Labour's first year

Labour won the 1997 general election because it was the preferred party of the ruling class. Now we can see why. For the last 12 months, it has pursued ruling class interests with complete single-mindedness. Whether it has been the City of London, the arms manufacturers or News International, Labour has ensured that they have prospered. It has of course been a very different story for the working class. Labour has continued to ensure that the poor pay.

Not that it promised anything else. Labour had made clear it would defend ruling class interests - in particular in relation to Europe, over which the Tories were hopelessly split. By the time of the election, the ruling class was quite satisfied that Labour would defend its political and economic interests in conditions of increasing international instability. It was also confident that when Labour spoke of welfare reform, it would continue, and indeed accelerate, the attack on state welfare started by the Tories. The Sun's endorsement of Blair showed which way the wind was blowing, and with most of the left also supporting Labour, how could it fail to win?


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EDITORIAL: Labour's spending review: Working class made to pay

In recommending Labour's spending review to the House of Commons, Brown boasted that 'we have been steadfast in our priorities - the nation's priorities'. However, as our analysis of previous Labour budgets has shown, Labour's concept of 'nation' is limited to a very select coalition. Every policy statement and every spending decision is designed to ensure that the coalition of forces which elected it to power remains, as far as possible, on its side and intact, as economic conditions deteriorate and unemployment begins to rise again. So, while serving the interests of banking and multinational capital, Labour must at the same time keep the support of the professional, middle and upper working classes.[1] Both the content and presentation of the spending review were contrived to achieve this end.


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Editorial: Break with Labour

In February 1997, three months before the General Election, we demanded to know where Labour would make a difference if they were to replace the reviled Tories. We said Labour will retain and extend all the repressive legislation that has been passed over the last 17 years. The absence of significant internal divisions, the insignificant left wing, and the removal of any inner-party democracy means it is far better placed than the Tories to mount a concerted attack on state welfare spending. It will continue with a bipartisan foreign policy and will maintain its support for the Loyalist ascendancy. It will retain all existing immigration controls. It will not repeal either the Asylum Act nor the Jobseeker's Allowance. In fact it will be more oppressive, more racist, more anti-working class than the Tory government it is almost certain to replace.' (Editorial: Don't vote for Labour, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 135, February/March 1997)


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Editorial / FRFI 150 Aug / Sep 1999

FRFI 150 August / September 1999

Editorial - Labour government: public enemy no 1

In 1997, the overwhelming majority of the left urged us to vote Labour. In the case of the SWP, members tell us they were ‘ordered’ to vote Labour. Now as the SWP bleats ‘this is not what we voted Labour for’, let us look at what they urged us to support.

In the first place a racist party. Labour never made a secret of its support for immigration laws, or of its intention to enact more oppressive asylum legislation. Its support for Britain’s imperialist interests was equally well advertised. The left was certainly urging us to vote for these, whatever hand-wringing there has been since over Yugoslavia.


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Editorial: Labour's morality

Labour's morality is evident for all to see. Even after the government suspended arms shipments to Indonesia, Tony Blair could still tell Labour's National Executive that 'the arms issue is not the issue at all. Cancelling the arms sales to Indonesia would result in a bill of hundreds of millions of pounds.' The implications are clear. Once things have settled down in East Timor to imperialism's satisfaction, arms deliveries will restart. This is one aspect of Blair's 'new moral purpose': defending the arms multinationals.


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Editorial - Labour: spending for 'middle England'

Labour governments have always been imperialist, pro-business, racist and anti-working class. Apart from this, their principles are few and elastic, ever malleable to political contingency and the need to hold on to power. Blair's Labour Party is no exception and, with a general election likely within the next year, it is rapidly adjusting its policies to the opinions and prejudices of the most backward and reactionary sections of the British middle class.


