Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Adam Price and the Grand Slam - the Campaign for Cymru


At this Spring Conference if there is one single message we must communicate in the weeks that are left to the European elections - the largest democratic election on the face of the planet after the subcontinent of India – then it is this: the world is changing, rapidly, relentlessly, irrevocably and we in Wales have no choice but to change with it. The only question is to whether we have the courage and the confidence as a nation and a people to begin to make those changes on our own terms. Are we content as humanity faces the great challenges of the twenty first century for Wales to be stuck in the sidelines, in the slipstream of history, or are we determined to chart our own course through the waters we face ahead? In the next few years we must decide what kind of a nation we want to be and the choice that we make will affect all of our lives. We have no choice but to choose. In life and in the history of our nation, an abstention is itself a choice – a refusal to accept responsibility for our own future. At this time that is a choice that we can ill afford to make.

It was the Breton philosopher Ernest Renan who answered his own question - what is a nation? - by saying it was a daily referendum: un plebiscite de tous le jours – on whether to continue to be a nation. It was writing When Was Wales in the shadow of 1979 that the late great Gwyn Alf Williams – one of the two great Welsh Marxists of the twentieth century that ended up in this party – Leighton Andrews please note - came up with a similar formulation when he said that Wales exists only if we choose it and it is up to each generation to make that choice. This generation is ready to make that choice and our question is no when Wales was but when our Wales will be.

There will always be those content to see us continually at the mercy of decisions that others make on our behalf, to see us buffeted by storms of others making. I am fed up of seeing my country on the receiving end of other people’s bad decisions. An independent Wales will be no Utopia – damn it, I think I’ve written the headline for Monday’s Western Mail – but here’s the crucial difference we will own our own mistakes and our own solutions. There is nothing more empowering than being the author of your own destiny and that is where we want this nation and each and every one of its citizens to be.

There is nothing about that statement that is insular, or parochial, or backward looking or any of the various epithets that our opponents over the years have thrown at us. And as a man who is proud to count a daughter of Worcester as his mother, there is nothing anti-English about it either. The simple truth is, as the troubled histories of empires, small or large, down the ages show, that no country ever ruled another well.

There is no better proof of that axiom than the current economic difficulties. This is a global crisis but it is having a very different effect depending on where you live. London is the only part of the UK where unemployment has actually fallen – down 33000 compared to a year ago while we in Wales have seen a rise of 28,000.

There is one very simple reason for this. The policies of the UK Government based in the south east of England– in good times and bad – favour London more than they do Wales. The Government has spent astronomical amounts of money bailing out the banking sector based in London – and done nothing for the steel industry, for the car industry or for construction. What we have seen in the last year is the biggest regional redistribution in recent political history: from the poor to the rich, from west to east and south.

And even in future decisions the needs of Wales are never very high on the list of the London Government’s priorities. The Severn Barrage could produce 5% of the UK’s electricity needs but there are major concerns as to the environmental impact this will have on the habitats along our southern coast. And yet the report by the Government’s adviser on the project PWC doesn’t even mention Wales. And even if it is funded entirely by private finance the report assumes that ownership of the barrage will revert to the UK Government that stands to benefit from tens of billions in revenue over the lifetime of the project. All we in Wales will get will be a few construction jobs at the beginning and a few maintenance jobs thereafter. As with coal in the nineteenth and twentieth century, so it’s destined to be with Wales’ rich renewable resource in the 21st – our environment will bear the cost but the profits will be made by others. If we allow this to happen, it will become our Tryweryn.

We must not and will not allow it to happen.

They may see as such, but we are no longer a colonized people – because the days in which our voices can be ignored are gone. The world has moved on and Wales has moved with it.

And we are still moving.
And so are all the other small nations that are today on the march.

In the island nation of Sardinia our sister party, the Sardinian Action Party, is now a member of the Governing Coalition. We salute their success.

The incoming President of the Government Ugo Capellacci has demanded a new Statute of Autonomy because he says Sardinia is a nation with its own territory, history, language, traditions, culture, identity and aspirations to Italy. Cappelacci’s party is of the centre-right but he’s clearly read his Gramsci.

Italy itself is to become a fully fledged federal State – and soon the province of South-Tyrol – self-governing since 1948 – will have powers of which we in Wales at the moment can only dream: 90% fiscal autonomy and primary law-making powers in many areas – the Tyroleans are asking now for control over the post office. If we had that power then we wouldn’t have had forced closures of local post office and the forced privatisation of Royal Mail.

