"Philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point however is to change" - Karl Marx

This blog is my interpretation, I will do everything I can to change the world along those line

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Outrage at the council revelations

Originally written for the Socialism in RCT blog

SP member of the ponty anti-cuts demo
On March 17th an article appeared on the WalesOnline website explaining that far from being in huge debts Rhondda Cynon Taff council actually had a £2 million surplus. This is the same council who only weeks ago, threatened the entire workforce with dismissal unless the excepted worse pay and conditions, the council claimed they had no other choice but to do this in order to balance the budget and many workers have signed the new contracts through fear of loosing their jobs.

The fact that this Labour council has forced through these savage cuts to the pay and employment conditions of its 10,000 strong work force whilst maintaining a surplus of £2 million shows exactly how sincere the Labour Party is to opposing cut backs!

The revelation of this surplus highlights the betrayal of the Labour councillors, who shed crocodile tears over the cuts they voted for whilst all along leaving the council with an incredible surplus. In reality it just confirms what we already knew - Labour don't represent us anymore!

It is true that whilst there is a surplus currently of £2m but cuts in wages have 'saved' the council £5.6m leaving an obvious gap of £3.6m. This does not mean that cuts have to be made, rather on the contrary this presents a real alternative to fight and defeat the austerity measures driven by central government.

The council could use the current surplus as a temporary measure in order to avoid the cuts for now. This would make the council extremely popular amongst the workers and the community in general. (A far cry from the harsh reality of the feelings towards the council at the moment) The council could then use this popularity to build a mass campaign throughout the county to defend the council against any attack from the Assembly or Westminster and to demand the money necessary for all the jobs and services needed within the area.

If the council was willing to set a 'needs budget' - a budget based on the needs of the area, rather than based on the forced cuts budgets of central government, then they would easily gain mass support - and rightfully so from whole sections of working class people in the area. This is exactly what happened when the Liverpool council did this in the 1980s. If the council was to do this then the Socialist Party would through it full weight behind the councillors to defend them and the budget from attack.

Unfortunately, we feel that this scenario is extremely unlikely. We saw 13 years of a Labour government committed cuts and privatisation of public services and where they are still in power, in the Assembly and in councils they are willingly carrying out cuts today. In Cumbria the Labour councillors are even in a formal coalition with the tories! If that doesn't demonstrate whose side they are really on then nothing will. The Labour Party has shown itself to be a party fully committed to rolling back the welfare state.

This is why the Socialist Party will be standing in the Welsh Assembly elections and next years council elections as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, standing on a platform of opposition to ALL cuts and for a united fight back to defeat this government. If you are interested in getting involved with the election campaign in RCT then you can contact us here.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

RCT Socialist Party launches a blog

Earlier today Rhonndda Cynon Taf Socialist Party Launched a blog called Socialism in RCT. Below I reproduce the statement relased by RCT Socialist Party regarding the blog.


Why we have launched this blog

As the economic crisis continues for millions of ordinary people around the country and internationally, the rich get richer and ordinary working class people are made to pay the price shown by the obscene profits and bonuses paid to bankers and other corporations.

The media, government and all the major political parties are constantly telling us about Tina - There is no alternative.We are told that this was all unavoidable, that it was the international markets and governments who had no control over this. We are told that this could not have been predicted, but these are all the lies which are constantly fed to us..

None of this was inevitable, Karl Marx pointed out over 150 years ago the inherent contradictions of capitalism, the constant and unavoidable cycle of boom and bust. It was not just the capitalist markets which caused this either. The deregulation of the banking sector around the world by governments, in the case of Britain by the Thatcher government, and maintained by New Labour over their 13 years in office made it possible for the 'elastic' to be stretched further to create an ever growing credit bubble. As with an elastic band the more it is stretched the harder it will snap and this has all been made worse by the de-industrialisation of Britain, the loss of manufacturing jobs and the replacement by service sector jobs has meant the British economy is extremely dependant on the finance sector which has plunged us further into crisis.

When they tell us there is no alternative this is just a big con trick. Whilst £billions have been given to the banks in a bailout, huge bonuses have been paid out, huge profits have been made and ordinary people like us have been forced to pay the price with job cuts, wage cuts and freezes, cuts in pensions, higher tuition fees and cuts in pretty much all public services and benefits. On top of this council tax is set to rise as is the cost of living.

With high levels of unemployment there are nearly 1 million unemployed young people who are also having the door to higher education closed in their face.

