1 October 2015
It’s only acting
There’s no contesting the fact that Blair is an extremely clever individual with as they say, ‘the gift of the gab’. Yesterday, he made his pitch at the Labour Party conference for his ‘reforms’. Measured rhetoric with a low-key theatrical syntax, lots of ‘stroking’ of his opponents – the result of a team of smart scriptwriters – it’s Blair’s hallmark. That ultimately, it’s entirely hollow and devoid of actual content that addresses the issues citizens want answers to, gets lost in the means of delivery and that of course, is the objective.
On the essential elements, the invasion of Iraq, asylum seekers, identity cards, creeping privatisation of the public sector, health, charging for higher education, Blair is uncompromising – “There’s no going back” he tells us, his voice full of thesbian conviction even as he told the audience that he was for ‘consultation’ and “reconnecting with the Party”.
Blair is playing the leadership ‘take me or leave me’ shtick borrowed, lock, stock and barrel from Thatcher. In a pitch aimed directly at Labour Party members who are extremely unhappy with the direction that the government is going, Blair harked back to previous Labour governments, that, much as the Democracts in the US did, ‘filled in the gaps’ between overtly right-wing governments and made a plea for ‘continuity’ so that Labour’s ‘historic’ mission that started with the post-war government of Bevin that struck the original ‘deal’ with capital could be carried through to its conclusion. And the conclusion? Building the corporate, security state that will secure, he hopes, the future of capitalism.
What makes Blair different from previous Labour leaders is his overt embracing of the corporate state, aka Mussolini’s Italy which entails curbing the power of the unions and restructuring the state machine – the civil service – by locking it into a deadly embrace with big capital via the privatising process. But in order to protect a restructured state machine, it is necessary to protect it. Enter the security state.
Firstly, under the guise of ‘fighting terrorism’ a programme of covert and overt surveillance of the entire population is being constructed. With over 5 million video cams nationwide (and millions more planned) recording peoples’ movements, monitoring of email and other electronic communications and now the move toward a sophisticated identity card system, Blair is building a system of social control that has no historical precedent and one that would have been envied by the ‘evil empire’ of yore. Attacks on the judicial system, including removing fundamental rights such as a right to trial by jury and the right to legal aid, Blair is creating a security state that would be the envy of the Iron Maiden.
And by folding the state’s security infrastructure into a programme to combat ‘anti-social behaviour’, the real objective is masked in the name of ‘law and order’, and another plank of Tory Party policy hijacked, thus addressing the population’s real or imagined fears regarding crime and the ‘breakdown of the social order’.
Building the corporate state
Secondly, by dumping ‘old Labour’s’ connection to the labour movement that built it in favour of big capital as part of the so-called public-private partnerships, he is welding together the state via the civil service with a small cotery of transnational corporations (the Labour Party now gets more financial contributions from big business than it does from the trade unions). In this, Blair has gone much further than 20 years of Thatcherism did in rebuilding the state machine, one that can administer a modern, corporate security state, once that is, it is entirely divested of its ‘socialist’ roots.
The state is after all, the biggest spender and employer in the nation and as such, without public spending – using taxpayer’s money of course – the state is ideally suited to keep the capitalist system solvent but only if the state ‘outsources’ to big business. Moreover, in privatising the public sector, the power of the public sector unions – which are the biggest – can also be broken. This is backdoor Thatcherism masquerading as ‘modernisation’ and the creation of a ‘flexible’ labour market.
At the core of Blair’s programme is taking and keeping power by any means, for which he is prepared to do anything, including appropriating Tory Party policies in their entirety but dressing them up in ‘old labour’ language and using Chancellor Gordon Brown to deliver the ‘socialist’ message (Brown used the word socialist 56 times in his speech at the Labour Party conference, Blair only once) in order to try and placate the traditional labour supporter. The ethos of the post-war Labour government that Blair has appropriated in his call to build the ‘new Jerusalem’ contains all the right symbols but lacks any of the content.
Blair’s opportunism knows no limits. The question is, can he pull it off? Will the unions be seduced by his slick language now that Blair has no organised opposition — the Liberal Democrats notwithstanding — except from organised labour and perhaps a newly invigorated left now that it’s all but gotten over its Soviet ‘hangover’?
Already, the rise of the so-called awkward squad, left-leaning union leaders reveals that in spite of a lack of a coherent, progressive policy, organised labour, the great bulk of which is in the public sector and much of the rest in the service industries, are mobilising in opposition to Blair’s corporatist programme.
A new paradigm is in formation, one that maybe a decade or more in coming but one that is coupled to the other major issues, the environmental crisis, an aggressive US imperialism, and a general malaise that is infecting the developed world, all pointing toward a growing realisation that a fundamental change is needed, the nature of which is still to be determined, but clearly one that requires a real break with the policies of the past, a past that has led to a general crisis, not only of capitalism but that threatens the future of the planet that has nurtured us for so many millennia.