Mae Llydaw, gwlad ein cefndryd Celtaidd, gollodd ei hanibynniaeth dim ond pedair blynedd cyn Gymru ym 1532 ar fin cael ei hail-uno ar ol ei rannu o dan Lywodraeth Vichy. Mae’r brifddinas, Nantes, gefeilliwyd gyda’n prifddinas iau ni yma yng Nghaerdydd ar fin dychwelyd adre os ydy Pwyllgor Edouard Balladur sydd yn edrych ar ail-lunio map strwythurau tiriogaethol Ffrainc yn cadw at ei addewid. Ni fydd Ffrainc, wrth gwrs, yn rhoi mewn heb frwydr. Y mis yma dedfrydwyd chwe Llydawr ifanc a baentiodd adeiladau cyhoeddus a’r TGV gyda sloganau o blaid undod Llydaw i ddirwy anhygoel o 30,000 Ewro a deufis o garchar wedi ei ohirio.

(Translation: Brittany, the land of our cousins, which lost its independence just four years before our own in 1532 - may finally be reunited after its division at the hands of the Vichy government. The historic capital of Nantes, twinned with this our much younger capital of Cardiff, may finally be coming home if Edouard Balladur’s Committee looking at redrawing the map of France’s territorial divisions sticks to its proposals. Ten thousand have marched in Nantes to end the scandal of partition. Of course, France will not give up without a struggle. This month six young Bretons who sprayed graffiti for Breton unity on public buildings and a TGV have been fined E30,000 and given a suspended two month jail sentence as punishment.)

Does dim angen i fi eich atgoffa o le anrhydeddus y pot paent yn hanes y mudiad hwn. Ond i’r Llydawyr hefyd y daw’r awr y bydd mawr y rhai bychain.

Mae Cernyw hefyd ar fin ei uno gyda chreu un haenen integredig o lywodraeth Cernywaidd. Mi geisiodd ymgyrch gref a darbwyllol y Confensiwn Cyfansoddiadol Cernywaidd i ddelifro Cynulliad Cernywaidd ond yr opsiwn glastwreiddiedig o gyngor unedol a orfodwyd gan Lundain gyda chefnogaeth y Rhyddfrydwyr rhag eu cywilydd. Ond o leiaf y bydd Cernyw yn un unwaith eto a fe ddymunwn pob llwyddiant i’n chwaer-blaid Mebyon Kernow yn yr etholiadau eleni.

(Translation: Cornwall too is poised to be reunited this year with the creation of a single Cornish tier of government. The long and convincing campaign by the Cornish Constitutional Convention fought hard to deliver a full-blown Assembly but the watered down alternative of a unitary authority has been imposed by a central government with the full backing of the Lib Dems. But at least Cornwall will be one again – and we wish our sister party, Mebyon Kernow, well in this year’s elections.)

Remember Cornwall has long been a chilling slogan in the Celtic lands because of the way in which that country was dismembered. And despite all our recent achievements as a nation and as a movement over recent years, these words of the Cornish political activist Len Truran spoken thirty years ago resonate for us in Wales even now:

“What fools we Cornish are: kick us, humiliate us, usurp our power, steal our jobs, rape our countryside and buy up our homes and what do we do, we turn out and what do we do, we turn out and vote for the centralist parties that have never done us any good, are doing us no good, will never do us any good”. Well, Wales this Summer is your chance to chart a different course.

The Nineteenth century saw a great Springtime of Nations as the revolutions of 1848 saw new countries created the length and breadth of Europe. In our world today we are now seeing our own Spring Awakening with people and cultures that have long been dormant and subdued asserting their right to exist, their right to dream.

Take struggle in Spain between the old nationalism and the new.

In the historic nation of Catalonia a mass movement has taken to the streets to demand the right to self-determination. Four thousand Catalans even marched in Brussels to demand a referendum on the constitutional future of Catalonia such is the strength of their desire for democracy and freedom and respect.

The Basques too have been denied their rights: the Ibarretxe Plan for a referendum on the sovereignty of the Basque nation has been declared unconstitutional by the Spanish Courts, the same courts that banned three Basque nationalist parties – all of whom have renounced violence from taking part in the recent elections effectively handing electoral victory to the Spanish nationalist parties. Well, we say this to the Spanish Socialist Party that is now to form a Government with the Conservative Partido Popular – Franco never succeeded in breaking the spirit of the Basques and neither shall you.

In Galicia where our sister party lost just one seat but is now replaced by the PP in Government, what is the first act of the Spanish nationalists but to end support for the Galician language nursery schools, the Galescolas unless they are, in their words, ‘depoliticised’. So if you teach in Spanish it’s education, but if you teach in Galician it’s ideology. A statement that is worthy of the unreconstructed wing of the British Labour Party.

Will the Galicians simply slip back into the shadows of history? Well that is not what 21st century Celts do. Forget the dying Gaul – the bitter-sweet poetry of disappointment and defeat. The lines we are writing now are ones of praise, of passion, of victory and celebration.

Of course, no nation or party can be without its setbacks, disappointments, disagreements even. But let’s never confuse disagreement on policy with a conflict between personalities. This party needs its Eamonn de Valeras and it needs its Michael Collins. But let us not make their tragic error and create enmity between all of us who are joined in the common cause of freedom for our country.

