Are elections a vehicle for change?

Posted on: April 20th, 2024 by Isabel
Houses of Common in parliament

Elections of MPs don’t bring about revolutionary change (Picture: Flickr/ Number 10)

Revolutionary socialists don’t believe it is possible to transform capitalism through parliamentary reforms or elections. Nor do we accept the idea that a combination of pressure from left wing MPs and a movement in the streets and workplaces can bring fundamental change. We understand that real power doesn’t lie in parliament.

It doesn’t even lie in Downing Street, as former Tory prime minister Liz Truss quickly found out. That’s one reason why the Socialist Workers Party always prioritises the fight away from parliament. We believe that workers acting for themselves, rather than relying on the parliamentary system, is a step towards revolutionary change.

Vladimir Lenin, one of the leaders of the 1917 Russian Revolution, put it this way. “The action of the masses—a big strike for example—is more important than parliamentary activity at all times, and not only during a revolution or revolutionary situation.” But he went on to point out that this understanding doesn’t mean that revolutionary socialists can afford to ignore parliament all together. Just because the institution cannot be central to any strategy for change doesn’t mean it has no relevance at all.

For a start, parliament puts forward laws that materially affect working class people. Those laws might have the effect of improving people’s wages and conditions, or they might do the opposite.  Parliamentary votes can also become the focus of anger over wider issues, such as declarations of war, for example. Workers often fight over such “parliamentary” questions. And which party wins a general election can also have a big effect on the conditions in which struggle takes place. That’s true even when, in policy terms, there is little to divide the main parties.

Tory victories, for example, often confirm workers’ fears that fighting back is difficult or impossible because “most people are too right wing”. Labour victories, by contrast, are proof that at an elemental level, most people see class as the most important distinction in society.

So, in ways however distorted, elections represent a battle for working class consciousness. Millions of people—and for most of the time, most of the working class—have illusions in parliament. Revolutionaries cannot shatter that false impression by simply ignoring it.

General elections heighten people’s political awareness. They act as a licence to talk politics in neighbourhoods, schools and workplaces. Revolutionaries should intervene in these debates to make propaganda about the system, the limitations of elections—and the socialist alternative to capitalism. Intervening in elections is an opportunity to tap into masses that could be drawn towards struggle.

For those same reasons, it can sometimes be useful for revolutionaries to make use of an election and themselves stand candidates. Socialists elected as councillors or MPs can, as Lenin described, act as “tribunes of the people”. That is, they can raise issues that pose the questions of class in the sharpest possible way and expose other parties as fake.

But there is a vital distinction between a left wing, reformist MP and a revolutionary socialist one. The main priority of the left wing MP is to use parliament to win changes. But in doing so they help reinforce the idea that elections, not struggle, are the way forwards.

That’s because they see change as fundamentally coming from the halls of power. In contrast, every day that a revolutionary sits in parliament, they expose its weakness and work towards its downfall. Revolutionaries in parliament should see their position as an opportunity to raise the level of struggle at every point. And any movement such as the mass mobilisation for Palestine on the streets in Britain, risks being tamed if its aims are pushed towards electoral glory.

The way to win isn’t to stand as many councillors as possible—it’s to build the struggle on the streets and in the workplaces. And, to unlock its potential, any left wing movement must be taken to its most radical conclusions.

  • This is the ninth part of a series of columns that discuss What We Stand For, the Socialist Workers Party statement of principles, printed every week in Socialist Worker 

Palestine movement keeps up fightback on the streets

Posted on: April 20th, 2024 by TTE
A crowd shot of a march for Palestine in south London

On the march for Palestine in south London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

With around 40 local protests scheduled for this weekend the Palestine movement is not retreating from the streets.

Next Saturday’s national demonstration in London, and the workplace day of action on 1 May, are big tests for the movement.

Around 1,000 people were on a march in Bradford on Saturday and then joined others in the city Square.

Rob reports, “Most of the Palestine groups in West Yorkshire were represented. People were worried about any further escalation of the killings. They are suspicious that Joe Biden has done a deal with Israel that if it doesn’t attack Iran again then it will have a free hand to obliterate Rafah.” 

And Maggie in south London reports, “Over 1,000 people marched in Lewisham.”

In Sheffield, reports Phil, “About 400 marched. There was a very angry mood. Speeches about war and imperialism, involvement of unions and building more resistance went down well.” Protesters chanted, “One, We are the people, Two, We won’t be silenced, Three Stop arming Israel now, now, now, now.”

