Ever since well before the General Election we have heard a lot (and I have written a lot) about the need for the progressive left to get its act together and work together for common aims. What is increasingly evident is that are not enough progressive left members in any party in Wales to make this a realistic possibility.
I have consistently argued for such attitudes within Wales Green Party and, for example, Vicky Moller has done much the same from within Plaid Cymru. We are routinely savaged by members of each other’s parties and even members of our own parties for doing so. There are full-time mischief makers, character assassins and trolls active in both parties, but it when rank and file members and especially non-party members start spouting the the sectarian, tribalist bile, more commonly associated with UKIP and the far right, that we have to recognise we are in big trouble.
Below is a Facebook discussion that I think encapsulates exactly what we are up against. It is in response to a post by James Luchte on the Anti-Austerity UK Alliance public group, that James Luchte set up in response to the positive moves made by Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett towards an anti-austerity alliance in Westminster. Luchte (below) is himself an interesting character; ‘an expatriate American’ (i.e. immigrant) ‘philosopher, author, writer and poet based for over a decade in West Wales and in the United Kingdom since 1995’. He is a Plaid Cymru supporter.
I very much doubt he expected the thread below to develop as it did. It is also dangerous to draw too wider conclusions from the contributions of the individuals involved. My own contributions could perhaps have been better put, but that is one of the dangers of social media quick fire responses. But taken as a whole, I think it does go a considerable way to understanding why Wales has no hope of any sort of progressive alliance working anytime soon, and also, perhaps, why Plaid Cymru has failed to replicate the success of the SNP in Scotland.
I am actually a bit hesitant about posting this at all. My hope is that it might give some people pause for thought (it has me) about our attitudes to each other on the left flank of Welsh politics. My fear is that it may be used as more grist to the mill of the the tribalists and mischief makers. The net result will almost certainly be no change to anything. To nick a quote from Ian Woodall on the thread:
The Facebook thread (pics added by me):
Could post-Corbyn Labour form progressive alliance with Plaid, Libs and Greens?Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price suggests Labour, Plaid and Greens could form ‘progressive alliance’WWW.WALESONLINE.CO.UK|BY DAVID WILLIAMSON
You and 33 others like this.
Ian Woodall Sean Dawson Davis in what way are we Greens imperialist? English and scottish green parties are separate. We were on the SNPs side in the referendum. Feeling a bit miffed by that. Yesterday at 13:52 · Edited · Like
Sean Dawson Davis Almost every candidate in Wales for the greens is English. They dont like our language, they dont like our culture and they dont want to listen to any Welsh problems that are caused by England. Head in the sand. I agree with almost all their policies. But there are issues here unique to the Welsh that they dont want to listen too. Too many snides Yesterday at 14:01 · Edited · Like · 1
Ian Woodall Actually you could come yourself. Our conferences are open and we welcome input from outsiders both in the policy forums and the hall. We just politely request you dont actually vote unless you have a party card. I am half serious actually. It may be we could do a joint platform fringe meeting and even get the idea of alliances discussed on the floor of the conference. Yesterday at 14:09 · Like
Andy Chyba Paul/Sean, unfortunately there are a small number of people in both the Welsh Greens and Plaid Cymru that do all that they can to wreck any chance of constructive relations between the parties. Tarring everybody in a group with the same brush is prejudice and discriminatory and barrier to progress. 22 hrs · Like
Sean Dawson Davis Its not acknowledging the first one that creats alot of devision between us. England’s legacy with Wales is not going anywhere . I’m all for a clean slate. But its going to have to be faced, no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular it is. But no one want to listen yet. The popular response is “you have a chip on your shoulder” or that we are ” anti English” These are the things the greens ignore also. 17 hrs · Like · 1
Sean Dawson Davis It sucks but its part of the deal as far as I’m concerned. and I’m not alone. There are reasons we feel the way we do about you. The blame cannot always be conveniently placed on us. 17 hrs · Like
Andy Chyba As an Englishman living in Wales for half my 53 years. I have grown to love the Welsh and hate what England stands for. I have an Owain Glyndwr standard flying in my garden. But every time threads like this harp on about what it is or isn’t to be Welsh or English, we get distracted from the task of working together for a better future for us all. It is why I have left the Welsh Greens and why I am not interested in joining Plaid Cymru. When the sectarianism ends and there is genuine desire to build alliances, ie there is real hope if achieving something, then I hope to re-engage with welsh politics. In the meantime I will focus on particular campaigns that are successfully non-partisan and achieving a lot more. 7 hrs · Like
