Egypt’s Mahalla workers refuse to give in to bosses’ strike-breaking 

Posted on: February 28th, 2024 by TTE
A picture of male workers standing outside during the strike in Assiut, illustrating a picture about the Mahalla strike in Egypt

Oil workers in the city of Assiut on strike for the same pay rise as the Mahalla textile workers

Bosses are trying to smash a strike by thousands of workers in Egypt’s biggest textile factory in Mahalla al-Kubra by blocking payment for work they have already done. But on Wednesday the strikers were standing firm and refusing to give in.

The strike began last week among women workers and then spread to involve large sections of male workers at the company that employs 14,000 people.

Workers receive their salaries starting on the 25th of each month. But management has withheld the pay workers are owed from before they struck. One worker said, “Instead of responding to our legitimate requests, the company deprives us of our salaries and uses the weapon of starvation as if we were in Gaza.”

He added, “A state of extreme dissatisfaction prevails among the workers due to their desperate need for money, especially with the approaching month of Ramadan.

“Our battle is the battle of all those working in the business sector, and we can only win if other companies join us, as the oil company did in Assiut.”

Workers at the oils and detergents company in the city of Assiut are striking for the same pay rise as the Mahalla workers.

Egypt’s repressive president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi recently announced a rise in the minimum wage for state workers to 6,000 Egyptian pounds—£150—a month. Many workers are paid less than this and are demanding they receive at least this pay.

About 400 temporary workers at Assiut are also demanding permanent jobs after they spent ten years with the company without being hired.

The Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt say, “The Mahalla strike clearly announces that Egypt’s workers reject the current starvation policies. If these policies have been passed by the sword of repression during the past period, then remaining silent about them is no longer possible.

“We declare our full solidarity with the movement and demands of the brave Mahalla textile workers and we reject the policy of oppression and terrorism against them. 

“We call on all Egyptian political, trade union and student forces to stand in solidarity with them until their legitimate demands are achieved. 

“The movement also emphasises that the crisis of increasing wages for workers and employees living below the poverty line is not due to the lack of financial resources. Rather, it’s because these resources are in the wrong hands. 

“Huge salaries are paid to senior state employees in the presidential office, governors, judges, army and police officers, and advisors to government and public bodies. 

“A maximum limit must be set for the wages of these elites to provide the financial resources necessary to set a minimum wage of ten thousand pounds—£250—a month.” 

Inflation in Egypt—home to over 109 million people—is close to 40 percent, plunging many Egyptians near or under the poverty line.

Mahalla was the detonator of a major wave of strikes which fed into the eruption of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Workers across the country will be watching to see if again it can give a lead to resistance.

Ruling classes everywhere will fear economic and political revolt against imperialism and the Arab regimes’ rulers.


UAE’s £30 billion land grab in Egypt 

The United Arab Emirates has just bought the right to develop land covering 171 million square metres in the Egyptian city of Ras el Hekma on the Mediterranean Sea.

The £30 billion land grab, covering about the size of 3,500 football pitches, will primarily be used for a luxury resort.

The deal comes as Sisi is negotiating a huge loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The cash will make it easier to avoid some of the IMF’s demands for cuts and currency devaluation that would cause further economic turmoil and increase the possibility of workers’ strikes.

Sisi’s government says the Ras El Hekma project is a partnership between Egypt and large property developers rather than an outright sale. It is fearful of being seen to sell off Egyptian assets to foreign governments.

Sisi’s government ceded the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia in 2016, triggering mass protests.

Three months ago the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Ports Group grabbed a 30-year lease agreement with Egypt’s Red Sea Ports Authority to develop and run a major terminal at Egypt’s Safaga Sea Port. This £175 million investment over three years ushered in the first internationally operated port in Upper Egypt on the Red Sea. The UAE was then Egypt’s second-largest regional trading partner.

