Keep up the solidarity

Christopher Ford on the urgent need for military and humanitarian aid

After 365-plus days of resistance and with an intensified Russian assault underway against Ukraine, it is crucial we do not waver in our solidarity over the coming period.

There is now an attempt by a minority in the labour movement to have us concede ground, to talk of ‘war fatigue’ or the false and chauvinist claims that a solution to the cost-of-living crisis is to halt aid to Ukraine.

We have shown that as a movement we can struggle against the cost-of-living crisis and also support the Ukrainian people. During recent strikes, members of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine came and stood on PCS and GMB picket lines – testimony to the spirit of international solidarity between our movements.

Our movement cannot afford a repeat of past errors of how we respond to rising authoritarianism. Let us recall how, in 1935, the pacifist Labour leader George Lansbury opposed action against the Italian attack on Abyssinia. In 1936, the Labour Conference stood by the policy of non-intervention, denying aid to the Spanish Republic. It was a painful struggle to reorientate the Labour Party to meet the challenge of the authoritarian regime. As Aneurin Bevin argued at that time, “Is it not obvious to everyone that if the arms continue to pour into the [fascist] rebels in Spain, our Spanish comrades will be slaughtered in the hundreds of thousands?”

Without military aid to Ukraine, that is what we would see happen. We have already seen what Putin’s armies are capable of doing, with nearly eight million having fled the country and a total of 13.3 million people displaced.

We see so no sign Russia is preparing for peace but, on the contrary, it is undertaking new offensives. The conditions for peace will only be created by Ukrainians being enabled to liberate their whole country – this is the view of the vast majority of Ukrainians.

It is imperative that we see an increase in the humanitarian and military aid to help Ukraine win this war as soon as possible. The Tory government’s ad hoc announcements and lack of a clear action plan of systematic support for Ukraine cannot continue.

That is why we must support the demands for the provision of all the surplus military equipment – the 79 Challenger tanks, Scimitar and Warrior vehicles, Typhoon fighter aircraft. There is no justification for delay – the escalation had already happened when Russia invaded! (Labour’s Clive Lewis is seeking more support for an early day motion on this).

The struggle of the Ukrainian people is also one where they wish to see social and democratic progress for their country. We have a role to play in helping them realise that aspiration to ensure a progressive reconstruction (as is Labour Party policy) – a reconstruction and not plunder of global capital. This is an essential aspect of our solidarity as much as it is to help the resistance defeat the invasion.

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