In south London, Palestine campaigners chanting, “USA, blood on your hands” joined the 24/7 picket outside the US Embassy in Vauxhall.

Over 300 people protested in Manchester around the theme of Palestinian prisoners. Around 320 people were on a march in Colchester, Essex.

Around 250 people joined the first locally organised march for several months through Foleshill into Coventry city centre.

In Portsmouth, reports a protester, “About 70 of us marched on Barclays. Police issued a Section 50 notice and had a big presence to defend the bank. They arrested three people for a sit-down protest in the bank. Three far right Turning Point supporters tried and failed to disrupt our rally.

“After the protest, some of us went to the police station till the arrestees were released. We will continue to target Barclays.”

Up to 100 people marched through Hackney in east London. Phoebe, a protester on the march who works for a publishing company, told Socialist Worker, “We can’t lose momentum.”

Israel’s genocide is “not going to stop without taking action”. Phoebe argued, “Labour is despicable. It’s Tory-lite.”

Nick, a skate park builder, said the genocide is “a horror unfolding before our eyes”. He said, “As a British person it’s vital to protest, as Britain handed Israel the keys to Palestine” because of its role in supporting the establishment of Israel.

Dorset Palestine Solidarity Campaign tweeted, “We closed down Dorchester Barclays Bank for funding genocide in Gaza!”

In Edinburgh, reports Alan, “Around 20 Stop the War activists went to Tesco and Lidl to alert shoppers that both supermarkets are profiting from Israeli products while Israel is in the process of committing genocide in Gaza.

“Two activists made speeches during the action, drawing the link between the Israeli apartheid state and that of South Africa. They stated that the actions were directed at the companies selling the products and not the workers in either store. We need more of these sorts of actions that take the fight to other shops, workplaces and arms companies complicit in Israel’s crimes.”

Protesters gathered in Cardiff for the 27th week in a row. As many people as possible need to be in London next Saturday. And every group of campaigners needs to discuss ways to escalate the fight for Palestine and to hit Israel and its Western backers.

Activists’ diary 

Sat 27 April: National demonstration, Stop Arming Israel, Ceasefire Now, assemble 12 noon, Parliament Square, London, for a march to Hyde Park. 

Wed 1 May: May Day workplace action for Palestine

Why does the West fear and loath Iran?

Posted on: April 19th, 2024 by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
A picture of the Israeli attack on the consulate of Iran in Syria

Israel attacked the consulate of Iran in Damascus, Syria, on 1 April

What is the nature of the regime?

The current Iranian state emerged after the 1979 revolution that overthrew the hated Shah and his Western-backed regime.

It is a capitalist state with a ruling class dominated by a conservative Islamic clergy that follows the Shia version of Islam. Iran is a junior imperialist power but strives to become the major force in the region.

The clergy has its own version of religious law, which the state enforces strictly. The Iranian state embodies reactionary ideas and policies towards women’s rights and LGBT+ people.

The state controls a large part of the economy and dominates large-scale industries, media, communications, transport and many other sectors. And it owns the oil industry, which makes up around 40 percent of its total revenue.

Its ruling class has the same interests as all capitalist classes—growing its own economic and political power, while preserving its existing privileges.

This means it is locked into imperialist competition with other states in the region—including Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

And this competition affects how Iran acts. It backs resistance groups that align with its Shia ideology, including the Houthis in Yemen—in part due to Iran’s antagonism with Sunni Saudi Arabia. It backs Hezbollah in Lebanon, in part due to its antagonism with Israel.

And it backs the Assad regime in Syria that is fighting the Saudi-backed Isis group and the remaining forces of the revolution of 2011.

Iran has tried to counter US power in the region by befriending both Russia and China. China is Iran’s largest trading partner and buys some 90 percent of Iran’s oil.

Is Iran a dictatorship?

Iran is an authoritarian regime where a religious clergy rules with few democratic constraints.

But it is far from the monolith that the Western media generally says it is. It has competing political factions that exist within the state.

Sometimes those factions reflect ruptures in the ruling class and create political crises, and openings for others that want a different type of society.

Movements demanding more freedom and democratic rights emerge often and have sometimes fused with workers’ unions, the women’s movement and groups demanding national and religious rights.

But the state has so far been able to repress all such upsurges.

The power of the clerics is enshrined in Iran’s supreme leader and the Guardian Council, a 12‑person group made up of religious experts and lawyers.

The supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, has religious authority that flows into political power. He sets and implements policies, ­commands the Iranian army and can declare war.

