I notice that a new response is being employed against those of us who can, loosely, be termed, the more patriotic element within the nation. This response boils down to quoting President Clinton – “It’s the economy, stupid!”. Which tries to suggest that those wanting to preserve and strengthen Welsh identity are ignorant of economic realities. More misleadingly, it even suggests: ‘You can either have a vibrant Welsh identity, more people speaking Welsh, etc . . . in an economic backwater, or you can have a prosperous Wales with the inevitable corollary of it becoming less Welsh – but you can’t have a Wales that is both prosperous and Welsh’.
The thing about this argument is that while those using it today quote a recent President of the USA we Welsh have been hearing this ‘anglicise yourselves to progress’ argument for centuries. As far back as 1283, or the Laws in Wales Acts (1535, 1542). A more recent example would be the Blue Books of 1847. These, produced by the Commission of Enquiry into the State of Education in Wales, concluded that we Welsh had no hope of joining the human race until the Welsh language was killed off. A few decades later Wales saw the British Labour Party hijack and emasculate the indigenous movements for workers’ rights and social justice on the march to the sunlit uplands. Because for the posturing ‘revolutionaries’ of Labour the future was not only bright and proletarian, it was also utterly English. To the point where ‘hanging on’ to the language or anything else distinctively Welsh was either pitied as being a waste of time or else frowned upon as a sign of reaction, perhaps coded support for the murdered Romanovs!
Yet here we are in 2013 and we’re hearing almost the same insulting argument about the incompatibility of Welshness and prosperity! Why? In my opinion, it boils down to attitudes – to the Union, and to the relationship between Wales and England. What I mean here is that the stronger one’s support for the Union then, almost inevitably, the higher will be one’s regard for England and things English. The other side of this coin is a tendency to undervalue things Welsh. Even though this is denied, or disguised, behind the ‘Union of equals’ rationale. A more extreme position states that all things Welsh, including people, are inherently inferior to their English equivalents or counterparts.
Countering this we have the nationalist position that regards prosperity as being perfectly compatible with Welsh identity. I mean, do Finns have to forsake their cultural heritage and become Swedish in order for Finland to prosper! When we use an example like that we can see how absurd the ‘anglicise to prosper’ position becomes. It stands exposed, either as outright bigotry, or else a defence of England’s exploitation of Wales within an unequal Union. For if we did live in a political and economic union of equals, then our rural areas would now have healthy economies, rather than suffering economic decline and loss of population disguised only by English colonisation; the workforces of our declining urban areas would have enjoyed retraining in the industries of the twenty-first century rather than being ignored, or sacrificed to Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector.
Of course, the nationalist vision for Wales can only be fully realised in an independent Wales, which makes it easy to dismiss as ‘romantic’ or ‘unrealistic’. (Though there is a certain irony to be enjoyed in hearing this criticism from ‘socialists’ who have been promising us ‘jam tomorrow’ for over a century.) And yet, the more I think about this, the more I realise there is an obvious intermediate position for nationalists; one that both addresses the ‘bread and butter issues’ beloved of our critics, while also defending Welsh identity, without which independence is impossible. And this approach has the advantage of not even relying on an economic upturn to improve the situation of our people.
This position seeks to do the best for Welsh people within the present constitutional and economic parameters. And on the very issue our detractors say we ignore – the economy. Let us demand that Welsh natural resources be used in the Welsh national interest – no matter what disadvantageous agreements were made by Peter Hain and others. Let us insist on a charge being levied for all energy produced in Wales for England, demand a percentage of the massive docking fees paid at Milford Haven and other Welsh ports, insist on supermarkets sourcing Welsh produce, ensure that contracts within Wales go to Welsh firms, levy a tourist tax . . . And let us help individuals by insisting that Welsh people have first claim on all jobs in Wales, irrespective of deals struck between English employers and English trade unions. If Cwmscwt needs a new postman then the Royal Mail will recruit a local, rather than transferring in Joe Bloggs from Brummagem. Welsh people must also enjoy priority in the allocation of social housing, with no obligation on any provider to meet an external demand. In private housing, build only what we need.
Serve Welsh interests and we help maintain Welsh identity. Do this and we do more to ensure independence at some future date than any amount of faffing about down Cardiff docks can ever achieve. In fact, defending and strengthening Welsh identity through argument, protest, even confrontation, must be the priority from now on. Partly because Welsh national identity is the only thing that gives meaning to ‘Wales’, and partly because it’s the only game in town, seeing as electoral politics is a dead-end in the one-party State that is Wales.
The opposition ranged against us may appear united and strong, but that could be nothing more than an impression. Consider this. How many times have we heard it said that nothing can be done about English colonisation because to do so would contravene EU law on the free movement of labour and goods? I’ve lost count. It was used by Edwina Hart, Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science in response to my petition to the Assembly asking for Welsh jobs to go to Welsh people. She wrote, to the Petitions Committee, “The free movement of workers within the European Union, and internationally, is a non-devolved matter”. (See full letter here.)
