UCU union conference in June (Photo: twitter/@ucu)

Trade unionists must stand up to those in power who are ramping up militarism and pushing us further into war.

At the UCU union congress last month, we defended a principled position that our union would not support arms sales.

It assured that UCU would challenge a motion introduced at the TUC union federation congress last year that supported sending arms to Ukraine.

For us in UCU this question has been contentious in recent years.

Last year we passed a motion which identified the Ukraine war as a proxy conflict between US and Russian imperialism. On this basis, the union should not back arming Ukraine. This year we managed to defend this position and call for an immediate ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine.

There was fierce debate amongst delegates but we won because our simple points cut through. We asked congress, “How many more people are going to have to die in this war, 10,000, 100,000?”

Our other main point was that we need “welfare not warfare”. Rishi Sunak recently pledged to ramp up arms spending to £75 million.

Millions of ordinary people will be disgusted at increased funding for war considering that our education and health sectors are on their knees.

It’s important that we make these arguments in unions because even our leaders can be committed to militarism and nationalism. Union leaders who back arms sales because they want to conserve jobs should also be challenged.

Overall, it was a good congress for the anti-war movement. We also voted for a host of motions about Palestine that all passed pretty much unanimously.

Our example shows that trade unionists can win support in their unions for principled anti-imperialist stances and against more arms spending.

Sean Vernell, North London

Do more than speak out

Nicola Coughlan, lead actor in the Bridgerton TV series, has been an outspoken supporter of Palestine.

Despite advice that her activism might jeopardise her career, Coughlan helped raise £1.2 million for Palestinian aid.

She said, “I feel a duty to use my platform to speak out for those who are suffering.”

Celebrities addressing political issues can change public opinion. On the other hand some of the public notice when they ignore situations like the ongoing genocide.

The Blockout 2024 campaign asked social media users to block major celebrities who did not speak out for Palestine.

Some argue that for celebrities to maintain their Instagram following and lucrative online partnerships, they must take a stand.

However, Blockout 2024 is not enough.

Online activism is good, but it has to be a means of bringing people to the streets and to organise.

Eleonora Mauro, East London

It’s right to strike during the general election

College lecturers in Scotland struck last week and are set for escalation.

In the context of increasing bitterness from college bosses and the Scottish government, our action has been incredible.

Despite the worst price rises and inflation in a generation, further education workers in Scotland have not had a pay rise since 2021.

Our pay dispute has been ongoing for two years now. College bosses have threatened to withhold our pay throughout periods of non-strike industrial action, but we’re continuing to escalate.

Bosses have refused to engage in negotiations in good faith or make fair pay deals.

We have been left with no option but to increase action. Course closures and job losses mean that this fight is about jobs and the future of further education in Scotland.

The priority of this system has been to favour the rich, but this election means we increase the scrutiny on our government.

We have to fight to put our lives on the politicians’ agenda in this election. Action like ours can achieve this, and other groups of workers should do the same.

Angela McCormick, Glasgow

Don’t say sorry to Farage over milkshake

Yet again, Labour has shown it is the respectable party as shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper jumped to defend Nigel Farage after he was “milkshake-d” in Clacton.

Cooper called the assault “disgraceful”, “unacceptable and wrong”.

That wasn’t enough for the racist Farage. He then came for Diane Abbott, asking if she would condemn Stand Up To Racism—a group she chairs—as he said it had encouraged and celebrated the attack.

Why should Abbott do this?

I believe the public likely cheered at the sight of him covered in a milkshake.

The former public school boy should go back to his mansion, dry clean his two grand suit and leave the political arena all together.

This privileged millionaire thinks being splashed by a milkshake is more aggressive and violent than the fate of the hundreds of human beings that drown in the sea when they are seeking asylum.

Of course Farage will milk the whole thing as much as possible.

Let’s see if Cooper and her ilk come to Abbott’s defence with the same zeal as she did with Farage.

But whatever follows, we must step up our fight against this heinous man and his divisive politics.

And one thing Abbott could do is tell Farage to take a run and jump in the very same sea.

Dean Harris, London

Labour spent big on slurs

Labour last week used the cover of the election campaign to drop a lawsuit against five of its former staffers.

The party accused them of leaking an internal report on antisemitism and “conspiring” against Keir Starmer.

The party spent between £1.5 million and £2.4 million on the action. What a disgrace

Alison Lowther, Birmingham

The language doesn’t help

In an otherwise excellent article on slavery by Robin Blackburn (Socialist Worker. 5 June) I must take issue with his use of the word “crackpot” in “crackpot Conservatism”.

For a Marxist to use such an unscientific term to describe a material process is disappointing.

To use a term that reinforces negative stereotypes of those of us who experience mental distress is unhelpful.

John Curtis, Ipswich

Legal drugs can be taxed

The so-called war on drugs has failed and led to drug cartels making billions of dollars.

A 10 percent sales tax on the sale of cannabis through independent shops would bring in £1 billion a year to the treasury.

The money could be spent on public services and on a public health education campaign.

John Smithee, Cambridgeshire

I did learn from national service duty

Who thinks conscripts subjected to bullying, endless drill parades, the loss of liberty and the horrors of being taught how to kill with guns, knives and bayonets will be better citizens?

Only those who never did national service could think this.

The one skill I did learn while doing my national service in the Royal Air Farce was to become an expert at dodging hard work.

Colin Marsh, Leeds


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