Sunday 27 May 2007


It has been an interesting few weeks, but are we any closer to achieving an Independent Wales?

While I am disappointed at not having a Nationalist First Minister, I am more disappointed at the failure to achieve a Labour-Plaid deal which would have delivered a referendum on a full Parliament. This is a vital stepping stone towards independence and must be secured in time for the 2011 elections.

But with the LDs finally making their minds up and coming out in favour of supporting the Rainbow, things could still work out quite nicely. I am not suggesting that Plaid need to join the Rainbow, but should instead go back to Rhodri and demand the referendum (and new language act) as the price for their support. Plaid can ensure that Rhodri keeps Labour’s unionist dinosaurs in their cages by the hanging threat of a No-Confidence vote at any time

Plaid are in a very strong position, but as in poker, every hand’s a potential winner, every hand’s a potential loser. We still have the same cards as we had 3 weeks ago but they can still be played a few different ways.

But the rules of the game will change quickly, and there is only a relatively narrow window to do this – the LDs can and will change their minds again, and jump back in with Labour – and the Tories will step back out when it suits them as well.

Labour need to be squeezed now for maximum gain.

Monday 21 May 2007

We want a Wales Olympic team by 2012

Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, has expanded his vision for an independent Scotland by backing the creation of a Scottish Olympic team.

Salmond knows that you have to take the initiative to split Labour. This is what Plaid needs to be doing. The politics of the next years are the politics of identity. Plaid needs to be develop a radical nationalist agenda to inspire people and give Plaid a unique selling point.

We want a Wales Olympic team by 2012.

Wednesday 16 May 2007

Bring it on........

The more I think about it, the more I realize that this assembly election will prove to be pivotal in our fight for independence. If Labour had managed to achieve a majority then we could forget independence for maybe 20 years, by which time, due to English immigration, we might never achieve it.

On the other hand, a Plaid majority today might also have put the cause back years, as our poor calibre candidates (with a few obvious exceptions) would probably have made a mess of power, and would be punished accordingly in the next polls – look at Merthyr & RCT councils if you want any historical examples – and we are back 20 years again.

But the current result should prove an excellent springboard for the 2011 elections, - the Plaid contingent are large enough to wield real power and demonstrate their capability – while at the same time knowing that they will have to work hard to achive any success, and confine themselves to realistic policies.

As I write this I do not know how the power negotiations with Labour will work out. As I see it, the LDS could be bought off with the promise of STV voting in local councils, but I do not see Labour agreeing to that (even if LDs could agree with themselves). Labour could not deal with the Conservatives, as it would destroy any credibility they have left, which brings us back to Plaid.

Plaid could be offered a formal coalition with Labour (over the dead bodies of Huw Lewis, Leighton Andrew & others) but I think it unlikely. Plaid will more likely be offered a non-coalition deal, which would actually be better for them in the long term as it would be non-tainted. I am certain that Plaid will insist on a new Welsh Language Act & a referendum on a Scottish style parliament as the price for their support, and if Labour agree it will be a good result, and Plaid can concentrate on achieving real power in 2011, with independence by 2020.

But I don’t think that certain ostrich-like Labour egos will permit this, and will refuse to compromise with anyone. At this point there are two options. First is to let Plaid form a Rainbow coalition, but the clever option would be to let Rhodri get elected as First Minister, and then to use the combined opposition votes to ridicule and frustrate Labour ambitions, and to then bring him (or one of his potential successors) down a few months later, with the same result – a Rainbow coalition led by Plaid.

Labour strategists have considered this and realize that they can play on the fear of the Tory bogeyman running our schools and hospitals. They also realize that with the multicoloured team in Cabinet, they can dominate the committees and frustrate the WAG at every turn. But this can be easily countered – firstly the Cabinet must be limited to only say 6 ministers covering the major portfolios. The other portfolios must be dealt with as non-cabinet positions, which would allow more non-Labour people in the committees. And with only 6 cabinet ministers, Plaid would then only need to agree to 1 Conservative Minister – and give him/her a non-sensitive position, such as agriculture. Most farmers vote Tory anyway.

The result should be that in 4 years Plaid will become the largest party in a new expanded Parliament. That is by no means guaranteed, but I feel far more positively about our chances of achieving independence by 2020 or earlier.

Thursday 10 May 2007

Workers’ parties and the national question in Wales

I came across this very interesting post by Charlie Marks on the Rebellion Sucks! blog. It is well worth a read.

