“A class cannot exist in society without in some degree manifesting a consciousness of itself as a group with common problems, interests and prospects” – Harry Braverman
The composited motion labelled ‘C21’ to be debated at the TUC Annual Congress this week, sponsored by ASLEF and the GMB entitled ‘Solidarity with Ukraine’ is defined by lies and distortions. Rather than being in solidarity with Ukraine, it is a motion that in reality seeks to align the British trade union movement with the priorities of British imperialism. In this article, we will demonstrate that this motion might as well have been written by the CIA and is yet another example of our (so called) trade union leaders putting the priorities of the ruling class ahead of ours and certainly ahead of Ukrainian workers.
The motion begins with the following assertion by citing:
“The systematic repression of free trade unions under Putin and Lukashenko, and their suppression in the occupied territories of Ukraine since 2014.”
Any brief search of the internet will of course show you that extensive trade union organisations do exist in both Russia and Belarus. In the case of the Russian Federation, they run a tripartite-style of industrial relations which is fairly common across western states that seeks to bring workers organisations, business and the state together to reach settlements on industrial issues. Russia is of course a capitalist country with all the contradictions that this brings and there are certainly numerous industrial struggles that go on across the country on a regular basis. Anyone can learn about these by simply looking at the material published on this by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the major opposition party, which (strangely) don’t get a mention in this motion at all. Belarus is a country about which very little is known in Britain today and that is quite deliberate – it is of course a small nation but it is notable because it managed to escape the chaos and violence inflicted upon Russia and Ukraine during the restoration of capitalism in the 1990s. In fact Amnesty International effectively summarise why this is, even though they are trying to condemn it.
Belarus has retained distinctly Soviet features since the break-up of the USSR. This includes the total domination of the economy by the state, which remains the biggest national employer
Trade Unions in Belarus do remain integrated into the state, but what is the nature of that state? The Presidency of Alexander Lukashenko has seen Belarus retain the industrial base that it inherited from the Soviet era and it has not been deindustrialised to the extent that Ukraine has. We are not going to claim that the system is without flaws, but it has retained workers greater collective bargaining power and a better overall standard of living than their unfortunate brothers and sisters in Ukraine. The assertion in the motion that trade unions are suppressed in Donbas is the most laughable lie of all though. The rebellion against the 2014 coup in Ukraine was led by workers, many of whom supported the Communist Party of Ukraine (which is now banned by the Zelensky regime) and who still had strong feelings of an older Soviet patriotism. The 2014 coup also saw a massacre of at least 48 people, carried out in Odessa after a fascist mob attacked an anti-coup demonstration in May of 2014. After this and the attempt by the Kiev regime to suppress all opposition to it, large sections of what was then Eastern Ukraine saw armed uprisings begin in Donetsk and Luhansk – again these were working class movements. Some of the leading forces in assisting these uprisings were the Communists of Ukraine and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. The motion doesn’t find time to mention any of these inconvenient facts. We must ask, what trade unions are actually suppressed in Russia, Belarus and the regions which have voted to join the Russian Federation? The answer is simple: Those “free” trade unions that ASLEF’s and GMB’s leaders want the workers’ movement to support are those which act in alliance with the interests of US and British imperialism. The “free” trade unions of Belarus are in reality nothing of the kind, these organisations attempted to assist in carrying out in Minsk what was done in Kiev in 2014, namely a coup that was conducted in the interests not of workers, but of the US imperialists and their European vassal states.
We must also briefly highlight point 3 of the motion as an example of bureaucratic weasel wording. It states:
“That those who suffer most in times of war are the working class, and that the labour movement must do all it can to prevent conflict; however, that is not always possible.”
It is certainly the case though that the current war could have been stopped, on numerous occasions, after 2014. The Minsk agreement, which provided for an end to the war and conceded autonomy to the Eastern regions was one that the Kiev government signed along with the Russians and was also endorsed unanimously by the UN security council. It was the persistent failure of the Kiev government to implement this agreement that saw the war continue for 8 years before the beginning of the Russian special military operation in February of 2022. The movers of this motion of course do not see fit to mention any of this.
