Preliminary Programme

Wed 12 April
    08.30 - 10.30
    11.00 - 13.00
    14.00 - 16.00
    16.30 - 18.30

Thu 13 April
    08.30 - 10.30
    11.00 - 13.00
    14.00 - 16.00
    16.30 - 18.30

Fri 14 April
    08.30 - 10.30
    11.00 - 13.00
    14.00 - 16.00
    16.30 - 18.30

Sat 15 April
    08.30 - 10.30
    11.00 - 13.00
    14.00 - 16.00

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Friday 14 April 2023 16.30 - 18.30
O-12 LAB22 The World Federation of Trade Unions and/within the Labor Movements of Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America during the Cold War
C33 (Z)
Network: Labour Chairs: Samuel Andreas Admasie, Immanuel R. Harisch
Organizers: Immanuel R. Harisch, Johanna Wolf Discussants: -
Rowena Abdul Razak : The 1947 WFTU Visit to Iran: Implications on British and Iranian Labour Politics
When the WFTU delegation arrived in Iran in April 1947, the Tudeh Party was at the height of its influence. It controlled the trade union movement in the country and was a formidable political force. In Britain, the Labour Party was elected to oversee post-war recovery and to navigate the ... (Show more)
When the WFTU delegation arrived in Iran in April 1947, the Tudeh Party was at the height of its influence. It controlled the trade union movement in the country and was a formidable political force. In Britain, the Labour Party was elected to oversee post-war recovery and to navigate the British empire’s position in the new global order. At the heart of this was an interest maintaining their presence in Iran’s oil industry, which pitted them against the Tudeh. Building on previous work that examined the WFTU visit itself, this paper will explore how the visit impacted on the industrial politics of Britain and Iran while highlighting why engagement with the WFTU was so important to the reputation and clout of the Labour Party and the Tudeh Party. (Show less)

N’goran Gédéon Bangali, Immanuel R. Harisch : The Pan-African Anti-Imperialist UGTAN and its Relations with the WFTU, 1957-1961
The General Union of Workers of Black Africa (Union générale des travailleurs d'Afrique noire, UGTAN), founded in 1957, was conceived by its initiators as a workers’ movement with an African identity and autonomy. Influenced by the Third World movement and the spirit of Bandung, the founders of the UGTAN wanted ... (Show more)
The General Union of Workers of Black Africa (Union générale des travailleurs d'Afrique noire, UGTAN), founded in 1957, was conceived by its initiators as a workers’ movement with an African identity and autonomy. Influenced by the Third World movement and the spirit of Bandung, the founders of the UGTAN wanted to distance themselves from the international context of opposition between the communist and capitalist camps. In its international relations, however, the UGTAN remained close to the French communist trade union confederation CGT (Confédération générale du travail) and the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), to which the CGT belonged. The aim of this paper is to analyze the factors and manifestations of the relations between UGTAN and the WFTU. On the basis of documents from French-, English-, and German-language trade union archives, the way in which African anti-colonial nationalism, pan-African anti-imperialism, and revolutionary socialist internationalism cooperated, but also stood in tension, is examined.
During the intense phase of the struggle for decolonization, the UGTAN – led by trade union leaders such as S. Touré, D. Seydou, and A. Diallo – turned to anti-colonial political activism and successfully forged a network of cooperation with the communist-oriented workers’ organizations that were part of the WFTU. Links with the WFTU led to several missions by WFTU officials to West Africa, particularly Guinea, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and to the establishment of an East-South joint educational venture with the African Workers University in Conakry, a union college run by UGTAN and the WFTU.14 At the same time, UGTAN officials insisted on the importance of the African context and warned the WFTU against dogmatism and generic concepts in their union work. In the broader region of West Africa, the UGTAN’s pan-Africanist anti-imperialist stance and its links to the East led to its ostracism by a number of politicians who held moderate positions toward France. This antagonism and the balkanizing forces of nationalism eventually led to the disintegration of UGTAN's pan-West African network of affiliated territorial unions. In 1961, barely two years after its official founding congress, UGTAN was swallowed up by its successor, the All African Trade Union Federation (AATUF). (Show less)

