The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 13th February 2004

CND Cymru and Côr Cochion Caerdydd in Cardiff

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by Daphne Liddle

TONY Blair and his fellow warmongers in the House of Commons are admitting they are feeling the strain over the issue that won’t go away – why did they go to war against Iraq?

Last week Blair petulantly ordered his Cabinet to “get back to basics” after Leader of the House Peter Hain warned: “After seven years of government, during which we have been virtually unassailable, we have hit our very first choppy waters.”

 Hain admitted that the continuing argument over the intelligence behind the war and a series of backbench revolts had shaken the Government.

But the row over Iraq does go on, despite Blair’s wishes that it would all go away and we would forget that at least 15,000 innocent Iraqis were bombed and shot to death on the basis of a lie.
never dreamed

They never dreamed their lies over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) would still be haunting them over a year later.

 But as the illegal Anglo-US occupation of Iraq becomes a deeper and deeper quagmire of blood – without delivering the lucrative oil revenue that was the real motive for the invasion – the stupidity of the decision to go to war in the first place is becoming plainer and plainer.

 It is just a year ago this week that two million protesters marched through London in Britain’s biggest ever demonstration to tell Blair that the war was wrong and would lead to disaster.

 He ignored them and he is paying the price. Tragically for him it is not such a heavy price as for his victims in Iraq.

Weapons scientists, experts and inspectors have been lining up to tell the press and the world it is not their fault – before Blair and Bush can fit them up in the role of scapegoats.

 Dr Hans Blix, the former United Nations weapons inspector, last week accused Blair and George W Bush of “dramatising” the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons.

 He said those who complied the notorious dossier, used by Blair to make a case for war “acted like salesmen trying to increase and exaggerate the importance of their wares”.

Former weapons intelligence chief Dr Brian Jones issued a second salvo, saying again that intelligence chiefs had told the Government they were unhappy with the way it was using evidence they supplied to make a misleading case for war.

 This echoed exactly the concerns expressed by his colleague Dr Kelly to BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan, shortly before Kelly’s exposure as the source of the leak and his apparent suicide.

 The Joint Intelligence Committee, headed by John Scarlett, produced that dossier. Much of the evidence given to the Hutton inquiry centred on whether or not the Government exerted political pressure on the JIC to exaggerate the threat from Iraq.

 Two former heads of that committee have come forward to express their unease about the production of the dossier.

 Sir Paul Lever said it was “sloppy” in places and said that the claim that Iraqi weapons could be deployed within 45 minutes had been “over-emphasised” in the dossier.
a mistake

“I personally would have preferred to have the JIC present something drafted exclusively by the JIC in the format which the JIC itself chose,” he said.

Sir Roderick Braithwaite, the other former JIC chairperson to come forward, said it was a mistake for the JIC to agree to take “presentational advice” from Downing Street and allow Alastair Campbell to sit with it.

 He told the BBC’s Panorama that when the JIC got involved with “presentation” that means “It’s ceasing to be objective, it’s becoming an advocate” – and so loses its independence.

 But another Whitehall official pointed out that some intelligence chiefs on that committee “did not need to be coerced into ‘sexing up’ the dossier by Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell. They were so eager to do what the Prime Minister wanted that they did it voluntarily. It means that the independence of the intelligence services may have been lost, or at least compromised, without the heads of those services being aware of it.”

Communists never  imagine that any apart of the state machine is neutral but it is interesting to see them all scrambling to shift the blame away from themselves. Their ship is sinking and they know it.

 The dossier spoke both of Iraqi WMDs and of Iraqi weapons that could be launched within 45 minutes – and left the world to assume that the WMDs could be launched within 45 minutes. Now they claim that only applied to battlefield weapons.

 Last week we witnessed the pathetic spectacle of Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon telling a parliamentary committee that he knew the 45-minute claim applied only to battlefield weapons. But he did not correct sensationalist scaremongering in some of the press – for example: “WE ARE 45 MINUTES FROM DOOM” – because he did not notice the headlines and it was “not a matter of great public concern”.

We also had the pathetic spectacle of Blair trying to convince the House of Commons that he himself had been misled by the “dodgy dossier”. Apparently, alone among is colleagues, really believed that Iraqi WMDs could strike Britain with 45 minutes – even though he had admitted otherwise to Robin Cook just before the war, just before Cook’s resignation.

 That’s the problem for liars, they need long memories. 


Unions must keep up the fight for Labour

LABOUR’S decision to expel the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union last week was inevitable following the decision of the biggest rail union in the land to continue to allow branches to affiliate to the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP). The RMT leadership was  denounced by Labour Party chairman Ian McCartney for ignoring the supposed view of tens of thousands of RMT members.  McCartney cynically ignored the fact that by cutting the links with Labour the rail union has only done what Blair & Co have wanted for ages. It nevertheless is a backward step for the union that helped to found the Labour Party in the first place.

The RMT decision, endorsed by a special conference, effectively led to disaffiliation from the major social-democratic party in Britain in favour of marginal support for another in Scotland. It breaks the link with Labour, to allow some Scottish branches to affiliate to the SSP – a small left social-democratic party that wraps itself around Scottish nationalism and past Trotskyite sentiment.

It cuts its ties with a party that can form governments and restore the railways to public ownership in favour of another that has a small presence in the Scottish Parliament that has few powers to reform the railway industry and in any case is dominated by Labour as well. It moves the union away from opposing the Tories and backing Labour into supporting fringe parties that spend most of their time opposing Labour.

Working people are often much wiser than the people who claim to lead them and this is why these small parties remain isolated amongst the working class despite all their pretensions. Labour isn’t the enemy of the working class nor is it a barrier to communist advance.

Rail workers’ anger at the Blair government’s treatment of the rail network was the key factor behind their union’s decision to end a link that goes back over a hundred years. But it also reflects a view from the union’s leadership that does not conform to reality.

 Time and time again it has been proved that there is no political space for two social-democratic parties in Britain. Labour already exists as the major engine for social-democratic reform and alternative parties including the SSP are never likely to be more than ginger groups on the fringe of organised labour as long as they themselves offer little more than a left social democratic parliamentary programme.

Most left social-democrats remain in the Labour Party scoring some success in winning the re-instatement of Ken Livingstone and almost bringing down the Blair Government over top-up fees. Clearly one of their tasks now is to fight for the return of RMT and the only way that can be done is by defeating Blair and his cronies and ensuring that his successors move to speedily renationalise the railway industry for the benefit of the people as a whole.

Though the Labour Party is dominated by the class-collaborating right wing, the possibility of their defeat exists as long as Labour retains its organisational links with the unions that fund it. The defeat of the right wing in most of the major unions over the past two years shows that this is possible.

Communists must support the continued affiliation of unions to the Labour Party and the affiliation of those that have already signed up. We want a democratic Labour Party and a democratic trade union movement. We demand that the Labour Party reflects the wishes of the millions of affiliated union members expressed through their democratic procedures and we must fight for a Labour Party controlled by its affiliates, as originally intended, to build a powerful instrument for progressive reforms, strengthen organised labour and benefit the working class. 

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