XR targets ‘climate-wreckers’ Lloyd’s of London

Posted on: February 28th, 2024 by JC
XR climate activists protest holding pink banner that reads insure our futures not fossil fuels, a part of a protest against insurance companies supporting fossil fuel projects

XR activists protest against insurance companies supporting fossil fuel projects (Picture: XR Global Media)

Around 800 supporters of climate group Extinction Rebellion (XR) formed a blockade around insurer Lloyd’s of London on Wednesday. 

This action was part of a week of rage against companies funding the climate crisis. 

Lloyd’s of London insurers were “climate wreckers”, according to a report written last year.  The group provided from £1.36 to £1.7 billion to fossil fuel companies —which amounted to 9 percent of the world’s total in 2022.

XR activists formed a 300-metre human chain around the building, describing it as a “blockade for life”. 

They let staff leave but refused to let anyone back in. Outside activists carried a banner saying, “Insure our future, not fossil fuels.” 

XR sent an ultimatum letter to the bosses of 40 insurers in the City of London, warning that they could be met with protests. Their list of demands included a complete ban on insuring new and expanding oil, gas, and coal projects. 

At the protest, Pete Knapp of the XR Scientists group said, “Insurers can play a vital role in the scaling down of fossil fuels and the scaling up of renewable energy. But they need to speak much more closely with experts in climate science, social science, ecology, and health. 

“Everything is interconnected, and we all need to talk to each other and act immediately to save billions of lives and huge swathes of the natural world.”

The group said that the cops arrested and searched activists who were simply protesting outside the building. This is more worrying evidence that the police are using new powers to break up protests.

On Tuesday, XR members also occupied the buildings of other insurance companies, including Tokio Marine, Prohibits and Zurich.One of XR protesters, Liz Pendleton, said, “A member of staff from Zurich did take a letter from XR to their CEO. 

“But no one from senior management at any of the companies we visited had the courage to talk to us. It seems they were too shy about their bad climate behaviour to actually face us and justify it.

“The insurance industry has a unique opportunity to immediately halt all the ‘carbon bomb’ projects like the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline and the West Cumbria coal mine. They will cause climate breakdown and a future of killer storms and heatwaves, floods, famine and war. 

“It’s very simple. No insurance equals no drilling. No insurance equals no digging. So these companies have a superpower that could give us all a fighting chance of a liveable future.” 

Protesters from Fossil Free London also disrupted a panel meeting at the International Energy Week conference of politicians and bosses. There were also protests outside the conference, which representatives from fossil fuel giants BP, Shell and Equinor joined. 

On Thursday, XR and several other groups plan to link the fight for the planet with the Palestinian struggle at a rally outside Lloyd’s of London at 11.30am. 

  • Lloyd’s of London,  1 Lime Street, EC3M 7HA

‘We occupied for Palestine, you should too’ say Goldsmiths students

Posted on: February 28th, 2024 by TTE
Goldsmiths univeristy students and staff sit in for Palestine in solidarity with the Goldsmiths occupation

Students and staff sit-in for Palestine at Goldsmiths University

Goldsmiths students in south London are leading the way for pro-Palestine action on campus. On Tuesday, a week after their occupation started, students held a rally on campus to demand the university recognises the genocide in Gaza, decolonises and cuts ties with Israel.

“We seized the opportunity,” student Samira told Socialist Worker. “The university can’t police our protests anymore.

“We’re constantly trying to build outwards and expand our occupation—we don’t want management to be able to ignore us. We want to shut down the whole university in a series of escalations until our demands are met.”

The 100-strong rally outside the Stuart Hall Building vowed to keep fighting against the university’s complicity. It included students from UAL, Soas and Goldsmiths UCU union members, 

The group then spontaneously marched through the Richard Hoggart Building for the first time and into its canteen. Other students and staff joined the lively protest and chanted. They then marched back to the occupation, where some students joined it for the first time. 

The students have told management that they wouldn’t meet until some of their demands were met. Management told the students it would be in touch at the beginning of this week.

On Tuesday, it said it was willing to hold a meeting—but still hadn’t met any of the students’ demands. The students in the occupation have taken over the ground floor of the Stuart Hall Building. They plan to expand to take over the entire building—and disrupt the university further.

