Blairs Speech on
Most Reactionary Chauvinism under the
Guise of "British Values"
There is no shortage of evidence with which to hang Tony
Blair if only the implications of speeches are exposed and correlated with the
backward and anti-social direction the Labour government is taking society on
behalf of the bourgeoisie.
The Prime Minister used the occasion of a conference of
regional newspapers yesterday to argue that devolution is necessary for keeping
the United Kingdom together. The question of "keeping the United Kingdom
together" Tony Blair regards as positive, not even posing the issue in a
modern way and considering the rights of the Welsh people and the Scottish
people, not to mention the people of Ireland, as nations. Not recognising such
rights, which pertain to those peoples objectively, Tony Blair can then also
proceed to do the same for the English, pouring scorn on the Conservative
policy of "English votes for English laws" which itself is a
half-baked muddle by posing this issue simply in terms of voting
strengths of MPs representing constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales and
thereby reducing the issue to the absurd.
The Prime Minister said in his speech that it was not
"unchanging institutions" which defined "Britishness" or
held the Union together. Tony Blair said that his argument was as follows:
- Britain is stronger together, than separated apart.
- True Britishness lies in our values not unchanging institutions.
- The Constitutional changes we have made and a new attitude of engagement
with Europe are not a threat to British identity but on the contrary are the
means of strengthening it for today's world.
Therefore, he said, "Standing up for our country means
standing up for what we believe in. It means standing up for our values and
having the strength to realise them in the modern world. It means standing up
for the core British values of fair play, creativity, tolerance and an
outward-looking approach to the world. It does not mean an unthinking
resistance to change. It does not mean railing against the outside world."
It is an extremely backward notion defining national
identity in terms of "shared values", or of "core British
First of all, it exposes the reactionary nature of the Prime
Ministers conception called "Britishness", since it seeks to
define a whole population who are citizens of Britain or the United Kingdom in
terms of a set of values which they are imputed to hold or, by
implication, which they must hold if they are not to be classed as un-British.
To seek to impose such a definition is, at base, in breach of the right to
freedom of conscience, since all citizens should have the right to hold
whichever set of values they choose. It can therefore be said to be a
medievalist conception, negating the achievements of the enlightenment in this
regard. The sinister implication is that not to hold such values as Tony Blair
decrees is to become, in Margaret Thatchers infamous words, "the
enemy within". In fact, it is precisely a further development of such a
conception which is not only chauvinist and racist, but also
anti-worker, as will be recalled from Thatchers use of it against the
miners under the guise of "modernisation" and being against
the forces of conservatism. In "Third Way" mode, Tony Blair, while
himself railing against what he refers to as a British identity "rooted in
19th century conceptions of territory and blood", is promoting the racist
and chauvinist conceptions of British colonialism, which saw everyone except
the "British" as inferior.
Secondly, the rights and duties of citizens, in this case of
the territory of Britain, cannot and must not be defined in relation to any set
of values whatsoever. They must only be defined in relation to a body politic.
Whether this body politic should be Britain, or England, Scotland, Wales, or
even Europe, is a point which is at issue, but this cannot be allowed to
confuse the issue that citizenship must not involve considerations of values,
political beliefs, religion, background or any such discriminatory criteria. In
fact, such matters have for a long time been deliberately confused by the
bourgeoisie, which has divided the polity on a racist and religious basis, a
confusion which has become enshrined in the law of the land, with its different
categories of citizens according to national background. The very name of the
"British Nationality Act" betrays its character.
Thirdly, the Union itself is constituted not on national
lines but through subjugation or incorporation of nations into the state of
Britain or the United Kingdom by the English bourgeoisie. Tony Blair declares,
"The breakup of the postwar international order and globalisation are
calling into question systems constructed around the nation state." He
continues, "In this new world, it has become increasingly fashionable to
predict the death of the nation-state. A world in which capital crosses
national frontiers at the push of a key, where air travel has made the outside
world personally familiar to millions, where television has brought it into the
homes of millions more, a world where supra-national organisations like the EU
and WTO play an increasingly important role is a world where questions are
inevitably going to arise about the continuing significance of national
identity." And goes on to ask the question, "What is the answer to
such a challenge? Not to retreat into the past or cling to the status quo, even
if it cannot sensibly be justified; but to rediscover from first principles
what it is that makes us British and to develop that identity in a way in tune
with the modern world."
If Tony Blair were going back to first principles he would
examine dispassionately the question of national rights within the territory of
Britain, as well as the history of English nationalism, beginning with the
Tudor monarchs, under which the English bourgeoisie constituted themselves as
the nation, and plundered the world on this basis, forging the figment of
"Britishness" in the process. He would examine how this English
nationalism is now a spent force, and that to make Britain great again can only
have meaning either as a reactionary rallying call for the workers to join in
the barbarity of globalisation, or as the working class constituting itself the
nation. Perforce, this must be within sovereign states of England, Scotland and
Wales. It will be directed precisely at the English bourgeoisie itself if then
these modern sovereign states decided to constitute a free and equal union.
Britain can only truly become great in a modern sense, where the people
themselves are in control of their own destinies.
Rather than this powerful conception, Tony Blair can only
say, "What makes Britain and Britishness important, valid, as necessary
today as ever is a powerful combination of shared values and mutual
And here we come to the nub of what Tony Blair is calling
for, which is the Labour Partys programme of "constitutional
reform", allied to Britains imperialist ambitions on the world
stage. The rhetoric and ideologising is the stuff with which Tony Blair
prefaces and underpins the objective reality of what the "pride"
which "comes from strengthening British values" actually is. It is
one domestically of "reward for hard work", "rights matched by
responsibilities", "reform of welfare". Internationally, it is
"an outward looking vision that believes in Britains place in
Europe, but believes Britain will always be much more than that. A
pivotal nation a bridge between East and West, between the
United States and the EU."
The struggle against the "Britishness" promoted by
Tony Blair is an integral part of fighting for the victory of transforming
Britain into a new and socialist society.