Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Sri Lanka - Twenty five years of war and conflict - Socialists fight in Eastern elections

Yes, another repost - this time from the CWI wesbite - but yet again another story connected with human rights - regualr posting wil resume shortly.

Srinath Perera, United Socialist Party, CWI, Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan government is engaged in a war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the north of the country. This year marks its 25th anniversary. This war has cost more than 70,000 lives and billions of rupees of the country’s national wealth.

Both sides have had ups and downs in the conflict and no one has emerged victorious. In 2002 the then prime minister, Ranil Wickramasinghe, and the ‘Tigers’ entered into a ceasefire and the war was halted. Though negotiations were started to find a political solution to the problem they broke down amid accusations by both parties of violating the ceasefire. There was no progress towards negotiations to find a political solution to the Tamil national question. The present president, Mahinda Rajapakse, who came to power in November 2005 on a Sinhala nationalist platform, virtually went back on the ceasefire agreement and again started military attacks in late 2006.

The Sri Lankan military was able to capture Tiger-held areas in the East mainly due to the split in the ranks of the Tigers in that province last year. The president formally abrogated the ceasefire agreement in January this year.

Now the government has started a large-scale military offensive in the North to capture the Tiger stronghold in Wanni and Rajapakse has publicly stated that he wants to get Prabhakaran, the elusive leader of Tamil Tigers, “dead or alive”! This points to the thinking of government leaders that they can crush the Tigers by eliminating their leadership.

However, the present offensive which is in its fourth month now has not yielded any significant gains for the government. The president once spoke about a military victory in the North by the Sri Lankan New Year, which was in mid-April, and the military leaders now give deadlines of August and the end of the year, which indicate that the Sri Lankan military is still far away from capturing the Wanni

The government is hell bent on silencing any opposition to its strategy and programmes. Government and military leaders are labelling left party and trade union activists, human rights campaigners, journalists and media organisations and institutions as ‘traitors to the nation’. Physical attacks and threatening calls are carried out to intimidate such people.

Human rights are violated openly and armed groups closely working with the military are abducting people, mainly Tamils, for ransom. Disappearances, abductions and extra-judicial killings are reported almost everyday, however the government or the police have not taken any meaningful steps to alleviate the situation.

At the moment, the government’s main anger is directed towards the journalists who expose corruption involving top government politicians and military leaders. Twelve journalists, the majority of whom are Tamil, have been killed in the last two and a half years and several others physically attacked. The printing press of one newspaper which is critical of the government was set on fire inside a ‘high security zone’, indicating the military involvement therein. People very much suspect that these death squads operate with the connivance of the defence secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, a brother of the president who has vociferously denounced all those who utter even a word against the war or corruption involving the government and military leaders.

In the mean time, the economy is in dire straits. The war is eating into the state coffers and the government is very very lavish in spending for the war while the ordinary masses are left to fight a loosing battle for their day to day survival. Inflation was around 24% in the last two years and 23.8% in March of this year according to Sri Lanka’s Central Bank. The price of commodities such as rice and milk powder have sky-rocketed during the last six months and the government has not done anything proper to alleviate the suffering of the people.

While the crisis in the world economy and steep rise in the price of oil have contributed to this situation, people are very much angry about it. They blame the rulers as this is mainly due to the inefficiency and mismanagement on the part of the government, comprised of 108 cabinet ministers, probably the biggest in the world. Nevertheless, the main opposition parties and trade union leaders have done nothing against this situation apart from issuing statements. Most of the trade union leaders are allied with the ruling coalition and they do not want to do anything against the government which according to them is engaged in a war to save the country from “terrorism” (of the ‘Tigers’). The working and poor people have been lured to support the war and to believe that the government would make the situation better by ending the war in a very short time.

Bogged down
It is clear, however, that the things are not going to be that easy. At present the government has been able to muster some popular support especially among the majority Sinhalese for its war effort, mainly on the basis of capturing the East and on the promise of the eliminating the Tiger “menace” in the north and the rest of the country within a few months. The Sri Lankan forces seem to be bogged down in a long drawn out war despite their claims of a large number of Tiger casualties. The Air Force has now started bombings in the north even at night. A considerable number of civilians including children have been killed or injured in the past month alone. The LTTE has mounted heavy resistance to the Sri Lankan military offensive in the North and has been almost able to halt the advancing army. While the Tigers undoubtedly have been subjected to heavy attack, causing considerable loss to them, the military is trying in vain to hide the number of casualties among their own ranks, which are not a few by any means.

Unless the government forces are able to gain a significant result within the next two or three months, their support base in the South will begin to evaporate. As the economic burdens get to bear down more and more on them, they will begin to question the wisdom of military leaders hitherto unchallenged by anybody apart from the Left. And people will get war weary. If it were not for the Tigers’ attacks on innocent civilians in the South, such as what seems to have been their work in the bus bombing at Piliyandala on April 25, there would not be much support for the war which is mainly propped up by the ultra-nationalist party of the Buddhist monks (JHU) and the Sinhala nationalist radical petty bourgeois party, the JVP.

Socialist demands
The USP is calling for an immediate end to the war and the beginning of negotiations to find a political solution to the national question of the Tamil people - a vestige left behind by the British colonial rulers. We call upon the government and the Tamil Tigers to respect the human rights of all the people, especially the right to life and the right to freedom of expression. While we cannot have any hope in the Sinhalese ruling class, which is very backward and parasitic, we call for the active involvement of representatives of workers and poor in any negotiations. Only through such participation can the true aspirations of the ordinary masses can be taken into consideration.

United Socialist Party stands in Eastern elections

Elections for the Eastern Provincial Council are to be held on 10 May and the USP is the only left party standing in them. The ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance and the main capitalist opposition United National Party are trying to deceive the people in the East. The Area is comprised of all three communities - Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim – with roughly one third of each. The UPFA is contesting in alliance with the TMVP Tamil People’s L- the split away group from the Tamil Tigers which is still carrying arms and openly acting in collusion with the Army. The UNP is allied with the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress party, which has had the support of the majority of the Muslim people there.

The United Socialist Party is fighting on a platform of an end to oppression and discrimination against Tamil-speaking people, the recognition of a Tamil homeland in a merged North and East of the country with adequate safeguards for the Muslim community, a united struggle of all the people against war, poverty and exploitation and a socialist alternative.

Although the possibility for a free and fair election is very slim with the TMVP’s intimidatory power, the USP is providing the only alternative voice to a people hitherto subjugated by the barrel of the gun.

News Release
Just after this article was written, we received the following statement from the United Socialist Party (CWI in Sri Lanka):

Subramanian Nagularaj, leading candidate of the United Socialist Party for the Batticaloa District in the provincial council elections to be held an 10th May was attacked by alleged Pillayan group (TMVP) members in the heart of Batticoloa town at around 9.30 a.m. on Saturday, 26th April 2008.

Nagulraj and his supporters were distributing leaflets at the main city centre when two men who came on a motor bike assaulted him with their hands and snatched the bundle of leaflets from the candidate and rode away.

The Batticaloa Police was at first reluctant even to entertain the complaint of Nagulraj and only after information was given to the Colombo headquarters they recorded it. However no action has yet been taken to apprehend the suspects.

We are demanding a prompt and impartial inqury on this incident. This proves again this election is being conducted in a state of fear and intimidation by armed groups acting in collussion with the government authorities.

Monday, 28 April 2008


As I've been recntly studying Human Rights Abuses, I've decided to repost this tribute to legndary Nigerian fighter against such injustices Gani Fawehinmi by two members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI in Nigeria).
By Lanre Arogundade and Segun Sango
This article was also published in four national Nigerian newspapers, the Guardian, Vanguard, Nation and Sun, on Sunday, April 20, 2008.

As a consistent and courageous fighter for the masses whose activism span a vast terrain, there can be no shortage of deserved praises and salutations for Gani on this momentous occasion of his 70th birthday. This especially so, as Gani has managed to reach this milestone despite his failing health, the blame of which however rests squarely on the shoulders of Nigerian military dictatorships and their civilian collaborators who inflicted deep injuries on his health through numerous incarcerations in dungeons, called prisons, across the country.

In more senses than one, Gani is actually a story already told and there is simply no aspect of his renowned activism that would not fill volumes ever since he chose to put his legal services at the disposal of the poor and the oppressed beginning with the Obeya case in 1969. The later, it should be recalled, was a poor driver, whose wife was snatched by a military Governor of the then Benue/Plateau state; and then to rob salt into injury, was illegally detained. Gani would have none of such injustice. He picked the gauntlet, instituted legal action on behalf of Obeya and won.

Obeya's case invariably turned out to be the tip of the iceberg in the anti-oppression armour of the gadfly. Hence today, Gani is celebrated as a most authentic Senior Advocate of the Masses (as captured in the title conferred on him by the students of the then University of Ife, Ile-Ife), a foremost human rights crusader (indeed winner of the 1993 Bruno Kreisky human rights prize); an unsurpassed pro-poor legal luminary; a prolific publisher of law books (his Nigerian Weekly Law Reports remains an indispensable companion of lawyers and judges); a compassionate humanist; a pro-masses radical politician (as evidenced in the formation of the National Conscience Party) and many more.

