The debate on the devolution of broadcasting highlights the fundamental weakness of Welsh nationalism

Picture by Tim Loudon (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Ifan Morgan Jones

The success and failure of national movements tend to be put down to the mettle of those involved.

Gerallt Lloyd Owen bemoaned Wales’ ‘seaweed men’ who turned whichever way the tide was flowing.

However, in truth, the success and failure of national movements tend to be much more dependent on good old-fashioned power and wealth.

National movements tend to be driven by a nation’s middle-class because they have the time, education and platform to get the message out there.

The middle-class that tend to do the bulk of this work is usually employed by national institutions such as universities, libraries, museums, broadcasters or regional parliaments.

Delving into the nation’s history is often part of their job anyway – but there’s also a clear motive for promoting nationalism as well.

Because if you work for a national institution – say, the National Library of Wales – then the promotion of the idea that Wales is a country also justifies the existence of your own institution.

After all, if Wales does not exist, why do we need a National Library, Museum, Welsh Federal College, BBC Wales, etc, etc?

The primary thing to look for when gauging the likelyhood of any national movement reaching independence is ‘how much of a motive is there for this country’s middle-class to really push for independence’?

The countries that do tend to win independence are those where the middle class feels ‘held back’ by the central state that governs them:

  1. They’re rich and feel that they would be richer without the drag of the central state (see Catalonia)
  2. They’re very poor and feel that they’re being exploited with no realistic chance of improving their lot under the present system (see many colonies that won independence from the UK)
  3. They lack any kind of democratic representation (‘no taxation without representation’ was the rallying cry in the American war of independence)

Surprisingly – although we focus on it a lot – a different ethnic identity tends to be a somewhat secondary consideration.

It should also be pointed out that the success and failure of national movements depends a lot on the central state.

If they handle matters badly – by neglecting a part of the country or not affording it democratic representation – the chances of a national movement reaching independence is much higher.

So how does this relate to Wales and the devolution of broadcasting?

Wales’ national movement is at something of a half-way house, and this is no surprise, because while there is a clear motive for the middle-class to preserve a Welsh national identity there is no clear incentive to go for full independence.

As one of Wales’ foremost academic experts on Welsh broadcasting, Ruth McElroy, pointed out a few days ago, a devolved BBC Wales would probably be poorer than it is under the current set-up.

The problem for the Welsh national movement is a simple one, really: turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, and the nationalist Welsh middle-class that populate these institutions are unlikely to mobilise in order to campaign against their own financial best interests.

For BBC Wales, see also S4C, the National Library of Wales, the Welsh National Museum, the Welsh Assembly, and Welsh universities. These institutions are all ultimately dependent on the UK Government’s largesse.

Ultimately, until the Welsh middle-class is financially independent of the UK state then Welsh nationalism is unlikely to make much headway.

To take that next step towards independence the Welsh national movement will probably have to find a way to bypass these institutions and take advantage of the way in which the internet, in particular, has changed the game.

For instance, a self-sufficient media platform for Wales that was financially independent of the UK Government would be much more likely to push for independence than one dependent upon it.

On a completely unrelated note, Nation.Cymru will soon be open to monthly contributions from our readers!


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Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

Nationalism, of its own fruition and velocity, is a conservative force. Our Nationalist Party, whilst very inclusive, does not currently accept that conservatism must not only be included in the national movement, but that it must exist as a driving force of the National movement. If we are to aim for independence, even if it means we have a situation where only %1.5 speak Cymraeg, where business owners and land owners are deamonised, then I will actively fight against independence. However, there is hope. Cymraeg is spoken by roughly %20, and Labour’s socialist ideas, having governed our psychology for over… Read more »

JR Humphreys
Guest
JR Humphreys

Amen. Getting us business oriented is one key, (as the Cardiff business school prof. has already said on this site?)
When I was on the left, I always wondered “but where do we get the dosh”? If you’re young and reading this, have
a bash, let’s go!

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

The problem is Welsh Nationalism has been sucked into Labour’s war against the Tories.

Capitalism is not a sin. Old families and aristocracy are not sin. Combining cultural conservatism with economic liberalism from a Welsh perspective is not a sin. But this is exactly how these things are treated by many within our Welsh Nationalist movement, because that is how Labour views them. It views viewpoints differing from the socialist Left as sinful.

