Wednesday, 21 March 2007

The Internet

i know i've posted a lot of things related to the socialist party recently, so i thought i'd give that a break this evening. instead i'm going to post about what i'm doing at the moment.
You see, although i use the internet quite a bit, I like many other working class people do not have access to the internet at my home, instead I have to trek for a half hour or so to Huddersfield Uni to go on the internet there. all in all it's very time consuming. The internet is a rich source of information on various issues, and allows lots of people to discuss with each other from the other side of the earth, it could be a huge resource for people.
Capitalism squanders this, it can't do such a simple thing as providing internet access for everybody from somewhere convenient to them. It's a bit like digital tv, if it wasn't for the fact that they want the bandwith from switching off analog they won't do anything to provide people with it (and as far as i know they haven't done much in this respect anyway). Currently it is mostly middle class families that have access to the internet, with some working class families having to cut into other spending areas to be able to afford to get the internet.
For a socialist world, ensuring adequate access to information, be it newspapers, radio, tv or the internet would be vital. it would be imperative that everyone was kept informed as everyone would have to run society. A socialist government would plan to give eveyone adequate internet as quickly as practical, by upgrading telephoen systems across the country and providing internet access for free, along with an adequate computer for people to 'surf' with.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Socialist Students Conference

Yesterday saw Socialist Students conference being held in London. I got up at a silly time in the morning to get there, crammed in the back of a car with four other comrades from Huddersfield. On the way down I mostly read End of the Hamptons by Corey Dolgon, a book I got for my birthday a while back, interspersed with general chatter and trying to find our way to the conference.
Anyway, when I got there we entered the fairly smart conference hall at Holloway Road Resource centre and was promtly aatempted to be greeted by Sparts, but i was running late so i ignored them and went inside. The main room for the conference was quite odd, looking a lot smaller than it actually was, there was about 125-150 people there i think (i know there was seating for about 110ish and quite a few people were standing (but i only counted the closing session and some people left early).
Anyway, the day began with an opening rally, with a collection of photos of various campaigns Socialist Students and ISR have been involved with (fortunately they didn't show the photo from the Machester 06 anti-war demo where my bandana is sticking up - it looks realy daft), followed by conference splitting into two to go to sessions on rights at work and fees.
The fees debate had Wes Streeting, NUS VP Education, Matt Dobson and Hannah Walter from Socialist Students and an anarchist Dan Glass from Sussex. Both Socialist Students spoke well, Matt speaking about the Campaign to Defeat fees, and Hannah speaking more specifically about anti-cuts campaigns in Durham (probably the most interesting of the four). Dan Glass seemed to be going on a lot about an idea of 'tent-universities' an awful lot and for me didn't really hold a perspective of how to link the campaigns against cuts and fees up. Wes Streeting tried to defend NUS's position (and didn't do particularly well) although he seemed to be slightly less bad than the rest of the labourites controlling NUS, he still couldn't defend the fact that he was a member of the labour party, saying that he wished Socialist Students members were still in there, forgetting that many of us (but nowhere near all) are members of Socialist Party, and many of our comrades got thrown out of that very same labour party for sticking up for working class people. That and he seemed to avoid the question of what to do next.
After this came lunch and a phone call to my partner who couldn't make the conference with me and then the discussion groups. I was chairing the Save the NHS session, and oh how badly did that go. The problems for me was that very few people turned up to that session only six excluding me and the three speakers, so when no-one wanted to speak in the discussion i felt i had to say something. It wasn't pretty, i completely screwed up what i was saying, fortunately Roger Davey, a UNISON member and one of the speakers saved me by coming in again. However, if I did that session again i'd probably aim it even more specifically at NHS students and young workers, who face the prospect of not having jobs or very low pay. I don't think i'd want to chair it (to be honest after doing NHS campaigning for a year and a half you begin to get a little sick of it).
Next came the motions, and I spoke on the motion about NUS, very well I thought and also came in on a few of the other motions. There were some very good discussions on issues relating to nuclear disarmament (and critics who say we never talk about revolution should have been there to here it) and on iraq.
Finally came the closing rally, which I have to say dragged a little particularly because there was a supposed 20 minute discussion, which wasn't really used except for a finance appeal, and a slide show presentation that wasn't as good as the first.
All in all though a good day, and we had a fair few debates in the car on the way back. Particularly about charities which i'll try and go into in a bit.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Local Elections

