England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Tory attacks on ‘extremism’ show desperation

By Chris Thorley, Socialist Alternative South West 

The Tories have been trying to label protesters, outraged at the Israeli state’s massacre in Gaza, as a threat to peace and democracy. This is used both as a means to ‘divide and rule’ but also as justification for the ongoing attacks on the right to protest.

Throughout the Tories’ manufactured culture war, they have tried to paint a picture of a conflict between ‘troublemakers’ and ‘extremists’ on one side and ordinary decent British people on the other. The reasons for this are clear. By trying to create a moral panic against these protesters, the Tories hope to distract from their role in giving cover and support for Netanyahu’s genocidal war. This is a classic divide-and-rule tactic often used by capitalist governments to pit sections of the working class against each other, in the hopes that this stops them uniting against the warmongering ruling class.

It does not seem to be working very well in this case however, as the protests are still attracting hundreds of thousands of people. Rishi Sunak claimed there has been a “shocking increase in extremist disruption and criminality” in the UK after the 7 October attacks, and that extremist groups are “trying to tear us apart.” The reality is that protests have been almost entirely peaceful. There has been an increase in both antisemitism and Islamophobia since the outbreak of this war.

All those active in the Palestine solidarity and workers’ movements must actively resist and oppose racism wherever it rears its ugly head. However this is primarily fuelled by inflammatory remarks and speeches by the Tories, and other establishment figures, highlighting who is actually “trying to tear us apart”.

Islamophobia has been shown to be rife among Tory MPs. Keir Starmer, meanwhile, has been shown to be extremely soft on the antisemitism that does exist in his own ranks, as was shown in the case of Azhar Ali in Rochdale who spoke about “Jewish quarters” dominating the media. Despite portraying himself as being tough on the issue, Starmer has merely been tough on criticism of those who oppose the Israeli state and imperialism.

Far from being extremists, the protesters who have come out in their thousands to support the Palestinian people just want this horrific massacre to stop. The overwhelming majority are not on the side of Hamas, but on the side of the Palestinian people. Neither does opposing the brutal regime of occupation and siege on Gaza mean we oppose the rights of ordinary Jewish Israelis, who also suffer from the vicious nationalism of their ruling class and government.

The struggle for peace and liberation can be advanced through mass, democratically organised collective action of both the Palestinian people and the international working class, including in Israel itself, and we need to strive towards class unity to achieve this. This means resisting any attempts to divide us – including those from the Tories and Starmer – in the struggle against imperialism and for the democratic rights of all.

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