Tony Blair and the hand of history
Tony Blair has given an interview to Jason Cowley Editor of the New Statesman as he re-enters the British political arena.
Blair rules out a return to front line politics, noting rightly, that the reaction renders this an impossible plan.
Some of the interview repeats well known (and wrong) theories that the political left and right tend towards the same policies and so on. Blair has in mind protectionist policies, but doesn’t seem to realise that a good section of the left, myself included, have been opponents of things like import controls and economic autarky. I’m an internationalist but not in the same way Blair is..
Any way you can read the interview in the New Statesman.
What interests me specifically are Blair’s points on history.
We know he was touched by the hand of history in the Good Friday agreement. I’m sure Blair has read law books but I’d never mark him down as an historian. He has no feel or understanding at all for labour history for example. I recall a librarian, now in a rather more elevated role, telling me that faced with a speech on the Webbs before he became PM Blair appeared looking to borrow a book on the subject.
The interview however contains some interesting points on history.
As a Marxist, but not a mechanical one, I do see a pattern of historical trends and movements but not in an uncomplicated way. Some Maoists may see a ‘shining path’ towards victory. I see complexity along the lines of William Morris who noted that people fight battles and then find out it didn’t turn out the way they thought and others have to fight again for them under another name.
Blair however sees that there is progress in history (I agree but see above) and notes that there are fewer people in poverty across the world than ever before. It is a very broad point but post Edmund Burke no one on the political right can subscribe to this idea. For the right things are invariably and inexorably getting worse.
Blair also notes that Trump and Farage are on the wrong side of history. Blair has personal experience of this of course, but there is an echo here of the ‘their future is assured’ school of (semi-serious) Marxist comment that come what may certain ideas and people are headed for the dustbin of history.
Surprising things can happen and it is odd that its Blair who reminds us that we can take an historical broad sweep view of where we are that moves beyond Farage, Trump and Brexit. If only he had applied such perception in 2003.