Tuesday, February 5, 2013

News & action No 13

The views expressed in this email and blog are those of the individuals whose name is attached to the posting. They do not represent a collective position of the WLG or the Labour Party
Dear Comrade

The Welsh Labour Grassroots (WLG) day school on ‘Councils and the Cuts’, held on 26th January, was one of our most successful initiatives to date; all the feedback we’ve received suggests that those present found the day useful and interesting.

Mick Antoniw AM got things off to a good start with a frank and thoughtful assessment of the challenge of the Tory cuts for Wales and the difficult decisions facing the Welsh Government and Labour councils. I offered a bit of historical context, by quickly recounting the stories of Poplarism, Clay Cross and the rate-capping struggle.

We then heard from two English Labour councillors with different experiences of defending their communities. Charlynne Pullen recounted an impressive record of achievement, in difficult times, since Labour regained control of Islington in 2010. This had included the establishment of a Fairness Commission, the introduction of free school meals, the partial restoration of Educational Maintenance Allowance and the bringing back in-house of previously outsourced services. Greg Marshall told us how he had campaigned and won office in Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire, in 2011 on a clear anti-cuts platform. He and two fellow councillors have maintained this position in the ruling Labour group, winning some important concessions from the majority while also campaigning alongside unions, the local trades council and community groups to defend services.

Our final guest speaker, Hilary Wainwright, explained how the rise of Syriza in Greece demonstrates the potential for the left to use electoral success not simply to administer state power but to transform the character of government by enabling ordinary people to drive the formulation and implementation of policy. In this respect, it echoes previous radical experiments, like the GLC in the 1980s and the Brazilian Workers Party in Porto Alegre. The stimulating ideas presented by Hilary and the other speakers throughout the day were matched by the lively and thoughtful contributions of the 40 or so WLG members who attended. Thanks to all of them for making this a success! Our hope is that these discussions will have helped arm our comrades – especially those in Welsh council chambers – for the coming battles to protect jobs and services…



Forthcoming events

Our next WLG meeting will take place on Saturday, 16th February, at the Civic Centre, Oystermouth Road, Swansea, between 11.00 am-1.00 pm.

London, Saturday 9th February 2013: Stop the War international conference: ‘Confronting War, Ten Years On’. Speakers include: Tariq Ali, Tony Benn, Victoria Brittain, Jeremy Corbyn, Brian Eno, Lindsey German, Kate Hudson, Owen Jones, Seumas Milne, Salma Yaqoob. Details: http://www.tenyearson.org.uk/.

Cardiff, Saturday, 16th February: Welsh Labour Annual Women’s Conference. 10.30 am – 4.30 pm at the Unite the Union building, 1 Cathedral Rd Cardiff. Contact Jo Galazka, tel: 02920 877712, email: joanne_galazka@labour.org.uk.

Cardiff, Wednesday 20th February: UNA Cardiff & District public meeting: Paul Flynn MP on ‘Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Weapons’. 7.00 pm at the Temple of Peace, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3AP. Free entry – all welcome.

Cardiff, Thursday, 28th February: ‘Fighting Back: What Lessons Can Be Learned from the Union Struggles of the 1980s?’ A lecture by Prof. Huw Beynon & Steve Davies (Cardiff School of Social Sciences), 6.00 pm at Unite regional offices, 1 Cathedral Road, Cardiff CF11 9SD.


