Saturday, 2 January 2010

First Casualty of the Year

After only a short period of existence, I regretfully inform people that I won't be updating this blog anymore. I have just moved house and changed by job which will give me less time for it anyway, but the main problem for me is that all I have been doing is mostly reposting articles that I have written for the Socialist and Socialism Today. Occasionally, there have been a few other things, such as the Bangor SP Xmas quiz going up here. But to be honest this blog doesn't have terribly many readers and most of the material on it is available elsewhere. (In the past on I posted my polemics with the sabbs at Bangor Students Union and other things that would have otherwise been unpublished for a wider audience)
In his recent post, Phil BC of AVPS fame, the comment is made that slightly off-beam topics attract more interest. I think this is because blogs offer the ability to do things that you can't do with general agitational and propaganda materials. When you go along to a demo or anything - if you were to give out material it would need to related to whatever was happening there. On the web, you can talk about just about anything and find an audience. It gives the opportunity to discuss things that may not be the most important thing in the world at that moment, but will help deepen our understanding of that issue for the future.
The problem for me is that this blog doesn't really do that. True I may have reported some events that the Socialist Party has been involved in, that I have been along to - but thats more down to my frustration that the Socialist Party website doesn't get updated often enough (although this seems to be changing somewhat).
A further thing that Phil BC highlights in the post's comments section is that
"Where the revolutionary left are concerned they're mostly stuck with thinking about the internet how it used to be before social networking took off. A website and videos are fine. One can control editorial content. A group of supporting bloggers on the other hand are much more problematic. They might go off message. There's the suspicion they will contravene the party line in some way. They might offer their own analyses before a party line has been formulated. In short a blogger offers an alternative and independent portrayal of the party.
I find this attitude curious. If comrades can be trusted to stand in the middle of the street and engage everyday people in conversation,*and* are trusted with the party's reputation in trade unions, campaigns and social movements with real social weight, why the apprehension toward "unofficial" online activities?"
I do think there is definitely a scope for improvement in the online presence of the Socialist Party, and without a doubt I think that a group of supporting bloggers is quite useful.
I'm not entirely convinced that a blogger going 'off message' on something they have tried to analyse themselves is so bad. After all, we want a party full of Marxists who can analyse events, and people are bound to make mistakes from time to time. If there becomes a big divergence between the views of an individual blogger and the party then that person will probably leave, but given that when people leave the Socialist Party they dont tend to be bitter about it, thats not necessarily too bad either. On the otherside, you gain an audience that you probably wouldn't get from an 'official' web presence, who will discuss whatever topics that are posted up in a lot more seriousness than I imagine you would get if those same posts were on an official web presence because they are debating with an individual and not a supposed 'monolith'. (In a similar way that you tend to have a lot better discussion with someone from another group in an informal setting)
That said, I do understand the apprehensions that the leaderships of political parties may have. The difference between being trusted with the party banner on stalls and in trade unions and online - is that in those settings you have to go out there and do things, whereas anyone can set up a blog online and there is a worry that frivilous types may set blogs up and then systematically attack the party. Rumours could potentially spread like wildfire online. But on the other hand anyone could claim to be anything online - I think it would be far better to engage with bloggers than miss out on the benefits of doing so, I would actually say the question is more of how to do this than whether it should be done or not.
And back to this blog. Whilst this blog is going into a potentially long hibernation, my other (and original blog) Leftwing Criminologist, will still keep going. Because that does provide material that wouldn't be published elsewhere at the present time (thats not to say none of it is published), as it can delve into much more depth than is possible elsewhere because of the specialised nature of the blog. Theres a few pieces which are planned to appear, including a guest piece which will hopefully be appearing shortly.
As for other pieces, I will of course be writing for the which I would urge people to buy (or even subscribe to!), including a reply to this letter which completely misunderstands what I wrote in this review, albeit some slight editing of the review has taken some of the subtlety away from what I'd originally written.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Raging Against the Machine

Normally the track that reached Christmas no1 in the UK singles chart wouldn’t merit comment. For the last few years it has been whichever performer that won the X-Factor final’s debut single, but even prior to that it has mostly been a song released at just the right time to maximise sales.

