Friday, 27 February 2009

Naming and Shaming

In their all consuming quest to appear 'tough' on crime, government ministers are looking at plans to distribute leaflets to 'name and shame' offenders who have been convicted in local courts. Apparently, making calling community service 'Community Payback' instead and making those on it where high vis jackets simply isn't enough posturing for the government.

'Tough' Measures for Trivial Crimes

According to a report in the Guardian (25/02/09) "Lack of confidence in community payback is one of the primary reasons governments feel forced to build more expensive prisons". To the government's and the media's way of thinking the response to crime needs to be good hard punishment to deter the offender and others from committing more offences. But what good does this actually do?
One of the of adopting measures on the basis of 'toughness' is that it makes them very unlikely to do anything about the reasons why someone is actually committing a crime. Having a criminal record excludes people from certain jobs, and prisons are not exactly the places to send people if you want them to come out completely reformed (with a 60-odd% recidivism rate). Naming and shaming someone for a trivial offence only will serve to add to this problem.

Aim some 'Tough' Measures Elsewhere

Whilst those guilty of minor offences are to be named and shamed, people causing far greater damage often escape unnoticed. And by this I don't just mean the big bankers and the recently exposed fraudsters - I mean those responsible for devastating cuts to local public services, for huge job losses, destroying the environment etc. Indeed, the one area where naming and shaming might be of some use is with people who try to make themselves appear 'respectable'.
But this isn't really what I want to get at. 'Tough' measures need to be taken to put our economy into the hands of ordinary people so masses of profits won't just be tucked away in some Cayman Islands account but be spent on providing meanigful jobs for people, decent homes etc. so that those who commit crime for economic reasons (or reasons flowing from that) have no need to do so.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Demo Against Fees

Yesterday I went down to London for the day to take part in the national demo against fees which has being organised by various left-wing student groups.

The demo wasn't huge, but at a turn out of a round a thousand it was a little bigger than I expected (Although Socialist Worker has put it at 800). Socialist Students had around the same number on the demo as SWSS, and then there were small groups of ENS, Revolution, Communist Students and Socialist Appeal members on the demo as well as some other small groups.

What was unusual for me about this demo was that I was a steward, which was a new experience. Nothing major happened, so the only major stewarding things I did was warning people to move around parked cars!

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Stop fees, No to cuts, Save education

Article from the back page of this weeks The Socialist.

FOR YEARS the government, echoed by the National Union of Students (NUS) leadership, has told students they would get a fantastic job at the end of their course to pay off their student debt. But as the economy went on the slide last year, so did many final-year students' employment prospects.

Iain Dalton, Bangor Socialist Students

Now students increasingly question the current system of funding university education. And it's not just job opportunities in jeopardy. As The Socialist previously reported, several universities face big cuts in funding which threaten them with potential bankruptcy.
The government's director-general for research and science, Professor Adrian Smith, blames these crises on the government taking too long over the question of raising the cap on tuition fees. He says neither Labour nor Tories want to touch the question, afraid of the backlash that they might face.
The government and university vice-chancellors are looking at three options, increasing fees, raising interest on student loans or making cuts to courses. None of these options are acceptable to students.
Despite the recession, all the main parties still support the capitalist free market and this is reflected in their plans for education. Ideally, they want a US-style system where student debt can run over £100,000. The next step for them is to further lift the cap on tuition fees, probably to around £7,000 a year, although many university vice-chancellors are pushing for more.
As the bailouts to the banks show, the government can find plenty of money when it wants to. But it wants to give it all to its fat-cat friends in the banks and other industries while we bear the costs of the crisis they caused.
Figures released by the PCS civil service union revealed £21.5 billion in uncollected corporation tax as well as £25 billion lost through tax evasion. Why not spend this money on education and other public services instead of letting it slide into the back pockets of the rich?
Socialist Students has been at the forefront of campaigning against fees and cuts, organising protests around the country. In Bangor, Socialist Students has won the support of Bangor Students' Union for the Campaign to Defeat Fees.
But where has the national voice of the student movement, the NUS, been in all this?
The pro-New Labour NUS leadership are celebrating their victory in getting a 'governance review' passed that will transform the NUS into little more than a charity for students rather than a national union. Students though have been increasingly by-passing them.
Such is the case with the demonstration against fees on Wednesday 25 February in London. This is organised by various left/campaigning groups including Socialist Students and the Campaign to Defeat Fees.
We encourage all students to join our contingent on the demonstration and discuss with us how to build the fight-back for free education across the country.