As supreme leader, he hires and fires all military and police chiefs, the leader of the courts and the head of the state-owned media.

The supreme leader also has control over the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the part of the military charged with defending Iran.

The Guardian Council approves and can disqualify candidates in local, parliamentary, presidential elections and has veto power over any law passed by parliament.

Half of its members are appointed by the supreme leader and he can dismiss any member of the council.

Throughout its existence, the Guardian Council has helped conservatives by disqualifying reformist candidates and vetoing reformist laws.

Beneath these bodies sits the president, who is elected and serves as head of government and selects ministers, and parliament, which has 290 elected members.

Parliament does debate and vote on laws. And there are competing factions—reformists, moderates and conservatives, and within each there are several groups.

Reformists demand that social restrictions are eased and want political reforms. They propose a more moderate version of Islam and closer relations with Western imperialism.

Conservatives want an even more strict version of Islam and want the state to remain hostile to the West.

But the trend since 1979 shows conservative factions growing in power. The reformists’ warmth towards the West, combined with the possibility of war, has seriously weakened them.

 What are the recent protest movements in Iran?

Iran’s government has faced multiple waves of popular rebellion in recent years, most recently in the Woman, Life, Freedom movement in 2022-23, and protest waves in 2019 and 2017-2018.

The recent women’s movement began as a protest at the morality police after it murdered Masha Amini, a young woman it said had worn her hijab incorrectly.

Two million people participated in huge protests from September 2022 to spring 2023. Young people took to the streets and campuses, defying the state crackdown.

The protests developed into a movement demanding fundamental change—and the overthrow of the current Iranian state.

There was another protest wave in 2019 after the government tried to end fuel subsidies. Prices jumped up and this led to a revolt in dozens of cities, with demonstrations, sit-ins and strikes.

National protests against rising inflation erupted between December 2017 and January 2018.

These upsurges had workers’ economic demands as the driving force. Yet they flowed into political opposition to the supreme leader.

But all ended unsuccessfully with the state able to crush them. Part of the problem was that the protests, including those that involved some groups of workers, failed to become the majority.

On top of this, the protests had to contend with the “support” of Western states that tried to manipulate them for their own ends.

Why does Israel hate Iran?

Israel is desperate to smash Iran because both sides are competing for military, political and economic power across the region.

Israel wants to stop the West from “normalising” relations and doing deals that try to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Instead, it wants the West to join it in a war that would reduce its rival to rubble.

By contrast, Iran presents itself as a force that can stand up to the bullies—including Israel.

It wears its support for Palestinian liberation as a badge of honour, framing it as a fight for Islam against Zionism.

After the 1979 revolution, Iran cut off all relations with Israel. It said Israel was an illegitimate state in occupied Palestine. Iran stopped allowing Israeli citizens into Iran and banned all Iranians from travelling to Israel.

The Israeli embassy in Iranian capital, Tehran, was transformed into an embassy for Palestinians.

The focus of Israel’s fear is that Iran develops a nuclear weapons programme that can rival its own.

Currently Israel is the only regional power with nuclear weapons, providing it with a huge military advantage.

That competition means they are embroiled in a long “shadow war” of attacks on each other’s interests.

Israel has carried out sabotage and cyber-attacks against Iran’s nuclear power and military facilities, while Iran has carried out drone strikes on Israeli oil tankers and launched its own cyber-attacks.

Should Iran attack Israel?

Iran has every right to retaliate against Israeli attacks—including the bombing of its embassy in Syria, and later bombings of its territory.

Even David Cameron, the British foreign secretary, admitted that if a British embassy was struck by missiles, the British state “would take very strong action”.

But the current strike and counter-strike exchanges between Israel and Iran risk becoming a major regional war.

And that would be a catastrophe for hundreds of millions of people. Such a war is no route to Palestinian liberation.

To truly win Palestinian freedom we need to break from the logic of imperialism. The route for this is revolt against Zionism and dictatorship by ordinary people from below, across the whole of the Middle East.

It is workers and the poor who have the collective power to transform society. Mass workers’ revolt would make unworkable Israel’s role as a watchdog for US imperialism. And it would be a challenge to ruling classes across the entire region.

How did the current regime emerge?

In 1979, the Iranian people overthrew a brutal US-backed monarchy, inflicting a huge blow to US imperialism in the region.

The revolution comprised many forces, including workers’ unions, nationalists and the left, but was eventually diverted by Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the Islamic clergy.

