Friday, 25 September 2009

Music Review: The People or the Gun, by Anti-Flag

From this weeks issue of the Socialist.

Reviewed by Iain Dalton

The latest offering from Anti-Flag at first seems like a bit of a trip down memory lane for the band. Quite a few of the songs are rougher and shorter than their previous album and sound more like their albums from around 10 years ago.
The political content of the songs is anything but from Anti-Flag's past.
Whereas over the last few years Anti-Flag's inspiration has come from anti-war movements and general anti-capitalist angst, this album draws much more from the traditions of workers' struggles.
This is at its most stark in When All The Lights Go Out, which talks of "One million workers stand up..." whereas in the past something more vague like the word 'people' would have been used; and then states "Revolution: the engine of history".
Further on, the song speaks of how "We don't need the CEO's, they need us" and even quotes the Communist Manifesto: "Proletarians of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains". And Marx is quoted elsewhere in the album's liner notes for Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington DC, a song about how religion is used by the ruling class to divide people.
The title of one of the songs is taken direct from the slogans of the May-June 1968 events in France, The Economy Is Suffering... Let It Die, the song itself being a crying indictment of how capitalists and their governments have propped up themselves whilst placing the burden of the crisis on the working class.
The song describes how they have been "Lining up their pockets with the people's cash..." whilst asking "Where are all the bailouts for the homeless and the poor?"
Anti-Flag's lyrics drew me towards the anti-war movement and eventually towards socialist and Marxist ideas, hopefully this album will draw many more young people towards political activity with the Socialist Party.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Anglesey Aluminium - Nationalise to Save Jobs

THE RUNNING down of smelting facilities at Anglesey Aluminium is a devastating blow to the economy of Holyhead and the rest of the island of Anglesey, North Wales. The company (which at the beginning of the year employed over 500 and was estimated to account for a third of Anglesey's economy), will only retain around 80 workers.

Dylan Roberts and Iain Dalton

The immediate pretext for the closure of the plant is the ending of a discounted energy supply from Wylfa nuclear power station. The end of this deal had been on the cards for some time now - the closure of Wylfa, announced back in 2006, is expected in 2010. But the company has in the past stated that they would not be threatened by the closure of Wylfa. So what has changed now? The current crisis of capitalism and rising production costs are being used as a scapegoat, for attacks on pay and conditions and the switching of production to non-unionised plants in low wage economies, in order to drive up profit margins further.

In most cases, there is no pressing need to switch production; it is simply another case of profits coming before people. Such is the devastation that these job losses will cause to the island's economy that the Welsh Assembly and Westminster governments have been forced to intervene, offering £59 million in state subsidies over a four year period, which amounts to a massive £1 million a month.However, management at Anglesey Aluminium, Rio Tinto (which owns 51% of AA), and Kaiser Aluminium (49% ownership) rejected the deal, claiming that they would need at least double that figure in state subsidies to retain production on Anglesey. Yet Anglesey Aluminium has been extremely profitable in the 36 years it has been on the island.

Furthermore, both Rio Tinto and Kaiser Aluminium are multinationals turning huge profits. Rio Tinto posted record profits in 2008, delivering net profits in the first quarter of 2008 of an astronomical US $2.94 billion. They have not fared quite so well in the first quarter of 2009 but still made $1.6 billion in net profits in that period, or $177 million per day! Just like the banks, we see private enterprise demanding that the losses are nationalised while the profits remain private.

Despite redundancy notices being issued, the situation is not hopeless as the action at the Vestas Blades plant on the Isle of Wight shows. There, workers and their supporters have created huge pressure upon both the company and government to stop its closure. They are currently taking action to stop the remaining wind turbine blades and machinery being removed from the plant as part of their campaign to force the government to nationalise the plant.

In both cases the levels of profits of the multinational companies, and the continued profitability of these plants, demonstrates their viability. Both companies should be made to open their books to see where these profits have gone, and if necessary the plants should be nationalised, under democratic workers' control and management, to ensure future jobs and opportunities for skilled workers.

