This is why it’s so hard to talk about the future of Welsh-speaking communities

Aberaeron in Ceredigion. Picture by Heather Smithers (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

Rhys Llwyd

How best to preserve Welsh-language communities is an issue it seems that politicians from all parties have been unwilling to get to grips with.

This may have changed recently with the concept of ‘Arfor’ as set forth by highly regarded Assembly Member Adam Price.

According to Adam Price’s plan, Arfor would be a single local authority for west Wales, uniting Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Gwynedd, and Môn.

The region would be given significant powers over housing, agriculture, tourism, and language.

But the reaction to Arfor – here on Nation.Cymru and on social media – suggests that little of the heat has gone out of this debate.

Why has the issue of Welsh-speaking communities become so much of a political hot potato for politicians, including those in Plaid Cymru, over the past decades?

Adfer

Part of the answer lies back in the 1970s and an acrimonious falling out between a movement called ‘Adfer’ (Restore) and the Welsh language society – Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg.

In 1972 the philosopher J.R. Jones argued that nationalists needed to turn their backs completely on Britishness and create a ‘new Wales’.

The way to do this according to Emyr Llewelyn was to create a Welsh language society with its own institutions – a kind of nation within a nation – similar in territorial scope to Arfor.

Adfer was set up with an emphasis on creating a territory set aside for the Welsh-speaking Welsh.

Welsh speakers in other parts of the country were encouraged to move there and live their lives in Welsh.

In 1976 Emyr Llewelyn published a book Adfer a’r Fro Gymraeg (Adfer and the Welsh-speaking land), which set out his argument in great detail.

For those of us, like me, who were not alive during this period it’s worth having a look at this book in order to fully appreciate how Adfer’s philosophy managed to alienate so many people!

By doing so, we can understand why so many people today react so passionately when discussing plans to protect Welsh-speaking communities.

Terrifying

The main impression when reading the book is that it is philosophically naive and written in a way that would inevitably put off most readers.

For instance, in one section he attempts to explain that it is easier for the Welshman to become an Englishman than it is for ‘the black man’ because ‘how ever much he scrubs his colour stays with him’!

In another section, he discusses, sincerely enough, the need for a people to claim ownership of their own homeland.

But then he suggests that it was a lack of homeland that made the Jews ‘such a spineless creature that was willing to be led like a sheep to the gas chamber’!

These examples demonstrate why Adfer’s world view was extremely problematic even in the 1970s – and terrifying in the present day.

There are other problems too. In his foreword, Ieuan Wyn discusses Welshness as a ‘spiritual’ force.

‘Adfer’s work,’ he says, ‘is to bring a spiritual vision to Welsh nationalism…’

Emyr Llewelyn calls this cryptic essence that belongs to the Welsh ‘eneidfaeth’ – a kind of spiritual substance – which ‘feeds the souls of men.’

‘I call it a spiritual substance because it comes from men’s spirits – it is yielded from the spirits of those who came before us,’ he says.

Reaction

One of the country’s leading nationalist thinkers, and a prominent theologian, R. Tudur Jones, wrote a scathing review of the book in the Tafod, the Welsh language society’s magazine, in 1977.

The title he chose for his review – Cysgod y Swastika (the shadow of the swastika) – gives us some idea as to its contents.

In the first part of the article, Tudur Jones portrays the ideology of Adfer as if it was a Welsh version of the ideology of Hitler and Nazism.

He notes that the book is full of the philosophy of Comte, Hegel, Fichte, Schelling and Alfred Rosenberg, before noting that this philosophical tradition ‘reached its terrible apex in the tyranny of the Third Reich’.

Tudur Jones’s main criticism was the idea of ‘enedifaeth’. He argued that this idea was key to understanding Adfer because this nebulous concept allowed them to ‘discriminate between the fake Welsh and the real Welsh.’

This is the attitude that has still left its scars on the minds of some Welsh speakers from outside Welsh-speaking communities who were sneered at by Adfer members in the 1970s and the 1980s.