Vannessa Hearman : Cold War Travel and Trade Unionism: Reflections on a Disappeared World
Travel can be used as a lens with which to view the transformations, interactions and exchanges of ideas involving international trade unionists in the 20th century. Cold War political travel was, however, also a form of discipline in terms of how arranged visits to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe ... (Show more)
Travel can be used as a lens with which to view the transformations, interactions and exchanges of ideas involving international trade unionists in the 20th century. Cold War political travel was, however, also a form of discipline in terms of how arranged visits to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were expected to be discussed back home or reported in union presses by delegates. An affiliate of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), Indonesia’s largest post-war union federation, the left-wing SOBSI (Sentral Organisasi Buruh Seluruh Indonesia, Central Organisation of Indonesian Trade Unions) had the most well- developed international networks compared to other federations at that time in Indonesia. The prospect of international travel helped attract new followers in a country where travel opportunities abroad were few and far between. While official SOBSI accounts of overseas visits reported life in the Eastern Bloc in glowing terms, in this paper, I analyse how the staunchly left-wing, Indonesian trade unionist, Adam Soepardjan, reflected on his postwar unionism and overseas travel in ways that challenged the strictures of officially sanctioned ways of representing the Communist bloc in the 1950s and 60s. Drawing on his memoir and other writings including those held in the International Institute of Social History archives, I investigate how the passage of time and the political repression of the Left shaped his representations of Cold War travel and trade unionism in later years. (Show less)

Patricio Herrera : The Anti-colonial Position of the Confederation of Latin American Workers (1945-1963): Between Solidarity and Transnational Political Actions
The Confederation of Latin American Workers (CTAL) since its foundation in 1938 based its action on the anti-colonial struggle. First, the result of a continent plundered by the economy of the United States and later by the hegemony that Europe and the United States had over markets and territories in ... (Show more)
The Confederation of Latin American Workers (CTAL) since its foundation in 1938 based its action on the anti-colonial struggle. First, the result of a continent plundered by the economy of the United States and later by the hegemony that Europe and the United States had over markets and territories in Africa and Asia. In the middle of the Cold War, the CTAL had a marked anti-colonial discourse and sought forms of solidarity alliances and political actions that committed it to express its repudiation of the processes of imperialism and colonialism in such distant and culturally diverse realities, because they felt part of the same history of dependency, postponement, exclusions and social and political instability that should be reversed to advance the construction of more socially integrated societies and autonomous political organizations. This paper gathers meetings between leaders from different continents, who have left testimonies in letters, articles in magazines and newspapers, proceedings of congresses and workers' organizations through the CTAL or the World Trade Union Federation (WFTU) spread their political convictions or struggles to eradicate colonialism from the Americas, Africa, and Asia. (Show less)

Gabriele Siracusano : Socialism, Independence, and Class Struggle. The WFTU in West Africa and the Role of the CGT and CGIL
Since the 1920s, the workers' movement has been central to the relationship between international communism and the colonial liberation movements. However, from the 1950s onwards, the contribution of communist trade unions and their international organization - the World Federation of Trade Union (WFTU) - took a step forward in building ... (Show more)
Since the 1920s, the workers' movement has been central to the relationship between international communism and the colonial liberation movements. However, from the 1950s onwards, the contribution of communist trade unions and their international organization - the World Federation of Trade Union (WFTU) - took a step forward in building political, trade union and solidarity networks between colonial workers and the international communist movement and the socialist bloc. The WFTU established contacts with Afro- Asian trade unions with a view to strengthening and expanding the socialist bloc by building an anti- imperialist platform that could weaken the Western powers. The process of decolonization opened up new perspectives that European workers could not underestimate in their fight against capitalism. This implied a direct commitment by the CGT and CGIL - the largest unions in France and Italy linked to the two main communist parties in Western Europe - in building connections with the unions in the newly independent African countries. The two unions are mainly focused on North and West Africa, where the most interesting socialist experiences are being established. The CGT and CGIL became the main mediators between the WFTU and the anti-imperialist and progressive movements in West Africa, where they organized the trade union and ideological training of African militants, cadres and leaders with the aim of creating a workers' vanguard in countries such as Guinea, Mali or Congo Brazzaville. In this presentation I argue that the CGIL and CGT analyzed the political and social situation in these African countries in different ways, in close connection with the vision of the PCI or PCF. The CGT, on the one hand, maintained its old links with the African trade unions, born during French colonization, but applied its own dogmatic vision regarding the development of socialism in Africa and the role of workers, often suffering from its overly Eurocentric and often 'Francocentric' outlook that also characterizes the PCF. The CGIL, on the other hand, aligned itself with the analysis of the PCI, considering the need to support a revolution "in stages" in Africa, which can develop without the guidance of the working class (which it considered to be to weak) and which can skip historical stages to reach socialism. Thus, for the CGIL and the PCI, the role of the African peasant masses and workers is fundamental to building a socialist society from different assumptions from those in Europe. The understanding of local realities must therefore favor social change by transforming a “national revolution” into a “social revolution” and thus facilitate the enlargement and strengthening of the socialist bloc. Importantly, the difference in political positions between the CGT and the CGIL, as well as that between the PCF and the PCI, led to frictions that are consumed both in the African trade union networks and within the WFTU, where the CGIL line is not understood even by the Soviets and is eventually marginalized and defeated. Despite the marginalization of the CGIL within the WFTU, Italian trade unionists exploited the growing consensus of their positions within African trade unions to join the CGT leadership in their role as mediators and main interlocutors for workers in countries such as Guinea, Mali or Congo. (Show less)

