Typewriter Critical Mass editorial

Many Sunday Socialist readers will join us in being dismayed at the TUC motion on Ukraine which was proposed by the GMB and ASLEF. In some respects the motion says little that most of us would disagree with. It calls for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and for aid for Ukraine. It is this second part that is problematic. Whilst the call for arms for Ukraine was withdrawn from the motion, it is still open to interpretation. The motion fails miserably to hold to account those western governments who have been arming Ukraine, ensuring the death toll continues to rise.

This war was, as we said at the time, provoked by western inaction and avoidable, if only diplomacy had been allowed to intervene. Instead, virtually from the day the war began, any attempt to call for diplomacy in the west has been derided as pro-Russian. You don’t have to be pro-Russian or pro-Ukrainian to argue that there are better ways of solving differences than seeing who can kill the highest number of the other’s citizens. You are neither Putin’s puppet nor Zelensky’s apologist for saying that a negotiated peace will be not only the best outcome, but the inevitable one. Neither is it pro-Ukraine to point out that Russia has no right to be in a country which is a sovereign land. It doesn’t matter that some of the Ukrainian army have an alarming obsession with Nazi insignia. And pointing that out does not make us pro-Russian.

Let’s be honest with ourselves here. Russia is not going to withdraw because the British TUC calls on them to do so. That is purely rhetorical. Russia might agree to withdraw if NATO returned to its pre-war position of no further encroachment into Eastern Europe. This is not to defend the invasion but simply to recognise that a peace can only be won by a diplomatic settlement. 

What is at fault here is not our trade unions per se, but rather a political system where leadership means simply following the status quo, or, worse, public opinion; as if leadership is simply telling people what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. As our news pointed out on Thursday, we have no leader with the moral courage to stand against the crowd, preferring instead to let the media shape a public opinion they can then quote as justification for encouraging the war to continue; a war which benefits nobody but the arms manufacturers.

The moral vacuum at the heart of the democratic systems of the west is not a mere side issue here. The idea that anybody calling for peace is acting treacherously has taken hold in the UK Labour Party, still the main opposition party, who are failing to show any leadership on this, as well as most other issues.

It is because many on the left have recognised this that we have seen the launch of both Transform, a movement for a new party of the left, and Stop Starmer which has, as its only focus, preventing Keir Starmer from becoming Prime Minister. 

We do not believe either of these movements will be sustainable in the long term and, like so many other left vanity projects, will be abandoned as a new idea is brought to the fore and creates some short-lived excitement. This is not to be cynical but realistic.

People are crying out for something different. At least people like us are crying out for something different. The problem is that most people are not entirely sure what that something is. Is it a party? Is it a movement? Is it a campaign? 

On Tuesday we posited that, rather than Stop Starmer, what we needed was to Start Socialism, to begin the process of reconstructing our understanding of the meaning of socialism and the road we need to travel to get there. We have been too keen in the past to quote Rosa Luxemburg’s “either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism” aphorism. Whilst some might want to argue that we have already regressed into barbarism, and Ukraine is the evidence, we have a little more hope for our future. 

Let us start today to work out how that transition to socialism can occur and what that transition will look like. Let’s work together to Start Socialism.

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