Archive article from The Socialist Issue 409
What we think
Waiting for Gordon
BLAIR IS going - and should go - but his replacement as prime minister by Gordon Brown, whether in the immediate or medium future, will bring no relief to working-class people in this country.
Blair has more than outstayed his welcome, as opinion polls on everything from the occupation of Iraq to education and the NHS show. Yet, it will be a case of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" if Brown takes up the reins.
He has promised 'no shift to the Left' and to continue with New Labour's 'scorched earth' policy of handing over public services to private companies. Brown's assertion that New Labour needed renewing shows how deep the mistrust of Blair's government is.
Anyone who needed confirmation that Labour is the natural party of big business need look no further than this week's conference.
Prominent amongst the guest speakers will be CBI leader Digby Jones, who will lecture union leaders and delegates that they should accept public-sector pension cuts and how they should lie prostrate before the incessant 'modernisation' (read privatisation) of public services.
At the conference itself delegates were "welcomed by widescreen TVs rotating advertisements for Capita, Fujitsu and PwC" some of the major companies who benefit from the privatisation of public services.
How much longer union leaders can remain in denial about the true character of New Labour being a pro-big business party in the face of all this is an open question.
Until now, they have comforted themselves with the mantra of 'Waiting for Gordon'. But like Samuel Beckett's play of a similar name, Waiting for Godot, the punchline is that the person they are waiting for never arrives.
The union leaders will get, however, not an 'Old Labour' Social Democratic prime minister in the form of Gordon Brown, but a prime minister who will be as "unremittingly New Labour" as Tony Blair. Brown has confirmed most brutally in recent weeks that Labour's real policy makers will continue to be Murdoch, Bush and the big corporations not the Big Four union leaders.
Whatever resolutions the unions manage to get passed at this week's conference, it will not make a jot of difference to Blair or Brown. It may show the disquiet and anger building up at Blair, but, contrary to Amicus general secretary Derek Simpson's claim, things will not be different under Brown.
Labour conference last year passed a priority motion calling for rail renationalisation, which should have been included in the party's general election manifesto. But when the election came, rail renationalisation was nowhere to be seen as a policy commitment.
Some of the Left, still clinging on to the wreckage of Labour, believe they can set about reclaiming it more effectively with Blair gone. They say that Labour membership dropping by a quarter of a million under Blair in the last eight years, due to disillusion with his policies on Iraq and domestically, makes it easier for 'fresh' forces to go in and reclaim it.
Yet, those who remain in the Labour Party are, with a few exceptions, likely to be the most ardent Blairites, clinging on to the party machine to maintain their careers as New Labour politicians. The Labour Representation Committee (which wants a return to 'real Labour') claims to have only 500 members and admit, if pressed, that they cannot find the numbers of enthusiastic trade unionists to go in and reclaim the party. Furthermore, the structures no longer allow party members to effect change in the party, leaving the leadership with an iron grip over everything.
Railworkers' leader, Bob Crow correctly says Labour is no longer a party that represents working people and trade unionists.
But, Bob Crow, and other union leaders, as well as the shop stewards and activists in the trade unions, must draw a decisive conclusion from this. That is, they need to call a genuine, representative conference of trade unionists, community activists and young people to discuss how to begin establishing a new party to further the struggles of working-class people against the neo-liberal assaults of Bush, Blair or Brown.
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