Gwilym ab Ioan

Sep 062017
 

‘I can hear the rumblin’ river as it rushes underground’

Those of you familiar with 60s folk music will know that the title of this piece is shared with a great song by Tom Paxton, a song in which he articulated the growing anger he sensed among disparate elements in the 1960s USA.

For the halcyon days of the 1950s were over, gone with their jobs for all. In the inner cities and the Deep South black people were being influenced by Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jnr, and taking their destiny into their own hands. And as President Johnson sent more and more troops to south east Asia the anti-war movement grew in size and determination. America was in a ferment, from which it became impossible for anyone to insulate themselves, black or white, rich or poor, north, south, east or west.

Which probably explains why we saw an explosion of folk singers trying to articulate or capitalise on the zeitgeist. Though, musically, the 1960s was a difficult time for me; the golden era of early Rock was over, Buddy Holly was dead, and so was Eddie Cochran, while Little Richard seemed to alternate between searching for God and being searched for by the men in white coats. Fortunately, I had by then journeyed back to Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Country roots, with Folk providing another distraction from the horrors of the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

Though as I say, it wasn’t easy. For a start, I was in love with Joan Baez (and couldn’t figure out what she saw in that weird little git, ‘Dylan’). Then there was Judy Collins, and Joni Mitchell – it was great to be alive! The problem was of course that while I loved the music and the singers, I opposed the political sentiments expressed. For I supported the USA in Vietnam, Young Jac had bought into the Domino Theory.

But of all the folk singers of that era none had Tom Paxton’s range. People know his songs for children, such as Goin’ To The Zoo and The Marvellous Toy. Then there are his love songs, including the one everybody’s covered, Last Thing On My Mind, though my favourite remains My Lady’s A Wild Flying Dove.

Of course there are political songs, but even some of these are done with humour; Daily NewsWhat Did You Learn In School Today? Others songs are fun commentaries on life, a favourite of mine is Annie’s Going To Sing Her Song. It reminds me of the Swansea pubs of my youth, where there was always some old bird who’d insist on singing . . . whether anybody wanted to hear her or not. (Sophie Tucker renditions were particularly popular, I recall.)

Finally there are those Paxton songs about life, or death, that just make you think. Try I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound, and Jimmy Newman. The latter is a very strange song, but often held up as a musical companion to All Quiet on the Western Front.

‘I can hear a thousand voices making ready for a fight’

So why did I choose that particular Tom Paxton song? Because I sense a mood abroad, a growing belief that Wales is being screwed and we are being lied to. There seems to be an increasing realisation that politicians and their corrupt system – including devolution – have no answers, and may even be the cause of the problem. It almost goes without saying that we no longer trust the mainstream media or any representatives of traditional authority.

I have not known these sentiments to be so widely shared since the 1960s.

The one big difference today from the 1960s is of course that Plaid Cymru is not benefiting from this mood. Back then the national resurgence encouraged by Tryweryn, Aberfan and the Investiture resulted in an upsurge in support for Plaid Cymru, but this time around, after 50 years of Plaid Cymru failure, many have concluded that if not part of the problem, then Plaid certainly isn’t part of the solution either.

We are therefore in uncharted territory.

Another factor contributing to this strange combination of confusion and anger is that we are seeing attacks on the Welsh language from quarters that many had hitherto regarded as friendly, or certainly not hostile. From bastions of left-liberal orthodoxy such as the Guardian and Newsnight.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has proved to be another disappointment. He has certainly disappointed Welsh Remainers through his understanding that if Labour is not to become the unelectable party of the chattering classes and ethnic minorities it needs to reconnect with the English working class.

An English working class that is more aggressively and intolerantly English than at any time in living memory. A mood that has spilt over the border to encourage those among us of a BritNat or anti-Welsh mentality.

Wales needs a new voice, but where will that voice come from? And knowing that actions speak louder than words, how do we leave the enemies of Wales in no doubt about our refusal to accept the destruction of our country?

‘And I guess it’s up to me because we’ve given up on you’

The mood I’m describing runs from frustration in some to real anger in others. What unites them is a realisation that Wales is going nowhere with the current system, or with the existing political parties and politicians, except backwards.

Literally, for not only is the UK government trying to avoid devolving powers ‘repatriated’ from the EU but behind the scenes Englandandwales organisations are spreading their tentacles, making a mockery of devolution, and slowly but surely absorbing Wales into England.

