UCU Congress 2023

Invasion and war

On 24th February 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine in a continuation of the war that began when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.  This was a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and a denial of the right of Ukraine to exist as a nation.  It was a project to overthrow the existing Ukrainian Government (the one elected by Ukrainians) and to impose a puppet government.

The casualties of Russia’s war on Ukraine are counted in tens of thousands, the displaced in many millions, the damage in tens of billions of pounds. The invading forces are systematically committing war crimes including intentional killing of civilians, rape, destruction of vital infrastructure, and forced displacement and deportations, including of children.

Thousands of schools, colleges and universities have been bombed, in the occupied territories there is enforced russification and integration into the Russian state.

The Ukrainian people are fighting for their right to exist, fighting a national liberation struggle.  People like UCU members – academics, lecturers, researchers, college and university administrators – have had to become soldiers.  This was not because these people ever wanted a military career.  It was an action forced on them by the brutality of the Russian invasion which has a genocidal goal to abolish Ukraine entirely. 

What future for Ukraine?

Many ordinary Ukrainian workers and trade unionists are now serving in Ukraine’s armed forces.  They have put up a heroic resistance to the invasion.  Their victory will be the best prospect for building a democratic and progressive future for Ukraine.  It will be blow against the growing fascist and authoritarian forces we see across the world today.  It will also be the best prospect for democratic change in the Russian Federation. 

This is not a conflict in which the UK labour movement should be neutral.  There is no middle ground.  Ukrainian trade unions such as the Free Trade Union of Education and Science of Ukraine are appealing for our solidarity – we must stand with our fellow workers in Ukraine.

Motions at UCU Congress

There are two motions on Ukraine at UCU Congress.  They reflect two very different political positions on the war.

The ‘Stop the War’ motion is based on a view that reduces Ukrainians to pawns in a ‘proxy’ war between NATO and Russia.  There are certainly sections of the Western powers that only support Ukraine to weaken Russia as a rival power.  But this is still first and foremost a Ukrainian war of national liberation against Putin’s openly proclaimed attempt to rebuild a new Tsarist empire.  Ukraine has every right to take arms from whoever will supply them, whatever their motives.

‘Stop the War’ originally had some respect for opposition to the invasion of Iraq, but 22 years later we are in a different situation. Tragically it is run by a number of people who in the past opposed Russian Imperialism and Stalinism, but on Ukraine they are allied with the Communist Party of Britain, they are essentially (but quietly) pro-Putin, at least in the sense that they do not want Ukraine to win.

Through gritted teeth they say ‘We should stand in solidarity with ordinary Ukrainians and demand an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops.’ Whilst calling on the ‘government to stop sending arms to Ukraine’, and for ‘peace’ talks. This would undermine the Ukrainian resistance and lead to victory for Russia and more Ukrainian deaths.  This is a ‘peace’ which means occupation, it is to advocate a disarmed Ukraine ceding territory and accepting terms imposed by Russian Imperialism.   Denying arms supplies to Ukraine from a pacifist position would have the same consequence.

Where are the Ukrainian people in the ‘Stop the War’ analysis?  Ukrainian voices are not being heard.  The Ukrainian people are viewed simply as puppets, with no agency or autonomy.  There is no strategy in this approach to achieve justice for Ukrainians or to end the  invasion of Ukraine.  It ignores the fact Ukrainians will not accept occupation and are resisting the invasion. If arms supplies stopped it would not bring peace — Ukrainians will still resist with whatever weapons they have in what would be a protracted, bloodier war. 

It would be a shameful act of UCU Congress to vote for this.  It is a proposal to disarm the victims of Russian fascist aggression, not the aggressors.  Please be clear if you vote for the ‘Stop the War’ motion you are voting to stop the victims of aggression from having the means to defend themselves.  You may be shocked to read this, but this is what the ‘Stop the War’ motions says.  If you believe in the right of Ukraine to self-determination and the right to resist invasion, then how can you deny the Ukrainian people the means to resist?

Do not vote for the ‘Stop the War’ motion thinking it will end the suffering of the Ukrainian people.  If Russia were to win, the sufferings of the Ukrainians will continue.  Suffering does not end when the victims are conquered,  as the sufferings of the Palestinian people show.

The NEC motion should be supported.  It makes a good beginning on solidarity work by unambiguously condemning the Russian invasion and recognising Ukraine’s right to self-determination. It calls for support for refugees and cancellation of Ukraine’s national debt. The NEC motion recognises the need to condemn all imperialisms, not only the imperialism of our own rulers.  It places a duty on the NEC’s International Working Group to undertake practical solidarity work and build links with Ukrainian trade unionists and feminists.

Remember, if Russia stops fighting, the war will end.  If Ukraine is forced to stop fighting Ukraine will end.  Stand with Ukraine.  Please give your fellow workers and trade unionists in Ukraine, the solidarity they need. 

Vote for the NEC motion  –  Reject the Stop the War fake ‘peace’ motion