We should not have to and we will not accept this. The banks should be fully nationalised and run democratically in a way where the profits can go into funding the NHS, education and other public services and not the other way around as the government is currently doing. We could scrap the war in Afghanistan, the replacement of the trident nuclear weapons systems and end the financial scam of Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) which allows private companies to make huge amounts of money out of providing public services at a lower standard.

The government could also start collecting the £120 billion tax per year which is avoided or evaded by the rich every year but instead the government is proposing to cut staffing numbers in HM revenues & customs making it almost impossible to close the tax gap. These are public sector workers who actually bring in revenue which shows that this is definitely an ideological attack on the public sector are the services working class people rely on.

Many people both in Britain and around the world are beginning to wake up to this reality and have begun to fightback in various ways, be it the recent student demonstrations and university occupations in Britain, the mass demonstrations and revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East or the mass movements developing in Wisconsin in the United States just to give a few examples. There are of course already some fantastic websites already covering these events which we fully support such as the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI - International organisation of which the Socialist Party is affiliated) website and of course both the Socialist Party and the Socialist Party Wales websites.

We are also facing attacks on our communities. The Labour led Rhondda Cynon Taf council recently sent out section 188 notices to its 10,000 strong workforce, which threatened them with the sack if they did not sign new contracts which would ensure that the workers loose on average between £2,000-4,000 per year! On top of this the council has proposed a rise in council tax by nearly 3%!

The Labour council say they have no choice because their budget has been cut, but they do have a choice. The council should refuse to implement the cuts and instead set a needs budget (a budget which meets the real needs of people in the area) and follow the heroic example set by the Liverpool council in the 1980s. They could do this by using the council reserves for now, whilst building a mass campaign amongst trade unionists, community campaigners, students and young people to support the council and demand the necessary funding from central government. This is exactly what they did in Liverpool and they won! If every Labour council in the country did this then it would bring this ConDem government crashing down.

There is a real choice for the council, they can either implement the tory cuts or the can stand by working class people and refuse to make us pay for the crisis. If they did this then RCT Socialist Party would give our full support to the council. Unfortunately we think that this is unlikely to happen so we should stand anti-cuts candidates at next years council elections.

Since its inception Socialist Party members have participated in and helped to build RCT Against the Cuts and bring along to it a strategy to defeat the cuts and we will continue to do so. There is a real need for a political alternative to workers and youth, who will people in RCT vote for when the Welsh Assembly elections come around this May? The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are attacking us from Westminster and the Labour Party is attacking us from the council chambers. Plaid Cymru are attempting to present themselves as an alternative but where they are in power they are making huge cuts themselves, such as in Cardiff council.

We need a real alternative and that is why RCT Socialist Party will be standing in the forthcoming Welsh Assembly elections in the South Wales Central regional list as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), which is committed to opposing all cuts.

It is for all these reasons that we have made the decision to launch this blog. In order to comment and analyse events and to offer a strategy and tactics for the way forward for workers and youth in RCT. Look out for regular updates here. It doesn't stop there, we have also launched a facebook page RCT Socialists and you can follow us on twitter @RCTSocialists

Don't stop there join the Socialist Party and help us fight for our future.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Rhondda Cynon Taff marches against the cuts


This article was orginally posted on the Socialist Party Wales website.



Over 400 trade unionists, community campaigners and young people marched against cutbacks in a demonstration organised by UNISON. Also in attendance was a sizeable contingent from GMB, PCS NASUWT and other trade unionists. The demonstration was loud and angry as we marched through the town centre with the Youth Fight For Jobs contingent especially loud.

Many council workers are angry at the labour run Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) council for the blackmailing of staff, threatening them with the sack unless they except worse pay and conditions, which will affect their pay home pay for most workers of between £2-£4000, and in some cases even more!

The anger of the workforce was noticeable at the rally in the Muni at the end of the march, which was reflected in the speeches UNISON leaders in Wales were made even if up until now this has not been matched by their actions. It is clear that the weight of their members’ anger is pressing up against them.

Hundreds of RCT Against The Cuts leaflets were distributed on the day, both to those on the demonstration and passers-by. After the rally Socialist Party Wales held a very successful public meeting with about 50 in attendance. At the meeting several council workers expressed their anger towards the trade union branch leaderships, who they say had not really gone out of their way to inform the workforce that the demonstration had taken place, one worker went on to add “I only found out about the demo today, but most of the people I work with probably still don’t know after it has happened”.

