Workers Party Logo


Discussion: The war and the British trade union movement

By Nikola B

Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;

Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;

Who rules the World-Island commands the world.

Sir Halford John Mackinder, British geographer’s 1904 paper “The Geographical Pivot of History.”

At this year’s Trades Union Conference, GMB Motion 71, “Solidarity with Ukraine” was put before the delegates. Under the section “Congress notes” (iii) it stated the: “TUC’s proud history of solidarity with victims of fascist and imperialist aggression, including its support for arms to the Spanish Republic when it too faced a war of survival.”

“Slava Ukraini”, Ukraine’s national salute was also the salute of the Banderite fascists. Fighting with the Nazis, they formed two Ukrainian battalions named Nightingale and Roland as well as the Galician 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS. Their ultimate goal, attaining Ukrainian independence following a Nazi victory. Stepan Bandera, the leader of this movement and his followers slaughtered hundreds of thousands including women, children and even babies, murdered with such sadistic barbarity reason cannot comprehend, extracting from their dying breath the last ounce of unspeakable agony.

Funded by the CIA from 1945 to 1990, Bandera’s movement is still very much alive in Ukraine today, especially in the West of the country. In Lviv, Bandera’s birth place, there is a monument to him on Mytropolyta Anhelovycha Street, framed by a triumphal arch representing Ukrainian statehood. Monuments and streets named after him can be found all over Ukraine. Every New Year’s Day, the far right holds a torchlight procession in Kiev to mark his birthday, chanting chilling anti Polish, Jewish and Russian slogans.

This year, Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada commemorated Bandera’s birthday. The New Statesman reported in January 2023: “On 1 January Ukrainian institutions, including the parliament, commemorated the birth of Stepan Bandera… The official parliamentary Twitter account shared a photo of Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, under a portrait of Bandera. The caption directly linked the present war to Bandera’s fight against the Soviet Union: “The complete and final victory of Ukrainian nationalism will come when the Russian empire ceases to exist.”

In 2005 Pro-Western and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, his wife a former White House and State Department official, awarded Bandera the title “Hero of Ukraine.” Viktor Yanukovych, ousted in the US backed coup in 2014 rescinded the award when he was elected to office in 2010.

Following the 2014 coup Ukraine’s Rada passed two laws: abandoning the country’s neutrality and setting a course for NATO membership and banning the Russian, Greek and Hungarian languages. For many Ukrainians especially in the east, Russian was their first and only language.

The CIA doesn’t do democracy

Robert F Kennedy Jr, US Presidential candidate, referring the Maidan uprising as “riots” in his recent interview with Tucker Carlson described it thus: “USAID, which is a CIA front, put $5 billion into funding those riots, those riots led to a coup d’état…” He went on to posit, because of Yanukvych’s refusal to take sides “we wanted them out” adding, “USAID… and the CIA don’t do democracy.”

Motion 71 was passed with only two unions, the RMT and FBU voting against it. The motion stated: “As trade unionists, we are inherently anti-imperialistic, and our job is to fight imperialism and tyranny at every opportunity. We recognise a victory for Putin in Ukraine will be a success for reactionary, authoritarian politics across the world.”

Robert Kennedy went on to point out in his interview: “The CIA has overthrown, I think, 83 governments between 1947 and 1997, that’s a third of the governments on earth and most of them were democracies, it doesn’t do democracy it does coup d’ états.” Jeffrey Sachs, American economist put the figure at 70 which is just as alarming. This total does not include the US overthrow and subsequent murder of Libya’s leader Gaddafi, the illegal war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the coup in Ukraine and the recent overthrow of Imran Khan in Pakistan. Reactionary, authoritarian politics across the world are alive and kicking, emanating from a blind spot in GMB motion 71.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, father of the US neocons, saw Ukraine as well as countries like Azerbaijan and South Korea as “critically important geopolitical pivots” which he defined in his book The Grand Chess Board, as “states whose importance is derived not from their power and motivation but rather from their sensitive location and from the consequences of their potentially vulnerable condition for the behaviour of geostrategic players.”

Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union it has always been in the US’ interests to keep Russia and Ukraine apart. Again to quote Brzezinski, Ukraine: “…is a geo-political pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an Eurasian empire.”

