Corbyn’s wish to centralise power in the British state is a threat to Welsh nationhood

Picture: Chatham House (CC BY 2.0)

Steffan Lewis AM

Corbyn’s speech at Labour’s recent conference confirmed that Welsh nationhood is under threat from both British Statism and British Nationalism.

The late Dr Phil Williams, would often tell of how he came to find a home in the national movement via a brief flirtation with the British Left.

In his book ‘A Voice from the Valleys’ he describes how at one British Left meeting he listened to speakers talk about how Britain could “lead the world in socialism”.

He saw that the same self-indulgent need to see the British State “lead” or dominate globally infected the Left as much as the Right.

The politics of the contemporary British State (or more accurately ‘England and Wales’) is polarising around a new false choice: British Statism represented by Corbyn’s Labour and British Nationalism lead by the Brexit-obsessed Tory party.

But both apparently competing paradigms represent precisely the same threat to Wales: both propositions lead to the same destination; a Wales asset-stripped, politically weakened and culturally over-run.

Imposing London’s will

Corbyn’s policy platform, expressed in Brighton, seeks the centralisation of power over resources, utilities and public services away from Wales and Welsh communities and into the hands of British Ministers.

This is consistent with the Tory approach of using Brexit as a means of legislating to take away powers from our already feeble institutions so that Welsh control over resources, the economy and public services is limited, at best.

When Mr Corbyn talks of ‘nationalisation’ his nation isn’t England, it’s the UK. Think of how ‘nationalisation’ of utilities (such as water) from a not-for-profit Welsh company for example, to a London minister might work out.

That would result in a modern-day Bessie Braddock draining Wales against its interests.

Centralisation is key to Corbyn’s dream of an emboldened British State and for that reason he is opposed to the UK remaining in the European Single Market on a permanent basis. He would rather impose UK frameworks on rural affairs, state aid and natural resources upon us than continue to comply with European rules or recognise our right to decide for ourselves.

The temptation in the current context is to attempt to distinguish between Labour and the Tories but there is a commonality between them that poses the greatest threat to Welsh nationhood: the reshaping of the British State in order to centralise power in London and impose their will, using a dislike of big corporations on one hand or foreign institutions on the other as justification.

Swallowed up

The British State is in a state of crisis; it is no longer a global military power, it is approaching a debt of two trillion pounds, it has lost its closest ally due to that nation’s protectionism and it is about to leave the biggest trading bloc on earth at a huge cost.

These are circumstances where the case for Wales must be made.

The Tories response to the UK crisis is to re-invent a British nationalism and reaffirm Westminster’s sovereignty over us and use its many outlets to belittle and insult our distinct identity and culture.

Labour’s response is to create a centralised state to steam-roller over any divergence or distinctions we may seek to peruse for ourselves.

The last UK general election saw a re-emergence of the old two-party politics, with both parties welcoming the opportunity to present an old-fashioned left/right phoney war. For us in the national movement to try and engage on those terms would be futile and, more importantly, contrary to the national interest.

It’s not enough to simply describe where we sit on the political spectrum. We must be loud and clear about our nation and its future being our over-riding priority.

We must reshape our politics for the purpose of Wales flourishing as the British State withdraws unto itself – either through the path of Corbyn statism or Tory nationalism – or Wales will be swallowed up with it.

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Sam
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Sam

This post on first glance seems to be extrapolating calls for public ownership as a power grab towards London. I’m very in favour of public ownership and so are the majority of the Welsh public. Has Corbyn said that he will take no account of devolution when taking water, railways, energy etc out of private ownership? I agree that Corbyn doesn’t give nearly enough thought to what Scotland & Wales are doing (arguing against a legal jurisdiction is a good example) and how reshaping the state and economy will interact with devolved governments, but isn’t this is what the promised… Read more »

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

You are asking for a lot of faith. I remember it being hard for anyone to pin down his views on Brexit – he hinted enough to appease both sides, but gave the general impression of being in favour. The same on the customs union, where the party seems to have come to a position, but it’s not clear if Corbyn is fully on-board. On the Wales issues, the relationship with Carwyn doesn’t seem a bed of roses – the body language between the two at times has been interesting to say the least and he was opposed initially to… Read more »

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

Federalism is the same London dominance you are trying to escape…..confederations are whats needed

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

Fair point – I said that because I don’t see anyone from either a conventional Labour or Tory perspective ever potentially offering anything more than Federalism. Even Federalism would only ever happen if it was already deemed a “fait accompli” to save the union and not through any conviction.

