The need for united defence of the left and workers movement against repression by the state and the employers is urgently posed. Demonstrators who oppose Israel’s slaughter of the Palestinians have been arrested for “hate crimes”. The Tories are gunning for the unions: emboldened by the defeat of the strike wave, they are going forward with sinister legislation forcing the unions to scab on their own strikes. Added to that, they have imposed sweeping new laws to crush climate protests under which you can be thrown in prison for such activity as obstructing the highway. Things will likely get worse: the country is going to hell and everybody knows the crooked British ruling class is just getting started.
Several left groups have been suppressed for pro-Palestine activity, including Socialist Appeal, Socialist Alternative, the CPGB-ML and FRFI. But when it comes to defending themselves against attack, the left stands divided. Each group organises its own defence, on its own turf, mobilising only its own forces and never collaborating or actively seeking to involve each other in common defence work. Divided we fall!
The Spartacist League has a crazy idea: why don’t all the socialist groups get together in a room and plan to unite over defence work? Instead of the “business as usual” sectarian practice of the left, we’re proposing that, despite the many political issues that divide us, we should unite to organise protest, publicity and fundraising for the purpose of defence of pro-Palestinian and Just Stop Oil demonstrators.
Such a united-front defence campaign could be a step towards a broader platform for defence work that would reach across the whole workers movement. Its policy must be to place all our faith in the class struggle and none in capitalist politicians, courts or bosses. Uniting all the forces on the left is particularly urgent to defend unions against any penalties or victimisations resulting from the anti-union laws. A common front for defence of the unions and their members is not just a nice idea — there is no other way! The alternative is to place our faith in the TUC to mount a real struggle, which is pure fantasy.
The need for a broad-based defence organisation was clearly shown in 2022 in response to the mass sacking of 800 P&O ferry workers. It was shown during last year’s strike wave in which union members were often instructed by their leadership to cross another union’s picket lines. A united-front defence organisation would seek to mobilise all union members to defend workers who face victimisation for honouring a picket line, a basic principle of the class struggle.
It was for the purpose of non-sectarian defence that the Spartacist League founded the Partisan Defence Committee, a class-struggle legal and social defence organisation (aptly described as “the Spartacist League in search of a united front”). But our own forces are tiny. It is only through joint action, uniting broader forces, that we can mobilise union power for defence of the oppressed and exploited when faced with sacking, imprisonment or other forms of victimisation. The example we look to is the International Labor Defense (ILD) that was set up in the 1920s by founders of American communism. James P Cannon, who led the ILD’s campaign to save anarchist workers Sacco and Vanzetti from execution in the US, described the policy of class-struggle defence that we support, saying:
We welcome proposals from any group on the left for common defence work. Contact the SL at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Partisan Defence Committee at email@example.com.
A vast campaign of repression is underway against Just Stop Oil activists. In November alone, police made at least 630 arrests of climate protesters, with dozens facing draconian jail sentences. For climbing the QE2 bridge, Morgan Trowland got three years and Marcus Decker two years and seven months. Trowland was released, but Decker is still behind bars and, in a sinister move, is now facing the threat of deportation. Activists including Phoebe Plummer, 22, Ella Ward, 20, Ruby Hammill, 19, have been in and out of prison and are still facing draconian sentences. There are dozens more and the list is growing every week. In a letter sent to the group, we wrote: “We believe all charges should be dropped and all Just Stop Oil prisoners should be freed!”
We certainly have fundamental disagreements with the aims and methods of Just Stop Oil. But their supporters are being thrown in jail under the most anti-democratic provisions, which will be used against the socialist and workers movement. So, whatever our disagreements, it is urgent to take a stand!
Donations to the legal defence of Just Stop Oil can be made through the Climate Action Support Pathway (at mycasp.com). The Partisan Defence Committee has donated £250 and urges our readers to also contribute. But while donating money is a good start, what is needed is a serious campaign of actions and protests, uniting broad forces, to free those imprisoned and put a stop to this brutal campaign.
The SL/B sent the following letter to the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) on 26 November, the day after four of its members were arrested at a Palestine solidarity demonstration in London. They were released, but under bail conditions severely restricting their right to protest.
The arrests of your supporters at yesterday’s demonstration is an outrage. We in the Spartacist League/Britain stand in solidarity with them and would very much like to take part in their defence. We believe that it is in the interests of the entire left and the workers movement to protest these arrests and to oppose all state repression against pro-Palestinian demonstrators. As a Trotskyist organisation we obviously have political differences with the CPGB-ML. But we firmly believe in united-front defence of the left and the workers movement. United defence is particularly urgent in today’s reactionary climate where pro-Palestinian demonstrators are facing outrageous charges and severe penalties.
The following is a 12 December letter sent by the Partisan Defence Committee to the Board of Directors of the Celtic football club in Glasgow.
The Celtic board’s withdrawal of season tickets from supporters of the Green Brigade for what you call “unacceptable behaviour” is a blatant act of political censorship and victimisation. Everyone knows that the behaviour you object to is their flying of flags and banners at football matches in solidarity with Palestinians being slaughtered in Gaza by Israeli forces, which are backed to the hilt by the British government. We demand that the Green Brigade’s tickets be reinstated immediately and that they be compensated for all games they were barred from.