The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 7th May 2004

The real Iraqi flag still flying high

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by Daphne Liddle

THE APPROACHING local elections could be the final straw that undermines Tony Blair’s hold on Downing Street if the pollsters are correct and Labour loses a lot of ground.

 The signs are that the results will be disastrous for Labour. Last Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph published a YouGov poll showed the Tories under Michael Howard four points ahead of Labour while public confidence in Blair himself as a Prime Minister has plummeted.

 Around 40,000 people have left the Labour Party recently and membership is now at its lowest level for 70 years. This leaves the party with very few willing to take an active part in the kind of doorstep campaigning that persuades people to come out and vote in local elections.

 Most parties in government expect to do less well in mid-term local elections but a new general election is looming and Labour backbenchers are getting their calculators out.
lose their jobs

On the current showing at least 70 of them could expect to lose their jobs, leaving Labour with a very small majority – facing knife-edge votes every other week.

 The calculators are also being used to work out how many they need to mount a real challenge to Blair’s leadership of the parliamentary Labour Party.

Behind the scenes some Labour MPs are rallying to put Gordon Brown forward as an alternative to Blair and claiming a difference of opinion between the two over further privatisation of the public sector. Brown is said to want to slow this process.

 But there was no sign of this in an election article he wrote for the Guardian in which he backed Blair to the hilt.

 Brown made one fleeting reference to “our enduring Labour values” and then spoke of advancing “an enterprise culture” and the need to “continue our reforms to create world-class public services” – by continuing back-door privatisation.

 Both Labour and the Conservatives launched their local election campaigns last Tuesday. Labour concentrated on attacking the Tory agenda of the 1980s and 90s, reviving nightmare memories of swingeing public service cuts and attacks on workers’ rights.

 Labour has failed to restore those workers’ rights.

The Tories’ own agenda has moved since then. It is a lot further to the right. Howard spends a lot of time in the House of Commons taking apart Blair’s blunders and inconsistencies.

He rarely mentions his own policies, which would mean the virtual end of the NHS. Higher education would become again the preserve only of the wealthy elite.

Blair’s biggest blunder of course has been Iraq and tying himself to the global policies of the ever more extreme right-wing Bush regime in the United States.

 This issue has split the global ruling class – it has damaged the profit prospects of many powerful capitalists by throwing away the mask of bourgeois democracy. It has divided the US from Europe, from the UN and escalated opposition to US policies all around the world.

Last year the warmongers’ excuse that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was exploded. But they claimed the invasion was a good thing anyway because it got rid of Saddam.

Then last week photos emerged of American troops torturing and abusing Iraqi civilian prisoners. These were followed by similar pictures in the Daily Mirror of an Iraqi prisoner being tortured and humiliated by British troops.

 On Wednesday lawyers for 14 Iraqi bereaved families began a case in the High Court in London against the British army on behalf of their loved ones who had been killed by British troops without any justification.

  The pictures carry no surprises for those of us who are well aware of the brutality of any imperialist occupation: like Ireland, Algeria or Vietnam.

 But they tore away Blair’s last shred of a phoney moral justification for the invasion of Iraq, or pretence that the action was in any way for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

The coming local elections will be damaging for Labour. Many will refuse to vote for a party led by Blair and may vote for other small parties. Most though will simply stay at home.

 These people are not Tory supporters but it is the Tories who will benefit most from their inaction.

 This is the bitter truth of bourgeois democracy – for the working class and progressives it is not really democratic at all. But we can seize ourselves some democracy if realise that voting is just not enough.

 That is what the ruling class would like, for us meekly to accept the tiny amount of inadequate democracy they let us have and demand no more. We must educate, agitate, organise and mobilise as a class to seize what they will not give – to build towards a socialist revolution. 


Stop the torture! End the occupation!

HORRIFIC IMAGES of systematic Gestapo-like torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the US Abu Ghraib concentration camp should come as no surprise to us. And as the British government does everything the Americans want these days, reports of similar despicable acts by members of the British army of occupation in southern Iraq are only what we would expect.

Not that the British army needs any tutors for lessons in beatings and torture. The whole ethos of the Army is based on bullying whether they be raw recruits in training or civilians in the occupied north of Ireland. The annals of the popular struggles to end British imperial rule from India to Ireland during the 20th century are full of shameful episodes of brutality and terror by the instruments of British imperialism.

The torture of civilians and prisoners of war is a clear breach of the Geneva Conventions that the imperialist powers always cite when it suits them. The Army and the Government say they are investigating the specific allegations made by serving soldiers that were leaked to the media last week.

If the charges are proven, doubtless some individual soldiers will be punished and perhaps some officers will be admonished. But it mustn’t stop at that. The entire population of Iraq, apart from a handful of quislings and collaborators, are subject to daily humiliation and degradation by the occupation forces. Now they are fighting back to regain their freedom and drive the imperialists out. The only way to end the beatings and torture is to end the occupation.

Thatcher’s Jubilee

The Tories are indulging in an orgy of self-praise to mark the 25th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s election victory in 1979 – and the prolonged offensive against the working class that followed during the 18 years of Tory government.

According to the Tory press, we are now living in some sort of demi-paradise – all down to what they still call “Thatcherism”.  We are constantly told that Britain now has the fourth strongest economy in the world is also apparently due to the “reforms” Thatcher and Major pushed through during those long dark years.

Britain certainly has become a millionaires’ playground but who have paid for it? Working people – workers whose welfare benefits, public utilities and health service has been slashed by cuts, privatisation and neglect.

Workers, whose unions have been stripped of their rights to free collective bargaining and now work the longest hours in western Europe. Workers whose hopes and dreams of a better future based on free education and a comfortable pension on retirement have been destroyed. 

Labour was swept back to office in 1997 by millions of working people who paid the price of  “Thatcherism” and were sick of the Tories and all that they stood for. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Blair and his cronies, who have pursued almost identical policies in their quest to serve the interests of the capitalists, industrialists and landowners of the British ruling class.

When the going gets tough – and it is now – Blair & Co raise the spectre of a Tory come-back to knock the labour movement back into line behind the “New Labour” agenda. Blair thinks that the Tory bogey plus a few gimmicks like votes at 16 will be enough to preserve his leadership and see him through another election.

While there can be no doubt that a Tory government would be much worse than the one we’ve got now, Blair doesn’t possess a divine right to lead the Labour Party or the Government. 

Well, millions of working people have seen through Blair and his cheap spin-merchants. Millions are campaigning for peace and the restoration of union rights. The best way to keep the Tories out is to replace Blair and his clique with Labour leaders who will respond to the demands of the millions who put them in office in the first place.

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