The massive demonstration that took place in London on 11 November was the largest since the two million-strong demonstration against the Iraq war of 15 Feburary 2003. It showed clearly that there exists an ever-growing gap between the members of our unified political class in Britain, who have all committed themselves to backing the murderous assault of the Israeli government on Gaza, and mass of the British working class, who have backed the Palestine solidarity demonstrations in increasing numbers.
Huge groundswell of pro-Palestine sentiment has taken ruling class by surprise
That the movement has grown so fast has clearly caught Britain’s ruling class and politicians off guard. They had not expected the level of revulsion against Israel’s crimes to manifest as strongly as it has. Having got away with organising all manner of war crimes in Ukraine for almost two years now, the Conservative leaders and their Labour cheerleaders believed that any protest against the murderous campaign run by Israel after 7 October would be small and easily isolated.
For several weeks, the government tried to ignore the demonstrations as large marches took place across Britain from London to Glasgow and many points in between. In an attempt to discredit the growing movement, the government and its chorus in the bourgeois press tried to pretend that war memorials were going to be attacked on 11 November.
In the week leading up to 11 November, the government, Labour party leaders and bourgeois media alike all tried to whip up hysteria, with one ultra-reactionary media commentator (Douglas Murray) going so far as to incite fascist mobs to mobilise in opposition. Clearly, a section of the British ruling class wanted to frighten people out of attending and thus limit the numbers on the streets – even to the point of actively inciting violence.
A humiliation for imperialism in the middle east
The defeat inflicted by the Palestinian national-liberation movement on the army of Israel on 7 October has ignited a global solidarity movement. It has also driven the imperialists into a frenzy.
The most high-tech, expensive army in the middle east, which has for decades boasted of its power and prowess, was brought the point of collapse by the actions of poorly-equipped but highly motivated resistance forces.
It is important to understand that this was a humiliation not just for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his criminal regime, but also for the US imperialists themselves, who use Israel to advance their interests in the middle east. As President Joe Biden (then a congressman) said back in 1986: “Were there not an Israel, we would have to invent an Israel to defend our interests in the region.”
If Israel is defeated militarily, or if the Israeli state collapses, this will be a huge blow for US imperialism and its ability to retain its domination over the region – a domination that had already been severely damaged by their defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria.
This is why President Biden rushed so many military assets to the Mediterranean and Red Seas after the resistance operation was launched. And this is why the British government mobilised to resupply the Israeli army at the same time. The rulers of the imperialists states, and particularly those states which are home to the world’s biggest oil monopolies, know very well that their position is becoming more fragile following 18 months of war in Ukraine, which is clearly on its way to ending with a Russian victory.
Significance of the solidarity movement in Britain
The US imperialist leaders understand that if they want to hang onto their position in west Asia, ensuring the survival of Israel is crucial. What makes mass mobilisations in imperialist nations like Britain important are two factors.
1. The British state has a historic responsibility for the creation of Israel as a result of its backing of the zionist movement during and after World War 1. In the modern era, British imperialism remains a key provider of military support to the Israeli regime and a key benefactor from its activities in keeping down the Arab and middle-eastern peoples and facilitating the loot of their resources. The growth of anti-Israel sentiment here is thus a real threat to British imperialist interests.
2. Popularising anti-imperialist sentiment. The British ruling class has got away with creating chaos and destruction in many areas of the world in order to further its own interests. This has been the case in Ukraine over the last decade since the Maidan coup of 2014 and especially in the 18 months since the beginning of Russia’s special military operation. The increasingly large protests against one of these areas creates the possibility for building a wider understanding of how British imperialism operates.
The Labour party leadership has also been caught by surprise. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his team were demonstrably unprepared for the anger they faced when Starmer backed Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s blitzkrieg against Gaza. There was particularly widespread disgust when this former ‘human rights lawyer’ claimed not to be able to tell whether war crimes were being committed and refused to back calls for a ceasefire on the basis that “Israel has the right to defend itself”. (In fact, according to international law, as an occupying power, Israel does not have any rights. A fact we might expect this eminent lawyer to be aware of.)
