Tuesday, 29 January 2008

South-East Wales Respect Election Launch

Against privatisation, racism, war & the destruction of the planet:
Building an activist alternative to the established government in Wales

Wednesday 6 February 6th at 7.30pm,
Roath Community Centre, Ninian Road, Roath, Cardiff

The meeting will include election of a steering committee for S.E. Wales and selection of wards and candidates for the May council elections where RESPECT plans to provide an alternative to the parties of inequality and big business.
If anyone wants to put themselves forward please let us know by email at respect.wales@gmail.com
The meeting will also have a report back from Respect National Council giving members a chance to hear about how things have been developing nationally.

Please spread the word of this meeting to anyone you know who's interested in getting involved in the campaign!

Fare Strike Against First Great Western!


"Despite being the worst performing rail franchise in the country, parent company FirstGroup increased profits by more than 10 % to £103.1 million in the six months to Sept 30. Its rail division increased operating profit by 9.8 % to £48.2 million. In contrast to their success at raiing profits they remain unable to improve the reliability of their trains, with only 80% of their trains arriving on time, or at all. This is an average figure accross their rail division with punctuality figures for some trains as low as 50% on a regular basis."
- More Trains Less Strain

Organisers of a Fare strike yesterday handed out hundreds of fake tickets in an inspirational piece of direct action against fare rises.

Hundreds of commuters wore cattle masks as they boarded their trains in an angry protest against unreliable services and rising fares. Campaigners gathered at 20 stations across the South West and handed out "fake tickets" for passengers to display their displeasure at the service provided by First Great Western.

Organisers of yesterday's protest, which started at 7.30am, said they handed out more than 2,000 fake tickets by the protest's end at 9am. Commuter Tony Ambrose said many people used the fake tickets rather than pay for their journey."This has sent out a really strong message that commuters just can't be taken for granted any more. Things have to change, they simply cannot go on as they are at present," he added.

Cardiff RESPECT campaigns for the re-nationalisation of the railways:
The climate crisis underlines the urgency of free and cheap public transport. Under New Labour, the cost of private motoring has gone down, while train and bus fares have rockets. We campaign for the £30 billion being spent on Labour's unsustainable road-building programme to be re-directed into public transport and for cheap and affordable transport for all workers.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

A School for Slaughter

This week a very important protest took place outside the National Assembly to protest the militarisation of Wales.

The 4 main parties in Wales have supported £14 billion of taxpayers money being spent not on the NHS, students, pensioners, child poverty or renewable energy but on War in the form of the St Athan’s UK Military Academy.

The Academy will train not only the latest recruits to the 'war on terror' from across the UK, but foreign militaries. While paid for by our taxes, the profits from military training will pour into the coffers of the private arms companies (including cluster bomb manufacturer, Raytheon) which are involved in running the academy.

The Military Academy looks set to become Britain’s “School of the Americas” a focus for imperialist adventures abroad and counter-insurgency training. It is also the biggest ever PFI in history. Some background here.

Many people will once again wonder: Why is there always billions for war but none for vital public services?

Many will wonder at Plaid Cymru who in the past have claimed to be anti-war but slavishly support the Academy, with not a single Plaid AM, MP or Councillor publicly opposing the Military Academy. Adam Price MP says he is against war, against militarism, against privatisation - yet he supports the Academy.

In a sense, the St Athan’s Military Academy represents the nationalists “clause 4" moment. Jewish philosopher, Hannah Arrendt once spoke of the ‘banality of evil’. She was thinking of the mediocre bureaucrats who oversaw the slaughter of millions of Jews.

Today we speak of the ‘banality of Plaid’ whose so-called left wing has been silent in the face of the militarisation of Wales and the spending of billions on War.
RESPECT is proud to have been the only party in Wales to have campaigned against the Military Academy during the Welsh Assembly elections, we say:


Friday, 18 January 2008

Francois Villon - Vagabond Poet

Murray Bookchin:
Francois Villon . . . The mediaeval poet was involved in an underworld, with its own parallel institutions - Princes, Counts - They were all crooks and in the City the legal world feared entering their quarters. Villon thrived there. He was a Murderer. He and his cohorts hung out in Brothels like Toulouse-Lautrec.

Janet Biehl:
So how did he get to be a poet?

