Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Bangor Socialist Student & Youth Conference

Taken from Socialist Party Wales website -

Young Socialists from North Wales received a helping hand from comrades from the South for an all Wales day of action last Saturday in Bangor. The day started with a successful ‘Youth Fight for Jobs’ protest in Bangor.

Report by Sarah Mayo

Workers and students stopped to take our bi-lingual leaflets and sign our petitions and our well travelled ‘YFFJ’ banner attracted a lot of attention (this banner has previously visited Cardiff, Pontypridd and Swansea!)

This was followed by the conference itself, which had sessions on the role of the police, the world economic crisis and a practical session on organising campaigning stalls. Iain Dalton introduced the first session with an emphasis on how the police form a key part of the capitalist state machine and defend private property rather than act in the interests of ordinary people. For example, the police are quick to arrest shop lifters but incredibly slow to respond to domestic burglaries in working class areas. Nevertheless, as workers turn to the police on this issue, it’s important we raise the demand for the democratic control and accountability of the police. There was a far ranging discussion on the socialist analysis of everything from speed cameras, police repression of protesters to domestic violence!

Next, Joe Fathallah gave an excellent and succinct Marxist analysis of the world economic recession and its impact on workers and youth. The economic crisis was inevitable: capitalism is unable to overcome the basic contradiction of ‘boom and bust’ because working class people can’t afford to buy back the goods it produces . The previous long boom could only be sustained by cheap credit and mounting debt for so long. Whilst we are conditional about how long this recession will last, it is clear that workers and young people will be forced to fight back.
The discussion centered on the tasks for socialists, including our socialist programme on the economy, the role of the revolutionary party internationally and the campaign for a new mass workers party here and internationally.

The conference finished with a practical session on running a campaigning stall, with comrades sharing ideas and tips, including how to lay out the stall and how to deal with typical responses to our petitions. This inspiring day finished with an excellent fighting fund collection and a well deserved drink in the pub afterwards.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Socialism and the Zombie Apocalypse

Let's face it, crime is a pretty grim thing to blog about, hence why about half the posts on this blog aren't at all about crime or criminology. But occasionally I amuse myself with rather random stuff, and just a few minutes ago I spotted this group on facebook

Here's the blurb :-

Basic Info

Description: A group to" organize before they rise".

Reason number one: Anyone who've seen a zombie flick knows that the threat of zombie flesh eaters are just secondary during the apocalypse. The real danger lies in humanity's incapability to work together. Therefore, in order to fight zombies, humanity needs real democratic power over the means of production through socialism and a planned economy!

Reason number two: Come on, its fun!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Sri Lanka - United Socialist Party leader on death list, Days of victory celebrations humiliating all Tamils

From the CWI wesbite, picture is of the death list

by Elizabeth Clarke, CWI

The Committee for a Workers’ International has received a copy of a vile communication put out by Sinhala chauvinist hate-mongers in the wake of the defeat of the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam. Amongst the portraits of those they want killed are NGO activists, Indian politicians and five Sri Lankan politicians including Siritunga Jayasuriya, Secretary of the United Socialist Party (CWI Sri Lanka).
As readers of this site will know, the USP has maintained a courageous stand in defence of the rights of all Tamil-speaking people and for a united struggle against land-lordism, capitalism and imperialism with socialist policies. It has had its criticisms of the methods and approach of the LTTE, but has spoken out against the war-mongering of the Rajapakse regime and the slaughter of thousands of Tamil civilians. It has also spoken out against the vast and inhumane camps in which the government is holding prisoner hundreds of thousands of refugees.
“They are not just celebrating a military victory over the LTTE,” Siritunga said in a statement, “But a communalist victory over the Tamil nation. It is a humiliation of all Tamil-speaking people, including in the Hill Country, in the South and in the East.
“No Tamils are enjoying this so-called victory except the three Judases who have sided with the Rajapakse government – Thondeman of the Ceylon Workers’ Council based in the tea plantation area, Karuna (the ex-Tiger leader, now a minister) and Douglas Devananda (the Tamil politician expected to become the stooge Chief Minister of the northern ‘province’ of Sri Lanka).
“My name is being mouthed by ministers on the TV and shouted by frenzied people in the streets. I am being labelled as a “traitor”, as “unpatriotic” and even as a “coward” who should be killed. All this because we speak out against this chauvinistic, autocratic government.
“We fear for the lives of the people in the camps – many of whom will die without food, water and medical attention. Young people will be accused of LTTE sympathies and be ‘disappeared’ by the regime…In this way the Rajapakse government seeks to ‘solve’ the national question. We have been challenging him to say what his political ‘solution’ is and he stays silent. We will pursue our demand for equal rights for all Tamil-speaking people to the end.
“We will not be silenced by death threats and insults. The Sinhalese workers and poor people who are celebrating today, imagine that peace means prosperity and a better life for them. They will not only be expected to suffer more deprivation to pay for the government’s war debts and for the capitalists’ crisis, but the emergency powers of the government will be used against any who try to organise strikes and other actions. Our party is struggling to survive against the onslaught of propaganda being thrown against us. We welcome the international solidarity campaign launched in Tamil Nadu earlier this year and urge it to continue its work.
“We also ask all readers of this horrible news to consider supporting our party in one of the darkest periods in its history. We will prepare for a new period of united struggle against this dictatorial government and against the capitalist system that spawns war and oppression, of which we have seen more than enough.”

