Saturday, 12 September 2009
Friday, 11 September 2009
The 7th edition of the Student Socialist is a huge improvement in previous issues in many ways and really does reflect the huge growth and success of Socialist Students. The first issue to be in full colour it is both attractive in design and content.
The opening article 'Unlocking the Potential?' by Stephen Burrell of Aston University is a fantastic article which delves into what education is used for currently under capitalism and what education should be. It also poses the philisophical question of what a socialist education would look like and what its purpose would be. A fantastic place to start the magazine and make someone knew to socialism really think about what the alternative to capitalism would be. It really does set the reader up for the rest of the magazine.
Matt Dobson, National Organiser follows that up with 'Fight The Recession!' in which Matt outlines what the recession will really mean for young people and students in particular, what cuts in educational standards we will face and the battles against these cuts that we expect to face.
The next article is by Sean Figg, National Organiser of YFJ entitled 'What Is Socialism?' is an unfortunate neccesity in many ways. Unfortunate that we are in a position where we have to explain to young people what socialis is, but of course very neccessary for that reason. Sean provides an excellent article in that respect outlining the problems with capitalism and the socialist solution. Sean neither over simplifies in a patronising way nor over-complicates it to the point that someone new to socialist ideas would not be able to follow it.
Up next is a collection of small articles entitled 'Fighting Back!' with an introduction by Ben Robinson (YFJ Chair) and a selection of reports from various Socialist Student groups. This article highlights the camapagining work that Socialist Students in continually involved in on campus' all around the country.
Paul Phillips from Northumbria comes next with the article 'Discredited Parliamentary Shambles' in which Paul highlights the corruption of all the major parties, pointing our that they have no intention of helping out the working class or students. Paul Highlights the need for a Socialist alternative, a well worth read.
'Say No To Racism' is the next offering from Paddy Meehan, a young member of the Socialist Party in Northern Ireland. He highlights the rise of the BNP and the need for a class response to that. He also discusses the recent attacks on Romanian families in Northern Ireland and the role the Socialist Party played in defending them. Once again a quality offering.
A joint effort next from Kay Shipway (UCL) and Sarah Wrack (Sussex) 'For Womens Rights' They outline the problems facing young women currently, such as low pay, poor child care facilities in education, objectification & how a women's right to choose is not simply an issue for women but is quite clearly a class issue, this is highlighted by the accompanying picture which quite clearly shows many male activists also at an abortion rights demonstration.
Sarah Wrack comes back with another offering 'Stop The Slaughter' in which Sarsh discusses the Israeli assualt on Gaza earlier this year and analyises the new wae of student activism that followed from this, A must read article for an attempt to understand future campaigns.
the final article 'Afganistan War' by Jon Redford of Hertfordshire analysises the current devasting role of imperialism in not only in Afganistan but also in Northern Pakistan. Jon goes on to argue for a socialist solution to the problem.
Other important features to the magazine include:
A full page advert for the November 28th YFJ demonstration, A demonstration that Socialist Students will be helping to build for.
A full page advert for Socialism 2009, an excellent weekend of discussion ad debate at which Socialist Students will undoubtly be hosting sessions at again this year
A subsribtion advert for both 'the socialist' and 'socialism today' both excellent periodicals which often carry articles by Socialist Students members.
Overall this edition of the magazine is fantastic, the use of pictures really adds alot, it shows quite clearly that socialist students discusses ideas but is also very activist orientated.
Previous editions of the Student Socialist have always been good, but the edition is definately a pace setter both in terms of content and layout I would urge everyone to get a copy of the Student Socialist Issue 7
Thursday, 10 September 2009
VESTAS WORKERS' SOLIDARITY DEMONSTRATION - CARDIFF
Cardiff RMT Branch
Campaign against Climate Change
Leanne Wood AM
Climate Camp Cymru
People and Planet
World Development Movement Cardiff
South Wales Anarchists
After occupying their factory and gaining international support from socialists, trade unionists and environmentalists the Vestas workers have called a day of action to ramp up the pressure on the factory bosses and the government. It’s been an inspiring struggle so far…
Vestas is a wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight, the only wind turbine factory in Britain.
