Time for Blair to go
Support for the Labour Party has fallen from 43 per cent to 39 per cent, an indication that the party itself is not so unpopular as Blair himself, and that he has become a liability to it.
The Tories have scarcely benefited. Their popularity has risen only one per cent. And their leader, Iain Duncan Smith has a personal popularity rating of minus 23, below even that of Tony Blair.
But Liberal leader Charles Kennedy, who has openly opposed the war, has improved his personal popularity rating to plus 21.
The poll showed for the first time an absolute majority, 52 per cent, against the war – with or without a second United Nations mandate. Only 29 per cent support the war – the lowest figure so far.
Last weekend’s march has hit Blair hard. It showed that at least two million people in Britain not only think he is wrong, but are prepared to come to London or Glasgow and march for several hours in the freezing cold to say so.
If nothing else, Blair has put an end to general apathy over political issues. And the growth of the peace movement is demonstrating to millions of ordinary people that it is worth making an effort. If there are enough of us, we can change things.
Blair may be pretending not to hear. He may be declaring his intention to carry on regardless. But there is no doubting he is rattled.
That is why he has been responding with quite irrational angry outbursts. He has told the peace marchers they will have “blood on their hands” for obstructing the removal of Saddam.
This is ridiculous. Blair – and Bush and Clinton and Bush’s father – already have the blood of millions of Iraqis on their hands who have died as a result of the first Gulf War and the cruel blockade which started in 1990.
Blair’s proposed war would add thousands of casualties to this. Even if Saddam were guilty of all the crimes he is accused of, the ordinary Iraqi people would hardly be liberated by being blown to bits by the US and British military.
It’s a bit like the mediaeval Church which burnt heretics alive to save their souls.
Then Blair tried to claim the marchers did not represent mainstream public opinion. He tried to claim that the millions of people in Britain who did not go on the march must therefore support him.
The opinion polls have shown this to be nonsense. Such an outrageous argument shows how desperate the man has become. His time is nearly up, he knows it and he is panicking.
The usual decent Labour MPs were on the march, as expected. But there were also some who used to be firm Blairites.
When the careerists and opportunists start to distance themselves from Blair, like rats leaving a sinking ship, it is obvious they now see him as a hindrance and a liability to their fortunes.
But Iraq is not the only issue. Since he became Prime Minister Blair has held the trade unions in open contempt. He has continued the Tory policies of privatisation and transferring public sector jobs to the private sector.
He once jested about the marks on his back from battling with public sector unions over the protection of workers’ jobs.
Since then the trade unions have changed. Right-wing opportunist leaders have had no opportunity to ingratiate themselves with him. So they have been forced either to swing left or be replaced by a new generation of more militant union leaders.
But last weekend, at Labour’s spring conference in Glasgow, Blair was so desperate he made big concessions to the unions over the protection of public sector jobs that are privatised.
The bosses are furious. Now they can no longer make big profits from public services by cutting wages and conditions, they are not so interested in privatisation deals. That profit was always their only motive.
Two major unions have leadership elections coming up – the GMB and TGWU. Blair is desperate now that these unions should not move further to left and away from him. But it seems that all the candidates are doing their utmost to distance themselves from him.
Now, the description Blairite would be the kiss of death to their chances of winning support.
Recently John Monks, the retiring TUC general secretary, warned that it is now virtually impossible for anyone to win a union contest standing on a Blairite ticket.
A senior Number 10 official has privately admitted it would like to see Jack Dromey win the TGWU leadership. This will probably ensure that he does not.
It is high time the unions and the Labour Party recalled their conferences to discuss the electoral liability that Blair has become and to decide on a replacement.
That replacement will have to distance themselves from all of Blair’s most unpopular policies, including war on Iraq and privatisation.
Gordon Brown’s chances of being that replacement took a nose-dive last week when the ICM poll revealed that his popularity has also fallen dramatically, from plus 45 points to plus six points. Unlike Blair, it is still in positive figures – just.
But Brown is too much tied to Blair’s worst policies to stand much chance.
Whoever is chosen will be an improvement but it would be naïve to imagine they would have the power to deliver anything we would describe as socialism.
The World Bank, the IMF, the United States government and all the power of global finance imperialism would oppose them at every step.
But they could certainly put up a better resistance than the Blairites who have made themselves part and parcel of that system.
For real socialism, we need to change the whole system, we need
to build for a revolution.
Blair Must Go
Two million people filled the streets of London demanding no war on Iraq last weekend. Millions upon millions more across the globe demonstrated to give Bush and Blair the same message. Tony Blair’s response has been once again to turn his back on the people and the party he leads. He told Scottish Labour activists that he did not “seek unpopularity as a badge of honour. But sometimes it is the price of leadership and the cost of conviction”. But it is more often the price of cowardice and treachery.
Some Labour politicians like to talk nostalgically about their party’s past — the “achievements” of Wilson and Callaghan in the 60s and 70s; the “golden days” of the post-war Attlee government which established the “Welfare State” and created a large public sector. They seldom, if ever, refer to the first Labour governments of the 20s or its leader James Ramsay Macdonald. And with good reason.
Unlike most of Labour’s current leaders, Ramsay Macdonald came from humble origins; the illegitimate son of a Scottish maidservant. He spent his early years in poverty and came to work in London where he was drawn to the social-democratic ideas of the fledgling Independent Labour Party. He rose quickly – elected to parliament in 1906 and by 1911 leader of the Labour Party.
Unlike Tony Blair, Macdonald was a pacifist and when war came in 1914 he was one of the few Labour leaders who refused to support it – a decision which cost him the leadership and later his seat in the 1918 general election. But he bounced back in 1922 regaining his seat and the leadership of the Labour Party.
Macdonald is remembered for the two Labour minority governments of 1923 and 1929. The first was entirely dependent on Liberal support and it achieved next to nothing. The second was still dependent on Liberal support. In 1931, in the midst of mass unemployment following the great global capitalist slump of 1929, Macdonald and his supporters agreed to slash the already meagre unemployment benefits. This was rejected by most of his Cabinet. The government resigned though Macdonald stayed on to form a “national” government consisting of Labour turncoats together with the Tories and Liberals. He headed a government which introduced work camps for unemployed men and conducted a violent campaign against trade union conditions and freedom of speech. Macdonald remained premier until he was eased out of office in 1935. He died two years later.
Unlike Tony Blair, Macdonald talked about the evils of capitalism and the benefits that socialism would bring for working people, though he did nothing in practice to achieve it. This was what Lenin meant when he described Macdonald as using “smooth, melodious, banal, and socialist-seeming phraseology which serves in all developed capitalist countries to camouflage the policy of the bourgeoisie inside the Labour Movement”.
Macdonald was a shamefaced social-democrat who said his governments could only administer capitalism, not socialism. Blair, on the other hand, never uses the word socialism at all, except to dismiss it as out-of-date and unworkable. Both Labour leaders betrayed the high hopes of the millions who had voted them into high office. Both men forgot that their authority came from the Labour Party membership and the people.
Ramsay Macdonald was twice the man of a Tony Blair. But when he turned his back on the Labour Party he was rejected and expelled.
Labour’s Socialist Campaign Group is calling for a recall Labour Party conference to decide whether the party supports Blair’s warmongering or not.
The Labour Party membership must re-assert its authority over those who claim to lead it. It must tell them that this war will not be in the name of the Labour Party. And if Tony Blair ignores them, then he, like Ramsay Macdonald, must go.
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