Murray Bookchin:

He wrote wills that are works of art, comic, satirical, poetic . . .
He also wrote poems that ended with an envoi - "Lord of thieves, Be gentle to me." Wit was supremely important, Even as he faced the hangman.

Rest in Peace Francois Villon!
Rest in Peace Murray Bookchin!

Sunday, 6 January 2008

We want a Robin Hood Economy: Take from the Rich and give to the Poor!

Gordon Brown and Adam Price MP have one thing in common: Both believe in an economy founded on massive tax breaks to multinationals, only Plaid want to cut corporation tax to even lower levels than even Thatcher, Blair or Brown!
As outlined by Adam Price MP Plaid's economic strategy for rebuilding Wales is based on massive tax breaks to multinational coporations in order to attract foreign companies into Wales. Corporate globalisation means that multinationals race around the world looking for whichever country offers the lowest paid workers with worst conditions, Plaid's economic strategy can only mean the continuation of the low wage economy.
Adam Johannes from Roath RESPECT outlines a socialist alternative.

Once upon a time, sections of the Labour Party spoke of 'taxing the rich until the pips squeaked', of 'howls of anguish from those rich enough to pay over 75% on their last slice of earnings' - but that was a very long time ago! Since 1979, the burden of taxation has shifted decisively from the rich to poor. RESPECT believes that we need to tax the rich to rebuild the Welfare State: Join our fight to make the rich pay their fair share as part of the bigger crusade to combat poverty and inequality in Wales!

Shift in tax

There been a fundamental shift in tax in Britain over the last 30 years. The Tories and now New Labour have increased increased indirect taxes that hit the poor the hardest. When Thatcher's Tory government was elected in 1979 one of its first acts was to slash income tax on the rich and radically increase VAT on consumer goods. It radically cut the top rate of tax on the rich.

At the same time it doubled VAT from 8 percent to 15 percent, forcing up the price of many basic goods.

When the Tories were forced to abandon the poll tax in 1991 they hit back at working people by raising VAT to 17.5 percent. The Tories also introduced the nastiest fuel tax of all. They imposed a special 8 percent VAT tax on domestic fuel in 1994, and planned to increase it further.

The tax added 8 percent to people's gas and electric bills and hit pensioners struggling to keep warm in the winter especially hard. New Labour reduced this tax to 5 percent but refuses to scrap it. Since New Labour was elected in 1997 it has done nothing to change the Tory shift from direct to consumption taxes.

New Labour refuses to increase the top rate of income tax. And it has cut taxes on business profits even more than the Tories did.

There's an urgent need for a fight against the pro-rich, pro-business agenda of Tories, New Labour and Plaid. It should be based not on higher consumption taxes, but on a major increase in income tax on the rich. There should also be a massive increase in tax on corporate profits.

This should go hand-in-hand with price controls on basic goods to stop business protecting their profits by forcing up prices paid by ordinary people.

Let's recap: Under the first 8 years of the Thatcher government, the richest paid a rate of 60% on excess earnings, under New Labour this has sunk to 40%. Under James Callaghan the rich paid over 80% and under Harold Wilson almost 90%. If the government were to tax the rich at the same rate as Thatcher - hardly a socialist! - we could scrap student fees, rebuild the NHS, keep our schools open and provide for our pensioners. Instead New Labour have cut corpoaration tax again to the lowest rates of any major economy, lower than America, Germany and Japan. Incredibly, Plaid Cymru argue that corporation tax should be cut even further! In Wales, in contrast, RESPECT argues that we need to take on corporate power not extend it.

Scrap Council Tax - For a Local Service Tax

The policies of the mainstream parties in promoting tax breaks for the rich have mean council tax bills for working people have rocketed. The richest 20% of the Welsh population also pay a lesser proportion of their income on council tax than the poorest 20%. Council Tax is obscenely regressive. Other parties moan about the Council Tax: we demand its abolition. A local service tax based on income could actually generate more money than the current council tax!

Cardiff RESPECT will be campaigning in May for the scrapping of the council tax in Wales. We wish to see it replaced with a local service tax based on income. Under our scheme three quarters of people would be better off, while the rich would have to pay more. Low income houses would save more than £20 a week. We would campaign for those whose income was below £10,000 a year to be exempt from the tax.

To spread this system fairly across Britain you would have to continue redistributing wealth from councils in richer areas to those in poorer areas. Otherwise in areas where there were fewer people with high incomes, there would be less money to spend on services, or workers would have to pay more.