The occupation is full of banners and posters about Palestine and Israel’s occupation and genocide, as well as a supplies corner and information wall. Students check-in at the start and end of every day, and hold an assembly at 4pm to organise themselves.  

There are daily teach-ins by lecturers, students and external guests, as well as music events, workshops, film screenings.

PHD student Marc, a member of the occupation, told Socialist Worker that the action has “been great so far”. “There’s been a fantastic amount of support from local people and staff,” he said. “We’ve created an atmosphere among students, and it feels really communal.

“It’s exciting. We’ve transformed this space into a democratic space, and it’s really brought the campus to life. There’s a hub of activity here.

“We’ve created a space to talk about Palestine and apartheid freely. One of our demands is revoking the IHRA definition of antisemitism to lift the fear from staff so they can discuss the real situation in Palestine.”

Marc said it’s getting to the point where the occupation is “running itself”. “We have a schedule and routine, and more people are taking on responsibility for booking events and organising what we need.”

Marc added that the students are trying to hold regular rallies to bring people into the occupation. “We also want to collaborate with other universities to share ideas about how we can escalate on campuses and create a forum for ideas,” he said.

“It’s also a way of increasing pressure on our own management team—people can see their complicity and lack of action. The best way to escalate is for other students to go into occupation.”

“Management is too comfortable,” Marc added. “We’re slightly out of the way from the rest of campus. If it continues to not listen to our demands, we will escalate. 

“We’ll look to expand our occupation in this building and disturb other buildings with things like banner drops. We’re not leaving any time soon.”

The student union called a general meeting on Tuesday. It discussed motions including one on defending the right for students to boycott. This is to protect students in the face of the Tories’ anti-boycott bill that stops local authorities, universities and pension funds from boycotting Israel.

Another motion called for solidarity with Palestinians under occupation, an immediate ceasefire and an end to the genocidal violence in Gaza.

It calls for a protection of students’ right to call Israel an apartheid state, divest from Israel and cut ties with any products on the boycott list.

“We want to pushback against repression on our campus, but also protect the right of students across Britain to protest for Palestine on their campuses,” Samira said. “But we don’t just want words from our student union—we want to make sure this turns into action.”

The occupation was also set to have a wider meeting later in the week to discuss how to take it forward and escalate. And students across London were organising to unite on Tuesday next week at a wider London assembly to discuss action for Palestine.

Teach-ins have been a key part of the student’s occupation. A teach-in on Tuesday morning discussed the difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Jewish socialist Sophia led off, saying, “Racists use support for Israel as a get out of jail free card to be racist.

“Antisemitism is a real thing, and real racists use support for Israel as a get out of jail free card to spread their hate,” she said. “Zionism is a colonial project—you can’t have a left wing Zionism that includes Palestinian rights.

“It’s a political position. And the conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism has been ramped up in academia in the last 20 to 30 years to silence pro-Palestine voices and students.

“That’s why there’s been Jews standing against Zionism today and all the way back to the 1890s—you can’t fight for one group’s rights while trying to expel another.”

It’s not just the students who are angry at management. Marc is also a member of the UCU union. “Goldsmiths UCU struggles with management’s lack of listening to concerns—just like students,” he said. 

“It’s constantly trying to force through restructuring programmes leading to job cuts for staff. Admin systems are a mess so it means increased workloads for staff.”

Goldsmiths is currently embarking on another programme of 130 redundancies for academic staff. After a successful consultative ballot, Goldsmiths UCU members are now voting for strikes.

“It shows a complete lack of concern for students and staff. Cuts impact staff as well as students,” Marc added.

“Senior management delayed its announcement of redundancies because of the bad publicity it’s already getting around the occupation. If a strike happens there will be pickets outside and an occupation inside.

“Students and staff would support each other. These issues are all about management’s disregard for people at the university.  

“The occupation has shown that students can organise classes themselves, with the support of lecturers, and discuss when they want to talk about.”

The workplace and student day of action on 8 March is an opportunity for students to follow the lead form Goldsmiths and stage occupations. 

