Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 53 Number 31, November 18, 2023 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

The World Marches for Palestine

Three-Quarters of a Million Demonstrate in London for
the Just Cause of Ceasefire Now! End Israeli Genocide!

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

The World Marches for Palestine
Three-Quarters of a Million Demonstrate in London for the Just Cause of Ceasefire Now! End Israeli Genocide!

Demand a Ceasefire!:
Mass Student Walkouts at Universities across Britain

Youth & Students in Action over Gaza:
School Strike for Palestine in Bristol, Wes Streeting Boycotted in London

Demand a Ceasefire Now!:
Actions on Palestine

Israeli genocide against the Palestinians:
Evidence of US and British Involvement in Israeli War Crimes

Ceasefire Now!:
European Complicity in War Crimes in Gaza

Stand with Palestine!:
Resistance in Gaza

Workers' Forum:
Workers Refuse To Be Marginalised over the Shutdown of Steel Blast Furnaces

The World Marches for Palestine

Three-Quarters of a Million Demonstrate in London for
the Just Cause of Ceasefire Now! End Israeli Genocide!

Unprecedented march for Palestine crossing the Vauxhall bridge (near the MI6 building) in London on November 11
calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an end to Israeli genocide.

People in hundreds of towns and cities throughout the world have been taking action demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the lifting of the siege on Gaza and an end to the genocide. Saturday, November 4, and Saturday, November 11, were two major days, but workplace actions, school and student walk-outs, and pickets of law-makers' offices have been widespread. The demonstrations have been growing week by week.

As many as 800,000 demonstrated in London on November 11 calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an end to Israeli genocide. The London demonstration was a truly massive indication of the sentiment of people from all walks of life, young and old. It was unprecedented apart from the two-million strong demonstration in February 2003, which had demanded "Stop the War" before Tony Blair's government invaded and occupied Iraq. The demonstration had six organisers: Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Muslim Association of Britain, Palestinian Forum in Britain and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

The massive turnout and the people's conviction that they were marching for a just and urgent cause gave the lie to all the talk of "hate marches", that it was "disrespectful" on Armistice Day, and such like. It was a mass peaceful protest reflecting the diversity and unity of the movement. The organisers wrote: "Our call for a ceasefire is rooted in a sincere wish to see an end to all violence, especially that which targets civilians, while recognising that this cannot be achieved unless the root causes of that violence, the 75 years of ongoing Nakba against the Palestinian people, are adequately addressed."

The national march, including a trade union bloc, assembled at Hyde Park as 12 noon and marched past the US Embassy where a rally was held. Vauxhall Bridge was for many hours just a sea of people crossing to denounce the governments of the US and Britain for their backing of the Israeli genocide and their refusal to even call for a ceasefire. The streets and spaces around the US Embassy were filled with demonstrators with Palestinian flags and placards, and a desire for peace and in support of the right to be of the Palestinians.

November 15 had also been designated a workplace day of action for Palestine, with a call for a ceasefire in Gaza. A blockade of BAE arms plant in Kent took place on November 10. Other actions on November 11 included those in Glasgow and Belfast. In Europe among the cities where masses of people took action were Athens, Berlin, Munich, Navarre, Paris and Genoa. In Genoa, on November 10, over 500 people, port workers, activists and other supporters of Palestinian rights blocked access to the Port of Genoa to oppose the passage of weapons destined for Israel.

Israel has been attempting to legitimise its war crimes by writing up stories alleging that militants are blending in with civilians attempting to escape the hospital and firing rocket-propelled grenade and anti-tank weapons from the hospital entrance. Even if that were the case, which no UN or other agency such as Red Cross or Red Crescent corroborates, Israeli assaults on hospitals would still constitute a war crime. Gaza's largest hospital, al-Shifa, is "not functioning as a hospital anymore," the Director General of the WHO said, as a result of the Israelis cutting off power, water and medicine supplies to the hospital amid bombardment in the area. The Israelis have been spewing out propaganda that the hospital is a base for Hamas, that Hamas has a base in tunnels under the hospital, and other such pretexts for its assault on the hospital, which constitutes a war crime.

