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Gaza: A long struggle lies ahead

Class solidarity rather than humanitarian concern

John McAnulty

05 August 2014

The major speeches in defence of Gaza at Irish rallies on 1st and 2nd of August were made by members of the Socialist movement. In Belfast veteran socialist and SWP member Eamon McCann said that the defence of Gaza was the task of the current generation in the same way that Vietnam and apartheid South Africa were tasks for earlier generations. A new movement would have to be built to defeat the colonial, settler and apartheid Israeli state.

In Dublin Paul Murphy, former Socialist party MEP, quoted Connolly in saying that the barbarism of war arose from the barbarism of the ruling class. In confronting Israel we were confronting the barbarism of the capitalist and imperialist systems that supported Israel. The immediate task was to force out the Israeli ambassador.

Both speeches, while addressing central issues, raised more questions than they answered.

What movement has to be built? The Belfast demonstration was organized by the SWP front "People Before Profit." The platform speakers were SWP members. A rally at local shops is to be organized by the SWP and boycott leaflets were from People Before Profit. Dublin leaflets calling for a boycott of Israeli goods were issued by the SWP's "Stop the War Coalition" front. All this is part of a general fragmentation where different groups organize in different areas - useful in getting immediate broad action - a handicap in building a powerful united movement. 

Part of building a broader movement is a unified programme and strategy. After Eamon McCann's fire and brimstone speech the more politically experienced section of the crowd visibly flinched when told that our activity would be non-payment of TV licenses and boycotting Israeli goods - justified actions, but clearly insufficient to defeat Israel and its imperialist backers.

The organization behind the Dublin demonstrations is the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Champaign. Its reports on activity showed a perspective very different from that offered by Paul Murphy. 

Rather than seeing the Irish government as part of the capitalist and imperialist alliance, they argue that the government has “let us down.” The vast majority of recent activity was writing and providing "position papers" to persuade TDs and MEPs to support Gaza. In this context street demonstrations are meant to increase public sympathy and add to pressure on the government. 

Spokespeople clearly understood the limitations of the boycott strategy. The Dublin speakers referred to an earlier boycott of South African goods that led eventually to a government embargo.  The point was that a boycott campaign does not have to be effective on its own but could eventually force the government to act.

This will not happen with Israel. Global Trade Regulations now forbid barriers to trade on political grounds. US imperialism is prepared to give Israel a blank cheque. The Irish government, still subservient to the Troika, so subservient to the US that even asking for tax payments is beyond them, will not be in the forefront of any challenge.

At the moment the avalanche of children’s corpses, the deluge of blood, is die away. The colonial war of genocide against the Palestinian people, the slow death of the blockade, will continue, as Zionist aggression has since before 1948. 

That war is not confined to the Gaza strip or to the Palestinian territories or even to the Middle East. It involves a war of information and communication against Israeli and US propaganda that stretches across the globe. Israel has introduced a new generation of youth to the need for solidarity with Palestine, demoralised sections of liberal Zionism, exposed the hypocrisy of the imperialist powers and the puppet nature of news and media.

Each country will throw up individual tasks in the global struggle.  In the case of Ireland these include the removal of the Israeli ambassador, the reopening of the issue of the US military use of Shannon airport and building opposition to the European Union, whose complicity in the rape of Gaza stands alongside its role in forcing the immiseration of the Irish working class in the interests of big business.

Undertaking these tasks requires more than the activities of individual groups or a unity around humanitarian lobbying. It requires mass united solidarity in the fight to close down the colonial apartheid state and for Palestinian self-determination.

At the heart of our current impotence is a failure to understand the meaning of the word solidarity. Solidarity is not feelings of horror and repugnance. Rather it is collective action by the working class and oppressed against a common enemy. It is opposing the barbarism of capitalism and imperialism with the collective interest of anti-imperialist and socialist action, of appealing to the working class as a class, on the basis of their own collective interest and around their own need for liberation.

We should repudiate the “even-handed” approaches taken by the trade unions and Sinn Fein that involve a condemnation of Hamas rockets. Oppressed people under attack by an immensely superior enemy have a right to defend themselves – no apology need be offered.

A culture of sponsorship should be replaced with a culture of activity. The IPSC is sponsored by the trade union movement and supported by Sinn Fein. Jack O'Connor of SIPTU spoke at the first Dublin demonstration. There were 3 TEEU flags and one SIPTU flag at the second. The evidence of an organized working class at the third consisted of one branch banner and the banner of the Independent Workers Union. A Sinn Fein MEP spoke at the August 2nd demonstration, yet the “support” of Sinn Fein and ICTU produced a demonstration of somewhat over 4000.

The Irish working class has a long anti-imperialist and socialist tradition. It has shown in the past a willingness to force the closure of foreign embassies. It's time we brought that tradition to life. Part of that battle is to overcome the defeats inflicted on our own class in Ireland and the ossification, decay and collaboration that paralyses the traditional leaders of our movement.

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