At its meeting of 17-18 October 2014, the GLI Board received an Interim Report covering activities by the GLI Geneva (or by its Board members on its behalf) from January to September 2014. The following notes were presented at the GLI Board Meeting, 13-14 March 2015. They are a second instalment: they report on activities covering the period from the last Board meeting to February 2015.
The general political situation in the last five months has been dominated by the war in Ukraine and by the rise of SYRIZA in Greece to government power. Both developments have had repercussions on GLI activities.
An important meeting took place in December with the Labour Institute (Institutul Muncii) of Moldova.
[Dan Gallin: DG; Karin Pape: KP; Kirill Buketov: KB]
November 5 (DG): Solifonds, Board Meeting, Zurich
November 10 -14 (DG, KP): WIEGO General Assembly, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
November 29 (DG): Meeting of Olten Circle, Bern
December 4 – 7 (DG): Visit to the Labour Institute of the National Confederation of Labour of Moldova (Institutul Muncii), Chişinău, Republic of Moldova
January 7 – 8 (DG): Meeting of the Trade Union Network Europe (TUNE), Brussels
February 7 (DG): General Assembly of La Révolution prolétarienne supporters, Paris
February 12 (DG): Soirée-Débat sur la Gauche anti.impérialiste en Russie face à la guerre en Ukraine, with Olga Myriasova, sociologist and anarchist activist in Moscow, Geneva
February 13 (DG): Pages de Gauche, Editorial Committee, Lausanne
February 25 (DG): Collège du Travail, Book Launch: Alexandre Elsig, “La Ligue d’action du bâtiment (LAB)”, Geneva (The LAB was the shock troop of the Geneva Building Workers’ Union when the union was an anarcho-syndicalist organization (in the 1920s and 1930s). Its main function was to close down building sites operated by scabs and to protect public meetings of the union. It frequently clashed with right-wing organizations and the police.)
March 7 (DG): Conference: Workers of All Lands, Unite? University of Nottingham, UK (DG is keynote speaker).
The re-edition of the brochure in French with Edo Fimmen’s writings of 1924 (“Vers le Front Unique International”) was published in Paris in January, as a joint project of the RP and GLI. The members of the Board received a copy in January. The printing costs were far less than anticipated, consequently the GLI contribution amounted to EUR250 (instead of EUR400 as originally pledged).
The Center Praxis is advancing with the translation of Boris Souvarine’s Stalin biography. the second chapter has been completed. In October, the Center Praxis received a first instalment of CHF2000 from the GLI (from a total commitment of CHF5000).
Networking and Solidarity
Ukraine: As announced in the last report, a solidarity meeting with the democratic Left in the Ukraine and with the Ukrainian people in general, opposing Russian aggression, was held in Paris on October 15, co-sponsored by the GLI and a French organizing committee.
Speakers were Olena Skoromoshchenko and Yuriy Buzdugan from the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Party, Nina Potarskaya, from the Left Opposition (Kiev), Julia Guseva (Center Praxis) and Kirill Buketov (GLI). DG attended the meeting but spoke only in the discussion. Vincent Présumey chaired.
The meeting launched a campaign for the release of Alexander Kolchenko, a Ukrainian anarchist and a well-known anti-fascist activist in Crimea, and of others (in particular Oleg Sentsov, film maker) who were abducted by the Russian authorities in May 2014 in Crimea for organizing demonstrations against the occupation and annexation of Crimea. They are currently detained in Moscow. Kolchenko has been charged with invented “crimes” (organizing a terrorist group linked to the far-right “Pravy Sektor” and the illegal possession of firearms). He is facing a frame-up trial in the Stalinist tradition (the judge refused to recognize his Ukrainian nationality) and is risking a 20-year sentence.
The Kolchenko campaign has gained some (modest) traction in France and in French-speaking Switzerland, where it is driven by the GLI with support from SolidaritéS and the Socialist Party.
The Paris meeting was attended by 50-60 persons, coming from left-socialist, anarchist, syndicalist and Trotskyist backgrounds. It was decided to create a permanent committee and to launch a website.
The GLI made a significant contribution to organizing this meeting through the work of (mostly) KB and also DG, and contributed to the expenses involved in the participation of Nina and Olena.
The continuation committee remains informal, it is mostly the French participants of the organizing committee of the meeting, plus DG and KB for the GLI. The website was finally launched at the end of January, and can be viewed at: https://soloeo.wordpress.com.
Further meetings are planned for February: with Olga Mirysova, an anarchist activist, In Geneva, Lausanne and Paris.
Greece: DG, representing the GLI, participated (for the second time) in the meeting of the Trade Union Network Europe (TUNE) on January 7 and 8. TUNE originated in the European Social Forum when the participating trade unionists felt the need to create their own forum, and it is politically linked with the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group at the European Parliament.