'The language of priorities' . . .

Aneurin Bevan called socialism, 'the language of priorities'. If this is the case, then the priorities of the two ruling parties in Wales are very far from socialism.

New Labour, Plaid Cymru, the Tories and LibDems have supported over £14 billion being spent on war in the shape of a huge, privatised, UK Military Academy at St Athan's. This money could have been spent on eliminating child poverty, on keeping schools and hospitals open, on creating jobs based on renewable energy and socially useful activities. Instead, New Labour and Plaid showed that while we are told that there is no money for vital public services, there will always be money to fuel the military-industrial complex.

Cardiff RESPECT is proud to stand against the tide of militarism and to have been the only party in Wales to have campaigned against the school for slaughter in the recent assembly elections. We believe that there is enough money in Wales to create a very different society, the problem is that it is concentrated in the hands of the few. We aim to build a party of the millions rather than the millionaires to build a society based on principles of equality, social justice, peace and sustainability. To get involved email: respect_yourself_cardiff@hotmail.co.uk


Cardiff RESPECT calls for

* A massive cut in military spending. Disband Britain’s weapons of mass destruction and scrap nuclear weapons. Decommission Trident. No to £14 billion being wasted on a military academy at St Athan's in South Wales.
* Transfer resources from military to useful production.
* Tax currency speculation.
* Abolish VAT and replace it with increased direct taxation.
* Raise the top rate of income tax.
* Raise the tax threshold to ensure that no one on the minimum wage pays income tax.
* A big increase in corporation tax, with an additional tax on the super-profits of the oil companies and the banks.
* A turnover tax on multi-nationals doing businesses in Britain.
* Raise the top rate of inheritance tax whilst putting higher duties on other transfers of wealth and financial transaction.
* Increased stamp duty on stocks and shares.
* A crack down on tax evasion by big companies and action against offshore tax havens.
* Abolish the ceiling on National Insurance contributions.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Campaign for A Living Wage!

While the government devotes millions to combatting "benefit fraud" including advertising campaigns, hiring detectives and harrassing working people, it seems strangely reluctant to prosecute employers who fail to pay their employees the minimum wage, indeed up until extremely recently not a single employer has been prosecuted for breaking the law. It seems that the "law" is applied selectively in Labour Party Capitalist Britain.

Living Wage campaigner and Mersyside RESPECT member, Nick Wall comments:

"We have just seen the first successful prosecution of an employer under the National Minimum Wage legislation. That’s one prosecution in nearly 10 years. But wait, it gets worse. The owner of Rascals Day Nursery in Walthamstow was fined just £2,500 for her deliberate non-cooperation with investigators. Miserable though this penalty may seem, the maximum fine employers can face is just £5,000. In practice, it is ludicrously easy for employers to avoid any prosection at all. 95 per cent of employers caught underpaying the minimum wage simply pay back what they owe to avoid any further penalty. If they fail to do this within a 4 week period, they can be landed with a fixed penalty notice (about £225 per worker).

If the government seems inept at flushing out those employers who pay starvation wages, it is because the resources devoted to finding them are totally inadequate. Earlier this year the government announced proudly that the budget to enforce minimum wage laws was to increase by 50%. Unfortunately this was just an increase from £6m to £9m - scarcely enough to cover the office furnishings of some government departments. I read that the government is doing a mail out to hotel employers this month, informing them about minimum wage rules and things they need to be doing. After a short ‘bedding in’ period this will be followed up by spot checks from enfocrement officers. I just have one question : isn’t ten years a long enough bedding in period for employers to comply with the law ?"

More information about the campaign for a Living Wage can be found here

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Who Should Be Blamed for the Missing Discs?

Marianne Owens is a member of Rhondda RESPECT and currently Vice-Chair of the PCS Union in Wales, she writes in a personal capacity.
Following the loss of 25 million peoples personal records by the government, over 6,000 pensioners personal data was lost in an office in Cardiff. This is clearly linked to job cuts. Cardiff RESPECT was proud to visit PCS picket lines during the strike last May against attacks on civil service workers jobs and conditions.

The news that 25 million tax payers’ records have been lost by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) comes as no surprise to anyone, like me, who works for the organisation.

