I’m suffering from shyster fatigue and so I need a break. Which explains this post, something of a departure from my recent offerings.
Though it’s a topic I’ve meant to tackle for a while, but kept putting off as information about the plague of crooks and shysters preying on Wales kept coming in. But now, I feel the time has come to set out my stall in that global flea market of political theorising.
Where to start? Well, I suppose a good place would be with attempting definitions of the two types of nationalism mentioned in the title. Though I’ve found too many differing definitions to quote them all here, or to even link with them, and it’s quite obvious that all definitions are coloured by the political disposition of the person giving the definition.
So why should I be different?
Ethnic nationalism is the belief in a community held together by a shared culture and past (real or imagined). It need not be – as its detractors want us to believe – ‘blood and soil’ nationalism.
It’s fair to say that most nationalisms in the world are ethnic in nature. Though some conflate or link with religion, others with language and all manner of factors. Examples of ethno-nationalism abound, from Finland to the Fertile Crescent, and from Japan to Italy.
For a start, the Finns would not have sought independence from Russia if enough of them had not agreed, ‘We are Finns, not Russians, and the only way to retain our identity in the face of a programme of Russification is to become independent’.
If we look to Ireland we see that the indigenous Irish have always wanted independence from England, while those who have opposed them in the Anglo-Norman period, the Ascendancy era, and today in the north, regard themselves as British, and different, because their ancestors came from Britain.
When the Baltic States went for independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union the Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians were opposed by the ethnic Russians living in those countries because they, quite naturally, wished to remain part of Russia. Just another form of ethnic nationalism.
Across the Middle East the Kurds, having given up on everybody who ever betrayed them (a long list), are more certain than ever that they must defend themselves, and that the surest guarantee of their future security is an independent Kurdistan.
These – the Finns, the Irish, the Balts (and the Estonians), the Kurds – are the nationalisms with which I identify. National groups that threaten no one but those who would seek to deny them their identity and/or their independence.
This I choose to describe as defensive nationalism.
Of course, when ethnic nationalism is present in larger nations it takes different forms. For if you are convinced that you belong to the herrenvolk, that your ruler is divine and infallible, or that God is an Englishman, then this gives you carte blanche to treat those outside your group with contempt.
This can reasonably be termed aggressive nationalism because it almost always leads to colonialism, and/or war, and oppression underpinned or justified by concepts of superiority and inferiority.
One of the great mysteries of politics is how imperialist powers challenged by defensive nationalism affect to believe that they are confronted by an evil. It’s strange to hear this slander mouthed by practitioners and defenders of aggressive nationalism.
Equally bizarre is hearing the left traduce defensive nationalism with casual use of slurs like ‘racist’ and ‘fascist’. Often done in the hope of silencing, or becoming the sole acceptable voice for, a national movement. As we see today in Wales.
My understanding is that civic nationalism’s unique selling point is that it’s more ‘inclusive’. Though, personally, I find this questionable, as I shall try to explain.
From my reading and my experience of politics civic nationalism seems to come in two forms. First we have the type promoted in ‘new’ countries, those that have attracted immigrants from a wide variety of backgrounds and origins.
I’m thinking here of the USA, Australia, Brasil and many other states that came into existence following their ‘discovery’ by Europeans in the great age of exploration that followed the Turks taking Constantinople in 1453.
And while we can all be inspired by the US Declaration of Independence the fact remains that these ‘new’ civic societies were built on the dispossession, sometimes enslavement, and often attempted genocide, of indigenous populations.
Throw into the mix the importation of African slaves and civic nationalism begins to look little more than an expedient for blending together immigrants from various backgrounds – as long as they’re white and Christian – into a new kind of ethnicity.
The alternative type of civic nationalism seems to be that practised by established (usually) European states that might previously have been guided – or even been brought into existence – by ethnic nationalism.
The example I shall focus on, a major country famous for its aggressive secularism, is France. Since the abolition of the monarchy and the introduction of the First Republic in 1792 France has been viewed by many as a good example of the state built upon principles of civic nationalism. And yet . . .
Whether as a republic or a monarchy, 19th century France enthusiastically joined the scramble for colonial possessions and was England’s only real rival. While internally, republican values and the promotion of the French language were little more than assaults on minority identities within the state such as Breton, Corsican, Basque, Occitan, Flemish and Alsatian.
