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-observedcontradictions of capital approaching their limits. Might we be correct in the optimism of our intellect matching that of our will, for once?
At the onset of this disaster, we were inundated with suggestions that we are not simply facing a repeat of previous recessions or other crises of capitalism, but rather something far more profound and epochal. Yet despite this apparent need for profound change to the way we live in order to overcome this extreme threat to society, any sense of proto-revolutionary fervour soon dissipated. The full force of the state’s ideological arsenal – and the inhumane indifference of its current custodians – quickly became apparent, as did our inability to resist.
‘The crisis caused by coronavirus has triggered an unprecedented moment of introspection. Amid a growing consensus that we can never return to what we once thought of as normal, we asked some of Wales’ leading thinkers to suggest a single idea we need to consider, address or implement once lockdown is lifted.’
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.
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.
Gareth Leaman details the reasons why Wales as a partially devolved polity barely existed in the UK general election campaign. He describes the troubling dilemmas for parties who want to defend Wales against the depredations of a Tory-led British state. What can be learnt for the future?
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.
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.
This shouldn’t be what ‘bilingualism’ is. ‘Bilingualism’ should have the confidence to give our institutions one name that everybody is empowered to use; not concocting a situation whereby two languages live parallel lives and never intersect.
If liberal politicians and media figures are to be believed, the most alarming phenomenon of contemporary British politics is an increasing polarisation and ‘political tribalism’, exacerbated on the right by the Brexit crisis, and on the left by the political possibilities introduced to popular discourse following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader. While often crudely labelled as a ‘populism’ in which the left and right are equal actors, what we are actually seeing here is the struggle for revived and emergent political movements to channel widespread-yet-inchoate demands into a tangible mandate for government.