Protest Against Fees

Wednesday 25 February. Assemble 12 noon
SOAS, Malet Street, London WC1

Fight for your future!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Straw Attacks Prison Officers’ Pay and Conditions

The Prison Officer’s Union (the POA) looks set to reject the governments latest pay offer. Whilst the 4.75% pay deal over 3 years may seem not so bad against the backdrop of a recession, the deal is tied to a ‘modernisation’ package which includes creating a two-tier workforce in prisons of ‘residential officers’ (ie. Current prison officers) and newly created ‘operations officers’ that are supposed to have the same training but with less pay and less duties (seems like the prison equivalent of PCSOs). Around 30% of all prison officers are to be operations officers by 2010.
This will obviously save the government lots of money, according to the POA press release of 13th Feburary 2009, these proposals alongside others will save £240million in 2009 and upto £500million over the next few years. And if Prison Officer’s reject the deal, the BBC state “Straw said that if the deal was rejected this week he would have to "take stock" of a previous pledge to limit the market-testing of prisons to the five whose service level agreements come up for renewal over the next five years.”
But one potential upshot of the policy is the government spending less on prisons – is this a good thing? As Brian Caton, POA General Secretary, stated in the same press release “POA members want a ‘fair days pay for a fair days work’, we want prisons to be fit for purpose and not warehouses. We demand safe prisons that have adequate professional staff to serve the public.”
The government policy is one of continuing their ongoing expansion of the prison system whilst attacking staff conditions and the resources that actually go into rehabilitation and safety within those institutions. This will not benefit neither staff nor prisoners and should be opposed.
As I wrote in September 2007 in the Socialist

“Socialists argue for a radical decrease in the prison population. Many people are locked up due to debt and poverty.
Moreover, sentences handed out by courts have crept up in length and the proportion sent to prison for more than 30 years, despite the crime rate going down over recent years.
To implement this reduction, socialists call for the democratic election of judges, subject to recall.
Moreover, we demand the release of all people imprisoned for fine defaults, ASBO defaults and other trivial offences, with democratically elected bodies to review all other cases.
Socialists do not necessarily oppose building new prisons. But we would argue that any new prisons need to be part of a plan to reduce the jail population, through replacing older prisons with newer ones, which held fewer prisoners but with more facilities and better conditions.
This would free up staff to reduce the prisoner-staff ratio, whilst providing better prison facilities. But these prisons should not be built and run by the private sector with their history of providing poorer quality prisons.
Moreover, socialists demand that privatised prisons are renationalised too.
Such a programme would reduce the overcrowding crisis in prisons. However, to tackle the problem of crime a socialist programme is needed that would give jobs and training for all on a living wage, with housing and other essentials of life under public ownership and control.
Prisons should be geared towards helping offenders overcome any problems such as not being able to read or write.”

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Book Review – Cuba: A New History by Richard Gott

With this January being the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, I thought it was about time I delved a little more into the history of the island in preparation for the very successful public meeting Bangor Socialist Party held last week.

The real strength of the book is Gott’s presentation of the pre-revolutionary history of the island. Apart from knowing the island had been invaded by the United States during its struggle for liberation from Spain, I knew relatively little about the country in this period. Gott’s presentation of this period is very illuminating.

Yet the part that most people would be interested in is his account of the 1959 revolution and the regime led by Castro afterwards. However, for me this is the weaker part of the book. I felt that Gott covered it fairly superficially, you are reading it waiting for him to go into further detail. There are some exceptions such as Castro’s relationship with the Soviet Union and the support given by Cuba to anti-imperialist conflicts in the third world.

