top of page


The Communists

Mar 4, 2024

The Workers party’s entry into the race transformed the northwestern by-election into a referendum on British complicity in Israeli war crimes.

In total opposition to what the media were assuring us last week (that residents of all backgrounds wanted the election to be fought on local issues only), the result in the Rochdale by-election, with a large majority to George Galloway and the Workers party, shows that a very large number of those who voted did indeed see the election as a referendum on British complicity in the Gaza genocide – and on Labour party complicity in particular.

As Galloway himself declared from the podium as results were announced: “Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza! You have paid and you will pay a high price for the role that you have played in enabling, encouraging and covering for the catastrophe currently going on in occupied Palestine in the Gaza Strip.”

We have written recently about the growing disgust and disillusionment amongst those who are paying attention to the horrors unfolding in Palestine – both toward the hypocrisy and servility of politicians of all the major parties, and toward the obviously lying and biased media coverage.

This in turn is putting pressure on the politicians and media to at least look as if they are ‘doing something’ to end the genocide. But this need is in strong contradiction with the ruling class’s primary agenda of supporting Israel no matter what and facilitating its genocidal war, which is also a struggle for the survival of imperialism’s settler-colonial project in the middle east.

Hence the ongoing chaos in the Mother of all Parliaments when anything even slightly approaching a meaningful debate or vote looks likely to take place – and this despite the toothless natures of such a vote in practice.

It is very much to be hoped that George Galloway will use his new position to highlight these behind the scenes manoeuvrings, the hypocrisy and control built into arcane parliamentary procedures, and the multitude of other ways in which ‘British democracy’ works to prevent the will of the people being expressed.

We hope also that he will add his voice to those calling for an end to every aspect of complicity in Israeli war crimes, which are also British and US war crimes.

An election over issues that matter

Voters for all three main parties stayed away from the poll, as can be seen from the fact that the runner-up was a self-declared “non-political” independent candidate whose campaign focused on the closure of the local maternity hospital and A&E department, the lack of local support services, the need for decent sports facilities for young people, and the dire financial position of the town’s ailing rugby and football clubs.

In general, while the issue of local services and facilities are what really matter to most workers, the conversation during general elections tends to be dominated by the narrative of Tory v Labour as painted in the corporate press, with very little space for local campaigners or small parties to break through, and all main parties issuing leaflets in which they promise to fix local problems if elected – and are not heard from again until another election cycle comes around.

It is worth noting that in the 2019 general election, 90 percent of Rochdale’s votes went to the three main parties, while in yesterday’s by-election, with anger and disgust at all three reaching all-time highs, Labour, Tories and LibDems together received just 27 percent of a low turnout vote.

By-elections are well known for being places where the electorate vents its frustration at the actions of unpopular governments or unpopular sitting parliamentarians. But to hit an unpopular government and unpopular opposition at the same time is quite something. The fact that not a single one of the mainstream bourgeois parties was the beneficiary of Labour’s internal chaos over Gaza speaks volumes.

Workers’ alienation from electoral politics deepening

The very low turnout (just 39 percent) also indicates that the steady growth of disenfranchisement and cynicism amongst working-class people continues – a trend that is made up in equal parts of distrust of electoral politics in general and disgust with the Labour party in particular.

As the war drive accelerates and the economic crisis deepens, Keir Starmer will struggle to find ways to restabilise his base in the coming months, and will no doubt be hoping that in most of the country those who have come to hate and despise his party simply do not go to the polls at all.

We can expect a doubling down on anti-immigrant rhetoric across the corporate media and from politicians of all the major parties as they scramble for the votes of ‘middle England’ while working hard to keep workers blaming one another for the problems created by the monopoly capitalist system of production for profit.

Meanwhile, it is the job of socialists to help workers understand the true cause of their problems so that they can organise themselves on a revolutionary programme that will deliver not only election upsets but systemic change; to move on from protesting against one war to building the kind of movement that can put an end to the bloodthirsty warmongering system of imperialism in its entirety.

bottom of page