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Year 2005 No. 9, January 26, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Tony Blair’s Speech to Labour’s campaign and policy briefing:

Arrogance and Bluster in the Service of War and Reaction

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

Tony Blair’s Speech to Labour’s campaign and policy briefing:
Arrogance and Bluster in the Service of War and Reaction

The Dangers of "Exporting Democracy":
Bush's Crusade is Based on a Dangerous Illusion and Will Fail

International Private Charity and Imperialist Aid Undermine National Sovereignty and Good Relations Among Countries

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Tony Blair’s Speech to Labour’s campaign and policy briefing:

Arrogance and Bluster in the Service of War and Reaction

The Tory Party is bad because it is extreme. Labour, however, has changed from being extreme to centre ground, and should win the general election as a moderate party. This was the message of Tony Blair on Saturday, January 22, 2005, which he delivered with "humility and confidence" – the title of his speech. Labour’s is a fight worth winning because everything is at stake, he claimed.

The speech exemplified all the arrogance, "conviction" and bluster of the Tony Blair who knows he is the champion of the bourgeoisie, and that as long as he can maintain the fraud that Labour represents the whole of the people, the monopoly bourgeoisie will continue to give him their backing. To this end, this particular speech seeks to paint the Tories as the extremists, who would be worse for the country. In this scenario, Old Labour was itself extreme because it was not electable, or at least not for more than one term. This also covers over that the New Left has become the at once the advisers and critics of New Labour.

Tony Blair claims that "today's Conservatives are probably more right wing, less one nation, than they were in 1997" and that by contrast "New Labour only won power once we changed". The lesson of the electorate, an electorate falsely characterised by Blair as teaching Labour lessons, when in fact the bourgeoisie sprung a coup against that electorate, is that Labour can "only win in the centre ground of politics as a moderate, progressive Labour Party, in touch with the modern world, letting no vested interest, no political correctness, no outdated thinking stand in the way of the hard working families we serve", that Labour is the party of "economic stability and nothing must endanger it", that "investment with reform" is required to make Labour electable, and finally that Labour can "only win by being strong on defence and law and order, not weak".

Nevertheless, the fraud continues, the battle of ideas continues against the working class and the genuinely progressive forces. Tony Blair once again has to try and defend the values that New Labour espouses. He says, "None of this means yielding an inch in our values. The values of solidarity, social justice, community, the traditional values of progressive politics are and will remain our lodestar. But they guide us to one end: the improvement of the lives of individual people and their families and not a few of them but all of them."

Why does he not straightforwardly say that society should meet the claims of the people on it? Because far from meeting the government’s obligations to society, Tony Blair wishes to motivate the people in bourgeoisie self-interests, which is actually against the people’s interests, and line them up behind the values of the bourgeoisie. "It is their prosperity and well being that must motivate us; their desire to make the most of themselves, to get on and do better. New Labour's progressive insight is not that a strong cohesive society is good in itself; but rather that it is in such a society that the many get opportunities otherwise only available to the few." He mixes up the liberation of the individual with the individual grasping their "opportunities" in a society where it is the government that takes the "tough decisions" that harm the people’s interests, because the general good of society and the collectives of the people are themselves harmed.

His strategy is to make the people aspire to emulate the choice of the wealthy, to "build a coalition of middle and working class support that can unite comfortably around policies that combine individual ambition and social compassion".

Stung by past and present criticism and anticipating a growing swell of opposition to these values which are creating such havoc nationally and internationally, Tony Blair feels compelled to exclaim: "Does this mean New Labour has compromised progressive belief?" With statistics, he then attempts to get working people to deny their own experience of life and the anti-social offensive that they are fighting against.

Tony Blair and his speech writers are well aware that this will not wash with the working class and progressive forces, but he is compelled to continue his bluster. "This is not some warmed up neo-Thatcherism or an uncertain drift into splitting the difference: it is the most successful era of progressive change this party has achieved since the 1945 government emerged from the ashes of World War II." Mr Blair, at a time when US-British aggression is terrorising the Iraqi people, and the British government, under the signboard of Anglo-American values and democracy, is attempting to convince the world that the Geneva Convention and the Nuremberg principles have been rendered obsolete, when the government treats human rights in its own country with contempt and is Bush administration’s reliable ally in its threats against so-called "outposts of tyranny" internationally, let us remind you: millions of workers laid down their lives in World War II to defeat Hitlerite fascism and defend the socialist Soviet Union. The spirit of the people in kicking out Churchillian Anglo-Saxon reaction in 1945 was to bring in socialism with the working class as the nation and the people as the decision-makers. But it did not happen. Let us remind you that today, when the people are commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi extermination camps, not just immigrants and people seeking asylum are being exhorted by the powers-that-be to adopt "British value" or face the consequences, but also Muslims and national minority communities, not to mention the workers themselves and their trade unions. Is this what we "should be proud of"?

