N.U.M. takes sharp right turn
Events in Ukraine are perhaps the most dangerous flash points in the world at this moment in time, two nuclear powers are sparing up for a showdown. The West, including the UK and the EU seem to believe Moscow is bluffing, that they can force a back down. But just to show they aren’t bluffing either, armed forces from NATO are moving into position. America is already to move NATO bases into Ukraine and right to Moscow’s front door. This is perhaps the nearest we have ever been to outright war since the Cuban missile crisis of the early 60’s. If anyone thinks this couldn’t rapidly escalate to nuclear war, with nuclear bombs landing on Britain they are sadly frighteningly naive.
The expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe, the undermining of East European states, supporting dissident groups and establishing regimes warm to NATO and the EU has been happening since Yugoslavia was set ablaze by mainly German led NATO ambitions, fed and supported by a NATO intervention into an inter-ethnic war entirely fuelled by the west. We should note that within days of Kosovo separatists demanding autonomy, Germany recognised it as a sovereign state. There was no talk of preserving Yugoslavia ‘as a single entity’. It was followed by Czechoslovak, and the Balkan states. Ukraine followed the pattern, a country made up of a strong Russian minority the country was historically close to Russia and deeply linked to the Russian economy. Within days of the right wing armed coup against the elected president the EU was promising hundreds of millions in aid and trade and entry into the EU. Amazingly hypocritically none of the British or American politicians were suddenly interested that an elected prime minister had been thrown out of office, quite a contrast to when it happened in Egypt and other places. The national consensus and recognition that Ukraine was composed of different nationalities and political identities was suddenly torn up. Recognition of the Russian language was withdrawn, Russian language schools were banned from teaching in it, Russian identity was no longer to be recognised. Worse, the long standing fascist forces which had survived since world war two, and who formed SS Columns in the German army, who guarded the concentration camps, who presided over the slaughter of tens of thousands perhaps hundreds of thousands of murders against Russian civilians and troops came back, in their uniforms with their regimental fascist flags back onto the streets, leading the armed action against Russian communities. That this is true there is not the slightest doubt as hundreds of photos and films will show. The newly installed Prime Minister Poroshenko boasted that within days of the coup he was receiving modern weapons and supplies from NATO countries “namely, the US, France, Italy, Poland and Norway.” Giving the game away he said they had been “pledged” the weapons and support and “military advisers” from NATO during the NATO summit in Newport. NATO announced back on Sept 5th that a 4000 strong “rapid reaction Force” was in place to combat “the Russian threat”. Tellingly 25% of this force was British, a nuclear armed state. 4000 NATO troops couldn’t possibly hold back the Russian army, unless of course you were prepared to move rapidly to nuclear war. Has everyone forgotten what the consequences for all of us would be of a nuclear war fought in Europe? Have no doubt the USA wouldn’t directly attack Russia and Russia doubtless wouldn’t directly attack them, the war would be fought in OUR back yard and doubtless fall on THIS country too. Cameron is talking about British troops being the “spearhead force”. There are currently 1500 British troops with 2000 on the way on “exercises in the Baltic states”. The Baltic is now a British and NATO sphere of influence and involvement.
Given the rejection of the Russian people indeed a pogrom against them, most of the eastern Ukrainian communities made efforts to re-join Russia and fight for succession or autonomy. Some declared ‘Soviet Socialist Republics’ and old World War Two Soviet army uniforms were dusted off by war veterans who had fought the fascists back them and plan to do so again. Soviets and communes are being organised albeit on small scale and the left from Anarchist to Left nationalist seems united on what they don’t want, and fighting for their lives if the precise nature of what they do want isn’t worked out yet.
If NATO planned to move its bases into Western Ukraine, the Russians would feel no guilt at moving their forces forward into eastern Ukraine, though they have actually formally held back from doing so. There are however tens of thousands of cross border families and many part time Russian reservists with family in East Ukraine, who have crossed over unofficially to defend their families.
The Miners of the Donbass and in particular Donetsk are strongly Union strongly left and overwhelmingly ethnically Russian. It is they who have fought literally guns in hand to hold out Ukrainian putchest and fascist government forces from taking over.
Into this situation the NUM which for the last fifty years has supported progressive international politics, has questioned NATO’s role has Opposed all military adventures and more importantly supported the workers movements in all conflict situations has suddenly appeared in the camp of the enemy. Just how they have wandered so far behind enemy lines is strange to say the least.
The road there started apparently five years ago during the Scotland Area’s commemoration of the 84/5 strike when the leaders of the Ukrainian miners’ union were over on a visit. Five years down the line and cross visits later with NUM leaders going over there, the culmination is that the official leadership gets to make a brief speech at the Durham Miners Gala. A team of Ukrainian ‘miners’ takes part in the gala parade although we are told they were to a man top union officials based in the capital Kiev and not lads from the coalfields of Donbass and Donetsk. Now the position of these union officials couldn’t be more different than that held by the men in the coalfields, it is in short a company union now dominated by the new regime. Keeping in with the new regime is of course a far easier life than picking up your Kalashnikov and guarding the pit head and mining town from it. The NUM has been severely mislead by these people. More than 90% of all coal from the Ukraine comes from the Donbass. To a man (and women) the miners of Donbass and Eastern Ukraine are at war with Kiev, who is shelling them, killing them, discriminating against them and leashing fascist thugs into their communities. We have to ask the question which miners are these ‘miners leaders’ speaking for? Clearly not the men who mine 90% of Ukraine’s coal, perhaps none of the remaining 10% either . These ‘miner’s leaders’ are leaders without members, they are speaking for themselves and their own interests which are totally at odds with the miners themselves.
