Blair and capitalism

Chris Burford cburford at
Sat Feb 20 12:02:02 PST 1999

This week Blair appears to have taken decisive steps to align himself with the interests of the most advanced and largest capitalists. The issues are genetically modified food and the euro.

A. Today Blair had nailed his colours to the mast on gm food. Despite a crescendo of public and media concern, to which William Hague, Conservative leader has responded by calling for a 3 year moratorium on gm food in Britain, Blair has taken him on on his own ground with an article in the Daily Telegraph, of all papers. This argues that gm technology is the technology of the 21st century, that Britain has substantial advantages in it, and no signal should be given that would deter further capital investment in this area.

No doubt Blair does not imagine he will win over the whole of the Conservative Party but he is clearly aiming to have a wide coalition of mainstream opinion. He would also not object to splitting the CP even further leaving Hague as the leader of a doomed little England organisation, defending narrow British sovereignty, fox-hunting, and other natural forms of British life.

It is a bold step because food is an area where the public is extremely attentive, and demands more and more assertively that business activities should be controlled by social foresight. Mad cow disease was an extraordinary experience, even if only 2 million cows were killed prematurely, not the 9 million I pointed out were at risk.

B. Not yet public and admittedly on page 7 of the Guardian an article that Blair has taken the plunge psychologically on the euro. The government will announce next week that the timetable for introducing the euro after a successful referendum campaign can be cut from three years to one.

It appears that the government still considers that it must hold the referendum after the election. This is now being pencilled in for June 2001 with the referendum that autumn.

It is significant that there appears to be no hint of division between Blair and Brown on this question and they are expected to present the plan together.

They apparently see it politically and practically beneficial to release a report announcing the possibility of a much shorter accession period. Presumably the aim is to signal effectively to capital that they will act with political decisiveness once the decision has been made in the referendum, but the language will be couched so that the wider public believe that the political decision is still dependent on the referendum. Part of these tactics will be to encourage business to commit itself heavily to powerful campaign, as well as to present the question as a technical question.

The fact that Blair of course is working in the interests of capital is not surprising. It does not suggest IMO that that automatically means it is progressive to oppose either step in a simplistic way. Better to press for political advantages for the power of working people in the course of it.

Chris Burford


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