Sunday, 22 July 2007

Review - Law And Order: Arguements for Socialism (1982) by Ian Taylor

Law and Order: Arguements For Socialism, is British critical criminologist Ian Taylor's arguement that the British left should take the issue of crime seriously. In the aftermath of the 1980/1981 riots which showed just how badly Margaret Thatcher supposedly 'Law and Order' agenda had failed Taylor argues for the reconstruction of socialist crimnal policy in the form of 'transitional demands'. Although Taylor is not a revolutionary, he (at least at this point) argued for the end of capitalist economic relations as part of the fight against crime and other social problems.

Taylor starts the book with a description of the rise of right-wing criminology (right realism) and the effects this has had within the first two years of Margaret Thatcher's reign in the UK, particularly the advocation of free market policies and 'tough on crime' policies. I do not think i need to go once again into these, needless to say the crime rate did not decline with the implementation of these policies, rather it began to climb even faster.

Taylor's second chapter is a critique of the keynesian welfare state. Taylor's arguement (which i agree with) is that despite it's short comings the post world war 2 welfare state fulfilled to an extent real needs. He charts the how the Labour Party fell short of what was possible in the aftermath of world war two, which could have been a decisive break from capitalism (i would argue that the social democratic parties of europe saved capitalism). Then he chronicles the reforms implemented in the immediate aftermath of this, noting the top-down imposition of experts (mostly liberal-professionals) to run the criminal justice system and other social services, which deals with their middle class ideas of peoples need rather than the actual needs of workers.

Taylor then begins to argue for his 'transitional programme' in relation to crime issues. This is necessary he says because of the right's dominance of an issue they are making worse for people through their economic policies (and continuing to do so today), with no real solutions. He puts forward the slogan of the radical democratisation of the state, particularly in relation to the police, but that this must also be done on the basis of putting forward socialist economic policies to undermine the fundamental causal factors of crime.

Taylor then goes onto suggest where such policies can come from. He puts forward policies in relation to the family, the police, sexuak crime, prisons and the legal system, building on such movements as the prisons right movement that was around at that time. These topics are not exhaustive as he says, but these were the most prominent of the issues when he was writing the book (although he briefly comments on the 1981 riots in the introduction, he had finished the bulk of the text by then). He argues that a socialist criminology should not be academic with its head on the clouds but argue for policies that have a concrete reality that working people can fight around. He concludes by paraphrasing the famous remark of Rosa Luxemburg that the obverse of socialism is barbarism.

Unfortunately, like many after the collapse of the soviet union, Taylor seems to give in to the Capitalist triumphalism of the 1990's in his later works prior to his death in 2001. His last book prior to death, Crime in Context will be reviewed at some stage in the future. However, what is clear in even the immediate aftermath of this book is that the book Ian Taylor promises on a further extension of some of the ideas of this book combined with some essays by Jock Young never seems to have appeared, despite being scheduled for publication the following year, perhaps this was due to Young's diversion into left realist criminology.
Nevertheless this book remains in my mind the pinnacle of criminological writings so far, and should be read by all (despite it's focus on the uk). (copies should be available second hand on amazon)

PS. just a reminder that i'll be away until next thursday/friday so don't expect any more posts until then

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Why do people only read the first post on this blog?

Over the last few weeks i've noticed that people only seem to comment on the top post on this blog, which suggests to me that they only read that article when they visit this site.
I find this a little disappointing if it's true as i'd like to think people read all my posts if they're visiting, i certainly think they're quite interesting. Not only that, but i would really like to know what people think of what i've posted. Take for example the last review i posted Review - Losing the Fight Against Crime by Richard Kinsey, John Lea & Jock Young (1986) it did take me a while to do, and i would really appreciate knowing what my readers think of my criticisms, i appreciate few people may have read it but you never know.

Anyways I'm going on holiday for a week soon and then i'm moving house (yet again) so i probably won't post again for a while (maybe there might be one when i get off holiday), but tomorrow before I leave I am leaving you all with a review of Law and Order: Arguements for Socialism (1982) by Ian Taylor, in my opinion the best book ever written by a criminologist which is a book i'd definitely recommend everyone getting hold of. And when I get back i will definitely write the post on riots that i've been promising, i've just been holding back on it until i've read a book on prison riots which hopefully i'll do whilst away.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Victory to the Postal Workers

As anyone living in Britain may have noticed, there is a dispute going on currently in the postal service. Here i republish the editorial from last weeks issue of the socialist (no 495) and the brief report i wrote of the second day of strike action locally which was published in issue 496. And if you live in the UK, why not visit a CWU picket line outside your local sorting office, this is a battle over the future of the postal service of a whole and we should be supporting wholeheartedly those who are fighting to defend this vital public service.

