Red October in Wales
Two events in the coming week show the extent - and the
limits - of Forward Wales' development in its first year. On Sunday it
is supporting a benefit gig by Attila The Stockbroker alongside Wrexham
football fans facing eviction from their ground by a property developer.
A classic "local campaign" on which it has built its base in the area.
On Thursday it plays host to a wider and more ambitious event with Bob
Crow, the FBU's Welsh secretary and a PCS speaker in a rally to "build a
workers' political alternative to New Labour".
The geographical limits of Forward Wales have been obvious from day one
- they have established a genuine base in North-east Wales but remain
weak in the rest of the country. Their strength has been to establish
real links with trade unions and community groups. The challenge, as the
party prepares for its second annual conference is to achieve throughout
Wales what it's done in Wrexham.
This has included:
€ Successfully fighting the housing privatisation plans in Wrexham and
winning the ballot among tenants. Since then it has advised other
tenants in Wales facing stock transfer;
€ Winning affiliations from the RMT railworkers' union and working
closely with other unions to build a political alternative to New
€ Setting up Save Open Spaces Wales, a campaign group dedicated to
safeguarding playing fields against speculative development (usually
because councils want to make a quick buck); this is now involved in
four community campaigns - including one in Wrexham that won a reprieve
for the Nine-acre Field after a 200-strong demo by local people;
€ Initiating a campaign for free and nutritious school meals for all
children in Wales. This was launched on October 12 by FW Assembly Member
John Marek with the backing of the BMA, farming unions, catering
workers, food producers, environmentalists, parents and child poverty
€ Winning 23% of the vote where FW stood in local council elections in
June. In Wrexham, FW won one council seat at our first attempt and
missed out on two others by just 7 and 14 votes. FW's new councillor
Dave Bithell, the local RMT branch secretary, has quickly made a name
for himself as one of the borough's most active councillors.
€ Gaining 17,000 votes across Wales in the European elections in June,
despite minimal resources and media coverage.
Not bad for a tiny party in its first year, although there are huge
steps to be taken to make an impact in many parts of the Valleys and
There are also intriguing signs that there may be a realignment in the
air. Just this week, a small group of SWP members requested a meeting
with FW to debate whether to join Respect or FW. The meeting was useful
if inconclusive, but it's likely that some at least will join FW because
they all see Respect in Wales as dead in the water. One reason cited was
that Hartlepool showed that how peripheral Respect was in white,
working-class ex-Labour strongholds.
Socialist Unity ~ For Internationalism ~ For Peace ~ For Justice ~ For Unity ~