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.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Racists not welcome in Wrexham - or in Wales!

From Socialist Party Wales website (

On Saturday, November 21st, the racist English Defence League, masquerading as the Welsh Defence League, held a demonstration in Wrexham town centre. The ‘official Welsh Defence League’ demonstration comprised 30 football hooligans from Bolton and a mere half a dozen local racists.

More than 150 Wrexham socialists, shoppers, and working people opposed the racist demonstrators, who amounted to no more than forty in total, and who must be all too aware now that they are not welcome in Wrexham.

Report by Dylan Roberts

The people of Wrexham were already hostile to the EDL, but tensions increased after the racist demonstrators unfurled a large English flag, sang God Save The Queen, and chanted racist slogans suck as “kill the Muslims”.

“This is our town and you are not welcome here!"

One woman, laden with shopping bags, summed up the feelings of the whole town when she stood her ground as the EDL tried to rush the much larger, and by this stage extremely hostile, audience of working people and shouted; “This is our town and you are not welcome here”! There was an extremely high Police presence around the pub, and four members of the EDL were arrested for public order offences.

Meanwhile, Wrexham Communities Against Racism held a communities celebration in Queens Square, in the centre of town. This aimed to bring together all sections of our community in celebration of the social cohesion evident in our peaceful working-class town. More than 300 people throughout the day attended the celebration, despite the torrential rain.Those at the celebration enjoyed music from local musicians, a drumming workshop, a martial arts exhibition, poetry, a children’s carousel, and speeches from a wide range of politicians, community leaders, and activists, amongst other acts and speakers. The event was entirely peaceful and great fun, with people dancing in the rain, and even a conga line around the square! The contrast between the communities’ celebration and the much smaller racist demonstration up the road could not have been more apparent.

Amongst the speakers on the day were Dave Reid, regional secretary of Socialist Party Wales, who talked of the need to create a new political voice for working people that would cut across the divisive racism of the EDL and the far right, and Rae Lewis-Ayling, of Bangor Socialist Party and Youth Fight for Jobs, who spoke on behalf of Youth Fight for Jobs on the disproportionate burden placed on young people by the crisis of capitalism, and encouraged an extremely appreciative, if wet, audience to head down to London for the forthcoming YFJ march. I had the pleasure of closing the event, but by this stage, drenched with rain and, frankly, elated, I could manage little more than expressing my pride and admiration of the communities of Wrexham, both at the communities’ celebration and opposite the EDL demo, who had braved awful conditions in huge numbers to make it clear that they would not allow the EDL to spread their message of division and hate here. Our Socialist Party stall, given pride of place at the celebration, was busy throughout the day, as workers and young people spoke about the inequality evident in our society that feeds racism, and the need to build a new workers’ party to overcome racism and inequality.The communities’ celebration was a tremendous success, and has galvanised the local communities to the extent that there is now huge popular support to host an annual event! By contrast, the English Defence League were heavily outnumbered and opposed at their demonstration, not by anti-racist campaigners but by ordinary working people, and were shown up as the violent racists that they are.

The message from Saturday was clear: The English/Welsh Defence League is not welcome in Wrexham or in Wales.

I am proud that Socialist Party Wales played such a leading role in organising opposition to the E/WDL in Wrexham, just as we did in Newport and Swansea, and I am particularly proud that the working people of Wrexham needed little encouragement, despite Police and press scaremongering, to come out in huge numbers and make their views on the E/WDL and racism clear: Not in our town!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

BBC Misreports Events in Wrexham

This has angered quite a few of the people at the Wrexham Communities Festival. For a start the BBC is lying when it says there was a march by Wrexham Communities Against Racism - actually there was a community festival that stayed in Queens Square the whole day.

Moreover the two groups had a big difference in size, with 40 WDL protesters turning up (apparently most of them from Bolton) whilst at least 150 people turned up to the communities festival, which featured bands amongst other entertainment.

Maybe the police were needed to keep the WDL in check, but its a little exaggerated to say that their 'strong presence' was needed to keep the groups apart, indeed from talking to organisers the police have panicked alot about the WDL coming to Wrexham in the run-up to the event, scaring people with the idea it could be like Birmingham, when it seems clear that the WDL have verylittle base (if any) in North Wales.
In the next few days I will post up a written report from someone present at the event (unfortunately I was working today)

Friday, 13 November 2009

Anti-Flag in Belgium

I've just been informed that the Blegian section of the CWI - LSP have published my review of Anti-Flag's latest album, the People or the Gun. Now I'm not publishing this to brag about it, but because they did a campaigning stall at an Anti-Flag gig in Antwerp last night and did an interview with Anti-Flag's drummer Pat Thetic which readers of this blog may be interested in (the interview is in English)


Monday, 9 November 2009

Socialism 2009

This weekend just gone saw the annual Socialism event hosted by the Socialist Party in London - I guess its a bit cliched to say it was the biggest one ever, but it was! But this was reflected in the fact that 7 of us managed to get down from North Wales, almost doubled from the year before, which considering the cost of travelling for us is exceptional.