Hamas has called on the Secretary-General of the UN to form an international committee to visit Gaza hospitals and verify the Israeli false narrative about their use for resistance activities. Israel claims that Hamas has constructed tunnels beneath the buildings and uses this claim to justify its attacks on hospitals and schools, the latest being the Qatari and Indonesian hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip. "This is just a lie to cover up the Israeli crimes committed against injured people and civilians," Hamas said. It also confirmed that the Israeli allegation about a tunnel entrance under the Indonesian hospital is, in fact, a fuel store for the facility, while the alleged tunnel beneath Hamad Hospital is just a room for pumps and electricity generators. Israel has targeted more than 100 hospitals and medical centres and put about 16 hospitals out of service. The Israeli army spokesman's allegations are self-serving and unconscionable in any case.

The fact is that the Jewish people themselves, in Britain, the US and around the world, stand second to none in condemning the savage Israeli apartheid aggression against the Palestinian people, the murder of men, women and children by indiscriminate bombing day and night, the decades of Israeli occupation, the illegal settlements and settlement violence against the Palestinian people. They speak and organise boldly and loudly in their own name and demand a ceasefire now!

Article Index

Demand a Ceasefire!

Mass Student Walkouts at Universities across Britain

Students walk out at Kings College London standing with the Palestinian people.

It is reported by agencies that students at 28 universities across Britain staged walkouts on November 9 and 10, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, and the immediate end to the Israeli genoicde against the Palestinian people in Gaza. Many of the universities were taking part in a synchronised walkout, citing the "increased securitisation and monitoring of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian students".

Islington students walk out standing with the Palestinian people.

Universities taking part included Oxford, King's College London, the London School of Economics (LSE) and Edinburgh University.

Students walked out of their classes, seminars and lectures calling on their institutions to demand an immediate ceasefire and end to the complicity of Britain in Israel's genocide in Gaza and its funding for this genocide.

Thirty Palestine societies from universities across Britain released a joint statement saying that "the hostile environment that is being encouraged by university administrators has effectively banned Palestinians from their right to publicly grieve the catastrophe befalling their people in Gaza". The statement added that officials on campuses are forbidding Palestinians from flying their national flag and preventing gatherings where they may even mourn their dead, forcing them to conceal their identity. The statement elaborates that speech restrictions are chillingly affecting Palestinians and pro-Palestinian voices in places that are meant to be bastions of free speech and intellectual debate.

Over a hundred students participated in the protests at LSE.

At King's College London (KCL), around 300 students staged a loud and energetic walkout at 12.30pm, on November 9, accumulating outside the Strand campus and blocking the road. There were a number of speakers, including from University Students for Justice for Palestine. There were also two speakers from UCU branches. Speakers affirmed the Palestinians' right to resist. Students said that is unacceptable for KCL to keep silent over Israel's genocide, as well as continuing with the links with Israeli universities. They also mourned Dr Maisara Alrayyes, an alumnus of KCL, a 28-year-old medical student on a grant, who had been killed when struck by an Israeli missile. The walkout concluded at 2.00pm.

Article Index

Youth & Students in Action over Gaza

School Strike for Palestine in Bristol, Wes Streeting Boycotted in London

Boycott of Wes Streeting Assembly

On Friday, November 3, hundreds of school students gathered at Bristol's College Green to show solidarity with Palestinian children killed and injured as Gaza is besieged by Israel and coming under aerial bombardment and to demand a ceasefire now.

The event was organised by School Strike for Palestine in Bristol, with support from Bristol Stop the War Coalition, Bristol Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and the Green Party. The rally, held from 11am to 2pm, was attended by hundreds of school children and their parents, who held placards and banners calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Among those who addressed the rally were pupils from local schools, across all ages from reception to sixth form. A petition was signed demanding Bristol MPs call for a ceasefire, which was delivered to Labour mayor Marvin Rees at City Hall. On the railings of City Hall, the school students tied thousands of ribbons in the red, white and green of the Palestinian flag, to represent each child killed in Gaza since the onslaught began.

School Strike for Palestine is determined to bring attention to what is happening in the region and plans to continue holding demonstrations outside City Hall every Friday at 11am until MPs call for a ceasefire. A UN resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire passed on October 29, but Britain shamefully abstained. None of Bristol's four Labour MPs have joined the calls for a ceasefire.

"As the situation in Gaza intensifies, we are deeply concerned our leaders are gravely failing a vulnerable and disempowered population by enabling a deliberately disproportionate attack, resulting in collective punishment and a devastating loss of life," said a spokesperson for Schools Strike for Palestine. "Whatever our faith or politics, we wish to unite for the preservation and protection of children and families, and collectively demand a ceasefire right now."