Aliwminiwm Môn – Cenedlaetholi er mwyn achub Swyddi

MAE CAU lawr yr hwylusudd mwyndoddwr yn Aliwminiwm Môn yn ergyd ddinistriol i economi Caergybi a gweddill Ynys Môn, Gogledd Cymru. Mae’r cwmni (oedd ar ddechrau’r flwyddyn yn cyflogi dros 500 o weithwyr, ac oedd yn amcangyfri am dros drydedd o economi Ynys Môn), nawr ond yn cadw oddeutu 80 o weithwyr.

Dylan Roberts ag Iain Dalton

Y rheswm dros gau’r safle yw diwedd cynhyrchu egni oddi ar gorsaf bwêr niwclear Wylfa. Mae diwedd y dosraniad yma wedi bod ar y cardiau am beth amser bellach – mae cau Wylfa, a gafodd ei gyhoeddi nôl yn 2006, i fod mewn grym erbyn 2010. Ond mae’r cwmni yn y gorffennol wedi dweud ni fuasai cau Wylfa yn fygythiad. Felly beth sydd wedi newid nawr?
Mae’r argyfwng cyfalafiaeth presennol a chynydd yn nghostau cynhyrchu yn cael eu defnyddio fel bwch diahangol, fel ymysodiad a’r dâl a amodau a’r newid o gynhyrchu i weithfeydd nad oes ganddynt undebm, mewn economi tâl isel, er mwyn cynyddu elw.
Yn y rhan fwyaf o sefyllfaoedd, nid oes yna angen mawr i newid cynhyrchiad, mae hyn yn achos arall lle mae elw yn dod cyn y bobl.Mor ddrwg yw’r sefyllfa a wneir y colledion yma i economi’r ynys, bod llywodraethau y Cynulliad a San Steffan wedi eu gorfodi i ymyrryd, gan gynnig £59 miliwn mewn cymhorthdal gwladol dros gyfnod o 4 mlynedd, sy’n gyfanswm enfawr o £1 miliwn y mis.
Beth bynnag, mae rheolwr Aliwminiwm Môn, Rio Tinto (sydd dal yn berchen a 51% o AM) a Aliwminiwm Kaiser (berchen ar 49%) wedi gwrthod y ddêl, yn datgan y byddent angen o leiaf dwbl y ffigwr mewn cymhorthdal gwladol er mwyn cadw cynhyrchu yn Ynys Môn.
Ond mae Aliwminiwm Môn wedi bod yn hynod o broffidol yn y 36 mlynedd y mae wedi bod ar yr ynys. Ymhellach i hyn, mae Rio Tinto a Aliwminiwm Kaiser yn gwmniau ryngwladol ac yn creu elw anfferth.
Mae Rio Tinto wedi cofnodi elw yn 2008, yn dychwelyd elw yn y chwarter cyntaf o 2008 y swm anferthol $2.94 biliwn (UDA). Nid ydynt wedi gwneud mor dda yn chwarter cyntaf o 2009 ond wedi parhau i wneud $1.6 biliwn o dychwelyd elw yn y cyfnod hwnw, neu $177 miliwn y diwrnod!
Yn union fel y banciau, rydym yn gweld mentrau preifat yn gofyn i eu colled gael ei genedlaetholi ond bod yr elw yn aros yn breifat. Er gwaethaf y nodiadau diswyddi yn cael eu rhannu allan, nid yw’r sefyllfa yn un hollol ddiobaith fel a welwyd gan weithredoedd yn safle Vestas Blades yn Ynys Wyth. Yno, mae’r gweithwyr a’u cefnogwyr wedi rhoi pwysau enfawr ar y cwmni a’r llywodraeth i rhwystro’r safle cael ei gau. Maent ar y funud yn cymryd gweithred i atal y twrbinau gwynt sydd ar ol a’r offer gael ei symud oddi ar y safle fel rhan o’u hymgyrch i orfodi’r llywodraeth i genedlaetholi’r safle.
Yn y ddau sefyllfa, mae lefelau elw o’r cwmniau rhyngwladaol, a’r parhad o elw o’r gweithfeydd, yn dangos eu hyfywedd. Dylai’r ddau gwmni cael eu gorfodi i agor eu llyfrau a gweld lle mae’r elw yma wedi mynd, ac os yn berthnasol dylai’r safleoedd eu cenedlaetholi, o dan reolaeth y gweithwyr democrataidd er mwyn sicrhau gwaith ar gyfer y dyfodol a cyfleon ar gyfer gweithwyr a sgiliau.