Anyways, I kicked off with a visit to the book stall and suprised myself by only spending £32, including buying a xmas present for someone too. I got books on Kenya, an account of the 1918 in Russia, the Red Clydesiders, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and a book about the Warsaw Uprsings during WW2. But then i ruined that by spending £60 on Trotsky's military writings. I also have borrowed a collection of books off a comrade on the Paris Commune after he kindly responded to my appeal. So my bag came away appreciably heavier than i set off with.

The first session I attended was on 'Is Cameron a new Thatcher' which had both Alec Thraves from Swansea and Tony Mulhearn from Liverpool speaking at it. The session was quite interesting, outlining the economic and poilitical situation that Cameron would inherit and drive him into a confrontation with the unions like Thatcher, out pointing out the obvious differences between the background to Thatcher coming to power 30 years ago and today. Most of the questions were directed at Tony Mulhearn about the Liverpool City Council dispute, but my notes of these were pretty poor as I had been up for quite while by this point.

After this came a quick meeting of those of us there from North Wales (such is the geographic spread of the branch that it takes being in London to organise a proper get together some times), in particularly discussing about the Community Festical Against Racism we are helping to organise through Wrexham Communities Against Racism in opposition to the divisive policies of the E/WDL.

Next came the Saturday evening rally. Every single speaker was really good, starting off with Brian Caton (POA General Secretary), then Matt Wrack (FBU General Secretary) and a very loud speech by Keith Gibson from Lindsey Oil Refinery. Next up was Bob Crow who was adamant of the need for an electoral coalition in the general election and also raised the idea of fully nationalising the banks and linking them up through the post office. According to comrades who had been at the earlier RMT conference, Bob Crow went a bit further with this speech than earlier in the day.

The rally then moved onto the last few speakers, Tracy Edwards from Youth Fight for Jobs (and also PCS Young Members Organiser), Peter Taaffe as ever, Senan from Tamil Solidarity and finally Joe Higgins, Irish SP MEP. The collection wasn't as large as last year, being at roughly £25,000, but then it is a recession!

To round off saturday night, I first had a drink with my old comrades from Huddersfield in a pub before heading off to the gig/social. To be honest I didn't pay loads of attentions to the bands, apart from Chairman Wow (did i get that right?) which seemed to be composed of Brighton comrades playing Clash covers (they probably played other stuff too, but that was what i remember recognising) but they were pretty good.

And then it was finally time to head off to the hostel, except i was in the difficult to find overflow hostel and to make matter worse someone decided to get up around 6am ish and take a ridiculously loud alarm clock with them to wake everyone else up with the process - suffice to say i was not impressed.

The first session I attended was Peter Taaffe speaking on 'In Defence of Leon Trotsky'. The background to this session was a review of Robert Service's recently published biography that Peter had written where he issued a challenge to Service to debate the ideas of Trotsky, which Service declined, and even pulled out of debate elsewhere when he realised Peter was speaking there. Peter outlined the contributions Trotsky made to Marxist ideas and the movement, and the discussion followed this course, as well as discussing why there is such a voluminous body of works attacking marxist ideas and in particular anything associated with the 1917 Russian Revolution.
The final session I went to was a discussion on 'Where now for the German Left Party?" introduced by Stephan Kimmerle. The discussion from this mostly focussed on the experiences of building new working class parties and the difficulties that had been faced in doing so. Unfortunately i had to dash off early from this session.
The final event of the weekend was the closing rally. In some ways this was a better rally than the previous nights, as the majority of the speakers were relating their experiences of disputes which when you spent the entire weekend really tired helped keep you more alert. The speakers there were Rob Williams (reinstated Linamar convener), Dave Nellist, Sean Figg, Hannah Sell, John Denton (CWU London Regional Secretary) and a British Airways union rep.
Of the contributions, I listened with the most interest to John Denton's appraisal of the deal that the CWU has struck with Royal Mail, by the sounds of it he sounded skeptical at first, but he sincerely believed the deal to be a big step forward, and commented that is Royal Mail renege on it the ballots are all still active and postal workers will be out once more. In my opinion it is possible that the CWU could have got a good deal, as one comrade pointed out to me, it would be unusual for it to be passed unanimously by the postal executive if it wasn't. But we will have to wait until the full details are announced (but in my opinion, surely a the details of a good deal should be announced immediately). The BA rep's speech was quite interesting too, particularly pointing out that BA had head-hunted some of the very people who'd drawn up to attack the CWU in Royal Mail.
Overall, I had a great, but very tiring weekend. Hopefully I shouldn't have to set off to future Socialisms at such a ridiculously early events as i did this one. For those of you that couldn't be there videos were recorded of some of the sessions and they will hopefully be online soon.

