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Guest article: Ukraine TUC motion masks ethnic cleansing and union-busting

Union motion backed by allegedly CIA-linked group. Phil Bevin critiques it

Unite’s Sharon Graham poses in front of Ukrainian flags as union ‘agrees’ to support motion

Tomorrow the ‘Ukraine Solidarity Campaign’ (USC), backed by the security-service-aligned Paul Mason and allegedly, according to both the Weekly Worker and Labour Party Marxists, linked to the CIA, is hosting a meeting to drum up support for a motion by the GMB and Aslef unions regarding the Ukraine conflict: C21 – “Solidarity with Ukraine”. The motion is set to be put forward at the TUC Conference and has now received support from Sharon Graham’s Unite. If the motion passes, it will mean, in practice and regardless of its confessed intent, a declaration by UK trade unions in support of ethnic cleansing of Russian speakers in Ukraine.

The present motion has been composited from earlier motions submitted by GMB and ASLEF respectively. The original GMB motion for Solidarity with Ukraine (Motion 71) is less competently worded than the new composite but arguably more intellectually honest, if only by accident.

In addition to lending its support to the prolongation of a conflict that Ukraine cannot win, the original Motion 71 appears to criticise Russia for preventing ethnic cleansing by Ukraine. This may have been an error in syntax, which has been removed in the compositing process that produced motion C21. Nevertheless, in my view, GMB’s Motion 71 is a more accurate representation of the implications of the policy outlined in the new composited document, Motion C21.

One activist’s reaction to Graham’s support for the motion

The revealing mistake within motion 71 appears in point b) of the section, “congress supports”:

b) Its belief that there can be no just or enduring peace while the Russian state continues its denial of Ukrainian sovereignty and its programme of ethnic cleansing.

In English sentence structure, to make sense, the number of pronouns contained within a sentence should correspond to the number of nouns (“words used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things”), so that it is clear to which “thing” each pronoun refers. Pronouns normally follow nouns in a sentence.

However, the sentence at point b) of Motion 71 contains two pronouns (two “its”) following its mention of the Russian state, suggesting that the second pronoun refers to a different preceding noun, which in this case can only be “Ukrainian sovereignty”. As far as the sentence’s grammatical structure is concerned, the “programme of ethnic cleansing” therefore “belongs” to the Ukrainian Sovereignty to which the second “its” must refer.

Therefore, the sentence at point b) can only make sense if we assume that the term “Ukrainian Sovereignty” is a noun denoting a movement for Ukrainian nationhood: in this case, the movement of Ukrainian nationalism carried forward by the Nazi-collaborating nationalist OUN and others. Consequently, the sentence and Motion 71 as a whole, condemns the Russian state for its denial of “Ukrainian Sovereignty”’s project of ethnic cleansing, which happens to be the genocidal agenda of the OUN, as is extensively detailed in mainstream history.

By contrast, Motion C21 simply refers to the “Russian programme of ethnic cleansing,” which is more grammatically precise but ironically less accurate the position of Motion 71. Yes, I am being pedantic and engaging in semantics but, nevertheless, I believe this is an important point.

Why is this important?

Point b) of the GMB motion as it is currently worded is an accurate reflection of historical reality in Ukraine – one that the UN noted involved ‘widespread’ killing, with ‘impunity’, of civilians – and the GMB’s position in relation to it. Motion C21 is not.

Specifically, and in contrast to motion 71, motion C21 now clearly assigns blame for the “Russian programme of ethnic cleansing”.

If agreed by TUC, Motion C21, as well as putting unions solidly behind a regime that has attacked unions and workers’ rights, will therefore align UK trade unions with President Biden’s view of the Ukraine – Russia war. Biden has himself declared that Russia committed a “genocide in Ukraine”. But Biden, who bears significant responsibility for the war, is wrong. There is no programme of ethnic cleansing by Russia, as even mainstream news website Politico, which heavily criticised Russia’s actions, has explained:

If there’s no doubt about the viciousness and blood-thirsty criminality of the Russian campaign, it’s not specific to Ukraine. The Russians employed basically the same tactics in Chechnya, Syria and Afghanistan before that. This is the Russian way of war.

Even in Ukraine, it’s not as though the Russians are making cultural and ethnic distinctions in their brutality. The watchword for the scorched-earth nature of their tactics is Mariupol, a predominantly Russian-speaking city with a large Russian population.

By contrast, there is evidence of a programme of ethnic cleansing by Ukraine, as was inadvertently suggested by Motion 71.

As reported in detail by the late esteemed journalist Robert Parry, the man responsible for breaking the Iran Contra story in the late 1980s, Russia did prevent Ukrainian nationalists from committing ethnic cleansing in 2014. According to Parry,

[S]hortly after the February coup, the BBC described how the neo-Nazis spearheaded the violent seizure of government buildings to drive Yanukovych from power and were then rewarded with four ministries in the regime that was cobbled together in the coup’s aftermath.

