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How the Welsh flag has been hijacked by the far-right in Brittany

04 Feb 2024 6 minute read
Gwenn ha Du et Y Ddraig Goch lors du Festival interceltique de Lorient 2018 by XIIIfromTOKYO, available under a Creative Commons licence 4.0

Luke James

When the current affairs magazine, Le Peuple Breton, published its 60th anniversary edition recently, the front cover, designed to be a cause for celebration, ended up at the centre of a national scandal.

“Un peuple vivant” (a living nation) read the headline alongside a photo of a young boy holding a Breton flag.

When it was posted on Twitter, it was met with a barrage of abuse of such ferocity that it is now being investigated by the police, and subsequently led to a huge outpouring of support for the magazine.

The racist reactions to the fact the boy on the cover was black emanated not only from the growing number of supporters of Marine Le Pen, but also a far-right fringe of Breton nationalists.

The latter group are easily identifiable – because they almost all have the Welsh flag emoji in their username.

Y Ddraig Goch has become a local version of the green frog used by the alt-right movement online, according to a Breton anti-fascist and independence activist who asked not to be named.

“It’s easily recognisable and has a Celtic link which appeals to their identitarian side” they explained.

Racist conspiracy theories 

Messages including hardline anti-immigrant sentiment, white supremacism and racist conspiracy theories now appear regularly next to the Welsh flag on the French-language Twittersphere.

But despite adopting our flag as its online symbol, it’s a movement with contempt for Welsh politics.

A far-right fringe of Breton nationalists is using the Welsh flag in their X profiles

“Welsh nationalists are generally naïve supporters of the woke left…susceptible to the worst LGBT and Black Lives Matter nonsense,” began a recent article by its mouthpiece, Breizh Info.

Calling itself “alternative media”, the website was found to be among the top 10 sources for Covid disinformation in France and has been accused of whipping anti-refugee protests similar to those which took place in Llanelli.

These increasingly toxic online tendencies are also manifesting themselves in the streets.

One user with a Welsh flag in their handle recently posted a photo of an anti-racist banner turned upside down, apparently taken from a demonstration in Rennes against the French government’s controversial new immigration law.

Tear gas

It echoed other recent attacks. In March last year, a group of trade unionists were sprayed with tear gas before being punched and kicked in a brutal attack in the town of Lorient.

It was committed by a far-right gang who had waited for a demonstration against the French government’s pension reforms to break-up before striking.

It is part of a “rising tide” of far-right activity on the Atlantic coast over which the Liberation newspaper raised the alarm with a typically striking front page last week.

Other incidents have ranged from the distribution of neo-Nazi leaflets to an attempted arson of a mosque and another violent and carefully-planned attack on a left-wing music festival in which far-right thugs used metal knuckle dusters, police-style batons and tear gas.

“These violent acts and attempts at intimidation are frequent enough to consider that Brittany is a symbolic territory of the growth of the extreme far-right groups,” warned the newspaper’s editorial.

“Symbolic because the four Breton departments, of course with local nuances and particularities, have long been considered as resistant to the ideas of the far-right.”

At the French parliamentary elections in 2022, Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National didn’t make it to the second round in a single Breton constituency despite doubling their number of candidates in run-offs across France.

“The strong Breton identity weakens certain arguments from the Rassemblement National about supposed threats to French identity,” Professor Arnauld Leclerc of Nantes University told Nation.Cymru.

Collaboration

Historian Christian Bougeard also said the legacy of collaboration during the second world war should not be underestimated.

While they were “very few in number and immediately rejected by the population”, the memory “has acted as a sort of break on the influence of the far-right,” he told Libération.

Despite that, the Breton National Party, which owes its name to a collaborationist organisation, are among far-right groups to have emerged in Brittany in recent years.

On Twitter, almost all of the accounts highlighted as ‘similar to the Parti National Breton’ have a Welsh flag in their username.

Other groups include An Tour-Tan (the Lighthouse), a youth group based in Vannes, and L’Oriflamme in Rennes, the Breton chapter of a French neo-nazi split from the royalist far-right l’Action Française (AF).

“They try to integrate themselves locally by putting a light Breton varnish on things but it is still usually AF behind everything,” added the Breton anti-fascist activist who spoke to Nation.Cymru.

“There’s barely anyone in all of these little groups. The most visible are those who benefit from the French far-right.”

While some of the groups limit themselves to putting up posters under the cover of darkness, the increasingly extreme actions of others are motivated by desperation, some believe.

