For all the legal niceties and nuances, the court judgement yesterday on Britain’s billions of arms sales to Saudi Arabia is a green light to the blood-soaked Gulf despotism to continue its murderous assault on the people of Yemen.

Over 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since March 2015 when the Saudis began their brutal bombing campaign, using British warplanes, British bombs, British training, British military advice and British diplomatic cover.

The majority have been killed in Saudi air strikes. Yet more suffer from the other effects of that bombing and the other military actions taken by the Saudis and their craven cronies.

Almost the whole population of the country, 24 million people, are at risk of starvation and are reliant on food aid from under-resourced foreign agencies.

To make things worse, that food is going to run out. That’s because the Saudis have been targeting clean water facilities leading to 300,000 reported cases of cholera since the end of April. 

Over 1,700 people have died from the disease, which should be easily preventable but given the absolute desperation in Yemen and the lack of basic resources is not.

Aid workers say that the extra food needed to keep cholera victims alive could exhaust their supply by September. 

So those merely hungry will be pushed to the brink of starvation, those already starving will die.

The situation is so dire because the Saudis and their murderous coalition have imposed a blockade on the country, strictly controlling what goes in. 

Add in the tight-fisted nature of the so-called “international community” and humanitarian agencies have little to work with.

This is what yesterday’s judgement means. It is not a bland legal point; it is the lives of literally millions of starving people. 

Millions who over the past few years have had their lives upended. Their homes, hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, workplaces destroyed. Their children literally blown to bits.

The judgement however reinforces some crucial points about this country, its relations with the Saudi kingdom and its willingness to flog arms to all and sundry. 

At a very basic level it shows again that our arms export controls are not fit for purpose, unless that purpose is to fuel wars around the world.

And it shows that the Establishment cares nothing for the lives of innocents when it can get into bed with some oil-rich despots. 

Not least when those despots are Saudi Arabian despots, ruling over a country formed with the vital assistance of — surprise! – British arms exports to a murderous thug, Ibn Saud, whose conquest of the peninsula cost the lives of 400,000 people. It’s been 100 years, why spoil a good thing?

As shown in sickening and comprehensive detail by the historian Mark Curtis, British foreign policy has been and remains a malign influence in the world, stirring up conflict and great bloodshed in order to achieve cynical aims.

Only a radical transformation can end this and begin to repair the extensive damage caused by our rules. 

That radical transformation cannot include quibbling about selling arms to a blatantly murderous regime, but must centre on achieving real peace throughout the world.


This article appeared ( under the title ' Saudi Arms Ruling...') in The Morning Star, Tuesday 11th July 2017

Question: what links the NHS cuts, the Grenfell Tower disaster and yesterday’s massive People’s Assembly demonstration against Theresa May’s Tory government?

Answer: the politics of class.

Britain is a society deeply divided on lines of economic class and has been, in different ways, for many centuries.

Since the demise of feudalism that division has reflected the fact that in capitalist society, the owners of capital hold most of the wealth and power. The role of workers and their families has been to spend much of their lives performing labour for capitalists or their state and rearing the next generation of labour power.

Although the capitalist class — those whose wealth derives from their ownership of economic and financial assets — comprise no more than 10 per cent of the population, their interests are mis-presented as being those of Britain as a whole.

In particular, the Conservative Party, the Lib Dems and a large section of the Parliamentary Labour Party promote policies which represent the capitalist status quo.

The left and sections of the labour movement, on the other hand, have sought to defend and extend the real interests of the working class, within the limits set by capitalist society and — in the case of socialists and Communists — by breaking through those limits to socialism.

Two of the historic victories of the 20th century were the establishment of the NHS and the spread of social housing.

Of course, capitalists and their political representatives recognise that workers and their families need healthcare and housing in order to perform their necessary functions.

But their preference is that neither provision should require too much taxation, while delivery should maximise the opportunities for private sector profiteering.

The NHS and local council housing, on the other hand, have tended to put people’s needs before private profits. That is why the Tories and their co-thinkers in other parties have been keen to cut or limit such services, or privatise them altogether where corporate profits can be made.

In these efforts, they have been emboldened by the neoliberal offensive launched in the 1970s, carried forward by Tory and New Labour governments and given credibility by the collapse of the socialist systems in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe.

However, the whole neoliberal, globalisation model is now under attack as its underlying inhumanity, inequalities and inefficiencies are increasingly exposed by the course of events.

An ever-growing number of people have had enough of cuts in public services and social benefits and of wage freezes, privatisation and the cruel withdrawal of benefits and social care from the sick, elderly and disabled. They contrast the damage done by austerity in families, local communities and workplaces to the ready abundance of public money to bail out bankers, pay for foreign wars, renew nuclear weapons and buy off a bunch of sectarian politicians in Northern Ireland.

We saw hundreds of thousands of those people on the streets of London on Saturday, mobilised by the People’s Assembly and the trade unions.

Their fears for the future of the NHS, their anger at the treatment of working-class people in Grenfell Tower and their determination to halt austerity and privatisation was palpable.

What united them all, whether consciously or not, was their opposition to the realities of a class-divided society based on exploitation and oppression — and their support for the progressive and left alternative represented by the current left-wing leadership of the Labour Party.

Everybody can now see that class politics is back with a bang — although it never really went away.


This article appeared in The Morning Star Monday July 3rd 2017