Editorial of the Socialist issue 1250
A month into this devastating war on Gaza and the world’s capitalist leaders are demonstrating again that our lives are not safe in their hands and their system. Capitalism means war, just as it means a cost-of-living crisis, poverty, environmental catastrophe, and inequality.
The average Gazan is living on two pieces of bread a day. The death toll has topped 10,000. Horrific, unprecedented levels of shelling by the Israeli army combine with the escalating land invasion and encirclement in the month since the terrible Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians.
Over 150 health workers have been killed in Gaza so far. Hospitals are crammed with not only injured humans but also, in the absence of essential medicines and supplies, insects and the threat of disease. A surgeon at the Al Shifa hospital reported that they only had enough energy to power the neonatal unit – and only for the rest of that day.
At the hands of the Israeli regime and far-right settler thugs they enable, many Palestinians in the West Bank have been forced from their villages, have lost their jobs, have been arrested, including more than 700 being held without charges, and are beaten and even killed.
Demands for an end to the war and a just solution for the Palestinians grow louder. Last weekend saw large marches including in London, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Dhaka, at the US embassy in Turkey, and across the Arab world. In cities across the US, the protests against the onslaught on Gaza are the biggest since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Youth predominates, a young generation who only knows capitalism in terms of crisis and war – and has had enough.
Many demonstrations have gone ahead in the face of undemocratic government bans. Here the Tories are threatening similar measures, but the police have so far stopped short. In this situation a ban, as in other countries, would only teach a new generation the inability of repressive laws to prevent a mass movement.
The war highlights the main divide in society – ‘them’ and ‘us’. On one side, is the solidarity and opposition to war of the working class and poor peoples of the world, and the middle classes too; and, on the other, the representatives of capitalism, seeking to serve the interests of big business in terms of power, prestige and profit.
The protests are an expression of how millions of people not only reject war and its devastation, but the belief that they must act themselves because capitalist establishment leaders and their parties of the rich cannot be trusted to rule.
There is, undoubtedly, growing fear among these capitalist leaders that a spill-over into a regional war is possible. But it is increasingly clear that it isn’t in their gift to prevent it – events can take a logic of their own. Last week the leaders of Hezbollah delivered speeches threatening to escalate attacks on Israel, under pressure to be seen to act. The capitalists’ primary concern is the major implications for the system they defend, including for the economy.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Larry Fink, the chief executive of mega corporation BlackRock, said: “Rising fear creates a withdrawal from consumption or spending more. So fear creates recessions in the long run, and if we continue to have rising fear, the probability of a European recession grows and the probability of a US recession grows.”
Recognising the dangers to their system is not the same as the capitalists having a solution. The US government is expending significant military efforts now – on top of its enormous regular military ‘aid’ to Israel – attempting to both be seen as on Israel’s side while also trying to prevent escalation into a regional war.
The US government is also investing diplomatic efforts, in part in response to the pressure of the anti-war mood and protests. But another US visit to Israel and the Arab leaders by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has delivered no steps towards an agreed plans let alone a viable one.
Meanwhile the Israeli government continues to pursue ramping up its ‘Greater Israel’ expansionism. Its spokespeople make it clear it sees no situation where Palestinians have meaningful self-determination. Netanyahu is desperate to be seen as acting decisively following the 7 October attacks. But, despite majority support for action, his government faces unprecedented wartime unpopularity including due to its lack of a plan for the return of the hostages taken by Hamas, with demonstrations growing on this issue.
Netanyahu is not the only capitalist politician who will be found wanting by this war. In the next year US president Biden, Egyptian president Al-Sisi and many other world leaders, like the Tories in Britain, face elections. They have reason to fear that the war will bring consequences for their electoral prospects. This threat does not yet come from an organised political expression of the anti-war movement or broader workers’ struggles. Instead, from opposition to the capitalist politicians’ war stance and their lack of solutions, tipping the balance in a situation where their support base is already extremely limited.
A new poll shows Biden losing in 2024, not because of votes switching to Trump but because of voters rejecting Biden’s record which has delivered falling living standards for ordinary Americans and no end to the worldwide crises. The building of a mass working-class party that opposes all attacks on the working class – from war to wage cuts – is needed to fill this vacuum.
This is also the case in the Middle East. There, the 2011 Arab Spring mass uprisings that removed dictators are in the living memories of both the masses and the capitalist elites. Socialist intifadas mean mass struggles of the working class and poor, including building their own independent political organisations. Necessary will be a programme of how to unite the working class to end capitalism and replace it with a socialist alternative based on democratic planning of the economy in the interests of all, not just a tiny elite.
In Israel, where divisions appear to be ever more entrenched, building workers’ organisations that can unite Jewish, Palestinian and workers of other backgrounds can be seen as off the agenda. But the Israeli capitalists will expect the working class to pay for the economic woes facing the Israeli economy down the line. The fight to defend living standards will demand a response in the workplaces and trade unions, where strike action has brought solidarity and unity between workers in the past – and can again.
The context is a capitalist system in deep crisis. ‘They’ have failed. But ‘we’ are not yet organised enough to take the initiative and not only throw them out but replace them. That is the task of the organised working class and the anti-war movement, including building new anti-war workers’ parties with socialist, internationalist programmes.
- Stop the war on Gaza! For the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli military from the occupied territories
- For a mass struggle of the Palestinians, under their own democratic control, to fight for liberation
- For the building of independent workers’ parties in Palestine and Israel and links between them
- For an independent, socialist Palestinian state, alongside a socialist Israel, with two capitals in Jerusalem and guaranteed democratic rights for all minorities, as part of the struggle for a socialist Middle East
- No trust in the capitalist politicians, internationally or in Britain. Fight to build a workers’ party in Britain that stands for socialism and internationalism