Tuesday 20 February 2007

Guilt by association

Britain, like every other imperialist power involved, should do more than apologise for her role in the slave trade, as well as other atrocities committed by her Empire. Britain has a moral duty to atone fully for the appalling legacy of discrimination and social deprivation suffered by generations of Afro-Caribbean peoples. But for wannabe British Deputy Prime Minister Peter Hain to apologise, on behalf of Wales, for Wales’ role in this crime against humanity is misleading in the least.

Yes, of course there were Welshmen – mostly Anglicised landowners – among those who had their dirty hands of greed at various levels of this evil trade, and there’s no denying our obligation to apologise for the actions of these leeches that our country unwittingly produced.

But why should Wales as a country, nation and post-devolution proto-state, have to apologise for the actions of the British State? Politically, Wales did not exist at the time of the Slave Trade. Wales had no government or voice of her own, she was politically, administratively and constitutionally a part of England. No Welsh government caused, nor built its economy on the back of, this deliberate human misery. No Welsh Government conquered a fifth of the world and enslaved human beings to facilitate economic growth for its colonies and their Motherland.

No, these heinous crimes were committed by Great Britain, a state that neither Wales nor her people had a democratic voice in its affairs, and a state that served no interest other than the landowning classes of the English/British State and its Crown.

If anybody should speak for Wales it should be our democratically elected Assembly First Minister, not the Blair-appointed British Government Minister who, rather than apologise on our behalf for a crime we did not commit, should be apologising on behalf of the English/British state for dragging us into such a disgraceful state of affairs.


Unknown said...

I cringe whenever the orange buffoon opens his mouth - but for a South African to apologise on behalf of Wales & Northern Ireland for atrocities committed by the British state and largely in America.....staggering.

Maybe a Plaid victory in Neath in May will show him where his real priorities are!

Unknown said...

Also reminded me of Ann Clwyd - jetting around the world fighting the cause of the Kurds, while many of her own constituents in Cynon Valley were destitute.

Alwyn ap Huw said...

I agree entirely that Peter Hain had no right or authority to apologise on behalf of the people of Wales or the people of the north of Ireland for their part in the Slave Trade. As a member of the UK government there is an argument that he could have apologised on behalf of the whole of the UK. It is interesting that on this occasion that this arch opponent of independence believes that he can offer an independent apology on Wales' behalf.

I am unhappy with the undertone in your post that "it was the Brits not us, so we've got nothing to apologise for". I am always weary of any claims of moral superiority in arguments for independence. Had Wales retained its independence into the age of Empire building and slavery we, too, would have wanted our slice of the action.

It is true that the biggest slave trader in Wales was the Penrhyn family, who were Anglicised landowners, but less noble people from Wales also played a part in the slave trade. The poet Goronwy Ddu o Fon was a master on a sugar plantation. The hill farmers of mid Wales who produced "rough webs" exported much of their produce to clothe slaves, may of the ships used to export these webs to the Caribbean islands and the USA were owned by co-operatives of local artisans. The ending of the slave trade in the USA after the civil war was an economic disaster for the working class of mid-Wales.

During the Civil War in the USA most Welsh people (who retained a sense of Welshness) supported the North and the anti-slavery cause. Back home in Wales the Welsh press (including the Welsh language and nonconformist press) showed that there was a considerable amount of support for the South and slavery.

Wales does have much to be sorry about for the roll it played in the slave trade. However, if we wish to make a genuine expression of that sorrow it should be done by resolution of the elected Assembly, and not by the whim of a governor general who didn't even have the decency to inform the people of Wales (never mind consult us) that he was about to make this "historic" apology on our behalf.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Abermaw for your excellent contribution.
I would, however, like to assure you that I harboured no 'whiter than thou' undertone.
I am fully aware that certain elements in Wales benefited from the slave trade, but my point is that Wales as a country/state should not apologise for the actions of the British State.
For it was British State policy that opened the markets and legitimised them.
Of course, who can tell whether or not if Wales was an independent state at the time that it would have consciously shove it's snout in the trough. It can be argued argue that if Wales had indeed been independent before the industrial revolution and the age of empire, that the conservative values of the Calvinists and the unionist aspirations of the Uchelwyr would hardly have existed, and Wales would be a radical, co-operative based society - and probably at war with England for her natural resources!
But this is academic.
However, I agree with your point, while pointing out that no Welsh government indulged in, or facillitated the Slave Trade. And it is apparent to me that Peter Hain apologised on behalf of Wales.