Tony Blair says: "And now we have a choice: defend this record and build on it, to go on and fulfil our promise or to give up and go back." Another example of his phoney choices. The people are opting to fight. And this is not a choice. It is a requirement of being human in Blair’s Britain.

What is required at this juncture is that the people rely on their own resources and resolve to strengthen them, turn back the tide of bestiality and reaction, and take up the banner of democratic renewal and the rights of the people.

The danger for the people is not the Tories taking society into reverse, as Tony Blair claims. The monopoly bourgeoisie, with Tony Blair as their champion, is itself already set on this course. The fight the people are taking up and must resolve to focus against New Labour in the coming general election is that of defeating the warmongers, opening up the path to peace and social progress, and bringing about the renewal of the political institutions and processes which will genuinely put the people into the position of decision-makers and halting the drive of the imperialists to war and fascism. These, Mr Blair, are the goals, the ambitions, which are worth the fight. This, Mr Blair, is the "fight worth the winning".

Article Index

The Dangers of "Exporting Democracy":

Bush's Crusade is Based on a Dangerous Illusion and Will Fail

by Eric Hobsbawm*, January 22, 2005, The Guardian

Although President Bush's uncompromising second inaugural address does not so much as mention the words Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terror, he and his supporters continue to engage in a planned reordering of the world. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are but one part of a supposedly universal effort to create world order by "spreading democracy". This idea is not merely quixotic – it is dangerous. The rhetoric implies that democracy is applicable in a standardised (western) form, that it can succeed everywhere, that it can remedy today's transnational dilemmas, and that it can bring peace, rather than sow disorder. It cannot.

Democracy is rightly popular. In 1647, the English Levellers broadcast the powerful idea that "all government is in the free consent of the people". They meant votes for all. Of course, universal suffrage does not guarantee any particular political result, and elections cannot even ensure their own perpetuation – witness the Weimar Republic. Electoral democracy is also unlikely to produce outcomes convenient to hegemonic or imperial powers. (If the Iraq war had depended on the freely expressed consent of "the world community", it would not have happened). But these uncertainties do not diminish its justified appeal.

Other factors besides democracy's popularity explain the dangerous belief that its propagation by armies might actually be feasible. Globalisation suggests that human affairs are evolving toward a universal pattern. If gas stations, iPods, and computer geeks are the same worldwide, why not political institutions? This view underrates the world's complexity. The relapse into bloodshed and anarchy that has occurred so visibly in much of the world has also made the idea of spreading a new order more attractive. The Balkans seemed to show that areas of turmoil required the intervention, military if need be, of strong and stable states. In the absence of effective international governance, some humanitarians are still ready to support a world order imposed by US power. But one should always be suspicious when military powers claim to be doing weaker states favours by occupying them.

Another factor may be the most important: the US has been ready with the necessary combination of megalomania and messianism, derived from its revolutionary origins. Today's US is unchallengeable in its techno-military supremacy, convinced of the superiority of its social system, and, since 1989, no longer reminded – as even the greatest conquering empires always had been – that its material power has limits. Like President Wilson, today's ideologues see a model society already at work in the US: a combination of law, liberal freedoms, competitive private enterprise and regular, contested elections with universal suffrage. All that remains is to remake the world in the image of this "free society".

This idea is dangerous whistling in the dark. Although great power action may have morally or politically desirable consequences, identifying with it is perilous because the logic and methods of state action are not those of universal rights. All established states put their own interests first. If they have the power, and the end is considered sufficiently vital, states justify the means of achieving it – particularly when they think God is on their side. Both good and evil empires have produced the barbarisation of our era, to which the "war against terror" has now contributed.

While threatening the integrity of universal values, the campaign to spread democracy will not succeed. The 20th century demonstrated that states could not simply remake the world or abbreviate historical transformations. Nor can they easily effect social change by transferring institutions across borders. The conditions for effective democratic government are rare: an existing state enjoying legitimacy, consent and the ability to mediate conflicts between domestic groups. Without such consensus, there is no single sovereign people and therefore no legitimacy for arithmetical majorities. When this consensus is absent, democracy has been suspended (as is the case in Northern Ireland), the state has split (as in Czechoslovakia), or society has descended into permanent civil war (as in Sri Lanka). "Spreading democracy" aggravated ethnic conflict and produced the disintegration of states in multinational and multicommunal regions after both 1918 and 1989.

The effort to spread standardised western democracy also suffers a fundamental paradox. A growing part of human life now occurs beyond the influence of voters – in transnational public and private entities that have no electorates. And electoral democracy cannot function effectively outside political units such as nation-states. The powerful states are therefore trying to spread a system that even they find inadequate to meet today's challenges.

