A Wales for all

Solidarity to all those currently receiving targeted abuse and harassment from far-right ghouls, simply for attempting to forward the idea that a Welsh independence movement should necessarily be grounded in egalitarian principles.

As one might anticipate when right-wing forces attempt to subvert the growing collective consciousness of a social movement yet to cohere around tangible political demands, it is minoritised groups that are being inordinately attacked and silenced. Consequently, rather than being granted the space to speak of their oppression, those whose voices are most in need of boosting are forced into a retreat where they can do little beyond defending their right to speak at all.

Sadly, these righteous and necessary battles are often fought with little meaningful support from elsewhere. This shouldn’t be the case. We expect this from liberals and their ‘both sides are as bad as each other’ pontificating, which masquerades as measured dialetcisism but in actuality draws callous false equivalences between bigots and victims of bigotry, and smugly refuses to make an ethical distinction between them. The practical application of such a ‘call for unity’ should be identified for what it is: a tacit endorsement of existing forms of power and oppression.

We shouldn’t, however, expect glib silence from socialists. While we must interrogate the merits and ethics of the platforms used for such wars of words (more on that next month), we must also ensure they are replaced with the supportive structures and unconditional solidarity proffered from the comfortable to the vulnerable.

In the meantime: whilst deep in the midst of a period of writer’s block/social media aversion/general depressive horizonless malaise, a personal expression of written solidarity comes, insufficiently, in the form of a composite quote-collage of previous contributions to ‘The Discourse’…

‘Welsh independence would simply be a first task in a long process, our first, tentative participation in a ‘patchwork’ of global working-class organising ‘that is inherently anti-nationalist and decolonial’. Thus it must be acknowledged that any form of Welsh independence is merely an exit from that which prevents us from building an emancipatory politics: it is not the emancipatory politics itself.

From this we can tease out the real meaning of ‘independence’, which has little to do with nationalist politics and more to do with a spirit of communitarianism, the desire for which is the primary necessitation of the very break with Britishness in the first place. An independence of sovereignty only has value to us insofar as it begets actually-existing independence of all kinds: independence of workers from employers, tenants from landlords, women from the patriarchy, people of colour from white supremacy, and on and on.’

From ‘The British Virus’ (Undod, June 2020)

‘Welsh independence represents ‘the spectre of a world which could be free’, the mechanism which enables the fulfilment of fundamental human desires and granting of freedoms that current political paradigms do not allow for. Considering what’s at stake here – an increasingly binary choice between unceasing and increasingly fascistic Tory rule, and liberation from it by any means necessary – it would be a disaster if the growing political consciousness that IndyWales is nurturing were to be allowed to decay into yet another generation disillusioned with their collective capacity to change their own lives for the better. ‘

From ‘Finding Indy Wales’ Postcapitalist Desire’ (Voice, October 2020)

‘There is [a] nascent force quickly gaining traction, the urgency of which has been accelerated by the existential threat Brexit poses to the constituent countries of the UK: the push for full independence, a radical reorganisation of state power that absolves Wales of Westminster rule altogether. In a refreshing reaction to the turgid machinations and partisan little empires of devolved party politics, IndyWales is a grassroots movement that recognises the structural fragilities and power imbalances of the British state and the socio-economic problems entrenched therein, and challenges itself to find ways of overcoming them.

Crucially, more than just being a lumpen expression of cultural nationalism, this new independence movement has largely manifested as a latent reaction to social conditions and popular disenfranchisement. Much like the 2014 Scottish independence campaign positing itself as “a social-democratic refuge from Tory austerity if it broke with the UK”, the concept of an autonomous Welsh state is increasingly thought of as carrying this same potential for escaping eternal Tory austerity, especially among younger people who have grown used to “Wales-centred institutions” but remain frustrated with the lack of true enfranchisement hinted at by devolution but never delivered. This is not about nationalism, but about connecting communities with existing spheres of power and governance; or better yet, reshaping them into forms that better serve them.’

From ‘Wales’ Progressive Alliances’ (New Socialist, September 2019)

‘Ultimately, the battle for independence is about empowering the average Welsh resident with the political capital to improve their own lives. That’s not just about splitting from the British state: it’s about tackling the source (not just the symptoms) of the fundamental problems that Welsh society faces on a daily basis: poverty, homelessness, militarism and so on. None of these will be inherently overcome through independence without a political ideology underpinning it.

If all an independent Wales achieves is the same structural inequalities as the United Kingdom, but with Y Ddraig Goch flying above every public building instead of The Union Jack, what’s the point? What, exactly, has been achieved? What improvements will we have made to people’s lives? Surely the last thing any right-minded independence supporter wants is a pervading sense of regret among the public if this brave new Wales doesn’t actually offer them any material benefit. We only need to look to the growing apathy towards devolution and the Welsh Assembly to see what can happen when a political project isn’t radical enough to deliver a better Wales. We can’t afford for this to happen on the grander stage independence would provide.

We all know that the story of modern Wales is one of worker exploitation, of subjugation (albeit somewhat willingly) into an Empire built on the extraction of material and labour from its weaker constituent parts. But this is not a uniquely Welsh story: it’s a story of the flow of capital running roughshod over people that have no political power to do anything about it. An independent Wales won’t liberate people from these structural oppressions if the preceding movement isn’t driven by an ambitious and radical political project. Independence should always be a means, not an end, and the indy movement cannot lose sight of this.’

From ‘The independence movement can’t afford to be ‘apolitical’ if it wants to create a better Wales’ (June 2018)