(en) SOCIAL JUSTICE....OR 'NEW LABOUR'?

Keith Standrin (itusc@gn.apc.org)
Thu, 10 Apr 1997 22:23:55 GMT


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The following is a section of the International Trade Unionist Bulletin-(British) General Election Special and refers to the March for Social Justice this Saturday, 12 April 1997 in London. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------------------

Will anyone on the 12 April March for Social Justice expect to see there the banner of the Labour Party? Will anyone on the March expect the election of a Labour Government on 1 May to take forward a single one of the basic demands of the People's Charter for Social Justice?

On every one of these elementary demands, New Labour, far from being part of the solution, has been forged as the instrument with which to carry even further the attacks on working people by capital which have been made by Thatcher and the Tories for 18 years.

The Charter begins: 1. 'Immediate reinstatement with full trade union rights of the 500 sacked Liverpool dockers, the Magnet strikers, the Hillingdon hospital workers and all other unjustly sacked workers', and continues: 2. 'The right to join a trade union, to strike, to respect picket lines and to take solidarity action, immediate repeal of all anti-union legislation.'

What then shall we do about Blair, his election campaign, and a future Labour Government? The Labour Party has at no time given any support to the dockers and others who have been sacked for standing up for their rights. Blair on 8 April , speaking to an audience of businessmen, declared himself in favour of 'flexible labour markets' and affirmed that none of the anti-union legislation will be repealed. At the same time he boasts proudly that Britain has more repressive labour laws than any other European country. Even the watered-down promises of rights for part-time workers and union recognition when a majority of a firm's workers want it are dropped, as every day of the election campaign sees Blair, Brown and the others giving more assurances to the capitalist class that its interests are safe with 'New Labour'.

What about the Charter's next point? 3. 'The right to work, and to job-security. Reversal of the policies of casualisation, privatisation and deregulation. Democratic planning to secure full employment. No compulsory overtime.' In the same speech to businessmen in which 'flexibility of labour markets' was embraced, Blair went beyond even the famous abolition of Clause Four and came out as an enthusiast for privatisation. As for democratic planning to secure full employment, he said the exact opposite: '... economic activity is best left to the private sector with market forces being fully encouraged to operate'! We all recognise this as pure Thatcherism. The continued operation of these very 'market forces', when the future of humanity requires that production and distribution are controlled by the freely associated producers themselves, is of course the cause of mass unemployment, and will continue to cause it.

Labour spokesmen, (always looking for anything but socialism) used to talk about the 'mixed economy', 'social market economy' or 'regulated market economy'. They howled in protest when some of us told them that in a market economy the market is the regulator, and that if the 'market' will not stand full employment and decent wages, then there will be unemployment and low wages. Not only is that exactly what happened, but Blair now tells us it is the best possible system!

The capitalism that he represents and recommends is in the stage of structural crisis, that is to say, it has reached the limits of being able from time to time and in particular (imperialist) countries like Britain to moderate and continue its rule through dispensing reforms and a modicum of planning. That is why there is no Labour 'full employment' policy.

That is why the working class finds itself in the strange situation in which the report on unemployment from the Churches can be said with certainty to be the most left-wing political document from an 'established' institution or party to have appeared in the General Election campaign! The Churches report roundly accuses Labour and all the parties of cynically and hypocritically ignoring this main issue of unemployment and poverty, instead concentrating on attracting the votes of the comfortable so-called 'middle England ', conspiring in concealing the real unemployment figures, and intending to continue and intensify the means test. That is undoubtedly true. Naturally no one expects the Churches to explain that this is in the nature of capitalism as its structural crisis unfolds, and that the working class and its allies need to organise as a political force to take power and work for an international socialist solution, but this Report is a powerful indictment of 'New Labour'.

If we were to take every one of the demands of the People's Charter for Social Justice (democratic rights, welfare state, homelessness, withdrawal from Ireland, protection of the environment and of our children's future, organisation of workers internationally to put an end to militarism and war) we would find that New Labour stands diametrically opposed to our interests.

It has to be said plainly: The idea that a Labour victory at the polls on 1 May will be a defeat for the capitalist class is a lie. Every day In this election campaign, we repeat, the Labour leaders go even farther to the right than could have been imagined even two years ago. Why? Why does Blair respond like one of Pavlov's dogs with a leap to the right to reassure his chosen audience (big business, never mind the 'middle England' voting fodder) every time Heseltine or Major criticises New Labour? This tells us the real class relations at work here. Blair is a willing tool of big business, we know. We saw the abolition of Clause Four. We saw the attempt to lose the trade union image. Now we see the open commitment to continue the work of Thatcherism in every sphere.

To end, a warning is necessary. The secret of this obscene spectacle of Labour's dash to the right in the election campaign is this. The finishing touches are being put to the preparation of New Labour as the instrument of the next stage of the offensive of capital to prevent the working class from reconstructing its class movement on new foundations (something which is represented in this March for Social Justice).

That is why Blair uses the sinister phrase - actually it is a threat - of 'a third way'. What does this mean? According to Blair, 'There should be no dogmatic belief that the private sector should do everything or that the public sector should do everything. it is the public interest that is important ... What counts is what works.'

Just as New Labour's economic and anti-welfare means-test policies are not new at all (remember Labour Premier Ramsay Macdonald's 'National Government' in the hungry thirties), so the idea of a third way is a well-worn formula for the blackest reaction. Mosley began in the Labour Party before founding his 'New Party' on the road to his British Union of Fascists. That is not to say that New Labour's leaders are fascists. Fascist movements are formed in a different way. But we should be under no illusions about the unprecedentedly thoroughgoing way in which these last stages of the grooming of Blair's 'party of government' as the instrument of big capital's rule are being rushed through. For 'public interest' read 'national interest', and for 'what counts is what works' read 'the trains ran on time', and you will have the uncomfortable feeling that you've heard all this before somewhere.

To defeat the Tories, to defeat capital, will clearly not be the result of electing a Labour government, especially one which openly embraces every Tory policy. The job facing all of us is to prepare for a real defeat of the capitalist enemy, and that can be inflicted only by the working class itself, together with its allies. Not the election of a Labour Party government, but the building in every town, every factory, every office, every community, every union, every educational institution, of a new revolutionary socialist organisation of the working class is what we must prepare for. The People's Charter for Social Justice is the foundation of a programme for such an organisation. Let the 12 April March be the beginning of that. _____________________________________________________________________ International Trade Union Solidarity Campaign (ITUSC) at:- PO Box 18, Epsom, Britain KT18 7YR Tel/Fax: ++44 (0) 1372 817778 e-mail: itusc@gn.apc.org URL: http://www.itusc.org.uk The ITUSC is an international and internationalist association of organised workers and communities, dedicated to rebuilding the workers' movement and to overcoming sectarianism and division in working class organisations. It was founded in 1991 on the following principles: 1) trade unions independent of the state and employers; 2) democracy within trade unions, and; 3) workers' internationalism. Any individuals or organisations that accept these principles and are prepared to work for them, are regarded as comrades by the ITUSC. _________________________________________________________________

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