Left.ru ________________________________________________________________________________
Vladimir Vorobiev,
Co-Chairman, Inter-Regional Alliance of Workers’ Unions “Defence of Labor” 

Speech in Florence

Before I read my report, allow me to express my sincere gratitude to all activists of foreign labor organizations who provided financial and organizational assistance to Russian delegation.  Without their generous help, my comrades and I would not be here today.

We have gathered in the city associated with one of the best moments in the history of world civilization.  500 years ago Florence was a center of European Renaissance –the great cultural movement whose goal was to emancipate human mind from the obscurantist ideology of the medieval ruling classes and to rediscover the beauty and dignity of man.  But European Renaissance was also the cradle of European capitalism, whose historical triumph rested to the large extent on the genocide, the enslavement, and the ruthless exploitation of non-European peoples.  The foundations of modern bourgeois civilization have not changed much since then.  I am going to speak to those who came to Florence with the dream of putting an end to this bloody triumph.  Let the day come when this beautiful city becomes again a center of a Renaissance, but this time the Renaissance of all the mankind, the Renaissance based not on the oppression and exploitation of man by man, nation by nation, but on their solidarity and brotherly unity.

Today, more and more members of Russian independent workers’ trade unions begin to realize that they need to fight the root causes rather that the consequences of social evils, of the ever increasing insecurity of existence of the working class people.  Our workers begin coming to their senses and ask: “What is to be done?”  This puts special responsibility on us, labor activists. Will we direct the awakening energy of the masses along the right path against the root causes of evil or will we waste it to achieve false, illusory ends?  In the first case, even our defeat will be temporary and meaningful for those who will come after us.  In the second, even our victory will turn into a defeat and demoralization for the masses.  This may have catastrophic consequences because then the desperate masses can make a decisive turn to fascism.  This is why the choice of our objectives, the choice of the right path is a matter of such a grave importance for the antiglobalist movement, which is so far very amorphous and contradictory in regard to its objectives.

Let us not deceive ourselves.  No matter how many-voiced and multilingual our movement is, there are only two roads to choose from: the road of accommodation to capitalism, the road of reformism--and the road of going beyond capitalism, the road of revolution.  The third road is that of illusion, or even worse – an attempt to avoid the responsibility to make the real choice.  So the first thing we need to do is to posit the question of solidarity correctly:  Solidarity to what ends?  Only having answered this question we can answer the next: Solidarity with whom? I will now shortly outline my thoughts on these matters.

Those who want to go along with capitalism so far dominate our movement.  They just want capitalists to make certain concessions like allowing a degree of public control over financial flows, alienating a miniscule part of speculative capital in favor of the Third World, and strengthening the national state against transnational capital and its organizations.  These are the goals of a very moderate reformism, most vocally and widely articulated by ATTAC and its leaders.  I believe that these are wrong goals.  These goals can only disorient the working people and waste their energy. These goals can only give a breathing space to capitalism.  The leaders of ATTAC are very much aware of this.  They are very much in favor of this.  As the founders of ATTAC Ignacio Ramonet and Bernard Cassen explained in one of their TV interviews, their intention was not to harm capitalism, but “to stabilize” it by struggling against free-trade policies.  Seconds Jurgen Borchert, one of the founders of ATTAC-Germany: “If ATTAC did not exist, big business should have invented it.” 

ATTAC and other reformist NGO’s and “social movements”--that push the antiglobalist movement toward the path of cosmetic reforms of capitalist system--also misidentify the main enemy of the working people.  To them, the root cause of evil is not the system of private property and exploitation, but only some of the more odious aspects of its latest phase.  Moreover, they see the global imperialist expansion of capitalism as on the whole a positive, even progressive development, which allegedly fosters and unifies the productive powers of mankind.  They present the imperialist re-colonization as progressive overcoming of national isolation and parochialism, and almost as the withering away of the national state!  Well, in that case who needs revolutions if imperialism is a  highway towards progress?!  No wonder that so many former Western radicals went over to the side of their own imperialists and supported their aggression against Yugoslavia, the expansion of NATO, and so on.  No wonder that the very word “imperialism” has gone out of fashion while those who recall it risk to be accused in being “nationalists.”  Today this false and pro-imperialistic “internationalism” pervades the West.  It has nothing in common with the internationalism of the oppressed. 

“Globalization” does not bring any progress to the majority of mankind, because in reality it is a policy of neocolonialism and re-colonization, carried out by a group of imperialist states under the hegemony of the US, and with the help of corrupt national elites of oppressed nations.  By using military, political, and financial pressures, imperialists submit to their will the countries of the Third and the former Second Worlds and ruthlessly exploit their human and natural resources for the sake of super profits.  We are seeing the economic re-colonization of the former colonial and oppressed nations, the destruction of their economies and their adaptation to the needs of the imperialist core.  We see this process in Argentine, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and many other countries, Russia among them.  Imperialism is the main and the most dangerous enemy of all working people, even those who temporarily benefit from it, like the workers of imperialist countries.  Anti-capitalist struggle is unthinkable without the struggle against imperialism.

