"If the people have no faith in their leaders, they cannot stand."
We live in an epoch of sudden and sharp turns. On Thursday night, as Tony Blair
slept aboard a Boeing 777 bound from Washington to Tokyo, he was rocked by the
news of the death of Dr David Kelly. In a single instant the whole situation was
transformed. On leaving Washington, Blair was congratulating himself on his
success, as The Independent on Sunday reported:
"After his triumphal speech to the houses of Congress, with its 17 standing
ovations, the Prime Minister had a 20-minute meeting with President Bush, and a
group of senior officials including Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Condoleeza
Rice in the Oval Office before a joint press conference and dinner with the
"At this meeting, Mr Blair apparently extracted from the Americans an
agreement to suspend proceedings against two British prisoners held by the US
military in Guantanamo Bay. Although this is only a holding position, it was a
very welcome concession which spared Mr Blair from a rising wave of protest in
"After he boarded his Boeing 777 in bright Washington sunshine, Mr Blair
will have been told of yet more good news from home. There was the wholly
unexpected defeat of Mick Rix, who was standing for re-election as leader of the
train drivers’ union, Aslef. Mr Rix was regarded in Downing Street as the most
dangerous of the new breed of "awkward squad" union leaders, and this
was the first significant union election in five years in which the winner was
the candidate who was identifiably pro-Blair.
"More importantly, the foreign affairs committee had come out with an
extraordinary attack on the BBC defence correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, branding
him an "unsatisfactory witness". To Mr Blair’s advisers, that was a
major advance in their campaign to reclaim public trust by disposing of the
BBC’s allegation that they had doctored intelligence reports to buttress the
case for war in Iraq.
"So in one day, Mr Blair appeared to have defeated the BBC, improved
relations with the unions, proved that he was not a "poodle" of the
American President and shown off his stature as a world figure. Unsurprisingly,
his entourage enjoyed a celebratory drink aboard the plane – Blair had red wine
– and talked over the day for about an hour before most of the party, Blair
included, went to get some sleep." (The Independent on Sunday).
But just when everything in the garden seemed rosy for Tony Blair, everything
has started to unravel. At around 7am London time, the Prime Minister was given
the news that David Kelly was missing. Mr Blair’s reaction, according to one
official, was one of "shock".
Now Blair is desperately trying to distance himself from the crisis. He is
looking around for scapegoats. The magnitude of these events signifies the
inevitability of resignations at the highest level, so the Prime Minister is
frantically looking around for friends prepared to fall upon their swords in
order to protect their Lord and Master.
In boxing, sometimes a man is expected to "take a fall". It is much
the same in bourgeois politics, which is about as crooked a game as professional
boxing. A likely candidate for the role of the "fall guy" here is
Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence and the man with overall
responsibility for the several days of interrogation of Dr Kelly which followed
his admission that he had spoken to the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan. But Mr
Blair also probably has several other people in mind, certainly including
Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell, the men at the centre of the right wing
cabal of "spin doctors" in Number Ten who deliberately engineered the
confrontation with the BBC and orchestrated the campaign against Gilligan and
Kelly – clearly with the full knowledge and support of the Boss.
In Tokyo, the face of the Prime Minister told its own story. In place of the
shining and angelic countenance that greeted the US Congress we have the
strained and gaunt expression of a man who feels that he is delicately balanced
on the edge of an abyss.
"I am profoundly sad for David Kelly and his family," he said to Sky
TV (as soon as all the other journalists were out of sight). "He was a fine
public servant. He did immense service for his country and I am sure he would
have done so in the future. There is now however going to be a due process and a
proper independent inquiry. I believe that it should be allowed to establish the
facts. We should set aside speculation, claims and counter-claims and allow that
due process to take its proper course; and, in the meantime, all of us,
politicians and media alike, should show some restraint and respect. That’s all
I’m going to say."
This is Mr. Blair’s customary way of getting out of trouble: to assume a
hypocritical attitude of pious morality and hope that people will be so
impressed by his angelic expression that they will forget to ask the questions
they had in mind. In addition he is trying to use the old trick of British
politicians when in serious difficulties: refer the matter to an inquiry and
then refuse to comment, pending the results thereof.
It is really a little late to recall the wonderful qualities of a man whom the
government and its agents have just harried and hounded into an early grave. It
is said that dead men tell no tales, but this one still has the potential to
cause serious damage to Tony Blair and the clique of unprincipled right wing
carpetbaggers who have seized the reins of power and until recently regarded
themselves as above the law.
The row over the death of Dr. Kelly is not a passing incident or a little
detail. It has opened up a crisis that has no precedent in recent British
history. The nearest parallel would be the Profumo scandal that finished off the
Conservative government of Hume in the early 1960s. If anything, this is even
more profound. It has all the makings of a crisis of the regime. It has
partially lifted the curtain on the functioning of the British state and shown
what a rotten can of worms lies behind the façade of bourgeois parliamentary
democracy, what mafia methods are used by the state to defend the monopoly on
power, and with what studied brutality the voices of dissidence are silenced.
