Saturday, 29 December 2007

600 Demonstrate in Caernarfon against School Cuts

This is a report of a recent protest against school closures in Gwynedd (the county council Bangor is in). These cuts are similar to ones proposed by several other councils in Wales, partly as a result of the lower budgetary settlement from Assembley Government (and in turn from Westminster). There are other reports and info at

Report by Iain Dalton & Heledd Williams

On Thursday 13th December, over 600 parents, children and other protesters marched through Caernarfon to protest against the closure of 29 schools and the federalising (one school over several sites) of many others. The march saw banners from many different schools protesting against their individual school closures and placards condemning the Plaid Cymru led Gwynedd Council who were making these cuts. The march ended in a rally outside the council chambers where council members were meeting to discuss this issue. This action and other protests have seen the council extend the consultation period for this education 'reorganisation', but this will not be the end of this series of escalting protests.We spoke to several parents on the demonstration:John Allport, from Ysgol Borth-y-Gent near Porthmadog in the south of Gwynedd explained that council was giving innaccurate reasons for closures, saying that schools were suffering falling attendence rolls. On the contrary said John, the school had full attendence and was a succesful school. Anna Jones and Ffion Jones from Ysgol Baladeulyn in Nantlle ar Agor explained that the school is the heart of their village and is used for community activities after school hours. Under the reorganisation plan their children would have to travel 4 miles to the nearest school. With buses coming to the village once every two hours, chldren would have the choice of arriving at school over 45 minutes early or almost the same amount late!Louise Warren, Dawn Williams, Emma Pryce and David Connor from Ysgol Rhiwlas told us how the council had not maintened facilities for many years so that they have fallen into disrepair, which is the excuse they are using to close the school. There had been an attempt to raise funds to repair a portakabin, but the council pulled out of their part of the funding. Under the plan their school will be merged with two others, and a new school built 5 miles away, but why, they ask, do they have the funds for this but not maintaining the schools parents actually want.

Socialist Party Wales says:

- No cuts in education in Gwynedd
- For the Welsh Assembley to provide the necessary funds to keep primary schools open and reduce class sizes.
- Democratic control of schools by parents and staff
- Local campaigns should put up candidates in next year's local elections on an anti-cuts platform, linking up with publicsector workers ie. postal workers, civil servants etc.
- Link up the campaigns across Gwynedd and across Wales.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Solidarity at Xmas

A few days ago, I thought i'd write a post on something to do with xmas, though i wasn't sure what. But today, I got thinking about the whole christian thing of thinking of those less well off etc, which was particularly brought on by the local amnesty international society deciding to write christmas cards to political prisoners. I don't advocate writing xmas cards to everyone though, although i may not necessarily agree with them being imprisoned, my focus will be on working class fighters and revolutionary socialists - as i've little time and i'd rather focus my energies on those most likely to make a difference to ordinary working clas people around the world. For socialists, i think it's important to think about comrades who are not free (I mean relatively free, of course we're all still living in a capitalist world). So below I'm putting up some links to various comrades who are either in prison or have been threatened in some way or another.

Firstly, there are the three student comrades in Nigeria who will be in prison (although they have been granted ridiculous bail terms. I've reported several times on these comrades, and even being involved with some solidarity action in bangor. These comrades still are held with ridiculous charges and will be in prison until new year.

Secondly, there are activists in Malaysia and members of the Malaysian Socialist Party who have been arrested and charged for protesting, a clear contravention of their democratic rights. Protests are requested as they will be up in court soon.

Thirdly, there is a trade union activist and swedish member of the cwi, Bilbo Goransson who is threatened with explusion from his trade union Kommunal, after helping organise a mass demonstration in Sweden this September.

Fourthly, students in Iran have been detained after protesting earlier this month. Find out more

Almost finally, Tommy Sheridan has been charged with perjury (from his court defeat of Murdoch's News of the World). More info is provided in the article but it is clear this is a collosal waste of resources.

