An invite to Socialism 2018! A weekend of socialist discussion and debate

An invite to Socialism 2018! A weekend of socialist discussion and debate

Socialism 2018

Coventry Socialist Party would like to invite you to a very important event – Socialism 2018. Organised by the Socialist Party and taking place in London in November, there will be rallies, debates and discussions about how to fight back against the capitalist crisis and how we can strengthen the global movement for socialist change.

It is a weekend event, with cheap accommodation available on the Saturday night. It is also possible (as some do) to come for either just the Saturday or Sunday. Ticket prices, including where you can buy, timetable for the event, and find out more are here. There is currently 10 per cent off tickets (discount shows when they are purchased)

There will be international speakers, including Kshama Sawant, elected socialist representative from Seattle, who will talk about the movement against Trump, racism and building an independent political alternative for working class people in the USA.

The event is not to be missed. There will be many of us travelling down from Coventry. Please respond to this email if you want to come, have more questions, or want to get your tickets.

So why should you come and what are we going to discuss? 

Austerity is destroying lives, driving down our living conditions while the rich get richer. The Tories aim to continue it forever. Can we get rid of the Tory government? Can councils actually set a no-cuts budget? Do they have any power to resist?

Women are rising up across the world against sexism. But how can liberation from oppression be won? How does the fight for trans rights connect? Can we build a movement to fight for all?

Brexit has split the Tories down the middle. Does the EU single market act as an obstacle to implementing socialist policies? Is a socialist Brexit possible? What will Brexit mean for Northern Ireland? Can the EU ever act in workers’ interests?

Trump is hated – but how can he be stopped? What will be the consequences of Trump’s America First policy? Will we go from trade war to military war? Will he cause a new world economic crisis?

Marxism says that philosophers have interpreted the world – but the point is to change it! 200 years after the birth of Karl Marx does Marxism still help us in the fight for socialism?

Corbyn was raised to the Labour leadership by people hungry for an end to austerity. And yet every step he takes is blocked by the right-wing in the Labour Party. Can the Labour Party be transformed into a party of the working class?

Racism must be countered whenever it emerges. But how? What kind of organisation is the Football Lads Alliance? How can they be stopped? Why did Malcolm X come to the conclusion that you can’t have capitalism without racism?

Trade unions have over six million members but what can they do to defend workers in the gig economy, zero-hour contract workers in retail and hospitality, refugees? What is their role in Austerity Britain? Is there a crisis of leadership?

These and just a taste of some of the topics. There will be large bookstalls, a social event, and much more.

Make sure you are part of the debate, in order to build a strong socialist movement!
Get your tickets here

If you want further information, please contact us using the form below.

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Build the fight against austerity – get the Tories out now! A contribution to the debate

Build the fight against austerity – get the Tories out now! A contribution to the debate

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Marching against cuts to youth clubs in Coventry

A Coventry Socialist Party member and active trade unionist in the city responds to the letter supported by local Labour MPs and Jeremy Corbyn


Anyone walking through Coventry will see the impact of austerity. Empty shops, a visible increase in people being forced to sleep in doorways and under bridges. Public services stretched almost to breaking point. An NHS in crisis. Students taking on tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt just to get an education.

It seems like a long time since George Osborne said “we’re all in this together”.

It is very welcome that local Labour MPs are supporting the letter to Prime Minister Theresa May highlighting the damage being done by cuts to local government funding. Any and all pressure that can be put on the Tories is a step forward.

At the same time, we need to think about what is the way forward in the fight against austerity, and what our MPs and local councillors can be doing to put the maximum pressure on this weak and divided government to force them out of office at the earliest opportunity.

With the Tories in such a crisis, we think if even a small number of Labour councils said to the government that they would not continue to implement austerity cuts, it would add to the pressure immensely. As we have consistently argued, we think it was mistaken that since the formation of the Conservative – Liberal Democrat Coalition in 2010 and then the Tory government of 2015, our Labour council has consistently passed on local government cuts to the people of Coventry. This has seen school transport charges levied on families of children with disabilities, cuts and closures in youth services, thousands of jobs lost at the Council, attacks on the terms and conditions of staff that provide vital services in our city to name but a few.

