Isai Marijerla, Socialist Party Executive Committee
“I know that you are taking every precaution to avoid harming civilians”, prime minister Rishi Sunak told his Israeli counterpart during his visit to Israel on in mid-October. Thousands of Palestinian civilians have died since.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has gone as far as calling the hundred thousands-strong protests “hate marches”. Sunak has called the planned demo on the 11 November as “provocative and disrespectful” because it coincides with Armistice Day, commemorating the end of the First World War.
Even as more and more is coming out about the horrors unfolding in Gaza, including the fact that more children have been killed in Gaza than in any global conflict during the whole of 2022, the Tories are refusing to call for a ceasefire at the very least, let alone to stop the war or to fight for the rights of the Palestinians. The Tories’ lack of action and inhumane nature comes as no surprise to anyone.
But the protesters’ anger is also directed at Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. Having said at the start of the conflict that Israel has the right to cut off power and water to Gaza, as long as it acts “within the law”, he refuses to back calls for a ceasefire.
The growing mass anti-war movement is piling pressure on Labour politicians. Four in ten Labour councillors are ‘dissatisfied’ with Starmer’s Israel-Palestine stance, according to one poll. 65 MPs, including 15 frontbenchers, have defied Starmer and called for a ceasefire. 330 Labour councillors have signed a letter to Starmer to back one. Dozens of councillors have resigned from the party and the Labour leader of Burnley has called for Starmer himself to go.
But Starmer’s reaction is consistent with his policies and attitude to protesters. He has refused to back workers on strike, condemned MPs for attending picket lines and didn’t support nurses fighting for a pay rise. He has been determined to prove to the capitalists that he is a safe pair of hands for them and their profits. It is clear that Labour in power under Starmer will be another version of Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’.
Another nail in the coffin for the lack of credibility for Starmer is that Blair, well known as a ‘war criminal’, has given him his blessing.
He has also been targeting the left within the Labour Party. In April this year, Starmer moved a motion, which passed at Labour’s National Executive Committee to prevent Jeremy Corbyn from being a Labour candidate at the general election, with no right of appeal. He suspended Diane Abbott and blocked several left-wing candidates from standing for the party.
Starmer has ruthlessly attempted to root out anyone who could be susceptible to mass pressure in preparation for being in government.
Further mass protests against the war are needed, and the trade unions representing 7 million workers should give a lead in them. The anti-war movement also needs to develop an organised political expression.
The Socialist Party is campaigning for a workers’ list of anti-war, anti-cuts candidates for the next general election, backed by the trade unions. It could include Corbyn, others barred from standing for Labour, and those who have resigned in protest; trade unionists from the strike wave and anti-war campaigners too.
Even just the first steps towards developing such a stand will turn up the pressure gauge now, more if even just a few trade union leaders throw their weight behind it too.
Mass popular opinion, expressed by the mass anti-war protests, acts as a weight on British capitalism and its institutions – including on its foreign policy. The workers’ movement taking steps to build a mass political alternative to war and capitalist crisis would multiply that weight, and most importantly would be starting to build a force that can challenge and remove capitalism.
A crucial task for socialists in the anti-war movement is to fight for those steps to be taken, towards the development of a new mass workers’ party with a socialist programme.
TUSC calls for convention to organise general election challenge
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), the electoral coalition in which the Socialist Party stands as part of in elections, has sent an invite to over twenty campaigning organisations inviting them to co-host a ‘convention to organise a working class challenge at the general election’.
“The aim is not for another debate on whether an election challenge is a good idea or not, but to get down to practical organisation. The time for decisions is coming.”