We must have the courage to burn this status quo, which is what is holding Wales back, to ashes.

leigh richards
Guest

“Our Nationalist Party, whilst very inclusive, does not currently accept that conservatism must not only be included in the national movement, but that it must exist as a driving force of the National movement”. Well it’s obviously escaped your attention that Thatcherism destroyed the welsh economy and devastated many welsh communities in the 1980s, so unsurprisingly there’s little support in wales for the neo thatcherite economics now. Right wing economics with their emphasis on a threadbare welfare state, a privatised health service and minimal workers rights have nothing to offer wales and will never command the support of a majority… Read more »

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

How long will we fight a 1983 war in our heads? This war ended 2 decades ago with devolution and Blair. We lost the war.

It’s time to accpet that and move on and stop wounding ourselves psychologically.

JR Humphreys
Guest
JR Humphreys

Agree. It is a struggle, but the Welsh left must go through the pain barrier, and let the right under the umbrella.
A united effort . Here in Finland it was much the same, but they decided to bite their lip. It ain’t perfect, but
they muddle through. Generally, people on the liberal left are creative, while on the right constructive, See?
Stronger together.

ERNEST
Guest
ERNEST

People fall into the trap that Capitalism and conservatism are the same thing, which they are certainly not. The true inclusive liberal capitalism involves widest sections of the population working and investing in organisations to which they have a direct stake of ownership by shares and deeds. This involves personal wealth and ownership by choice through home, work, and products which one consumes by property ownership and property rights. The Conservatives are politics that oppose reform whether this is by the colonialists, imperialists or those socialists such as those that ran the the former Soviet Union. This UK conservative government… Read more »

JR Humphreys
Guest
JR Humphreys

Julian Hodge smiles down from heaven.

sibrydionmawr
Guest

Utter rubbish! Both the Cuban and Chinese as well as the Vietnamese revolutions, which were ‘communist’ all based themselves on nationalism, (and in the case of China, also on imperialism/colonialism). As it happens, I don’t idolise those regimes, far from it. In their own way they are as repugnant as capitalism. Since when has the Labour Party espoused socialist ideas? Most of the Labour Party wouldn’t recognise a socialist idea if it jumped up and slapped them in the face. The Labour Party has been, throughout it’s history, a party resolutely wedded to the capitalist system, and has sought, not… Read more »

JR Humphreys
Guest
JR Humphreys

Anyone read, V I Lenin; Left wing communism, an infantile disorder?

sibrydionmawr
Guest

I am far from being a ” left wing communist”. And Lenin was just another authoritarian with (extremely) blood stained hands who was as guilty as any capitalist of oppressing the workers.

No gods, no masters.

Welsh Learners / Dysgwyr CymraegEdeyrn
Guest

“Anyone read, V I Lenin; Left wing communism, an infantile disorder?”

Play the ball not the man …. very poor ad hominem attack.

Most of the land ownership in Wales is in the hands of the selected few born into that priviledge

Welsh Learners / Dysgwyr CymraegEdeyrn
Guest

Oh poor diddums owning land handed down generations since William the conqueror…….Land ownership should be questioned always….

“demonised business owners and land owners”…………….. so your vision is helping the 10% and only the 10%?

Adam York
Guest
Adam York

Great writing.If Cymru manages to get any freer of the UK tangle nation.cymru might claim some amount of credit.Fingers crossed for more Welsh media.Also always to remember cultural life preceeds economic and commercial revivals.Eg Scotland.1990s onwards.PS a poorer Welsh BBC might still be much better than the present output

leigh richards
Guest

With regards to ifan’s point about welsh indy not being in the interest of the welsh middle class it’s interesting that in both devolution referendums in 97 and 2011 support for a yes vote was highest among the poorest sections of welsh society – people in social classes D and E.Perhaps there’s a message for supporters of welsh indy there? On the point of the devolution of broadcasting we must not allow us ourselves to get sidetracked by speculation resulting from the observations of people such as Ruth McElroy. At present most broadcast, print and online media that is read,… Read more »

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

Doing it through the internet will take an age. Simply because the big media outlets come top of google, have a presence on Facebook and they’re known commodities – CLICKBAIT being a factor too. People read the media which best reflects their views and perspectives – whose parameters are set within the education system. We need to change those parameters as the current ones are set to generate a British perspective. Logically if people only read media that best reflect their views then Welsh nationalist media will on large be ignored due to it conflicting with how they are educated… Read more »

Benjiman L. Angwin
Guest
Benjiman L. Angwin

Welsh Nationalism’s chief weakness is that only the Left has a coherent voice. Over %80 of the people I meet in Welsh cultural/Welsh nationalist circles work in the public sector. That is a problem. We need entrepreneurs, we need business people (in Cymraeg). We need nationalists who are not socialist nor Left-wing. We need people who agree on some matters with George Osborne, Nick Clegg, Dominic Grieve and Vince Cable who are Welsh nationalist. And we need those points of view expressed in a non-xenophobic, non-populist way within Plaid Cymru. I’m one. I know there are others. It is our… Read more »

ERNEST
Guest
ERNEST

If you have seen my comment above, we need an inclusive capitalism that gives everyone choice to participate in wealth and property ownership. This is certainly not happening in the UK at the moment.