Samira says there’s basic things students can do to start an occupation. “You need a core group of organisers who want to occupy,” she explained. “Call a walkout and build members, and also hold teach-ins about Palestine. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“Storm a building to make people aware of your demands. Put your demands to the university management. Regular meetings, democracy and participation are crucial for an occupation. Then you need to hunker down—the university is your space.”

Samira said it’s important other students call occupations in the face of Israel’s brutal genocide in Gaza. “We need to pressure our institution—and the situation in Palestine demands action,

“It’s hard for us all as students to be ignored if there’s more of us speaking up and acting out.”

Palestinian ambassador Husam Zomlot praises ‘unprecedented solidarity’ movement in Britain  

Posted on: February 27th, 2024 by TTE
Husam Zomlot marching for Palestine in London on 13 January demo, he holds a banner with others

Husam Zomlot marching for Palestine in London on 13 January demo

The Palestinian ambassador to Britain has slammed British politicians for their torrent of Islamophobia.

Husam Zomlot told a press conference on Tuesday, “The last few months have seen the worst of Britain with the government’s inconsistent policies and what you saw in parliament last week.”

But Zomlot contrasted that with the response from ordinary people. “For five months, you’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating,” he said. “That is commendable.”

Lee Anderson MP told the right wing GB News last weekend that London mayor Sadiq Khan has “given our capital city away” to Islamists.

Zomlot said, “To paint the most moving act of the British people, the act that shows people have principles, to paint them as Islamists is in my opinion Islamophobic, anti-Palestinian and anti-British.

“I was on the marches. I didn’t see Islamists, I saw people. I saw grandmothers, brothers, sisters, mothers with pushchairs, diversity, unity and passion. Some frame these people as ‘Islamists’ but they are the British people—with a sense of solidarity and support for humanity.”

“We must fight Islamophobia as much as we fight antisemitism. If you only fight one form of racism you are not anti-racist, you are racist.”

He added, “The attempt to divide is a serious business that has gone on for a long time.

“Islamophobia has risen by 335 percent. It is Palestinians and Muslims who have been violently attacked in recent months.”

Politicians are ramping up Islamophobia because they’ve been terrified by the Palestine solidarity movement.

When asked about the mass demonstrations in Britain, Zomlot said, “People are focusing on the demonstrations because it’s a physical act of solidarity.

“But it’s not just the demonstrations, there are thousands of acts across Britain. There is unprecedented solidarity. It goes beyond marching and demonstrations.

“Last week 80,000 Britons lobbied MPs for an immediate ceasefire. This is a serious movement. It is sustained.

“Given the historic responsibility of Britain, it could not be more relevant that the anti-colonisation movement emanates from Britain. It might not grow in numbers, but it will grow in diversification, impact and influence.”

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” has rung out on the mass demonstrations in London.

Protesters projected the slogan onto the Houses of Parliament during the ceasefire vote last week—and Sunak condemned it. One pundit parroted Sunak’s line at the press conference, suggesting the slogan was antisemitic.

“Israel exists from the river to the sea. That is in the manifesto of Israel’s ruling party,” responded Zomlot.

“The slogan is a call to justice. They want to eradicate the system of apartheid built from the river to the sea, the colonial expansion, the theft of land and the besiegement of millions of people over the years.”

He blasted Sunak, “Israel uses ‘from the river to the sea’. Israel is calling for the eradication of the Palestinian people.

“Why didn’t we hear the British prime minister say this is against international law and anti-Palestine? No one is eradicating Israel. Israel is eradicating Palestine.”

It’s crucial to build the workplace and student day of action called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop The War and others on 8 March—and the national demonstration the following day.


Ground invasion of Rafah is ‘push for mass expulsion’

“A ground invasion of Rafah will bring untold suffering,” said Zomlot. “There are 1.5 million in a very small piece of land—6,000 people per one kilometre.

“Can you imagine Israel’s terror? They will kill tens of thousands. The final push in Rafah is the final push for mass expulsion.