And to those who are disheartened when they feel their own Government has got it wrong, don’t get angry get even more involved in the democracy of this party. Submit your motions. Stand for election. Write the manifesto. And if you get elected, re-read it - and that goes for me as much as anyone else. And remember in any movement leaders need and deserve our support, especially when times are tough.

Welsh nationalists do not have the luxury of resignation. Ni allaf ddianc rhag hon. We are a small country that needs the skills of everyone committed to the cause of Wales. We cannot resile from our responsibility as patriots and citizens. And this is not a time to be disheartened.

For the truth is we are the only generation ever in Welsh history that has its destiny within our own hands. Let’s seize that opportunity with those hands. Not to demand a referendum will be a vote of no confidence not in our Government but in our own nation.

It is a right that others are fighting for, hoping for, marching for in capitals across the Continent. Are we not inspired by their example?

When we marched here in our capital on St David’s Day were we not a nation transformed from the one that trudged thirty years ago to the day to vote itself out of existence. So do not let the fear of our yesterday, snuff out the hope of our tomorrow.

If the people of Greenland can turn out and vote yes by 76% in favour of greater autonomy in the middle of November in the Arctic Circle in freezing temperatures, then surely we in Wales can find a little of their determination so that we like them can begin to control our own land and our own coast.

Pass over Greenland to the Americas and witness a continent where the indigenous peoples are themselves coming in from the cold. In Bolivia, where Eva Morales became the first indigenous government leader in five centuries since the Conquistadors spread death, disease and religion at the point of a gun, a new constitution was approved in a referendum in January which enshrines the right of indigenous people to self-government. Three peoples – the Chima, Yuracara and Mojeno – have declared their autonomy already. And we in Wales salute them.

As some peoples emerge blinking into this new dawn of equality and democracy and respect, the picture for some is not so good. Many thousands of the Saharawi people remain refugees in encampments in Algeria but they still dream defiantly of freedom and a return to their own free and independent land. And we salute them too.

The Tamils of Tamil Eelam are undergoing a daily wave of attacks and repression which bears all the hallmarks of genocide at the hands of the Sri Lankan Government. The world is silent. But we will not forget you. In West Papua - illegally annexed by Indonesia in 1963 – thousands are demonstrating on the streets for independence in a country where even to fly the West Papuan flag is to risk a prison sentence.

These examples of courage and commitment in the face of terrible risks inspire us. But Eluned Morgan – retiring from the European Parliament to spend more time with her Karaoke machine says nationalism is an evil, that those who desire freedom for their countries are to despised and not admired. Well, I say tell that to the Tamils, the West Papuans, the Saharawi and the Palestinians and tell it to the spirits of Kossuth, Masaryk, Kenyatta, Gandhi, Simon Bolivar, Jose Marti…and all the liberators in human history.

Of course there are those Labour politicians – another soon to be ex MEP whose name I have forgotten springs to mind – who will support independence movements anywhere else in the world apart from their own country. Now Peter Hain has added a new twist and declared Labour does support Welsh independence after all but only in the fifteen century. Oh, and he does support a referendum on law-making powers just not in the 21st century.

So here is the crux of it: what kind of Wales do we want to be? A nation which like the Basque Country or Catalonia is on the march to equality among the nations of the world. Or a cowed unconfident country unsure of its past, uncertain of its future.

There was a man once who saw Wales’ future as an independent country in a Europe of nations. Gwyn Alf at the 1988 Machynlleth Festival that launched the most colourful European election campaign that we have ever run – with Jill Evans running in her first Euro election – enjoined us to follow Glyndwr to the end of the rainbow. Labour now says it wants us to join Glyndwr’s Army. If Labour wants to turn people into nationalists then fair enough, they’ve been doing it without trying for 70 years.

That European election in 1989 turned round the fortunes of this party. It ended a decade of decline that began in 1979. It taught us to believe again.

The Europe of 1989 with the fall of Communism was a brighter, more optimistic world than the Europe of today beset by economic woes. But in among the gloom shine tiny points of light.

There has of course been much glee in Labour circles of late at the travails of Iceland and Ireland as if the UK is somehow a paragon of economic virtue. All the more remarkable then that Greenland that other north Atlantic island can vote yes to greater self-government at this time. If they can still show resources of hope and a solid rock of self-belief with just 50,000 souls, then how much more should we with sixty times that number. If they can refresh and renew. If they can be a green land, then so can Wales too.

Four years ago this party began to turn itself around. We chose the poppy as a symbol of the unity of our country – a hardy flower as happy growing on the slopes of Snowdon as it is in suburban gardens or the cracks in the pavement of a Valleys street. It is the only poppy indigenous to Europe, a symbol of Wales’ heritage as one of the oldest of all European nations. The Celts were once the fathers of Europe; but now all we want is to be members in our own right of the great European family. So let us fight this election beneath this flag and reach out our arms to brother and sister nations, small and large, old and new, as equals – not just on this island but in this continent and throughout the world. We have nothing to lose but our lack of belief. We have a Wales to win.

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