Sam
Guest
Sam

All very fair points – but we need to do our best to have an accurate picture of the dynamics in politics if we want to intervene in them, so without defending the English left’s lack of interest in the nations, the difference between that and an active plot to take away powers from Wales is an important one. It doesn’t seem sensible to me to sow a narrative like this that if it works at all, is just undermining support for a more democratic economy. Surely a better idea to say that any public ownership needs to be administered… Read more »

glasiad
Guest
glasiad

“We must be loud and clear about our nation and its future being our over-riding priority. We must reshape our politics for the purpose of Wales flourishing …” I totally agree. Considering you are paid a good salary to do this, when are you going to start? Technocratic tinkering with the system, arguing over allocation of inadequate funds, imposition of yet more rules, regulations and bureaucratic red tape is simply not going to accomplish much. We need you to start understanding how the system works. We need you to call out the wealth-extracting cancerous tumour called the financial sector that… Read more »

ERNEST
Guest
ERNEST

I cannot see how Corbyn’s socialism is going to work when Russia (as on the former Russian empire) tried it for 70 years, and with their ‘never give up attitude’ found it did not work.
We are in the position of what the Baltic states found they were in the 1990s. They eventually got their independence determination of their people, political action, their own media, and through membership of the EU.

sibrydionmawr
Guest

How many times must it be spelled out that the system that existed in the Soviet Union was not socialism. The economic system there was state capitalism, and whilst there is a superficial resemblance with the current Labour Party policies, there is one huge difference: democracy, of a sort. Personally I think that state ownership is a tad better than ownership by out and out capitalists, in that with nationalised industries any surpluses generated come back to the country, and are shared by all, but it would be much better were the job done properly and industries socialised as per… Read more »

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

Ideas on paper are rarely reflected in reality. Not that I disagree with what you’re saying beyond that. I think there’s a balance somewhere but capitalism by nature breeds an untrustworthy greed. Maybe part state ownership is the sweet spot for concerns of the people like electricity and water. Thats about the limits of my Socialism I think. My political alignment tends to reside more in realms Cynicism.

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

State ownership unfortunately leads to the emergence of elitist cliques who wield power within any industry or enterprise that is owned by the “public”. There is ample evidence of such cliques already in the British and Welsh public sector. As for surpluses generated being returned to the country and shared by all – I don’t think so. The elitists running these shows will always find ways of diverting available funds either into pet projects or into additional “rewards”. We don’t have people in this country willing to forego perks. Even Uncle Ho, more spartan than most, was partial to odd… Read more »

sibrydionmawr
Guest

I’m no fan-boy of nationalised industry, and any support I would give to it would be hesitant indeed, but just sometimes it’s a slightly better option than the alternative. Your caveats are well founded, but there I think is where most people seem to misunderstand – nationalisation isn’t socialism, but state capitalism, and as such can be a worse enemy to the workers than smaller scale, privately owned undertakings where organised labour can at least play off one scheming capitalist bastard against another. Try doing that with the state, (or huge corporation, which virtually amounts to the same thing) and… Read more »

sibrydionmawr
Guest

I think that many syndicalists would agree with your cynicism, which is partially why they favour this kind of control of industry. It’s borne of a deep mistrust of both capitalists and the state! I’m aware that the proposals in the Miners’ Next Step were never enacted, but there have been glimmerings elsewhere in the world, such as the short time in Republican Spain where the anarchists of Catalonia and elsewhere took over the economy and ran it to the benefit of both workers and wider society with huge improvements in efficiency and productivity. This wasn’t allowed to continue, as,… Read more »

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

You sound like an angry first year student. It’s 2017. The 20th century is over.