British trade unionism’s solidarity with victims of fascism

Motion 71 writes of the TUC’s solidarity with “victims of fascism.” The people of Donbas, citizens of Ukraine were denied their language through an Act of the Rada leading, at the stroke of a pen, to those who worked in the public sector losing their jobs if they could not speak Ukrainian. If the British trade union movement and British people in a country where diversity is celebrated would not stand for such blatant acts of nascent fascist discrimination, why should the people of Donbas?

Following the violent coup in Ukraine with the collaboration of the ultra right wing Right Sector, the two Donbas republics were founded. The referendum was passed by an overwhelming majority of 89% and 96% respectively. Motion 71 dismisses the struggle and bravery of the Donbas people, describing their fight against oppressive racist laws as “suppression in the occupied territories of Ukraine since 2014.” The people of Spain, which Motion 71 alludes to, rose up against fascism in their country in 1936, the same as the people of Donbas when their democratically elected president was outed in a coup, yet they are not to be afforded the same recognition, instead their struggle and sacrifice is shamelessly misrepresented to accommodate the warmongers narrative.

A bloody civil war ensued. Amongst the Ukrainian military sent to the Donbas was the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, formed from the neo-Nazi gang Patriot of Ukraine. At its head was Andriy Biletsky, who once wrote it was Ukraine’s national purpose to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade… against Semite-led Untermenschen (sub-humans).” Azov is now fully integrated into the Ukrainian army, the only army in the world to have neo-Nazi formations, sporting Nazi arm patches on their uniform. Some forms of fascism are obviously more acceptable than others to Motion 71.

Minsk Accords

The Minsk accords and in particular Minsk ll brokered by Germany and France brought an end to the worst of the conflict, however the Ukrainian forces and Azov neo-nazis continued to target the Donbas and its civilian population until the beginning of Russia’s SMO. Between 2014 and 2021 around 14,500 people were killed. The Ukrainian government’s failure to commit to the Minsk agreements left the conflict frozen and in a state of uncertainty.

There are many events one could identify when deciding on the root cause of this war and leading to the catastrophic loss of Ukrainian life. Top of the list would have to be Clinton’s betrayal of the US promise to Gorbachev, when he removed 400,000 Russian troops from East Germany, allowing Germany to reunite under NATO on the condition that the US would not move one inch eastward. The US has now moved 1,000 miles to the east and recruited another 16 countries to NATO many of them ex-Soviet republics. Aegis missiles with nuclear capability are stationed in Poland and Romania within a 12 minute range of reaching Moscow following the US unilateral abandonment of the antiballistic missile treaty in 2002.

Failure to implement the Minsk agreements by its guarantors, France and Germany was another factor. Merkle shockingly revealed in late 2022 that the Minsk agreements were a sham, telling Die Zeit: “The 2014 Minsk agreement was an attempt to give Ukraine time,” she continued, “It also used this time to become stronger, as you can see today.” François Holland confirmed Merkle’s comments adding, as reported by TASS, the Ukrainian army since 2014, “was better trained and equipped. It is the merit of the Minsk agreements to have given the Ukrainian army this opportunity.” An opportunity given to them with collective western money and NATO training.

Then there is CIA director William Burns, who, when US ambassador to Russia wrote a memo to Condoleezza Rice entitled “Nyet means Nyet” warning of Russia’s red lines of NATO enlargement. In 2021 Putin sent a draft US-NATO Security Agreement in an attempt to forestall war. He was seeking to end NATO enlargement and removal of US missiles near Russia. NATO flatly rejected this. NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg mockingly stated, “So he went to war to prevent NATO, more NATO across his borders, he got the exact opposite…”

The Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 was viewed by the US neocons as a defeat of the Warsaw pact and Russia. To the victor go the spoils. If the warnings had been heeded and opportunities for peace pursued, Ukrainians would not now be dying in their hundreds of thousands for the destruction of Russia and the emergence of the United States as the world’s hegemon.

Fight to the last man, but its only workers who die

Motion 71 asks for: “the continuation and increasing of moral, material, and military aid from the UK to Ukraine.” This motion echoes the sentiments of US Senator Lindsey Graham who has stated, “As long as we help Ukraine with the weapons they need and the economic support, they will fight to the last person.”