Our elected representatives should work with the people of Coventry, the trade unions, local communities, anti-cuts campaigns, and all those affected by Tory austerity to demand more money for our city. Letters will not be enough. The Labour council, with the support of the MPs, where possible linking up with other Councils doing the same, should say to the Tories we demand the restoration of all funding stolen from our city. The reserves that the council have built up, more than doubling since 2010 to over £90 million could be used as a temporary measure to set legal no cuts budgets to “hold the line” to allow time for a mass campaign to be built. And with May teetering on the brink, a future Labour government should pledge to restore all funding as soon as it was elected.

It is timely that at both Labour and Tory conferences, the spectre of Liverpool City Council was raised. Labour MP Dawn Butler invoked a frenzied response from the Blairites for remembering in a positive fashion that conference was taking place in the city where in their 1980s battle with Mrs Thatcher, the councillors said it is “better to break the law than break the poor.” Esther McVey of the Tories in her conference speech compared the left-wing group Momentum to Militant.

Liverpool City Council won back the equivalent of £60 million in today’s terms from the Tories. Despite the lies of the right wing, not a single worker was made redundant. Decent housing, leisure facilities and public parks were created.

We need our public representatives to show some of the audacity and determination of the Liverpool councillors.

To build on the letter sent to the Tories, words should be turned to action. Our MPs should call mass public meetings in conjunction with trade unions in the city which would bring together union members, campaigners and all those hit by austerity to hammer out and discuss the tactics and strategy needed for us to win.

The trade union movement also needs to discuss what demands we should be fighting for.

For example the letter that MPs and councillors across the West Midlands signed finishes by demanding “complete reform of local government funding to make councils more sustainable and more accountable to the local electorate. Local authorities should be given the power to set local taxes and retain local revenue, allowing the proceeds of growth to be kept locally“. The letter doesn’t actually specifically call for the cuts of the last eight years (which now amount to over £100 million a year in Coventry) to be refunded, but for “government to reverse the disastrous policy of austerity” which is not quite the same.

Without a restoration of national government funding then “the power to set local taxes and retain local revenue” might be okay for some richer boroughs, but not for poorer.

We think mass meetings organised by our public representatives would take the struggle forward in terms of the fight for public services, but also help build the movement that can drive the Tories from office, and bring Jeremy Corbyn to power. Socialist policies are what are needed to end austerity, which is a direct result of the capitalist crisis triggered by the collapse of the banks. We are still paying for it. Working class people have paid enough. Time to stop all the cuts, get the Tories out and fight for socialism.

If you agree with this, please share this contribution and consider joining the fight for socialism.

 

Public meeting to celebrate 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution

Public meeting to celebrate 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution

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Coventry Socialist Party are holding a special public meeting on Wednesday 25th October at 7.30pm, to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

We are very pleased to announce that our main speaker will be former Labour MP Dave Nellist.

The Russian Revolution was the greatest event in human history – it saw the overthrow of Tsarism and the abolition of capitalism with the workers taking power led by the Bolsheviks.

With capitalism currently in a deep crisis and socialism increasingly on the agenda in Britain and around the world we will be looking back at what happened in 1917 and what the lessons are for today’s struggles. This will be an excellent meeting not to be missed!

Wednesday 25th October
Methodist Hall, Coventry, CV1 2HA
Main speaker – Dave Nellist
7.30pm

We have created a dedicated website with articles, background information, timelines and analysis – click here to check it out!

We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday!

What is taking place in Catalonia?

What is taking place in Catalonia?

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Mass demonstrations in Catalonia

We are pleased to publish the following articles on the current situation in Catalonia outlining the mass movement that is developing in defense of self-determination and democratic rights. These articles give a good background to the crisis, and give details of the activities of the Marxist organisation Esquerra Revolucionària (Revolutionary Left – the Socialist Party’s sister organisation in Catalonia) and the programme that socialists are fighting for to take the movement forward.