Donations to assist with urgent measures necessary defend the USP and its secretary, Siritunga Jayasuriya, against physical attack should be sent to Campaign Sri Lanka.
Donate on line (add the words 'Campaign Sri Lanka' to the comment box) or send cheques to Campaign Sri Lanka c/o Committee for a Workers' International, PO Box 3688, London, Britain, E11 1YE.
For a new article on the latest situation in Sri Lanka go to

Friday, 22 May 2009

Review – “Chekisms” A KGB Anthology by Vasiliy Mitrokhin

Ever eager to learn criminological lessons from the Russian Revolution I’ve been looking for interesting material on the Cheka, the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage. As part of understanding the events of the Russian Revolution we need to be able to examine the bodies used to prevent or deal with criminal activities and whether these were the best methods.

The volume under review covers not only the Cheka but also the OGPU and KGB. It consists on Mitrokhin’s own notes and manuscripts that Mitrokhin had smuggled out of the USSR when he left in 1992. The material is quite revealing, discussing the formation and several early cases of the Cheka, but also dealing with the repression against Trotskyists and others in later years.

Of course my interest lies with early years of the Soviet regime, but Mitrokhin’s material here is mostly his own notes which are full of his own opinions. And these opinions are similar to the ‘original sin’ of Bolshevism idea where Lenin and Stalin are equated, but in this case they are viewed as just more tyrants in a long line of them. Thus Mitrokhin tries to portray Lenin as changing his mind over the need for repressive force after the revolution, even though in his works, including State and Revolution, Lenin points to the need for a dictatorship of the proletariat to repress what remains of the capitalism system.

The big problem I have with this approach is that to truly understand the development of the Cheka, one needs to examine very closely the conditions it was created and developed in and what opposition it was attempting to overcome. Let us not forget that a civil war raged in Russia and that there were assignation attempts on Bolshevik leaders during this period. A detailed study of this period would allow us to come to an opinion as to the necessity of such an organisation preceding from material facts and not just pure moral sentiments. Whilst this book includes some material that could be useful for doing that, it fails at that task itself.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Celyn – The Welsh Green Left Review

