UK students: Stop the war in Ukraine! Build a movement in t…

An abridged version of this statement is being distributed at campuses across the UK during the first weeks of the university term.

Hundreds of thousands of students are beginning term at UK universities in the last weeks of September, following a return to collapsing schools by millions of children. The future for young people is dominated by a series of crises, including: the escalation of the NATO-Russia war in Ukraine, another surge of COVID-19 infections, the deadly consequences of climate change, and the rise of the far-right across Europe and attacks on democratic rights.

All are expressions of an underlying crisis of the capitalist system. Youth are confronted with the basic fact that, if they are to have a future, they must fight for it. This necessarily means a fight for socialism.

Stop the war in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine, now halfway through its second year, has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The Ukrainian “counteroffensive,” directed by the NATO powers, has turned into a bloodbath.

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) has opposed the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, but we have done so from the socialist left, not the imperialist right. The claims that this war was “unprovoked”, and that the Conservative government is sending billions of pounds worth of weapons to Ukraine to defend “democracy” and the Ukrainian people, are lies.

IYSSE campaign at a campus in Cardiff to stop the war the in Ukraine

The historical origins of this fratricidal war lie in the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union by the Stalinist bureaucracy, which restored capitalism, gave rise to the oligarchic regimes in Ukraine and Russia, and opened up a 30-year period of unending wars led by US imperialism, with the full support of its British and European partners. Since 1991, NATO has aggressively expanded to Russia’s borders. In 2014, the US and European Union (EU) backed a far-right coup in Kiev that brought to power a pro-NATO government which spent the next seven years preparing for war against Russia.

The aim of the imperialist powers in this war is the carve-up of the entire region, whose vast resources they need to prepare for an even larger conflict with China. This is why generations of Ukrainians are being sent into the type of mass slaughter not seen in Europe since the end of World War II. From the standpoint of imperialism, their lives are disposable.

The war in Ukraine marks a new stage in the lurch by the imperialist powers towards a new world war and threatens a nuclear catastrophe.

The IYSSE opposes the reckless escalations and provocations of British imperialism, as well as the reactionary nationalism and chauvinism of the oligarchic Putin regime. Along with our comrades in Europe, the US, Russia, Ukraine and throughout the world, we are fighting to end this war by building an anti-war movement of youth and workers, based on the unification of the working class in Russia, Ukraine and internationally.

  • No to nationalism and militarism! For the unity of the Russian, Ukrainian and European working class!
  • Young people must fight to stop the war in Ukraine!

War abroad means war at home

The war in Ukraine signifies a frontal assault on the social and cultural rights of the working class after three decades of relentless attacks on living standards.

Between the proclamation of the “war on terror” in 2001 and the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Britain spent over £800 billion on the military. Sunak has pledged an extra £5 billion over the next two years, taking the military budget to £51.7 billion for 2024-25. The opposition Labour Party, for its part, has repeatedly attacked the government for not spending more on the military.

This money is being plundered from the working class, intensifying the decades-long looting operation of the super-rich. Commentators are speaking of the end of the “peace dividend”, meaning health and education budgets are on the chopping block.

Education spending is already eight percent lower in real terms than in 2010, and teachers’ wages 17 percent lower. They routinely cover a lack of equipment and breakfast for hungry children from their own pockets. There are more than 2,300 unfilled teaching posts and 3,300 posts filled by supply teachers.

One third of universities had budget deficits even before the pandemic, and the Office for Students promised it “will not bail out providers in financial difficulty.” Academic workers have lost jobs and suffered real terms pay cuts, as whole departments and courses in the arts, humanities and social sciences were closed in a massive attack on education and culture.

Already suffering a cost-of-living crisis, with incomes and maintenance loans falling well behind inflation, students are being robbed blind through this year’s new loans system. A lower repayment threshold and extension of the period of repayments from 30 years to 40 means that lower-earning graduates will pay back much more over their lives, but under the new system the highest-earning graduates will pay even less than before.

Universities have played a central role in the propaganda offensive over the war in Ukraine. “Experts” from the University of Cambridge, University College London, Kings College London and other leading institutions have been deployed to promote the lie of a “free, democratic Ukraine” and the need for the British working class to “make everyday sacrifices” to achieve NATO’s war aims.

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