Tuesday, 9 December 2008

South Wales - Workers take Direct Action

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Adam Johannes reports on the workers blockade in Hirwaun.

Everytime a workplace closes it is like a death in the family. The bosses of Ferrari's bakery chain have treated their workforce like scum, laying them off en-masse after letting them work for over a month without ever intending to pay their wages. To add insult to injury. workers are unable to claim benefits for that month because the State registers them as having been working for Ferrari. Many people are owed as much as £1000, and with bills and rent to pay, and food needed on tables, raw anger is turning into action.

With a fullscale jobs massacre underway across South Wales, the Wales TUC has spectacularly failed to show any fighting spirit or leadership. The level of job cuts and closures in Wales is a national scandal, yet our politicians and union bureaucrats seem to have become rent-a-platitude. The lights will be going out in South Wales shortly - unless we build a movement. In this situation it's heartening to see Ferrari workers begin to take things into their own hands.

The union bureaucrats have been as good as useless, doing nothing to build a mass movement for justice, so yesterday former employees went to one of the main stores to blockade lorries transporting goods out. They rightly claimed that the goods being transported were of equal value to the money they were owed and should be used to pay the wages owed to employers rather than increase the profits of the employers.

We now need to mobilise community fightbacks, so that any worker who takes a stand is not left to struggle alone. What the ex-Ferarri workers were trying to do was heroic, but with hundreds of people in South Wales in a similar boat, this should have been a mass blockade supported by a mass campaign that stopped the lorries, and forced the political elits to sit up and listen.

South Wales Chartists - supporters of the People Before Profit Charter are attempting to build such a network under the slogan - "An attack on one is an attack on all", the campaign hopes to co-ordinate opposition to working class people paying for the economic crisis and provide networks of support and solidarity. We have two campaign meetings this week. To get involved, email: CardiffChartists@live.co.uk

Hirwaun marks the birth of a new politics in South Wales, it is very different to the Cardiff Bay soap opera and the cosy discussions of the Welsh media set, but this anger and this despair is more real than anything they have to offer us.


When workers at a Sweetmans bakery on St Helen's Road, Swansea discovered that their shop was set to close, they decided to defy the bosses and take matters into their own hands to save the bakery, the local staff have taken over the lease. Sweetmans in Woodfield Street, Morriston has now followed suit. This is nothing like workers control, the bakery will still have a manager and be run along the same line as previous owners, and there is little possibility that 'workers buy-outs' can offer a real alternative to the jobs massacre but it it suggests that closures are not as inevitable as the bosses claim.

We now need to fight for companies that intend to cut jobs to be taken into public ownership and run by the workers in the interests of wider society. This can save hundreds of jobs. We live in a mad world, when the rich plunge us into an economic crisis, hundreds of thousands are made unemployed, thrown onto the scrapheap, and their vital skills and talents wasted, as a left wing newspaper put it:

'Just because bosses and banks can’t make enough profits from Woolworths doesn’t mean that people don’t need children’s clothes and household essentials. Car workers being laid off at Jaguar, Ford and Aston Martin have skills that could be used to create the next generation of public transport vehicles. Manufacturing workers could be retrained and factories retooled to produce the wind turbines and other green energy sources we need to tackle climate change.'

Monday, 8 December 2008

Factory Occupied to Stop Closure - Chicago shows the Way Forward

"This is the end of an era in which corporate greed is the rule. This is the start of something new." - James Thindwa, Jobs with Justice

What do you do when your boss tells you that your workplace is being shut down in 3 days time and you will get no pay? In Chicago, 250 angry workers have taken their factory hostage, preventing equipment being taken out, occupying to focus the whole attention of the nation on their just cause. At a time when government's spend billions bailing out bankers and capitalists, the workers have demanded a 'people's bailout'.

In raw anger, they chanted


This audacious and courageous stand has won local, national and international support and media attention. It points to the road that people in South Wales are gonna have to travel: Twenty years ago, Thatcher ripped the hearts out of our community replacing coal with heroin, jobs with despair. We cannot allow another jobs massacre to wipe-out our communities.

Read more here

Action gets results:

Calcast factory in Derry makes parts for Ford. They announced 90 redundancies recently, the union dragged its feet in doing anything about it, but workers decided to occupy and won a much better redundancy package.

Remember people are being laid off in South Wales with no redundancy pay. Welsh TV has shown people with tears rolling down their cheeks when they were told that they were being laid off with no redundancy pay just weeks before Christmas. And what the hell are the trade union bureaucrats and the politicians who star in the Cardiff Bay soap opera doing about it? We have to say to Ieuan Wyn Jones and Rhodri Morgan: Your platitudes won't feed my family!

Meanwhile in Cheshire, electricians at Fiddler’s Ferry power station heard that 60 people were being laid off by their agency BMSL. They staged wildcat strike action.

A newspaper report:

"'When they announced that they were sacking us, the contractors and the subcontractors blamed each other. But we weren’t having it. Nobody from any other trade crossed the picket so they had no choice but to get everyone back on site.' The electricians were reinstated. Some 45 were taken on by another subcontractor, the rest staying with BMSL"

Action meant that 60 people facing spending christmas on the dole still have their jobs.

You can watch footage of our brothers and sisters in Chicago here and here

Right on!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


The New Chartists in South Wales (supporters of the People Before Profit Charter) have put together two meetings to organise community fightbacks against the job massacres. Many shopstewards, union reps, the convenor of UNITE at Hoover, the Vice-Chair of PCS Wales (in personal capacities) will be coming along, but it important that we mobilise the entire community behind the struggle to save South Wales from being once again laid waste by capital red in tooth and claw.

Wednesday 10 December, 7.30
Glebeland Club (above Belle Vue Pub)
Glebeland Street
Merthyr Tydfil

Thursday 11 December, 7.30 pm
The STAR Centre
Splott Road

We have been busy as hell visiting factories & workplaces in South Wales facing closure, we hope we can link up different working class communities under attack. In Merthyr town centre last weekend, hundreds of people signed petitions, some signing for every member of their family & Merthyr Tydfil FC Supporters Group requesting petitions to take away. A Facebook group gained over 2,000 members in 3 days.

Over 4,000 jobs have been lost or put under threat in the last 4 weeks. From Budelpack in Maesteg to Bosch in Llantrisant to the thousands of uncertain positions in Woolworths, the avalanche of job losses threatens to grow as the recession gets worse.

Without a fightback, not only will these jobs go but it will be easier for the bosses to come back and sack more. Millions of jobs around the country will be under threat. It's imprtant that when they say "cutback," we say "fightback!"

We've also been around the affected factories trying to arrange delegations. If you know people affected by the job cuts, please get in touch ASAP. Please do your best to come along and let as many people know as possible.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Save Hoover's Factory in Merthyr - Campaign Diary

An online campaign against the closure of Hoover attracted almost 2000 supporters over 3 days, this is now turning into a real life fightback to defend our communities. Jonny Jones, South Wales Chartists - Supporters of the People Before Profit Charter, who set up the campaign writes from Merthyr:

04/12/08 Tony Benn Statement / Government rejects petition!

Hi everyone. Here is a statement from Tony Benn to all of us. Tony Benn is the best known figure on the Labour left who retired from Parliament to "spend more time involved in politics." Since then he has campaigned tirelessly against the war as President of the Stop the War Coalition and is a strong supporter of the People Before Profit Charter.

"The economic crisis is having a devastating effect on workers all across Britain. In South Wales, the impact is being felt particularly sharply. From Budelpack to Bosch, Maesteg to Merthyr, thousands of jobs are being wiped out by the recession. Unemployment in Wales is rising four times faster the national average.

The announcement of an end to manufacturing at the Hoover factory in Merthyr Tydfil is symbolic of how grave this crisis is. Hoover has been in Merthyr for 60 years, and, in that time, tens of thousands of workers and their families have relied on the factory for their livelihoods. To announce the job cuts just before Christmas is an appalling insult to the workers and people of Merthyr.

It has always been the case that, in times of crisis, big business seeks to safeguard its profits by making ordinary people pay the price. That is why it is so important for workers, trade unionists, socialists and activists to come together and fight to safeguard their common interests.