In deciding to write this political tribute, our take however, is that Gani's should not simply be a mere story told or repeated, but an inspirational lesson learnt especially by the working class, the youths, the un-employed, the women and all other oppressed layers of the society. In this sense, the occasion of his 70th birthday needs to be used to highlight the essence of the political life of a man, whose consistency, courage, genuineness of purpose and political sagacity set him poles apart from pseudo-radicals, class collaborators and sidon-lookers who the Nigerian bourgeois press have the proclivity of celebrating as heroes of democracy.

If we harp so much on the imperative of situating Gani's role in the struggle for democracy within the proper historical context, it is also because we hope it would enrich the on-going debate among change seeking elements on the way forward in the aftermath of the massively rigged 2007 elections, the continued imposition of anti-working class policies like privatization of the commanding heights of the economy and commercialization of health and education and the bizarre looting of the nation's treasury. Arising from the debate is the question of fighting these injustices, not just as a pro-democracy or civil society exercise but by taking up the challenge of building a real working class alternative political platform.

In the above context therefore, a cursory examination of Gani's activism would reveal that the over all thrust of his fight against both military and civilian dictatorships was that they represented fundamental aberrations that should not only be rejected and fought, but replaced with a pro-peoples alternative.

The story of his battles against injustice is of course of legendary stuff as few more examples will suffice: facing the bayonets and providing free legal services for leaders and members of the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) during the anti-education-commercialization Ali-Must-Go struggle in 1978; heading an Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) administrative probe panel over the police killing of four students of the University of Ife in 1981; pursuit of justice over the murder of Dele Giwa through parcel bomb on October 19, 1986 a major outcome of which is the Supreme Court's affirmation of the right of private prosecution and hosting of an alternative to the anti-poor Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) conference in his chambers that was however disrupted and eventually led to his detention Gashua prisons in the far North by the Babangida military regime.

However, from our own point of view, Gani's role in spearheading the formation of the NCP in 1994 constitutes his yet most outstanding contributions to the struggle of the ordinary working masses for a permanent decent living and polity.

Firstly, the formation of the NCP was an unprecedented radical phenomenon in the history of political parties in Nigeria. At the time in issue, the military junta as usual, had banned all political parties and all forms of political activities. All the professional politicians who presently hold sway across the country had gone underground, unable to challenge the military's ban on politics. Even the so-called progressives organized within and around the SDP, the party whose presidential candidate, Chief Moshood Abiola won the June 12 presidential elections had shown their utter incapacity to take on the military over the unjustifiable annulment of the June 12 presidential election.

In fact, most of the members of the party in the South-West, at the beginning were elements who felt let down by the passive resistance/collaboration with the military forces by most leaders of the SDP, the self styled progressives.

But the NCP's greatness went beyond the prodigious personal courage of its leader, Gani, who was prepared to stake everything, including his wealth and health. From the beginning, the NCP was expressly meant to be a party of the oppressed, the exploited and the cheated. Hence its motto: "Abolition of Poverty". That was why NCP under Gani led series of mass protests against the Abacha military junta.

In this respect, the struggle against the military also brought out another good side of Gani. Ever before the formation of the NCP, the general media image of Gani was that he couldn't work with anybody else. However, his active role in the formation and leadership of the Joint Action Committee on Nigeria (JACON) represented a crushing refutation of this decidedly prejudicial portrait. Gani led the formation of the NCP because he came to the conclusion that none of the sections of the professional capitalist class across the country, including the so-called progressives in the West, could measure up economically and politically to the needs and aspirations of the masses. Yet, he combined in JACON with the leadership of AFENIFERE, NADECO, etc, to fight military atrocities.

Of course, as someone who characteristically does not suffer fools gladly, Gani unceremoniously resigned his chairmanship of JACON when he realised that most of JACON leaders and their fellow travellers in the so-called civil society were prepared to participate, in the most unprincipled manner, in the Abubakar junta's transition programme. That Gani's judgment was right in this regard was to be subsequently confirmed by the despicable role played in the National Assembly by the elected representatives of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), the off-shoot of AFENIFERE, NADECO, etc. Together with the out rightly pro-military and rightwing elements within the All Peoples Party (APP) (now ANPP) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the AD legislators passed an Electoral Act specifically to deny official recognition to the NCP and other pro-masses parties to function as political parties. It took titanic legal battles fought by Gani and supplemented by mass protests by NCP activists before the Supreme Court eventually gave nod to the NCP to run candidates in elections.

Looking back and despite and in spite of time and financial constraints, the NCP ran a glorious campaign and equally got promising results where it was organized and active. Despite the massive frauds and manipulations, which characterized the 2003 general elections, the party's presidential candidate in the person of Gani came fifth while in Lagos State, the party's governorship candidate came third. In fact, many change-seekers used to urge NCP activists to persevere, as they believed the party was a party of the future.

Unfortunately however, by the time of 2007 general elections, the NCP had virtually ceased to be of any political reckoning. Two factors were responsible for this deplorable turn of fortune for the NCP. One, some of its best leaders including Gani himself decided to take a back stage in the building of the party largely because they felt too disappointed with the sheer fraud and brigandage exhibited by the ruling class under the guise of conducting elections. There was also the frustration felt as a result of the perception that the suffering masses did not do enough to defend their interest against the rapacity of the ruling class.

Suffice to note, the practical exit of people like Gani from NCP enabled an ambitious rightwing clique to gain supremacy of the party leadership at the national level. In place of genuinely committed radical elements building the party at grass-root level which was the main feature of NCP under Gani's leadership, a new rightwing leaders led by Dr. Osagie Obayuwana consolidated their hold on power through conscious promotion and elevation of careerists who are totally incapable of building the party at grass-root level. For most of the years when Gani served as the NCP chairman, the party had no stable income in the form of INEC subvention. Today however, despite regular annual grants from INEC, the party has become organisationally and politically weaker. In 2003, the party's governorship candidate in Lagos State scored over 150,000 votes whereas in 2007, the party imposed a candidate in Lagos State who only scored a shameful 580 votes.

To the class of exploiters and oppressors as well as their lackeys, the failure to build NCP as a formidable party of the masses would be seen as a personal tragedy for Gani. However, this would be nothing but an absolutely false conclusion. This is because it is the general failure to build a genuine masses party that has landed us in today's no win situation dominated by the ruling and opposition parties that are not distinguishable in any positive sense whatsoever.

While many acclaimed political pundits continue to give the false impression that any good can come out of the ruling PDP, ANPP, AC, etc, Gani had long ago, with the formation of NCP, arrived at a much more superior conclusion that a distinctly pro-masses party and government are needed to bail Nigeria out of its vicious economic and political circles. Even while obviously disappointed with the turn of events within the NCP, Gani has essentially maintained faith with the concept of an all Nigerian working peoples' party. This was why he gave active support to all the general strikes and mass protests called by the Trade Unions and the Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) against Obasanjo's neo-liberal policies. And it was for this same reason that he made personate calls on Adams Oshiomole, the former NLC President to run for the presidency so that he can provide a political rallying point for the oppressed masses in order to give a viable ideological resistance to all sections of the capitalist class. For Gani, the issue was not whether it was easier to win the governorship of Edo State than the presidency but rather the necessity of crystallising a distinct untainted banner to rally the working masses against their eternal exploiters and oppressors.

However, whichever side of the argument one finds himself or herself on this debate, the blunt truth remains that without a genuine working peoples government coming to power, Nigeria shall unfortunately continue to reel under the misrule of one set of locusts or another parading themselves as leaders. There can be no greater lesson to learn from decades of Gani's political activism.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Protest Against Fees in Bangor

Bangor Socialist Students held a protest on the 23rd April encouraging the Student Union to support the campaign to defeat fees, which follows several weeks of gathering support for the cause.

Following the rejection of the Student Union to support the motion submitted by Socialist Students, calling on it to support the campaign to defeat fees, the group has been campaigning to change the attitude of the union. Members of the student society have held stalls and canvassed student accommodation to collect a petition that will force the union to hold a referendum regarding their position on campaigning against tuition fees. A total of 250 signatures were needed, but over 300 were collected. People who signed were also encouraged to attend a protest at the union to demonstrate their attitudes towards tuition fees. The campaigning contributed to the sale of over twenty copies of The Socialist in two weeks.

Unfortunately the turnout at the protest was low in comparison to the amount of signatures collected, with a total of ten students attending over the half hour the protest was held, possibly due to it coinciding with dissertation deadlines. Despite this, the protest went well with press coverage from local newspapers, and the addition of a few more signatures, as well as several people passing by expressing an interest in joining Socialist Students. The protest consisted of chants, such as ‘no to war and occupation, spend the money on education’; and a stall providing further information on the campaign and the activities of Socialist Students. At the end of the protest, everybody went to hand in the petition, and a response is expected soon. The petition means that every student at Bangor should get the opportunity to vote in a referendum regarding whether or not the union should support the campaign to defeat fees.

The campaign has revealed the attitude of a large amount of students, who are against tuition fees and has shown that there needs to be more opportunity for students to voice their opinions to an increasingly ignorant government. It is hoped that the Students Union will recognise this and support the campaign to defeat fees.