This is only the tip of the iceberg.
From the standpoint of the ruling class this is highly unfortunate. After all,
it is important that the masses should not be aware of the real situation and
that the illusion be maintained that it is the will of the people that decides
everything. But it was not the will of the people to go to war in Iraq and this
was shown by the biggest demonstrations in British history last February. In
order to swing British public opinion in favour of a war, Blair and his stooges
resorted to brazen lies and the falsification of official documents. They
temporarily succeeded in this deception, but now the chickens are coming home to
The clumsy attempts to silence the press and divert public attention away from
the government’s lies and falsifications involved strong-arm tactics against a
troublesome BBC journalist and his alleged source inside the Ministry of Defence,
a shy civil servant called Dr. David Kelly. Kelly was subjected to a vicious
interrogation by a kangaroo court disguised as a government committee. The
scenes of bullying and intimidation by Blair’s stooges on the committee have
shocked the nation. There can be no doubt that this led to the suicide of Dr.
Kelly – an action that was not in the original script written by Alistair
Prominent British civil servants are not supposed to commit suicide, and least
of all be driven to their death by government persecution. This has caused a
wave of revulsion that now threatens the stability of the government. At the
very least there will have to be resignations at the highest level of
government. Almost certainly Campbell will go, and maybe Hoon also. But the
finger of suspicion continues to point to the Prime Minister himself.
The immediate tactic adopted by Number Ten Downing Street is to refer everything
to a committee of inquiry. The very fact that Blair has agreed to this shows
just how desperate he has become, since up till now he has refused to call an
inquiry over the scandal about weapons of mass destruction. Privately, Downing
Street is hoping that Lord Hutton will extend his inquiry to look into whether
the BBC, and the journalists who besieged Dr Kelly’s Oxfordshire home,
contributed to his state of mind.
Meanwhile, is Mr Blair was hypocritically pleading for "restraint and
respect" from British journalists. Having hounded Kelly to his death, these
people are suddenly most concerned about the feelings of his family! This
blatant hypocrisy has not prevented the "gentlemen of the press" from
attacking the Prime Minister in unprecedented language. During his press
conference with Junichiro Koizumi, the Japanese Prime Minister, at the spa
resort of Hakone a reporter shouted at him: "Have you got blood on your
hands, Prime Minister? Are you going to resign?" A white-faced Mr. Blair
was hastily bundled off the platform by his Japanese host.
The present crisis is important for what it tells us about the regime in Britain
and other western "democracies". Marxists have no illusions about
bourgeois legality and parliamentarianism. It is clear that in an age when a
handful of super-rich bankers and monopolists dominate society and take all the
important decisions, the powers of parliament are in the best case severely
restricted. The Blair government is even more firmly in the pocket of big
business than the previous Tory administrations.
Nevertheless, we defend democracy because it gives the working class a more
favourable context in which to develop the class struggle and build its
organisations. In the epoch of imperialism the democratic rights that were
conquered by the working class in the past are constantly under threat. The rule
of the big banks and monopolies is really incompatible with democracy, and they
try to limit and stifle it at every step. At the present time the rights of
parliament – such as they are – are being systematically eroded, not just by the
bankers and monopolists (who, in any case, hold the real power) but by the right
wing clique around Tony Blair who act as if they were above all laws and all
democratic control and restraints. Power has passed from parliament to the
Cabinet and from the Cabinet to an clique of functionaries like Alistair
Campbell, who take all the important decisions together with the Prime Minister,
although they are not elected and responsible to nobody.
This is no accident but flows from the very nature of the right wing Labour
leaders. People like Tony Blair keenly sense their inferiority before the people
who really rule Britain – that tiny handful of super-rich men and women who own
and control the means of production. Blair and co. are always anxious to
"prove" themselves to be "fit to rule". That is to say, they
feel the need to prove themselves to Big Business. And in order to do this, they
must show themselves to be "strong" when standing up to the working
class and the trade unions, and to "special interest groups" – that
is, single parents, the old, the sick and the unemployed.
This is even more the case in the arena of world politics. Just as Blair grovels
before the bankers and the City of London at home, so he feels an irresistible
compulsion to give uncritical support to the most powerful imperialist nation –
the USA. Blair has even shown himself willing to risk his political career and
the future of his government in his anxiety to please the man in the White
The truth is that Tony Blair has nothing whatever to do with the Labour
Movement, the working class or socialism. He only joined the Labour Party as an
accident. Moreover, he is the first Labour leader in history that does not
believe the Party should have been created! Therefore he is making it his
business to destroy the Labour Party from within. This is a kind of bourgeois
"entrism" that seeks to undermine Labour by depriving it of its
socialist identity, split it away from the unions (an aim that is ironically
shared by most of the ultra-left lunatics) and destroy its credibility with its
working class supporters.