Democracy has always relied upon mass movements to win and defend our rights. The Chartists, who struggled to win the vote, faced down repression courageously in places like Newport in South Wales and inspired millions across the country. The mass anti-war movement was able to win the vast majority of the British people to opposing the immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meetings like those organised by the supporters of the People Before Profit Charter in Merthyr and Cardiff can be an important first step in building a new movement, one that seeks to unite all those who face unemployment and uncertainty in struggle for social justice and the right to work. I wish them and all who support them the very best in their campaign."

Also, Gordon Brown's 10 Downing Street Website has refused to host a petition under the title 'Stop the Jobs Massacre in South Wales' on the basis that it includes "Language which is offensive, intemperate, or provocative" ... what a cheek!

We've just had another 370 jobs cut in tax offices around Wales, 450 jobs at an aluminium factory outside Newport. Brown might prefer to dress these job cuts up as something other than a massacre but for the thousands who face redundancy, this ain't no Christmas Party!It's clear that this is a problem that will run and run, please do your best to keep pushing for people to attend these important meetings next week.

02/12/08 - Meetings set-up for next week and Tony Benn wishes us success!

Big things happening over the next two weeks! I spoke to Tony Benn last night about the campaign to stop the job cuts at Hoover. Tony has been a central figure in British politics for decades and has a record of standing up for working people. He said that I should communicate to everyone his best wishes for success in our campaign!

Two meetings have been organised to bring together all those who want to campaign against the closure of Hoover and all the other places being affected by mass redundancies.

In Merthyr, the meeting will be on Wednesday 10th December at 7.30pm in the Glebeland Club (upstairs from the Belle Vue Pub) on Glebeland Street in the town centre. We're currently working on getting guests arranged but have already heard from the convenor at Hoover that he and some of the shop stewards will be coming along!

There will be another meeting in Cardiff on Thursday 11th December at 7.30pm in the Royal Hotel, St Mary's Street in the city centre. Any suggestions as to what we could be doing or offers of help to publicise the meeting would be greatly appreciated! Please do your best to get along and bring others.We're trying to contact as many people who have lost their jobs or whose jobs are under threat as possible.

If you know people who worked at Ferrari's Bakers before the closure last week, or who works / worked at Budelpack, Bosch, Serious Food Co. etc then please get in touch: theyoungdudes@yahoo.com

26/11/08 - 2000 members! But we need to keep building...

Brilliant to see we're now at over 2000 members in little over a week. It's great to see that people are still pushing the group and trying to get the campaign known.

If we needed any more evidence of how important it is to fight back against the cuts, it came today when both Woolworths and MFI went into administration threatening thousands of jobs. In Maesteg, the old Revlon factory has annouced it is closing with the loss of 400 jobs. In Llantrisant, another 200 jobs are going at the Serious Food Co, that's on top of the 250 cut from Bosch just last week.

This is just the beginning of recession and the onslaught on jobs we face in the coming years. That's why I've been contacting people to try to get a meeting on job cuts set-up in Merthyr as soon as possible. I've contacted Labour, Plaid and the Unite union as well as representatives from the PCS union.

Hopefully we'll be able to announce more details in the days to come but in the meanwhile keep letting people know about the campaign and stay in touch with your ideas about what we can be doing. Your response so far has been brilliant - even the Merthyr Tydfil FC Supporters Club are backing us and are taking a petition to the next match! If you're a member of an organisation or union that could back the campaign, get in touch.

25/11/08: Campaign Gets a Brilliant Response in Merthyr!

On Saturday a few of us set up a stall in the centre of Merthyr for a couple of hours doing a petition calling for intervention to save jobs at Hoover.

We couldn't believe the response. Hundreds of people signed, some people wanting to list their entire family! We met current workers from the factory who are incredibly angry. We met many workers who've been there over the years, including one who had worked there when it first opened.

It's blindingly obvious from that response and from the response to the facebook group that people in Merthyr want to resist these cuts and closures. It's not just Hoover either. Thirty jobs are to go at Sekisui and the tax office is going to be closed with the loss of around fifty jobs. If Hoover's workers go down without a fight it will be that much easier for the next company to lay people off.

That's why over the next few days we want to try to organise a public meeting in Merthyr to defend jobs. Please get in touch if you have contacts with people inside or outside the factory who would be able to advertise a meeting or if you have suggestions as to who might be able to speak. It's important to have representatives from the parties and the unions, but even more important is that local people and workers have a place where they can come together, discuss the situation and come up with a plan to fight back!

21/11/08: Over 1000 members in three days!

When I set this group up, I didn't imagine it's get so big so fast, and I certainly didn't expect so much international support from all around the world. Thanks to everyone who's joined and please carry on inviting more of your friends.

We're often told how much the people of Merthyr owe to Hoover for providing so many with a living. The truth is, Hoover owes Merthyr. Hoover has been happy to take advantage of low wages in the Valleys to make profits over the decades. Now it wants to shut up shop and exploit even lower wages overseas. With the recession growing, Hoover thinks it can get away with cutting and running without a fight back.

There's more to this than just Hoover, though. Gordon Brown has spent over £500 BILLION on loans and bailouts to the banks this year. He tells us this was essential to support the economy. It doesn't seem to be working. The last three month rise in unemployment figures was over 140,000 – almost 30,000 of these job cuts were in Wales!

At the same time, New Labour is attempting to push thousands of ill people and single parents back into work. In Merthyr, where one-in-five is on long term sickness, these changes coming on top of massive job cuts will be disastrous. With the number of people looking for jobs exploding just as jobs are disappearing it will mean misery for many people.

Welsh Assembly AM Huw Lewis has rightly called for a serious regeneration program to help those affected by the job cuts. Leanne Wood AM has called for a workers' bailout to go alongside the one the banks got.

None of these things will be handed over to us. A strong campaign, rooted in communities like Merthyr, will be essential to winning the change we need. Meetings, protests, marches, strikes, occupations – all can play a part in building confidence and winning support. Please get in touch if you want to get involved: theyoungdudes@yahoo.com

Monday, 17 November 2008

What's Goin' On?

To advertise your event, email: respect_yourself_cardiff@hotmail.co.uk

Tuesday 18 November, 6.30 pm
Temple of Peace, Edward VII Avenue


Wednesday 19 November, 6 pm onwards
The Yard (upstairs), 42-43 St Mary Street

Greendrinks is a monthly informal gathering over a drink for anyone with an interest in the environment, a free buffet is also laid on!

Thursday 20 November
Sherman Theatre
Tickets £3 - Free for asylum seekers

Friday 21 November, 7.30
Talybont Social Centre (Upstairs)

A free film showing about US torture in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

Saturday 22 - Sunday 23 November
Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea

Radical environmental films, forums and masterclasses from the world of documentary filmmaking. This years festival will be focused upon the filmmakers. If you are a documentary maker please attend and forge links with other film-makers, music makers and animators

Tuesday 25 November, 12 - 1 pm
Borders Agency, 31 - 33 Newport Road

Biometric ID cards will come into force for non-EU students and spouses from 25th November and will be issued from offices in Birmingham, Cardiff, Croydon, Glasgow, Liverpool, and Sheffield. We will be holding a protest outside the Home Office building in Cardiff and hope for protests outside each of the other offices on that day. We welcome all opponents of the increasing levels of social control that the government wishes to extend over all our lives to take part. Join us during your lunch break from work or study to show solidarity with migrants being victimised by these cynical divide and rule tactics by The Home Office. By resisting the repression of migrants, we defend the freedom of everyone! Called by No Borders South Wales.

Thursday 27 November, 6 pm - Midnight
Koko Gorrilaz, Salisbury Road

If there was ever a time to have a good old rummage through your wardrobe and dig out those forgotten items of clothing that haven’t seen daylight in at least a year, then it’s now! Instead of letting those poor un-loved garments gather dust and feel sorry for themselves, give them the chance of a new life at Re-Vamp! A group of creative, eco-minded females have put their resourceful heads together to bring you a unique night of swapping clothes, exchanging skills, and all whilst barely parting with a penny! Certainly not your average night out! You can expect: CLOTHES SWAPPING - Swap your cast-offs for someone else’s and get a whole ‘new’ outfit totally free. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure! RE-VAMPED FASHION SHOW – See what other people have created from old clothes and get inspired! RE-VAMPING AREA - Learn how to Re-vamp your own clothes and make accessories from un-wanted materials. We will have girls on hand with sewing machines and crafty ideas to share. PEDAL-POWERED BINGO – Yes, that’s right, bingo on a bike, it has to be seen to be believed! Join in and you could win a Re-Vamped goody bag! RE-VAMPED TUNES – Top local female DJs will be mixing it up on the decks.

