We Must Not Surrender to Child Poverty

This was published by Plaid Cymru Aberystwyth, 14 April 2017.

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Campaigning on an estate in Penparcau, I hear families talking, clearing dishes, watching television and putting children to bed.  There are shrieks and laughter from children seeking to squeeze a little more life from the day. I suddenly remember the damning fact that more than a third of children in Penparcau live in poverty.  I feel anger that so many children have been failed by our political and economic leaderships – their lives diminished, stolen, plunged onto a – more than likely – trajectory of life-long deprivation.

Incumbent politicians prefer that failure remains invisible, and for the most part, child poverty is shuffled out of view.  We are only made to face the terrible truth when the yearly headlines reappear: “A quarter of UK children in poverty,” “200,000 Welsh children in poverty.” Each time, the headlines are met with the same excuses and obfuscations.

Since 1999, the successive governments under Welsh Labour have publicized their flagship policy to end child poverty by 2020.

Yet, by the end of 2016 – and after campaigning on “eradicating” child poverty in the May elections to the National Assembly – Labour announced it will fail to meet its target.

First and foremost, the Labour government blamed its failure squarely on the austerity policies and welfare reforms of the Liberal Democrat-Tory coalition and the current Conservative governments.  Labour, taking a page from Plaid Cymru, also blamed the limited powers available for the National Assembly.  Communities Secretary Carl Sargeant said:

“The Welsh Government does not hold the primary policy and fiscal levers, especially in terms of the welfare system, needed to enable us to deliver the significant changes needed.” (“No end to child poverty by 2020, Welsh Government says,” BBC, 13 December 2016)

With its belated complaint about a lack of powers, it may at first sight seem Labour had finally begun to recognise what Plaid Cymru has known all along: the urgency for an adequate constitutional settlement.  But, that is certainly not the case.  Indeed, Labour has surrendered to child poverty and to the “business as usual” which is its cause.  Sargeant said:

“The issues we face can therefore only be tackled through new ways of working. Within a context of stretched resources and reducing budgets, we need to focus our efforts where we can have most impact with the levers we have available.” (BBC, 13 December 2016)

It is clear we must acknowledge the reality of what is and what is not “available”.  Yet, Plaid Cymru contends we can do much more with what is available (like banning Zero Hours contracts, for example), and that we can, and must, continuously fight to increase what is “available” – in terms of funding and powers.

Instead of declaring a state of emergency, for instance, over palpable threats to the human rights of Welsh children, and demanding more powers for Wales, Labour acquiesced to pre-ordained failure by accepting a toxic status quo where one in three children will continue to live in poverty.  Or, in their own words, Labour could have demanded the “primary policy and fiscal levers” for Wales in order to confront the unnecessary stain of child poverty.

Yet, it has long been clear that Labour is not inclined to demand more powers for Wales. Indeed, it was only Plaid Cymru, during its One Wales coalition with Labour in 2007, which prompted the 2011 Referendum which gave the National Assembly primary legislative competence.  From this perspective, Labour’s original promise to eradicate child poverty was either an opportunistic lie or a terrible naivety.

The consequence of Labour’s reluctance to demand more powers – reflective of the ambivalence about devolution that has haunted it for decades – is that, on their own criteria, they will always fail to meet their objectives.  They do not have the powers, but they do not want them either – and thus, Labour will always make promises it cannot keep.

In response to this blatant self-contradiction, those of us unwilling to surrender to child poverty must clearly lay out our desire to achieve the “primary policy and fiscal levers” which will allow us to realistically confront the endemic challenge we face.

Such an augmentation of a Welsh centre of gravity becomes even more important in the wake of Brexit.  Indeed, one could very easily ask: if the UK does not wish to be ruled from Brussels, then why on earth would Wales wish to be ruled from London?  Should we not take back control?  Brexit necessitates a re-balancing of not only the UK single market, but also of the centres of constitutional power and responsibility within the UK.

Assuming for the moment that the UK will remain intact – a prospect that with each day seems to recede from view – it will be necessary to fulfil the ambitions of devolution through the establishment of home rule across the “family of nations”.  London-rule, on its own, will never solve the problem of child poverty in Wales (or Northern Ireland).  Yet, a robust Welsh government could solve this problem, and many others, if it had the “primary policy and fiscal levers”.  Yet, given its past performance, it is highly unlikely that the Labour party will ever lead such a government.