Syndicalists? Really?

Miners’ Next Step… in 2017?

Anarchists? Like Somalia much?

the Communist Party? Nothing like genocide against your own citizen.

petty capitalist interest? The people who give people jobs to aspire to their dreams are not petty.

isn’t exactly conducive to such radical interventions by the workers! …. diolch byth dydy e ddim! Thank goodness it’s not.

sibrydionmawr
Guest

You clearly didn’t read what I wrote. The 20th century may well be over, but the economic forces that affect all our lives are still the same as they ever were.. Explain what is so wrong with syndicalists? Do you even have the first inkling what syndicalism is? The Miner’s Next Step was merely an outline for a better economic system where the workers received their full share of what they produced. Your understanding of anarchism is also clearly that of the illiterate and simple minded, and Somalia is an example more of capitalism gone mad. The situation there is… Read more »

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

Capitalists are as much parasites as anyone else belonging to any other political ideal. Maybe its not the ideal but a certain kind of person? Democracy was supposed to end tyranny… but we’ve seen democracy churn out a few dictators – we’ve had a few good leaders in the world, a few good Kings as well. Those with the will to manipulate and control the system cannot be held back whether their intentions are good or bad – they will always find a way. Then the hubris of sticking to one form of government and political ideology believing that it… Read more »

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

“becomes defined naturally by the wider community of nations. Which is how all modern nations came to their present day identities.”

Bit crap with this today, fits the end of the first paragraph.

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

People should own their own workplaces and get their profits from their labour….there I said it……really crazy radical aaaah *sarcasm* 😀

sibrydionmawr
Guest

No, I wouldn’t say that you’ve talked shit, as you have described things as they are. About the only disagreement I have is with the notion of an anarchist state – the two are antipathetic. Anarchists do not believe in the state. Logic would dictate that a hierarchy would be necessary in a crisis, and most anarchists would agree, as they are well aware that in certain situations there are people whose natural abilities enable them to take control of situations as they arise, they are the cool heads who take over when everyone else is running around like chickens… Read more »

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

you ignorance on political ideology is rising to the surface dear capitalist and welshnash………..if you think Somalia is a form of anarchism people are suggesting…you are either deliberately smearing it or being deliberately ignorant

Somalia’s problems stem from many things including the destruction of its primary industtry…the fishing industry by international factory ships destroying the local stocks – no incomes lead to extremism and veeering to religious radicalism in such poverty

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

The 1970s proved Corbyn’s ideas do not and cannot work. The greatest prosperity comes from a mixture of allowing enterprise, promoting individual freedom and charity, boosting community responsibility through education, ensuring people have healthcare and establishing more localised democracies. With Brexit upon us, we cannot afford to suffer the recessions which Corbyn’s policies (or lack of policies) would cause a generation, two generations from now. If it is a choice between Corbyn and Theresa May, I will choose Theresa May. But, thankfully we do have Plaid Cymru here in our country, despite them being far too Leftist for my liking.… Read more »

sibrydionmawr
Guest

Corbyn is a centrist. It’s only the general shift in the past 40 or so years to the right that makes him appear as being to the far-left. Far from being ‘socialist’ most hippies have turned out to be proponents of small-scale capitalism. Their radicalism was, by and large Bohemianism that is anathema to serious socialists. How can you say that the present economic system produces the greatest prosperity, when all the evidence is to the contrary? It may well produce prosperity in terms of GDP, but all that usually means is that the rich have become richer, because the… Read more »

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

You said, ‘Corbyn is a centrist’.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHHAHAH!!! Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha.

sibrydionmawr
Guest

Yet another incisive, erudite comment from Capitalist and Welshnash…

Keith Parry
Guest
Keith Parry

How ever worthy the gains from Plaid’s deal with Labour it will be seen as an endoresennt of Labour, Corbyn and the union.

