Socialist Worker

'Things can only get worse': Blair

Issue No. 1833

LAST WEEK'S Socialist Worker outlined the 'troubles ahead for New Labour' this year. That issue had not even hit the streets when Tony Blair issued his grim new year message. He spoke of a year of war, recession and insecurity-a far cry from New Labour's 1997 election theme song, 'Things Can Only Get Better'. The message was devoid of any sense of personal responsibility for what he called the 'difficult and dangerous' problems the rest of us face.

Blair instead painted a bleak picture to harden himself up (and soften us up) for inflicting a year of pain. Even as he issued his warning he managed to remain smug, giving little indication that discontent in each area he identified can explode. He talked of the gathering world recession, which Britain is not immune to, warning that after years of economic growth 'we don't yet know what it's like having tough times'.

'Two flats' Tony and Cherie may not know what 'tough times' are like, but millions of ordinary people do. The years of 'economic growth' for most people have meant long hours, stress and a widening gap between the very rich and the rest of us. That's before full-blown recession hits.

Deepening opposition

BLAIR SAID of Israel's brutal assault on the Palestinians, 'We must push on with the peace process because otherwise we are guilty of the very double standards we are accused of.'

That proved to be empty rhetoric this week when Israel's prime minister Ariel Sharon would not even let Palestinian delegates travel to London let alone take part himself in Blair's fig leaf of a peace conference. Above all, Blair spoke of the coming war on Iraq. He talked as if all of us face an agonising choice over whether to blow Iraqi men, women and children to bits. But that sick decision lies with George Bush and Blair is pledged to go along with whatever he decides.

The difficulties Blair faces over the war and all the other problems he identified come from one thing he refused to mention-deepening, bitter opposition to what he is doing. Support for the firefighters, who are set to strike at the end of this month, remains high.

It's not only that their case is just. Millions of people want them to spearhead a wider breakthrough against low pay, privatisation and the erosion of public services. Many other groups of workers want their unions to fight back. There are violent strains between the unions and the Labour Party.

Feeling against the war is growing on every continent. The anti-war movement has taken off astonishingly in the one country Bush is relying on to back him-Britain. This gulf between New Labour and those who voted them in is fuelling opposition to the government.

On top of that, Blair faces political dilemmas, such as whether to join the euro, that divide his own party and the establishment. His solution to all this? Carry on regardless and tell the rest of us that we too should bear responsibility for war and economic hardship. Blair wants to make his problems our problems for a very simple reason-he fears an eruption of popular opposition.

That is what we should give him over every issue, not least over the planned slaughter in Iraq. On 15 February we all have a chance to take to the streets and say that we will do everything in our power to stop Bush and Blair's barbaric war.

Anti-War March In Bahrain

GEORGE BUSH'S planned war on Iraq is creating opposition throughout the Middle East. Hundreds of anti-war protesters took to the streets of Manama, the capital of the key Gulf state of Bahrain, on Friday of last week. Bahrain is a state in turmoil. In April of last year massive protests against the oppression of the Palestinian people swept the kingdom.

On New Year's Day riot police teargassed thousands of young Bahrainis who torched vehicles and smashed hotel windows in areas of Manama frequented by Westerners. King Hamad, a pro-US ruler, is the leader of Bahrain. The US Fifth Fleet is stationed in Bahrain. More anti-war protests are planned.

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What We Think
Sat 11 Jan 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1833
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