Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Marxist Interntet Archive

I just received this message today

Friends of the Marxists Internet Archive, This message is going out to all supporters and friends of the MIA. As many of you know, the MIA came under an intense "Denial of Service" attack, originating in China, in January. Since then we have had to reorganize to meet this attack. While the MIA continues to provide the texts of classic Marxism online, we have been unable to add new works. This will change, March 1, at which time our new server will go on line and we will be fully functioning again. We would like to thank you for all your support during this period,David WaltersMarxists Internet Archive

I can only say this is great news.
For those who haven't come across the Marxist Internet Archive, it is a brilliant resource with tons of texts, letter, speeches and other marxist goodies within from a huge range of authors. I've used it several times to get access to read various pamphlets written by marx, engels, lenin and trotsky.
If you've never used it before then you should, the address is


Monday, 26 February 2007

Myself & Books

By now, if people have been reading this, you'll notice that I always have several books on the go. This is to some extent because I have to balance between reading for uni and reading for my own pleasure and also cos if I get a new book I tend to start reading it before i've finished the last one. (so reading time for similar sized books can vary from a day to several months)
Anyway, I just finished George Orwell's road to wigan pier, which is an interesting read, the description of working class living conditions in the 1930's is very interesting (I live in a back to back which isn't that much better than the ones he describes), but his criticism of other radicals and lefts at the time is a bit all over the place, there are times i agree with him, and then times he misses the point i think. anyway worth reading for the first part.
then i've got the 18th brumaire which i haven't really managed to get into. that's probably because my knowledge of france around that time isn't great, but i'll have another go soon
there's also some books i'm reading for my course, the penal system books on prisons and the judiciary, and uprising about the riots in the early eighties.
then i just got out marx and engels on the paris commune, which in typical myself fashion i've started reading straight away, although in my defence i've wanted to read this for a fair bit, particularly the civil war in france.
anyway, i think i'll finish my rant for the night

Birthdays & Other Celebrations

Today is my little brothers birthday, yesterday was my dad's birthday and in six days time is my birthday. Yes, it's brithday season in my family. So we're going out for a meal to celebrate tonight and i've had to get presents for them. I have to say I have got them something, but with me it's a case of that I either get something really good, or something that's sort of alright but not great. these two are probably both the latter, but we'll see (last year was both the former). But it's got me thinking, bout the kind of forced nature of birthdays, of having to celebrate on a specific day.
Basically, I don't like it. I'd rather not just celebrate my birthday. It's mostly becuase it seems to be like it's just one nice day out of 365, whereas i just want people to be randomly nice to me, not suck up on one day.
Same goes for chrsitmas, everyone knows how busy it gets, how nothings ever open etc. Wouldn't it be great if we all didn't celebrate at the same time, then everything would work all the time, we wouldn't have busy periods (cos there'd always be some people off, and some people at work etc.) I also reckon people would enjoy just getting to spend time together more if it was when they wnated rather than kinda forced.
I don't think this kind of thing is possible at the moment, cos lifes so rubbish that getting the odd day that's really great is the best that people can do under capitalism, but i'd like to think that under a socialist society we could all enjoy every single day and get the feeling you get when you're able to just enjoy a day all year round rather than once a year.

Friday, 23 February 2007


Now I know I am a criminology student, and it's in title of this blog, so people are probably wondering why i haven't posted anything on crime and the like yet. WEll I haven't got round to it, although I'm probably going to put something up on the 'riots' of the early 1980'sa in the next week or so (time permitted). Instead I thought i'd leave you with a recent article I wrote for the Socialist.

