New Labour, not just Blair, is the target
At the People’s Assembly called by the Stop the War Coalition on March 12, trade union leaders pledged that their members would take action against an invasion of Iraq, even if this meant breaking anti-strike laws.
Leaders representing the rail workers, train drivers and communication workers made these commitments. If they keep to their promises, they are a major step forward in the struggle against the New Labour government.
Billy Hayes, leader of the CWU postal workers’ union, also denounced the entire New Labour cabinet, not just prime minister Blair. Hayes is right to identify the whole New Labour gang with the policy of invading and occupying Iraq.
This is not a case of Blair out on a limb in an unholy alliance with Bush, the man who stole the White House in a fraudulent election. Just as Bush is backed by his administration, so too is Blair. This war against Iraq is a New Labour project through and through.
New Labour’s whole existence is based on encouraging and facilitating corporate-led globalisation. The fact that this project is in crisis, as shown by the collapse in world stock markets, only adds to the desperation over Iraq.
What the global capitalist economy urgently needs are new markets, access to cheaper oil and governments that accept the “values” of the “free world”. This is what is driving New Labour to war. All the key figures in New Labour are committed to the hilt, including Brown, Blunkett, Straw, Hoon, Milburn, Beckett and Hewitt.
What should the growing anti-war movement seek to achieve? Some of the leaders of the Stop the War Coalition want to restrict the movement to calls for peace, the resignation of Blair as prime minister and a change of government policy. This was the essence of the resolution prepared for the People’s Assembly.
This policy does not even begin to get to the heart of the crisis and conveniently leaves the issue of the New Labour government out of it altogether. Yet it is a question that the movement cannot avoid. In any case, it is inconceivable that Blair could go without threatening the whole government’s existence. That is why he is in talks with the Tories for a possible national emergency government.
New Labour is a reactionary, anti-democratic government in every respect – on asylum seekers, civil liberties, privatisation of public services, anti-union laws, transport and housing. What use is such a government to workers and professional people opposed to the war? The short answer is none whatsoever.
New Labour has no legitimacy or authority because it speaks only for corporate interests. It does not give a fig for the vast majority who oppose an attack on Iraq. We should not, therefore, limit the great movement against the war to putting pressure on Blair and the government to change course.
The potential of the millions who have marched against war is far greater. They constitute a social movement rather than a protest. They want representation where none exists. They want to control their own future rather than have it determined for them by a handful of unaccountable New Labour politicians and corporate executives.
With the involvement of millions of people, especially workers in key industries, the course of history can be changed, including overcoming the causes of war.
Many will say there is no viable alternative at this point to New Labour as a government. This is true, but this fact cannot be made into an excuse for propping up this regime. If the movement is strong and mature enough to get rid of New Labour, it has the capacity to build an alternative in its place in a short period of time.
The People’s Assembly showed this. People from all over the country, representing different communities and organisations, were present as a would-be new representative body to rival parliament. Yet there was nothing on the agenda about carrying the work of the assembly forward.
The Charter for Basic Democratic Rights submitted a resolution calling for the assembly to be constituted on a permanent basis to work for a truly representative democracy in Britain. Only then did the platform respond by saying the assembly would be reconvened at some unspecified date. Another motion calling for local assemblies was narrowly defeated on the advice of the platform.
Yet the issue is one of power. Who rules Britain? Clearly, the majority do not. The institutions like parliament are clearly unrepresentative, not to say powerless in the face of the domination of political and social life by the transnational corporations.
The alternative to New Labour is not to be found in the rearranging of parliamentary deckchairs but in taking forward ideas like the People’s Assembly. Such bodies, whatever they are called, can and have to become real, alternative power structures.
To oppose the war in any serious way involves a struggle for political, economic and social power. The bringing down of New Labour is a crucial step along this road. Regime change begins at home.
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