PSC: Palestine Safety-valve Committee?

The PSC’s leadership is determined to make sure that ordinary activists don’t engage in any activity that might really harm imperialist interests.

The Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) held its Annual General Meeting on Saturday 26 January 2013 in London, at which our party proposed the following resolution:

Launch a mass campaign of active non-cooperation

In the light of the latest massacre by Israel in Gaza, the accelerated ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem, and the steady grabbing of Palestinian-occupied land in the West Bank, combined with the renewed upsurge in Palestinian resistance, conference calls on the steering committee to harness the public disgust at Israel’s crimes and the sympathy amongst British workers for the people of Palestine by launching a mass campaign of active non-cooperation at every level of the trade-union movement – from grass-roots union activists to the leadership of the TUC.

Conference believes it is both necessary and possible to build support within individual unions and at the TUC for motions that draw attention to the complicity of Britain’s government, media and corporations in Israeli war crimes, and that also call on workers to refuse to cooperate in their commission (eg, by making or moving munitions or other equipment, by writing or broadcasting propaganda, or helping in any other way to smooth the path of Israel’s war machine).

To this end, conference instructs the steering committee to:

1. draw up example resolutions for trade unionists within PSC to use and adapt for discussion in union branches and at national conferences;

2. hold workshops for trade unionists within the PSC to help them coordinate their activity, as well as to work out strategies for action within different unions;

3. produce supporting materials that will help members in gaining support for an active non-cooperation policy.

The point of the resolution was to initiate a different type of work with trade unions than that which the PSC had engaged in previously – ie, to encourage workers to actually take steps to physically prevent our imperialist government from supporting the Israeli zionist regime.

In view of the atrocities being committed by the zionists against the Palestinian people, it would frankly seem to be the least we could do.

However, in the PSC, as in the Stop the War Coalition (StW), alien interests are embedded who make it their business to limit the damage that these organisations might be capable of causing to imperialist interests. Of course, the hundreds of decent people who make up the membership of StW and PSC are genuinely outraged by imperialist crimes such as the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the constant imperialist wars to overthrow legitimate governments for the sake of profit. These decent people want to do everything they can to help. The question for imperialism is: how can their anger be channelled into relatively harmless outlets?

In the case of Stop the War, the embedded aliens spread imperialist propaganda against the targets of imperialist aggression. Gaddafi’s government in Libya and Assad’s in Syria, in spite of being the most enlightened of middle-eastern governments, are reviled by these despicable elements, who accuse them of being ‘brutal dictatorships’ which ‘slaughter their own people’, shamelessly parroting the vile and dishonest propaganda of imperialism.

Were it only the various imperialist government spokesmen who were dishing out these lies, then decent people would think twice before believing them. But when a long-standing member of a ‘progressive’ organisation – indeed, a revered committee member (!) – makes the same allegations, why, they must be true! Members’ outrage against the crimes of imperialism is largely defused. Success for imperialism.

In the case of PSC, the aliens devote themselves to channelling activists’ energy into fairly harmless channels, while enthusiastically congratulating those who have been corralled in this way for their fabulous successes – an Early Day Motion, a resolution at the TUC, a supportive letter from some MP! Wow! Wow! Wow! What a difference this is going to make!

As if to underline this point, quite early in the day, aliens had tabled an amendment to a well-meaning resolution listing various types of activity in which the proposers thought the PSC should engage. The amendment inserted the words “especially with parliament and the media”, with a view to directing members’ efforts towards pleading with the political and media mouthpieces of imperialism. But it’s like trying to mobilise rapists against rape! While there may be some mileage in trying to instil a sense of shame in rapists, it can hardly be the main focus of a movement against rape!

Meanwhile, in time-honoured fashion, the resolution of such well-known ‘troublemakers’ as the CPGB-ML was tabled last on the agenda, in the fond hope that, as was the case last year, the item would simply not be reached. This time, however, the resolution did get the chance to be debated, albeit very briefly.

Unfortunately, those who promote imperialist interests within the PSC, as within Stop the War, have set themselves up as trustworthies, who bludgeon members with threats that if they don’t vote as directed by the leadership, then the unions, or the Quakers, or some other supposedly major block of the membership, will be driven away, the organisation will be destroyed, and there will be nobody to defend the Palestinians against imperialist crimes.

In other words, you either have an organisation committed to ineffectuality or you will have no organisation at all!

As soon as our motion had been proposed, veteran Trotskyist Bernard Regan, who heads the PSC’s Trade Union Advisory Committee, was, as usual, well geared up with stock arguments against undertaking action to undermine imperialist interests. He deliberately distorted our speaker’s arguments in favour of the resolution. Whereas we had said that at the time of the Iraq war heroic but isolated train drivers had taken action to refuse to transport war materiel for use in Iraq, and we now needed to ensure that the unions as a whole took up this type of action rather than leaving it to individuals, who could be sidelined in a way that whole organisations of thousands of members could not, Regan dishonestly claimed that we were advocating “individual acts of heroism” and ‘demolished’ our resolution by pointing out that individual heroics were not effective! His next argument was that PSC was already doing great trade-union work, so there was no need for this resolution.

In fact, though, there was considerable sympathy for the CPGB-ML’s resolution among the activists present, and our speakers were warmly congratulated by ordinary members as they left the podium. One FBU organiser from Exeter was moved to make a rousing speech in support of the resolution. Indeed, he pointed out that there could be no possible reason for rejecting it and drew attention to the dishonest arguments that had been put forward by Regan.

Regan’s argument that trade-union work was already being carried out in a perfectly adequate way by the PSC executive was repeated by a craven member of the FBU, who spoke last in the debate. The whole point, however, was that we were arguing for unions to be encouraged to take action to frustrate imperialism’s support for zionist Israel, while current trade-union work was channelled into getting resolutions at the TUC on the question of consumer boycotts and trade-union delegations etc. The TUC is, incidentally, well known for passing resolutions that are then totally ignored.

Despite heavy bludgeoning from the leadership, however, around one third of those present voted for our party’s resolution, which is an encouraging sign that members are beginning to wise up to the tricks of these pro-imperialist elements.