The factory bosses decided to close down the plant in August, making 600 people redundant and loosing a vital source of renewable energy. Their excuse was that it was no longer “viable”. The Government remained silent and let the free market decide the fate of the factory and its workers. On the one hand, they talk about investing in green jobs and renewable energy and protecting ordinary people from the effects of the crisis. On the other hand, they actually do nothing.
Now they've been nationally and internationally embarrassed. When Ed Milliband went to Oxford to lecture people on climate change 600 people turned up after discovering Vestas workers were going to be there. The audience demanded that the two men speak against Miliband's wishes. They demanded nationalisation to save their jobs. After huge popular resistance like this and over a month of tireless campaigning the government wants to be seen to be doing something. It says that it will buy the factory but that Vestas won’t sell. The campaign goes on because it’s quite clear that it’s not up to Vestas whether there’s a wind turbine factory in Britain or whether 600 workers get sacked, it’s in everybody’s interest. And it’s possible that we can beat both the government and Vestas, saving jobs and the possibility of preventing catastrophic global warming.
We’re holding a rally in Cardiff with a worker from the factory coming down to speak alongside Trade Unionists, Socialists and Climate Activists.
But this is not all we should do.
We should encourage people to put banners outside their windows at work, college or home supporting the campaign, do collections and get people to leave their work or college for an hour on the day in protest. The Campaign against Climate Change has produced teacher’s packs so that students can learn about climate change on the day.
We will be selling Green Ribbons in the run up to the day and on the day for £1 and send all the money to the workers who’ve lost their jobs.
The occupiers and the people in the campaign have asked for this kind of solidarity. They have also demanded that the fight should be taken to the labour party conference in Brighton on 27th September.
Cardiff West Socialist Party met to discuss the lessons of Liverpool city Councillor from 1983--87 under the control of Militant. Comrade AP from The Cardiff East branch paid us a welcome visit to lead the discussion on this heroic struggle and his experiences of it as a Cardiff Militant.
It is of course a discussion I Have heard several times before but one that always interests me and inspires me. Various aspects of the struggle were discussed including all of the facilities the council proived to the community the job creation and the implementation of a minimum wage of £6 an hour (£8 an hour today) and how they kept to every manifesto pledge despite attacks fromthe goernment constantly.
We also discussed several negative aspects of the period such as the unfortunate attitude the Socialist Workers Party took and how their approach led them to being chased out of the city when they tried to sell their paper. It was generally agreed that it was a mistake to issue the reduntacy notices.
There was also a very interesting and healthy debate over whether it would have been correct to stand independantly as Militant Labour once we had been barred fro doing so by the politically bankrupt Labour leadership of Kinnock. A very interesting discussion indeed, one which continued informally after the meeting and spilled over into the tactical question of when it was correct to leave the labour party.
All these topics of course vitally in the current situation where various councils are implementing huge cuts, including Cardiff council, in which the lib dems have proposed £21million in cuts. Important again because of the approach we take inside a broad formation which with any luck we will be doing in the near future.
A truly inspiring discussion, one that has inspired me to re-read the book, the only problem is that I have leant it to a comrade who has moved away :( for more information about the struggle i recommend you read the book Liverpool A city that dared to fight
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
- Following on from the extremely successful Youth Fight For Jobs participation at the demonstration yesterday 16 YFJ activists descended on the Cardiff City Stadium for a weekday protest at Alistair Darling's visit. The Chancellor was in Cardiff to address business leaders, and YFJ decided that it was only fair if the chancellor would also speak to us!
Several of us were wearing suits, If the chancellor would be speak to business leaders in suits then he should speak to young people in suits! Naturally though Darling refused to except a delegation of young people! Obviously we are not rich enough to warrant his time.