Do you already make clothes or accessories from re-used materials, maybe you would like to be involved in the fashion show or run a creative workshop? We are also looking for people to lend us clothes rails and coat hangers.

Friday 28 November, 6.30 pm
Small Chemistry Lecture Theatre, Main Building, Cardiff University

Forum on the state of the British asylum system. How do we really treat refugees? Asylum seekers tell their stories, plus guest speakers and a question panel. Organised by STAR

Wednesday 3 December, 4.30 - 6 pm
Nye Bevan Statue, Queen Street

Raising awareness and protesting on World Migration Day

Wednesday 3 December, 6 pm
Milgi Lounge, City Road (to be confirmed)

Cardiff's newest and fastest growing feminist group meets monthly.

Wednesday 3 December, 7 pm


Saturday 6 December, Central London

March on parliament. More info here: Coach stopping 8 am, Cardiff Museum Steps and 8.30 am Newport Bus StationTickets - £18 waged or £10 student/unwagedE-mail CardiffCCC@hotmail.co.uk
to reserve a place asap!

Wednesday 10 December, 12 noon
Borders Agency, 31-33 Newport Road

Following the protest outside the UK border Agency on 25th Novemer when ID cards came into force, there will be another protest when the Cardiff office starts to register people on Wednesday 10th December. Called by No Borders South Wales.

Wednesday 10 December, 7.30 pm
Glebeland Club (above Belle Vue Pub)
Glebeland St

With trade union reps, shop stewards, activists and people from the community. Organised by South Wales Chartists - Supporters of the People Before Profit Charter

Thursday 11 December, 7.30 pm
Royal Hotel
St Mary's Street

With union reps, shop stewards, activists and people from the community. All welcome. Organised by South Wales Chartists - Supporters of the People Before Profit Charter.

Friday 12 December, 5 - 7 pm
Glamorgan Building, Cardiff University

Prof Kevin Morgan, school of City and Regional Planning at Cardiff University, believes the planned roadways would desecrate one of the city’s greatest assets, a top-grade Park. He has planned a head-to-head debate between senior City Councillors, the Heritage Lottery Fund and their critics. This is a chance to question and challenge the plans to build roads to suit the largest lorries and to channel traffic through the memorial woodland in Bute Park.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Armistice Day in Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth is the first local council to officially comemorate non combatants as part of remembrance, indeed it is the only local authority in Britain to have an officially sanctioned event where a wreath of white poppies is lain at the Cenotaph (as well as the traditional wreath of red poppies) to remember all victims of war after a vote on the council in 2004. It has not been without controversy. We recently received in our big red postbag this statement from Aberystwyth Peace & Justice Network

“On behalf of our town Council, Aberystwyth Peace and Justice Network wouldlike to invite you to a service of remembrance and peace. Please forward this message to your networks.

Once again this year Aberystwyth Town Council will lay a white poppy wreathat the war memorial. In taking this action our Council is unique in Britain.But the decision to maintain the tradition was not made easily. It took the casting vote of Mayor, Sue Jones-Davies. So, the initiative needs the activesupport of everyone committed to working for a peaceful and just world.

The white poppy not only commemorates all those who suffer in wars, it alsosends out the message that, ‘there are better ways to resolve conflicts than killing strangers’. Britain is the world’s second largest arms exporter. The white poppy represents hope for a culture in which preparation for armed conflict is considered immoral rather than a valid economic activity.

This year’s ceremony takes place on Saturday 8th November at 11am. It willbe led by Rhidian Griffith, an elder of Capel y Morfa, Aberystwyth. Côr Gobaith will sing No More War and Mae Gen I Freuddwyd. The latter is asong based on Martin Luther King Jr’s historic speech ‘I have a dream’. Words are by Myrddin Ap Dafydd and the song envisages a world of peace,harmony and justice.

Prior to the Council’s decision, Aberystwth Peace and Justice Network and the Royal British Legion failed to reconcile the red and white poppy traditions. In September Aberystwyth RBL wrote to the Council to declin ebecause ‘the White Poppy is not a charitable thing… November is the Remembrance of those who gave their lives in the service of their country.’

Meanwhile, Assembly Member Bethan Jenkins, a former Guild of Students President in Aberystwyth University, has called on Neath and Port Talbot Council to follow Aberystwth’s example. ‘I hope Councils all over Wales heedBethan’s call,’ said Lotte Reimer of AP&JN.”

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Remembrance Sunday - A soldier's Declaration

The "old lie" featured recently in the South Wales Echo who inform us that the people who fought in World War One died for "our" freedom. In truth, working class people were sent to butcher working class people from other countries on behalf of their rulers. A whole generation was damned so that the elites in our society could extend their power and wealth -as in World War One, so in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Siegfried Sassoon, the great poet, was swept up by patriotism and in 1914-15 joined up. He gained a reputation for exceptional bravery, including the single-handed capture of a German trench. He would go out on night raids and bombing patrols and known for his manic courage. He was decorated for bravery.

Two years later he realised "the whole damn thing was a lie" and decided to make a stand against the war. He hurled his medals into the River Mersey, before making the following declaration that was printed in the Times and read and discussed in Parliament.

I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.

I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that the war upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of agression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them and that had this been done the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.

I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops and I can no longer be a party to prolonging these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.

On behalf of those who are suffering now, I make this protest against the deception which is being practised upon them; also I believe it may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share and which they have not enough imagination to realise.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Quote of the Week

"Which is the greater crime, to rob a bank or to own one?''
- Bertolt Brecht

Back by popular demand!

After a short absence, our "quote of the week" feature returns with this gem from Bertolt Brecht's satire of decaying & rotting capitalism, The Three-Penny Opera, sent to us by one Mrs EH Jones of Treharris Street, Roath.

As our many readers and correspondents know our site aims to be the 'voice of the streets'.

If you have a favourite quote why not send it to our Big Red Postbag at: respect_yourself_cardiff@hotmail.co.uk

We receive a high volume of emails and correspondence, but will endeavor to reply to all enquiries, comments as soon as humanly possible.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Obama Victory

"We lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good . . .We must lead by building a 21st century military.... I strongly support the expansion of our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines."
- Barack Obama, April 2007

"a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear ... this world down – we will defeat you... "
- Barack Obama, Victory speech signalling a continuation of the wider 'war on terror'

"From day one of the Obama victory, which will unleash a wave of high expectations on the domestic and global fronts, activist pressure is crucial to achieve anything. I think antiwar activists should turn up in large numbers to the inauguration with banners reading, "Congrats Barack, now out of Kabul and Iraq!"
- Tariq Ali

Anthony Arnove, an American peace activist & author of Iraq - The Logic of Withdrawal has eloquently decoded what an Obama victory means for the Iraqi people here.

We reproduce his response to the US election below, read other commentary from the US left here and here

The first thing to say is that there should be no honeymoon. The Democrats have held a majority in the House and Senate for two years, yet have continued to fund the occupation of Iraq, to allow warrantless wiretaps, to expand the military budget.

But the Democrats can no longer use the excuse of Bush and the need to win the White House to continue to defy the widespread desire for change. That means we need to challenge Obama from the first day he takes office, with public protest and mobilization.

Second, we have to insist that Obama's "let's not and say we did" position on withdrawal from Iraq is unacceptable. Withdrawal means withdrawal, not redeployment of some troops to Afghanistan while leaving tens of thousands of troops for "counter-insurgency," maintaining long-term bases, establishing the largest foreign Central Intelligence Agency station and U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and allowing mercenaries to remain.

We can't let Iraq slip into the background, out of the headlines, and accept a repacking of the occupation as a solution.

Third, we need to be clear that the problem with the so-called Bush Doctrine of preventive war is not that it was misapplied, but that it is wrong on principle. We must pressure Obama to renounce--which so far he has shown no signs of doing--regime change in Iran and the right to strike countries like Syria and Somalia at will.

