I have always been a socialist and also a long time Labour party member. Being the son of a south Wales valley miner, there was nothing else I could possible be, other than a trade unionist. Which I am, and proud of it.
Being a loyal Labour voter and activist had always been a pride of mine over my many adult years. In the Labour movement I had been a branch secretary, delegate to constituency and had been selected to stand as a Labour councillor. All good stuff, until one more poor decision finally broke the camels back for me.
I had been loyal to my party, through thick and thin, watching them change from a socialist organisation, to centre left and now maybe even a pale blue Tory party. The Labour party of today seems to ride roughshod over the very people that formed it over 100 years ago. The working class. The trade unionist. The vulnerable.
As a long term Labour man I have endured the many years of hits made by Labour central government. Cuts, which may not be as bad as those being instigated by the ‘Con-Dem’ government of today, but cuts all the same. Including cuts to the rights of unions and their elected representatives. Even now when Labour claim to be protecting us in Wales against the worst effects of the cuts we see them instigate cuts to the NHS in Wales of nearly three times the amount of that the Tories are in England are proposing.
But, I mentioned the straw that broke the camels back. The Rhondda Cynon Taf county borough council decided to ignore the pleas of the GMB, led by a labour party member of my ward, to instigate sweeping changes to peoples working practices and contracts. The reasoning seemed to be that this would enable the council to save jobs and services as the budget had been cut, but a good number would be losing allowances of up to £4000 per year.. Did the highest paid officials get a hit? No they didn’t. Did the councillors take a hit? Now, you are having a laugh. No! They proposed and accepted a pay rise. Only non labour councillors were against it. Now the Labour council have announced £74m of investment, the sums don’t add up, if they had these millions why couldn’t they afford and keep paying the workforce a decent wage? I can see once again Plaid Cymru taking control of Rhondda Cynon Taf because Labour did not learn the lessons of 1999 and if that happens, the same cuts agenda will continue.
At the last local elections, I was shocked to find that the Maerdy ward (dubbed Little Moscow) was lost to Plaid. I never thought I would ever see that in my lifetime. If the people of Maerdy made that statement, which ward is next? Maerdy, like the rest of Rhondda Fach and RCT is strongly socialist but feels as I do that ‘Labour isn’t working’. The last time we saw those headlines, Margaret Thatcher swept to power.
I had been a proud member of the Labour party, and was looking forward to being elected as a councillor. I decided, due to the courage of my convictions, to not accept a nomination and simply walked away.
I am a socialist first and foremost.
But what of trade unionism? I am a member of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS). They are not affiliated to any party but at our recent AGM, agreed by a huge majority to support suitable candidates who oppose the wide-scale cuts, of whatever political bias. It is of no coincidence that some high profile PCS NEC members are also members of the Socialist Party.
I have explained part of the reasons why I have changed my allegiance, however difficult it was. There are, however, many more examples.
I marched in Pontypridd against cuts, aimed mainly at the local council. I marched in London against the cuts, aimed at the Whitehall government. I will be proud to march again as an individual with a conscience, whether as a member of the Socialist Party or as a trade union member but more importantly as that individual. But I won’t be alone. I will be standing shoulder to shoulder with whoever believes in the same ideals as I do.
I am a trade unionist and proud of it.
I have joined the Socialist Party because of what I believe in, Socialism. That will not change, unfortunately Labour has. I, like many others have been let down by Labour at every level. It is only a matter of time until the word will get out that our party, the Socialist party, I believe, speaks for the common man and woman. We need to organise but we need to communicate at many levels.
I am a socialist and a trade unionist. It is in my blood.
by Cliff Jones, RCT Socialist Party