Thousands swamp Westminster to protest for ceasefire vote

by Jack Deacon, Tower Hamlets Socialist Party

Despite being arranged at relatively short notice, over 15,000 people gathered outside Parliament to demand that MPs vote for a ceasefire in Gaza on the evening of 15 November. Their chants included “Keir Starmer is a wasteman”, “Rishi Sunak, you will see: Palestine will be free”, “Occupation no more” and “Ceasefire now”.

Central London lobby for Gaza
Westminister 15 November protest against the war on Gaza.
Photo: Theo Sharieff

The Socialist Party’s presence at recent marches and rallies has sparked curiosity about what we stand for. Protesters who engaged in conversation with us showed support for what we are saying about withdrawing the Israeli military from occupied territories, establishing an independent socialist Palestine alongside an independent socialist Israel, and building an anti-war and anti-austerity workers’ party in Britain that stands for socialism and internationalism.

Many protesters told me that they had planned to vote for Labour in the next election but have felt betrayed by Starmer’s refusal to back calls for a ceasefire and threats to sack any frontbenchers doing so. They said that they would “never again” vote for Labour under Starmer but did not know who to vote for instead.

They showed enthusiasm when we explained plans the Socialist Party is making as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) to stand candidates in the general election – bringing together socialists, trade unionists and campaigners to provide a genuine alternative to parties run by pro-war, pro-market capitalist politicians.

Newham, East London: Resigned Labour officer standing independently

by Niall Mulholland

“Lyn Brown MP – resign! Gaza blood on your hands!” read posters at a protest outside Stratford station, Newham, on 18 November. The rally demanded an end to the Israeli state’s massacres in Gaza and for the resignation of the local West Ham Labour MP who abstained in last week’s vote in parliament calling for a ceasefire.

The rally was initiated by Newham Resists, in which East London Socialist Party plays a key role. Speakers included Sophia Naqvi, an independent candidate (backed by Newham Socialist Labour) standing in the Plaistow North ward council byelection on 23 November. Sophia resigned as a local Labour Party women’s officer over Keir Starmer’s support for Israel, and she is also opposing local council tax increases and cuts. Sophia’s campaign has Newham Labour rattled. She is on course to win a big vote and perhaps take the seat, in which case she will join independent left councillor, Mehmood Merza.

Walthamstow, East London: Raising trade union action and socialism

The Walthamstow demo was lively and noisy. Many residents simply wanted to show solidarity with Palestinian workers; families joined, horrified at the killing of 5,000 children by the Israel Defence Forces; young people were determined to show the Tory government is not acting in our name.

Kevin Parslow, secretary of Waltham Forest Trades Council, took to the microphone to raise the need for trade unions to step up, saying they should take the lead in discussing with their members in the armaments, transport and banking industries about what they could do to prevent the manufacture and transport of arms, and the financing of them.

Linda Taaffe addressed the crowd on behalf of the Socialist Party, pointing out: “Marching and chanting is great to feel part of the struggle, but we need also to start talking about a political strategy where any lasting solution must involve both Palestinian and Jewish workers — and not going back to the same capitalist system.”

Socialist Party joined protests, Labour refused to back ceasefire

Why I joined the Socialist Party

by Holly Bennett, Waltham Forest Socialist Party

I started to become disillusioned with the Labour Party due to the unjust smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, from people within his own party. And, after reading the ‘Labour Leaks’ document, and watching the Al Jazeera ‘Labour Files’ series, I soon realised that I could no longer vote for a party which sought to deny not only its members, but workers and young people generally of a better life.

Holly Bennett and Paul Mitchell.
Holly (left) on one of the Palestine protests.
Photo: Paula Mitchell

Just when I thought that Labour couldn’t disappoint me anymore, Keir Starmer could not find the decency to back a ceasefire during the Israeli onslaught on Gaza, which has seen over 12,000 Palestinians murdered, and Gazans denied of basic human rights.

Only 56 Labour MPs backed the call for a ceasefire. Opinion polls say that 76% of people in the UK back a ceasefire. Labour MPs are clearly not representative or democratic.

Whilst I regarded myself as ‘politically homeless’ for the last few years, I always found myself dipping in and out of the local Socialist Party branch’s news emails.

Standing in solidarity

Whilst attending the protests in solidarity with Palestine, I noticed that the political party on the ground, always doing the work, and always standing in solidarity with people is the Socialist Party. Not only does the Socialist Party back the mass movement calling for a ceasefire, but it proposes a socialist solution of transferring the means of production to working-class Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Since joining the Socialist Party, I have absorbed a great deal of knowledge, and I am constantly learning, growing and developing a more comprehensive understanding why society needs and deserves a socialist movement. I am very grateful to have met a group of people who are more than willing to help me on my journey.