An assessment of workers’ parties and the national question in Wales

What got me started on the subject of Welsh politics was an enchanting little post to the Welsh Independence blog, What sort of independence?. It was written by “hafod”, who aspires towards an independent Wales based on “cooperation not the free market, care not warfare and putting people before profit.” As for ownership and control in the economy, hafod is straightforward: “the wealth of the country is in the hands of […] the workers [and] democracy means more than putting a cross in a box every four years […] In the same way as I have faith in the people of Wales to have the ability to run their own country, I’m also confident that the workers of Wales can run our industries and services.”

How it Plaid out in Wales
Despite expectations, the Labour Party was not disastrously defeated in the Welsh Assembly elections. This may be attributable to the ‘freebies’, such as free prescriptions, that Welsh Labour are introducing, thus going against the New Labour grain. It may well have been that the low approval of Labour registered in opinion polls did not result in an embarrassing defeat because many traditional Labour voters no longer participate in elections.

Rhodri Morgan, the leader of Welsh Labour, had said there would be ‘clear red water’ between the party and its rivals, hence the criticism that the party’s losses were due to ‘the slow pace of [neo-liberal] reform’. The difference between Welsh Labour and New Labour may have been big enough to lessen the impact of the latter’s imperialist wars, corruption, and habitual dishonesty.

One cannot imagine Blair or Brown holding a meeting of Labour MPs to decide what to do next after the loss of a majority position, as Morgan did with his party’s Assembly Members. Neither Blair nor Brown would talk of having a mandate from their peers to proceed with negotiations, such is their leadership style – centralist rather than democratic – there would be no pretence at accountability.

Morgan has acknowledged that the party requires a coalition, or at least a deal, and that it would not be right to carry on as before. This may be merely an affectation on his part, but it is more graceful than the words and deeds of Jack McConnell, the deposed First Minister for Labour in the Scottish Parliament, who is waiting for the SNP to fail to secure coalition partners so that he can do a deal with the Liberals to prop up Labour. But then, I’m sure Morgan would have acted just like McConnell if Plaid had one more AM than Labour.

Coalition not dole
Though Tories fared better than before, it was not through stealing votes from Labour. It was a party to the left of Labour, Plaid Cymru, which came second. Plaid now has a quarter of the seats in the Assembly: 15 out of 30. Labour needed 31 seats to retain a majority, but they now have 26 seats, meaning they will have to deal with either Plaid or the Liberals, who have 6 seats, but certainly not with the Tories, who have 12 seats. There is a single independent Labour member, Trish Law, who may remain independent from the coalition-building process.

A rainbow coalition of Plaid, the Tories and the Liberals is possible, but it would be unstable and rather embarrassing for all concerned. The Liberals would not want to be seen sharing power with the Tories, and the feeling is probably mutual, as the two are rivals for power in many council and parliamentary seats in England. And it would be unwise, from an electoral perspective, for Plaid Cymru to get cosy under the covers with the Tories (like the Scottish nationalists, Plaid is not a racist or right-wing party).

What will happen, then? In all likelihood there will be a deal struck between Labour with the Liberals and/or Plaid if not an actual coalition. A non-aggression pact would allow the stable government that Labour desire, but would create problems for both Plaid and the Liberals.

Don’t shoot, we’re only bourgeois nationalists
It is obligatory for me to lurch into a rant about these petty-bourgeois nationalists at this point. But I will not oblige. However iffy their socialist credentials, Plaid wish to dissolve the Union; they are opposed to imperialist wars in the Middle East and have plotted with the SNP in the Westminster parliament to impeachment Tony Blair. All of this might suggest that they represent a nascent national bourgeoisie in Wales which wishes to break away from Britain because it sees no profit from protracted wars in a junior partnership with an unreliable and unhinged superpower. Indeed, Plaid, like the SNP, is oriented towards the EU and away from NATO.

Plaid Cymru are Welsh nationalists, but their election campaign was not focused on the question of independence to the same degree as the SNP in Scotland. Nor was “decentralist socialism” mentioned in Plaid’s campaign literature, though supposedly their vision is of an independent and socialist Wales.

I have had trouble unearthing anything detailed on Plaid’s professed socialism; there is no satisfactory definition of the term on their website. The absence of a class perspective has, in the past, led me to believe they are social democrats in reality and therefore have no revolutionary potential (nor potential in a revolution).

