Friday, 26 February 2010
Earlier today there was around 150 people (maybe more) protesting outside the UK Border Agency offices in Cardiff. The demonstration was organised by Refugee Voice Wales in the background of allegations of a racist culture within the offices when dealing with asylum applications. Something that most people could take an educated guess at anyway, but these allegations were made by a former employee at the Border Agency who revealed that the racism was not just of individuals but was a systematic practice within the office.
The demonstration was extremely significant because it is very rare for asylum seekers themselves to participate in demonstrations outside the Border Agency but on this occasion they were organising the demonstration, speaking from the platform and leading the chants all afternoon. At least half of the demonstrators but probably more were asylum seekers. A significant step forward in the campaign for migrants rights.
There was at least 150 people there but possibly more than that, for a weekday demonstration in Cardiff it is quite rare to see a demonstration of that size and the police were clearly stunned by the amount of people there and had to call for reinforcements, although it must be said that the reinforcements brought the total number of police officers up to only four anyway so was a rather pointless exercise on there part and they clearly didn't have any control over the demonstration which was effectively stewarding itself.
This is definitely a step towards a campaign to unite workers and migrants with many workers and youth participating in the demonstration alongside asylum seekers. Youth Fight for Jobs members participated in the demonstration and gave out leaflets for the March 13th anti-racist demonstration in Barking the leaflets went down really well and one member spoke from the platform explaining the importance of the demonstration to cut across the racist propaganda of the BNP and the main parties of trying to blame the economic crisis on migrants taking jobs and using public services. That we needed a campaign that will able to unite all working class people to fight for decent jobs and public services for all. This was well received by the demonstration.
For more reports of the demonstration check out No Borders South Wales.
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
This afternoon I attended a UCU Higher Education (HE) lobby of the Welsh Assembly. There were UCU members from the 4 Universities in south east Wales (Cardiff University, UWIC, Newport University and the University of Glamorgan) as well as a few members of Socialist Students to show solidarity.
The lobby was called in order to defend Higher Education against future cuts in the sector and to fight to secure adequate funding for the future. With it looking likely that the will be a funding cut from the Welsh Assembly to Higher Education institutions when the finances for next year are released, there has already been cuts at several welsh universities if not all of them even before budget cuts have been announced. For more information go to the UCU Wales website.
Several Welsh assembly members came out to speak to the lobby, but with one or two exceptions as predicted as soon as the camera’s left so did they! This of course did not go unnoticed by UCU & Socialist Student members who were present. Some of the AM’s even went as far as to question the value of education whilst at the same time having the cheek to stand next to us and tell us that they were on our side, couldn’t even be bothered to put in the effort to hide their blatant opposition to defending Higher Education.
It seemed clear to everyone there that despite no official decision having been made yet, that it was more than likely that the majority of AM’s had made up their mind to support cuts rather than to make the bosses pay for the economic crisis. After the lobby a few UCU members along with myself went off for a coffee and discussed the need for joint action between students and university staff to stop the cuts in Higher Education all in all a very productive day.
Sunday, 21 February 2010
March 13th is a date for your diary. On March 13th there will be a Youth Fight for Jobs Demonstration in Barking, London. This follows on from the fantastic demonstration that YFJ organised a last November with more than 1,000 marching through the streets of London 1and demanding a future for young people demanded decent jobs and free education for all.
YFJ DEMO VIDEO
Why on this occasion is it so important to demonstrate in Barking though? Barking is the constituency that Nick Griffin the fascist himself, who is the leader of the BNP. They already have several councillors in the area and now with the finanicial resources they possess having two MEP's means that they will seriously targeting the area. As as ever the BNP have picked an area with a sizeable immigrant community in attempt to blame immigranst for the social deprevation of the area.
There clearly is social deprivation in the area, but its the fault of government cut backs and the rich who scapegoat migrants in order to distract from their own roles. It is for this reason that Youth Fight For Jobs will be marching through Barking to present a campaigning positive alternative to the racism of the BNP.
There will be transport from all over South Wales to Barking for the demonstration (and from other areas of the country no doubt) for more information leave a comment on the blog and we can take it for there. YFJ Says:
NO TO THE RACIST POLICIES OF THE BNP
THE RIGHT TO A DECENT JOB FOR ALL, WITH A LIVING WAGE OF AT LEAST £8 AN HOUR
NO TO CHEAP LABOUR APPRENTICESHIPS! ALL APPRENTICESHIPS TO PAY AT LEAST THE MINIMUM WAGE, WITH A JOB GUARANTEED AT THE END
NO TO UNIVERSITY FEES. SUPPORT THE CAMPAIGN TO DEFEAT FEES
Saturday, 20 February 2010
Following on from the recent demonstration at the UK Border Agency in Cardiff which took place just after the revelations of an ex-employer who said there was a culture of racism in the office, there have been calls for an investigation and a halt to any deportations as a result of casework in Cardiff. The call for an investigation is being led by Bethan Jenkins AM.
