Why UCU Congress was right to pass Motion 5 on the Ukraine war

Having initially defended Congress delegates’ right to take decisions on UCU’s attitude to the Ukraine war, the General Secretary has now joined the chorus of denunciation of Motion 5: Stop the War in Ukraine, Peace Now, which was passed on Saturday.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought home the horrors of imperialist war—tens of thousands of dead, hundreds of thousands turned into refugees, shelled-out apartment blocks and war crimes.

The motion was one of two (Motions 5 & 6) passed on the war in Ukraine after a serious and thoughtful debate with principled contributions from all sides of the argument. Both motions condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and all manifestations of imperialism. Both motions expressed solidarity with ordinary Ukrainian people and support for Russian opponents of the war.

But it is supporters of Motion 5 who have been subjected to a witch-hunt online and smeared as “pro-Putin” despite this motion calling explicitly for Russian withdrawal and condemning Putin’s war crimes. This is because the motion criticises NATO’s role in the conflict and calls on our government to stop arming Ukraine.

Motion 5 was submitted by UCU members at City and Islington College and the University of Brighton in line with the rules of the union. It was published well ahead of conference with the other motions. An amendment seeking to remove the clause on arming Ukraine was defeated. 

The majority of delegates were persuaded by the argument that pouring Western arms into Ukraine would only succeed in lengthening the war, add to the suffering of Ukrainian people and Russian soldiers alike, and risk a serious escalation of the conflict beyond Ukrainian territory, potentially to nuclear war.

Whatever one’s view of the arguments expressed in the motion, Congress had a right to debate and pass it, and it cannot be legitimately overturned by the General Secretary or any other individual. In fact, it was the General Secretary’s failure to respect the democratic processes of the union that resulted in her censure by Congress on the same day that Ukraine was debated.

There is a long tradition in the trade union movement of opposition to warmongers and in favour of peace. The primary victims of war are working people on both sides. The Ukraine conflict will inevitably be brought to an end as a result of a cease-fire and peace talks. The sooner that happens the better.

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19 Replies to “Why UCU Congress was right to pass Motion 5 on the Ukraine war”

  1. So you show your support for the defenders by trying to disarm them, and you line up with the far right in the Europe and the US. And you call yourselves UCU Left? Warped.

  2. In the light of UCULeft support for Motion 5 I have decided to stop the monthly sub I have been paying for many years. We should be actively supporting Ukrainian trade unionists fighting Russian aggression. Anything less is appeasement of an imperialist invasion.

  3. This justification of a very naive motion to effectively disarm the Ukrainian people so that they are unable to defend themselves against this, or future ruSSian aggression is very thin. Congress was WRONG to pass this motion unamended. Shame on all those who voted for it.

    The fact that you needed to roll it up with dis-satisfaction with the GS’s approach to other separate issues, suggests you are trying to borrow strength from one to justify the other.

  4. “The majority of delegates were persuaded by the argument that pouring Western arms into Ukraine would only succeed in lengthening the war, add to the suffering of Ukrainian people and Russian soldiers alike, and risk a serious escalation of the conflict beyond Ukrainian territory, potentially to nuclear war.” Your solution appears to be to disarm Ukraine to allow the Russians to complete their invasion as efficiently as possible. This is not acceptable. I am considering my UCU membership carefully as I do not wish to be associated with this pro-aggression stance.

  5. Where have we heard this before? Ah yes – in 1939. ‘The Communist Party deplores the Nazi invasion of Poland, but urges comrades in the Social Facist Democracies to oppose the imperialist war against Germany.’ George Orwell found the words for this: one-eyed pacifism. See link for the genuine Ukraine Solidarity Campaign.

  6. This motion monstrously wrong. Not only is it utterly naive of the historical roots of the conflict and of long-standing Russian denials of Ukrainian statehood and personhood (which go back way before NATO), but it effaces the will and agency of Ukrainians themselves, reducing them to tools of “American imperialism.” The motion effectively gives cover and comfort to a government that would destroy (and is actively trying to do so!) the family, friends, and colleagues of your own UCU fellow members–myself included.