More recently, Muslim and other immigrants to France have been condemned for not fully embracing the principles of the Republic – and thereby not ‘integrating’ – due to their religious observances. (A criticism often used to mask other objections.)
In other words, ‘Everyone can be equal, and share in the benefits of the French state, as long as they speak French, abandon all other identities and ostentatious displays of faith and are, preferably, white’. Which is little more than the pursuit of monoculturalism. Almost ethnic nationalism by another name.
While a sense of identity can often lead to the creation of a state, it could be argued that a state can also create a sense of nationhood. For many civic nationalisms create a polity wherein the population is urged to conform to a set of norms which result in a new national identity, a people shaped not by history or by culture but by structures created by man.
I’m sure that at this point many of you reading this will have recalled the failed examples of communist states, built upon ideological foundations, guaranteeing freedoms for all, yet brutally enforcing conformity in attempts to create model citizens. And even though socialism claims to be blind to racial and cultural differences China’s treatment of Uighurs and Tibetans betrays the truth, as did earlier oppression of minorities within the USSR.
Defenders of civic nationalism might argue that in the ideal state built on principles of civic nationalism everyone would be free to follow any religion or no religion, speak any language they choose, and generally do their own thing. Which might sound attractive but would never be tolerated in the real world because it is a recipe for fragmentation and disunity.
My conclusion is that civic nationalism seeks – and will often enforce – conformity more rigorously than a state built upon the foundations of ethnic nationalism if only because the latter has a head-start.
FOCUSING ON WALES
That’s enough examples from around the world, or from history, and it’s certainly enough theorising; this piece is fundamentally about Wales, about independence and how we achieve it.
A future independent Wales built upon the principles of civic nationalism is now espoused by Plaid Cymru, and this can be attributed partly to Plaid Cymru’s move to the left, and partly Plaid Cymru’s refusal to confront the colonisation strategy of recent decades that has seen Welsh people becoming a minority in many parts of the country.
While this colonisation was taking place Plaid Cymru remained silent, even condemned those who spoke out. For example, I recall Dafydd Elis Thomas, when leader of the party, likening poet R S Thomas to Jean-Marie Le Pen for speaking out on colonisation.
Having done nothing to oppose this social engineering I suppose it could be argued that Plaid Cymru has little alternative but to now promote civic nationalism.
But my real objections to civic nationalism as espoused by Plaid Cymru and others on the left is that it treats Wales as a geographical expression, nothing more.
This leftist element – wearing its ‘environmentalist’ wig – also encourages the kind of colonialist arrogance that demands Welsh land, and Welsh public funding, so that people like Rebecca Wrigley, of the Summit to Sea project, can settle here and do their own thing.
Or listen to Natalie Buttriss of the Woodland Trust give her support to this colonialist land-grab.
The age of imperialism may be over for most of the world but twenty-first century Wales has a whole new class of district officers and memsahibs. With these upper-class invaders receiving support from the bruvvers and sissters of Labour and Plaid Cymru.
But my fundamental concern with civic nationalism is that it denies the existence of a Welsh nation. In this regard it is little better than the civic nationalisms of ‘new’ countries that marginalise or totally exclude their indigenous populations.
I am a Welshman, pure and simple, and I belong to the Welsh nation. Wales is my homeland. And for many reasons I want independence.
Others promoting independence and using civic nationalism as the bait argue that independence is a logical step from devolution, but why do we have devolution? It’s because in September 1997 enough people voted, out of pride in being Welsh, to set up an assembly.
Check the results. The areas that voted Yes were those areas where most people identify as Welsh. This applied to the Valleys and Swansea Bay as well as to the Welsh-speaking west.
Come to that, why do we even have Wales? Wales is not a natural unit like Ireland and Scotland, or even Brittany. The answer is that the idea of Wales was kept alive by people who believed themselves to be Welsh.
Which is why two thousand years or more of history, and a national identity, cannot be rejected because a few leftists mistakenly think that concepts of nationhood are dangerous or passé.
I am a Welshman, and my nation is open to new members. It always has been. Throughout the ages we have welcomed people prepared to identify with us and ready to take our side. I look at Neil McEvoy and I see a better Welshman than many in the party trying to destroy him.
