18 October 2010

In the news again...

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. The campaign against the Cardiff incinerator is going well but it takes up a lot of time I'd otherwise spend blogging.

One non-incinerator item of note. At their June conference, the University and College Union, of which I'm a member, voted solidly to ballot on strike action if no better offer on pay & jobs was forthcoming from the employers.

10 October 2010

Ed Miliband: not the trade unions' choice

A refresher, since I didn't understand it myself until recently: the Labour Party is a federal organisation, composed of affiliated trade unions, various think-tanks and talking shops like the Fabian Society, a few special interest groups like Labour Students, and the Parliamentary Labour Party, each of which gets to vote in the Labour leadership election with various weightings and privileges. The ballot is done by ranked preferences. Having seen the results broken down by affiliated organisation from the Labour leadership election, I decided to pull them apart a bit and see what I could learn about what the trade union voice was actually saying. I discovered one thing:

When trade unionist voters in the Labour leadership election were enthusiastic at all, they were enthusiastic for Diane Abbott — not for Ed Miliband and not for anybody else.

12 July 2010

Better than God's law

When the Ummah of Muhammad claim that democracy should be replaced, the attraction of the position to its members is clear: what we call democracy in Britain fails minority groups now just as it has failed anyone but its owners throughout history. Bourgeois democracy is always going to be a system for the ruling faction; I've proposed as a principle before that the solution to a problem of democracy is never less democracy and I will apply it here. What is a call for theocracy? It is a call for the replacement of one bourgeois rule with another; this is easy for all of us to reject. The pursuit of a more complete democracy, a consensual, workers' democracy, is the only progressive path.

11 July 2010

Ummah of Muhammad demonstrate in Cardiff

Saturday 10 July, a group calling themselves the Ummah of Muhammad held a demonstration in Cardiff. This is probably just about the only real, first-hand coverage they'll get.

In the lead-up to the demonstration, the Ummah of Muhammad (UoM) put out press releases in which they claimed to be protesting only against bans on the veil and construction of minarets, releases which the BBC ate up and regurgitated without critical examination. The press releases are a mask: Ummah of Muhammad are the radical theocrats the English Defence League pretend all Muslims are.

06 July 2010

In the news II

I have an article about college mergers on the Socialist Party Wales page.

I've also got my first ever guest blog for Wales Online, as part of their series on visions for Cardiff in 2020: Cardiff in 2020: Cardiff city for Cardiff’s workers, not the other way around.

Finally my first post at Radical Wales is up, on the subject of the police and the EDL demo: South Wales Police pick a side.


Changing the wrong system I: A vote for AV is a vote against FPTP!

Now that the government has put the alternative-vote (AV) referendum forward, it seems to be time for anyone and everyone, having had well sufficient time to consider the question, to start picking sides. On the democratic left there are basically two camps:

1) Vote yes for AV; it's not real proportional representation but it's what's on offer and it's progressive.
2) Don't vote; the gains from AV are outweighed by the implied legitimisation of an illegitimate system.

The Green Left being about the farthest right a group can be and still pronounce the "left" in their name without giggling, one is accustomed to a certain amount of ashamed shuffling as the GL try to distance themselves from us dangerous elements on the left who believe in, for example, socialism. Nonetheless one is surprised this week to learn that Derek Wall, Green Party exec, member of the GL steering committee and former Male Speaker of the Greens, has invented a third camp, or at least, borrowed it from the Tories:

3)Vote no to AV; it's better than first past the post.

26 June 2010

About me

At work I'm a PhD candidate in theoretical astrophysics at Cardiff University. As an undergraduate I studied general physics with a minor in mathematics and I think — hope — that this background in the sciences informs the political work I do.

I've always been on the left ideologically, self-identifying as a lowercase-s socialist, ever since I was quite young (I read the Communist Manifesto when I was ten), but I only radicalized around early 2009. I did so out of exasperation: I was an Obama voter, I sensed the mood in the US was not just for "change" but for dramatic reform of the American economy toward something more structurally fair, and I was hugely disappointed that Obama, like every other government in the developed world, whether they called themselves Democrat or Labour or Socialist or Christian Democratic or whatever, did the exact same thing: give huge amounts of money to the banking sector but do nothing to bring those industries under the control of the public. At this point, I finally became convinced that only revolutionary change, rather than reform, could fix the deep problems of society.

I joined the Socialist Party on May 1st, 2009. I chose the SP out of apprecation for its complete picture of activism: not merely handing out leaflets and going on demonstrations but taking part in campaigns top to bottom, bringing together the trade union movement with a broader layer of activists from colleges, universities and the general public. I sit on the party's Wales Committee and the executive of the Cardiff-East branch.

I'm currently the Mature Students Officer at Cardiff University Students' Union until August 2010. I'm also active in my branch of the University and College Union and attended UCU Congress 2010 as a delegate from Cardiff University.

I was born in France to American parents and moved to Wales in September 2005 after living in Washington, DC from 1997. I currently live in Cathays, Cardiff.