In reply one of the organisers of RCT Against The Cuts said that this shows the importance of building this anti-cuts alliance which can communicate to all trade unionists and other campaigners in the area about the events coming up and to build a network of activists throughout all trade unions in the area to act as a lever on the leaderships to make sure they are doing what we elected them to do as represent their members interests.

On the day dozens of people said they would come to the next meeting of RCT Against The Cuts on February 24th in Pontypridd Museum and are going to help build the campaign. Two people joined the Socialist Party and many more expressed an interest in finding out more and joining as well.

Monday, 4 October 2010

A day trip to Birmingham, but for what?


Last Sunday saw a demonstration of somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 people in Birmingham to protest outside the tory party conference. An impressive turn out with all things considered, the rain probably damaged the turn out and the governments spending review has not taken place yet. The demonstration also displayed a great cross section of working class society with banners displaying various campaigns to stop cuts in services, with various trade union banners, student groups, political organisations and a sizable amount of disabled people in attendance as well, fearful of the cuts in Disability Living allowance. All of this shows the potential is there for a united campaign against cutbacks but it wasn't all positive and I am not just referring to the rain.


Despite such anger against the cuts you would be forgiven for not realising this demonstration was against cuts, in fact I am not entirely sure myself if it was or if it was simply against tory cuts! The Right to Work posters read 'Protest against Tory cuts' and there was nothing said about anyone else but the tories. Whilst some may say this is pedantic it is not at all. Travelling on a coach from Cardiff we were well aware that the Welsh Assembly government is run by Labour and Plaid Cymru whilst Cardiff Council is run by the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru. Do the cuts they will carry out not matter? With any of the 3 main parties and a 4th in Wales in power they have all committed themselves to huge public sector cuts. But there was no mention of this throughout the demonstration simply stating that 'tories are scum' whilst I completely agree lets have some clarity and make it clear that all the main parties are committed to making to working class pay for the capitalist crisis.


This is a very important point because it is no good to simply direct the anger at tories (and liberals) when it will be labour/Plaid Cymru/SNP councils as well as the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament carrying out the cuts as well. It seems that the 'keep is so broad it is ineffective' strategy is still in full effect though. I am not opposed to members of those parties being involved in campaigns against cuts, but only if they refuse to vote for cuts and condemn those in their parties who do. Where there are council that refuse to carry out cuts they should receive the full and active support of anti-cuts campaigners but where there is not, then anti-cuts candidates should stand for election, unfortunately this did not feature at all in the Right to Work organised demonstration whatsoever.


Fortunately however Dave Nellist former Labour MP and currently a Socialist Party councillor in Coventry spoke from the platform at both rallies, he made the points which I have made in this article and pointed out that anti-cuts campaigners have had electoral success, in Kidderminster twice winning an MP as well as councillors and councillors won by anti-cuts campaigners in Huddersfield, Wigan, Wallsall and many other places and there is a need to build on this in the next election. This was also made clear in a very good Socialist Party leaflet which to my knowledge was the only material on the day highlighting a real strategy to defeat the cuts which was very will received, after all that was the point of the demonstration was it not?


There were other problems with the demonstration with between 50-100 pseudo-anarchist youth attempted to breach the fence and get into the conference centre, which then led to a long confrontation with the police which was eventually separated off from the main demonstration. This clearly resulted from the frustration at the relative inaction from the demonstration organisers in my view and will only continue and the trend will increase unless a clear strategy to defeat the cuts is put forward.


It is also worth noting that despite all this talk of the Coalition of Resistance on the Internet, I did not see any sign of them existing on this demonstration, which would have been the experience of many others, if they were actually there at all, or does this 'coalition only exist on the Internet? That has been my sole experience with it.


On the day Right to Work gave out a leaflet calling for 'unity talks' on the 5th December, but if they actually wanted unity then two things would have happened differently at least. Firstly when the chair of Right to Work attended the steering committee of the National Shop Stewards Network the day before he would have raised this at the time and secondly they would not have organised a 'unity event' the same time as the already publicised Youth Fight for Jobs national conference. It seems that based on this the 'unity project' is just for show, especially considering Right To Work was set up when the NSSN and YFJ already existed in the first place! Nevertheless unity against cuts is welcome but at the moment I am dubious that Right to Work actually want unity with others, and who could argue otherwise based on the facts.


After this demonstration it seems clear to me that nothing has changed and that if we wish to stop the cuts that the tasks remain the same, to build local campaigns against the cuts!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Nick Clegg 'answers' questions in Cardiff

Last Thursday I had the dubious honour of attending a question and answer session with Nick Clegg in Cardiff City Hall. It was meant to be invitation only, probably due to the grilling he got last time he visited the city, but despite that and despite not being on the guest list I was able to get in.