Finally, some good news, Socialist Alternative is reporting that the Tulwika teachers who last month took part in a walkout against the wars in afghanistan and iraq, have been saved from being fired, which is great news for anti-war activists, although a student is still being suspended and the school has issued somekind of warning to some of the teachers. For more see

anyway, i think i may go back to irregular posting. i've kinda being doing that anyway and it seems to get people to comment more on stuff too.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Media & Crime - The Magic Bullet - A Critical Review

NB. the next post will be on Friday, not Thursday.

I think I should begin this peice by explaining what The Magic Bullet is. This is an article from issue 170 of the Prison Service Journal, by one of my lecturers in Bangor, Martina Feilzer (written when she was a doctoral student at Oxford). The aim of the piece of research which the article is reporting on was to find out if "Improving public knowledge and confidence through the
provision of factual information on crime and criminal justice" was possible.

Most information presented on crime is in the form of reports of major crime cases, new government policies or factual information from the government. The aim of the study was to see whether factual evidence presented in a naturalistic way (in this case in a newspaper column) would improve knowledge about the criminal justice system.

To this effect, the researchers began writing a column (Crime Scene) in a local, weekly newspaper, The Oxford Times, and testing before and after (with control groups who weren't regular readers) to see whether knowledge of the criminal justice system had improved.

The testing found that knowledge hadn't improved that much at all, and that in most cases people knew that they didn't have a clue about answers to the questions (there was an option to tick a 'pure guess' box). Many people thought people were convicted less often for crimes like burglary and robbery than they actually are. Also the report found that most people only think prison should be used in last resort and that offenders can be helped to change - we do not have a reactionary population necessarily when it comes to prison, but answers were also found to reflect factual misconceptions that are widely reported in the mainstream media about the prison system.

There is however a quite telling quote (from an interviewee) in this piece, "I suppose one of the dangers [with] the increased knowledge of the criminal statistics [is], it can— depending on what they are—can cause some people to be more apprehensive. It can reassure certain people, but there is a danger of that. Yes I would personally like to know more information but I don’t know whether it would give people added security or scare them really." Similarly, another interviewee said "I mean it says here that prison doesn’t work but it sounds to me as though the community doesn’t work either."

For me, this shows that the aim of researchers at the Home Office, if such a Magic Bullet worked, would be to sure up support for the current penal system. But people aren't that stupid, in the absence of accurate information, they are pushed into supporting longer prison sentences etc. (I would say becuase of information presented to them in the tabloids to an extent, but also becuase it seems like an easy solution). But as those quote show, given accurate information people can tell that the current system doesn't work in relation to stopping crime.

The report conlcudes that the Magic Bullet (of the Crime Scene report) hasn't worked. But how could it a just one sole weekly piece in a world of misinformation. An article by Jock Young pointed out that one year when official crime figures had dropped, all bar one of the major newspapers reported a small rise in one type of crime. Factor in tv news bulletins, radio programmes and political broadcasts telling us we need to get 'tougher' on crime and no wonder a small weekly column makes next to no difference. For the media to accurately report crime in a factual manner on a regular basis it needs to be taken out of the hands of tycoons like Rupert Murdoch and his ilk and democratically run.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

More News From Bangor

Sorry for being posted a day late, but was rather busy yesterday. Anyway, as promised is reports from Wales on the PCS strike from last week, as well as a report of the climate change day of action in Bangor (to coincide with the world-wide protests on 8th December)

PCS Strike

In Swansea, Roger Langley, branch organiser, Swansea Pension Centre, spoke to Alec Thraves.“The mood is actually better than we had ever thought. We’ve had previous strikes in the dwp but the imposition of this pay deal has incensed the workers. When people have seen how little they are getting from 5 months back pay it has just fuelled their anger and made them come out and fight.There are more out than before and of the hundreds of union members only 8 have crossed the picket line”. “We mean business this time and we will be stepping up the action and withdrawing good will. PCS is recruiting more members because of the dispute and the branch is really looking healthy. We are encouraging new faces to get involved and recently had vacancies for 3 people on our Branch Executive Committee and received 10 nominations which is extremely encouraging”.
In Bangor, Socialist Party members visited strikers at the Job Centre Plus Call Centre on Parc Menai.. Despite the driving wind and rain soaking everything, stewards maintained the picket line.We discussed the poor working conditions in call centres, including a new system brought in by DWP which tries to regulate everything they do in the workplace. Even so, this and other call centres around Bangor are seen as the better workplaces, a condemnation of just how little the current system has to offer workers in North West Wales.Steven Jones, a PCS rep reported that the majority of the workforce had stayed out, with an increased number picketing that day and several new union members had joined..

