These articles make the economic case for Welsh independence. One, by former Member of Parliament, Adam Price, in Huffington Post, explores the greater flexibility that smaller economies have over large, and a second, by Adam Price in Wales Online, suggests how an independent Wales can address its budget deficit; the third, by Gwynfor Evans, and recently republished by Bella Gwalia, argues that an independent Wales would adapt its economy to serve the needs of its people, and studies the objections that prevent that case from being made. Dr John Ball of Swansea University, writing for Nation.Cymru, explores the difficulties that economists face in calculating the size of the Welsh government’s deficit, and shows how current estimates reflect UK spending priorities, and writing for the Institute of Welsh Affairs, reflects on the economic structures that a Welsh state would need. Meanwhile, a series of articles on State of Wales explore Wales’s currency options as an independent state.
Research by YouGov in 2017 found that 26% of the Welsh electorate supports independence, and that 28% supports independence to preserve Welsh membership of the EU, and in 2019 that 41% of the Welsh electorate, excluding don’t knows, would vote for independence in a Welsh referendum. In response to the growing independence movement, in response to declarations in favour of independence made by local councils across Wales, and by marches for independence held in Cardiff and Caernarfon, and in response to the constitutional crisis precipitated by Brexit, Plaid Cymru commits itself to seeking a referendum on Welsh independence by 2030, and Labour for an Independent Wales offer their own ten reasons for seeking a Welsh nation state.
Articles by John Dixon politely destroys the false dichotomy set by Carwyn Jones between the head and the heart, while warning us that Welsh democracy cannot be safeguarded within the United Kingdom; and Richard Wyn Jones’s sobering analysis of the UK government’s ‘patronising and vindictive’ opposition to the development of Welsh powers, along with Tom Nairn’s analysis of Anglo-British political culture, should warn us against placing much hope in a federal settlement for the Celtic nations within the UK. Adam Price reminds us of Wales’s status as an English colony; the poet and novelist Patrick McGuiness reflects on his own conversion to Welsh citizenship and Welsh nationalism; and an article on Politics by Rebuttal asks whether an independent Wales would be willing to give up its language, its natural resources, and its democracy, as conditions of accession to the United Kingdom. And Hannah Arendt, Amos Oz and Ernest Gellner offer thoughts on nationhood of relevance to Wales below.
Meanwhile, the Welsh government’s strategy to increase the number of Welsh-speakers to one million by the middle of the century, Cymraeg 2050, leads to accusations of child abuse in The Guardian and The Times which Huw Williams describes as akin to racial prejudice, while research conducted by the Welsh government finds overwhelming support for increased measures to protect and promote it, and an informal analysis of social media by Barn Cymro finds the vast majority of Anti-Welsh language activists to be English, and living in England.
The last few chapters of Hannah Arendt’s book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, yield ideas of value to us in Wales. First, Arendt emphasises the relationship between civil liberty and the nation state, such that the emergent Republic of France proclaimed the Rights of Man and gave equal status to its Jewish population, because the nation state bases its authority on its right to treat all citizens as equals, regardless of ethnicity or creed. Hence, nationalism is by nature civic nationalism, and to apply the term ‘nationalism’ to the racist and imperialist movements of the last century is either to misunderstand the phenomenon, or to abuse the word.
But while the nation state, says Arendt, treats all its citizens alike, it also seeks the uniformity of a single national language and culture, and cannot tolerate indigenous minorities within its borders: it seeks to destroy the Slovenes in Hungary, the Germans in Romania, either through assimilation, or through genocide. Unconsciously, Arendt echoes the language of Matthew Arnold, supporting the decision of the UK parliament deliberately and utterly to annihilate Welsh culture as a means of destroying the will of the Welsh people to rule themselves, and to better themselves — the unhappy effects of which we still suffer in our impoverished and divided country. Hence, to speak, as Rhodri Morgan spoke, of Wales as a nation and of Britain as a nation, of being both Welsh and British with disadvantage to neither, to imagine a future for Wales in Britain which is more than a cultural, social and economic slow suicide, would be, in Arendt’s view, a terrible political mistake: Wales’s act of national stupidity — Wales’s Brexit.
Those for whom the word ‘Welsh nationalist’ automatically carries connotations of militarism, racism, and the hysterical love of the nation state might consider the following passage by Amos Oz (In the Land of Israel. 1983. Trans. by Maurie Goldberg-Bartura):
This is the place to make my first shocking confession — others will follow. I think that the nation state is a tool, an instrument, that is necessary for a return to Zion, but I am not enamoured of this instrument. The idea of the nation state is, in my eyes, “goyim naches” – a gentiles’ delight. I would be more than happy to live in a world composed of dozens of civilisations, each developing in accordance with its own internal rhythm, all cross-pollinating one another, without any one emerging as a nation state: no flag, no emblem, no passport, no anthem. No nothing. Only spiritual civilisations tied somehow to their lands, without the tools of statehood, and without the instruments of war.
But the Jewish people has already staged a long-running one-man show of that sort. The international audience sometimes applauded, sometimes threw stones, and occasionally slaughtered the actor. No one joined us; no one copied the model the Jews were forced to sustain for two thousand years, the model of a civilisation without “the tools of statehood.” For me this drama ended with the murder of Europe’s Jews by Hitler. And I am forced to take it upon myself to play the “game of nations,” with all the tools of statehood, even though it causes me to feel (as George Steiner put it) like an old man in a kindergarten.
The philosopher Ernest Gellner in his book, Nations and Nationalism, explores the history of separatist nationalism as a response to the centralising and assimilationist policies that emerged in the historic nation states as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution. His thinking is summarised in the brief quote below:
The roots of nationalism in the distinctive structural requirements of of industrial society are very deep indeed. This movement is the fruit neither of ideological aberration, nor of emotional excess.... [It is] the external manifestation of a deep adjustment in the relationship between polity and culture which is quite unavoidable.’
And finally, I quote my friend and colleague, the novelist Anna Reynolds, giving her own incisive summary of her reasons for embracing Welsh independence:
Your partner is the strong one in the relationship. He tells you how pretty you are all the time, but he doesn't really trust you to do anything. He doesn't trust you to be in charge. He doesn't trust you with your own money. He constantly tells you how much he's supporting you and how you'll never make it without him.
He makes sure you're aware how much money he gives you, how long you've been together, how much he loves you, even though you don't really deserve it. He often laughs at your way of speaking and doing things. Don't worry, it's an affectionate laugh. He's not really laughing at you. You shouldn't get so upset. After all, he doesn't mean it.
He tells you you shouldn't speak your own language, because you're with him now, and his language is better. He tells you you can probably look after the kids, their education and things, but really important decisions are best left to him.
And you should never, ever think of leaving, because imagine how much hurt that will cause, how much trouble that will cause. You'll never, ever survive alone. You're too small, too weak, you rely on him for too much.
He is England. You are Wales.