A View from the Left – Len Arthur’s perspective on the latest news and views

To judge by his rhetoric in recent weeks, it seems that Cameron wishes to appear like Colonel Blimp to appease his right wing, falling back on rhetoric about international events to divert attention from the government’s policy failures and the increasing misery being inflicted on workers in the UK. The tragedy in Algeria is connected to events in Mali and NATO bombing of Libya, as Seumas Milne argues in the Guardian: follow the link to resource control, not the desire of religious fundamentalists to overthrow the West. For the Prime Minister, it is an opportunity to raise once more Bush’s standard of the ‘War on Terrorism’. Then, of course, there has been the great hype over the EU. So what do we get in the end? A predictable attack on the Social Chapter and migrants, under the rubric of repatriating powers, leading to a Tory commitment to a referendum in 2017 on the outcome of the negotiations with those nasty Europeans. The real changes that should happen in the EU are negotiations to extend the Social Chapter, such as establishing an EU Living Wage, ending the Thatcherite monetarist policies built into public sector spending restrictions and extending the democratic power of the EU Parliament – all of which would require us to unite with workers across the EU, not retreat into a futile and dangerous nationalist bubble.

So what has been covered up? Job losses of up to 5000 per day; remorseless bad news on welfare and pensions as austerity policies grind through Parliament; 5000 job losses and redundancies in the army (so much for the War on Terror); despite these cuts, public sector borrowing – the deficit – is higher than last year; all the latest indicators point toward a triple downturn, even in services; and a consequent threat to the UK’s credit rating. The politics of austerity are becoming unravelled – so let’s have a war (so long as it is on the cheap)!

Austerity is about forcing the working class across Europe to pay for the bankers’ crisis. It is cruel, totally unacceptable and will not work as it is about boosting profits at the expense of real wages, benefits and the planet. As socialists, we have to keep developing an alternative and taking action to turn it into reality. Action can be taken now and it can be linked to the transformation that is required. As ever, this bulletin and blog attempts to take these ideas forward.

Although, as Labour Party members, we may feel completely indifferent to the debate about what is happening inside the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) - so much so, that you may not know what I’m referring to! – it is actually worth looking at some of the more considered comments, which raise issues relevant to all socialists in the current climate. John Palmer, writing in Red Pepper, draws on his own former membership of the SWP and makes some well-considered points about the changed context. Counterfire is largely composed of people who were more recently SWP members and their piece makes some good points about party democracy and the current need for a ‘strategic united front’. A ‘grumpy old Trot’ again makes some useful points about party democracy and argues the case for socialist unity.

Now, what is probably most interesting is that these three pieces make points that overlap with Owen Jones recent article in the Independent about socialist unity and the Labour Party and Hilary Wainwright’s recent Red Pepper article about political transformation: they all refer, either directly or indirectly, to the experience of Syriza in Greece. For more specific discussion of Syriza, you may wish to refer to: New Left Project; Red Pepper; and/or ZCommunication (which has a view of Europe by Leo Panitch). In my third and last discussion piece on ‘Bridging the Gap’ that comes with this email and blog there is an attempt to take account of this discussion in a way that might help guide our own continuing resistance.

Michael Roberts continues to be an excellent read on the economy particularly making the point about the limits of Keynes and the failure of even his most radical followers to come up with adequate answers to the current crisis. In the Labour Party we need to consider these arguments very seriously if the next Labour government is going to deal with economic reality - points well made in Roberts’ latest post – The global crawl. 

Finally, some very useful but random arguments on migration in the New Statesman; the establishment of a workers cooperative in Chicago; and, if you are interested in humanism, a good piece on why morality does not need religion.

Labour Party

Our model motion for Welsh Labour conference is doing well in creating discussion around the branches and constituencies in Wales and has been carried (albeit sometimes with amendments) by at least four CLPs: Cardiff West, Gower, Pontypridd and Swansea West, as well as by the Unison Wales Labour Link committee. WLG members report that it has been a valuable exercise gaining support from some surprising sources. Don’t forget the model motion is available here.

The UK Labour Party website is here. The Welsh Labour website is here.

A number of Labour Party issues and meetings have been covered above but please look at our blog posting of a report from our WLG members who were elected to the National Policy Forum. Over the next weeks it is intended to provide a report on the Welsh Policy Forum.

All the best

Len Arthur WLG Assistant Secretary
Darren Williams WLG Secretary

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