Speech by Giannis Tasioulas, President of the Federation of Construction Workers and Allied Trades of Greece, at the Euro-Mediterranean Meeting in Athens, July 2017
On behalf of the Federation of Construction Workers in Greece, we salute today’s meeting.
We would like to convey the militant, class-based greetings of the workers and the unemployed in the Construction sector, and express our certainty that we will come out of today’s meeting more empowered and better equipped with useful conclusions and estimations, which will help us in our struggles around the world, enhance our coordination based on the interests and the needs of the working class and the poor layers of the people, which suffer the most during imperialist peace and imperialist war alike.
The topic of today’s meeting has not be chosen randomly. It is a serious issue which is directly connected to our lives and the existing dangers of war conflicts which are extended under the capital’s criminal action.
The workers around the world bear witness to military interventions in countries which find themselves amidst the fire of the expansion, from Ukraine to the Black Sea, from the Balkans and the Aegean Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle and the Far East, Syria and North Africa.
The presence of NATO enhances the dangers in areas where the fire of war kindles. The presence of American and Russian forces in seas and lands, the military bases around the world which support military interventions, preemptive military strikes and bombardments, prove that the topic we are discussing today concerns us all.
Our country’s military presence in 13 countries within the framework of NATO, confirms that the matter of the imperialist war does not concern some countries alone but the whole world instead. I am certain you will have specific examples to present in today’s meeting.
We want today’s meeting to contribute significantly so that we can shed light on the issues pertaining to war. We want to bring to the surface the causes of wars, whose interests they serve, and how the workers and the trade unions can act against such causes. Our aim is, through organizing the trade unions’ daily struggles, to promote and prepare the terms and conditions for a world without exploitation, poverty and refugees. For a world where the workers will be able to enjoy the produced wealth and satisfy the needs of their families which are being crushed today in order to safeguard the monopolies’ profits.
We want today’s discussion not to be limited to a theoretical level alone, but to become the starting point of educating and discussing among the trade unions and of mobilising the workers, so that our struggles can be strengthened and our class can be freed from the shackles and the problems imposed on us by the power of the capital.
The main thing in order to be able to approach the issue of war following a class-based line, is to answer the following questions:
What is the character of waged wars?
Who wages these wars?
Why are they waging these wars?
What ways do they use to manipulate the workers, hide the true causes and present war as something completely different than what it really is?
Along the lines of these views, and utilizing the experience from our struggles against war, we will try to convey some thoughts and conclusions:
- Wars are the result of antagonisms and clashes between the capitalist forces and the monopolies they represent, which fight amongst themselves for the oil, the hydrocarbons, and their energy routes and generally about who will acquire the biggest cut of profits. They are at a constant state of antagonism which can be bridged using agreements during imperialist peace. These agreements come with harsh anti-labour measures, with tragic consequences to the workers of all countries, something we are all well aware of. When they cannot bridge their differences, they choose to solve them using force and send the workers and the people to their deaths, in order to safeguard their interests. Wars are a choice of plutocracy. During peace, the workers find themselves under attack by the capital, but during war they pay for the choice of the capital which, without hesitation. carries out the biggest crimes in order to magnify its profits and its power. This is where the imperialist character of war comes about, exactly because it is being waged for the interests of the monopolies of plutocracy.
- The forces of the capital and the governments and parties which serve it, try to hide the true causes of wars. They artfully try to present various other issues as the supposed causes, in order to justify and exonerate the capitalist system which bears the blame. For instance, invoking “democracy”, “human rights” and “battling terrorism” is nothing if not hypocritical, because while they invoke such things, they crush rights, implement harsh anti-labour measures and use them to strengthen their mechanisms of suppression of the labour movement, in order to move forward with interventions and bombardments and steal the wealth of the countries. It is infuriating for some governments to present themselves as anti-terrorist, given that a few years ago it was the same governments which funded and utilized the organisations they today call terrorist, in order to promote their plans to change borders and redistribute markets, always to the expense of the peoples and to serve the interests of the few. What is even more infuriating is to present international imperialist unions such as NATO and the EU as guarantors of safety, stability and peace. These are nothing but unions of the capital, functioning for its interests rather than the interests of the people. They do not secure peace for the people, nor do they decrease the danger for the peoples who find themselves in the epicentre of wars and conflicts. Wherever NATO, EU and other imperialist organisations have set foot, they have brought about death. Their declarations for peace and security are increased as much as their war budgets. While they swear in the name of peace, they are preparing wars. For instance, the European Union is promoting a Euroarmy, Euroheadquarters and Eurocorps, it promotes the European Defensive Union and the European Defence Fund. The governments have a great deal of responsibility in that, since they implicate the peoples one way or another in the antagonisms among the monopolies and support the plans of the imperialist unions. The workers must fight against any government which does so in order to promote the strategic interests of the capital. They must reject the various theories for geostrategic upgrading of their countries which are used as a bait, and which is what the SYRIZA-ANEL government is doing here in Greece. The geostrategic upgrading of a country involved in imperialist unions and war planning does not imply an upgrading in the lives of the workers, but an upgrading of the capital in each country, for more profits.
- What is preventing workers to understand the causes of war is, among others, the hostile views of racism, xenophobia, nationalism, fascism and religious fanaticism, which are being cultivated in the working class by the forces of the capital. In essence, what they do is pit one worker against another, exonerating the capitalists who exploit workers during imperialist peace and send them to be killed during imperialist wars, while cultivating at the same time the view that the war is being waged in order to promote the interests of the workers. These views cover up the true causes of wars and are connected with serving the interests of the few. Nothing divides the workers around the world. We suffer the same, we have the same agonies and we want a better future for our children. We oppose the plans of the capital which changes borders and allocates influence spheres. We share the same enemy: the capital and its power.
We need to strengthen solidarity amongst ourselves. We need to put forward our own plan and our common action, with our needs in the epicentre. We must oppose NATO, EU and all the capital mechanisms and fight in every country to organize the struggle against capitalism and monopolies which give birth to, and multiply, our problems. We need to reject the arguments of the capital and its governments, which present the barbarity we are experiencing as the only way. We need to fight under the banner of our own interests for a much needed perspective, one in which the working class is handling the wealth it produces. Organising the education and the struggle on the issue of war must be done immediately. It is a duty for today. We need to contribute so that the working class can meet the increasing demands of the class-based struggle and win the war against the capital.
Closing, we would like to inform you of an important activity that it is currently underway in our country, by organizations and trade unions under the banner of PAME. We have started a major effort to discuss and educate people on the issues of war. The Federation of Construction Workers in Greece, along with dozens of class-based organisations, is organizing meetings and outings in worksites as well as various other events in cities throughout the country.
We estimate that there is positive response and that the bases are being laid, so that the causes of the problem as well as the duties of the workers’ movement can be fully understood. It is important to mention that a few days ago in Greece, following a PAME initiative, a big, anti-imperialist, anti-war demonstration was organized in Thessaloniki, outside of NATO headquarters with the participation of WFTU and hundreds of syndicates from Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Turkey, Serbia, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, FYROM and of course thousands of workers, unemployed, youths and pensioners.
We estimate that such initiatives help in strengthening the struggles for the rights of the workers, the solidarity and the vigilance of the working class against nationalism, xenophobia, racism, fascism and generally against the hate calls cultivated by the capitalists in order to keep the workers divided.
From this point of view, it is our duty to see the struggle through. We need to strengthen our organization and the class-based direction within the workers’ movement. This is our own weapon which will protect us from dangers and will lead our lives and the lives of our children to a truly better future, based on our needs.