Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/766/16734
Fighting cuts in wales
Within the general crisis of British capitalism there is the special crisis of the Welsh economy. Founded in the 19th century on mining and heavy industry and sustained in the late 20th century by manufacturing, the modern Welsh economy has staggered on since the 1980s based on foreign inward investment in industry and public spending.
Now these two sectors are receding and Wales faces a bleak future on the basis of capitalism unless the working class can defend public services and the welfare state.
This special feature on Wales looks at where the cuts are hitting hard and puts forward a strategy to stop them, based on mass struggle and the socialist and revolutionary traditions of the Welsh working class.
Is Plaid Cymru a real alternative for working class people?
Communities in Wales are only gradually realising the bedroom tax's full effects as arrears mount up and tenants slide closer to eviction.
There is misery all over Britain but it is particularly acute in Wales, which has an unemployment rate of 10%, above the UK average.
Long-term unemployment lingers as a result of the smashing of the mining and manufacturing industries which used to dominate the economy.
The Tories began those attacks, but Labour governments failed to halt the decline: in Wales 171 factories closed between 1998 and 2008, with job losses of 31,000 in manufacturing.
Unemployment benefits as a proportion of average income fell substantially in the same period. Cuts such as the bedroom tax hit Wales while it is already down.
The Welsh working class desperately needs an organisation to organise its defence. Some look to the Welsh Nationalist Party, Plaid Cymru.
Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards has called on councils and Housing Associations to reclassify properties as having fewer bedrooms to escape the bedroom tax.
Plaid councillor Neil McEvoy proposed a motion calling on Cardiff council to pledge not to evict anyone who falls into arrears as a result of the bedroom tax.
Compared to Labour (who amended Plaid's motion, deleting the pledge not to evict), Plaid will appear radical, at least in opposition. But would Plaid in power do any differently? The evidence says "No".
Until 2012, Cardiff was run by a Plaid-Liberal coalition, which carried out brutal cuts to services amounting to millions of pounds, including services for benefit claimants and the most vulnerable.
The Disability Welfare Advice Service was scrapped making it harder for disabled people to find out what benefits they're entitled to.
Today, Plaid is the controlling force on Gwynedd council, North Wales, but there are no reports of pledges to protect people from bedroom tax evictions or reclassify properties there.
Empty words, not backed by action, will not defend our living standards: we need a political party that will do everything possible to fight the Lib-Con Coalition when it tries to make us pay for the bankers' mess.
Plaid Cymru cannot adopt the bold solutions required to solve the problems of Wales and the UK because it is held back by a conservative wing based on private business interests in Wales.
The recently-released "Plan C", rightly calls for a break with the monopoly of the finance sector, but on the crucial question of what would replace its dominant influence, Plaid calls for "maximising the potential of the cooperative and social enterprise sectors to develop business and entrepreneurial skills in our communities."
What Wales needs is socialism - democratic working class ownership and control of the economy by the working class - is the only way to end long-term unemployment and economic stagnation.
The launch of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition Wales steering committee, including leading figures in combative unions like the RMT and the PCS, is an important step towards that solution and the development of an independent mass party for the working class in Wales.
Teachers' message: stay firm against performance-related pay
NUT Cymru members spoke to Dave Reid
Over 500 Welsh teachers poured into a recent Cardiff rally organised by NUT and NASUWT unions against government attacks on teachers' pay and conditions.
Anger at education secretary Michael Gove's attacks on pay and pensions and at Welsh Labour education minister Leighton Andrews' policies, created a growing demand for action.
There was an enthusiastic response to the idea of joint industrial action by NUT and NASUWT, beginning with a one-day strike in north-west England on 27 June.
NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney and NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates were applauded for criticising government policies on schools and mentions of action.
Unfortunately, the anger and enthusiasm was only partially reflected by the union leaders.
Teachers from both unions were concerned that Chris Keates implied that the one-day national rolling action might be called off in Wales if Leighton Andrews made concessions to the unions on observations.
