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posted 23 Oct 2014, 08:59 by Gerry Kangalee
A fairly odd event took place this past Saturday evening at the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago. It was a gathering of seasoned labour organizers to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the National Workers Union (NWU).  

Although the union is relatively young, the bulk of the organizers were a blast from the past. They milled about with humble exuberance, referring to each other as ‘comrades’ and listened intently as the leaders of the NWU called for the socialist transformation of society.

In an era dominated by finance capital and widespread corruption, it is understandably difficult to find value in a declining labour movement. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 effectively marked the triumph of Western (neo) liberalism over State socialism. Workers were left to fend for themselves, as capitalism spread its tentacles to every corner of the globe and unions succumbed to the logic of corporate bureaucracy.  

The wealth gap between the ruling elites and the working poor continues to widen exponentially. It is not even clear who constitutes a worker, as millions around the world are resigned to temporary work and only a step away from joining the reserve army of the unemployed.

The dedicated members of the NWU do not seem deterred by the failures of the past nor the contradictions of the present. Their vision is set on the future. The NWU is the most progressive and radical labour union operating in Trinidad and Tobago today, with an insistence on organizing the unorganized in diverse sectors and a stubborn focus on union democracy.  

The NWU is the only union in Trinidad and Tobago that allows for other unions to affiliate with it, fostering a broad coalition of trade unions and a united front. Individual employees, who may not have prior union affiliation, are also encouraged to bring their grievances to the union to find resolutions. The members of the NWU are at the heart of its organizational structure. According to the organization’s Deputy President, Cecil Paul, the NWU is opposed to any form of authoritarian leadership.

What is to be done? The NWU offers a sobering programme for taking charge of the present and shaping the future. It is a programme that calls for us to recognize Imperialism as a fundamental category for understanding modern society.  

The state has become a revolving door for corporate vultures and their political vampires. As billions are looted by white-collar criminals, the black-collar poor are confined to ghettos monitored by highly militarized police forces.  

Everything is being privatized -- land, housing, healthcare, education. All that is solid is melting into air before our eyes. This is true in the United States as much as it is true is Trinidad and Tobago.  

It is incorrect to claim that Trinidad and Tobago is fractured by issues of race rather than class. The success of the NWU proves that unions are anything but a relic of the 20th century. The strength of our unions reflects the strength of our society. With their hard work, commitment, patience, diligence, and fortitude, the comrades at NWU are charting the course for a more egalitarian future where those who toil have the right to dictate the terms of social production and distribution.

Every empire feels it is unique and exceptional. Comrades, let us keep strong during the dark times of the current empire. As reactionary storms gather around us, let us continue to sing the songs of revolution and forge ahead in unison.