Friday, December 20, 2013


Emilio Màspero, photographed in 1982 during one of his visits to CLAT-Netherlands. Inspired by Emilio Màspero in 1969 a group of 5 Dutch people had the very original idea to found 'CLASC-Netherlands" as a solidarity movement with CLASC. 

Just for the record it is good to remember the analysis made by Emilio Màspero on the relations between Latin American and North American trade unions based on social christian values. Màspero analyzed without any complex of inferiority and without blaming only the US of everything what is going wrong in Latin America. On the contrary, he looked for a common analysis based on common values between Latin America and the United States.

North American trade-union organizations have systematically discriminated against the Christian trade-union organizations and made them the object of humiliating scorn. With respect to relations, we have always be granted just one alternative: that we disappear as an organization and a reality so that we might be absorbed by the trade-union organizations inspired, promoted, and financed in Latin America by North American trade-union organizations and the U.S. Government. There is not the slightest respect for international pluralism. The idea is to monopolize all in order to place it at the service of a formula, and of interests and partial viewpoints of one single sector of the democratic trade unionism of the two Americas-disavowing all the other democratic trade-union organizations which are making their own original efforts in Latin America.........We share with the North American workers the Judeo-Christian ethic. Yet, despite this spiritual communion and ethic, there is no systematique dialogue, nor any system of relations based on dignified and fraternal solidarity.”
Emilio Màspero, 'Trade Unionism as an Instrument of the Latin America Revolution' in 'Latin American Radicalism', edited by I.L. Horowitz, Castro and J.Gerassi, Vintage Books, New York 1969. (page 207-231)

I wonder if there is now more respect for trade union pluralism than before. In Europe we have experienced that there is a lot of pressure from different social-democratic oriented trade unions on social christian trade unions like for example in Germany and Denmark by starting to deny even their formal status of trade unions. It seems that the old Marxist slogan 'proletarians of all countries, unite! is still the main slogan for many trade union leaders. Political pluralism and free market competion are nowadays generally accepted but trade union pluralism is still be seen as not desirable. Of course trade union unity is used also as a way to defend old fashioned power monopoly.

On the left Dolf Coppes (1925-2001) the first President of CLASC Netherlands, talking with Rangel Parra (1920 - 1987), Secretary General of the Federation of Latin American Campesinos FCL, during the first years of CLASC Netherlands. From 1972 until 1977 Dolf Coppes was a member of the Dutch Parliament for the Politieke Partij Radicalen PPR. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of CLAT Netherlands, Dolf Coppes said the following about the creation of what was then called CLASC Netherlands: "In early 1969, I interviewed Emilio Màspero for the magazine Nieuwe Linie. Màspero had been frequent in the Netherlands, for fundraising, but he was until then not really identified as a man with a special message. I was very impressed by him. In the margins of the interview  the idea arose that Dutch trade union members for solidarity with CLAT, should become member of CLAT Netherland. This was badly needed. CLASC was banned almost everywhere. Only in Venezuela and Curacao there were no problems. I dropped the idea during a speech at a training center in Renkum (Netherlands). There were present Gerard van Pijkeren and Wouter van Dam. In late summer they came together with Gerrit Pruim and Toon Kuiper suddenly to me. Everything was done, there was an association founded and whether I wanted to be president." (See the special Jubileumboek CLAT-Nederland)

As we can read Emilio Màspero was of "the old spiritual trade union school" like many other trade union leaders in Europe and the rest of the world. Has this school had its days? Are the social Christian values in today's world not of importance anymore or on the contrary do we need them as an answer on a pure materialistic view on mankind? Can we fight against social injustice, social inequality, crime and corruption, consumerism and materialism without spiritual values? To ask the question is answer it.

Driving from the airport to the capital Tirana of Albania I was surprised to see all around small one-person bunkers.Later I learned there are hundreds of thousands of them. They were meant to prevent a NATO attack on the country which of course was more an obsession of the dictator than a real possibility, taken into account the zero strategic importance of this small country. It is sad to see how a whole country lost so much money in something what comes from a phobic mind.