Not put of by this and of course expecting it, we remained to picket the entrance chanting for some time the chants included some of the following
- YOUTH FIGHT - FOR JOBS
- WHEN THEY SAY CUT BACK - WE SAY FIGHT BACK
- DECENT JOBS AND DECENT PAY - THAT IS WHAT WE WANT TODAY
- DARLING DARLING STOP THE ROT - GIVE US WHAT THE BANKERS GOT
- ALISTER DARLING - HEAR US SAY - UNEMPLOYMENT - NO WAY - LOW PAY - NO WAY
- MAKE THE BOSSES - TAKE THE LOSSES
- DARLING DARLING DARLING - OUT OUT OUT
- DECENT JOBS AND NO TO WAR - THAT IS WHAT WE'RE FIGHTING FOR
- WHEN THEY SAY PRIVATISE - WE FIGHT BACK AN ORGANISE
- WHEN THEY SAY FEES WILL RISE - WE FIGHT BACK AND ORGANISE
- FIGHT THE POWER - CHANGE THE SYSTEM - WHAT WE NEED IS - SOCIALISM
As well as the militant chanting 2 of us were interviewed by the BBC first was Lana
- She explained that there is nearly 1 million unemployed young people now, but the governent are not investing in decent jobs for young people. Instead they choose to finance the bonuses for bankers. She went on to explain that many young people are put off university but the fear of debt and the government respond by attacking educationand threatening to raise fees, we need decent quality free education. Lana finished by explaining this government is creating a lost generation and that we would not except it
- I was interviewed next I started by explaining that as an unemployed youth I could expect to face a decade on the dole while Darling addresses business leaders and bails out banks he won't even come and speak to us! The government have clearly shown they don't care about ordinary people and expect us to pay for a crisis that the bankers and businesses created and we won't except it. I was asked about the difficult decisions of which public sector cuts to make. I said that there was no difficult decisions to make. We need to invest more and improve public services and pay for it by nationalising the banks under democratic control and for the profits of which there is still millions to go into the public sector. I was also asked about my thoughts on the looming general election. I explained that the Labour Party had been in power since I was 11 years old and I was no longer willing to put up with thier crap, neither was a prepared to put up with the crap fro the tories who i spent my childhood under, nor the liberals who are implementing £21million of cuts in Cardiff currently, that we need a new workers' party that will genuinely represent the interests of ordinary people and not the bankers like we currently have. I finished by saying that saying that Youth Fight for Jobs is here to stay we are here to fight for our future all we ask for is what we rightfully deserve and we will accept nothing less!
Naturally Darlling showed his cowardice by skipping about the back entrance afraid to speak to the lost generation, we considered this to be a victory, a warning shot that we are here and that we will fight.
Unfortunately the BBC showed there true colour today despite filiming the protest and conducting the interview. When they reported on the news that darling had addressed business leaders in Cardiff, they refused to even acknowledge that the protest had taken place! Instead they decided to show an extensive news piece on the changing of a name of a dessert in a Flintshire canteen!
This is not the last that you or the BBC will hear about this!
Monday, 7 September 2009
Having been at the demonstration only a few hours ago my head is still spinning with all the events that happened. It was by far the best political event I have ever attended and I have been active in politics for the last 7 years! My report here for those reasons may become more of a ramble than a structred report.
The demonstration was called as there is a large amount of workers in the local area who are not being taken on at the site despite their being jobs available, the companies of course simply finding the cheapest labour possible to smash the proud history o the trade union movement in winning the pay and conditions they currently have. Instead choosing to bring in ununionised foreign labour on cheaper rates.
I left Cardiff to head to Uskmouth power station at 4.30 am this morning, upon arriving everyone gathered in a small car park just off the road that leads to the power station. About a hundred people congregated, this included construction workers from other sites, unemployed construction workers largley members of Unite and some from the GMB, young apprentices, unemployed youth, and members of other trade unions in other sectors such as the RMT, PCS and NUM. Of this 13 were members of the Socialist Party (many of whom Youth Fight for Jobs activists) and 2 were members of the Socialist Workers Party.
At around 6am everyone moved out of the car park and onto the road to form a blockade. The road was blocked in order to cause maximum disturbance at the site and to call on workers who have jobs on the site to take wildcat action today. There was a very militant mood at this point so much so that a potential scab was attacked physically by one protester. The protester was the restrained by others and explained that we were not at that stage as the worker had been turned away anyway. The cars and mini-buses began to queue up very quickly and soon it was impossible to see just how far! Members of Unite along with members of the Socialist Party walked along every car explaining to as many workers as possible the issues and requesting on them to either join the blockade or turn away, many workers did either one of those options. This continued for some time and we maintained the blockade until 8am.
