Which Way Wales? Advancing progressive politics in Wales

I have just undertaken a whistle stop tour of West Wales talking about how to get ecosocialist ideas translated into ecosocialist action in a world where our current politics are failing us. Lots of constructive dialogue (involving Green Party members, Plaid Cymru members, Labour members and the politically unattached) against a background of cynicism and a consensus that carrying on as we are is not an option! Many thanks to Vicky Moller for all her hard work in making it happen.

NOTES:

WHICH WAY WALES – Key ideas

ECOSOCIALIST – dismantle capitalism (cause of social exclusion, poverty, war, environmental degradation) / common ownership of means of production / restore commons.

BACKCASTING – Define where we want to be and work backwards from there to the present to produce a roadmap. (Opposite of forecasting)

SUSTAINABILITY – different contexts:

Sustainable development – Pursuit of economic prosperity, environmental quality and social equity in a way that leaves a positive (rather than negative) legacy for future generations.

Sustainable community and society – A society that is fit to continue as it is. Would preserve its environment, develop peaceful relationships and provide an equitable distribution of wealth.

Sustainable business and production – local, environmentally responsible, self-funding, ethical production processes (dignified and satisfying), durable and useful products. Demand created by need (customers) rather than marketeers (consumers). Three ‘bottom lines’, rather than just the one:                                              financial/environmental impacts/social impacts

Community co-operatives – provide goods and services that are needed, rather than ones that make a profit. Community supported, community controlled, community benefits. Expertise deficit bridged by support and advice (role of government). All businesses should be able to be transformed into co-operative structures (by law). Mutualisation rather than de-mutualisation.

Nordic Model – a stepping stone. Achieves quality public services within the capitalist constructs that prevail – tried and tested – achievable! Main drivers are universal provision of human rights (quality rather than minimal). Features:

  • Free quality universal education and healthcare
  • Collective risk sharing (in social programmes, labour market, innovation) – success benefits all / failure hurts all
  • Low levels of corruption result
  • High levels of trade union participation (60-70% there, 25% here)
  • Employers, workers and government work in partnership
  • High tax burdens (50% of GDP there, 35% here)
  • High public expenditure (recognition that you get what you pay for)
  • Smallest income inequalities in Europe = happiest people

Renewable energy – Nordic/Baltic countries again leading the way. Sweden already over 50% of total energy consumption. Denmark targeting 100% by 2050. UK ranks 25 out of 27 in EU (only Luxembourg and Malta behind us) with a paltry 4% compared to the EU average of 14%.

They reject fracking; we embrace it! Says all you need to know about capitalist, neoliberal priorities – shared by Labour’s red Tories and Conservative’s blue Tories.

Green Gas – fuel sources: industrial food waste (domestic not suitable); arable break crops; certain grasses on marginal and unused land; fast reproducing algae (has potential to become an endless source – capturing atmospheric carbon too).

Anaerobic digestion process – proven technology – produces only gas, heat, sludge that is great fertilizer.

Community energy projects – over 40 around UK that provide solar panels, wind turbines or HEP, investing £16 million to date. Pretty dismal really – fighting against the odds. Shifting goal posts (FITs slashed at short notice). No sustained significant commitment.

In Wales the Ynni’r Fro programme to boost small-scale renewable energy projects has been running since 2010 (5 yr) and achieved next to nothing to date. Little organisational or technical support, obstructive planners and NRW, unreasonable eligibility criteria, issues with EU regulations stopping projects getting both grants and FITs (most of the funding of programme from EU). Adds up to Labour Greenwash again.

Future Generations Bill – more Welsh Govt. greenwash. Lacks any leadership or ambition as being based on a lip service consultation (largely online) process that has been ongoing a while called the “National Conversation”. You are probably completely unaware of it, yet they will claim it is what the people have asked for.

Taking control of our food – through localisation. Reduces food miles; fresher, seasonal, healthier; promotes sense of community and local culture; offers most reliable food security; supports more jobs and more in tune with the environment.

Local food initiatives exist but tend to be too niche oriented. Needs promotion through public sector procurement, community supported agriculture and community food growing (free quality food!). The best role model is Todmorden, Yorkshire. (Incredible Edible campaign)

Political alliances – Words like collaboration and coalition are a standard part of the political and social justice lexicon. But alliance building is something different. It is a deeper, long-term process that brings together different, and sometimes unlikely partners, in a focused way to find a shared vision and values. It bridges divisions and leverages existing resources

In alliance building, disparate groups identify the common values and concerns around which they can band together to achieve goals that would otherwise be unattainable. It is about achieving tangible change on the ground. Alliances avert “wedge” politics and create a united front. (e.g. SYRIZA)

There is no quick fix. Building effective alliances is a long-term proposition that pays off over time. It demands a delicate balance of collaboration and independence. It is not uncommon for partners to clash. But the most important ingredient for a successful alliance is the right match of partners.

In an effective alliance, you need: (1) a melding of values, priorities and interests; (2) a sense of commitment and trust must exist for both sides; (3) there must be a space for both groups to come together to discover their commonalities; and, (4) open communication must exist.

How about an ALLIANCE of WELSH ECOSOCIALISTS (A.W.E.)?

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