Yes, I know it's over a month away but the local election preparations have begun in Huddersfield, in fact they began a while back when we wrote the winter/spring leaflet of the NHS campaign (hopefully soon to be put on the socialist party website at the address below).
Anyway, today was spent leafletting, with the glossy leaflet we've produced (okay, it's not that glossy but we got it professionally printed), although at the weekend, the first canvass happened where we got a fair bit of support. This is as oppossed to the scam leaflet that has been put out around Crosland Moor & Netherton, where a doctored leaflet has been put out making the campaign seem communalist, and also, more humorously, spelling Dr. Jackie Grunsell wrong. We're not sure who has done this, but it means that this year the other parties are more likely to try and attack us than last. We've putting forward Ian Slattery, member of the campaign, president of the socialist student society at the uni and SP member as our candidate, who'll be standing against a Labour incumbent (whom many people around the ward have described as worse than useless) and the Liberal Democrat candidate who lost her seat last year, whilst fighting broke out between her supporters and those of last years Labour candidate.
After a few hours, we got on with going through the names of everyone who said they'd vote for us last year (the pledges) and started labelling envelopes ready for a pre-election letter to them. My hand is still hurting as a type right now, there was a hell of a lot of them (given we got over 2,000 votes last year you'd expect that). Our aim is to hold some public meetings where hopefully we can draw some of these people into the campaign and get them active. Either which way, we had a fairly productive day, and we're in with a shout of having the second Save Huddersfield NHS councillor elected in Huddersfield, a massive step forward for workers in the area (especially given the support we've given various campaigns as well as the NHS, such as the nurseries, Unique Care and the emergent anti-academies campaign).

For more info about the 2006 council election victory follow this link

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Regional Youth Meeting: Fees

Saturday saw the third or fourth regional youth meeting in Yorkshire, called to discuss the campaign to defeat fees and the upcoming Socialist Students/ISR Conference. The meeting was the broadest so far, with comrades from 6 different branches (Huddersfield, Leeds, York, Hull, Sheffield & Wakefield), with comrade BR from the national centre leading the main discussion, and myself unexpectedly asked to chair the meeting. It's been a while since i chaired a meeting, but I hope I did a reasonable job. Anyway, BR discussed how the campaign had developed so far, the fact that unlike NUS we hadn't been wining and dining New Labour Ministers but actively campaigning on the issue are were raising demands to scrap fees. The main demand has been to build a mass movement against fees, but unlike the SWP we don't just mean a properly organised demonstration, that would just be the starting point.
The day of action organised by the campaign was seen as a success, at least in terms of press coverage in most areas, however most of those involved in Yorkshire weren't from beyond the ranks of Socialist Students (although, to be fair the weather was pretty awful) and we need to look towards building the campaign further.
Another significant thing that had been noted by comrades was the school student walkouts that had recently happened in Newcastle and the West Midlands against poor quality education. In the anti-war movement the SP put a lot of emphasis on these and the trade unions as a way of trying to stop the war.
Comrades then joined in the discussion commenting on how there seems to be anger at fees, but a kind of proxy consciousness exists where people although angry don't want to do anything themselves. Other comrades commented that from experience they've found that college students seem to be the most angry, as in some cases they just don't go to uni cos they're worrying about debt (although once you've done a year at uni and you're from a poor background you start worrying about debt).
Other comrades raised ideas of how we could help support each other in the campaign, particularly areas where we only have a few members and of course the NUS, who have put out messages supporting the campaign, although this is reallyt lip service. Comrades raised the whole disaffiliation argument, and it was agreed that at best the NUS is the best thing going at the moment, we can't replace it with an active campaigning national student organisation at the moment, that's not to say that the situation won't change in the future, but for the time being we need to put press onto NUS and challenge them (both electorally and through our campaigning).
The meeting concluded that we should try and build for another day of action at some point, perhaps putting more focus on the colleges around the region this time. Students are angry at fees, it's more a case of how to harness this anger to do something about them.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Prison Privatisation

Well the presentation went sort of okay, i got 68% which is nearly a first (oh how I wanted a first on this) and i kinda did bits, but realised i missed quite a large bit out on my slides. All in all, yet again i wasn't organised enough.