That applies to U.S. allies such as Israel as well, to which this obscene power has long been extended (along with the right to maintain an arsenal of nuclear weapons, like other U.S. allies that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, India and Pakistan, in contrast to Iran).

Last, we need to say to Obama that we want an end to the ideological war on Arabs and Muslims, on immigrants, and the outrageous powers according to the executive to detain and torture, to use secret evidence, to hold people in Guantánamo Bay or prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq. Guantánamo should be closed immediately and the territory completely returned to Cuba.

Renditions and torture should be renounced without qualification. The United States should end its defiance of the international convention on violence against children (protecting the right to execute minors) and on the use of land mines and cluster munitions, as well as nuclear weapons (the new generation of so-called mini-nukes).

Now is not a time for "bipartisanship." We have seen all too much of that. Bipartisanship has led to all the problems we presently confront, with the complicity and, in many cases, full-throated support of the Democrats. Now is time for a radical break.

But we should not for a moment hold our breath or expect Obama to deliver this of his own initiative. Nothing in his career or policy statements--or in the lessons of our history--should lead us to expect that.

If anything, we should anticipate Obama will govern to the right of his campaign promises, not the left. Last century, we saw two presidents legislate to the left of the policies they advocated as candidates: Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. The reason was not to be explained by their personal characteristics, but the fact that both were confronted by massive social movements that disrupted business as usual and forced unexpected democratic changes from below.

Monday, 3 November 2008


Some of our people - members, supporters and friends - have been involved in creating a satirical regular radio news-broadcast. You can listen here

Episode 2. War Report.

Richard Branson mislables middle east in sat nav disaster.
Miss Georgia on imperialism.
Gordon Ramsay's African Kitchen Nighmares.
Sell. Sell. Sell. Bail out. Shoot. Kill. Kill. Invade. Sell.

So was the theory coming from John Mcain’s campaign team on how best to deal with the global crisis.

At Have Your News we stood bemused as Cliff’s mortgage went up and Harry’s mother defaulted on her china dog repayments.

Have Your News Iceland was nationalised. Over here we were caught up in an orchestrated buyout of our parent company MagazineNews4All.com after Lehman Brothers hit the wall.

We even started making jokes. “Is that the new credit crunch cereal bar you’re eating” quipped Cliff. But he was laughing on the other side of his face when his HBOS shares dropped faster than a heavy pile of books that were tied together. The comic genius however, keeps flowing like a boat on a nice river.

Things are just moving so fast. Even Ninjas can’t keep up. If you are finding it hard then please take some advice from our pamphlet. “How to kick the crunch and stay awake” available from Starbucks TM coffee shops. Handy tips like “Buy one cappuccino, not two” and “Don’t get skinny latte, buy a Creamyacino TM for the same price” are invaluable in this time of need. Gordon Brown saved his leadership by simply spending a load of cash and all his rivals could say was “I would spend £500 billion.

Definitely. I could do that no problem. Look at the size of my….”.

It’s not all bad news though, cheer up! Gregg’s the pasty maker has announced record profits. All empty houses are now to be turned into Gregg’s “Pasty Palaces” instead of homes to feed the hungry this Christmas.

Ordering Roquefort and caramelised pear warm salad? Better get a steak bake. Screamed the financial times lifestyle supplement headline last week.

Even sacked Bank of Scotland boss Sir Fred Goodwin who left on £4.15 million had to say goodbye to his dreams. “Looks like the closest thing I’ll be getting to my dream home in the Caribbean this Christmas is the thousand island dressing on my tuna melt” said the glum banker. Our hearts go out to all facing trouble; hopefully we can cheer you up a little.

Have Your News will be back with a U.S election Global Crisis special.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Sshh . . . Hallowe'en Protest - Samhain Anti-Capitalist Action in Cardiff

Torchlight March and Street Party, Assemble 5 pm, Friday 31st October, Nye Bevan Statue, Queen Street. Called by the Cardiff Chartists - Supporters of the People before Profit Charter.

"Show me a capitalist and I'll show you a bloodsucker!" - Malcolm X

The free market is crumbling, yet the ghosts of the past are desperate to prop up the system. Billions of pounds of our money has been diverted to the vampires of the banking system, who are sucking our wallets dry.

After nationalising the banks we've continued to see home repossessions spiral. In Wales, court actions against late mortgage payers have tripled in the past year. Every single hour, four people in Wales are told they will lose their house. Not many of the bankers will be losing their luxury castles with velvet-coated coffins, while ordinary workers feel the bite.

On Halloween 2008, supporters of the People Before Profit Charter will be protesting against the government's so called nationalisations of banks - nationalisations that are only in the interests of the rich. They think that we're too stupid to realise what's going on, that we're a bunch of zombies who will quietly pay for the crisis which they have created.

Come along on the 31st of October and demand that nationalisation of banks should mean nationalisation in our interests. If we own the banks, why don't we get a say in what happens to our money? Giving billions of pounds to the same people who drove the economy into the crypt makes about as much sense as asking the Wolf Man to safely herd sheep.

We will assemble at 5pm at the Aneurin Bevan statue on Queen Street, right by Bradford and Bingley. We will then have a torch-lit march from bank to bank, exorcising the ghouls and ghosts of the free market and stamping our claim on our banks!

Many people will be coming in fancy dress, though that's not essential. There'll also be music and street art in abundance, please bring drums, pots, whistles or anything else to add to the cacophony!

“Awake, thou sleeper on the Rock of Eternity ! Albion awake ! The trumpet of Judgment hath sounded” - William Blake

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Are YOU Green?

The LEFT Alternative received this message in our big Cardiff postbag:

"Cardiff hasn’t had a Greendrinks…until now! The first Cardiff Greendrinks will take place at The Yard, St Mary’s Street tonight onWednesday, October 15th at 6pm. This is our first meeting so we are finding our feet and we want to find out what people want from Greendrinks Cardiff, and when and where they want it before a grand launch in November. In the spirit of Greendrinks we couldn’t think of a better way to do this than to invite people along and ask! Please pass on these details to anybody you think may be interested, and of course bring along any friends and colleagues.
Can’t make it but want to in future? Want to help organise Greendrinks? Want to get your group involved with Greendrinks? Please let us know at alun.nicola@virgin.net or drop us a message."

For those who don't know Greendrinks is a laid back monthly meeting where people with an interest in all things environmental and green can relax and talk over a . . . drink! It's an international movement. To find us, turn up and say, "Are you Green?" (Though the LEFT Alternative bloc at the bar will also answer to the greeting, "Are you Red?". For us, our socialism and our ecology go hand-in-hand)

Friday, 10 October 2008

The Rich turn Nasty . . .

According to a recent article in the Hate Mail (as we like to call the Daily Mail around here), a Merseyside Letting Agency is putting up "Rent Dodger Lives Here" placards on the houses of tenants who pay their rent late or not at all.

Most people who have experience of being ripped off by letting agency's will be mad at this. The LEFT Alternative in Cardiff will be printing signs with the phrase "Tax Dodger Lives Here" to put on the houses of the rich!

Last year the majority of billionaires in Wales didn't pay a penny in income tax, while over the summer a Barry pensioner spent a month behind bars because she failed to pay her council tax due to financial hardship.

And let's not forget that our taxes are paying for thick layabout scroungers like those pictured above on the right.

March on the City - We Won't Bail out the Bankers (Today in London)

Students, pensioners and working people are marching in London to the Bank of England today to make it clear to the government and the bankers that we will not pay for their crisis. Assemble outside the Bank of England at 4pm today.

Within a day of confirming £50bn to part-nationalise Britain's biggest banks, this figure was turned into £500bn. There was talk of another £50bn available to the eight largest banks and building societies, another £200bn for short-term borrowing to provide liquidity and a special company to provide up to £250bn in loan guarantees. Did the taxpayer ever get a chance to agree to this change? Or indeed the whole idea of bailing out the banks and the bankers? The short answer is no.

But part of the problem is, so far, "recapitalisation" of the banking industry has done nothing to regain confidence in the markets, let alone being a "bold and far-reaching solution" to the crisis, as Gordon Brown would have us believe. This is because nobody knows the extent of "toxic assets" or where they are located, least of all the government. The FTSE index has lost nearly 19 percent so far this week, just short of the losses during the crash of 1987.

