Sam Mason, member of CND’s Trade Union Advisory Group, reports back on a motion adopted at this year’s TUC conference which advocates war rather than peace.
At the annual TUC Congress in September, a motion was passed on solidarity with Ukraine. Internationalism and solidarity are at the heart of the trade union movement. Therefore, there should be little controversy in supporting a motion that seeks to show support for our working-class sisters and brothers who, as the motion rightly said, suffer most in times of war.
But unfortunately, the motion was not solely about supporting the Ukrainian trade union movement. We are wholly behind their industrial fight with an anti-trade union government that is taking advice on this from the UK government no less. This motion was also about supporting war.
In moving the motion, GMB President Barbara Plant said that our [TUC] policies demand that we work to support peace. But there was no reference to actually de-escalating the war in the motion. Instead, the TUC appears to be attempting to set the terms of peace negotiations.
The motion passed was a composite of separate motions from the GMB and ASLEF unions. The final version removed the original GMB demand calling for “the continuation and increasing of moral, material, and military aid from the UK to Ukraine.” But, as the FBU speaking in opposition rightly pointed out, the undertones of UK military intervention and escalation of war remained.
However, the FBU were a near lone voice of opposition as the space for debate has been shut down. Part of that debate concerns the inherent contradictions in supporting a pro-war military agenda and increased defence spending, as the TUC did in 2022, while our health service and schools, literally in the latter’s case, are collapsing. We are facing a national care emergency, and despite a period of industrial struggle, workers are still facing a cost of living, and energy, crisis.
Climate change is impacting every part of the globe. As we saw with the horrific collapse of the dams in Libya and subsequent loss of life, militarism further undermines a nation’s ability to cope with extreme weather.
More jobs in manufacturing weapons, including nuclear weapons, and the wider infrastructure of war are not the answer to these crises. Indeed, arms manufacturers are raking in record profits as of course, war is their business, and it is perhaps of some irony that GMB members at a British weapons plant producing missiles for Ukraine are themselves striking over pay with the Ministry of Defence.
As trade unionists, we need to be opposing our government’s support for the continuation of the war, and fighting for work and an industrial strategy rooted in peace, sustainable and socially useful production. Using all means possible to fight for peace should be at the heart of our message of solidarity.
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