The genocide in Gaza has made it crystal clear that bourgeois liberal democracies are not in place to represent the will of the people. We’ve seen millions worldwide demonstrate en masse and representatives’ offices have been flooded with phone calls. There have even been direct confrontations with politicians in the streets, at restaurants, and on trains. Polls also indicate that growing proportions of people in the countries most complicit actually support a ceasefire. This includes 76% in the UK, 68% in the US, and even 41% of Germans believe the attacks in Palestine have gone too far (which outweighs the 35% who think the genocidal aggression is appropriate).
…if we want to throw a wrench in the machine of genocidal warfare, we ought to do so not by appealing to the conscience of our depraved politicians… but by strategically wielding our power as workers who ultimately create the wealth of the world.
And yet, there is a very clear fracture in the political discourse where heads of state consistently refuse to cede or even consider the will of the people. In the US, Joe Biden openly asserts that there’s no possibility for a ceasefire, and the only Palestinian member of Congress was recently censured for openly demanding one. In the UK, MPs recently voted against a ceasefire (with 293 against and only 125 in favor). Of course in Germany, by now we’re all familiar with the egregious state of repression, police brutality, and the open genocide denialism of its leaders.
This situation is being described as a mask-off moment that is radicalizing legions of citizens worldwide – particularly university students facing retaliation and discrimination for Palestinian solidarity. The discrepancy between what regular people want and what the government is doing is no aberration. Rather, it is an opportunity to witness precisely which forces truly have political sway in the so-called free world. Luckily, it also offers us a clear view of where our power lies and how we can most potently direct our outrage.
Beyond the farce of representative democracy, we can better ascertain to whom our politicians are beholden. Joe Biden alone is the senator – and presidential candidate – who has received the most money directly from the Israeli lobby. Billionaires in the US as well as Germany profit from arms deals in the form of military aid paid for with our tax dollars. Israel itself is so fiercely protected by the West because it serves as a military outpost in an oil-rich region that is of great strategic importance to the heavy industries of capital.
So if we want to throw a wrench in the machine of genocidal warfare, we ought to do so not by appealing to the conscience of our depraved politicians – who by now already know how we feel – but by strategically wielding our power as workers who ultimately create the wealth of the world. The strategy of withholding our labor in the form of strikes has been successful not only to win workers’ rights the world over, but in resistance to precisely the same justices of apartheid and cruelty we are seeing now. For example, the international union movement was instrumental in bringing apartheid South Africa to its knees in the 1980s, and the African American-led public transit strikes and boycotts were crucial in ending Jim Crow laws in the US during the 1960s.
This is where we hold the most collective power to shape the course of events, and this message is already beginning to spread in the case of solidarity with Palestine. On 16th October, Palestinian trade unions released a statement calling for their fellow workers around the world to stop arming Israel. There has since been a growing roster of industrial trade union actions worth taking note of.
In Italy, rank-and-file unions in the country’s logistics sector are refusing to ship weapons to Israel. In Belgium and Barcelona, dock and transport unions have also announced that they will not load weapons onto cargo vessels headed there. Spanish workers at Airbus – a company notorious for engaging in corrupt arms deals with Israel – have also asserted that they will not be complicit in arms manufacture for the Zionist war machine.
In the US and the UK, there have been a number of notable forms of labor resistance as well. Shipments headed for Israel have been blocked by thousands of workers in the Tacoma and Oakland Ports. Elbit and BAE Systems in both countries have been sites of occupation and shutdown by working class activists. Numerous other unions have also released statements calling for a ceasefire, defied protest bans and attended demos in blocs of solidarity with Palestinians.
Indian trade unions have also pledged to resist sending workers to Israel – even despite the Israeli Builders’ Association’s request for 50-100k Indian laborers to replace Palestinians.
In Germany, as usual, Palestine solidarity is less advanced. Major unions in Germany such as ver.di and IG Metall have released official statements in staunch support of Israel. We intend to address this issue in a future article, and to ask to what extent other views are being voiced by rank and file union members.
We must continue to expand these efforts on an larger scale, by mobilizing through union infrastructure and via our communities – particularly where those billionaires and politicians who are profiting most off of this genocide will feel it most. We need to target those industries that are most prevalent here such as arms, oil, and security firms. We must call on unions to refuse to build weapons for Israel, to transport arms there, and also boycott industries that are complicit in Israeli apartheid, including multinationals like Starbucks, McDonalds, and Disney.
It is through disrupting the gears of capital that we can use our collective might as workers to shape the course of world events in line with the will of the people. And when we use our power to resist the genocide in Gaza, we also liberate ourselves from the shackles of capitalist exploitation wherever we are in the world.