Tuesday, 9 July 2019

The Welsh Socialist Republican tradition ..thoughts fifty years from July 10 1969

I came across this archive of the Welsh left last week. Its a fascinating collection that lasts from the 1950s to the John Marrek battle within Wrexham Labour party. It deals with a period of history that asks questions to all on the left. On Friday I did a piece on both the Brit left and the Lexit left and was a strange synchronicity that I came upon this information.

"It is often ignored by the traditional left. In many cases it originates around the mistake that a Welsh socialist Republican tradition is somehow an unconscious right wing nationalist group. Yet the blind spot it reveals on the Lexit Left is that their championing of the leave campaign is entirely separate from the implications of Brexit and its consequences for those who have experienced racist or homophobic treatment since then. We all have blind spots and yet very few of either the Brexit Left or Brit left see it. The issue of Wales and the issue of Brexit is a prime example of this weakness.
This issue of Wales also has implications for Plaid and others in the questions that it asks. Plaid has long had a tension within it that goes back to tensions between Saunders lewis and Gwynfor Evans, Dafydd Elis Thomas and Dafydd Wrigley and between Leanne Woods and others. It will probably move into a new struggle in the next ten years between Aoking back over the last fifty years we see that Plaid has yet to fully decide if it is a Socialist Party or a “Welsh Liberal Democrat” one. The coming  tension between the populism of Neil McEvoy and the socialist tradition within Plaid. the decision of Plaid to stand down for the Liberal Democrats is very revealing. I suspect a terrible compromise is about to be born;

Its totemic battle will be based around Green ideas, about attitudes to Renewable s and Nuclear power and to the issue of Europe and political moderation, it will be based about Welsh, the market and the progress of the Corbynistas in Wales.. These documents provide similar trends and approaches. Please reflect upon them.

I can supply a small anecdote around the establishment of Cymru Ymlaen by John Merrick and Ron Davies. In the Spring is 2004 I was the Leader of Wales Green Party and was invited by both John and Ron to meet them in Vojon,s in St Helens Road in Swansea. We had a pleasant and interesting discussion and it was agreed that I would speak at a meeting at Wrexham Miners institute at a meeting of the Welsh Left. At the end if the meal the owner of the restaurant recognizing Ron Davies and John Marek asked them to sign the visitors book . About a week later there appeared in the Brian Walters column in the Evening Post a story about a " Secret Curry" that had taken place between representatives of the Welsh Left. It seemed that we had been rumbled because Lawrence Bailey leader of Swansea Council had gone to the same restaurant a few days later and on signing the visitors book had seen our names there.....

Ron Davies came to Davies and spoke to about fifty members of Swansea Green Party, I attended with John Mathews a public meeting of the left in Wrexham and spoke on the Platform with John Merrick and Tommy Sheridan. I remember the visit well and the long train ride from Swansea to Wrexham shared with Martin Shipton.

There were further meetings held at between myself , Miranda Lavey and John Marek at the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff Bay but by the coming of the European elections in June of that year no understanding had been worked out.

Over ten years later the left in Wales still has no clearer direction as numerous possibilities still compete and clash with one another. Very little has changed over the years as this fascinating archive reveals.....anyway welcome to Monday...Since I found the archive about the Welsh Socialist Republican tradition I seem to have alarmed Facebook's security fears. Often when I share a post I have to fill in a code to do so... I think I have been noticed....again..

Anyway I liked this survey from the archive......
Here is the link  https://welshsocialistrepublicanism.wordpress.com/