Nevertheless, I will argue that home rule would be good for all the parties in Wales – if prosperity and self-governance is in fact our common goal.  With home rule, Wales would have the powers to enact its own unique solutions to the challenges of child poverty, criminal justice, and socio-economic development, to name a few.

There are those of course who fear that home rule is merely a Trojan Horse for independence.  If we look closely at this suggestion, however, they seem to be openly admitting that they would rather have Wales powerless and poor than to prosper through self-government.

We could however imagine the exact opposite of their fear.  Indeed, it is possible that if Wales enjoyed home rule within an authentic “family of nations,” it may have little incentive to leave such an arrangement.

In reality, independence is always a possibility – regardless of home rule – and the proponents of Welsh independence are currently enjoying a significant surge in support in the wake of Brexit.  In this way, the conflation of home rule and independence is a red herring.

At the end of the day, the question of Welsh independence will be decided by the Welsh people.  Home rule however is a different question – it concerns more immediate issues of practical self-governance and social well-being, of the fulfilment of the rights and aspirations of the Welsh people within the UK.  Home rule speaks to the urgency to build a better life for a people who have learned from centuries of experience that Wales does best when it controls its own affairs.

We must approach our situation simultaneously from two perspectives – firstly, we must work to get the maximum from the current system to best advantage at all levels of government, and secondly, we must work for the fulfilment of the devolutionary potential in the promotion of Welsh social, political, economic and cultural democracy.

We cannot surrender to child poverty – nor can we surrender to a political and economic order which makes us hop on one leg to gain our supper.

In this dangerous moment of history, it is more important than ever to have trustworthy hands at every level of government, hands that will support not only local communities but also the national interests of Wales – of her vulnerable pensioners, hard-pressed families, disabled, youth and children.

Under the guiding idea of home rule, we can build a Wales in which the fundamental rights of Welsh citizens are respected.  We must work to build the alternative, one that will allow us to truly eradicate child poverty and many other social challenges.

 

Dr James Luchte professor of philosophy, author and writer.  He is a Plaid Cymru candidate for Aberystwyth Council from the Ward of Penparcau.

 

Leanne Wood’s Long Campaign

The Herald, April 22, 2016, Ceredigion, Wales

Leanne Wood was not at all satisfied with a fourth place finish in the 2015 General Election.

Her immediate response to the loss – and the mere hold of her three MPs – was to declare that the campaign for the National Assembly elections of May 2016 would commence without pause.

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This most recent campaign has been the culmination of decades of political action: miner’s strike, CND, devolution, various assembly elections, and the 2011 referendum.

Already in campaign mode, and convinced that there would have been a breakthrough in the General Elections with a few more weeks to campaign, Wood began a series of major engagements: visiting local constituencies, attending cultural events, making visits to schools and giving major addresses on politics and policy at Aberystwyth University.  Linking up her network on the ground, Wood engaged local organisations in the campaign, giving speeches at party events and demonstrations, outlining her message for the May elections.

To read the rest of the article, please visit Leanne Wood’s Long Campaign.

They Destroy, We Create: The Anti-Austerity UK Alliance – Planet Magazine

#LetGreeceBreathe MASS DEMO FEB 15, 2015 Trafalgar Square, London

#LETGREECEBREATHE #DROPTHEDEBT EMERGENCY CALL OUT – THURSDAY FEB 19 6:30PM – PARLIAMENT SQUARE, LONDON

#LetGreeceBreathe #SupportSyriza MASS DEMO Sun Feb 15, 2015 Trafalgar Square, London

Athens Without Slavery: The Battle For Europe – Daily Wales: News for a Sovereign Nation

Athens Without Slavery: The Battle for Europe – Syriza the the New European Left

Go to: “They Destroy, We Create: The Anti-Austerity UK Alliance” in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

Athens Without Slavery:

The Battle for Europe

Syriza the the New European Left

James Luchte

‘First We Take Manhattan, Then We Take Berlin’ – Leonard Cohen

‘First We Take Athens, Then We Take Madrid’ – Syriza with Podemos

‘First We Take Athens, Then We Take London’ – Anti-Austerity UK

‘A Spectre is Haunting Europe…’ – Karl Marx

Rise Up Europe - Syriza Youth

European Democracy and the Limits of American Hegemony

A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of Greek democracy.

