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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HANGS ON GRIMLY
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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