostly part-time, temporary and precarious jobs. They are paid less than men and have access to lower pensions. Working women are the first to lose their jobs. In many countries, violence against women is on the rise, prostitution and trafficking networks are spreading, economic migration is separating many mothers from their children and husbands. Working women today have an increasingly limited right of access to education, cultural activity and leisure time.
So today, going through the third decade of the 21st century, in many countries we are coming to the point of seeing an incredible social degradation of women, their dependence on men, obscurantist perceptions and practices, multifaceted violence against women by male family members, etc. The reaction to the above phenomenon by theoretical feminist currents and movements, mainly from European countries and the USA, is often accompanied by a mistaken explanation of the phenomenon: it is interpreted as a result of globalization, i.e. the import of capital and - therefore - the expansion of capitalist relations that have a dissolving effect on the agricultural community (as the main productive unit of female labor); moreover, according to these approaches, this effect is accompanied by the expansion of violence against women and the strengthening of male power; a regime that they characterize as "patriarchy". This vision idealizes the previous situation, although it correctly highlights capitalist violence, which of course is practiced not only on women, but also on men. And so, on this basis, it exaggerates the role of the feminist movement and even detaches it from the class approach, from the workers' movement as the bearer of the struggle against capitalism.
At the same time, this vision aims to disorient the working class, to divide it, to incite women workers to fight against men workers and vice versa. It also obscures the fact that not all women have the same problems, often hiding the class root of the problem. When we speak of the "gender issue" we are referring to the additional exploitation that women suffer in society as a consequence of their gender (i.e., we are talking about a combination of social and gender discrimination). These discriminations have mental, cultural and moral repercussions, since women are prevented from developing their abilities fully and equally. However, the core of the problem is that these negative effects concern first and foremost women of the working class, the toiling farmers and self-employed. On the other hand, the women of the bourgeois class find the means and the possibilities to solve their problems.
So the solution and the way out lies in the common struggles of women and men against the social system that engenders the exploitation of man by man. After all, the class-oriented trade union movement has the task to fight for the small and big problems until the final liberation of our class. This was also the compass followed by the WFTU, with special consideration and attention for the organic inclusion of women in the struggles of the class-oriented union movement, not as a decorative element, but as an integral part and condition of the final triumph of the working class.
As WFTU we fought against anachronistic perceptions, we fought for the creation of women's committees in grass roots unions, we organized world congresses of working women, we fought for the representation of our class sisters in the leading bodies of the trade unions, we opened a front against bourgeois and reformist notions about the role of the women's movement, we established a World Committee of working women. Always bearing in mind that in the banners and flags of the WFTU were written the most progressive demands, the most advanced positions for the substantial emancipation of women; in the "Charter of Trade Union Rights" of the WFTU the aspirations, hopes and demands of the women of our class have been embodied.
17-National and international employers, bourgeois governments, yellow and collaborationist unions... are not too many enemies to face?
I will turn the question around and wonder: Aren't there too many enemies that the bourgeois class and its imperialist mechanisms have to face? Consider the 250 million workers who went on strike in the streets of India in 2020 and paralyzed that huge country, with WFTU unions, members and cadres at the forefront of its organizers. Think again of the 110 million WFTU members around the world living, working and struggling for the future of our class. Think of the great struggles of striking workers in France, Greece, Spain, Turkey and so many other countries. If you were in the position of the bourgeois, wouldn't you be afraid that your kingdom is threatened by the class that has already abolished exploitation once historically?
In Mexico City, Mexico, march of the Frente Auténtico del Campo (FAC), 2017
So the truth is that the bourgeois are afraid and that is why they are taking their measures. That is why they are spending millions in repressive mechanisms, in new technologies of repression, in NGOs that corrupt consciences. That is why they are promoting all kinds of "Friedrich Ebert Foundations" that will act as "firemen" for "extinguishing" the class struggles. That is why they rewrite and falsify history, that is why they divide the working class in the ways we have discussed, that is why they support the yellow unions, that is why they invest in "next generation" propaganda with social networks and "fake news", that is, the hybrid intervention of the new mechanisms of ideological repression. In other words, the "specter" of the working class is haunting once again the whole world and makes the bourgeoisie see, even today, the workers' struggles in their nightmares. The hope for the world working class lies in the struggles that take place in all corners of the planet incessantly.
That is why, as a class-oriented trade union movement, we are optimistic about the future. Indeed, the enemies that fight us are many and apparently powerful, armed to the teeth, with countless resources and mechanisms. But the future belongs to us, the future belongs to the class that comes to abolish exploitation once and for all. And what helps us in this is our stable compass, the fact that we know where we want to go. Because we want to bring the truly new that is being born today to every small or big strike, to every small or big rally. We want a society where prosperity, creativity, productivity and solidarity take the place of the decay of profits, imperialist wars and the exploitation of man by man. We want a society where the working people are in power, a society where the word "exploitation" disappears from the dictionaries. And we know that we will be victorious.