Also on November 3, some 300 school students boycotted an assembly with Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting over his and Labour's stance on Palestine and refusal to call for a ceasefire. The 17 and 18-year-olds at Beal High School in Ilford, east London, either refused to attend or walked out of the assembly. School management drafted in younger pupils to make up the numbers, with only around 20 year 13 students agreeing to attend. The action was initiated by parents who wanted their children's views on Israel's genocide to be heard. Streeting was scheduled to speak to sixth form students at an assembly on Friday, but students mobilised for them not to attend.

"We heard Wes Streeting would be coming down to do a talk on university and personal statements," one year 13 student told Novara Media. "But as a year group, we wanted to show our support to those in Palestine. Keir Starmer [has] stated he does not support calls for a ceasefire. None of us agreed with this, so collectively we showed our position by not attending."

Sources: Instagram @schoolstrikeforpalestine, Bristol24/7, Bristol Post, Epigram, Novara Media, Socialist Worker.

Article Index

Demand a Ceasefire Now!

Actions on Palestine

More than 100 rallies are to take place across Britain on November 18. Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend vigils, protests, petitions, fundraisers and marches across London boroughs and cities including Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Dundee, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford and elsewhere.

Ben Jamal, the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), said: "This Saturday, ordinary people across the UK will come out again to show the vast majority of them support a ceasefire. They will show their solidarity with Palestinians who are suffering unimaginable harm. They will also demand the root causes are not forgotten: Israel's decades-long military occupation of Palestinian territories and its system of apartheid against Palestinians."

Stop the War Coalition said that the local rallies would be followed on Saturday, November 18, by a national demonstration. A Stop the War spokesperson stated: "Groups around the country are organising local rallies and marches to basically build for the national demonstration that has been called for next Saturday. I think most of them have speakers from various organisations that are involved in the main marches, and then trade unionists. Some of them have trade unionists as speakers, and some of them are marching, like the one in Highbury."

The national march, organised by PSC alongside Stop the War, the Muslim Association of Britain, Friends of Al-Aqsa and others, will resume in London on November 25. The sentiment is that demonstrations must continue until there is a ceasefire.

Some previous local actions

Around 250 health care workers from across London gathered at the Department of Health and Social Care on November 9 to mourn the death of 169 health workers as well as child deaths. On November 10, Gaza Medic Voices gathered at Downing Street remembering some of those who have been killed.

Protest - Isle of Wight
On November 11, about thirty people gathered in St Thomas Square, Newport, on the Isle of Wight, to support the call for a ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. This protest was organised by Island Solidarity. It was the fourth anti-war protest to take place in Newport since the first one, held on October 14. Campaigners will be back at the war memorial in St Thomas Square on Saturday, November 18, continuing to call for a ceasefire and to raise wider awareness of the plight of Palestine, where 11,000 lives have already been lost in the first month of this war. The local protests are part of a wider movement, which has seen protests in over 120 UK cities and towns, including the weekly national protest in Central London.

Newcastle Stop the War Coalition hosted a meeting in Newcastle Stop the War on Gaza on Thursday November 16. Invited speakers were Mick Bowman, Newcastle PSC activist speaking from the West Bank in Palestine by web link, Ellie Arman Azoulay, a cultural historian at Newcastle university, Eman Al-Assah, Palestinian PhD Researcher in post colonial studies, and Alex Snowdon, PSC Executive member. Pam Wortley read a message from Lindsey German, Convenor of Stop the War. The meeting was Chaired by Roger Nettleship, Chair of Newcastle StW. Some 70 people took part in the meeting which condemned Israel's barbarous crimes in Gaza as well as in the West Bank. The meeting condemned the political, military and economic support given to Israel by the US and Britain to the massacres of the population of Gaza. Britain alongside the US is complicit in war crimes being committed against the Palestinian people using the unjustifiable claim that Israel has a right to "defending itself" and claiming that the Palestinians have no right to resist the continued attacks on their existence and right to be in their own
Meeting in Newcastle - Stop the War on Gaza
territory over many decades. The speakers represented both the Palestinian people and Jewish people at the meeting and together everyone demanded an immediate ceasefire to stop the Israeli massacres of civilians, destruction of their homes, hospitals and towns making 1.5 million people homeless. The call from the meeting was to continue to build the mass movement for an immediate ceasefire and to also demand that the US and British warmongers be brought to account alongside the Israeli state for their crimes against humanity.