The first is a statement from Esquerra Revolucionària written on 18th September that describes the situation following the 1 million strong march that took place on 11th September. A further article has been issued with the latest developments. Today, the Students Union have issued a call for a student strike on the 28th September to resist the state repression that is taking place.

We urge our readers to follow the events that are developing, and to get in touch to discuss and join activities here in the UK. There is no doubt that capitalism is incapable of satisfying the basic national and democratic rights of ordinary people around the world; it is time to fight for socialism.

If you want to find out more please fill in the form below.

16 years on from the 9/11 attacks in the United States

16 years on from the 9/11 attacks in the United States

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It is now 16 years on from the deadly attacks in the US that killed thousands of people. We are reproducing this Socialist Party statement that was issued on 12 September 2001, the day after what took place.

There is no doubt that the increased US/UK interventions in the Middle East have not made the world a safer place for working class people, neither in the region, in Britain or elsewhere. In fact the opposite is true. We are still faced with the choice – Socialism or Barbarism. Capitalism does not offer a decent future for the majority of the world’s population. It is time for socialist change.

After the carnage in the USA: World Crisis Deepens

Socialist Party statement, 12 September 2001

THE KILLING of thousands of innocent civilians in New York, Washington and elsewhere in the US has caused horror and revulsion among ordinary working people worldwide.

The suicide tactics of the attackers are condemned and opposed by socialists. Such tactics can never advance the struggles of oppressed nationalities or working-class people anywhere across the globe. In fact the immediate results of such action could be to weaken working-class solidarity as governments in the West whip up the mood for revenge on those who are blamed for carrying out the attacks.

Inevitably, as on 11 September, it will be the workers, the oppressed and dispossessed who pay the price for what the US leaders and commentators describe as an ‘act of war’.

Whilst no group has claimed responsibility as The Socialist goes to press, and Osama bin-Laden is rumoured to have denied involvement, the US government is certainly preparing to revenge these horrific attacks. With leading politicians correctly pointing out that this is a more devastating attack on US imperialism than Pearl Harbour, a US government (particularly one led by Bush) will inevitably have to be seen to do something in the face of such an assault.

Attacks

The attacks will be seen as huge turning point for world capitalism and will have immense consequences for the world politically and economically, apart from the devastating effect it will have on the lives of tens of thousands of people in the USA and indeed worldwide.

As we go to press share prices have plummeted and the price of oil and gold have increased dramatically – a recognition of the scale of the crisis that international capitalism feels it is facing.

Following Tuesday’s horrendous events there will certainly be an escalation of the Middle East crisis, which is likely to see the US and other imperialist powers more directly involved and could lead to all-out conflict in the region. Unfortunately, it is likely to result in further assassinations and reprisals against the whole Palestinian population on behalf of the imperialist powers.

Israeli premier Ariel Sharon has indicated that he sees this as a green light to intensify action against the Palestinian masses and he will draw on US support – either directly or indirectly – to carry out wider repression in the region.

Inevitably in the immediate aftermath, large sections of US workers will temporarily acquiesce in whatever actions the previously unpopular, reactionary President Bush takes.

Pandemonium

And the pandemonium following the scenes of carnage engulfing New York and Washington after Tuesday’s suicide attacks have led to a wider panic about the implications of the strikes.

Immediately following the aircraft crashes into the World Trade Centre and Pentagon – potent symbols of world capitalism’s financial and military might – share prices, which had been falling dramatically in previous days, fell further. The price of oil rose by $2-$3 a barrel reflecting anxieties about increased instability in the Middle East – the likely source of the ‘terrorist’ attack.