There is nothing narrow or exclusive in my sense of nationhood, but I object to being colonised and exploited. And I will never accept that someone has an equal claim to Wales simply because they were able to outbid locals for a house.
And are we supposed to welcome the crooks and shysters I write about? The memsahibs advocating clearances? Assorted BritNats? Or Jacques Protic and legions of anti-Welsh bigots? Get real!
There may be no written test for Welshness . . . but we can all recognise someone who’d pass, and someone who’d fail.
I know my history, and I’ve been roughing it on the fringes of the nationalist movement since the time of Tryweryn. When younger I used to run on pure emotion, but in recent decades, as I’ve come to better appreciate how the system operates, it’s given me even more reasons to want independence.
Those who don’t regard themselves as Welsh, or fail to understand the true ugliness of the present system, will need to be won over by arguing that it would be in the interests of everyone living here if Wales was independent. Here’s where civic nationalism can play its role.
But at the end of the day, as with the devolution referendum of 1997, and the extra powers referendum of 2011, the bedrock support will need to come from the Welsh-identifying element in the population.
Which means that taking Welsh people for granted, or worse, alienating them by promoting a route to independence that ignores Welsh nationhood, can only damage the chances of independence.
What is also damaging is putting the cart before the horse by trying to lay down the rules for an independent Wales without any consultation and before the objective is realised. This will alienate more people than will be enthused.
We must give as many people as possible reason to believe that their concerns and aspirations can be met with independence. And decide on the kind of new Wales we want after independence is achieved.
This broadest possible appeal is the only way to maximise support, and to achieve independence.
♦ end ♦
25 thoughts on “Wales: nationalism ethnic and civic”
Congratulations in highlighting one of the major problems with the Welsh Political Nationalist establishment I.e Plaid.
I am an unashamed “blood and soil” nationalist, but surprisingly (as I have remarked before) a somewhat reclutant political nationalist. In no small part because Plaid’s trendy left wing “inclusive” narrative sets my teeth on edge.
At around 4:45 on Saturday the Millennium Stadium (or the Arms Park to those of us of a certain age) Will be full to bursting with some 60,000 plus proud Welshmen and ladies, all united in a desire to beat the old enemy and send The Red Rose home wilted and beaten. At the same time throughout the land pubs, clubs and living rooms will echo to the sound of cheers for our boys. Anyone watching Alun Wyn’s face as the national anthem rings out can be left in no doubt about the genuine emotions at play.
Yet Plaid unlike the SNP, has always been reluctant to embrace anything so basic and dare I say as non PC as the sentiment which fills the voices in The Arms Park on match day. Rather it spends it’s time worthy left wing issues.
There is nothing wrong proudly Welsh, and indeed anti English, particularly in relation to English involvement nay domination of Welsh life.
As to the language, I am sorry but that’s a distraction, the language you speak does not define nationality. Very few Scottish people speak Gaelic, yet I challenge anyone to tell a monolingual citizen of Glasgow that he or she is English. While Welsh is my first language, I feel very strongly that while organstions like Cymdeithas yr Iaith were instrumental in saving the language, in so doing they have created a link between the language and nationalism which remains.
Another one of your early morning comments, Dai, this one at 2:41. What medicine are you taking?
Wales: nationalism ethnic and civic…..and with just a twist of religious nationalism. God bless our Dewi Sant…Heddwch arno.
I’m sure the civic folk would not disagree.
My history taught me that Wales has never ever been a country unless of course you are talking about that tiny part up north that may be able to lay claim to being so for just a few years.
And the talk about ‘your Wales’ is all a bit suspect, you have no rights, your forebears neither. In fact Wales could well have been much more successful and prosperous had you or your forefathers never been born. Collectively you appear to have done all you could to have held Wales back over the generations, centuries. Remember this when thinking you should have greater rights than someone else. It might be you should actually have even less rights.
That said, I agree, I would like to see an independent Wales. A new country that competes with other countries just as France does with Germany or Spain does with Portugal. England, Scotland and Wales competing with each other for resources and capital should bring many advantages (including a dramatic reduction in personal taxation and rates).