I’ve been giving this statement, and the general argument on which it is premised, some thought. The first doubt to enter my head was, ‘Surely, this legislation relates to the free movement of workers between EU Member States, not within them?’ The kind of thing that is now vexing English xenophobes as they look for ways to avert the impending ‘invasion’ of Vlachs and Bulgars. Note also that Edwina Hart refers to “workers”. She was of course answering my petition, but the same ‘EU legislation’ is used to justify, or excuse, the movement of non-workers, indigents and retired people, from England to Wales. So could it be that the EU has no legislation in place at all relating to movement of people within a Member State? If so, then this whole ‘EU’ argument could be what we lawyers call ‘a load of old bollocks’.
But let’s not upset ourselves any more with thoughts of politicians, bureaucrats and other shysters, whether at EU, UK or Welsh level. None of them are worth it; and wasting time and hope on non-existent political solutions has done enough damage already. In the absence of a nationalist party the priority must be the defence of Welsh national identity by other means. Make our people more prosperous by demanding those things that are ours by right. Succeed in this and not only will we achieve improvements for our people in the here and now, but we shall also be laying the foundations for an independent Wales.
The alternatives? Well, if you’re really, really optimistic you could wait until the 2020 Assembly elections and hope that Plaid Cymru forms a coalition with Labour. By which time there will be even less of Wales left to save. Certainly the real Wales. The Wales of the Welsh. The choice is yours.
16 thoughts on “Choices, Choices”
Hymne Gallois 1968 (see on youtube)
Open defiance,what went wrong? We put our faith in Plaid. In coalition they were doomed to fail with a system that left them with both hands tied behind their backs. In Assembly coalition and in councils they control they end up defending the system that we want them to free us from.
Plaid = Vichy Cymraeg
Plaid can be written off. The sooner we do it, the sooner we can make a fresh start.
Hey, Jac. The Census figures are rather revealing about the extent of colonisation in your neck of the wood (and mine for that matter).
Of the 1031 souls in Arthog, only 303 were born in Wales (that’s a mere 29.4%!!!). Guess what the figure of Welsh speakers is? 28.3%.
Moving down to Aberdovey, 65% are foreign born and 30.3% speak Welsh. Tywyn, then, has a Welshman or two more: a mere 56.1% born elsewhere and 37.5% Welsh speaking.
Nine more communities in Gwynedd have Welsh born minorities: Llanfair (58.5% are foreigners), Llangelynin (58.2%), Corris (53.1%), Dyffryn Ardudwy (52.9%), Llanfihangel-y-Pennant (52.2%), Barmouth (51.3%), Harlech (51.3%), Llanbedrog (51.3%) and Betws Garmon (50.6%).
Across the Dyfi Estuary in Ceredigion, white flight has created a minority Welsh born population in the following communities: Borth (59.6% are immigrants), Pontarfynach (58.5%), Nantcwnlle (55.0%), Ysbyty Ystwyth (55.0%), Llanbadarn Fawr (54.9%), Ysgubor-y-coed (54.2%), Faenor (54.1%), Llanfair Clydogau (54.1%), Aberystwyth (53.5%), Blaenrheidol (51.1%) and Llangrannog (50.5%), although I admit that many in Aberystwyth and Llanbadarn Fawr will leave after their university experience.
And in Carmarthenshire, the conquest is well nigh complete in Llanycrwys (53.6%), Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn (52.1%), Llansadwrn (51.1%) and Llanfair-ar-y-bryn (51.0%).
The question is, what do we do about it? Especially as so many of those who profess concern (for the language) dance around the issue, while many politcos and others seem to be suggesting that the decline is somehow the fault of the Welsh!
What this debate needs more than anything is a massive injection of honesty.
Create, exploit divisions between Cymraeg labour and Hain’ London Labour.
Divide and conquer.
On the one hand, I can see the attractions of that strategy. But on the other hand . . . a more popular Labour Party! And where are the leaders of this ‘Welsh’ Labour Party?
You have to weaken such a beast before you slay it. Cymru cymraeg labour need to be told that in the fulness of time they will be regarded as traitors and that future generations of their famalies will be regarded as shit.
Good example of thinking outside the box Jac.
I’ve been inclined to believe that the age of protest is over. I started to come to that conclusion in the early part of the noughties after protesting extremely hard with Cymuned, the Ceredigion Mayor movement and other protests. I was later convinced that the age of protest was over when a million and a half people descended on London to press their case against the war in Iraq. The result? NOTHING. If 1½ million protestors can’t move a government one inch on their policy then you have to be dim to think that ANY protest can do it. Protests are fine to draw attention to a problem, but no more will politicians in the UK change as a result of a protest. The so-called Arab spring has further crystalized my view on this. Sure, it can be done to a degree amongst the chaotic populations of Arab states but at what price and with what limited results?