What did I get for managing to blag my way in? Well I managed to waste 45 minutes of my life which I will never be able to get back! Clegg was indeed his usual self, that of a despicable liar, I did not expect anything else but the levels to which he was willing to go to lie would have been amusing if not true.

The first question from the floor started off well with the speaker ironically offering greetings from his mother who had voted for the liberals to keep the tories out. However the questions were not all that great in my opinion and there was only to be a handful of them as Clegg only stuck around for 45 minutes, i think in reality it was probably less than that. Whilst it seemed obvious that the majority of people in attendance were angry at Clegg, noticed by the whispers amongst the audience this didn't really translate into the questions.

Those able to ask questions (many included myself despite having are hands up the whole time were not brought in to ask a question) generally asked about services they used or sectors they worked in to seek assurances that this services wouldn't suffer from the cuts. Naturally Clegg was able to worm his way out, particularly as this meeting didn't grant the questioner the right to reply. One example was when a teacher asked about the situation in schools where funding restrictions have already seen cuts to learning support staff which allows children with learning difficulties to remain in mainstream schools, she asked how this would be prevented. Clegg's reply utterly appalled me! He said that it was because there was too much bureaucracy in the system, that although funding would be cut giving schools and teachers the freedom to decide how the money would be spent would prevent this from happening. He gave the example of academies to exlain why this gives the freedom to choose! Quite disingenious as this doesn't give the teachers or any other educational specialists the choice of how resources are spent, it gives private companies, rather than accoutable public authorities th choice. In any case if the budget is cut some services will have to go but when this is coupled with a private company taking a profit out then the end result can only ever be cuts.


Clegg was caught out at one point though when he stated that future genrations should not be made to pay for 'our' mistakes, so he was questioned by a student on why the government was proposing to raise tution fees, Clegg responded by acknowledging it was a problem and went on about the difficulties that students face but generally avoided actually answering the question as you would expect from a politician.

Throughout the whole time Clegg managed to get in lie after lie, I presented it as a fact that there is no other choice but to cut public services, such a blatant lie, what he should have said is that according to his political philisphy there is no other choice! In reality there is definately anothr choice, reading through the last few entries of my blog will be able to see that. He also stated that NHS funding would increase, and whilst this technically is not a lie it is very disingenious as the funding will be below inflation rates in the health sector and therefore in real terms is a cut to health expenditure. He also stated that over all public expenditure would increase, this to me seems like it must be an out right lie, but if there is some truth in it then it can only be on the basis of bailouts for the rich and trident nuclear weapons, hardly the public services that come to mind when people think of public expenditure.

Over all the 45 minutes was a complete waste of time, though it would have been well worth it if I was able to get into the discussion and put these points and the alternative to cuts to Clegg, such a grilling would have changed the whole mood of any following questions and th general atmosphere in the room.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Campaigning against cutbacks


This article was orginally posted on the GlamSU website, However since publishing some details have changed. The demonstration reffered to October 23rd in Pontypridd is no longer taking place, however there will be a demonstration against cuts in Cardiff on that day organised by the Wales Shop Stewards Network. Below is the article

On the 20th of October the ‘ConDem’ government as it has come too referred as will announce its spending review. In Orwellian fashion this spending review will only review how to spend much less across the entire public sector. In reality this will equate to huge job losses, particularly in Wales where a third of the workforce is in the public sector, along with the jobs cuts will come the inevitable slashing of public service provisions, including provisions in the education system.


In light of this there has been resistance emerging from trade unions, student groups and community campaigners alike. Already several joint initiatives have been announced. The National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU) (the trade union for lecturers and other academic staff) have announced a joint campaign called ‘Fund of Future’ and have planned a joint demonstration for November the 20th against cuts in university funding.


There have also been moves for a national demonstration against all cut backs. The National Shop Stewards Network organised a demonstration of over a thousand people outside the Trades Union Council (TUC) Conference to put pressure on the TUC to call a national demonstration against cuts. Such a demonstration organised by the TUC which has over 6 million members in Britain could be a huge rallying cry for a campaign to defeat the cuts!