Who cares who lives in the country (and who cares what languages they all speak) just as long as there are enough folk all rubbing along together to ensure the the place can remain self-sustaining and prosperous.
A confederation of Kingdoms led by a King or Tywysog. Sounds like a country to me – just not the kind many can relate to in the modern day. Doesn’t make it less so in the context of the time.
Lots to break down here: creating a self-sustaining and prosperous Wales. Look… Cyfraith Hywel was far before its time – offering levels of equality the world would not see for centuries. The institution created later by Owain ap Gruffydd Fychan – a parliament in Mach and the dream that Wales would have her own universities – surely would have increased this nations prosperity. Hywel’s law was eventually replaced by English law, those who fought for the dream of an Independent Wales were either killed or imprisoned and they became remembered for their valiant sacrifices. They did however fight for a reason – they put their lives on the line for a reason. But it cannot be said that they held Wales back. They were dreamers.
Modern Wales is not prosperous. 18th century Wales was not prosperous. 15th century Wales was not prosperous. That’s through no fault of the men above – the nationalist movement has not had any real power over the Welsh nation since 1410. So how could this movement have held Wales back? It couldn’t. So who has been holding Wales back? Why is Wales where it is today? Is it her people? Or is it the nation that is renowned across the globe for tyranny and oppression?
Don’t get me wrong – England is not the enemy. Neither are the English people. For Wales to be prosperous in just needs control over its own affairs.Westminster holds those powers through a false sovereignty. They are a barrier preventing Wales achieving self sufficiency and prosperity. But they are not my enemy – they are just in the way by their own choice.
As for language… well this is Wales. It’s our language and it’s supported by the majority of the Welsh population. Its survival is against the odds… we are but caretakers of our culture, language and nation. We do not have a right to deprive future generations of that. It is the language of this nation as much as English is of England and French is of France. It’s part of who we are today, who we were yesterday and who we will be tomorrow. It binds us into a community – where we pool our resources for the greater good of our nation. To achieve that prosperity you speak of. The ideology of the left and right are dominated by English political parties… so what better tool do we have to gain Indy with than our language and culture?
On the subject of Welsh poverty. You’ll find this eye opening article of interest on our Ein Gwlad News Portal Cambro:
Now that Labour are in full howling mode about the need for the departed 7,8 ….or more M.P’s to resign and be tested in the heat of bi-elections, will Mark Drakeford turn on his ally the noble lord DET and tell him to shift his ermine clad butt off the bench and submit to the judgement of the voting public in Gwynedd ? Not fuckin’ likely, Drakeford is a selective critic like all those other mealy mouthed operators.
I see dawn Bowden tweeting her support for Bristol City FC. I suspect with the toll barrier now gone we are going to see more of such people coming over and becoming our politicians especially in Labour parachute seats.
I see the bus station is next for redevelopment in Merthyr – there is a sign up for planning permission? She asked a question of Ken Skates about the new one? fantastic – redevelop the old one before you build the new?
The location (Swan St) of the redevelopment of Merthyr bus station is wrong, as is the current location (Castle St). It should be located at the railway station where there’s already a gyratory roundabout. This would allow the seamless integration of bus and rail. Greater capacity utilisation on the Taf rail line to villages down the valley and for Merthyr itself, a spiders web of bus routes radiating outwards. A bit like what Cardiff used to have before property developers got their paws on it. You should be able to tap out of the S-bahn and into the U-bahn unhindered, with covered accessible connecting walkways. Tesco, who have a run down underground car park needing an upgrade right next to the train station, would be glad to chip in. To me this is logic. I find transport planning in Wales a bit grim, spasmodic, and lacks vision. There’s cash in the South Wales Metro available for the groundwork but it looks like that’s being diverted to a coffee shop plaza in the Bae. Fuck that. What’s needed is integrated transport feeding industrial estates in Pentrebach, the old Hoover site, Dowlais Top and Abercannaid. Well paid jobs not skinny lattes.
I think you will find getting a grant off WG beats all other options – even for our newly [ish] elected councillors who look like labour under another name? Cut services, spend money stiff the council taxpayer and then blame someone else.