Climate Change Day of Action

Bangor Socialist Party and Socialist Students took part in a day of action in solidarity with others including members of the student unions climate change society. We organised a stall campaigning for the re-nationalisation of public transport, a step that could make a big impact to tackle climate change, as it would allow for transport to be planned to meet people's needs and tackle the ever increasing use of cars which is contributing to CO2 emissions. We sold several copies of the Socialist, a Socialism Today and some books, as well as meeting several people who were interested in finding out more about the socialist party.
Bangor Socialist Party reporters

Thursday, 13 December 2007

The Welsh Language and Welsh Nationalism - 'A quiet political earthquake?'

Hi all, this post is an article from the April 2000 edition of Socialism Today, to do with the labour movement in Wales and the development of welsh nationalism. For those that don't know, Bangor is in the north-west of Wales and thus has a different political context to south and north-east wales as the article shows. although this article is over 7 years old now, it will make good background reading to the political situation in North Wales.

The ousting of the Blairite favourite, Alun Michael, as first secretary of the Welsh Assembly, was another symptom of an underlying shift in consciousness taking place in Welsh society. GEOFF JONES places the current developments in their context in the history of Welsh nationalism.

LAST YEAR'S WELSH Assembly election results came as a considerable shock to political pundits. The nationalist party, Plaid Cymru/The Party of Wales, took nearly 30% of the votes, only 7-8% behind Labour, to become the second largest party with seventeen seats, as compared with the Tories nine seats and the Liberal Democrats six. This result was repeated in the Euro-elections a month later when Plaid Cymru polled 30% compared with Labour's 32%. In the 1997 general election, Plaid Cymru had only taken a 10% share, behind both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.
The turnout in these two elections was very low, but the actual number of people voting for Plaid Cymru nearly doubled between 1997 and 1999. More important, their vote increased dramatically in the working-class areas of South East Wales.
Does this change represent a 'quiet political earthquake', in the words of Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley? Or is it merely a mid-term warning to New Labour from Labour supporters, as suggested by New Labour's Peter Hain?

The Welsh nation
NATIONALIST MOVEMENTS ARISE in any country or part of a country when people feel themselves repressed or exploited by an outside force or nation. All such movements have the same basic demands for independence, or self-determination, but the political form of these demands and the support any group receives, depend specifically on the history and class composition of the country in question. In Wales, nationalism takes a very different form from other parts of the British Isles.
Even before legal annexation by England in 1532, Welsh history had been a history of division. Mediaeval Wales had been a patchwork of competing kingdoms, with petty 'kings' giving allegiance or defiance to Welsh or English overlords. Only a few leaders managed temporarily to gain overall control of the majority of the land west of Offa's Dyke. Even at that time, there was a major division between the strong kingdoms based on Gwynedd in the mountainous and easily defensible North West and the marches of the South and East (present day Powys, Glamorgan and Monmouth), easily accessible from England.
The industrial revolution intensified this North West/South East division. From the beginning of the nineteenth century the discovery of iron ore and coal transformed the sparsely populated area now known as the Welsh Valleys. Hundreds of thousands of people poured in from rural Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England, to work in the ironworks and in the mines. The town of Merthyr Tydfil is an example. Before the turn of the nineteenth century there was no such place, only a scattering of small hill farms at the top of the valleys. Then coal and iron were discovered. In ten years, Merthyr became one of the largest towns in Britain, with getting on for 100,000 people. It was a dangerous and exciting town, bigger than Edinburgh or Dublin, with a young and growing working class prepared to take direct action against their bosses. In 1831, an attempt by an ironmaster to cut wages sparked a workers' uprising; the town was only recaptured by troops after a week of bitter fighting. This was not a mere explosion of mob rule. Its leaders were educated and knew what they were fighting for. It gave the working class the beginnings of a tradition, its first martyrs, and its symbol, the red flag.

