Heat and light

Stifling weather and unreliable air conditioning made for an uncomfortable start to the third annual Communist University Wales. Over June 18-19 CPGB comrades and a range of others met in Cardiff to debate issues relevant to the Welsh, British and international left. Discussions began with Jock Greer, Forward Wales candidate member for Merthyr and Rhymney Valley, speaking about the type of political party needed in Wales, which he described as "a united socialist party of the people". He spoke honestly about his recent entry into politics and his naivety in terms of his knowledge of Forward Wales' positions. By his own admission he was "stunned" by what to him were obviously revelations about the party made by the CPGB's Cameron Richards. Much of the ensuing discussion was taken up with the origins and practices of Forward Wales. Also speaking was the CPGB's Mark Fischer, who argued that what Wales needed was "a party militantly fighting for reforms - but not a reformist party". He emphasised the need for internationalism in Wales, a country where nationalist politics plays a highly divisive role for socialists. As comrade Fischer succinctly put it, "What's so wrong with the English working class that we have to separate from them?" Saturday afternoon saw Tina Becker give an interesting insight into the German left, which made for an informative discussion. We heard how the newly merged Democratic Left party focuses mainly on welfare state politics and comrade Becker claimed categorically that, under capitalism, the welfare state cannot be permanently saved in any one country. Objections were raised to this, with an FW comrade claiming that the welfare state could in fact be an effective, reformist tool under capitalism. The presence of a German comrade from Swansea made for an even more interesting exchange. An issue highlighted by comrade Becker, made particularly relevant by the nationalist undertones of the whole weekend, is that of working class conditions being undermined by unorganised migrant workers. Rather than relying on a weak German left to work within the state to solve this problem, she suggested a solution "from below rather than from above" which would unite all workers under a strong union and work for an international solution. Improved air conditioning made for a more comfortable atmosphere on Sunday morning, when there were a number of new faces. Alun Cox of Plaid Cymru opened the debate on how to get rid of the monarchy by explaining that his party was not actually a republican one. Rather than being anti-monarchist, the 'party of Wales' is anti-UK. However, he did believe that a republican movement was needed, specifically to challenge the monarchy's powers of "privilege, patronage and birth right". Contradictions such as the party demanding an independent Wales but not recognising the need for the removal of such a fundamentally British symbol were noted in Cameron Richards' opposing opening. Those (usually soft) republicans who argue that the monarchy is an irrelevant anachronism can often seem as tired and old as the royals themselves. It was refreshing therefore to hear the emphasis placed more on the democratic deficit surrounding the British constitutional monarchy system. Comrade Richards described Britain as a "semi-democracy" where our rulers constantly strive to limit and curtail the rights of the majority. The discussion that followed was unsurprisingly one-sided and, although some common republican ground was found with Alun Cox himself, Plaid Cymru's nationalism kept resurfacing to prevent anything resembling agreement on a common approach. By far the most animated debate occurred during the final session. Almost equal numbers from both sides of the argument were present to listen to Aran Jones of Cymuned and Mark Fischer of the CPGB on the question of whether the Welsh language is dead. Aran Jones spoke at length and very well on the reasons for preserving "community languages". For some though it all became a little 'tense' when it was suggested that it would hardly be a tragedy if the Welsh language - or for that matter any other - did die out. Comrade Fischer's balanced view was for full support for the right to use (or not use) a language, while at the same time looking forward to the voluntary coming together of peoples on the basis of a common international culture derived from what is best in existing national cultures. All in all and despite the heat, the school definitely got going by the end, casting light on a good number of key issues l Emily Bransom