By Isabel Ringrose
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Build movement on the streets, not in parliament

The Palestine movement shouldn't be constrained by the Labour party and Keir Starmer's compromises
Issue 2894
Palestine activists protests as we build Palestine movement

Palestine protests campaign outside of Parliament House Photo Credit: John Englart

Keir Starmer’s continued protection of Israel’s genocide in Gaza—and murderous failure to stand up for the Palestinians—has created a movement outside of Labour. In electoral terms, some 70 councillors across England have quit the party and are sitting as independents. And more should join them. The chaos in parliament last week, with the Tories and Labour teaming up to shut down a vote on a ceasefire, shows the blood-soaked priorities of Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak.

Socialist Worker welcomes electoral challenges to Labour and will back credible left wing candidates at future elections. The millions that have taken to the streets, and continue to march, occupy and campaign, have rightly raged against anyone standing in the way of an end to the slaughter. It has given confidence to a new force to campaign for Palestine away from Labour.

The No Ceasefire No Vote conference, organised by independent socialist councillors, is the biggest movement by the left against Labour for years. It is set to meet in central London on Saturday of this week and in Blackburn on 13 April. Its website says the conference “brings together independent socialist councillors, general election candidates and activists who are committed to justice for Palestinians”. Ever since Jeremy Corbyn’s downfall it’s been clear that the Labour Party is no place for the left.

More councillors, Labour supporters and MPs need to turn away from Labour for good. And not just because it fails over Palestine. Labour is a pro-imperialist, pro-business and pro-class party—and it always has been. Fighting for change outside of Labour brings parliamentary politics closer to those on the street, and puts pressure on mainstream politicians and trade union leaders to act.

But there are limitations to a pro-Palestine movement that seeks change in the halls of parliament. As Socialist Worker goes to print, people are voting in the Rochdale election. It is a by-election on Gaza. In Rochdale, George Galloway is running on a pro-Palestine ticket, saying in January that he would “teach Labour and Keir Starmer a lesson”.

The disgraced and dumped Labour candidate Azhar Ali no longer has the backing of Starmer and the party has walked away from the contest in its 10,000-vote majority. The Liberal Democrat candidate Farooq Ahmed was seen campaigning for Galloway. But Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain—campaigning for “workers not wokers”—supports Palestine but at the expense of other causes such as refugees and trans rights. 

The Workers Party pitches working class people against the issues that are in their interests to fight against. Other electoral opportunists may also do that same, whipping up reactionary ideas hidden under the Palestinian flag. And other Labour representatives may also ditch the party to save their own skin—and say whatever they can to keep their seat.

Labour’s support among Muslims has dropped to 43 percent—with 23 percent undecided. But overall, Labour’s polling hasn’t taken too much of a dent. Ordinary people rightly want an end to the Tory regime of horror. They see a vote for Starmer as the way to do that.

Connecting the biggest movement on the streets for decades with other issues working class people face is the way to not just kick out the Tories. It is a way to achieve an alternative from parliamentary methods. For instance, the mass strike wave in Britain last year can also play a huge role in a new movement outside of Labour.

The energised Palestine movement has refused to be intimidated by Islamophobia and state repression. It can be the core of a new politics based on the streets and action in the workplaces, not dependent on whatever happens in parliament. Starmer in power will disillusion ordinary people even further and give rise to far right forces that seek to capitalise on the despair and attack “woke” policies.

One of the most exciting elements of the Palestine movement is that Labourism has not constrained it. It’s driven by the justified rage against Starmer as well as the horrors of Zionism. But revolutionary politics—that looks further than the next election and how many votes Labour loses—is the only real alternative for lasting change and politics without compromise. Building a revolutionary alternative means battling outside the usual halls of power to hurt Starmer.  It also provides a real solution to the murder in Gaza and crises capitalism will continue to hurl ordinary people into.

  • No Ceasefire No Vote is a conference organised by independent socialist councillors. The conference is happening in central London on this Saturday and in Blackburn on 13 April. tinyurl.com/ceasefireconference

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