Indian dockworkers mobilise against Israel’s war machine

Thousands of Indian dockworkers are refusing to assist in the transporting of Israeli arms. This tremendous example of working-class solidarity must be repeated across the world to effectively resist Israel’s slaughter!

On 14 February, the Water Transport Workers Federation of India (WTWFI) – representing 3,500 workers in 11 of India’s 12 major ports – published a statement in solidarity with Palestine, refusing to “load or unload weaponized cargoes from Israel or any other country which could handle military equipment and its allied cargo for war in Palestine”.

In doing so, they have joined a handful of other unions in enforcing a workers’ boycott on Israeli arms. The Organización Estibadores Portuarios de Barcelona (OEPB), representing 1,200 dockworkers in Barcelona, as well as several Belgian transport unions took similar action in November last year in solidarity with Palestine.

This is the way forward for the Palestine solidarity movement: marshalling the collective power of the working class to isolate the Israeli war machine.

Notably, all of the above initiatives emerged from below, and involve relatively small sections of the labour movement. Shamefully, the leaders of the main trade unions have been conspicuously absent in the Palestine solidarity struggle, preventing the workers’ might from being brought to bear against Israel’s ethnic cleansing in Gaza.

In November, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) denounced a “labor export” agreement signed between the Modi government and Israel, to transfer up to 100,000 Indian workers to Israel. However, they took no concrete action to oppose it, nor have the national leaders said anything about the dockworkers’ boycott, even though the WTWFI is affiliated with CITU.

India’s main trade union confederations, including the CITU, called a national day-long strike against Modi’s reactionary labour law on 16 February, just two days after the dockworkers took their stand, involving 200 million people!

The millions on the streets last week represent the real forces of the Indian working class, who could easily have been linked up with the dockworkers to strike blows against the reactionary Modi government that has assisted the bloodbath in Gaza, at the same time as it drains the blood of Indian workers and the poor. The two struggles are one and the same, and should be consciously linked.

Blood money

India and Israel have a long history of trading arms. The Adani Group, led by Modi’s long-standing partner in crime, Gautam Adani, is in a joint venture with Israel’s Elbit systems to manufacture and export Hermes 900 missiles from India to Israel for use against the Palestinians. In terms of imports, Israel was the third largest arms supplier to India from 2016 to 2020 and this is only expected to increase in the next five years.

Modi’s government took two key Israeli arms companies – Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd. – off of its blacklist in April 2018. They had not previously been blacklisted in response to Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, but for alleged ‘corruption’, which is a real joke coming from the grift-ridden Modi government. This allowed Aerospace Industries to sell India $2 billion worth of missiles.

port Image eutrophicationhypoxia FlickrIndia and Israel have a long history of trading arms / Image: eutrophicationhypoxia, Flickr

Modi also has interests in the region, with the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor (IMEC) programme that aims to compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative for influence in the area. The successful expansion of India’s sphere of influence is dependent on staying in Israel’s good books, as its port in Haifa would be used to connect southern and western Europe to the Middle East.

Moreover, Modi and his gang of Hindu nationalists are using Israel’s slaughter of the Palestinians as an opportunity to ratchet up anti-Muslim sectarianism. Modi was one of the first world leaders to state “solidarity” with Israel after 7 October and denounce “terrorism”; and India abstained on a UN resolution for a truce in November. In the months since, BJP-affiliated news and social media networks have been spewing bile about “Islamic terror”.

Instead of attempting to appeal to the goodwill and moral conscience of Modi and his Hindutva cabal, workers like those in the WTWFI are taking the initiative to mobilise their power as a class. They are expressing the internationalist spirit that binds workers in all countries, setting an example, and also demonstrating the global, collective power the workers have in their possession.

Our class is responsible for everything that makes society function. Not a wheel turns nor a lightbulb shines without the kind permission of the working class. With fighting leadership, workers everywhere could bring society grinding to a halt, and prevent their imperialist leaders from facilitating the IDF’s murderous actions in Gaza. In this boycott, we see a small glimpse of this potential.

Spread the action

Alongside the WTWFI, there are three other national federations of port and dock workers that organise workers in India’s ports. As long as this action is pursued by only one section of the workers, the bosses can make use of other sections of the workforce to ship arms. Therefore, it is necessary to spread this initiative to the workers in the other federations.

The Indian dockers can look to the example of workers at the Rolls-Royce factory in East Kilbride in the 1970s, who for five years refused to work on fighter jets intended for Pinochet’s regime in Chile. Dockworkers and engineers in other cities were inspired to participate in the workers’ boycott, and unemployed sailors even refused work on ships going to Chile.

Spreading the dockworkers’ struggle requires a bold campaign across all of India’s ports, with the workers leafleting, agitating and picketing to explain why their fellow dockers should take part. This would be a beacon of inspiration to the masses around the world, who are marching in solidarity with Palestine, but lack a militant leadership showing the way forward.

Ultimately, the liberation of the Palestinian people demands an end to the rotten capitalist, imperialist system that is drowning the Middle East in blood. Workers and youth around the globe must follow the example of these courageous layers of workers, in India and elsewhere, who are already taking a stand.

We need a global campaign of strikes and workers’ embargoes at ports, factories and other workplaces critical to Israel’s war on Gaza. Beyond that, we must bring down the system that perpetually keeps the Palestinians and oppressed people of the world enslaved. The task of communists everywhere is to build revolutionary communist parties that can connect with the most advanced layers of workers and youth, and fight their own ruling classes, who aid and abet Israeli terror in Gaza.

Intifada until victory! Revolution until victory!

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