We have been here before in Greece, of course… at least four times.

First, there is the celebrated original emergence of democracy millennia ago; second, the Greek War of Liberation from the Turks (1821-1832), immortalised by the poet Bryron; third, the attempt by Leftist partisan organisations (EAM, KKE, ELAS) to form a Provisional Government in 1946 (in the stead of the Right-Monarchist government, returned from exile, and elected in 1946 in elections which the Left had boycotted), but defeated by the intervention of the United States and the United Kingdom, thus beginning the Greek Civil War (1946-1949), which ended with thousands of deaths and Greek membership of NATO; and fourth, the re-emergence of democracy in 1974 after the fall of the US backed military junta installed in the 1967 pre-elections coup d’etat, the so-called ‘General’s Coup’, eventually replaced by the government of exiled Constantine Karamanlis, which put the monarchy up for a referendum, and with its rejection by the people, negotiated a new presidential constitution, and inaugurated the Greek Republic in 1975.

And, now, fifth, with the people’s mandate, Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, has taken power in Athens – not ironically with the help or participation of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), who were re-legalised in 1974 – promising the people of Greece not only the ‘end of austerity’, privatisation, unfair strike laws, among other transformations, but also, and more fundamentally, the end to the system of oligarchy, propped up by seventy years of external intervention and centrist-conservative governance (New Democracy or PASOK).

Indeed, as we have repeatedly seen in recent modern and contemporary histories, democracy, the vote, the pebble (psḗphos) of the people does not often seem sufficient to challenge the hegemonic narrative of the victor of the war of Europe, the United States.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit Athen Without Slavery: The Battle for Europe

Go to: MASS EMERGENCY DEMOS IN SUPPORT OF SYRIZA AND THE PEOPLE OF GREECE, FEB 11th Big Ben 6:30PM & 15TH TRAFALGAR SQUARE 1 PM

Let Greece Breathe! Support Syriza and the Greek People! EMERGENCY MASS DEMOS IN LONDON

Let Greece Breathe!

Support Syriza and the Greek People!

MASS DEMOS LONDON

BIG BEN, London, Wednesday, February 11th, 6:30PM

TRAFALGAR SQUARE, London, Sunday, February 15th, 1PM

For those who cannot get to London, it is recommended that you hold DEMOS in your own favourite Squares.

Go to: “They Destroy, We Create: The Anti-Austerity UK Alliance” in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

Go to: Athens Without Slavery: The Battle For Europe – Syriza and the New European Left

Rise Up Europe Greece Solidarity Campaign FEB 11-15

ΣΥΡΙΖΑ κερδίζει – Syriza Wins!

Go to: “They Destroy, We Create: The Anti-Austerity UK Alliance” in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

Go to: Athens Without Slavery: The Battle For Europe – Syriza and the New European Left

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ΣΥΡΙΖΑ κερδίζει – Syriza Wins!

The people of Greece have voted for a better future for their children, themselves, and for the myriad peoples of the world.

All of us have suffered long enough from the fraudulent project of Austerity, a cruel, utterly thoughtless, and unnecessary deconstruction/destruction/theft of the Public Realm.

Syriza Wins Greek Elections

We celebrate the victory of Syriza, who taught us that ‘Austerity is the crisis itself.’

Let us join with the Anti-Austerity UK alliance of Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales, the Scottish National Party  and The Green Party in the fight in the United Kingdom against austerity and nuclear weapons, in order to build a world where there are sound and smart public services and a strong NHS.

We all need to continue to work together to strengthen the European and World Movement Against the CRISES of Austerity and Neo-Liberalism.

At the Syriza Victory Rally in London on 28 Janary 2015 at the TUC Congress House, a representative of the new Syriza government warned that much pressure will be placed upon the new anti-Austerity government in Greece and that the best way for us to support their revolution is to mobilise strong anti-austerity movements in our own countries.

We must do everything we can to continue to energise the already existing Anti-Austerity movement, and now with the inclusion in the debates and a viable chance of political expression and representation, work to hold the ‘balance of power’ in a hung parliament.  A strong movement and humane government here will benefit the peoples of the the United Kingdom, Europe and the rest of the world – and will prevent another Allende unfolding for the first Left government in European history.

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Go to: Write to Ofcom, Demanding Inclusion, Diversity & Equality in the Leaders Debates and Make A FOI Request on the Equality Act of 2010

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