The distortion of working class history is also a feature of this motion as clearly demonstrated in point 4:
“The TUC’s proud history of solidarity with victims of fascist, imperialist aggression including its support for arms to the Spanish Republic. As trade unionists we are inherently anti-imperialistic, and our job is to fight imperialism and tyranny at every opportunity. We recognise that a victory for Putin in Ukraine will be a success for reactionary authoritarian politics across the world.”
There is absolutely no comparison between the long and heroic fight waged by the workers of Spain in the 1930s and the squalid, corrupt junta in Kiev that was imposed via a US-sponsored coup in 2014. The regime that this coup brought to power was one that acts in the interests of the most parasitic elements of Ukrainian capitalism, that has sold off huge amounts of state property to Wall Street giants such as Blackrock, has sold off Ukrainian land and whose leaders line their own pockets at the expense of Ukrainian workers. To make a comparison between this US puppet state and the struggle of the Spanish working class against the combined fascist powers in the 1930s is an utterly disgusting distortion of history which any decent trade unionist should be ashamed to make.
The motion goes on to peddle pure propaganda in point 6, where it claims that the Russians are engaging in a “programme of ethnic cleansing”. This is a complete inversion of the truth. In reality, it is the Kiev regime which was brought to power by ultra-reactionary militias and which has been systematically trying to erase the Russian language from public life in Ukraine. In the Russian areas formerly controlled by Ukraine, the Ukrainian language has equal status with Russian, with bilingual education provided to school children. There is indeed an attempt to erase a whole culture in Ukraine, but it is being done by the Kiev regime and its supporters in the west.
The biggest con trick of all though is in the way that this motion repeatedly presents the Ukrainian trade union movement as being “free”, when it is in fact utterly controlled by the state. The Ukrainian state which is run by fascist organisations and ultimately answerable to its paymaster, US imperialism. Just last year Zelensky passed a law banning collective bargaining rights at any business defined as having less than 250 employees.
As for the demand expressed that the “re-construction of Ukraine must have labour and union values at its centre”, this is simply a pipe dream given that the Zelensky government has signed “reconstruction” agreements with the big Wall Street firms who are the last to consider “labour and union values”. Since 2014 there has been one gigantic sell-off after another of formerly state-owned property. It has been a privatisation bonanza for the Ukrainian oligarchy and their masters in Wall Street and the City of London. The motion, again, ignores this reality and choses to peddle a fantasy version of what is happening in Ukraine.
The motion goes onto demand the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine and thus conveninetly ignores the fact that it was the workers of Donbas who led the military resistance to the Kiev regime for 8 long years until 2022. The motion also ignores that that it was a demand of the Ukrainian and Russian Communist parties that the Russian state intervene to protect the people of Donbas from constant attacks by the NATO sponsored forces of the Ukrainian government. A Russian withdrawal now will not end the war, but take it to a new and horrifying level as the Ukrainian fascist elements would seek to break all resistance to their rule by targeting any and all working-class organisations which have opposed them in Donbas since 2014.
What this motion actually represents is not support for the Ukrainian people – it supports a government that was brought into power against the expressed democratic wishes of the Ukrainian people via the 2014 coup. It does not aid Ukrainian workers, but aids the Ukrainain ruling class who have been relentlessly attacking the living standards of the working class there since the fall of the USSR in 1991. The 2014 coup was a means of escalating this assault on the Ukrainian working class in order that the asset stripping of the country by the likes of the notorious firm Blackrock and others could continue without restrictions. The motion ignores all the working class resistance to the 2014 coup that has taken place in the Donbas and other areas and presents a totally distorted picture of what has happened since 2014. The sovereignty of Ukraine disappeared in 2014 when the US effectively handpicked a government that would act in their interests with the aim of turning Ukraine into an outsourced US military base to pursue their bigger aim of using Ukrainians as a battering ram against the Russian federation. If composite motion C21 passes, the British trade union movement will be aligning itself fully with those forces which have destroyed Ukraine since 2014 and it will be another horrific example of the trade union leaders using “leftist” language to hide their attempt to bind the British working class hand and foot to imperialism. This motion is stuffed full of grotesque deceptions and it must be rejected by all class conscious workers.
This article was republished from the Class Consciousness Project