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ICTU Ukraine rally

Nothing to say about NATO, Irish militarisation?

25 March 2022

The "Stand With Ukraine" rally was organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions

ICTU were the leading force in a 1000 strong Stand with Ukraine rally outside the Russian embassy in Dublin on Thursday 24th March.

The call for Russia out of Ukraine is widely, and rightly, supported, but no socialist should have attended this rally other than to oppose the ICTU policy.  Rather than a peace rally, it was a war rally. There was no attempt to point the finger at NATO, who are clearly now fully involved in the war, or at the European Union now arming and ratcheting up economic war under the direction of the US, or even opposition to the open drive by the government to militarise Irish society and join the NATO war machine.

Speakers from far-right governments from Georgia and Poland spoke. Frequent calls were made to expel the Russian ambassador and for a no-fly zone in Ukraine.  No-one seemed to realise that the expulsion of an ambassador is usually the prelude to a declaration of war or that a no-fly zone involves an overwhelming military offensive on Russia by NATO and the US - that is a massive step towards a world war and a nuclear exchange. Similar calls were made at a Belfast rally some days ago attended by trade union representatives and left groups.

The overwhelming hypocrisy of the event was best summed up by Seamus Dooley of the National Union of Journalists. He protested Russian press censorship, but neglected mention of the outlawing of the RT network. There was no sense of irony from a man who has long resisted calls from his own members to organise opposition to the extradition of Julian Assange to the US for the offense of reporting war crimes. Although standing beside the Polish ambassador, he seemed unaware of the case of Pablo Gonzalez, a Basque journalist who works for Basque and Spanish left-wing media. Pablo was covering the war in Ukraine when he was interrogated by the Ukrainian authorities. The Spanish intelligence services approached his family and friends and he was subsequently arrested in Poland on 28th February and charged with spying against Poland. He has been denied access to his lawyer and no evidence has yet been presented to back up the charge.

On a broader scale the visit of Phillip Windsor and his consort Camilla and the assorted bowing and scraping did not provoke a response or mention of the British military presence in Ireland, even when Windsor crossed the line and made an attack on Russia - a red line both in terms of diplomacy and in terms of supposed royal neutrality on political issues.

However, the issue is not whataboutery. The issue is a central issue in every war - for trade unionists and socialists the main enemy is at home.

Having signed up to a campaign where the only issue is Russian aggression, what has ICTU got to say about the NATO war drive? The drive by Irish capitalists to join NATO? The massive increase in the military budget in a country that is unable to house its poor? The racism towards migrants who are the wrong colour?

We all know the answer. ICTU has been in the government's pocket throughout the credit crunch. It has exchanged defending worker's rights during Covid-19 for a seat in the planning committees. It has abandoned opposition to a housing plan that enriches vulture capital to again sit on the committees.

With this history it should not be surprising that it has now adopted a position that would make it extremely difficult to oppose the growing war drive in Ireland.

It is still shocking.  An Ireland in the grip of NATO and a militarised Europe, with a strengthened military apparatus and with an inflated bill that the workers will pay, marks a big step to the right.

For far too long Socialists have closed their eyes to partnership between ICTU leaders and government.  We must remobilise to fight war abroad and collaboration at home.

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