Last weekend, 28-29th November, saw protests across Britain against war and against climate change. Socialist Appeal supporters across the UK were present on these rallies and marches, drawing the links between these issues and pointing out that it is ultimately the capitalist system that is responsible for both.
Last weekend, 28-29th November, saw protests across Britain against war and against climate change. In cities and towns throughout the country, tens of thousands gathered to demonstrate against these scourges on society, calling on world leaders to act and put an end to these menaces.
Socialist Appeal supporters across the UK were present on these rallies and marches, drawing the links between these issues and pointing out that it is ultimately the capitalist system that is responsible for both war and climate change.
Don’t Bomb Syria!
As Cameron and co. beat the war drums loudly once again, the Stop the War coalition organised demonstrations across the country on Saturday 28th November. The message to the Tory government was loud and clear: ordinary people in Britain are firmly opposed to being sucked into yet another imperialist adventure in the Middle East.
In London, thousands gathered outside Downing Street under a wave of placards with a single message and demand: “Don’t Bomb Syria!” Speakers from across the anti-war movement spoke passionately about the mass opposition to any further imperialist intervention in Syria that exists in Britain, correctly highlighting that all previous actions by Western imperialism in the region have not led to the establishment of democracy and stability, but have only created sectarianism and misery – the conditions upon which reactionary fundamentalists and terrorists like ISIS thrive. This message was succinctly summed up by one prominent slogan on display on the demonstration: “Bombing for peace is like f**king for virginity.”
Speeches from experienced anti-war activists such as Owen Jones, George Galloway, and Tariq Ali all emphasised the hypocrisy of British governments past and present – both Tory and New Labour – who claim that military intervention is needed to fight against oppression, dictatorship and terrorism in the Middle East, and yet who at the same time support the most despotic and authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia. Indeed, it is these so-called allies of British and US imperialism – such as the Saudi monarchs and the Turkish president Erdogan, who are in turn supporting ISIS through arms, funds, and training. As various speakers pointed out, therefore, instead of demanding bombing in Syria against ISIS, the British government should stop supporting those regimes in the region that are aiding terrorism and fundamentalism.
These nationwide protests were organised hastily in order to put pressure on MPs in advance of a potential vote in parliament on the issue this week. With several Tory MPs still unsure of supporting their leader on the issue, speakers on the protest’s platform emphasised that it is essential that the Parliamentary Labour Party is united against bombing in order to defeat Cameron in parliament on this issue.
Unfortunately, however, as many speakers highlighted, the Labour Party is still riddled with right-wing MPs who have learnt nothing from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who are once again acting as reliable stooges for the interests of British imperialism. Indeed, leading Tory figures have even been contacting such right-wing Labour MPs in order to garner their support for any parliamentary vote on the Syrian bombing campaigning.
The demand on Saturday’s protest was clear: Labour must oppose imperialist intervention! With opinion polls showing that the Labour rank-and-file is firmly against any bombing in Syria, Labour MPs must wake up and listen to their members and back Corbyn in his calls for a vote against intervention. If there is a rebellion against Corbyn on this issue, then these Blairite MPs may find that calls for their deselection rapidly escalate in volume.
- Oppose imperialism and terrorism!
- No to imperialist adventures!
- Labour must oppose the bombing!
- Kick out the Blairities! Defend Corbyn! Fight for Socialism!
System Change, not Climate Change!
“Climate Revolution”; “System change, not climate change”; “There is no Planet B”: these were some of the slogans displayed on Sunday 29th November on the London People’s March for Climate Justice and Jobs. This demonstration, along with others across Europe over the weekend, took place on the eve of the UN climate change conference in Paris – COP 21 – where over 150 world leaders have gathered in an attempt to forge an internationally binding deal on reducing carbon emissions.
In Paris, over 200 activists were arrested after defying a ban on protest, which led to a violent clampdown by French riot police. Events in London were more subdued, with the most oppressive force being the weather, as wind and rain beat against the faces of the tens of thousands who had gathered to demonstrate against climate change.
Despite the adverse conditions, the atmosphere was still carnival-like, with an array of costumes, floats, and home-made placards on show. These visual displays were accompanied by large blocs of workers and youth from the trade unions, the Labour Party, and – of course – the Greens.
Many linked the climate crisis to the capitalist system itself, with messages such as “climate change: death by capitalism” – a message that was highlighted by the front-page of the latest issue of Socialist Appeal also. Speakers such as Romayne Phoenix, co-chair of the People’s Assembly, made the same point in their speeches, with Phoenix stressing that it was capitalism’s drive for profits that is at the root of the “climate chaos” that threatens the planet today. Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia, echoed this sentiment in his speech at the start of the COP21 conference:
Mother Earth is getting close to the end and the capitalist system is partly responsible for that. Capitalism has fostered and introduced and driven forward over the past 200 years the most savage and destructive formula against our species.
The system is broken: we need a revolution!
In both these big demonstrations seen in London over the weekend, the most glaring limitations were those of the Labour leaders themselves, whose speeches did not explain the causes of war and climate change or point the way forward.
In both cases, as evidenced in the speech by Diane Abbott – the Corbyn-supporting Labour MP and shadow minister for international development – at the Stop the War protest, or by Corbyn himself at the beginning of the march against climate change, grave illusions are being sown by the leaders of the Labour movement about what we can expect from negotiations between the various bourgeois world leaders gathered in Paris or from the imperialist powers involved in the Syrian conflict.
The position of Corbyn on the question of Syria – as put forward both by Abbott and Ken Livingstone, the former Labour Mayor of London, on Question Time – is that the responsibility for defeating ISIS lies with a “united coalition of regional powers” and UN forces. But to even raise such a demand shows its absurdity, given that all the various imperialist powers in the region, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel, are at each other’s throats, fighting like cats in a bag to pursue their own narrow interests and carve out their own spheres of influence.
Similarly, to expect anything more than horse-trading between the big capitalist nations at the Paris climate change conference (at the expense of the smaller, most vulnerable countries) is to naively forget the lessons of recent events. This was summed up by one contribution from the platform at the end of the London climate march, where three presenters took it in turns to hold up placards showing the names of cities and years in which previous UN climate change conferences had taken place since the last binding agreement was reached in Kyoto, Japan in 1997. All of these gatherings of world leaders, the women on the stage pronounced, had thus far achieved nothing: “Montreal, 2005…nothing; “Nairobi, 2005….nothing”; “…Copenhagen, 2009…nothing”; “…Lima, 2014…nothing”.
And the demand for Paris, 2015? “Do something!” These were the pleas that echoed around the streets of Westminster and Whitehall on Sunday; governments of the world: do something! The strong desire by ordinary people to see a positive change – a “climate revolution” – from the Paris COP21 conference is entirely understandable, as it is the 99%, not the 1% of bosses and bankers, who will suffer the consequences of climate change. The inability of politicians to “do something” to solve the climate crisis thus far, however, represents not a lack of interest or willpower on their part, but the impotence of governments in the face of the invisible hand and the economic forces of the market. In the final analysis, the barriers of the nation state and the profit system act as a straightjacket on governments; as long as our leaders accept capitalism, then they must accept the race-to-the-bottom laws and logic that flow from this system of competition.
We must tell the truth: wars and climate change are a product of the capitalist system – a system that is clearly broken beyond repair. We can place no faith in politicians who act in the interests of big business and the capitalist class to solve these problems. If we want world peace and a sustainable future for our planet, then we need to fight for a leadership with a bold socialist programme.