Following on from my last post Political First! and the comments I received both on and off the blog, I thought it would be good to write about my political awakening and where it has taken me.
As I have previously mentioned it was in 1999 that I first started thinking about the world around me. It was around the time of the NATO bombing of Serbia. I was only 13 at the time but I Will try and recount my thoughts at the time as opposed to what they would now be. The only source of information I had available at the time was the BBC and ITV news coverage.
I remember thinking that if the majority of the Kosovan people wanted a seperate country then there is nothing that could morally stand in the way of that, I saw the Kosova Liberation Army as heroes of the people and silently cheered them on as I watched the news coverage. I remember my opposition to the bombing of Serbia however, remember the news showing ordinary Serbians being bombed and could quite clearly see that it was the fault of the Serbian government and not the Serbian people, In any case I couldn't understand why the bombing of Sarajevo had to happen at all. As far as I was concerned all that needed to happen was for Serbian forces to be driven out of Kosovan land and for the borders to be maintained to establish a Kosovan state. I can't really remember much more about this, but I do remember it made me think about my own position as a welsh boy living and growing up in Wales and my place in the United Kingdom. I remember for awhile after this going on a mild welsh nationalist slant but this soon faded away.
The next events in my political development were much more sporadic and unconnected, so much so that I can't remember much and what I can I cannot remember the order in which it happened. I will endeavour to explain the best I can. Neither of my parents were political in any way so I can say quite confidently I didn't pick up much from them. I remember watching a few British films which gave me a class conscience of sorts, basic things like knowing to never cross a picket line. I soon began to identify with the word 'Socialist' as something that could describe me. I remember trying to talk to my mother about the news stories in a vaguely political way in a desperate grab for more information. Looking back now I can see that although she was taking pride in the fact that I was taking an interest in the world around me, it was a much bigger interest than hers so consequently these conversations were limiting. When it came time to pick my GCSE options I picked both History and Sociology because I wanted to understand the past, present and the future, this was again was limiting but did advance my understanding slightly. I remember at the age of 15 or 16 clearly identifying myself as a socialist, but also thinking that the Liberal Democrats were the way forward. I had no knowledge of the existence of any parties outside the main 4. I had learnt by this point the tories were evil, my nationalist slant was way gone so that ruled out Plaid Cymru and I had never even considered the Labour Party as an option, they had been in power since I was 11, it was the only government I had ever known and there didn't see to be anything socialist about it to me.
On September the 9th 2001 I began college. A day that went down in history. Unfortunately not because I started college but because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Although this did signal a huge turn in my political development because of the people I met. It was a curious decision on my part all of my friends bar 1 stayed on in School at the 6th form. It was in the end only myself and 1 friend Lyndon who left to study our A-levels in college. Meeting a lot of new people, particularly on the back on the biggest terrorist attack in history really did have a huge impact on me as discussions were dominated by it. I remember going for a spliff with a new friend I had met once previously before we began college. I remember agreeing that America had got the bloody nose that it deserved, but that it was innocent people who were killed once again rather than the US government that really deserved it. I remember immediately talking about how this would lead to a US invasion of somewhere and of course I was right. I was completely against the invasion of Afganistan but I did not do anything political at the time.
My second year in college was much more fruitful, at this time I considered myself to be a marxist due to what I had learnt in my A-level sociology class, but in the true academic sense I knew very little about what marxism actually was. I did agree completely with what I heard. I Particularly remember an analogy of housing used to describe the capitalist system, something I remember so clearly having lived my whole life in a council house. Towards the end of the first term my friend Lyndon announced on the walk from the train station to college that he had joined International Socialist Resistance. We joked about the name and how it sounded a bit like they were trying to resist socialism. I did express my interest though, particularly as we seemed to agree on all political matters we talked about.
In the build up to the invasion of Iraq I felt I needed to do something, by this time my friend Lyndon had joined the Socialist Party and I found out that another friend in college Matt was already a member as was my sociology lecturer. They began to organise a Stop the War group in the college and I got involved with the group. I quickly began to identify with the SP despite not being a member at that stage.
Eventually I asked Matt if I could join the SP to which he said yes. On February 15th 2003 on the way to the demo in London Matt gave me a join card to fill out. I spent the whole day in London giving out leaflets and it felt so good to finally be doing something! Soon after the invasion came my first disagreement with the SP, I remember saying how I thought the invasion was wrong that now it had happened then the United Nations should move in on peacekeeping grounds. Although everyone disagreed with me I was willing to stick it out. My second disagreement that I can remember was over the issue of Communism. I remember stating how I thought communism would never work. I was asked why in such a way that made me realise that all the other members thought that it would work and that was what they were aiming for.
It was at this point with those disagreements that I thought about leaving, at this stage I was very much a reformist and did not really want to be part of a revolutionary organisation. At the same time however I felt I had to be a part of something. I used the college computers to try and find a reformist organisation to join but I could not find anything. I remember requesting more information from the Socialist Labour Party as their website seemed to suggest a reformist programme but I never got a reply.
I decided to stay in the SP as I wanted to be a part of something, I wanted to continue learning about socialism and I wanted to be involved in all the campaigns the SP were. I had it in my mind that I would only stay until I found a reformist group to join. Over time though as I learnt more from reading and discussing such areas as the marxist view of the state, state and revolution, and examples of a possible coup in Britain, the Allende government, and the removal of the left-wing government in Australia I became convinced of the need of revolution. I was still not convinced that communism would work but I was willing to try, but soon over time I was convinced.
My political evolution continued rapidly learning a lot from the branch meetings, individual discussions with different comrades (particularly Dave Reid) and reading with writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin & Trotsky as well as that of the CWI I became a committed trotskyist and remain so to this day. I began to come into contact with more and more socialist organisations at national events so I began to read up on many of them. I understood that the size of the organisation was not the most important it is the ideas and how you organise which is most important. The day I discovered broadleft.org was a bit of an eye opener but throughout the years I have remained committed to the ideas of the CWI.
My political development didn't stop there however. Observing how much of the left acts in simply following their particular party line, and in most cases simply the first party they came across. The simple explanation was obviously that they had been taught solely in the ideas of their own organisations. This led me to question my own political development which was largely through the Socialist Party. This re-assessment did lead me to change my views slightly but largely remained the same. Rooted largely with an orthodox trotskyist outlook with a libertarian tinge to it.
I remain a committed and active member of the SP/CWI as I see it as the best organisation to held with the emancipation of the working class.
Workers of the World UNITE, you have nothing to loose but your chains.