Anyone who regularly checks out the Socialist Unity blog will probably have seen a few posts announcing the publication of a new left magazine in Wales, Celyn along the lines of the Scottish Left Review which aims to be a discussion journal between lefties in several parties and others, (The editorial statement says the editorial board consists of ‘people from Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Communist Party as well as trade unions, the peace movement and other campaigning organisations’.) although I do believe the two main people behind it are Marc Jones (former Cymru Goch member and current Plaid Cymru councillor) and Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru AM).
When I was in Wrexham a few weekends back I picked up a copy and I have to say I have mixed feelings about it. To my mind its not like a journal that allowed debate between different trends on the left wouldn’t be useful. But the nearest that Celyn gets to this is a page about the European Elections which features statements on the European elections from Plaid Cymru, Labour, the Greens and No2EU (and the layout is such that the Plaid Cymru piece stands out quite a bit from the others).
But to my mind the magazine falls short of this, but also in terms of attempting to offer a direction for the left in Wales. For example in Leanne Wood’s column she rightly condemns the funding cuts to the Assembly government and demands the money from the Westminster government, yet she doesn’t offer a strategy for forcing the government to give up this money.
Or the report on the Citizens of Bangor Deserve Better demonstration a few months back (see report on this blog) which whilst making the odd correct point (including about the main speaker at the demo) draws outrageously pessimistic conclusions. We even get a small mention (as ‘a small group of enthusiastic Trotskyist students’, there were about 12 of us there and we weren’t all students), yet the suggests that no-one was offering any demands or a programme for change. But we were there doing just that, with placards that were taken up by people, leaflets and our publications. I spoke from the platform and did just that, and additionally there was a speaker opposing council housing privatisation too. Perhaps the author of that article should have tried to do something similar instead of carping on from the sidelines!
It also doesn't feature anything about the issue of tuition/top-up fees in Wales - which there has recently been a bit of an uproar about within Plaid Cymru.
I did quite enjoy the last page of the magazine, the spiky bit which features some short amusing pieces as well as an advert for the Radical History Tour I attended last weekend entitled ‘Finally a date for the revolution!’, as its name in Welsh ‘Chwyl-dro’ could also translate as Revolution. But this doesn’t make up for what I think are the failings of the magazine, which to be honest could be better, so I for one won’t be taking out a subscription.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

UNITE March for Jobs in Birmingham

North Wales Socialist Party acheived a new record today - for getting members to stuff outside of North Wales. Usually we are hamstrung by the sheer cost of stuff -paying for a £50 ticket to get to stuff in London usually limits how many of us can go to stuff and usually we tend to club together to pay for things. But the demo today had free coaches so we managed to get a whopping 4 of us to something (actually we had more go to the Socialist Party Wales Conference, but i won't count that), which would have been even more if members weren't either working/having an operation on their foot/grounded 'til the end of their exams/students visiting home.
I travelled down on the North West Wales UNITE coach, where Socialist Party members were conspicuously young. Indeed the entirety of the rest of the people on the coach were UNITE members, shop stewards and full-time officials. We also had a member travel down on the North East Wales coach where the story was fairly similar too.
The demo itself had a few thousand on it, mostly UNITE members, although there were a few other trades unions that had mobilised for it too, i've been led to believe that the local UNISON branch was amongst them. I was on the Youth Fight For Jobs contingent which, to be fair wasn't the largest (but that said most of our uni/college students have exams at the moment - and the SP UNISON caucus was this weekend where we have a fair few young members too).
Anyways - the platform at the end of the rally was full of the usual platitudes (and Digby Jones too) So I scarpered off to the National Shop Stewards Network meeting to hear Rob Williams speak about his victimisation at Linimar (although when I went it was pissing it down too!).

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Holyhead worker victimised for speaking his own language

Taken from the Socialist Party Wales wesbite (

A Bangor Socialist Party member

The front page of the North Wales Daily Post on May Day splashed a story of a worker at the Holyhead Morrisons store who had felt compelled to quit his job after being told not to speak Welsh. The last straw was when he asked another worker in Welsh to move some items into the store warehouse, when the store manager (who only speaks English) was passing by. The manager asked him not to speak in Welsh as he thought the workers might be talking about him. According to a Morrisons spokesperson the worker was having a conversation with the manager when the incident occurred. On the face of it, this amounts to bullying a worker into speaking a particular language.
The 2001 census showed that over 20% of the population of Wales spoke Welsh, but this increases dramatically in North West Wales, with 69% and 60% speaking Welsh in Gwynedd and Anglesey respectively. This means that Welsh is the first language of a sizeable proportion of workers in the area. Indeed in the quarry industry, which 100 years ago was the area’s main industry, the North Wales Quarrymens Union conducted all its business in Welsh. Moreover, being forced not to speak Welsh has echoes of the period of the emergence of capitalism in Wales which saw English bosses ban workers from speaking the language in order to maintain their dominance, and children who only spoke Welsh at home forced to speak and study in English at school.
In the present case, the worker's trade union, USDAW, did not initially take this issue up, although they are now investigating it. That was left to Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society) who have organised a picket outside the store to demand the right to work through the medium of Welsh. They have raised the need for the Welsh Assembly to have legislative powers over the Welsh language which should include the right to work through the medium of Welsh. Whilst this is undoubtedly correct, it doesn't go far enough.
Under capitalist society there are plenty of rights on paper, yet often the bosses can ignore them when it suits their needs. Workers have always had to fight for their rights, such as the right to vote or the right to belong to a trade union, which have been fought for. In reality, only workers organised via the trades union movement can guarantee those rights. Workers should have the right to communicate with people in any language that the person they are talking to is comfortable talking in. They shouldn't be bullied into speaking into any particular language just because a manager wishes to pry on their conversation

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Support the Sit-In at London Met University!

