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(en) DA #29 - Social Democracy & Other Myths - From Labour pains to lassez fairyland

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 12 Feb 2004 09:58:57 +0100 (CET)

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Well on the way to 2 terms in, and Labour is still apparently in the
process of giving birth to our long-promised new caring capitalist Britain.
But, what’s this? The SWP and a thousand other splinter Left groups are
pointing out that the Labour government is no longer social democratic,
that the Labour socialist project has all gone Blair-shaped. Britain is
more drenched in lassez fair, undiluted, full-strength, free market
misery under Labour than it was under Thatcher. And, they say, there is
no way back for Labour, ever - it’s all buggered up now.
Could they be right? It is true that libertarian capitalism looks in
control. Workers’ rights have been attacked (e.g. see DA28) in
the name of ‘the market’. Distinctly ideological and political
decisions are given authority by referring to a neutral arbiter on high -
a god if you like - called ‘the market’.

Compassion has disappeared; minority groups, the powerless, and
young people are attacked for causing the decay of moral society and
drug problems, while lies are OK and greed is good. Look no further
than Bush’s attempts to ‘defend’ the occupation of Iraq
while thousands of us who know he’s a liar demonstrated across
London - and at his distribution of the spoils of victory to his favourite
Republican-donating corporations.

Whilst US troops are wishing they could get out of Iraq, US
corporations are queuing up to get in. Halliburton Oil have turned their
books around by half a billion dollars in six months on the back of their
slice of the action so far.

Protesters attended a carve-up conference representing McDonalds,
Nestle, Bechtel and Motorola, among others, and bid for Iraq’s
services and resources including water, electricity, education and
health sectors. Would be funny if it wasn’t actually happening. As
one protester put it; “The US and Britain, having illegally invaded
and occupied Iraq, are now forcing their free-market ideology on the
country whilst selling its assets to the highest bidder.”

BP engineers in Kuwait taught combat troops how to run the oil fields
in southern Iraq before the invasion. After it, BP took possession of
its reward - one of the first tankers of oil from Southern Iraq. BP,
Shell, Chevron and 7 other oil giants, have cleaned up the victors
contracts for Basra Light crude. Russian and French companies, who
have the local expertise from their former contracts with Saddam
Hussein, have got sod-all, and the Russians are a bit pissed of that a
23-year long contract signed in 1997 for the West Qurna field will now
be ripped up by the US-led administration. However, to cover himself,
Bush has signed Executive order number 13303, saying; “any
attachment, judgment, decree, execution, garnishment, or other
judicial process is prohibited, and shall be deemed null and void”,
with respect to “all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and
interests therein.” So, no come-backs… welcome to the logical,
fair, free market future according to Bush.

So, the Left groups, er, actually, yes, they are right, except for the fact
that Labour was never social democratic, it just happened to have
governed in social democratic times – as the Tories did way back
too. The world has moved on, and western capitalism doesn’t need
to pay for expensive welfare programmes any more, now it has stuffed
the unions, unleashed globalisation, and seen the end of the soviet
threat (Social Democracy – Dead or Alive?).

The worst thing about the Left’s analysis is its proposed solution
– we should all vote for some Lefty clique because they will bring
about true socialism, hold the city and global capitalism to ransom,
and drag Britain back to social democracy – and beyond, to
Left-led socialist nirvana. Er, that was roughly what Labour was
saying about a hundred years ago – are you seriously suggesting
we go around another 100-year loop and end up in the same
cul-de-sac? Sounds like we are being invited from lassez fairyland
frying pan into Left ‘leave it to us’ fire (Not the alternative,
Biting the hand we feed).

So, should we just accept lassez fairyland reality, GM crops, ID
cards, crazy housing policies and what not? Far from it, even away
from the massive anti-war/occupation and anti-Bush activity, there are
signs of real resistance. Over 30,000 people joined student protests in
late October over government plans to let universities triple tuition
fees to £3,000 a year. Firefighters across the country took unofficial
industrial action after employers tried reneging on the agreed pay deal
following the last strike. Wildcat strikes by thousands of post office
workers across the country ended in victory – as Schnews put it, a
victory that everyone who has to go out and earn a living should be
celebrating. As one postie explained; “We have got a reputation
for standing up for ourselves and they don’t like that.” Post
Office Chief Executive Adam Crozier certainly looks after himself,
raking in £500,000 a year, not to mention his other ‘jobs’. I
like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy

So, all these Labour pains, and we are left with the still-born reality
that waiting/voting for social democracy under Labour or any
‘alternative’ is like waiting for Godot. Freedom is not
something you can vote for, any more than you can buy it at the travel

* Direct Action is published by Solidarity Federation, the British section
of the International Workers’ Association
DA is the Solidarity Federation magazine which is about getting
real change with anarcho-syndicalism. What’s that?

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