On a more local level in the last week a meeting organised by Cardiff Trade Union Council agreed to set up a campaign against all cut backs. The meeting was well attended by members of a variety of public sector trade unions as well as those working in the private sector. Of note to us as students is that in attendance at this meeting there were staff and students present from both the University of Glamorgan and Cardiff University. At the meeting the need to unite campaigns together soA all the variety of campaigns against these cutbacks was stressed heavily. A sentiment I completely agree with, if we let ourselves get divided into saving our own services and our own jobs then we will all loose out in the end. This was something that Cardiff Council attempted to do a few years ago, when they attempted to divide individual campaigns against school closures. This was done in an attempt to get some campaigners to support the closure programme but campaign solely for their school to remain open. This would have led to smaller sectional and therefore weaker campaigns.


It is therefore important that we as students wishing to defend education cuts should support any campaigns in the area against public sector cuts. There is a demonstration on the 23rd of October in Pontypridd against public sector cuts organised by the Wales TUC. All students at the University should attend that demonstration and campaign alongside public sector workers, but we should also appeal for those on that demonstration to come along with us to the demonstration in London against cuts in University funding.


We have been constantly told there is no alternative to the cuts by the government and the media, and the old saying that “If a lie is told long and loud enough then it will become the truth” is very appropriate in this situation as there is no basis for this assertion whatsoever. The only reason that we have a deficit is because all the money was given to the banks, yet the banks are still able to make millions in profits and still give out millions in bonuses to the top city bankers. So why not demand that the bankers pay for the crisis instead, why not demand that the government nationalises the banks and put the profits into the education system and other public services.


Even if we accept this debt from the bankers it is not true that we need to cut public sector spending at this rate, in fact we do not need to cut spending at all. After World War 2 when the British government was racked by debts much bigger in fact than the current debt crisis it was still possible to invest heavily in public services including the introduction of the NHS as well investment in many other public services, which led to a period of economic boom. Contrast that to the response of governments after the Wall Street crash which was to drastically reduce public spending which led to the great depression, showing that making public sector cuts on this scale can only make things worse!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Cardiff anti-cuts alliance



















This Tuesday just gone (21/09/10) Cardiff County Trades Council held a public meeting. The purpose of which was to discuss the impending public sector cuts, those which have already been announced, some of which have already been carried out and those cuts expected to be announced next month as part of the government’s spending review on October 20th.

The meeting was well attended with n seats left over for any late comers. A definite sign of the mood to fight back against the public sector cuts. There were platform speakers from a variety of trade unions including the PCS, RMT, CWU and Unison and speakers from the floor representing a variety of other trade unions, student groups, community campaigners and many others. This alone should reflect the scale and the desire to fight back against these cuts.

Speaker after speaker explained how the cuts will affect them; CWU members spoke about postal privatisation and the need for the whole community to campaign to stop this from happening. Pensioners explained the change that moving pensions from the retail price index to the consumer price index pointed out that this will reduce the living standards of pensioners and stressed the need for trade unionists to fight for pensioners rights. Youth fight for jobs activists stressed the need for all workers to help them fight against rising youth employment which is clearly linked to the fight to stop jobs cuts. The list went on and on.

Throughout the evening it became more and more clear that there was a desperate need to link up the struggle to save jobs and services with other campaigns. Some campaigners pointed out the lessons learned in recent years in Cardiff, when the council proposed to close 22 schools in the city and then attempted to play campaign off against each other, in an attempt to get campaigners arguing for some schools to be closed in order to save their own. It was pointed out that if this did happen and different campaigns were divided then we would all loose out.

More and more speakers were making it clear that there was a need to set up a campaigning body which included all sections of the community to oppose all cuts. Other speakers disagreed, pointing out that we should support cuts to the banks, the politicians, to the replacement of trident nuclear weapons and to the military funding which allows young working class people to be sent to fight a rich man’s war in Afghanistan.

It was agreed at the end of the meeting to setup Cardiff anti-cuts Alliance which will start its campaigning activity very shortly and will aim to unite all campaigns that spring up against cut backs in the area into a united campaign to oppose all cuts to public services. Towards the end of the meeting one speaker from the floor said, I want to see council staff on demonstrations to oppose postal privatisation I want to see postal workers on demonstrations to oppose cuts in education; I want to see students standing side by side with striking workers. Only by standing together and supporting our individual struggles will we be able to stop these cuts.

This is clearly a big step forward for anti-cuts campaigning in South Wales, particularly as this initiative as followed in the footsteps of a recent initiative by Swansea Trades Council.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Making the Top Ten!