A SECOND day of strike action by postal workers was called because the Royal Mail management point blank refused to even negotiate with the Communication Workers Union (CWU).The bosses are demanding, in effect, complete capitulation by the workers and an acceptance that they will have to pay for the crisis of the post office; a crisis of declining revenues and a pension fund deficit.

This crisis has been brought about through the deliberate government policy of deregulation, overseen by the government-appointed postal regulator, whereby private companies are able to pick out the most profitable parts of the business. Under the regulator, Royal Mail has lost some of its most profitable bulk business mail to private companies such as DHL. Some big business companies, like BT and British Gas, have stopped using Royal Mail to deliver bills etc to their customers.

It is no wonder that under this completely one-sided arrangement, Royal Mail is beginning to face a profits drain on its day-to-day operations. Royal Mail is left with the obligation to continue to deliver to all 27 million postal addresses in Britain, without being funded to cover the real cost.

The bosses' answer to the crisis, as always, is to off-load it onto the backs of workers. They are demanding that post workers take an effective pay cut and at the same time do more and more work.

What should the CWU do now? The first Royal Mail workers' strike was overwhelmingly supported as no doubt - as we go to press - will be the second strike. Crown post office workers are also engaged in a series of half-day strikes. Will these one-day and half-day strikes be enough?

The first Royal Mail strike was called from 3am on the Friday morning to the same time the following day, to accommodate the many different starting and finishing times of the workers involved. As well, some workers who drive vans into and out of sorting offices and whose shifts were due to end after the 3am deadline refused to cross the picket lines.

In effect there were elements of unofficial action as well as the official action. This will no doubt be repeated in the second strike. Post workers need to be prepared to counter provocations and harassment from managers, for instance it will only take some cowboy manager to start throwing their weight about and suddenly those who refuse to cross picket lines when their shifts have not ended could find themselves being suspended.

There is some talk that the way forward is to move towards sectional action and to develop more unofficial action. One idea being mooted is for sorting offices to come out on strike one day and delivery offices the next or at least in the same week. The difficulty there is that some delivery offices are on the same site as a sorting office and again the question then arises of a picket line and unofficial action.

The link between sorting and delivery offices means, not just for those on the same site but also in general, that the two should not be separated if disunity and confusion is to be avoided and the maximum unity of post workers maintained. Far better would be to maintain the present united action but to step it up. This means continue to take strike action together, but escalate it from one day to two or more days at a time.

The action needs to be increased until the bosses are forced to seriously negotiate and as one postal worker correctly said: "This does not mean some mealy-mouthed form of wording so that the union leaders have an excuse to call off the action when in effect the bosses have conceded nothing!".

Rank and file CWU members must be as fully consulted as possible and involved in key decision-making at each stage of the dispute. As well as maintaining unity of action among post workers, a determined strategy needs to be adopted to develop the struggle in auxiliary ways, such as the maintaining and increasing of public support.

Union leaflets need to cut across the lies of the bosses who say the workforce is the problem. The CWU strategy also could include approaches to win support from workers in the private mail companies.

Very important is to appeal for co-ordinated action with other public sector workers, over low pay, privatisation, job losses and other attacks. The socialist believes that a 24-hour strike of the entire public sector is urgently needed to force the government to step back from its many assaults on public services.

A number of public-sector union leaders are in any case discussing or preparing for strike action over pay. However, some of them - with the honourable exception of the PCS - are hoping to avoid taking action and it will take major pressure from union members to make sure it goes ahead.

However, the primary responsibility of the CWU leadership is to take forward their own action in defence of their members. It is better to strike together with other public sector unions but post workers cannot simply wait for this to happen as this would allow the post office bosses to dictate their agenda of cuts instead of the union taking the initiative.

