An open letter published on Monday 16 October signed by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions has put out an “international call for action” to workers worldwide to halt the Israeli war machine.
Signed by 18 trade unions and professional associations, the statement explicitly calls for its international counterparts, that is trade unions around the world, to: “refuse to build weapons destined for Israel”; “refuse to transport weapons to Israel”; and to “take action against complicit companies involved in Israel’s brutal and illegal siege”.
This is hugely significant. Such methods are exactly what is required. We agree with our class brothers and sisters in Palestine that “the time for action is now – Palestinian lives hang in the balance”. Class solidarity along the lines proposed in the letter can directly impact this conflict.
The letter specifically refers to the proud tradition of workers’ boycotts and action that has helped halt the arming of regimes in the past, from fascist Italy in the 1930s during its invasion of Ethiopia, to Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile in the 1970s, to Israel in the 2010s.
Workers taking such action, past and present, understood what true internationalism and solidarity meant. Now, Palestinians are calling on the labour movement internationally to live up to and emulate these same traditions. It is vital trade unionists everywhere respond.
Trade unions in Britain have a special duty to now answer this call. UK arms manufacturing is a multi-billion pound industry. BAE systems, for example, is Britain’s largest manufacturer, with 50 sites across the country.
There are also Israeli-owned arms manufacturers operating in Britain, such as Elbit Systems and RAFAEL, which supply weapons and equipment to the Israeli state.
Trade unions organising workers in these factories should call their workers out. Rail unions should refuse to transport any and all war materiel heading for Israel. And dock workers should do the same.
Already, many trade unions have put out messages of solidarity with the Palestinian people and have encouraged members to attend solidarity demonstrations. But this must now be followed up with solidarity action to grind Israeli imperialism to a halt.
Many trade unionists, although in agreement with the call put out by the Palestinian labour movement, may be hesitant considering the illegality of solidarity, or political, strike action under the Tories’ anti-trade union laws.
However, this conflict shows that the international ‘rules-based order’ is nothing but a pack of lies; a masquerade for imperialism to hide behind. Israel’s own engagement in war crimes is all happening in broad daylight, with western imperialism looking on in silence.
So, why should the working class and our organisations restrict ourselves to following our bosses’ unjust laws?
What’s more, the actions of the working class internationally can actually have an impact on halting the death and destruction being rained down on Palestinians, far more than any international criminal court or UN condemnation.
There is also strength in unity. One union bravely taking such action, as has been called for by Palestinian trade unions, could be isolated and would come under great pressure.
A genuine solidarity campaign must therefore extend across the whole labour movement. The TUC in particular has a special duty in this regard.
The TUC has already put out a statement in which they “call on the UK government and international community to show leadership in promoting efforts to uphold international law and secure peace”. Unfortunately, this is a weak statement – appealing to British imperialism to act when it is directly aiding and abetting Israeli imperialism!
Instead, the TUC itself should be showing leadership of the working class – not by reinforcing illusions in capitalist diplomacy and ‘international law’, but instead by mobilising the full strength of the labour movement to strike a blow against imperialism!
We say: Answer the call! Halt the war machine with class struggle! Bring down imperialism!