Wales needs the economic instruments such as our own stock exchange to carry financial transactions, such as raising finance for entrepreneurs and SMEs directly locally within Wales. This we can do.

sibrydionmawr
Guest

Really? Didn’t a certain M Thatcher suggest similar policies? Look how well that turned out!

Eos Pengwern
Guest
Eos Pengwern

She did, and it worked out extremely well. I’ve just put a comment under Benjamin’s post (though it’s awaiting moderation at the moment, probably because of the number of hyperlinks I put in citing chapter-and-verse) making precisely that point.

Edeyrn
Guest

“She did, and it worked out extremely well” … Maybe for you …. do not act as if everyone benefited…..idolising someone who hated s4c’s creation

ERNEST
Guest
ERNEST

A certain MT did suggest it but promptly demolished the idea by putting everything they could in the way of real people’s power. There was no internet then so no easy point where the average person could get the information they needed to get make an informed decision on buying/selling company shares. Companies such as Carillion were still allowed to hide information from shareholders, then before, there was RBS (2007) and HBoS.
Tories are part of an oligarch controlling controlling the UK system.

Michael Matthews
Guest

It doesn’t help when the leader of the national party also claims to be an internationalist. It’s a contradiction.

Benjiman L. Angwin
Guest
Benjiman L. Angwin

I just want to say, in case you thought that, I wasn’t attacking Leanne or Plaid leadership.

I think Plaid needs a restructuring which gives Liberals and conservatives an official voice by giving them a space to organise themselves without breaking from Plaid, to develop their ideas about the independent Wales they would create.

Red Dragon Jim
Guest
Red Dragon Jim

Who, Alex Salmond? Called himself an internationalist. Sturgeon? Puigdemont?

Or just Leanne Wood?

It’s in fact normal for nationalist leaders in Europe to call themselves internationalists. If I could speak more languages I could find others too!

sibrydionmawr
Guest

Only a contradiction if you don’t really understand true nationalism. Nationalism and internationalism are different sides of the same coin, and a nationalism that is not explicitly international is something to be regarded with extreme suspicion; it’s likely to be imperialism.

Red Dragon Jim
Guest
Red Dragon Jim

Quite. A nationalism which is not internationalist is a very different thing to what Gwynfor Evans, Wigley and Salmond advocated.

It sounds more like Le Pen or FN.

If it rears its head in Wales it will be little more than a morbid symptom of what Westminster governance is doing to us.

Eos Pengwern
Guest
Eos Pengwern

A big part of the problem that Ifan points out is that the Welsh middle class, such as it is, is almost entirely employed in the public sector, and therefore at the mercy of / in the pocket of the Labour-dominated Welsh Government of the day. Unlike in England we don’t have the broad swathe of lawyers / accountants / small business owners / technologists / engineers etc. that make up the bulk of the middle class there. For sure there are some, but not that many. This of course is a situation that suits the Labour-dominated Welsh Government of… Read more »

Red Dragon Jim
Guest
Red Dragon Jim

Ifan’s done two posts in the same week, one saying the middle classes will lead independence, another saying working class leave voters will be the ones.

I suppose he’s right and it would end up being both. Also, Ifan would be right that devolution, where powers are only transferred gradually, would be more middle-class driven; although it is also the constitutional preference for all other social classes.

Graham John Hathaway
Guest
Graham John Hathaway

The idea that capitalism is in some way a good or bad thing, is to deny it exits at all by its common appearance, or is exploitative or Is crucial to property ownership and prosperity. You can argue this in so many different ways. It’s certainly a strong running engine and needs petrol. It’s creative and destructive. It’s life giving and it’s taken lives. It drives change and is innovative, it can destroy the environment and trash the Mountain side and rivers. It preys on the vulnerable and gives voice to strong through promotion and advancement. People learn skills to… Read more »