I suppose this is somewhat clichéd, but I just get the feeling that Gott is approaching Cuba from a different direction to me. Gott seems to approach it from middle-class intellectual’s point of view and various trials, middle class opposition groupings etc. take up the focal point of his narrative and you are left wondering what the ordinary peasants and workers thought of what was going on. He also takes the view that all that Cuba had to do with socialism was just words whilst they had Soviet support, and that element of Cuba is now gone due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. He also, mistakenly, seems to believe that Cuba had returned to Capitalism with the reforms instituted in the 90’s that led to the creation of the dual dollar-peso economy.

As I said at the beginning, the early parts of Cuba’s history are really interesting reading. The latter part, although still interesting, leaves the impression on you of events that are only half-analysed. It is a book of two halves, but the latter doesn’t undermine too much the strengths of the former part.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Socialists on the Criminal Justice System – Nikolai Bukharin and Evgeny Preobrazhensky

This is the fifth piece in my series examining writings by various socialists that relate to the criminal justice system. This piece will examine the ninth chapter of their ABC of Communism, entitled “Proletarian Justice”. The chapter can be found online at the Marxist Internet Archive at

The chapter begins with a brief view of the authors summary of justice under capitalism. Their summary of this institution is summed up in this quote
“This estimable institution is carried on under the guidance of laws passed in the interests of the exploiting class. Whatever the composition of the court, its decisions are restricted in accordance with the volumes of statutes in which are incorporated all the privileges of capital and all the lack of privileges of the toiling masses.”
They do also briefly discuss the effect of allowing the working class some say in deciding judges or judgements through elections and go on to say, “Thus originated trial by jury, thanks to which legal decisions made in the interests of capital can masquerade as decisions made by the 'whole people'.”
Needless to say, I find their take on this a little one sided as it doesn’t take into account the fact that even illusory elements of popular control over the justice system are concessions wrung from capitalism.
Bu this is not the bulk of the work, which is really an attempt to argue for a different vision of a justice system and also to defend steps taken in this direction by the Soviet regime. Indeed, in the very next section of the chapter they explain why they have not taken up the demand of the Second International “…for the popular election of the judiciary…”. They explain that such a position isn’t possible under the Soviet regime as they are enacting laws to eradicate capitalism, they can “…hardly accept the representatives of capital or of the landed interest as administrators of the new laws…” and thus they characterise the courts of the workers state as thus
“In the old law-courts, the class minority of exploiters passed judgement upon the working majority. The law-courts of the proletarian dictatorship are places where the working majority passes judgement upon the exploiting minority. They are specially constructed for this purpose. The judges are elected by the workers alone. The judges are elected solely from among the workers. For the exploiters the only right that remains is the right of being judged”
They then continue the attack on capitalist justice, stating
“In bourgeois society the administration of justice is an exceedingly cumbrous affair. Bourgeois jurists proudly declare that, thanks to the gradation of lower courts, higher courts, courts of appeal, and so on, absolute justice is ensured, and the number of miscarriages of justice reduced to a minimum.”
But this isn’t really the case they go on to explain. The huge about of bureaucracy requires a lot of expense by those attempting to pursue legal action and thus “Well-to-do persons, being able to command the services of highly paid lawyers, can carry a case from court to court until they secure a favourable decision; whereas a plaintiff who is poor often finds it necessary to abandon his suit on grounds of expense.”
They then go on to explain how they have tried to speed up court processes to make them accessible to workers. However, they explain that these courts are still developing and are not developing as fast as they like due to the civil war that was occurring at that time.
This leads neatly into the next section which discusses the revolutionary tribunals. As they state, the popular courts are seen by the Communist Party as the normal courts of a workers state. The revolutionary tribunals in their view are a supplement that has been made necessary by the brutality of the civil war. They argue that their function is solely to deal with the enemies of the revolution, and in their view that likens them to the Red Guard more than the courts, which is why they are under the control of the Soviets rather than being directly elected by the workers.
They then move on to discuss punishments in a workers state. Firstly they briefly justify the existence of the death penalty at that time by the existence of the civil war, and then they move on to arguing that the workers courts are much more lenient than capitalist ones. They go on to ascribe this difference to
“When we come to consider the punishments inflicted by proletarian courts of justice for criminal offences which have no counter- revolutionary bearing, we find them to be radically different from those inflicted for similar offences by bourgeois courts. This is what we should expect. The great majority of crimes committed in bourgeois society are either direct infringements of property rights or are indirectly connected with property. It is natural that the bourgeois State should take vengeance upon criminals, and that the punishments inflicted by bourgeois society should be various expressions of the vengeful sentiments of the infuriated owner.”
They note that whilst there are still elements of ‘professional criminals’ around, they see this as due to the later becoming engaged in this behaviour under capitalism and therefore seek not to punish as if this is their fault. They note the shift from pure prison sentences (enforced idleness) to enforced social labour, which they see as necessary to restore the damage done to society by the ‘criminal’. The various elements of the system, they note, are geared “in such away as to give the offender full opportunities for moral regeneration.”
The final section attempts to look at the direction that the justice system will move in the future. To start with they argue that things thrown up to deal with the civil war specifically (revolutionary tribunals, red army, extraordinary commissions etc.) “are transient” and “will no longer be needed” after the end of the civil war.
They go on to argue that the worker-elected popular tribunals will remain until such a time as classes have been abolished – in the case of the ruling class they see this as a fairly short perspective, in the case of the peasantry a longer period. Whilst these class divisions still exist then they argue that there will still be conflicts that need to be brought before the court. Additionally, they argue that “…anti-social offences arising out of personal egoism, and all sorts of offences against the common weal, will long continue to provide work for the courts.”
Ulimately they conclude that
“As the State dies out, they will tend to become simply organs for the expression of public opinion. They will assume the character of courts of arbitration. Their decisions will no longer be enforced by physical means and will have a purely moral significance.”
The piece is somewhat simplistic and doesn’t really get into some of the more interesting details of the justice system in the early period of the revolution. But then it is a piece trying to explain in simple terms the ideas of the Communist Party, and we really shouldn’t explain much more from it than that. Interestingly though, there is a small list of further reading on the topic that the authors suggest, noting that works on this topic by socialists are ‘scanty’. This piece does, however, serve as a giving a good indication of the hopes the Communist Party associated with its justice system and the justifications they gave for some of how it functioned, and is thus valuable for those reasons.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Assembly learning grant ‘reorganisation’