To show opposition to the UK Border Agency there will be a demonstration on Friday 26th of February. This demonstration is more significant than the last though. The previous demonstration was organised by No Borders South Wales, who have more information on their site. This demonstration is also supported by No Borders but this time it has been organised by Refugee Voice Wales, which is significant because previously they have been apprehensive about protesting outside of the Border Agency themselves so this is definitely an event to attend. Refugee Voice put out a statement which included:
“We are calling for an immediate stop to consistent racial abuse and harassment of asylum seekers by the UKBA staff. We demand:
that all cases dealt by unscrupulous officers be reviewed
immediate suspension of all removals / deportations
the suspension of all corrupt staff and their supervisors
an instant independent overhaul of the whole system at Cardiff UKBA
An independent inquiry into all UKBA offices to uphold the Refugee Convention
Tell everyone you know to come! Come play your part to create freedom. If you have BLACK GLOVES please wear them on the day for the freedom salute! Come let’s have a mass toyi-toyi (African War dance for freedom and equality). This is a mockery to the inclusion and integration policies so encouraged by the Welsh Assembly.”
I would have to disagree with the emphasis of this statement which seems to suggest that the the problem is down to a few racists in the office, whilst that may be true the real problem is that the whole system is racist and as No borders South Wales put it. “Any attempts to remove ‘a few bad apples’ will be of little effect because the barrel itself is rotten to the core.”
Nevertheless this is definitely a step forward in the fight for refugee support so come along of Friday the 26th February between 1pm-3pm outside the UK Border Agency offices on Newport Road, Cardiff.
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
We demanded that the Welsh Assembly does not simply play the role of administrator, in which they simply administer cuts dictated to them by Westminster and proclaiming that they have no other choice. Instead they should refuse to implement any cuts but rather demand that the Westminster provide them with the necessary funds to create jobs and improve education. This could easily be done by nationalising the banks under democratic control and using the vast profits to fund public sector works.
There were a range of speakers at the rally which reflected the wide range of the campaign, from trade unionists to student activists to unemployed youth. Who all highlighted the harsh conditions that young people face today with very few decent jobs around and the lack of university places around, magnified but the onslaught of cuts to come in the public sector.
The demonstration signalled the beginning of an organised fight back against cuts and closures in South Wales and afterwards we went to the pub to discuss strategy and tactics for building towards the YFJ in Barking on the 13th March. It was a well worth discussion with a lot of ideas coming out for the future. Consequently though, I am a bit pissed after spending all afternoon in the pub so I will leave it there for now.
Monday, 15 February 2010
Earlier today I spend several hours outside to different Job Centres in Cardiff leafleting for the Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) demonstration on Wednesday at the Welsh Assembly. As such a had the opportunity to discuss politics with a lot of people as they were hanging around waiting for their appointments in the job centre. I heard the same thing from each person I spoke to. The anger was most certainly there but so was the demoralisation.
Everyone I spoke to agreed that labour doesn't care about ordinary people any more. Particularly amongst the youth but not exclusively the people I spoke saw no difference between Labour, Tory or Lib Dem and rightfully so. The problem was that they were all extremely demoralised and saw noway forward. Nobody I spoke to said this but one or two did display the potential of voting for the BNP because of how disenfranchised they have been by the main parties and of course because of the media scapegoating as well.
But it exactly for these reasons that Socialists should not call for a Labour vote because this will increase the disenfranchisement and the feeling that nothing can e done which on one hand could lead to political apathy and on the other hand it could lead to the kind of rise in the BNP vote which we have already seen so far.
When we spoke to people about both the YFJ demonstration and the TUSC electoral challenge the conversation took a turn, it significantly changed their outlook and many said they would come along on Wednesday. The Labour Party has already hung itself which is evident by the outlook by many people who rightfully so no difference between Labour and the other main parties. Instead of offering them more rope we should pull the noose shut, refuse to offer them any support. It is important now that we support candidates of the left and where there are not any agate for abstentions and the urgent need to build an alternative
VOTE TUSC AT THE ELECTION AND COME TO THE YOUTH FIGHT FOR JOBS DEMO ON WEDNESDAY
Sunday, 14 February 2010
I thought it would be appropriate for some political reflection of the past 7 years. It was 7 years ago today that saw 2 million people (including myself) on the streets of London and 35 million worldwide. Demonstrating against the prospect of an invasion of Iraq. An invasion which unfortunately did happen and the occupation that continues until this day, As this was the beginning of my political activity the fact that not only the invasion happened but that the misery continues to this day is something which pains me everytime I think of it.
The day also had a personal significance to me, it was the day I joined the Socialist Party, which is not inconsequential on the matter. The demonstrations were an eclectic selection of people and individuals, significantly though there was a significant amount of young people involved this was where my generation who up until this point had not been politically involved but burst on to the scene in the biggest demonstration in British history, many demonstrators including myself were not at this point old enough to vote.
Unfortunately though over the years we have seen that despite the anger against the war the demonstrations have got smaller and smaller, we have seen national demonstrations go from the size of millions to a few thousand. It is not something that we as anti-war activists should just except but something we just learn from in order to avoid these mistakes again. Days after the demo the New York Times dubbed world public opinion "the second global superpower" Yet although the potential was there for the anti-war movement it become a superpower it was unable to. For a superpower doesn't just walk the streets and threaten no further action than that ultimately the anti-war movement did not provide any reason not to go to war other than public opinion and we all know that public opinion does not concern the government.
