What we think
Don't waste a new chance to build left
THE demonstration in Birmingham last weekend was the biggest workers' protest since the marches against pit closures in 1992. That demonstration was a turning point in the anger against the then Tory government. This time the anger is against a Labour government. The march was a powerful symbol of just how betrayed working people feel by Blair and his pro-business policies.
Everyone who demonstrated was angry about the car bosses' plans to axe Rover jobs, and about the government's refusal to intervene. But marchers voiced many other reasons why they are bitterly angry with New Labour-low wages, job insecurity, cuts in the health service, poverty pensions, more privatisation, fees for students, and on and on. Birmingham focused that anger, but the feeling exists everywhere. Labour's leaders know it. They have privately ruled out any hope of their candidate, Frank Dobson, defeating Ken Livingstone for London mayor.
The party managers' desperate solution is to make Dobson be "twice as passionate, even if that involves swearing" during interviews. The faithful Dobbo responded instantly by treating readers of the New Nation newspaper to a string of swear words-a tactic which might squeeze his miserable support even more. According to a secret cabinet memo seen by the Guardian, "Tony Blair is bracing himself for Labour's worst electoral performance in nearly a decade at next month's local elections."
In Scotland a poll this week showed Labour in second place behind the Scottish National Party in voting intentions for the Scottish Parliament. This is crisis point for New Labour, but Blair's response is to move even further rightwards. The day after the Birmingham march he declared it was not up to the government to save jobs.
Earlier in the week Blair told an American magazine that he is ready to offer the Liberal Democrats cabinet seats after the next election if Labour loses support. The Rover crisis is not unique. Workers in the South Wales steel plants, in Kvaerner in Glasgow, in the textile factories, and in a hundred other places watch the news fearful that their jobs are next for the chop. It is more important than ever to organise the anger with New Labour around a solid core of socialist politics.
That means agitating for a fightback at Longbridge and against job losses everywhere, campaigning for the London Socialist Alliance, and building socialist opposition in every town and city across Britain.