Following last Saturday’s incredible one-million-strong march in London, and a month of growing demonstrations in support of Palestine, thousands of protestors rallied outside Parliament last night, as MPs in the House of Commons voted over the demand for a ceasefire in Gaza.
The SNP’s Westminster group had submitted an amendment to the King’s Speech, calling on the UK government to “join with the international community in urgently pressing all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire”.
With Prime Minister Rishi Sunak firmly standing behind Israeli imperialism, this parliamentary motion was aimed at putting pressure on Starmer’s Labour, along with other opposition parties and potential renegade Tory backbenchers.
In the end, however, the SNP motion was defeated by 125 votes to 294, with not a single Conservative MP – unsurprisingly – voting against the party’s whips.
But the vote did create a clear split amongst Labour MPs, denting the authority of ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer, who has been a staunch supporter of Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’ – i.e. to murder thousands of innocent Gazan civilians.
Notably, amongst the 56 Labour rebels who defied the leadership’s recommendation to abstain were notorious right-wingers such as Jess Phillips, the MP for Birmingham Yardley, and nine other members of the shadow frontbench.
These MPs are clearly feeling the pressure from below, following week after week of massive marches and demos across the country, and with indications that Labour is haemorrhaging support amongst Muslim voters as a result of Starmer’s jingoistic stance.
At the same time, Sunak was dealt a humiliating blow by the Supreme Court yesterday, with judges striking down the government’s Rwanda deportation plans, which were ruled to be in contravention to multiple pieces of human rights legislation.
Overthrow the warmongers
But it is also clear from last night’s parliamentary vote that street demonstrations alone will not stop the war. Calls for a ceasefire are not enough.
Instead, a mass grassroots campaign must be taken into every community and workplace, into every school and university, with the aim of organising workers and youth in the fight to overthrow the warmongers and their system.
The trade unions have an important role to play in this. Their members in industry could easily prevent the manufacture and shipment of arms to Israel, on the basis of a workers’ blockade. And they could call on their brothers and sisters across the world to follow suit, helping to grind the imperialists’ war machine to a halt.
Overturn their system
Such a campaign should be linked politically to the struggles that workers everywhere are engaged in, and to the rotten, barbaric, oppressive capitalist system that is responsible for all this “horror without end”, in the words of Lenin.
Bellicose politicians tell us that there is no money for wage rises, or for repairing crumbling hospitals and schools here in Britain. Meanwhile, they hand over billions in military aid to a brutal regime that is consciously reducing hospitals and schools in Gaza to rubble. Their hypocrisy stinks.
Only by sweeping all these criminals from power – and overturning the imperialist system they represent and defend – can we end the bloodshed and rampant destruction in the Middle East for good.
Organising and mobilising to bring down ‘our own’ ruling class: this is the best solidarity that we can provide to the people of Palestine.
Report from Parliament Square
Comrades from the IMT joined thousands of others on Parliament Square yesterday for a rally in support of a ceasefire in Gaza.
Inside the House of Commons, meanwhile, MPs of all major parties revealed the true face of British imperialism, voting overwhelmingly to reject these calls.
This display of support for Israel’s genocidal war is as revolting as it is unsurprising. Protesters were left visibly shaken and upset by the result.
PALESTINE RALLY PARLIAMENT SQUARE
— Save Our Citizenships 🔻 (@LetsStopC9) November 15, 2023
Even with this setback, however, the power of the Palestine solidarity movement is demonstrated by the hysterical reaction of the establishment.
One passer-by approached us, saying that they were struck by how the protest had nothing in common with the “hate marches” described by the Tories and their media mouthpieces.
Some protesters we spoke with showed a deep awareness of the international nature of this conflict. Many are drawing revolutionary conclusions.
Diego, a Puerto Rican activist, identified striking parallels between the situation in Gaza and the US-backed repression of movements across Latin America.
“It is an international question,” he said, “because we have to think about where the bombs are built. In a globalised world, people realise this more and more.”
Amongst others, there is a feeling that the call for a ceasefire has been focusing some of the energy of the movement away from the more radical demands of earlier marches.
In time, increasing numbers will come to realise that a ceasefire under capitalism will only ever be called on imperialism’s terms. Such a ‘peace’ will only mean entrenching the current, unbearable conditions of the Palestinian people.
The communists are not discouraged. Instead, we will step up our efforts to fight for the only real solution to the conflict: class-based solidarity, revolutionary struggle, and a Socialist Federation of the Middle East. Intifada until victory!
School students mobilise to stop the war
In Tower Hamlets, east London, 300 school students – aged from 5 to 15 years old – walked out of lessons today to show solidarity with Palestine.
Socialist Appeal comrades attended this energetic protest, talking to the students about why they were out on the streets, and showing our support for this inspiring action.
School students across the borough met outside the town hall, denouncing local Labour MP Rushanara Ali, who abstained in yesterday’s vote for a ceasefire.
NEW: 400 schoolchildren are marching along Cambridge Heath Road chanting ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘stop bombing Gaza’ pic.twitter.com/hZnLMbsrsM
— Callum Cant (@CallumCant1) November 16, 2023
The mood amongst those walking out was one of anger at the Tories, at Starmer’s Labour, and at the actions of the Israeli state.
One attendee told us that they “didn’t know who to vote for anymore” (once they reach voting age!), because of Labour’s betrayal against the Palestinian people.
Another said that their teachers have been afraid to speak out about their support for Palestine, fearing repression from school authorities.
A third remarked how the capitalist media are “pretending that we hate all Israelis, but what we hate is the actions of the IDF”. They followed this up by saying that the UK government is complicit in these crimes, and that “Rishi Sunak is a wasteman”.
Chants included “Rishi Sunak, blood on your hands; Keir Starmer, blood on your hands; Rushanara Ali, blood on your hands”.
A similar student walkout took place yesterday at City and Islington College. And tomorrow, students are set to march out of schools in Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow, Harrow, Ilford, and Burton.
Speaking to the students at this walk out today showed the palpable anger at both Labour and the Conservatives in equal measure. More school walk outs are being planned. If you need help organising a walk out at your school or University, get in touch! https://t.co/1knPjoXHbj
— Socialist Appeal (IMT) (@socialist_app) November 16, 2023
It is clear that the vast majority of young people oppose the Tories’ jingoistic stance. Yesterday’s vote in Parliament has further exposed the cynical interests of the British ruling class, including Sunak, Starmer, and the rest of the imperialist stooges in Westminster.
At the same time, it will give rise to a new outpouring of anger – a wage of indignation that is already expressing itself on the streets with these protests.
Only by sweeping away the whole rotten system can we end war and oppression once and for all.