The billionaire financier George Soros in his 1993 piece entitled, “Towards a New World Order: The Future of NATO” puts flesh on the bones of Senator Graham’s jingoistic bloodlust. Remix News in Jan 2023 reports: “…he outlines how Eastern Europeans could be used as the ‘manpower’ in coming conflicts in an effort to reduce the number of deaths in Western countries, which Soros argues the West would not politically tolerate, unlike the east of Europe… the combination of manpower from Eastern Europe with the technical capabilities of NATO would greatly enhance the military potential of the Partnership because it would reduce the risk of body bags for NATO countries, which is the main constraint on their willingness to act. This is a viable alternative to the looming world disorder.” Prophetic words, given the Ukraine war is a carbon copy of his 1993 musing.

Motion 71 does nothing more than perpetuate the carnage of this war ripping through the flowers of Ukrainian youth and older men. Increasingly press ganged into service, ordered back from countries of refuge, replacements of the fallen are harder to find for Zelensky and his NATO masters. Which Eastern Europe country will be next to send their men running and stumbling through the minefields of Russian defences in NATO’s proxy war, sharing trenches alongside the lifeless bloated bodies of their comrades with few personnel to gather them. With only 21 days basic training and limited ammunition, western capacity is unable to keep up with demand. Soldiers are dispatched to the ‘meat grinder’, the odds of survival or injury are against them. Why would supporters of Motion 71, passive observers 2,000 miles away and untouched by the battlefield’s stench of fear and death want more of this?

Motion 71 makes accusations of ‘ethniccleansing’. Col Doug MacGregor, decorated tank commander and senior advisor to the Secretary of Defence under Donald Trump, recently referred to Putin as having, “exercised enormous restraint…” Talking of how he had held hundreds of thousands of troops in reserve allowing “Ukrainians, simply because it works to his advantage, to destroy themselves in attack, after attack, after attack…”

Ukrainian and western media reports of Russian genocidal acts on civilians have not been proven. Bucha the most notorious and barbarous attack on Russian speaking Ukrainians was immediately blamed on Russia, however despite Russian representations, the UN has carried out no investigation.

The recent attack on a marketplace in Kostiantynivka was headlined in the Guardian as, “Russian strike on crowded Ukraine market leaves at least 17 dead,” adding it was, “one of Russia’s deadliest attacks in months…” Zelensky, the Guardian went onto report stated, “Whenever there is any positive advances by Ukraine defence forces… Russians always target civilian people and civilian objects.” However, New York Times reported: “Evidence collected and analysed by The New York Times, including missile fragments, satellite imagery, witness accounts and social media posts, strongly suggests the catastrophic strike was the result of an errant Ukrainian air defence missile fired by a Buk launch system.” This is not the only incident where Russia has been wrongly accused of targeting civilians.

It is estimated approximately 430,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in action. On a standard military calculation of a one to three killed to injured ratio this means in excess of one million Ukrainian soldiers have been wounded with a reported 50,000 amputations. During this war, 70,000 children have disappeared, many becoming prey to child sex traffickers, domestic servitude and organ harvesting. Many women have also been abducted.

British imperialists scupper peace

Ukraine and Russia met in Istanbul in March/April of 2022 for peace talks. An agreement was reached with Ukraine whereby: an internationally monitored referendum would take place where the population of the two Donbas republics could decide whether they wanted to join Russia, Ukraine, or remain independent. Crimea would stay as part of the Russian Federation, with cultural connectivity for Ukrainians remaining in Crimea. There would be no demilitarisation or denazification of Ukraine. Whilst Ukraine would not be a member of NATO, security guarantees would be made. All occupied territories after the 24th of February would be returned to Ukrainian control. In an act of good faith Russia removed their troops from Kiev and Sumy. The collective west’s corporate media reported this withdrawal as a Russian retreat, NATO flew Boris Johnson into Kiev who then proceeded to scupper the peace treaty.

