Thursday, October 25, 2012

News and action No 8

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 Comrades
This week’s email bulletin and blog includes important information about our AGM, as well as the usual selection of interesting sources for further reading, and can be accessed on the blog site at any time here. The discussion piece this week draws upon one member’s experience of being elected as a community councillor and how, even in a very local way, it is still possible for councillors to take a democratic socialist case forward in argument and action.
Don’t forget to submit any relevant information, comments or blog posts of your own. You can also comment directly on the blog.
WLG AGM and other forthcoming events
The WLG annual conference and AGM will be taking place THIS SATURDAY, 27th October, at the Welsh Institute of Sport, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff between 11.00 am and 4.00 pm. Mark Drakeford AM will kick things off with a keynote speech on the theme of ‘Austerity and Public Services’. There will then be a roundtable discussion about the challenges facing Labour councillors, which will include Cllrs. Uta Clay (Swansea), Siobhan Corria (Cardiff), Gareth Phillips (Bridgend), Jessica Powell (Torfaen) and Mark Whitcutt (Newport). After a buffet lunch, we will be having a joint session with the Socialist Educational Association (starting at 2.00 pm), which will be addressed by Cllr. Julia Magill, Cardiff Council cabinet member for education. Finally, AGM business will be done between 3.00 and 4.00 pm.
After the meeting, some of us will be going for a drink at the ‘Mochyn Du’ pub opposite the Institute and then to the Pho Bac Vietnamese restaurant,72 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff CF11 9DU – all comrades are welcome.
If you haven’t already paid your WLG membership subs for 2012/13, you can pay at the AGM, if you plan to attend or, alternatively, send a cheque for £5 (waged) or £3 (unwaged/low-waged) to me at the above address, payable to ‘Welsh Labour Grassroots’.
The final WLG meeting of the year will take place on Saturday, 1st December in County Hall, Swansea and our guest speaker will be Mark Seddon, former Labour NEC member and editor of Tribune.
Other events
Compass Cymru meeting: 'Plan B for Wales?' on Thursday, 25 October, 7.30pm at the Big Sleep Hotel, Cardiff. Speakers include Mark Drakeford AM, Leanne Wood AM and John Harris of The Guardian.
Public meeting organised by Cardiff Trades Council with PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka – Monday 19th November at the Holiday Inn, Castle Street, Cardiff CF10 1XD, starting at 6.30pm. The meeting will consider the next steps for the trade union movement following the successful demonstrations held last weekend.
Left Week – Len Arthur
The TUC demonstration on Saturday 20 October has to be the start, and end, comment of last week. I find it very difficult to judge the size of marches. I was with five comrades from Pontyclun and Pencoed with the LRC banner toward the back of the march and we didn’t arrive in Hyde Park until about 15.45, which was about the same as at last year’s TUC march. So, for me, it was about the same size – 200,000+. What is magnificent is the vibrancy, inventiveness and almost carnival type unity that the TUC can pull together from across all the groups and organisations, opposing the Tories and what they represent. It is also important to include the excellent turnouts in Belfast and Glasgow as well. See some of the coverage from the TUC; Coalition of Resistance; The Guardian; Daily Mirror; Socialist Worker; and the Morning Star.
Coming back, we had the inevitable discussion about how we can sustain the opposition and, if possible, end this government. For the first time in my experience two trade union general secretaries have called for a general strike – Bob Crow and Mark Serwotka – the TUC is considering the possibility, and a number of other rank and file based groups are organising follow-up meetings to push the case from below. It remains frustrating that it is not possible to achieve greater unity in these calls but, from the various mobilisations, we can argue for unity, or at least coordination in action as WLG, and perhaps we should try to support as many as we can such as: LRC; Coalition of Resistance; and Unite the Resistance and the Cardiff Trades Council meeting listed above. I’m sure there are other follow-up initiatives, such as those covering individual unions, and we should try to identify them so members can get involved.
I’d like to suggest that, within the Labour Party, we should also try to focus on how we could help to develop a groundswell of anger and action that might be able to stop this ‘scorched earth’ Tory government and force a general election. As socialists, we should do everything we can to stop the government now: the damage will be too great by 2015. The one thing the Labour Party could do is table a vote of no confidence in the government in Parliament. At the moment, it would require all other non-government parties and 40 of the 57 Liberal Democrats to support a Labour tabled motion for a majority to be achieved.
This seems like an impossible task but, if it were connected to a wide range of forms of mobilisation throughout the UK,  it might persuade the Liberals that it is better to jump now and be with the opposition than be decimated in 2015 as part of the government. We could argue that trade unions and LP branches pass motions calling for no confidence, as well as organisations such as local authorities and the devolved governments, using the opportunity to point out that they are being expected to make the cuts and act as a safety net, and it is an impossible expectation. Finally, it would provide the political leadership that is now needed to galvanise the opposition and put pressure on the Labour Party to enter into the election with a radical manifesto.
I expect to be called utopian at the WLG AGM on Saturday!
Left Roundup
Most of us will have our own sources and preferences for left information and debate, so what is attempted here is to provide some examples of publications from during the week that you may not normally come across.
The Red Pepper website and magazine is an excellent source of socialist debate that is not out of a predictable mould. They have a similar weekly roundup, and articles in the latest edition cover social movements as well as mobilisation based forms of resistance. Not all are on the web yet, but Hilary Wainwright and a book review by Emma Hughes positively explore alternative ways of resisting through ‘building the future in the present’ – what some on the left describe as ‘ horizontalism’ - usually in a deprecating manner.
ZCommunications based in the US, is another excellent source where people like Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and George Monbiot often publish first. Recently there has been an extensive review of the politics of South Africa after Marikana by Patrick Bond, a radical socialist from the country. It is one of those articles that force you to think about how the political lessons may translate to us in the UK as well. Interestingly ZCommunications are launching a non profit international social networking site ZSocial, which aims to provide a left alternative to the corporate versions, one that is sustained by subscription not advertising. Take a look and you may wish to join in to provide support.
Michael Roberts has again been excellent this week on economic analysis, interestingly raising a debate about what the economic multiplier may mean to Marx as opposed to Keynes; and the seductive dangers of the economic mainstream discussion, particularly to socialists who think it may offer an quick route to political acceptability. And, in terms of a ticking bomb of the economic crisis and the UK, the Left Futures blog points to the adverse potential of our massive and worsening balance of payments.
Finally, this Counterfire review of the writer and art critic John Berger is a challenging read as is the recent Socialist Review article on Syria by Simon Assaf, which puts the case that those fighting against Assad have a progressive agenda as opposed to a sectarian religious one, usually assumed by the media.
Labour Party
The UK Labour Party website is here. Ed Miliband’s speech at the demonstration on the 20th can viewed here and a perhaps ‘terse’ TUC response can be seen here. A more detailed analysis from Left Futures can be seen here.
The Welsh Labour website is here. For us in Wales at the moment there is the question of campaigning and voting in the police commissioner elections. It is very difficult to drum up enthusiasm for a policy that first surfaced as a UKIP one in 2005! However, the power that these people will hold will be extensive and largely beyond the weak democratic control that currently exists. A low turnout could deliver this power to some very right-wing candidates: a frightening prospect. Should we on the left take these elections more seriously?
All the best
Darren Williams WLG Secretary
Len Arthur WLG Assistant Secretary

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