NUM answers smears over Ukraine solidarity

February 5, 2016 at 3:42 pm (internationalism, posted by JD, Russia, solidarity, stalinism, Ukraine, unions, workers)

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Statement from the NUM (also published, in extended form, as a letter in the current issue of the Weekly Worker):


The National Union of Mineworkers is disturbed by the smears against our union regarding our approach to the conflict in Ukraine. These smears have been promoted mainly by elements on the outskirts of the labour movement. Sadly, some who should know better have been willing to give air to such defamation. We at the NUM have long experience of those who would seek to sow divisions and discredit us and we have a proven record of defending ourselves when necessary.

It is shamefully claimed the NUM has joined the camp of our enemies and abandoned our history of working class internationalism. Some even asserting we have crossed into the same camp as fascists and taken the line of Nato. Let us set the record straight.

The NUM has not based its response to the Ukraine crisis on what the British or Russian media tell us. We have not been charmed by the opportunity to sit in their TV studios and accept without question their government’s line. Instead we naturally turned to our fellow miners’ unions, with whom we have a friendship stretching back decades: the Trade Union of the Coal Mining Industry (PRUP) and the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU). The very first statement issued by the NUM executive committee was clear:

“The NUM supports the international principle of self-determination and expresses its support to our brothers and sisters in the miners’ union, PRUP, who are calling for all interference from outside Ukraine to stop. The NUM calls for a peaceful resolution to the current issues facing the people of Ukraine and our thoughts are with all the miners in the Ukraine, who we regard as our friends.”

During some of the worst fighting in Ukraine, we hosted a delegation of miners at the Durham Miners Gala in 2014 that were warmly received, yet our hospitality is now denigrated by assertions they were not miners, but national union officials from Kiev. This is untrue. The delegation was from Donbas and the speaker that addressed the gala was chairman of the Dnipropetrovsk branch of PRUP.

The NUM has sent two delegations to Ukraine; we have visited industrial areas, met national union officials, local branches and rank-and-file miners. We have also met with activists of the wider labour movement. The NUM attended and addressed the joint union congress of Miners of Ukraine on April 21. We are proud to have taken part in a protest by thousands of miners in defiance of riot police at the parliament in Kiev against pit closures.

Those attacking the NUM seek to question the legitimacy of the Ukrainian trade unions. Yet we have seen with our own eyes that the miners’ unions are not slavishly following the oligarchs and the government. They are resisting as best they can pit closures, austerity and anti-union laws. The NUM is being attacked because we support fellow trade unions that appeal for solidarity instead of the armed forces that hold a third of the territory in Donbas. Despite the wishful thinking of some, Putin’s Russia is not sponsoring a revived 1917-style soviet republic or a Spain of 1936. It is clear the takeover in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk area was initiated by rival oligarchs and Russia out of their own vested interests. In those areas the existing labour movement has been suppressed, trade unionists have been kidnapped, tortured and even murdered. This is common knowledge and has been reported to the international trade union movement repeatedly.

We have given our support to the Ukrainian labour movement in supporting the unity of Ukraine and of the working people of Ukraine, opposing the undemocratic division of Ukraine by force, which has been a humanitarian and economic catastrophe; it has divided working people and their labour movement.

At no time has the NUM given support to either Russian or Ukrainian far-right forces active in Ukraine – our solidarity is first and foremost with the labour movement. The NUM endorses the calls by the Ukrainian trade unions for justice for victims of the attacks on both the Kiev and Odessa trade union buildings, and of those killed on the Malaysian airline.

The situation was summed up in an address by the Union of Railway Workers of Ukraine to the conference of its sister union, Aslef, that “Ukraine has been squeezed between an aggressive power in our east and neoliberal economic policies from the west. The working people of Ukraine are suffering from both the terrible cost of war and of austerity.” NUM shares the view that it is for the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, free from external intervention from Russian or western imperialism. That is, we support the achievement of peace through self-determination, solidarity and social justice.