Friday, 18 September 2009

The BNP and Council Cuts

One thing that you don't often find out about the BNP is what the actually stand for. By this I don't mean that many of their more longstanding members are racists and neo-nazis, some members and ex-members have been convicted of bomb making and things like that. I'm sure most people will have seen something by Hope Not Hate or Unite Against Fascism telling them that and then subtly appearing to suggest the best thing to do about is to vote Labour.

What I mean is what the BNP think should be done about such things as the economy, the likelihood of job cuts and so forth. That is apart from booting out immigrants and saying that they're different to the 'Westminster elite'

Well an opportunity to see this has arisen with the news that Kirklees council will be making anywhere from £250m to £400m worth of cuts, which could mean 20% of the 11,000 string council workforce losing their jobs.

In a comment to the Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Thursday, 17th September), BNP councillor Roger Roberts said

"This is long overdue, it has to be done..."

"The good thing is that a lot of the silly posts can disappear. I’ve always advocated that you could get rid of 25% of council staff and no-one would notice..."

I would imagine very few council workers would vote for the BNP after reading those comments. A leaflet that disseminates this information will be worth a thousand leaflets telling people about Nick Griffins 1998 conviction for inciting racial hatred.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Socialist Party Organisers School

Having got back late yesterday from the Socialist Party's Organisers School near Buxton in the Peak District, it seems like a good time to gather my thoughts on the weekend.

After having a bit of a nightmare travelling there from Bangor, it was a good experience to spend the weekend with over 100 party activists from across the country. The attendees for the most part were members who have joined over the last year and have begun to help organise the work of their local branches. People like me who have been knocking around for a few years now were definitely in a minority and for the most part were confined to the younger party full-timers and a few of our leading members in certain areas of work. The vast majority of the people there I hadn't met before and I found it really good to meet so many people. To give a good illustration of this, of the delegation from Yorkshire, of which I used to be a member in when I first joined the party, I knew less than half of them, and most of them I'd met in the last year - and this in a region that I have always tried to keep quite effective contact with!

The weekend itself was a mix of commissions and plenary sessions. The two plenary sessions began and ended the weekend, with Peter Taaffe discussing perspectives and Hannah Sell discussing build the Socialist Party. I'm not going to comment much on these apart from note how I seem to get mentioned in everyone of Hannah's leadoffs on party building, obviously I've found favour somewhere!

The commissions were the focus of the weekend, giving more of an opportunity for newer activists to contribute (that said most of the Welsh delegation spoke in the first plenary session). The first day had political commissions on six different topics (which were repeated in the evening) - I went to the role of the State and to Sri Lanka and the national question - both of which were really good interactive sessions. The session on the State took a question and answer style, whereas the Sri Lanka session, featured video footage of the situation there in the camps and a discussion around the current political situation in Sri Lanka, as well as discussing the history of the national question there, which is intimately bound with the history of Trotskyism in the country, all of which deserves one (if not more) posts all to itself to do the subject justice.

On the second day we had two different sessions - one on recruitment to the party and the second set of sessions looking at different aspects of party work. I went along to the session on the role of a marxist in the workplace. The session had a wide range of participants, from those like Rob Williams where the party has a big influence in that particular workplace and has led the struggle to defend jobs and improve conditions at that factory, as well as recently defending Rob from victimisation, to workplaces where we have just one member and there is no trade union at all. It was really good being able to discuss, share and learn from each others experiences.

