The Socialist 11 October 2003
Bosses Get Rich - Workers Get 30p
"Tough With The Workers, Toadying With The Millionaires"
Former Liverpool councillor, one of the 47 who fought the Thatcher government and former President of the District Labour Party, Tony Mulhearn gives his impression of Tony Blair's speech at Labour Party conference.
If any labour movement activist was apprehensive about breaking from New Labour and supporting the call for a new party of the working class, New Labour's conference must have dispelled at least some of the doubts.
It seemed to be based on a script for a new series of Fawlty Towers, with Blair in the role of the manic Basil Fawlty repeating the mantra 'Don't mention the war' to his staff when German guests checked in, bullying Manuel the Spanish waiter, followed by craven fawning in the presence of a guest who professed to be a Lord.
A striking feature of the media coverage was that the expert analysts couldn't understand why Blair, instead of being called to account for his deception over Iraq and his humiliating obsequiousness to Bush, was cheered and given a seven-minute standing ovation by the delegates.
It was lost on these experts that the euphoric clapping by the delegates suggested that constituencies are so sanitised and cleansed of socialism and socialists, that they have been colonised by people from another planet, or at least another party, the Tory Party.
Some of the analysts even sounded nostalgic for the tumultuous eighties. But what did Blair use to soften up the delegates?
He praised Kinnock's courage for doing the bidding of the press barons and dealing with Militant in 1985, thus setting New Labour 'on the road to government' - naturally this received a roar of approval.
'Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel'
The old axiom, 'Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel' should now be replaced with 'Being anti-Militant is the last refuge of a New Labour scoundrel'.
Blair's claim of having no reverse gear will rank in history with Edward Heath's pledge to 'reduce inflation at a stroke' - followed by an inflation rate of 25 per cent; and Jim Callaghan's 'crisis, what crisis?' - in the middle of a mini-general strike!
On the contrary, Blair's use of the reverse gear has rendered him an expert in retreating from even mildly socialist policies.
What about his pledge to do away with the most draconian labour laws in Europe? Or his pledge to remove the market from the health service and education? Or his pledge not to introduce student fees; to eliminate poverty whilst presiding over a minimum wage impossible to live on; or to take the railways and the utilities back into public ownership?
The parallels with past Labour Prime Ministers are all too obvious. Tough with the workers, toadying with the millionaires - the present bunch embrace big business with such relish that the facts are inescapable.
The agents of capitalism have captured the Labour Party and placed it at the disposal of their class.
The conclusion is also inescapable: the campaign for a new party of the working class must immediately be placed firmly on the agenda of all genuine working class organisations.
In this issue
Labour and the unions
Socialist Party NHS campaign
International socialist news and analysis