Index to Documents & Literature

Document 1| Language
Document 2 | 1953 editorial
Document 3 | Welsh Republican Manifesto [1950]
Document 4 | 1965 Thayer
Document 5 |Legacy of a patriot
Document 6| 2007 Terror
Document 7 | Dennis Coslett
Document 8| John Jenkins
Document 9| John Jenkins, Royalty and the State
Document 10| Welsh TV
Document 11| The Republican Movement 1973
Document 12| Red Wales (1) 1974
Document 13| Republican Standpoint in Cymru
Document 14| IMG review of Socialism for the Welsh people
Document 15| 1980 WRSM Statement
Document 16| WSRM First Congress
Document 17| 1980 Class & National Struggles (RCLB)
Document 18| Notes on welsh nationalism and Plaid Cymru (IMG)
Document 19| The Nature of the Welsh Socialist Republican Movement (IMG)
Document 20| Plaid
Document21 | Carn 1980
Document22 | Direct Action
Document23| Police State in wales
Document24| Repression
Document25 | Writing on the Wall
Document 26| Welsh nationalists under attack
Document 27 |Robert Griffith
Document 28 |WSRM Defendants’ Statement   Class Struggle February 1984
Document 29| WCCPL STATEMENT Y Faner Goch, Issue 14 (winter 1983-84 )
Document 30| article on the trial
Document31 | Dafydd Ladd’s OPINION
Document 32 | Red Wales (2) Where We Stand 1984
Document 33 | Get Off Our Backs
Document 34 | Bere Letter 1984
Document 35 | Meibion Glyndwr Carn 65
Document 36 | Carn 100 From referendum to referendum
Document 37 | Cyfamodwyr Three
Document 38 | A Republican overview on Republican Socialist re-groupment in Wales.
Document 39 | Ranting & Raving – the lack of critical discussion of the Arts in Wales
Document 40 | Advertising Copy 
Baberis, McHugh & Tyldesley (2000) Encyclopaedia of British and Irish Political Organisations. Continuum
Carn magazine – since 1973 the quarterly publication of the Celtic League dedicated to “secure or win” the political, cultural, social and economic freedom of the six Celtic nations – Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland, Mann, Scotland and Wales.
Class Struggle, newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist League of Britain
Clews, Roy (1980) To Dream of Freedom: the struggle of M.A.C. and the Free Wales Army.   Y Lolfa, Talybont, Wales
Cymru Goch (nd) Get Off Our Backs! Wales A Colony
Evans, A.H. (1975) English Historians and Welsh History: an examination (Self-published)
Evans, D. Gareth (2000) A History of Wales 1906-2000. University of Wales Press
Griffiths, Robert (n.d. 1980?) Turning to London: Labour’s Attitude to Wales 1898-1956 . Y Faner Goch pamphlet
Humphries, John (2008) Freedom Fighters: Wales’s Forgotten ‘War’, 1963-1993 Cardiff: University of Wales Press
Jenkins, John (1981) Prison Letters. Y Lolfa, Talybont, Wales
Miles, Gareth & Griffiths, Robert (1979) Socialism For the Welsh People. Y Faner Goch pamphlet
 Neil Kinnock and the Anti-Taffy League (1979) Y Faner Goch pamphlet
Osmond, John (1985) Police Conspiracy? Y Lolfa , Talybont, Wales
Thomas, Ned (1991) The Welsh Extremist: A Culture in Crisis
Y Lolfa; New edition Paperback [Victor Gollancz; 1st Edition (3 Jun. 1971)]
WSRM (1981) For Socialism and National Liberation. Resolutions and Reports of the First Congress of the Welsh Socialist Republican Movement

2000 onwards

While there continues to be a mushrooming of small protest organisations on the Welsh nationalist scene, some, like Cymru Annibynnol (Independent Wales)[1] launched in 2000 as a protest against the 2001 Census’ lack of Welsh tick box, can gain rapid attention and short-lived momentum.