But it also marked the deepening of the rift between North West and South East Wales. The old rural Wales was relatively untouched by the industrial revolution; the South was completely transformed. The huge influx of workers weakened the Welsh language and traditional culture, with English being adopted as the lingua franca over the large part of the coalfield. By the end of the century over two thirds of the Welsh population lived in the industrial South East. Between 1801 and 1911 Wales saw a fourfold increase in population, with a two-fold increase in number of Welsh speakers but a twelve-fold increase in monoglot English.
The headlong pace of development, the riches being made from the international export of coal and steel, and the parallel growth in strength and confidence of the working class, had its high point at the beginning of the twentieth century. The 1920s and 1930s saw a number of defeats for the working class but strengthened its support for the Labour Party and socialist politics. The idea of Welsh nationhood, or of Welsh political independence, had little meaning to workers who read Marx, sang the Internationale, and saw themselves as part of a wider movement.
The Welsh Nationalist Party
NORTH AND WEST Wales had seen their own battles, from the toll-gate smashers of the 'Hosts of Rebecca' to the bitter strikes in the North Wales quarries and the battles against English landlords, but the area had not seen the same huge influx of population. It remained generally rural, Welsh-speaking, and very separate from the industrial south. Politically liberal not socialist, its most famous representative, David Lloyd George (1863-1945) flirted with the idea of Welsh independence before world war one.

The ideas which inspired the struggle for Irish Home Rule in the 1880s had led to the setting up of an organisation 'Cymru Fydd' (The Wales to Be). Made up essentially of middle-class intellectuals, it aimed at the renaissance of Welsh culture and the Welsh language, but also for a legislative assembly for Wales. Lloyd George aimed to stitch together Cymru Fydd with the Liberal Party in Wales to form a mass nationalist movement. At first wildly successful, the dream crashed in Newport in 1896, when the South Wales Liberal Federation rancorously opposed any idea of being ruled by Welsh ideas. Lloyd George gave up on Cymru Fydd and pursued his career to become leader of the Liberal Party in Westminster, and saviour of British imperialism in world war one.
The failure of Cymru Fydd was a failure to build a capitalist party of independence in opposition to English capitalism. Specifically, the close integration of business in the most economically powerful and dynamic part of Wales with that same English capitalism, meant that the wealthy Welsh upper middle-class had no need of political autonomy to further their material or political interests.
Because of this, the nationalist movement which developed between the two world wars was a petit-bourgeois movement, more concerned with preserving and developing Welsh culture, a culture specifically defined by the Welsh language. Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru (Welsh Nationalist Party) was established in 1925. Its founding policy was the achievement of a Welsh-speaking Wales, and Welsh was to be the only medium of party activity. This second fact in itself cut the party off from the non-Welsh speaking majority (whom most of the party did not anyway accept as being Welsh). The party's policies were inevitably reactionary and elitist. Saunders Lewis, president from 1926 to 1939, called for a return to the peasant societies of the Middle Ages and, taking the policy to its logical conclusion, for the 'de- industrialisation' of South Wales.