Look around Wales today and everywhere our country is both less Welsh and poorer than it was when we voted for devolution 20 years ago. How did this happen, for devolution was supposed to serve the interests of the Welsh people?

It happened because the interests of the geographical area of Wales were allowed to become divorced from those of her people, to the point where politicians and other liars can argue that a policy or an initiative is ‘good for Wales’ yet closer examination reveals that it may indeed benefit somebody but that ‘somebody’ is rarely Welsh.

It’s called colonialism, and history is full of such examples. I bet that in the 1870s Indians on the Great Plains witnessing the destruction of their way of life were told, ‘But look at the money all these buffalo hides bring into the region . . . you ungrateful bastards’.

As I say, this outcome can only be achieved by divorcing a people from its territory, then insisting that the territory in question belongs to everybody, and that’s because it was terra incognita ere the arrival of the enlightened colonialist bringing ‘progress and prosperity’. (They invariably go together.)

In Wales this progress and prosperity will take many forms: managed decline, zip wires, new housing we can’t afford or don’t need, having England’s decrepit, dysfunctional and delinquent dumped on us, and seeing what were once Welsh universities engaged in a race to the bottom. All designed to increase the numbers of strangers in our country, make Wales less Welsh, and slowly assimilate Wales into England.

Any attempt to defend or promote Welshness against this ‘progress and prosperity’ will be decried as ‘racist’, even ‘backward-looking’. (Always amusing to hear this from the English Right and the London redtops.)

A slander made easier to lay by the position taken by Plaid Cymru. For the Party of Wales is more afraid of being labelled ‘racist’ by the Guardian than it is of its national executive being filmed in a drug-fuelled orgy with rent boys and under age girls in William Morgan’s old gaff.

And the rise of the Right across the Western world has made Plaid Cymru shy away even more from promoting Welsh interests. Which further emboldens our enemies.

So the system grinds on almost unchecked.

‘I’ve been listening to some people and one thing I understand’

Or it did until relatively recently.

But as I’ve suggested, there is a mood abroad; a mood that rejects much of what we have been asked to accept in devolved Wales. Not that there is anything anarchistic or nihilistic about this mood, it is simply a realisation and a rejection of the prevailing corruption.

A growing belief that Wales is dying before our eyes. Or, more truthfully, being killed off.

If you want to see this mood, then look at recent developments such YesCymru, consider the outcry against the Ring of Steel planned for Flint castle, and not just the responses to the recent attacks on the Welsh language from the GuardianNewsnight and elsewhere but where the responses came from.

The internet and social media are of course vital in encouraging this mood. I like to think that this blog plays its part. Fortunately I’m not alone, there are a number of good sites out there. One I’ve mentioned before is Nation.Cymru, which came up trumps again recently.

On the first of this month Dylan Iorwerth, a respected journalist, argued that immigration into Welsh-speaking areas must be halted. In other words he is calling for measures to stop English people moving into Wales. Of course this has been said before . . . and it has always provoked a violent reaction from within Wales and without.

Perhaps the most famous example would be the response to Gwynedd councillor Seimon Glyn’s call, back in 2001, to curb English immigration, for which he was pilloried in the English media. As a result, his party leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, was severely mauled over the issue on Question Time, by Glenys Kinnock.

Not long before, Plaid Cymru vice-president Gwilym ab Ioan was thrown off the party’s national executive for saying that Wales was being used as a dumping ground for England’s elderly, misfits and oddballs.

What I’ve found strange is that there has been no reaction from politicians or media to Dylan Iorwerth’s call to halt English immigration. Why might that be?

Could it be that it’s now generally accepted that there is massive and damaging immigration into the Fro Gymraeg? And if the phenomenon is undeniable then it’s best not to discuss it and stir things up further? Maybe others sense this mood I’m alluding to?

‘A great flood is a-rising fast and there’s a rumbling in the land’

If I’m right, then what’s the best way to capitalise on this mood?

For a start, I suggest that we stop fighting battles that have nothing to do with Wales, or else are beyond our power to influence. One example being those idiots who want President Trump to be impeached or removed by force. I call them idiots because achieving that objective would give the extreme Right the excuse to reject the democratic process altogether and take up arms. (And they have a hell of a lot more guns than their opponents.)

Such distractions are usually the result of ideology. Which is why there can be no place for ideology or dogma in the future struggle. Anyone trying to introduce ideology, or to promote issues external to Wales, must be dealt with, and dealt with ruthlessly. For such people are the enemies of Wales.