But this Christmas a facebook campaign to wrest the Christmas no1 away from the latest X-Factor winner’s track, The Climb was launched. X-Factor winner, Joe McElderry, whose victory in that competition had been watched by close to 20 million viewers, was pushed aside by the campaign to get anti-capitalist band Rage Against the Machine’s anthem, Killing in the Name, to the top spot. Whilst as the bands guitarist, Tom Morello, has commented, the campaign “tapped into the silent majority of the people in the UK who are tired of being spoon-fed one schmaltzy ballad after another” and would simply be glad for anything different to be Christmas no1. Yet there has certainly been a number of people choosing the song for its overt lyrics denouncing alleged links between the Ku Klux Klan and US Police forces, and the political content of the rest of the bands music.

Of course, the tools used to win this victory are the same ones that have been used to attempt to place past winners at the no1 spot, a concerted campaign which involved large scale purchase of the particular song (physical single sales from 6,500 retail outlets and downloads which cost over 40p from online retailers count towards chart ratings). It is somewhat ironic that Sony both released Killing in the Name originally back in 1992, as well as Simon Cowell’s Syco which released The Climb, and therefore will have profited from the fierce competition between the two tracks.

But the key difference in this case is that such a clash had not been promoted by the music industry, and stands as a testament to people wanting a change to the usual dictatorship of mainstream music. Whilst McElderry’s track had been consciously promoted, both through the build up of the X-Factor competition and the promotion of the newly released single, which was sold in physical copies unlike Killing in the Name. Although the first ever download-only no1 was in April 2006, this is the first download-only Christmas no1, marking the continual development of the internet as a music distribution tool, undermining the traditional role of the record labels.

But the great question is what next? True, that Killing in the Name was an unexpected Christmas no1 will have surprised the music industry and those who have participated in this success have begun discussing on the facebook group that started the campaign whether to keep buying this song to keep it at no1, or to plan to try and repeat this feat next year. Either way, the record companies and Simon Cowell (who seem to have a similar status to the bankers in that we detest what they are doing but seem powerless to stop them) will still be there not just next Christmas where they will undoubtedly come back to attempt to dominate again, but all year round. As great a feeling as you get from denting the dominance of such figures, it is only when their power is permanently broken and the organs for publicising and distributing music are taken into public ownership and democratic control that we can see a blossoming of real musical talent and not just what particular acts that Cowell and his ilk can make the most money from.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Bangor Socialist Party Xmas Quiz

Try your luck, quiz is slightly modified from Wednesday night, and is out of 36 (Tiebreakers not couting towards this). A few questions need two answers as indicated. Answers are in the comments section.


1) Who won this years Formula One drivers world championship?
2) In which sport did the English team come runners up in the world cup final in Finland this year?
3) Welsh rugby league team the Celtic Crusaders are set to move from Bridgend to which Welsh Town?
4) In cricket, who won the Ashes this year, England or Australia?
5) Which country won this years six nations competition in Rugby Union?


6) Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is the fear of what?
7) Telephonaphobia is the fear of what?
8) What is Wiccaphobia the fear of?
9) What is Leukophobia?
10) Glossophobia is the fear of what?


11) In which country did the 25 year civil war end this year?
12) Who became this first black president of the United States of American this year?
13) Who became the first Irish Socialist Party MEP this year?
14) Which countries banking system collapsed in January this year?
15) President Zelaya of which country was overthrown by a coup this year?
16) Which country was forced to vote for a second time on accepting the EU’s Lisbon Treaty this year?

17) Who wrote Frankenstein?
18) Which controversial popstar died this year at the age of 51?
19) Which are the two best selling books of all time according to wikipedia? (2 points)
20) What is the name of the TV show that drew record freview ratings on Dave this April?