He opposed workers’ power and more moderate elements of the Islamic movement, jailing and torturing opponents.

Prior to the revolution, Iran was ruled by the Shah, a monarch put in power in 1954 by a US and British-backed coup in 1953—which overthrew Iran’s popular government that was nationalising the oil industry.

The Shah pushed through a programme of capitalist development that alienated sections of the traditional religious establishment and millions of the poor. There was huge inequality and oppression of national minorities.

From the summer of 1977 onwards, there were significant protests and strikes against the Shah that grew in size and frequency.

In October 1978, workers went on a national general strike. Strike committees, called shoras, were set up to organise and coordinate activity—a sign that the movement had become revolutionary.

In December, huge protests of over six million people—in a country of then 37 million—demanded the end of the Shah. Workers took over cities and towns with shoras being set up across the country.

On 16 January 1979, the Shah fled into exile. Throughout this period, Ruhollah Khomeini, who was the most prominent religious leader and outspoken critic of the Shah, had cultivated a huge base of support. On 1 February, he declared himself head of state.

But the religious clergy wasn’t in complete control of the revolution as there was an intense struggle to decide the type of society to replace the Shah’s dictatorship.

Many among the capitalist class joined forces with the clerical establishment to work together against the left. Khomeni saw the shoras as a threat to the clergy’s power and moved to re-establish state control.

The religious clergy used repression to consolidate its power, organising gangs to attack the left and enforce “morality” against women who refused to wear the veil. Khomeini was established supreme leader of Iran and the result was the capitalist theocracy we see today.

Unions should use supreme court win to boost fightback

Posted on: April 18th, 2024 by TTE
Fiona Mercer and legal team illustrating a story about unions and supreme court

Fiona Mercer and her legal team outside the Supreme Court

Workers should use a supreme court judgment this week to batter bosses who have penalised or discriminated against strikers.

Judges on Wednesday said British trade union law breaches workers’ rights as it fails to protect them against sanctions short of dismissal when they strike. The supreme court said that the law as it stands “encourages and legitimises unfair and unreasonable conduct” by employers and was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The law is supposed to stop employers sacking strikers. But it doesn’t even pretend to offer protection to anyone who faces attacks that are less than dismissal.

Lady Ingrid Simler said in the judgment that employers’ ability to impose measures short of sacking “nullifies the right to take lawful strike action”. She said, “If employees can only take strike action by exposing themselves to detrimental treatment, the right dissolves.”

The Unison union pushed the issue on behalf of care worker Fiona Mercer. Fiona had originally taken a case against her then employer, Alternative Futures Group (AFG), a charity based in the north west of England, to an employment tribunal in 2020.

She had been involved in a 2019 battle by 600 workers over AFG’s plans to cut payments to care staff who did sleep-in shifts.

Fiona’s employer suspended her and barred her from going into work or contacting colleagues during the action. During her suspension she received normal pay, but received nothing for the overtime she would normally have worked.

An employment appeal tribunal (EAT) found in her favour and the employer gave in. But higher ruling class figures wanted to make no concessions to strikers and to keep the intimidatory power to punish strikers.

Then business secretary, Tory Kwasi Kwarteng, intervened and took the case to the Court of Appeal, which subsequently decided to reverse the EAT decision in March 2022.

Unison then advanced it to the supreme court. Speaking after the verdict, Fiona said, “I’m delighted at today’s outcome. Although it won’t change the way I was treated, it means irresponsible employers will now think twice before behaving badly towards their unhappy staff. If they single strikers out for ill-treatment, they’ll now be breaking the law.”

Christina McAnea, Unison’s general secretary, said this week that the court had delivered the “most important industrial action case for decades”. Paul Nowak, general secretary of the TUC union federation, described the ruling as a “monumental victory” for the union movement and a “crushing defeat” for strike laws.

That’s very optimistic. Strike laws continue to delay workers’ response to attacks, frustrate resistance and bear down on union rights. And they are used as an excuse by union leaders not to head-up a fightback.

And whatever the law says, every union activist knows there are numerous ways for a boss to penalise you unless there is strong organisation at rank and file level. Bosses overlook activists for promotion, give them the worst shifts, look out for the slightest infringement of rules and leap on any lack of punctuality. This is all legal, and in the end only the threat of a fight protects militants.

However, the judgment is very positive and should be a spur to wider campaigns. Alan Bogg, a professor in law at Bristol university, told the Financial Times newspaper that many university lecturers involved in recent walkouts had suffered “very, very significant deductions from pay”, going beyond the work they had withheld. “

Saira Weiner, a UCU union member, tweeted, “The implications of this for UCU in higher education who were punitively deducted for marking and assessment boycott are significant. We want our money back.”