Will it be another white elephant project like pinewood studios with no real improvement in bus services but all the glitz and glass costing a fortune to look after. They shut the toilets at the current bus station but building new toilets at the new one. Logic? Might have been better with all the grant money sloshing around to have moved Tescos to the old station and built a new one along the lines suggested by you Brychan? At least with the current bus station people have to walk through town to get to the railway which may tempt some retail spend in the town. You have to admit the high street looks pretty dismal now. Grants trump brains sometimes [or very often in quangoland].
Looks like the new station is being built to allow the current one to be redeveloped as well just like in Cardiff. Comment from the council seems that the bus station is sold already?
I see the Rewilding lobby has influence if they have a press release on EBC News this morning – with useful idiot local farmer saying ‘ well, he seems a decent chap, there” be minimal risk’ to a bloke holding a golden eagle. Woo the viewers with a beautiful bird resulting in the chorus of applause because bloke with bird said that it was good for economy – jobs and TOURISM. Farmer diversification. Farmer gentrification more like.
Nearly choked on my corn of the cob – not the way to start the day. I wonder which AM will voice concerns first – I would’ve hoped the National Park would’ve made noises by now.
We need to tackle the ‘personality cult’ of rewilding and the eco-lobby away and firmly repatriate into the facts and ‘scientific approach’. By this I mean..
(a) expose the lie that going vegan (importing plant food from the India, Brazil, Africa) is good for the environment laced with fake science like applying findings like water damage to the environment by raising cattle in semi-desert areas of Midwest United States and then applying it to rain sodden Wales. The most environment friendly food produced in Wales is derived from livestock
(b) expose the fakes like the Lammas squat, by pointing out they drive a blue 4*4 RAV4 gas guzzler to take their kids to school, kids put in danger by living in housing non-compliant with fire regulations, and when the house burns down claim a £250k rebuild value yet claim a band ‘A’ council tax. Expose the fact that they put out a recycling bag containing pizza boxes and plastic trays from ready meals outside the holding, while sign on for benefits with large amounts of cash held in trust funds
(c) expose the introduction of invasive species like Konik horses displacing the wild indigenous species of the Welsh mountain pony
(d) expose the ‘summit to sea’ gurus for arguing that they will help stop carbon emissions when these individuals regularly fly to Africa and South America to go on holiday or attend eco-symposiums
(e) expose the fact that a ‘hobby farmer’ who champions the use of his straw bails in building off-grid eco-homes has recently been convicted of drink driving and shoplifting in Pembrokeshire.
These people are fakes, spongers and a cancer on the life of Wales. Posh parasites who swindle our public purse and desecrate our landscape and culture.
Brychan what are you on ? I didn’t see a jab there at all. Just a torrent of hooks, left and right, to the body and the head. By any normal measures the pretentious pseudo-green lifestyle should be flat on its back and beyond recovery. Sadly it gets revived every minute with all those enhanced dollops of public funding eagerly fed to them by gullible tossers in Cardiff Bay and beyond. Maybe those providers of handouts need a good couple of whacks around the head to clear up their thinking.
The advantage that Finland in 1917 had over 21st-Century Wales is that Russification did not have the mass-media tools that are at the disposal of the British establishment today, so the majority of the population thought of themselves as Finns, not Russians; nor had Russia engaged in promoting the mass settlement of Finland by Russians that we see in the case of English settlement and population transfer in contemporary Wales.
Latvia risked the same kind of ‘death by arithmetic’ that Wales faces today, and its indigenous population faced the same choice: stay in a crypto-fascist empire and be exploited and russianised/anglicised, or go independent. But, for the Latvians, the choice was starker and less subtle; the Welsh people, in contrast, are being bought off and distracted, and incorporated into Anglo-Brit culture, by BBC propaganda, Jason Mohammed and Strictly Come Baking. Nationalism has got to come up with something really special to compete for the hearts and minds of those who have bought into this powerful, all-pervading rubbish.
Worse still, what do you do with the settlers and the 3rd-Sector underclass imports (England’s rejects)? It will take two generations of cymricisation through a Wales-based education system and the continued teaching of the Welsh language in schools for their grandchildren to begin to think like Welsh people and even speculate on the pro’s and cons of independence.
At the moment the only way of achieving independence IN THE IMMEDIATE PRESENT is if things go so badly wrong in England through mishandling of Brexit that the Welsh populace (Welsh, settler, and immigrant) concludes that they don’t want to be tied to a lame duck that determines their prosperity and controls their economy and resources.
