The National Union of Mineworkers in Britain recently affiliated to the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign (USC), a network building support for independent unions in Ukraine struggle against both Russian imperialism and EU/IMF-driven austerity. We reprint below their statement in response to criticisms of this stance, republished with permission from the USC website. Following this is a message to the NUM from Sergey Yunak, President of Ukrainian miners' union PRUP.
The NUM 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 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 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 21 April this year. 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 take over 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 our sister union Aself, that “Ukraine has been squeezed between an aggressive power in our East and neo-liberal 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.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Everybody from PRUP and I greatly appreciate your support in our current difficult times. DTEK management also extended its appreciation to you and thanked you for finding time and visit the Ukraine and West Donbas to shared your great experience in the upholding mineworkers’ rights, how conduct ourselves with the state leaders and how protect the Union members and their families.
Every meeting enriches our professional and cultural experience and helps find new ways in our struggle for mineworkers’ rights and overcome difficulties, and helps in the searching of new possibilities for the establishment of the International Union of Mineworkers Organization.
Every day spent by your NUM Delegation in Pavlograd, Dnepropetrovsk Region will be held in the memory of our people who had a good chance to watch all our meetings and negotiation on TV and read much in our newspapers. A special powerful impression was made on our Union activists during a big meeting on the bank of the river Samara.
On behalf of Dnepropetrovsk Territorial Organization of Union of Mineworkers of Ukraine I would like to thank everyone who had to work hard to assure the successful visit of NUM Delegation to Ukraine. We will continue our warm relationships and look forward to having new meetings in the nearest future.
With kind regards and best wishes,