Regret

It can be argued that Adfer and R. Tudur Jones’ explosive response to its ideology made the idea of a ‘Welsh-speaking region’ that should be protected an unattractive one up to the present day.

Even though R. Tudur Jones argued from a philosophical and religious perspective it is likely that his scathing review had a political aim as well. Adfer’s views could have caused the national movement real damage and needed to be stopped.

Plaid Cymru leader Gwynfor Evans wrote to R. Tudur Jones saying that ‘some are reluctant to see a difference of opinion among nationalists’ aired in such a public way. Nevertheless, they had to ‘clear the air’. He hoped that ‘Emyr and the others would be more careful in future’.

But when R. Tudur Jones received a request by Gomer Press in 1981 to translate his review for an education package about Welsh identity, he expressed some regret.

‘I am not sure’, he said, ‘whether I am happy to see this old controversy revived. My two articles all but destroyed Emyr Llewelyn – and it certainly put paid to Adfer.’

He also expressed dismay that his review inhibited some of the more positive work carried out by Adfer that he himself supported.

‘I regret now that I did not make it clearer at the time that many of the practical aims of Adfer were laudable enough and that what I objected to was the attempt to justify its actions by a pernicious philosophy,’ he said.

Scars

To this day the Welsh national movement has failed to really get to grips with the issue of Welsh as a community language.

It could be argued that it was this bitter argument between R. Tudur Jones and the Adfer movement that poisoned the issue.

To this day politicians of every party have avoided getting entangled with a debate about possible means of helping Welsh-speaking communities.

Although we can appreciate R. Tudur Jones’s argument from a theological and philosophical point of view, we can regret that this controversy left scars which has made it difficult to get to grips with this perfectly salient issue up to the present day.

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Nic
Guest
Nic

A dreadful catch-22: We can’t tackle real issues in the present because of mistakes made in the past. But the non-tackling of these issues in the present is likely to cause other problems, more bad feeling and yet more terrible mistakes in the future. So no one does anything and Welsh-speaking communities are weakened, eroded and, finally, disappear. The fact is, Welsh speaking communities are expected to go gently into oblivion just so that no one is “upset” by a respectful yet frank and open discussion or because politicians are too cowardly to tackle the issue. I’d like to add… Read more »

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

At first on reading this, I thought interesting, but no, since who outside of these circles has ever come across this issue or debate. I am however, intrigued about this statement: “This is the attitude that has still left its scars on the minds of some Welsh speakers from outside Welsh-speaking communities who were sneered at by Adfer members in the 1970s and the 1980s”. The notions of proper and good welsh, in terms of the language and culture were around long before this, but I can see how this wouldn’t have been helpful and am now wondering what effect… Read more »

Dafydd Bates
Guest
Dafydd Bates

I think it’s going too far never to appear on UK-wide platforms. You can use them to make our tormentors’ progress more difficult, and that includes skitting at *them*, ridiculing *them*. It’s not at all difficult to do, though it goes against the usual Welsh courtesy. It is consistent with the true (in my opinion) judgement that you’ll never educate the BritNat.

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

I think we are being far too polite. We have the right to exist and do not need anyone’s approval for doing whatever is necessary to ensure our future existence.

if being calling us racists is the worst they can throw at us, that’s actually quite pathetic. Let’s get more organised.

sibrydionmawr
Guest

For once I agree with you. Quite apart from accusations of ‘racism’ being wide of the mark in any case, (being Welsh is an ethnic indicator, not ‘race’) the accusation is deliberately aimed at stopping all discussion. Even Plaid Cymru, to it’s eternal shame, has disciplined members for having the temerity to raise the issue of the real danger that Y Fro Gymraeg finds itself in. It’s a pity that more isn’t generally known about Adfer, I had of course heard about the movement, and had picked up on that it wasn’t regarded in the most positive of lights. There… Read more »