“With any talk of possible agreements, Netanyahu is just buying time. He plays the game of time and blame, blaming everyone else.

“Netanyahu is personally invested in the continued aggression and the worst aspects of his government are interested in ethnic cleansing. They want to finish what they started 75 years ago. They have a plan.”

Zomlot called out the US and Britain for backing Israel’s genocide. “Israel won’t accept a ceasefire unless it’s forced to,” he said. “Britain and the US need to threaten to stop sending weapons to Israel.

“I blame Biden. Biden could have ended this long ago. It is US that provides Israel with the toys to carry out a genocide.”

Netanyahu announces horrific plan for Rafah invasion

Posted on: February 27th, 2024 by Daire Cumiskey
The Foreign Secretary, David Cameron meeting Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. (Picture: Rory Arnold)

The Foreign Secretary, David Cameron meeting Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. (Picture: Rory Arnold)

 
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made clear the Israeli state wants to carry out a massacre in Rafah, in southern Gaza, whatever the cost. 
 
He said last Sunday that any ­possible deal made with Hamas to swap Israeli detainees for Palestinian prisoners could ­postpone but not prevent an Israeli ground invasion of Rafah. 
 
“If we have a deal, it’ll be delayed somewhat,” said Netanyahu. “But it’ll happen. If we don’t have a deal we’ll do it anyway.” 
 
In an interview on CBC Face the Nation, he added, “Once we begin the Rafah operation, the intense phase of the fighting is weeks away from completion, not months, weeks away.
 
“We can’t leave the last Hamas stronghold without taking care of it.” 
 
Netanyahu’s aggressive stance comes as negotiations between an Israeli delegation and mediators from the United States, Qatar and Egypt in Paris, France were held over last weekend. 
 
Hamas representatives weren’t present but have been sent a draft of proposals.
 
The draft reportedly includes a ­proposal to stop fighting for up to six weeks to make way for an exchange of Palestinian prisoners and Israeli detainees. 
 
It also maps out a plan for a “redeployment” of Israeli troops across Gaza and the return of Palestinian women and children back to the north of Gaza.
 
This would be a step down for Hamas, who has called for the Israeli military to withdraw from Gaza completely. 
 
Negotiations then moved to Doha, Qatar, and were joined by Hamas representatives. They were planned to continue throughout this week. 
 
But Netanyahu said that whatever the contents of any ­agreements, the Israeli state would proceed with a ground invasion of Rafah because its ultimate goal is defeating Hamas.
 
Thousands of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv last Saturday under the banner of “Choose the hostage” to demand early elections and for the government to accept a deal which brings Israeli ­detainees back. 
 
The riot cops fired water cannons at protesters who tried to block the roads and 21 Israelis were arrested. There was also a large protest in Jerusalem. 
 
These protests show the extent of the rage against Netanyahu and his government, as well as the Israeli state’s quickness to repress its citizens. 
 
But these protests are no challenge to the Zionist state that relies on racism and segregation for its existence. 
 
While those on the streets are raging against their government, only a tiny majority inside Israel go as far as to take on the apartheid regime itself. 
 
Israel has timetabled the massacre in Rafah to begin as early as 10 March, meaning the Palestinians are running out of time. 
 
Protesters must continue to rage against Zionist horror on the streets and make the next national ­demonstration in London on 9  March as militant as possible.

Israel’s plot will end West’s two-state myth
If it can’t exterminate or drive out the people of Gaza, Israel wants to hold them in a permanent concentration camp. 
 
Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has finally unveiled Israel’s plans for Gaza. He spurns even the vague hand-wringing from the United States. 
 
That is because he knows Joe Biden won’t halt the US money and arms shipments that fuel the Israeli genocide. 
 
The one-page document, released last Friday, says that the governance of Gaza would be handed to “local officials with administrative experience” but who’ve had no previous affiliation with Hamas or other armed groups. 
 
It was unclear what the document meant by this. It makes no mention of any role even for the Palestinian Authority, the West Bank-based administration that acts as Israel’s complicit cops.
 
