[Marxism] Tariq Ali is at least consistent

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Mar 30 13:54:59 MST 2005


(I don't know much about the Liberal Democrats in Great Britain except that 
they are a bourgeois party that has a social base similar to the urban 
professional wing of the DP. Meanwhile, the Labor Party is also a bourgeois 
party that has a social base similar to the old rust-belt trade union wing 
of the DP, with its own urban professional wing as well. Tariq writes, 
"Normally, people vote to assert their political sympathies. But this is 
not a normal general election. It will be the first opportunity to punish 
the warmongers and, given the undemocratic voting system, the votes cast 
for the Greens, Respect and others will have no impact, with a possible 
exception in Bethnal Green and Bow, east London, where George Galloway 
confronts the warmonger Oona King." Sigh, we've heard this before, haven't 
we. Maybe Tariq should write V. 2 of his memoirs and title it "Salon 
Slouching Man".)

Comment
For one day only, I'm a Lib Dem

We must take the politics of the anti-war front into the electoral arena

Tariq Ali
Saturday March 26, 2005
The Guardian

The crucial events that led to the occupation of Iraq by the US and Britain 
are now classified, proven and documented. Tony Blair and his New Labour 
cohorts, backed by their Conservative allies, lied without shame to drag a 
reluctant country to war. A dung-heap of "facts" was manufactured by 
Alastair Campbell and hurled at television and the print media. Those who 
questioned them were traduced and harassed. The million and a half who 
marched to try to prevent the war were ignored. Iraq was occupied. Despite 
the rushed and half-baked elections, a savage chaos still grips the 
country. The Archbishop of Canterbury remains silent. After the 2001 
election, but well before 9/11, Rowan Williams offered the following advice 
to the nation: "Without the perspective of religion our whole politics is 
likely to be in deep trouble."

Article continues
The cost of the Iraqi adventure was heavy. According to a team of medical 
investigators sent by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, more than 
100,000 Iraqi civilians died. Torture, encouraged from above, became a fact 
of life. Perhaps some good liberal apologist for Blair will soon explain 
how democratic torture is much nicer than authoritarian torture. Perhaps 
the belligerati could take this further. Ian McEwan's next novel could 
sensitively depict dilemmas of a liberal torturer faced with the barbaric 
Orient. Why not? We live, after all, in a world where illusions are sacred 
and truth profane.

Meanwhile, as some (non-Labour) MPs contemplate impeaching Blair for lying 
and other misdemeanours, a general election draws near in Britain. What are 
we going to do? If Blair wins this election (as appears likely), he will 
claim, like Bush, that the country supports him in these difficult times. 
It is for this reason that those who opposed the war must think carefully 
before they cast their votes. Abstention is not a serious option. The aim 
should be to return an anti-war majority to the House of Commons. This 
requires tactical/intelligent voting in every constituency.

Normally, people vote to assert their political sympathies. But this is not 
a normal general election. It will be the first opportunity to punish the 
warmongers and, given the undemocratic voting system, the votes cast for 
the Greens, Respect and others will have no impact, with a possible 
exception in Bethnal Green and Bow, east London, where George Galloway 
confronts the warmonger Oona King. It is possible that in some 
constituencies the Green/Respect vote could ensure the return of a 
warmonger, as we have seen in the odd byelection. So why not treat this 
election as special and take the politics of the broad anti-war front to 
the electoral arena? If the result is a hung parliament or a tiny Blair 
majority, it will be seen as a victory for our side.

Blair has led this country into more wars than Thatcher and Major combined. 
He is responsible for more deaths than his Tory predecessors and with fewer 
popular votes to back him. In 1992, the year Neil Kinnock was defeated by 
John Major, the Labour vote was 11.5 million. In 2001, New Labour's 
indecent majority was based on a popular vote of 10.7 million. Turnout 
dropped from 71% in 1997 to 59% in 2001. The rival claimant to the throne, 
Gordon Brown, provided a hallucinatory explanation: people were so relaxed 
and happy under New Labour that they couldn't be bothered to vote. 
Psephology beckons, Gordon. In reality, it was the collapse of the Tories 
that distorted the results. New Labour's massive majorities have been based 
on mass abstentions and a blatantly undemocratic electoral system.

The assault on civil liberties mounted by Blair and Blunkett is far more 
serious than the appalling internment without trial that Edward Heath 
instituted during the Troubles. The tribal notion that New Labour is 
somehow qualitatively better than the Tories is pure sentimentality. It is 
not supported by the facts. With the abandonment of anything resembling 
traditional social democracy, New Labour has concentrated on intrigue, 
treachery and infamy. How else can one characterise the long Blair-Brown 
struggle for mastery of No 10?

Despite the fact that politics has evaporated inside New Labour, the 
demonstration had its impact. A total of 139 Labour MPs voted against the 
war. Robin Cook resigned from the cabinet. Clare Short was pushed out. 
George Galloway, the most consistent opponent in parliament, was expelled 
from the Labour party. The Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalists and 
Plaid Cymru voted against as well. In constituencies where there are MPs 
belonging to the anti-war faction, one should vote for them despite 
disagreements on many other issues. In the warmonger constituencies we 
should vote tactically. In my north London constituency, the MP is Barbara 
Roche: pro-war and pro everything else this wretched government has done. I 
don't simply want to vote against her. I want her to be defeated. That is 
why I will vote Liberal Democrat.

Louis Proyect
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