In the middle of the ‘humanitarian pause’ in the fighting in Gaza, hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets across Britain in support of Palestine, and to demand an end to the Israeli regime’s slaughter.
The main demand coming out of these demonstrations was for the temporary truce to be extended into a permanent ceasefire. For the vast majority of demonstrators, this call means an end to the bloodshed.
But it is clear that the Israeli ruling class is hellbent on continuing their bloody offensive, razing Gaza to the ground, and wiping Palestine off the map altogether.
And Sunak, Starmer, and the rest of the imperialist establishment here in Britain are quite prepared to let that happen.
The question of how to stop the slaughter was therefore at the forefront of protestors’ minds. And the most advanced layers in the movement are already beginning to look beyond the demand for a ceasefire, as the reports below indicate.
Reports also indicate that there was a slight ebb in the number of attendees at last weekend’s marches, and that the energy wasn’t as high as that seen on previous protests.
Naturally, every movement has its ebbs and flows. But if a clear perspective and a fighting lead was given, there’s no doubt that the numbers mobilising would soar even higher.
Comrades of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) were active at many of the demonstrations over the weekend, putting forward a revolutionary programme to end the occupation.
The communists have been calling for the solidarity movement to broaden its reach, by carrying a bold campaign into every workplace, school, university, and community, and to adopt class-based methods such as strikes, walkouts, and workers’ boycotts.
Such a mass campaign should have the clear aim of clearing out this criminal Tory government, and smashing the capitalist system which produces war and suffering across the world.
In universities, IMT members have attempted to kickstart such a campaign, by organising and participating in walkouts; demanding that universities condemn imperialism and cut ties with complicit companies; and end the repression of pro-Palestine staff and students.
In places like Cardiff, Lancaster, and Leeds, campaigns led by our comrades have been met with a positive response from staff and students.
This is a good first step. But more can be done. We appeal to our readers and supporters to join us and get organised in the struggle against imperialism.
On Saturday, 40 London comrades mobilised in support of Palestine. We gathered at Marble Arch for a political briefing, and to practice our slogans and chants.
Some of the speeches given by comrades were clearly so inspiring that none other than the Met Police decided to record them!
Police harassment of the Palestine solidarity movement. Yesterday at the London demo, Met cops were filming the speeches at the Communist Bloc 1/ pic.twitter.com/EKfrjEgJsJ
— Jorge Martin ☭ (@marxistJorge) November 26, 2023
While we’d like to imagine that these officers were simply interested in revolutionary communism, it’s clear that this was part of a monitoring operation to further clamp down on the Palestine solidarity movement.
Indeed, Saturday saw a ramping up of police presence. Members of another left-wing group were arrested for displaying anti-Zionist material.
Another two women were arrested at a separate protest for carrying signs in Arabic, which apparently incited hatred, despite being written in a language that the arresting officers admitted they couldn’t understand!
The establishment is clearly trying to cow and intimidate those who speak up for Palestine. The labour movement must mobilise to defend our democratic rights against this clampdown.
After our impromptu mini-rally, comrades dispersed amongst the crowd and began setting up stalls and selling the Socialist Appeal paper.
The mood of the crowd, following the failed vote for a ceasefire last week, was definitely hardened. People’s eyes have widened to the fact that a solution will not come from the ladies and gentlemen in the House of Commons, nor from a Labour government.
The ‘humanitarian’ pause – described by one protester as “holiday leave for IDF soldiers flying ‘home’ for thanksgiving in the States” – was another hot topic.
From conversations we had, it became clear that, for a number of protestors, a ceasefire means little more than a return to the status quo. Therefore, the slogan of “One solution: Revolution!” emblazoned on the front cover of the paper went down incredibly well.
The march kicked off at midday, moving from Marble Arch, through the centre of London, and on to Trafalgar Square and Downing Street.
The communist bloc was loud and visible, with bold chants calling for revolution from London to Gaza. Our chants were picked up by large parts of the surrounding crowd.
After arriving at Trafalgar Square, comrades again dispersed to put our ideas forward and find people interested in joining the communists. We sold around 100 papers throughout the day, and found plenty of people interested in joining.
What was clear throughout the whole day was that people are looking for an alternative. Many are beginning to realise the imperialists cannot be defeated through the capitalist state, even if our ‘representatives’ sport a red rosette.
On Friday, up to 100 people attended a walk-out that IMT members organised at Cardiff uni, where we demanded that the university condemns imperialism and supports Palestine, and demands an end to the repression of pro-Palestinian students and staff.
View this post on Instagram
The day before, the student union held a meeting in which students overwhelmingly voted for a motion calling for a ceasefire.