Reports from Previous Socialism events at Leftwing Criminologist

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Trotsky on the Paris Commune

Following on from my previous short piece on the Paris Commune.

Trotsky wrote several times about the Paris Commune and the lessons that it gives Marxists in their struggles. As Donny Gluckstein correctly points out in The Paris Commune: A Revolution in Democracy, “Trotsky identified parallels between Paris in 1871 and Russia in 1917,” (pg200), and goes on to elaborate some of these with a series of quotations from Trotsky’s 1921 article, “Lessons of the Paris Commune” (available on the Marxist Internet Archive – despite footnotes citing them as secondary quoatations from other sources the entirety of the text quoted can be found in this document. There is also a quotation from this document in a footnote earlier in the book).

The first point which is elaborated is that of the similarities between the Central Committee of the National Guard (hereafter Central Committee) and the Councils of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies (or Soviets), as Gluckstein points out, “Both were organs of working class power with systems of instant recall and direct democracy. The French National Guard operated its collective control through the battalions which assembled on a daily basis and so could keep representatives under constant scrutiny. In Russia soldiers’ regiments and factories played the same role.” (pg.200). He especially points to Trotsky’s criticism of the National Guard for abdicating power after the 18th March events (when the Thiers government failed in its attempted to remove from Paris cannons that had been paid for by public subscriptions and thereby compromise its defence), noting that Trotsky saw their this decision as a weakness in not gaining a complete victory in the aftermath on March 18th as due to the inexperience of the members of the Central Committee, but also as an attempt so, “…that Thiers would halt respectfully before revolutionary Paris the minute the latter covered itself with the ‘legal’ Commune”. (Trotsky, Lessons of the Paris Commune)

Following on from this Gluckstein goes on to demonstrate the missing element in the situation, a revolutionary party. He points out that such an organisation is able to bring the experience of past struggles to bear in the current situation, as well as having a nucleus of experienced organisers. He further states that, “...[The Soviets] too wished to abdicate power early on…Through patient argument the Bolsheviks won over the majority in the Soviets…” (pg.202), which in general is correct, although it should be noted that until Lenin’s return in April, the Bolshevik party under the direction of Stalin had argued in the same manner as the Soviets and the Central Committee. He also highlights as an example of this the lack of agitation amongst troops fighting in the Franco-Prussian war, who were demoralised by the ineptitude of the French army command and looking for an alternative, obviously such an approach would have made it much more difficult for the reaction headed by Thiers to militarily crush Paris.

The final point which Gluckstein touches on from Trotsky’s document is the to do with the isolation that Paris faced, both the Central Committee and Commune were organised in Paris alone, which despite being the largest town in France, still left it isolated. In his book Gluckstein comments very briefly on the short-lived communes created in other areas. As the quote from Trotsky points out, “It was necessary to enter into contact with sympathisers, to strengthen the hesitators and shatter the opposition of the adversary. Instead of this policy of offensive and aggression which was the only thing that could save the situation, the leaders of Paris attempted to seclude themselves in their communal autonomy: they will not attack the others if the others do not attack them; each town has its sacred right of self-government.” However, a further quote from Trotsky (which Gluckstein does not use) links this in with the point Trotsky makes about the indecision of the Central Committee, “Passivity and indecision were supported in this case by the sacred principle of federation and autonomy… it was nothing but an attempt to replace the proletarian revolution, which was developing, by a petit bourgeois reform: communal autonomy.”

The main problem I have with Gluckstein’s commentary on Trotsky is that it he barely uses any of it. Having printed off ‘Lessons of the Paris Commune’, it fills 9 A4 pages, of which Glucksteins’ quotations come entirely from the 3rd and 4th pages. There is a wealth of other interesting observations that Gluckstein effectively ignores as we have seen in parts already above. This is not to say there is nothing in Gluckstein’s book on some of the points below, but it surely would have been strengthened by considering this material too.