The air strikes led to an immediate state of national and international crisis, which will provoke further questioning of the authority of capitalism’s rulers. Government and financial services were paralysed in the USA and stock markets in other advanced capitalist countries dropped dramatically or were suspended following the attacks. Even if capitalism manages to stabilise matters in the short term the medium and long-term effect will be to deepen the underlying economic crisis.

Imperialism’s “revenge”

No doubt Bush and Western imperialism will step up their drive against Islamic ‘terrorism’ in retribution. The co-ordinated ‘assault on America’ will lead to co-ordinated US state action to hunt down and get ‘revenge’ against Islamic groups, regardless of whether they were involved or not.

It is also possible that a witch-hunting atmosphere could develop in the United States and elsewhere against Arabs, Muslims or others suspected of associations with terrorist states or groups.

This could also be used against any radical groups that challenge the capitalist system.

It is also conceivable that governments will use these attacks to ban anti-globalisation protests or restrict demonstrations against their capitalist system. It is very likely that the anti-globalisation protest in Washington at the end of this month will either not go ahead or be banned.

Blair found the bombings a convenient way of avoiding criticism of his privatisation plans at the TUC and has immediately used the opportunity to step up security. Whilst many workers will initially accept such measures – as was the case in Britain in the early 1970s with the adoption of the Prevention of Terrorism Act after events in Northern Ireland and Britain – such measures do not stop the threat of such attacks and have been used against those on the Left and the labour movement generally.

Bush and Blair

Imperialist politicians like Bush and Blair, however, bear a huge responsibility for the policies which have led to global instability and now bring terror onto the streets of the USA. These imperialist powers have pursued policies which have led to the deaths of thousands in the Middle East and throughout the globe.

President George W Bush’s father, the other President Bush, was the world leader who used a war in the Gulf to assert his ‘New World Order’. That new order ushered in the era of globalisation, which has impoverished and alienated billions.

US imperialism’s dominance of the globe has brought increased instability, tension and turmoil to every corner of the planet. Combined with the absence of a mass movement of the working classes and oppressed, this has led some to pursue extreme and futile methods, such as the suicide tactics which led to the carnage in New York and Washington.

Imperialism’s policies have antagonised millions around the world. US Secretary of State Colin Powell had said in May this year:

“Terrorism is part of the dark side of globalisation. However, sadly, it is part of doing business in the world – business we as Americans are not going to stop doing.”

Oppressed People

US and Western leaders talk sanctimoniously about acts of ‘evil’ terrorism but gloss over their own acts of terrorism – military, politically and economically – against oppressed people around the world.

The attacks show that despite all the armoury of the world’s only superpower they are powerless and unable to protect their own citizens in the face of determined suicide attacks. The inability of the imperialist powers to find a settlement to the crisis in the Middle East, combined with the incapacity of the Palestinian leaders to offer a way forward for the Palestinian struggle, has led to increasing use of suicide attacks as a tactic.

Whilst the suicide bombings have struck terror into the heart of Israel and America, they are not capable of bringing forth a successful resolution of the Palestinian conflict. Nor will they deter US and other world leaders from continuing with their policies of state terror and economic exploitation.

Among the lessons that workers internationally will draw from these terrible events is that the imperialists, like Bush and Blair, cannot offer any resolution to the world’s conflicts. But neither can the tactics of the fundamentalist terrorist groups offer a way forward to the long-suffering peoples of the Middle East.

Workers

Furthermore, as well as adding to the panic on the already jittery world capitalist markets the events will confirm to large numbers of workers worldwide the instability of the global capitalist system.

At some stage these events could be a further trigger to exacerbate the economic woes of world capitalism.

Capitalism, at its most naked is a system of conflict, civil wars, wars, poverty, starvation and insecurity for the mass of people on this planet. It is the oppressed people of the world – whether workers in America or Palestinian youth – who pay the price of capitalism’s inability to resolve the crises their system creates.

It is the oppressed people of the world who can provide a solution to this era of global crisis by uniting to end the rule of the capitalist system and establish a socialist world where the horrors and insecurity of imperialism’s so-called New World Order are abolished once and for all.