From the Socialist Party wales website.

by Glyn Matthews

The Welsh Assembly plans to reorganise the way in which the funding of the Welsh assembly grant (WAG) is to be administered. The proposal is that from 2010 the top-up grant for fees will be scrapped and instead the WAG will simply constitute a larger maintenance grant. On the surface, this simply sounds like a bureaucratic and unnecessary change to the system without any damaging effects. If we analyse the proposals in more detail it is quite clearly an attack on education. Currently only a thirdof students in Wales are eligible to the maintenance grant but many more are eligible for the top-up fees grant. When this is gone they will not receive any part of the WAG as the are not changing the eligibility of the maintenance grant, leaving many students having to take out larger and larger loans to cover the cost of their loans.

The other side of this is those students who will lose the fees grant but will receive a higher maintenance grant. Once again on the surface this sounds fine. However, Jane Hutt the Welsh education minister said: “much of the £61m used currently to fund the tuition fee grants should be added to Assembly Learning Grants. These are means-tested grants available to help pay for students’ living costs.” This shows clearly two things, firstly this will mean a further extension of means testing in education which all socialists should oppose. Secondly without stating the amount of money involved is this new ‘scheme’ Jane Hutt does omit that not all £61m used now will then be used by using the word ‘much’ rather than ‘all’

Despite this, both the assembly government and Welsh universities have welcomed the proposal with all the Orwellian language they can muster by presenting this as an improvement. At this stage we can only speculate why, but clearly if the fees are not being paid for by the assembly any longer then it would open the door for Welsh universities to charge higher and higher top-up fees as this will no longer be a drain on the assembly budget. This clearly shows the need to take action now before it is too late!