Reid's prison disaster
HOME SECRETARY John Reid is under great pressure from the media and MPs after several well-publicised crises and humiliations about his department's work in law enforcement. He has also come under attack for reiterating the position that magistrates should only jail the most dangerous and persistent criminals. This is a bid to ease overcrowding in prisons in England and Wales, that are full to the point of bursting. IAIN DALTON looks behind the headlines.
IN NOVEMBER last year, the prison population exceeded 80,000 for the first time ever, increasing at a rate of 2.4% or 1,790 prisoners per year. Britain puts 143 out of every 100,000 people behind bars, now having Europe's largest prison population.
Some of the 139 prisons are overcrowded up to 130% of their capacity. Despite the government making police cells available to accommodate prisoners under Operation Safeguard, in some areas prisoners are accommodated in court cells. All this is whilst government figures tell us that crime is decreasing.
Labour looks set to copy the Tories' policies from the last time there was a prison overcrowding problem: build more prisons, and most likely private prisons. Reid is apparently securing treasury funding for an extra 8,000 prison places. The last overcrowding crisis in the early 1990s was the excuse for the Tories to introduce privatisation in this arena.
Britain now has the largest percentage of private prisons in the world (though the USA has the highest number of privatised prisons). But this 'solution' has been shown to fail. Not only has the prison population risen to take up that capacity, but private prisons are among the most overcrowded.
There has also been an attempt to extend early release, also introduced following previous prison crises. However, despite the keenness to increase the role of electronic tagging (privatised since inception), upwards from the 3,000 prisoners currently released early subject to tagging, it has seen resistance from the courts, and is less likely.
Labour have also been keen to bolster community punishments as an alternative to prison, however, Labour's legislation has increasingly made community punishment an addition to prison, rather than an alternative. The 2003 Criminal Justice Act allows judges to 'pick and mix' various penalties for offenders, leading to increases in both rather than a shift from prison to community.


ACADEMIC CRIMINOLOGISTS are keen to point out that the judiciary is 'the crux of the crisis'. Indeed as 97% of all cases are tried at a magistrates' court, determining guilt and sentencing mostly lies in the hands of unelected middle- and upper-class individuals. Many prisoners are debtors or have been sentenced for minor crimes.
The judiciary tend to support heavy punishment, which can be seen in the increase in numbers sentenced to prison and sentence lengths, especially the new indeterminate public protection sentence for current offenders introduced in 2005, which has been imposed on 1,890 prisoners, and is set to increase to over 12,000 in the next five years.
Institutionalised racism is also present. There are disproportionate numbers of ethnic minority prisoners, with disproportionately long sentences. Many from a similar class background to judges get much lower sentences (or are completely let off). However, it is not just the judiciary that are the problem.
Whilst there is not the discontent within prisons of the early 1990s (which saw rioting) conditions are continually worsening as a result of overcrowding and are far from the 'luxury accommodation' right-wing commentators criticise. Up to three prisoners can be accommodated within a single small cell.
Many prisoners get no access to decent education or training facilities, with resulting high illiteracy and innumeracy. Additionally, the increase in prison population has made prisons more understaffed than ever.
Many prisoners are locked in their cells for most of the day, which as POA (prison officers' union) leader Brian Caton pointed out in a recent interview for the socialist means that any supposed rehabilitation cannot occur. The morale and working conditions of staff are deteriorating.
With roughly 60% of prisoners re-offending, how does the prison system actually stop crime? Although New Labour say they have been tough on crime, they have not made the situation any better, and have probably made it worse, for the general public, prisoners and the staff inside the prisons.

Long-term solution

CAPITALIST POLITICIANS from the main parties have repeatedly shown they have no long-term solution to crime apart from locking increasing numbers of people up for ever-longer periods of time, which just the makes the problem of overcrowding even worse. Only socialists have a real solution to this crisis.
A socialist programme to give jobs and training for all on a living wage, with housing and other essentials of life under public ownership and control would be necessary to begin to overcome the present levels of crime.
A socialist programme would call for steps such as releasing all debtors and those in prison for trivial crimes immediately. This would instantly reduce prison overcrowding, and improve conditions for prison staff. Other cases should be reviewed by democratically elected bodies.
Socialists must also campaign for the right to trial by jury in all cases and a democratically elected judiciary earning no more than the average wage of a worker and subject to recall at any time. Privately owned prisons should be returned to the public sector.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Beating the BNP

