Congress then moved onto debate international issues, which this year, means the War in Ukraine. This was captured on the video stream, and I post the text of the main composite motion which was on the Ukraine war and a second motion on the arms industry and defence. I have clipped the video stream to include the whole debate. Both motions were opposed by a speaker from the floor, who unlike at Labour Party conference was heard and replied to with respect.

I didn’t speak in this debate, there follows below/overleaf the motions and the qualification. The clip above has the whole debate, including the CEC qualification speech together with the one speaker who opposed the two motions. …


This Congress condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine of February 2022, launched from Russia, Belarus and Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory.

Ukraine has already paid a huge and terrible price in lives lost, cities and towns destroyed and its economy wrecked by the Russian invasion and bombardment.

We salute the resistance of the Ukrainian people and its labour movement to this act of imperialist aggression. We are for the victory of Ukraine and the defeat of Russia in this war

We support Ukraine’s right to appeal for, and be provided with, the military equipment and weaponry needed to defeat the invasion.

This Congress is very clear that the democratically elected government in Ukraine is fully entitled to resist the Russian attacks on it’s territory and is also fully entitled to secure defence equipment, arms and weapons from across the world to aid that defence.

Ukraine is also fully entitled to seek to import the most modern and technologically advanced weapons systems from across the world to resist the attacks and regain its territory. We therefore condemn Western governments for their failure to supply sufficient weaponry to do so.

Congress considers that Governments in the UK and other nations with advanced defence manufacturing industries have a duty to respond positively with the weapons Ukraine needs to defend itself.

Congress considers that claims that such a response from the UK Government is the equivalent of war mongering, will prolong the war or risk the escalation of war with Russia are in fact back door arguments to leave Ukraine fend for itself and to face the forced annexation of large parts of its territory. Dressing up these claims with calls for peace talks does not change the fact that the policy they embody is actually acquiescence in the face of the Russian attack and an appeasement of it.

We extend our solidarity to Ukrainian trade unionists and socialists who continue to promote and defend workers’ rights even in the midst of war. Defence of Ukraine against Russian aggression cannot be at the expense of workers’ rights and self-organisation.

We are for the speediest possible end to the war, based on: withdrawal of all Russian forces; respect for, and restoration of, the territorial integrity of Ukraine; approval of any ‘peace deal’ by the people of Ukraine and its labour movement.

We support a post-war socially progressive reconstruction of Ukraine, with trade unions and civil society playing a central role in defining its nature and priorities. We therefore support the cancellation of Ukraine’s foreign debt.

We support the restoration of peaceful relations between Ukraine and neighbouring countries. We therefore look forward to, and pledge our support for, popular democratic uprisings to overthrow the authoritarian and anti-working-class regimes of Putin and Lukashenka in Russia and Belarus.

We welcome the condemnation of the Russian invasion, the support for civil and workers’ rights in Russia and Belarus, and the call for direct links with Ukrainian trade unions, which have been contained in statements on Ukraine issued by the GMB CEC over the past twelve months.

A terrible war of attrition is underway. Congress is clear that the UK Government- be it Tory or Labour- should continue to respond positively to the requests from Ukraine for weapons, training and financial support to defend itself and its territory. Congress further supports sanctions on Russia for launching this terrible war.

Following on from the above, we therefore call on all levels of the GMB to:

– Campaign for increased arms supplies to Ukraine.

– Provide material support to, and build direct links with, Ukrainian trade unions.

– Where possible, provide material support to, and build direct links with, Russian and Belarusian trade unionists, workplace activists, and human rights campaigners.

– Campaign against any attempts by Western governments to pressurise the people of Ukraine into acquiescing to an unacceptable ‘peace deal’.

– Demand cancellation of Ukraine’s foreign debt.

– Support the campaigning and collection of material assistance organised by local

Ukrainian communities in the UK.


This Congress is very clear that the bedrock of the UK’s national security and defence policy continues to be the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ( NATO) which was set up by the Labour Government after the Second World War.

Congress welcomes the decision of the Swedish and Finish Governments to apply for membership of NATO and looks forward to their accession as full members. They will bring important components to our collective security and defence.

The war in Ukraine has underlined the abiding importance of defence and security policies and the abiding requirements to maintain and properly equip adequate UK armed forces as an integral part of NATO.

An incoming Labour Government must make clear to the electorate it’s unbreakable commitment to our national security and defences and to the maintenance of adequate levels of well trained and properly equipped armed forces.

Labour should commit to a new Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy when it comes into office. This should look to the lessons from the war in Ukraine on using modern drones, longer range missiles, real-time satellite imagery and cyber warfare and what this means for the equipment of the British Army. This should also look again at the size of the army and what the conflict has shown on the continuing role and relevance tanks and land warfare vehicles.

Congress calls for an upgrading of the army’s land warfare capability including tanks, armoured personnel carriers and reconnaissance vehicles. The Challenger II tanks are over 20 years old, soon to be reduced to 148. The Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicles are over 26 years old. The Scimitar reconnaissance vehicle is over 50 years old. These require replacements with the most advanced equipment and capabilities.

New capabilities for the defence of vital offshore and undersea communications and energy infrastructures are required. Damage to these infrastructures would have devastating consequences for our security and way of life.

Congress concludes that there is no alternative for our security and defence to properly trained and equipped UK armed forces as part of NATO. This requires an ultra-modern high technology defence manufacturing industry in the UK to equip these armed forces.

Congress notes with satisfaction the leadership of GMB delegations in securing the adoption of this position at both the TUC Congress and Labour Party Conference in 2022 in the context of the war in Ukraine. Moves to diversify jobs away from defence manufacturing are neither sensible nor supportable as they undermine our vital national security and defences.

The CEC position

SUPPORT: This motion reinforces existing GMB policy in a number of areas, and extends it by calling for the admission of Sweden and Finland into NATO, and through its call for a new Integrated Review. We welcome the motion’s focus on the rebuilding of the UK’s defence industrial capacity. We note that while Congress has been critical of some specific actions taken by NATO in the past (2012:227), it is longstanding GMB policy to support the UK’s membership of NATO (2016:164).


This Congress calls for a change of Union policy to drastically reduce rather than increase national expenditure on the manufacturing, deployment, and export of the means of war and mass destruction.

There should be a massive transfer of national resources away from warfare to welfare to support our underfunded public services including the NHS and to develop new green manufacturing industries to create proper employment for our members including those currently employed on the manufacture of armaments.

The risk of a new World War is now greater than ever and solutions to present and potential conflicts should be solved through diplomacy, conciliation and negotiation rather than military escalation.

GMB should campaign for an ethical foreign policy of peace and nuclear disarmament through the United Nations and not support the imperial delusions of the present British Government or the military maintenance of a world order which impoverishes billions of people.

GMB23; the war in Ukraine
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