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Welcome... No consent to Labour imperialism

‘There are two types of nations similar to ours today. Those who do war fighting and peacekeeping and those who have, effectively, except in the most exceptional circumstances, retreated to the peacekeeping alone. Britain does both. We should stay that way. But how do we gain the consent to do it?
‘What we face is not a criminal conspiracy or even a fanatical but fringe terrorist organisation. We face something more akin to revolutionary communism in its early and most militant phase. It is global…So from the perspective of our Armed Forces, how do we define this new situation? The battle will be long. It has taken a generation for the enemy to grow. It will, in all probability take a generation to defeat…
‘The frontiers of our security no longer stop at the Channel. What happens in the Middle East affects us. What happens in Pakistan; or Indonesia; or in the attenuated struggles for territory and supremacy in Africa for example, in Sudan or Somalia. The new frontiers for our security are global. Our Armed Forces will be deployed in the lands of other nations far from home, with no immediate threat to our territory, in environments and in ways unfamiliar to them… They will usually fight alongside other nations, in alliance with them; notably, but probably not exclusively with the USA… There is a case for Britain in the early 21st century, with its imperial strength behind it, to slip quietly, even graciously into a different role. I do not share that case
…’ Tony Blair, 12 January 2007

Blair’s speech spells out the position of the British state – a continuation into the new century of war, plunder and brutality. The veil of democracy, freedom and winning ‘hearts and minds’ is now almost worn away as the US/British war machine goes into overdrive. The resistance in Iraq has dealt an almost knock-out punch to imperialism’s plans in the Middle East. As a result the occupation armies are lashing out, with 22,000 new US troops planned to join the fold. The atrocities committed against the Iraqi people are set to escalate further in a last ditch battle as US/British imperialism attempt to salvage the situation (see pp1, 6 and 7).


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Welcome... Ten years of Labour

Things can only get better,
Can only get better,
Now I've found you…

Thus chirped the pop-song; the Labour Party’s theme tune as they returned to government ten years ago. It was the soundtrack that promised rewards to the middle classes who voted them in, but nothing for the poor.

In the run-up to the 1997 election charade Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! said: ‘vote Labour and there will be no change…In fact it will be more oppressive, more racist, more anti-working class than the Tory government’ (editorial FRFI 135). This was not a guess or a long shot. It was statement based on analysis and history, which led us to conclude that:


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Torpor grips Convention of the Left

The Convention of the Left met in Manchester at the same time as the Labour Party conference; attracting fewer than 200 at its main sessions, it said more about the weakness of the left than anything else.


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Labour opts for more of the same

The Labour Party conference took place as if in a state of siege, both physically and politically. Around the GMex conference in the centre of Manchester police had erected a ring of fortified barricades against the supposed threat of a car bomb attack. Delegates had to enter the conference area down walk ways with 10-foot high fences on either side. At the entrance in John Dalton Street, Labour Party officials vetted people for their delegate, press or visitor passes. They were assisted by two policemen toting submachine guns. Such weaponry was very much in evidence elsewhere around the GMex. Manchester’s finest were also very diligent in policing the small anti-war march – perhaps 3,000 strong – that wound its way past the conference centre on the Saturday before the conference started. Police cameramen were all over the march. There were attempts to arrest those who were wearing masks. Robert Clough reports.


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Labour and prisons

labour and prisons

Before 1979 the prison system was administered by a succession of Tory and Labour governments, with no obvious difference: neither exhibited concern for prisoners’ welfare but nor did they use mass imprisonment and the ‘war on crime’ as a rallying cry. As Thatcherism took hold, imprisonment increased, sentences became longer and more people were remanded in custody. Conditions were squalid and prison staff brutal. Prisoners protested throughout the 1980s, culminating in the Strangeways uprising in 1990, which publicly exposed conditions so thoroughly that no politician dared defend them.


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Imperialist Labour

imperialist labour

Middle East

• Labour has repeatedly unleashed British military force to preserve Middle East oil reserves for imperialism and has been a consistent defender of Zionism.’ One of the greatest factors in helping us to overcome our initial difficulties was the fact that from the first, since 1917, we constantly received encouragement from the British Labour movement,’ – Golda Meir, former Prime Minister of Israel.

