The Spirit Of Mass Mobilisation Is Vital
Joint General Secretary of the NEU Kevin Courtney's speech at our national conference
I’m proud that my old union the NUT is a long-time affiliate of CND, of Stop The War coalition and I’m sure that will continue in the NEU.
I’m proud that our exec member Alex Kenny has served on Stop the Wars leading councils
And proud that our then president Mary Compton spoke for us at the millions-strong demo in 2003.
Mary died this year, far too early, and Ian Murch our treasurer, read out excerpts of her speech at her funeral service in February to great acclaim.
Tens of thousands of teachers were amongst the hundreds of thousands who were on that demo.
And that spirit of mass mobilisation is vital to us today.
Many teacher unions around the world see themselves as social justice unions. We see that we can’t do the best for the children we teach if they are suffering the effects of poverty, of racism, of the fear that accompanies life in a war zone.
So, we want to involve ourselves as fully as we can in the movement to stop the wars - and in movements to stop the growth in racist attitudes that often accompanies them.
Those wars have horrible consequences in the countries that are invaded or bombed. And they have consequences at home too. Not just the waste of resources involved in the disgusting waste and costs of cruise missiles when schools, hospitals and social care are being cut back, but the coarsening of attitudes to human life when politicians talk about collateral damage and the real fear that teachers see in children in their school.
Our Government should live up to its international obligations to welcome refugees. And its obligations not to engage in illegal wars.
But I regret to say that our country is failing in both regards.
Tony Blair’s Govt followed the US into an illegal war in Iraq and I believe that if it wasn’t for the growth and determination of Stop the War there would be many more interventions than those we have seen.
The consequences of that illegal war were deadly, and they are still with us – at least half a million-people died in Iraq because of the US and UK intervention, this has led directly to the growth of jihadi groups like Isis, and to millions of desperate people crossing the world seeking a safe place.
And in addition to those consequences that the people of the middle east and the rest of the world are living with our fear for the future must be profound
Interventionist wars in the middle east aren’t the prerogative of just one party in the US - just as we know that both Labour and Tory can pursue them here.
But the unstableness of the Trump regime - the way he is so cavalier about aligning with far right, with Islamophobes and other racists and his reckless attitude to the Iran nuclear deal for example should all give us real concern and real determination to oppose him and any attempts to drive towards war.
That why I think it was so right for the Stop the War coalition to be part of the massive anti-Trump mobilisation this summer and why I said I thought it was a question for every teacher.
Every bit of the work we did together that day makes it harder for our Govt to contemplate following any adventure he might contemplate. Every bit of work we do opposing the growth of Islamphobia makes it easier to mobilise against war.
So I want to end by congratulating you all for being here today – for giving your time to build this organisation – it your commitment and broad based organising that build the huge demos, that built the mobilisation against Trump that is keeping the pressure on our politicians.
Congratulations to Stop the War and more power to your elbow.