James Nock

Students also agreed the following message of support, which was signed and shown to workers taking industrial action yesterday

Statement of Support for Striking Teachers and Civil Servants

We here today declare our solidarity with teachers and civil servants taking industrial action against the governments below inflation pay offers. The current government is responsible for the biggest gap between the rich and the poor in this country, and moves to increase tuition fees and hold back the incomes of public sector workers will increase this gap. Student debt will only be compounded even further if pay is held back even further. Therefore this protest wishes to send greetings and its support to teachers and civil servants in Bangor and the surrounding area, taking strike action on Thursday 24th April 2008 and hope for a speedy victory in your struggle.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The Local Elections

This piece is from my column in the latest issue of Seren (our SU newspaper) - after writing it I realise I didn't discuss the BNP which I maybe should have - but I am writing an article for the next issue on them. People may also be interested to know that the Student Union passed a motion submitted by Socialist Students (well, me directly) which responded to recent stuff in the local press blaming students for housing problems around Bangor and also opposing cuts to local public services.

In case people haven’t noticed, it’s going to be local election time very soon. So I would suppose the question of the day is who to vote for? In Wales there are four main parties represented in the Assembly Government – Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru.
As for their records – successive Labour and Conservative governments scrapped student grants and introduced tuition fees – so if you have to work whilst you’re at university to support yourself or if you’re worrying about the huge amount of debt you’re going to get into by the end of university here’s who’s to blame.
As for the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, although both have not governed from Westminster, both have been involved in coalition governments in the Assembly and have run several local councils. Both have been involved in making cuts to public services – which if students aren’t using at the moment – they certainly will be in the future. In Gwynedd where Plaid Cymru are in control of the council, they have, on the back of some funding cuts from the Assembly, drawn up plans to close 29 schools and merge or federalise many others – similar plans are being attempted to be put into effect by the Liberal Democrat controlled Cardiff Council. In Gwynedd, as well as withdrawing funding from Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery, the Plaid Cymru-led council are cutting 300 jobs and closing various other facilities.
So what have we? Four parties with very similar policies. I’m sure people have heard of voter apathy – surely if you’ve got four choices and you don’t want any of them you’re not going to vote. Indeed, this seems to be increasing, especially amongst younger people.
For the majority of the population, including many students, there is no party that represents them. Thus a new one needs to be created, resting on policies that the majority of the population want. Fundamentally for most students, the demand for free quality education is a must, with the provision of a living grant for all students to live off, rather than many students being forced into part-time work which research by NUS and the TUC (Trades Union Congress) has shown can lower grades by a whole classification. But alongside this should be the right to a decent job at the end of university, or as an alternative to university (obviously these probably wouldn’t be the same types of jobs), but they should have a guaranteed minimum wage that is above the poverty pay that the level is set at at the moment.
Linked to that needs to be opposition to the policies of privatisation which have devastated the National Health Service (NHS), particularly the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). What happens under PFI is that to keep public borrowing down, private companies are invited to raise the finance for new building projects and then lease the buildings back to the NHS. Not only do these companies reap huge profits by doing this, but they can also re-finance their original loan, as once the building is built because they have a guarantee from a government institution they are going to get the money back, they can borrow at a much reduced interest rate, making even more money. Add in that the NHS is locked into these deals for periods of upto 25 to 30 years when in some cases they may not need the buildings even 5 years into their life, and you have an NHS which is saddled with massive debts which means that other services have to be cut – the most common recently have been mental health and maternity services. And it isn’t just restricted to the NHS: schools, museums, courts, and other public facilities (even police stations) have been built under PFI.
Another issue that many young people and students are interested in is in opposing the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. These actions were justified as being part of a war on terrorism – but all they’ve been is attempts at plundering the resources of these countries – if anything they’ve destabilised these countries and increased terrorism in the world – both in these countries and abroad. Additionally, draconian legislation reducing civil liberties and various other measures have seen an increase in state terrorism. Removing civil liberties and invasions of other countries must be opposed. If they were really concerned, then the US and Britain wouldn’t have armed Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden in the first place.
I’m involved in a group that aims to create a party like this the Campaign for a New Workers Party (CNWP – see However, such a party needs to be created still and this doesn’t exactly tell you which party to vote for. I’d look at the election materials of candidates in these elections and see if any match up to what I’ve outlined above. If, as they probably will, they don’t match up then I’d argue that rather than ignore the elections, you should show your disapproval by spoiling your ballot paper. But more importantly get involved with campaigns that argue for things your in favour of, and help create the kind of party that is worth you voting for.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

What is Corporate Crime?

I know I haven't posted too much about crime and criminology recently, so here's a something I've been working on to make up for it. This piece is commentary on the second chapter of Steven Box’s Power, Crime and Mystification, which is on this subject.

So what is corporate crime. Box discusses three general types of crimes involving corporations. Firstly there are crimes which are committed against corporations – things such as embezzlement of company funds, theft from the workplace etc. I think this fits much better within talking about white-collar crimes which can include other organisations. The second type is crimes that are committed for corporations – things such as price-fixing, tax fraud etc. The third is corporations that are set up purely to commit crimes – for example a fake company that purchases goods without paying for them. To my mind however, this third group can be split into two which are both forms of the previous two categories. Box concentrates on the second group which he sees as true corporate crime.

Box unfortunately limits himself to dealing with acts that are currently illegal – but as anyone who has studied criminology knows just because something is illegal doesn’t mean it’s harmful and just because is legal doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful either. Box’s reason for limiting himself to this is to make sure he can still appeal to those with liberal sensibilities – a poor excuse really – given as we shall see that corporate crimes are endemic within the capitalist system that such liberals support.

Box presents figure for deaths from 1973-79 showing that workplace related deaths (about 1600 per year) accounted for almost four times as many deaths per year as homicides (about 440 per year). And this is by the conservative estimates of the Health and Safety Executive. Furthermore when this is adjusted for the population that are potentially at risk of these deaths (the workplace population is less than the total population) then the ratio of workplace related deaths to homicides become a shocking 7:1. And this is only workplace related corporate killings, what about improperly tested drugs, industrial pollution etc.

Additionally in the same period there was an average per year of 330,000 non-fatal accidents at work, with an annual average of 14,000 people being diagnosed as suffering from an occupationally induced disease. Added together they average 3 times more than the average for indictable crimes during that period. And again, these figures are based on official data and ignores things that will affect consumers. According to figures Box quotes in the USA 20 million out of 250 million a year are seriously injured by consumer products.

As Box goes on to note “Given the relative invisibility of these crimes, even to those victimized, the fact that they are infrequently reported to or detected by relevant authorities, the absence of any centralized data-collecting agency, and the inconsistent publication of those that are collected, it is impossible to quantify with any accuracy just how serious corporate crime is in economic terms. Furthermore, the figures involved are so astronomic as to be literally incomprehensible.” (pg. 31)

The fact remains that corporate crime is widespread and does far more damage than ‘street crime’. Box is correct, however, when he argues that this doesn’t mean we should ignore ‘street crime’, rather corporate crime ought to be studied almost at least as much as this currently is. However, I would contend that it is less in the interests of capitalism to put the focus of the public and research onto this area than ‘street crime’ (this is not to say that they don’t want it studied – too much corporate crime gets noticed and the system will take some of this blame as well as the company/individual responsible).

Monday, 21 April 2008

Nepal: What now after Maoists’ election victory?

I don't usually do reposts, but the election victory of the Maoists in Nepal deserves particular attention, as I am not an expert on the sistuation I've reposted this report from the website.

The Maoists have won a spectacular victory in the Nepalese elections

Per-Åke Westerlund, CWI Sweden

In a shock for regional and global powers, the Prime Minister as well as ministers of Finance, Defence and the Interior, will now belong to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) who received over a third of the votes. To rub in the humiliation, the US Embassy had predicted the Maoists would get 8-10 per cent of the vote. Workers and poor in Nepal, however, should not expect socialist policies from their new leaders.

By Sunday 20 April, the CPN-M had won 121 seats out of 226 so far counted for the new Constituent Assembly (CA). The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML, the two parties that have dominated most governments since 1990, had 36 and 32 seats respectively. Royalist parties have no seats so far, while new parties representing the Terai population in the south, have more than 20 seats. The Maoists have secured a majority of the 240 directly elected seat. In total the CA will have 601 delegates, of which 335 are proportional and 26 allocated by the interim government. When the counting is finished, the Maoists are forecast to have about 33 per cent of the popular vote and more than a third of the seats. In their strongholds in western Nepal, Rolpa and Rokum, the Maoists as expected won all seats, but even in Kathmandu, the capital, they secured seven out of the 15 directly elected seats. More than 2,000 election observers were in place and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the poll as ”orderly and peaceful”. The Maoist leader received congratulations from the ambassadors of India, Japan and other countries.

It is a remarkable sea-change when the CPN (M) leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal – known as ’Prachanda’ – is the most likely future president of a Nepali republic. Only a few years ago, the government issued a 5 million rupee reward for him, dead or alive. Even earlier, before the start of the ”People's War” in 1996, the party could ”hardly master a presence at its public meetings” (Deepak Thapa, ”A kingdom under siege”). It is also only three years since king Gyanendra in a coup, abolished government and parliament in an attempt to re-establish the absolute monarchy.
The Nepalese Congress Party and the Communist Party (Unified Marxist-Leninists) that have dominated governments since the 1990 people’s power revolt and up to now have been described as the ”main parties” are now in deep crisis. CPN-UML has already announced they are resigning from government.

Enthusiasm and hopes are widespread in Nepal as well as in neighbouring India, especially in the countryside. The Maoists are seen as fighters for land reform and known for cancelling poor families’ debts. At the same time, governments and capitalists are fearful for what kind of model the Maoists will follow.

