Pro-Zionist agenda is exposed for all to see, writes John-Jo Sidwell
Another week and another excellent protest in solidarity with the people of Gaza. However, with the ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops on January 18, there was bound to be a certain ebbing.
The January 24 demonstration in London – beginning outside the BBC in Portland Place, followed by a march to Trafalgar Square – was inevitably much smaller than the turnouts of previous weeks. As it was, correct tactical targeting more than made up for the lack of numbers. Nonetheless, given three successive London mobilisations in a row and a whole series of local demonstrations, the mobilisation of around 5,000 for the protest against BBC bias was more than pleasing.
The Stop the War Coalition rightly focused almost entirely on the BBC’s failure to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) charity appeal for aid to the suffering Gazans. The BBC claims that its policy of impartiality would be compromised if it did so. Well, what has actually been exposed for all to see is the BBC’s pro-Zionist bias.
Morally the idea that there is some equality between the Gaza population and the Israeli Defence Force is repulsive. Hamas may have been shooting ineffective, homemade rockets into southern Israel. Stupid politically, but only to be expected, given its neo-fundamentalist version of Islamism. But Israel is the regional superpower. Its armed forces are equipped with the latest weaponry and technology – mostly from the US. In fact Israel’s attack on Gaza amounts to shooting fish in a goldfish bowl. While 13 Israelis died in the conflict, well over 1,400 people in Gaza were killed. Then there is the wounded and the maimed … and the destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure. No electricity, no clean water, no sewage system.
The idea of not taking sides in such a conflict is hard to comprehend. The idea of not giving a platform to those wanting to help relieve the suffering and the danger of more deaths through hunger and disease is almost inhuman. Channels 4, 5 and ITV were pressured into broadcasting the DEC appeal. But the BBC refused to budge. There is BBC impartiality for you (joined at the hip with the Murdoch empire’s Sky News).
The fact that health minister Ben Bradshaw, Gerald Kaufman and other rightwing Labour notables, Ed Davey of the Liberal Democrats, churchmen like Rowan Williams and well known BBC figures such as John Tusa came out against the corporation must be welcomed. Every battle involves gaining allies. It is absolutely correct to target the main mouthpiece of the UK state – and if we can take advantage of ruling class divisions in the process, so much the better.
But the propaganda building for the event issued by the STWC – the Socialist Workers Party’s most prominent and successful ‘united front’ – has to be criticised. Stop the War’s pre-demo bulletin urged supporters to “join the government’s protest” against the BBC and invoked the criticisms of the corporation made by Ben Bradshaw – who was an out and out supporter of the Iraq war (‘BBC feels the pressure, as MPs, celebrities and thousands of citizens condemn Gaza appeal decision’, http://globaldayofaction.org/stopwar/index.php).
The danger of the STWC being seen to cosy up to a government which regards itself as a friend of Israel, supports the occupation of Iraq and is conducting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan is obvious. There was no need to adopt such a formulation. Working with temporary allies is one thing: sowing illusions in HM’s government quite another.
Such opportunism – for that is what it is – blinds the anti-war movement and prevents it from adopting the necessary strategy needed to stop war, which has to involve building a movement that is opposed to the government and opposed to the system of capital itself.
Unfortunately the STWC leadership’s history means such opportunism is to be expected. Consistently it has shown itself willing to pander, and uncritically adapt, to forces within the establishment and the ruling class. At the same time it has maintained an unremitting hostility towards its critics on the left who have attempted to forge a principled, working class-led campaign of opposition to imperialism. For evidence of this one need look no further than the promotion of a Hezbollah speaking tour hosted by the STWC in 2008 – a year which also saw the refusal to allow Hands Off the People of Iran to affiliate to the coalition. The outcome: in the name of the broadest possible unity, no end of political principles are junked – yet that unity is not quite broad enough to include those who actually uphold such principles!
How then does the SWP view its so-called ‘united fronts’? What is their purpose? Certainly not to win them to working class leadership – to the understanding that the issues they highlight need socialist answers. In the hands of the SWP single-issue campaigns remain just that – we are against the war, oppose the ‘Nazis’ or defend council housing because … well, we are against the war, oppose the ‘Nazis’ and defend council housing!
Of course, as the ‘best, most dedicated’ partisans of their ‘united fronts’, the SWP expects to, and does, win recruits to ‘the party’. But because of this very opportunism it can never fully educate these recruits in a rounded way, let alone establish hegemony within the movement for working class ideas. It does not even attempt to do so.
So, despite the successes of the last month, the STWC has big political problems that cannot be ignored. Communists will certainly continue to work in the STWC and try to build it. But in doing so we must criticise shortcomings, tactical blunders and, above all, the lack of a viable strategy.