When ethnic Russians in the south and east resisted the edicts from the new powers in Kiev, some neo-Nazi militias were incorporated into the National Guard and dispatched to the front lines as storm troopers eager to fight and kill people whom some considered “Untermenschen” or sub-human.

Even The New York Times, which has been among the most egregious violators of journalistic ethics in covering the Ukraine crisis, took note of Kiev’s neo-Nazi militias carrying Nazi banners while leading attacks on eastern cities albeit with this embarrassing reality consigned to the last three paragraphs of a long Times story on a different topic. [See Consortium News’s “NYT Discovers Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis at War.”]

Later, the conservative London Daily Telegraph wrote a much more detailed story about how the Kiev regime had consciously recruited these dedicated storm troopers, who carried the Wolfsangel symbol favored by Hitler’s SS, to lead street fighting in eastern cities that were first softened up by army artillery. [See Consortium News‘s “Ignoring Ukraine’s Neo-Nazi Storm Troopers.”]

You might think that unleashing Nazi storm troopers on a European population for the first time since World War II would be a big story given how much coverage is given to far less significant eruptions of neo-Nazi sentiment in Europe but this ugly reality in Ukraine disappeared quickly into the U.S. media’s memory hole. It didn’t fit the preferred good guy/bad guy narrative, with the Kiev regime the good guys and Putin the bad guy.

Parry’s reporting has been confirmed by Taras Bilous, a volunteer for the Ukrainian Army’s Territorial Defence Units who is also connected to known CIA intermediaries USAID and National Endowment for Democracy, and who has been prominently platformed by Ukraine Solidarity Campaign, which is backing C21. Bilous explains,  

[…] It’s important to understand that not only far-right individuals serve in the units created by the far right. (On the other hand, you can also find the far right in “regular” units). It’s difficult to determine the percentages, but apolitical or centrist people often serve in far-right units, motivated by the high level of training and discipline in these units. When you join a fighting army, you first think about your chances of survival, the conditions of service, the competence of the officers, and the reliability of your fellow soldiers. Political views recede into the background. What will happen to these units and the people who serve in them after the war depends on the results of the war and the general political situation in Ukraine.

Bilous’s account of the involvement of Nazi soldiers in the Ukrainian Defence Forces is confirmed in reporting by mainstream media, which makes reference to the leading role played by members of the OUN in training units like Bilous’s own.

Here, its worth noting what the OUN actually is more explicitly, and explaining the ideology they practice as Banderite nationalists. As I have outlined elsewhere:

Banderite nationalists – supporters of Ukrainian nationalist leader, Nazi collaborator and later CIA asset, Stepan Bandera, such as the now well-known Azov Battalion  – have been the most organised and most aggressive battalions in the Ukraine army.  During WW2, Bandera’s supporters in the OUN & UPA “slaughtered the Jews” and made it their mission to “slaughter the poles, old & young, every one”.

The OUN collaborators were also among the most vicious perpetrators of the Nazis’ WW2 genocide in Soviet Russia, which left 27 million Soviet citizens dead.

However peaceful the unions supporting Motions 71 and C21 pretend a victory for an army with a history of bombing its own people would be, their proposition that UK trade Unions should support “increasing” “military aid from the UK to Ukraine” will lead to the further funding and supply of weapons to actual genocidal Nazis. Moreover, if, as Gary Smith, Sharon Graham and others hope, Ukraine retakes Donbas and Crimea, we will probably see the very ethnic cleansing against Russian speakers that intervention by the Russian State has been preventing since 2014.

More likely than this, though, is that increased military support for the Ukrainian Government will encourage it to dig in further and refuse to sue for peace, mimicking Hitler’s Government, which held out until the bitter end at the cost of his own people’s lives while Nazi Germany collapsed in 1945. This, in turn, will simply lead to the further slaughter of ordinary Ukrainians and the wholesale destruction of the Ukrainian nation.

Although almost certainly a mistake, Motion 71’s condemnation of Russia for preventing ethnic cleansing is really an accurate reflection of what the position of Smith, Graham and others, who now back composite Motion C21, means in practice.

I certainly hope that the trade Union movement does not back fascism and that motion C21: “Solidarity with Ukraine” is defeated on the conference floor. However, the prospect of an open and honest debate seems less likely now that the small, accidental accuracy in Motion 71 has been removed through the compositing process, in favour of a projection that allows supporters of C21 to justify the enabling of the Ukrainian Government’s ethnic cleansing programme while falsely claiming to oppose it.

This corruption of the trade union movement’s supposed anti-racist principles is a reflection of the state of the UK left as a whole, which has lost its purpose, direction and vision.

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