Sense and nonsense at the Hay Festival

How did I miss Cherie Booth having a go at Alastair Campbell? I stayed over at Fownhope, a village just the other side of Hereford from Hay-on-Wye where the book festival was in full swing. The Observer thought that such trivia was worth reporting but not the SLP’s much more serious alternative.The Green Man was a bit pricey given the take-it-or-leave-it service given. One thing’s for sure I wasn’t on the look out for yet more crap from the celebrities associated with New Labour and their disastrous progress supporting corporate capitalism to the detriment of the well being of our planet, rather some more productive and progressive thinking. Former President Jimmy Carter’s input on Sunday looked more promising with trenchant views on Europe’s failure to counter the daily attacks on Palestinians by the Israeli Government and settlers. Since it was puring rain on Sunday and this was £50 a head, I made for home instead.
This came about meeting comrades from the Socialist Labour Party. Liz Screen of the Welsh SLP did a magnificent job organising the day’s activities culminating in a rallying call by Arthur Scargill. The first speaker spoke about how his job as a youth support officer was on the way out as local authorities close down their youth services and outsource them to chap and untried private providers. The government’s agenda is reduced to getting our youth off the streets with police continually harassing any hanging around in groups whether their intentions were malign or not – usually not.
My mind went back to Cuba and the day we were taken to the Pioneer’s HQ just outside Havana. I have seen Pioneers before in Khrushchev’s Russia where they put on puppet show with a villainous capitalist taking a trip to the moon, and in Budapest where they ran a railway (still in use today). The splendid buildings for the Pioneers in Cuba were always visited by Fidel Castro on his birthday to show his support for the young of Cuba indicating their stake in building the country and sustaining the revolution. The scout and guide movements in Britain are now something out of a past which dwelt on the glories of empire, not an appropriate basis for making young people of today feel at home in modern Britain. Perhaps we ought to build movements around socialist principles.
A film was shown during the afternoon about a group of people, many of them young, demonstrating outside an arms factory near Brighton. Police were on hand to enforce orders served on the group by a security guard from the company. Why they felt it necessary to back the company was not clear, particularly when the matter came to court and the enforcement orders were overturned by the judge.


Arthur Scargill’s speech was no anti-climax to what had gone before although the warm up singers had their work cut out getting an audience together. Nevertheless there was a full and attentive audience to hear pertinent comments on how it was becoming clearer by the day how capitalism was an agent of destruction of our planet, and how dependency on oil and gas from outside sources was affecting us now as not only energy but everything else, including food became more unaffordable. That there were sufficient energy resources beneath our feet to meet our needs went unheeded as coal mines closed not only across Britain but in every other European country following an European decision as early as 1950. We were reminded that Spitfires had been fuelled on oil derived from coal during World War 2.
New Labour addressed itself to getting votes of of the so-called “middle class” to which MP Diane Abbott felt she belonged. Arthur Scargill pointed out that there were two classes: those that owned the means of production and those who sold their labour to realise the the needs of capitalism whether manual or academic. The process of globalisation meant that sources of cheap labour were becoming available to firms were transferring their operations between countries with resulting job losses. The UK’s manufacturing base has been reduced from 80% to 20%. Now jobs are 80% service led. Britain set up its health service and pensions based on a sound economic base. THe erosion of this by successive governments has spelt disaster for working people.

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