Politicians meet in committee rooms and sit on the green benches making decisions that can mean life or death.
House of Commons debates are presented as gladiatorial contests about individuals. They can make ordinary people feel powerless to make a difference—and that is their purpose.
We are encouraged to think that we have to leave running the country to highly paid and supposedly better able MPs. If we oppose the government’s plans, we are supposed to pin our hopes on the parliamentary opposition.
In truth the structures of parliament suffocate resistance.
But mobilising people from below does have an impact.
The mass movement against the war in Iraq hardened public opinion against the warmongers.
That’s why the plan to start bombing Syria became such a big political issue.
David Cameron has had to overcome the legacy left by the anger at that war. He has been trying to start another war for over two years, and he used the attacks on Paris as an opportunity.
He only got away with that because he faced a divided opposition. Many Labour MPs collapsed behind him and swallowed his arguments that bombing was needed to stop Isis attacking Britain.
Even Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran anti-war campaigner, and others who opposed Cameron used arguments about the “national interest” not being served by bombing.
But there is no such thing as the national interest. Cameron’s class has nothing in common with the majority of the population.
The argument can also imply that only the lives of people in Britain matter.
Stop the War Coalition (StWC) activists have organised protests and rallies as the vote for more war is set to take place on Wednesday evening.
Even if it goes through we have to get out and campaign.
We need to expose Cameron’s war as yet another imperialist adventure and get organised on the ground to win opposition to the bombing.
We have to hold protests and campaigning stalls in high streets. We have to raise the issue of the war in workplaces and trade union meetings.
The start of a new war will only intensify the Islamophobia Muslims in Britain face. Everywhere Muslims already report an increase in racist abuse and harassment after the Paris attacks.
This means socialists have to mobilise on every front. We have to build the biggest possible
anti-war movement on the ground and we have to stand up to Islamophobia and wider racism.
We have to take up the ideological argument that tries to rebrand imperialism as a force for good.
Every socialist, in every workplace, college or campaign, can make a difference.