Ceasefire Now! Keep Up the Pressure Today! Stop the War, November 18

As the horror in Gaza escalates so too does our activity to bring it to an end. In the past week there has been two massive demonstrations, one last Saturday and one outside Parliament on Wednesday, desperately calling on our politicians to listen to the overwhelming majority of their constituents and call for ceasefire in Israeli violence against Palestinians in Gaza and also in the West Bank.

Alongside these demonstrations there has been a wave of school strikes beginning to sweep the country and Stop the War held its first Workplace Day of Action on Wednesday with workers in various sectors raising their voices for justice for Palestine.

Despite our politicians continuing refusal to listen, voting as they did to let the slaughter continue, the movement here is having a huge impact. Suella Braverman, was removed from her post as Home Secretary on Monday after her spectacular failure to stop of us from marching last weekend and Keir Starmer faced the largest Labour revolt since the Iraq War. It's clear the political class is in crisis over Palestine, and we cannot relent in our determination to force them to call for an end to the violence.

This weekend we're going back into our local communities with protests taking place right across the UK. Two weeks ago on our last local day of action we had massive turnouts and we expect the same again.

Article Index

Israeli genocide against the Palestinians

Evidence of US and British Involvement in Israeli War Crimes

There is ever more evidence of direct US and British military involvement in the heinous crimes being committed against the Palestinian people. At least six of the missiles in the most recent criminal attacks against the Jabalia refugee camp were provided by the US which killed hundreds of people and whole families. The Intercept [1] investigative journalists Ken Klippenstein and Daniel Boguslaw recently wrote an article which says US government documents also confirm the presence of a new classified US base and forces to sustain it. The Pentagon awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to build US troop facilities for a secret base it maintains deep within Israel's Negev desert, just 20 miles from Gaza.

On November 8, the Times of Israel [2] reported that "the US has sent special forces to Israel" and that a senior Pentagon official had claimed that this was to "to assist in finding hundreds of hostages held captive in the Gaza Strip by Hamas". The US has previously said only that "it has sent military advisers" to help Israel in its war on Gaza. Christopher Maier, an assistant secretary of defence, "indicated that commandos have also been deployed, according to the report". "We're actively helping the Israelis to do a number of things," Maier said at a special operations conference in Washington, The New York Times reported.

Alongside this, Declassified UK [3] highlighted that a secret "military co-operation agreement" was signed by Britain and Israel in 2020 "which 'strengthens' military ties", and that "the British parliament and public has never seen what is in it".

Declassified UK also reveals: "Britain's so-called Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) in Cyprus are home to important sites for the UK largest spy agency GCHQ. Its communication interception facility at Ayios Nikolaos in the Eastern SBA, Dhekelia, hoovers up calls, texts, and emails from across the Middle East, and sits 220 miles from Gaza." GCHQ has a central role in Britain's war-waging, and has explicitly said that "wherever and whenever the military have deployed over the years, we have supported them".

The article continues: "GCHQ also has a close relationship with Israel. Documents revealed by US whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 showed the US National Security Agency was providing data to its counterpart, the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU), which monitors and targets Palestinians."

British A400 military transport aircraft flew to Tel Aviv on Wednesday, November 8

Also Declassified UK reported: "British covert forces recently operated with Saudi Arabia in a secret war in Yemen. The UK military's 'D-Notice' committee, which seeks to stop the media publishing information it claims would damage national security, requested on October 28 all media editors to not publish information relating to SAS operations in Gaza."

Coupled with this it was also revealed by Declassified UK that "British A400 military transport aircraft flew to Tel Aviv on Wednesday" (November 8). Also, "Flight logs tracking aircraft from RAF Akrotiri, the UK's vast air base in Cyprus, show the RAF flew military transport aircraft to Tel Aviv, Israel's capital, every day from 13 to 26 October." [4]

It can be seen, therefore, that Britain is not only supporting Israel and opposing an immediate ceasefire but is almost certainly directly involved in this Israeli collective punishment being committed in Gaza against the Palestinian people. Over 11,000 people - half of them women and children - have been killed by the Israeli war on Gaza. Hospitals, schools and mosques have been bombed and Gaza city reduced to rubble. Water and electricity has been cut off and food blocked from getting to the people of Gaza - all designated as war crimes by the UN.

