Year 2000 No. 108, July 7, 2000

Community within a Nation or Society Meeting the Claims of All?

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Community within a Nation or Society Meeting the Claims of All?

Party Activists to Participate in the Durham Miners’ Gala

News In Brief
North East: The Future of Nissan
Asbestos Claims on the Increase

Peter Hain to Speak on British Policy in the Middle East

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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 Blair’s 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 people’s 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 society’s 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 society’s prevailing values. The nation within which Tony Blair’s 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.

Article Index


Party Activists to Participate in the Durham Miners’ Gala

The 116th Durham Miners’ Gala and Big Meeting takes place tomorrow, Saturday, July 8.

A representative of the Northern Regional Committee of RCPB(ML) told WDIE that activists from the Party and its circles plan to vigorously participate in the Gala. They plan to sell Workers’ Weekly, report on the speeches, and run a stall, as they have done for many years. Central to their activity will be the distribution of a statement from the Northern Regional Committee and holding discussions with the participants at the Gala. The representative said that, in spite of the closure of all but one of the collieries in the North East, it was certain that thousands of working people will come to Durham City to participate. Ex-miners, unemployed, youth and students, health workers, local government workers, those that work in the "inward investment" companies as well as what is left of the "old" industries will march side by side behind the banners and the colliery brass bands and their minds will be concerned with their long traditions but they will also be turned to the future.

The representative pointed out that the Durham Miners Gala and Big Meeting has the tradition of a political meeting and cultural event that involves everyone in a manifestation of the deeds and aspirations of the miners and which was a way to raising their political and cultural level at a time when they first formed themselves into trade unions. Today, he said, for the working class to raise their political and cultural level they must start from the conception of a society built on the rights of all, and work to open this path, strike out on this road to this kind of new society. Workers taking part in the first Durham Miners Gala of the new millennium, like workers throughout the land, should set their own agenda, and get organised not on the basis of some nostalgia for the "golden days" but on the basis of bringing about the revolutionary transformation of society to socialism, the most modern and humane society there is.

Article Index


News In Brief

North-East:

The Future of Nissan

Tony Blair is to meet Nissan President Carlos Ghosn at the end of July for talks over the future of the car monopoly’s Sunderland plant. Dr Ghosn last week caused consternation when he alleged that Britain’s failure to join the European single currency, the euro, could jeopardise the Sunderland plant’s £150 million expansion plans.

The leaked memo of the British Ambassador to Japan, Sir Stephen Gomarsall, had cited the case of Nissan in Sunderland as an example of inward investment "hanging on a knife edge". The Nissan plant employs 5,000 people. It is bidding for the job of building the new Micra. However, John Cushnaghan, the managing director of Nissan UK, says that is becoming "hard to make the case" for the plant because of uncertainty over the euro.

This comes at a time when Tony Blair is doing propaganda that Britain should be the "corporate headquarters for Europe" and the best place for inward investment. It should be remembered that Siemens and Fujitsu were also hailed as the inward investment solution for the North-East before they pulled out.

Asbestos Claims on the Increase

According to the Newcastle solicitors Patrick Murphy, solicitors in the North-East are dealing with almost 800 new cases of asbestos-related claims every year. Last year Patrick Murphy Solicitors alone dealt with 400 new cases. They say that this is already on the scale of an epidemic, and that the number of new cases will continue to rise for many years to come.

White asbestos was banned in Britain only in August 1998, after many years of campaigning. Chronic lung disease (asbestosis) was first linked to the inhalation of white asbestos fibres into the lungs of miners, millers and textile workers in the 1930s. In the 1950s, researchers proved a link between lung cancer and blue and brown asbestos, especially among smokers. Research showed that cancers could take decades to appear and could affect anyone exposed to the fibres. Nevertheless, the ban on imports of blue asbestos came into effect only in 1972 and was not extended to brown asbestos until 1980. Only in 1992 was the ban extended to the use, supply and marketing of both.

Between the 1950s and 1980s, asbestos products were widely used in the construction industry in products ranging from pipes and gutters to lagging. It was also widely used in the motor and insulation industries until the 1970s, but more recently has been used in ceiling tiles, cements and brake linings. Since the 1960s, asbestos has been responsible for about 3,000 deaths per year on average in Britain. That figure could increase to 5,000-10,000 per year over the next two decades, according to Dr Geoffrey Tweedale of Manchester Metropolitan University who has just published a history of the disease. The TUC estimates that every week 200 workers come into contact with asbestos which will probably kill them over the next 20 years.

Article Index


Peter Hain to Speak on British Policy in the Middle East

The Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) has announced that Foreign Office Minister of State Peter Hain is to speak at their monthly meeting on Monday, July 17 on "British Policy in the Middle East".

The MP George Galloway has called on "all supporters of Iraq" to "attend this meeting and let Peter Hain know what they think of his ethical foreign policy".

It is taking place at 6.30 pm in the Harvey Goodwin Suite, Church House, Main Entrance, Great Smith Street, Westminster (nearest tube: St James’s Park). The website of CAABU is www.caabu.org.

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