Last week I indavertently ended up in a SWP public meeting/forum. They had the usual discussionn etc. (which i may comment upon at some point), but what interested me was a little discussion they had at the end about the BNP standing in a local by-election in Calderdale. The BNP won a by-election in the Illingworth & Mixenden ward in 2003, and since then now have two councillors in calderdale (down from 3 at one point). The by-election is interestingly enough in the Illingworth & Mixenden ward, where a sitting Labour councillor has died. Thus the SWP are mobilising against the BNP in this election.
But what are the SWP in Huddersfield & Calderdale doing to stop the BNP, they're out leafletting to get people to not vote BNP. And who are these voters supposed to vote for instead, the Tories, Liberals or Labour, all of whom support the cuts that are allowing the BNP to gain support? What is needed is a new worker's party that can oppose these cuts and help lead the fight against them, the SWP claim RESPECT is this, but they are not standing a candidate or even putting out propaganda for people to join RESPECT (this is to the best of my knowledge). From what I've seen, the SWP seem to have a policy that says that Labour is reclaimable, as can be seen by their failure to call fro the trade unions to disaffiliate from a Labour party that is attacking them and call for a new party (or even join RESPECT). Their approach is best summed up as a stages approach, first we stop the BNP getting elected, and then we do something to support the struggles of working people.
Unfortunately, the SP in Halifax do not have a large amount of members and when discussing whether we could put out propaganda for the formation of a new workers party (and asking people to join the CNWP) we found that due to our conference being this weekend we didn't have enough comrades left to do so (this would have been in addition to the stall we'd already arranged in Huddersfield). It is something we want to do, given the resources and the mobility to do so.
Where we stood last year in Huddersfield we did cut across the BNP vote significantly (their support was minimal in the ward we stood in), and Dr Jackie Grunsell has shown herself as a class fighter, supporting the Unique Care strike, the campaign against Academies, and against nurseries closures and other issues in Kirklees. Hopefully we can build upon this work, and stop the BNP reclaiming the area that was once the 'jewek in their crown'.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

A Different Kind of Stall

Most people in the SP are away at conference this weekend, I had something else on, but before I went away to do that , I helped run our usual saturday stall in Huddersfield. After about a year or so of on and off campaigning on the NHS, new local issues are coming to the fore, the plans to build two academies in Kirklees, the sacked unique care workers (see www.socialistparty.org.uk for articles in the Socialist about this),but we covered today the council's budget proposal which includes scrapping three well used children's nurseries in Fartown, and replacing the services with private ones. So on thursday, instead of concentrating on the Stop the War rally in Huddersfield, like the SWP and co, some SP members were at a public meeting in Fartown against these proposals to which 200 parents and workers attended (even the local useless labour councillors came to try to hijack the meeting).
Anyway, what has this to do with anything. Well, I was half-asleep when we actually got round to setting the stall up, and I thought it was going to be one of those stalls that's just dull really. It was hard work, we were there for half an hour before a union member and two parents turned up to help, and it was really slow. But as soon as they came, took some petitions and leaflets, I suddenly found myself, invigorated by the fact that it wasn't just the two of us Socialist party members there, there were five of us all campaigning against these closures.
I'm not sure what feeling exactly i'm trying to get across to you, but being part of a bigger movement on the build feels good, campaigning with fighting trade unionists feels good, not having to be the most optimistic person on a stall feels great.
I think the message is that other comrades should invite other campaigners to do activities together, sure you might not sell as many papers or whatever, or perhaps get so many contacts for your given party, but you are building a mass movement against cuts, privatisation and capitalism and in the long run that's got to be worth something.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Socialist Alternative Radio

I have to admit I like good ideas, and what I'm going to describe is one of them. Comrades in the CWI in Boston, MA in the US have launched Socialist Alternative Radio, to spread the ideas of socialism and marxism across the airwaves. And it's a damn good listen.
Generally speaking the typical show has a look at the previous weeks news, an interview with an activist of some kind (has varied from the Green candidate for governor in Massachussets to other members of the CWI across the US to striking workers), various music, book and film reviews and solidarity anouncements for the local (Boston) area.
So if you're bored on a journey for a couple of hours (like I am a lot), download this to your MP3 player (if you're lucky enough to have one) and listen along. It can be downloaded from http://www.wmfo.org/index.html every week, or listened to live there (or in Boston of course). Just go to Schedule on the site menu and then find Socialist Alternative Radio and click last show.

Reading materials at Uni

One would think that given the increase in fees paid to universities over the last year that you'd be seeing increasing resources to match this. It doesn't seem to be the case at all, i hear tales of cutbacks happening all over the place, my girlfriend is currently uncertain as to whether she'll be able to do a dissertation or not.
By far the most frustrating thing about university is books. Surely if lecturers are teaching the same or similar courses each year then enough books could be kept in stock for students, rather than as I have experienced many times that you need to read books for an essay and they've all gone. And under-resourcing makes the problem worse as people keep books out for longer than they need becuase they're worried that if they return it they might not be able to get it out again. I remember at college where they key text for the course was loaned out to us for the duration of that module, why couldn't something similar happen at university, instead of putting students into even more debt from having to buy a book that they will use just once.