23 June 2010

If this is the question, the answer is yes

The Wales Office has sent a draft power referendum to the Electoral Commission:

"At present, the National Assembly for Wales (the Assembly) has powers to make laws for Wales on some subjects within devolved areas. Devolved areas include health, education, social services, local government and environment. The Assembly can gain further powers to make laws in devolved areas with the agreement of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (Parliament) on a subject by subject basis.

If most people vote Yes in this referendum, the Assembly will gain powers to pass laws on all subjects in the devolved areas. If most people vote No, then the present arrangements, which transfer that law-making power bit by bit, with the agreement of Parliament each time, will continue.

Do you agree that the Assembly should now have powers to pass laws on all subjects in the devolved areas without needing the agreement of Parliament first?"

21 June 2010

Seven unions, one message: fight the cuts!

Education institutions across Britain took part in a multi-union Day of Action on the 21st, with lecturers and support staff rallying together in anticipation of savage ConDem cuts and education bosses' callous "economizing". UCU, Unite, Unison, GMB, EIS, ATL and students' union NUS all signed on to the campaign.

20 June 2010

TUSC will return in...On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Good news greeted us last Sunday, as the meeting of Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidates in London decided that TUSC will continue in future elections.

This is an undoubtedly positive development.

19 June 2010

Stop the Splott incinerator (leaflet)

Last year, a campaign of ordinary people stopped Cardiff Council's plans to build an incinerator on Ocean Way, which would have brought pollution and traffic to Splott, Adamsdown and Tremorfa. Now, the Council have brought back the same scheme, at the same location, with the same problems. We urgently need to campaign to stop this incinerator, this time for good.

Where there's fire, there's smoke
Air quality in north Adamsdown is already dangerously poor. An incinerator would add nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from the incinerator itself, plus the exhaust, and odour, from 144 garbage truck arrivals every day -- that's one every four minutes. An incinerator would make noise 24 hours a day, ruin the view from several homes, and risk contaminating groundwater. It would sit half a mile from a water conservation area. And the problem of transporting tonnes of hazardous fly-ash to England still has not been solved!

False promises
Viridor, the company proposing the incinerator, claims it will create a few jobs and generate 30,000 homes' worth of electricity to sell to the National Grid, assuming the incinerator will operate at full capacity all the time. No incinerator in Britain has ever achieved more than 65% efficiency. Viridor were asked to report on the impact of alternate plans...and simply refused!

Nobody wants it!
Most importantly, Cardiff's residents are being ignored. We are not NIMBYs; we all want to do our bit. The Council gives us complicated waste disposal schemes and even uses anti-terrorism legislation against fly-tippers, but they've never presented a rational solution for the city's garbage. Councillors have admitted they've brought in poorly-researched schemes “even though some red lights were flashing.” The incinerator is a bad plan. We can do better.

A greener alternative
Incineration is the glorified equivalent of burning rubbish in a barrel. In Europe, many communities are using an elegant, simple technology for waste disposal. Anaerobic digestion is a scaling-up of composting which uses natural processes to convert organic waste into fertiliser, creating carbon-neutral electricity as a by-product. An anaerobic digestor in Trident Park would be silent, produce no fly-ash, and cost less to operate. Most inorganic waste in Cardiff, meanwhile, comes not from homes but from government offices and construction sites. Why can't Cardiff Council get itself or big business up to scratch environmentally?

For a democratic, environmentalist Cardiff
To get an environmentally-sound waste disposal scheme, we need a government that looks out for us, not for multi-million-pound companies like Viridor. Electing fighting working-class councillors and AMs, subject to constant review and recall by the people they represent, will get bad plans rejected and good ones put forward; meanwhile, a “Yes” vote in the Assembly powers referendum means the Welsh Assembly Government will have access to the resources it needs to create green jobs and impose tough sustainability rules on companies. Join our campaign, get involved, and get active, and together we can make Cardiff Council recycle something other than its incinerator plans!

10 June 2010

I Don't Want Your Freedom

The Dutch general election took place last night.

The Freedom Party is the 3rd-biggest party in the Tweede Kamer, the Dutch lower house of parliament. We may not know a coalition deal for months and it's nearly certain that whatever the outcome, it will be like the outcome in Britain: the coalition will be clearly against what the majority of people want. (And this, by the way, is the appropriate time for the left to start quoting Gramsci.)

Whether the Freedom Party is in government or leads the opposition, this is a disaster for anti-racism in the Netherlands.

07 June 2010

A vacuum above

The question is fairly posed, in the wake of Cardiff's successful counter-demonstration against the EDL this Saturday: why do we only hear left slogans in the anti-far right demonstrations, if these events are meant to be from the whole community?

02 June 2010

In the news

I've got two articles up this week in Socialist Party publications.

In University and Colleges Union: Congress votes to fight I report back from the UCU congress, which I attended this past weekend as a delegate from Cardiff University UCU.

Then in BA strike blog Air Strike they're running my interview with Penny White of Bassa (a shorter version is running in this week's paper as well).

Go read them!