This is who Biden wants to take over Gaza.
 
The scheme says, “Israel will have security control over the entire area west of Jordan,” which includes all of the West Bank and Israel, as well as Gaza. 
 
While the West Bank has been divided since the 1993 Oslo Accords into three zones, this plan seeks to impose the authority of the Israeli army on Area A, controlled until now by the Palestinian Authority. 
 
Israel wants to make the administration of Area B the model for the management of all Palestinian territories.
 
In Area B the Zionist state controls all security and executive affairs.
 
The plan wants “complete demilitarisation” of Gaza and to close off the territory’s southern border with Egypt.
 
The document rejects recognition of a Palestinian state. It also foresees a sizeable “security buffer” within Gaza, further reducing the size of the already vastly overcrowded territory. 
 
The idea, peddled by some in the West and most Arab regimes, that Israel would ever accept a two-state solution, including a viable Palestinian state, is even more of a fraud and a trap than ever.
 
Dividing Gaza’s future into near, medium and long-term phases, the plan says Israel will continue its 17-year siege and will control local policing and the teachings of schools and mosques.
 
Netanyahu has also proposed de-radicalisation programmes for those in Gaza.
 
He states that he would want these programmes to be established in every educational, welfare and religious institution in the area. 
 
The content of these programmes would be borrowed from repressive Arab regimes according to Netanyahu, although he did not establish which he would model them after. 
 
Implementing such a plan would involve utterly destroying resistance. 

‘Things are completely out of control here’—voice from Rafah

Posted on: February 27th, 2024 by Daire Cumiskey
Distributing food in Rafah last month (Picture: Laila Salah Kassab)

Distributing food in Rafah last month (Picture: Laila Salah Kassab)

 The over a million people squeezed into Rafah in the south of Gaza are living in a horrifying state of limbo, waiting to see if Israel will wage a full-scale bloody assault on the area. 
 
“Things have completely gotten out of control. Nobody understands what is happening or what will happen here,” said Ibitsam, who lives in Deir el-Balah in central Gaza but has recently fled to Rafah. 
 
“We are all desperate as negotiations failed and it feels like there isn’t hope of a ceasefire. My kids are constantly asking when they will go back to our house,” she told Socialist Worker. 
 
“They dream of hot meals and warm blankets. They want for life to go back to how it was. They can’t really cope with this nightmare.” 
 
The Israeli state has murdered more than 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza since 7 October. Many more will be killed by the Israeli state’s intentional cutting off of aid and its targeting of hospitals.
 
The Shehab news agency said that, Mahmoud Fattouh, who was just two months old, died from malnutrition in al-Shifa hospital last Sunday. 
 
A paramedic who treated the child said, “We saw a woman carrying her baby, screaming for help. Her pale baby seemed to be taking his last breath. We rushed him to hospital, and he was found to be suffering acute malnutrition.
 
“Medical staff rushed him into the ICU. The baby has not been fed any milk for days, as baby milk is totally absent in Gaza.”
 
Another baby, Muhammed Zayegh, also was reported to have died due to starvation. Dr Hussam Abu Safiya, the head of paediatrics at the Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza, explained that children are dying in “significant numbers” across Gaza due to “widespread malnutrition”.

‘There has to be resistance’—voice from West Bank
“The Israeli forces raid day and night,” Abdullah, a Palestinian living near the city of Salfit in the West Bank, told Socialist Worker last Sunday. 
 
“There are air strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles. Just last week, one hit a car, and at least two people died, and more were injured. 
 
“The Israeli forces have put up more roadblocks and checkpoints. Soldiers have also set up more garrisons. It’s all to humiliate us and to make movement as difficult as possible.” 
 
“Israeli settlers are also attacking us. My family knows someone who was picking olives on his land. A group of settlers came up to him with their guns. They told him ‘get off our land’ and he said he wouldn’t. They shot him in front of his wife and children,” Abdullah explained. 
 
“They have started with Gaza, and now they want to do the same in the West Bank.” 
 