Equally dangerous are those who slink in the shadows, whispering, trying to get the more headstrong involved in violence. Also root them out and deal with them.

At this critical juncture Wales needs unity of purpose. As yet, we don’t need a new political party, but we do need a movement. This movement needs to coalesce from the disparate groups and individual voices found on social media and other forums.

We must promote what strengthens and advances Welsh identity, and combat everything that threatens it; all the while accepting that full independence is the only guarantee of the long term survival of Welsh national identity.

In the short term the agenda or strategy could be reduced to a simple Good / Bad list. That which is good for Wales is supported, that which is bad for Wales is opposed.

But if an issue is needed, where widespread support could surely be guaranteed, it would be a campaign to reform how housing operates in Wales. To take planning matters away from the Planning Inspectorate, to reduce the input from Wimpey, Redrow and the rest, to ensure local allocations in social housing, to demand local markets – such as operate on the Channel Islands – reserving most properties for locals.

Or to put it simply: a housing sector serving Welsh needs and interests.

If we cannot get together, sinking our various differences, to agree on a housing campaign such as that, then I’ve misjudged things completely, and there is no mood for radical change.

That’s my contribution. I now suggest that those reading this Think It Over (That’s Buddy Holly, not Tom Paxton.)

P.S. I am not putting myself forward for any role in any movement, my days of activism are long past.

♦ end ♦

May 112015
 

What an incredible election it was, with the Scottish National Party winning 56 out of Scotland’s 59 seats! Without doubt the most amazing election I have watched unfold in some fifty years of following politics. Though partly because of that SNP landslide – plus the collapse of the Liberal Democrats and a swing to the Tories – we now have a Conservative and Unionist PPlaid Cymru 1arty government in London. But as the incoming government has only one MP in Scotland the SNP is already arguing it has no legitimacy to rule Scotland, so we appear to be heading for the constitutional crisis I predicted in my previous post.

Success for the national party was not replicated here in Wales, even with Plaid Cymru’s much more modest ambitions, for it hoped to hold on to its three seats (Arfon, Dwyfor Meirionnydd and Carmarthen East & Dinefwr) and gain anything up to three other seats (Llanelli, Ceredigion and Ynys Môn). In the event, everything stayed the same, and while Ynys Môn went to a recount the results in Llanelli and Ceredigion showed how unrealistic hopes in those areas were. This despite Plaid’s leader Leanne Wood getting more exposure on television, both in Wales and at UK level than any previous leader. But there’s nothing surprising in Plaid Cymru’s failure, for it’s a party that has worked itself into a position from which it just can’t win.

To begin with, Plaid Cymru has refused to challenge the strategy that is turning large parts of Wales into retirement and recreation areas for England – the strategy that (together with anti-Plaid tactical voting) has probably made Ceredigion now unwinnable at Westminster level – because to do so will bring down upon the party condemnation in the English (and ‘Welsh’) Plaid Cymru 2media. In the hope of justifying this wilful neglect of Welsh interests Plaid has to pretend that it can win the support of many of the immigrants, after all, they are now living in Wales so surely they want the best for Wales? No. They remain English, with some becoming more English after moving to Wales. And as Plaid’s candidate in Ceredigion told us, among them are out-and-out racists who see us Welsh as just another inferior people to be ridiculed and shouted at.

The corollary to this desperate desire to be liked (by people who are never going to like us anyway), is that Plaid Cymru has ignored the Welsh people in the areas being colonised. Plaid is now so concerned with avoiding any discussion of white flight, with not offending anyone except Ukip (work that out!), with getting pats on the head from Guardian readers, and with being courted by ‘progressive’ elements, within and without Wales, that it has abandoned it’s raison d’être of defending Welsh interests.

In our urban areas we see the managed decline of the Valleys and the region’s close-on one million people, now offered no better future than becoming dormitory communities for Cardiff. Yet despite a century of decline under Westminster rule, a century of Labour MPs, a century of Labour-controlled local authorities, and a Labour-controlled Notional Assembly for tPlaid Cymru 3he sixteen years of its existence, people in Blaenau Gwent still elected a Labour MP, and those who wanted an alternative to Labour found Ukip and the Tories more attractive than Plaid Cymru! It was the same in Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney, where Ukip got twice the Plaid vote!