However, the student union officials did not allow the Communist Society to present a motion calling for a mass mobilisation of students against British imperialism, and against companies supplying arms to Israel.
On Saturday, the Swansea and Cardiff Communists then mobilised for a national demonstration in Cardiff, to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and against the hypocrisy and one-sided coverage in the BBC.
View this post on Instagram
This protest was large enough to cover the streets of Cardiff, with comrades estimating a thousand people in attendance.
However, it was noted that the energy levels of the crowds have continued to wane, similar to the previous demonstration.
The content of the speeches given before the march lacked a radical character, with many limiting themselves to calls for a permanent ceasefire, or praising the Plaid and Labour MPs who voted for a ceasefire in the Senedd recently.
From the conversations we had with the protestors, however, it was clear that the difference in the mood was night and day.
Many attendees were receptive to our positions. They agreed that a ceasefire would not be enough, and that we needed revolutionary solutions to end the imperialist slaughter.
This was reflected in our sales of 22 copies of Socialist Appeal and three people signing up to join. During the march itself many among the crowd around us joined in our slogans calling for intifada and revolution.
Our bloc was very noticeable. We certainly made our presence known! We shared our megaphone with members of the crowd, who instantly started to use our slogans.
Another set of speeches after the march had a far more radical content. There were calls for united action by the working class, and for trade unions to step up. This resonated with people looking for solutions further than a ceasefire.
It is apparent that there is a widening rift between the official leadership of the movement and the mood of the rank and file.
At future demos, we will be attempting to get a spot on the speakers’ list, so we can present our revolutionary communist solutions, which the most radical layers are searching for.
On 24 November, some 300 students from the University of Leeds, Beckett University, and Leeds Arts – double that of the previous week – walked out in solidarity with Palestinian people.
The walkout was called on 13 November by our comrades at all three universities, just a couple of days after our Marxist Society at Beckett was deregistered by the SU for its intransigent call for an intifada.
In collaboration with other groups, we turned the walkout into a march around the University of Leeds campus and key areas around Beckett University, finishing with a sit in of around 100 students at a University of Leeds building.
The preparations were solid. Having just returned from Revolution Festival, many comrades demonstrated great fortitude and zeal through continuous social media posts, distributing hundreds of flyers and putting up tons of posters.
On one night we put up a hundred posters in just over 30 minutes. As a result of these efforts comrades were greeted by many new faces at the walkout.
Among the speakers was a UCU representative whose support was met with rapturous applause and cheers.
Our own comrades spoke on three occasions. One speaker unapologetically affirmed our call for an intifada, and exposed the £180 million in ties between Beckett University and Lloyds Bank, which invests billions in arms manufacturing.
Another explained the criminal role of British imperialism in the ongoing slaughter, and a final speaker called out the complicity of student unions and university boards who are trying to silence criticism of the Israeli and British establishments.
Amidst our preparations we were also contacted by someone who we met at the previous walkout, who asked us to help them organise a walkout at Bradford University.
Preparations for that are already under way. And with a bit of luck, combined with the lessons from this walkout, we will be able to organise an even bigger walkout soon.
On 23 November, IMT members in Lancaster took part in organising a student walkout and demonstration on campus. Around 200 people turned out, including members of the Lancaster UCU branch.
View this post on Instagram
The walk-out was organised under the following demands:
- Condemn imperialism – support Palestine!
- Cut ties with complicit companies!
- Support pro-Palestinian students and staff organising solidarity! End repression!
The rally began with energetic chanting, which drowned out the attempts of the campus security to stop us chanting, as well as the provocations of a lone Zionist.
Speakers discussed their personal experiences of the conflict, with some touching on BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) and the need for a ceasefire.
Our comrades pointed out that while we are in favour of peace, calls for a ceasefire are falling on unsympathetic ears, as demonstrated in parliament last Wednesday.
View this post on Instagram
Moreover, Netanyahu has already agreed to a four-day ceasefire, but has no plans to end the slaughter of Palestinians.
We highlighted the need for a class-based struggle and a global intifada.
At the rally, we also announced our screening of the documentary “The Land That Speaks Arabic”, and our open meeting on the history of Israel-Palestine on Monday 27 November.
Our aim is to inject political education into this campaign, and highlight the role of British imperialism in this conflict, past and present.
View this post on Instagram
After the rally, we then marched into the student union offices, which we occupied for about an hour in total.
Upon our entry we kept on with chants and slogans, banners and papers in hand, and ended with two of our own comrades closing the demonstration, reiterating the need for a global intifada.