For several years our PCS union has been warning that the relentless “efficiency measures” being imposed by the department would lead to disaster. We are working under extreme pressure as jobs are cut, our offices are closed and there are weekly announcements of “procedural changes” designed to cut costs and corners.

One particular efficiency program that PCS members have been in dispute over has led to mountains of unopened post piling up – we believe that there are a million pieces of mail sitting unopened in dusty warehouses.

Staff training has been slashed. When I started work at HMRC five years ago, I received 16 weeks training, now new staff get a maximum of only four weeks.

What has incensed me most about the whole discs affair is the news that the government is holding a junior official – on administrative officer grade, and therefore earning around £14,000 a year – responsible for the scandal.

I find it unbelievable that an employee at this level would be solely responsible for the dispatch of such sensitive information. I am a grade higher than this, and I am barely allowed to sneeze without permission.

It is a disgrace that an ordinary low paid civil service worker, who would have been following orders, is used as a scapegoat for a national scandal while chief executive Paul Gray is allowed to resign, keep his pension, and no doubt a substantial pay off.

Let’s lay the blame squarely where it belongs – at the feet of our ex-chancellor and new prime minister Gordon Brown.

Marianne Owens, PCS R&C group executive committee member (pc)


A concerned citizen recently contacted us regarding our views on animal cruelty and welfare, and other rural issues.

Cardiff RESPECT believes that we have an obligation to protect both wild and domesticated animals against cruel treatment and unnecessary exploitation.

It is clear that illegal foxhunting still takes place in the countryside near Cardiff with local activists monitoring activity. Unfortunately police activism has been targetted at protestors rather than toffs breaking the law.

RESPECT also aims to push socialist solutions to the crisis in rural Wales, it is significant that the key issue that the "Countryside Alliance" mobilised over was in defence of foxhunting, a pursuit loved by the rural rich. This organisation has have nothing to say about the plight of small farmers, their low paid workforce, the closure of village shops and post offices, or the absence of public transport or other key services in rural areas.

In Wales, low pay, under-employment and deprivation for working families is endemic in the countryside. In South Wales, the massacre of coal mining by Thatcher has resulted in huge numbers of working class people living in 'rural' areas, facing long journeys to find work or unemployment. This has resulted in huge problems of social alienation including drug addiction and crime.

But for the wealthy and Welsh millionaires, with their large houses, holiday homes, leisure pursuits and four-wheel drives, the countryside remains a playground. The polarisation between rural rich and rural poor has widened with the privatisation of bus services and the collapse of much of the rural economy.
In many rural areas of Wales, Plaid Cymru has attracted voters. But this party is wedded to neoliberalism and in Gwynedd is currently carrying out the biggest school closure programme in Wales, shutting down small village schools that are the hearts of rural communities. On the Island of Ynys Mon, the leader of Plaid Cymru has publicly backed a new nuclear power station. In South Wales, Plaid has slavishly supported the militarisation of Wales and the expenditure of billions on a huge, privatised UK military academy at St Athan's to train the latest recruits to the 'War on Terror'. Significantly, RESPECT has been the only political party to contest elections on the basis of opposition to this development on the slogan, "Another Wales is Possible".

Cardiff RESPECT is in favour of rural regeneration in South Wales, and in this context, agitates for the development of a safe, sustainable and humane relationship with other species.
We support agricultural practices that take account of the preservation of habitats and ecosystems. We are against agriculture practices such as factory farming and intensive methods that are cruel to animals, or fishing methods which threaten the extinction of species or endanger sea mammals. We favour the expansion and development in Wales of permaculture and organic methods of agriculture and the creation of alternatives to "supermarket Britain".


* The proper implementation of the ban on hunting with dogs; and for humane methods of wildlife control. The "ban" on hunting with hounds has virtually no effect on hunting, so we support the direct action and activity of hunt saboteours in South Wales who continue to monitor and disrupt hunting in our region.
* An end to factory or intensive farming in Wales. Make Wales GM Free.
* An end to animal experimentation for cosmetic or other unnecessary purposes.
* Non-animal research methods to be properly funded.
* An end to live exports of animals, a limit on live transport time and strict control of conditions of transportation.
* The proper enforcement of animal protection.
* Control of sea fishing to allow stocks to recover.
* End sea-fishing methods, such as long-line fishing, which kill sea mammals and birds.
* Strict regulation of the pet trade.