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

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

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Total Politics Blog Awards - Vote Me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 9 July 2010

The human face of welfare reform

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

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

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

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

So at the moment you are not seeking employment?

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

What did they do then?

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

How do you feel about this?

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

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

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

What are you referring to? The MPs expenses?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 5 July 2010

Radical Wales Launch

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

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

This is what it says on the Radical Wales site

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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