Victory in Oldham: for Palestine

The Elbit picket was a solidarity success, Ian Parker reports from Manchester.


There was elation today among all those involved, and all those in solidarity with Palestine in Greater Manchester. The Elbit Ferranti factory in Oldham has been a target for a year and a half of sustained protest; week by week the protestors shouted ‘brick by brick, wall by wall, the Elbit factory will fall’. They were right, it happened, the factory fell; 10 January 2020 saw an announcement by Elbit that they are selling off this north-west Manchester base of operations.

Power, control and resistance

The ‘Power and Control Business’ – and what a sinister revealing mouthful that description is – has been sold to TT Electronics. ACR reported on this protest in November last year, and at that protest even then we could see in the yards of the factory signs of equipment being dismantled. But, you know, we are careful about the claims we make for victory, not wanting to crow too soon, not wanting to raise hopes only to see them dashed. We waited. We heard from anonymous sources that the factory was being cleared ready for the sale. The protesters regrouped, and they were ready for another picket on Tuesday 11 January. Now it will be a celebration.

This shows direct action can work. Palestine Action, which has been at the forefront of the campaign, working alongside Oldham Peace and Justice and other groups, organised regular pickets, sometimes in the freezing rain, caused millions of pounds of cost to the company. That picket was accompanied by heroic acts of blockade, disruption and occupation. Activists were able to get into the factory, and in February last year were able, with comrades from XR North, to smash windows and air vents, disabling computers with red paint. 

Against state terror

This victory in Oldham draws attention to and slows in a minimal but significant way mass murder in Palestine. It is minimal because the huge deadly range of Elbit products is still in production elsewhere in the UK, and around the world. Already, thousands of Palestinians have been killed by this weaponry, and the apparatus of surveillance continues, including arms specifically designed for use in close-packed urban areas. What happened in Oldham is also, however, significant, hence the celebrations. Images of the Elbit Oldham protests were beamed to the Occupied Territories and to Gaza; they gave hope, they showed there was international solidarity. 

Against the new balance of terror in the world, one in which states have the upper hand and in which politicians hypocritically label those who resist as ‘terrorists’, there are people willing to speak out, to speak out and act. 

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Ian Parker is a Manchester-based psychoanalyst and a member of Anti*Capitalist Resistance.

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