Fight Back! interviewed Cherrene Horazuk, a U.S. delegate to the 16th Congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) held April 7- 10 in Athens, Greece. Horazuk is prominent Minneapolis trade unionist and a spokesperson for the Minnesota Committee to Stop FBI Repression.
Fight Back!: Could you tell our readers what the congress was like?
Cherrene Horazuk: The congress was incredibly inspiring. There were trade unionists from around the world who were all committed to building an international labor movement that is open, democratic and unified and that challenges capitalism and builds a fighting working class. Over 800 delegates attended from more than 100 countries, and there was simultaneous translation into five different languages: English, Spanish, French, Arabic and Greek. Speakers gave reports about the situation in their country - workers around the world are facing very similar attacks.
It was great to be part of a group of union leaders that clearly recognize that the global economic crisis isn't the fault of the working class and therefore workers shouldn't have to pay for the crisis the corporations and the rich created.
Fight Back!: What were the big issues the congress focused on?
Horazuk: The congress focused on the following points. The first is that we, the working class won't pay for the capitalists’ crisis. There was a great deal of discussion about the need to fight back against the austerity programs that are being forced on workers all over the world.
Speaker after speaker reiterated the need to go on the offensive, and not just organize defensive battles. There was also a lot of discussion about the need to involve women and younger workers in the union movement. About 30% of the participants were women and a very dynamic women's workshop happened. The other main message that people raised repeatedly was opposition to imperialist wars abroad. There was uniform condemnation of the U.S. and NATO for bombing Libya as well as strong calls for an end to military aggression in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Colombia.
Fight Back!: Do you have any impressions of the Greek labor movement?
Horazuk: PAME, the All Workers Militant Front of Greece, is one of the main forces within the WFTU, and with good reason. They are incredibly strong and energetic. They have led very successful general strikes in the past year and have built a base of members that is fired up to fight back against the economic attacks. It is clear that they are a force to be reckoned with. The opening ceremony of the WFTU Congress included a rally with at least 3000 PAME members, who were continually singing, waving flags, and chanting: "The enemy is one - imperialism! Capitalism is not our world. It's the new world, socialism! The worker's right is our law and not the capitalist's profit! Come on people, don't give up, the only way is to resist and fight!" It was incredibly motivating and inspiring.
Fight Back!: You raised the issue of the FBI and grand jury repressions against U.S. labor, anti-war, and international solidarity activists. What was the response?
Horazuk: A lot of the speeches at the Congress expressed solidarity with people's struggles around the world and people clearly recognized the need for workers around the world to act in solidarity with each other. Given that perspective, everybody I spoke to about the repression was very interested in the case. They were shocked at the attacks against the activists who have done nothing wrong and [they] were outraged that political beliefs and international solidarity are being criminalized by the U.S. government. They conveyed their solidarity with the individuals who have been subpoenaed and committed to take action to stop the repression.