[Marxism] Why Third Way Politics refuses to die

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 15 09:34:53 MST 2008

(Swans - December 15, 2008)   In 1997 Tony Blair became Prime Minister 
of Great Britain ending eighteen years of Tory rule. For left-leaning 
Britons, the 1979-1990 rule of Margaret Thatcher and her successor John 
Major easily rivaled George W. Bush's as an odious symbol of class 
injustice. When she was not embarking on foreign imperial adventures in 
the Malvinas, Thatcher was attacking the working class at home. Her most 
notable victory was in defeating the coal miner's strike of 1984, an 
achievement that was as effective as Reagan's assault on the airline 
controllers in preparing the way for a neoliberal economic regime.

When Blair was elected, the sense of relief evoked this "Wizard of Oz" 
ditty sung by the Munchkins:

     Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
     Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.
     Wake up - sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
     Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead. She's gone where the goblins go,
     Below - below - below.
     Yo-ho, let's open up and sing and ring the bells out.
     Ding Dong' the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
     Let them know The Wicked Witch is dead!

However, British voters did not get exactly what they voted for. As soon 
as the euphoria wore off, it became clear that Tony Blair was no friend 
of working people, as Thomas Friedman observed in an April 22, 2005, New 
York Times Op-Ed:

     The other very real thing Mr. Blair has done is to get the Labor 
Party in Britain to firmly embrace the free market and globalization - 
sometimes kicking and screaming. He has reconfigured Labor politics 
around a set of policies designed to get the most out of globalization 
and privatization for British workers, while cushioning the harshest 
side effects, rather than trying to hold onto bankrupt Socialist ideas 
or wallowing in the knee-jerk antiglobalism of the reactionary left.

Blair demonstrated that he was no slouch when it came to sending British 
troops abroad, joining the U.S. in imperial aggressions against the 
Serbs and the Iraqis. Indeed, one would be hard put to really tell the 
difference between the Tories and New Labour other than the rhetoric.

Although the eight years of George W. Bush was a lot shorter in duration 
than Tory rule in Great Britain, it did manage to do as much violence to 
working people at home and abroad. Bush was notoriously lazy but he did 
have a kind of zeal for punishing those not fortunate enough to be born 
with a silver spoon in their mouth.

With the election of Barack Obama in November, the same pattern seems to 
be unfolding as it did with Tony Blair's prime ministry. Both Blair and 
his American counterpart Bill Clinton sought to govern through the 
"Third Way," a philosophy that permeates Obama's "Audacity of Hope." For 
those who have been surprised by Obama's apparent determination to serve 
in the capacity of Bill Clinton's third term, the evidence for such a 
proclivity was there all along for those with the patience to read 
through his gaseous prose. Obama wrote: "In his platform -- if not 
always in his day-to-day politics -- Clinton's Third Way went beyond 
splitting the difference. It tapped into the pragmatic, nonideological 
attitude of the majority of Americans."

full: http://www.swans.com/library/art14/lproy51.html

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