Fighting the Cuts in Swansea and West Wales

Anti-cuts campaigners in Swansea

This week has been a hive of activity for comrades in the Swansea and Llanelli & West Wales Branches in our endeavors to combat the tsunami of cuts in services and jobs that are due to happen in the City & County of Swansea and Carmarthenshire County Council.

Comrades from the Swansea branch along with members from the Swansea Trades Council lobbied the councilors of the City & County authority on Tuesday evening, in a last ditch attempt to stop them voting for a budget that will mean cuts in services, privatisation, sell-offs of assets such as school fields and will no doubt involve job losses. The lack in Swansea, of any form of fight back from the trade unions; Unison, GMB and Unite, is an appalling indictment of the lack of leadership from the controlling bureaucracy of these unions. It is no coincidence that the leadership are reluctant to put up any sort of fight as this course of action would mean not only growing a backbone and actually doing something in defence of communities and members, but it would also be an extreme embarrassment to the 47 Labour councillors, some of whom are trade union members themselves, who eventually voted in the cuts budget.

Comrades were in attendance in the public gallery to witness this shameful act of betrayal to the working class of Swansea. Alec Thraves made the point that the Labour councillors were members of a political party and asked the question of whether or not they would grow the back bone and set a budget that meets the needs of the people of Swansea rather than kow-tow to the Condems and vote for a cuts budget?

The reply would have been a credit to Pontius Pilate. The wringing of hands and the whimpering that there is no alternative along with the blaming of those nasty Con-Dems in London, whose fault it all was, was quite honestly nauseating.

Similar lobbying took place the following morning in Carmarthen outside the County Hall. The fightback within the Carmarthenshire County Council, however is being led by the Carmarthenshire County Branch of Unison, who have put to the Council proposals for a no-cuts budget, which also calls for the Labour-led councils in Wales to band together to combat the attacks by the Con-Dems on the working class of Wales. The Carmarthenshire County branch of Unison, as part of their campaign to win the hearts and minds of the people of Carmarthenshire, have been engaging the public by holding stalls in the centres of Carmarthen and Llanelli. Their campaign is also being supported by the Llanelli Trades Council. On the Tuesday the 4th of February, Llanelli and District Trades Council along with the Unison branch hosted a public meeting in the Selwyn Samuel centre at Llanelli leisure centre. Around 80 to 100 people attended the meeting including councilors and activists who are campaigning to keep residential care and other support provisions in Llanelli. Rob Owen, Secretary of the Llanelli Trades Council, on opening the meeting quoted a councillor who had previously warned of a tsunami of cuts that will affect all facets of local authority provision within the county.

The lobby was well attended by comrades from the Llanelli and West Wales Socialist Party branch, and Unison members.

Once again, comrades attended the public gallery to hear the debate and once again we were subjected to the same nauseating display from Labour councillors, some of whom again were trade union members and fought Thatcher’s cuts in the coalfields in 1984.

This betrayal by the Labour Party will not be lost on the ordinary citizens of Swansea and Carmarthenshire, and they will draw the correct conclusions after asking “what is the point of Labour” by answering that there is no point. The big three mainstream parties offer no alternative to the misery and deprivation caused by the Con-Dems since they stole power in 2010.

Of course, it is totally erroneous to believe that alternatives to the present crisis in capitalism do not exist. The call for a mass party of the working class to represent our interests and defend our rights will gather resonance in the coming period. The development of Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) will be a significant stepping stone onto the realization of that mass party.

After the lobby of the Carmarthenshire Council, comrades then took part in a demonstration outside the Atos offices in Carmarthen, where around 30 protesters assembled. We linked up with several other organisations that are fighting cuts in benefits for disabled workers. We made three good contacts and the whole day was good step towards developing our organisation in Carmarthenshire and West Wales. Comrades from the Swansea Branch also attended a similar demo outside the Swansea Atos offices. Click here to see a video of the protest.

To cap off a good day in Carmarthen, the Llanelli and West Wales branch met in the Gyndwyr public house. To keep up the theme of 'No Cuts', the political discussion was on disability and the effects of the cuts in benefits on disabled people.

Les Woodward, Llanelli and West Wales Branch

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