Could Plaid be disguising their proletarian partisanship at this time, hiding their wholeheartedness to the workers until the national democratic revolution is in full swing? Would Ieuan Wyn Jones take to wearing a red berret and quoting Trotsky if Plaid were dominant in an independent Wales?

Post-colonial Welsh nationalism
Plaid Cymru have taken advantage of Welsh devolution to argue for self-determination, but as talk of independence has been delayed, so too “community socialism”. Generally, the “S” word has been unofficially banned from polite conversation – it is of the past, not the future. Where the “S” word was tolerated, it denoted a form of welfare capitalism that did not trouble the bourgeoisie nor threaten to expropriate it, and was actually supportive of imperialism. Plaid’s stressing decentralisation could be a nod to the ruling class that since the commanding heights of the economy are not in their sights they can be trusted to govern without upsetting any apple carts or felling trees in the orchard. Is community socialism now just the wink that says an independent Wales will be open for business?

I have no trouble believing that Plaid is a nationalist party, but socialist? Prominent members come across as radical nationalists more than anything else; socialism implies an alternative to capitalism. By advocating national independence for Wales, Plaid signals that it is seeking an alternative political arrangement, namely Welsh self-government. In cultural terms, Plaid aims to revive the Welsh language and affirm a positive national identity.

Could it be that Plaid Cymru is also seeking an alternative economic arrangement, a Socialist Republic, a workers’ state in which there is common ownership of means of production under democratic control? What does socialism with Welsh characteristics look like?

Don’t ask, don’t tell
The questions that revolutionary socialists should use to interrogate Plaid’s vision of socialism are: who will own the means of production and on what basis will goods and services be allocated?

Naturally, these inquires will be dismissed as premature until Wales has independence, by which time another excuse will have been found. They are relevant questions, though. Plaid’s leadership would prefer that its politics remain moderate, which is to say within the realm of bourgeois respectability; a vanguard of the nation rather than the proletariat.

But let us imagine that Wales has gained independence and there is a militant labour movement and strengthened class consciousness. Would Plaid be with this movement, on the fence, or actively against it? One can be a democrat and disagree with the results of democracy. Would Plaid be Welsh nationalists opposing the majority Welsh opinion?

Throw another party?
Ah, too many questions, too little time. Here is an important one: what should be done by revolutionary socialists in terms of organisation? In Wales, the options are: enter Welsh Labour and agitate for change, build up either Respect or the Socialist Party of Wales, or join Plaid Cymru and agitate for change.

If Welsh Labour and Labour in Westminster continue on the same path, there will be further erosion of their working class base. And the fact that there will be no massive change in Labour policy leaves an opening for another party to fill their boots, “left-leaning” in the case of Plaid, or fully leftist. Recall that the disaffiliated unions have contributed financially to the Scottish Socialist Party in the past, would a Welsh version get union cash and have the same success? Wait, don’t answer that one.

The recent creation of the Campaign for a New Workers’ Party by the Socialist Party of England and Wales and the electoral intervention by the Socialist Party of Wales, which is part of the SPEW, confirms that the organisation formerly known as Militant has given up entrism for good. A habit worth kicking is one that is damaging. And the other sizable (larger, that is) Trotskyist outfit, the Socialist Worker Party is keen to build up respect in Wales… by building up Respect in Wales. Ahem.

But seriously, it is inefficient to have two or three left reformist parties populated by revolutionary socialists. Why not make do with one? Again, a bad example nowadays, but the SSP saw the various far left parties work in a single organisation and the failure of the project was not caused by these groups being unable to work together. (I accept that the Sheridan trial was viewed as political by both sides in the SSP, but contend the split resulted because of personal differences.)

I do not think it wise for socialists to join Plaid Cymru for it is primarily committed to national self-determination and would serve the interests of the capitalist class more than the working class.

A Welsh Socialist Party should be formed by the SWP, the SP, and others, following the template of the Socialist Alliance and the Scottish Socialist Party. This would be a workers’ party with a workers’ programme – supportive of Welsh self-determination and dealing with Plaid, but committed to the class struggle at home and in solidarity with struggles internationally.

Don’t let it dragon
I suspect that in future Plaid may experience a win like that of the SNP – gaining support for a change, but not independence. The neo-liberal nature of the Welsh nationalists would become more apparent in these circumstances. A minority may well be full-blooded socialists, but the direction of Plaid will follow the route of the SNP: talk of social reforms to gain workers’ votes, but at the same time promise stability, continuity and cuts in tax and red-tape for bosses at home and abroad.

