Clinton and Blair's Center-Left Democracy

By Steve Farrell

Democrats In Drag, Part 2

Editor’s Note: Back by popular demand, this series first appeared in (and in numerous other venues) from 1999-2004. Although some of these columns were later edited or updated, the work is largely true to the original.

Democrats In Drag, Part 1, “Technology, Sovereignty, and the Third Wave,” raised a justifiable flap about the hush-hush history of that Tsunami for political and sociological change called the Third Wave or the Third Way. It presented the first layer of evidence that the 1990’s famously popular Third Way, like its 1999-2008 twin sister Compassionate Conservatism, emerged like a creature in hiding from the socialist badlands of communism and fascism.

Among the plotters who laid the foundation for this modern mistake were Plato in his manifesto for a pre-Christian communist tyranny, “The Republic”; Karl Marx in his 19th century “Communist Manifesto” and sundry other works; and Adolf Hitler and his 20th century plunge into fascism which he deified, Third Way-like, as a safe alternative between the two extremes of communism and capitalism.

It’s a dark account, and assuredly Third Way/Compassionate Conservative proponents would be hard pressed to admit the connection. But then, who would? Socialism, communism and fascism are deservedly four-letter words in anyone’s common sense and political vocabulary. So, roughly every decade, in some cases every few months, their supporters are forced to search through the archives for a new name for old tyranny.

The Third Way just happened to be the next in line.

Disturbingly, consideration of the “progressive” Third Way presents not only links to the old and the foul, but to the new and the acceptable. It also introduces the unsettling possibility that the fall of communism and socialism were less the result of the victory of capitalism or Reaganism and more a sign of communist confidence that the West was dumbed-down and disarmed, ripe and readied for the long ago predicted “comfortable merger” under the United Nations.

The Third Way, its twin, Compassionate Conservatism, and the establishment engine which drives them, want this merger, and want also a removal of governmental gridlock in favor of a fast track radical new approach to government; one fit for a high-tech., swift-paced, rapidly changing world.

Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and the Third Way

Fortunately for the conservative movement, Tony Blair pulled an international boo-boo by confessing before the World at NATO’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, back in 1999, that he, Bill Clinton and other national leaders were hammering out a political plan for the future “loosely based around the notion of the Third Way,” which, he said, was an “attempt by centre [sic] and centre-left governments to re-define a political program that is neither old left nor 1980s right.” The Third Way, he declared, is their way, and the wave of the future for both NATO and all the world under the United Nations.

Coming right on the heels of President Clinton’s impeachment, right in the middle of a fresh Clinton China scandal, and the first use ever of NATO as an offensive war power, Blair couldn’t have done a better job of casting a dark shadow over the Third Way.

The Center, Left of Center Version of the Third Way

That said, Blair’s explanation of what was the Third Way was even more ominous. “It is not,” he said, “Mrs. Thatcher with a smile instead of a handbag [an allusion to compassionate conservatism], [or] really old-style socialists [Fabianism] in drag, desperate to conceal our true identity.” Rather it is something different, something “new.”

But what is “new” is not a rejection of socialist principles. The Third Way embraces them fully. This was made clear when Blair chose the Socialist Fabian Society as the publisher of his booklet “The Third Way, New Politics for the New Century.” What is “new” is the Third Way’s rejection of socialism/communism’s incessant inflexibility in a modern world. This, then, is an out of the closet, better-educated, more progressive socialism.

Seven months earlier, September 21, 1998, speaking at a Third Way Conference at New York University, again with Bill Clinton at his side, Blair clarified this point: “The Third Way rejects the moderate left, which too often … argued for a slower pace of change, [while ignoring] the world of ideas. … The Third Way is a serious reappraisal of social democracy, reaching deep into the values of the left to develop radically new approaches.”

The Radical Center

Radical is in fact on the frequently used words list in all Third Way literature. Appropriately, the Third Way Party in Great Britain designates itself as the “Radical Centre.”

And the Third Way truly is radical. A summary of their beliefs from Prime Minister Blair, from the British Third Way Party, and from some of Bill Clinton’s speeches on the subject includes the following:

  1. “On top of [the] foundation (of the Third Way) is a new economic role for government, which is this: We don’t believe in laissez-faire [free enterprise].”
  2. The Third Way opposes a compromising approach to socialism, which Lenin decried as “spontaneous socialism,” or a socialism that’s so busy cutting deals with capitalism that it loses touch with its founding principles and becomes but an arm of the capitalist ruling class. Nevertheless, the Third Way accepts some capitalism, because it claims to have experienced a Russian/Chinese-like awakening that a little bit of capitalism is necessary for the sake of efficiency and elasticity in our high-tech world.

