How workers can halt the imperialist war machine

Many workers are looking at the catastrophic events unfolding in the Middle East, wondering what they can do to halt the imperialist carnage. Organised and mobilised, the working class has the power to stop the warmongers. The following article was written by our comrades in Britain, offering a model motion to be passed in Trade Unions and giving an explanation of what workers can do to combat the imperialist war machine.

Workers all over the world are looking on in horror as the Israeli state begins a campaign of collective punishment for the Palestinians trapped in Gaza.

Having been caught off-guard by the coordinated nature of Hamas’ attacks, the Zionist Israeli ruling class are now exacting a brutal revenge.

Seeing this bombardment and killing of civilians, many in Britain will be asking themselves the question: what can we do to help?

First of all, we must recognise that our strength lies in our collective organisation and mobilisation, especially in trade unions.

If you’re in a trade union, you should therefore try to get your branch to pass our model motion: declaring unequivocal solidarity with the Palestinian people; condemning the attacks by the Israeli state; and denouncing the complicity of British imperialism.

Workers’ action

Worker breaking missile.pngThe power of the working class does not come from our decisions as consumers, but from our role as producers / Image: Socialist Appeal

This motion points to the real cause of the conflict: not who shot first, but who the oppressor is, and who aids them in their oppression.

But more than just condemning the imperialists, the motion calls for action. We need to understand our true power: our ability to mobilise and demonstrate; and, most crucially of all, to withdraw our labour.

This doesn’t mean taking action on an individual basis – not turning up to work on Monday morning; refusing to buy this or that product – but collectively.

The power of the working class does not come from our decisions as consumers, but from our role as producers. We are not customers, but workers.

Whether through trade unions or otherwise, collective action by the organised working class – particularly in the industries that the capitalists rely on to keep their war machine going – can have a direct impact.

Such militant mass action can hit at the imperialists directly by stopping production. The Israel Defence Forces can’t drop bombs they don’t have!

In this way, workers can realise the full potential of the strength that they hold in society. Even one workplace taking action can have an enormous impact on events, and inspire other workers to follow suit.

Lessons from history

To take one heroic example: In 1974, following Pinochet’s coup in Chile, workers at the Rolls Royce factory in East Kilbride, Scotland, took action in exactly this way.

After learning that the jet engines they were repairing belonged to the Chilean junta, they refused to touch these vital aircraft components.

This workers’ boycott went on for so long that the engines themselves rusted – rendering them impotent, and preventing their use in the murder Chilean workers thousands of miles away.

Similarly, dock workers organised by the CGiL union in Genoa, Italy, went on strike in 2019 to prevent a Saudi-owned ship from loading its cargo of weapons, destined for use in the reactionary regime’s war on Yemen.

Just last year, Greek rail workers also attempted to prevent tanks from being transported to Ukraine for use in the conflict there.

There is also a precedent in relation to workers’ action to stop arms heading to Israel: most notably of all, that of the South African port workers’ union SATAWU, who refused to unload an Israeli ship during the height of the state’s bombardment of Gaza in 2021.

In light of the latest aggression from the Israeli state, these inspiring examples provide vital lessons about how workers can and should fight the oppression of Palestinians today – by using their role in production and distribution to halt the imperialist warmongers in their tracks.

Enemy at home

Demo Image Socialist AppealOverthrowing our imperialist governments is ultimately what will prevent Israeli aggression and stop war for good / Image: Socialist Appeal

Such a movement must also take aim at ‘our own’ ruling class. Netanyahu’s regime is able to act with impunity because US and British imperialism see a strong Israel as vital to their interests in the Middle East.

To fight such a force, we therefore need to think bigger. A campaign of workers’ action against the production and transport of arms is just the start.

Overthrowing our imperialist governments, the enemy at home, as well as the capitalist system they represent and defend, is ultimately what will prevent Israeli aggression and stop war for good.

We cannot rely on bourgeois diplomacy and international organisations like the ‘United’ Nations – and other such tools of imperialism – to bring about genuine peace. The only true friends that the Palestinian masses have are the workers of the world.

By smashing their own imperialist states, workers in the West can provide genuine class solidarity to the Palestinian cause. That is how we can help win freedom, at long last, for the oppressed millions in the Middle East and beyond.

Workers’ control

Beyond just halting the production and distribution of weapons, workers in the arms sector should also fight for ownership and control over the industry.

In this way, taking inspiration from the Lucas Plan of the 1970s, factories and machinery could be repurposed away from arms and towards socially-useful products, such as green technologies and healthcare equipment.

On this basis, as part of a socialist plan of production, society’s resources and workers’ skills could be utilised to benefit people and the planet, rather than the profits of the private arms manufacturers.

The role of communists in the trade unions is to draw all these threads together; to raise consciousness, and provide workers with confidence and a sense of their own power; and to be the most determined class fighters and internationalists.

If you want to get organised as a communist in the labour movement, join us today.

Join us

If you want more information about joining the RCI, fill in this form. We will get back to you as soon as possible.