That the Palestinian solidarity movement is growing, and is doing so against the wishes of the Labour party leaders, is a very welcome development, as is the meltdown the movement has triggered within the bourgeois press. Nevertheless, the solidarity movement remains extremely limited as a result of the political views and affiliations of its organisers.
Creating a thoroughly anti-imperialist consciousness
The slogans advanced so far, such as “Ceasefire now”, are of course popular with people who see innocent Palestinians being subjected to unspeakable horrors. They want this barbaric slaughter to stop, and rightly so.
But the launch of the Al-Aqsa Flood operation by united Palestinian resistance forces on 7 October did not only bring about the savage retribution of the fascistic zionist regime onto the heads of the penned up civilians of Gaza. It has also opened a new stage in the struggle for the liberation of Palestine.
In two recent speeches, Lebanese resistance movement leader Hasan Nasrallah of Hezbollah addressed this point, positioning the struggle in Palestine as part of a wider war being waged against US imperialist domination of the region.
Nasrallah pointed out that US imperialism is the force that really controls Israel, and that this means it is the power of the USA itself which must be challenged and removed if peace is to be achieved in the region.
In his speech on 11 November (Martyrs’ Day for Hezbollah), he pointed out that after the movement for the liberation of Lebanon was founded in 1982, its members had to fight for 18 years before they finally succeeded in pushing Israel out of their country. Nasrallah drew attention to the battles now being waged across the middle east. While they have been launched in solidarity with Palestine, their wider aim is the final eviction of all US occupation forces from Syria and Iraq.
In fact, what we are seeing now is a region-wide liberation struggle. One that has been developing for many years now and which has taken many forms, sometimes breaking out into open warfare and at other times operating at a lower intensity. The objective of every member of the regional liberation axis is clear though: they all see the Israeli regime as a tool of US and British imperialism, and they all understand that their struggle is ultimately aimed at defeating both the zionist regime and those who stand behind it.
This is what must be explained to British workers as they mobilise in support of Gaza. The Arab masses are moving into action in order to fight a war for the liberation of the entire middle east from over a century of imperialist domination. We must be prepared to build support for this liberation struggle as the British government and bourgeois press try to label every act of resistance as ‘terrorism’.
We can expect the most strenuous resistance to this line to come from all those Labour party-aligned ‘solidarity activists’ and ‘leaders’ who work to keep the working-class movement in Britain within the bounds of what will be acceptable to the British ruling class. We have already seen the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) disciplining its Manchester branch for its stand in overtly supporting the resistance (online and on the streets) in October.
Clearly those who lead the PSC are more concerned with retaining their hard-won place as a ‘respectable’ part of the bourgeois political world than in delivering meaningful solidarity to Palestine.
Meanwhile, communists and anti-imperialists must help workers to see that pacifist slogans are not enough. A deeper understanding of the Palestinian and wider Arab liberation struggles must be built. Our slogan must move on from ‘Ceasefire now’ to the more positive ‘Victory to the resistance’.
We must be in full solidarity with those who are prepared to fight and die to free their homelands. In so doing, they are weakening the power not only of the US but also of the British ruling class, and of the entire imperialist system, thus helping to shift the balance of forces in favour of the working class here at home.
Making the links between the wars
Alongside the mass demonstrations, we are increasingly seeing direct actions by activists and trade unionists in many parts of Europe. Dockers in several countries have refused to move Israeli arms shipments, and in Britain the actions of Palestine Action against the Israeli arms company Elbit’s British factories have garnered growing attention and enthusiasm.
This positive development must be welcomed and built on. The war on Gaza is a particularly brutal manifestation of the imperialist system in crisis and attempting to violently reimpose its will and is providing many useful lessons to workers everywhere as a result.
Communists must also help workers understand the link with the war in Ukraine and the attempt that has been made to create (in the words of stooge actor-president Volodymyr Zelensky himself) a “big Israel” in eastern Europe.
