World Federation of Trade Unions

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World Federation of Trade Unions


an interna tional democratic association of trade unions, established Oct. 3, 1945, at the first World Congress of Trade Unions in Paris. Initially, the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) included all the major national trade union associations of the world except the American Federation of Labor. In 1949 the right-wing leaders of the British Trades Union Congress, the Congress of Industrial Organizations of the USA, and the trade union associations of certain other countries announced that the organizations led by them were leaving the WFTU. They established the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. Despite these divisive actions, the WFTU continued to expand its activity. In 1969 the member organizations of the WFTU included over 150 million trade union members (of the 210 million workers organized in trade unions). The WFTU includes the trade unions of the USSR and other socialist countries and a considerable number of the trade unions of capitalist states and developing and colonial countries.

The basic tasks of the WFTU were formulated in the charter adopted in 1945: organizing and uniting the trade unions of the whole world without distinction as to race, nationality, religion, or political convictions; aiding the workers of socially and economically underdeveloped countries in organizing trade unions; fighting for the final elimination of all fascist forms of government, as well as any manifestations of fascism; fighting against war and its causes; defending the interests of the working people throughout the world in all international bodies; organizing the common struggle of trade unions of all countries against any encroachment on the economic and social rights of working people and on economic freedom; fighting to ensure jobs for working people, to increase wages steadily, shorten the working day, and improve the working and living conditions of the working masses; fighting for complete social security of workers, covering unemployment, illness, accidents, and old age; and organizing educational work among the members of trade unions concerning issues of the international unity of the working masses.

Between 1945 and 1969, the WFTU held seven world congresses of trade unions: the first (Founding Congress) was in Paris, Sept. 25-Oct. 8, 1945; the second in Milan, June 29-July 9, 1949; the third in Vienna, Oct. 10-21, 1953; the fourth in Leipzig, Oct. 4-15, 1957; the fifth in Moscow, Dec. 4-15, 1961; the sixth in Warsaw, Oct. 8-22, 1965; and the seventh in Budapest, Oct. 17-26, 1969. New trade union organizations have been established on all continents with the support and active aid of the WFTU. In 1947 the WFTU organized the first pan-African trade union conference in Dakar.

On the initiative of the WFTU, there have been repeated international actions of solidarity with the workers of Spain, Greece, and Indonesia, as well as with striking workers and victims of repression against trade unions in a number of other countries. The WFTU has initiated various international campaigns in support of the national liberation struggle. On the initiative of the WFTU, the International Trade Union Committee for Solidarity With the Workers of South Africa was established in 1963. The International Committee for Solidarity With Aden was formed with the WFTU’s support in 1964. That same year, the WFTU established the International Committee for Solidarity With the Workers and People of South Vietnam, which held two representative international conferences in Hanoi during 1964-65. The WFTU took an active part in the broad protest movement that unfolded throughout the world against the USA’s military actions in Vietnam and Israel’s aggression against the Arab states. In May 1968 a permanent committee of the WFTU was established in Cairo, the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions—testimony to the strengthening of cooperation among these trade union associations.

A number of international and regional conferences have been convened on the initiative and with the active participation of the WFTU. In June 1956 the World Trade Union Conference on Problems of Women Workers was held in Budapest. The first World Trade-Union Conference of Working Youth was held in Prague in July 1958, the second in Varna in September 1970. The International Consultative Trade Union Conference on the Economic and Social Consequences of the Activity of the European Economic Community (the “Common Market”), held in Leipzig in December 1962, founded the International Committee of the Workers’ Struggle Against the Offensive of the Monopolies. The World Conference on Questions of Vocational Training was held in Turin in February 1968. A consultative conference of solidarity of the trade unions of Africa and Europe, convened jointly by the WFTU and the All-African Trade Union Federation (AATUF), was held in Conakry in March 1969. At this conference, an understanding was reached on further cooperation between the WFTU and AATUF. In May 1969 the World Trade Union Conference on Issues of the Liquidation of Illiteracy was held in Nicosia. A conference of solidarity with the workers and peoples of Indochina fighting against the aggression of the USA was convened in July 1970 in Versailles on the initiative of the WFTU and trade unions of Vietnam.

The supreme directing body of the WFTU is the World Congress of Trade Unions. The congress elects the General Council, which is the directing body of the WFTU between congresses. The General Council elects the Bureau, which directs the activity of the federation between plenums of the General Council. The permanent representative body of the WFTU is the Secretariat, which has been located in Prague since 1956 (from 1945 to 1951 it was in Paris; from 1951 to 1956, in Vienna). International associations of trade unions, with their own charters and directing bodies, have been established under the auspices of the WFTU. The WFTU publishes a journal, World Trade Union Movement, as well as a bulletin, Trade Union Press. The chairmen of the WFTU have been W. Sitrine (Great Britain), 1945-46; A. Deakin (Great Britain), 1946-49; G. di Vittorio (Italy), 1949-57; A. Novella (Italy), 1959-61; R. Bitossi (Italy), 1961-69; and E. Pastorino (Uruguay), since 1969. The general secretaries have been L. Saillant (France), 1945-69; and P. Gensous (France), since October 1969.


Ustav VFP. Moscow, 1951.
Otchet o deiatel’nosti VFP (1949-53). Moscow, 1953.
Otchet4-mu Vsemirnomu kongressu profsoiuzov o deiatel’nosti VFP (avg. 1953-apr. 1957). Moscow, 1957.
Sovremennye problemy mezhdunarodnogo rabochego i profsoiuznogo dvizheniia: Materialy V Vsemirnogo kongressa profsoiuzov. Moscow, 1962.
VI Vsemirnyi kongress profsoiuzov: Materialy i dokumenty. Moscow, 1966.
VII Vsemirnyi kongress profsoiuzov: Materialy i dokumenty. Moscow, 1970.


[Pimenov,P.T.] Vsemirnaiafederatsiiaprofsoiuzov. Moscow, 1965.


References in periodicals archive ?
Today's trade unionists may have never heard of the WFTU, but they would have little trouble recognizing the characters, organizations, the leadership styles, and the internal politics that continue to describe unions today.
The WFTU lost because the politicians won, says Silverman.
When all was said and done, however, inclusion of the Soviets was the issue that sank the WFTU.
These were the ones that increasingly came to be associated with internationalism and the WFTU.
Made up exclusively of representatives of the European and American affiliates, Millard commented wryly that the committee's composition served to prove the common charge of the WFTU that the ICFTU was part of the Western bloc.
On the break-up of the WFTU see Anthony Carew, "The Schism Within the World Federation of Trade Unions: Government and Trade Union Diplomacy," International Review of Social History, 29 (1984), part 3 and Peter Weiler, "The United States, International Labour and the Cold War: The Break-Up of the World Federation of Trade Unions," Diplomatic History, 5 (1981).
He pointed out to the importance of coordination between the WFTU and Syria's General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) in order to support Syria.