21) Which student uprising in China happened 20 years ago this year?
22) Which revolution 220 years ago did Chairman Mao famously say that it was too soon to tell the consequences of?
23) The second world war broke out 70 years ago with the invasion of which country?
24) Which group of workers took a year long strike action 25 years ago?
25) Which organisation had its founding conference 90 years ago in Moscow?
26) Which hated figure came to power 30 years ago?
27) Which currently existing international organisation was founded in a pub in London 35 years ago?

British Politics
28) Which Trade Union was on strike today in South Wales? (NB On Wednesday 16 December)
29) At which company were members of UNITE set to strike over Xmas?
30) The GMB and UNITE won a huge victory for workers in a strike led by a Socialist Party member, where was it?
31) Following successful mobilisations of community activists and anti-fascists, which far-right group has been humiliated in Wales 3 times this year?
32) Which group of people caught with their snouts in the trough by an investigation by the Daily Telegraph?
33) Which trade unions organised a protest against cuts to staff pensions at Bangor University? (2 points)
34) What was the name of the electoral coalition headed by the RMT trade union in the European Elections this year?

Tie breakers
35) How many millions of pounds is Gwynedd Council planning in cuts?
36) How many people are currently unemployed in the UK?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Socialists Support Welsh Language

Article from Socialist Party Wales website

Osian Jones has been freed from a month's jail for protesting against the anti-Welsh policies of some store chains. Iain Dalton presents the view of Socialists in North Wales

In November this year, the Welsh Assembly approved a bid for powers over the Welsh language, seeking the passage of legislative competency order (LCO) through parliament. The step is argued as being the first move in a bid to legislate for the extension of language equality measures to cover the private sector.
The 1993 Welsh Language act stated that; 'in the course of public business and the administration of justice, so far as is reasonably practicable, the Welsh and English languages are to be treated on the basis of equality' - in essence giving equal status to English and Welsh languages, but only throughout the public sector. This leaves many large companies with no compulsion to provide Welsh medium services to first language Welsh speakers.
According to the 2001 census, in Wales around 20% of the population speaks Welsh, although this is heavily concentrated in certain areas, such as Gwynedd and Anglesey where around 80% of the population speaks Welsh. This is an increase of 2% from the previous census, but the 2004 Welsh Language Use Survey showed a further 1.2% increase on that figure to 21.7%. This marks the reversal of a century long decline in the Welsh language.
Socialists stand for the equality of English and Welsh languages within Wales and demand that all major companies provide services that give the option of using Welsh. Already some companies provide bilingual signage, but this should be extended to cover packaging as well as customer service. Whilst many staff in companies in Wales may not at the moment speak Welsh, learning to speak the basic Welsh needed in relation to their job should be seen as part of their training for that job and paid for with company money in company time.
However, even if the Assembly was granted such powers and passed legislation along these lines, such measures would not bring about real equality, just as equal pay legislation hasn't stopped there being major differences between the pay of men and women. The faults of current legislation and the lip-service paid by some public authorities can be seen by the poor quality of many translations. These are often made fun of in the press (for example, the sign where apologies for a translator's being out of the office has been put on roadsides as the official Welsh translation). 'Golwg' the Welsh medium weekly magazine runs a section 'Sgymraeg' highlighting more egregious errors. Under capitalism, equal rights always come second to the need to skimp and do things as cheaply as possible. In the Public Sector, this means 'belt tightening' and impending cuts in budgets. In the private sector, anything which weakens the great god profit must be axed.
It is entirely possible that with the prospect of such legislation there may be an attempt to set Welsh speakers against non-Welsh speakers as companies, who wish to avoid the cost of a fully bilingual service, seek to threaten non-Welsh speakers with the prospect of being unable to get a job. That's one of the reasons why socialists call for these companies to be taken into public ownership so that it's not left to fat cats who only see the bottom line to provide our services, but ordinary workers, both Welsh-speaking and non-Welsh speaking to be able to work out how to provide services bilingually and accessible to all.