I do not know how much of a debate took place at Conference on this subject, I do know that rank and file miners and the Donetsk miner’s independent union weren’t invited to put their case. I am certain this matter was not given an open discussion and debate with both sides being put such as it deserved, and that is a tragedy for our reputation as a union, and will totally mislead our members.
It puts me in mind of the way in which Simon was wheeled out at NUM conferences as some sort of authentic verification of the role of the IMO/ IEMO. The presence of the ‘leader of the French Miners’ and official of IEMO was meant to demonstrate that this entirely mythical cardboard ‘organisation’ was some sort of living breathing international body of miners across the world. For years Arthur was able to pull this old rabbit out of the hat and the NUM continued to pay vast sums for affiliations and international junkets, when in reality it never existed as a workers organisation at all. It was a bureaucracy with an income and a name but no delegate structure no policy structure and not a shred of control by any of the apparent miners all over the world whose leaders had affiliated to it. To date, from its inception not a single balance sheet has ever been produced to demonstrate how much money came in and where it went to, or what it ever did with the money.
In recent weeks we have seen a fascist terror let loose in Ukraine with the burning down of the Trade Union Centre and the deaths of the men and women defending it, the burning down of the offices of the Ukrainian Communist Party, and shoot to kill right wing vigilante’s. The Ukrainian National Guard made up largely of overt Fascist troops have mercilessly bombarded Donetsk, Luhansk and other mining cities.
Finally we see a principled resolution proposed by RMT and passed by the TUC is opposed by the NUM, which repeats as its rationale the official line of the Regime in Kiev.
Comrades, this union has too long a history and too strong a reputation to allow such appalling politics to continue. We need to recall the NUM conference and debate this issue with guest speakers from both sides and the miners themselves from Donbass and come to a more progressive position on this question. The RMT and ourselves have a shared history few unions stood so firmly at our side during the big battles of the last fifty years, we have generally seen eye to eye on all the major political questions facing our class. Doesn’t it make you wonder why the NUM is so far on the other side of the fence from RMT and the TUC conference?
The motion passed by TUC Congress specifically calls for:
“• the General Council to hold an urgent meeting to consider how best to support those fighting for trade union rights and against fascism in the Ukraine
• An immediate, permanent ceasefire in Ukraine and a peaceful, negotiated settlement
• opposition to the use of British forces in the Ukrainian conflict”
Below is the full text of the motion carried:
E1 Situation in Ukraine
Fighting to date has displaced more than a million people and that
“…If the crisis is not quickly stopped, it will have not only devastating humanitarian consequences, but it also has the potential to destabilize the whole region…after the lessons of the Balkans, it is hard to believe a conflict of these proportions could unfold in the European continent.”
Congress is concerned that the crisis has also witnessed attacks on trade unionists and the empowering of fascists groups, including the Odessa Massacre which saw that City’s trade union centre burned to the ground.
In light of the dangerous and urgent situation in Ukraine, Congress calls for:
Mover: National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers
The TUC responding to an appeal from the miners of Donetsk have approached the NUM and the letter in response from Comrade Kitchen the General Secretary essentially says they don’t agree with the RMT/TUC Donetsk miner’s position. They take the line of the ‘miner’s leaders’ in Kiev and the Ukrainian pro NATO regime.
This is an extremely disappointing and frankly embarrassing position as deeply committed members of the NUM to find ourselves in. We urge our fellow members to check out the facts of the situation and demand a reconsideration of the current position of the union,
Durham Miners Association, have been particularly annoyed by the above article appearing on FACEBOOK under the heading Durham Miners Gala. The reason being that the Durham miners seconded the resolution we are objecting to in this article. This has made, in the view of the DMA officials, them look like they are pointing both ways but they are not responsible for the face book page which appears to be in their name. I have to say neither am I or this website. I posted the article on MY Facebook page, and it has been picked up by another comrade and posted on the face book page which he set up in 2012 under the heading Durham Miners Gala. We have nothing to do with that and it is true that title makes it look like an official DMA face book page which is problematic. We apologies for any confusion here but it’s not us comrades. I hasten to add that the DMA leaders fully accept our right to present an alternative view of the situation in Donbass/Ukraine, they take exception not to the content of our criticism but to it appearing under what seems to be their name contrary to their own political stance on this matter. The supporters of this website have the closest links possible to the NUM as a union for obvious reasons we are members and former officials of it, we also enjoy close relations with the Durham Miners and we hope to continue to do so. Our criticism on this one issue is intended to be constructive and fraternal.
David Douglass, Retired Hatfield Main Branch delegate and secretary and Yorkshire Area EC member.