No2NATO Welcomes RMT Leader's Condemnation of Arms Supplies to Ukraine

British anti-war campaigners have welcomed a rail union leader’s condemnation of the “obscenity” of arming Ukraine to commit “war crimes.”

The No to NATO, No to War campaign backed Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union president Alex Gordon’s comments to a seminar at the Arise Festival of Left Ideas, held online throughout June this year.

Gordon argued that “spending billions and billions of pounds on arms to Ukraine” was “an absolutely improper use of public money” amid the cost-of living crisis.

He said it came “at a time when workers are struggling to pay the bills, when we can’t afford the food price rises and energy price rises, and when we hear the government supports an increase in interest rates to possible 5.5 per cent next month.”

Record inflation rates caused by sanctions and embargoes on energy and food imports from Russia have prompted a wave of strikes across the public and private sectors, including by the RMT, as wage offers of round five per cent fail to match price rises of up to 50 per cent on some necessities.

“There are war crimes being carried out in Ukraine with British arms,” Gordon charged, adding: “There are clearly uses being put to British weapons which they shouldn’t be put to.”

The long list of weaponry taken from the UK’s already-depleted armed forces to prolong the proxy war Ukraine has expanded in recent month to include Challenger 2 tanks, AS90 self-propelled cannon and Storm Shadow cruise missiles.

Kiev has already used Western-supplied equipment to escalate the conflict into peaceful regions of Russia, raising the risk of a cataclysmic confrontation between the nuclear powers. Meanwhile the depleted uranium armour-piercing munitions supplied with the Challenger tanks were reportedly destroyed in a Russian attack on a huge ammunition depot near the city of Khmelnitsky, potentially causing an environmental disaster.

The union leader also gave his support to members of the University and College Union (CUC), who voted at their national conference last weekend to call on the government to “stop arming Ukraine” and to oppose NATO expansion.

UCU General Secretary Jo Grady has since publicly distanced herself from that resolution after it had been passed, instead declaring her “solidarity” with Ukraine.

The British left should “as a movement say which side we stand on this question,” Gordon stressed. “We’ve got to stand against war, we’ve got to back up our comrades in the UCU, and I take my hat off to them, voting this week to support a motion against arms sales to Ukraine.”

The seminar was chaired by Baroness Christine Blower, a former general secretary of the National Union of Teachers — now the National Education union — and was also attended by veteran labour movement barrister Lord John Hendy KC, as well as Labour Party MPs John McDonnell, Kim Johnson, Bell Ribiero-Addy and Kate Osborne.

However, an opposition spokesperson said Gordon’s comments were “not the views of the Labour Party.”

“With Keir Starmer’s leadership there will never be any confusion about whose side Labour is on — Britain, NATO, freedom and democracy,” they declared.

The RMT insisted that it had previously repeatedly condemned what it called “Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.”

Gordon was a leading member of the now disbanded Solidarity with Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine, formed following the 2014 ‘Euromaidan’ coup in Kiev.

George Galloway added his voice of support for the remarks, noting that "it is of the utmost urgency that the trade union movement defends it's members interests through opposition to the reckless warmongering of our government. Those brave enough to raise their voices can rely on our full support" he said.

James Tweedie, June 2nd 2023