I then convinced myself that the other alternative is to get inside the castle walls as it were – by getting enough people elected on to councils, and eventually into the government in order to change things from within. Alas that is also a bit of a pissing into the wind exercise as witnessed by the Respect party and even the UKIP party – they will NEVER do it.
Now we come to what you suggest, direct action at ground level, but instead of getting sore feet carrying a plackard in protest, what’s needed is a mind-set change amongst those who can change things through who they employ and how they conduct their businesses on a “Welsh” basis. If every Welsh company and all other Welsh mployers started engaging their own kinsmen then a real change could be triggered off.
Now we come to the hard bit, how do you start that change in mind-set off? Hang on, let me climb on to my soap box:
“It’s the education system STUPID!”
This is based on the Jesuit motto “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”, which is based on a quotation by Francis Xavier. We have to recapture the minds of our children. This is nothing new. Although used wisely by some but not others, it has definately been found that if you can straighted out the thinking of your children the next generation WILL put things right. Our efforts should be channeled into making that a reality.
Ok, so 1.5 million protesters descended on London, but the Iraq war went on anyway. Here’s why. The Iraq war was too important, strategically and economically, for it to be knocked off course by protesters who were there for one day, and gone the next. That anti-war rally was not a show of strength, it was a show of weakness. What other forms did opposition to the war take? I can’t think of many,
So you have A (power) determined on a certain course, B (opposition) hoping to thwart that course of action. When A knows it only has to withstand a one-day rally, opposition in the Commons and the liberal media, then it knows it’s won. If, on the other hand, B could offer more imaginative and sustained opposition, then things could be different.
For the context of this debate. Let’s say that A is represented by Tesco, importing English staff to Gwynedd stores. We could write to the company; to our politicians and local media . . . and get nowhere. Organise a couple of dozen people to go to 2 or 3 Tesco stores armed with smoke bombs and flares. Result: stores evacuated, lost profits, bad publicity, ridicule on social media . . . all of which might lead to Tesco recruiting Welsh staff.
Be imaginative. Keep the enemy guessing.
This all comes down to people believing that Wales is subsidised by English tax payers. The reality is that the UK is over a trillion pounds in debt. It has to borrow over a hundred billion every year. In December alone the UK had to borrow another £15 billion.
So the question is this, if England cannot balance it’s own books then how the hell can they subsidise us? They can’t. So rather than the UK increase the Welsh share of the UK deficit and tell us how to spend it. Would it not be better if we cut out the middle man and spent our borrowed money exactly how we want to spend it.
Our country’s names are ours, yet civil servants and Welsh Labour government schemed to give ownership of ‘cymru’ and ‘wales’, and thus our online identity, forever more to an English company. See dotcym Shuts its Doors : http://www.dotcym.org/home/?p=174 .
Your ‘A Tale of Modern Wales’ wasn’t far off the mark.
A good article Jac and I agree with what you wrote, however, can you be more specific about how you would lay the foundation for an independent Cymru and demand things that are ours by right?
Whatever system you suggest you’ll still need the use of the ballot-box at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, for twenty years or so, we have relied exclusively on the ballot box. It got us devolution, and the increase in powers . . . both of which are now meaningless due to a number of factors.
First, a Labour Party running the Assembly that will not govern Wales in the interests of the Welsh.
Second, the subversion of that Assembly – with the connivance of AMs – by English civil servants; taking orders from London and, to all intents and purposes, running Wales.
Third, the loss of local democratic accountibility to the cabinet system and powerful chief executives who – surprise! surprise! – all seem to be English.
Fourth, the decline in the Welsh media to the point where the serious issues are ignored. Genuine discussion replaced by trivialisation and twattery, bread and circuses and the ‘The Wales Report’.
Fifth, the increasing contempt most people have for politicians and their system. In fact, it goes beyond politics to take in the police, the media, big business and banking, organised religion, etc.
Many today have turned their backs on the things their parents and grandparents viewed with respect, even reverence. We are in a very ‘fluid’ time. But it offers great opportunities for anyone who can offer people, even just some people, something to believe in.
If it’s going to be done through electoral politics then it had better offer something very, very different.
Wales is poor because it isn’t free, simple really. If you hand over the levers of power to those who have always sought your destruction, what else do you expect. Plaid supporters need to ask themselves whose side are they on and whose interests do they serve..
One point which seems to have been overlooked regarding the decline in the percentage of Welsh speakers, those born in Wales and (possibly) Welsh identifiers is the fact that a large number of people did not fill in the census of 2001. As I recall, an estimated 60,000 (2% of the population) failed to fill it in due to the lack of a Welsh tick box. As all those people would have been Welsh identifiers, overwhelmingly Welsh born and largely Welsh speaking, I think the 2011 census returns underestimate the general decline.
As one of those who did not fill in the form, I’m surprised I didn’t think of that. Good point.