Cymru Rydd
Guest

Steffan Lewis is bang on the money here. Let’s not be drawn into this phoney left/right narrative which has hoodwinked the public in the UK for so many years, and which seemed to reappear as such a feature of the recent election. In Wales, the Welsh national interest must come before any ideological baggage imposed upon us by the Briitish state and its media lackeys. For me, putting Wales first means we can seek to incorporate everyone ideologically- wherever they happen to be on the political spectrum personally. That’s the beauty of the smallness of Wales- we have the potential… Read more »

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

And somehow people will continue to call nationalists narrow minded and blinkered idealists. The missing bit for many politicians these days is the objective and the final destination. Convictions and ideologies are fine, but where are they leading to?..To me those that are stuck in idealogical political dogma ruts -socialist, capitalist, anarchist, conservative, liberal etc are not only blinkered, but handcuffed and directionless – allowing themselves to be constrained to the extent that they will often ignore common sense when it flies in the face of their chosen ideology.

Dafydd Thomas
Guest
Dafydd Thomas

Yes indeed. It’s worth a read of Joe Stiglitz piece on Singapore. A small country can pull together. There they realised that a key to future success was investment in education of children. Here we are cutting back on expenditure on education 2018/19 while England is maintaining their expenditure. After the worst education results in 10 years in Wales. This is criminal. We need politicians who can recognise a problem, or we will never address them. Our situation is infinitely better than Singapore when they started out, what to do is not that difficult if you have the political will.… Read more »

Wrexhamian
Guest
Wrexhamian

“Bang on the money” – that was exactly my reaction to Steffan Lewis’s post. Corbyn is no different from Neil Kinnock in his Westminster-centric approach, and, in terms of our hopes for a future Welsh bilingual sovereign state, he is an irrelevance. His British perspective, which excludes recognition of the cultural, social and economic nature and specific needs of Wales and Scotland, is the reason why, in a country (Scotland) where nearly half the electorate voted for independence, Labour were trounced by the SNP in the subsequent general election. Unfortunately, Wales’s mindset is still that of the 1960s in terms… Read more »

Leigh Canham (@leighcanham)
Guest

Jeremy Corbyn is a hypocrite. He is the typical arrogant British imperialist who will assert his ‘nationalist’ head and poke his nose in the affairs of other countries across Europe, yet deny those same freedoms closer to home! He is just one of the reasons I’ll never vote Labour.

Tame Frontiersman
Guest
Tame Frontiersman

20 years ago, one of the arguments that won over sceptical Labour supporters to devolution was that a government in Cardiff would be able to protect Wales against a future Conservative government in London. How well is it doing? Now here we are considering a red on redder future,

A devolved assembly has to cope with 1) unsympathetic policies of central government. 2) unfavourable currents in the world economy. Independence reduces the number of challenges by one,

Dafydd Thomas
Guest
Dafydd Thomas

You mean independence halves the number of challenges and difficulties.

Sam
Guest
Sam

I’m just a bit mystified by using public ownership as a bogeyman to drive a wedge between Plaid and Labour, especially given Plaid is usually pretty supportive of the concept. We all know that Wales suffers from a history of its wealth and natural resources being sent over the border and the profits being made there too. Our water until recently was owned by an American multinational, our trains provide income for the German state, huge proportions of Welsh people’s disposable income is spent in chain stores HQed in London or further afield. Surely public ownership is a way to… Read more »

Dafydd Thomas
Guest
Dafydd Thomas

Forget labour doing anything. We in Wales have to do it. As Rhodri Morgan said in his autobiography the labour government in London gave the Welsh government a Hard time. Expect no better in future. We must learn from the past.

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

I’m a big fan of public ownership of lots of things, from utilities to Trains and Health, but that doesn’t make me a fan of Jeremy Corbyn and defining the nation in nationalisation is a very important point of difference I believe between what JC would insinctively want and what is best for Wales..