In the final analysis, industrial action is only part of the strategy. Also necessary is a new mass workers' party committed to public ownership, to stop the process of privatisation and deregulation and to draw up an overall programme to fight for workers' interests in all respects.


The strike in Ossett (near Wakefield) was solid. 15 CWU members were on the picket line in jubilant mood. The strikers discussed ways to further build public support for the strike by petitioning in the town centre against the attacks Royal Mail management are making to the postal service. They also discussed how the Socialist Party could further support them. The Socialist Party strike bulletin was well received.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007


Below is an archive of posts that fall mainly under a particular category. This will be added to as the blog gets updated.

Crime and Criminology

Alienation and CrimeBlair Has No Solutions To Crime Problem
Fear of Crime and the 'Law and Order' card
Marx and Engels on Crime, the State and the Paris Commune
Media & Crime - The Magic Bullet - A Critical Review
On Alcoholism
Principles of a Marxist Approach to Criminology (A First Draft)
Principles of a Marxist Approach to Criminology (Second Draft)
What Is A Crime?


First Ever National Prison Officers Strike
Overcrowded Prisons, Overworked Staff
Prisons - Lumbering Into Further Crisis
The Prison and The Factory - Dario Melossi and Massimo Pavarini

International Criminal Justice and Human Rights

Human Rights and International Justice
Imperialism and Criminology
Political Economy & Penal Policy: A Comparative Approach
Security, Civil Liberties and Terrorism
The Question of Human Rights

Organised and Corporate Crime

Corporate crime: Sign of an out-of-control economy
Letter - An Organised Dab in the Hand

Critical Criminology & Left Realism

Jock Young and the Decline of Critical Criminology
Law And Order: Arguements for Socialism - Ian Taylor (1982)
Losing The Fight Against Crime - Richard Kinsey, John Lea & Jock Young (1986)
Prisons Under Protest - Phil Scraton, Joe Sim and Paula Skidmore (1991)
The State of the Police - Phil Scraton (1985)


A Brief Look at the Origins and History of Police Unions - pt. 1
Police Ballot for Industrial RightsRejecting the ‘All Police Officers Are Reactionary’ Theory

Revolution and Criminology

Crime in Revolutionary Russia
Crime in the Soviet Union
Dual Power and the Criminal Justice System

Crime, Criminal Justice and Wales

A New Prison for North Wales?
Devolution and Justice

The Venezuela and Crime Series

1. Venezuela and Crime - A Preliminary Discussion
2. Venezuela and Crime - The cynical attitude of the opposition on crime
3. A Look at Criminal Justice in Venezuela

Enivronmental Issues

Anglesey's Carbon Surge
Bin Collections & Recycling
Go Green Weekend Report
No Nuclear Nightmare for Ynys Môn!
Report Rejects Nuclear Expansion
Stop the Anglesey Nuclear Time Bomb!

Socialist Party in North Wales

600 Demonstrate in Caernarfon against School Cuts
Bangor Branch Launch
Cuts, cuts and More Cuts
Fighting School Closures in Wales
More News From Bangor
Socialist Party in North Wales
Some Updates From Bangor

Student Stuff

Bangor Socialist Students Fight Student Union 'Governance Review'
More Debt Woes
MPs Pay and Student Funding
NUS Wales Spring Conference 08 Report
Open Letter from Bangor University Socialist Students
Refreshing Student Work in Bangor
Scapegoating Students
Socialist Students Statement on Student Union Reform
Student Elections: Not just a 'beauty contest'
Students and Politics
Student Union Funding

Strikes and Other Disputes

DWP Strike Reports (March 08)
PCS DWP Strike (December 07)
Victory To The Postal Workers

Book Reviews

In The Name of the Working Class - Sando Kopacsi (1986)
Justice In England - A Barrister (1938)
Revolution in Psychology - Ian Parker (2006)
The First Five Years of the Communist International Vol 1. - Leon Trotsky (1924)
War and the International - Sam Bornstein and Al Richardson (1986)
Why I Write - George Orwell (2004)

Music Reviews

New Maps Of Hell - Bad Religion (2007)
Permanent Revolution - Catch Twenty Two (2006)
The Sufferer and The Witness - Rise Against (2006)

Film & TV Reviews

Half Nelson (2007)
Lady in the Water (2006)
The Whistleblower (March 08)

Solidarity Appeals

Attacks on Nigerian Students Union
Crisis at OAU Continues
Nigeria - The Struggle Goes On
Solidarity at Xmas
Solidarity with Chinese Workers
Support victimised Nigerian Students!