With policies such as these, the Welsh Nationalist Party remained a tiny group until the jailing of three of its leaders in 1937. The previous year, the Royal Air Force (RAF) had set up a bombing range in Penyberth in North West Wales, in the teeth of mass popular protest. Lewis and two colleagues carried out a symbolic act of sabotage against the range and were jailed. The severity of the sentences and the subsequent hounding of Lewis from his job led to an increase in sympathy for the Nationalist Party in North and West Wales, a sympathy which continued despite the nationalists' position of neutrality in world war two.
Wales post-war
THE YEARS FOLLOWING world war two saw a second flowering of the confidence of the working class of South Wales, perhaps most fully expressed in the person of the Labour left-winger Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960). Bevan, a leader of the Welsh miners in the 1926 general strike, was health minister in the 1945 Labour government. He introduced the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948 but resigned from the cabinet in 1951, to lead a left-wing opposition in the Labour Party. It is no accident that Bevan's monument on the hillside above Ebbw Vale is inscribed, 'Here Aneurin Bevan spoke to his people and to the world'.
The Welsh Labour leaders hostility to nationalism ranged the spectrum from Bevan's belief that Welsh workers were best served as part of a democratic socialist Britain to the fawning worship of British royalty, personified by George Thomas (later Viscount Tonypandy). At the same time, Labour increased its near monopoly control of local government in industrial Wales. In this context, the 1945 Labour government dropped the Labour Party's long-time commitment to Welsh and Scottish home rule.

The Welsh Nationalist Party, still largely confined to rural Wales, dropped the more extreme of Lewis' policies. Changing its name to 'Plaid Cymru' (The Party of Wales), it called for 'dominion status within the British commonwealth' and relaxed its 'Welsh only' rule. During the 1950s and 1960s Plaid Cymru slowly increased its share of votes in parliamentary elections to around the 10% mark, gaining councillors in rural Wales and winning a parliamentary seat in Carmarthen in 1966. Plaid also came to be seen for the first time by workers in industrial Wales as a means for expressing dissatisfaction with the activities of the Labour government, in by-elections in Rhondda West in 1967 and Caerffili in 1968.
Plaid's moderate and 'electoralist' programme produced splits. In the early 1950s, Mudiad Gweriniaethol Cymru (Welsh Republican Movement), based in South Wales, called for full independence and a socialist/co-operative programme. The 1960s and 1970s also saw strong local opposition to a number of schemes touching on a sensitive nerve - the flooding of valleys and displacement of population to provide reservoirs for English cities. This produced a number of 'direct action' organisations ranging from the comic-opera 'Free Wales Army' to more serious groups which sabotaged pipelines from Welsh reservoirs and bombed the government Welsh Office building and Tory Party offices.
More important were struggles over the Welsh Language. In 1962, Cymdaithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society) was founded to gain official recognition of the Welsh language by direct action. Their campaign was modestly successful, resulting in the Welsh Language Act of 1993 which gave equal status to Welsh and English in all public bodies. Perhaps more important, a hunger strike by Plaid Cymru MP Gwynfor Evans forced the Thatcher government to implement a 1979 election pledge to establish a Welsh-language TV channel. At the same time, the demand for independence came once again to be part of Plaid's programme.

Over the last century the question of the Welsh language has been the touchstone of nationalist thinking. Census returns show the number of Welsh speakers declining steadily from 37% of the population in 1921 to 18.9% in 1981 and 18.5% in 1991. However, the statistics show a definite stabilisation over the past twenty years. Previously the proportion of Welsh speakers was highest in the older age groups - a sure index of a declining language. This, however, has now flattened out.
Furthermore, the number of officially registered adult Welsh learners has increased dramatically from 13,000 in 1993-94 to 21,000 in 1997-98. There has been a continuing campaign for more schools where children are taught through the medium of Welsh. To a certain extent, this is a middle-class phenomenon. Fluent Welsh is a passport to the cushy jobs in the media and cultural industries. Often, the call for new Welsh-only schools can be a ploy to get privileged access to educational resources. Nevertheless it is beyond doubt that the decline in the Welsh language has halted and is coupled with a new national consciousness which includes industrial Wales as well as rural Wales. But it is clear that in the foreseeable future not more than a quarter of Welsh people will be fluent in Welsh. Plaid Cymru acknowledged that fact, and the need to widen their appeal in South Wales, by changing their name in 1998 to the bi-lingual form, 'Plaid Cymru/The Party of Wales'.
Plaid Cymru in action