The Welsh Republican Army (WRA) (Byddin Weriniaethol Gymreig) said to have re-formed in 2000, is a small Welsh Republican paramilitary organisation, that traces their lineage back to the Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (MAC) – Movement for the Defence of Wales and their slogan ‘Fe godwn ni eto’: ‘We shall rise again‘.
A spokesperson for the WRA made this statement in 2007 on its aims: “The WRA’s primary objective is to establish a Welsh socialist republic and free Cymru from its shackles. We will continue to oppose the British state’s domination and rule of our country.” It was reported in June 2005, that The Welsh Republican Army went to the town of Cilmeri and spray painted over the signs in the town which show the English spelling of the town’s name, and also visited the town railway station and sprayed Free Wales logos in the surrounding area  .
Welsh freedom struggle still has some way to break the dominance of English political allegiance and influence in Wales. Referendums on devolution for Wales were held on 1 March 1979 _ Turnout was 58.6% _and 18 September 1997_and turnout was 50.1% in 1997. There was little support for devolution in the 1979 referendum, with only 20.3% of voters in favour. The 1997 referendum on the other hand produced a slim majority in favour of a Welsh Assembly; 50.3% of voters voted ‘Yes’ to an Assembly while 49.7% were opposed.
Yet, in the 21st century Plaid Cymru has remained the main vehicle for proponents of Welsh independence aspirations. Plaid are clearly the dominant party of Welsh-speaking Wales, with all the Welsh-majority seats and their support outside the valleys, reflecting the linguistic nature of its constituency more than anything else. It campaigned for Welsh to become an official European Union language. On 15 July 2008 the EU Council of Ministers approved a new status for the use of Welsh as a “co-official” language within EU institutions. This agreement, at the request of the UK Government means that Co-official languages can receive certain services in the EU, such as for example interpretation during meetings, translation of final legislation or the possibility for citizens to correspond with EU institutions in the language.
Expression of a revival in welsh socialist republicanism continued to be premature: April 2003 saw the publication of a new (short-lived) radical weekly called “Seren” / Star encompassing socialist, environmental and republican news.
In August of the same year, John Marek AM hosted the conference, “Red green and radical – building a left alternative in Wales”. It attracted speculation of the formation of a new political party corresponding to the SSP in Scotland, indeed Tommy Sheridan, the most prominent Scottish Socialist Party member of the Scottish Parliament, was a speaker at the conference. Marek was thought a strange candidate to unify the radical left, as a commentary in Carn observed, he:
would still be a New Labour AC if he had not been deselected by his local Labour party, is a unionist with a dubious attitude towards the language.” [2]
In late 2003, Cymru Goch subsumed itself into the new Forward Wales party formed around the ex-Labour member of the Welsh Assembly John Marek. That party was disbanded in 2010.

Mike Davies provided a republican overview on “Republican Socialist re-groupment in Wales” in the first few years of the 21st Century:
  • Document 38 | A Republican overview on Republican Socialist re-groupment in Wales.[3]
Socialist republicans have been a tiny force in Welsh politics for the past 20 years. During that time Cymru Goch, although a dynamic party that published the only monthly Welsh political paper, reached out to other socialists and republicans through a series of unity ventures that culminated in the unsuccessful Welsh Socialist Alliance.
This was cynically hijacked by the Socialist Workers Party, who used it as an electoral vehicle without appreciating the need for a deeper alliance to unite the left in Wales. The problem with trying to create left unity in Wales, unlike Scotland, is that the British left groups here (small though they are) have never accepted the need for separate organisation.
This led to Cymru Goch reluctantly withdrawing from the WSA in 2002. It then organised a highly successful three-day event opposing the Queen’s jubilee with speakers from the IRSP, SSP attending Clwb y Bont in Pontypridd. It turned out to be something of a swansong for the organisation.
That summer, the party agreed, in an attempt to broaden its appeal, to launch a monthly tabloid paper called Seren (Socialist, Environmental, Republican News). The aim was to link up the various left, trade union and community campaigns in a practical if loose alliance – an attempt to build a grassroots unity based on cooperation rather than forced mergers between sectarian groupings.
As luck had it, the launch coincided with the growing anti-war protests and for a time Seren went weekly to reflect the activities throughout Wales. It succeeded in building up a network of distributors way beyond CG’s membership.
Then in March 2003, Wrexham’s Assembly Member John Marek was deselected by Labour. After talks with local socialists, he decided to stand as an independent in the May 2003 Assembly elections. Marek had become an increasingly vocal critic of New Labour from a left reformist viewpoint – he had given much practical support to the anti-war movement and recent firefighters’ strike.
His success in the election—stunningly overturning a solid Labour majority—led to meetings with the SSP and Marek himself called for a Welsh Socialist Party. Unfortunately, he was also under the influence of a Labourite clique and soon pulled back from an SSP-style party, preferring instead to opt for Forward Wales. This sought to unite the left without clarity on the national question and pulled its punches on socialism – not a good start but the left within it (including ex CG-comrades) felt it was a step in the right direction and couldn’t be ignored.
Fudging key issues kept many socialist republicans from joining the new party, leaving the Labourites in the ascendancy. The party continued to move on, gaining a councillor in local elections and winning over Ron Davies, the ex-Welsh Secretary. This, although a publicity coup, only succeeded in strengthening the reformist grip on the party.
The ongoing tensions between the left and the ex-Labourites, coupled with Marek’s effective sole funding of the party through his salary and allowances, ended with the left (including the sole councillor, national secretary and press officer) quitting the party.
Seren continued to publish, maintaining links between leftists in all parties, although it’s fair to say that most are now not in any organisation. Financial pressures led to Seren becoming a web-based publication—http://seren.blogspirit.com—and socialist republicans in Wales continue to be in a state of re-groupment.
Some have opted to join Plaid Cymru, which has a strong socialist republican grouping based around Leanne Wood AM and Jill Evans, the party’s Euro-MP. Leanne in particular has become the most prominent republican in Wales with her principled objections to the Queen opening the Assembly building on March 1.
The electoral system, not the be all and end off for socialists of course, militates against an SSP-style party in Wales breaking through. In Scotland, the PR system has allowed both the SSP and Greens to win seats while in Wales there is little hope of that happening because the list system is far more restrictive. The party has moved significantly to the left in recent years, calling itself “the socialist party of Wales” in the last General Election and moving away from its cultural nationalist heritage. In truth, it always had a left-wing element but that was dominated by a cultural nationalism in the post-war years.
It has been a consistent voice for environmental campaigners and aligned itself with the anti-war movement. Adam Price MP, another left voice in the party, is seen as a future leader and has established close links with dissident left union leaders such as Bob Crow of the RMT railworkers’ union.
Independence is not an issue fudged, socialism is central to its liberation agenda and there has always been an environmental, grassroots element to Plaid’s political message. Plaid, in short, is a world away from the SNP’s right-wing nationalist vision and – for this writer at least – seems like the natural home for Welsh socialist republicans. At a time when there is no Welsh republican organisation and the British left has all but vanished in Wales, the presence of a credible left-wing party in Plaid Cymru is heartening to say the least. Socialists within Plaid will be working to ensure that it can take control of the Assembly in the May 2007 elections against a Labour Party beset by sleaze and scandal.
Post-devolution we’re a post-colonial country still waiting to be decolonised. It is these contradictions that describe our present predicament: we are a hybrid state living in the cracks between a dependent past and an independent future.
Thus in November 2009, Adam Price, then Plaid’s MP for Dinefwr and East Carmarthenshire[4] had tried to describe the Welsh dilemma, or as Gareth Miles argued in ‘Ranting and Ravings’ a submission to the Welsh Arts Council that same year, “many of our critics, like the majority of their compatriots, are not sure exactly what Wales is.”