DG introduced a statement on Greece, previously prepared by Frank Hoffer as a basis for discussion and for a statement of solidarity. The contribution was accepted and resulted in a request to DG to draft a statement, which was done in he night of January 7 with the help of Heinz Bierbaum. chair of the International Committee of Die Linke, and of Peter Damo, of the Romanian independent Teachers’ Union.
The statement was supported in the plenary by all groups except the communist union of Cyprus (PEO), which demanded the deletion of the mention of Syriza. After another round of discussion, in which DG defended the mention of Syriza, TUNE adopted by consensus a statement in support of Greece, albeit with only one mention of Syriza as opposed to three in the original version.
Moldova: DG visited the Labour Institute (Institutul Muncii) in Chişinău from December 4 to 7 on the invitation of its director, Vsevolod Barbaneagra. This was his third visit to the Labour Institute: the first two were in March 1997 and in September 2003, on behalf of the IUF and the IFWEA. The Institute had been admitted into IFWEA membership in January 2003.
Barbaneagra had been deputy general secretary of the Agricultural and Food Workers’ Union (AGROINDSIND), an IUF affiliate, resigned from the union when it came under pressure from the (then Communist) government, joined the IUF staff as an education secretary for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, then left the labour movement to take up employment in Romania, but returned to Moldova in February 2013 and was asked by the National Confederation of Trade Unions to become the director of the Labour Institute.
The main issue under discussion was the possible affiliation of the Institute to the GLI International Network. Barbaneagra believes that such an affiliation could be to a mutual advantage: for the Institute, it would mean recognition and contacts with trade unions and other workers’ education institutions in Europe and other parts of the world, as well as access to GLI research and information; for the GLI IN, the Institute could provide its facilities at affordable prices for seminars, meetings, training courses, summer schools, etc., particularly to support East-West solidarity initiatives.
The Institute building in Chisinau incorporates meeting facilities with a capacity of 15 to 200, a cafeteria/restaurant and a hotel capable of accommodating approx. 90 persons.
DG assured Barbaneagra that he would support the affiliation of the Institute if a formal application, together with the confirmation that the Institute shared the goals of the GLI IN as stated in the Mission Statement, was received.
DG also met with the group of Institute trainers (14 persons from different unions), Natalia Suboci, president of the Market and Vendors Union (a StreetNet affiliate) and Valentina Mazur, president of SindLUCAS (a union of hotel and restaurant, distributive and service workers, an IUF affiliate), with Svetlana Boincean, coordinator of the IUF Information Center for Migrant Workers, and with Rodica Popescu, assistant to Barbaneagra and alumna of the 2014 GLI ISS.
ITUC: On January 11 the Board received a copy of a letter sent on that day to Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, concerning the attendance of Alexei Issaiev, FNPR Vice President, at the national congress of the Front National party at Lyon in November. No response has been received by the GLI.
A broadly similar letter was sent to Sharan Burrow on January 30 by the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (SGB/USS), forwarded to the Board on February 5.
The bulletin of the CGT (France) international department carried a report on the FNPR participation in the Front National congress titled “Shame on Issaiev”.
According to the latest information received by the Board (from Center Praxis on February 8) Sharan Burrow attended the FNPR congress in Sochi held that week-end and in her fraternal address reportedly described FNPR president Shmakov as her personal friend, praised FNPR activities, said that Russia under Putin is at the forefront of the struggle against inequality in the world and can be a peacekeeper in the international arena.
The Board may wish to discuss and decide on further action on this matter.
Greece: The GLI has been an early and active supporter of Syriza, as demonstrated by the visit of a GLI delegation (DG, Dave Spooner, Lefteris Kretsos, Krastyo Petkov) in June 2013 to Athens to discuss the possibility of setting up a GLI Greece in partnership with Syriza.
On January 5, DG was made aware by Center Praxis of long standing ties and statements by leading Syriza cadres with reactionary circles in Russia close to the Putin regime and with the Russian government itself. A correspondence followed between DG and Kretsos (the GLI Syriza contact) which remained inconclusive.
With respect to Syriza the GLI is now faced with a contradictory imperative: the necessity of giving the Greek government full support in its confrontation with the “Troika”, and the necessity of opposing its policy of supporting Russian authoritarian and reactionary policies in the Ukraine, in Russia itself and internationally.
This contradiction is not unique to Greece but appears, in different degrees and forms, in many organizations and movements of the independent Left.
The Board may wish to consider how to position the GLI in this context.
Alda De Giorgi continues to work as a part-time administrative assistant, principally keeping track of the accounts as well as performing other administrative tasks.
Nora Payuyo and Yolanda Ignacio take care of cleaning and maintenance (every other week).
The Board will receive a separate report under Item 7 of the agenda of its March 2015 meeting.