Whilst my peers around me slowly stopped coming to demonstrations because it seemed that they were not making a difference, the demonstrations starter getting smaller and consequently there was a domino effect where we had national demonstrations with only a few thousand despite pubic opinion remaining high against the war. I can only assume that those who simply stopped demonstrating because they felt that it was not working and indeed it wasn't, so the question you ask is why did I stay.
As I already mentioned this was the same time as I had joined the Socialist Party, the members I discussed with explained al this to me at the time so I was prepared to for it,but crucially they also presented an alternative strategy for a way forward, explained the need to escalate action,such as A call for a political strike at the 2 million strong demonstration. If that happened then the course of events could have been drastically different. Subsequently in the years following up until this point I have been arguing for the rebuilding of the anti-war movement and to learn the lessons from the past, i.e. it is pointless to resign ourselves to demonstration after demonstration with no prospect of further action.
The need to learn the lessons from reason history is something I have raised within the Stop the War Coalition, unfortunately some have responded to me by saying that the anti-war movement did not fail and that it achieved so much. This is the kind of response given to me about the rise of the BNP which you can read here. Now although saying things like this is done with the intention of keeping spirits high, it would be correct to say it is a lie. What is more it is clear that we have failed, Iraq was invaded and occupied and 100,000s have died. So we need to learn the lessons and re construct the movement rather than painting a huge defeat as a victory as unfortunately some do.
I would attribute the fact that so many youth left the movement whilst I stayed to my membership of the Socialist Party, because it was through this party that I was given and extremely good political education explaining the need to escalate action on the movement would die a death. Although one might say a pessimistic outlook, it was a honest appraisal of the situation which not only prepared me for the inevitable demoralising decline on the anti-war movement but more importantly gave me a strategy of how to fight for this to be prevented.
7 years on from the biggest demonstration in British history, it is time we learn the lessons. So that we can end the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
With a General Election approaching we are face with a bizarre situation where all the main parties have promised to dish out huge and savage cuts to us. The only arguments are over where the cuts will be and who can be the most serious about it. This is in the background of the MPs expenses scandal where all the parties were shown to be as corrupt as can be. Where we have seen public purse handed over to the banks to do with as they please whilst we suffer job losses, education cutbacks and losses in vital public services. Ir doesn't take a genius to work out that all the main parties are out for themselves and their rich friends.
But there is an alternative now, The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) will be standing in various constituencies in the Election, for a full list of candidates click here. The Coalition is a federal one and as such each candidate has the right to set there own policy but a basic programme which has been agreed by all candidates and supporting organisations can be found here.
This is definitely a welcome turn, I entered political activism at the age of 17 and started campaigning for Socialist candidates even before I was able to vote. I didn't then nor do I now see an fundamental difference between all of the main parties. They all just treat the symptoms in ever so slightly different ways and never address the real problems facing us. It is clear that whoever wins the General Election we will face wide scale attacks on almost everything the working class has fought for and won over the years, that's why we need an alternative now.
TUSC was born out of an electoral alliance for last years European Elections, the coalition involves several left organisations including the Socialist Party, Socialist Workers' Party, Socialist Resistance & the Socialist Alliance, as well as the support of the 'Hazel Blears must go campaign' and many regions and branches of the RMT (Rail Workers Union) including the General Secretary Bob Crow, and support is growing it has been reported that a group called independent Socialists in Wellingborough is also considering participating and for a more in depth look and those supporting TUSC out can find a list here.
This is obviously a positive step in Cardiff I will be out campaigning in Cardiff Central for Ross Saunders, TUSC candidate and Socialist Party member, who if elected will only take the average wage of a skilled worker, a far cry from the average MPs wage isn't it. But it is clear at this stage that this is just the beginning, we need to fightback after the election as well against the cuts we will be facing, and that starts now, well on Wednesday outside the Welsh Assembly at 2pm for a Youth Fight for Jobs demonstration where we will fight for our future.
Thursday, 11 February 2010
After receiving the feedback for one of y recent essays on Youth Culture one of my lecturers suggested I read 'The Rebel Sell' by Joseph Heath & Andrew Potter. A very interesting read which developed the themes of an anti-capitalist counter-culture and the inherent flaws in such a tactic in much more detail than I had in the essay.
The book starts out with an attack on culture jamming as a useless tool of resistance pointing out that it is not a threat to capitalism but also and most importantly culture jamming in itself is a market with organisations such as adbusters. It goes on to point of the hypocrisy in many of these campaigns with passages like the following
Yet this animus toward Nike did create the occasional moments of embarrassment. During the famous anti-globalisation riots of Seattle 1999, the central Niketown was trashed by protesters, but videotape recorded at the scene showed several protesters kicking in the front window wearing Nike shoes.
