World Confederation of Labor

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World Confederation of Labor


(WCL), an international association of trade unions; founded with the support of the Vatican as the International Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (ICCTU) at a congress of national Christian trade-union centers of Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Czechoslovakia, and Switzerland, held at The Hague (Netherlands) on June 15-19, 1920.

The leaders of the ICCTU preached the cooperation of labor and capital under the guise of realizing Christian “universal brotherhood.” They opposed the development of the revolutionary workers’ movement and considered strikes an extreme measure. In 1932 during the offensive by fascism in a number of capitalist countries, the fifth congress of the ICCTU put forth the slogan “Neither Communism nor Fascism!” The ICCTU was weakened by the dissolution of the Christian trade unions in Germany (1933) and Austria (1934; in Italy they were disbanded as early as 1925). Before World War II (1939-45) it was a small, basically European trade-union association. During the war the ICCTU, whose organizations had been destroyed in the countries occupied by the fascists, did not function. Its first postwar congress took place in October 1945. Refusing to join the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), the leaders of the ICCTU reaffirmed the organization’s previous policy of class collaboration on the basis of the “social principles of Christianity.” Since the late 1950’s the organization has attempted to expand its influence in the trade-union movement in developing countries: regional organizations have been created and special solidarity funds established, and trade-union cadres are being trained for these countries.

The ICCTU was “de-Christianized” at its sixteenth congress (October 1968): it received a new name—the World Confederation of Labor—and formal references to the social doctrine of Christianity were eliminated from its official documents. However, the preaching of class collaboration and a “third path,” which rejected capitalism and socialism, was retained. At the same time, the WCL demanded the establishment of “just and adequate compensation,” the introduction of greater family allowances, the gradual diminution of work hours, equal pay for work of equal value, and the improvement of labor conditions and the system of social insurance. In foreign policy the WCL called for peace and disarmament and opposed war as a means of resolving international disputes. However, the leadership of the WCL still rejects contact with the WFTU in the struggle for the interests of working people, although the national trade-union centers of the WCL in a number of countries collaborate with trade-union centers that belong to the WFTU.

The members of the WCL include trade-union centers (so-called ordinary membership) and a number of non-trade-union associations. In 1968 the WCL had 12.7 million members from the trade unions of 74 countries (3.7 million in Europe, 5.1 million in Latin America, 2.4 million in Asia, 1.3 million in Africa, and 200,000 in Canada). The supreme organ of the WCL is the congress, which elects the confederation committee, president, secretary-general, and treasurer. Between congresses, leadership is exercised by a council, consisting of members of the confederation committee and one to two representatives of each member organization of the WCL. The current business of the organization is carried on by the executive bureau, which includes the president, the secretary-general and his deputies from regional organizations, and the treasurer. The president of the WCL is M. Pepin (Canada; since 1973), and the secretary-general is J. Bruck (Belgium; since 1968). The organ of the WCL is the journal Labor, which is published in Brussels six times a year in English, French, Flemish, and German.


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