Despite a recent lapse in my blogging when it came to the Total Politics Blog Awards for the Top 50 Welsh blogs I managed to scrap into the top ten.
In the run up to the announcement I was pretty confident that I would make it into the top 50, not because I thought my blog was that great but because quite frankly you would be hard pressed to find 50 active blogs in Wales. However making it into the top ten was a definite surprise, beating the likes of Leanne Wood and Bethan Jenkins easily with 2,200 voters in the poll, quite a significant result in the blogging world.
It really shows the grasp for ideas, as one of the only blogs in Wales which not only comments on events but actively promotes a viable alternative to many issues it shows the grasp by the welsh blogosphere for the need for an alternative.
It hasn’t all been good on the blog awards front though. I made it to number 82 in the top 100 worst political blogs, not an accolade I was particularly looking for, however judging by the obscure blogs I voted for which polled high I can only assume that the voting in the poll was quite low. I can only speculate why anyone voted for me, I will will assume its because of the recent low frequency of the posts appearing so I will try and rectify that now so I do not appear in next years poll.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Total Politics Blog Awards - Vote Me!

It is the time of year for the Total Politics Blog Awards. My blog is just under a year old, so when last years awards were released this blog was not eligable (being as it did not exist)

This year I want to get into the charts particulary the category of Welsh blogs, though I would not object to appearing in the left of centre category.

Last years results showed Plaid Cymru affiliated blogs dominate the top and generally the establishment and their supporters dominating all the top places. It would be good to see the foundations shake with a radically left blog shooting up the charts. So vote for Everyones Favourite Comrade.

Voting is all explained here, just click on the link below.

Click here to vote in the Total Politics Best Blogs Poll 2010

Of course the miners' strike was financially supported by communists!


On July 9th an article, written by Dr Norman Laporte, was published on the University of Glamorgan website. This article was, strangely and grammatically incorrectly, entitled “Was the Miners’ Strike was "secretly financed by Communists"?”. The first response that came to mind as soon as I had read the article was simply ‘I am so glad he doesn’t lecture me’. Now that is not because I disagree with him, as any of my lecturers or peers can testify as I am quite happy to debate out any and every issue with any lecturer or fellow student and do so on a regular basis. My simple reasoning behind it is that Laporte just seems to be so bad at what he does!

Firstly he starts the article with the massive assumption that this revelation comes as some surprise as if no-one expected it, hence the title. In fact there was no secret at all! Communists openly supported the miners’ strike, yet Laporte in a very tunnelled-vision manner seems to ignore all the open evidence; that communists in Britain and internationally for that matter openly supported the miners’, raising funds to support them amongst many other things. The cheek of the man to call himself a historian whilst omitting such obvious facts!

The article is based around a book he has written in order to publicise it ahead of its impending release later this month. The thrust of the argument appears to be documents from the East German Communist trade union federation which suggest they gave considerable financial support to the National Union of Mineworkers’. I don’t dispute this in anyway whatsoever, in fact I would be more shocked if it was revealed that they didn’t add any financial support. Laporte unfortunately doesn’t display the capacity to understand this.

The miners’ strike lasted from 1984-85 and was a heroic stand of the working class. On strike for a year the miners and there families made huge personal sacrifices in the face of an onslaught from the Thatcher government. With no income for the duration of the strike, the miners were forced to live of the unions strike fund. However it was impossible to maintain this over the course of the strike, the strike fund of the NUM was simply not equipped for this task. Organised workers in trade unions and socialist or communist organisations in Britain and internationally rightly saw this as a class war and rushed to the aid of the miners, spawning miners’ support groups throughout the country. Money was raised throughout the world to offer financial support ,in order to help the miners maintain their stand. So of course finance was raised in a basic act of class solidarity, something of which Laporte once again fails to understand.

Laporte claims in the book that “the Communists perceived the NUM as an ally in the international class struggle against capitalism – hence the close interest in the strike” and in this he was absolutely right. It seems to suddenly dawn on him, as if for the first time he decided to open his eyes and take a peek over the blankets.

But this is where Laporte goes in for the ‘kill’: he adds ““It was, above all, the anti-capitalism of left-of-centre British trade unionists which made them believe that East European Communism was on the right path.... But the British Left ignored massive human rights abuses and the lack of basic freedoms behind the Iron Curtain because they believed that the basic development in the direction of Socialism was right.” As if he thinks that once and for all he has stumped all advocates of communism and won the argument! How wrong can one man be? Well, apparently quite a lot. He is quite right in his assertion that anti-capitalists in Britain saw those who had over-thrown capitalism as ‘along the right track’. Yet he returns to his anti-historical perspective almost immediately when he adds that the British Left ignored massive human rights abuses – a statement which flies in the face of reality.