The book goes on to explain that if Nike is this evil a company that warrants the trashing of the building so much, then how can one wear the said shoes. It also argues that whatever the shoes you are wearing generally they will have been produced in an equally exploitative way. I would argue that this has been attributed to the lack of an ideological base of any real kind to this kind of demonstration, movements or whatever they can really e described as. Although in many respects revolutionary, it poses the question how can anything be revolutionary when it has no idea where to go next. If these protesters were able to get into the room full of world leaders at any event, what would they do next? Of course there is no answer, the only thing that keeps them going is the ability to fight with the police who were inevitably hold them back and ultimately stop them from achieving their aims.
The book goes through several chapters along this strain of thought explaining that you can not uy resistance by buying into an alternative culture because the said alternative culture will always be a product of the current capitalist society and hence will end up being marketed or in some cases starts of as a marketed product simply tapping into that 'alternative culture' as their target audience.
It explains very well that we are all victims of this consumer culture in varying degrees it must be said but that it seems almost inescapable in modern society. It must also be said that aswell as pointing this out the book does not attack these forms of counter-culture as a cultural form but makes it clear that it would be deluded to see this as a form of resistance.
Although in this background there is a whole chapter dedicated uniforms and what they represent from the authority of the police or military uniforms right through to the uniforms of conformity such as the grey flannel suits. The book argues that the counter-cultural styles were a reaction against the authority and uniformity of modern capitalist society and once again whilst there is some truth in this once again this does not fundamentally challenge the system.
Whilst much of the book concentrated on North America particularly Canada, most interestingly the polemics against Naomi Klein which I won't dwell on here but will venture into in a future blog. The book however does venture both beyond North America and in other points to the past. There is section about California from the period before Europeans colonised the continent and points out that even then it was a consumer dominated society based on material possessions , the author paints the picture therefore that this was a natural development and has always existed. The author neglects to mention that this was in a class society and also neglects to mention that class society has not always existed.
The book goes on to talk about India and the search amongst some counter-culturalists for either spiritual relief or enlightenment. Though in this piece India is just one of many examples which are used. The authors point out the hypocrisy of 'rejected' outright one form of modern culture only to replace with another which for some unknown and never explained reason is different because it comes from another part of the world. It is in this section of the book where the class nature of this so-called resistance begins to unfold. It is of course obvious that the pursuit of exotic lands around the globe in research of enlightenment or resistance or relief or whatever it is in the first place, this option in general is not open to the poorest in society yet by many this is presented as our liberation!
It goes much further than this with s scathing revelation of a Canadian restaurateur who in order to source local products, hardly an option for the average person. It doesn't stop here there are many examples of this extremely middle class route of individual anti-capitalism/environmentalism which in reality serves no other purpose than to make the 'activist' feel good about themselves.
As well as these points the book goes through various many other points such as the technological advances society has made and how they have not fulfilled our hopes and dreams. But unfortunately it becomes apparent that the whole point at which the book has been getting at all along is not that the methods of struggle of these so-called anti-capitalists is wrong but the whole idea of another form of society is just wrong. The authors go out of there way to explain the benefits that capitalism can offer and indeed many of the examples they give are very good arguments of how capitalism can save our planet. Unfortunately the authors move throughout the book.
At the beginning of the book the authors have a very ridged analysis of everything that the critique and to justify some of these critiques Marx is quoted so it gives the illusion that the conclusion will be to go beyond the realms of capitalism. When it comes to arguing for a nice form of capitalism which essentially what the entire book as been leading up to, although the authors present a strong argument they are only able to do so by taking certain aspects of capitalism in isolation which of course in doing so you could prove absolutely anything. This is exactly where their entire argument comes crashing to the ground. Despite a good number of critiques against counter-culturalists and the so-called anti-capitalists the kind that never had any vision beyond capitalism in the first place. It does not go unnoticed that there is absolutely no critique of any Marxists or anarchists found within the book at all,neither is there any ideas presented in how we can go from the current capitalism to this so-called mythical nice capitalism.
One the whole the book is very thought provoking and full of valuable and interesting information a well worth read for any left-winger and others. However the book is severely let down down by the authors bind faith in capitalism and it does become apparent that the whole exercise was to paint the left as futile insignificant and has no ideas how to change society, but in doing so the authors neglected to confront the serious left. An interesting read nevertheless.
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Through all the rhetoric of New Labour over the years it has become quite clear that they are failing on their flagship promise of 'Education Education, Education'. Of course New Labour not content with simply that but look like they are on the right track to failing a whole generation!
According to UCAS 570,556 applications for university places have already been made by the end of January which is a rise in 22.9% from last year. If applications continue to come in at the current rate throughout the summer it is estimated that there will e a shortfall of 300,000 places! That is not just 300,000 less students but 300,000 more to join the already long and ever growing dole queues!