Action, not relying on the law, can turn that into reality.

Former workers at music venue 13th Note in Glasgow, members of the Unite union, have won an employment tribunal, and will receive 90 days’ worth of wages.

This win comes after the employer broke trade union laws by dismissing over 20 employees and closing the venue without notice. Now workers want to save the venue and take it back under their control.

Vultures circle Royal Mail after bosses run down service

Posted on: April 18th, 2024 by TTE
On the Royal Mail strike picket line in Whitechapel, east London

Royal Mail workers on the picket line in Whitechapel, east London, during strikes in 2022 (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The owners of Royal Mail have run down the service to such a level that equity firms are now circling, hoping to pick it up for a knock-down price.

Despairing postal workers have for months been talking about how their job has become impossible.

They’ve described areas that for weeks received no letter deliveries because managers told them to prioritise parcels.

And they’ve told of the dilapidated state of Royal Mail buildings and its fleet of vehicles, and how bosses have culled the most experienced workers.

Now, with the service on its knees and public dissatisfaction rising, the vultures have arrived.

Billionaire asset-stripper Daniel Kretinsky this week made an offer to buy up Royal Mail’s parent company, International Distributions Services (IDS). The bid was so low that IDS had to reject it, but that’s unlikely to put off Kretinsky.

The owner of West Ham football club already has a 27 percent stake in the business, which includes both Royal Mail and a US-European delivery firm called GLS.

Kretinsky’s plan is obvious. Break up IDS and sell the profitable GLS to one of its rivals, and then set about Royal Mail.

He believes that Ofcom, the postal regulator, will reduce the universal service obligation, so that Royal Mail will no longer have to deliver to all areas of the country, six days a week.

Once that happens, Kretinsky will be able to carry out what bosses euphemistically call a “restructuring”. It will mean cutting thousands more jobs, closing offices and depots, and reducing the service to the legal minimum.

The letter delivery side of the operation will be decimated, but the profitable parcels business will remain.

And for Kretinsky’s plan to reap the kind of profits he demands, he will attempt to smash the CWU union.

He wants to drive Royal Mail workers’ conditions down to the levels of its gig economy rivals. That will likely mean zero hours contracts and an end to all union agreements.

We can know the features of Kretinsky’s plan because they are precisely those of every set of Royal Mail bosses for more than a decade since privatisation.

Socialist Worker, in November 2022, outlined a similar scheme being proposed by then Royal Mail boss Simon Thompson.

We wrote of the bosses, “Their solution to Royal Mail’s problems begins with 10,000 redundancies—the union says it will eventually be 20,000—and axing Saturday deliveries.

“Most importantly it means ‘Uberisation’, driving down the conditions of postal workers to those imposed in the gig economy and competitor parcel firms,” we said.

“If you’re a profit-hungry boss or a vulture financier, you don’t start from worrying about Royal Mail as a public service. You think about asset-stripping and dividing up the company to unlock super-profits.”

Now, instead of that project being driven by Royal Mail’s current bosses, Kretinsky wants to ram through the changes himself.

The CWU can of course see the dangers. It sent out a message opposing Kretinsky’s bid as soon as news of it went public. But there are real dangers in the union’s approach.

During last year’s dispute the union prioritised “saving” Royal Mail from financial collapse. In its agreement with the bosses, it signed away hard won terms and conditions in the belief that it would make the company more “stable”.

Yet, instead of making Royal Mail financially viable, the deal made the union appear weak.

And that in turn has made the firm more attractive to asset-stripping investors.

The union also says, “handing over the ownership of one of the UK’s most prestigious institutions to a foreign equity investor cannot be right.”

This kind of flag-waving will get the CWU nowhere. Neither the government nor IDS bosses care about who or where they sell Royal Mail to, and a buyer’s nationality will make no difference to workers either.

We all know that private equity firms the world over work on the same principle—break up the business, sell what’s profitable, and gut the rest.

It makes no difference whether the axe man is from Britain or the Czech Republic like Kretinsky, the effect is the same.

The CWU can do so much better than this. The union’s strength was built by militant reps, unofficial walkouts, and shopfloor confidence. If Royal Mail is to be saved, it’s those traditions that must be revived.