Solidarity with the Gualberto Villarroel Contract workers union

Today, the leaders of the Sindicato Mixto de Trabajadores Petroleros Gualberto Villarroel, are beginning a hunger strike in La Paz in defence of their rights to organise and for a decent wage.
Their are roughly 300 contract workers at the Gualberto Villarroel oil refinery in Cochabamba, who have contracts for between 3 months and 2 years. With the contract workers being paid poverty wages of between 500-800 Bolivianos a month, permanent workers are paid much higher salaries ranging from 7,800-90,000 Bolivianos a month. To fight for higher wages, the contract workers formed their own trade union, the Sindicato Mixto de Trabajadores, but the leaders and most active members were fired, to date this is 32 members.
The sackings first started 8 months ago when the refinery was still owned by the Brazilian state-run transnational, Petrobras. When the refinery was nationalised on May 11th, workers expected a big change from the Evo Morales' MAS government, but nothing happened. The workers have been lobbying the governemnt but t no avail and are now going on the afoementioned hunger strike. They demand
  • All fired union leaders and workers must be immediately rehired.
  • The national labor laws prohibiting two-tiered working conditions must be respected.
  • All temporary contract workers must be signed to permanent contracts.
  • The right to unionize must be respected.
For details of how you can send solidarity messages and for more information check out the CWI article here:

Monday, 16 July 2007

Review - Losing the Fight Against Crime by Richard Kinsey, John Lea & Jock Young (1986)

This book was written based on the results of several local victimisation studies into crime on Merseyside, combining this with other research the authors had been involved with and in the area of policing. The book firstly begins by reviewing some facts and figures from the first six/seven years of Margaret Thatchers administration, notably that since 1979 crime was 40% by 1986 with a polcie force costing £58 per person rising to £117 per person in London. But even with a better paid, better equiped and bigger police force, the clear-up rate of crime had gone down from 41% in 1979 to 35% in 1984 and even more damning for every 100 unsolved crimes in 1979 there were almost double in 1984.

The book goes on then to argue that there has been a crisis in policing where the public began to distrust the police due to the tactics that were being employed ie mass stop and search operations that kicked off the Brixton riots, but also the mass mobilisation of the police during the miner's strike of 1984-5. They then go on to present one of their main ideas in the work, that the police are largely dependant on the support of the public for combating crime. The tactics have outlined above have increased distrust, because as the authors note the best indicator of whether the police will stop and search you is if you have been a victim of crime yourself. This leads to the police receiving less information about crime and thus reducing the clear-up rate.

The book then goes on to discuss the levels of violence in society and that official crime stats or victim stats are unlikely to reflect this an only really the homicide rate is the best stable measure of violent crime (more recently hospital records have also been used).

They also argue against the idea that crime is wholly socially determined but also against the ideas that one needs to be tough on crime, which they then go on to put forward the Neighbourhood Crime Scheme in Detroit as a way in which to reduce crime rates arguing that democratisation of the police is necessary by local government having control of police appointments and a truly independent complaints body. They also set up over 3,500 schemes, mostly organised through existing residents and tennants bodies into bodies that set local policing priorities, rather than just talking shops.

The book then discusses the problems the police experience when they try to collect information themselves through co-operation with other public agencies and by massive databases, stop and search and wiretaps which in the most case turn out to be rather expensive for very little gain (very little information is collected and people who would have talked to you to provide info otherwise won't anymore).

This leads them on to suggest their solution which has many elements of the aforementioned Chicago scheme. They argue that police policy should be controlled by local government sub-committees consisting of elected councillors and some co-opted police representatives. This group would also have responsibility for encouraging real debate on crime based on the real information (and not hyped tabloid craze) as well as conducting local crime surveys.

They argue that such a system would have a maximum voluntary reporting by the public and would use the minimum amount of coercion, and would fully respect civil rights which would again make the police more efficient in their work.