If this sounds like the communist dialectic at work, you’re right.

  1. The old propaganda is all there. Capitalism cannot be left to itself because of its self-serving, lawless, unstable, divisive and environmentally insensitive nature. It must be tempered with the social justice, equality, law, peace, environmental protection and the utilitarian assumptions which socialism offers. Socialism, thereby, becomes the moral and legal fabric of society; capitalism, the financier.

The solution is a radically “new” social democratic state which rejects complete state ownership of all the means of production in favor of a mixture of private ownership here, state ownership there, and state-private partnerships everywhere else.

And although it is apparent that the state penetrates every walk of life more than ever before, the state promises it will not bureaucratize the economy, nor rule with an iron fist, but only “guide” and “provide the tools for success,” all the while keeping a watchful eye for social injustice, unnecessary factory shutdowns, economic fluctuations, and so forth.

It is all such an obvious hoax, all such a see-through front for fascism, that even the new world order organ Foreign Affairs played it safe by permitting one lone voice to raise a warning cry in its September/October 1999 edition.

Lord Ralf Dahrendorf cautioned of the Third Way: 1. “[It] is the only game in town.” 2. Its sermons about “the coming wave of democratization … have a curious authoritarian streak in [them].”

The Creative Vocabulary of the Third Way

For a program that is fundamentally fascist “curious” was a kind and gentle stroke; “expected” would have been more apropos.

Nevertheless, “curious” fits for one significant reason: Third Way propaganda attracts unsuspecting zealots and liberty lovers to their cause via an arsenal of democratic sound bites which hide anti-liberty definitions.

So here’s a handy decoder, a Third Way dictionary, so to speak, with the help of Lord Dahrendorf and yours truly, to help us cut through the fog:

  1. A second wave of democratization in fact means deconstructing traditional democratic institutions, or in other words, rejecting representative government, old inflexible constitutions (constitutions with limitations and divisions of powers), and majority rule (the very charge of democracy) – and adopting direct or semi-direct democracy (forever a formula for swift revolution) with minority rule (Marx’s goal). Not good.
  • Minority rule: aside from its obvious allusion to Marx describes a new kind of representation: focus groups. The more acceptable name for minority rule is “civil society.” Here the government grants bargaining status privileges for minorities, political outcasts, select business institutions and even churches (NGO’s being one of the more obvious manifestations of this phenomena), that individually barter for rights and privileges at the foot of the state.

  • This begging, this power sharing and this cutting off of the majority is not true representation; it will tend in its earlier stages to the mobocracy of direct democracy. In later stages it will be none other than that form of socialism called fascism, with those disenfranchised the most being the majority middle class. Marx again. Not good again.

    1. Third Way welfare reform includes compulsory savings and the old communist equal liability of all to work, including putting single mothers and the disabled to work — or else. But it doesn’t stop there. Throw in the part about creating state-run Boy’s Town-like facilities for neglected children, something Republican Third Wayer Newt Gingrich fought for in his Contract With America and you get the picture: first create welfare laws that encourage dads to leave the home (which we already have), then reform the laws to force the abandoned moms to leave the home and work (the proposed change), then have the state confiscate the parent-neglected kids who now have both parents missing in action. At last socialism wins the prize it always wanted: father becomes one part menace, one part effeminate, undermining his own and society’s morality and strength; mother is made masculine, ripped from out of her caregiver loving role to become the provider, and obligated to do so acknowledging a power to force labor the state never had before, the child becomes owned by the state, and the more likely to be a delinquent, which dilemma adds to the likelihood of even more state interventions.

    Not good a third time.

    1. Third Way decentralization is but the local administration of national and international programs, not our founders’ federalism which latter form granted state and local governments complete sovereignty over designated powers (also known during the Founding Era as the principle of “duel sovereignty”). If we can’t figure out the difference, we are in trouble.

    Third Way decentralization is, in fact, a creative yet “more active” management of centralized power than ever before, says Clinton. In America, it means anything from unfunded mandates, to federal grants with strings attached, to federal administrators inviting in NGOs like a “local” chapter of the Sierra Club to lead a “private,” “democratic,” “town hall” discussion on whether or not farmers will lose their water rights to sucker fish. It also means national service plans where high school students and senior citizens “volunteer” to help “local” regulators better do their job against us.