Aid agencies call out Israel’s lies over starvation in Gaza

Posted on: April 18th, 2024 by TTE
An Unrwa facility in Gaza illustrating a story about starvation in Gaza

Palestinians are starving amid ruins in Gaza (Picture: Unrwa/Twitter)

The Unrwa refugee agency has denounced Israel’s regime of starvation in Gaza. “Across the border, food & clean water wait—but Unrwa is denied permission to deliver this aid and save lives,” said Unrwa chief Philippe Lazzarini on Wednesday evening.

He added that this happens while Israel’s relentless bombing and “merciless siege have transformed Gaza beyond recognition”.  Young children are dying of malnutrition and dehydration as “a man-made famine” is tightening its grip across the Strip.

The United Nations says the Israel state is still causing “the highest levels of catastrophic hunger in the world” among Palestinians in Gaza.

US national security spokesman John Kirby said that aid into Gaza had “increased and quite dramatically in just the last few days” on Monday. 

The Israeli state said that 468 aid trucks crossed into Gaza on Tuesday of last week, stating that this was the highest number since 7 October. 

But Unrwa said that only “181 aid trucks per day” had crossed into Gaza from Israel and Egypt in April. It added that this remains “well below the operational capacity of both border crossings and the target of 500 trucks per day.”

The head of the UN humanitarian office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Andrea De Domenico, said he couldn’t stress enough “the importance that a truck is not a measurement that should be used.” He explained that, because of the security checks and vetting that the state of Israel does, many of the lorries aren’t as fully loaded as they could be. 

Israel continued to double down on Wednesday, claiming that trucks of aid were waiting to be distributed by UN agencies. 

COGAT, the Israeli agency that supposedly handles aid in the Occupied Territories, posted a picture of lines of lorries on Twitter/X. It said, “All the UN did was make up excuses. Aid needs to be collected and delivered. The UN needs to do its job.

Domenico hit back at this. He said, “We’re dealing with this dance where we do one step forward, two steps backward, or two steps forward, one step backward, which leaves us basically always at the same point. 

“For every new opportunity that we’ve been given, we will find yet another challenge to deal with. So it’s really, really difficult for us to scale up to where we would like to be.”

Israel’s blockade is hitting the most vulnerable, including new mothers, babies and the elderly hardest. 

Palestinian mother Nuzha Awad gave birth to triplets only two months before 7 October. “At this age a child should weigh eight kilos,” she said. “They weigh two kilos. They don’t have thighs yet. At this stage, they are supposed to crawl and prepare to walk. And now you can see the state they’re in. “Are these the arms of an eight-month-old child? … It’s death there, death, death. Death in the literal meaning of the word.”

The Israeli state is using cruel new techniques to torture and lure Palestinians out into the open so they can murder them more easily. 

Palestinians said they heard the sound of women and children crying in the night last weekend, as well as the sound of gunfire and explosions. After going out to investigate the sounds, they were shot at by a drone. The sounds came from an Israeli drone flying overhead. 

A Palestinian witness told the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, “We were sitting at night when we heard voices of girls and women screaming —‘Come, help me, I am injured!’ 

“We went out to find out what was happening. No women were found, but we were directly targeted by a quadcopter drone.

“I fled inside, and two people right in front of me were seriously injured. Because of the ongoing gunfire, we were unable to treat them, so we called an ambulance, and they arrived to transport them. Many residents heard these sounds and responded to provide help.”

Maha Hussaini, the strategy director for Euro-Med in Gaza, explained that these sounds were played when the streets were empty. 

“This technique and noise are primarily used to bring people out to target them because at night no one is out, especially following the random attacks and bombings on the Nuseirat refugee Camp,” she said. 

“The Israeli forces find no one to target, so have resorted to this trick to deceive people. 

“In the past few days, a number of people have been wounded because of this technique, around seven people, some of them were targeted in the head as they went to see where the sound was coming from.”

Protesters rage at Tory support for Israel outside parliament

Posted on: April 17th, 2024 by TTE
A crowd shot of the protest outside parliament

The Palestine protest outside parliament (Picture: PSC)

Up to 400 people rallied outside Parliament in London on Wednesday evening to rage against the Tories’ support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

Protester Rachel told Socialist Worker, “I’m here because I have humanity. Children are dying because of the racism and hypocrisy of the West. It’s wrong. 

“People say protesting doesn’t work, but it does. The more of us that come together the more impact we can have.”

Rachel says she has “no more words” to describe Israel’s assault in Gaza, or of the West’s support. “It continues to shock me, but I’m also no longer surprised,” she said. 

