Cut war not welfare Cut war not welfare. Photo: Jim Aindow

As several of the excellent speeches against the motion outlined, it is always working people who suffer from wars, writes Chris Nineham

Today’s extremely close vote at the TUC for Composite Two, which included calls for increased arms spending, is a serious setback for the labour movement and for the cause of peace. It will be used to bolster the government’s case for further wars and militarisation.

Swinging behind the Tory drive for more military spending at a time when they are smashing working class living standards and introducing drastic welfare cuts is a deeply mistaken position for trade unions to take.

As several of the excellent speeches against the motion outlined, it is always working people who suffer from wars.

If the Tories succeed in raising arms spending by 50% by 2030 as Liz Truss promises, working people will suffer directly because the extra £50 billion diverted to the military will be paid for with cuts to pensions and welfare. All this comes at a time when people are struggling to heat their homes and feed their families.

Less jobs are created by investment in the arms industry than in any other sector because it is so capital intensive. Rather than backing the government’s drive towards more militarisation, as delegates pointed out, the movement should be arguing for more jobs and spending on the things working people actually need such as healthcare, housing, education, transport, green technologies and civilian infrastructure.

The original GMB resolution ‘Defending manufacturing jobs’, noted that the world has become a more dangerous place. This is true. But think what Britain’s so-called defence budget has been spent on over the last twenty-five years. Catastrophic wars in the former Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria, in Libya, in Yemen, which have led to death and destruction on an almost unthinkable scale, to failed states and the devastation of whole regions. These wars have, in fact, been one of the main causes of the instability and desperation that we see around the world.

The current war in Ukraine was started by a brutal Russian invasion. The anti-war movement condemned the invasion from the start. But the Western response has been disastrous.

Given their record of foreign wars it would be beyond naive to believe that the Tories or the British military have the interests of the Ukrainian people at heart. Britain has pumped more weapons into Ukraine and the wider region than any other country apart from the US. They are supporting the US in a proxy war against Russia in the hope that it will strengthen Britain’s position globally.

In the context of a frightening rise in tensions between nuclear armed great powers, this is a war that is taking the world in a desperately dangerous direction.

The majority of people in Britain oppose our governments’ addiction to war. We in the anti-war movement will continue to campaign against it. We will continue to fight for the prioritisation of welfare over warfare and for negotiated settlements over armed conflict. Despite the extremely narrow defeat at the TUC, we are confident that most trade union members agree with us.

We are holding a trade union conference The World at War: A Trade Union Issue on 21 January 2023 to address these questions and we invite all trade unionists to come along and join the discussion.

From Stop the War

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Chris Nineham

Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.

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