Monday, September 30, 2013


All participants in the seminar on the photo.

Is Trade Union pluralism just a dream or is it reality in the trade union world? Particpants from many different countries of Europe debated on this question based on analysis of the reality in their countries during the seminar “Trade Union pluralism, reality or a dream”, held last week in Berlin, Germany (25-26 September 2013). The seminar was organized by the Danish trade union confederation KRIFA and the European Centre for Workers' Questions EZA in cooperation with the European Organization of the World Organization of Workers (EO/WOW) and financially supported by the European Commission.

Guenther Trausnitz, EO/WOW President and FCG GPA secretary general, was one of the speakers at the opening of the seminar. The others were WOW board member Adelbert Ewen and Matthias Homey of EZA.

During the workshop the participants exchanged experiences on trade union pluralism in their country. You will be surprised to hear that in a country like Germany the trade union of metalworkers, the biggest, the richest and most powerfull union IGM uses courts to harass and make life difficult to the Christian Metal Workers trade union CGM. The result is that CGM had to use a big part of its membership contributions for paying the costs of these legal proceedings. The IGM accused the CGM not being a real trade union. In Gemany this is a legal question. Without being recognized as a real trade union one cannot sign collective agreements and without collective agreements a trade union risks to lose its reason to exist.

Ms.Isabella Biletta from EUROFOND started the seminar with a bird-eye view on " 'Trade Union Pluralism on European level".

More or less the same happened in Spain, another memberstate of the European Union. For 12 years it was impossible for the Spanish CIC (Confederacion Intersindical de Cajas) to sign collective agreements because the two big Confederations UGT (General Union of Workers) and CCOO (Workers Committees) did not accept the CIC as a partner, while the CIC had enough votes of the workers for being a legal negotiating partner. I was told that the presidency of the European Trade Union Confederation ETUC nowadays is in hands of a member of CCOO (you cannot find confirmation on the ETUC website).

Ms. Anne Kiesow from the Christian Metal Trade Union CGM spoke on "Trade Union Pluralism in Germany".

Even worse is the situation in Denmark. Some time ago about 200 workers of the dominant Confederation LO went on strike in a Carlsberg brewery as a collective protest against one of their collegues because he had chosen to be a member of the Danish Christian trade union confederation KRIFA. Carlsberg fired the worker because it did not want to have problems with LO. In trade union history this is called “deprivation of livelihood”. To make it impossible for trade unions to become active in their company, employers fired workers who were members of a trade union. So today there are unions who use the same weapon against workers who belong to an other union just because they are afraid losing their dominance instead of looking for ways to work together for the benefit of all employees in the company. This is not the only case. It's happened many times before. I wonder what these Carlsberg workers would do if in Denmark only one brand of beer – not Carlsberg – could be sold?

Mr. Wolfgang Pischinger, President of FCG GPA and WOW Board member, spoke about "Pluralism in the Austrian Trade Union work.

However, the worst cases we got from Ukraina from our friends of VOST. In Ukraina the transition to democracy and an open market economy has been slowed down by post-communist forces with the result that Government and employers - many times so-called oligarchs – cooperate together with the aim to create confusion. Employers create their own company unions (so called yellow unions) with our without the help of people from outside the company. The Government recognizes trade unions that exists only on paper. Workers have to become member of the union if they want to keep their job. This is the dark side of pluralism that should be attacked by all democratic forces in Ukraina.

Ms.Dragana Petkovic-Gajic, PhD Political Sciences and Project Manager Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia -CATUS, spoke about "What consequences does Trade Union Pluralism have? Positive and negative aspects of pluralism in South-Eastern Europe.

Another case is Serbia where Western European Banks are buying local banks but do not respect the trade union rights. President Marja Erdelj of the Serbian Union BOFOS informed that for example the French Bank Credit Agricole forced its employees to sign a letter in which they promise not to become a member of a trade union. She hopes to reestablish the rights of the employees during a meeting to which she has been invited by the Management.

Mr. Piet Hazenbosch, Adviser to the board of the Dutch confederation CNV, spoke about "The Dutch case of trade union pluralism".

Fortunately, there are also countries where trade union pluralism has been accepted by all trade unions and where it works reasonably well as for example in Austria, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Malta and post-communist Lithuania. Netherlands has an already long history of trade union pluralism consisting of a social-democratic, christian and liberal-conservative confederation and some national branch unions. Until World War II there was also a Catholic oriented confederation which merged with the social-democratic confederation in the seventies of the past century. All confederations participate in the national social dialogue and all unions are involved in collective agreements.

