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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VOTING IS NOT ENOUGH!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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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