So where does HM Treasury get all this money? Government borrowing means that the taxpayer pays for this crisis. In time this means there will be less money for schools, less money for hospitals and less money for the things that the majority need; that is, unless the government chooses to spend public money on these things. Or, unless the public makes the government spend money on these things.

Even if city bonuses are reduced from their staggering levels, the Centre for Economics and Business Research reports that the forecast for bonuses to be paid out this year is £3.5bn. Billions in company profits among energy companies such as British Gas and supermarkets such as Tesco, combined with rising fuel and food prices by these same companies, is only feeding anger among working people.

Pensioners are also being hit badly by the crisis, with no benefit from the bailout. According to analysts, in the last month alone, retirement savings have lost more than 10% of their value as investors sell their shares to avoid the worst effects of the credit crunch. Ros Altmann, an independent pensions analyst said, "the government's response to the credit crunch is dreadful for pensions. This knee-jerk panic reaction shows no sign of understanding how we got into the mess, nor how to get out of it."

This is why students, pensioners and working people are marching to the Bank of England today to make it clear that we will not pay for their crisis. When it comes to bailing out the banks and the bankers the government can find hundreds of billions of pounds, but when it comes to pensioners freezing in their homes, student poverty, or money for the NHS, the message from the government is that we need to tighten our belts. This is our chance to say no.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

War Games in Wales: Talkin' World War III Blues

Fighter jets, infantry troops, destroyers and submarines have all converged on Wales for the biggest military exercise of all time. The whole of Wales has been designated a flying zone for the exercise which will provide coordinated training for all three UK Armed Services, plus forces from eight allied nations. Huge sections of our coastline have been taken over by the military.

Where is the outrage? Where are the 'lefty' Welsh politicians speaking out? (Other than us) Who is speaking out?

The MoD claim: "The two-week exercise – codenamed Joint Warrior – is designed to recreate a scenario in which Britain and other sovereign nations go to war against a “state-sponsored terrorist movement” – using a vast array of lethal modern weapons."

So is Britain to take up arms against America? Or has the Ministry of 'Defence' declared war on itself?

If we cut through the spin, it is clear that the aim of this exercise is to train British troops to wage war against another country. With the 'war on terror; spiralling into countries as diverse as Pakistan and Somalia, and threats against Iran, the exercise could be more than just training for the continued subjugation of the Afghan and Iraqi people, but also the dress rehearsal for another imperialist adventure.

Britain is already locked into at least two imperialist adventures opposed by the majority of citizens in Britain, the silence of the Welsh political class over these war games is sickening, but not unexpected. With a million dead in Iraq and still counting since 2003, we need to demand - at the very least - for a moratorium on any military exercises in Wales while British troops are involved in occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, and an end to the military training of Iraqi militia here.

The Welsh Assembly is totally complicit in the British Military Industrial Complex: First Minister of Wales, Rhodri Morgan - infamously - refused to oppose the Iraq War and is an apologist for Raytheon, a big company directly involved in war crimes. While not a single AM has unequivocally spoken out over the building of the Military Academy at St Athan, the biggest PFI in history.

The Academy will make a profit by training - not only the crack troops of British imperialism - but soldiers from any despotic regime allied to the West prepared to fork out the cash. Any Welsh politician who claims to be on the left should grasp that basic working class solidarity with those on the receiving end of Britain's imperialist adventures means opposing the Academy tooth-and-nail.

Adam Johannes, anti-war activist and Left Alternative member

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Cardiff Council Are Rubbish! Victory to the Bin Men & Women!

Wolfie Smith from North Cardiff Left Alternative reports on the upcoming bin strike on Monday.

Recently City Boss, Rodders (Rodney Berman, Leader of Cardiff Council - Ed.) has been trying to act the hard man facing down the unions. Berman is, of course, singular inappropriate to play the role of hard man as he doth more resemble a petulant child prone to temper-tantrums, but there is a nasty edge to the LibDem/Plaid Council and its attacks on council workers and trade unions: The petulant child is turning into a bully.

A few months ago it was the attempt to introduce a new tough regime for workers who dared to take time off sick, now it is the attempt to impose new shift patterns with no proper consultation.

Traditionally local refuse collectors have done a shift beginning at 7 am and wrapping up at 3 pm at the latest. But now the Council has taken a unililateral decision to change workers contracts and terms of employment, and replace shifts with two new shifts from 6 am to 2 pm, and 2 pm to 10 pm related to the introduction of new weekly food waste collections.

In response, to the failure to properly discuss these changes with the workforce, 90% of GMB members voted to stage a strike beginning on Monday. There seems no recognition from Cardiff Council that working from 2 pm to 10 pm would count as anti-social hours, especially if you have a family (ten minutes to see your kids at the breakfast table?!), and workers should receive a raise in wages accordingly. There also appaars be no recognition of the impact that such a radical change of working patterns might have, and the basic need to be led by workers representatives to facilitate any transition.

More disturbing is the report that our taxpayers money is going to be used by the LibDems and Plaid in Cardiff to pay for scab labour. Why not contact your local councillor to complain? We would also suggest putting signs on your rubbish saying, 'To be collected by GMB members only, Scabs don't touch!'

Left Alternative members and supporters of the People before Profit Charter will be sure to visit picket lines and workers to show support and solidarity for their just cause, for the workers united can never be defeated!

Defend Holtsfield

Once again Holtsfield Community on the Gower Peninsula is under threat with an attempted eviction on Tuesday. Adam Johannes, from the Left Alternative (Roath Branch) reports.

A couple of years back, I had the great honour to visit Holtsfield as part of a day of cob-building. Cob-houses are a form of sustainable housing made from clay bricks. The clay means that the house is warm in winter meaning no need for heating, thus cutting down on energy bills, and lovely and cool in the summer. During my visit I also saw an organic farm and straw bale houses. But the jewel in the crown of Holtsfield is its low impact housing.

In secluded semi-woodland you will find a random settlement of almost thirty single storey chalets. Holtsfield is part of the heritage of South Wales. Originally holiday homes, the chalets were occupied by working class people who had their homes bombed during the war. The chalets are beautiful, and highly individual painted in different colours and made of timber and lightweight materials. Visitors always comment how they seem to melt into the landscape.

Since the hard times of the post-war period the community has developed a village like ambience and is home to people from many different walks of life and background.

Around 1990 things changed when, the freehold was bought by a Swansea development company, Elitestone Ltd. This has resulted in a longterm struggle by the company to evict the residents, harrass them and plans to move in rich people and build houses. The company also lobbied to overturn the designation of the area as a conservation area. Now they are planning to carry out evictions. We urge everybody who can make it to get down to Holtsfield.

Bonita James reports:

"On the Tuesday 14 October at half past 12 there is a planned eviction of number 9 Holtsfield.This is my mothers house and the house I grew up in.

Show your support and if you are able to turn up on the day to peacefully protest, your help would be much appreciated. We do not wish for any violent behaviour at all, we mainly want witnesses because last time the behaviour of the hired security was very heavy handed so the more people there to see it, the less likely it is someone will get hurt.The last time Tim Jones tried to evict was in 1998 and it was only avoided due to local community support on the day. As so much time has passed since then a lot of people are unaware that the threat of eviction is still present. All this group hopes to achieve is to gather support and inform people of the current circumstances."

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Anti-ID card protest outside Newport Passport Office

Saturday 4th October at 2pm
outside the Passport Office,
Olympia House, Upper Dock Street,
Newport, NP20 1XA

From organisers:

'The new card will hold the holder’s photograph, name, date of birth, nationality, immigration status and an electronic chip with biometric details, including fingerprints and digital facial image. All indefinitely held on the UK Identity and Passport Service database.

Initially the ID cards will be issued to non-EU students and marriage visa holders then, foreign nationals wanting to enter the UK. From next year other foreign nationals living in the UK will begin to be issued with ID cards. These groups will be forced to enrol on the scheme and use the card, rather than their passport, for identification,

Once migrants have been used to test the scheme, in 2009 anyone, regardless of nationality, who works in an area the government deems “sensitive” such as airports will be required to have an ID card. From 2010, students will need ID cards to get a student loan and they will be available to the rest of us on a “voluntary” basis, with them being paired with passports in 2011.