As the people of the world rise up and challenge these crimes and demand an immediate ceasefire, they must also demand that the US and British warmongers be brought to account alongside the Israeli state for their crimes against humanity.

1.US Quietly expands secret military base in Israel, The InterceptOctober 27, 2023
2. US special forces said deployed to help Israel track down hostages held in Gaza, The Times of Israel, November 8 2023
3. The ICC must investigate British ministers for Gaza war crimes. Here's how, Declassified UK, November 3 2023
4. RAF admits to making 17 military flights to Israel since Gaza bombing began

Article Index

Ceasefire Now!

European Complicity in War Crimes in Gaza

By Niamh Ni Bhriain, EUobserver

European Parliament MEPs

Even amid the horror in Gaza, some EU member states have been busy doing business with Israel approving lucrative arms deliveries, in the full knowledge that they will be used against a civilian population under siege

As the Hamas attack of October 7 was unfolding, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Josep Borrell, tweeted repeatedly in real time and issued an urgent statement on behalf of the EU calling for an "immediate cessation of these senseless attacks and violence".

Since then Israel has imposed a total blockade on Gaza's 2.3 million people, half of whom are children, cutting off food, water, fuel and medical supplies, while bombing civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, places of worship, refugee camps and UN shelters.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres denounced "clear violations of international humanitarian law" while medical professionals decried an "avalanche of suffering unprecedented in modern times".

A month on, with a death toll of 10,955 (as of Friday 10 November) and Gaza largely reduced to rubble, the EU has yet to call on Israel to ceasefire.

Port workers block weapons to Israel, Genoa, Italy.

Throughout the past month, European leaders have reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself even as it has dropped more than 25,000 tonnes of explosives, a force equivalent to two nuclear bombs, on one of the most densely-populated areas on the planet.

While all states have a right to defend themselves under the UN Charter, this does not provide legal cover to wage war against an occupied territory, as the International Court of Justice pointed out in an advisory opinion on Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine.

Applying the same flawed logic to the Ukraine war would give Russia a right to self-defence in territories that it has illegally invaded and occupied. No such right exists under international law, yet European leaders, with few exceptions, have repeatedly defended what is legally and morally indefensible.

But Europe's political and military support for Israel is nothing new.

For decades, EU member states have provided military wares to Israel's occupation forces, with almost 30 percent of their major conventional weaponry originating in Germany (23.9 percent) and Italy (5.9 percent).

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) details the delivery of anti-ship/anti-submarine weapons, surface to air missiles, naval guns and combat aircraft, while the European Network Against the Arms Trade reveals that EU arms exports to Israel from 2011-2020 were worth €4.1bn.

As well as direct transfers, arms components are also channelled through the US before eventually ending up in Israel. Although this materiel should be subject to transfer permits based on end-user agreements, a practice has developed whereby EU member states waive this requirement in respect of US transfers, the US is happy to play ball, and European arms companies cash in on lucrative arms deals.

Annually, the US provides Israel with military assistance worth over $3.8bn (€4.1bn) and since October it has deployed an aircraft carrier, fighter jets, a nuclear powered submarine capable of carrying cruise missiles, three ballistic missile defence ships, and US drones.

Considering how embedded Europe's arms industry is with the US war machine, it is reasonable to assume that much of this equipment contains European arms components.

European complicity in war crimes

Even amid the horror in Gaza, some EU member states have been busy doing business with Israel approving lucrative arms deliveries, in the full knowledge that they will be used against a civilian population under siege.

Since October 7, the Dutch government has approved the delivery of components for F-35 fighter jets, which are currently being used to pummel Gaza to pieces. Although lawyers at the foreign ministry advised against these transfers citing serious violations of the laws of war, the Dutch government chose to prioritise relations with Israel and the US, over Palestinian lives and upholding the rule of law.

"Similarly, of the £266m in arms exports approved by Germany this year, 85 percent of these licences were given the green light in the wake of the October 7 attack when the economy ministry ordered that Israel be "given priority".

Across the Atlantic, US members of congress were put on notice for potential "criminal and civil liability for aiding and abetting genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity" in advance of an emergency military aid package to Israel worth $14.5bn. They went ahead and approved it anyway.

For decades a cozy relationship has existed between the US, European, and Israeli arms industries, and despite growing evidence of war crimes in Gaza, it continues to flourish. Impunity for this unlawful business is seemingly guaranteed.

