LRC divided over Ukraine

by New Worker correspondent

NUMBERS were down at this year’s annual conference of the Labour Representation Committee in London last Saturday, where a heated debate showed a clear division of views over what is happening in Ukraine.

The conference began with John McDonnell MP welcoming delegates and individual members followed by Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union.

He gave a run-down on the long dispute currently raging as firefighters battle to keep their pension rights against the Coalition government, which wants to raise retirement age to 60 — an age at which few people are fit enough for the strenuous and dangerous job of fighting fire — or to lose their pensions if they have to retire before that age for health reasons.

He also called on the Labour leadership to improve its chances in next year’s general election by promising an emergency budget as soon as they are in power to end the harsh austerity policies of the Coalition.

And he called for a “rebirth” of socialist values and for demands to taking privatised utilities and companies back into public ownership.

John McDonnell, in moving the LRC national committee statement, spoke of the urgent need to bring the working class back to Labour or risk the danger of a new Tory dominated government.

“It’s not so much that the working class has deserted Labour but that Labour has deserted the working class,” he said.

He also spoke on the sorry state of the Labour Party in Scotland, where both the Labour leader, Johann Lamont, and her deputy, Anas Sarwar, have recently resigned follow- ing the Scottish referendum.

Other speakers included Liz French from Betteshangar Women Against Pit Closure, Darren Williams of the Welsh Grassroots Alliance, Adrian Weir from the union Unite, Leticia Bernues Caudillo from the Spanish left-wing party Podemos and Cagdas Canbolat from the Daymer Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre.

The morning session saw debate on resolutions about housing, campaigning for Labour, justice for Irish victims of state collusion in terror, saving the NHS, about trade union structures and about the LRC itself.

But the most controversial debate, on Ukraine, came in the afternoon session. The LRC leadership had already committed itself to supporting the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign (USC), which claims “to organise solidarity and provide information in support of Ukrainian socialists and trade unionists,” but opposes the anti-fascist resistance in Novorossiya and what it calls the “Russian invasion”.

One resolution from Noel Park Labour Party branch supported this line.

Two opposing resolutions, one from the New Communist Party and one from Brent and Harrow LRC, called for support for Solidarity with Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU), recognising the current illegal Kiev regime as fascist and a tool of Nato imperialism against Russia.

These resolutions recognised the rights of the people of Lugansk and Donbas to break away from the Kiev regime following brutal fascist attacks on left-wingers and Russian speakers and the Odessa fire massacre last May as a measure of urgent self-defence.

But after a long and heated debate the supporters of the status quo won the vote. Clearly the narrative propagated by the western media on the situation in Ukraine is misleading even left-wing social democrats and there is much work to do to combat imperialist lies.

The conference ended with the singing of the Internationale.