More far-sighted analysts, however, stress that the Maoists are the ”new mainstream”, indicated by Prachanda’s conciliatory victory speech. He underlined the need for ”good neighbourly relations” with India and China. Secret meetings between the Maoists and US ambassador, Nancy Powell, have also been revealed. ”We are trying to establish close links with the US”, commented Maoist central committee member C P Gajurel.

”Nepal Maoist win rings false alarm bells abroad”, concluded news agency, Reuters, while ultra-capitalist The Economist stated ”there are grounds for enthusiasm”. This on the basis that the Maoists ”are above all nationalists, not leftists,” with economic policies that ”seem quite liberal”. On Monday 21 April, a business website reported, ”Nepal’s stock market has recovered as the reconciliatory rebels pledged to promote a pro-industry, capitalist economy”.

The war years

The Maoists launched their People's War in February 1996, but especially since 2001 their intention has been to reach a negotiated settlement. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) that year launched the ”Prachanda path” as an amendment of Maoism. One of its cornerstones was ”dialogue” with other parties and even the monarchy! By then, the Maoists had already established strongholds particularly in the west, but found it harder to find new fighters. The pressure for the fighting to end was strong. The Maoists and the government conducted several rounds of talks in 2001-03.

It was particularly the ’9/11’ events in the US that prolonged the war, with Western governments supporting the Nepalese ”war on terror”. The same year, in June, king Birendra and his whole family were killed in a massacre. He was replaced by his more confrontational brother, Gyanendra. In November 2001 the Royal Army entered the war. The army was expanded from 50,000 to 75,000 troops and received major support from the US, Britain, India and China.

It is often repeated that 13,000 were killed in the war 1996-2006, but 10,000 of these were after 2001, when the army launched its offensive. State forces killed four times as many as the Maoists. Many of the army’s victims were civilian supporters of the Maoists. Especially in the beginning of the war, the established parties, particularly Congress, were responsible for torture, arrests of journalists and the police campaigns.

The peak of the state’s armed offensive was the king’s coup in 2005. The coup was in response to a strong mass movement in April 2004, when more then ten people were killed in daily clashes in Kathmandu, but also as a reaction to previous governments’ failure to crush the Maoists. However, the king’s power was finished within a year by the ”April revolution” of 2006, a mass movement that surprised all parties, including the Maoists. In November the same year, the established parties and the Maoists agreed to a Seven-Party Alliance which established a coalition government and a temporary parliament.

Further turn to the right

The elections now is for a constituent assembly in which the Maoists will be the biggest party. The comments of Baburam Bhattarai, number two in the hierarchy of CPN(M), in an interview with Indian journalists indicate the Maoists are preparing for further shifts to the right.
First, Bhattarai plays down the historic significance of the Maoists’ election victory: ”I have observed how popular waves have swept parliamentary elections in India. In 1977, Indira Gandhi was defeated. Similarly, sympathy votes after her tragic death helped Rajiv Gandhi to sweep the 1985 parliamentary elections. I had seen such mass hysteria earlier.”

Baburam Bhattarai then stresses the Constituent Assembly will work under an Interim Constitution from 2007 that demands political ’consensus’. The Maoists stress they want a coalition government with all parties in the Assembly. This assembly, according to Bhattarai, will work for two years to draft a new constitution. Apart from deciding for a republic and asking the king to leave his palace, in one of its first sessions, the assembly will work slowly.

”I take it as a great responsibility because we have to restructure the 250-year-old feudal system. You cannot expect it to happen overnight. Secondly, while restructuring the state, we have to take into account different aspects such as poverty, illiteracy, health and others. We don’t have enough resources and skill to reorganise the country in the way we want to. It may take at least 10-15 years to do it”, Bhattarai stated.

This already shows a bureaucratic approach from the coming government. It is true that that the monarchy is 240 years old. But for a long time, 1846-1950, the king was just a figurehead and the country was ruled by a political dynasty, the Rana family. While the accumulation of contradictions and dissatisfaction can take a long time, it is rather the rapid events involving the masses that have changed Nepal. The struggles in the end of the 1940s and early 50s, than again in 1990 and 2006 achieved more than decades of ’gradualism’. Bhattarai wants patience while negotiating with corrupt party leaders in the assembly. ”What we need right now is political stability”, he says. While the masses don’t expect miracles, for any party calling itself socialist or communist, the question of democratic control from below is a key factor. Waiting ”at least 10-15 years” is not part of a successful revolutionary process in any country.

The state

This is particularly the case since the old economic and state powers are fundamentally intact. During their People's War campaign, the Maoists established a de facto separate state apparatus in areas under their control. Their armed forces ruled through ”people’s committees” and a number of front organisations, such as ”All Nepal Women’s Organisation” and liberation fronts for minorities. It this way, the Maoists were able to abolish feudal powers and rules; cooperatives and collective farms were introduced; a third of the Maoists fighters were female in a country with the biggest inequality between the sexes in South Asia; debts were abolished; workers’ received support in their struggle for higher wages; discriminated ethnic groups and castes were promoted. This attractive pro-poor policies could only be achieved through struggle against the ruling elite. Now, however, the Maoist leadership seem to believe they can cooperate with the economic and political elite.
Bhattarai speaks about a ”Truth and Reconciliation Commission” as well as ”integration of the security force”.

The latter is a long standing demand from the Maoists, of a merger between their 29,000-strong People’s Liberation Army and the former Royal Army with 100,000 troops. Previous statements from the Maoists against the need for a big army are now changed. ”The strength of the security forces after the two are combined would be roughly over 100,000. Going by the country’s population, such a number may appear necessary. But we have to reduce the size of the army in the long term. I think that instead of having such a huge number of army, we could go for trained militias who would defend the country at times of war. I think it would be useful to train such a force. We should mobilise them during emergencies”, Bhattarai says. A costly army of 100,000 in one of the poorest countries in the world – to be mobilised ”during emergencies”! Not a word about democratic control or what kind of ”emergencies”. The officers of the national army (the title ’Royal’ was abolished last year) have been trained in the war against the Maoists. In any capitalist country, the role of the army is to be the final defender of the capitalists’ power and a constant threat against movements from below. In South Africa, the real role of the ”Truth and Reconciliation Commission” was to secure the economic power of the previous oppressors while giving nothing to the poor masses. For the Maoists in Nepal, this seems to be an attempt to escape their ’terrorist’ label internationally.


Nepal is a very poor country, ranked 158 out of 179 in GDP per capita, according to the World Bank. Its GDP per capita is only a fifth of China’s and less than half of India’s. The total state budget is only 1.2 billion US dollars, of which western aid accounts for 30 per cent. Hundreds of thousands of young people can’t find jobs, and 80 per cent still work in agriculture. One third of the population of 27-29 million live on less than one dollar a day.

This is what global capitalism has offered Nepal. The Maoists have never understood or advocated the need for a democratically planned economy. Essentially, Maoism is a variant of Stalinism. Stalinism, in turn, was a u-turn from Marxism and Bolshevism in order to preserve the power of Stalin and the bureaucracy that arose after the isolation and exhaustion of the Russian Revolution. Stalinism was marked by several key features: a) it is nationalistic, b) it believes in a ’two-stage’ revolution in which the first, democratic, stage is conducted in alliance with the ’national democratic’ capitalists. This stage always takes precedence over the supposedly later, socialist phase., c) it does not promote world revolution and d) its party and its vision of the state lacks democratic structures and real debate. In Nepal, the first communists, as well as the Nepal Congress, started with armed struggle in the late 1940s (they were labelled ’terrorists’ by the British colonial power). In 1959, the monarchy had to accept the election of a Congress government. But only 18 months later, the king established his dictatorship, ’panchayat’, that lasted until 1990. Initially, Moscow and leading Nepali communists supported the king’s coup against the Congress. This led to a split in their ranks and subsequently to a series of communist parties that looked to China as a model.

Traditionally, communist parties in Nepal have emphasised the demand for a constituent assembly and a republic, and opposition to India’s dominance and towards the monarchy. While many politicians in today’s Congress party were part of the panchayat system, the communists were totally opposed. To the state’s slogan of ”one nation, one language” in a country with more than 40 ethnic groups and many languages, the small communist parties counter-posed the demand for autonomy and rights for minorities.

Just before the movement that overthrew the panchayat system in 1990, there were three Maoist parties. Prachanda had become leader in one of them in 1989, while Baburam Bhattarai was in one of the others. However, they played no role in the movement and failed to make gains in the coming elections despite their criticism of Congress’ and CPN(UML)’s compromises with the king.
The new CPN(M) party in 1995 had a traditional Maoist-Stalinist programme. They wanted to achieve a ”new democratic state” and pointed at six groups in society as their allies. After the working class and poor peasants, they also wanted an alliance with ”rich peasants” and ”the national bourgeoisie”, the latter as opposed to the comprador bourgeoisie and the bureaucratic king. At that stage, they named the Congress leader Giriija Prisad Koirala a ”Nepali Hitler”. Ironically, since 2007, Koirala has been prime minister in a government with five Maoist ministers.

The CPN(M)’s 40-point charter from the start of its People’s War in 1996 included key democratic demands against discrimination and for improved living standards. How these could be implemented, however, was left open. Demands for nationalisation included only the ”comprador capitalists”.