The British left is, of course, not a homogenous unit in any way shape or form, and much of the British left were and still are very critical of the undemocratic and totalitarian nature of the Stalinist regimes. Whilst at the same time explaining that the economic system, the planned economy, was something worth defending. In such an anti-historical move Laporte chooses to omit this, as well as omitting the human rights abuses of capitalist states, including those of the British government at the time and the violence dished out to the miners.

It is clear that Laporte is trying to present a false image on the past and could teach McCarthy a thing or two. I hope his students are aware of how much is academic work is void of legitimacy!

Friday, 9 July 2010

The human face of welfare reform


This article was originally published on Radical Wales and is now shown below


In the light of extensive plans from the coalition government to ‘reform’ the welfare and benefits system much has be written about it. Such a change in the current system has provoked a reaction from the entire political spectrum. Many of the radical left have looked at how this will affect working class people. Glyn Matthews interviews a benefit claimant living in Bridgend (who wishes to remain anonymous) to show the human face of the current welfare reform proposals.


Glyn: Firstly, can you just briefly outline your current circumstances as a benefit claimant?

Well about 15 years ago I had a slipped disc in my back, I had an operation to repair it but it has never been quite right since. About 5 years ago I found myself unable to cope with work as my back had deteriorated so much. I was assessed and started claiming incapacity benefit My back become allot better after awhile and I was much more active and mobile. The problem was there were still some days that I couldn’t physically move. I was able to go on to the back to work scheme and was able to get a job. I still took quite a few sick days due to back problems but as my sick pay was paid by the government and not my boss it was ok and I wasn't at risk of being sacked. I was made redundant recently though, I was just out of the 12 month period to go back onto incapacity benefit but not long enough to get any redundancy pay. At the moment I am waiting to be reassessed for incapacity benefit as my back problems have resurfaced and some days I haven’t been able to leave the bed.

So at the moment you are not seeking employment?

No I am, my back is causing me allot of problems at the moment but it is not all the time. I went to the jobcentre and explained that I wanted to go back to work but that I was not confident that I would ending calling in sick all the time, that I wasn’t sure if I could cope with it didn’t want to risk losing my benefits. I was hoping they would put me back on the back to work scheme again but they wouldn’t

What did they do then?

At the moment they have put me on this scheme for 10 weeks, I work for Tesco three days a week, I don’t get paid though I just collect my Job Seekers Allowance as normal.


How do you feel about this?

Well to be frank I feel used, I don’t see why I should be expected to work for free for a company with as much money as Tesco, and I do not see how it benefits me in anyway. They obviously need the staff they could either pay me or advertise a vacancy. I am only guessing but I imagine I’m not the only one doing this, so it could be thousands of extra jobs created, instead it just means Tesco are able to save a packet on their wages bill. I don’t see how this is fair at all.

You mentioned earlier that you are waiting to be reassessed for incapacity benefit; recently the government have announced new plans regarding this with the aim of getting more people off this benefit and into work. How do you feel about this?

I think it’s quite worrying myself, as I have already said I do want to go back to work but some days I am physically unable to even leave my bed. If they tighten up the rules and I am assessed on a good day then I will be turned down. I don’t see why these MPs should be allowed to rule over us and make us beg for the crumbs whilst they take anything they want from the table.

What are you referring to? The MPs expenses?

That is part of it yeah, but it isn’t just that it’s everything, their wages are really high as well, and they are all involved in business and stuff like that. They just look after themselves at our expense. At the same time they want us all to stop claiming benefits and work, but there are no jobs, it isn’t our fault there are no jobs it is theirs.

Well the government have recently revealed proposals to give incentives for people to move to towns or cities where there are jobs. What are your thoughts about this?

I am quite scared by this idea, I certainly do not want to move away all my family are in the area, my elderly and ill mother, both my son and my daughter and In the last 2 months my first grandchild was born. I have deep roots in this area I don’t want to move away from here.

You said you were scared by this idea, why are you scared? After all, the government have said this will be optional and they will just add incentives to people to help them move.

Well that is true but it depends what they mean by optional. I mean I have heard that housing benefit payments are going to be cut, if they are I won’t be able to afford to pay my rent whilst I am on benefits, that’s why I am on housing benefit in the first place. I might have a choice between being evicted and taking up the governments offer to move to where the jobs are.