But why has there been such a rise in applications this year? There does seem to be various reasons for this according to UCAS,which states that many more school leavers are opting to say on in Higher Education because of the lack of employment opportunities. Many young people who have already lost out on a place last year have reapplied this year. Most significantly there has been a huge rise in the applications of mature students, presumably because there are no jobs around and the alternative is the dole queue. It is the very reason why I am back in Higher Education and the reason for the significant amount of mature students I see around campus as well. Figures show that applications for over 25s has risen by over two thirds.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of UCU said “the government were abandoning a generation who instead of benefiting from education will find themselves on the dole. It gets worse though as Vice-Chancellors have openly admitted that students from working class backgrounds are more likely to loose out as students from better (i.e. in middle class areas) schools would be selected over others. Despite the obvious need for more university places the official statistics show that the level of places will remain static although many universities have indicated that places will go down.
To any current student it seems obvious that places will be down just by looking around at the cuts already taking place. In the University of Glamorgan there has already been huge cut backs and officially they haven't even began. Seeing many courses disappear it is obvious that places will e down. In the background though universities are trying their hardest to entice more and more international students because of the higher fees they pay bring in higher revenues, the solution they see for the cuts in the Higher Education budget. A problem easily solved by VC's and their ilk taking a pay cut from their obscene wages.
New Labour spin always tells us they have opened up opportunities for us, but what are the opportunities for a young person today? To take party in the University lottery and if you are one of the unlucky 300,000 to join the never ending dole queue? Despite the spin that New Labour have opened up access to education recent figures published in the Telegraph say that the amount of British students has actually fallen by 0.6% in the last 10 years and the increase in students numbers has been the result of more and more international students rather that a widening access to Higher Education.
It seems clear now that young people no longer has a choice of whether to fight back, the decision has already been made and the only decision left to take is how to fight back.
Join the Youth Fight for Jobs demonstrations outside the Welsh Assembly on 17th February and in Barking on the 13th March. - For Decent jobs and Free eduction for all!
Monday, 8 February 2010
After attending a meeting of Cardiff Unite Against Fascism (UAF) today it once again poses the question where next for UAF. There was only 6 people in attendance including to members two of the Socialist Party and one member of the Socialist Workers' Party, a low attendance despite recent mobilisations to both Swansea and Newport for anti-fascist demonstrations.
In the introduction we were all told that at the recent UAF Wales conference Peter Hain was elected as the Honoury President. This is the same Peter Hain who has served in the Labour cabinet as both Work and Pensions Secretary and the Secretary of State for Wales for a government which has attacked the working class continuously. This is not inconsequential because if we do not recognise the reasons why voters are turning to the BNP then we might as well not bother fighting it. It is clear that there is racism involved in the rise of the BNP, but it is not the sole reason,it is also because of the social deprivation and the betrayals of the Labour Party towards the working class. So we have a situation where many voters are turning to the BNP because of the policies of the Labour Party and the biggest anti-fascist organisation campaigning against this is headed by a former government minister, what a sick joke.
So when it came to strategies for anti-BNP campaigning at the general election I made the point that it is not enough to carry on as UAF have with simple anti-racist campaigning, the European elections and the subsequent election of 2 BNP MEP's proved that that strategy alone has failed. I put to the meeting that because of the thread that the BNP posed it was essential that anti-fascists played a much more pro-active role in positive campaigning, rather than simply saying the BNP is bad we must say something else is good. I proposed that UAF Cardiff support the Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) demo outside the Welsh Assembly on the 17th of February and particularly the YFJ demo in Barking on the 13th March. Barking is where Nick Griffin intends to stand in the General election so it is extremely important that a positive alternative is posed here.
Initially the SWP member present seemed to oppose this idea and said it wasn't important to back such a demo! He even went as far as to say that the campaign to stop the BNP in the Euro-elections was not a failure! At this point I had to interrupt to point out that the BNP did get elected so it quite clearly was a failure, one we must all learn from. Eventually seeing that the tide had turned and the majority in the room supported the strategy of a real class alternative it was agreed that Cardiff UAF would publicise both YFJ demonstrations. This has not always been the case and in the past leading figures in UAF generally from the SWP have blocked this kind of support for a class based demonstration, nevertheless this change is most certainly welcome.
But what is the future of UAF, how can it play a positive role in anti-fascism if it does not support demonstrations against cut backs and the like in the future. How can it play a positive role when it has former ministers of a Labour government involved, when it has Liberals who preside of huge pay cuts such as in Leeds or even when it has tories involved! With this kind of set up how can UAF help provide a positive alternative to the working class to stop them from turning to the BNP in the first place?
Sunday, 7 February 2010
A recent article by Workers' Liberty has caught my attention so much so that I thought it worth commenting on. I find it extremely difficult to grasp the reality in which they are living. I find it is extremely difficult how a Marxist organisation can at the present time can advocate a vote for the Labour Party. The do add stipulations though, The slogan is 'Vote Labour, Prepare to Fight'.
What does this actually mean though? To say 'Vote Labour', however you say it is to say 'Vote Labour'. Throughout the article it is many clear how bad the Tories are and of course this is all true, in reality the article completely misses the point. Born in 1985 I have spent the whole of my life under tory policies because there is no real difference between Labour and tories these days, in fact in many sectors Labour have gone even further than the Tories dared. The article goes out of the way to point of some of the progressive reforms of Labour such as Tax credits but fails to mention that what Labour has given with one hand has been taken away with the other and the gap between rich and poor is greater than before 1997! Without much democratic structures left in Labour there is not a route to 'reclaim it' so this is simply leading towards a dead end.