    “In Europe,” says Lord Dahrendorf, “it is translating into something far more sinister.” He reports, “decentralization . . . at the sub-national level . . . more often empowers militant activists rather than the people and yields to the new nationalism of self-aggrandizing leaders. And at the national level, problems and solutions alike militate against the liberal [classical liberal] order.”

    “Among the problems, law and order stand out; among the solutions, the proliferation of agencies and quangos (quasi-autonomous nongovernmental organizations) that evade civil control.”

    This smacks of Hitler’s and China’s decentralization – brutal and unaccountable local entities that are, nonetheless, subservient to the designs of the national or international order on the big issues. While the NGO concept, on the other hand, is the clincher, a favorite of the Third Way’s 2001 U.S. counterpart compassionate conservatism public/private partnership program – a Mussolini-styled grant-driven game that creates the illusion of private, popular, local support and control.

    Not good a fourth time.

    1. Third Way self-determination is for minorities, not sovereign states, and not for mainstream religious folks. A key goal: The uniting of minorities across national borders in a joint effort to throw off the bonds of their respective states, an idea lifted verbatim from the “Communist Manifesto,” an idea implemented in the European Union, and envisioned by Bush’s FTAA (Free Trade Agreement of the America’s).

    Wrote Marx: “In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they [the communists] point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat independently of all nationality.” That is why Marx shouted: “Working men of all countries unite!”

    In this regard, the Third Way is strongly in favor of secessionist movements. In 1997, the British Third Way Party hosted an international secessionist conference. The opinion presented was that post-WW I and WW II political boundaries were drawn up hastily by the hegemons of the world without regard to the unnatural separation of cultures and peoples they inflicted.

    “Fifty to 80 years later, these peoples, and others similarly situated [like native Hawaiians and Puerto Ricans] possess an inherent right of secession,” they say, and all “who would put the interests of a sovereign nation over their right to secede are worthy of contempt.”

    It all sounds so democratic, so libertarian. But self-determination in the Third Way world, as in the communist world, is relative. No Third Way insider, for instance, clamors for the right of Taiwan and Chechnya to secede, for the right of the U.S. to get out of the United Nations, nor for the right of England and Ireland to exit the EU.

    Yugoslavia in 1999 was a case in point. Blair’s Third Way NATO speech justified a violation of Yugoslavia’s sovereignty when he declared, “We are all internationalists now, whether we like it or not.” The defensive-war, just-war doctrine is narrow and out; interventionism is progressive and in, he said. Again, “We cannot turn our backs on conflicts and the violation of human rights within other countries if we want still to be secure.”

    Thus, Yugoslavia was denied its right to choose its own destiny. Amusingly, British Third Way folks at the Radical Centre took offense at Blair’s abandonment of the “self determination” doctrine on this point. But they should not have. They themselves, masters of double-talk, speak of “inclusive nationalism with co-operative internationalism.”

    The self-determination doctrine is just a game, just eyewash to sway conservatives. Everything points to the U.N. and the promotion of the socialist international order. “International law must be able to permeate national borders,” Blair says, “and the central pillar of that law must be the democratic-loving laws of the United Nations.”

    Nothing could be finer: Choose democracy or die! Precisely what Communist founder Marx envisioned when he wrote: “[We] labor everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries.”

    Not good a fifth time.

    1. Third Way free trade means “accepting the decisions of international organizations even when we don’t like them” and “protectionism equals poverty.” An interesting definition of freedom. And mind you, abiding by unacceptable decisions alludes to the U.S. – not Russia, and not China.

    Third Wayers Blair and Clinton, like Compassionate Conservative Bush, insist that Russia ought to be flooded with grants, credits, subsidized loans, and foreign investment from every quarter possible – with encouragements for Russian companies and savers to keep their own money in Russia. Russia and China have their own special problems, their own unique potential, they say. ‘Their fierce nationalism is understandable,’ we are told. ‘We can’t demand they abandon their history, their culture, their take on the rule of law and live by ours overnight. We must set the example for them and hope they will follow.’ It’s all so convenient. It’s called selling our enemies the rope by which they will hang us.

    Not good a sixth time.