• In 1948, the Labour government withdrew British troops from Palestine, making way for the Zionist terror that drove 900,000 Arabs out of Palestine. From then until today, the Zionist ‘Friends of Israel’ group has regularly claimed over 100 Labour MPs as members.

• Before the 1991 Gulf War, Labour tried to outdo the Conservatives in bellicosity, with Shadow Foreign Secretary Kaufman denouncing the government as ‘slack, lax and negligent’ in response to the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. At the end of the war, Kinnock defended the slaughter of retreating Iraqi troops. He was supported by the General Council of the TUC.


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Labour: a racist party

labour and prisons

The 1996 Asylum and Immigration Act is the latest in a long line of increasingly draconian anti-immigration laws introduced by the current government. The Act withdrew state benefit from any refugee who does not announce their intention to apply for asylum immediately on arrival in this country. It introduced a so-called ‘white list’ of countries from which asylum claims are presumed bogus and brought in ‘fast-track’ procedures, which speed up deportation and leave would-be asylum-seekers no time to collect vital evidence about their mental and physical torture. Despite a succession of court cases which have reaffirmed the obligation on local authorities to feed and house asylum-seekers, withdrawal of benefits has already left many destitute and homeless. Nearly 37,000 decisions on asylum applications were made by the Home Office in 1996: 6% were granted refugee status and 14% ‘exceptional leave to remain’; the other 80% were rejected. Without a hint of irony, the government cites these figures as ‘proof’ that its system of weeding out ‘bogus’ applicants is working.


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The attack trade unions

the attack on the unions

The last 18 years have seen an unprecedented attack on the trade unions, with no less than seven laws being passed restricting their right to organise:

- 1980: Secondary picketing made unlawful

- 1982: Unions made responsible for unlawful industrial action, with possible sequestration of their funds as a consequence

- 1984: Industrial action made unlawful without a secret ballot

- 1988: Industrial action to enforce union membership made unlawful

- Separate ballots now required for each workplace involved in an action

- Action by unions against scabs made unlawful

- 1990: All secondary industrial action made unlawful

- Unions now financially liable for unlawful industrial action called by any union official or body

- Dismissal of employees taking part in unofficial action is now permitted (eg the Liverpool dockers)

- 1992: Existing laws consolidated

- 1993: Seven days’ notice required for all industrial action


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The condition of the working class

condition of working class

It is now just over 150 years since Engels wrote his celebrated work on The Condition of the Working Class in England. It was the first serious attempt to portray the appalling conditions in which the mass of the working class lived at that time, crowded into slum houses lacking any sanitation, always on the verge of starvation with no prospect of basic education for their children let alone health care. With today's General Election focusing entirely on the concerns of the middle class, it is time to look at the impact of 18 years of Tory government on the condition of the working class.


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General Election: A general fraud

general election general fraud

The General Election is a complete fraud. Six weeks of electioneering are being presented as the high point of political life in this country. In reality, it is a crude auction for the votes of the greediest, most bigoted, egotistical sections of this society: the middle class. In the 19th century before the secret ballot was introduced votes were openly bought and sold in the street. Nowadays, there is an attempt to make it look respectable. Instead of hard cash or favours, it is tax cuts or selective education. The candidates do not buy the votes directly: instead they offer IOUs and promise that in government they will maintain the privileges of middle class people. No one at this election will represent the working class. So what's the state of play in the auction so far? Round one to New Labour. With its support for complete deregulation of the media it picked up the support of The Sun. That is how politics works. New Labour promises Rupert Murdoch a free hand to dominate the media by opposing any limits to cross-ownership of the TV and the press. Rupert Murdoch gives his support to New labour. It is that simple. What next? Well the Tories gave the middle class a top tax bracket of 40 per cent. Labour have matched the offer with knobs on: 40 per cent top tax bracket for a further five years at least. The Tories re-introduced the policy of selective education to give middle class children a better start. New Labour have matched it – grammar schools are safe in their hands! You want cuts in public spending? Labour and Tory will give them to you! You want the streets cleared of the homeless, of noisy working class children, black people? Either will oblige.


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