The AWL make a point of the trade union link with Labour and the importance of it. Whilst this is a valid point the trade union link can not be ignored. But one only has to look at the TU's which are not affiliated to Labour and those that are. Even amongst those that are it is easy to see a huge mood for braking that link amongst the rank and file and the bureaucracy is hanging on. So really with this as the background the position of 'Vote Labour, Prepare to Fight' plays the role off holding back the the most militant Trade Unionists and giving the bureaucracy left cover. I do not see how the trade union link can be seen as a reason for voting for labour. Whilst there was no official affiliation between TU's and the Liberal Party, but it clear that the Liberals were not a workers party. In the United States the TU's give huge some of money to the Democrats but they again are not seen as a workers party. In Germany we have seen the rise of Die Linke which is supported by socialists internationally yet most of the TU's remain affiliated to the SPD. In consequence the TU affiliation to Labour is nothing more than a historical hangover but not a reflection of Labour's aims. It is what Labour has done which counts.
The actions of the Labour Party of the last 13 years has resulted in pushing away the working class on mass. Membership has more than halved, the only youth to join are Blairites, often even constituency meetings can't get quoracy. At the Welsh Labour Party hustings there was only MP's, AM's, councillors and a handful of others present. The Labour Party is a shell of its former self and the working class generally no longer see it as their party any more. I certainly don't and never have, my first political activities began campaigning against the Labour Party and have done so now for over 7 years. A whole generation of working class youth have only ever known a right-wing Labour party. This is why the tories are likely to win the election despite the working class hatred that exists for them,this is why the BNP is able to gain ground in ex-labour heartlands, because there are countless voters, amongst the older voters who have always voted labour but say they will never vote Labour again because of the betrayals.
So with huge anger of working class people towards the Labour Party, where even the LRC go as far as to say that people are looking for a new party. To say vote Labour in this situation is to say that working class people can not build there own alternative they can only resist the cuts when they come. More importantly though it is a way to drive a wedge between yourselves and anyone you try to convince to vote Labour. Instead socialists should support TUSC or other left candidates where they are standing and where there are none, with a possible few exceptions, Socialists should call for spoilt ballots as a protest and link that to the need to build a real alternative.
Saturday, 6 February 2010
Suffering from mind block today probably induced by a hangover I can't really think of a topic to blog about with minimal effort. So I have decided to do one of these 'Where were you when' things which I have stolen from someone else's blog, Although from the questions they do seem to be considerably older than myself so I don't know how good this will turn out.
So, this is where I was when.......
1) Princess Diana's death - August 31st 1997
I remember going downstairs in the morning to watch TV with my little sister,it was fairly early and my parents were still in bed. I remember announcement coming on the TV that Princess Diana had died in a car crash and soon it was all over the news. I remember waking up my parents as it seemed to be huge news over every channel instantly. My parents seemed only to be interesting in the sense that it was a huge news story but soon the novelty wore off and they didn't seem to be all that bothered. The more I think about this in many way this way my very first political experience if you could call it that. I remember thinking why does everyone care so much she is just one person and people die every day and nobody cares what was so special about her? I put this question to my mother at the time, she told me it was because she had done so much good, charity work etc. But that explanation didn't really sit well with me. She was rich, she didn't have to work like everyone else so I didn't see that she had done that much to help people other than having fun travelling the world. I guess this really was the first time I thought the world needed changing in any conscious way and was the very first step on the road to where I am today
I also remember the wave of mass hysteria that engulfed the country. The funeral that happened the following week seemed a voyeuristic affair and I remember the events around it for the way the royals showed how far out of touch they are with the public and Blairs sycophantic 'Peoples Princess' routine.
2) Margaret Thatchers resignation - 22nd November 1990
I was only 5 at this point and had only started school in the September so although I would like to say I celebrated that day. All I remember is hearing different adults saying that she had gone and they seemed pretty happy, so I guess I was happy because everyone seemed to think it was a good thing, but I couldn't say I really understood what was going on.
3) Attack on the Twin Towers - 11th September 2001
If the death of Diana was my very first political though then 9/11 re-opened that gateway and it has never closed since. I was 16 and on the 11th September 2001 I started college, it was a new strange environment, most of my friends stayed at the 6th form in school and only 2 of us had chosen to do our a-levels in college. As I was in a strange new environment when people started telling me what had happened I thought it was a joke, it soon became apparent that so many people were saying it that it was likely to be true. I went for a spliff with a guy I met that day, who is still a friend today. We talked about what had happened. I remember that he said 'America has got the bloody nose it deserves, but so many innocent people have died' I remember agreeing completely with the sentiment I thought they deserved to be taken down a peg or two but not like this. In the afternoon we had a tutorial and although I was quite stoned I can still remember what happened. Someone asked if we could have a minutes silence and light a candle. From this point on I have always hated the idea of a minutes silence. I remember thinking what good will saying nothing do? At that point I said something like, we shouldn't be silent for the dead we should shout to protect the living, the ones who will be attacked next. It didn't go down particularly well but it wasn't long before Afganistan was invaded so I feel vindicated.
