Year 2001 No. 34, February 22, 2001
Labour Party Glasgow Conference:
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
Labour Party Glasgow Conference:
Talk of Renewal of Society and the Big Challenges that Lie Ahead Is A Confidence Trick against the People
It Is the Programme of the Working Class Which Holds the Key to Advance
Further on the Opposition to the US and
British Bombing of Iraq
Opposition in Britain - PAEAC Wants an End to Such Action - Irish Government Regrets Bombing of Iraq - German Government Attacks Bombing - Poland Denies Backing Bombing of Iraq - Further Condemnation from Russia - Indian Prime Minister Opposes Bombings as Unacceptable - Turkish Premier Calls for Reassessment over Iraqi Bombing - Secretary General Emphasises NATO Has Nothing to Do with Attacks
Early Day Motion to Impose Arms Sanctions on Israel
Tony Blair Visits Canada
Tanker Drivers' Dispute Settled
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Labour Party Glasgow Conference:
Tony Blair at the Labour Party Glasgow Conference gave a speech on "The big challenges lie ahead".
As is now customary in his speech, Tony Blair opens by acknowledging how hard life is: "There is hope in our country today but there is also struggle."
But the people know that "Jerusalem is not built overnight", even presumably if they nowadays have to suffer such dark satanic mills as call centres, failing schools and hospitals.
Tony Blair is intent on elaborating the confidence of trick of claiming that "the British people whom we serve know its a journey of renewal for Britain and a long one". He goes on: "They know that though weve made a good start, the big challenges lie ahead. They want to see the map to the future."
His speech is peppered with attempts to answer his critics, those who would claim that the society that Tony Blair is shaping is one where the rights of every individual simply by virtue of being human are constantly being denied, where the challenge to renew the political process is being thwarted, where more is being taken out of the economy than is being put into it.
The speech setting out the Labour Partys election programme is also an attempt to present the neo-liberal economic agenda that the government has been following with a human, caring vision. It attempts to justify the whole "Third Way" programme by convincing the electorate that the Labour Partys future is their future, and that they have no other choice but to submit to it.
The Spring Conference of the Labour Party in Glasgow has been widely seen to have been used by Tony Blair to put the Labour Party on an election footing.
Having used the 1997 election as a coup against the working class and people by bringing New Labour to power, the bourgeoisie wants to use the opportunity of the forthcoming general election as a confidence trick against the electorate to further block the aspirations of the working class and people for the renewal of society.
On the wave of the dissatisfaction and disillusionment of the people with the anti-social offensive in society, and a political system which keeps them at the margins away from all decision-making, the bourgeoisie was able to install Tony Blair in power as its champion. In 2001, there is no rival to Blair as the bourgeoisies champion. Nevertheless, the "Third Way" has become increasingly revealed and elaborated as the programme appropriate to and to consolidate the reactionary direction of society in which everything is given over to making the monopolies successful in the global market and enriching the financial oligarchy. Therefore, the task of the bourgeoisie and of Tony Blair is to spin the illusion that through the "Third Way" the foundations have been laid for a way out of the crisis.
New Labours "Third Way" cannot be seen simply as a collection of policies. It is a programme of the bourgeoisie which is shovelling billions of pounds through such measures as public/private partnerships into the pockets of the rich, which is stepping up the criminalisation of the peoples struggles, which is built on aggression and intervention abroad, and which is taking society backward to a "national-socialist" style communitarianism and attempting to liquidate the independent movement of the working class to constitute itself the nation and vest sovereignty in the people.
The question therefore for the working class is not how to change the direction of the Labour government. It is how to shatter the illusions of there being such a direction as the "Third Way" which is neither capitalism nor socialism. It is how to take concrete measures to move centre stage and give a profile to its programme to stop paying the rich and ensure that funding is invested in social programmes and benefits society. The programme of the working class holds the key to advance, and the issue for the workers is how to utilise the space for change in order for this programme to make headway and for the working class movement to be built with its own confidence and self-motion.
Workers and all their allies, including the youth, women and other sections, must therefore prepare themselves to participate in the election firmly on this basis.
Labour MP George Galloway condemned the raids as "an immoral, cowardly and terrorist act". He said the bombing raids were neither legally or morally legitimate. "The British and American policy of attacking Iraqi targets in the so-called `no fly zones' and now in the capital has never been approved by the United Nations and is widely deplored in the rest of the world," he said. "No other civilised country in the world condones them. The Arab world will be horrified and sickened."
He was visiting the Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad, where Iraqi officials presented some of the 20 people wounded in the raids, including a 10-year-old boy. "Turn your cameras to this boy and tell me if it is a military target," George Galloway told reporters.