The economy

The vagueness of the Maoists in the 1990s regarding economic and explicitly socialist demands has today been replaced with an open call for alliances with capitalists. Bhattarai wants to follow a Chinese capitalist model, but says the ”age-old feudal system” will limit the possibilities for ”rapid economic progress”. He does not hesitate on what road to take: ”Once we restructure the state and involve the private sector, it will be possible to achieve rapid economic growth. We would implement a transitional economic policy during such an interim period which involves public and private partnership. (...) So, we will follow the policy of attracting domestic and foreign investments. (...) From our side, we have to provide security to investors and create a conducive environment for domestic and foreign financiers.”

The Maoists do not advocate nationalisation or a planned economy: ”The state will play the role of facilitator. The state cannot intervene in business activities. It will encourage investors to raise productivity and generate employment opportunities.”

In words, this does not differentiate the Maoists from most governments. In order to attract foreign investments, Nepal will have to offer low wages and bribes to transnational companies. Experience, however, shows that improvements in the lives of ordinary people have been a result of struggle against local and global powers.

In a further astonishing statement, Bhattarai says, ”And I also think that we will be able to resolve the differences between labour and management.” He does not elaborate how this will a be achieved. The contradiction between the capitalist class and the working class is the main political contradiction in capitalist society. It is not a ”technical” issue between ”labour and management” that a government can solve, especially if the government does not clearly take the side of the working class.

Maoist government

Are the Maoists a completely different party? Are they only taking a ”tactical pause” before pushing ahead to abolish capitalism? Has Nepal been changed forever by these elections?

On the first question, the Maoists will for a long time claim to be different. The Constituent Assembly will decide on the republic which will symbolise a big change, and a victory for the Maoists. The CA might also pave the way for Prachanda as president. If other parties object, or as in the case of CPN (UML), maybe leave the government, the Maoists will no doubt threaten to use their traditional methods of mass protests. They will also be diffuse on whether at some stage they again can take up armed struggle.

The Maoists can for a while rest upon the hatred against the other parties. The movement in 1990, however, holds many lessons for the coming period. Congress and especially CPN (UML) had strong support for a period. But their neo-liberal policies increased the gap between rich and poor. ”It was as if the 1990 movement, which people expected so much of, had never happened”, Deepak Thapa writes in his book. Already in 1992, a People’s Movement Day was organised, with a bandh (general strike). More than ten people were killed in clashes with the police. 1990 to 2003 saw thirteen governments in Nepal, all of them extremely corrupt and incompetent. The trend of increased inequality has never been broken. In absolute numbers, there were more poor people in 1999 than in 1970. Today, the problems of infrastructure, agriculture, industry are more acute than ever.

In decisive fields, the Maoist leadership have proven they are not so different from other parties. They will try to use the coalition government and demands for consensus to say they can’t implement the policies they really stand for. But as shown above, their policies on the state and the economy are almost the same as other parties. Over the last weeks, police have several times clashed with Tibetan demonstrators. Most recently, Nepali police announced they will ’shoot to kill’ any protesters that try to climb Mount Everest, where the Olympic torch will be go on its global relay. The Maoists have sided with the state forces and criticised the Tibetan demonstrators. Despite their previous view that China is capitalist, they now repeat their admiration for Mao – and China.

The question of autonomy for ethnic groups will also be a litmus test for the Maoists. There were strikes for more than two weeks in February in the Terai area on the border with India. The Terai/Madhesi people, which account for half Nepal’s total population, have never had any influence on politics in Kathmandu. In this election, there were strong calls for a boycott, but the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party contested after receiving promises of autonomy. Whether a Maoist-led government will grant this remains to be seen. More likely is that the Terai will be the region where struggle and problems for the new government will occur first.
There are no signs of the Maoists just taking a ”tactical pause”. Even if Mao himself made deals with Chiang Kai-shek’s capitalist regime, he never gave up his armed forces or areas under his control. When Mao came to power in 1949, he soon found out that his power was incompatible with the remains of capitalism. Today, the Maoists in Nepal, on the contrary, seem to believe they can stay in power by not breaking with global capitalism.

Real Marxists, as opposed to Maoists and Stalinists, would follow the tradition of Lenin and the Russian Revolution. Tactical retreats and compromises should not be concealed, or presented as something else, they should be openly explained and discussed in the party and among the organised masses of the people. If the masses in Nepal believe the Maoists have full control and a secret tactic, and only ’appear’ capitalist to fool the enemy, this will only act to confuse and pacify them.
Pressure from the masses and the global economic downturn can put pressure on the Maoists to turn to the left again. It could also lead to splits among them, with rank and file forces demanding land reform and nationalisations. A big obstacle on this road, however, is the military i.e. bureaucratic tradition of decision-making within the Maoist movement. Real socialist forces of workers and youth will therefore be needed to challenge the new government.

Despite its relatively small population compared to its neighbours India and China, events in Nepal have an important influence in Asia, as an example of mass struggle overthrowing a brutal dictatorship. This is also the reason behind the interest in the elections from world powers. Basically, these elections results are like a roar sounding the hatred of the masses towards capitalism and the established powers, as well as the urgent need for revolutionary parties for workers and poor peasants fighting to abolish capitalism and establish socialism throughout South Asia. Nepal shows the potential for such forces.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Am I An Intellectual?

On the link to this blog on the Tired Man of Teaching Blog ( I'm referred to as a 'lefty-intellectual type'. I have never thought of myself as this.
Partially I guess as I've never really got over stopping been a teenager - I still tend to think of myself as being in the first years of uni. Rather than being 22 and doing a masters. I guess sticking around to do a masters is a bit intellectual though?
But then I really hate books that are written in too academic a style, and I don't watch all that many continental films (Pan's Labyrinth and Battleship potemkin is about it) or read that many novels (and the ones I do tend to be sci-fi/comedy - or both!). And I don't like drinking in coffee shops (mostly cos I don;t drink hot drinks) or wine bars.
I've never published any journal articles or given any actual lectures (Of course I've written for the Socialist and student newspapers and spoken at SP meetings).
The jobs I've had consist of
1) Working in a pub kitchen
2) Working in a builders merchants
3) Working in a mail order catalogue warehouse
4) Working in a small shop
5) Working as a councillor's admin assistant
6) Working as an invigilator during GCSE exams
7) Working in a call centre
I suppose too of them could be a bit intellectually, but I don;t think they are.

I think I may be heading in the direction of intellectualism, but I don't think I'm there yet.

Friday, 18 April 2008

200 March Against the BNP in North Wales

I've been rather busy recently, hence the lack of posts. However, I have written stuff during this period which will shortly appear on this website

At least 200 people joined a demonstration against the BNP organised by Wrexham Trades Council last Saturday. The numbers came as a pleasant surprise to many people (including the organisers who had only expected 50 at the rally after the demo).

The demo consisted of members of PCS, UNITE, UCU, NASUWT and other trade unions, as well as anti-fascist campaigners, mostly from Wrexham, but also in other small towns across North Wales and a coach came up from Cardiff.
The BNP are threatening to win district and county council seats in Wales in the upcoming local elections. They are standing across North Wales where they won over 5% of the vote in last years assembly elections, but also in Mid Wales and Swansea. Already they have had several community councillors elected after they stood unopposed.
The demo consisted of members of PCS, UNITE, UCU, NASUWT and other trade unions, as well as anti-fascist campaigners, mostly from Wrexham, but also in other small towns across North Wales and a coach came up from Cardiff. On the march we passed straight past the BNP stall in Wrexham, showing that they are not welcome on our streets.
After the post-demonstration rally, many protesters decided to counter-leaflet against the BNP stall. Unfortunately I only saw one speaker from the platform of the rally join in this action, which is disappointing as it will not just take one-off marches to stop the growth of racist and fascist ideas. The cuts and privatisations that all the main parties favour need to be fought as these allow the BNP to scapegoat immigrants as being responsible for this. The trade unions have a vital role to play in doing this, but at the moment many of their leaderships are tied to the Labour government which is carrying through these attacks. Ultimately we need a party that is prepared to stand up against these attacks, building the Campaign for a New Workers Party in North Wales is an urgent priority.
Socialist Party members sold 16 copies of The Socialist on coaches to the demo and at the demo itself, as well as one copy of Socialism Today and one copy of the newly published France 1968 book by Clare Doyle.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Crime & Venezuela

This is a letter I wrote that was published in this month's issue of Socialism Today, It related to this article from the February issue by Tony Saunois (see