30 May 2010

Speech to UCU Congress, 30 May 2010, in support of Youth Fight For Jobs

Another for the archives. I ended up never actually delivering the speech, but the motion went through unanimously.

27 May 2010

SWPstitutionism I: The sick note

A full (and admittedly now untimtely) analysis of the SWP's Saturday intervention into the BA talks to come later.

One item which might be notable, though: twice, the SWP have cited a statement from Bassa saying "despite widely reported distractions that occurred at Acas, in reality these had little effect on the outcome of these talks". I cannot find the source of this statement anywhere.

26 May 2010

Waiting for the last wall to fall

Originally published in gair rhydd, issue 912, December 2009

Twenty years ago was a bad month for dictators.

23 May 2010


There is nothing, it sometimes seems, that the SWP likes more than telling other people what to do.

Drama Saturday, as several SWP members (reports say from 60 to 200) supported by some from Workers' Power, fresh from the Right to Work Conference, intervene in the negotiations between BA and Unite and attempt to occupy the site of the ACAS-sponsored discussions.

22 May 2010

How the press distorts the immigration debate

Written last August, still relevant

In yesterday's [8 August 2009] Telegraph we have "Muslim Europe: the demographic time bomb transforming our continent".

It's an old-style scare article — they argue that Muslims are all just waiting until they can breed good healthy White People out of relevance. Let's take a look in a bit more detail.

21 May 2010


For both personal and public reference, here are some things I'd like to have written by the end of 2010.

- La Lutte Finale — a comprehensive anti-fascist program taking into account the lessons of the past year of EDL work and a critical assessment of the anti-far-right campaign's successes and failures. Important parts already drafted.

- The Engine of Complexity — an attempt at environmentalist economics on a generalized Marxist basis, extending from thermodynamic principles

- The great big NUS post The Great Big How To Fix NUS post

- Anti-Science — Creationism, homeopathy, antivax and other anti-scientific currents and their relevance to the workers' movement

- Transitional patent, trademark, & privacy law

- Legalize Nob Hunting

- Theory of Left Sectarianism

- Polemics, party culture, and left discussions

- Do we steal votes from the Greens?

20 May 2010

What's wrong with Scandinavian capitalism?

A friend asked not too long ago: "things are pretty good in countries like Sweden and Norway despite the countries still being capitalist. Is it not possible for the UK to go in the same direction? What's wrong with those countries as they are?"

The big problem with strongly social-democratic systems is simply this: no matter how many concessions you get out of the ruling class, as long as the ruling class persists as the ruling class — that is, in the absence of workers' revolution — then they will always push back and undercut and break down every gain that's made.

John McDonnell for Labour lea...oh, what's the point?

Did not bomb the US embassy in Nairobi

John McDonnell, one of the few genuinely working-class & left-leaning MPs in the Labour Party, is once again standing for party leader, after a (somewhat astroturfy) public campaign to call for him to stand. McDonnell himself seems to admit he has no chance of winning a race "stiched up from the start".

While this is likely true, it doesn't change the fact that McDonnell has had two years to try and gain the backing of Labour MPs. The Parliamentary Labour Party is now so rotten that it should be no surprise Jon Cruddas can't tell what the Millibands and Ed Balls stand for — if they stood for anything they'd never have been made front-benchers in the first place.

16 May 2010

No democracy, no representation. No representation, no fight.

There is a quiet political revolution underway at the University of Glamorgan Students' Union.

Who owns ideas?

From a discussion I led on 7 January, 2010. Some of this needs re-writing — my understanding of how book publishing works has changed a bit and what I stated here was oversimplified — but the basic ideas are, I think, solid.

In a capitalist world, one can meaningfully ask the question, “who owns ideas?” Try owning one -- you'll quickly run into an absurdity. What we mean instead when we ask the question is, “who owns the right to make use of an idea?” And while in a free consideration of that question one still quickly collides with absurdity, now we have an absurdity that someone can make money off of. It is in this world possible to restrict who makes use of an idea and how they use it. Therefore, capitalism has invented the idea of copyright.

I don't trust Charles Windsor to stay out of politics

Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor, styled the Prince of Wales, is probably going to be King of Great Britain someday.

A proud tradition of republicanism in Britain has faded over the past several decades, as the current monarch has wisely recognised the obsolescence of her own position and has kept her political opinions mostly out of the public eye — about as good as one can expect for any multi-millionaire.

Or Else

Ted Mycock asks, in the style of the time, "Why should WE pay for THEIR crisis?"

I'm going to answer that question with another question: Why are WE paying for THEIR crisis?

The Middle

Times Square bombing suspect's life had unraveled

Mainstream media dodging the class question again. Oh no, he outspokenly opposed the Iraq war, that means he must have ties to Islamic militancy!

Faisal Shahzad has far more in common with Colleen "JihadJane" LaRose, Joseph Stack and John Patrick Bedell than he does with Osama bin Laden; it's another instance of a middle-class American whose life has fallen apart thanks to the collapsing economy, who has nowhere to turn, who ultimately embarks on individual terrorism.