Four-party conference about the Lisbon-Agenda

Delegation Germany 

Part of delegation Luxemburg 

Wil van der Klift receives the flag of 'De Maat is Vol' ('It's enough') as a member of NCPN. (Foto's Manifest)  

Following an initiative by Manifest, the newspaper of the NCPN, on 28th and 29th January delegations from communist parties from the Netherlands (NCPN), Germany (DKP), Belgium (WPB) and Luxemburg (KPL) joined together. Niek Stam, coordinator for the Dutch dockers' union FNV Bondgenoten had also been invited to elaborate on the successful actions of the 'dockers', the harbour workers in all European harbours. The four parties were represented by the responsibles for the social-economic struggle, union officials and union leaders.

This unique conference by communist and progressive union officials was an experiment. Subject of discussion was the implantation in the four countries of the 'Lisbon-Agenda', as agreed on by the EU-summit in 2000 and the impact of this agenda on working and living conditions in the four countries. The experiment posed a challenge, i.e. to find one common approach for the difficult questions that are raised by the implementation of the EU-policy in different countries and at the same time finding a way of organizing the successful cooperation by communist and other striving and progressive officials. As it is the different party officials and union leaders each have their own specific motivations, that determinate their activities and efforts in daily practice and sometimes obstruct cooperation between them.

The question that brought them together was the reality, and the realization that their daily practice and the perspectives of improvement are being dominated by decisions on European level on which the working population has no, or very insufficient influence. The contents of these decisions are being dominated by the interests of capital and political and social movements that are linked to or orientated at these interests.

Eventually these EU-decisions are taken at the highest level after corporate organizations like UNICE, The Round Table and the Bilderberg Conference have initiated or proposed them. The union summit on European level has completely accepted the capitalist means of production and free enterprise en it is no longer capable or wanting to resist these proposals and decisions. At the very most it wants to suggest amendments.

The participants at the conference realize that the daily practice that confronts them - the Agenda 2010 (Germany), the Generation Pact (Belgium), the policy of flexibility in labour relations, privatization of the energy sector, the upsetting of the health care system (Netherlands) and the National Plan for Innovation and Full Employment - is the result and the realization of the Lisbon Agenda. The 'Bolkestein Directive', the actual raising of the age of retirement, a further privatisation of the public utilities and other public services etc. are still in preparation. All the more reason to start a common counter strategy.

In order to organize this strategy it is important to make a good analysis of the experiences of our struggle. The long lasting struggle of the dockers shows that actions can be successful and that striving can be worthwhile.

Niek Stam: "The trade unions in the Netherlands but probably all over Europe make little or no efforts to inform their members about the match that has to be played in the Agenda of Lisbon-competition. By withholding education and awareness from the working class the struggle that is needed to create a perspective for this class and their children will be more and more behind. Therefore it is extremely important that the situation in each country is analysed to get a complete picture of what is going on and of what is hanging over everyone's head. If people can picture this they are also willing to put pressure on the process to defend their social achievements."

At the end of the conference all participants are of the opinion that this first test has succeeded. They want to carry on this initiative in order to create a platform for communist and progressive union officials to give labour and living conditions in Europe a social-minded perspective. The need to create new and broad alliances to achieve this is getting clearer day by day. The participants are of the opinion that a different means of production is inevitable, a means of production different from the capitalist means, which is the driving force behind the deterioration of the labour and living conditions that confronts the working class. This system question forces itself upon us more and more. Only in socialist relations stable human societies that are focused on people instead of profits can be accomplished.

A regular cross-border exchange of experiences and opinions is indispensable to create a counterweight to capital that controls the international field. This exchange must take place at regular conferences, based on preliminary work by regional and thematic study groups. There are also plans for a website where progressive union officials can find critical information about the policy of employers and capital groups to shift their competition to labour conditions, changes in this policy as well as successes of the struggle by parts of the working class and background information.

Since World War I and World War II the interests of Capital have internationally become more and more entwined. The working class in the four countries have had much experience with the transfer of production abroad, to countries with low wages, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands jobs and uncertainty and desperation amongst the people.

This economic, social and cultural process of transformation has reached a stage where also the provision of services - that at first was not interesting for Capital - is being privatised, made subject to a maximalization of profits and put into concurrence. If profitable for the capitalist also the rendering of services is transferred to countries with low wages. Again this border-crossing process seriously attacks the working population's standard of living by deterioration of the labour condition at these organisations, by the loss of jobs, a worsening level of services and higher rates for the working population.

The participants have agreed to organize subsequent conferences where the developments in the public services, the public transport, the implications on the labour conditions and the living standard en a number of other topics that are to be determined later will be discussed.

The chosen path must lead to a point where the solid agreements on a continuing cooperation that have now been made will be actually carried out, so that new impulses for an intensified cooperation will occur.