The role of the NUS in all off this seems to be silence. There is absolutely no mention of this on the NUS website. Once again the NUS leadership has shown their inability to be a campaigning organisation leaving Socialist Students to take up issues without their backing.

Socialists demand

  • A fighting campaign led by NUS Wales to defeat these proposals.
  • For an NUS organised demonstration in Cardiff with all Welsh universities students unions’ to provide transport to the demonstration.
  • For the NUS nationally to back to campaign and extend the campaign to the rest of Britain by supporting the Campaign to defeat fees and the national demonstration on February 25th

Saturday, 7 February 2009

My Run In With The Law

I’ve said I’d blog about this for a while but I haven’t gotten around to it yet, until now.

Allow me to set the scene, I was travelling home after visiting my girlfriend for the weekend. Due to it being a Sunday and train companies doing repairs usually on that day, my journey needed to take a diverson via Liverpool (actually only about 10 minutes of the 2 and ½ hour journey was as it is supposed to be!). There had been a lot of waiting around that day and this had aggravated my sciatica (trapped nerves in the spine) which causes me pain in my leg.
So anyway, I get on the Merseyrail train from Liverpool to Chester and whilst I’m sitting there my leg starts aching. Seeing a sign that says not to put your feet on the seats – I notice that between the seats there’s a shelf, so I put my foot on there to ease the aching. The next thing I know, three ‘Enforcement Officers’ appear. Now, for people who haven’t seen them before – they basically look a bit like police officers wearing high visibility jackets etc. (as you can see in the pciture above from the company's website).
I was basically told that I was violating a Merseyrail bye-law ‘for having my feet on the seat’. After I protested that blatantly my feet were not on the seat – they said there was a notice down the other end of the carriage that said that the little shelf technically counted as part of the seat. They then proceeded to take my name, address and details. All of this was recorded on a small camera the enforcement officer was holding whilst her two colleagues stood behind her menacingly. To be honest, I was really scared during all of this, and kind of just did whatever they said.
They left me with a little card and told me to ring the number on it if I wanted to avoid going to court over it. The card reads

“A report will be filed with our Prosecution Team, which may result in you being prosecuted for a breach of Merseyrail Byelaws. If you are found guilty we will be asking the Court to award a contribution to our costs of £150, the Magistrates will also impose a fine of up to £1000 and/or 3 months imprisonment”.

Now when I rang up I was offered to pay a £50 fine instead of going to court and sign a form that admitted I was guilty of putting my feet in the seat. Now I feel that the whole situation was ridiculous, yet I couldn’t afford to go to court and lose – I could barely afford the £50 (after rent and council tax, I have about £150 to pay for food, utility bills and anything else).
I doubt any poor person is in a position to contest such penalties. Furthermore, are people who actually put their feet up on seats that big of a social problem that it’s worth having gangs of these ‘enforcement officers’ equipped with video cameras? To me it looks like a money making scheme adopted by the rail company, rather than tackling incidents of behaviour that is actually dangerous.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Some Cases of Humanitarian Intervention

This is the second part of a recent essay I wrote on the moral justifiability of humanitarian intervention. This section examines several case studies of humanitarian interventions. I'd refer the reader to the previous piece for some general background and discussion of humanitarian intervention (see comments box for link).
Also, one further point. Readers will note the example of Bangladesh in this essay. In this instance I included it in the essay because I was basically taking Walzer at his word on the situation there. As I will develop in the final section of the series, I don't think Humanitarian Intervention by a capitalist country is necessarily ruled out, certainly historically it isn't, but it is very unlikely.