Mr.Mattheus Homey of EZA spoke on "The importance of Trade Union pluralism from the perspective of EZA".

In Austria, after World War II the Allied Forces together with the forces of Russia forced the trade unions to become one unified confederation called the Austrian Trade Union Confederation ÖGB. Within the ÖGB there are different fractions. The 2 most important fractions are the Socialist fraction FSG ÖGB and the Christian Fraction FCG ÖGB. This system of fractions exists also in the seven branche unions of the ÖGB. In most of these branche unions the Socialist fraction has the majority. In the Branch Trade Union for Private Employed and Print, Journalists and Paper GPA the Christian fraction is a significant minority. In the public services union GÖD, the Christian fraction has the majority.

Mr. Soren Fibiger Olesen, President of KRIFA Denmark, presented his topic " I have a dream that one day all unions can work together to promote the interest of the workers!" 

The seminar topic was introduced by Md. Isabella Biletta, Research Manager of EUROFOND, a tri-partite European Union Agency, that provides knowledge to assist in the development of social and work-related policies. One of the tasks of EUROFOND was to establish criteria for the selection of representative trade unions that could participate in the branch social dialogue commissions of the European Union. She presented also the results of a long term research project that shows that trade union membership continues declining with exceptions in some countries like for example Belgium. It seems that the trade unions don't have yet the right answers to this loss of members. Can it be that the trade unions have become more of an institution than of a social movement? 

The presentation of the results of the working groups. From left to right: Adalbert Ewen (President CMG Germany) as the president of the day, Jolien Dekker from CNV Dienstenbond, Henning Röders from DVV Germany and Jelena Soms from LWU Lithuania.

The participants agreed with the proposal to send a letter to the European Social Economic Committee EESC in which the right of trade union pluralism will be formulated as a fundamental workers right. Workers should have a choice between trade unions free of any discrimination to them as well the trade union to which they belong. In the letter also the cases of the violation of this right on trade union pluralism will be mentioned. The letter will therefore include the cases of violations of trade union pluralism as cited above.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Under this picture in my scrapbook I wrote "A visit to the headquarters of CMOT Moscow where was also present CMOT Petersburg. There was in that apartment a kind of a brooding, conspiratorial atmosphere. CMOT Moscow and Petersburg seemed a hodgepodge from which you could make neither head nor tail and had little to do with unions.” The photo of Marilyn Monroe on the wall together with a framed picture of some major Russian person gave me the feeling of being lost in time and place. On the right side of the photo Krisztoff Dowgiallo, vice-president of WCL and head of our delegation.The 2 on the left are from CMOT Moscow.(photo Petrus)

We visited a group of CMOT in one of those typical apartment blocks in the suburbs of Moscow. The conversation was disappointing. Maybe they were courageous dissidents but they had little or no contact with real trade unions. Back in our hotel we also spoke to Matvienko of CMOT in Minsk, Belarus. 3 years later I organized a mission to Belarus together with the ICFTU, but that's a different story. We also met Massalowitsj, one of the leaders of miners in Vorkuta. He insisted that we would immediately travel to Vorkuta, about 2000 kilometers north of Moscow and 150 kilometer above the Arctic Circle. He told us that there were thousands of miners on strike for months because they had not received wages any more. The non-payment of wages would become a growing problem in Russia over the next years. Sometimes workers had to survive months without any payments. The trip to Vorkuta, we did not make. Subsequent attempts afterwards to get in contact with him unfortunately failed.

A picture of the WCL delegates Amrita Sietaram and myself (in the centre) together with Vorkuta miners' representative  Massalovitsj (third from right) on the Red Square.  First on the right side is the leader of the new party who wanted to introduce in Russia the politics of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The others were from some other unions.(photo Petrus) 

The history of the striking miners in Vorkuta is the story of  Russian Communism in a nutshell. In the '30s of the last century in Vorkuta was built one of the largest prison camps of the Gulag Archipelago. The occasion was the discovery of coal stocks. Thousands of forced laborers, including many supporters of the famous communist Trotsky (murdered in Mexico City), had to work under extremely difficult conditions in mines and build roads. In 1953, shortly after Stalin's death, for the third time a rebellion among the forced laborers broke out. The uprising was beaten down by the Red Army and the security forces. Thousands of them were executed without any kind of trial. In the time of Nikita Khrushchev some Gulag camps were closed. After the fall of the Soviet Union, many coal mines were closed because they were not profitable anymore.