 

Why is Venezuela in crisis? Socialist interviewed on LBC radio

Why is Venezuela in crisis? Socialist interviewed on LBC radio

The ongoing crisis in Venezuela is in the news at the moment because of the assembly elections that have just taken place.. The media and the capitalist class are using the crisis to smear socialism as being doomed to fail, as well as putting pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to condemn the regime.

Hannah Sell, the deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party, explained in an interview on LBC Radio that the problem in Venezuela is not too much socialism, but not enough – you can listen to the interview here.

Izquierda Revolucionaria (Revolutionary Left), our sister group in Venezuela, have written an article on the ongoing crisis which can be read here.

 

 

 

Nakba Day – solidarity with Palestinian hunger strike

Palestinian hunger strikes

Demonstration in support of Palestinian prisoners, East Jerusalem. Photo from Activestills

Today, 15th May, is known as Nakba Day. The Nakba, or catastrophe, refers to the forced displacement and exile of the Palestinian people in 1948 from their land following the creation of the state of Israel.  We are pleased to carry the article below written by a member of the Socialist Struggle Movement, the sister organisation of the Socialist Party in Israel-Palestine regarding the hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners taking place currently. We would also direct readers to a previous post on this site which has further background information.


Palestinian prisoners on mass hunger strike protest

By Shahar Ben-Horin, Socialist Struggle Movement (Israel-Palestine)

The “Strike of Freedom and Honour” is the name given to a mass hunger strike of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, which started indefinitely on the Palestinian Prisoner Day, 17 April. The prisoners are demanding the ending of discrimination on national grounds in prison and arbitrary detention without charge or trial (‘administrative arrests’). Among other things, the prisoners protest against medical neglect, incarceration in isolation, violation of rights to visits, prohibition of telephone calls and denial of the right to academic studies.

Every week sees dozens of military raids on homes of residents throughout the West Bank. Residents are removed from their beds in the middle of the night as a matter of routine. According to Israeli Prison Service (IPS) figures, at the end of April more than 6,100 Palestinian prisoners classified as ‘security prisoners’, including nearly 500 administrative detainees, were held in Israeli jails. Three hundred of the prisoners are minors, according to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights association A-Dameer (‘The Conscience’). Aside from the Security Prisoners held by IPS, further hundreds of Palestinians are held after being criminalised by the occupation authorities as ‘illegal stayers’, usually after seeking work in Israel, and a further dozens of Palestinians are held in facilities of the military and police before being transferred to the hands of the IPS.

In a special statement issued prior to Prisoner’s Day on behalf of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners Affairs, the Palestinian Prisoners Association and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, it was noted that since 1948, about a million Palestinians have been incarcerated in Israeli detention facilities. Since October 2015, at the beginning of the  ‘eruption’ of protest and escalation in violence, some 10,000 Palestinians have been arrested by Israel, about a third of them teenagers under 18.

Discrimination in incarceration conditions

Israeli regime propaganda, generously assisted by enlisted media, seeks to systematically mark all Palestinian ‘security prisoners’ as murderers. Even if this was true, and it is not, criminal murderers get definitely better incarceration conditions. However, the sweeping incitement is intended to silence public criticism and torpedo discussion on the reality of the occupation. Many of the prisoners were imprisoned for the sole fact of their involvement in a political struggle against the occupation and the national oppression of the Palestinians.

In this context, the State of Israel does not differentiate between those who were imprisoned after taking part in demonstrations or military activity against the military occupation forces in the territories of 1967, and those convicted of killing innocent civilians out of motives connected with the national conflict. In any case, the Palestinian ‘security prisoners’, whether Israeli citizens or residents of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are sweepingly discriminated against in legal procedures and conditions of imprisonment.

