By Charlie Kimber
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2797

Unison union statement on Ukraine slams Russian invasion—and Nato escalation

But the union’s right wing leadership is trying to hide that the executive passed a clear, anti-imperialist statement
Issue 2797
A man on the Stop The War demo in London holds a sign that reads where nato goes blood flows  illustrating a story on the The Unison union statement on Ukraine

5,000 marched in London marched to demand Russian troops out and no to Nato escalation (Picture: Guy Smallman)

A bitter row has broken out in the Unison union after its executive passed a clear statement that condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine—but also points to the toxic role of Nato.

Proposed by the presidential team, and agreed on Tuesday by 30 votes to 15 with one abstention, it calls for “for all Russian armed forces to immediately withdraw from Ukraine”. It goes on, “The working class has nothing to gain from war and will pay the biggest price, both in Russia and Ukraine. We particularly note the danger of escalation into nuclear conflict.”

Crucially it then says, “This war is also a proxy conflict between Russia and Nato, prompted by Nato expansion into central and Eastern Europe. We oppose this expansion and any intervention in this conflict by Nato forces.”

Incredibly the Unison website gives no hint of the position passed in its report on the executive meeting. It says only that “the union continued to express total horror and disgust over the actions of Vladimir Putin” and is raising support for sister unions.

An executive member told Socialist Worker, “We were accused of letting Putin off the hook because he was the only one who had invaded a country. Of course, the trigger for the war came from the Russian forces, which we stand completely against.

“But you can’t ignore what led to this, and the way that the West has acted towards Russia for 30 years. The expansion of Nato is the background to the war, and it is also what is now threatening to escalate it.”

Another statement that made no mention of Nato—pushed by the supporters of Unison general secretary Christina McAnea—was passed by 16 votes for, eight against and 22 abstentions. This has been used as a basis for the website announcement, even though the left statement was carried with a much bigger majority.

The left position also said, “Despite the terrible situation, we support the building of unity among workers across national boundaries. The workers of Ukraine and Russia have common interests. We stand in solidarity with those in Russia who have protested against the invasion, despite police repression. We support the building of a mass anti-war movement, including among Russian troops.

“We support workers in Ukraine acting independently of the Zelensky regime and building their own organisations and taking independent action. This should include attempts to build dialogue and links with rank-and-file troops in the invading Russian forces.” It also calls for “refugees from this and other conflicts to be welcomed”. And it says, “We continue to support the Stop the War Coalition and CND, and urge our members to join anti-war protests called by them”.

It also says, “Economic sanctions will disproportionately hit working people, and will be seen as an aggressive measure by the west and may well strengthen support for Putin.” And it finishes powerfully, “Workers in Ukraine and Russia—and across the world—have common interests. Even in this appalling situation, we stand for workers’ unity and internationalism.”

In contrast McAnea is using the war to further restrict workers’ struggle. In a blog before the executive she wrote, “There are questions we will need to answer here at home in due course as to how we will cope with the cost of living….But for now we have to be united as a nation under the guise of the Ukrainian blue and gold flag.”

Unison activists should take up the left position in their branches and among the union’s members. They must demand the publication of the whole statement passed by the executive and protest at the suppression of genuine anti-war views.

The crucial step is to mobilise in action for the anti-war movement which is the most effective action in solidarity with the Russian protesters and to end the killing in Ukraine.

  • To see the whole statement, go here 

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