An Orthodox priest also Member of Parliament, his name I can not remember, had organized a press conference in the Parliament building. After we had presented our delegation and had held a brief introduction about the WCL, one could ask questions. But how do you explain what a civil society is to people who are only familiar with state, party and government institutions? How do you explain people who have never experienced free elections what are free and independent trade unions. How do you explain what is a social dialogue, collective bargaining and collective agreements in a country without employers except the state?

We organized meetings in a corner of the hotel. Here you see on the right side of the picture Christophe Jussac from the French Confederation CFDT who speaks russian.In the centre of the picture you see Matvienko from CMOT Belarus. On his right side Alexandre Ivanchenko from the Ukrainian VOST confederation. Left from him Amrita Sietaram from CNV Netherlands. You see the backside of our translator Alexandre Volkov.(photo Petrus)

We were invited by some members of a new democratic party to eat at home of the leader of the party. A disconcerting experience. There was no beginning of any party structure. His political manifesto was overwhelmingly simple: apply the policy of the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Russia. How great the confusion was turned out during a meeting with a group of men of which we were told that they wanted to cooperate with the international trade union movement. However, after some time we discovered that we were talking with businessmen who thought that we as Western trade unions could help them to do international business. We left the building as soon as possible leaving behind the Russian businessmen even more confused than before.

In our relatively expensive hotel it was a corrupt mess. I could only make an international call after giving a big US dollar tip to the operator. Breakfast was not there unless you gave a big mouth to the waiters or gave some extra US dollars. In and outside the elevator I was constantly harassed by prostitutes. In the hall a driver was beaten by a dozen of other drivers because he did not adhere to their code, as explained our translator. We were glad we could leave. We realized that the free and democratic trade union movement in Russia had to go a quite long way.

As regular readers know, I was not only confederal secretary of the WCL but also executive secretary of some International Trade Federations: the World Federation of Clerical Workers (WFCW) and the World Federation of Industrial Workers (WFIW). WFCW chairman Jaap Kos I learned to know during a kind of job interview at the headquarters of the Dienstenbond CNV in Amsterdam. Ivo Psenner, President of the European Organization of WFCW and Richard Paiha, secretary of the Christian Group in the Austrian GPA in Vienna, were present during this interview. WFIW Chairman Leo Dusoleil, also chairman of ACV Industry, I learned to know very well during our tour along the trade federations of Solidarnosc (The Downfall of the WCL, part 4)

From left to right: Doekle Terpstra, the new president of the Dutch trade federation Industry and Food IVB member of the confederation CNV. Wim van de Jagt, the treasurer of the trade union. Frits Hanko the leaving president of the same union. In the background you see some metal workers in one of the factories we were visiting during our stay in Paraguay.

The WFIW had organized together with FLATI, the regional organization of the WFIW in Latin America, a seminar in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Prior to the seminar, I traveled as an interpreter and expert of Latin America along with a delegation of the Dutch CNV Industry and Food Union to Paraguay. We visited the confederation CNT, member of WCL and CLAT. Pedro Parra of the CNT Board was our guide during our visit to a farmers' union, a metal factory, a sugar factory, a judge of the Supreme Court, the Bishop of Asuncion, slum dwellers, the newspaper ABC, a radio station and the Minister of Justice.

You can't miss it. In the centre of the picture you see Paraguayan Dictator General Alfredo Stroessner enjoying his birthday party on the 3 of november 1987. Behind him in white military uniforms his loyal generals. (photo Petrus)

Three years after the fall of dictator General Alfredo Stroessner (in 1989 Stroessner was overthrown by another general) there was not much changed in the country. Of course, that was not possible in such a short period. Stroessner had been in power for 35 years (1954-1989) thanks to his generals, the Colorado Party and years of U.S. support. It was the longest dictatorship of an individual ruler in Latin America and the world's longest-serving non-Communist head of state. During a visit to Paraguay in 1987, because of the One Day Wage Campaign of CLAT Netherlands ( Campaña Un Dia de Salario), I had been invited along with a TV team from the Netherlands at the birthday party of the dictator. With our own eyes we could see a Latin American dictator according to the known cliches: he himself surrounded by generals in immaculate white uniforms full of medals, a court of faithful authorities who benefited from his dictatorship, singers and poets who sang for him and children handing over bouquets of flowers.