A few last things, in my opinion the weekend was an excellent experience with just two flaws. The first was the lateness of the reading lists for the political commissions, which no doubt meant that some members where less prepared than they could have been for the discussions and meant those discussions necessarily had to cover a little more ground than they needed (due to mny extensive reading I had already read the materials for the sessions I attended, but if I hadn't I wouldn't have had the time to do so if otherwise). And the second was the lack of preparation at the hostel for the weekend, which meant they didn't have enough staff on and the bar ran out of beer!

I for one thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, and really enjoyed discussing with our new activists from around the country, so much so that I was last up both nights we were at the hostel. And despite how useless I am a football, I even scored a goal in the saturday lunchtime game - a great result all round!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Student or Worker?

One of the things that has frustrated me for the last few years has been that I get referred to as a student, especially within SP circles. Now it isn't that inaccurate a description, after all for two years I was an activist at Huddersfield Uni and was elected as the non-sabb Campaigns Officer for one of them.
And then I moved to Bangor. I stopped being a full time student and looked for full-time work - and then got offered a place on a masters course part-time with my tuition fees paid. So I decided to do that as well as work. But what, at least politically, came to the fore was the student part of my life, particularly when I became unemployed and using my spare time helped build up the signatures needed to force a referendum on the issue of tuition fees within Bangor Students Union. Couple that with then going on to win said referendum and on the back of that being the Socialist Students candidate for the NUS Block of Fifteen and you begin to see why people will think of me as a student.
My blogging has reinforced that too. I've found it far easier to write about student politics than about the places I've worked in. And to be honest I'd rather my bosses at work didn't know I was a member of the Socialist Party.
But I don't see myself as a student, in fact, I haven't ever since I left uni full time at Huddersfield. At the moment I only technically count as a student as I haven't finished my masters dissertation yet. And I work full time.
Its not that I see being a student as a bad thing, but there are certain things that I associate with students that just aren't me. For example - sleeping at silly hours, using words most people don't understand, forcing themselves to read books they aren't interested in etc. There's probably other stuff that I can't think of right now too, but the point is that although some people see that side of me as defining me, I feel the complete opposite.
But things are gonna change with this blog, as I'm probably not gonna be in my current job for all too much longer it doesn't particularly matter whether my bosses put two and two together any more. So hopefully in the next few weeks I'll be able to get off my chest some of the observations I've made at work and of my involvement with my trade union too.

Friday, 4 September 2009

A Statement of Sorts

Well I guess I should start with welcoming you, dear reader, to the blog. As it seems to be customary when starting a blog to say what you intend on doing with said blog, I shall do that. Following me so far?

For those who don't know me, I have another blog - - a blog I am very proud of, especially some of my posts exploring issues related to crime and criminal justice. The problem was I would only get round the writing those posts only so often, especially after I stopped being a full-time undergrad at uni, and so to bulk up the blog I started posting other stuff (actually that isn't quite right, I started with the filler too, but its become more prevalent since I finished by undergrad course at Hudds Uni). I liked writing about the other stuff, but often I didn't have the time or knowledge to write as good a post as I would do on some of the crime related issues. But for appearances sake they'd have a veneer that attempted to make them look like the were as polished as the crime related articles. Of course they failed miserably for the most part and were the blogging equivalent of a Rollex watch (yes I meant to spell it like that). So this blog is for me to write about stuff in a less formalised manner and covering other stuff apart from crime related issues.

And your probably wondering about the name? Well, obviously people will get the Monty Python reference - but the reference to sectarianism? Well, this is going to be a blog more about myself, and my opinions. I am a member of the Socialist Party, and I share the opinions of that party and this will probably come through in my posts. To my mind, that isn't full blown sectarianism - in fact, if we are going to ever get a united left/socialist/marxist party then people need to honestly and openly discuss their attitudes to questions. But this blog will certainly be more opinionated and, in that sense, sectarian than the new posting that will feature on Leftwing Criminologist.

Anyways, enough ramblings for now - I need sleep and hopefully when I go into work tomorrow the oven won't have caught fire again. See you!