Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/654/10970
Wales referendum: Vote Yes on 3 March - Defend public services in Wales
Socialist Party Wales is calling for a 'yes' vote in the referendum on more powers for the Welsh Assembly on 3 March.
The Socialist Party, and its forerunner Militant, has always called for a Welsh parliament with full legislative powers as a basic democratic reform and as a means for working people in Wales to fight to change society and for socialism. We believe that the Welsh Assembly can be put under pressure from the working class - pressure to defend jobs and services and to allow the development of a socialist alternative in Wales.
Already working class people in Wales have won some important concessions compared to England. Tuition fees have been somewhat ameliorated this year by the subsidy to Wales-domiciled students by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG).
The privatisation of health and the semi-privatisation of education in England through foundation hospitals, GP "consortia" and academies have been resisted. The huge waste of mortgaging public assets through the Private Finance Initiative has been partially reduced.
Further powers to the Assembly would prevent the Westminster government and Whitehall mandarins from obstructing or delaying Assembly decisions and enable the Assembly to pass laws in Wales.
However support for a 'yes' vote does not mean support for the four main parties in the Yes campaign. We need a new party to fight for the interests of working people in Wales.
The highly paid politicians in all parties in the Assembly have grouped themselves around the Yes For Wales/Ie Dros Cymru campaign headed by Roger Lewis, CEO of the Welsh Rugby Union. Even the Tories in the Assembly who want to cut Welsh public services to shreds support a 'yes' vote.
They all say they want more powers to allow the Assembly to govern Wales "more efficiently". Yet for working people in Wales the real problem has been the Assembly politicians.
Assembly members have awarded themselves generous wages and expenses while all parties agree that "some cuts have to be made" in public services.
One Assembly member even claimed £12,000 a year for a second home in Cardiff despite living near Bridgend, 24 miles from the Assembly. How can these politicians understand what it is like for workers facing pay cuts or the loss of their jobs?
Passing on Con-Dem cutbacks with a shrug of the shoulders is not acceptable. A campaign of resistance is necessary. WAG has responded to the student demonstrations by pledging to ensure that the university fees of Welsh students are not increased any more. It has retained the Education Maintenance Allowance in Wales but is still intent on forcing through huge cuts.
According to civil service union PCS, 30,000 jobs are at risk as a result of the WAG budget cuts. University courses are being cut and universities being merged, leading to big job losses.
Already public services in Wales are under-funded to the tune of £300 million according to the Holtham Commission. The neoliberal policies of Tory and New Labour Westminster governments have largely de-industrialised the British economy and created a huge social gulf between rich and poor. The Welsh economy has suffered as manufacturing industry has closed and been only partially replaced by service industries and the public sector.
Radical action, mobilising the working class of Wales, is needed. This action needs to be linked up to action by workers throughout Britain who are resisting the coalition government cuts.
Socialist Party Wales says the Assembly should use its new powers not to pass on the Con-Dem cuts more efficiently but to fight the cuts. We argue that the Assembly government should propose a budget that meets the needs of working people in Wales - a needs budget, call upon its reserves to prevent any immediate cuts and begin a mass campaign of demonstrations, protests, strikes and civil disobedience to demand the rest.
A socialist WAG would set out a bold programme to defend the Welsh economy, using its new powers to take into public ownership firms threatening redundancies, the utilities and privatised public services. The programme would propose socialist economic policies to put Wales back to work again through an ambitious programme of useful public works and public investment in publicly owned green and high technology industries.
Resisting the cuts and carrying out socialist policies would come up against ferocious opposition from the Con-Dem government in Westminster and big business in Wales and the rest of Britain. It would need a mass campaign, including demonstrations and general strikes in Wales, linking up with similar struggles in the rest of Britain, to win these reforms.
Socialist Party Wales supports a socialist Wales as part of a socialist federation of Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland.
In The Socialist 19 January 2011:
National Shop Stewards Network
Socialist Party NHS campaign
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party workplace news