The Challenge of
Change or the Necessity for Change?
Tony Blair gave a speech to the Global Ethics
Foundation at Tübigen University in Germany on June 30. The speech was
entitled "Values and the power of Community".
The speech had been trailed as one in which the Prime
Minister was to set out his philosophy. The bulk of his speech was split into
four parts. These were: 1. The nature of global change; 2. Community within a
nation; 3. The doctrine of international community; 4. The role of religious
faith and understanding.
A diversion has been created which immediately demonstrates
that when, as the government has been doing, the level of political culture is
driven down to its lowest level, those that do so reap the whirlwind, in that
the whole focus on the speech in the political life of the country was on the
practicality of handing out on-the-spot fines of £100 for drunken
We will examine the four parts of the speech, the first of
which is subtitled "The challenge of change".
The bourgeoisie and its hacks have for ten years been
proclaiming "the end of history", but they have now added that at the
same time we are living in an age of anxiety, a period of "the great
disruption". Tony Blair characterises this by saying, "We are living
through an age of global change, one of the most dramatic and unpredictable in
the history of the world." What he is at a loss to analyse is what is the
character of this change and what is its internal motion. He emphasises how
"unpredictable" this change is. Saying that "we are in the
middle of the greatest economic, technological and social upheaval the world
has seen since the industrial revolution began over two centuries ago,"
Tony Blair relates this upheaval to the fall of the Berlin Wall 11 years ago,
when the "ideological barricades came down all over the globe". Thus,
within "the great disruption" there is also proclaimed "the end
of history", and the "end of ideology", in that now, according
to Tony Blair, the end of the Cold War signalled the end of the
"choice" between "the state or the market", and the issue
has become "how you develop a dynamic market, an intelligent state, and an
active civil society".
It is the case that the world is going through a defining
moment, a period which is defining that no force on earth can act in the old
way. The collapse of pseudo-socialim in the Soviet Union and the break-up of
the Eastern European bloc was itself a part of and a reflection of this
defining moment, which put on the agenda that it is necessary to give modern
content to previously accepted formulae. It is not a time for dogma and
assertions, but for summing up of contemporary developments and for
revolutionisation of the old forms to bring them on a par with the requirements
of the times.
However, to Tony Blair this opportunity is seen only in the
need to rehash the old concepts of the market and of civil society. That is,
the crisis of values that this period of the retreat of revolution has
precipitated is met not by starting afresh, but by attempting to renovate the
19th century values of the free market by stating that the global economy must
now be a "dynamic market", and of the civil society based on the
primacy of the right of private property with the prefix of "active",
which signifies that people must subordinate the affirmation of their rights to
the demands of the "intelligent state". But this state remains the
highest personification of the "rights" of private property in that
it exists to overcome all the shackles on the exercise of the prerogative of
the private ownership of the vast socialised monopolies.
Tony Blair states a paradox: "greater individual
freedom; yet greater interdependence". This greater individual freedom
aspect of the paradox is not that the individual is flowering as a human
person, affirming themselves and making their contribution to society, but that
"we buy and consume more as a matter of personal choice". The
"great interdependence" is not the collectives affirming their
rights, nor the participation of everyone in governance, nor even the unity of
the peoples in their struggles for sovereignty and to defeat the attempts of
the monopolies to dictate their social systems. It is the "choices we make
together good schools, environmental pollution, safe streets; or at an
international level, world trade agreements or nuclear weapons control."
Given that the change in the world situation appears to
Tony Blair to be so outside the control of human beings and so unpredictable,
so "fast and fierce", the issue appears to him to be: "do we
shape it or does it shape us? Do we master it, or do we let it overwhelm us?
Thats the sole key to politics in the modern world: how to manage change.
Resist it: futile; let it happen: dangerous. So the third way
manage it. But it cant be managed unless there are rules of management,
value judgements as to how and why we are managing it in a particular
Tony Blair takes for granted that this fast and fierce
change takes place within the framework of the capitalist system, which he does
not even mention. The assumption is that this capitalist system is the highest
form and the only possible contemporary form of human society. There are no
classes to the blind Tony Blair, only people who can indulge themselves as a
"matter of personal choice". Neither are there people who can make
their own history, become sovereign, become the decision-makers, only those
individuals who must become cogs in an "intelligent state" which
vainly attempts to "manage change" which is out of its control.
Everything is irrational, there are no discoverable laws governing world
development which people can master and become masters of their own destiny.
There is no higher form of human society, socialism, which the people under the
leadership of the working class can take up as their goal, as the aim of their
line of march, transforming society so that things become subordinate to human
beings. There is no necessity for change, only the challenge of change, in
other words a "challenge" to accept that globalisation is here to
Tony Blair makes his central value that of the
"community" which to him allows his paradox to be resolved and unite
"old and new". This "community" is a society where all have
"equal worth, not equality of income or outcome; or, simply, equality of
opportunity". This is simply to play a cruel joke with the genuine
aspirations of the people. People know that this present society so beset by
the retrogression of "fast and fierce change" does not recognise the
worth of any individual or the worth of their collective, therefore this
"equal worth" appears as an abstraction in a society which fully
recognises the worth of capital, the right to make the maximum capitalist
profit, and no other. Social revolution in Tony Blairs scenario has no
meaning, is the one thing not to be referred to and shunned like the plague.