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Why Britainís Communists Backed Blair

Kenny Coyle

This interview by Torge LŲding has been translated from the 19 September 1997 issue of the German socialist paper Junge Welt. We are grateful to Mike Jones for providing us with a copy of the article.

IN THE general election the Communists stood only three candidates, in safe Labour seats, in order not to endanger Tony Blairís electoral victory. Labourís victory scarcely amounts to a step forward for the British workersí movement. What did your party hope to achieve by this?

We definitely wanted the return of a Labour government in order to put an end to 18 years of Tory rule. At the same time of course we saw that Labour was not leading a campaign for real political change.

The Socialist Labour Party (SLP) of minersí leader Arthur Scargill and the Socialist Party (SP) stood candidates in opposition to New Labour, wherever it was possible for either party to do so, and they achieved respectable results. What is the Communist Partyís present relationship with these parties?

Both parties say that there is no longer any difference between Labour and the Tories. That is false historically, and it is false at the present time. We welcome a Labour government as a first step. We also see a clear difference between the Tories as the traditional party of capital and Labour as a traditional workersí party. Even though Labour has never been a socialist party, it has always been linked to the trade unions and expresses the political consciousness of the working class.

It is the policy of New Labour under Blair to cut the link with the trade unions and to throw overboard all the traditions of the workersí movement.

Blair wants to cut this link, but he has not yet done so. The problem with the SLP and SP is that they have abandoned this struggle before it has been fought. That is a damaging position, because this struggle inside the Labour Party has to be conducted with great skill by the left wing. Itís a shame that here the progressive people should have the wind taken out of their sails.

But what positive elements are there in Blairism?

The commitment to regional parliaments in Scotland and Wales for example. Similarly the more flexible political line towards the problem of Northern Ireland. Of course, it also includes negative elements. Labour has no serious intention of really changing British society. Here their ideas are at best vague. Particularly lacking is any idea as to how essential improvements are to be financed. There is no sign of increased taxation of the rich, and urgently-needed money for the National Health Service will not be provided until next year. The government has begun to attack sections of its own electoral supporters. The meagre state pension will not be increased, and state grants for students will be stopped. Labour will even introduce tuition fees for students.

You hope that a struggle will develop within the Labour Party. How strong is the left inside New Labour?

It is not a question of fighting within the Labour Party for something that has never existed. That is why I have no time for the statements by the SLP and SP, asserting that the character of the Labour Party has changed. Whenever Labour has been in government it has never hesitated to pursue pro-imperialist policies. Tony Blair has perhaps kidded the people a bit less. Nostalgic views of the past are useless. We must ask ourselves how the consciousness of the masses can develop in a dialectical fashion in the direction of socialism, and only then can we occupy ourselves with the question of how this consciousness, which does not exist today, can be given an organisational expression. The policy of the SLP and SP is to launch a party today to struggle for socialism. Thatís fine, but they overlook the fact that the majority of the British people today are not in favour of socialism.

Have you any ideas as to how socialist consciousness can be developed today?

We want to unite people in campaigns around their concrete problems, not on the basis of socialist consciousness. In that respect we have good contacts with the unions and the left in the Labour Party. In such oppositional movements we introduce our proposals for a fair tax system and for social control of the banks, for example.

But Communists are hardly a social factor in the country, are they?

In the 1980s the party went through a severe crisis, from which we are now slowly recovering. Today we have around 1,200 members, so we are still quite small. It is especially important to rebuild our influence in industry which we had in the 1970s. Through the actions of the state against our working class activists and the closure of many factories we have in practice largely lost our roots in this area.