The Socialist 26 April 2007 |
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Campaigning for socialist ideas in South Wales
Wales International Socialist Resistance campaigning
"Could I have a copy of your paper - I want to piss the Labour Party off" a worker said as we campaigned against hospital cutbacks in Aberdare in the South Wales valleys, next to the Labour Party's little red balloon campaign. Working-class people in Wales are viewing with increasing scepticism the four main parties as they jostle to try on each other's clothes in the Assembly elections.
Dave Reid, Alec Thraves and Ross Saunders
"Welsh" Labour, led by Rhodri Morgan, is trying to pretend it is not Blairite, while the Tories push Blair's policies and Plaid Cymru try and look like 'old Labour'. Not surprisingly most people think 'politics has nothing to do with me'. One Plaid politician privately claimed that people are so lukewarm to politics that it wasn't worth campaigning at all.
As support drains away from Rhodri Morgan's Labour Assembly government he vainly pretends to have nothing to do with Blair. He has hitherto refused to take a position on the Iraq war, but in desperation has now said he probably would have voted against it if he had been an MP, which as one anti-war campaigner commented "is about as useful as a chocolate teapot".
Meanwhile the Tories have championed Blairism in the NHS, calling for Foundation Hospital status to be extended to Wales. Nevertheless the superficial appearance of being new and different, together with an expected turnout of under 50%, means the Tories are likely to gain the most and even become the second party in the Assembly.
Plaid Cymru are attempting to capture the mood of opposition to NHS cuts, but as Ross Saunders, a Socialist Alternative candidate in South Wales West pointed out, "people are rightly cynical about Plaid Cymru, who've set up shop in Maesteg three weeks before the election and are claiming to be the defenders of public services.
"In coalition with the Tories on Bridgend Council they are responsible for sweeping cuts to home care for elderly and disabled people and to free school buses and education". People in Cardiff and Swansea have suffered a similar experience from the Liberals in their councils.
Socialist Party Wales, on the other hand, is getting a very warm response. We are standing in the regional list seats of South Wales Central and South Wales West under the banner of Socialist Alternative - Defend Our Health Service.
Defending the NHS
Despite minimal media coverage, we have made a good impact in working-class areas of Swansea, Cardiff, Maesteg, Aberdare and the Rhondda with our election leaflet highlighting the crisis in the NHS and offering a socialist alternative.
A very successful public meeting in Aberdare has begun a new campaign to stop the downgrading of local hospitals with one young woman agreeing to join the Socialist Party and a teacher agreeing to come to meetings and help on stalls.
In Swansea we have used the election campaign to build for a local NHS-SOS demonstration taking place on 28 April. All the parties have suddenly discovered the NHS crisis, but Socialist Party Wales is recognised by staff, patients and NHS campaigners as the ones who have fought to defend the NHS for years and not just before an election. We will still be campaigning after 3 May, when the other parties go back into hibernation for another four years.
In West Adamsdown in Cardiff, in what was a Liberal stronghold, we are winning the poster war as dozens of window bills have gone up reflecting support for our campaign to re-open Cardiff Royal Infirmary.
Socialist Party and International Socialist Resistance (ISR) members in Maesteg have been building on the campaigns they have been running for months against cuts to social services, education and free school buses, by focussing on fighting cuts and privatisation in the health service. Our stalls in Maesteg have shown huge support for reversing the process of NHS privatisation.
We have produced special material on a number of issues, including a leaflet against the BNP which is being used alongside Unite Against Fascism leaflets. We are participating in the UAF election activities with other anti-fascist groups, but recognize that people want more than being told to just 'use your vote' against the BNP. We need to expose their anti-working class policies and offer a socialist alternative.
Our members have leafleted workplaces with Socialist Party PCS and UNISON election leaflets alongside our Assembly election leaflet highlighting our support for members of both unions in their fight to defend jobs and conditions. PCS Wales has circulated our response to their questionnaire along with those of the four main parties. Other parties, including Respect and the BNP, did not respond.
Our youth members are stepping up several gears as students return from the Easter break. They are pushing the Campaign against Fees as well as campaigning against Trident and the BNP.
While the Welsh Assembly election is definitely not top of the agenda for the vast majority, the real issues facing the working class most definitely are!