White Wales and Black Lives Matter

Despite protestations to the contrary, the structural imbalance of the Welsh public sphere can easily lead to situations where even a simple misunderstanding can reinforce some of the worst tropes latent in our collective culture. People of colour considered to have too much righteous energy for their own good and consequently having to qualify their right to Welshness; a moral panic about virtue-signaling lefties; Anglophones portrayed as being totally ignorant about a language that in actuality exists all around them.

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Wales beyond borders: nationalism and the climate crisis

(This article was originally published in translation by O’r Pedwar Gwynt in June 2019)

In recent months we have witnessed two distinct-but-overlapping protest movements mobilising throughout Wales and converging on our capital city. First, the Welsh branch of the international Extinction Rebellion movement took to the streets during March and April, in which activists and, most movingly, schoolchildren came to the Senedd to demand that the Welsh Government declare a ‘climate emergency’. This was followed in early May by the ‘All Under One Banner’ March for Independence in central Cardiff, the most visible action the new Welsh independence movement has taken to date. 

Given that both movements have been met with similar observations in terms of racial politics and the efficacy of their tactics, and given that the climate catastrophe will soon necessarily envelope all political movements, such is its scale, it is worth us considering how adept our ‘national movement’ will be at answering the questions that this crisis will ask of us.

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The British Virus

When the full scale of the Coronavirus crisis first became apparent in the UK, one could have been forgiven for presuming that it signalled an existential blow to the global economic order as we know it. As the country began to comprehend the struggles we were about to face, surely the scales would fall from people’s eyes and the failings of Tory Britain, of austerity, of capitalism, would become self-evident and undeniable? The media-political apparatuses that sustain this orthodoxy could surely not compete with the lived experience of tens of thousands dying all around us, with everyday society as we know it ceasing to function, with long-observed contradictions of capital approaching their limits. Might we be correct in the optimism of our intellect matching that of our will, for once?

(Full article available via Undod)

The reification of Welsh rugby

A shiver down the collective spine of the Welsh nation: international rugby (or, one presumes, that which is presented in the English language) may soon disappear from free-to-air television. This has obviously created a degree of collective consternation about the implication for Welsh mass culture, and rugby’s apparently totemic place within it.

This mass panic is renewing calls for devolved broadcasting, among other things, and is shining a light on how Welsh interests are marginalised in an increasingly homogenised British discourse. Yet this (righteous and welcome) campaign is in danger of erasing the deeper cultural logic of rugby in Wales, what its political economy is, and the class relations bound up therein.

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Solving problems the Welsh way

So, after a year of chaos and misery for workers in Gwent, there is some suggestion that perhaps removing the tolls from the Severn Bridges was a terrible idea after all. All of the fears of commuters have come to pass: traffic has increased dramatically, pollution is reaching ever-more toxic levels, communities have been turned upside down, everybody is immiserated. No workers on the frontline of this crisis ever wanted this: it was a pet project of the Wales Office, cheered on by the CBI and that amorphous entity known as ‘local business owners’. A familiar story of capital ruining the lives of helpless workers.

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The Election That Never Took Place

When assessing the media coverage of December’s general election, it would be reasonable to conclude that the politics of Wales barely featured at all. It is well documented that there is little space in ‘mainstream’ British media forms to develop and articulate a complex, coherent discourse that is recognisably Welsh and speaks specifically to and for the people of Wales, yet this election, in particular, has compounded just how powerless political parties are when attempting to foreground Wales. This is also crucial to acknowledge when looking forwards and assessing what lessons can be learnt for future general election campaigns.

(Full article available to Planet subscribers online and in print)

Unserious ideas for serious times

It’s a familiar melancholy, seeing Jeremy Corbyn, like Leanne Wood before him, becoming a more radical yet more marginalised voice within his party, post-leadership. Both Corbyn and Wood were deemed to have failed electorally by their internal detractors, but achieved far more than they’ll ever be given credit for by changing the conversation around what their parties should be trying to achieve. There are pressures within both parties now to chase shallow electoralism in place of building a meaningful political movement, but this is wholly inadequate for parties positing themselves as a progressive electoral force in Wales and beyond.

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New Solidarities in Wales

There are numerous conflicting prognoses of Wales’ future, but in the present moment we know this much to be true: almost a third of children in Wales live in poverty; the rollout of the UK government’s latest punitive welfare regime will affect a third of Welsh households; a post-industrial plague of scarce, low-quality employment is leaving whole swathes of the country without basic means of survival. Within weeks, this same country can go to the polls and help hand power to a Labour government with the means and will to fundamentally reverse many of the political choices that have led to such cruelty. Whatever one’s long-term political project, this is not an opportunity to be spurned lightly.

(Full article available via Tribune)

Chartists in the Newport Afterlife

To live and grow up in Newport is to be irrevocably intertwined with the historical forces that built this city. Symbols of the past are etched into the landscape: what we might call our ‘industrial heritage’ is all around us. But these totems are not fossilised relics, and they’re not engaged with passively: they’re the milieu of our everyday life.

(Full article available in the Autumn/Winter 2019 edition of the welsh agenda)