The STUC conference held in Dundee 17-19 April adopted overwhelmingly a motion drafted by its general council in solidarity with Ukraine. The STUC General Secretary Roz Foyer said in moving the motion that Ukraine had been invaded and occupied, that we must stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and support their acts of self-defence.
The motion agreed extending solidarity with trade unions in Ukraine resisting the invasion, including militarily, and supporting the anti-war activists in Russia. The resolution recognises that without military equipment, the people of Ukraine would be unable to resist the invasion and would be under permanent occupation. It goes on to back peace talks but notes that such talks would be not effective if support for Ukraine is withdrawn. Finally, the resolution commits the STUC to oppose direct NATO involvement and to call for support for refugees from Ukraine as well as for others fleeing wars.
The first to oppose the motions backed by the Morning Star and the Stop the War Coalition was John Dennis, a Dumfries TUC delegate, and also a supporter of UCS (Scotland) and a member of the Radical Independence Campaign. John, whose Jewish father was evacuated from the Sudetenland, had members of his family sent to Auschwitz. John made the comparison between those proposing a Munich-style agreement today and what it meant back then. He also pointed out the consequences of failing to provide arms to support the Spanish Republic. He was followed by Jim Baxter, a delegate speaking on behalf of ASLEF, told the conference that “When a sovereign, democratic state is invaded by an autocratic and authoritarian bully like Putin, we must always stand in solidarity with the oppressed and always in opposition to the aggressor. … you can be opposed to any expansion of NATO, without saying that this is to blame for Russia’s invasion. You can oppose this Tory government’s failings to deal with the cost of living crisis, without believing it is wrong to support Ukraine’s defence against invasion.” *
The decision by the STUC is welcome. Solidarity with Ukraine is a trade union issue, and a simple matter of working class internationalism let alone humanitarian compassion. The left and the labour movement in Britain should therefore be in solidarity with trade-unionists and socialists in Ukraine that are participating in the armed resistance against the invasion, occupation and destruction of their country.
Trade-unions in Ukraine, just like in Britain, are also organising against the neoliberal attacks on labour rights by their government and against employers. For several months, in Kyiv, Lviv, and other cities, hospital workers, especially nurses, have been mobilising to defend their rights. The main issues are unpaid salaries, working conditions, and hospital closures. Independent grassroots unions have emerged.
The invasion of Ukraine is another imperialist invasion that should be defeated and opposed by the left internationally. In 2003, Blair and Bush illegally invaded Iraq in 2003, without a UN or NATO mandate, on a similar excuse that Putin used to invade Ukraine which was the existence of weapons of mass destruction that posed an immediate threat. Back then, the left and the trade unions opposed massively that imperialist invasion, and Blair and Bush were considered war criminals. While calling for Russian troops out of Ukraine, we must also support the resistance to the barbaric invasion, which should get the military equipment necessary. In doing so, we need to denounce the West sudden and hypocritical embrace of the fight for democracy and international law that it uses to expand NATO and massively increase military budgets. These arguments for solidarity with Ukraine are gaining ground amongst the left and the trade-unions, and will be heard at the forthcoming UCU and PCS conferences.
The Ukraine Solidarity Campaign (https://ukrainesolidaritycampaign.org/) works with trade-unions and the left in Ukraine to support them and have their voices heard in Britain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to join or affiliate to the campaign.
*This article was amended on 28 April 2023 with additional reporting.
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