The period of 2 hours we spent at the blockade there was a fraternal atmoshpere amongst all the comrades involved and discussions about the issues and the tactics and strategy flowed between many protesters. There was only 1 banner which had questionable content, it read
'Gordon Brown REMEMBER YOUR PROMISE British workers on British Contracts'
subsequently the discussion amongst some protesters did cover this area. A few of the unemployed workers I spoke to were very bitter and down trodden. They have seen their jobs and other dissappear and saw foreign workers as scabs. It was said that I live in a different world to them as I don't work in the industry. I agreed that to a certain extent it was true that I lived in 'a different world' but pointed out that I have been involved in the labour movement since I was 17 as a shop steward for a number of years and now as an unemployed 24 year old I face the prospect of a decade on the dole, so my world and the battles I face are very similiar which is why I was at the protest in the first place. I explained that although the concerns of the workers present was to secure jobs for themslves and their community the only way to do that was to understand why we are in the current situation. That foreign workers are being used because it is cheaper because of a century of trade union struggle in Britain we have won great victories which gives us the pay and conditions we currently have in national agreements. That the only way to secure a future for them and their children was to fight to organise foreign labour into the union.to be on the same pay and conditions as to cut across the race to the bottom. In general the discussions I and various other SP members had with protesters on this subject convinced themm of an internationalist approach. It must be noted however whilst all these discussions were taking place no members of the SWP intervened despite their heavy handed criticisms of the LOR strikes!
Whist at the blockade sky news did a series of interviews with protesters including a live interview with Newport Socialist Party member Mike John, that is really testament to the position of respect we have been able to build up at Uskmouth that the workers in struggle would be willing to put an SP member forward to speak on their behalf as Mike is not directly inolved in the struggle as he is not a construction worker!
We then decided to march from the blockade right up to the entrance of the site. This is where it got really interesting for me because Youth Fight for Jobs were asked (and in some cases workers demanded) to head the march with our banner. This was a truly humbling experience, having been around and involved in the labour movement to understand the significance of YFJ's being asked to lead the march was a very proud moment for me personally but also for YFJ as a whole, something we did not nor ever will take for granted. It is something I will never forget.
But the fact that YFJ was at the front of the march had even wider ramifications than that! There were 2 banners of the demonstration, the YFJs banner calling for an end to cheap labour apprentencies and for a living wage and free education. The other banner being the one mentioned earlier calling for Britiish workers on British contracts. As we began the march the YFJ contingent lined up in the front line along with the other banner, but as we set off we purposely but subtley moved in front of the other banner without question, so that the slogan was only visible to the back of my head. This really is a microcosm of the whole campaign that when a serious alternative is posed to the status quo backward ideas in the labour movement will easily be sidelined.
We marched down to the entrance and then the police allowed slowly all the workers to go in which included both british workers and polish and german workers and maybe more nationalities. Chants of 'solidarity brother were shouted to polish workers in a basic appeal of solidarity mindful of language problems. There were again 1 or 2 questionable comments to foreign workers but this was by and large isolated. To the British workers chants of 'scabs' and many shouts such as 'take the day of, we are skint we have families to' and 'have a good day in work, but you will work on other jobs with us and we know who you are now'. Other workers who had jobs on the site turned away and refused to go in, from what I heard particularly scaffolders, and other workers consulted with Unite stewards whether they should go in or not on safety grounds and it was agreed that certain workers should.
During this time YFJ activists were engaged in discussions with many members of Unite, particularly around the role that we had played of organising a demo in the Rhonndda valleys which one of the Unite convenors had seen. It was agreed that YFJ would formally contact the Unite branch for a request to finance a coach to the November 28th demo and also to help build for it amongst Unite members.
I had to leave at this point to return to Cardiff but it seemed to be winding down. This is definately not meant to be a complete account of events but simply what I saw at the time. It was definately something to be proud to be a part of and to be proud of the role of YFJ in the coming period. Watch this space.
Sunday, 6 September 2009
Just a few thoughts on the now infamous United Left meeting which only took place yesterday. Although I am not a member of Unite and so wasn't in attendance I feel it is my duty as a marxist to give my thoughts on the matter. From my limited experience involved in the Usdaw broad left (The Usdaw Democrat) I can quite clearly see that there are many complicating factors and difficult tactical decisions to be made. I think its important however to have some positive proposals on the way forward as most of the posts of Socialist Unity are simply about the blame game.