Plaid wants lower business rates, and it might be argued that low taxation is the only way for a country without natural resources to guarantee investment. But as there is no alternate form of ownership articulated by Plaid in which investment and disinvestment can be decided democratically, one is given to believe that the colonial relationship will remain, but on better terms and with a leftish and nationalist gloss.

It remains to be seen what will come of the SNP’s promises and whatever happens it will not totally determine the future of Welsh nationalism. But if the SNP fail to implement the progressive elements of their programme for reasons other than being a minority government, it will impact negatively on Plaid. Conversely, if the SNP succeed and win an independence referendum, it will buoy the case for self-determination in Wales. Either way, the national capitalist support for the Union will continue to fade as the imperialist wars rage.

There needs to be an independent working class party in Wales. And that’s one party in total, by the way. There will and should be differences of opinion, but there is no need for disorganisation. My fear is that the electoral division of the left in the UK, wrought by the two largest far left groups, will continue to impede the progress of the working class movement.

Unity is not a luxury and should not be treated as such, it is a necessity. Two parties don’t produce twice as much growth or double strength. There should be coalition talks between the revolutionary socialist parties! If not physically, then at least here, in the Blogosphere. What do you say?

Read a bit more about various Socialist Parties in Wales by clicking on the links below:

Tuesday 8 May 2007

Plagues of Locusts & Rivers of blood

This is a quote from an article written by Kenny Farquharson that appeared in the Scotsman following the excellent victory by the SNP in Scotland last week.

It shows that negative campaigning and scaremongering are tactics used by New Labour in Scotland as well as in Wales! I'm glad to see that the people of Scotland were not fooled by Labour's lies on nationalism and independence.

"LABOUR was wrong. Walking into work the morning after the SNP victory I didn't see one single horseman of the apocalypse. Neither were there any plagues of locusts or rivers of blood or convoys of cars with suitcases strapped to the roof accelerating towards the English Border. It was a perfectly normal Saturday morning. A discarded kebab. A few hangovers. A very Scottish revolution".

Sunday 6 May 2007

A New Voice

Now that the election is behind us, I have been thinking about its impact on the cause of Welsh Independence. In order to achieve this goal, it is essential for Nationalist parties to get more seats than Unionist parties, and that just didn’t happen.

The problem is that we only have one Nationalist party, and while Plaid have done extremely well in Y Fro Gymraeg, they have not made much impact outside of their heartland. Plaid have a good base in the Valleys but even with a very unpopular Labour Party, they just can not seem to deliver. Just imagine what we would be talking about today if Plaid had secured another 5 or 6 seats…………

Politics is largely about momentum – the Liberal Democrats have often been very effective in starting a bandwagon in by-elections which swings floating voters behind them until they become unstoppable. Today, the Welsh Conservatives have some momentum, but no one is seriously suggesting that they can win anything in the Valleys, and they are in any case Unionists. Ron Davies’s group of independents almost got moving, but suffered from a lack of organization, but did again demonstrate that there is a large potential anti-Labour vote in the South, which just needs to be mobilized.

There are maybe two ways forward:

One is to establish a new Nationalist party – left of centre, and primarily English (or Wenglish) speaking, targeting the Valley seats, and supporting Plaid in a nationalist coalition. But the problem with this (apart from the costs and timescale) is that it would just split the existing Plaid base, and let the Unionists attack Plaid as not being representative of all Wales.

The alternative is to keep Plaid as the main Nationalist party, but to adopt a bit of niche marketing (or devolution). Create a new grouping – say Valleys Voice – with a visible local leader (why not Ron Davies??!!). The group would still be part of Plaid, and use the new logo, but could adopt local policies more suited to local problems. It would give Plaid a new momentum locally which was largely absent in these elections, and could make a big difference in the 9 Valley seats. Maybe a Clwyd Voice could help deliver 3 more seats and a West Glamorgan Voice 3 more. You get the idea.

Four years to the next election seems like a long time, but there are local councils to be won and Westminster seats to be fought before then, and Plaid have to strengthen their base before taking the next leap forward.

But I do not want to see Plaid elected for the sake of it – I want them elected to lead our drive for independence. I believe that Plaid can win 25 seats or more in the next Senedd, and win a vote on Independence by 2020 – providing that they start working towards it now!!