Camden, London – war not quelled determination
Despite 15 weeks of war and protest, the mood was determined and angry. Hundreds marched on Camden Council on 20 January.
“What do we want? Ceasefire! When do we want it? Now!”, was chanted. And the answer to the question ‘How do we get it?’ was contained in the material that the Socialist Party distributed.
We called for united mass workers’ struggle in Palestine, and a new socialist intifada, to overthrow the capitalist regimes responsible for the carnage.
Demonstrators were angry at the complicity of the British government in the war on Gaza, and the bombing of Yemen. A popular chant was “Rishi Sunak shame on you! Keir Starmer shame on you!”
At the closing rally, an elderly Jewish speaker, who was a Holocaust survivor, explained, to great applause, how he resigned from the Labour Party after being threatened with investigation by Starmer’s machine.
But if Labour is no different from the Tories, who should people vote for in the London and local elections in May, and the general election this year? This question was not answered, or even asked, by any of the speakers at the rally.
But Socialist Party placards, with the slogan ‘Build a mass workers’ alternative to Sunak and Starmer’ were eagerly carried by demonstrators, turning the demonstration into a sea of Socialist Party placards.
Enfield, north London – what’s the point of Labour?
It was meant to be a small campaign stall organised by the local Palestine solidarity group. But so many people turned up that it turned into a protest of 100!
Enfield Trades Union Council is organising an event outside the full Labour council meeting on 24 January to protest its silence. Socialist Party member Sarah Sachs-Eldridge got the crowd chanting: “Enfield Council, hear us say: Staying silent, no way!”
Sarah also said: “What is point of the Labour Party? They don’t show up to protest the slaughter in Gaza. The same way they don’t show up to fight poverty, homelessness, or the cost of living.”
“We need a council that will be part of the anti-war movement with us. That will be part of the trade union movement fighting back”
This promoted another protester to get up and speak. “Some say the Labour Party is the lesser evil. But I don’t want to vote for Tory-lite. What about homelessness, children, mothers, and babies that need help?”
Southampton – socialist ideas snapped up
It was mainly young Asian and Middle Eastern women leading the chanting. Many shoppers stopped along the route to take pictures, clap, and take part in the chanting. Some even joined the march.
A new Socialist Party member, Francis Coultas, was giving out our leaflets to onlookers. One man called his friend over to read it with him, excitedly pointing to the heading. Another middle-aged couple had one of the leaflets. The man was engrossed in it, and wanted to share its contents with his partner.
At the end, people lined up to give speeches. I went forward to speak, but I was told by an organiser that the protest was not political, and that they were not allowing political speeches! At other protests, including in Southampton, Socialist Party members have had a fantastic response when we’ve got up to speak previously.
I was not deterred. I spoke with people in the crowd, explaining that we wanted people to help us field candidates in opposition to the pro-war and pro-cuts politicians in Labour, the Tory and Lib Dems. I got an overwhelming positive response – 12 signed up within 20 minutes.
However, this speaker ignored the fact that Whitehead did not vote for a ceasefire in Parliament, instead voting for an amendment that only allowed a ‘pause’ in the slaughter. But Whitehead proudly voted against the Labour whip in Parliament when Jeremy Corbyn was leader.
Bristol – trade union solidarity
Before the march began, Sheila Caffrey gave a rousing speech on the importance of trade unions in solidarity activism.
She highlighted the power that industrial action has shown in the past, having limited, or even prevented military aggression. Dockers’ strikes, refusal to manufacture weapons, and even general strikes, for example.
Such action proves that the trade union cause is international. Sheila called for workers to discuss the war on Gaza with their unions and colleagues, to strengthen the movement.
Exeter – Labour refusal
Over 1,000 people. As part of the rally, the call was made for local Labour MP Ben Bradshaw to support an immediate ceasefire, which he has refused to do.
Trade union presence was strong, with banners from nearby trades union councils and the National Education Union (NEU) all being proudly displayed. And there was a Socialist Party stall at the subsequent rally.
Aslef union member
Birmingham – ‘Corbyn should launch new party’
“That man should launch a new party!” The rally MC said what everyone was thinking after Jeremy Corbyn spoke in Birmingham. Despite criticising fellow MPs for abstaining on a ceasefire, he stopped short of offering a way forward for people who are disgusted with Labour’s stance.
On the Socialist Party campaign stalls, we were frequently asked: “Who can I vote for in the next general election?” Many said that they may end up voting for the Green Party.
We countered this by asking: “Where is the Green Party today?”, as well as raising how, where the Greens are in power, they have still carried out cuts and attacks on the working class and communities.
We urged the need for a new mass party based on the working class and trade unions, that will stand in solidarity with Palestinians and other oppressed people, to offer a socialist way out of crisis, both in Britain and internationally.
Socialist Party members will be standing up and down the country in the upcoming elections, as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). We encourage all those who want to be part of this working-class movement to join us now. A workers’ list of MPs, made of trade unionists, campaigners, anti-war demonstrators, and backed by the trade unions, would be a step towards a new party.
West Yorkshire – marching from every direction
In Batley, several hundred assembled to march to Dewsbury. But as they set off and marched, people joined from every direction. At the end rally, it was spilling out of the square outside the town hall.
Our leaflets were rapidly snapped. People were particularly interested in our appeal for people to support, or stand themselves as Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidates in opposition to Keir Starmer’s Labour. Dozens of people have left their details with us over recent demonstrations.
Many of those buying copies of the Socialist paper in Dewsbury were first-time readers, grabbed by the front page headline calling for a new workers’ party. Having seen us on demonstrations previously, they wanted to find out more about what we thought.
And the now weekly march in Leeds swelled to over 1,000. Up from hundreds the week before.
The Socialist Party is fighting for:
- End the siege – for the immediate permanent 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 guaranteed 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 fights for socialism and internationalism