The history of international labor movement testifies that the working class was able to get most significant economic and political concessions when workers raised most radical demands and created militant class organizations.  That’s how it was, for example, during the Great Depression, when the radicalism of American workers convinced the most powerful group of bourgeoisie in the world to carry out a serious reform of the entire capitalist system.  Why do I recall this experience today?  After all I argue against reformism, against the path of ATTAC and similar “social movements” and in favor of the royal path—that of the revolutionary workers of Paris and Petrograd, the peasants of Cuba and Nepal.  I recall this experience, because I believe that even if our struggle for society built on solidarity rather than exploitation will not succeed this time around, the radicalism of our struggle will compel capitalists to give much bigger concessions than if we follow the path of timid reformism, the path of ATTAC, and as the result we will be able to create a more solid foundation for the next generation of anti-capitalist fighters.  So let us be realists and strive for  “impossible”!

I repeat: we need to fight against the root causes of social evil.  Social wealth must be expropriated from the hands of capitalists and become socialized.  We need not a pithy Tobin tax on the trillions squeezed by ruthless exploitation of hundreds of millions workers and peasants, but ALL the wealth so that it could be used for the satisfaction of needs and free development of ALL rather than the enrichment of the few.

And here everything depends on the international solidarity of the working people.  Two great problems face us in achieving it.  These problems can be solved only by a reciprocal movement on the part of workers in imperialist and dependent countries.  In the latter, the organized working class must establish its leadership in the anti-imperialist struggle of the oppressed peoples over and against the nationalist bourgeoisie and reactionary forces.  This is not that simple.  But the problem that faces us in imperialist countries is more formidable, because in these countries, especially in settler-nations, there exists a massive layer of labor aristocracy--virtually indistinguishable from small bourgeoisie--that enjoys the privileges and standard of life incomparably higher than those of the rest of toilers around the world.  These imperialist workers and their bureaucracy tend to identify their interests with those of their bourgeoisie who is ever trying—and especially during economic crises like the current one—to keep the class peace at home by stepping up the exploitation of the workers in the Third World and Eastern Europe.  This class alliance between workers and capitalists of imperialist countries forms the material base for social-imperialist politics of the dense net of labor organizations and “social movements” in the West who give support to the militarist and chauvinist course of their ruling classes, as in the case of NATO’s aggression against Yugoslavia, the eastward expansion of NATO, and the terrorist course of the United States after 9-11.  This unholy class alliance must be broken and replaced by class solidarity of Western workers with the workers of the oppressed countries against their imperialist governments.  Here lies the key to international solidarity.  This struggle will be the hardest. And we can hope to win it only if we clearly realize that it is going on right now in our movement. 

The new global phase of capitalist expansion had negative impact on labor aristocracy and the small bourgeois layers employed in the state sector and social services.  These layers suffer from the neoliberal course of their own imperialists.  They are compelled to mobilize, to seek new alliances so that they can put more pressure on their governments and get into a better negotiating position.  To this end, they have entered the antiglobalist movement—or rather they have formed it!  It is these forces--infected with social-chauvinism-- that promote imperialist reformism in this movement and use it to blunt the radicalism of labor organizations in oppressed countries.

One example of this is the activities of ATTAC and other social-imperialist organizations in Russia where they have been trying to prevent the radicalization of our labor movement by promoting reformism and preventing it from taking part in the anti-imperialist struggle.  Yet no revolutionary organization of the masses in the former Soviet Union, no solidarity with the peoples oppressed by imperialism, from Argentine to Afghanistan, nor a firm and principled dialogue with the workers of the imperialist countries are possible without raising anti-imperialist consciousness.  If class-conscious workers fail to take up this task anti-imperialist energies will fall right into the hands of reactionary forces.  Yet some representatives of ATTAC try to portray the antiglobalist movement as being in opposition to anti-imperialists, as separated from them by the barricade.  This is not so.  In fact, the struggle between imperial reformists and anti-capitalists has been going on within this movement and we cannot win this struggle without a clear understanding of the imperialist nature of this reformism and without advancing the most consistent anti-imperialism against it. 

As a representative of the proletarian and anti-imperialist wing of Russian labor movement I appeal to all revolutionary forces in the antiglobalist movement to unite around the struggle for the right choice of our goals, for radicalization of this movement, for the victory of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist course within it.  We have to make a decisive step towards overcoming the present hegemony of imperialist reformism in this movement.  Under the slogan of “pluralism,” the reformists will be imposing on us endless discussions.  They will be trying to impose on us the false goals of endless smoothing over of the class antagonisms and to lead the movement away from its royal road – that of the class struggle for the abolition of private property and exploitation.  To win, we need not the bourgeois “pluralism” of goals, but democracy and solidarity on the basis of the common goal of ending the exploitation of man by man, nation by nation.  If the proletarian and anti-imperialist forces in this movement unify under the banner of this great goal, if they take it along this royal road –then the working and oppressed people of the world will become aware that they have a real alternative to imperialist reformism and that there are international workers who are ready to struggle for equality and justice, for a truly other world.

Death to Imperialism!  Long Live the Dictatorship of the Proletariat!  Long Live Socialism!

Vladimir Vorobiev, 
Co-Chairman, Inter-Regional Alliance of Workers’ Unions “Defence ofLabor,” 
Russia, 652490, Kemerovo, 
Oktiabrskii proezd, dom 2, kv. 36
E-mail: risok78@mail.ru 
Tel.: 38453-24176

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