Europe proves the point. A body such as the European Union could develop into a powerful and effective structure precisely because it has no electorate other than a small number of member governments. The EU would be nowhere without its "democratic deficit", and there can be no legitimacy for its parliament, for there is no "European people". Unsurprisingly, problems arose as soon as the EU moved beyond negotiations between governments and became the subject of democratic campaigning in the member states.

The effort to spread democracy is also dangerous in a more indirect way: it conveys to those who do not enjoy this form of government the illusion that it actually governs those who do. But does it? We now know something about how the actual decisions to go to war in Iraq were taken in at least two states of unquestionable democratic bona fides: the US and the UK. Other than creating complex problems of deceit and concealment, electoral democracy and representative assemblies had little to do with that process. Decisions were taken among small groups of people in private, not very different from the way they would have been taken in non-democratic countries.

Fortunately, media independence could not be so easily circumvented in the UK. But it is not electoral democracy that necessarily ensures effective freedom of the press, citizen rights and an independent judiciary.

* Eric Hobsbawm is professor emeritus of economic and social history of the University of London at Birkbeck and author of The Age of Extremes: The Short 20th Century 1914-1991; this is an edited version of an article that first appeared in the journal Foreign Policy.

Article Index

International Private Charity and Imperialist Aid Undermine National Sovereignty and Good Relations Among Countries

TML Daily, from the website of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), January 25, 2005

Playing on the humanitarian sentiment of the masses of the people and their consciousness for the need for human solidarity in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami, a notion of humanitarianism beyond borders is being cultivated which negates the realisation of the aim which the peoples have in mind.

It was clear to many that international private charity and government aid after the tsunami disaster became a broad promotion of militarism, an attack on the national sovereignty of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand and an attempt by the big powers to fish in troubled waters.

The Martin Liberals participated in the militarisation of aid with the massive publicity over the sending of Canada's military Disaster Assistance Relief Team (DART) to Sri Lanka. The US sent an aircraft carrier into Indonesian waters and landed thousands of troops. Resurgent Japanese militarism also sent troops to the area under the hoax of tsunami aid. The reporting was designed to attack the national sovereignty of the oppressed countries, foment internal strife, prettify colonial empire building and militarise international relations.

The attack on sovereignty does not rest solely with the powerful militaries; it also is expressed in government support for a proliferation of alleged non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that have no respect for national sovereignty or "borders". These "humanitarianists", whether consciously or anti-consciously, do not go abroad in the spirit of genuine internationalists such as Canadian hero Dr. Norman Bethune, the thousands of members of the Mackenzie-Papineau Brigade or the Cuban doctors and teachers who travel abroad to assist at the behest of sovereign governments in the host country and work through them or upon the appeal of resistance movements opposing foreign imperialist aggression. Genuine humanitarians do not use their positions to help create conditions for colonial invasion. In Dr. Bethune's case, he travelled to Spain at the request of the republican government fighting the Franco fascists and German Nazis, and to China at the request of the Communist Party of China during its liberation war against the Japanese militarist invasion and occupation of China.

Today the big powers are making so-called human security a pillar of their collusion and contention over spheres of influence, zones for the export of capital, access to markets and sources of cheap raw materials and cheap labour. These governments encourage their citizens to travel abroad as "humanitarians" or to send money through international welfare agencies with the aim of interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign countries. Often they deliberately cause confusion about the internal strife in a region to generate a feeling within the populations of the most powerful imperialist countries that this or that oppressed country is a "failed state" that requires colonial interference, invasion and occupation.

Reports on the performance of governments over tsunami aid reveal a despicable competition of one-upmanship as the big power donor countries vie to head the list of donors and thereby merit the reputation of "most humanitarian". A number of commentators attending the January 6 emergency summit in Jakarta noted that the pledge drive looked like a bidding war. Many questioned whether the big powers were using the tragedy to improve their image in the eyes of the rest of the world and influence hardest-hit Indonesia, which has a wealth of natural resources. It was also recalled that a little over a year ago, donors promised Iran more than $1 billion in relief after the devastating earthquake on December 26, 2003 in the southern part of the country which killed 26,000 people. Iranian officials say only $17.5 million was delivered. Furthermore, such aid is often tied to onerous conditions such as restrictions on how and where the aid can be used, buying materials only from the donor country or implementing "free market reforms".

As concerns Canada's responsibility to provide humanitarian aid, what happened to aid for Haiti? Since last September's devastating Hurricane Jeanne, the people of Gonaives continue to languish without food, water and shelter – let alone security. One volunteer organisation in Canada recently informed the Martin government that unless it starts cooperating to get aid to Haiti, it would issue a public statement to Canadian donors to pick up their cash donations or goods from the warehouses where the aid continues to sit due the government's lack of cooperation to get it to those in need.

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