Scottish Trades Union Congress 2023

The half dozen templated motions on Ukraine submitted to this year’s STUC congress, (17th-19th April, Dundee) have been amalgamated into a single composite , to be discussed on the Wednesday morning of the congress.

Masquerading as pseudo-pacifist ‘peace proposals’, the composite is riddled with factual inaccuracies, political misrepresentations and empty phrase-mongering. 

Putin’s 2022 invasion was a continuation of the Russian imperialist oppression of Ukraine dating back to Stalin and to the Tsarist Empire.   Denying the right of Ukraine to exist as a state and as a nation, Putin’s war aim was, and is, genocidal.

But there is not a word of this in the composite. Instead, like Putin’s propaganda, the composite blames NATO for the war: “NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe in the 1990s and 2000s has stoked the Ukraine conflict.”

The composite goes on to invoke the trope of “NATO escalation”: “No to NATO escalation’ …  escalation (by NATO) now risks nuclear and widening war in the region.”

But every act of escalation since February of last year has been committed by Russia.

The invasion itself; the sham referendum in Russian-occupied Ukraine; the annexation of further Ukrainian territory into Russia; the mass deportations of Ukrainians, especially children; the Russification of occupied Ukraine; the threats of military aggression against neighbouring countries; the declaration of martial law in Russia; the mass mobilisation of another 300,000 Russian soldiers.

The composite bemoans the fact that “the Tories have committed £2.3 billion in arms to Ukraine during the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.”

This is the cowards’ version, suitably tailored for a trade union audience, of the demand that Ukraine should not be provided with arms – and thereby left defenceless in the face of Russian genocidal aggression.

Completely ignored is the fact that Western arms supplies to Ukraine, even now, have always been too little, too late – enough to slow down the Russian advance, but not enough to enable Ukraine to win.

The composite calls on the STUC to “support countries such as Turkey which have offered to act as arbiters to secure a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine.”

Countless STUC congresses have passed motions condemning Turkey’s authoritarian regime, its invasions of neighbouring countries, and its repression of the Kurds. But now the STUC is being called upon to hail Turkey as the Great Peacemaker!

The composite advocates “a settlement that fully protects and embeds the rights of Ukrainian and Russian speaking communities”. But this merely smuggles in yet another ideological artefact of Putin’s propaganda.

What real solidarity looks like: Aid delivered by Mick Antoniw MS and unions in Wales

Probably the most absurd of Putin’s ‘justifications’ for his invasion was that it was needed to save Russians in Ukraine from (non-existent) genocide.

The only threat to Ukraine’s Russian population comes from Putin. Victory for the latter would mean the destruction of political parties and free trade unions, and the export of Russian police-state authoritarianism.

That is why Ukraine’s Russophones and ethnic Russians are solid in their support for Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression.

A passing ritualistic reference to “solidarity with ordinary Ukrainians” contained in two of the original six motions has been incorporated into the composite.

The expression “ordinary Ukrainians” is presumably intended to allow speakers backing the composite to draw a distinction between “ordinary Ukrainians” and the Nazis who have supposedly run riot in Ukraine since 2014.

But the myths of “the Maidan Nazi coup” and “Ukro-nazism” are staples of Russian propaganda. Those who use the same rhetoric should recognise the political agenda which they thereby serve.

More importantly, what does solidarity with Ukraine and its people actually mean?

The overwhelming majority of Ukrainians are against any territorial concessions to Russia (which would only encourage Putin to come back for more), see no point in negotiations (with a pathological liar like Putin), and want more weapons to defend their territory and their nation (because they know that their very existence as a state and as a people is under threat).

Again, all this is absent from the composite;  It professes ‘solidarity’ with “ordinary Ukrainians” – but denies them the solidarity which they are demanding.

The composite concludes by urging trade union bodies to affiliate to the Stop the war Coalition (STW), a rump organisation, incapable of mobilising more than a couple of thousand people for its national demonstrations.

 It has no links with Ukrainian trade unions. It has not raised a penny of material support for Ukrainian trade unions. It has never organised a solidarity delegation to Ukraine. And it has not supported a single protest organised by Ukrainian communities in Britain.

 Prior to the 2022 invasion STW blithely dismissed warnings that an invasion was imminent as Tory and NATO scaremongering and warmongering.

 It has not given a platform to Ukrainian trade unionists. But it has given a platform to the sham Ukrainian Pacifist Movement.   Delegates should be absolutely clear: In advocating support for STW the composite is calling on the STUC to turn its back, quite literally, on Ukraine and on Ukrainian communities in Britain.

The choice before congress delegates is straightforward: Solidarity with Ukraine – or supporting a composite which denies Ukrainians the solidarity which they have a right to expect from the international trade union movement.


Vote Against the Composite Motion on Ukraine