Anyway, Prison Privatisation began happening in the 1990's after the passing of the Criminal Justice Act (1991) which included privatisation of ancialliary services to prisons (catering, ecuation, prison escorts etc.) and new build remand prisons (although a clause was included to get rid of 'new build remand' so it would include all prisons after a year or so). Prior to this as we all know Thatcher's Tories had been selling off basic industires (steel, railways etc.) and utilities (water, gas, electricity, telecomms), although Douglas Hurd as late as 1987 had said that privatising prisons was a daft idea (this is how far to the right Blair is, more right wing than the early Thatcher governments), although in the 1970's detention centres at airports had been increasingly privatised and by 1988 half of them were privately run.
It's important to note that by privatisation I mean 'contracting out' rather then selling off assests in relation to prisons.
The first contracting out was during the overcrowding crisis in 1988 when a military barrcaks was used to house prisoners, the catering for this barracks was contracted out. The first private prison opened in 1992, HMP Wolds, and now we have 11, (two that were private have reverted back to the public sector). 9 of these are pfi prisons.
Now I'm sure most people know what pfi is by now, but i'll recap, the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) means that all new builds must consider priavte finance before public finance for these. Generally speaking it means that private money (borrowed at a higher rate than public) gets used for building new state buildings, which doesn't count against public sector borrowing making Gordon Brown look good, although in the long run it costs lots more.
Apart from that, private companies are going to make cuts to increase profits so for example public prisons staffs pay is about 25% higher (this is lower paid staff only), private prisons are understaffed and more overcrowded than public prisons (and are generally worse in many areas (not all though)).
Apart from the conflicts of interest and moral arguements too this shows that prison privatisation isn't a good idea. And that's after you've assumed that prison in itself is a good idea.
The future however looks bleak, although no new private prisons have opened in the last few years, PFI carries on apace in other areas, and with the current overcrowding crisis (remember overcrowding gave the spur to the beginnings of prisons privatisation) it look like more is to come.
For me the left should be opposed to prison privatisation. Firstly it diverts even more resources from education & health and other areas. Second there's worse conditions for prison staff. But most of all we should campaign against capitalism as a whole for causing the majority of crime, which without capitalism around we wouldn't be discussing prisons as a whole, much less privatising them.

PS. Below i've posted a link to the trade union public services not private profit campaign, which has info on the probation service

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Posts To Come

Yeah, I know i haven't posted much lately, what with speaking in York (which went okay, they had two new people there and in a debate earlier that week trounced the SU bureaucrats there) and doing a presentation tomorrow on prison privatisation i haven't had much time.

So i thought i'd blog about what I thought about posting on.

Hopefully once I've done my presentation I'll blog on how I thought that went and give everyone the jist of whats happening with privatisation in this area. I've also considered blogging about internet access, rioting, NUS and probably some other stuff too.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Review: Permanent Revolution by Catch Twenty Two

Here'a review i wrote that recently got published in the Socialist (although I was a little upset it got published as a letter) Anyway, as you can see I really like this album, hence it being what i've mostly been listening to for the last few weeks (see it's not cos i'm too lazy to bother changing it!)

Review – Permanent Revolution by Catch Twenty Two (Victory Records, 2006)

The ideas of Leon Trotsky seem to be getting a greater airing recently. Firstly I became aware in January that Venezuela’s ‘socialist’ president, Hugo Chavez, had been referring to Trotsky and the Theory of the Permanent Revolution in a speech. Then only a few weeks later I hear several tracks from this album, by US band Catch Twenty Two, based on the life of Trotsky, whom one of the members of the band had been reading about
The band’s publicity describes the album as ‘an uplifting, political and inspirational album for fans of ska, punk and reggae’. It is a description that I wholeheartedly agree with; the political career of Leon Trotsky spanned an era of great revolutionary upheavals from the beginning of the 20th century until the start of the Second World War. Apart from the prologue and epilogue each song is about a period the band has picked out as a key part of his life. Starting with the failed Russian Revolution of 1905, we proceed to the glorious revolution of 1917, Lenin’s death (1924), his final exile from Russia at the hands of Stalin (1927), and assassination in 1940, each song tries to capture the feel of that moment in his life, and I think succeeds in this endeavour.
My only criticism is that unless you know who Trotsky was, then you have no idea who the album refers to, likewise what a Permanent Revolution is. Perhaps the band did not see the need to explain this, although I would have thought they would at least include a dedication and a reference to the book they had read about it for people to find out more. Trotsky isn’t even referred to in the lyrics, of all the leaders of the Russian Revolution only Lenin is mentioned by name.
All that said, my personal conviction remains that this is the best album I have heard in several years. This album is very much recommended, particularly if you are fans of ska or punk genres of music.

Monday, 5 March 2007


Tomorrow I'm going to be speaking at the meeting of York Socialist Students. It always makes me feel a little nervous when speaking at another branch, especially since I haven't done a leadoff for quite a few months. But this is only the second time I've been to another branch, and this time it isn't even a socialist party one so it's got me more nervous.
I'm going to be speaking on Cuba, something I volunteered to do a leadoff on in Huddersfield a while back, and I'm a little worried how interesting it's going to be as nothing much has changed there since i did that leadoff. Given that Castro still isn't well there isn't much for me to say apart from that he looks like he's getting better. To some extent I think the discussion will drfit off into Latin America generally and discuss Bolivia and Venezuela and there relationship with Cuba, which to some extent is positive in terms of trade links and stopping the return of capitalism in Cuba, but Cuba does hold out the image of Stalinised state to the workers in Venezuela and Bolivia which I would argue is holding them back.
Anyway it should be interesting and I can have a chat with the comrades about the branch that comrades are going to be forming there soon too.