The self-declared Socialist republican, Leanne Wood was elected leader of Plaid Cymru on 15 March 2012. The first female leader of Plaid Cymru was the first party leader to be a Welsh learner rather than already fluent in the Welsh language. A Member of the National Assembly for Wales since 2003, her Plaid Cymru profile includes her commitment to working “for Wales to become a self-governing decentralist socialist republic”.
On the fringe doubts were expressed:
Leanne Wood taking the leadership of Plaid Cymru will spread and perpetuate the illusion that Plaid Cymru is or can become a vehicle for a progressive, socialist and republican movement, that Plaid Cymru can challenge the Westminster imposed austerities, take Wales out of the neo-imperialist wars in the middle east and elsewhere, and get rid of those imposters posing as the Prince and Princess of Wales.[5]
Despite the historical discontinuities, what reasserted itself is the idea that a socialist and republican Wales is a desired goal necessary for a progressive and equal society. Internet activism opportunities sees the spirit and message of welsh socialist republicanism still broadcasted by bloggers like Gethin ‘Iestyn’ Gruffydd and Nickglais, editor of Democracy and Class Struggle blogsite and also a member of Great Unrest Group 2012 for a Welsh Socialist Republican Party. There are individual social media venues, such as Y Repwblic ~ Conversations with Wales’ Republicans, that act to preserve and advance various strands of radical thought[6] and elsewhere on the internet, Radical Wales[7] exists as an independent platform for considered radical political analysis, commentary and discussion. It strives to contribute by providing a space for the extra-parliamentary left of anarchists, communists, greens, left-republicans and socialists outside of the major political parties to explore issues important to them. It says:
Inspired by the long line of rebels and revolutionaries who have stood outside and against the political process of the ruling class in Wales, we publish original articles that continue that tradition.”
The latest manifestation of that ideal sprouting again at the margins of the political life but arguing the points made by others throughout the modern history of Wales, was in the appearance in March 2013 of a magazine advertised as Liberation Magazine – Voice of Welsh Socialist Republicanism
  • Document 40 | Advertising Copy
liberation 2The reason for launching Liberation Magazine is that we take the view you cannot win a game where the rules are made by your opponent.
In the case of Wales, the British State determines the rules and Welsh people are supposed to play the Welsh Assembly game according to its rules.
 It is arrogant imperial intellectual and practical colonialism where very important decisions on Welsh Life are taken in London and not Wales.
 The Welsh are closetly seen as unfit to govern their own country.
 Liberation Magazine unashamedly stands for a Welsh Socialist Republic an idea that has been maturing in Wales for over a century.
 The Labour Party and Plaid Cymru in Wales have never really embraced the idea of Welsh Socialist Republic.
 Sometimes Plaid Cymru flirts with the idea but quickly backtracks under pressure.
 Monarchism has not only infected the Labour Party but also sections of Plaid Cymru.
 We launched Liberation Magazine because we want a journal where the Welsh, the Socialist and the Republican cases can be argued and discussed.
A new strategy and new tactics needs to be developed for the social and national liberation of Wales in the 21st Century if Wales is to arrest its current trajectory of economic and social decline.
 Liberation Magazine is about ideas, the precursor of events and the inspirer of people.
 “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people”.
– Eleanor Roosevelt.

