Labour Party conference: Why We Need A New Workers’ Party

IN HIS best imitation of Margaret Thatcher so far, Blair showed in his conference speech that he’s not for turning. Despite coming under siege over foundation hospitals, tuition fees and Iraq, he is neither listening to his party nor the majority of people in the country.

The speech will have reinforced the widespread feeling that already exists that he is arrogant and out of touch with the problems of ordinary working people.

Blair is not prepared to apologise about Iraq (see article below). On the contrary, he said he would do the same again.

He showed complete contempt for the 60% of people who think he lied about the threat Iraq posed and the same percentage of Labour Party members who think it was wrong to go to war.

There will be no surrender – on foundation hospitals, tuition fees and the whole New Labour big-business agenda.

The case for a new workers’ party, to provide a genuine alternative to New Labour, is becoming stronger than ever. Yet most union leaders draw the opposite conclusion.

Many, conveniently forgetting his ‘ no retreat’ speech to the TUC, are looking to Brown as a leader in waiting.

After Brown’s speech to the Labour Party conference, Kevin Curran, GMB general secretary said: “This was a Labour speech by a Labour Chancellor with socialism at its base”.

These are the words of a man clutching at straws.

Behind all the ‘Old Labour’ rhetoric, Brown’s politics are not fundamentally different from Blair’s. As the Financial Times wrote in its editorial (30 September): “Those inclined to believe that a Labour government under Mr Brown would be much more accommodating to traditional left-wing beliefs should read the section on enterprise”.

The packaging might look different but the pro-business content remains broadly the same.

The new wave of union leaders have spent 18 months trying to ‘reclaim’ the Labour Party and they are no nearer to succeeding than when they started. Even when Labour Party conference delegates have inflicted minor defeats on the leadership, over pensions and PFI for example, they have been totally ignored.

As Blair said in an interview with The Observer (28 September): “Of course, we listen carefully to what people say, but I think most people understand that this is the reason why we changed all the rules of conference”.

Union leaders say that they are in for the “long haul” but opportunities are being missed as they continue down the cul-de-sac of trying to transform the Party.

Thousands who took part in the September 27 demonstration against the occupation of Iraq were looking for a political alternative. But the speeches at the post-demo rally gave no clear indication of the way forward (see page 4).

Postal workers taking strike action in London, like the firefighters before them, will see through their own struggles that they need a political alternative to New Labour.

In the anti-war movement, in the workplaces and the unions, among young people and community campaigns, the Socialist Party will continue its struggle for a new workers’ party.

Don’t mention the war

IT MOBILISED two million people on to the streets of London. It brought tens of thousands of school students out on strike.

Over half the population think it was wrong. Even 60% of Labour Party members are opposed.

The war with Iraq and its aftermath is one of the most burning issues of the day.

Yet the Labour Party conference didn’t even get to vote on it!

As The Guardian explained: “Blair aides know that a resounding defeat on Iraq would have echoed round the world” (29 September).

As we go to press it’s not clear whether an emergency motion on Iraq from the RMT will be allowed to be debated. But whatever happens, Blair is adamant that he has nothing to apologise for over the war with Iraq.

No apology for the 20,000 Iraqi civilians killed by his and Bush’s war and occupation for oil, power and profits. No apology to the soldiers facing death on a daily basis.

“There does not seem to be much light at the end of a pretty unpleasant title” said one NCO (Observer 28 September) voicing the anger and frustration of many.

One by one Blair’s lame justifications for going to war have been smashed. After six months of hunting, the CIA-led Iraq Security Group has found no weapons of mass destruction.

Former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix said he thinks Saddam Hussein destroyed them 12 years ago after the first Gulf War.

We say the troops should be brought home now and the Iraqi people allowed to democratically decide their own future. We can have no faith in the UN.

It would continue to exploit the Iraqi people and resources in the interests of the big capitalist powers which it represents.

The Iraqi workers and poor urgently need to build their own independent organisations – trade unions, community organisations, political parties – to fight against occupation and for democratic rights, jobs and services.

That needs to be linked to a struggle against the capitalist profit system and for socialism, which is the only system that could guarantee any of the basic rights of the Iraqi people.

The Socialist Party will be campaigning for workers internationally to show solidarity with the Iraqi workers in that struggle.