At that time the unions had to work semi-clandestinely. Their leaders were arrested constantly like politicians such as Domingo Laino, a leader of the liberal opposition against the dictator. It was a country with the silence of a graveyard. Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, was no bigger than a provincial city with little activity while most of the population lived in poverty in rural areas. The difference now is that the trade unions can do their work openly without being threatened to be prosecuted or imprisoned immediately. Paraguay has come back to life, thanks to the work of trade unions, the Catholic Church and other social organizations but far enthusiasm and time will be needed before the pernicious legacy of Stroessner will have disappeared to make way for new economic and political dynamics that will bring progress and prosperity.

Te be continued

The above story is a personal testimony of what happened at the end of the last century and the beginning of the new millennium in the international trade union movement, in particular in CLAT and the WCL.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I took this picture in March 1992 in one of the streets of the historical centre of Vilnius. As you can see the houses are completely neglected. The same you could see in other cities like for example Budapest, Bucarest, Sofia and others. I believe this is due to the Marxist arrogance to history and as a consequence to historic buildings. Communists believed that when they came to power, real history had started. A misconception that is also known of the French Revolution and much later of the Cuban revolution.

During my visits to Central and Eastern Europe, I gradually discovered that no communist regime had been able to provide decent shelter to its people. By Western standards or should I say capitalist standards, the huge and ugly buildings in the suburbs of the cities are people unworthy. They have been build without enough space in between, there are often no trees or lawns around. The vast, dimly lit hallways of apartment buildings resemble those of a prison. Everywhere you see peeling paint and makeshift repairs of rusting pipes. You can not control the temperature of the central heating system of one apartment, let alone of one room. It is on or off. If you find it too hot, you should open a window, whereby precious fired heat flies out the window. This is a sheer waste of energy.

Our first flat tire on the road from Vilnius to Riga. The highway between the 2 capitals was still empty. On the right Amrita Sietaram of CNV, in the middle the driver and on the left Kristoff Dowgiallo, vice-president of WCL.

We left Vilnius in the Moskwa to Riga, capital of Latvia. Between Vilnius and Riga lies a large, modern highway of about 300 kilometers. The motorway was as good as deserted. The first flat tire could still be easily changed thanks to a spare tire. At the 2nd flat tire, there was nothing else we could do than to repair it ourselves. It proved to be a primitive form of vulcanization with gasoline from the tank of the car to heat the mess. The third flat tire, there was nothing else to do than to look for a farm at the roadside. We were well received and helped.

Meanwhile Kristoff had explained to me the principles of the Communist industrial production of cars. First comes the army. Since the army always has enough money, costs do not matter. The Moskwa was built as a military vehicle and only then adapted for civilian traffic. Therefore it is a heavy car with thick metal plates that slurps to much gasoline and moves like a tank.

The second flat tire we had on the border between Lithuania and Latvia. On the right Kristoff, in the middle Daiva of the LWU and next to her myself.

Ford's invention of efficient, inexpensive and yet useful people's car (T-Ford) had remained nearly unknown in Russia. Of course, Western car models were copied, with or without help from the West, like for example Fiat in Russia (Lada) and Renault (Dacia) in Romania. But if you copy something that does not mean you understand completely why it is made that way. This requires insight and especially a lot of experience. The same principle also applies for democracy. You can copy it with candidates, parties and elections, but that does not mean that it works.

Democracy is a political lifestyle, requires mutual trust and tolerance, willingness to compromise, experience with working in coalition etc. It takes many years to develop this in a society. This means that a lot of patience is needed with the development in former communist Europe and Russia. The question is whether the coming decades the citizens of East and West will have enough patience with the transformation of their societies. For example in financial terms, expenses for the reunification of East and West Germany (1990) were about 75 billion Euro a year for more then 10 years. Until the present day Eastern Germany depends on funding from West Germany.