Motion 71 states: “its belief that there can be no just or enduring peace while the Russian state continues its denial of Ukrainian sovereignty…” If the Minsk agreements had not been so cynically exploited by the collective west Ukraine would be intact. If NATO’s Boris Johnson had not intervened in the Istanbul peace talks, Ukraine would be at peace with much of its territory returned, hundreds of thousands of young Ukrainian soldiers would still be alive today. The injured, their bodies whole. Thousands of children would be at home with their families or under state care and untold numbers of women free from sexual slavery.

Spanish philosopher George Santayana once famously said: “Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.” Unfortunately we may soon not have this luxury. Swallowing the dumbed down bile fed to us by governments and corporate media, large sections of people in the collective west appear to be in a state of somnambulism, completely unaware we are between a rock and nuclear annihilation with nuclear missiles a thousand times more deadly than Oppenheimer’s creation, and which western missile defense systems are unable to repel. 

Russia views this war as an existential threat. Putin has stated in words to the effect that, a world without Russia is a world not worth living in. Any action by NATO viewed by Russia as an imminent threat would mean the release their nuclear arsenal, guaranteeing the end of humanity. 

During the entirety of the US involvement in the Vietnam war from 1965 to 1973, 58,000 US soldiers died. In the last four months of the failed Ukrainian counter offensive, 71,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died with many more injured. This is not ‘ethnic cleansing’ but an act of gross harm inflicted upon the Ukrainian people by NATO in its proxy war against Russia.

Motion 71 calls for “the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from all Ukrainian territories occupied since 2014.” This only supports a prolonging of the war, the continued loss of life and destruction of Ukraine. This unrealistic demand was fashioned by the US at a time when they thought the economic sanctions and other financial pressures would bring Russia to its knees, oust Putin in a Maidan style uprising, replacing him with a US puppet who would, in total contrition, withdraw to the 1991 borders. Ukraine has lost this war finding itself in a similar situation to Germany following their catastrophic defeat at Stalingrad in 1943. The war continued on for another 18 months with millions paying a terrible price because Hitler would not accept defeat. George Santayana prophetic observation comes to mind.

War and the working class

War is a class issue. To update an old saying: a semi-automatic is a weapon with a worker at both ends. Workers are more vulnerable to the ensuing economic hardships now being felt across the collective west. The value of worker’ wages are being eroded by inflation and every facet of our daily basic needs such as: food, shelter and heating assaulted from the fall out of the economic quagmire that is the carnage of Ukraine. Motion 71 does nothing but add to the continuation of this economic harm against working class people at home and on the killing fields of Ukraine.

In early 2022, Ukrainian citizens left their country to begin their lives as refugees, scattering across Europe. Parents gave their last embrace to their children, young soldiers, hundreds of thousands of them never to return. At the same time the corporate jackals smelt profit in the air. Lockheed Martin’s stock price rose by 2.79% to $396.19. Northrop Grumman experienced even greater gains of 4.53% of $399.32. Shipbuilding giant Huntington Ingalls stock price rose by 2.34% to $183.87 and in January 2023 shares of Raytheon, makers of the Stinger and Javelin missiles, more than doubled from the year earlier, the list goes on.

Also amongst the war profiteers are US members of Congress. reported: “At least 20 federal lawmakers or their spouses hold stock in Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin, which manufacture the weapons Western allies are sending Ukraine to fight Russian invaders… Another Republican, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, bought between $1,001 and $15,000 in Lockheed Martin shares on February 22. Two days after her purchase, Greene wrote in a Twitter thread: ‘War is big business to our leaders.’”

The World Bank estimates it will cost $411 billion to reconstruct Ukraine. No Phoenix will rise from the ashes of this war, only the hungry ghosts of global corporations, whose thirst for profit can never, according to Buddhist scripture, be satiated. Companies like BlackRock and JPMorgan Chase are already lining up to get their share of the lucrative spoils of war, the stakes much higher from when Joe Biden was Obama’s US Viceroy type overseer in Ukraine following Maidan. With corruption all-pervading in Ukraine everyone will be angling to get their cut.

In his great indictment against war, poet Wilfred Owen ironically penned before his death on the front in World War One, “dulce et decorum est,” – it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.

More discussion

The Workers Party will hold its Congress in December 2023. This and other Pre-Congress discussion can be read here

Give us your thoughts...