Whilst we would argue that moral justification is guided by general considerations as above, every particular intervention must be justified in its own context. In this sense we are guided by the approach undertaken by Michael Walzer in looking at historical cases to generate these general considerations. In passing we will note that the examples used are ones the writer of this essay way already familiar with, and thus could perhaps be slightly unrepresentative. But nevertheless they yield important facts bearing upon the subject of this essay and are thus valuable in this sense.
It is the case of Haiti that we shall turn to first. As Hallward (2007) discusses, Haiti has had two humanitarian interventions into it in the last 15 years. The first occurred in 1994. The Lavalas government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide had been overthrown by a military coup in September 2001, and after negotiating with the US government was returned to power by a US force which intervened humanitarianly to disarm the Haitian army and paramilitaries. As Hallward (2007) discusses there were several factors that related to the decision to do this, not just humanitarian considerations, including the stream of Haitian refugees coming to the US and its political relationship with the army junta that governed Haiti was deteriorating. However, Hallward (2007:52) goes on to point out that

“It is more than likely that the occupation that began in September 1994 may prove, in the long run, to have been just as damaging to the interests of Haitian democracy as the first US occupation of 1915-34. It gave the occupying power profound and temporarily irreversible influence over the reconfiguration of a state apparatus more compatible with its own practices. As the soldiers themselves began to leave over the course of 1995, a whole swathe of para-civilian advisers, trainers and consultants remained behind to administer the consequences of their work…”

Although the military intervention took place over a short period of time, it gave the US government economic and political influence over the country which played a pivotal role in the second coup against Aristide in 2004 which led to the second, and much longer humanitarian intervention. In this case the backdrop was an insurgency, which Hallward (2004) argues was secretly supported by the political opposition to Aristide who were themselves funded by US government aid.
The humanitarian intervention in 2004 to the present was again premised on disarming the ex-army and paramilitaries, yet the US troops deployed in Haiti, at best, did not do this for several months, as Hallward (2004) after discussing journalistic reports that identify US troops colluding or directly participating the murder of people in the suburbs of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, charges the US government as having “…direct complicity in the mass murder of Haitian civilians…” (Hallward, 2004:258).
Indeed, Hallward (2007:52) states that humanitarian intervention “…has come to replace traditional forms of military action as the primary means of neo-imperial control.”
It would be inaccurate to state that this example is anything but justifies humanitarian intervention on its own. But we should not draw our conclusions on the basis of just one solitary example. Indeed, in his book, Just and Unjust Wars, Walzer (2006) compares two different examples, those of the US intervention into Cuba in 1898 and Indian intervention into Bangladesh in 1971.
The Cuban example appears to be somewhat similar to the events that occurred in Haiti in 1994, which differed in the fact that it was war from independence from Spain, yet the consequence of the intervention was similar in that the US imposed itself economically and politically on Cuba, even establishing a military dictatorship in the immediate four years (Gott, 2004), in the aftermath of the intervention. Indeed, the intervention in Cuban life by the US government at this point and the years afterwards have surely impacted on the hatred on the ‘yankee imperialism’ in Cuba today.
The Bangladeshi example differs in some fundamental ways, although like the Cuban example above, the humanitarian intervention was in support of an independence movement. As Walzer describes, it

“…is a better example of humanitarian intervention – not because of the singularity or purity of government’s motives, but because its various motives, but because its various motives converged on a single course of action that was also the course of action called for by the Bengalis. This convergence explains why the Indians were in and out of the country so quickly, defeating the Pakistani army but not replacing it, and imposing no political controls on the emergent state of Bangladesh. No doubt, strategic as well as moral interests underlay this policy: Pakistan, India’s old enemy, was significantly weakened, while India itself avoided becoming responsible for a desperately poor nation whose internal politics was likely to be unstable and volatile for a long time to come. But the intervention qualifies as humanitarian because it was a rescue, strictly and narrowly defined.” (Walzer, 2006:105)

