Labour Parties

Keaney Michael Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Mon Sep 23 07:01:57 MDT 2002


Mark writes of Blair's Britain:

Major improvements have been made in a
wide range of welfare benefits under Blair, including pensions, social
security payments to the diabled, longterm unemployed and many other
groups. Huge new public spending programmes have begun in education and
health and the status of Britain's socialised National Health Service is
now much mroe secure (the lasty Tory govt was preparing it for
privatisation).

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True to a certain extent, comrade, but I quibble re the NHS, which is being softened up for privatisation as much as, if not more than, it was under the Conservatives. The proliferation of so-called public private partnerships is the insidious method by which private interests take hold of state assets and start pumping them for profit backed by state guarantees. My take on this is that the fractions of national capital so benefitting from state (i.e. taxpayer) largesse are well placed to take advantage of an envisaged future GATS regime in which the service model pioneered in Britain (which just loves to export its best policies -- Thatcher boasted of having exported privatisation and now Blair/Brown go around the world touting PPPs) is replicated throughout the (mostly developing) world. This is the Stiglitz-inspired model now being promoted by the World Bank, by the way, in which "strong institutions" (i.e. the regulatory state) are regarded as pre-requisites for healthy ma!
rkets (the primary purpose of the capitalist state, after all). And it is very much in accordance with EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy's efforts to force open national service provision to "international competition" via inclusion in the current Doha trade round.

I don't believe the welfare state is dead, and in fact concur with your recent points re the reversion to the welfare state in Europe as a means of maintaining/bolstering cohesion vis a vis inter-imperialist rivalry with the US. However that in itself is a terrain of struggle, with traditional models of delivery up against alternative PPP-type models propagated internationally by Blair and Brown and their sponsors in British banks (e.g. HBOS in Spain). Obviously capital will be happier if they can make some money out of it, and it will still be redistribution of a sort since wealthier taxpayers will now not only finance net redistribution and the state bureaucracy that facilitates it, but also the return on investment by capital backing the new PPP model of service provision.

Re the electoral process, I would argue that in Britain one should be very tactical about which parties/politicians to (conditionally) support in line with Phil's emphasis upon the *strategic* purpose of such manoeuvres. For example, I would strongly argue in favour of supporting Ken Livingstone for London mayor, for the SSP in Scotland (exc. in instances such as those below), for Alan Simpson (Labour MP in Nottingham), for Tam Dalyell and George Galloway (Labour MPs in Scotland), for Socialist Alliance candidates in St. Helens, Sedgefield, Hartlepool, Coventry, etc., etc., all the while building grassroots level movements which employ the means provided by the state to "participate" in the political process whilst continuing to struggle outside of the formal state apparatus/electoral process.

Michael Keaney

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