Ami Popper, a Jewish ‘security prisoner’, who slaughtered seven Palestinian workers on nationalist grounds, is entitled to holidays from prison, regular phone calls with relatives and even a place of work outside the prison. However, Palestinian ‘security prisoners’ are not entitled to any of these. Since 2011, they have been deprived of the right to study at the Open University, because they are not Jewish, and that is following a cynical measure of collective punishment that was implemented with the pretext of serving as a means of exerting pressure on Hamas to release the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. The policy remained in place even after the prisoner exchange deal that was eventually conducted in the same year.

The prisoners’ main demand is for public telephones to be installed in their prison wings so that they can talk to their relatives. Not only does such an arrangement exist in the criminal wings, but also the most famous Jewish security prisoner, Yigal Amir (who assassinated Israeli prime minister Rabin in 1995), is allowed to talk to his family by telephone. Palestinians are forbidden from doing so. The prisoners are dependent on the smuggling of mobile phones. For allegedly assisting in such smuggling, former Palestinian MK (member of the Israeli parliament, Knesset) Bassel Ghattas (National Democratic Alliance party) was sentenced earlier this year to two years in prison.

Hunger strikes threaten Establishment

During half a century of occupation in the territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian prisoners succeeded in improving their conditions of imprisonment through collective and individual hunger strikes, and obtained recognition by the prison authorities of their elected representatives. The current action is the largest hunger strike since 2012, when about 1,500 prisoners went on hunger strike for nearly a month and achieved some improvement in conditions, including partial renewal of family visits from the Gaza Strip. A series of hunger strikes by administrative detainees managed to bring about the release of detainees without an indictment, which only proved the claim that they were arbitrarily detained and refuted the claim of their alleged danger.

In 2014, an extended hunger strike, which at its height involved around 250 administrative detainees, was isolated and eventually collapsed against the background of the military offensive in the West Bank (operation Shuvu Ahim – ‘Come Back Brothers’) and the mass arrests that accompanied it. But the Israeli establishment continues to view hunger strikes among Palestinian prisoners as a threat. In addition to international criticism of Israel, the hunger strikes could ignite military confrontations – Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has already threatened to take action if the demands of the prisoners are not met – and much more significantly also mass protests on the ground, the more so as the lives of the prisoners and strike leaders become endangered.

The forced-feeding law approved by the Knesset in 2015 is designed to help the state to subdue hunger strikes by restoring the practice of de-facto torture conducted in Israel in the past, and which ironically has led to the only deaths of hunger strikers, so far.

The Israeli Medical Association (doctors’ trade union), as part of the policy of the World Medical Association, issued a vocal criticism against the law and ordered doctors not to cooperate with it. Doctors in hospitals in Ashkelon and Beersheba, for example, refused in 2015 to forcibly feed administrative detainee Muhammad ‘Allan, and last year, doctors in a hospital in `Afula refused to forcibly feed the journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who was also held as an administrative detainee. The lack of collaborationist doctors who would agree to break the hunger strike has now led Netanyahu’s officials to consider flying doctors from abroad to do so. In the meantime, the Health Ministry is briefing hospital managers to prepare for the possibility of forced feeding, and at the same time, IPS, MDA (emergency medical service) and the military are preparing to set up designated clinics in the prisons.

The IPS claims that the number of hunger strikers has dropped to 850 within the first two weeks of the strike, but prisoners’ rights organisations estimate that the number actually climbed to 1,500. In any case, the prison authorities do not hide their concern that the strike will expand, especially if the movement of solidarity with it accelerates. So far, most of the hunger strikers are identified with Fatah. About 3,000 prisoners support Fatah, and despite political divisions between them, there is a possibility that many of them will be convinced to join the protest later on. Additionally, hundreds more prisoners identified with Hamas and PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) are taking part, and the hunger strike may expand among the supporters of these political movements, as well. On 4 May, a number of prisoners who had served as senior commanders in the Hamas militia joined in, and additionally the secretary-general of the PFLP, Ahmad Sa`adat, joined the hunger strike, as well.

