The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 18th May 2007

Most Labour voters oppose the war in Iraq

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by Daphne Liddle

TONY Blair
has set the date for his resignation on 27th June and MPs and trade union leaders have acknowledged this as a great opportunity to examine, debate and refresh the Labour Party’s policies.

 But, it seems, too few have been willing to put their money where their mouth is and back a real change. Instead they are bowing their heads to the perceived inevitability of Gordon Brown’s succession and, fearing to get into his bad books, they are letting down their constituents and memberships rather than jeopardise their careers.

 This is hardly a new phenomenon and illustrates yet again the inadequacy of bourgeois democracy to defend the interests of the working class.

 As we go to press, John McDonnell MP, the only possible challenger to Brown’s succession, is 15 MP signatures short of the minimum 44 that he needs to trigger and election contest and there is less than 18 hours to the deadline.

 So in spite of Brown saying he would welcome a contest and a proper debate he and the majority of Labour MPs have opted to do the opposite and to stick with New Labour policies: with privatisation and with backing George Bush’s disastrous occupation of Iraq.

  The McDonnell campaign has been working hard. A letter to the Guardian from supporters, said: “As a range of MPs, Labour Party NEC members, trade unionists, councillors, party activists, community workers, and campaigners, we are asking Labour MPs to nominate John McDonnell in order to allow a genuine debate about the future direction of our party.

“We believe that a coronation of Gordon Brown that excludes party members and trade unionists from having a say will be inconsistent with the proud democratic traditions of our party. Polls show that an overwhelming proportion of party members want the chance to participate in a leadership contest with more than one candidate.

 “We welcome John McDonnell’s commitment to a leadership contest based on policies, not personalities. His grassroots campaign has won huge support right across the labour movement and has succeeded in winning large numbers of people back to the Labour Party. Above all, we believe that having a leader imposed on us without any democratic mandate will prove to be far more divisive than having a healthy debate which can only strengthen our party.”

 The campaign has also published a manifesto: Another World is Possible – a social democrat programme that could not deliver that alternative world under the current bourgeois parliamentary system but which could have made some important advances for the working class.

 Outside Parliament the real class struggle goes on, as ever. And the changeover from Blair to Brown is still an opportunity to bring pressure to bear on the Government on vital working class issues.

 Union leaders have been calling for change and although their actions have been a lot weaker than their words, there is every reason for their members to confront them and hold them to their word on campaigning issues.

 Unison general secretary Dave Prentis criticised Blair’s record of “reforming” public services. He said: “It has become all too obvious that change is being brought about in haste and without any assessment of whether it will improve our public services for our communities.

 “Endless reforms and pointless reorganisations across public services are sucking away vital resources from frontline delivery.

 “As a consequence, the morale of public services workers is low and urgently needs lifting. This will be a huge challenge for the new Prime Minister.”

 Paul Kenny, the GMB general secretary, said Blair’s departure was a new opportunity for change. He said: “The challenge now for the Labour Party is to find a new direction and to restore the idealism, energy and vision which brought the party to power in 1997 or face defeat and the political wilderness for a long time.”

 The new giant union Unite, formed by a merger between the Transport and General Workers’ Union with Amicus, called for the party reconnect with its core supporters.

 Tony Woodley, general secretary of the TGWU section of Unite, said: “Tony Blair’s legacy as an election-winner for Labour and as someone who did so much to bring peace to Northern Ireland will unfortunately always be overshadowed by the catastrophe of the Iraq invasion.

 “Today Labour must look to the future. The debate around the leadership must focus on those issues which have driven so many voters away from the party – growing inequality, the loss of manufacturing jobs, privatisation of public services and, of course, Iraq. If, under new leadership, the party can reconnect on these issues we can surely stop David Cameron’s march on Downing Street.”

 Joint general secretary Derek Simpson, of the Amicus section of Unite, said: “Over the next seven weeks the labour movement has a precious opportunity to re-engage with its core supporters and align policy with the aspirations of hard working families.

 “The new leadership of the party must focus on the easing the daily struggle that working people face, the struggle for job security, for decent and affordable housing, for equal opportunity for their children and for a balance between their working and their family lives.

 “The next seven weeks of labour pains should be a rebirth for our party and our government.”

 With or without a leadership contest, genuine labour and trade union activists must step up the pressure on the new Labour leader to abandon Blairism and “New Labour” and to deliver an exit from Iraq and more working class friendly policies at home.


Which side are they on?

BLAIR HAS FINALLY announced his impending resignation as Prime Minister and Gordon Brown is now wooing the British public to support his succession. Given the media assumption that this is a foregone conclusion we might wonder why he is bothering but perhaps he is more worried about the challenge from the left than he pretends. Brown claims he does not believe in spin and that policies are more important than style – but that claim in itself is driven by spin.

 Brown has suddenly become charming and outgoing and, more to the point, is hinting there will be real policy changes. He says he will prioritise housing and has hinted he may drop the mad identity card system and back off from NHS privatisation. If these hints were true, he would certainly be a better Prime Minister than Blair.

 But what is his record in office as Chancellor? His very first act was to give the Bank of England control over interest rates; he has practically halved corporation tax so that the international top capitalists now regard London as a tax haven. He has doubled spending on health and education but structured it in such a way that all the extra money ends up in private business pockets. And he has presided over debacles in pension funding and the tax credit system.

 In 1997 Blair and Brown were elected on a promise to rescue the NHS from the internal market system introduced by the Tories. They did so and for a few years it began to improve. Now, with foundation status trusts, they have reintroduced the internal market. They have saddled trusts with huge PFI debts and economic penalties for exceeding their budgets that effectively set them up to fail. They poured NHS money into private hospitals and treatment centres at the expense of the beleaguered trusts.

 Is Brown really on the side of the bosses or the workers? He is sweet-talking the electorate now and he may even make a few popular changes initially. But in the long term, big business and the international global capitalist structures want privatisation accelerated; they like housing shortages because it puts up house prices, rents and land values – all sources of great profit.

 And even if the police are not so hot on the giant all-encompassing data base that will back up the ID card system – big business is drooling over its marketing and sales potential. And of course it is big business that will build and run the IT system – as it has done with all other Government IT systems. They hardly actually need an elected government now to run things when their machines can micro-manage all our lives.

 Brown has kept economic depression at bay on the strength of spiralling personal debt that has enslaved most of the population, forcing us all to work long, long hours to pay off our debts. It is a form of Keynesianism that sees the working class take on the burden of deficit spending in order to keep the economy going – but it’s a trick that cannot last long. The personal bankruptcies and home repossessions are already mounting.

 In the long term Brown will do what big business wants. On the other hand his sole remaining challenger, John McDonnell, has a clear manifesto of policies that really will benefit the working class, including the full restoration of trade union rights. Seventy three per cent of all Labour Party rank and file members want a proper leadership contest to re-examine Labour’s policies and the majority back the policies that McDonnell is campaigning for. If the Labour MPs do not come up with the necessary 45 signatures to trigger a real contest they will have helped Blair to kill the Labour Party.

 Even if McDonnell does not win, the debate and election process will bring more pressure to bear on Brown to come across with some improvements for the working class and will reinvigorate the struggle within the party.

 Real change will not come about through Parliament; it will only come about when the working class in Britain is organised and mobilised to impose its demands on the ruling class but a win by McDonnell will lift the morale of every active working class fighter in the country and bring that day nearer.

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