On November 18-19, 2009, in Tolyatti the round table “Trade union strategy in the crisis conditions: how to protect the workers – our tasks, demands and actions” took place. It was organized by the Institute for globalization and social movements (IGSO), the All-Russian labor confederation (VKT) and School of labor democracy. The aim of meeting was to assess the situation on AvtoVAZ in Tolyatti, to appraise the social effects of the economic crisis on the city, region, plant, and also to define both strategic and tactical goals of the trade unions and social movements.
Members of the trade unions, social movements and civil organizations took part in the meeting.
The discussion was opened by Boris Kagarlitsky, director of IGSO, who underlined that the round table was organized in order to work out and discuss approaches and positions on the way out of the situation caused by the economic crisis and by the inadequate actions of the powers and of the AvtoVAZ management. Boris Kagarlitsky said that there are no ready-made answers and that the answer to the question “Who is guilty?” is not obvious for people. He added that in the conditions of the economic inefficiency of the official measures, in the conditions of the pressure on the trade unions and public opinion we must not be constructive and offer the powers ready recipes, we must, first of all, demand observance of our rights. And it is very important to realize how these or those “anti-crisis” measures of the powers can threaten the rights and condition of the workers now and in the future.
Correlation of forces, which is still not in favor of the trade unions and social movements, will be decisive. Bur Boris Kagarlitsky added that weak did not mean powerless, and the main task was to change the correlation of forces.
Galina Rakitskaya, head of the School of labor democracy, paid attention of the auditorium to the fact that they were suggested to discuss the project of demands to the powers made by the workers of the plant. She underlined that the aim of the seminar was not the utopian salvation plan for AvtoVAZ. She said that demands of observance of social rights and guarantees for the workers and citizens of the city were invariant to the fortune of the plant. The main aim of the meeting is the answer to three key questions.
Firstly, it is necessary to understand the situation in the movement – in the trade union and in the broader, social movement, today, connecting this assessment with the real situation in Tolyatti. Secondly, to decide on what we want. In the judgment of Rakitskaya demands made at the rallies are not structured, tactical and strategic, social, economic and political demands, aims and means are mixed. And, finally, it is necessary to find out to whom the claims will be laid and who will be responsible for their realization. Rakitskaya underlined that it was the most difficult task.
Boris Kravchenko, president of the All-Russian labor confederation, said that members of the round-table would not offer the panacea to AvtoVAZ. It is necessary to formulate the main problem of the plant – surplus staff and threat of dismissal. Natural task of the trade union in this situation is to resist dismissals. But the complex, step-by-step strategy is obligatory. A kind of strategy that would allow to orientate quickly and to find the adequate response to the actions of the government and plant administration. Because their strategy is already worked out and they want to persuade the people that crisis can be surmounted in the very system it was born. There arises the problem of subjectivity. Today there is a strong demand for the drastic social and political action, but its subject is being formed with serious difficulties.
There are hundreds of free trade unions’ members. There are inspiring examples, but there are very many losses. The subject of political activity in Russia is still very weak when demand for such activity is very high. There is an oversight in the work with the trade unions – weak coordination of activity with the social initiatives, and the trade union experience is very limited and localized. In order to answer the question what the way out of crisis acceptable for the workers can be we must answer the question who will offer and implement this program from the part of the workers, of the society.
Peter Zolotarev, leader of the trade union “Edinstvo” (Unity) noted that trade union is the only organized social power on the plant, but it is not numerous and does not always find understanding from the part of the workers. The problem is in the personal factor.
Different problems and issues were touched upon during three sessions. First of all, interconnection of the fortune of Tolyatti and AvtoVAZ, acceptability and opportuneness of demands concerning nationalization, methods of interaction with the social movements.
Boris Rakitskiy (School of labor democracy), Vladimir Zhilchenko (“Tolyatti- caoutchouc” trade union), Caryn Clement (Institute “Collective action”), Maria Kurzina (International trade union of food industry), Andrei Lyapin (“Edinstvo”) participated in the discussion.
The main conclusion was that to solve even local problems of one plant or one city it is necessary to go beyond the frames of one trade union or one social movement, it is obligatory to form the broad coalition of trade unions and social movements that could become the subject of the social and political action.