Over the years I saw that working conditions in former Communist countries were just as bad as most of the products. The factories were dangerous, very poorly lit with very unsafe and unhealthy working conditions. The word Medieval often came to my mind when I visited another hopelessly outdated factory, even though there were in the Middle Ages, of course, no factories. During such visits I was often asked if I could find investors so that the factory could remain and the workers keep their jobs. I had to disappoint them. Their products could never compete with Western products, not technologically nor with prices. The result was that over time many factories in the former communist countries were closed, resulting in a growing number of unemployed.

When we had a flat tire for the third time we needed the help of a farmer along the road.

By evening we arrived in Riga. We had been on the road all day long. Later in the evening we had a meeting with some union leaders in a caravan converted into a coffeehouse. We exchanged names and addresses and promised once again in Brussels to contact with proposals for further cooperation. That was our first and only contact we ever had in Latvia. Besides, also the LWU never joined the WCL, despite the good contacts with the help of Solidarnosc and Kristoff Dowgiallo. A few months later I would meet the president of a more Christian-oriented Lithuanian confederation at a seminar in Budapest, that became a member of the WCL.

The next morning we left for Moscow with a full schedule of appointments with new leaders and a member of parliament. I already knew Moscow from a visit as a student with a group of students of political science in the year 1969. At that time many students saw communism as a humane alternative to capitalism, not to mention imperialism. It were indeed the sixties of the student protests against the Vietnam War, for democratization of universities, sexual liberation, faith in the Cuban revolution and the so-called revolutionary liberation movements in Latin America, the Chinese cultural revolution etc.

In 1969, during our visit to Moscow we students  joked with a statue of Lenin in front of the House of the Union of Writers.

It was therefore hilarious to discover that communism meant in practice an old-fashioned conservative dictatorship without freedom of speech, no freedom of association, no right to strike or holding a demonstration. We saw how a young Georgian was discriminated. We were not allowed in some restaurants because we had no jacket and tie. Our Russian colleagues whined about records of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Women asked even for nylons. Many students wanted to swap clothes with us, so fond they were of our jeans and denim jackets. The black rate of the Russian ruble was four times lower than the official rate.

So I was wondering what it would be now under President Boris Yeltsin. At least we could freely walk in and out the Kremlin, that dark center of power in the times of Communism. A strange sensation, like the many new (Western) cars, the shops with luxury Western products, the new cosy western style restaurants and of course the free and open conversations. However, we quickly discovered that after 70 years of communism, post communist Russia was in a supreme state of confusion. We spoke union leaders from giant Soviet Factories with thousands of workers who produce tractors, aircraft parts, etc. and accused each other fiercely of betrayal, lies, working with the secret service (KGB) or the worst of all, being still a communist.

To be continued

The above story is a personal testimony of what happened at the end of the last century and the beginning of the new millennium in the international trade union movement, in particular in CLAT and the WCL.

Friday, September 6, 2013


NKOS Secretary Pavel Matousek in his modest office in Prague (march 1992)

During the seminar in Sopot we were invited by the Lithuanian Workers' Union to visit Lithuania. Kristoff Dowgiałło had contacts with new Russian trade unions leaders we could visit in Moscow. We could also contact VOST chairman Olexander Ivanchenko from Ukraine as he had said in Sopot. Travelling by train from Kiev to Moscow was not expensive. Antony Meeuws, who volunteered for the WCL as a translator of Russian documents and letters, advised us to visit the so-called alternative union CMOT in Moscow that was already active under the Communist regime. Antony knew about CMOT and other dissidents from his volunteer work for Amnesty International. We planned to leave at the end of March; first to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania and then to Moscow.

But first we went to the Europe Forum in Prague, organized by the ETUC. It was my first experience with the ETUC. I do not remember much of the meeting except that we stayed in a brand new and luxurious hotel (because of EU financing?). The role of the ETUC in former communist Europe was not yet clear because the future of Europe was still unclear. Of course, since the fall of communism in Europe, there was optimism but there was also a lot of uncertainty. The optimism was that it was now possible to establish free, democratic and independent trade unions in former Communist Europe and Russia and to support them as had happened with Solidarnosc. Probably in the near future Europe would become united within the European Union, but nobody had any idea how and when.