    I have resigned my membership in UCU in light of this motion. Good luck to you!

  7. This motion and many other positions of supposedly leftist organisations completely ignores the reality of the situation in Ukraine. It is a naive and warped view of Europe, NATO and Russia. I somehow don’t think Ukranians will appreciate this form of solidarity.

  8. So what would have happened in Kiev last night without air defence systems?

  9. Naive, wrong headed, and exemplary of the kind of far left utopianism that yielded the Brexit referendum result. UCU Left does the Kremlin’s work for it. I’m going to think long and hard this weekend about whether it’s worth staying in a union that cares more about Russian imperial ambition and seemingly little about its day job: fighting this industrial dispute.

  10. For 8 years Ukraine was fighting on its own and how did the peace talks go? The only guilty of escalation is Russia for launching a full scale invasion in 2022.

  11. This motion is shameful, grotesque and absurd subversion of left wing values. You say “solidarity with Ukraine” in one breath, while condemning them to imperialist occupation in another. Anti-war in words only, but pro-invasion in practice.

  12. I share the outrage with motion 5 of the dozen writers above. But please do not leave UCU. Congress also passed motion 6 by a much larger majority, and we do much needed work locally and across the HE sector, defending individual members and improving pay, pensions, and conditions of employment through collective negotiation. So please don’t leave UCU. Just quit UCU Left instead and vote for real trade unionists – not SWP, Socialist Alternative, Socialist Appeal, and other ultra-left Putin apologists – in next year’s NEC elections.

  13. from a person living in the neighbouring country and supporting Ukraine’s right to peaceful existence and their right to defend themselves from an unprovoked aggression: do kindly fuck off.

  14. Exactly what do defenders of motion 5 think will happen if Ukraine is denied the arms to defend itself with? In what sense do you think this demand for “peace” and “negotiations” amounts to anything other than capitulation to Putin’s invasion?

    Would defenders of this motion have, in the 60s and 70s, opposed Soviet military support to the Vietnamese struggle against US imperialism? If not, why not?

    The article suggests that the war will “inevitably” come to an end with negotiations and a cease-fire. Do you really think the invaders are likely to withdraw, rather than intensify their invasion, once their victims lose the capacity to resist?

    How is Motion 5, in effect, anything other than an act of solidarity with those who are actually perpetrating the war?

    Shame on the UCU Left for acting as propagandists for Putin.

  15. A shameful and racist motion that manages to sprinkle in an antisemitic resentment for good measure. You are such a disgrace that English lacks a word for the bottomless moral pit you inhabit.

  16. Well said John Baxter. There used to be a saying: ‘no enemies on the left’. Now UCU Left has no friends on the left. Never mind: plenty of real friends on the right who share your stance on Ukraine: Victor Orban’s Fidesz, Meloni’s Italian populists, the French National Front, Trump’s Republicans, and Putin’s United Russia.

  17. Just learnt about the UCU via a Russian propaganda puppet droning on about support for their position in UK. slow clap.

    Use of ‘pouring’ implies that NATO is literally dumping weapons in Ukraine. They are pleaded for by a country trying to fight off a genocide.

    I hope you lose members to a proper union.

  18. I’m a fairly new Union member but have been happy and proud to be part of a group that advocates for its members and supports similar inclusive (I.e. Left) bodies.

    I may be politically naive but Motion 5 does not fit with any tenet of our movement. It’s all well and good calling for negotiations as a path to peace but offensive action must be met by active defense. Otherwise, peace is observed only by the dead.

    Russia is on record as intending to wipe out Ukrainian culture and nationality. This serves no one and lessens us all. We, as a Union and as a country, have been and should be supporting the active defense of Ukraine. Call for peace all you want but when pacifism is not supported on all sides then the result is fascism.

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