4) England's World Cup semi final - 4th July 1990
All I can remember are some vague scenes on the TV during the news, but I can't even remember whether I actually do remember that or if it is some memory I have planted in my head retrospectively.
5) President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963
My mother was born the year before that
Friday, 5 February 2010
Despite huge job losses, widespread pay freezes, plans to increase tuition fees and cutbacks in universities, colleges and schools Alistair Darling announced that the recession was over. The Chancellor made this announcement the day after Bosch announced plan to close their Miskin factory with 900 job losses and three days before Chevron announced that 1400 jobs could go in Pembrokeshire, all of this with the prospect of huge public sector cuts after the election.
All this has happened at the same time as the banks being GIVEN billions to carry on lining their own pockets whilst the government have stood back and done nothing when workers are faced with job losses. It is quite clear what the chancellor meant when he said the recession was over. He meant that the rich were beginning to recover at the expense of the rest of us! The Welsh Assembly are guilty as well. I went to the demonstrations in Merthyr to save the Hoover factory but all the AM’s that were there did was offer kind words, no practical action. The same could have been said for Anglesey Aluminium, but even more so as the Assembly was in a position to actually save jobs but didn’t.
This situation is particularly hard for young people who are twice as likely to be out of work and bear the brunt of the education cut backs which have led to a reduction in university places. Despite unemployment figures going down there has not been an increase in employment and can only be attributed to people simply giving up on looking for work and who can blame their when there are 5 times more unemployed workers than there are job vacancies and that is according to the official stats which are not an accurate reflection.
This is why Youth Fight for Jobs has organised a demonstration outside the Welsh Assembly, to protest for Jobs, training and education for young people. The demonstration will take place on Wednesday the 17th of February at 2pm. Meet on the Senedd steps, outside the Welsh Assembly Cardiff Bay.
These are the Youth Fight for Jobs demands
· Nationalisation to save jobs: take into democratic public ownership workplaces that are threatening redundancies.
· No public-sector job-cuts to pay for bankers bailouts: nationalize the banks and cut millionaire bank bosses pay instead
· No education cuts: give us what the bankers got! Invest in Universities, Colleges and Schools to guarantee a future for young people.
· For free access to education for all: scrap tuition fees and bring back grants
Thursday, 4 February 2010
It is clear that in Europe there is an ageing population with a significant amount of people of retirement age, in Britain this stands at around 20%. This growth in the elderly can clearly be attributed to advances which the working class have taken over the last century, through the introduction of the NHS and other gains won through the welfare state. Which has helped rise life expectancy to an average of 79.
The picture in Wales is slightly different though, the life expectancy is lower particularly in towns such as Merthyr. Now it would be ridiculous to just assume some kind of random geographical anomaly, but a real class distinction in life expectancy, you only have to look at the deprivation in Merthyr to see that. Despite this the elderly population in Wales make up approximately 1/6 of the overall population, yet still face severe discrimination, but why?
It is clear that elderly people are worse of than those of working age and worse than the elderly of 10 years ago. This is the case despite the government allocating more funds than previously to the provision of services for the elderly. This is clearly not just bad accounting but an ideological offensive, it is widely known that the New Labour policy of tendering out public services to private tender is not only more expensive but offers less. Hence more money is spent but less help is available for the elderly.
Throughout history we can see this disdain for the elderly, in most class societies this is something that we can see quite clearly. In Roman society the elderly were tossed over a bridge into a river when they had outlived their usefulness and in Britain we need only to look back at the experiences of the workhouse to see how the elderly were treated here. This is a clear feature of a class society were everyone is determined by the economic worth. Whilst an elderly working class person is deemed as worthless because they are unable to work effectively, the elderly of the ruling class are held in high regard as nothing has changed for them; you can live of the profits of others however able you are.
With this as the background we have a situation where 65% of pensioners survive solely on the pitiful state pension The savings they have been able to scrape by on throughout their lives are swallowed up to cover the gaps in their income and as we see the continuation of the privatisation and closures of state funded facilities for the elderly such as care homes, this again helps to swallow up any money they were able to put aside. The elderly along with single mothers constitute the poorest sections of British society, yet both these groups are among the most in need of help.
The discrimination against the elderly is not simply felt economically but it is also cultural. Elderly people make up the main body of TV viewers but are hugely under represented. The elderly are marginalised in most spheres of leisure activity and there is a huge emphasis in modern society on the appearance of the body and how it should look, with particular emphasis on looking young, something of course which the elderly have significant difficulty in doing. In fact the only sphere in which the elderly have not be marginalised is within organised religion, but that itself has become extremely marginalised.
In modern British society we can see the almost complete disenfranchisement of the elderly who are virtually tossed on the scrapheap when they have outlived their usefulness but even workers approaching retirement age who find themselves unemployed are likely not to find employment again. Those who are in employment are in most cases forced to leave upon reaching the retirement age. This is the background in which we find the rise of 'grey power' or pensioner power. But how significant is this power? Over 55's make up 30% of the electorate so it would seem to be a significant power particularly as this demographic is more likely to vote than any other. This poses the question most starkly in a marginal constituency, where a campaign amongst pensioners could shift the balance of power.
