The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 30th September 2005

  Massive peace march in London

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by Daphne Liddle

THE LABOUR Party conference in Brighton this week started out promisingly, with a firm pledge that Blair will go before the next general election and Brown was in confident mood that he would soon inherit the top job.

Brown addressed the conference, speaking of “renewing New Labour” while pledging to carry on Tony Blair’s “reforms” in order to appease Blair and make it easy for him to go.

 Union leaders were busy flattering Brown, pleased that although he supports the war in Iraq and galloping privatisation at least he’s not Blair.

 Then on Tuesday, as if to say, “Fooled you all!” Blair was back on the podium to announce that his “reforms” will take at least another three years and he intends to supervise them personally.

 He spoke of the need for more and faster changes in the headlong rush to turn Britain into a giant free market, with everything for sale.

 Meanwhile his wife Cherie beamed and boasted to the press that they would not be moving out of Downing Street for many years – as though the place were their private property.

 Indeed Blair does now seem to think of the premiership as his own property. He has carefully and deliberately surrounded himself with sycophants who will feed his conceit and arrogance and is clearly quite out of touch with public opinion.

 Thatcher made the same error as when she spoke of “going on and on and on” she horrified even her own ranks and spurred them to get rid of her.

 Like Roman emperors, their flunkeys are terrified to tell them the truth and the inevitable assassination will come as a total shock.

 Blair’s stand will come as bitter news to the unions and the rank and file Labour members who worked so hard last spring to secure another Labour election victory in spite of Blair.

 Former Health Secretary Frank Dobson said then: “He was an enormous liability in this general election. If he had not been leader I doubt whether we would have lost a seat.”

 Eltham MP Clive Efford said: “It will be impossible for Tony Blair to stay on long. I favour an orderly transition to Gordon Brown. The outcome is inevitable.”

 And Hampstead and Highgate MP Glenda Jackson said: “The people have spoken. In fact they’ve screamed at the top of their lungs. The message is clear. They want Blair gone.”

 Backbench MPs issued a challenge: Blair must quit by this autumn’s conference or John Austin MP was willing to act as a stalking horse and put himself forward to test the opposition to Blair.

 It will be interesting to see if Austin keeps his word on this. The major change since then has been the untimely death of Robin Cook and without him it will be difficult to find a leading Labour MP to stand against the Blair-Brown double act.

 The reasons for Blair to go grow ever more urgent. Bush cannot win the Iraq War and keeping British troops there will only prolong the agony of the final ignominious withdrawal, causing unnecessary bloodshed both for the troops and for the long-suffering population of Iraq.

 Blair is now intent on the total privatisation of the NHS and our schools, demanding the changes be speeded up. And his is considering the reintroduction of nuclear power.

 Last Tuesday at the conference Bob Marshall-Andrews MP – who nearly lost his seat last May thanks to Blair – said: “I would like to see him go as soon as possible. The Iraq war was a resigning issue because we were badly misled.

 “In terms of rhetoric, the speech was very good and in terms of content it was well written. It was very low on self-analysis, very low on the state of the party, very low on any form of repentance on Iraq.”

 The main gist of Blair’s speech was that the privatisation programme he is trying to ram through as fast as possible – in the teeth of the wishes of the unions and the general public – are essential because otherwise Britain could not survive in the rapidly changing global market.

 But what does that mean? In what way would Britain fail? A whole country cannot just fall down dead. He means that a modern competitive capitalist country can no longer be governed in a traditional Labour, welfare state way. All vestiges of socialism must be abandoned.

 He really means that if Labour tried to govern this country for the benefit of the workers who live here – for the majority of the people – it is capitalism that would fail; it is the rich, the profiteers, who would fail.

 A combination of well off workers and falling profits is the capitalist definition of failure but it is not our definition of failure. We want socialism and the profiteers can go and do the other thing.


The problem is capitalism

  THIS YEAR’S Labour Party conference in Brighton is producing some mixed messages. Blair has at last formally admitted that he intends to step down before the next general election but then said he did not want to be hurried out of Number Ten. In his speech last Tuesday he indicated that it would take another three years to push through the reforms (privatisations) on his personal agenda. Clearly he doesn’t trust his designated heir, Gordon Brown to see them through, despite Brown’s latest pledges to faithfully carry on the “New Labour” policies.

 These policies will involve the complete privatisation of the NHS, our education system and other public services until the NHS, local authorities and even central government are reduced to administrative committees, meeting at intervals to dish out contracts to the private sector, with no democratic accountability.

 “New Labour” did not invent these ideas. They were first put about by Victorian capitalist economists like John Stuart Mill but later abandoned – even by Mill himself – because the rule of the market meets only the needs of those who can afford to pay and deepens social divisions – leading to class warfare.

 In Britain in the 1970s such extreme fundamental capitalist ideas were only to be found in the wild rantings of fringe libertarian economists in strange bookshops in Covent Garden. Then they were taken up, first by Pinochet and then by Thatcher. In 1997 Labour was elected to power on the popular expectation that Blair would reverse the privatisation juggernaut that was devastating public services in Britain and throughout the world.

 But “New Labour” has carried on these “reforms” because they are not the policies of a particular party but of the ruling class – of capitalism itself.

 It does no good for the trade unions to say over and over again that the private sector is much less efficient at providing good public services. Capitalism does not measure efficiency that way. The only question capitalism asks is: does it provide the opportunity to make profits?

 The same criterion was applied to the Iraq war. It had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, getting rid of Saddam, bringing “democracy” to Iraq or any of that idealistic rubbish. It was purely about oil and profit. But even by that criterion it has been an absolute disaster for Bush and Blair. Thanks to the heroic resistance of the Iraqi people, the most extreme elements of the global ruling class have suffered a real setback.

 Both Bush and Blair should have been kicked out long ago but their opponents in a divided ruling class have so far failed to rally enough strength to shift them.

 Once again Brown is feeling frustrated, waiting in the wings to take over from Blair and knowing that if it doesn’t happen soon, he’ll have nothing but a big financial storm to contend with by the time he does take office.

 In the meantime he is using weasel words to allow the unions to hope he will be better than Blair. He says that “New Labour must be renewed” – which could mean changed in some way to desperate trade union leaders who are grasping at straws in the hope of anything different to Blair.

 The unions have praised Brown’s conference speech – indicating that he must have said a lot more positive things to them behind the scenes than he said from the podium and that they are naïve or desperate or both if they really think he will be much different to Blair.

 But it seems that, since the death of Robin Cook, there are no serious rivals to Brown as heir to Blair. Blair is losing control: he failed to prevent a union victory in a conference vote on union rights and solidarity picketing. He may think he has another three years but that is not inevitable if the unions and other progressives can organise enough pressure.

 Getting rid of him will give a morale boost to the left, even if it will not significantly change “New Labour” policies. Capitalism will still be in charge of policy making. But in the longer term there are no solutions that will really benefit the working class except to get rid of capitalism altogether and replace it with socialism.

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