Our ambition is to create new ideas and start a winning game for Wales."

Operation Tân (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈtɑːn], "fire") was the name of a series of police raids in Wales between 1 October 1979 and 30 September 1980. The aim of the operation was to identify "Welsh extremists" responsible for burning second homes with English owners.
It has been criticised as a more generalised trawl of left and nationalist milieux within Wales
For more details see Political policing in Wales" John Davies, Lord Gifford, and Tony Richards. (1984, Cardiff: Welsh Campaign for Civil and Political Liberties
Over the palm sunday weekend 1980 the police and special branch carried out 'operation fire' which saw police forces across wales raid the homes of dozens of people and make scores of arrests (frequently illegally).

The Welsh Socialist Republican movement had been formed in January 1980. They published a journal called 'socialism for the welsh people'. The  WSRM had 12 acive branches in Wales and produced a weekly paper y faner goch (the red flag) and a monthly magazine 'the welsh republic'. As well as organising among working class people across wales welsh republicans established fraternal links with republicans in ireland and organised a protest in wales to support the irish republican hunger strikers (welsh police attacked the protest and broke it up). 

Developments like this in wales clearly caused great alarm in the upper echelons of the British state - they had their hands full with events in northern ireland at the time - and it seems clear the emerging welsh republican movement was singled out for special treatment by the thatcher government and the British intelligence services. The palm sunday raids in 1980 hadnt succeeded in destroying the welsh republican movement so what became known as the 'conspiracy trial' took place in 1982.  

In 1980 and 1981 a number of small explosive devices had been planted at places strongly identified with the british state in wales - army recruiting offices, tory party offices etc and in late 1981 there was an explosion at the welsh office in cardiff (no people were injured in any of these explosions). Different groups claimed responsibility for these devices - one was called the 'workers army of the welsh republic' and another 'the sons of glyndwr'.  

In the following months a number of members of the welsh republican movement were arrested and detained on suspicion of causing explosions. One of the defendants (Dafydd Ladd) admitted the charges but others pleaded not guilty and went on trial early in september 1982 with the trial ending two months later. All except one of the defendants was found not guilty of all charges, and none of them was found guilty of carrying out the explosions. The jury accepted the defence case that there was a police conspiracy against the defendants and believed the defendants when they said evidence had been planted, confessions altered and manufactured and had been extracted under 'duress' ie they were beaten and abused by interrogators. 

The trial cost over 500,000 pounds - millions in todays money and while the convictions it resulted in were neglegible at the end of this period the nascent republican movement in wales had been shattered and has never seriously re-emerged - maybe that will change with the affects of brexit on wales and a landslide tory government at westminster? Knowing what we now know about the activities of the british state in ireland did the 'WAWR' and 'sons of glyndwr' really exist or were these the actions of intelligence operatives or agent provacateurs

  • Mae rhywun yn gwybod (Somebody Knows) by Alwyn Gruffydd
  • To Dream of Freedom by Roy Clews, 3rd edition, Publisher: Y Lolfa, 2004. Concentrates on MAC and the Free Wales Army in the 1960s. Includes interviews by participants.
  • Freedom Fighters: Wales's Forgotten War 1963–1993, John Humphries (2008). Looks at FWA, MAC and Meibion Glyndwr with many interviews and historical facts.

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