It is quite clear that the outcome of the meeting with McCloskey the current Deputy General Secretary as the official candidate of the Broad Left is not good for genuine lefts in the Union. It is also clear that rules of United Left membership were followed too ridgidly in the light of recent developments which have brought radicalised workers into the United Left. That however is the crux of the problem, why would the broad left want to keep out these new activists?
The answer is of course that despite the name there is very little that is left about the United Left, with many full time officials in attendance, the same FTOs who did nothing to support workers at visteon or the construction industry and who had to be dragged along by Rob Williams in his employment dispute. Unite needs a drastic change in leadership and this will not come from the Unite Left.
The actions of Jerry Hicks and his supporters are questionable, but not neccessarily wrong. There is of course occasions where it is principled to walk out of such meetings as this. As I do not know the exact details of the build up to the meeting and the meeting itself I will not make a judgement. I will say however that Hicks does seem to have been discredited by walking out several times and that if planned to walk out he should have co-ordinated it better with other genuine left forces. It is also clear that If Hicks and his supporters stayed in the meeting and voted for Rob Williams it still would have not changed the outcome.
That of course is the real problem, how can the union offer a left leadership to sections of workers involved in huge struggles to come when the United Left is putting forward the current leadership as the new leadership.
The solution to me has to be a brake away from the United Left of the SP, SWP, CP, AWL, Hicks and his supporters and the new layers of radicialised workers at Visteon and in the construction industry along with other genuine lefts for a fighting right and file left challenge. Not only should this new block contest the electoral positions of the leadership but it should play the role of leading the struggles of the workers where the leadership will not.
As far as I can see there are already obvious candidates which come to mind both Rob Williams and Jerry Hicks. Despite Hicks polling well in the previous election against Simpson it has to be acknowledged that his moment to a certain extent has passed. Rob Williams on the other hand played a superb role of solidairty amongst Visteon workers, in reality playing the role the Union leadership should have done. Also the struggle for Rob's re-instatement was inspirational and unlike Hicks in a similiar situation was able to win his battle. It would therefore send a much more positive message to new radicalised activists if Rob Williams was the candidate.
This will obviously require further discussions amongst genuine lefts in Unite, of which I will not be a part of although I will continue to comment on it but my suggestion is for genuine lefts to brake from the Unite Left and form a fighting broad left with Rob Williams and the GS candidate and Jerry Hicks as the DGS candidate.
I look forward to hearing other comrades thoughts on the matter.
Saturday, 5 September 2009
I have been in london today for a Socialist Students national meeting, so I thought I would write a report about the meeting to show the progress that Socialist Students are making currently. I was slightly late to the meeting due to road traffic diversions in central london but I think I only missed a few minutes of the meeting.
Matt Dobson, the National Organiser of Socialist Students led-off the first session on perspectives for the coming academic year. He pointed out that in the first term alone it is projected that there will be £65m in cuts and 6,000 job losses in higher education institutions. There are several universities which are in genuine financial difficulty but that there are also many more which are using the recession as an excuse to cut back and concentrate their resources of the profitable subjects and that there are similar cuts in FE colleges. This process is being sped up by the recession and the class divide in education is growing. It shows that our role is essential, particularly to combat the right-wing careerist student unions. That there is a definate need for a co-ordinated fightback of left SU's and left student groups within the NUS.
He pointed out comments made by the tories that they would like to see businesses coming in to directly run university courses, and as it is highly likely that they will win the general election, this is something we have to be ready to fight.
Matt also commented on the tactics used in the student movement, concentrating on occupations and the role they play, drawing comparisons with recent occupations of workers. He pointed out that it is our role to link up struggles, to reach out to wider sections of youth and not just students. Matt finished by pointing out that the role of education under capitalism will always be to educate a workforce for big business and we have to pose the question of what education should really be for and that links to the case for socialism.
First into the discussion was James from the drama school at Essex University who pointed out the hidden charges of a £300 Learning Resource Fee. He pointed out the need to link up campaigns with other drama schools where they are facing similar attacks. He also highlighted the tactics being used to resist the attacks of with holding the fee payments until their demands are addressed.
Toby from Oxford University commented on the occupation there which occupied an important admin building and involved a few hundred students in fact achieved nothing due to the fact that there was no democratic leadership or direction to the campaign. He asked whether socialist students responded quick enough to the mood for occupations at the time?
