In this bulletin:
1. WLG news: next meeting; Llansamlet victory; steering committee; forthcoming events
2. Welsh Labour consultations: physical punishment of children; and Severn Barrage
3. Commentary: Cardiff reshuffle; Crimogenic capitalism; State surveillance; porky pies
4. Discussion: Challenging Capitalism in the UK & Wales
The next meeting of Welsh Labour Grassroots (WLG) will take place next Saturday, 27th July, at 11.00 am in the Belle Vue Pavilion/Conservatory, Waterloo Road, Newport NP20 4EZ. The agenda will include a discussion, led by Cllr. Bob Clay, of the controversy arising from the Falkirk selection and the resulting proposals to change Labour’s relationship with the trade unions.
Hearty congratulations are due to Bob Clay on his magnificent victory in the Llansamlet council local by-election in Swansea on 4th July. Bob won almost 75% of the vote, a hugely impressive result that reflects the hard work that had been put in. The Llansamlet ward has a history of far-right activity, so the National Front’s last place in the poll represents an important message that they are not wanted. Congratulations to all those campaigned to elect Bob and, like UAF, to stop the fascists.
The WLG Steering Committee met in Swansea on 10th July. The main discussion was on WLG’s future and how we can change the way we operate to maximise our influence on political developments while also lightening the load borne by our officers. There will be a further meeting soon, after which some proposals will be brought to our AGM. The meeting also confirmed the arrangements for our remaining meetings this year. After the Newport meeting on Saturday, these will be as follows:
· Saturday, 7th September, Swansea – main discussion on council budgets
· Saturday, 19th October, Cardiff – AGM and conference – main theme: environmental crisis (plus joint session with SEA)
· Saturday, 7th December, Swansea – main discussion on Europe
Other forthcoming events, in which WLG members may be interested:
· Newport, Monday 22nd July: ‘Dont Let Racists Divide Us’ rally called by UAF in response to desecration of Muslim graves at Newport cemetery. 7.00 pm in the Castle Room, Newport Centre. Speakers include: Mubarak Ali (Islamic Society for Wales); Marianne Owens (PCS NEC); June Ralph (Newport Trades Council).
· Cardiff, Monday 22nd July: People’s Assembly Cardiff group meeting, 7.30 pm at Unite offices, 1 Cathedral Road.
· Thursday, 25th July 2013: Cardiff Against the Bedroom Tax council lobby and picnic/BBQ 3.30 pm outside City Hall. More details on Facebook.
· Cardiff, Thursday, 8th August: Glamorgan Archives local history lecture: Nina Jenkins on ‘The British in India: A Guide for Beginners’. Free entry but email: firstname.lastname@example.org to book a place.
· Cardiff, Thursday, 15th August: Glamorgan Archives local history lecture: Ceri Thompson on ‘Collecting People’s History at Big Pit’. 2.00 pm at Glamorgan Archives, Clos Parc Morgannwg, Leckwith, Cardiff CF11 8AW. Free entry but email: email@example.com to book a place.
Welsh Labour consultations
As you’ll probably be aware, Welsh Labour is currently conducting policy consultations on two priority issues: the possibility of a change in the law to outlaw physical punishment of children; and the proposed Severn Barrage. Please find attached a presentation on the former by one of our comrades, Cllr, Jonathan Evans, who has been working with the ‘Children Are Unbeatable’ campaign. The Barrage has, of course, been strongly promoted by Peter Hain, supported by the Wales TUC and Unite, but there are strong left/green arguments against it, on environmental, economic and practical grounds, most of which have been helpfully summarised by Friends of the Earth Cymru.
Commentary - Len Arthur
Welsh Government changes
Leighton Andrews’ resignation as Welsh Education minister on 25th June resulted in a reshuffle of Labour’s cabinet. The Tory cuts put the Welsh Government and local councils in the difficult position of having to make policy choices between offering no more than a ‘dented shield’ or sustaining the ‘clear red water’. The latter would involve mobilising to support bold policy moves to create of shining example of what UK socialists could achieve. The renewed Tackling Poverty Action Plan, announced recently by the Welsh Government, reflects this dilemma, admitting that it is not possible to overcome the damage of Tory cuts but attempting to concentrate action on those most affected. This is laudable as far as it goes. A key message in the press release gives the impression that 5000 jobs were being created for those families with no one in work. In reality it only amounts to intensive counselling and training opportunities whereas, as we have argued before, the Welsh Government ought to have a more radical investment and job creation policy that would be a direct challenge to the austerity policies of the UK Tory government.
In the UK, the austerity screw was tightened on the working class through the spending review and the Labour leadership announced at the National Policy Forum on 22/23 June that it intends to keep these policies going during the early years of a Labour government. Peter Rowlands’ latest WLG discussion post covers the serious political challenges this poses for us as socialists in the Labour party, while the preceding post discusses these challenges in relation to the People’s Assembly.
The latest edition of Private Eye reveals that Apple Corp earned net income of $30bn between 2009 and 2012 but paid no corporation tax – just another frightening example of how far these international corporations are out of control. Private Eye also reveals that Cameron’s G8 rhetoric on tackling international tax avoidance is just hot air, as the Tories themselves have introduced rules making it easier for companies to shift earnings across borders to avoid tax.
Tory state surveillance, racism and persecution
Now, of course you may wish to challenge the above – but watch out if you do, as your every move and written word will be recorded via the US National Security Agency’s Prism surveillance. Although, William Hague says (paraphrasing Pinochet and other dictators), you have nothing to worry about if you stay within the law. Not true, of course: as the Lawrence family have discovered, dirt will be dug at public expense if you challenge those who keep the world safe for their corporations to rip us off. Little by little, the Tory government is institutionalising the harassment of any group it decides to demonise.
In South Wales recently, there appears to have been increased activity by the UK Border Agency raiding people based upon ‘reports’ with very little justification. For those who experience this, it must feel like persecution with no redress. The criminalisation of khat provides the Tories with further cover for institutionalised harassment, a continuation of the questionable state activities that also includes the persecution of tabloid bogeyman, Abu Qatada, as exposed recently by Victoria Brittain. It may not be fascism but it certainly is starting to feel like it.
Economic porky pies
Despite the OTT reactions by the financial press to every twitch of life in the capitalist economy, the entrenched structural causes of the current crisis are still with us. Michael Roberts, in a recent survey of the realities of global growth, reveals indicators showing that all is still not well and that the purging of less profitable value still has trillions to go. So, it is hardly surprising that neo-liberal governments around the world remain intent on ensuring the working class pays for the crisis. Resistance is taking place around the world in a variety of forms, in places such as in Brazil, Turkey and Egypt, and it is not always easy to identify the political trajectories involved. We are not immune from these contradictions in the UK – witness the rise of UKIP.
Lenin talked about ‘inflammable material in world politics’ and there is much around; the really hard job for us, as socialists, is to try to ensure that the spark of political pressure is well lit, so that we can turn up the heat on those who benefit from the neo-liberal policies that sustain a very shaky capitalist system. We need constantly to seek to mobilise a fightback, with clear demands and action, leading towards a direct challenge to the power of capital.