The media particularly around election time always go out of their way to show that grey power is extremely strong but in reality it is not that strong, While they may be able to change the winner in a marginal constituency they slit have the same choice of the major parties that everyone else has, they still face 5 years of lies from politicians after the election as everyone else does. Even more of a factor though is that 5 years on many of them may either have died or face heath problems which seriously restrict their abilities to carry on actively more so than any other demographic.
For this reason the government is very unlikely to take the concerns of pensioners seriously, and why not, in the logic of capitalism they are no longer useful and are a drain of resources. We can see the governments attitude to the elderly displayed quite obviously. £4.6 million in benefits lay unclaimed by pensioners every year, some of this will be accounted by pride getting in the way of pensioners claiming these benefits but it is also attributed to ignorance about what are entitled to, for 2 reasons, there is simply not enough helped offered to explain this and because most government information about benefit entitlement is now on-line, the elderly are the least likely to have access to the internet. It is clear that there are some in the ruling who want to make it even harder for the elderly with recent proposals revealed in the Telegraph that children should be forced to care for the elderly so the state does not have to.
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
Earlier today there was a demonstration outside the UK Border Agency in Cardiff to coincide with a demonstration outside the Nigerian Embassy in London. The aim of the protests were to highlight the plight of Nigerians who are facing the prospect of a chartered flight back to Nigeria. Many of the deportees are victim of cult and gang violence, torture, rape, female genital mutilation, armed conflict and state oppression, however as Nigerian is deemed as a safe country, the asylum application of a Nigerian national are almost automatically rejected. For more information check out the No Borders South Wales Blog.
Flames were added to the fire by an article in today's Guardian which highlights the internal culture within the Border Agency offices at Cardiff. In the article an ex-worker there said there was a culture of hatred and anti-immigrant feelings running throughout the workforce. That if they were faced with a difficult case they would simply deny the application and leave it to a tribunal to sort out. More worryingly though, the article goes on to state that there was a canteen culture of intolerance, that those who accepted applications were mocked and taunted and the aim was to refuse the applications as if was simply a game rather than the life and death situations which they really are. As one of my ex-housemates works there I can definitely see this as the internal culture there, he wasn't the most likeable or understandable character you are likely to meet in fact quite the opposite,
The protest itself was good with somewhere between 30-40 in attendance. Pretty good considering the demonstration started at 4.30pm when many people would still be in work and it was raining quite a bit as well which always harms the turnout. The railings outside the border agency were absolutely covered in anti-immigration control banners. Most importantly though out of everyone there there was obviously the usual faces that you expect to see at demonstrations but there was also a lot of new faces that I had not seen around before and a significant amount were young activists.
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
At the same time I do have some sympathy with the position that the Pope outlines, in that these laws may violate their religious beliefs. They maybe be bigoted religious beliefs but they are religious beliefs none the less. If the Catholic Church feels it cannot have homosexuals in the clergy then I guess ultimately it is up to them. I can’t quite understand why any homosexuals regardless of their belief in Catholicism would want to enter into an organised religious institution with such beliefs anyway. However if the church wants to pursue a policy along this lines then I certainly would object to their charitable status and any state funding which they so often request for church building repairs and other Catholic buildings such as schools, village halls etc.
This opens up a whole other issue as it is not just clergy who are employed by the Catholic Church. There is administration staff for the church, maintenance workers etc. Also there is a whole other issue of Catholic run Schools. It has been questioned as to whether the church has the right to only employ a head teacher who shared their faith. Clearly this is discriminatory to oh so many. Ministers have also wanted to force faith schools to take a quarter of their pupils from other religious backgrounds. Although I would a oppose such a quota system for entrance into a school I think it is ridiculous that you can only be admitted to the school on the basis of your religion in the first place. Well in reality the religion of your parents as the whole ethos of the religious schools is to brainwash young people into following that religion.
So while I think it is fair to say that the church has the right to decide who their clergy are, in essence who their spiritual leaders are, whoever bigoted that may be. I do not see how on that basis or on any other basis for that matter how the Catholic Church should be able to maintain it’s charitable status. I also cannot see any argument to allow the continuation of religious schools in this manner for several reasons, if they cannot except the equality bill as a guide to who is employed is is clearly unacceptable. The whole purpose seems to religious teaching and to teach the idea that homosexuals are not equal is intolerable, although the Archbishop of Cardiff words it slightly differently when he said.
“But I think there is a misunderstanding, because sometimes in government legislation equality seems to be that we are equal in dignity, beyond that each of us is unique.”
He seems to be able to find some dignity in being discriminated against because of your sexuality, (a situation which is hard to deal with generally because the prejudices of society) in a way that I cannot. Clearly the Catholic Church continues to show what they really stand for again and again. All Catholics should break with the tyranny of organised religion and find their spiritual beliefs in solace, free the shackles of bigotry.