“We know that working people are the main victims of war, and when the Conservatives say it is going to be a “tough road ahead,” we know it is working people who will be the victims of Tory austerity.”
By Shadia Edwards-Dashti, Stop the War Coalition
Delivering the recent Autumn Statement, the new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, told the country, “it’s going to be tough for everyone over the next year.” The message is clear: workers will pay the price for Tory financial ineptitude. But while living standards are set to fall by 7% over the next two years, and departmental budgets are eroded by inflation, military spending continues to rise.
Record sums are being spent on arms and the military, yet public services, like the NHS, social care and schools, are slashed. Not mentioning the war in Ukraine and the resulting hikes in military spending is no longer an option.
As Jamie Newell of the FBU says, “There’s always a magic money tree for wars we don’t benefit from, but never for key workers that serve us every day. I’ve never heard a general say they couldn’t afford to bomb someone, and we’ve just seen Rishi Sunak gift another £50m to Ukraine for example, but he won’t fund public services and key workers striking for fair pay.
Recently the TUC debated a motion which included calls for increased arms spending. Although the vote was tight, and a number of unions voted against the motion, including the PCS, NEU, RMT, CWU and FBU, the motion was passed. This marked a serious setback for the labour movement and aligns the TUC with the Tory party in banging the drums of war.
Of course, it is not just Conservative politicians, but also those on the Labour benches, who fail to join the dots between cuts in public spending and hikes in money for the military.
Cheered on by politicians on both sides, Britain has pumped more weapons into Ukraine and the wider region than any other country apart from the US. 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.
One of the drivers of this is Defence Secretary Ben Wallace who says “our support for Ukraine is unwavering” as he sends helicopters to Ukraine for the first time since the war began, as well as an extra 10,000 artillery rounds. His declaration came as Sunak announced a further £50 million in ‘military aid’.
Unwavering support for the people of Ukraine should not mean unwavering support for weapons. Pouring money down the drain of war will only prolong the conflict and result in even more death and destruction. It is ordinary Ukrainians who are paying the price.
The latest Russian bombardments have targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure on almost a weekly basis, and as the weeks go by, as the winter weather worsens, the suffering will grow. This cycle of war must be broken.
Doing so will not just save lives abroad. A new strategy for how public money is spent could reshape the future of Britain. More money for public services rather than more money for the military would make life considerably less “tough” for people here in the UK. This is the approach that should be backed by every single trade union.
We know that working people are the main victims of war, and when the Conservatives say it is going to be a “tough road ahead,” we know it is working people who will be the victims of Tory austerity.
This is why Stop the War Coalition has called its first trade union conference. We need a unified effort to fight against militarism and make clear the links between the war machine and the lives of ordinary working people.
- Join the Stop the War Coalition Trade Union Conference on 21 January.
- You can follow Stop the War on Facebook, Instagram and twitter.
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