For example, at the beginning of the article, Trotsky, points out that “The Commune came too late. It had all the possibilities of taking the power on September 4th… But power fell into the hands of the democratic praters, the deputies of Paris.” To Gluckstein’s credit he notes that Marx had originally opposed workers taking power in the 4th September, but Marx changed his mind afterwards, realising that such action would have changed the course of events drastically and evolution of the Franco-Prussian war. But Gluckstein leaves his commentary at this point, yet Trotsky develops from here, characterising those who wished to be leaders of the workers at this time. “The Renaudels and the Boncours and even the Longuets and the Pessemanes are much closer by virtues of their sympathies, their intellectual habits and their conduct to the Jules Favres and the Jules Ferrys than to the revolutionary proletariat. Their socialist phraseology is nothing but an historic mask which permits them to impose themselves upon the masses… When the revolutionary babblers of the salons and of parliament find themselves face to face, in real life, with the revolution, they never recognise it.”

As Trotsky goes on to point out, “Six months elapsed before the proletariat had re-established in its memory the lessons of past revolutions, of battles of yore, of the reiterated betrayals of democracy – and it seized power… If the power was found in the hands of the proletariat of Paris on March 18, it was not because it had been deliberately seized, but because its enemies had quit Paris.”

But Trotsky also spends some time on the question of how the National Guard should have been organised, as he comments, “The question of the electibility of the command of the command was one of the reasons of the conflict between the National Guard and Theirs. Paris refused to accept the command designated by Thiers. Varlin subsequently formulated the demand that the command of the National Guard, from top to bottom, ought to be elected by the National Guardsmen themselves. That is where the Central Committee of the National Guard found its support.”

But as Trotsky notes, whilst electibility has its strong sides politically, it can also weaken an army militarily. As Trotsky states, “The political task consisted in purging the National Guard of the counter-revolutionary command… Electibility served as a wedge for splitting the army into two parts, along class lines.” However, “…the liberation of the army from the old commanding apparatus inevitably involves the weakening of organisational cohesion and the diminution of combative power. As a rule, the elected command is pretty weak from technico-military standpoint and with regard to the maintainence of order and of discipline… Before wide masses of soldiers acquire the experience of well chosing and selecting commanders, the revolution will be beaten by the enemy…The methods of shapeless democracy (simple electibility) must be supplemented and to a certain extent replaced by measures of selection from above.” Thus Trotsky attempted to apply his experience of leading the Red Army to the military tasks of the Commune.

Finally, Trotsky notes that the election of the Commune, did not see the end of the Central Committee – rather both existed side by side, both due to their electibility being able to compete against each other, which meant that both to a certain extent paralysed the actions of each other, especially in the military field.

Moreover, there is another text that Trotsky wrote around the same time that contains an extended section on the Paris Commune, ‘Terrorism and Communism’, which replied to criticisms of the Soviet regime by Karl Kautsky. Kautsky attempted to counterpose the democratic Commune to the dictatorship of the Soviets. Several of the points made in there are similar to those in ‘Lesssons of the Paris Commune’, but there are two major additional points Trotsky makes.

The first is in relation to the similarities and differences in the run up to events in Petersburg (the focal point of the 1917 Russian Revolution) and in Paris. Whilst both were more developed than the majority of the rest of the country, Trotsky notes that whilst Paris contained substantial numbers of workers, they were mostly contained in small workshops, whereas Petersburg had huge concentrations of workers in large factories. Moreover, whilst Paris had been the centre of several revolutionary uprisings, Petersburg had just the 1905 experience, although undoubtedly this was much fresher in the minds of Russian workers than previous revolutions had been for French workers. But most importantly, the Russian working class had the experience of the Paris Commune to draw from.

The second point is in relation to organisation, both in terms of the representativeness of the Soviets and the Commune and also measures to suppress hostile elements to them. As Trotsky points out, although the Commune appeared not to be a class based organ at face value, events soon drove it in this way, where bourgeois elements elected to the Commune soon withdrew. Moreover, initially the Soviet regime had released Tsarist generals and the like on their word that they would not rise against the Soviets, a word that they soon broke. Despite the Bolsheviks dissolving the Constituent Assembly (which had been based on an election and electoral lists corresponding to a previous stage of the election – in my opinion a better solution would have been to call fresh elections where undoubtedly the Bolsheviks and Left SR’s would have a majority), there had been elections in November 1917 to municipal Dumas where the Bolsheviks one a majority and these institutions dissolved themselves in favour of the Soviets.

Moreover, despite the severe measures that the Bolsheviks took to suppress the resistance of pro-capitalist elements, the Commune itself moved in the same direction – ordering the demolition of Thiers house and also passing a decree on the execution of hostages in reprisal for executions of Communards. The aftermath of the Paris Commune shows, as Trotsky points out, what happens if counter-revolution is not taken seriously, the bloody week massacres and subsequent executions and banishments are all too great proof.