Socialist Worker

Old Tory sleaze and hypocrisy

Issue No. 1733

New Labour was falling apart last weekend. The leaders of the project that was supposed to have transformed politics for all time were tearing each other apart. New Labour's sleaze is a result of the way it has sold itself to business, put company chiefs at the centre of decision making, and allowed firms to rake in profits from the NHS.

The party has deliberately set out to distance itself from the unions and instead gets funds from a few ultra-rich individuals. Mandelson went starry-eyed whenever he saw a multi-millionaire. But he is only the worst example of a much wider trend.

New Labour goes weak at the knees whenever big business offers it a date. If you drop socialism, lick directors' boots and privatise everything in sight you end up like the Tories, in a stew of corruption where money talks loudest. Who will now gain? If the Tories do make any sort of a comeback it will be down to people like Mandelson.

They said Labour must steer hard to the right to get elected, yet it is precisely Tory polices and priorities that are now causing disillusion. Many union leaders still say it is wrong to rock the boat in the run-up to the election, but that will only feed the despair which can give Hague hope. Given New Labour's betrayals it might be tempting to get cynical, to write off all politics. But real politics is not limited to the manoeuvres of those at the top.

It's about fighting for jobs, battling privatisation, and joining the growing clamour in Britain and across the world to put people before profit. New Labour's crisis comes just as there are signs of a revival in struggle-more protests, more militant demonstrations, plans for strikes. Let's fight to drive all the bosses' poodles out of government, to get workers' interests put first, and to build the Socialist Alliance and Scottish Socialist Party electoral challenge to New Labour at the next election.

Some 20,000 workers marched through Marseilles in France last week, as over 300,000 workers struck and shook the country's bosses. All major union federations called a strike in defence of pension rights, and there were demonstrations in scores of towns across the country. Rattled employers quickly dropped their hard line and offered talks. 'Bosses bend to the streets' was the headline of one mainstream newspaper. Factory workers, building workers, office workers, privatised public transport workers and many more marched.

'It's the biggest mobilisation since 1995,' said one union leader, referring to the explosion of strikes in December 1995. In Lille firefighters fought with riot police, and one firefighter had part of his hand torn off by a police gas grenade.

On Tuesday public sector workers then staged more national strikes and demonstrations against the government over pay.

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What We Think
Sat 3 Feb 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1733
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