About the text:
From: The Young Communist, Undated [august 1970].
The article is an abridged version, translated from the Danish “Ungkommunisten”, Vol. 3, no. 5, June 1970.
In 1967-68 the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with the Danish Trades Union Congress sent out a trades union expert – previous consultant in AOF (the Workers! Information Association) – to Ethiopia where he was to be adviser to the Ethiopian trades union movement.
In five articles – socalled travel letters – in the Trade Paper of the Unskilled and Semi-skilled Labourers he described his activity to Danish workers. The expert who is called Villy Pedersen described his work as trade union adviser and eagerly wrote about the poverty of the population, his own bourgeoisie-house with all modern amenities, and the many parties he attended.
The Articles are certainly interesting – they partly give information about how very reactionary trades unions function (the Ethiopian trades ‘Unions mere or less have the same structure as the American ones) and partly they give information about how Danish volunteers function as the long arm of imperialism.
The task of the trades unions in Ethiopia is clearly enough to keep the places of work guiet, that is why the government has established them. The task of the Danish trades unon careerist was partly to improve the effectiveness of the cooperation between the trades unions and the government and the factory managements, and partly – in cases where the, trades unions “could not cope with the situation” – to come to their assistance and use the Danish experiences of many years treachery against the working class to re-establish peace at the places of work “for the good of everyone”.
In his articles this cur[e] reveals that in order to live up to this ideal he would stop nothing to fool the workers and suck up to the factory management, the police and to the representativess of the government.
The following is a report by himself about an incident in the factory where he had influence.
“In a clothing factory of middle size a leading functionary one day found a stolen sweater in the women’s toilet. After this the management decided that in the future the women – mainly quite young girls were to be searched before they went to the toilet. Searching was already taking place at the factory gate when the workers left the factory. Because of all this the girls were so irritated that a couple of days later they attacked one of the women searchers and beat her up so much that she had to enter hospital for a couple of weeks to be patched up. The police was called, and a few of the girls ended up in prison. All of the hundred girls in the factory were punished with five days lock-out by the management. Their day’s wage is about two to four Danish kroner for an eight hour day. The director of the ministry here in Asmara, however, got the the punishment reduced to three days. Now the trade union committee which consisted of quite young people, completely lost their heads. When the girls had been punished with five days lock-out they were to damn well stay away for five days. The result was an illegal strike, and men [male, ed.] workers were forced away from the factory.
The situation was completely chaotic. An illegal strike is a very serious thing down here, and the authorities will stop at nothing to get, the wheels turning again.
We tried to reach a peaceful solution through negotiation with the management, the deputy director of the ministry and the writer of this letter, and we worked out a plan of a compromise according to which everybody would keep their jobs. A couple of trades union leaders, however, had to withdraw from their positions of trust.
… We achieved no solution – the illegal strike continued. A few “strong” and provocative girls had the others totally in their power, and the trades union committee were fanning the flames behind the scenes. Now several of them had no chance of returning to the factory. Many meetings were held, and some of the trades union leaders who tried to talk reason to them were almost lynched. The girls were unbending.
At last after much resistance both from the leaders and from the girls I got a secret ballot forced through for and against resuming work. Eventually the situation was so serious for the girls that they all risked being fired without any rights, and the leaders risked being imprisoned. The consequences could be serious for the other trades unions in Asmara too.
The result of the vote was that 38 girls voted for resuming work, and 62 against. However we knew that the vote did not express the girls genuine wish. A few girls still had a dominating influence and they were feared. Therefore we decided to reverse the voting figures, and we told the girls that 62 had voted for resuming work and 38 against. The result caused great rejoicings, and when I had given them a few fatherly words on their way they went home satisfied. The next morning work was resumed in peace, and we have had no problems since then.”
Picture text: The fat, Danish worker aristocrat, the trades union careerist, the imperialist-playboy, the corrupt pig Villy Pedersen is basking in the spotlight at a trades union party in Ethiopia. (The picture was not part of the English edition – but has been taken from the Danish edition)