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From The Socialist newspaper, 12 May 2005

What We Think

Blair battered but what's the alternative?

"UNBURIED CORPSE" "Dead Man walking" - the champagne glasses had hardly been washed at Labour Party HQ and the knives were out for Tony Blair. Backbench Labour MPs were queuing up to demand that he should go and discussing an 'exit strategy'. Would it be possible to force his resignation through internal Labour Party mechanisms or would it come through a visit from the 'men in grey suits'?

It is not possible at this stage to say exactly how or when Blair will go but there is no doubt that he is damaged goods and is unlikely to last a full third term.

In his post-election speech Blair said that he had "listened and learned" but his cabinet reshuffle was the equivalent of sticking two fingers up to everyone who voted against him and and called for him to go.

'Butcher' Blunkett has been brought back into the government to wage war on pensions, public-sector jobs and invalidity benefit. Former Social Democrat, Andrew Adonis, is a minister at the department for education and skills. This is the man who was behind top-up fees and is one of the loudest voices in favour of city academies and schools being taken out of local authority control - a clear sign that Blair is determined to try and steamroller through even more privatisation of education and health.

Now that Blair has a much smaller majority, some people are putting their faith in the 'awkward squad' of 'left' Labour MPs to reverse the New Labour juggernaut. The Socialist Campaign Group are organising a conference in July to return the party to "true Labour". But they have no real strategy for how to do this and, as was made clear during the election campaign, some of these so-called lefts have supported privatisation at a local level as 'the only show in town'.

Most of the onslaught that is being planned against public services, jobs and conditions will not require any legislation in Parliament. The key to defeating these attacks will be mobilising extra parliamentary protest in the form of demonstrations and strikes.

Blunkett has said that "nothing is off-limits" which means that public-sector trade unionists in particular need to begin organising now for round two of the fight to defend their pensions, including through co-ordinated strike action.

These 'left' MPs should take a stand, leave the Labour Party and put themselves at the head of struggles such as these and the campaign for a new workers' party. Instead, they sow the illusion that the party can be 'recaptured' for Old Labour and that Gordon Brown will be the knight in shining armour. But Brown once again clearly nailed his colours to the privatising, big-business New Labour mast during the election campaign with his total support for the 'market' in education and health and Blair's decision to go to war.

RMT leader Bob Crow was quite right when he said that it is not just about personalities, "with Blair must go the neoliberal policies - chief among them the obsession with privatisation". But it must be made quite clear, as Crow did in a previous comment, that the Labour Party cannot be changed and that a new party has to be built.

Crow and other left union leaders need to be proactive and take initiatives towards creating such a party. The election of Matt Wrack as the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (see below) is yet another indication of the discontent that is building up amongst ordinary trade unionists. If these left union leaders were to call a conference, drawing together trade unionists, socialists and the left anti-establishment organisations which stood in this election against New Labour, it would gain enormous support.

This government will be a government of crisis and conflict. The recent fall in industrial output has been described as "truly shocking" by economic analysts and retail sales are at their weakest for 13 years. The bosses will be looking to make workers pay for the economic crisis which is looming.

The Socialist Party will be fighting to resist their attacks in the workplaces and communities and to build the political alternative that is so clearly needed.

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In The Socialist 12 May 2005:

NHS - Stop the profit vultures

Defend public services

Everyone has a right to education

Join the G8 protest

1945 - Victory in Europe: When 'liberation' meant socialism

Blair battered but what's the alternative?

Rebuilding SSP support under a third Labour term

Discontent with the 'Blair project'

Polarisation widens in Northern Ireland

Coventry - the best campaign ever

Building a base in Lewisham

Big vote for socialism in Bolsover

Left victory in firefighters' union

Workers demand justice on pensions

Amicus conference: Size isn't everything

UNISON health conference: Fight low pay and privatisation, defend pensions


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