“Rishi Sunak goes on about upholding British values, but looks at what values he has. Homelessness is at an all time high in Britain yet we can send money to Israel to kill children. have to continue to raise awareness, boycott and speak out.”

Protesters Olivia told Socialist Worker, “I’m angry. There’s no democracy when the majority are being ignored. The constant hypocrisy infuriates me. Israel isn’t defending itself, but countries that are like Iran are criticised.

“We not only set up Israel, we are actively encouraging it to kill by sending arms and defending it. Some of my friends think when Keir Starmer comes to power he’ll act. But now is the time to act. 

“The national demonstrations have been fantastic, the solidarity is incredible. We have to keep going.”

Protesters also raged at the arms companies profiting from death. They chanted, “No sanctions, no vote,” and, “UK government, Keir Starmer, Joe Biden you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”

Sahlem from the Muslim Association of Britain told the crowd, “We’re here to send a clear message. There’s no funding for the NHS or to end child poverty  But there is £600 million to send to the genocidal state. Israel is not defending itself, it’s hellbent on genocide. 

“Two-faced politicians cried for Ukraine, but they can’t shed a tear for Gaza. We say enough is enough. We do not partake in this ethnic cleansing.

“And we say to those supporting the apartheid state that they will be held to account.”

Zahra Ibrahim from the Muslim Forum of Britain said that his grandmother died of hunger in north Gaza three days ago. And last month Israel killed 16 members of his family.

“Being on the streets gives people in Palestine proof that they’re not alone in this. We don’t hear about the over 19,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, many held without trial. He slammed the “hypocrisy” on the day to remember Palestinian prisoners.

“What country upholding international law kills over 17,000 children? We have to show up everyday until this ends,” he said. 

“We don’t just want a ceasefire. We want those responsible held to account and brought to trial for the massacre they’re committing.”

Emily from the Campaign Against Arms said that Israel “is breaking international law”. “Yet the UK continues to send arms when it should be suspending sales,” she said. “Arms companies are generating record profits from genocide. But ordinary people are taking action.

“It’s down to us. We’re close to an embargo but it’s not enough. We have power – and we have to use it.

“We have to keep up the pressure on the government and the arms companies – we cannot allow them to commit these crimes.”

Shabir Lakha from Stop The War said that protesters have to be out in “bigger numbers than ever” at the next national demonstration on 27 April. And he said the workplace day of action on 1 May has to “have as much impact as possible”.

“Britain scrambles to defend Israel. So we have to continue to bring this country to a standstill,” he said. “They’re scared of us. It’s why the racist Met police tries to shut our demonstrations down.”

After the rally finished, protesters stood off against pro-Israel supporters chanting for a free-Palestine and, “The whole damn system, shut it down.”

The next national demonstration has to be bigger than ever to hold Britain, the US and Israel to account for their brutality.

Unison health workers stand with Gaza

Posted on: April 17th, 2024 by Yuri
Unison health conference 2024 deleates hold Palestine placards

Delegates to Unison’s health workers’ conference this year holding placards demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. (Picture: Unison)

Delegates to the Unison union’s health workers’ conference recently were determined to raise Palestine. Among the many thousands of people who have been killed, Israel has specifically targeted health workers, hospitals and ambulances. Medical workers from Britain who went to Gaza to aid injured Palestinians are themselves among the dead.

The appalling scenes from the al-Shifa hospital led my branch to submit an emergency motion on the subject. The conference voted unanimously to discuss it, but the standing orders committee ruled it out of order.

That was disappointing. But many delegates, including me, spoke about Palestine during the event—and we got a lot of support. We talked not only about the genocide but also that employers are disciplining NHS workers that speak out over the issue. We demanded that the national union defend them.

One session of conference was devoted to a speaker from the charity Medical Aid for Palestine and a video presentation about hospital conditions in Gaza. It was so powerful that many delegates were in tears watching it.

That triggered many more conversations about the politics of Palestinian liberation.

The Socialist Worker fringe meeting had around 25 delegates at it and there was a good discussion of why Unison’s policy of a two-state “solution” is unworkable. A lot of people at the meeting wanted in depth answers to questions like that and to why Labour’s Keir Starmer has betrayed Gaza.

On the floor, during one session of conference most delegates held up placards in support of health workers in Gaza—and, of course, some of us raised the Palestinian flag.

Pauline Brady


♦THE SICKENING scenes of the destruction of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza led a group of us to initiate a protest at the Manchester Royal Infirmary earlier this month.

