CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown, the pretender to the Labour leadership and 10 Downing Street, told the Labour Party conference in Brighton yesterday: ‘Our mission is “new” Labour renewed.’
In his keynote speech, Brown avoided any reference to the present crisis of the British capitalist economy, where manufacturing industry is being decimated, and the huge deficit is engulfing government finances. Yet it is these crises which dominated his speech.
He began by hailing ‘our leader Tony Blair’ and repeated the government’s mantra about the ‘war on terror’. He said there would be ‘no hiding place for terrorists’, referring to the raft of draconian police-state laws being brought in.
Blair’s Chancellor declared he wanted Britain to be a ‘home-owning, share-owning, asset-owning, wealth-owning democracy, not just for some but for all’. This is how Brown set out his vision of a Tory Thatcherite ‘property owning democracy’.
Then Brown targeted the working class, dictating that there must be ‘no inflationary pay rises’ and he attacked the trade unions as representing ‘sectional interests’.
While flattering public sector workers for their role in dealing with the July 7 bombings in London, Brown made clear that the government will forge ahead with the privatisation of the National Health Service, education, council housing and local services. He said: ‘The only future of the Labour Party is the party of reform.’ He demanded ‘modernisation of public services’.
The anti-working class character of the Blair-Brown Labour government was made clear yesterday when Alan Johnson, Minister of Trade and Industry, vigorously opposed a motion at the conference from the T&G trade union.
The T&G motion condemned Gate Gourmet management, which summarily evicted 670 workers from their Heathrow plant on August 10, and locked them out. The workers are demanding reinstatement on their current pay and conditions.
The union’s motion called on the Labour government to lift the ban on secondary action ‘at least where there is a close connection between those involved’. It also demanded simple strike ballot procedures, protection of strikers from sackings and a ban on scabs.
ohnson was having none of this. He told the conference there would be no return to the industrial policy of the 1970s. He said: ‘Back then, this party supported secondary action and opposed the minimum wage. Now it’s the other way round. And that’s how it needs to stay!’
Conscious that the government is on a collision course with the working class and its unions, Brown tossed the trade union bureaucrats a few sops to try to keep them quiet. He spoke of an ‘end to the two-tier workforce’ in the public services and said that Labour would ‘honour our Warwick commitments’.
Brown is not a new broom, but merely a different handle for Blair’s old broom.
Millions of workers are on a collision course with the Blair government. They have experienced that new Labour is old Tory.
Youth do not accept paying tuition fees for a university education, public sector workers are taking the road of mass strike action over pensions, NHS staff are fighting its privatisation and postal workers are not going to accept the sell-off of Royal Mail.
Already the FBU firefighters’ union has broken with the Labour Party, the RMT was thrown out and the CWU postal workers union is committed to breaking with Labour when the Royal Mail is sold off.
The time has come for the unions in the Trades Union Congress to break with Labour and form a political representation committee, like the Labour Representation Committee, which will stand its own candidates.
This committee will have the task of politically representing the interests of the working class and its trade unions in elections, in the struggle to defeat the capitalist Labour government and organise for a workers government that will carry out socialist policies.
This will require the building of a new revolutionary leadership in the unions, replacing those leaders who have held back the struggle to bring down the Labour government, the only way to defend public services and the welfare state.