He added that while repression against those speaking out is getting worse, he won’t be silenced. “We’re united here in the West Bank. We are strong. We have groups set up so we can warn each other about settler attacks or the state of the roads.” 
 
Abdullah added that he doesn’t think diplomacy is going to stop Israel’s assaults. “We have tried to negotiate for a long time. But it’s not worked. Israel will not give in and neither will its backers, like the US. 
 
“That means that we can’t give up. There can be no real peace without justice. So I say to those across the world—you have to resist. Mobilisation is very important. Without a mass movement there will be no change.”

Labour has a terrible record of Islamophobia

Posted on: February 27th, 2024 by Sophie
Labour Starmer Muslim Islamophobia

Protests against the last Labour government Picture: Socialist Worker

Labour leader Keir Starmer is trying to capitalise on the Islamophobia crisis engulfing the Tories (see pages 2 and 3). He attacked prime minister Rishi Sunak last weekend, accusing him of harbouring “extremists in his party”.

“It’s right that Lee Anderson has lost the whip after this appalling racist and Islamophobic outburst,” said Starmer.

“But what does it say about the prime minister’s judgement that he made Lee Anderson deputy chairman of his party?”

Of course, Starmer is right to say that Anderson is the tip of the iceberg of Tory racism. Yet his posing as a friend of Muslims doesn’t stand up to examination.

Instead, it’s a ploy to win back anti-war support that the Labour leader initially seemed happy to lose.

Labour has been slavish in its backing of Israel’s war on Palestine, which has been the main driver of a recent explosion of Islamophobia.

Starmer himself talked of Israel’s “right” to deny Palestinians access to food, fuel and medicine.

During the uproar that followed, rather than apologise, he claimed he’d never said the words, even though they were televised. 

But Labour’s vilification of Palestinians goes further than one interview and the refusal to vote for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Back in October last year the party’s sent an email to members urging them to “exercise caution” and stay away from protests over the war.

David Evans, Labour’s general secretary, said, “Individuals will not have the ability to control who they are photographed alongside and this risks threatening the Labour Party’s ability to campaign against any  form of racism and discrimination.”

That terrible slur on the pro-Palestine movement implied that the marches are a cover for antisemitism. And Starmer was determined to go further still.

He used a visit to the South Wales Islamic Centre in Cardiff last autumn to claim Muslim support for his agenda. His social media posts afterwards implied that he had persuaded those he met of Labour’s pro-Israel position. In fact it outraged them.

Labour’s arrogance, believing that it can speak for Muslims even while justifying their slaughter, stems from generations of Asians supporting the party.

But this might not be the case for much longer. The party’s terrible stance on the genocide in Gaza infuriated many Labour members and supporters—both Muslim and non-Muslim.

British Muslims’ identification with Labour as their “natural choice” fell by 49 percentage points, from 72 percent in 2021 to just 29 percent in 2023.

The party leadership’s initial reaction to the loss of voters and councillors was to claim it as a victory for Starmerism.

One Labour executive member said their exit was “good riddance”. Another Labour source told the editor of the Jewish Chronicle newspaper that the party was “shaking off the fleas”.

But even the most prejudiced in the party are realising a terrible election arithmetic—that the loss of so many thousands of Muslim and left wing votes will cost Labour seats.

That’s why Labour leaders now want to be seen as opponents of Islamophobia and why Starmer spoke out strongly against the Tories.

Yet the party cannot escape from the logic of imperialism and racism. It’s no accident that Islamophobia has grown along side the West’s wars on the Middle East and Asia.

In order to justify the horrors of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Palestine, our rulers have dehumanised “the enemy”. They tell us that Muslims are not “like us” and that their pain is unlike “our” pain.

It is a process that allows wars of the utmost barbarity to be labelled battles for “civilisation”. Labour’s racism doesn’t simply flow from Starmer and the party’s right wing.

It comes from Labour’s tradition of support for imperialism and colonialism that has been hardwired into Labour since birth.