THE 1979 REFERENDUM on the setting up of a Welsh Assembly was a low point for Plaid Cymru. Out of a turnout of 58%, nearly 80% voted against. There was no great support even in rural Wales and massive opposition in industrial areas. Some nationalists forecast the end of Welsh history and Welsh nationality.
But 1979 also marked the beginning of the final destruction of the old industrial Wales. The number of coal miners had slipped from over 100,000 in 1951 to less than 30,000 in the 1970s. By the 1990s it was less than 4,000. Steel and other heavy industries were similarly massacred. At the same time, Labour councils were atrophying into complacent nepotistic bodies, unable or unwilling to fight for their communities against Tory attacks. To workers disgusted with the incompetence of their own councils and the unwillingness of Labour MPs to fight with them in the industrial battles of the 1980s, a protest vote for Plaid Cymru seemed the only viable option in the absence of any socialist alternative. The party started to pick up council seats in the South East. Their manifesto for the 1997 election was well to the left of Labour. However, in the typhoon of opposition to the Tories, their vote only increased slightly.
Since 1997, New Labour's cutting itself off from the working class, and its unwillingness to provide much more than soothing words for the social disaster areas of South Wales, has sickened many working class Labour supporters. This was coupled with the imposition by Labour's Westminster HQ of an 'electoral college; system to select the Labour leader in the new assembly. With the votes of MPs and unions outweighing the votes of individual party members, Blair's favoured candidate, Alun Michael, was narrowly selected. Socialist groupings were too weak to provide a pole of attraction. Plaid Cymru was the only alternative.

Plaid Cymru, as a nationalist party, aims to unite on the basis of nationality, rather than class. Ironically, but inevitably, when successful, it finds itself riven along class lines. In the 1999 elections Plaid put forward a programme of reforms as a left opposition to New Labour. But already a report by a Plaid researcher has castigated the most successful programme in their history as 'dated socialistic waffle'. The writer obviously sees Plaid's future as Welsh Blairism ('Blerwch Cymraeg?'). More critically, Plaid's long-term supporters in the North and West object to the apparent dilution of the demand for independence and Welsh-language culture. Already a split has occurred under the name of Cymru Unedig/Welsh Solidarity.
Even worse, workers in the ex-industrial areas who joined Plaid as a reaction against dishonest and cowardly Labour councils are being rapidly disillusioned. Plaid Cymru is very radical in words, but much more conservative in deeds. They claimed to have 'played a leading role within Wales' in the 1990 battle against the poll tax. In fact, in Taff Ely, the one council they controlled at that time in coalition with the Liberals, bailiffs were sent in and non-payers harassed and imprisoned. In other areas, Plaid councillors paid up after token opposition. In 1999, Plaid Cymru won control of Rhondda Cynon Taff council by opposing cuts in services and on the back of a local campaign against a filthy and dangerous local rubbish tip. In opposition, Plaid promised to close the tip immediately. In power, they reneged on this promise, and propose to solve the council's financial problems by sacking workers.

The national assembly is an acid test of Plaid Cymru's policies. The Welsh Labour Party, shocked at the election results, proposed a 'new', 'inclusive' form of politics, meaning that they wanted to lure Plaid into supporting the New Labour agenda. The parachuting in of Alun Michael as a mouthpiece for Westminster derailed this policy, but his subsequent dumping, engineered by Plaid with the passive support of some Labour assembly members (AMs), has put it back on course. For Plaid's leadership, as for the 'Welsh Labour' current headed by AMs Rhodri Morgan and Ron Davies, 'Objective One' funding from the EU will enable the revitalisation of a Welsh capitalist economy along the lines of Ireland - closing their eyes, of course, to the massive social crisis developing in that 'successful' economy.
There is no social basis for Plaid to establish itself as a bourgeois nationalist party as Fianna Fail did, in different historical circumstances, in Ireland. As a petit-bourgeois grouping it runs the risk of drifting towards more extreme forms of nationalism. But in Plaid's rank and file, a whole layer of young workers, many drawn in on the basis of opposition to New Labour's sell out to capitalism, will not be prepared to settle for blaming all our woes on 'The English' or on 'foreigners' in general.
The scene will be set for a split or an exodus of activists looking for socialist policies to solve the crisis which faces all sections of Wales - agriculture and industry, the hill farms and the valleys. Any real solutions will involve a program far wider than a narrow nationalist perspective, and the search for such solutions will lay the basis of a mass Welsh socialist movement linked with similar movements throughout the Isles and in Europe.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

What is a Crime?

