Saturday, 27 June 2020

The Gathering Storm

“Mewn gwirionedd, dwy blaid wleidyddol a ddylai fod yng Nghymru hyd oni chaffo hi ei hawliau cenhedlig, sef Plaid Gymreig a Phlaid Wrth-Gymreig, a gwneuthur y blaid olaf yn wannach wannach a ddylai fod ein hymgais pennaf.”

[“In truth, there should be two political parties in Wales until such time as she achieves her national freedom, namely a Welsh Party and an Anti-Welsh Party, and our principal objective should be to make the latter ever weaker.”]

Emrys ap Iwan, ‘Paham y Gorfu’r Undebwyr’, Y Geninen, Hydref 1895

The coalescence and consolidation of anti-Welsh devolution thought, sentiment and action around a single political party was always inevitable, or at least it has been since the Brexit referendum of 2016 and the exponential growth in support for Yes Cymru more recently. There are British nationalist forces at work in the UK that will never allow Wales to become independent or genuinely autonomous without a very long and bitter fight. The mobilisation of Yes Cymru, the flirtation with ‘soft’ nationalism on the part of some key figures in Welsh Labour, and a subtle but real change in the mood music of ‘Indy’ politics more generally, has only served to concentrate minds and hasten action in the Britnat lodges of Wales-shire.

Of course, these forces have been consumed by the matter of Europe for over 40 years, and once that battle was won, they were always going to turn their guns on the devolved nations. For the committed British nationalist, the drift of sovereignty to Brussels and Strasbourg was always part of the same New World Order ‘conspiracy’ as the drift of sovereignty to Cardiff and Edinburgh. Many believed that an invisible global elite was at once carving dear old Blighty up into pieces and serving it on a plate to the nasty Germans and French. They craved an antediluvian, single, sovereign, unitary nation state, and that nation state was the United Kingdom of [English] Great Britain and [English] Northern Ireland. Their work, of course, is only half-done.

No, my Welshnat confrères, anti-devolution politics and rhetoric is alive and kicking and it’s going to get louder and more vicious. They spent 40 years working to ‘free’ the UK from the European Union, and they’ll spend 40 years working to weld its constituent parts back together again if that’s what it takes.

If that is disturbing or disheartening news for some Welsh nationalists and devolutionists, then I’m sorry. But forewarned is forearmed, and if we have any genuine intention of driving our national programme through to completion or even just defending the devolved settlement as it is, it’s a reality that we will need to come to terms with very quickly. We must all have known that there would be a fight at some point, mustn’t we? We have been paying attention to the history of our Celtic cousins over the sea and anti-imperial comrades further afield, haven’t we? We didn’t think we were going to march down from the Sierra Maestra and occupy Old Havana Town without a bit of a scrap, did we?

Well that scrap is coming gyfeillion, and it may last a very long time indeed. The good news is that some of us have been preparing for this discursive ding-dong since at least 1895 and are actually looking forward to it! I hope to write more on these matters in the near future, but in the meantime, your spirits may be lifted somewhat by reading a passage or two by the original Storm Petrel himself, Emrys ap Iwan. The short monograph by D. Myrddin Lloyd in the UWP ‘Writers of Wales’ series is still the best summary of his life and work in English.

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