Year 2000 No. 107, July 6, 2000

The Challenge of Change or the Necessity for Change?

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

The Challenge of Change or the Necessity for Change?

International News in Brief
Opposition to National Missile Defence
Austrian Referendum on EU Sanctions

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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 behaviour.

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? That’s 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 can’t be managed unless there are rules of management, value judgements as to how and why we are managing it in a particular way."

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 stay.

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 Blair’s scenario has no meaning, is the one thing not to be referred to and shunned like the plague.

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International News in Brief

Opposition to National Missile Defence

According to news agency reports Russia, China and three Central Asian states, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have issued a declaration in opposition to the plans of US imperialism for a National Missile Defence (NMD) system before the end of the year. The five countries issued the declaration, which they called a "cornerstone of world strategic stability" following a summit meeting in the Tajik Dushanbe. The "Shanghai Five" as they have become known also said they opposed the use of force or threat of force in international relations without the sanction of the UN Security Council. Their declaration also called for the strengthening of the UN "as the main mechanism in maintaining international peace and stability".

Both Russia and China stressed that plans for NMD breached the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty and threatened that if the US went ahead with its plans they might also have to increase their military capabilities accordingly. The two countries have now declared a "strategic partnership" in opposition to the US. The Russian President, Vladmir Putin, who is due to visit China in mid-July, added that China was a "strategic partner in every meaning of these words" and hinted at closer economic and military links in the future.

Austrian Referendum on EU Sanctions

The Austrian government has rejected suggestions that its planned referendum means it is preparing to block European Union decisions on enlargement and other issues, if the EU sanctions against the country are not lifted. Voters in the referendum will be asked six questions, the first of which is: "Should the government, as part of the impending reform of the EU Treaty, ensure with all suitable means that the sanctions unjustly imposed on Austria by other member states of the European Union be immediately lifted."

The 14 other EU member countries took the unprecedented step of freezing bilateral political contacts with Austria in February, allegedly in protest at the inclusion of Joerg Haidar’s Freedom Party in a new coalition government. Haidar had in the past expressed openly racist views and publicly supported Hitlerite fascism, but was also known to be less than enthusiastic about the EU and its enlargement.

The Austrian government has been demanding that the sanctions should be lifted since February, but its demands were ignored at the recent EU summit in Portugal when it was announced that they would remain in place at least until January next year.

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