A lot’s gong to depend on the kind of government we elect in Cardiff Bay from now on.
I’ve always believed that assimilation of immigrants to Wales is possible, up to a point, but that point may be passed in some areas where there are now more settlers than locals and these settlers are aided by the mass media media and other factors. On the plus side, and this should always be remembered, in many areas a high percentage of those moving in are in the older age brackets, who mix less, and whose influence in correspondingly limited. The Aberdyfi-Tywyn-Bermo stretch of coast being one example.
You’re absolutely right about Brexit. As I keep saying, this is why I voted for Brexit, but I think it will take events in Scotland and Ireland before enough in Wales wake up to the Englandandwales nightmare facing us.
Yes, your Brexit masterplan, Jac. It’s certainly the most feasible way for civic nationalism to unite the two main ethnicities (Welsh & English) in contemporary Wales that would otherwise generally be in opposing camps. The demographic realities of our country today probably mean that independence will eventually be won by civic, not ethnic, nationalism, and kick-started by the urgency to rescue a collapsed economy.
Of course, Welsh control over our own broadcast media would help the independence cause, but I can’t see them giving that up easily.
What I’m advocating is something of a twin-prong approach. Certainly use the civic nationalism/economic argument with those who cannot be won over with sentiment; but don’t take the Welsh-identifying element for granted, or dismiss the ethic appeal entirely by promoting an independent Wales in which Welsh people have no more claim to the country than someone who arrived yesterday.
And definitely do not try to lay down the rules and economic system for a state that must be first brought into existence. Because even if you’re offering peppermint trees and soda-water fountains you’ll offend someone.
Fair point, and I should have added that I premise my argument by stressing that Cymru must be an independent, Welsh-speaking state with a Welsh culture and not a mix-and-match one, and that those who’ve moved here must buy into that culture or ship out. Otherwise it’s just multiculturalism all over again, in which case, what’s the point of independence?
What do you mean by Wales not being a natural unit in the same sense of Ireland, Scotland or Brittany? Are you referring to the “short and fat” nature of our “peninsula” or the annexation into the Englandandwales system?
In the geographical sense. This is something our enemies now play on with talk of ‘Severnside’ and the Mersey-Dee Alliance.
Dismemberment by not-so-stealthy manouvers such as those you mention is definitely on the agenda of UK Government and its servants in Cardiff Bay. Combined with assimilation tactics and an element of supression and we are fenced off on 3 sides. The 4th side ? Immersion in a bog of cultural pulp delivered 24/7 by likes of BBC and Sky.
If you were to appoint a new Welsh cabinet who would you choose?
Leave picking make believe teams to silly buggers who inhabit sports websites, particularly that grim Walesonline rugby site. Absolutely pointless.
Identifying weaknesses in the planning and conduct of government and coming up with valid alternatives that might just solve some of our problems is a more worthy activity. See some of Brychan’s recent inputs as good examples of what I’m on about.
Good advice in your closing remarks :
“………taking Welsh people for granted, or worse, alienating them by promoting a route to independence that ignores Welsh nationhood, can only damage the chances of independence.
What is also damaging is putting the cart before the horse by trying to lay down the rules for an independent Wales without any consultation and before the objective is realised. This will alienate more people than it will enthuse.
We must give as many people as possible reason to believe that their concerns and aspirations can be met with independence. And decide on the kind of new Wales we want after independence is achieved.”
However so many of our political muppet class are so preprogrammed into a rigid stance on any subject, many of them having primary interests far removed anything that identifies closely with our man and woman in the street ( I deliberately exclude gender-fluid and other “nouveau identities” as it’s not a zone that I venture into !). Their willingness to collude with the Turd Sector in industrialising various sectors of deprivation and disadvantage shows how far many of these dilettantes have moved from a realistic liberation agenda. Were they real liberators they would set out to eradicate our social weaknesses, and lift people out of their desperate conditions, but I guess it’s a lot easier to go pissing money down the drain shipping in other regions’ problems and solving none of ours. And those funds fritted away could in the meantime have been deployed in other areas such as health, education, and developing some real industry and employment prospects.