As I mentioned a week or two ago in the post on alienation an accurate definition of crime is a controversial thing. Indeed, criminology has been wracked by this problem most of it's existence. I'm going to try and put forward some of my thoughts on this, but first i'll explain why there has been such controversy.

To many what a crime is is simply something thats illegal in the statute books, which at first sight seems a perfectly workable definition. Except it isn't, as in that view a crime would have to be always on the statute books to always be a crime. But there are lost of exceptions to this. There are many things which have been criminalised or decriminalised - which category (crime or non-crime) should they fight into? Such things include drug use, homosexuality, abortion, rape within marriage and a whole host of things.

So how and why are things criminalised?

As I mentioned in the draft principles of marxist criminology, what is criminalised is defined by the ruling class and put through by parliament, it is also interpreted through their court system and enforced by their state. So to an extent it is Marx's old phrase that the ruling ideas are those of it's ruling class (or what is a crime is determined by the ruling class).

It isn't quite that simple as pressure from the population at large, particularly the working class can occur and force laws to be not passed, watered down or not enforced. (or in some cases passed or removed)

However, most people don't talk about crime in terms of everything on the criminal statute books (there are things on there most people don't realise). In fact the usually mean what i'll term 'popular crime', things mostly covered by violent, property, sexual and drug crime. But that isn't all that's illegal, what about corporate crime, state crime, environmental crime, war crime, transnational crime etc.

And what about anti-social behaviour, is that a crime? Under the current system in the UK you can be convicted of an ASBO and by defaulting on an order given to you subject to criminal courts, but they aren't crimes of themselves.

Also much drug crime and things like drinking and driving don't cause harm in themselves yet are defined as crime (in a preventative way) as a method of attempting to stop people from committing more serious crimes.

Anyway, this isn't a fully rounded out post, more just thoughts that i've dredged up over the last few weeks. For me, i think crime is a dialectical entity, always in flux and changing, put we should put forward also what we think a socialist world would see as crime and fight for those to be tackled in a transitional way. (i hope that made sense). I'll come back to this topic in further posts anyway, but i'd really appreciate people's thoughts on this.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Review - New Maps of Hell (2007) – Bad Religion

New Maps of Hell is the latest album from veteran punk rockers Bad Religion and marks 25 years since the band’s first album How Could Hell Be Any Worse? The whole look is reminiscent of the band’s earliest work and this extends to the music.
Back is a heavy focus on organised religion, which was the inspiration for the band’s name (hardly surprising given the influence of right-wing Christian fundamentalism in the US). Musically, the album doesn’t live up to the quality of some of the bands previous albums. This not to say it isn’t any good, indeed there are some great songs such as Dearly Beloved, which tells the story of a man losing his religion and Before You Die pleading with people to think about why they hold their beliefs.
Similarly to their previous albums, there is criticism of the devastating policies of US capitalism, which comes through in such songs as Grapes of Wrath with lyrics like “Is profit and greed the only conceit on a scale between mere prosperity and inhumanity?”
Overall, unfortunately parts of the album are a little forgettable. It is an okay album, but I would direct people towards Bad Religions previous two albums, The Empire Strikes First and The Process of Belief.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

PCS DWP Strike

Just got back from a very wet and windy picket line in Bangor, at the DWP call centre on parc menai. the strike there wasn't quite as solid there as elsewhere around the country (the other jobs are really crap here) but there was still a large number of people not going in. Below i've posted some stuff from the pcs website as background to the strike, and a press release of the days action so far. I'll try and do a follow-up post over the next week or so too, btu I sold one paper and gave out quite a few leaflets too despite th driving rain. (plus hopefully they'll be advertising our next public meeting too.)

