To stop their warmongering, we have strikes of our own to launch!

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
24 January 2024

British prime ministers like to beat war drums. They think it increases their political "stature", and might help them win elections.

    The hapless Sunak is no exception. So, apart from hanging tightly onto Biden's coat-tails when it came to backing Israel's war on Gaza, he has recently visited Ukraine's Zelensky. He handed him another £2.5bn, and then asked his insufferable Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, to announce £5bn more in Britain's defence spending, while warning of other wars to come.

    Said Shapps: "the era of the peace dividend is over... in five years' time we could be looking at multiple theatres involving Russia, China, Iran and North Korea...". And now, former army chiefs speak of bringing back military service or even conscription.

    Of course it's true that wars can help win elections. Sunak's hero, Mrs Thatcher, was re-elected in 1983 with an unprecedented landslide, after sending the British navy to retake the Falkland Islands, or Malvinas, from the occupying Argentine army. That petty and mindless war took the lives of 649 Argentinians, 255 British troops and 3 Falkland Islanders...

    On the other hand, Labour PM Tony Blair's war against Iraq, launched alongside the US in 2003 on the false pretext that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, labelled him permanently as Liar Blair or "Bliar". His electoral margin dwindled and he resigned in June 2007, before he could lose the following election in 2010, leaving that due reward to his Chancellor, Gordon Brown... So warmongering is not always a vote-winner.

Sunak's "humanitarian" missiles for Yemen

However Sunak is still trying to give this strategy a go. It has involved, first and foremost, giving a totally new meaning to the word "defence". So the conscious destructive bombardment of half of Gaza's infrastructure and the killing of 27,000 (and counting) civilians by Netanyahu's blitz squads has been described consistently as the right to "self defence".

    And then we come to Yemen and it's exactly the same story; Sunak actually described, as "Britain defending itself", the targeting of Houthi military bases in North Yemen (3,651 miles from Britain as the crow flies) by Cyprus-based RAF fighter jets!

    Of course, this was Sunak acting assistant to the US again, in the name of protecting shipping in the Red Sea. But why not just say so?

    It's true that the Houthi are trying to prevent container ships from getting to Israel and thus frightening off the rest... But even that is put into question by the British propaganda machine - which says, no, they have an "ulterior motive"... Which one, they can't say.

    Trying to justify this attack on Yemen, Cameron claimed that "we, Britain, are among the most generous humanitarian donors to Yemen". This was almost funny if it were not for the horrific context: you cause famine and then offer some grains of rice. The British-US-Saudi-UAE war against the Houthi (casting Iran as bogeyman) killed 350,000 people and left 75% of Yemenis dependent on food aid - up until today.

We won't be distracted

Whatever Sunak may try, warmongering included, he is unlikely to rescue his, nor the Tories' political fortunes. According to the latest YouGov poll, if an election took place right now, the Conservatives would be wiped out by a landslide Labour victory, giving Starmer a majority of at least 120 seats.

    However, Red Wall Tory MP Simon Clarke thinks there is time to salvage at least something from Election 2024 if the Tory party "loses" its leader. He says Sunak's popularity is lower even than Starmer's, but the party is not as unpopular as its leader in "98 per cent of the key seats we hold but are set to lose". Clarke is one of the (un) Safety of Rwanda Bill rebels, who thinks the Bill needs to be even more racist and inhumane, and that the only issue voters really care about is stopping the boats, and cutting immigration.

    So he's calling on Sunak to quit. Sunak probably won't. But all these issues are a grand distraction from the dire social state which all the rest of us are trying to contend with: the ongoing crisis in the NHS, the thousands of job losses (for e.g., at the historic steelworks at Port Talbot and Llanwern's cold rolling operation), the still rising cost of living for the poor (food inflation remains at 8%) and the bankruptcy of at least one in five local councils and thus the utter collapse of the vital services they are meant to provide, like social care...

    We can hope for one thing, though - and in fact the working class can make this happen - that next time we read the word "strike", it's not describing a missile attack on Yemen, but the fight back of hundreds of thousands of workers against the job cuts and closures, the degradation of working conditions, housing, social and healthcare - and that the word "general" is prefixed to it! Because that's also the first step to challenging the warmongering policies of the bosses and their government - whoever occupies Number 10.