Another thing which concerns me about this is that if people are encouraged to move out of areas where there are few jobs then it will make it worse and worse. I live in Bridgend and a few years ago there was a string of suicides amongst young people. I don’t know the reason behind it but it was clear that there is no future on offer to young people in this town maybe that had something to do with it. I have two children in their early twenties and a newly born grandchild, I am worried about the future on offer to them.

All the main political parties say that “we are in this together” referring to the economic crisis. Do you agree?

Definitely not and I don’t know anyone who does. I didn’t do anything to cause these problems neither did you. Yet the banks were given billions the MPs took as much money as they could get away with but its people like us losing there jobs, its us who suffer when they cut public services and its us who are made to feel guilty and ashamed when we can’t find a job.

You, like me, obviously disagree with the governments policies, what do you think should be done?

I think we need to say “NO” I think we need to say that we will not accept this, I don’t know how I just know that we should not accept this.

Okay, thank you for your time, as you know this interview is going to be published on Radical Wales, perhaps a discussion about how to take this forward will take place on the comment section. Will you be following that discussion?

Definitely, I am really interested to see what we can do, I haven’t been involved in anything like this before but I don’t think we have a choice anymore. We have to do something.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Radical Wales Launch




Radical Wales will be launched later today. (Monday July 5th) The obvious question that many reader will be asking is What is Radical Wales? Well the answer is simply, Radical Wales is a new blog which has been set up involving the radical left in Wales, anarchists, communists, environmentalists, left republicans and socialists outside of any of the main political parties, in this case in reference to Labour and Plaid Cymru who do have activists who would otherwise fit the definition.

The idea behind Radical Wales which has been building for a few months before the launch is that it can act as a forum for the ideas across the left spectrum in Wales. The blog has existed for sometime but simply acted as a blog aggregator initiated by Tom Fowler. It has now developed into much more. The site now houses a blog aggregator, twitter feed, directory of left organisations and campaigns in Wales, a calendar displaying events of the radical left and most importantly now the blog which as of today will start to publish individual material.

This is what it says on the Radical Wales site

About
Loss of heart and burnout ends many people's contact with radicalism in Wales, as elsewhere. Many of those who don't completely turn their back on politics end up compromising and accepting mainstream 'realities'. This is partly because our respective movements suffer from visibility and image problems: the limited coverage given to protests and campaigns by the mainstream media fails to address the core reasons for discontent, and much of what's left of the radical media suffers from an inward looking culture that only preaches to the choir.

Radical Wales exists as a platform for considered radical political commentary and discussion in Wales. We hope to attract a wide range of submissions from across the spectrum of anarchists, communists, greens, left-republicans and socialists.

Inspired by the long line of rebels and revolutionaries who have stood outside and against the political process of the ruling class in Wales, we'll publish original articles that continue that tradition. Are you interested in writing an article or becoming a regular contributor? Then read our guide to submitting an article and get in touch to discuss your ideas further.

By including contributors from different radical traditions there will doubtless be countless political and tactical disagreements. Many (probably most) of these will never be resolved, but through honest and frank discussion we hope areas of common ground can be found. We're keen to encourage debate, but ask all that everyone makes themselves aware of the comments policy.

As well as a being a platform for original articles, this site aims to be a hub for radical politics and an activist resource. With that in mind we ask for your help updating the calendar, keeping the directory up-to-date, and joining us in sharing ideas and events using social media. Please get in touch about anything we've overlooked or you feel is missing.

We hope you enjoy reading the site, but we can achieve more collectively than we can individually so please do get involved, leave comments, write articles, send in updates and publicise what you like on the internet and beyond.



This gives you a flavour of what to expect from Radical Wales in the future. There is currently an editorial group, but they aim to limit their editorial role to an absolute minimum. The editorial group currently includes me (regular readers of my blog should know my political background. Tom Fowler, who initially created the site to collect together all radical blogs in Wales,. He described himself as a libertarian socialist and has been active within South Wales Anarchists and No Borders as well as various of campaigns since the late 1990s. Adam Johannes, a Marxist currently unaligned with any political party but still active in various campaigns most notably Cardiff Stop the War Coalition. Finally there is Andy Williams, who I must confess to knowing very little about other than he is an academic and an anarchist. This editorial group is not a complete or definitive list it’s just the one we have started with. Other current contributors include anarchists, Marxists and greens.

So keep an eye on developments here, watch out for the articles to come forth in the next few weeks and the launch article later today and get involved. If you are interested in getting involved then what better way to do get in touch with me on my cool new e-mail address glyn@radicalwales.org!


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