The aim of Nato’s Ukraine project was to do to Russia what Israel has done in the middle east: to create an armed camp for US imperialism that would threaten all independent states and act as a source of permanent instability and aggression on Russia’s western border. Ukraine’s Banderite fascists have even taken direct inspiration from the Israeli treatment of Palestinians in setting up their own supremacist ethnostate and targeting Russia and the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine.
In eastern Europe and the middle east, both wars revolve around projects of US imperialism designed to disrupt and/or destroy any state that could pose a threat to imperialist hegemony. The fact that the self-identifying British ‘left’, most of which failed to make any real analysis of the actions of US imperialism in Ukraine, has taken a better position with regard to Palestine should not mean that their incredibly bad, pro-imperialist position on the Nato war in Ukraine can now be ignored.
In order to maintain their position, the US imperialists must be able to control the oil supply from the middle east. This is what drives their continuous efforts to stop all attempts at Arab unity, independence and development. And Israel, as an armed outpost of imperialist power in the region, is one of the major tools for prosecuting this agenda.
Likewise, the drive to bring down the current government of Russia in order that a comprador regime can be installed there on the lines of the Yeltsin period is aimed at destroying resistance to US looting, particularly of Russia’s vast energy reserves. The fascist takeover of Ukraine by CIA-backed proxies, and the transformation of the country into an armed military camp of imperialism, were all steps towards this goal.
The imperialist system is global, and the actions of its ruling classes are never isolated. All must be seen in their true context and connection.
The demonstrations in Britain have already caused consternation within ruling circles, but this is by no means enough. Rather than endless demonstrations that will eventually fade away, the energy now on display must be harnessed to build a more coherent movement that is directed against the imperialist system itself.
As a first step, the use of British military bases in Britain, whether British or American, to resupply the Israeli army must be highlighted. All bases should be subject to protests and their operations disrupted. A campaign must be built demanding the total withdrawal of Britain from Nato and of all US and Nato forces and assets (such as US missile systems) from Britain.
The ruling class will scream and cry that this would ‘compromise security’, but it is they who depend upon US imperialism for protection, not the British working class.
Moreover, we must use this moment to demand the total disbandment of the criminal, warmongering Nato military alliance. The rush by Nato states to reinforce Israel militarily by sending an armada to the eastern Mediterranean shows once again that Nato is nothing but the armed wing of imperialism.
The demand to get Britain out of Nato must be made at every demonstration, and workers must be repeatedly reminded that the murderous violence inflicted upon the Palestinians is all being supported by Nato’s European military infrastructure.
Thirdly, the connection between the actions of British imperialism overseas and its actions at home must be spelt out. British imperialism survives through the superexploitation of labour and natural resources in African, South American and southeast Asian nations, and the domination of the middle east is a key link in that chain of control.
Imperialism, as VI Lenin long ago pointed out, is a system of decaying monopoly capital. As a result of the declining profitability of capital invested in Britain, we suffer deindustrialisation at home even as profits soar for British financiers from their looting abroad. The profits of imperialism were used to fund a hefty bribe to British workers for a considerable period after WW2, but this has been steadily reversed as the ruling class has been steadily seizing back every concession it previously made since the postwar boom came to an end in the mid 1960s.
For the overwhelming majority of the working class in Britain, the future under capitalism offers only worsening pay and conditions, mounting personal debt, and fewer and worse public services being provided.
Meanwhile, as the anti-imperialist camp makes steady gains, a new, multipolar world is emerging and hastening the decline of British imperialism by pushing it out of areas it was previously able to dominate and loot. As this process speeds up, the ruling class will react by launching more wars overseas and by pushing down on the pay and conditions of workers at home.
The only solution to this dire prospect is for workers to remove the parasitic system that rules our country. If we don’t, all we can expect from our future are ever greater attacks from the ruling class as it loses its ability to superexploit the rest of the world.
The present wave of protest presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to popularise anti-imperialist and proletarian politics. As new layers of previously apolitical Britons join the struggle in solidarity with Palestinian liberation, our task is to transform them into a movement against the imperialist system itself – the system which created and sustains Israel; the system which is denying not only Palestinians but British workers, too, a dignified and meaningful future.