Where we go from here
In the wake of the TUC and New Labour conferences, and the September 27 anti-war demonstration, many people are left wondering where we go from here. Because it is clear, or at least it should be, that one-off protests and pressure on the Blair government will not produce the results we want.
The trade union leaders known as the ‘awkward squad’ are clearly intent on propping up the Blair regime by refusing to mount a serious challenge to it. That is why they avoided putting down a resolution on Iraq at Labour’s conference in Bournemouth. Blair told them in no uncertain Thatcherite terms that he was not for turning, knowing he was dealing with people whose bark is worse than their bite.
Kevin Curran, the new general secretary of the GMB union, made it clear after the conference that all the efforts would be placed on “developing a manifesto that will help re-elect this government for a radical third term” (Independent, October 5). In other words, the ‘awkward squad’ is devoting its energy not to fighting this reactionary, capitalist government but to improving it in time for the next election. The only thing awkward about this group is their inability to grasp principles.
The stage-managed New Labour conference resembled a populist rally. Delegates cheered a prime minister who had co-led the imperialist invasion of Iraq and in his speech attacked asylum seekers, defended ‘foundation’ (privatisation) hospitals and tuition fees for students. What the conference also demonstrated is that at constituency level, the party is dominated by Blairite supporters. New Labour is a totally different organisation to the former party, which it has overthrown. It cannot be “reclaimed”, as the union leaders wistfully hope. It is tied hand and foot to the state and to the global corporations that call the shots.
Meanwhile, the Stop the War Coalition organised a demonstration on the eve of Labour’s conference. The official demands of the march were restricted to a call for an inquiry into the invasion of Iraq. Organisers of the 40,000-strong march couldn’t even bring themselves to call for Blair’s resignation. Now the coalition is asking people to write to Blair, politely asking him to tell Bush that his planned state visit next month is off! This takes pressure politics to a new low.
There are reports that George Monbiot, the noted anti-capitalist globalisation campaigner and writer, is joining forces with others to launch a new coalition. This is intended to challenge New Labour at next year’s European and local elections. The new coalition is intended to include peace groups, Muslim faith organisations, socialists and others.
Once more, it seems, we are being asked to divert our energies into an electoral campaign where the turnout is certain to be extremely low as a result of massive indifference and disinterest in traditional politics. This is the result of the transformation of parties like Labour into managers of the market economy and the fact that increasingly people have to make to their own pension, health, education, transport and housing arrangements.
This disenchantment is something we should welcome and build on. Surely, we need to concentrate our energies on building a movement that argues for and elaborates a comprehensive alternative to the world of globalised capitalism and what passes for politics today. Under capitalist globalisation, particularly in Britain and the USA, democratic life is whittled down and rendered meaningless. The power and influence of the corporations knows few bounds. We have to make the right to vote mean something by extending democracy rather than accepting the status quo of meaningless local and European elections.
That is why the Movement for a Socialist Future is supporting the call made by the Network for Economic and Political Democracy for a conference next year to take forward a strategy for fundamental and progressive change. The provisional agenda rightly includes plans to discuss and decide on proposals for developing a democratic system beyond Parliament through local People’s Assemblies with real power. We need to reshape the state, getting rid of privilege, ending the power of the secret intelligence agencies and reorganising the police and justice system.
In place of private corporate power, the conference proposes a strategy for democratic, social ownership and control of economic and financial resources. There is a plan to discuss solutions to the environmental crisis and use science and technology for the common good. We support the intention of linking with movements in other countries and putting forward alternatives to the European Union of big business. The task or organising a movement to achieve these aims in practice is obviously central to such a conference.
In promoting his new book, The Age of Consent, Monbiot argues: "Our task is not to overthrow globalisation, but to capture it, and to use it as a vehicle for humanity's first global democratic revolution. All over our planet, the rich get richer while the poor are overtaken by debt and disaster. The world is run not by its people but by a handful of unelected or underelected executives who make the decisions on which everyone else depends: concerning war, peace, debt, development and the balance of trade. Without democracy at the global level, the rest of us are left with no means of influencing these men but to shout abuse and hurl ourselves at the lines of police defending their gatherings and decisions. Does it have to be this way?"
can’t disagree with his analysis. The central ssue is do we offer a
fundamental challenge to globalised capitalist economic and political
power, or do we fritter our energies away in building futile, electoral
pressure groups? All the evidence is that protest and pressure won’t
change New Labour from a capitalist government or the way the corporations
do business. Their first duty is and will always remain to their shareholders
and the markets .
The massive anti-war movement revealed a illingness to challenge the status quo. Our way forward is to build on this with the objective of mobilising the mass of people to shape their own future by taking history into their own hands. It’s not the easy option but it is the only practical way to transform society.
Movement for a Socialist Future 15 October 2003
15 October 2003