So far Mr. Blair has performed his tasks admirably. And as long as he is
carrying out Tory policies under a false flag and keeping the Labour rank and
file under control, he will continue to get the support of big business and the
media. They do not need the Tories, whose basic problem is that Blair has stolen
Those who argue that because of Blair the Labour Party has undergone a
qualitative change and is now a "bourgeois Party" have understood
nothing. Despite everything, the Labour Party remains the mass party of the
British working class. It is still rooted in the unions who pay its bills and
control half the votes at Party Conference. The unions in Britain are moving to
the Left and have launched a campaign for the transformation of the Party. The
mood in the ranks and even the Parliamentary Party is increasingly rebellious.
Even before the present events Blair’s control was beginning to weaken. The
resignations of Cook and Clare Short show the beginnings of splits at the top.
The number of Labour MPs voting against the government is constantly increasing.
It is in this context that we must see the behaviour of the press in the present
crisis. The ruling class is following events in the unions and Labour Party with
growing concern. Despite the nonsense of the ultra-lefts, the attitude of Big
Business to the Labour Party has not changed. Its policy towards the Labour
Government is: "use and discredit". They will use Blair and the right
wing to carry out policies that would have provoked a storm of protest under a
Tory government, and when they have sufficiently discredited Labour, they will
turn against the government, organising a campaign in the press to bring it down
and prepare for an even more viciously reactionary Tory government. What we see
now is the opening shots in such a campaign.
The Labour right wing is full of middle class careerists who have no principles
and no interest in the Labour Party except as a vehicle for their personal
advancement. A typical specimen of this breed is Alistair Campbell, the Rasputin
of the Downing Street clique. Campbell will probably lose his job in the
fall-out from Dr Kelly’s death. His loss will not be mourned in the Labour
Movement. But it will not, in itself, solve the central problem.
Despite all Blair’s attempts to distance himself from the scandal, the issues
raised will not go away. The rumblings of discontent inside the Labour Party are
getting stronger every day. On the other hand, to the degree the ruling class
sees that he is no longer able to control the working class and keep discipline
in the Party, they will drop him like a hot potato. The Blairites will find
themselves attacked both from the Left and the Right.
The well-known actress and Labour Left MP Glenda Jackson called on Saturday for
Blair’s resignation. She publicly accused him of lying over the question of
weapons of mass destruction and personal responsibility in the Kelly affair.
There is no doubt that she was saying what many Labour Party members are now
The support for Blair and his right wing faction inside the Labour Party and the
unions has virtually collapsed. The road is therefore wide open for the Left to
take back control of the Party. As always the key is the trade unions where
left-leaning general secretaries have already raised the demand for the unions
to reclaim Labour. What is required is an energetic campaign at all levels to
kick out the right wing that has done colossal damage to the Labour Party. It is
not only a question of foreign policy and the war, but the adoption of Tory
policies in the health service, education and the public sector in general that
has infuriated Labour’s rank and file. This year’s Labour Conference promises to
be a hot one.
Those misguided elements who have advocated abandoning the Labour Party and even
demanded that the unions disaffiliate have been shown to be wrong. What is
necessary is to carry the fight for socialist policies into every Labour and
trade union branch, to pose the question of getting rid of the right wing and
regaining control of the Party. This is the only serious way of fighting against
Blair! In the coming period the fight inside the Labour Party will become
intense. The branches and conferences will come alive again as people se that
there is a real possibility for change. The Marxists will not stand aside from
this struggle but will participate actively in it, push it forward and
simultaneously fight for the adoption of genuine socialist policies.
The growing social crisis in Britain must be reflected in a growing right-left
polarisation in the Labour Party. At a certain stage the right wing will be
vomited out. They are really alien elements who have infiltrated the Labour
Party for careerist purposes. But when they realise that the situation in the
Party is no longer conducive to their careers, they will leave in droves.
The ruling class will not sit idly by while this process develops. They will
support the right wing against the Left while simultaneously undermining the
Labour Party. They would prefer a Tory administration, but at the moment this is
not likely. Therefore, at a certain stage, they will try to split the Labour
Party, using the Blairites for this purpose. The stage will be set for a
repetition of the split of 1932.
Great convulsions are being prepared. At bottom the storms and stress in the
political sphere reflect the turbulence on a world scale that is only an
expression of the organic crisis of capitalism. This is the most turbulent
period in history since 1945. Sooner or later it must be reflected in the
consciousness of the working class and in its mass organisations.
For a long time the pendulum of history has swung far to the right, and this has
coloured the whole situation of the workers organisations. But now the pendulum
has begun to swing violently in the opposite direction. The stage is being set
for a massive swing to the left. The Marxist tendency must be prepared for this.
We must not be swayed by ephemeral developments and cross-currents but fix our
mind firmly on the task in hand. The way to build a powerful Marxist current
lies through the mass organisations of the working class.