Nil Caouissin, a member of the Breton regional assembly for the Union démocratique bretonne, said: “It’s always too much but if the far-right is particularly violent in Brittany at the moment, it’s not because they are strong here. It’s because they are relatively weak.”

The Libération newspaper preferred to see “further proof of the dangers of reactionary offensive underway at national level.”

An offensive being carried out in Brittany, online at least, by keyboard warriors wrapped in a Welsh flag.

*************************************************************************************************

Avis aux racistes : Notre drapeau n’a absolument rien à voir avec votre idéologie haineuse.

Si vous compreniez la moindre chose sur notre pays, vous sauriez que la solidarité est au cœur de notre identité.

 Y compris avec les vrais Bretons qui vous ciblez

Warning to racists: Our flag has absolutely nothing to do with your hateful ideology.

If you knew the first thing about our country, you would know that solidarity is at the heart of our identity.

That includes with the real Bretons who you attack.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago

How dare they besmirch our flag…

Llyn
Llyn
4 months ago

Nothing new. The extreme far-right in the UK have always waved the Welsh flag alongside the Union flag. See recent extremist action in Llanelli, Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party members use Welsh flag emojis, BNP and NF marches would always include Welsh flags in the crowd.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
4 months ago
Reply to  Llyn

I never want to hear from the Abolish party ever again but if we must, it has to change its’ name simply to be recognised. You cannot abolish something WE have already abolished. It is now called Y Senedd or Welsh Parliament and before the 2026 election, legislation must be passed to bring our nation in line with all other nations and it must state that it CANNOT be abolished.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
4 months ago

This is the level of density that brain donorship leaves. The dragon in the middle of our flag does not remotely resemble a swastika and our flag will never come to be associated with such sick views. In fact, by using a Ddraig Goch emoji, it renders the following written bile null and void.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
4 months ago

Those Bretons must not abuse or hijack our Y Ddraig Goch, one of the oldest national flags in the world or fall into the trap of embracing those alt-right racists & populists. They will not further their cause of independence or rights as a minority but will alienate supporters & sympathisers. I find the same mindset has tainted other flags & banners with association such as the Nazis did with the Indian peace symbol Swastika or the British Union Flag , although that flag (s) was soiled long ago by the exclusion of Wales and the gallons of blood spilt… Read more »

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
5 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

The current Welsh flag dates from one first used by Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. As such, it’s probably not one of the oldest national flags in the world, and, due to its association with Henry Tudor, it’s status as our national flag is contraversial to some. It was only adopted as the official flag of Wales in 1959. Notwithstanding any of the above, the use of the Welsh flag emoji by the Breton far-right is to be called out and condemned. Hopefully we’ll also condemn those far-right groups in Wales who similarly have hijacked Y… Read more »

Richard E
Richard E
4 months ago

The English flag 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 is so much in
View across estates across their land. So sad and a lesson for us . The football, skin head use in the 1980s / 90s allowed very doubtful elements to take ownership 🤔. Y Ddraig Goch 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 must remain a symbol for all reflecting our nations aspirations, opemess and welcome to those in seach of genuine sanctuary

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago
Reply to  Richard E

It was a bad look during the Crusades, according to Blair we are still fighting them and if you look closely we have a Crusader parliament at present. This has become confused with Racism when in fact, if you listen to Patel, Braverman and Sunak, it is Religionism !

Richard E
Richard E
4 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Our neigubours, friends and family in England deserve to be able to celebrste their own nationhood and emblems. The fact than many still cling onto the outdated union and its emblems is often routed in seeing 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 disgraced by football thugs, political etremist events and those who use it to write slogans on. So sad 🥹

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
4 months ago

“Warning to racists: Our flag has absolutely nothing to do with your hateful ideology.

If you knew the first thing about our country, you would know that solidarity is at the heart of our identity”….hear hear Luke 👏

Jeff
Jeff
4 months ago

Best thing anyone can do with twitter is cancel your account. It is a cess pit of disinformation and Musks today’s all doing what they are paid for.

That includes all press and politicos. It is not there for your benefit, it is there because a billionaire with moral issues is funded to be a platform to attack people. It is a platform that now hosts far right ideologies, racists, and abusers. They let Trump back on, figure it out. Being part of that hell hole, you enable it.

Karl
Karl
4 months ago

Our flag has always been abused sadly. Pro hunt groups stand out to me. These far right nutters will feed a war eventually, if not kept in their place with truth and decency. Then they would expect you to stand side by side with them. Never, but I am a leftie, woke, Welsh nationalist. Better seems to be a dirty word in life now

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