National Union of Mineworkers


  1. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) said,

    The source of this defamation? The SARU group led by Andrew Murray and Lindsey German and promoted by Stop The War Coalition.

    It is utterly farcical – though utterly predictable – that these idiots have been reduced to defaming the NUM. High time for them to be condemned by the likes of McDonnell.

    • Makhno said,

      I believe the RMT are affiliated to the SARU red/brown querfront, so I might start moaning about striking Tube workers for the first time.

      Solidarity with the NUM.

    • Chris Ford said,

      John McDonnell has taken a robust and principled position on the Ukraine conflict at one time being denounced as a “scab” by a leading light of SARU.

  2. Rilke said,

    Typical STWC and SRU line, they are no longer part of the left but simply a blind and rabid anti-American and anti-Israel sect. Any member of the left who opposes or even questions them in any way is denounced with simple minded slogans – ‘imperialist apologist’, ‘traitor’, Islamophobe’. I argued with them at a recent demo when one of their speakers made a misguided and witlessly idealistic praising comment about Scargill and the miners. A load of guff about us being ‘heroes’ and how the strike was not a ‘defeat’. I know Scargill from the old left forum days in Doncaster and Barnsley and I was all through the strike and did my time in Mansfield and Leeds nick. I told them that Scargill after 1988 was no longer the political man he was in 84/85. I am third generation coal miner on both sides. Guess what? I am apparently a ‘traitor’ who knows ‘nothing’. It is pointless speaking to them.
    I asked about their evasive and apologetic stance on Jihadist attempts to attain a religious totalitarian ‘society’ that was doomed by modernity to be nothing but a nightmare and dreadful for those involved. Guess what? Apparently they have the death penalty in Louisiana and a disproportion of those on death row are African Americans (I never knew that!) so the US is ‘just as bad as ISIS’. In any case, film footage shows ISIS fighters with ‘US marine tattoos’ so it is all a Pentagon plot.
    It is pointless, the STWC and their fellow travellers are insane. I just tell them to fuck off or else, now.

  3. John R said,

    I wonder if there’s a bit of an internal NUM argument over this. The only critiques I could find of the NUM Ukraine policy were from Davey Hopper of the Durham NUM and Dave Douglass, a long standing NUM member.

    The latter is a regular writer in the “Weekly Worker” so I expect we’ll see a reply from him next week.

    • Makhno said,

      Seeing as they quite openly support far right paramilitary organisations that have banned trade unions in the areas they control, any reply is sure to be specious bullshit sprinkled with Kremlin propaganda, so who really cares?

  4. Rilke said,

    Dave Douglas is another nutcase and self-appointed nobody. He made a name doing good things during the miner’s strike and standing out as a good spokesman, that is all and he did stand alongside on picket lines and so is no bureaucrat. But many did the same and kept a clear eye. But it all went to Dave’s head. He thinks he is some kind of political ‘thinker’ but talks rubbish. I know him. He was previously part of an anarchist group in Doncaster that welcomed nuclear annihilation as it would allow us to start from a point of ‘primitive communism’. He has changed a bit but still sees himself as a sort of ignored working class Messiah. At a meeting in the nineties, I once asked him about the issues in Serbia when Blair was running his wars, and he spoke in a fair oppositional way, but the fact that he had no inclination that there were such people as ‘Macedonians’ or ‘Montenegrins’ made him look like a moron, and when I told him this he resorted to ranting about ‘scabs’. He is fine as long as he sees himself sitting at the top table otherwise he goes in the huff. Hopper is just a mouthpiece and time server.

    • John R said,

      Dave Douglass used to be a member of the Posadists in the UK who did indeed believe that the Soviet Union should launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against imperialism.

  5. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) said,

    The ban on the Ukrainian Communist Party has been SARU’s obsession for months. This is an important statement by the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign on that

    More here on Ukraine’s UKIP-like Communist Party

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