Those attending the demonstrations against the recent massacres in Gaza, because they wanted to express their solidarity with the Palestinian people or with humanity in general, needed more than a warm coat, hat and scarf to participate. A strong constitution was also required to stomach what turned out to be an orgy of nationalism.
Alongside bloodied dolls and gory photos depicting the murdered children of Gaza, banners equating Nazism with Israel, and chants in defence of Hamas and the Palestinian ‘state' were flags, thousands of them, big and small, representing every bourgeois faction involved in the conflict and many that aren't. Even the Union Jack was present on banners proclaiming ‘Brits for Palestine'.
Despite the bourgeoisie's claims about the supposed diversity and humanitarianism of these demos, these displays of nationalism show that demonstrations like these are never the peace rallies they claim to be. They are a call to arms, a rallying point in defence of the nation state and against the working class organising for its own interests.
Nowhere is the pro-war stance clearer than with the leftist groups that never fail to choose one imperialist camp over another. Such groups offer their ‘unique' insights on the struggle, all of which, effectively, mean the defence of the ‘lesser evil'. Workers are required to choose a side and support, sometimes ‘critically', sometimes not, the ‘oppressed' against the ‘oppressor'.
For the Spartacist League this requires some Orwellian doublethink: "it is vital for the international proletariat to stand for the military defence of Hamas against Israel without giving that reactionary Islamic fundamentalist outfit any political support" (Workers Vanguard No 928). The SWP are less convoluted in their support for Hamas: "resistance to occupation and to collective punishment is not a crime - it is a right. Hamas was democratically elected and is the voice of an oppressed people" (Socialist Worker No 2135).
Even those on the left who say that there is no national solution to the conflict echo the same basic sentiments. The Socialist Equality Party may recognise that the solution to the conflict "is inseparably bound up with the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism all over the world" but still state that "it is necessary to defend Hamas against the assassination of its leaders and the vilification of its supporters as terrorists" (wsws.org).
Leftist groups distort the real meaning of internationalism. Solidarity with the dispossessed around the world doesn't mean supporting the weaker nation against the stronger. It means rejecting the myth of the lesser evil and developing the class struggle against all nations, all exploiters, big and small. This is why, although still a minority, internationalists must continue to be present at these demonstrations to defend a real perspective for the future, a communist perspective that goes beyond the stifling bonds of the nation.