Monday, 28 June 2010
In last weeks copy of the Sunday Telegraph (June 27) Janet Daley in her column stated “Virtually everybody who is in touch with political reality now accepts that the old contest – socialism vs. Capitalism is over.” I can honestly say that I was shocked by this ascertain, I don’t see how Janet can match this with reality at all.
I have been an active campaigner and advocate for socialism for the last 7-8 years since the age of 17, in that time I have witnessed a growth in the support for socialist ideas particularly over the last 2 years and more increasingly now. Indeed it was as recent as June 16th that the BBC News at 10 aired a piece about Nottingham. The news piece showed the leader of the council Kay Cutts with a picture of Thatcher on her office wall on the one hand. On the other hand the news piece showed activists organising against the proposed cuts. In particular it showed a meeting of the Socialist Party and referenced the increasing support recently due to the polices of all the main parties in response to the recession, the reporter even went as far to say that the old ideological battlegrounds are being redrawn!
Whilst Janet infers that none of the major political parties in Britain now engage in this ideological debate, agreeing that capitalism is the only way forward. It is simply untrue to say as she did that “those in touch with political reality agree capitalism is the only way”. It is of course the capitalist policies which have created this global recession. This current financial crisis was not inevitable it is only capitalist policies which make this kind of policies inevitable and this is becoming recognized by more and more workers and young people.
If Janet Daley is so confident about her claims that anyone politically in the know would rule out socialism then why doesn’t she attempt to prove that and agree to a public debate with me? Capitalism or Socialism? This could happen within the pages of the Telegraph, on the Telegraph website in text or video, on my own blog or a live debate in person. I am confident enough that my ideas and views can hold up in a debate but is Janet? Or is she just wiling to make these kinds of statements when they can go unchallenged?
Thursday, 24 June 2010
As I was 11 years old in 1997 when Labour came to power this was the very first opportunity I had had to hear the wisdom of Labour in opposition. Of course I had seen bits and pieces from Labour since the election, but this was my first opportunity to see it in the flesh so to speak. But what I saw could only ever be described as pathetic.
Whilst both speakers were so keen to agree with each other and both were so keen to agree with each other and denounce the tories, in fact they were falling over each other to point out that the tories policies towards education were “ideologically driven” and of course they are correct. But what both Labour Party representatives neglected to mention was the last 13 years of a Labour government and their very own attacks on education including academies which can only be described as the ideological pursuit of the right-wing. How else could you describe the privatisation of schools?
So whilst the labour representatives were willing to condemn these tory policies and even added that the lib dems had let people down (at which point I had to chuckle as the lib dems have never been on our side, but such is the degeneration of labour that they could even say that openly) neither of them was willing to respond to questions about Labour’s own record. Neither was willing to promote any alternative other than saying that the tories were wrong in the vaguest of ways. There were a couple of other labour party members in the room who I guess would be described as the ‘grassroots activists’ and again what they said was virtually the same. Though it is also worth noting that there were move people in the room who had either resigned from the labour party or who would have joined 20-30 years ago.
The message that the Labour representatives were trying to convey although in the most of sloppy ways seemed to be, that the solution was to vote Labour, now there are several problems with that theory the main one of course was that people did and 13 years later things were worse. Secondly though as the Labour candidates acknowledged they are in a minority and they effectively have no influence over government policy, so what they were really saying is until the next election there is absolutely nothing that we can do!
This is the most disastrous of roots to take and effectively meant that Labour at this stage were attempted to quell the organised working class from organising effectively! It was left to myself to and other members of Socialist Students to publicise a demonstration at the Welsh Assembly organised by Cardiff Trades Council, after all one of the Labour representatives spoke of the need to organise effectively in trades councils but this once again proved to be hollow words.
I spoke during the meeting and despite the notable speakers from Labour on the platform and other members in attendance I was the only one to raise the need to take a campaign against cuts forward. I stated the need to build a campaign on campus amongst members of all three trade unions (UCU, Unison and GMB) as well as students and pointed out the need to extend this to the local area to other universities to colleges and throughout the local community to defend schools and other public services as well as pointing out the extreme failure and hypocrisy of the Labour strategy, well if you can call it a strategy.
The points were well received and as the meeting ended we faced many requests for more information about the Trades Council demo and others congratulated me on what I had said, which included a few trade unionists who were eager to offer me their contact details in order to build a campaign in the future.
This strategy in my view demonstrated coherently that the strategy I put forward of arguing for the need to build campaigns to defend education and attacking Labour’s record was extremely beneficial towards building links amongst organised workers and to remain outside of the Labour Party. It would be interesting to see how PhilBC over at A very public Sociologist would respond; after all he rejoined labour precisely for that very reason!
What difference does opposition make? At this stage it seems to make very little.
