IN THESE days, when capitalist Britain is being rocked by the world economic crisis and the disaster of its imperialist policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the death of a failure, ex-Tory leader Edward Heath, has given an opportunity for all the Tories in the House of Commons to rally round to try and shore up the ship of state by presenting Heath as a ‘colossus’, a ‘political giant’ and as one of the main leaders of the 20th century.
Prime Minister Blair said in the House of Commons that Heath was a man of ‘vision, principle and integrity’, adding ‘He was magnificent . . . a prime minister our country can be proud of.’
Blair placed himself immediately on the opposite side of the barricades to the working class, which fought Heath’s policies tooth and nail, and which brought down the Heath government in 1974 when he went to the country asking who ruled, the government or the trade unions?
The reply was the trade unions, and Heath went out of office and was removed as leader of the Tory party by Thatcher.
He came into office in 1970 to fight the trade unions, and brought in anti-union laws and industrial courts to decide wages and conditions.
Under his rule the Pentonville Five dockers were jailed for illegal secondary action – picketing the Midland Cold Store – but were released when the TUC was forced to call a 24-hour general strike. Heath came unstuck when he took on the miners, and was brought down in 1974.
This would-be hammer of the working class is Blair’s ‘man of vision, principle and integrity . . . magnificent. . . a man our country can be proud of.’ Thus, one Tory hails another.
Tory leader Howard echoed Thatcher, calling Heath ‘one of the political giants of the 20th century’, a description that would have evoked gales of laughter if used when Heath was alive, when relations between himself and the Thatcherites could be summed up as ‘mutual loathing’.
Thatcher, in the House of Lords, however made a more interesting point on the failed Tory leader. She said: ‘As prime minister, he was confronted by the enormous problems of post-war Britain. If those problems eventually defeated him, he had shown in the 1970 manifesto how they, in turn, would eventually be defeated.’
In fact, Heath promised in his 1970 election manifesto to take on and destroy the trade union power of the working class in Britain.
In a famous speech to the United Nations he said that the main danger that ‘we faced’ was not war between nations but wars between peoples, that is civil wars.
It is this civil war that he stoked up in Britain.
He met his Waterloo in 1974. The miners strike forced him to call a general election, when his opponents in the Tory party maintained that he should have proved who ruled the country by calling out the army and declaring martial law.
He lost the election, was knifed by Thatcher, and Labour was forced to repeal his anti union laws.
In 1979, the Tories were returned and the whole power of the state was mobilised for five years to take on the NUM. This war was launched in 1984, when massive coalstocks had been established and Thatcher was sure that the TUC would not intervene.
Heath prepared the way for Thatcher, no doubt this is why Blair celebrates the ‘magnificent’ Heath.
Thatcher was brought down by mass opposition to her attempt to introduce the Poll Tax, leaving a battered, discredited and demoralised Tory party in her wake.
This left the reorganised Labour party right wing, led by Blair, to carry forward the Thatcherite banner. He however, has already experienced his ‘Poll Tax’ with the combination of his privatisation campaign and his war in Iraq.
The working class must now conclude the whole period of massive class struggle since 1970 by bringing down the Blair government and going forward to a workers’ government and socialism. This will show that the ‘great statesmen’ of the bourgeoisie were in fact the political pygmies of a broken system.