It is patently clear that this card is the thin end of the wedge, the first blow in an attack on civil liberties we all enjoy. The government is open about their plans, it wants everyone in the UK tagged, numbered and repressed, using migrants as a testing ground for it’s authoritarian desire to increase the size of the surveillance state. The opposition to ID cards must begin now.'

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The Evil is Gas Bills - Protest Increased Bills


Saturday 27 September at 2 pm
British Gas Office
Churchill Way (off Queen Street)
past Capitol arcade

Bring banners, placards, drums . . . people etc.!

*Windfall tax on profits to alieviate burden on poor & fund environmental measures such as house insulation
* Greater regulation and price capping
* Re-nationalisation of the energy companies

This protest is initiated by Cardiff Chartists - Supporters of the People Before Profit Charter & supported by leading city trade unionists, environmentalists, community and social justice campaigners.

The call for a demonstration has also received messages of support, in a personal capacity, from Jill Evans MEP, Leanne Wood AM, Bethan Jenkins AM (Plaid), veteran left wing concillor, Ray Davies (Labour), Cllr Ron Davies, former Welsh Secretary, Jill Gough, National Secretary of CND Cymru, Cymdeithas and many others.

For more information or to sign the Charter, email: cardiffchartists@live.co.uk

Monday, 22 September 2008

Babi was Deported

from No Borders Wales

Just an update to say that after much lobbying, struggle, and effort from Babi and his supporters which continued right up until the last minute, he was removed from the country on a BMI flight out of Heathrow on Saturday.

A friend spoke to him when he phoned from Baku late on Saturday night.

No Borders South Wales would like to thank everyone who helped in the struggle to keep Babi safe in Cardiff, and we promise to keep you updated about his situation and anything we can do to help him now he is back in Azerbaijan. Keep checking the blog for updates.

The next No Borders meeting will be at 7.00pm in Riverside Community Centre, Brunel St, Cardiff on Thursday 25th September.

Last Orders at the Local?

Another day, and another pub faces closure. According to CAMRA, 'four pubs are closing every day in Britain. This national crisis has left communities pub-less, with over half of British villages being without a local for the first time since 1066' and the situation is not much better in the cities & under the current administration in Cardiff we might be left with trendy bars for people to consume as much alcohol in as short a space of time as possible, but no places to talk, meet, listen to music and feel a sense of real community.

As the Rough Pub Guide laments:

“Life was once simple: you could choose either the public bar, stand around with a pint, play darts and enjoy a platter of roast potatoes . . . or you could retire to the lounge, where, in amongst the flock wallpaper and red velvet bench seats, an old bloke would invariably run through his repertoire on an organ."

Of course, Pubs had to change and develop, but unfortunately as is so often the case, profit seems to be placed before people.

The good news is that the historic Pantmawr Inn in North Cardiff has a reprieve with a Welsh Assembly inquiry.

The bad news is that it may be last orders at the Lansdowne Hotel in Canton as another one of our communities is gutted of a local social centre due to the shortsightedness of the Council. The news is especially poignant as the pub, perhaps once more known as a favourite of City fans, has recently hosted a series of imaginative events aimed at the wider community and families. For example, a recent 3 day indoor festival raised hundreds of pounds for War on Want and saw over 30 bands play, buskers, jugglers, snail racing, face painting, fair trade stalls, a skittles tournament and an exhibition of art by city-based artists. As well as a shabby caravan where diners could indulge in a sit-down, candlelit meal with waitress service!

The current Council administration has been incredibly obstructive to building a grassroots local arts and music scene, as witnessed in the trouble the late Toucan Club had getting a license, and the petty threats to close down the Point. Let's all unite to save our communities from the Council's vision of Cardiff PLC!

Friday, 19 September 2008


This an urgent appeal: A treasured member of our community, internationally renowned artist and poet, Babi Badalov is due to be deported on Saturday at 8 am. He is currently imprisoned in Campsfield Detention Camp. To find out how you can help Babi, see here:


Thursday, 18 September 2008

Protest against Proposed Motorway through the Gwent Levels

Protest against the proposed motorway through the Gwent levels.
No New M4! - The Big CALM Protest
Tuesday 23rd September at 12 Noon
Steps of the Senedd, Cardiff Bay

The day after the Assembly re-opens after the summer break; CALM will be holding a protest on the steps of the Senedd.

This is our chance to tell the government that enough is enough, and that these damaging plans need to be axed, now.

This is your chance to tell your elected representatives that you don't want your money spent on destroying our natural heritage and the atmosphere. Join us in opposing this environmentally devastating scheme! Please pledge to attend our protest event.

For those who do not know about CALM, it stands for Campaign Against the Levels Motorway which will cut through 5 miles of the Gwent Levels SSSI, in reens, destroying grazing marsh, affecting the habitat of species like otter, water vole and barn owl (and being certain to cause road deaths of far too many otters and barn owls too), turning three chunks of the Gwent Levels into pathetic isolated 'islands' cut-off from the remainder of the Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels, with pollution from the scheme set to spread through the reen system to damage the freshwater life of the whole wetland system.


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Urgent - Take Action to Keep Babi Safe in Cardiff

Babakhan Badalov, (Babi) the openly gay, internationally renowned radical artist and poet from Azerbaijan was arrested yesterday morning while signing on at the UK Border Agency Offices in Cardiff and is due to be deported on Saturday.

'Babi went for his weekly sign-in with friends from the Keep Babi Safe in Cardiff Campaign.

When he did not come back out of the building campaigners became concerned and enquired after his well-being only to be told he had been detained and would be removed from the country as soon as possible.'

There is an emergency protest today at noon at the Borders Agency on Newport Road.

Please, please bombard the Home Office with letters, emails, phonecalls and faxes in support of Babi. Also contact any media, political and arts organisations that may be able to help publicise the Keep Babi Safe in Cardiff Campaign.

Information on how to help can be found here

Friday, 12 September 2008

The Evil is Gas Bills - Cardiff Fuel Poverty Protest

Assemble 2 pm, Saturday 27th September, British Gas Offices, Churchill Way (off Queen Street) Cardiff. Near the Capitol Arcade

Worried about how you will afford your gas bill in the coming winter? Then join the protest:


Protest to demand -

* AN EMERGENCY WINDFALL TAX on profits of gas companies to fund measures to alieviate the burden working people & fund environmental measures such as house insulation to lower household fuel bills

* GREATER REGULATION OF CORPORATE POWER - government enforced price-capping

* RE-NATIONALISATION OF THE GAS & ELECTRICITY companies and run them to meet the needs of the many instead of the profits of the few!

Stop the Great Gas Rip-Off! The Evil is Gas Bills . . .

British Gas hiked prices to increase profits by 500% last year, now they and the other gas companies have increased bills again. We see no reason why quarter of the population should be plunged into fuel poverty so that Jake Ulrich, boss of Centrica can 'earn' a million a year. The government spent billions to re-nationalise Nothern Rock to bail out some bankers, how about re-nationalisting the gas companies to bail out ordinary people at the mercies of cowboys like British Gas, EDF, Centrica et al? Enough is Enough. The gas companies are not making a living - they're making a killing - literally! - according to Help the Aged, 25,000 pensioners could die this winter because they have to choose between spending money on food or heating their homes.Join the protest on Saturday 27 September!

This protest is initiated by Cardiff supporters of the People Before Profit Charter but anybody is welcome to support. Already the protest has been endorsed support from left wing councillors, socialists, trade unionists, environmentalists, church poverty groups, social justice campaigners & concerned citizens. A full list of sponsors of the protest will be publicised shortly.

If you wish to support the protest or more information about the charter, email: cardiffchartists@live.co.uk

Monday, 8 September 2008

Save the Vulcan!

Our traditional working class social centres (ie Pubs) are under threat across Britain. The latest to face the axe is Adamsdown's own gem, The Vulcan. Situated on Adams Street, it will be replaced with 3,000-space car park for the new shopping centre, St Davids Centre 2, and we're hopping mad about it!

Cardiff Council seems determined to rip the heart out of our city, whether it is auctioning off our cultural treasures or covering the city with a clone-town style city centre. They are the people who understand the cost/price of everything and the value of nothing.

Voted Pub of the Year in 1997, the Vulcan is a historic drinking den that was built in 1853. For over 155 years it has been the local landmark, a north star for weary proletarians.
Not only is The Vulcan is one of the oldest pubs in Cardiff, it is the oldest to have kept its original name - a slice of history, something that connects us with our past. Its name, a reference to the 'God of Fire', was given by the Ironworks in Balls Road when it was built.