Wednesday, 9 June 2010
Last Saturday we saw the arrival of The English Defence League (EDL)) or calling themselves the Welsh Defence League (WDL)) in Cardiff for the first time. Towards the end of last year we saw them attempt to have demonstrations in South Wales, first in Swansea and then two weeks later in Newport. In Swansea around 30-40 EDL members turned up, but because anti«fascist protesters had occupied the Square they intended to protest in hours before it became impossible for them to do so. They attempted to march past but were surrounded and had to be escorted from the city by police. In Newport only a handful of EDL members were spotted in the city and didn’t dare to stage a protest as John Frost Square had been occupied by hundreds of anti-fascists,
This Saturday in Cardiff did see the biggest mobilisation of the EDL to Cardiff, which should not go unnoticed. I would estimate that in total there were up to 150 EDL demonstrators. Luckily however they were massively outnumbered by anti-fascists on the day. Some estimates have put it at a 5:1 ratio and I think that is probably right. Once the EDL attempted to enter the area where their demonstration was due to be held a surge of anti-fascist protesters ran the 100 yards down the road to stop them from assembling. The charge was led by members of the Soul Crew (Cardiff City Football fans) who were immediately followed by a wave of other anti-fascists. There was a stand off for some time but eventually we were pushed back by the police and the EDL were taken around to their allotted assembly point in-between City Hall and the Museum.
The EDL stayed there for sometime, it was quite difficult to get a good look at them from here as the we were all in the park enclosed by a hedge lined with police man and behind them a row o riot vans, from what I can gather though the EDL did have their demonstration as planned unfortunately, but not without being surrounded visibly and audibly by several hundred anti-fascists.
After awhile the police began to push us back and it was clear that this was in order to get ready to escort the EDL out of the area. Naturally the police were resisted, there were no violent altercations that I could see but nobody was making it easy for the police to move us on. At this point due to being in the front row I was now penned in, I had the police pushing me from one side and on the other were about 100 protesters, it was obvious at this point that both the EDL and the majority of other protesters were no longer there. As the event had been thoroughly uncoordinated I was not in a position to do anything about it, but where had they all gone?
By piecing together the reports I have since heard and read it seems that the EDL were escorted by the police by but all along the way were surrounded by anti-fascist protesters. I have also hear d some reports which suggest that along the way there were a few points were anti-fascists were able to brake through or go around police lines and get to the EDL although I am not sure if this is true. They were escorted all the way around the edge of the city centre to central train station. Not long after this around 20 EDL members were spotted waiting on platform 6-7. As everyone who uses trains in the Cardiff area will know, platforms 6 and 7 are those which are used for the local lines so it was not simply the case of EDL members being shipped in from across the border although it did seem that the majority of them were from England.
The EDL were forced to go home with their tales between their legs. This was due in part to the fantastic response of the Soul Crew in confronting the EDL. The EDL had seen them as allies previously as they are a football firm, but that was obviously not the case. Whilst in many ways this was a victory for the anti-fascist movement there were also many short comings, I will not dwell on them for the sake of it, however if we are to be serious about confronting fascism in the future then we must take a serious look at the problems and how we can rectify them in the future.
Mistakes were made in the run up to the demonstration, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) insisted on a demonstration starting in Cardiff Bay. Cardiff Communities Against Racism (CCAR) warned against this tactic and argued for a city centre demonstration only as this was where the EDL intended to be. For the sake of unity however whilst disagreeing with a demonstration CCAR agreed to go along with it and heavily publicised the event. Leading up to the demonstration CCAR obtained more information which suggested that the EDL would be in the city centre and once again appealed to UAF to change the plans on the day; once again UAF ignored these warning. The result was that CCAR members acting as spotters on the day were able to spot EDL members chanting on St. Marys Street in the city centre completely unopposed!
At the demonstration itself UAF stewards urged everyone to go behind the fences which the police were using to cordon us in and to keep us away from the EDL. Many anti-fascist protesters refused and for that refusal a UAF steward using a megaphone said “they were as bad as the WDL” But the fact is that if everyone had agreed to go behind the police cordon at the request of UAF we would not have been in the position to confront the EDL and run them out of town as we did.
Another failing was the decision of UAF to remove all stewarding from the demonstration for no conceivable reason, potentially putting many at risk. The real problem was though the general lack of coordination. Information about the EDLs movements was not relayed. As mentioned earlier CCAR spotters had seen the EDL unopposed in the city centre, when this information was passed to a CCAR member at the demonstration they attempted to pass it on to a UAF organiser who response was that he was “too busy to deal with it”. The same can be said about a suspected local redwatch photographer who was spotted waiting near the new theatre as if he was waiting for people. This suggested that the EDL would be coming in via the new theatre, again UAF did not act on this information but the EDL did indeed come from that way.
Failings in communication also affected the ending, although the EDL had left the area surrounding the Park they were being marched around the city centre. Although many anti-fascists were able to follow them all the way to the train station. Many simply did not realise this was happening and at the same time a UAF organiser was still in the park on the megaphone declaring a victory whilst the EDL were being marched through the city centre.
It is clear that the EDL were shamed on Saturday but this won’t be the last time we have to deal with this kind of demonstration and lessons need to be learnt for the future of anti-fascist demonstrations in South Wales and Britain as a whole.