In the recent article by Tony Saunois on Venezuela he correctly points out that the blight of crime in Venezuela “is a critical question”. Indeed many media reports in this country about Venezuela focus on crime in one form or another, whether it is reports of the murder rate in Caracas, the latest kidnapping or another prison riot. As Tony comments “Violent crime is now seen as a major issue as the government is seen as having failed to deal with it.”
Tony quotes murder rates in Caracas of 33.2 per 100,000, with eleven murders a day in Caracas in November 2007. Indeed the figures Tony quotes shows that Venezuela is one of the most murderous countries in the world. According to figures from the 7th United Nations Survey on Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (using figures collected between 1998 and 2000), Venezuela came 7th out of 62 countries in total numbers of crimes, lower than the United States, Mexico, South Africa, Colombia, Russia and India. However, several of those countries have much larger populations than Venezuela (as Tony notes in the article per 100,000 people the US murder rate in 2000 was 5.51 much lower than Venezuela).
However, in terms of crime (in general) per 1000 people, Venezeula ranks 46 out of 60 with 9.3 per 1000, whereas the UK, USA, South Africa, Germany and Chile have much higher rates (85.6, 80.1, 77.2, 76.0 and 88.2 per 1000 respectively). Crime figures are often not brilliantly reliable, because not only do they reflect the actual crime rate, but they are also a product of each countries different classifications of crime, the reporting rate of crime, decisions on what crimes to record etc. Also, one crime type may be much more prevalent than the general rate (ie in Venezuela murder and serious violent crimes like kidnapping), which may skew or not the figures. Murder however tends to be well reported (if not only for the seriousness of the crime, then also the fact it can be cross-checked with other data including hospitals admissions etc.)
After the short discussion of crime rates, Tony then comments that “Some may argue that it is unfair to blame Chavez for the high levels of crime”. Indeed Chavez inherited a legacy of crime and corruption on assuming the Presidency from previous pillaging capitalist rulers. The high murder rate, rampant prison overcrowding and other problems were just one part of that legacy. Tony also points out that crime is a product of social conditions, in particular poverty and alienation. Some of the proposals in the defeated referendum would have alleviated these to an extent, particularly the reduction of the working week, as have other previous reforms. Those reforms have, as Tony notes, been financed on the back of high oil prices and economic growth. The coming world recession places these reforms in jeopardy as is mentioned later in the article. Chavez has failed to nationalise most of the decisive sectors of the economy, which have been giving bonanza profits to the Venezuelan capitalists. Only through the nationalisation of these sectors of the economy, under democratic working class control can these resources be fully utilised to eradicate poverty and moreover stop capitalist disruption of the Venezuelan life, such as the current food shortages.
However, as is discussed in the article, Socialists do not stand back and do nothing in the meantime; instead we believe that “it is necessary for the worker’s movement to take it [the crime question] up in a practical way”. The article discusses the corruption prevalent in the Venezuelan police, but the demands made by Marxists in relation to the state are applicable not just to the police but all sections of the criminal justice system. It is no good for the police to arrest, for example, some fascist thugs, for the thug to be unconditionally released by the courts which are dominated by the usually conservative judiciary. Similarly, there is not much point in letting those convicted of crimes simply rot away and become even more brutalised in overcrowded jails. The whole criminal justice system needs to be taken under the democratic control of the community, with full trade union rights for the workers within it.
As is mentioned in the article, the creation of an organised movement of the working class and poor is crucial. Only this, armed with a socialist programme can guarantee the victory of the Venezuelan revolution and lead a real fight to rid Venezuelan revolution and lead the real fight to rid Venezuela of it’s blight of violent crime.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

NUS conference report: Struggle still essential

This is a full report of NUS conference taken from this weeks The Socialist and a piece about the activist academy happening at Portsmouth Uni today.

Newly elected National Union of Students (NUS) president Wes Streeting, claims students will lose influence on the government if they protest and demand free education. Apparently students only have to ask for the £3,000 cap on fees to be maintained and the government will listen.

Disgracefully Labour Students and the rest of the right wing leadership opposed a call for a national demonstration to put pressure on the government and spoke against organising a mass campaign against fees and for free education in the run up to the review of the cap on top-up fees in 2009.

But Wes's tactic is not having much 'influence' as vice chancellors and universities are already budgeting for the increased income from higher fees.

This ludicrous argument was answered during the conference debate by Mia Hollsing from Cardiff Socialist Students. Mia argued that the most effective way of defeating fees and forcing the government to properly fund education is by "mobilising students into action and linking up with workers who are fighting attacks on their pay and conditions in a mass campaign".

Arran Cottam, from University of the West of England Socialist Students, received enthusiastic applause when he proposed NUS support for the teachers' industrial action on 24 April. He called on students to support picket lines and demonstrations but the NUS bureaucracy would not allow Socialist Students to propose an emergency motion.

But students also won a victory at the NUS conference. A proposed new constitution, which would have removed any potential for the NUS to represent and fight for ordinary students, was defeated.

The New Labour-backed NUS leadership attempted to force through undemocratic structural changes such as allowing student unions to opt out of mandatory cross-campus elections for delegates to NUS conference and replacing the current national executive (NEC) with a senate and board that would have allowed unelected 'experts' to veto any campaigns or actions proposed by elected student representatives.

The constitution was rejected on the basis of a higher turnout of students to NUS conference than in previous years. Despite attempts to pressurise delegates to vote in favour, Labour Students and others on the right narrowly failed to get the two-thirds majority they constitutionally needed to push through the attacks.

Socialist Students members contributed to the defeat of the right wing by organising opposition to the review in many student unions and mobilising ordinary students (ie those who are not seeking to carve out a career in politics seeing NUS as the first step!) to the conference.

The NUS leadership are already contemplating organising undemocratic extraordinary conferences (possibly in the summer when students are not on campus!) to push through their unwanted constitution.

Socialist Students explained that a democratic and campaigning NUS can only be defended by involving the mass of students in campaigning against fees, cuts, privatisation and other New Labour attacks.

There was a significant minority of activists at the conference, particularly from Further Education colleges who responded positively towards Socialist Students with many delegates buying copies of The Socialist and signing up to find out more.

However, because of the grip of the New Labour right-wing clique that runs NUS conference, the majority of ordinary students on campuses across the country are not involved in the structures and events of the NUS. This means that the majority of delegates to conference are not fighters or campaigners, but people looking to build political careers.

Fightback needed
Arran Cottam, Socialist Students candidate for the NEC, put forward a socialist fighting strategy for building links with workers and fighting back against New Labour during the hustings but missed out on a position on the NEC.

The right wing have a majority on the NEC (as well as New Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were elected) and will continue to use the bureaucratic structures against campaigns.

The left are in a minority on the NEC with Student Respect having two representatives on the part time 'block of 12'. The most effective use of their positions will be to go out to ordinary students and other activists and campaigners to democratically build effective mass action against fees.

Socialist Students and the Campaign to Defeat Fees has shown what is possible by organising a wide range of action against university fees, including days of action with over 50 coordinated protests around the UK.

This gives a glimpse of the anger that exists on campuses and in the colleges, and shows the potential for campaigning against fees and privatisation. It also shows the potential support for a genuine left campaigning alternative to the current NUS leadership.

Portsmouth Activists Academy - Get active and fight back!

This academic year has seen students protesting against fees around the country on 21 February, against anti-democratic attacks on students in Nottingham and Sussex, against privatisation of services in Exeter, saying no to military recruitment in universities in UCL.

Students are also involved in wider campaigning on national and international issues, such as climate change, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other issues. The Portsmouth Activists Academy aims to involve these activists in discussions around how to campaign, what is possible through campaigning and discussions on the different issues that face student activists.

There will be speakers on events in Venezuela, recent youth struggles in France and Greece, issues that students face such as the fight for free education, the future of the NUS, as well as workshops to share campaigning ideas. Virginie Prégny, French activist and trade unionist and member of the Committee for a Workers' International, will speak on May 1968, and whether it can happen again.

The Academy takes place on Saturday 12 April, starting at 10am.

If you are interested in coming along or building a fight back against fees, cuts, closures and privatisation, contact Socialist Students at,, 020 8558 7947 or at Socialist Students PO Box 858 London E11 1YG or visit for Portsmouth Students Union.

Friday, 11 April 2008

On Building Anti-Nuclear Campaigns

A week or so ago this question was brought up on Duncan’s blog. In the course of replying to the post I raised several points which I wish to develop further here. I’m going to develop them in relation to nuclear power in North West Wales, however, I hope that to an extent they can be transposed elsewhere, although important differences need to be taken into account (ie. the Sellafield reprocessing centre is obviously a different type of establishment to most nuclear plants).

In an attempt to appear ‘green’ first Blair’s labour government and now Brown’s has been driving towards a new generation of nuclear power as a solution to the ‘energy crisis’. They present it as a carbon neutral solution which needs to be adopted as existing energy sources (coal, gas, oil) are too dirty (and rely to a large extent upon ‘unreliable’ countries) and renewables (wind, tidal, wave etc.) are not developed enough get. So naturally what’s good for British capitalism is good for everyone.

But lets not forget that nuclear power gets ten times as much spent on research into it than renewables, or that nuclear gets massive subsidies. Or that nuclear power is not carbon neutral – the uranium has to be mined and transported, nuclear power stations have to be constructed etc. This isn’t to mention the health risks of radiation seeping out, the somewhat clichéd possibility of meltdown (unlikely – but given the bad safety record of the British nuclear industry, and the likelihood of a new generation of nuclear power been privately owned – it cannot be written off) and, probably most worryingly of all, that there is no known way of dealing with nuclear waste (and simply saying that we’ll somehow be able to deal with it in the future doesn’t solve the problem).

So nuclear power isn’t good and we know it. But this isn’t the whole story – nuclear power has been in existence in the UK for over 40 years, it has become embedded into local communities. Many of the places where nuclear power stations have been built are somewhat rural or isolated and thus the nuclear power plant is likely to be the main employer in the area. No matter how forceful the above arguments are, this is likely to be of far more importance.

I mean to write another piece on decommissioning nuclear power plants and nuclear waste, but for now it is sufficed to say that decommissioning tends to employ as many people as an active plant. Transfynedd is Gwynedd has been in the process of decommissioning for over 15 years now and still employs around about as many people as when it was active. This is before mentioning that maintaining renewable sources of energy would also employ some more people too. However, this level of employment is on a capitalist basis is only a beginning, on a socialist basis by reducing the working day, employment could be found for many more people.