V. The WFTU of the 21st century
18- What is your assessment of the 18th Congress of Rome?
The WFTU has celebrated throughout its history the most magnificent World Trade Union Congresses.
I have participated in the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th Congress. All the congresses have been congresses of positions of ideological and social content. Unlike the ICFTU-ITUC congresses which are congresses of fighting for seats, bargaining, financial expectations, leadership and power sharing, in our congresses the confrontations were and will always be about the theoretical issues of each epoch and how our theoretical and ideological choices will be put into practice.
So the 18th Congress was dominated, based on Marxist theory, by the analysis of the contemporary world and the practical tasks that derive from it, with the goal of defending the workers and strengthening the class perception in the grass roots unions.
18th Congress of the WFTU in Rome, May 2022
So, the main achievement of the 18th Congress is that we discussed, decided and voted the important text "Priorities 2022-2027", under the title "Declaration of Rome". This document is an achievement.
The other important aspect of this Congress is that, although it was an ordinary congress, it actually had the characteristics of an extraordinary congress. The restrictions on international flights, the strict sanitary protocols of all countries and the millions of ordinary people who lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, forced us to limit the delegates to 450; some of them spoke virtually and many participated in the electronic voting.
So, among these and many other limitations, we managed to hold a militant, democratic and uniting congress.
The third element of the 18th Congress is that, for the first time in many decades, we had a smooth change of leadership. The election of the new General Secretary was carried out by secret ballot gathering 92% of the voters. It is the duty of all of us to support the militant line and the new leadership.
Personally, I feel the need to call on all the cadres of the WFTU at all levels to support the principles of the class line and help the new General Secretary. And on this occasion I want to explain that of course I take the responsibility, since it was my idea and decision to propose comrade Pambis Kyritsis as a candidate for this particular position. Some of my dear comrades made criticisms and said that the new General Secretary is from a small country and from a small union. I have explained to them and I attest now publicly that during the last seven years I have discussed and proposed people specifically from big unions in Asia, Africa and Europe. For their own reasons, these unions responded negatively.
However, in addition to the election of a new general secretary, we also had the election of many new cadres, most of whom are also young in age. And we also had again the presence of a woman in the Secretariat.
All the above mentioned, all together in a cumulative way, shows that in extraordinary circumstances, with collective, hard work and persistence, we achieved the goals of the 18th Congress. Its success was also due to the members, friends and leaders of USB Italy, who were excellent hosts.
19-What are the greatest challenges for the new leadership of the WFTU?
The challenges and new needs never stop. The guide are the documents voted in Rome and at the same time everything new that events and life bring.
A constant for the militant trade unions are always the workers' demands concerning their salary, social security, pension and working rights. Imperialist wars and intra-imperialist rivalries are also key issues; certainly, so are the problems of life, of the environment, of civilization and culture. I personally believe that the problem that will aggravate is the drastic restriction of democratic and trade union freedoms against the next generations of workers. The warning bell must ring loudly, a call for regrouping, a general invitation to fight for the defense and extension of democratic freedoms, respect for private life, personality and the specific characteristics of each one must be launched.
I have confidence in the affiliates and friends of the WFTU who can rise to these challenges because there is a developed sensitivity and genuine interest in all contemporary issues; at the same time we have very good elaborations, for example on water and groundwater, on the working environment and contemporary needs, on the food issue, cultural issues such as the need to return stolen cultural property to their countries of origin, as well as the cultural issue of protecting mother tongues and particular dialects. For any new leadership taking over such a large, mass trade union organization, there are three main possibilities:
First, to further develop and improve the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the organization. Second, to enter a period of stagnation and third, to retreat and recede.
The WFTU has worthy militants at all levels and we will all work together to strengthen the WFTU; for a numerical and quantitative, but at the same time qualitative reinforcement and strengthening. In the last 20 years, in addition to the quantitative improvement, which is also necessary, essential qualitative struggles were won, like this great regroupment based on the principles of the class-oriented struggle, the rejection of the theories of class collaboration, like the bold and courageous stance within the international organizations, as the conquest of a better level of democratic functioning, as the open ideological unmasking of the role of the ICFTU-ITUC, the ETUC and their bureaucratic leading groups, as our analyses and positions on the so-called NGOs, the labor aristocracy, the social problems of corruption within the trade unions and much more.
In my opinion this quality brought massification, pride and satisfaction to our affiliates and cadres. Finally, let me point out an existing risk. Because poverty, unemployment, undeclared work, etc. are growing and entering - rightly so - the front line of daily action, vigilance is needed so that unions do not get entrapped simply in the routine. Our struggle and the class-oriented struggle must always have in the front line the struggle for the emancipation of the workers, for their liberation from capitalist slavery. Many times the daily stress magnifies and absolutizes the present and completely hides from the eyes of the workers the necessary future. In this case the unions become co-managers of the system and then the risks for the interests of the workers and for the mission of the unions increase.