Sean Dawson Davis But your assuming everyone here wants to work together. And not wanting to do so is something negative, worthy of distancing yourself? Independence would remove Wales from so many of the Uk’s problems. Their not ours to fix nor do we have the power to fix them. Not wanting to help England stitch together this crooked union or fight its own demons does not make me or anyone else a bad person. So many countries in the world have the right to sovereignty and to fight for themselves, to focus on their own problems. Why cant we? Why is that so offensive to you? So wrong? 15 hrs · Edited · Like
Sean Dawson Davis And tbh Welsh politics never speaks about these things. I know people in Plaid. They know how bad Wales has it but they never dare mention it in public. Because they know they would get ruined Politically 15 hrs · Edited · Like
Andy Chyba Someone is not listening. It took a while, a long while, but I am now firmly of the opinion that Wales would be best served by full independence from England and the that the whole world would be better off if the UK was broken up. I support full independence for Scotland and the re-unification of Ireland. What I find offensive is the attitude I get from too many Plaid supporters that you are not ‘proper welsh’ if you don’t speak, or at least pretend to speak Welsh. Implicit in these people’s attitudes is that not all citizens of Wales today are regarded as equals. It is the UKIP style, blame the immigrants, especially if their English, mentality. This is, in my opinion, why PC has not had the same success as the SNP. The SNP are seen to fight for the Scottish nation – everybody living in Scotland. Plaid Cymru, rightly (in the case of too many supporters) or wrongly (in the case of most of the leadership) are seen to fight for the welsh people (the ‘proper welsh’ people). When we are all ecosocialists together, pulling in the same direction together, and completely unbothered where our fathers and grandfathers were born we might start getting somewhere – together. 14 hrs · Like · 2
Sean Dawson Davis Now who’s painting with the same brush? I certainly ain’t native welsh in my genetics, and I don’t speak the language either. Your over simplifying it. I’m not against the English living here either. I’m against the speed at which they have been moving here. Look at the fuss that is kicked up over England’s 13% non native born population.
Ours is over 20% just from England alone in Wales. Its constant double standards and hypocrisy. I don’t see why you cant see that. And if we got our independence tommow I wouldn’t ask not one of them to move. I accept our reality. But doesn’t mean id want the rate of migration to continue, and I’m not blaming this for all of our problems. But it is a problem, to us. Unique to us. And it gets ignored. Just talking about it. Or how our English population earns over £2 and hour more than their welsh counterparts for example gets me called childish /\. We have battles we can fight together. But some are unique to this Country. And you have shown despite living here you don’t see it as a problem. But many here do, its doesn’t make us bad and your gonna have to at least try and see it from our perspective one day. instead of simplifying it to convenient little judgements. I want more balance and the truth to have its day. Its not going to be skimmed over in the name of working together (admirable as it is I don’t see our incentive, or why you expect it, like Wales owes you something). Wales is like a Beaton housewife who is being demanded to bail her ex husband out of his problems. No, sort it out yourselves. We can help but not without sovereignty, not without a restraining order. 4 hrs · Like
Ian Woodall And, that ladies and gents, boys and girls the problem it in a nutshell. The above thread is the reason why an alliance of anti Tory parties will not work. Witness the People’s Front of Judea take on the Judean People’s Front. And all the time they are arguing the Romans tighten their grip. 3 hrs · Edited · Unlike · 1
Sean Dawson Davis Trust has to be rebuild. Credibility needs to be rebuilt. But there is none atm. Our mistreatment is predictable. We need convincing to help. And this work with us or get judged is not the way to do it. 3 hrs · Like
Ian Woodall 1. Takes mouse 2. Clicks on ”unfollow thread” 3. Wonders off to make a cup of tea even more convinced that trying to talk to the Nats, Libs and Labour is a fruitless task 4. Considers Canadian citizenship application because the progressives here have cursed us with 20 more years of Tory rule. 3hrs · Unlike · 1
It carries on a way from here!!
What to make of this? Sean is a tad extreme, but sadly representative of a body of opinion I encounter too often among people identifying as nationalists. He states more than once that plenty of others share his perspective. This includes many Plaid members/supporters – but rarely Plaid activists I am pleased to say.
It is, no doubt, not helped by insensitive comments at times by people (like me in the past) about the Welsh language and British unionist perspectives from a Green Party in Wales joined at hip to the English party even more assertively than any other party, as stated in its full name of the Green Party of England & Wales.
We therefore all have to grow up a bit and get past focussing on the things that can divide us to focus on the things that should unite us.