My main problem with this book comes from the authors lack of understaning of class and the state. They reject the idea that crime will only wither away under socialism, suggesting that neglects the fact that some reforms can be won in capitalism that can make workers lives better, but these reforms are snatched back by the ruling class at the first opportunity they get, note the increased use of stop and search in the UK after the 9/11 attacks and the 7/7 attacks. They also reject the idea fo the state being organised to repress workers struggles, but they fail to understand that it is this only in the last analysis, so whilst not every action is directed against workers, when the stakes are high (such as the miners strike) they will be used to their full.
Their notion of class seems to be only in the relevance of the class origins of someone, rather than in the Marxist view of the conditions people live under. For Marxists it is conditions workers exist in which make them the most revolutionary class due to appaling working conditions but also the fact they have to work more as group or unit that any other class, which leads them to take group or collective action. These errors permeate the work unfortunately.
Their idea of a solution is also sadly lacking. They correctly argue to democratising the police as an urgent step forward, but they do not mean the same democratising as Marxists would mean. For myself it would be the right of the police to a trade union that was lost after the 1919 police strike (see I would argue that a police force ought to be organised with the election of officers subject to the right of recall on the same wages as the rest of the police officers (with the police only receiving the wage of an average worker). The police should be controlled by a democratically elected local committee, with local elected representative, elected trade union representatives as well as elected police representatives. I would also include elected representatives of the judiciary in a small number, but subject to the judiciary itself being elected.
Such a body would be responsible for policing priorities and the other tasks suggested by the authors. But I would also demand the democratisation of the press to allow full discussion of crime, as the current capitalist papers constantly distort crime reporting (see The New Politics of Crime & Punishment by Roger Matthews and Jock Young, where Young discusses the headlines produced by all newspapers in response to recently published crime figures where they said crime had increased when in fact it had decreased).
As mentioned above, these demands must be coupled with the demand for a socialist society, with production planned to meet the needs of people under democratic control.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Report Rejects Nuclear Expansion

This piece was published as a letter in the most recent copy of the Socialist (issue 495).

The Oxford Research Group has published a report into the potential uptake for civil nuclear power generation over the next 65 years. The nuclear power lobby claims that nuclear power can have a new 'golden era' of providing cheap, clean power. The report suggests that nuclear power expansion will make little impact on significantly reducing carbon emissions.
The report suggests that to make such an impact we would need to build 3,000 new reactors world-wide over the next sixty years, equivalent to one a week, whereas there are only 492 in operation today and many of these are nearing the end of their useful working lives.
Furthermore the creation of more nuclear plants will increase the possibility of them becoming a focus of terrorist attacks with the potential for mass destruction. It would also see expansion of nuclear energy into countries that do not already have such reactors.
Socialists are opposed to nuclear power, because there is no safe way of disposing of nuclear waste, which can stay reactive for hundreds of years and could do great damage to the environment. There should be greater research into providing clean renewable energy sources, planned to meet people's needs.

Sunday, 8 July 2007


Yesterday the LiveEarth concerts were staged around the world, many broadcasted on TV, I was working and missed it all (and probably wouldn't have watched much either, not really my musical taste). However, I do want to post my thoughts on it.
Firstly, there was criticism by Geldof and co. saying that it was copying the Live8 concerts held a while back around the Make Poverty History campaign that it was stealing its thunder to an extent, and that the event lacked clear goals (like Live8 actually met its goals!).
Now, unlike some liberal commentators I don't have a problem with the so-called hypocrysy of musicians who travel a lot because of touring, performing at a gig that aims to get carbon emissions lowered. (not that i am defending huge levels of individual consumption). A bigger problem for me is the fact the event is being sponsered by multinational companies that are part of the problem. This was at it's most hypocritical in China where the concert was virtually invite only to the country's elite, with only 3000 attending.
However, for me the concert was like putting the chicken before the egg. It was standing for in general a good idea (that of reducing carbon emissions), but with a wrong approach of how to get there blaming all individuals equally, when us poor people have don't have the money to spend on all these low cost alternatives. Looking to China again, as I posted a while back there have been mass protests against a chemical plant there, which has forced the local government to back down. It is these mass movements that we should look to attempt to tackle the problems of climate change, armed with a socialist programme of nationalising the economy under democratic workers control where discussion on how to plan lower carbon emissions (by producing energy efficient products cheaper etc.) could be put into practice. Concerts could be used to fundraise for such a movement or popularise the ideas of a movement, but only real struggle can create such a movement.