Friday, August 26, 2011

The current economic crisis: what are the causes and possible solutions?

28 September 2011 our first PCLP education meeting will take place at the PCLP offices in Morgan St Pontypridd starting at 19.00.

Labour Party members both from within and beyond the constituency are welcome to attend and take part in this blog as are local affiliated members and supporters.

Causes and solutions to the current economic crisis will be the first topic.

I've an old edition of a Left Book Club book called Man's Wordly Goods published in 1937 and written by an American socialist called Leo Huberman. I still think it is one of the most amazing and accessible books that I've read but look at this quote. The Hobson he refers to is John A Hobson who could be described as the left supporter of J M Keynes and Professor Hayek is non other than the inspirer of Thatcher and through Milton Freedman, neo-liberalism.

"And the interesting thing is that they are both right - and wrong. Hobson is right in arguing that higher wages and expanded social services would provide a necessary market for the increasing supply of commodities; he is wrong in that raising wages mean lowering the immediate profits of production. Hayek is right in arguing that lower wages and restricted social services would increase immediate profits of production; he is wrong in that lowering wages means destroying the market for the increased supply of commodities. Hobson is concerned with restoring the market (and so profitability) by increasing the purchasing power of the masses; Hayek is concerned with the restoring profitability by decreasing the purchasing power of the masses (wage-cuts).
And here, according to the followers of Karl Marx is the dilemma of capitalism - it cannot do both. Therefore, they argue, crises are inevitable under capitalism."

Written in 1937 - but eerily familiar to our ears in 2011. Here is our starting point: is this debate as relevant now as it sounded then?

What I'd like to suggest is that before and after the meeting on the 28th anyone who is interested might like to make a contribution through the comments section of this blog. Here are a few ideas and questions that it may be useful to follow through. Only suggestions mind - you might think of others.

The idea is that we could help each other by providing our favourite internet links or own text that help to come to grips with some key ideas and debates. Texts could be short and accessible or reference to key books and articles or you may prefer to provide your own words.

1. What is 'neo-liberalism' and how has it been applied over the last 40 years?
2. What is 'Keynesianism' and is it still relevant?
3. What is 'Marxism' is it relevant to us today and did it fail in the so called communist countries?
4. Does any of this still matter if they are all just concerned about growth and the consequence is climate change that will destroy us all?
5. Can democratic socialists draw anything out of these debates to support policies that will end the type of financial crisis we are currently experiencing?

Over to you...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Starting the year 2011 - 2012


I hope it doesn't sound trite but this is the start of a collective journey.

Following the annual general meeting of the constituency where it was agreed that we should establish a year long education / discussion process I (as the PCLP political and education officer) put a proposal to the executive which was largely agreed with some changes.

Here it is:

We will have 6 bi-monthly discussion sessions over the year starting in late September or early October.
The sessions will be on Wednesday evenings starting at 19.00 and aiming to finish at 21.00 but the booking of the room will be such to allow us to continue.
All the sessions will take place in the Labour Party offices in Pontypridd.
Whilst the sessions are aimed at constituency members the intention is to open them out to other party members, local supporters and affiliates.
We will sometimes have 'big name' speakers but the intention is really to encourage participation through contributions and discussions, so this site becomes important as a way of preparing for the evening sessions.
Although sessions sound heavy and theoretical the idea is to use this site and the start of the sessions to introduce the main debates but then relate them to current ongoing issues. The idea really is to dig a bit deeper to see if we can explore possible causes to problems and then perhaps suggest some radical and creative possible policy answers. Hence the journey.

Here is the method and the initial themes I proposed to the executive:


Having a ‘major’ speaker is one way. However, it can limit the amount of discussion and member input and lead to ‘guru’ style sessions. I would like to suggest that we consider a self education approach where we draw on a range of techniques including a speaker input if it considered relevant. The sort of techniques I had in mind are:

·        Establish a collective prereading or reviewing list of short but relevant texts and other media. Wider reading can be recommended for before and after the sessions.

·        Ongoing discussion could be encouraged through informal sessions and electronically. I don’t think our Facebook discussion group has worked well so would suggest a blog format using ‘blogspot’ which people can access directly through any computer without having to register first.

·        The three hour sessions could be started off with our own presentations setting up positions and a debate. Members and participants could do a bit of research and make short presentations and can share chairing. Discussion could then take place in a variety of formats. We should consider further debate, research or recommendations as an aim of the sessions.


At the GMC in February this year we had a discussion about issues that concerned members and these can be used as a guide to themes. Additionally, as this is the first time this has been attempted it could be used as an opportunity to cover some of the basic issues that underpin the politics of the Labour Party.

The following six would enable the capture of these aims and have now been organised. All will be in the Labour Party offices Morgan St Pontypridd starting at 19.00.

1.    The current economic crisis: what are the causes and possible solutions?
Wednesday 28 September 2011

2.    The Labour Party, trade unions and democratic socialism: where did it come from, where can it go?
Wednesday 30 November 2011

3.    Power, class, discrimination and social exclusion: meaning, relevance and answers?
Wednesday 25 January 2012

4.    Is the planet under threat from climate change and if so, how can it be avoided?
Wednesday 28 March 2012

5.    The EU, nationalism, internationalism, peace and militarism: what is the best way to secure a safe and peaceful world?
Wednesday 30 May 2012

6.    To what extent are we a democratic society? What more could be done to share control, openness and accountability?
Wednesday 25 July 2010

Give me a little time to get the administration in place and I will then open a post for the first session with some suggested areas of discussion and reading and then you can add anything you like in the comments.

Let me know what you think. Comment away.