20-What will be the role of Mavrikos from now on?
I had announced publicly that I would not be a candidate for general secretary again. I explained this from the podium of the 17th Congress in Durban, South Africa, in front of all the delegates of the Congress. I ask for the understanding of all those colleagues and comrades who collected signatures and launched campaigns for me to stay. Those who know me personally knew that the announcement I made in Durban was a product of realism, reflection and consciousness.
In my more than 50 years of involvement in social struggles, I have argued that leaders should leave in time, help new leaders emerge and not let time and age defeat them. I have always supported this with words and now is the time to support it with my personal example. In my final speech at the 18th Congress, I explained this topic in more detail.
I had prepared myself psychologically, emotionally and politically for this change in my life. I was ready. I was not surprised, although the change in the way of daily "operation" is great. Half-century habits are not easily reversed.
Of course, I'm not "going home," I'm not "going out partying." I consciously take my place in the "rear guard" as a simple soldier, but having the weapon at hand. I have already been in conversations with militants of the WFTU from all continents during the last years and we would like to help the younger militants with theoretical, ideological and trade union training seminars; not to become teachers but to help in an auxiliary way as "logistics" does in the army.
21-From Rome to Skyros?
Skyros is the place where I was born and where my character was formed; the place where are my childhood and youth memories are and where the tomb of all my ancestors, my parents and my wife are. I never forgot Skyros and my roots. I am attached to its people, their lives and struggles, their cultural traditions, customs and habits. I tried never to be absent from the events and needs of the island and I was always in Skyros whenever I could. One day I was traveling from New Delhi, India, to Athens and as soon as the plane landed in Athens I left for the island directly from the airport. And I even spoke, I gave a speech to a meeting of islanders over the phone, while I was in South Africa.
Skyros has returned to me a thousand times the love I have for it and its people. I was very moved when in one of my speeches as a member of the Greek parliament I spoke about the demands of the stock breeders of Skyros and the hundreds of residents who had gathered to watch my speech on television lifted my mother in their arms, hugged her and kissed her. Such expressions of gratitude were not few.
One of the reasons I delivered my last two speeches at the Rome Congress in Greek was also because my compatriots on the island had asked me to do so and some friends there virtually watched my last farewell speech. Back from Rome I spent two days on the island and in a week's time I am going to stay for two months. I feel strange to stay there for 60 days. My visits were always 5, 10 or 20 days at most. The last time I spent two months on the island was in 1971, that is 50 years ago!
My friends, relatives and former schoolmates are getting ready to organize what they say is the final report; they tell me that I have to give a report before them of what I have done all these years. And I know they are all nice to me but strict. We all knew each other very well and no one can fool anyone.
My strictest judge during my 8-year term as a member of the parliament was my mother. Two or three times a week she would call me to complain about agricultural pensions, price increases, the cost of agricultural inputs, the need for the Ministry of Health to send a second rural doctor to the island, etc. Unfortunately, now that my son is in Skyros as a rural doctor, she is no longer alive.
On May 1, 1999 my father passed away at the age of 88. Before he died he asked me not to sell the 30 goats he had. My siblings and I have respected his wish. So now I have to take care of the goats somehow. My relatives are right to complain. They have been taking care of them for so many years, now it will be my turn! Even as an assistant...
So until September 4 I will be in Skyros; I will be in contact with other comrades to prepare some international trade union seminars for free trade union training; I will continue to practice sport shooting in the mountains of Skyros and in autumn maybe I will reapply for a visa to the USA. I have a brother who is an immigrant in the USA, I have not seen him for many years and as we are getting older I would like to see him.
In conclusion, I am happy and fortunate to have the opportunity to be in my homeland more often. I feel fortunate to be alive even by chance, as I could never have returned to my homeland if, for example, in 2012, as passengers on the plane that, after an explosion, had to make an emergency landing in Tehran had not been so lucky; or in 2003, when the Israeli army arrested me along with 8 other dear comrades and kept us standing in a stream with our hands up all night, pointing lasers at our heads; or even in 2007, if we had not avoided by chance the explosion of a paramilitary bomb in Bogota, Colombia, because we were a few minutes late to a meeting place with leaders of the Colombian class-oriented movement, things would have been different. So for all these reasons I feel fortunate, above all because on our side, in the struggles, some gave even their lives; from their death we learned that the revolutionary must be willing to sacrifice his life in the next minute for the struggle and at the same time plan and schedule the struggles of the future as if he still had two more lives to live.
See publication in Spanish on "Rebellion" here: https://rebelion.org/el-fantasma-de-la-clase-obrera-vuelta-a-recorrer-el-mundo-entero-y-hace-que-la- bourgeoisie-sees-even-today-in-its-nightmares-the-workers-struggles/