With few exceptions, EU member states, far from calling for an arms embargo or even a ceasefire, have instead chosen to provide political cover for Israel, with some actively arming the aggressor as it massacres and dispossess an entire people of their homeland.

It will ultimately be for a court of law to decide whether European leaders and member states are complicit in war crimes but the mass mobilisations across Europe over the past month would indicate that the court of public opinion has already made its judgment - Europe has blood on its hands and must urgently shift course, call for a ceasefire, impose an arms embargo and break ties with Israel.

(November 10, 2023)

Article Index

Stand with Palestine!

Resistance in Gaza

Rooted in Our Land, Said Hassan

An investigation conducted by Al-Jazeera Network, and reported in Palestine Chronicle, analysed recent satellite images to reveal data about Israel's ground operation in the Gaza Strip. The images showed the exact number of Israeli occupation army vehicles in the Strip, their stationing locations, and advancing lines. It revealed among other things that on November 8, the total number of military vehicles amounted to 295. This is a decrease of 88 vehicles compared to November 3, when the number of military vehicles reached 383. The images appear to corroborate recent statements of the resistance forces declaring that in the past week alone 136 Israeli military vehicles had been completely destroyed or rendered unusable.

The images also showed that the Israeli armed forces are positioning vehicles to ensure maximum damage to civilian infrastructure. For example, the Israeli army's armoured vehicles were located in seven schools, namely Ibn Sina, Khaled Al-Alami basic schools for boys, Sami Al-Alami, Al-Awda, Sarafand, Al-Zahawi, and Ashdod. The Israeli army positioned an average of 10 to 15 vehicles in each school.

The military spokesman for the al-Qassam Brigades Abu Obeida said on Saturday, November 11, "Israeli tanks face fierce resistance and intense clashes, forcing them to retreat and change the course of their incursion." Referring to the failure of advancing Israeli forces to hold any permanent position inside Gaza City, the spokesperson added that more than 25 military vehicles were either fully or partially destroyed in Resistance attacks in the last 48 hours alone. The statement was backed up with videos documenting the targeting of Israeli tanks by homemade anti-artillery defences.

The spokesperson added: "The American-backed [Israeli] war machine is destroying everything in front of them before advancing, but it faces resistance that destroys their armoured vehicles and their soldiers' fortified positions and assembly areas."

The press statement continued: "Bombing hospitals, schools, and civilian facilities are the achievements of the occupier to have an achievement over the sea of innocent blood. The enemy's massacres in Gaza are the only achievement in the war. We announce that we have documented the complete or partial destruction of more than 160 Zionist military vehicles since the beginning of the ground aggression, including more than 25 vehicles in the last 48 hours."


Article Index

Workers' Forum

Workers Refuse To Be Marginalised over the Shutdown of Steel Blast Furnaces

Steel workers demonstrating at Port Talbot in June 2022

The decision to close down blast furnaces at British Steel has met with much derision by the workers who are faced with destruction of raw, "virgin" steel production and loss of jobs as a consequence. It is estimated that at least 2,000 jobs will be lost. Blast furnaces will be replaced with electric arc furnaces at Scunthorpe and Teesside. Parts of the site in Scunthorpe will become vacant.

Despite the serious consequences of this decision, there is no reference to it in the King's speech, and virtually nothing either from the government or any of the Westminster cartel parties. The Department for Business and Trade only claimed the proposals were greener, putting the British steel industry on an allegedly more sustainable footing. The so-called "Opposition" in Westminster has failed to offer anything concerning such a decision affecting this important foundation industry, fundamental to the economy. The Labour Party failed to mention it in response to the King's speech in Parliament, showing their complicity and a lack of any alternative. Meanwhile, the government has offered a pay-the-rich subsidy of £300m to the company.

The £1.25bn proposal for electric arc furnaces is mainly for recycling purposes. By melting down scrap, they produce steel of a lower grade to that produced by blast furnaces. Such recycled steel is inappropriate for some uses, such as building or vehicle manufacture. Production of raw steel still requires blast furnaces. Raw materials include iron ore, which, though in abundance in Britain, is largely untapped as a homegrown resource. The shutting-down of blast furnaces is an indication of the decline of the British economy within the interconnected economy of the imperialist system of states and in the world as a whole, and is related in turn to the general decline of Britain as an imperial power.