Johanna Wolf : “What is our future status?” The Indian Perspective on the World Federation of Trade Unions in the late 1940s
For four years, the early World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) united the labor movement of all
political types from around the globe. Also, actors from the Global South were now part of the global trade
union movement. Many of the delegates of colonized countries were aware of the usefulness of international
arenas. ... (Show more)
For four years, the early World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) united the labor movement of all
political types from around the globe. Also, actors from the Global South were now part of the global trade
union movement. Many of the delegates of colonized countries were aware of the usefulness of international
arenas. The paper will look at individual actors from the Global South, especially India, who used the
international arenas to put their demands on the global agenda settings. The focus will be on Shripad Amrit
Dange, the founding member of the Communist Party of India, who took part at the Congresses of the
WFTU in the 1940s as delegate of the All-Indian Trade Union Congress (AITUC), and who became
chairman of the General Council and Vice-president of the WFTU. This will be complemented by other
actors from South-East Asia as they spoke up in the context of anti-colonial discussions.
The article is based on source material of the WFTU Archives at the International Institute of Social History
(IISH) in Amsterdam. In addition to this material produced by the WFTU staff and to complement the
internal view with an outside, Indian perspective, the analysis uses documents of the collection of the
AITUC, which was only very recently digitized by the Archives of Indian Labour. To be able to approach
the person S. A. Dange, the paper refers to some biographical sketches on him.
The paper will demonstrate what influence the actors from colonial countries had on the debate and agenda
of the early WFTU. It will look at the discussions on the constitution of the organization, the establishment
of a Colonial Department and the planning of conferences in Dakar and Calcutta. The paper thus shows that
these actors with a colonial background were significantly involved in setting new debates and discussions in
global trade union movement and were also a driving factor in advancing these issues during the late 1940s,
most notably on the empowerment of socially marginalized groups.
Johanna Wolf is working at the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory in Frankfurt am
Main since November 2019 on the project “Non-state law of the economy”. Her dissertation – awarded with
the Walter-Markov-Prize in 2017 – focused on the global challenges of metal trade unions in the shipbuilding
industry of the 1970s and 1980s (Assurances of Friendship. Transnationale Wege von Metallgewerkschaftern
in der Schiffbauindustrie, 1950–1980, Göttingen: 2018), which she completed in Global Studies at the
University of Leipzig. From 09/2020 until June/2021 she was a Research Fellow at the International Institute
of Social History in Amsterdam where she was working on the mobility of communist trade union actors
since 1945, funded by a research grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG).
13 Mr. S. A. Dange, in: [WFTU]. Report of the World Trade Union Conference, [...] London, February 6th to 17th,
1945. Edited by John MacIntosh, S. Ireland and Walter Citrine. London: [British Trades Union Congress], 1945,173.
(Show less)



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