We decided to contact health workers who had joined previous Palestine protests, including a small group of doctors that had been holding weekly vigils. Together we called a new protest, but with just three days to build it, we were all a bit unsure as to how much support it would get.

Imagine how taken aback we were when around 70 people, mostly doctors and nurses, turned out. Now we are supporting a public meeting to build more action for 1 May—international workers’ day.

Health workers everywhere are furious about Gaza, so why not try for a protest at your local hospital?

Karen Reissmann


Lessons of Hillsborough

IT’S 35 years since the Hillsborough disaster that killed 97 people and we still have no justice.

The courts ruled in 2016 that Liverpool fans who survived the disaster were not responsible for the murder. Though a victory for those who had fought the police version of events for 27 years, it was a meagre result from the longest legal case in British history.

The news has been quiet since. No justice has been served. The promised police prosecutions were never made.

Police commander David Duckenfield—in command on 15 April 1989—conveniently retired and continues to live on a police pension. He admitted he had run a “hopeless operation” and that the disaster resulted directly from his “serious failures”.

Almost three decades of investigations and inquiries into Hillsborough have provided us with undeniable evidence of the police’s true character. Hillsborough revealed the extent to which they are against us as a class.

And the decades since then showed us that police reform is not possible. It is not an issue of individual personalities or even “toxic cultures”—it is built into the system itself.

After Hillsborough, the state must be reevaluated. The failings of the legal system are proof that true justice for our class will be found on the streets, not in the courts.



Theatre is racist—and it has to change

Let’s get this straight, her name is Francesca Amewudah-Rivers—not “Tom Holland’s co-star”.

She should be celebrating the announcement of her theatrical debut in London’s West End. Instead she is targeted with racism and misogyny after a well-deserved casting as Juliet in the play Romeo and Juliet.

After a week of this abhorrent abuse, the play’s director finally called for it to stop. But what action will The Jamie Lloyd Company, Curtis Brown Talent and Duke of York’s Theatre take—other than an Instagram post that doesn’t even mention her name?

Black British actress Tamara Lawrance started a petition demanding immediate security and wellbeing measures. It gained nearly 7,000 signatures in five days. In a separate open letter, more than 800 predominantly black actresses and non-binary performers added their names in solidarity with “Our Juliet”.

It is disappointing to see that, once again, the burden of campaigning against misogynoir has fallen on black women. The theatre industry must change.

Anna Prall

South London

Pity Ukraine’s hired guns

Western media are fond of repeating that Russia is relying on prisoners to bolster numbers on its front line in Ukraine. It also makes much of the foreign mercenaries lured by the desperate need for cash into fighting for Putin’s Russia.

I suppose this helps them make some moral sense out of a war that the West now seems to be losing. But how remarkably silent they are about foreign mercenaries now fighting on the Ukrainian side.

The Sri Lankan Sunday Times newspaper recently reported that around 100 former soldiers from the country have joined the Ukrainian foreign legion. That means poor Sri Lankans —whose country was decimated by Western bankers—are now fighting on both sides of this imperialist war.

Many of the fighters have been trafficked to the war zone and were even forced to pay up-front charges to the agencies that put them there. So much for a “war of liberation”.

Vijay Sahadevan

Tamil Nadu, India

Just a thought…
Why Israel can’t win

Despite flooding the streets of Northern Ireland with armed troops and running a vicious campaign of assassination and intimidation over nearly 30 years, the British state could not destroy the Provisional IRA. Eventually Britain had to cut a deal. At any one time, the Provos had a relatively small force of a few hundred frontline fighters. Israel has no chance of “destroying” Hamas, which organises a much bigger force of militants—and inspires so many to stand alongside the Palestinians, in so many countries.

Mike Killian


Time to extract Tories

A dentist shortage across Britain, highlighted recently in Socialist Worker (13 February) has led a group of food banks in Newcastle to bring in a special bus to treat adults and children for free. The charity Dentaid said high demand in the city meant it was making a five-day visit, which was the longest time it had spent in one place. Appointments for dental treatment on the bus were filled within two hours, with more than 100 people on the waiting list, according to Newcastle Foodbank. This is the real face of Tory Britain.


East London

Post Office gone ‘postal’?

I’m not entirely convinced that the sub-postmasters are deserving of all the sympathy they get. Certainly, we have little in common with those small business owners done over by bigger firms. When workers are accused of fraud they are thrown out on their ear—and no newspaper bats an eyelid. Oh, but when some middle classes are affected what a different story.