    1. Finally, the Third Way’s belief in the right to property is the right to collective property, not individual property. That is, the Third Way vigorously supports the establishment of co-ops where employees, not individuals, own businesses. Employers must sell shares in the company to all employees, establish workplace representation, and initiate economic democracy (redistribution of the wealth) and partnerships (cooperate with government and private “social audits”).

    Regarding the latter type of audit, company general meetings should include representatives of employees and consumers – the equivalent of police/civilian review boards. The community should have a say in setting prices, checking employee treatment, and allocating funds for such things as a new city park.

    Meanwhile, traditional individual private property is debunked as the main factor leading to the fragmentation of society.

    Yet even after all those revelations, Third Wayers can say with a straight face that they believe in property – because it all depends on what the definition of “is” is. Property is good, they say, so long as “its nature is changed.”

    Not good a seventh time.


    So we come home to the main point: How is this center/center left Third Way not “socialism in drag” when this bit about the nature of property being changed is lifted right out of the “Communist Manifesto”?

    We read, one last time from Marx: “The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. … When, therefore, capital is converted into common property … the social character of the property is changed. It loses its class-character.”

    Indeed, a change in the nature of property is at the very heart of communism, and is in the very words of Third Way proponents at the heart of the center/left center politics – and, as future chapters in this book will reveal, at the heart of center/center right politics as well. From wealth redistribution, to minority power, to phony decentralization plans, to “trustworthy” government/private partnerships, to Third Way abandonment of “inflexible” constitutions in lieu of fast-track models, to so-called free trade/self-determination programs which stack the deck against the United States, to the Third Way’s clever cloaking of all of this and more in the language of democracy – how could anyone call this middle ground “safe”?

    Safe is not a suitable catchword; Lord Dahrendorf’s “curious” is better, and so is “expected.”

    Read more from “Democrats In Drag: Foreword; Part 1, Technology, Sovereignty, and the Third Wave; Part 3, Gingrich, Toffler, and Gore: A Peculiar Trio; Part 4, Groveling in the Gutter of the Gulags; Part 5,  Eradicating the U.S. Constitution by Design; Part 6, Contract With America: The Betrayal Begins; Part 7, Using Jefferson as a Cloak for Revolution; Part 8, Term Limits and the Citizen-Legislature Scam.

    Steve Far­rell is one of the orig­i­nal pun­dits at Sil­ver Eddy Award Win­ner, (1999–2007), the author of the highly praised inspi­ra­tional novel “Dark Rose,” and edi­tor in chief of The Moral Liberal.

    Bibliography and Notes

    1. Blair, Tony. “Doctrine of International Community,” Economic Club of Chicago, April 22, 1999.
    2. Clinton, William. “Remarks by the President to DLC National Conversation,” Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington, D.C. June 4, 1998. The White House: Office of the Press Secretary,
    3. Clinton, William and Blair, Tony. “Third Way – 9-21-98,” NYU Law School. The White House: Office of the Press Secretary. Opening Remarks and Excerpts by the President at Strengthening Democracy in the Global Economy: An Opening Dialogue.
    4. Dahrendorf, Ralf. The Third Way and Liberty, Foreign Affairs, September/October 1999. A 500-word summary is available online, but the summary is inadequate. Go to a college or county library and get the original.
    5. The Third Way Party, Voice of the Radical Centre (in Britain). The site’s intro reads: “Third Way . . . advocates a practical decentralization of power through constitutional reform and the creation of a society in which wealth is more equitably distributed.
    “A party rather different from the rest, Third Way combines democratic socio-economic reform and inclusive nationalism with co-operative internationalism and ecological awareness; supporting the right to genuine self-determination for peoples throughout the world. The resultant synthesis, still evolving, offers an alternative approach to politics – a new perspective, in contrast to the failed and outdated dogma of past and present governments. . . .” Found at
    6. Blair, Tony. “The Third Way, New Politics for the New Century,” London, England: Fabian Society, 1998. Available at UK.
    7. Clinton and Gore’s “Progressive Policy Institute: Defining the Third Way” is available online. Explore the left sidebar, “Issues.”
    The PPI, during the 2000 election, claimed that George W. Bush’s Compassionate Conservatism stole their program, an issue this volume will later address point by point. The preview is that PPI’s fears about Bush are based on partisan election hopes, not ideology, as well as a reasonable fear that the conservative wing of the Republican Party will pressure Bush to cave on some Third Way issues. See: Marshall, Will. The Third Way After Clinton, May 10, 2001.