For the citizens of Central and Eastern Europe and Russia the downfall of the communist regimes brought not only freedom but also a lot of uncertainty. After 50 years of communist dictatorship (in Russia more than 70 years), few had any memory of what meant freedom or democracy. No one had experience anymore with the union as a free association of workers without any interference from the state, with its own democratic structure and its own program. Private enterprises were unknown. Nobody had experience with negotiating wages and other labor conditions. Even more difficult was the question what to do with your freedom and how to survive when the state does no longer take care of everything? Some dreamed of Western prosperity but had no idea how this could be realised. There existed also the not unreasonable fear that the Russians would try to recover their empire again after some time. For the new post-communist governments therefore the protective umbrellas of the U.S. and NATO were more important than creating a free market, privatise state enterprises or to get the membership of the European Union.

Within the ETUC all this stood not on the agenda. One was more concerned about the new grants from the European Union from the Phare Tacis program than to develop a political vision on the future of Europe. The Phare Tacis program of the EU was indeed meant to support projects for the development of democracy and free elections, a free market economy with private companies and to build and strengthen a civil society. Obviously the EU did have already some policy toward the former Communist countries, the ETUC did not.

Arrival of Amrita Sietaram from CNV (on the right) together with Daiva from the LWU ( on the left) and the driver of the Moskva, also a legacy from the old Communist trade union.(march 1992)

It was generally accepted that the WCL and the ICFTU would support the new founded trade unions as wel as the reformed post-communist trade unions. I was told by WCL secretary general Carlos Custer that both international organisations had agreed not to proceed immediately to the affiliation of these unions. They would get time to get acquainted with the international trade union environment. But according to Carlos this gentlemen's agreement had been violated already by the ICFTU, by affiliating the Bulgarian Confederation Podkrepa. Later on, Podkrepa President Konstatin Trenchev himself acknowledged that he would have preferred to become a member of the WCL but that the ICFTU had offered more financial support. Such practices should not occur in the trade union movement but often politics based on financial power wins from policy based on principles and values, a phenomenon as old as humanity itself.

My stay in Prague gave me the opportunity to meet Pavel Matousek and Alois Anton of the new Christian trade union federation NKOS. They had good contacts with the Christian trade union group FCG in Austria. NKOS was a nascent trade union: small and inexperienced. Maybe NKOS - with the support of the WCL – could become a confederation of national significance. However, its national future was uncertain because at the highest political level one was negotiating about the division of the country. Therefore, later that year we would submit a joint appeal not to split the country. But it was too late. On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully split into two countries: the Czech and Slovak Republics. From then on each Republic had its own Christian oriented confederation. Some years later it would penetrate the European consciousness that the liberation of Communism also had freed nationalist forces, which were difficult or nearly impossible to control as was demonstrated during the civil wars in Yugoslavia.

LWU President Aldona Balsiene talking seriously with WCL Vice-President Kristoff Dowgiallo (march 1992)

Immediately after the Prague stop I went with Kristoff Dowgiałło and Amrita Sietaram of CNV to Lithuania where we were received by the board of the LWU in their office in the former Culture Building of the official Communist Confederation, near the center of the capital Vilnius. The new democratic unions including the LWU had occupied this building. At that time in Lithuania people were very curious about everything that came from Western Europe so Amrita and I were asked to participate together with LWU President Aldona Balsiene in a TV forum.

Lithuania had a tragic liberation struggle. After a landslide victory in elections to the Supreme Soviet, members of the anti-communist independence party Sąjūdis proclaimed Lithuania's independence on 11 March 1990, becoming the first Soviet republic to do so. The Soviet Union attempted to suppress the secession by imposing an economic blockade. Soviet troops attacked the Vilnius TV Tower, killing 14 Lithuanian civilians and wounding 600 others on the night of 13 January 1991 (January Events). On 31 July 1991 Soviet paramilitaries killed seven Lithuanian border guards on the Belarusian border in what Became known as the Massacre Medininkai.

Strolling through Vilnius it occurred to me how strongly this ancient and venerable city was neglected during the Communist regime. Everywhere I looked were neglected houses although there were still people living in it. Later I saw the same neglect of old beautiful buildings in many other cities in former Communist countries such as Bucharest, the capital of Romania (where dictator Ceaucescu teared down entire neighborhoods to build his megalomaniac People's Palace) and Budapest the capital of Hungary (you could still see the bullet holes in the walls from the 1956 uprising).

To be continued

The above story is a personal testimony of what happened at the end of the last century and the beginning of the new millennium in the international trade union movement, in particular in CLAT and the WCL.