Making History - British Socialist Appeal editorial statement, December 2003

This is how history is made. Hundreds of thousands of protestors flood the capital demonstrating their opposition to a President who holds office thanks to a rigged election. They demand democracy, they demand their voices be heard, they demand that the President go. The biggest weekday demo in British history greeted the visit of George W. Bush. Meanwhile in Georgia, a President and not just an effigy was overthrown.



 

 

 

This is how history is made. Hundreds of thousands of protestors flood the capital demonstrating their opposition to a President who holds office thanks to a rigged election. They demand democracy, they demand their voices be heard, they demand that the President go.
 


In Georgia the result was the resignation of Eduard Shevardnadze after 11 years in office in a 'bloodless revolution'. Once again the power of the masses was demonstrated for the whole world to see.  Shevardnadze would have liked to have used the army to keep his position, however, as we have seen time and again in recent years, once the masses are on the streets in these numbers, the troops tend to go with them. The opposition preparing to grasp the reins let slip by the former Soviet foreign secretary will be no improvement. A struggle between US imperialism and Russia for control of the region and its oil supplies augur dark days ahead for the Georgian masses. Nevertheless they have demonstrated their power to topple Presidents and Parliaments. This is a lesson which will be learned and remembered for the future.

In London meanwhile, it may only have been an effigy of George Bush that was toppled but in the biggest weekday demonstration in British history 200,000 people here demanded that their voices be heard, and that the President should get out.

While Blair and Bush prattled on about the right to demonstrate in a democracy, the raised voices of the people were studiously ignored by the leader of the free world and his sidekick while they enjoyed the pomp and ceremony of a state visit. It is nauseating indeed to see the leader of British Labour fawn so desperately over the leader of the most reactionary force on the planet. It is a day of shame for the labour movement. We can take pride in the demonstration, but cannot allow this humiliation of Labour to continue one day longer.

One demonstrator after another made the same point. If this is a democracy, how come when a majority are against war, Britain sends in the troops; when the majority do not want Bush here, he receives the most lavish welcome since Woodrow Wilson's visit after world war one; and if this is a democracy how come no-one listens to the voices of two hundred thousand ordinary people raised in protest?

Democracy

The democracy Bush and Blair promote is the democratic right to pump oil, to exploit the masses of the world, the democratic right of bosses to hire and fire, and the democratic right of governments to trample over civil liberties. To these people our democratic rights mean that we have the right to annoy them with demonstrations before they carry on regardless.

It is not just Presidents and Prime Ministers who make history, though. With six anti-war demos in one year, the biggest in history and the biggest weekday march in history within months of each other; strikes by postal workers, railway workers and firefighters; shifts to the left in the unions; and now the beginnings of new developments inside Labour itself, history is being made here too.

As we have always explained events in society must inevitably find an expression inside the Labour Party at a certain stage. In the last few months we have reported the decision of several key union leaders to form a new Labour Representation Committee, to organise reclaiming Labour from the Blairite hijackers. This month we can report the creation of a new 'moderate' left within the Parliamentary Labour Party. The New Wave, as the 15 'mainstream' MPs call themselves, are demanding an end to "neo-colonial adventures", curbs on the Government's plans to impose market forces on public services, and closer links between Labour and the trade unions.

The formation of this trend, following Blair's narrow victory on foundation hospitals - the government's 161 majority was cut to just 17 in the vote in the Commons - a policy democratically defeated at Labour's conference just a couple of months ago, is another nail in Blair's coffin. This may not yet represent a challenge to Blair's leadership. However, anyone who dismisses this development is blind to the process taking place within society and within the workers' organisations, including - albeit at an early stage - inside the Labour Party.

The Tories, meanwhile, have a 'new' leader. Michael Howard is the man who brought us the Poll Tax, and Section 28. He is a leftover from the dark days of Thatcher and Major. Surely the Tories cannot win the next election, no matter who leads them? Labour however, and Blair in particular, can lose it. Their first response to the 'new Tory threat' has been to move even further to the right, announcing the withdrawal of legal aid from asylum seekers.

Howard is not the Tories' saviour, but they may yet be saved from humiliation by mounting disillusionment with Blair. The house price bubble cannot float on forever. The first interest rate rise, announced last month, could be the beginning of its end. Blair faces problems wherever he turns - the economy, further militancy from workers who can take no more, and even inside the Labour Party where his apparently vice like grip is weakening.

The emergence of new left groupings inside Labour are a taste of things to come. They reflect on the one hand the fear of a number of MPs that they might lose their seats at the next election if disillusionment continues to rise and, inversely, turnout falls. They are also a reflection of the changes taking place in the outlook of the working class and society as a whole. All of these indicators add up to one thing. We may not yet be on the verge of revolution, but another new stage has opened up. In this period Blair and Blairism will be defeated. The unions must step up their campaign to take the party back. The tragedy of the mighty events in Georgia is that the mass of workers do not have their own independent organisations. Through struggle they will create them. Back home we lost control of our mass organisations years ago. It is time now to take them back.