Letters - FRFI! 299 April/May 2024

Defend the Starmer 2!

In Glasgow two Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters, the Starmer 2, are facing trial after being violently arrested during a protest against Keir Starmer’s visit to Glasgow on 7 December to speak at Scottish Labour’s Winter Gala dinner. They face multiple charges of police assault and resisting arrest. The Gaza Genocide Emergency Committee have pledged their support alongside other individuals and campaigns. The Starmer 2 defence campaign was launched on 28 March outside Glasgow Sheriff Court, where they entered pleas of not guilty. Please follow @glasgowfrfi_2 on Instagram to keep up with upcoming court dates.

An increasing number of activists are facing trials for standing in solidarity with Palestine in imperialist Britain. This solidarity ranges from shutting down factories supplying weaponry to the Israeli occupation to weekly marching on the streets for Palestine and opposing politicians who are up to their necks in Palestinian blood. There are currently 13 trials scheduled across England and Scotland involving Palestine Action activists who have targeted companies like Elbit, Ferranti and Lockheed Martin. In Edinburgh the trial of the Leonardo 3, which was set for 2 April, has been postponed, with Palestine supporters being urged to attend outside and inside Edinburgh Sheriff Court. The Thales 3 were recently on trial in Glasgow with noisy protests outside court every day. They await sentencing after being found guilty of criminal damage. 3 activists are also facing trial in Derry, in the occupied north of Ireland, for draping a giant Palestine flag from a crane.

We will keep speaking out for a free Palestine, from the river to the sea!

Dominic Mulgrew

Grassroots resistance in Sudan

The UN warns that nearly five million people in Sudan are at risk of severe hunger due to the ongoing civil war between Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces. Sudan’s economy heavily relies on agriculture, with 65% of its population engaged in this sector. However, the conflict has severely impacted agricultural production, damaged major infrastructure, disrupted trade, inflated prices and delayed humanitarian access. This crisis has also led to the world’s largest displacement, with over eight million people forced from their homes since the conflict began last year.

The conflict’s impact on agriculture is stark, with 2023 cereal production plummeting by 46% compared to the previous year. In areas like Greater Kordofan and Greater Darfur, production is down by as much as 80%. Widespread insecurity in West Darfur has led to a total crop failure, exacerbating the crisis.

It is projected that an alarming 730,000 Sudanese children, including 240,000 in Darfur, will suffer severe acute malnutrition.

In response to the conflict, emergency response rooms have been providing vital aid including healthcare and food to civilians. Grassroots ‘resistance committees’ that previously organised pro-democracy protests and helped coordinate the Covid-19 response, have formed community kitchens nationwide, serving meals to families daily. However, in besieged areas like Bahri with the streets filled with paramilitary fighters known for looting life-saving aid, volunteers face danger and scarcity, resorting to smuggling supplies. Despite risks, their determination remains unwavering: ‘if we stop, we starve to death,’ said one volunteer.

Ameera Mahmoud

CWU’s shameful stance on Palestine

Since Israel escalated its horrors in Palestine, the discussions around it have exposed many ‘left’ organisations for their complicity in the genocide but also for their counter-revolutionary acts. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has been one of those organisations. 

Weeks after 7 October, CWU gave a pathetic response stating its solidarity with both Israeli and Palestinian workers in an effort to stay neutral to protect its Labour Party affiliation. For many union members this wasn’t good enough and we decided to organise outside the union, either with the British branch of the US movement called No Tech For Apartheid, or with a newly-formed group called CWU Members For Palestine.

For CWU Members For Palestine, part of their plan is to show solidarity with Palestinians while wearing the union’s name, in order to pressure CWU leaders to take a stand and recognise the Palestinian struggle as a workers’ struggle. However, after months of the CWU actively ignoring the groups’ motions and attendance at marches, dismissing their requests to meet and deleting the groups’ demands on social media, CWU finally ‘gave in’ and issued a brief statement which claimed the union’s affiliations with the Labour Party gives CWU a voice to make society better.

This is not the first time CWU has acted against many of their members’ interests by siding with Labour. In 2003, despite Labour’s plans to privatise CWU’s biggest trade sector, postal services, CWU continued to fund Labour and have Labour members in leading positions. One of those members, Dave Ward, currently holds CWU’s General Secretary position and co-chairs for Stand Up For Racism – an organisation that makes concessions to pro-Israel groups. It’s time to kick Labour out of working class organising and hold these opportunist union leaders to account.

Sari K
South London

Arrested for challenging Zionism

On Friday 8 March I was arrested outside the Israeli ambassador’s residence in Swiss Cottage, London. I was released without charge with bail conditions ‘not to contact or interfere with, either directly, indirectly or via social media, the Israeli ambassador’. I cannot criticise the Israeli ambassador on social media but she is at liberty to say she wants to ‘destroy the whole of Gaza – every single building in it’ (LBC radio). The last time I was arrested was over 30 years ago outside the South African Embassy: the police continue to play their role, protecting apartheid. Pickets are continuing every Friday from 5-6pm outside Swiss Cottage library while the ban is challenged.

Richard Roques

Lula ‘forgets’ Brazil’s bloody past

On 1 April 1964 the Brazilian military undertook a US-backed coup that overthrew the social-democratic president, Joao Goularte, and established 21 years of martial law. But like everywhere where the people are betrayed, they resisted. Throughout the bloody years of military rule, people organised themselves both in armed and trade union struggles. Hundreds of militants were killed and ‘disappeared’; tens of thousands suffered torture at the hands of the military.

In 1985, martial law fell, but the murderers, rapists and torturers of the military dictatorship were granted amnesty, to ‘pacify the country’, and institutions like the military police were maintained. The past is present.

President Lula, however, seems to have forgotten this. On 12 March, he and his ministry cancelled the 60th anniversary commemoration of the victims of the military dictatorship. He then had the audacity to say, in a television interview, that to remember the military dictatorship is ‘dwelling on the past’, as if it had no current relevance. Lula has failed to meet a single family member of the victims of the dictatorship in the last year.

It is clear Lula is afraid of angering the military, as he knows in essence it is the same military that existed in 1964. It is the same military of which large numbers took part in the coup attempt against him in January 2023. This is sheer cowardice on the part of Brazil’s social democrats, who have already made concessions on the minimum agenda to end up with no agenda at all, to appease putschists from the military, rather than publicly challenge them.

This April, we declare our solidarity with the victims of the Brazilian military dictatorship. We reject attempts to demobilise the proletariat by the Brazilian Workers’ Party who remain silent on terror and silent on fascism.

South London

50 years before France,  socialism codified abortion

On 8 March 2024 France officially enshrined the right to abortion in its constitution, both recognising abortion as a fundamental right but also making it effectively irreversible. This has received widespread attention from the global media, especially as we’ve witnessed dangerous regressions of abortion rights around the world in the recent period, notably in the United States and Europe. However, while it has been widely circulated that France was a pioneer in constitutionalising the right to abortion, this is untrue.

Socialist Yugoslavia was the first state to ever inscribe abortion in its constitution back in 1974 – before abortion was even made legal in France. The constitution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia of 1974 stated: ‘It is the right of the human being to freely decide on the birth of children. This right can only be restricted for the protection of health.’ Similarly, the first country to ever legalise abortion was the Soviet Union under Vladamir Lenin. Let us not forget the advances made by socialist states in terms of reproductive rights, and let us not let others write socialist achievements out of history.

Sarah Guebre-Egziabher
French citizen in London