She said Andrews has been asked to adopt the joint union performance management policy, changing the way teacher observations are carried out and to publicly ask Gove to scrap plans to end the national pay structure. He ticked one box by writing to Gove, but not the second box - yet.
Andrews merely wrote to Gove saying the Con-Dem government should retain a national pay structure for teachers in Wales and England.
He has not conceded on observations but, if he made some concessions, the NASUWT leaders say they would be prepared to call off the one day action, even though Gove would impose performance-related pay on Welsh teachers.
Verbal opposition by Andrews would be enough for union leaders in Wales to call off the action. One Welsh NASUWT leader told the press: "If resolution is reached with the Welsh government, the rolling programme would roll past" even though Welsh teachers would be hit by pay cuts as much as teachers in England.
NUT activists said after the rally that if NASUWT leaders called off this autumn's one-day regional action the NUT should go ahead regardless as NASUWT members would support them. NUT Cymru leaders must remain firm.
Save the NHS - unions must lead the way
As the Wales TUC annual conference was meeting on 22 May, the Labour Welsh Government was poised to publish its 'South Wales Plan' for 'reorganising' accident, emergency and other health services. Communities hold their breath - will their hospital be one of the lucky five that retains full accident and emergency services?
North Wales health campaigners are mounting a legal challenge to plans to move intensive neonatal care to the Wirral.
Protests at cuts and campaigns to save local services are springing up from Llandudno to Llanelli.
The Wales TUC Conference should have been a 'council of war' preparing a fight to defend our NHS. But these cuts are carried out by a Welsh Labour Government.
That makes all the difference to the leaders of the big, Labour-affiliated unions dominating Wales TUC.
The only agenda resolution on the NHS, from Swansea Trades Council, called for the Wales TUC to head a campaign to defend all NHS services in Wales.
The General Council opposed this resolution. It still denies that the Welsh Labour Government is making deep cuts of around £200 million in the last year, 3.3% of total Health Board budgets.
Labour's refusal to defend the NHS in Wales risks fragmenting the fight into cross-party campaigns to save local services, while accepting cuts elsewhere. Llanelli's Labour MP calls for politics to be kept out of the campaign to defend A&E services at Prince Phillip Hospital; while Pembrokeshire's Tories have been out petitioning to save local NHS services!
The General Council opposed Swansea Trades Council's call for a fighting lead, saying that any cuts are the fault of the Con-Dem coalition in Westminster.
In areas like health, where the Welsh Government has fully devolved powers, it describes cuts as 'modernisation'.
Instead of the demonstration called for in the resolution, the General Council's idea of action is a bus tour of Wales giving out leaflets and inviting local politicians to condemn the Con-Dem government, even as they 'reluctantly' make their cuts.
There will be a fight to save NHS services in Wales: communities won't stand by and see services destroyed.
It will be more difficult if the General Council blocks the Wales TUC from leading that fight but we call for rank and file trade unionists to build links with local campaigns to oppose all cuts and fight for an NHS true to its founding principles - free and accessible to all.
On 8 June the Welsh Shop Stewards Network (WSSN) meets in Cardiff; trade unionists there would hope to be building for a WTUC NHS demo but the WSSN should consider calling one.
Stop the fire cuts!
The BBC, acting as a megaphone for government cuts propaganda, describes the Knight Review of fire and rescue services as bringing about 'efficiencies'.
However, what it will bring about if its recommendations are accepted, is an increase in needless deaths and injuries.
Speaking at Swansea Trades Council's May Day rally, Chair of FBU Cymru, Cerith Griffiths, highlighted local cuts already taking place, including replacing fire engines with vans and halving shift numbers in Llanelli.
Trade unionists should get behind FBU resistance to these cuts. The Knight Review and cuts to fire and rescue services is one more attack on essential public services to add to coastguard closures, the destruction of NHS services, rail and mail privatisation etc.
Together they are an irrefutable case for a 24-hour general strike to halt cuts and privatisation.
In The Socialist 22 May 2013:
Fight the bedroom tax
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party workplace news