For those who have never tasted a pint of real beer at the Vulcan, it has been decribed thus: "a real old fashioned pub. Literally a spit and sawdust pub, with many original features, such as a a large ships wheel, and is often photographed. It stands forlorn amongst modern buildings just before the bridge that marks the end of Adamsdown and the start of the town centre. A perpertual entry in the Camra pub guide. A real step back in time."

The historic Pantmawr Inn in North Cardiff is also facing closure due to greedy developers.

We need a campaign now to save the Vulcan and concerned citizens can rest assured that this will be top of the agenda at the next meeting of Adamsdown Left Alternative along with rocketing gas prices.

For anyone who stands between a free born briton and his or her drink is either a fanatic or a fool.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Welsh History Day School - A Report

A report of the recent day school on Robert Owen & The Co-operative Movement, hosted by the Welsh People's History Society, Llafur by Anna Guevara from the LEFT Alternative.

With an early autumn monsoon and swathes of South Wales flooded, we were fearful that the day school on "Robert Owen and the Co-operative Movement", might be rained off, especially with the venue – Pontypridd Museum – being perilously close to a river . . .

Fortunately, the event went ahead as planned, and around 40 people’s remembrancers crammed into a basement hall to hear a series of papers and presentations on 150 years of the co-operative movement in Wales from the Chartists to Tower Colliery. The day school was opened with two enjoyable and stimulating papers by Bryan Davies of Pontypridd Museum, and Llafur stalwart, Alun Burge, both demolishing the generally held belief that the first co-operative in Wales was at Cwmbach – We were to learn that morning, that the Cwmbach co-op was neither the first, nor the second, third, fourth or fifth co-operative in Wales. We discovered that neither were the Rochdale Pioneers the first co-operative in Britain. Instead we heard a fascinating story of how working class rebels linked with the Chartist movement launched the first co-ops because town-shopkeepers were hostile to their politics. This forgotten history of Chartist Co-operatives was one that Llafur promised to do more future research on.

The story of the first co-operative in Wales at Pontypridd is to be found in the pages of the Northern Star, the radical newspaper that played the role of organiser in the Chartist movement. We heard of a co-operative that could not get groceries from local wholesalers who refused to sell to the radicals, and enquired for information on wholesalers further afield. The co-operative was also subject to attempts at sabotage from the local tradespeople and town councillors. The Chartists linked with the co-op met in a local beer-house, ostensibly for Welsh lessons, but the police expected more subversive purposes – though historical information is scarce due to the insurgents taking the traditional collective oath of secrecy.

What was especially inspiring was how these early co-operatives were closely interlinked with the beginnings of militant trade unionism and political agitation, and essentially formed self-help organisations set up by the most politically conscious workers at the time. Historians argue that the Pontypridd co-op failed because it went bankrupt through extending too much credit to striking train workers at Brown-Lennox, a similar story was told about the Cwmbach co-op, that it went out of business through overfunding the 1921 miners lockout, indeed, the co-op effectively funded the lockout.

A key figure in the Pontypridd Co-op was a radical Doctor and Chartist leader named William Price, A whole book could be written about Price (and probably has!), an early pioneer of cremation who played a role in laying the ground for the final legalisation of the practice in 1902, he was also a druid and an advocate of free love.

Dr Price can also be seen as a father of socialised medicine: Elected doctor by striking workers who paid weekly contributions in return for free health care, he caustically commented that people paid for doctors when they were sick, but that people should only pay for doctors when they had been cured, and when they were sick the doctors should pay the patients!

An interesting angle was opened up, when we heard about the influence of Iolo Morganwg, stonemason and inventor of the modern bards, on Price and Welsh chartists. It was argued that Morganwg bequeathed Welsh radicals the equivalent of the English concept of “the Norman Yoke” (read Christopher Hill for background on this idea). The Welsh couldn’t look back to a golden age before the Norman conquest of justice because they had never been conquered by the Normans!

Iolo, “The bard of liberty”, invented a fiction of a radical and democratic druidic past long before the Roman invasion of Britain, a distant Welsh or British utopia, presided over by Druids who were lawgivers and moral teachers, a fiction was promoted that in the Middle Ages, Welsh Kings were appointed and removed by popular assembly. William Price believed that this utopian past could fire people's imaginations to create a radical present.

We heard anecdotes that Iolo's Triads of the Social State had even influenced Karl Marx, and it was argued that Iolo had shaped many false ideas that people had of medieval Welsh history, speakers argued that people had read the Laws of Hywel Dda through the prism of Iolo’s preface that gave them a democratic and egalitarian twist that wasn’t really there: For example a group of 19th century squatters invoked in their defence the laws of Hywel Dda, but it was claimed that they had inherited a false and romantic idea of the laws.

This inspired much controversy with the floor, especially when the speaker raised the issue of Welsh suffragettes claiming inspiration from Celtic women who supposedly enjoyed equality as an example of how a completely romanticised view of the laws had developed. Some argued that Hywel Dda’s laws were progressive particularly in regards to divorce and defended them as an egalitarian system of law.

Other presentations were concerned with Robert Owen, needs no introduction from us, except to say that the verdict is still open on whether he was a utopian socialist or an enlightened capitalist. Certainly he was a pioneer of adult education and nursery education, and defender of childrens rights, and pioneered reforms such as sick pay, but my own gut feeling is that he belongs to the prehistory of the working class movement.

The conference ended with a discussion of the relevance of co-operative movement today. A paper promoting co-operative schools stimulated discussion, while one speaker from the floor bitterly commented that some co-ops treated their workers just as shoddily as capitalist firms. Others saw the co-operative as offering a model for self-help and decentralised alternative to top-down socialism. While a few implied that Owenites were middle class do-gooders and paternalistic. Another debate hinged on ‘nationalisation’ and the nature of public ownership. People argued that their needed to be some grassroots form of public ownership based on democratic and community control, leading to a general debate on what socialism should be in Century 21.

Llafur is to be commended on organising an enjoyable and educational conference. The next event will be a day school History of Welsh Sport at the SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff on the 1st November. The event is free. Contact Siân Williams s.f.williams@swansea.ac.uk to book your place. Another day school on gender and sport will take place in Cardiff in November.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Message to Cllr Rodney Berman & Co. - "Hands Off Our Books!"


Following our correspondent's story yesterday highlighting the LibDem/Plaid Coalition nefarious plan to auction of our city's cultural treasures to the highest bidder on the sly, we have been bombarded with emails from concerned citizens. We will post up contact details for the Cardiff Heritage Friends campaign shortly.

Now bombard local politicians with letters demanding that our cultural heritage be saved. The more letters, emails, etc, that can be sent to the Council's Executive (and to your local ward councillors and your Assembly Member and MP), the better. One thing to request specifically is that the matter be put on the agenda of the next Council Executive meeting. Also the more letters to the press and postings on websites, the better!

The email address for Cllr Nigel Howells, the Executive Member for Sport , Leisure and Culture (and therefore the councillor responsible for libraries) is NHowells@cardiff.gov.uk

The report recommending the sale of the collections is published on the Council’s website. The report is entitled - we kid you not - ‘Disposal of Surplus [sic] Library Stock’. Cardiff Council have made Farenheit 451 a reality!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Cardiff Council to Flog off our Cultural Treasures & Books to Highest Bidder!

"A lot of people are aghast about this. For Cardiff, having these books is the difference between Cardiff being a local and Welsh interest library to being a library in the international league. In the past the council has not invested in these books and did not include them on the electronic catalogue, which means that the majority of people did not know they were there."

Dr Wyn James, Secretary of Cardiff Welsh Bibliographical Society, speaking to the BBC

One occasionally suspects that certain senior Council leaders have never read a book, this certainly might explain the wanton barbarism of the mafia who run the Council putting up our cultural treasures up for auction. This act of cultural vandalism from the LibDem/Plaid Coalition marks a new low point and a step back for the city.

Books that may be flogged off include Tyndale's Bible, one of the oldest English translations of the Bible, published in the 16th Century when translating the Bible into the common tongue was a deeply suversive and political act, risking death; Second edition Shakespeare's; Key English and European texts from the Protestant reformation; And a substantial and significant collection of political tracts from the English Civil War, an epoch of democratic struggle and revolution that our politicians may wish to forget, when the people deposed an autocratic and out of touch leader.

