On Feb. 25, members of different labor unions in Connecticut gathered to hold a fundraiser in solidarity with the Ukrainian working-class resistance, and in particular with the Trade Union of Miners in Kryvyi Rih, the regional branch of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU). Among the speakers was a representative of the International Labour Network for Solidarity and Struggle, who outlined the different solidarity initiatives and workers’ aid convoys organized by the network and the importance of union-to-union solidarity efforts. The president of the Trade Union of Miners, Yuri Samoilov, also spoke, thanking the solidarity efforts and emphasizing the role that industrial workers play in the resistance efforts and the importance of material aid to the ranks of labor organizations.
U.S. labor movement must stand with Ukrainian resistance
Rachel, a member of Teamsters Local 1150, explained that “Russia now controls 20% of Ukraine’s agricultural land, including 27% of wheat farms,” and that the regions Putin intends to annex “account for about half of Ukraine’s conventional oil, 72 percent of its natural gas, and almost its entire coal production and reserves.” Therefore, “for Russian capitalists, this war is about obtaining access and control over resources. This is imperialism. And a victory for the Ukrainian people—even a partial one—in the war against Russia’s invasion would be a major blow to imperialism everywhere.”
This is why it is important to develop labor solidarity in the U.S. with the Ukrainian working class by providing direct material aid to unions facing the hardships of war and invasion. A first fundraiser organized last year collected $5000, which was directly delivered to the miners union in the fall as part of the workers’ aid convoy.
The two initiatives of Workers’ Aid to Ukraine are being co-organized by the independent unions from Brazil (CSP-Conlutas), France (Solidaires), Italy, Lithuania, and Poland, among others. The second fundraiser has been launched to continue the support for labor unions in Ukraine. In addition to enduring one year of war and privations, Ukrainian workers are facing the new labor reforms implemented by the Zelensky government through the mechanism of martial law. These reforms extend the workweek from 40 to 60 hours, abolish protections against unjust firing, allow for the suspension of wages for workers drafted in the war, deregulate working hours, and heavily restrict the rights of protest. Today more than ever, it is essential to help provide the material means for unions in Ukraine to have a voice of their own, to fight for the independence of their country and for their social and labor rights.
To donate, see: https://chuffed.org/project/workersaidtoukraine
U.S. labor should stand against U.S. imperialist aims in the war
The union activist was very clear that all solidarity efforts with the Ukrainian resistance from the labor movement in the U.S.—which are absolutely necessary although still insufficient—need to be done with an independent perspective. In fact, Biden is not providing military aid to Ukraine in order to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty—it has been a means to discard old equipment from the stockpile in order to upgrade the U.S. army—nor to meet the urgent needs, in quantity and speed, of the Ukrainian working people facing the invasion and occupation of their land. Rather, the purpose of the U.S government is to pursue the interests of the big corporations and the geopolitical goals of U.S. imperialism abroad by expanding its economic reach and reinforcing NATO and the Pentagon arsenal.
A recent article from The Guardian, for example, shows that U.S. arms manufacturers are financing lobbyists to directly benefit from the arms deals and “aid” packages from the U.S. government: “Weapons and defense contractors received nearly half—$400bn—of the $858bn in the 2023 defense budget.” In the last instance, Rachel said, this war is above all about damaging and restricting the area of influence of a rival power: “In fact, U.S. military policy indicates that its main goal has been to exhaust the Russian army and economy rather than to deliver a quick defeat of the Russian invasion.”
That is, in fact, the real aim of Biden’s policy in Ukraine through the aggressive yet selective policy of sanctions, which target the Russian economy to weaken it, launching a commercial war around fossil fuels in order to replace Russia as a supplier of natural gas and oils in the European market. In the medium term, the Biden administration, with the IMF and the EU, are attempting “to bring the country of Ukraine further under its influence,” as Rachel explained, so U.S. corporations and hedge funds can benefit from the war and “reconstruction.” This is not a new dynamic, as she explained that “just a few years ago, the IMF and the World Bank pressured Ukraine to ‘balance its budget’ by cutting back on social spending. Health care was privatized in 2018, and state employees were subjected to a raise in the age for retirement pensions.”
We need independent working-class action for Ukraine
The U.S. labor movement must decisively stand in opposition to the Russian invasion and for the full sovereignty of the people of Ukraine. It must join in action with the efforts of self-defense of the working class resistance in Ukraine by providing direct material aid.
Yet it needs to develop its own solidarity initiatives independently from the Biden administration. U.S workers must defend the right of Ukrainians to ask, receive, and make use all the necessary material aid they need to win the war, but they should oppose the policy of sanctions and the so-called “aid packages” that increase the funding for NATO and restocking of U.S. arms and ammunition supplies and selective sanctions. The latter measures are not geared at supporting the struggle for independence in Ukraine—rather the opposite. Their aim is to enlarge the sphere of economic and military influence of U.S. and European imperialism in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, asserting new forms of imperialist domination through the UE, the IMF and NATO. We have seen the result of these policies in other places and we must warn our Ukrainian brothers and sisters of the strings attached to the current “deals” offered to Zelensky.
As Rachel concluded, “For this to be a real fight for independence, it can’t be that the Ukrainian people become subject to another ruling power’s control.” We must emphasize the importance of working-class leadership in both the resistance and solidarity efforts.
Photo: Miners from Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, on strike underground in September 2020.