“Israel transformed basic rights into privileges”

The most prominent leader of the current strike is Marwan Barghouti, one of 13 Palestinian MPs (members of the Palestinian Legislative Council) imprisoned by Israel, and considered the most popular Palestinian leader today, who is sometimes called the ‘Palestinian Nelson Mandela’. In all the polls, he consistently appears to be the candidate who can draw the most support if in the future he runs – as he plans – for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority.

In an article he succeeded in getting to the New York Times at the start of the strike, Barghouti wrote that the State of Israel has “turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law — including some painfully secured through previous hunger strikes — into privileges its prison service decides to grant us or deprive us of.” He added that “Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalising Palestinian presence and resistance. Israel’s courts are a charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation”. He concluded, “Only ending occupation will end this injustice and mark the birth of peace”.

Barghouti, who was one of the leaders of the militias affiliated with Fatah – the Tanzim and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – survived an assassination attempt in 2001 (“targeted prevention”) by the Israeli military. He was arrested during a military raid on Ramallah the following year and convicted in a civil court for responsibility for approving terrorist actions against civilians on both sides of the Green Line, in which five people were murdered. Barghouti denied the allegations, gave up legal defence as a protest against the trial and claimed he was opposed to harming innocent people.

It should be emphasised that the socialist left opposes the use of terrorist methods in struggles. As opposed to the propaganda of the Israeli establishment, not every person who wages an armed struggle against the occupation is a terrorist. The militias of Fatah, for example, have conducted military actions against the military occupation. Nevertheless, they did not refrain over the years from killing civilians – which has, in fact, not harmed at all the occupation regime and even played into its hands politically, with more brutal attacks being carried out against Palestinian civilians. It is reasonable to assume that as one of the militia commanders, Barghouti has also been responsible for the killing of civilians. But what about former Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin, who as the commander of the Irgun, was directly responsible, among other things, for the massive terrorist attack on the King David Hotel in 1946, in which 91 Britons, Arabs and Jews were killed? And is not present Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu responsible for issuing instructions for actions, such as the bombing of highly populated areas in the Gaza Strip, in which many Palestinian civilians died? In the war in 2014 alone, the number of Palestinians killed was twice that of Israelis killed in all the years of the second intifada.

Barghouti’s popularity is a cause for concern for the Israeli establishment. While Palestinian Authority President Abbas hastened to lavish praise on Trump and met with him on 3 May, and continues to work to maintain full arrangements with the occupation regime, Barghouti corresponds with the public rage against the Palestinian president who is reaching the end of his road. As he explained in an article he leaked to the Palestinian daily al-Quds last year, Barghouti attacks Abbas’s authoritarian rule, explains that the negotiations with Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic campaign on the international level have failed, and demands that the PA ends the “security coordination”.  In recent years he has called for a new popular intifada. His challenge to Abbas’ leadership is also the reason why, despite coming first in the election in December to the Fatah Central Committee, Abbas refused to appoint him to the position of deputy chairman of the Fatah movement. Abbas has paid lip service in support of the hunger strike, but has no interest in it. He does not want Barghouti to profit politically from the hunger strike or the development of a popular protest movement around it – at the time when he puts his trust in Trump and wants to show he has control on the ground in the Palestinian Authority enclaves.

Barghouti was sent to solitary confinement at the start of the strike. The IPS, using secret video camera surveillance, claims that Barghouti ate on two occasions since the beginning of the hunger strike. In 2004, during another hunger strike involving around 2,200 prisoners, in which Barghouti was amongst the leaders, the IPS also claimed Barghouti was secretly filmed eating a meal in solitary confinement. These claims are angrily denied by Palestinian prisoners’ campaigners, who say the IPS are deliberately spreading black propaganda by using old video footage that was made when there was no prisoners’ hunger strike and that the face of the man eating food in the latest footage is obscured.

