England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

End Tory repression against protestors!

By Matt Kilsby, Socialist Alternative Greater Manchester

With the sacking of Suella Braverman as Home Secretary, the Tory government is divided and in complete disarray. Indeed, a leadership challenge to Sunak from the Tory right cannot be ruled out. But even with Braverman gone, the Tory culture wars will continue together with their inflammatory, racist, homophobic and transphobic rhetoric.

Part and parcel of these culture wars are repression and attacks on the right to protest, which have intensified in recent weeks as the ruling class in Britain has been providing unstinting and uncritical support to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. Before being sacked, Braverman had disgracefully branded the huge anti-war protests, which have been taking place all across the country, as “hate marches” and also sought to ban the historic demonstration in London on 11 November. All at the same time as intentionally whipping-up far-right protests, allegedly to “protect the cenotaph” from anti-war protestors.

Attacks on Palestinian solidarity

Meanwhile, after an anti-war demonstration in October, a tube driver was suspended by Transport for London (TfL) for the crime of shouting “free, free” over the train’s speaker system, whilst the passengers continued the chant. As well as suspending the driver, TfL also involved the police, showing how the ruling class is criminalising anti-war protest and any shows of solidarity with Palestine. Pointing to the double standards inherent in this situation, the left wing Labour MP, Diane Abbott asked on X (formerly Twitter): “Would the driver have been suspended if he was chanting “Free Ukraine?”

By describing anti-war protestors as racists, anti-semites and “pro-Palestinian mobs”, the Tory culture wars have stirred-up communal tensions in Britain. As well as an increase in anti-semitism, Islamophobia is on the rise: police were recently called into a school in London after graffiti was found in a toilet. According to images posted on social media, the graffiti said: “Death to Gaza, death to Arabs, death to Muslims”.

The onslaught on Gaza has allowed the Tories to unleash the most cynical culture war of pitting communities against each other. Capitalists will always try to divide workers and scapegoat oppressed groups in society to blame them for the problems caused by their system. As socialists, we stand against all forms of racism, Islamophobia and antiSemitism, in Britain and across the world. We call for a united struggle of workers and youth against all forms of racism and ‘divide and rule’.

Fight back against anti-strike legislation

Together with the ramping up of repression of protest and freedom of speech, the Tories have also announced yet more attacks on the right to strike with the laying of regulations for minimum service levels for all strike action taken by workers on the railways, the ambulance service and border security. Attempts are being made to bring these new rules into law, and similar rules affecting workers in hospital settings, schools, universities and fire services are also in the offing.

To fight back against all these attacks, we must build working-class action against the Tories and the war on Gaza. A recent example of this was in Kent, when protestors blockaded an Elbit Systems factory, which manufactures parts for Israeli drones. But this does not go far enough. Imagine if workers in these companies and factories organised strike action, with the aim of stopping the production of the weapons altogether. In addition, the unions must show solidarity with all workers who are victimised as part of the new minimum service level laws, or, like the London tube driver, for expressing solidarity with the people of Palestine.

We should draw inspiration from workers across the globe who have taken direct action against the war on Gaza. In Belgium, unions in the transport sector declared that their members should refuse to handle arms destined for the Israeli state to be used in its assault on Gaza. Dockworkers in Italy (Genoa and Catania) have also taken action and blocked arms shipments to Israel. In Australia, hundreds of trade unionists and demonstrators blocked the arrival of an Israeli ZIM ship, while in the US hundreds of protesters gathered in Oakland and Tacoma to block military ships bound for Israel.

The Tories are weak and divided, as shown by the chaos at the heart of Sunak’s government and by their inability to stop hundreds of thousands of people protesting against war in recent weeks. United action of workers and young people can help bring an end to the indiscriminate killing across Israel-Palestine, fight back against the Tory culture wars and bring down their government at the same time. 

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