The year 1993 started with a WCL mission to Albania. For the first time a representative of the Italian ACLI joined the mission that as usually was headed by our Polish vice- president Krzysztof Dowgiallo. I got no good memories of this and other missions to Albania. Albania looked as a lost land in everything. It was materially and spiritually destroyed by the prolonged communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha. As a result of his ideological fundamentalism, Albania had been isolated for more than 40 years of Europe and the rest of the world. Already in 1948, Hoxha broke with Tito's Yugoslavia and in 1953 after the death of Stalin, he also broke with Russia. The only communist country Albania had contact with, was Maoist China. Albania was the only Maoist country in Europe.

The consequences of that isolation could one see all around: poverty and disorder, dilapidated houses, everything from poor quality. We had a conversation with Xheka Valer, President of the "Independent Union of Trade Unions of Albania" BSPSH, founded in 1991. The head office was a shabby building that hardly was heated. Everyone walked with thick winter coats. The office of Xheka was an empty room with an oversized desk, meant to impress, not to work. The new union proved unstable. As a result of infighting Xheka was put aside.We also visited the former official Confederation of Trade Unions of Albania KSSH who had broken in 1991 with its communist past as a party and state controlled trade union. Their new president was Kastriot Muco

Albanian delegate from BSPSH (left) and his translator on the WCL seminar "World Confederation of Labour for New Trade Unionism after Communism" held in Budapest 1993. 

Likewise, during later missions the contacts did not lead to lasting relationships. In 1995 we met Minella Kureta president of The League of Albanian Autonomous Trade Unions on the KGZE conference (an annual conference of social Christian oriented trade unions from Central and Eastern Europe organized with the help of EZA and EU financial means). The Federation of European Miners invited to some of its events, Gezim Kalaja, President of the Independent Trade Union of Miners and Geologists of Albania. The European Organization of the WFCW organized a mission to strengthen the contacts with the Albanian trade union of workers in commercial sectors. Ultimately, none of these trade unions became a member of the WCL or WCL related trade union federations.

Another problem with the Albanian trade unions was to determine what they really represented in the real working world. Even field visits could not dispel the doubts about that. However, we were able to see with our own eyes how bad the situation was in the country. A wharf, where once seaworthy boats were made, was almost deserted: work places that looked like huge barns with broken roofs and windows, old rusty boats and a lot of spilled oil on the ground. The few workers who walked around asked if I could look for a new Western owner so they had work again. I asked Solidarnosc, with its experience with trade unions of the Gdansk wharfs, if they could do something but it was hopeless. 
A fertilizer plant proved to be a gift from China who had given it away because it was outdated. I have no knowledge of chemical plants, but you could see that this one was ready for demolition. The surrounding areas were heavily polluted with chemical waste. Enquiries showed that they knew nothing about chemistry and environmental pollution. The few workers also asked me if I knew someone in Western Europe that might be interested to buy the factory (during my visit to Cuba in 2010, I saw the same situation in a garment factory and a factory for large flowerpots. The same shabby equipment and poor quality of the products).

Gezim Kalaya, President of the Independent Trade Union of Miners & Geologists of Alabania.

In a OECD report of 2002 the following is said about the Albanian trade unions: There are a number of free trade unions in Albania. The two main trade union groups are the Confederation of the Trade Unions of Alabania KSSH and the Union of the Independent Trade Unions of Albania BSPSH. A third union, the Independent Federation of Miners and Geologists, is active but membership is low due to the decrease in the number of individuals working in the mining industry. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs reports that together the KSSH and BSPSH have approximately 285,000 members, the trade unions have become increasingly weak, and their influence is primarily limited to state-owed companies.” ( “Anti-corruption Measures in SouthEastern Europe, Civili Society's involvement” page 25 and 26)

The most disappointing was that ACLI did nothing to provide some follow-up to the Albania mission. Since it was impossible to serve all the former communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe from Brussels, I tried to link some new organizations to a member organization of the WCL. At that time Italy was the only country that knew the Albanians more or less. Many Albanians looked during the communist dictatorship illegally to Italian TV stations. It was their only window on the world. Some had even learned to speak Italian by TV. But as I said, ACLI remained silent.

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