Neil from London commented on the big struggles taking place in FE colleges, which are more intense than in many universities, he said this was due to a lack of a students union to act as a block on the movement. He posed the question of the need to raise demands for student strikes on the days of UCU strikes to close the colleges down for the day.
Paul from UWE made the point that there will be attacks that can't be put off before the election but that we must be prepared to face much bigger cuts after the election.
Ben from London spoke more about tactic of occupations ad how it would have been a mistake to call for a blanket policy of building for occupations, that occupations are simply 1 tactic that we can use. That we have to prove ourselves as consistent campaigners and that our perspectives and the material circumstances determine the tactics that we use.
Jon from Kings College talked about the problems of the occupations not linking up with the broader issues either in the student or the workers movement and the problem of the divisive role played by the university of playing Jewish students off against the occupations and that we need a political perspective to be able to combat those attempts in the future
Edd from Cambridge University pointed out that education is under particular threat because it is politically easier for the government to cut than other things. Recently even Cameron has been forced to come out and defend the NHS, and that it would be difficult to cut from the military budget due to all the recent propaganda. Edd also talked about occupations back you into a corner because those activists who would be drumming up support for the campaign are inevitably locked away in a room.
Then followed several contributions including one from myself about the importance of linking up with UCU when they take strike action I commented that in the current climate it wll be easier to cut through student anger at the effect on their education of the strike action because they can clearly see what effect all the cuts wll have on their education.
In summing up the discussion Matt commented that the issue of the Gaza solidarity occupations did dominate the discussion and that he thought we had responded effectively and that we have to have a serious analysis of the situation at individual universities and were correct not to fall into the trap of fetishising the occupations like organisations such as SWSS had done so.
He talked about the need to get stuck in with the real campaigning work amongst students that we should not concentrate on the NUS, but neither should we leave it and we should get out of it what we can. That there is clearly going to be a sizeable 'educated unemployed' which will lead to radicalisation and that the main task was to build Socialist Students and to actively build for the Youth Fight for Jobs demonstration.
The session ended with Matt stressing that Socialist Students will have to be quick to adapt to new poltical developments in the coming period.
The second session was led-off by Sarah Wrack from Sussex University Socialist Students on the running of societies. The key features mentioned were the freshers fairs and how much of an opportunity they are to attract new people. That due to the current climate there will clearly be a layer of freshers actively seeking out a poltical alternative.
We need to organise effectively at the freshers fair with as many comrades as possible, make sure we have all the relevant material, really push the new Student Socialist and the importance of having a freshers meeting on either 'What is Socialism?' or 'Which way forward for the economy?' and finally the importance of locating key potential activists amongst the students who join the society.
Rob from Southampton highlighted the importance of having a mixture of meetings, activties and social events to fully engage new members and the importance of giving them a role so they are a part of the activities of Socialist Students.
I spoke next and pointed out that in South Wales we were starting of in a very strong position particularly in Cardiff University and the University of Glamorgan and that we intend on having stalls outside as well as in the freshers fairs.
Toby from Oxford pointed out the importance of building for the YFJ demo and that we should be selling coach tickets at the freshers fairs.
Beth from Sheffield highlighted that the best campaigns recently have been around troops out of Iraq/Afganistan and anti-bnp. That we shouldn't just turn up at the freshers fair but that we should be around as much as possible in the first week to show we are serious campaigners.
Paul from UWE pointed out the importance of messages of solidarity from one society to another when we are involved in particular campaigns to reflect that we are a national organisation.
He pointed out the extreme importance of YFJ being built in FE colleges to show us the potential that we really have.
Ben from London said that on a positive point capitalism is in crisis and that points socialism clearly on the agenda, that people will be more willing to get involved and stressed the importance of marking out key people at freshers fairs.
Neil also from London pointed out the much more informal nature of Socialist Students groups in FE collegs and how we can organise them more effectively.
I commented on the advantges of debates with other societies such as in Cardiff University where we may have a debate with the young greens of at Glaorgan where we have challenged the liberal youth.
In summing up Sarah highlighted the steps forward that we have made, how we are braking ground in new universities and a clearly prepared and in a strong position to grow in the coming term.