The distinction that Walzer makes here between the two interventions is summed up when he says that the Indian intervention coincided with what the Bengali population wanted. What makes a humanitarian intervention different from a military intervention in the interests of the intervening which hides behind humanitarian phraseology, is that very factor of being subordinated to a large extent to the interests of the repressed population.
Another consideration that we could make is that of a type of revolutionary war as a type of humanitarian intervention. This may seem like an odd conception to the reader, as a revolutionary war is an attempt to carry forward a new revolutionary type of government in one country into another ‘at the point of a sword’. Yet, consider the following, an uprising occurs in a country, the government of said country attempts to crush it; if a bordering revolutionary country then intervened militarily to stop the repression (which it is likely would include killings) – would this not be a military intervention for humanitarian means?
To further examine this question we will look at the advance of the Soviet Red Army on Warsaw in late 1920. It will be noted that this came first after an offensive of the Polish army against Soviet Russia which turned into a retreat. As Trotsky (2005:527) explains in his autobiography “There were high hopes of an uprising of the Polish workers. At any rate, Lenin fixed his mind on carrying the war to an end, up to the entry into Warsaw to help the Polish workers overthrow Pilsudski’s government and seize the power.” This is not a humanitarian intervention, as it is only coming to the support of a hypothetically existing population that is being repressed rather than an actual one. However, if the Polish population was in danger at that time, ie (an uprising had occurred or was imminent before the decision to march on Warsaw). This is the consideration Trotsky reports he made himself at this time and thus opposed the offensive. It also is what several previous uprsings in various European countries at this time, for example Bavaria in 1919 (Watt, 2003), had counted upon occurring. This would have, in some ways, paralleled Walzer’s example of the intervention into Bangladesh that we have examined above.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Socialist Party Wales Conference 2009

Apologies for not blogging much but I've had a very busy week, including going down to Swansea at the weekend for the annual Socialist Party Wales Conference with five other people from Bangor. The report below is taken from the SPW website ( and a version will be appearing in the Socialist.

The capitalist crisis which deepened even further in the last few weeks formed the background to the Conference of fifty members of SPW in Swansea on February 1st. Naturally it was the subject of the first conference session, with Lynn Walsh, editor of Socialism Today, leading the discussion.

Report by Iain Dalton (Bangor Socialist Party)

Lynn pointed out that events were proceeding at a rapid pace at the moment, with the crisis becoming deeper around the world and capitalist leaders becoming despondent as their system spirals out of control. But whilst Socialists are by no means immune from the hardships that all workers will suffer during this recession, we are in a good position to try and give a lead to the inevitable struggles that will take place over the next period as we have correctly predicted the crisis in our materials. The beginnings of a fight back by the working class worldwide in the last week was discussed, particularly the wildcat strikes of construction workers across the country where our comrades had intervened to help to steer the anger towards the capitalist firms who use EU regulations to bring in foreign worker at lower pay rates and worse conditions and not against the workers themselves


Ross Saunders (Cardiff West Branch Secretary) to report on the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign and on the plans being made to develop that both nationally and in Wales. He pointed out that youth unemployment was already large and is set to grow much bigger

The Conference also heard from Yahya al-Faifa, exiled Saudi Trade unionist who is facing deportation by the Home Office. His inspiring struggle to organise Saudi workers which led to his exile and his efforts in supporting workers struggles in Wales, gave comrades determination to spread the campaign further throughout the labour movement.


The final session of the conference was introduced by Alec Thraves, SPW Secretary. Alec reported on the growth of our organisation with new branches in Bangor and Cardiff (in Cardiff the old branch has subdivided as it has grown into East and West) as well as an emerging branch in Newport. He noted the dramatic growth in the party (increasing 25% in the last six months) with already 10 new members joining so far this year and old members revitalised by the developing crisis. Alec also re-emphasised the tremendous role Welsh comrades play in financing the party, with comrades making large sacrifices with membership subscriptions, but also through smashing Fighting Fund targets every quarter. This was reinforced by an excellent collection of over £900 at the conference.

The last year has seen the Party in Wales breaking new ground with solid growth in South as well as beginning to put down roots in the North too. This was reflected in the conference attendance of many new and young comrades who left reinvigorated and with the feeling that these will be exciting times for Socialists after the previous difficult period.