The Labour Party’s Manifesto at the 2019 general election, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, committed an incoming government to “immediately suspend the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen, and to Israel for arms used in violation of the human rights of Palestinian civilians”.
A Corbyn-led government, the Manifesto went on, would also strive to “secure justice and accountability for breaches of human rights”, listing, as an example, “the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip”.
More broadly, the Manifesto said, “Labour is committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution – a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine”.
“There can be no military solution to this conflict”, it continued, and “all sides must avoid taking action that would make peace harder to achieve. That means both an end to the blockade, occupation and settlements, and an end to rocket and terror attacks”. To press for a resolution, “a Labour government will immediately recognise the state of Palestine”.
Not every socialist would support every policy on the Israel-Palestine conflict in the 2019 Manifesto, or believe that they go far enough. How, for example, could a common prosperity – the only way to underpin a ‘viable state of Palestine’ while answering the fears of Israelis – really be achieved if control of society and the economy is left in the hands of the capitalist elites across the region and their international patrons?
But whatever are the limitations of the 2019 policies, they could not be more different from the response of the Labour Party under Sir Keir Starmer as the Israeli state continues its criminal collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza, supported by the Tory government. Imagine the public pressure that could have been mobilised if there was an opposition in parliament that, instead of backing the Tories, spoke the ‘truth to power’ and organised a movement against it?
Instead, not only have Labour spokespersons not condemned the cutting off of water, food, power supplies and medicines, but – just before the first mass demonstrations against the war on Gaza on October 14 – the Chief Whip told Starmer’s MPs that they “should not under any circumstances attend any of these events”. Labour council leaders received the same warning.
As in domestic policy so in foreign policy too, Starmer’s Labour now serves to defend the interests of ‘power’ – in other words, the upholders of the capitalist system with its inherent inequality and exploitation of the working class, minorities and the dispossessed, and the international relations keeping the system in place. As in domestic policy so in foreign policy too, the need for a new vehicle that could achieve the mass political representation of the working class could not be clearer.
Where does TUSC stand?
As its name says, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is a coalition. Co-founded in 2010 by the late Bob Crow, its primary purpose is to enable trade unionists, working class social movement and community campaigners, and socialists from any party or none, to stand candidates under a common umbrella against the capitalist establishment politicians.
Candidates standing for TUSC have autonomy to run their own campaigns. The only provision is that they endorse the TUSC ‘core policy platform’ for the relevant election. That almost certainly means that the individuals and different organisations appearing under the TUSC name and logo will promote additional policies to those covered in the agreed common platform. That’s what being a coalition is about.
But what they will all do is fight to implement the core policies. Voters will know the minimum they can expect from any representative elected under the TUSC banner.
The TUSC core policies platform for the next general election, agreed by the all-Britain steering committee after a series of discussions including at the TUSC conference in February, are available at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/TUSC-draft-GE-platform-for-2024.pdf.
TUSC does not see itself as the new, mass vehicle of political representation that the working class needs but as a means to campaign for such a party to be created; and that it requires more authoritative forces to act than those presently participating in our coalition, above all the left-led trade unions, to bring such a party into being. That is why the core policy platform is not a full programme for government but rather a summary of the minimum policies that all TUSC candidates support.
On the Israel-Palestine conflict the basic core policies are simple but clear. Every TUSC candidate stands for:
● Justice for the Palestinians, lift the siege of Gaza and the occupied territories, recognise the state of Palestine.
● An independent socialist foreign policy, based on international working-class solidarity.
Four years after 2019, under Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership, how many Labour candidates for the next general election can say that? ■