Editorial from the February 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard
Eighteen months on and the Blair project is looking increasingly hollow. Government resignations, charges of “cronyism” and sleaze plus the apparent feuding between Blair and Brown. It seems like a far cry from the happy days of May 1997.
This is not all. There is the NHS crisis (nothing new about this of course), a looming recession and government plans to join the Euro which could prove tricky.
For our part, we did argue at the General Election that the New Labour project would be a damp squib. Unlike the leftists, we did not feel that the working class should have to experience yet another Labour government to realise that it would be anti-working class. We were arguing that reformist politics is anti-working class before the Labour Party was even properly formed! We feel the current government has not disappointed us—it has demonstrated yet again that capitalism cannot be reformed in the interests of the working class.
The vacuous nature of the Blair project is encapsulated by the much used phrase “the third way” which is associated with Professor Anthony Giddens—the Director of the London School of Economics and one of Blair’s intellectual gurus. The basic idea is that Britain should position itself somewhere between American neo-liberalism and European social democracy.
Quite frankly, if this is the best pro-capitalist intellectuals can come up with then there really is a crisis in capitalist intellectual thought and an obvious need to search for an alternative to capitalism itself.
However, “the third way” does broadly serve the interests of the capitalist class and the implicit message is quite clear: there is no other capitalist option than “Thatcherism with a human face”. As we have argued before in this journal, ideas do not come from nowhere—they have a material basis. The social and political crisis of the 70s never really ended which is why the current government is carrying on with ostensibly the same Thatcherite programme as those preceding it. The post-war period of reformism is dead and there is no going back.
From this point of view it is easier to understand why Blair is forever fiddling with constitutional reform, getting into bed with the Liberals etc. without such things the government would not have a programme. Not only this, Blair is clearly intending to stay in power for at least three terms and he has calculated (rightly or wrongly) that proportional representation and possible coalition government with the Lib-Dems is only probably the only way to achieve it. The Tories may be kept out of power for a generation but the Blair project will inevitably come to a sticky end sooner or later. And who will mourn? Not the working class which elected it in 1997 with such a landslide—that’s for sure.