For those who don't know the backstory of whats been happening at London Met University over the last few months I'll quickly fill in the details.
A few months ago it came out that London Met management had been over-reporting the number of students by about 7,000 and given that universities recieve a certain amount of government money per student in funding it has been 'over-paid'. London Met has been ordered to pay back the money (which has obviously been spent) as well as having its funding cut by £15million a year.
As a result university management are making savage cuts to courses and facilities at the university as well as planning on axing 550 jobs!
Save London Metropolitan University campaign has been set up to fight these cuts with the participation of students as well as the UCU and UNISON branches at the university. The campaign has already scored a success forcing the resignation of Vice-Chancellor Brian Roper. Staff took strike action last week, and yesterday at 5pm students occupied a canteen in the Commercial Building.

For more info check out

Facebook page:
Press Coverage:

Send solidarity messages to:

There is going to be a protest outside the building this evening at 5.30pm to support the occupation. Details:


All students and others should support this campaign in any way they can.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Youth Fight for Jobs Launch Conference

Somewhere between 100 and 150 (the room made it a bit awkward to tell, plus people who were there either only in the morning or afternoon) attended the launch conference of the Youth Fight for Jobs. After some good opening speeches by Alex Gordon from the RMT executive (speaking in place of Bob Crow), Tracy Edwards from the PCS, James Kerr and a Belgian CWI member, the timing of the rest of the opening session clearly went awry as they jammed in a few short contributions from a Tamil student, a member of the SP from South Wales speaking about the sacking of Linamar (ex-Visteon) convenor, Rob Williams and a hip-hop group At Risk of Offending. There simply was too much stuff attempted to be fitted in which meant that the plan of having contributions from the floor didn’t really work.
After a short lunch break the conference split up into workshops. I had been asked to chair the session on ‘What Is The Cause of Unemployment?’ Given it was only a small session (I think the debate on the European elections attracted the most attention), we were able to get into a bit of depth on Marxist economics and also able to discuss the working conditions of those who do have jobs too.
The next session took motions to the congress, all those submitted (which can be found on the Youth Fight for Jobs website) were passed, although a few of them were amended slightly, whilst the age limit for the campaign was remitted to the newly elected steering committee to discuss.
The Conference concluded with a closing rally with a speaker from the CWI in France, a Lindsey Oil Refinery worker and Sean Figg, the newly elected National Organiser for the campaign.
Speaking with comrades after the conference, we were a little disappointed with the attendance, but this is partially due to a number of reasons. In North Wales, it was a combination of lack of money to pay for people getting to London as well as several college students who have been grounded until their exams are over.
Yet the composition of the conference was fairly good. There were a sizeable number of young PCS members there, indeed the PCS Young Members Committee had submitted several motions to the conference as well as the East Midlands PCS NOMS branch and the Student organiser for UNITE was in attendance. In contrast to what a certain ex-member of the Socialist Party has been repeatedly stating online, whilst including university students in the campaign, it isn’t dominated by them as the presence of a substantial number of young workers at the conference showed. Indeed, the delegation from North Wales consisted of a college student and a shop steward.
The conference also received greetings from the workers who occupied the Prisme factory and featured sessions with speakers from the Lindsey Refinery dispute and one of the Visteon Conveners. From a shaky start with the morning session, the conference finished on a good note, despite me missing the last train back to Bangor.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Review – Appeal To Reason by Rise Against (2008)

A slightly edited version of this review was carried in this weeks issue of The Socialist

I’d guess that the name is perhaps the biggest clue to the fact that Rise Against are quite a left-leaning political band. Their angst-ridden punk rock/hardcore sound has driven them through several albums and has continued to propel them into their latest album, Appeal To Reason. Whilst the album is instantly recognisable as a Rise Against album to a fan, it doesn’t just repeat the style of previous albums, rather deepening it and finding new variations within that style, quite impressive for a four piece punk rock band.