Strikes round-up: Join Birmingham protests against council cuts

Posted on: February 27th, 2024 by Isabel
At the Birmingham rally against council cuts

Charlotte (middle) at the council campaign launch in Birmingham last week

Around 100 activists gathered in Birmingham last week to launch a campaign against the savage cuts proposed by Birmingham’s Labour-run council. The meeting, organised by the three main council unions Unison, GMB and Unite, follows the announcement of the biggest cuts package ever announced by a council.

That’s set to be £300 million over two years. Unison branch secretary Caroline Johnson rejected the argument that the cuts result from equal pay claims from low paid women workers. “The £300 million is partly due to a botched computer system but most of it is due to an increased demand for council services and inflationary costs,” she said.

Caroline added that “one in five councils in England are facing bankruptcy”. Charlotte, a mother of two 13-year-old boys with special educational needs, said further cuts will push people over the edge. She asked how she was going to get two wheelchairs on a bus when it will only take one.

Ann Gallagher, Friends of Birmingham Libraries, said 25 out of 37 community libraries are also at risk. “One billion pounds has been taken from the city since 2010, if that was returned we would have £700 million to improve services,” she said.

The meeting ended with a call to use networks in the city to build a major demonstration at 12 noon on Saturday this week in Victoria Square. This will be followed by a mass lobby of the council at 5pm on Tuesday next week when it is due to vote on the cuts.

David Hughes


Steel unions must fight for Port Talbot

Thousands of steel workers are preparing to begin a strike vote against devastating plant closures by Tata bosses. The Unite union, which represents over 1,000 workers at the Port Talbot steel works, was set to begin the balloting process on Friday this week.

The actual voting is scheduled to start on Friday next week and closing on Tuesday 9 April. Strikes could begin before the end of April. The main steel union, Community, has also said it is ready to ballot. But at the start of this week it had not announced dates. The other steel union, the GMB, has made no statement about strikes. Last week leaders of all the unions formally met Tata.

Tata wants to destroy 2,423 steel jobs across Britain, with 1,929 of those at Port Talbot. Bosses have presided over a catastrophic fall in steel jobs, and union leaders have failed to challenge them. Workers should organise to win the strike votes and press for hard-hitting action as soon as possible. It must not become just a token campaign that relies on Labour to deliver in the future.


Housing strikers out to repair pay

Housing association workers in London are set to strike for the first time. Bosses only offered the 50 repair workers a 4 percent pay rise for 2023. Unite union has been locked out of collective pay negotiations. It means Sanctuary Housing doesn’t engage in pay negotiations with any union.

The strike was set to begin on Thursday of this week, and continue on Friday of this week and Monday of next in Hackney, east London.


Strikes are just the ticket in Slough

Over 40 parking enforcement workers in Slough, Berkshire, struck on Monday for two weeks until 10 March over pay. The Saba Park Services workers carry out parking attendance, back office support, CCTV monitoring and bus lane enforcement. Slough council outsources the workers, who are in the Unite union, and says it doesn’t have a role in negotiations.


Above-inflation pay in West Midlands

West Midlands Metro tram drivers secured a 13.5 percent pay deal from 1 April without striking. In 2022 the workers, in the Unite union, won a 20.1 percent pay increase for drivers with over a year’s service and 13.7 percent for those with less than a year. Strikes this year could’ve seen a bigger win for the workers.

  • Around 500 workers at National Express Ring and Ride workers across the West Midlands have also accepted a one-year deal also without striking. It’s backdated to 1 January this year and is worth 12.8 percent. The workers provide minibus services for elderly and disabled people, and school children with special educational needs.

Workers will not live worse for less

Some 500 Sainsbury’s lorry drivers in Essex and Birmingham are voting to strike against outsourcing. The workers, who are in the Unite union, are employed by Sainsbury’s. Bosses want to transfer them to Wincanton at the end of April.


M25 workers want to run over pay offer

M25 maintenance workers employed by Balfour Beatty are voting to put bosses in jam with industrial action. The 150 Unite union members maintain the entire M25 but have only been offered a 3.4 percent pay offer from bosses. The ballot closes on 12 March.