Corbyn in Wales

Hundreds turn out to support Jeremy Corbyn

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South Wales saw just a glimpse of the working-class thirst for a radical alternative to pro-capitalist politicians on Saturday, when over 500 trade unionists and supporters gathered to hear Jeremy Corbyn and other speakers at the Trade Union Pride rally in Cardiff. 1000 more heard him address the Keir Hardie memorial lecture in Aberdare later that day.

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Speaking at the rally, Jeremy Corbyn repeated his promise to repeal the anti-trade union laws if elected and defended their right to play a political role, describing trade-union funding as the "cleanest money in politics". This was a welcome change to the union-bashing Tory-lite politics that have dominated the party and its leadership for decades. People are hungry for real opposition from opposition parties, and are fighting to break the political monopoly of big business.

The support for trade union rights in Wales has encouraged Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones to take a stance in opposition to Cameron on the question of trade-union rights. Jones has said that the Assembly will block the government from further attacking the right of public sector trade-unions in Wales to take action, and has offered to fight the case in the Supreme Court if necessary.

The UK already has some of the most restrictive trade-union laws in Europe, and any political opposition to making the situation worse should be welcomed. A stand in the Assembly should be linked up to a mass movement in support of the confrontation with the government and in solidarity with unions which take action in defiance of the anti trade-union laws. Wales TUC should be preparing the ground to co-ordinate strike action across the trade union movement if the laws are used by any employer, public or private, in Wales.

But to build that movement and win maximum public support, the fight against the anti-trade-union laws must also be linked to the fight against austerity. The trade union movement needs to demonstrate that it needs its freedom of action in order to fight to save jobs and services.

To date, the Welsh government has not been an ally in that fight, dutifully carrying out all the cuts demaded by the Tories, including big cuts to the NHS and Welsh Ambulance service.

Funding for public services in Wales has been slashed by 16% since 2009. The very same moment that we were gathering for the rally in the centre of Cardiff, a mile away in Grangetown a woman fell in the street. She would still be there, lying on a cold pavement waiting for an ambulance, five hours later, because funding cuts have starved the Welsh NHS of the resources it needs.

The Assembly should defy Cameron's cuts as well as his anti-trade union laws, and co-ordinate health boards, councils, fire authorities and other bodies below it to spend reserves, borrow carefully to plug finance gaps in the short term while a mass movement to win more funding is built. Katrine Williams, Cardiff Trades Council President and Socialist Party member, demanded this fighting programme when she spoke at the rally. The Socialist Party's ideas won an enthusiastic reception from the audience at both events, with 150 copies of the Socialist sold and over £25 worth of books sold. Fifteen people identified themselves as potential members of our party.

We are demanding the bold leadership for our movement that has been lacking in the last few years. With it, we could have fought the government to a standstill and even brought them down, putting an end to their brutal austerity programme.

The reason that the Assembly has not taken that road is because, even though hundreds of new members have joined since Corbyn won power, the Welsh Labour machine is still dominated by pre-Corbyn politicians and bureaucrats. Very few Assembly Members and Welsh councillors backed him during his election campaign, and only one Welsh MP, Huw Irranca-Davies, who loaned Corbyn his vote assuming the victory of a right-winger was assured and was labelled a "moron" by a New Labour spin doctor as a result.

All the contradictions of Welsh Labour were on display at the rally, with Stephen Doughty MP - who co-ordinated with the BBC to maximize the damage his resignation would do to Corbyn - briefly attending.

Politicians like Doughty do what big business want them to do: he abstained rather than oppose Tory plans to make more welfare cuts, voted for the bombing of Syria, and supports spending up to £100 billion on Trident rather than on public services - the opposite of the programme on which Corbyn stood when he was selected by a landslide for the Labour leadership and the opposite of what would be in the interests of ordinary working-class people.

Political forces so opposed cannot co-exist in the same party forever. One side or the other will eventually win. A party that fights against austerity, against war, for trade union rights and for socialism can be built out of the movement that has developed behind Corbyn, but that party cannot be built out of Tory reservists like Doughty: big business politicians must be deselected before they deselect Corbyn.

That party also cannot be built without building the maximum possible fighting unity. If it is to be built out of Labour all expulsions of socialists should be cancelled and organisations like the Socialist Party, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and the anti-austerity forces in the Green Party invited to affiliate. Since that is not being proposed, and since Welsh Labour still stands on the pre-Corbyn programme of implementing brutal cuts to services, TUSC candidates will stand in the Assembly elections this year to fight to bring that programme to the Welsh working class.

Pessimists say that working-class people don't have the determination to fight back. But the main obstacle to building resistance to cuts has not been the lack of fire in the bellies of the rank and file - it has been the weakness of the leadership and organisation of our movement. If we can solve that problem, then we can put an end to the misery of capitalism and put socialism on the agenda.

Ross Saunders


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