Why link with North Korean “unions”?

Submitted by Matthew on 3 July, 2013 - 9:20

The Council of Executives of the RMT, at its June 2013 meeting, decided to affiliate to the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).

The WFTU traces its history back to the end of the Second World War, when an attempt was made to revive the old trade union international. Soon, opposition to the Marshall Plan by unions in the Stalinist bloc, and the anti-Communism of many Western unions, made the organisation untenable. Most big union centres outside the Stalinist world left, and set up what is now the ITUC.

The WFTU continued as an organisation of state labour fronts and unions historically linked to or led by their national Communist Parties (like the French CGT) around the world. Its biggest remaining affiliates include the Vietnamese General Confederation of Labour, the Cuban CTC, and the General Federation of Trade Unions in North Korea. These are not unions in any meaningful sense, but the state-run labour fronts of totalitarian regimes, often used to police and repress working-class self-organisation and dissent.

Recently the WFTU has experienced a slight revival, in part by placing itself to the left of the ITUC, which it criticises for being in favour of social partnership. The WFTU has rebranded itself as “class-based” and “democratic.” Some unions in South Africa have affiliated to it and are pushing COSATU to do so.

The RMT say they will “seek to facilitate a meeting between the ITF (International Transport Workers Federation) General Secretary Steve Cotton and the transport section of the WFTU.”

But the move may also be shaped by people in the RMT who have some sympathy for the sorts of regimes for which the WFTU provides cover.

Regardless of the motive, the sad fact is that the leadership of a militant industrial union in Britain seems to have no problem aligning themselves with an organisation which includes within it representatives of some of the most repressive, anti-worker regimes in the world.

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