The bands sense of timing combined with some great lyrics makes this a powerful album, for example within the song Re-Education (Through Labor) describing how events will wash away the mis-education people suffer as people “…won’t believe the lies that hide the truth.” Or the environmentalist anthem Collapse (Post-Amerika) with its lines describing the chaos global warming could potential wreak on the planet and asking how it is possible that some still seek to deny this is happening and stall the drastic measures needed. Or their self-deprication in Entertainment with the lyrics “All we are is pretty faces, Picture perfect bottled rage, Packaged synthesized versions of you.”

One of the best songs is Kotov Syndrome, named for a chess term for a move made where the player has spent to long deliberating and rushes a bad move before he runs out of time, focuses on the insecurity offered to ordinary people by capitalist society. The song also features a particularly good lyric “There, high on the watchtower, keeping the peace, whatever that means” is a biting critic of imperialist nations attempts to impose ‘peace’ on their own terms upon the world through the invasions in the Middle East.

But the song that steals the album, is the sole acoustic song, Hero of War. The song graphically depicts the life a young man who signs up to the armed forces and goes through a tour of Iraq. The song depicts the brutality of the occupation with the beating of prisoners and the murder of innocent civilians and how this changes the young man. If you like this genre of music then listening to this album is a must.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Rob Williams sacked by brutal bosses - Step up the struggle

Rob Williams, trade union Convenor of Linamar Swansea, was sacked by the Linamar management last week, and then temporarily re-instated following militant action by the Linamar workforce.

Disgracefully, however, Rob today had his sacking confirmed. Negotiations between Linamar management and Tony Woodley took place all day in London, but Linamar did not shift.
Meanwhile at the Swansea plant Linamar revealed their brutality. Massive intimidation of the workforce took place - including foremen going around the shop floor threatening workers with the sack if they dared walk out in support of Rob. The bosses even went to the ludicrous lengths of removing the door from Rob’s trade union office.

This brutal action by Linamar is an attempt to return to the nineteenth century. What Linamar do not realise, however, is that all hell is going to break loose when workers, both in the Swansea and the wider labour movement, hear how Rob and his members have been treated.
The official reason for his sacking was “irretrievable breakdown of trust” - one of the most blatant excuses to behead a trade union organisation ever used in any factory. Rob’s record in standing up for his members, both inside and outside the factory, is second to none. However, what is at stake here is not the fate of one individual but the right for workers to be represented by the best militant fighters.

This sacking has to be totally opposed. The union has promised rapid action to organise a ballot for an official strike, but the anti-trade union laws mean this could still take up to a month between the ballot and the strike action actually taking place. That time, which must be kept a short as possible, needs to be used to pull out all the stops in support of Rob. Messages of support and donations should flood in.

If Linamar are allowed to get away with this, no convenor or shop steward, either in the already weakened car industry or in the wider trade union movement is safe. Allow the employers to inflict a defeat here and no trade unionist, shop steward, let alone a convenor, will be able to put their head above the parapet without the bosses seeking to cut it off.

Workers are facing the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Big business is doing their utmost to make sure that it is the working class that pays for the crisis. Militant, fighting trade unionism – symbolised by Rob Williams and the union organisation in Linamar – must not only be preserved but strengthened in order to prepare the working class for the capitalist offensive that is under way in Britain and worldwide.

Continue to phone protests to:

Head of Swansea Linamar Brian Wade 01792 656339
Personnel Manager 01792 656238

Messages of protest to
Messages of support to Rob Williams:
and Socialist Party Wales:

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

May Day Celebrations in North Wales

The celebrations in North Wales basically went from bad to good. To start with we had the travesty of Wrexham Trades Council cancelling their May Day march (due for last Saturday)allegedly due to a leaflet going out advertising it being a little critical of the government. Pathetic or what!

Instead it was replaced by a few performances by some bands which made it appear more like something organised by the Salvation Army rather than by the labour movement. Instead, North Wales SP members made the best of a bad situation giving out some anti-BNP literature and then meeting to discuss with some contacts.

The Sunday turned out much better with around 30 or so turning up for a Radical History Tour near Llanberis looking at the area's trade union history organised by a few local members of the IWW. The walk was a good 3 1/2 stroll past old quarries and the famed union rock, which was the only place local quarriers could meet to discuss union business.

(Another photo from the walk)