PCS today announced a two day strike by members working for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Jobcentres, the Pension service and Child Support Agency (CSA) as the department walked away from last minute talks in a dispute over the threatened imposition of a below inflation pay offer.
The two day strike to be followed by an overtime ban will be held next week on Thursday 6 December and Friday 7 December and adds to the pressure on the government following rows over party funding and the loss of child benefit data. The two day strike comes as the DWP seek to impose a pay offer which would see approximately 40% of staff receive 0% pay increase next year.
Members are angry over the three year pay offer, which sees cost of living increases for longer serving staff members of 2% this year, 0% next year and 1% in the final year. The pay offer averages just 1% a year over the three years and sees the lowest paid receiving increases which take their wage to only 24 pence above the minimum wage.
The news comes as it emerged that the DWP would be closing three pension centres located in Birmingham, Blackpool and Dearne Valley at the cost of 650 jobs. The union warned that the closures would further damage the pension service which has been hit by delays and backlogs.
Commenting, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: "The department has provoked conflict and the inevitable disruption that strike action brings by walking away from last minute talks. This insulting pay offer that will see low paid staff receive a pay cut in real terms has provoked anger amongst people who have borne the brunt of job cuts. Imposing a pay offer that averages out at 1% a year will do little for the morale of staff who have seen job cuts and services suffer.
"The government have got to start realising that its policies of cuts and driving down pay are not only damaging staff morale and services, but creating the conditions for systemic failure across the civil service. If the government and the department want to avoid damaging industrial action, then they need to re-start talks quickly on a fair pay deal for staff."

Fantastic Support for first strike day
6 Dec 2007
An estimated 70,000 PCS members supported the first day of the 2 day strike over the imposed below inflation pay offer.
Many reps reported better turn out than the excellent national action in May.
Hundreds of text messages have been received from reps on picket lines reporting solid support, good news coverage and high spirits.
Offices across the country were either closed or offering a very limited service with only a handful of senior managers covering the phones and turning claimants away.
The message to senior DWP management is clear. PCS members will not tolerate the imposition of an insulting, below inflation offer.
Turnout out tomorrow is expected to be even higher with more members on strike than any previous strike.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Some Updates From Bangor

Okay, so the plan to update the website this saturday went a bit to pot, got too busy coping with the vast amount of activity Bangor SP is getting up to this week (NUS extraordinary conference, A student debt demo in Cardiff, two days of the PCS on strike, three stalls against uni fees, a day of action on fees on saturday and discussions with several people who want to join). Anyway, I am definitely going to be posting on tuesdays, thursdays and sturdays every week (except if i go on holiday), with the excedption of today, this will be tuesdays post for this week, a brief update on the work of bangor socialist party and socialist students which should be appearing in the socialist soon!

Climate Change Day of Action

Bangor Socialist Party and Socialist Students are taking part in a day of action to coincide with the national climate change demonstration in London on Saturday 8th of October. From 11am-2pm we will be taking part in stalls and protests on Bangor High Street alongside of campaigning and environmental groups.

Che Guevara Meeting

Bangor Socialist Party and Socialist Students meeting about Che Guevara was attended by 10 people (our second largest meeting yet), including three people who were at their first socialist meeting. Hugh Caffrey introduced the discussion referring to how Che became politicised during his travels around Latin America and how this eventually led him to take part in the Cuban Revolution. The discussion commented on various things included the influence of religion on movements in Latin America, the relevance of Che for Latin American struggles today as well as some of Che's shortcomings.The meeting marks an important step in developing support for socialist ideas in North Wales. We already have an active group who are organising two-three stalls a week and discussing with many people. In the next few weeks we will be attempting to finalise becoming an official part of the student union. Our next public meeting will be How Do We Stop the BNP? on Saturday 15th December at 1.30pm in Letcure Room 1 at Bangor University.