The final session was a disucssion led-off by Rob Sutton, Southampton and Matt Dobson, National Organiser on the Organisationl strutures. Everyone agreed that due to the huge growth in Socialist Students in recent years that we need to review this, during the discussion many ideas came forward. It quickly became apparent that with the time available we would not come to a conclusion so it was agreed we would review the organisational structures in more depth at a meeting in january.
Overall the meeting was very positive, both on what we have already done and the potential that we currently have, there was a real feeling that Socialist Students was moving forward.
Friday, 4 September 2009
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.
Thursday, 3 September 2009
I stole this idea from another comrades blog Leftwing Criminologist and I thought it would be the perfect place to start my blog and and easy way to explain my political background.
First political experience: well this answer will be split into three parts: my first political experience, my first political experience I understood and my first active political experience.
- My first political experience would have been the Kosovo war or more accurately the NATO bombing of serbia in 1999. I was 13 at the time and was just begining to think about the world around me but the only source of information I had available to me were the tv news reports. All I can really remember thinking was that 'something wasn't quite right with what the news was saying'
- The first political experience which I understood was 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Afganistan. 9/11 happened on the first day I started college, so it was definately an interesting topic of discussion for getting to know people. I remember getting stoned with a friend and talking about how the US had got the bloody nose it deserved but it was directed at the wrong people, that it was the ruling elite and US government that needed to be targeted not civilians. Instantly we both understood that this would lead to US imperialism stamping over the middle east.
- I first got active in politics in the build up to the invasion of Iraq, seeing through all the lies and deceptions of the government propaganda I finally had to do something. A few friends and lecturers were involved in a Stop the War group in the college so I got involved with that, 2 of my friends involved and 1 of my lecturers were Socialist Party members so I discussed with them alot about the issues and quickly began to identify myself with the party.
First Vote: My first vote was in 2004 the first election I was old enough to vote in. For the European Parliament I voted for Respect as the only left challenge. For the council elections I had 3 votes but I chose to use only 1 which was for Chris Franks, a Plaid Cymru candidate who I knew to be a relatively good reformist who had helped my parents obtain medical equipment that I desperately needed as a child. I chose not to vote for the other PC candidates or use those votes for any of the other candidates. Although that was the first election I voted in at the 2003 General Elecetion I was out on the streets and door-to-door canvassing for Dave Bartlett, Socialist Party candidate. Although I had already joined the SP by that point it was that election campaign that convinced me to stay.
First Demo: My first demo was the February 15th 2003 STWC demo, the biggest demo in British history. So every demo I have been on since has always been considerably smaller which really made it easy to make the correct connection between the declining anti-war movement and the tactics and strategy used by the leadership of the STWC. Also worthy of a mention in this answer would be the Day X protests as it was the first deonstration I played a part in organising. Along with 2 other SP members in college were organised a walkout of around 30 students, we marched into the town centre and met up with a 300 strong demo from the university.
Last Vote: My last vote was for Socialist Labour Party in the 2005 general election, I went to the polling station with the intention of spoiling the ballot by writing with a marker pen something all the lines 'call this demoncracy all these candidates support capitalism!' but I found to my suprise that the SLP were standing so I voted for them. I haven't voted in any elections since because either there were no candidates worth voting for or because I have been moving around alot so I haven't been registered. For anyone who is wondering though If i was registered in 2009 I would have voted for NO2EU in the European elections.
Last political activity: My last political activity in the real world, ie not on the internet, was last saturday in the Canton area of Cardiff for a Socialist Party campaign stall on Troops out of Afganistan.
So Its a bit weird that my first political though that I understood nearly 9 years ago was also the very same thing of which my last political activity was about!
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
So I have finally got around to setting up a blog, I've done this for several reasons which include, to more orientate and structure my rants, to encourage my to write and read regularly as I get distracted easily and generally to get my specific views out there!
What topics will this blog cover, well its a political blog but as capitalist society effects every aspect of culture and human interaction in someway that means that this blog will be open to covering any subject matter.
The format it will take will be very varied from reviews of books, articles, docuentaries, films, etc to reports of demonstrations and meetings. Right through to random thoughts of the world around me.
I would encourage responses to my blog posts just to know I'm not speaking to myself but also to debate out issues.
And finally I have no idea how frequent the blog posts will be I reserve the right to be sporadic.