As Socialists we need to go beyond just what any other anti-nuclear protesters say (as they do not necessarily solve peoples problems) and explain what a socialist society could do about these issues. We also need to orientate anti-nuclear campaigns to engaging in campaigning activities. Whilst Pawb ( is very good in terms of explaining the problems with nuclear power, it is much less good at getting ordinary people in Ynys Mon and Gwynedd involved in trying to do something to change the world around them. It is not just a question of doing something to stop this generation of nuclear power plants from being implemented, but a question of taking our destinies into our own hands so we don’t face this same battle again.

I Need A Commenting Policy

After the highjacking of the previous thread, I think I need to institute a commenting policy.

1) Anonymous comments will be deleted - pick a name and stick to it
2) Do not copy and paste off other blogs/websites etc. It takes forever to read for a start. If necessary provide a link
3) Stick to the point of the topic - discussing the BNP in North Wales is fine and anti-racist/anti-fascist tactics in relation to the below post. Commenting about the labour party (which I am not a member of) and racism can be done on the blog of someone who wishes to talk about that and who advocates the labour party as a solution (which I don't).
4) High-jacked threads will be deleted.
5) Comments will now be moderated.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Wrexham March Against the BNP

This piece is from this weeks socialist to promote the demo.

Saturday 12th April is the date for a demonstration against the British National Party called by Wrexham. The BNP received 5.1% (986 votes) in last May’s assembly elections, and received 9% in Wrexham. This year they are standing across North Wales, with 7 candidates in Wrexham – as well as candidates in Flintshire, Denbighshire, Conwy and even Gwynedd. Socialist Party members from North Wales will be taking part in the demonstration raising the need for a new worker’s party standing against cuts and privatisation to cut across the spread of the BNP.

Assemble 11.30am outside the town museum on Regent Street to march to rally at Queen’s Square.

Northern Ireland Hunger Strike - Solidarity Needed!

I haven't posted on this yet, and I probably should have. This dispute is long running and begins with stewards and workers being sacked by ICTS in Northern Ireland with the assistance of full-time union officers. That in itself is a disgrace! Further to this, the workers took the case to court and won, without any assistance from the union who then promised to pay compensation and the legal costs. This agreement has now shamefully been broken and forms the background to the latest events - please see the original press release below and the latest update and send protests to &

Sacked airport shop stewards to re-commence hunger strike at Transport House

Union leaders accused of reneging on promises and commitments given to workers

The two shop stewards have pledged that “we will not call off our hunger strike until we have firm commitments from Tony Woodley that he cannot wriggle out of.”

Two of the shop stewards who were sacked six years ago by airport security company, ICTS, are to begin a hunger strike at Transport House in Belfast on Monday 7 April, demanding that their union, Unite (formerly the TGWU) honour commitments made to them last summer.

Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta have pledged that they will remain on hunger strike until their demands are fully met.

Last September a hunger strike and rooftop protest at Transport House was called off only after Tony Woodley, Unite General Secretary, agreed that the workers’ demands would be met within seven days.

He agreed that the union would pay the £200,000 in legal costs arising from the long court battle which the workers had to fight against ICTS without any support from their union. The workers won this battle, securing last August a landmark legal decision that found they had been sacked because of their trade union opinion and socialist political beliefs.

Tony Woodley also committed the union to pay the costs of defending this decision against any appeal by ICTS. He also promised that the union would pay damages to cover the financial and other hardship these workers have suffered. This was in recognition of the fact that, as was proven in court, senior union officials colluded with ICTS to have 24 of their members, including all their shop stewards sacked. Irish regional secretary, Jimmy Kelly, also made these commitments.

Not one of the commitments made last August has been met. This is why the two shop stewards, backed by their colleague, Chris Bowyer, have decided to resume their protest and have stated that this time “we will only call off our hunger strike when we have firm commitments from Tony Woodley that he cannot wriggle out of.”

Gordon McNeill explains:

“We are taking this drastic action because the leadership of our union have left us with no alternative. All we are asking for is justice. When Tony Woodley promised last September to meet our legal bill and provide compensation, that was an admission that the union was at fault in getting us sacked and in refusing to back our fight over six years.

“We accepted his word and called off our action. We soon discovered that the word of Tony Woodley and other senior leaders of this union is worthless.

“Not one of the promises they made have been kept. We have been left to pay half of our £200,000 legal bill, an impossible amount for low paid workers who found themselves out of work because we were betrayed by our union.

“ICTS are appealing the Tribunal decision and the union have not honoured their commitment to cover the costs. Our legal team have told us they are going to pull out of the case because the union will not put up the money to fight it.

”This means that ICTS can win the case by default. A victory we won for all trade unionists last year could be reversed because the leaders of Unite are about to present ICTS with an legal open goal.

“As to the promise to compensate us for their role in colluding with ICTS to get us sacked, not a penny has been offered or given.

“We are now demanding that all the commitments made last September by Tony Woodley and other senior Unite officials, including the senior regional officials in Ireland, be met in full. We also want a public inquiry set up to examine the union’s handling of this dispute from day one until now.

“We are not entering into this protest lightly. Madan Gupta is 72 years old and suffers from diabetes. I am 38, but in poor health with a heart condition. We know the consequences of starting what this time is likely to be a protracted hunger strike but we are absolutely determined to face the consequences.

“As we have said repeatedly over the last six years, we are not anti-trade union. We are committed trade unionists and want to see strong unions that are able to defend the interests of their members. It is the rotten role played by trade union leaders, as in our dispute, which disillusion workers and weaken the unions.

“ICTS thought we would just go away but we stuck it out and won an important victory against them. Tony Woodley and the Unite leadership should not make the same mistake and think that, because we are just ordinary workers from Northern Ireland, that they can walk all over us. Our struggle will continue until justice is done.”

Both Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta have been rushed to Belfast City Hospital in a critical condition.

This is the second time today that Mr McNeill has been hospitalised. Quickly after returning to Transport House, Mr McNeill took ill and was joined by 72 year-old diabetic Madan Gupta back to Belfast City Hospital. Doctors earlier today warned that both McNeill and Gupta are likely to have suffered irreversible kidney damage as a result of their refusal to eat and drink. UNITE still refuse to meet with the workers who have been fighting for over 6 years for justice.

For updates contact Gary Mulcahy on 07743282321
For more info visit and

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The Truth/RE: Consolation Prize

This is a poem i wrote about truth commissions and how their limitations mean that they hide the deeper problems people face in the neo-colonial world. Please let me know what you think, as this is the first poem i've written for ages.

so you’ve waited all those years
not knowing, jUst searchiNg
trying to pick up missing pieces
whilst you’re sinking into sand

so you’ve wanted to know why
you, me, US And them
but the frame didn’t fit the picture
links were missing from the chain

so you’re looking for an answer
seE how oUr lives were betrayed
interference blocks the signal
buried under mess they made

so you need to know the details
Where, whaT, hOw?
and you get told this one secret
it’s not okay, cos nothing’s changed

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Definitions of Criminality – Some Thoughts from Steven Box

At the moment I’m currently reading Power, Crime and Mystification by Steven Box. It’s a book all to do with State and Corporate crimes, and has so far been an interesting read. What I wish to comment here is on something I’ve reflected upon in my Draft Principles of a Marxist Criminology, which he considers in the first chapter of the book.

Why are some behaviours criminalised and others not? This has been a fairly central question in criminology. Box discusses some of the ideas why this is so. He first picks up on the view that criminal law is a tool of the ruling class and thus flowing from that – what is criminalised are ‘…problem populations perceived by the powerful to be potentially or actually threatening the existing distribution of power, wealth and privilege.’(pg.7)

But as Box notes, this isn’t the whole story – as I have previously commentated it is not the case that ‘…all criminal laws directly express the interests of one particular group, such as the ruling class. Clearly some legislation reflects temporary victories of one interest or allied interest groups over others, and none of these may be identical or coincide with the interests of the ruling class’, however, Box also argues that ‘…these victories are short lived. Powerful groups have ways and means of clawing back the spoils of tactical defeats.’(pg.8)

Box also notes that in a sense many laws are ‘in all our interests’ as nobody wants to be a victim of serious crime. However, Box notes this is not the whole picture. Taking murder – he points out that this basically is avoidable killings. However, there are many other types of avoidable killing – such as unsafe working conditions etc. As Box notes ‘We are encouraged to see murder as a particular act involving a very limited range of stereotypical actors, instruments, situations, and motives. Other types of avoidable killing are either defined as a less serious crime than murder, or as matters more appropriate for administrative or civil proceedings…’(pg.9) As Box goes on to note, the people who commit legally defined murder are usually poorer and less powerful than those who commit mere avoidable killings.

He goes onto show how this relates to theft, sexual crimes, assault and terrorism and concludes ‘Thus criminal laws against murder, rape, robbery, and assault do protect us all, but they do not protect us equally.’(pg.11) I’m inclined to agree with Box, in the conclusions he draws as a consequence of this operation of the criminal law, which are

1) Less privileged people are more likely to be arrested and punished
2) The illusion is created that those people are also the most dangerous in society
3) It helps disguise the fact that the powerful create the conditions for the offending of the powerless
4) It makes the criminal justice system look like a neutral arbiter –above everything.
5) Makes people dependent on the criminal justice system and hence the state for protection, even though this body is likely to make the problems worse

The only thing I don’t like is the looseness of the terms powerful, powerless and privileged, but the general thrust of this I think is in line with things I have commented on previously.

