Protesters in Renne, in France, are angry about Palestine—and so much more besides

THIS YEAR is ending in a torrent of horror. Israeli forces have resumed their offensive in Gaza, and the slaughter of the innocent goes on. The US, the greatest imperial power in history, stands between the murderers and the rest of humankind. That was visible in mid December, when the US vetoed a ceasefire resolution at the United Nations Security Council.

According to the Washington Post newspaper, “American‑made arms have played a central role in the war. In the first month and a half, Israel dropped more than 22,000 guided and unguided bombs on Gaza that were supplied by Washington…And during that time, the United States has transferred at least 15,000 bombs, including 2,000lb bunker busters, and more than 50,000 155mm artillery shells.”

Earlier this year, I wrote a book called The New Age of Catastrophe. In it I argued that the capitalist system has entered a multidimensional crisis. This involves environmental destruction, economic instability, inter-imperialist rivalries between the US, China and Russia, and the advance of the far right.

Israel’s war represents an acceleration of this systemic crisis. It has destabilised the Middle East at a time when US dominance of the region was already under challenge from China and Russia. The US’s key ally Saudi Arabia refused to line up with the West against Russia in reaction to the Ukraine War.

Alongside Egypt and the United Arab Emirates it is joining the Chinese-led Brics bloc of big Southern economies. The solid support that both the US and the European Union have given Israel’s war against the Palestinians is further increasing the West’s isolation.

The different dimensions of the crisis interact. The disruption of global supply chains at the height of the Covid pandemic sparked off an inflationary upsurge. Now a combination of drought in the Panama Canal and attacks by Yemeni rebels supporting Palestine in the Red Sea near the Suez Canal are disrupting them again by slowing down global shipping at two of its main choke points.

An overstretched US imperialism is struggling to manage what the economist Isabella Weber calls “overlapping emergencies”. The war is also politically transformative. The huge Palestine solidarity demonstrations are about more than Palestine. Palestine has become the symbol of everything that is wrong with the world. As a result, there is an enormous opening leftwards.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine split the left. Unfortunately, many failed to see that US and its Nato allies have used it to wage a proxy war against Russia. It has therefore been difficult to build large-scale opposition to what is essentially a conflict between rival imperial powers.

The Palestinian struggle has transformed the situation. Since 7 October, Stop The War and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign have organised some of the biggest demonstrations in British history. Huge protests have been taking place across the world. The result is a great wave of radicalisation, as a new generation has become drawn into anti-imperialist politics.

The complicity of the leading social democratic parties in the butchery—for example, Labour under Keir Starmer in Britain and Olaf Scholz’s government in Germany—strengthens the case for a revolutionary socialist alternative.

This could be a pivotal moment. One of the most disturbing features of this new age of catastrophe has been how the far right has soaked up much discontent stirred up by the failure of neoliberal capitalism. This continues—Donald Trump is running ahead of Joe Biden in the polls for next year’s US presidential election.

But the far right—despite the antisemitism that pervades it—strongly support Israel. This reflects both its Islamophobia and its support for Western imperialism.

The slaughter in Gaza has made vivid the cruelty inherent in the present system. Israel will probably fail in its drive to destroy Hamas and expel the Palestinians.

But in any case, this war will leave behind it far larger numbers of people committed to international solidarity and anti-imperialism. They can lay the basis of a new and stronger left. Revolutionaries must seize this moment.

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