Labour MP Tony Benn demanded the immediate recall of the House of Commons, which is not sitting this week. "These attacks had no legal justification. You could argue that America and Britain have engaged in a terrorist attack upon Baghdad," he said.
Labour MP Tam Dalyell also demanded an immediate recall of Parliament from its half-term break, suggesting that Tony Blair might have misled the House of Commons. The Prime Minister had said in a parliamentary answer that all questions relating to the sanctions and "no-fly zones" policy were discussed regularly with the United Nations. Tam Dalyell said: "I am now putting down a formal question asking what discussions took place with the Secretariat or the Secretary-General before the decision to launch the bombing raid on Friday. As I understand it, there were no discussions and if that is the case then the Prime Minister has been economical with the truth with the House of Commons and I am very angry."
Alice Mahon, another Labour MP, also called for an emergency Commons debate.
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn pointed out that the British people are firmly against the bombings. He said: "We were supposed to be following foreign policy with an ethical dimension, but here we are on some gung-ho raid with no UN approval whatsoever."
Clive Soley, chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, reflected concern among MPs that the bombing was motivated by President Bushs desire to make his mark on foreign policy. "My worry is about President Bushs level of knowledge about foreign affairs," he said.
A number of delegates attending the Labour Party spring conference in Glasgow forthrightly condemned the bombings and the action of the British government. One delegate is quoted as saying, "I think it is appalling. It is terrible. It is killing people, women and children in particular. I am concerned that with the new President of the United States we are going to get ourselves tied in."
Bill Morris, general secretary of the TGWU, questioned the wisdom of the governments policy towards Iraq. "You cant bomb a country out of existence. It seems to me that what is necessary is a new political initiative," he said. He told BBC News 24: "Any military action which kills people and fails to bring about peace and security and stability after ten years has got to be reappraised. That reappraisal must be under the auspices of the United Nations."
CND Cymru vice-chairman Ray Davies said: "Our sanctions have contributed to genocide." He went on to say: "I shudder to think what this wanton, senseless act of aggression has done to the peace process and relations in the Middle East."
The Parliamentary Association of Euro-Arab Cooperation (PAEAC) launched an appeal to the European Union asking it to convince Washington to put an end to such actions, that can only "increase the tension and push the peoples of the region into a spiral of violence without end and without winners". As the "no-fly zones" in Iraq have never been sanctioned by a UN resolution, actions undertaken to enforce them are therefore illegal in terms of international law, the PAEAC said.
The government of Ireland has joined the international opposition to the Anglo-US aggression against Iraq.
An official statement of February 19 reads: "Over the course of the weekend the Government has sought information through its mission to the UN in New York about the circumstances in which US and British aircraft attacked Iraqi military installations on Friday evening. These actions have taken place at a time when efforts are being made to secure the return of a UN disarmament mission to Iraq and a possible review of sanctions. The Government regrets very much that the use of force was deemed necessary and is concerned that every step be taken to avoid its further use."
Ireland is beginning a two-year term on the United Nations Security Council. The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen, on Tuesday began a tour of Moscow, Paris and Washington. The Russian and French governments have already condemned the bombing. The Irish Foreign Minister is holding talks with the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, and on Friday in Paris he meets the French Foreign Minister, Hubert Védrine. He then travels to Washington for talks with the new US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and the National Security Adviser, Condoleeza Rice.
On Monday, Germany officially supported France's denunciation of British and American air strikes near Baghdad as illegal. Gerhard Schröder, the German Chancellor, made clear that his country supported the French view, though Germany has not been as emphatic as France. Gerhard Schröder said there was a need for a "comprehensive political concept" for the Gulf region, rather than just talk about "military needs".
The Polish Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that it had not commented on Friday's air attack on Baghdad by the United States and Britain, countering the reports that it had openly supported the bombing.
In retaliation, Iraq had decided to freeze trade links with Poland and Canada on Tuesday.
"Poland has issued no statement on this matter," said Grzegorz Dziemidowicz, Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Polish sources said it appeared Iraq was reacting to a statement on Monday from French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine that named Poland and Canada as the only countries besides the participants who had voiced support for the air raid. They said the French Foreign Ministers statement might have been prompted by a reported remark by Jerzy Nowakowski, the top foreign policy adviser to Poland's Prime Minister. According to Poland's state PAP news agency, Nowakowski said on Friday that he saw "no reason not to understand such actions". He added that he was speaking as an analyst, not as a senior government official, PAP reported.