Monday, 7 April 2008

I've Been Away

Hi all,

sorry i haven't posted for a while, I've been busy reading stuff and making notes on various things for my course at uni, as well as having a job interview for the first time in months (yay!!).

Anyway, to make up for the lack of posts, I recommen you check out this blog

Friday, 4 April 2008

Counter-Terrorism Bill – Massive Expansion of Powers

Passing through parliament at the moment is the governments latest set of measures to tackle terrorism. This is yet another toughening up of existing powers and represents no new direction to anti-terrorist policy. And if the previous policies clearly weren’t working what’s the point in increasing the harshness of them. But this new legislation is not about protecting people, it’s much more about our capitalist government having the power to do what it wants.
The most talked about aspect of the bill is the planned extension to the time that ‘terrorist’ suspects can be detained without being charged from 28 to 42 days. But alongside that there are other elements such as a terrorism register, increased powers to take documents, DNA and fingerprints, allowing the use of phone tap evidence, and most worrying of all perhaps is the power to ban the public from inquests (ie. Into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes).
All these measures are attempts to circumvent accountability and remove more and more freedom from people. It’s an attempt to expand New Labour’s license to do what they want and move in a direction of a police state. These attacks will require action by the labour movement to defeat and further actions to return the other rights that have been stolen from us in the name of the ‘war on terror’.
Rather than removing even more civil liberties there are several ways that terrorism can be combated. Firstly ending the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan that act as recruiting sergeants for right-wing political Islam. But more fundamentally, we need to put an end to the rule of profit and competition which led the US and UK to engage in these imperialist conquests and create a world in which we eradicate poverty and suffering.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Immigration and Detention

This piece takes a look at the growing increase of the use of detention of immigrants and asylum seekers discussed in an article by Mary Bosworth titled ‘Immigration Detention’ in the Spring 2008 issue of Criminal Justice Matters.

As Bosworth notes, especially after 9/11, increasingly mandatory uses of detention are being made in the case of immigrants. Not only is this being used on all sorts of foreigners – from those who have overstayed their visas, to asylum seekers, to those who have completed a prison sentence.

As Bosworth points out, Britain leads the way in confining the greatest number of asylum seekers for the longest period of time. And of these immigrants which are held (this isn’t just including asylum seekers), 85 per cent are held in Immigration Removal Centre (of which 7 are contracted out to private security firms, whereas 3 are run by the prison service), 13 per cent are confined in prison and the remaining 2 per cent are in short-term holding facilities (whatever they are?).

However, immigrants detained as these are under the Immigration Acts are not being detained as criminals – yet as we have seen they are being held in the same or very similar institutions as those convicted of criminal offences. As Bosworth points out though, they are being held in places which were (or still are) penal establishments, being looked after by prison trained staff and being administered by former criminal justice system administrators.

Parallel to the crackdown on civil liberties is a crackdown on the rights of non-citizens of a country. But like terrorist legislation, it may find it’s way to affect the rest of the population – Bosworth reports that in Australia citizens of that country had been falsely deported.

So how, do I conclude such a piece as this? I think that for one thing, these actions can only fuel nationalistic and racist tensions in a country. Secondly, that this is to some extents making mountains out of molehills – what benefit is there to punishing immigrants and asylum seekers for being just that? Rather, as ever, we need to remove the social conditions that have led them to become these labels.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Lying About Crime

This week the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London published a paper entitled Critical Thinking About Uses of Research by Tim Hope and Reece Walters. This piece draws on that paper. One thing I haven’t mentioned in my report is the call by in the paper by Reece Walters to boycott Home Office Research

One of the things that the New Labour government has hyped up in criminal justice has been that it will try and used evidence based research to guide it’s policies. After heavy doses of new right ‘prison works’ style-measures, the idea was to use measures that actually do something to reduce or prevent crime. Yet, here they have distorted facts just as they have done in many other realms.

68 per cent of the Home Office research budget is directed towards studying crime and criminal justice. That’s £46.6million! During this period, the then Home Secretary, John Reid organised a pause of publication of research findings and then subsequently declared the department not fit for purpose and split it into two.
In Walters’ piece he discusses how the government has talked about ‘listening’ to academic research on issues but describes several occasions when senior researchers at the RDS (the Research Development and Statistics Directorate of the Home Office) spoke to conferences about government policy and ignored any critical comments made on this policy.
Walter’s also discusses the problems with the Home Office’s research agenda. It is very limited, as Walters says, ‘Any credible independent research that is likely to shed a negative or critical light on the policies and practices of government will not be procured, funded, published or even debated by the Home Office.’(pg.14) This is even more worrying as the RDS commissions the majority of criminological research in this country and is the single largest employer of criminologists.
The subjects investigated are limited – indeed given its place as biggest commissioner of research it sets the trend for the limited horizons that official criminology has. Human rights violations, corporate crime, miscarriages of justice are not investigated at all. Walters also notes that the RDS tends to employ psychology, economics and physics graduates rather than sociological and criminological graduates. This serves to reinforce the skewed nature of Home Office research that, as Walters alleges, serves merely to support existing government policy.
Walters also discusses a piece of research he was commissioned as part of a team to do for the Scottish Executive. When their report was used by the Executive only to highlight the most positive features, they published a critical journal article which led to a backlash at them with funding cuts and pressure put upon the institution to take disciplinary action against them.

The second piece is a more technical piece about Home Office use of peer-review methods. Hope first explains what peer-review is and then discusses the closed nature of Home Office peer-reviews, which ultimately screens their methods of selecting what research they will publish. Hope discusses how research pieces that did not agree with the policy direction of the Home Office, even though peer reviews found them to be good pieces of work, were subsequently not published.
Both authors conclude that repression of critical research is a bad thing. I heartily agree – well written and argued criticism is to welcomed as it helps us to refine our ideas and understanding of events. But politics and knowledge cannot be separated. As the authors show a particular type of politics breeds its own false knowledge about the world. Walters argues for counter-hegemonic research, but there is still the question of where the funding comes from this research. I think funding for research of that kind will be to some extent dependent on the correlation of political forces in society. The neo-liberal ideology needs to be held to account politically, and for this purpose critical research will need to feed into a political alternative.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

NUS Reforms Fall

If you're looking for todays actual post on female prisoners - and a very interesting one too - please look before. This piece here is breaking news!

Yes, the proposed NUS reforms that NUS has been pushing all year round have failed to get the required 2/3 majority for them to pass.

What does this mean?

As one Socialist Student member at the conference told me 'NUS is likely to implode'. Several student unions that had previously attempted to disaffiliate and had been stopped, or had been considering it have leant their weight to the governance review process. The process was being pushed mostly by 'independents' a combination or right-wingers and local student union bureaucrats (by bureaucrat i mean those whose main concern is the smooth functioning of a student union, rather than it's use as a campaigning body). Given that this project has now failed it is possible that many of these will try to disaffiliate from NUS.
The other problem is the nature of the vote - despite it falling a majority of votes cast were on the side of the current NUS ruling clique. This means that despite the apparent 'victory' this does not signify a turn towards the left of NUS, rather a defeat of the right (in a kind of opposite way to Chavez in last years December referendum). The left in NUS is currently divided, this vote doesn't change that either. The only way to build a viable left is to build it on the campuses in a campaigning manner, not through voting pacts at NUS Conference. This is why the conference called by Portsmouth Students Union for April 12th will be crucial.

Women in a Prison System that just can’t cope

Incidents of self-harm of female prisoners increased by 50% over the last five years. There have been 115 deaths of women prisoners in the last 17 years in prisons in England. These figures should shock – they are a sign that the way the criminal justice system currently treats women offenders should not and cannot go on.

Imprisonment of female offenders has doubled over the last ten years with a current population of 4,430. There has been no corresponding increase in female offending according to official statistics – so this means that sentencing has increased up the scale (from non-custodial to custodial and from shorter to longer sentences). 9 out of 10 female offenders in prison did not commit a violent offence, the most common being handling stolen goods.

Most people imprisoned suffer from mental health disorders, reading through comments about some of the tragedies that happen you see that self-harm and suicidal incidents have points where they could have been prevented. I think it’s clear that if these people need to be in some sort of secure facility, then it needs to be one that can help them deal with the mental health problems rather than exacerbate them. I think one final point about this needs to be made – prison officers are not able to deal with mental health problems and they should really be expected to – whilst I hope they can make the best of the appalling situation they are and try and prevent more incidents, they are simply not able to deal with these situations.

But what to do instead of this current situation? I think it is painfully clear that this level of imprisonment cannot continue. Several groups call for the abolition of prison for women, and indeed extend this to the abolition of prison generally. However, I’m not sure if this stand is correct. Firstly, what do you do with all of those people- what alternative sentence should they get? But secondly, and much more important I think, it doesn’t challenge the control of the criminal justice system by the capitalist class. The only real democratic input into the system comes from jury trials, and even then of pretty much limited to ‘guilty or not guilty’, the sentence is done by an appointed judge. This I think is what needs challenging, the community should be the ones that decide the sentence after hearing all the facts.

More fundamentally necessary is an entire reorientation of the criminal justice system – it should be geared towards the eradication of crime, but the solution to such a problem goes way beyond the criminal justice system, we need a society that doesn’t cause such widespread mental heath problems and isn’t criminogenic.