Huge protests in Britain against Israeli state’s attack on Gaza

Stop the War on Gaza demo 21 October 2023. Photo: Paul Mattsson

Capitalism and its political representatives are totally incapable of meeting any of the needs of working-class and poor people anywhere on the globe. All that is on offer is a never-ending diet of war, poverty, oppression and repression.

This message has been amplified by the bloody events in the Middle East over the past few weeks. Now the Israeli regime is on the verge of launching a brutal land offensive in Gaza, raising the possibility of war spilling over into a wider confrontation that could inflame the whole region, and adding to the multiple crises the capitalist system is already creating internationally.

The Israeli regime’s indiscriminate bombing and starving of 2.3 million people in Gaza, including 1 million children, of food, water, medicines and fuel – “a death sentence” according to the United Nations – has provoked mass protests around the world.

Alarmed at the possibility of a regional escalation, US President Joe Biden on his recent visit to Israel, while pledging unconditional support to the Israeli regime, pleaded with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ‘to not go too far’. The most he could achieve was the dispatch of a few aid trucks through the Rafah border with Egypt, described by the World Health Organisation as a “drop in the ocean”. Before the war, 450 trucks were arriving every day.

With the same breathtaking hypocrisy Rishi Sunak, tail-ending Biden, declared he was “proud to stand” with Israel and pledged the UK’s “continuous” support. This after 1 million Palestinians had been forced from their homes, more than 5,000 civilians killed in Gaza, and thousands more lives potentially placed at risk from an imminent ground offensive.

On the more than 100,000-strong demonstration in London against the war on Gaza on 14 October and the even bigger one a week later, protesters readily made the link between Tory support for the repressive Israeli regime and their attacks on workers’ living standards and democratic rights here in Britain, and the need to kick them out.

But it’s also clear that a Starmer-led Labour government will be no alternative. Starmer has echoed Sunak and Biden’s unconditional support for the Israeli regime, saying that Israel “has the right” to deny Gaza water and power. The Starmer that banned Labour MPs from visiting the picket lines of workers fighting for a decent wage rise has now prohibited Labour MPs and councillors from attending protests showing solidarity with the ordinary people under siege in Gaza.

Several Labour councillors have torn up their party cards in disgust, joining the tens of thousands of members that have already left since Starmer – in his mission to turn Labour into a 100% capitalist party – began his coup against Jeremy Corbyn and any hint of socialist ideas or opposition. That tickets from Labour’s recently organised business conference sold out within four hours, is yet more evidence that his mission has been accomplished, and that the building of a new mass party based on the working class is urgently needed.

The anti-war movement in defence of Palestinian rights, and the recent strike wave to defend workers’ living standards against the cost-of-living crisis could provide the first steps towards such a party by standing a list of trade union and working-class community candidates in the forthcoming local and general elections in opposition to the main capitalist parties.

Internationally, trust and confidence in capitalist rulers, institutions and politicians is in freefall. In Israel, many ordinary Israelis – who before the war had been protesting in their tens of thousands against the attacks of the right-wing coalition led by Netanyahu on the judiciary, viewed as an attack on democracy – are now furious at that same government’s inability to keep them safe following Hamas’s brutal slaughter and kidnapping of Israeli civilians. For now, war has cut across that movement but an unprecedented 56% want Netanyahu to resign when the war is over.

Protests of rage have erupted throughout the Arab and Muslim world in the face of the Israeli state’s bombardment and inhumanity towards the Palestinians in Gaza. It is these mass mobilisations, and not the firing of rockets and targeting of Israeli civilians by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, that point to how occupation, national oppression and mass suffering can be ended and a Palestinian state achieved, while also guaranteeing the right of Israelis to national self-determination.

Corrupt and authoritarian Arab leaders throughout the region are terrified that the mass rage against Israel and the oppression of the Palestinians could fuse with the enormous anger at poverty and repression at home. When King Abdullah of Jordan and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi warned of a conflict that “threatens to plunge the entire region into catastrophe”, it’s the wealth and power that these capitalist elites derive from their autocratic rule that they were most concerned about.

In Ramallah and other towns in the Israeli-occupied West Bank – where around 200 Palestinians have been killed so far this year by the Israeli state and far-right Jewish settlers – protesters didn’t just call for an end to Israeli war and occupation but also demanded the overthrow of Mahmoud Abbas, the corrupt and undemocratic president of the Palestinian Authority, who has colluded with the Israeli state repression and presided over mass poverty and suffering.

The conditions are being prepared for mass uprisings with the potential to overthrow dictators and capitalist elites throughout the Middle East and beyond. But the lesson of the ‘Arab spring’ of 2011, when uprisings were followed by new authoritarian rulers, civil war and failed states, is that spontaneous mass movements are not enough. The working class and poor need their own independent political organisations with a programme that points to how the capitalist system itself can be ended and a government formed that represents their interests – a socialist intifada.

In Israel, building workers’ organisations that can unite Jewish, Palestinian and other workers in the fight for socialist change will not be easy given the current extremely polarised situation. But it has been through the workplaces, trade unions and strike action that solidarity and unity between workers have been forged in the past and it will be again in the future.

  • Stop the war on Gaza! For the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli military from the occupied territories
  • For democratically organised defence committees in local communities
  • 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

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October 2023