Can we explain this vote for Ukip by the presence of predatory hordes of Poles and Romanians in the Heads of the Valleys taking all the jobs? Or is it attributable to the retired English middle classes, sipping their whisky and sodas up at Dowlais golf club while ranting against Johnny Foreigner? Face it, if Plaid Cymru cannot appeal to voters in areas where just about everyone is Welsh-identifying then where, outside of the shrinking redoubts of the Welsh language, does it have any chance?

This is an incredible and self-destructive position for any political party to have worked itself into. To take for granted your rural heartlands, that are being overrun before your eyes (and in the process, destroying Welsh as a community language) yet, paradoxically, still manage to be rejected by most voters outside those heartlands because they view you as a party oPlaid Cymru 4nly concerned with the Welsh language! This is a party with no future.

Something else we learnt from this election (and the EU election last year) is that the myth of ‘Socialist Wales’ is dead. Wales may have been ‘socialist’ when most of us worked in heavy industry, but this should now be seen as the passing phase it was, with our fathers as victims of circumstance motivated by self-interest rather than ideological socialists. And now ‘Socialist Wales’ is gone. The only socialists left belong to 57 fringe groups . . . and Plaid Cymru. The Labour Party is no longer socialist, so why is Plaid Cymru still flogging this long-expired equine? The clarion call of socialism was rejected by those who voted Labour, and rejected even more emphatically by those who voted Tory and Ukip.

Let us look at one result from last Thursday in an area with which I am familiar. Admittedly the Gower constituency contains Mumbles and the eponymous peninsula, which are relatively affluent areas, but the bulk of the seat’s population is to be found in former industrial suburbs to the west and north of Swansea, towns and villages such as Waunarlwydd, Gowerton, Penclawdd, Gorseinon, Clydach, Pontarddulais. I’ve worked in Waunarlwydd, Gowerton and Clydach; I have sunk many a pint in Penclawdd, Gorseinon and ‘Y Bont’. That these thoroughly Welsh communities would be represented by a Tory MP would have been unthinkable thirty years ago. But it’s happened, because the world has moved on . . . but not Plaid Cymru.Plaid Cymru 5

How do we explain this self-destructive streak? I believe that at the core of Plaid Cymru there is an influential grouping that has beguiled others into rejecting what it chooses to term ‘narrow nationalism’, and persuaded the party to pursue a more ‘inclusive’ and ‘progressive’ agenda. Am I wrong? Just ask yourself, why was doing a deal with the Greens such a major issue in the run-up to the election? I read more about that than I did of any hopes and ambitions Plaid has for Wales. But a confident national party shouldn’t have to worry about the votes of a few thousand lifestyle migrants and hippies, very few of whom would vote for Plaid even if there was a joint candidate in their constituency. (An unsettling truth we first learnt from Mel Witherden, the Green-Plaid candidate for Monmouth back in 1992.)

Clearly, what ‘narrow nationalism’ means is focusing on Welsh issues, something that gives Plaid Cymru nightmares after the kicking given to Ieuan Wyn Jones by Glenys Kinnock on Question Time some years ago over l’affaire Seimon Glyn, Gwilym ab Ioan et al. But Plaid Cymru only operates in Wales, so not to focus on specifically Welsh issues is perverse. Attempts then have to be made to disguise this bizarre strategy by desperately trying to put a ‘Welsh interpretation’ on issues or concerns that emanate from outside of Wales. Hugging Nicola Sturgeon and the Green woman is great television, being ‘anti-austerity’ is a good slogan, but at the end of the day it’s just idle posturing. Being ‘anti-austerity’ is attractive to Plaid because it’s a cross-border issue allowing it to line up with other ‘progressives’ while avoiding Welsh issues. (I hate that fucking word, and the smug, self-satisfied superiority it conveys. ‘Ooo, look at me, Plaid Question markI’m “progressive”, but you’re not’. Maybe those who find the word so attractive should be reminded that it was much-loved by Joe Stalin.)

If I’m wrong about these machinations then someone needs to explain how a political party whose raison d’être is Wales and Welshness consistently refuses to defend Welsh interests. I ask because it doesn’t matter how many Mike Parkers the party attracts the vast majority of English people in Wales – ‘progressive’ or not – are never, ever going to vote for Plaid Cymru. The party’s votes will only ever come from Welsh people, and until the party acknowledges this inescapable truth, and becomes brave enough to speak out for Welsh people, and to take the flak that an anti-colonialist programme will draw, then Plaid Cymru will remain as popular as a pork butcher in Jerusalem.