Community within a
Nation or Society Meeting the Claims of All?
According to Tony Blair, in his speech to the Global
Ethics Foundation, Tübigen University, Germany, "We embrace change.
We do so on the basis of building a community, where citizens are of equal
worth. Opportunity to all; responsibility from all."
Tony Blairs thesis in this speech, "Values and
the power of Community", is that "traditional values" are
"best expressed in a modern idea of community". In the second part of
his speech, "Community within a Nation" he focuses on this thesis in
the national context.
What becomes evident, first of all, is that by emphasising
"community" he is negating the modern conception of society, is
implicitly counterposing a "community where citizens are of equal
worth" to a society which is responsible for the well-being of all its
members. Modern-day society is a reality. The whole social system is so
socialised, organised on the basis of modern large-scale production. It is the
very opposite of a society based on the individual or family who produce the
necessities of life for themselves. To Tony Blair, this only appears as the
conception of "interdependence" and it puzzles him philosophically
that this appears to come into contradiction with "individual worth",
which can only be resolved through the resolution of a "community".
The concrete reality of the economic foundation of society in which people
enter into definite relations of production, and which has become socialised to
the maximum, with vast monopolies together dominating the various sections of
the economy this concrete reality escapes Tony Blair. However, this
concrete reality on the one hand is one where all the possibilities exist for
people to look after themselves without having to fend for themselves. On the
other, it is one of acute crisis where the social responsibility of the state
as the representative of society is being denied, and the worth of the
individual, their claims that society fulfil its duty, is not recognised.
Instead the private ownership of the means of production is engendering the
rich on one pole and the poor on the other. It is engendering a deepening and
all-round crisis which demands resolution.
It can be said that communities exist within the society,
and their rights should also be recognised. But by elevating the conception of
"community" to negate that of society, Tony Blair is trying to deny
that society and government have a responsibility, and all that is left is
"a sense of responsibility from us as a community to help others; to allow
each person the chance to fulfil their potential". Thus the issue is not
"equality of opportunity", in which it is the people who are to blame
if the opportunity is not there with their "culture of poverty, drug
abuse, low aspirations and family instability", because the government is
doing all it can through its "macroeconomic policy", its
"education revolution". The finger must be pointed at society, and
the demand put that the peoples claims on society by virtue simply of
their being human be met. People are actually born to modern society, not to
families or even communities.
The "civil society" that Tony Blair promotes in
this connection, a society of "rules and order but not prejudice or
discrimination", is proven also by this reality to be an outdated
conception. It is not only not adequate to the demands of the time, but is
emphasised with the aim itself of covering over that society must meet the
claims of all. The "rules and order but not prejudice or
discrimination" were characteristic of the capitalist society of the 19th
century when equality of rights between men of property was the order of the
day, and when those without property, the workers, the exploited, had their
place, but could not be expected to vote, have rights or participate in the
politics of society. To continue to promote this outdated conception and try to
order society on this basis is to only contribute to deepening and broadening
the all-round crisis. The government policy against "social
exclusion" and for "full employment" can at best be futile if
what is engendering social exclusion and unemployment is not identified and
dealt with in the first place. It is not that the "community should have a
responsibility to provide jobs for people", as Tony Blair said in his
speech. Was it the West Midlands community, for example, that was responsible
for the loss of jobs with the sale of Rover? The issue is that a livelihood is
a basic human right and should be given a legal guarantee by society. This is
not just a question either of providing jobs, but the demand that is engendered
by the very stage of societys development that the right of everyone in
society to food, clothing and shelter in the first place should be guaranteed,
and then that their cultural and spiritual well-being should be taken care of.
It is in this context that Tony Blair made his now infamous
suggestion that "nuisance drunken behaviour" be punishable by an on
the spot £100 fine. It can be seen from the context that once more Tony
Blair is exonerating society and government, and putting the blame on those who
are swept along by societys prevailing values. The nation within which
Tony Blairs community is supposed to operate is constituted of the
bourgeoisie, who have given up any shred of concern for its fate, for its
well-being. Unless the working class constitute itself the nation, such
measures will only serve to further criminalise the people and society as a
whole. The fight that society meet the claims of all its members on it is the
demand which will contribute to this transformation.