In this case, China's Jingye Group own British Steel. The monopoly purchased Britain's second-largest steel producer following its insolvency in 2019, pledging to invest over £1 billion over a ten-year period. In February this year, the company announced plans to close its coking oven, citing high "labour costs" in British steelmaking, indicating its desire to cut staff.

The company said that investment in the arc furnaces is "subject to appropriate support" from the British government. In many other Chinese investments, in the conditions of trade disputes between China, Britain and the United States, investment has been either limited or blocked, nominally for "security" reasons. At the same time, the economy's foundation industries have already been offered to oligopolies like Tata, who have taken over the lion's share of steel and the formerly British-controlled car industry, so that now Tata Jaguar and Tata Steel call the shots. Earlier in the year, Tata said it would close its two blast furnaces in Port Talbot and replace them with electric arc furnaces, destroying 3,000 jobs. Yet on top of this, a subsidy of £500m was offered by the government.

Masking its real intentions, head of British Steel Xijun Cao said the company could not continue to maintain its blast furnaces and meet its environmental obligations.

"We have engaged extensively with the public and private sector to understand the feasibility of producing net zero steel with our current blast furnace operations. However, thorough analysis shows this is not viable," he said. "We need the UK to adopt the correct policies and frameworks now to back our decarbonisation drive." Of course, no mention is made of the export of carbon emissions elsewhere if virgin steel production is moved abroad.

The closure plans will bring Britain's capability to produce virgin steel to an end, seriously undermining the economy. The government even acknowledges this fact, and yet acts recklessly, claiming that output from new electric arc furnaces will cover most of the country's needs. But they present no scientific analysis of what these "needs" are to a modern socialised economy aimed at meeting the needs of the people. Neither are there any new plans to invest in hydrogen to create high quality steel. Instead, the government adds to the deception by pretending to care about environmental concerns, pointing to the fact that, by using coke, blast furnaces produce carbon dioxide. But where is the government when it comes to the overall question of cutting carbon emissions? It is already moving the goalposts on this question. Its policy decisions, which will affect the long term, are based on the short-term and narrow interests of capital, the profit-making of the global oligopolies.

Concerns over the proposed timeline of the closures and replacement have led unions to consider strike action. They have already threatened such action over Tata's earlier plans.

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of steelworkers' union Community, condemned the plans as "dangerous and foolhardy". They "would leave the UK unable to make steel from raw materials and dangerously exposed to international markets," he said.

The closure would be "a hammer blow" for steel production in Britain, said GMB national office Charlotte Brumpton-Childs, and "devastating" for Scunthorpe.

Yet workers will not "stand back" as the steel industry was "dismantled in real time," warned TUC general secretary Paul Nowak, noting that "other countries have shown that it is possible to transition to zero-carbon steelmaking and protect good steelmaking jobs for the future. We can do the same here."

There is a need for investment in the key foundation stones of the socialised economy such as steel production. Planning a new direction for the economy entails increasing the manufacturing base. Steel manufacturing is a vital part of the economy, which should be all-sided. The working class with its independent programme has the project of becoming the decision-making power and building such an economy, aimed at serving the needs of the people and harmonising these needs with those of the natural environment.

Destruction of foundation industries is akin to the destruction of the means of production. A degree of self-reliance is needed in foundation industries to protect an economy from the vagaries of markets under the sway of the global oligarchs, which act at will without a moment's thought for the local economies where they operate, and which shift production around the world as suits them. It is the workers who have an interest in the future of society and they will not see the steel industry being wiped out altogether by the chaos that dominates human relations at present.

A new direction is needed for the economy, and the argument can be made for a thriving steel industry at its centre. Public control is needed over the steel industry, control by the actual producers. The working class draws the conclusion that the socialised economy must be brought under the control of those who live, work and produce for it if it is going to be capable of uninterrupted extended reproduction while safeguarding the future of the natural and social environment.

Article Index

Receive Workers' Weekly E-mail Edition: It is free to subscribe to the e-mail edition
We encourage all those who support the work of RCPB(ML) to also support it financially:
Donate to RCPB(ML)

WW Internet RSS Feed {Valid RSS}

Workers' Weekly is the weekly on line newspaper of the
Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

170, Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2LA.
Phone: 020 7627 0599:

RCPB(ML) Home Page

Workers' Weekly Online Archive