While certain books will be saved - including the 13th Century Llyfr Aneirin (The Book of Aneirin), the manuscript collection (including the Captain Scott manuscripts and Bute papers)., and early printed Welsh books and bibles, including a Bishop Morgan bible - Already over 100 books have been sent to the auctioneer with little evidence of public consultation, and talk of up to 18,000 antique books - many dating as far back to the 15th Century - to be flogged to the highest bidder.

Indeed, according to Peter Keelan, Head of special collections and archives at Cardiff University Library, the first batch of books date back to the 1500s and are probably the most valuable of the books being sold.

He identifies the key importance of this collection:

"There is nothing else here in Wales as the library in Aberystwyth concentrates more on Welsh texts. Students would have to go to London for their research. If these books disappear from Cardiff, research will grind to a halt."

Cardiff University has expressed an interest in taking custody the books to so that people from all over Cardiff could see them, and they would be available for scholars and research, but how could a university library match the sums that the Council will get from the auctioneers?

A new campaigning group, Cardiff Heritage Friends, has been launched as a coalition of local residents, historians, other academics, solicitors, and librarians, that is calling for the council to stop the sale "of some of Wales' greatest treasures".

This marks an escalation of the local council's attacks on public libraries and our cultural heritage. The council claims that it will use the sale from its cultural vandalism to fund public libraries, but should culture be funded by attacking culture?

When Cardiff Central Library was moved to its temporary home in a glorified shed, Council Leader, Rodney Berman made much spin of Cardiff soon having a 'state-of-the-art Library' but beneath the blather lies the reality that the new Central Library will contain much fewer books than the previous incarnation - what is this but a cut? Indeed, before the Library moved to its temporary home, hundreds of important books, many of them out-of-print and unavailable from bookshops were similarly sold off.

"Where there is no vision - the people perish". The Leaders of the Council have made it clear that they are not men and women of culture: The disgraceful threats to close one of Wales' finest music venues, the Point, the demise of the Coal Exchange, the hassle around the Toucan show this, the attempts to build a road through Bute Park. Or rather they have their own culture based around money and profit, expressed in Rodney Berman fighting hard to bring a Super-Casino to Cardiff, the St Davids Centre 2, and one of Wales' poorest areas - Loudon Square - being in an area that has had billions poured into 'regeneration' and surrounded by new luxury flats.

We hope to articulate an alternative vision of our city, and struggle to make Cardiff a city of culture and a city of the people.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008


The LEFT Alternative has just received this tip off from a very concerned citizen (see below), a response from Cardiff Councillor Nigel Howells whose brief is Sports, Leisure & Culture to these concerns can be found in the comments section to this article.

"Cardiff Council has brought back plans to put a new access bridge into Bute Park and a ROAD through the park - this is immediately opposite the end of Corbett Road (ie off North Road and opposite Optometry).

In fact these are plans that will change the face of the park as we know it - the bridge is to be 9 metres wide! - this is to let 2 articulated lorries pass each other - a new, very wide road then drops over the feeder canal and down into the park near the nursery.

Many trees will be removed - amazingly a large number have already been removed without any planning permission approved - you can see the gash in the tree line. The plans have to be abandoned before the election but they are BACK with them again!"

Sign the petition here

Our correspondent asks:

"Have you seen the destruction, on the pretence of taking down a diseased tree! I hope you are appalled. Are the Council officers covering up this unlawful action BEFORE planning permission?"

Bute Park's designer and planer, Andrew Pettigrew, was one of the most important park designers of the second half of the nineteenth century, andthe open, flowing informal design allowed a smooth transition from a private pleasure ground to a public park. Much of the Victorian planting, particularly of ornamental trees, survives but are the trees safe in Cardiff Councils hands?


e-mail: rcole@cardiff.gov.uk

internet: www.cardiff.gov.uk/dc

Development Control, Strategic Planning & Environment, Room 127 City Hall, Cardiff, CF10 3ND
Application No. 07/02649/
CDate: 29/08/2008

Please ask for: Richard Cole
Telephone: (029) 2087 1668
Fax (029) 2087 1826

History Day School - Robert Owen and the Co-operative Movement in Wales

George Orwell once said “those who control the present control the past, and those who control the past control the future.” Knowing our own history is very important for the working class movement.

Llafur (Welsh People's History Society) is organising a day school to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of Robert Owen of Newtown, the ‘father of the Co-operative Movement’.

The day school will start at 11am on Saturday 6 September, and will be held in Pontypridd Museum. Speakers include Brian Davies, Alun Burge, Roger Davies, Mervyn Wilson, and Chris Williams.

The event is free. Please contact Siân Williams s.f.williams@swansea.ac.uk
to book your place.
Some LEFT Alternative supporters hope to attend. Report to follow - watch this space!

Friday, 29 August 2008

The LEFT Alternative fights for Greener Local Councils

Preston City Council voted yesterday to recognise trade union "environmental representatives" to help the council set and meet stringent carbon emission targets. The TUC and its affiliate unions have been actively working towards establishing such reps as part of their Green Workplaces Project.

The motion was part of a radical package proposed by the LEFT Alternative councillor Michael Lavalette (pictured right) and actively supported by left-wing Labour councillors in the city.

The motion also proposes that the council should commit to the principle of establishing a local power company, under local authority control, which will provide cheap, carbon neutral energy to the local population.

Cllr Lavalette, who proposed the motion, said:

This is an incredibly significant motion. When it is implemented - alongside other motions we have passed on public transport systems - it will make Preston one of the greenest cities in Britain. But the motion also puts us in line to be the first significant employer to recognise trade union environmental reps. The unions will be important players if we are to tackle climate change; it is only right that they and their members are given a recognised role in setting and implementing carbon emission targets.

Labour Deputy Leader Matthew Brown added:

Setting up a local power company is a realistic possibility. It allows us to deal with issues associated with climate change and carbon emissions, and, at the same time, allows us to provide cheap fuel for the people of Preston, some of whom are amongst the poorest in the country.

Both councillors said they hoped that the Preston motion would become a model that other councils would follow. The full motion is as follows:

Preston City Council notes:

1. The continuing threat from abrupt climate change.
2. The world's leading scientists and recognised climate change authorities note that if action is not taken to reduce greenhouse gases (CO2 equivalent emissions) within 30 years there is likely to be an irreversible effect on the Global Climate.
3. The Government's Royal Commission on Environment Pollution has predicted that the target reduction in greenhouse gases, expressed as CO2 equivalent emissions, should be 60% by 2050 and 80% by 2100.

Preston City Council further notes:

1. The efforts made by Woking Council to adopt a comprehensive Climate Change Strategy on a scale that is likely to meet The Royal Commission on Environment Pollution targets of 60% reductions of CO2 equivalent emissions by 2050 and 80% by 2100.
2. That Derby Council have a five year strategy to achieve a 25% reduction in carbon emissions and Norwich council have an annual reduction target of 6%.
3. That the TUC (via its Green Workplaces Project) and its affiliate unions are actively campaigning for employers to recognise 'environmental representatives' with a role in setting CO2 reduction targets, initiating workplace environmental audits and educating members on green and sustainability issues.

Preston City Council resolves:

1. To use solar panels on the Town Hall as a means of meeting energy needs and reducing CO2 emissions
2. To commit to the principle of establishing a local power company within Preston, in local authority ownership, to generate power for the area and investigate how this can be implemented.
3. To use sustainable combine heat and power sources of energy in the City Council buildings - discouraging the production of CO2 type gasses.
4. To increase use of photovoltaic and renewable energy
5. To investigate improvements to insulation in all council buildings and workplaces.
6. To incorporate planning policies which will ensure that new developments in the City reduces CO2 equivalent emissions of greenhouse gases.
7. To establish a carbon neutral approach to the future of services and activities within the City
8. To make progress as speedily as possible on the long-delayed City Council travel plan, aimed at reducing car use for travel to work and staff (and member) travel on business.
9. To enter negotiations with all local authority trade unions to recognise environmental representatives, and to establish with the unions the active role of the representatives in achieving the council's carbon emission targets.