Socialists do not necessarily support the use of direct action against companies who refuse to support the Welsh language, but we understand the anger of young Welsh-speaking people and see the use of the prison system against them as wholly wrong.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A Stand Of Solidarity - A Stand Against Cuts

From the Socialist Party Wales website

On Friday 27th November the Joint Trades Unions (UNITE & UNISON) for support staff at Bangor University called a protest demonstration against the proposal by Senior Management to cut the pensions of Support Staff (BUPAS) whilst increasing the University’s contributions to their own pension scheme. This proposed cut would reduce the pensions of Support Staff by an estimated 40%, taking it to less than a state pension.

Sean Dalton, Bangor Socialist Party

James H Clarke, Branch Secretary of the Unite Bangor University Branch, said “Management’s disgraceful behaviour is both unfair and inequitable. This is a case of the powerful attacking the less powerful and constitutes a dereliction of duty by Senior Management in respect of their obligation to look after the welfare and well-being of those whom they are responsible.”

Over 300 staff and students attended the protest showing a strong united front against the cuts to the pension. It was announced that further negotiations were to take place and that Senior Management had already backed down on one attack to the pension; however, Unite and Unison said they were committed to pushing for retention of the final salary pension scheme. They also stated that this was only the first step and that more protests and possibly industrial action may be necessary to force management back.

Bangor Socialist Party held stalls in the run up to the protest to help build support for the protest. Our bilingual placards on the protest carried the slogans, “VC gets pay rise. Staff get pension cuts,” and, “No Fees, No Cuts, No Closures. Fully Fund University Education!” We sold 21 papers in the run-up to the protest and on the day itself and are trying to strengthen the links of Socialist Students with the campus trade unions.

More photos (nb. i couldn't fit the whole protest in, on the last photo the protest actually curls round to the left)

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Youth March for Jobs

Yesterday saw the second demonstration through London organised by the Youth Fight fo Jobs (YFJ) campaign. We took a small number down from North Wales armed with bilingual placards (see photo) to join other who'd travelled down from across the country.

As we headed for the march's starting place at Malet street, we bumped into two lost Malaysian students from Hertfordshire Uni and directed them in the right direction. As the crowd gathered it looked like a small turnout, however, just at the moment we set off, several groups of people joined, including a turkish youth organisation (Day-mer Youth?). As we marched through London the demo seemed to grow, especially as we marched down past Downing Street certainly reaching at least 1000.

The rally concluded in a park the other side of the Thames at a rally which included Hannah Sell for the Socialist Party, Matt Wrack from the FBU and some others that I can't remember. Altogether, it was a good march which will hopefully inspire people to go back and build the campaign in their local area.

Other Reports

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Attacks Begin at Bangor University

Earlier in the year, Bangor university vice-chancellor, Merfyn Jones, announced £5 million in cuts to be made at the same time as receiving a 9%, above inflation, pay rise. According to lecturers' union UCU, 40 jobs are under threat in health sciences and 67 staff face losing full time contracts.

Iain Dalton

University management are now lining up the final salary pension scheme in their sights, and have recently announced they will change it to a career average scheme as well as other cutbacks. This only affects low and middle paid staff, leaving management with their pensions intact!In response, Unite and Unison, who represent the affected staff, have called a protest.

Socialist Students at Bangor University will be supporting the protest and are calling on the Students Union to unite with the campus trade unions to build a campaign against cuts.

As Bangor Students Union senate recently voted to lapse the policy supporting the Campaign to Defeat Fees passed by referendum last year (the votes of 17 people undoing the vote of 271 students), Socialist Students members and other activists will be drafting an updated policy to be debated at the next Students Union senate.

Even if this fails to pass, which is likely given the lack of action or poorly organised action taken by the Students Union, Socialist Students and other Campaign to Defeat Fees supporters will continue supporting action by university staff whilst building a movement against cuts and for free education.

Save Our Pensions protest, called by Unison and Unite. Friday 27 November, 12.30, outside main arts building.