In Moscow, Russian MPs said they would urge President Putin unilaterally to end the sanctions against Baghdad. Dmitry Rogozin, chairman of the Duma committee on international affairs, said the US had "crossed the Rubicon" by taking "unprovoked" military action.
A statement from the Russian Embassy in London on Saturday had condemned the US-British air strikes. "This policy runs counter to the UN charter and other international legal norms and exacerbates the already explosive situation in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf area," said the statement. It added: "This unprovoked action demonstrates that Washington and London continue to rely on force."
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said that India opposes the unilateral imposition of "no-fly zones" as not complying with UN Security Council resolutions.
He said: "Aerial bombing of targets in Iraq to impose such zones is unacceptable. Such strikes cause unnecessary and avoidable suffering upon the innocent men, women and children of Iraq."
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has said that Turkey would like to reassess the Iraqi situation with the US Administration "at the first opportunity". He said that in view of the "very special relations" between the two countries regarding Iraq, his country should have been notified about the operation in advance. He added that Turkey would continue to extend humanitarian aid to Iraq.
In a new conference on February 17, the Turkish Prime Minister said: "It is regrettable that the need arose for such an operation and that civilians sustained damages from this operation in addition to the military targets. It is understood that the planes and installations within the Gulf region were used in the operations.
"Any contribution to the operation from Incirlik [the NATO base in Turkey] or anywhere else in Turkey was out of the question. Yesterdays operation shows that peace, stability and tranquillity have not been secured in Iraq even though it is 10 years since the Gulf War. Naturally, this situation closely concerns Turkey, which is Iraqs neighbour. For this reason, it will be beneficial if the new US Administration reassesses the Iraqi issue with Turkey at the first opportunity."
George Robertson, the NATO Secretary General, told the press after arriving in Moscow on Monday evening that NATO has nothing to do with the air strikes on Iraq. He said that NATO is definitely not involved in the ongoing operation against the country.
An Early Day Motion has been tabled by MPs for a weapons embargo on Israel in the wake of the election of Likud chairman Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister.
So far, 14 Labour MPs have signed the Motion that demands an immediate arms embargo on Israel. The Motion also calls on the government to recall the British ambassador in Tel Aviv.
The Motion was tabled in the six names of George Galloway, Alice Mahon, Michael Clapham, Kevin McNamara, Lynne Jones and John Gunnell. It calls on the government to "immediately to freeze all sales of military equipment to Israel". British officials have said the government has approved more than 150 applications for weapons exports to Israel. The exports were not disclosed.
The Early Day Motion is reproduced in full below.
ELECTION OF ARIEL SHARON
February 7, 2001
That this House notes with concern the election of Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister of Israel; recalls his record of involvement in war crimes going back as far as the 1950s and in particular the crimes committed during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, an invasion which reduced an Arab capital to ruins amidst the ashes of napalm, phosphorous and fragmentation weaponry, and which culminated in an Israeli inquiry finding Sharon 'personally indirectly responsible' for the massacres in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Beirut between 16th and 18th September 1982 in which almost 3,000 people were butchered; notes that these victims were defined by the International Commission of Inquiry as 'protected persons' within the meaning of the 4th Geneva Convention to whom Israel had a special obligation under protocol to prevent the commission of 'outrages' against them; notes further the implacable refusal by General Sharon to acknowledge the solemn and binding agreements signed by his country during the Oslo process which he has declared dead; further notes his offensive remarks against both Jordan and Egypt, the two Arab countries with whom Israel has signed a peace treaty; expresses the fear that the election of General Sharon may lead to a state of war in the Middle East; and asks Her Majesty's Government immediately to freeze all sales of military equipment to Israel and to recall Her Majesty's ambassador from Tel Aviv for consultations.
Yesterday Tony Blair arrived in Ottawa for a two-day visit on his way to meetings with US President George W Bush in Washington. While in Ottawa, Tony Blair is to address the Canadian Parliament and attend a state dinner. It is Tony Blair's first visit to Canada.
Britain is the second-largest foreign investor in Canada, while Canada is the fourth-largest foreign investor in Britain. Almost half of Canada's direct investment in Europe goes to Britain.
British officials have said that this North American visit "will provide a timely reminder of [Blair's] continuing commitment to transatlantic relationships," news agencies report.
The threat of a strike by Shell tanker drivers has been averted by the settlement of their pay dispute.
The Transport and General Workers Union said the 350 drivers, who are employed by P&O Trans European, will receive a 5% pay rise. The drivers had rejected an earlier offer and voted to take industrial action.
Ron Webb, national official of the T&G, said he believed the deal would set the standard for the rest of the industry and that the company had made an "important gesture". He added, "Everyone knew the stakes were high, even though we thought our claim was modest."
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