If Barghouti is evacuated for medical treatment or forced feeding, or if his life becomes in danger, an escalation in the solidarity protests outside the prisons can be expected. It is not inconceivable that if one of the hunger strikers – and certainly one of the leaders of the hunger strike – pays with his life over the next few weeks, it will ignite a mass protest similar to the response to the deaths of hunger strikers in Northern Ireland in 1981, led by republican prisoner, Bobby Sands, who was elected to Westminster during his protest. Already, now, the hunger strike serves as a mobilising and uniting factor for significant layers among the Palestinian public, on both sides of the Green Line.

Solidarity protests

Many thousands took part in protest marches held on Prisoner Day throughout the West Bank, particularly in Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem. In towns and villages, solidarity protest tents were set up in solidarity with the hunger strike. On 27 April, a protest shut-down of public services and small businesses was held in the Palestinian Authority territories and in East Jerusalem. On the following day there were demonstrations and confrontations with the military and the Border Police in at least 15 locations in the West Bank as part of a ‘Day of Rage’ called for by the Fatah.

The protests in the West Bank are facing military repression, which could worsen later. During the first two weeks of the hunger strike, the highest number of Palestinians injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank was recorded since the beginning of 2017, with 191 injured, including 45 minors (OCHA figures). The vast majority of them were injured during solidarity protests with the hunger strike, and about a tenth were injured from live bullets.

Within the Green Line, as well, a number of protest vigils were organised locally and a solidarity tent was set up in Umm al-Fahm. Solidarity demonstrations have been held in several countries around the world, and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), of which the Histadrut (Israeli trade union organisation) is affiliated, published a solidarity statement.

As usual, the Israeli government and the tops of IPS declare that they allegedly are not moved by the protests and have no intention to negotiate with the prisoners. In a number of cases in recent years, the state, under the Netanyahu governments, was prepared to bring hunger striking prisoners to the brink of death before reaching an agreement. In the meantime, the IPS is working to punish the prisoners by psychological pressure, isolation, transfers between prisons, confiscation of clothing and personal equipment, and even the confiscation of salt used by the hunger strikers to improve their physical condition during the strike.

According to reports, negotiations between the prisoners and the IPS, nevertheless, took place during the weeks leading up to the strike, and if the strike intensifies, they will probably be renewed. It is possible that the Netanyahu government may be willing to try to push the line a bit further this time to demonstrate toughness against the demands of the prisoners, but they are playing with fire and may lose control over developments.

More protest actions, of Palestinians and Israelis, to support the hunger strike, represent a potential threat to Netanyahu’s fanatical right-wing government. Israeli demonstrators must stand alongside Palestinian demonstrators. And the Israel Medical Association is, on this issue, an example to other trade unions: it is necessary to rebel against draconian legislation and attacks by the right-wing government. The protests against forced feeding, discrimination in incarceration conditions and administrative detentions should help to build a stronger movement against the occupation and perpetuation of the national conflict, against the war on workers and poor, and for peace, equality and a socialist change.

Socialist Struggle Movement says:

  • Support solidarity protests with the prisoners’ hunger strike. The Histadrut should back the solidarity statement of the ITUC, of which it is a member.
  • No to torture of hunger strikers – no to forced-feeding! Repeal the Forced-Feeding Law. Workers’ organisations should back the Israeli Medical Association’s opposition to force feeding.
  • End discrimination on the basis of nationality in conditions of imprisonment! Yes to supporting the basic demands of the prisoners to improve their conditions, including the right to telephone calls.
  • End administrative detention! End arbitrary arrests and incarceration without trial. Protect the right of every prisoner to know the charges against him/her, to be represented by a lawyer and to have a fair trial.
  • Get the military out of the territories! Abolish the military courts in the West Bank and end the occupation of the Palestinian territories and the settlements.
  • Release all Palestinian political prisoners. Conduct fair trials, through a designated procedure, under the supervision of workers’ and independent human rights organisations, from both sides of the conflict, for Israelis and Palestinians suspected of responsibility for atrocities related to the conflict.
  • For an independent, democratic and socialist Palestinian state alongside a democratic and socialist Israel, as part of the struggle for a socialist Middle East and regional peace.

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