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

To break that censorship we need to break our own censorship first. Since post WW2, and long before in the Valleys, anything right of centre is seen as the enemy. If we as a nation cannot express any right-wing opinions or views without self-censorship, infighting and accusations of aligning with the ‘evil’ and ‘toxic’ Tories, then we cannot express the right to defend the right of our culture to exist (which is an inherently right-wing and conservative idea).

sibrydionmawr
Guest

Culture is neither conservative, or inherently right-wing. Culture itself is inherently free of ideology, but is itself a container for ideology. There has never been any kind of prohibition on ‘right-wing’ opinion. Are you equating criticism of right-wing opinion with it’s censorship? If so, then you are perpetuating a lie. There may be many forums where right-wing opinion, or comment is suppressed, but this does not equate to censorship. The denial of a platform is not suppression of free speech. No one has to provide anyone else with a platform, and this is particularly the case with the internet. If… Read more »

leigh richards
Guest

Well one very good reason right wing ideas are seen as the ‘enemy’ in the valleys is because right wing economic policies devastated the said valleys in the 30s and again in the 80s. And a further important reason why aligning with the Tories is problematic for anyone who supports indy for Wales is because the tories exist to defend the union. You cannot support welsh independence and seek to work with the ‘conservative and unionist party’ – the two are completely incompatible. And contrary to your assertion you’re perfectly free to ‘express right wing opinions’ – in fact you’ve… Read more »

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

We have been socialist and left-wing for so long, that the only way to be radical is to be conservative.

Arfor Cymru
Guest
Arfor Cymru

The current system isn’t working, as pointed out many times here already. More houses are being built and the number of Welsh speakers is falling.

Whilst I detest the views highlighted above (and thank you for drawing them to my attention), we cannot allow ‘PCism’ (that could be a double entendre) to get in the way of mature debate.

To be clear, wanting an autonomous Bro Cymraeg that decides it’s own policy does not make anyone racist or a Nazi.

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

My memory fails me, but being reminded of the style and content of Jones’ criticism of Emyr Llew’s ideas suggest that not much has changed when critics wish to convey a negative image. Tarring Adfer and Emyr Llew with the Swastika/neoNazi brush was as much a lazy cheap shot then in the 70’s as it is nowadays when the default comment of every kind of critic seeking an easy denigration of others is to dig up words like “Nazi” “Fascist” “racist” surround them with more “blah blah blah” and pass it off as an indepth analysis. It just doesn’t work… Read more »

Rhys Llwyd (@rhysllwyd)
Guest

Even if you don’t agree with Tudur Jones’s analysis, it was a very thorough and in-depth philosophical and theological treatment of which it was impossible to do justice with in this short article.

Dyfrig Jones
Guest
Dyfrig Jones

An excellent article – difyr iawn, Rhys. I think that R Tudur Jones is unfairly maligned, at times, for Cysgod y Swastika. As Rhys points out here, his critique was not aimed at the concept of Y Fro Gymraeg, per se, but rather at the philosophical underpinnings of Emyr Llew’s work. It has been some time (15 years?) since I read both of the works discussed here, but Dr Tudur’s work is as far as you can get from a “lazy cheap shot”. It was a sober, detailed, extremely well-argued and utterly necessary response to an ill-judged polemic. It is… Read more »

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

Tudur Jones’ work may well have been detailed and extremely well argued but he did it no justice at all by using highly emotive and unnecessary references to Nazism. Good work does not need to be so embellished and that is what makes it a cheap shot, as though he lacked sufficient confidence in the validity of the core of his work and had to “ice the cake”. We see this sort of nonsense regularly today. People just can’t resist lobbing references to Nazism around in the most inappropriate way – evidence of an inability to articulate a good thesis… Read more »

Rhys Llwyd (@rhysllwyd)
Guest

But the whole point of his “detailed and extremely well argued” review was to show that the book shared a philosophical foundation with fascism – something the author himself was, perhaps, unaware of. So given the benefit of doubt the book was naive more than dangerous. I think Tudur Jones aim was a stark warning that the Welsh nationalist movement should guard itself from the philosophical influence some in Adfer were under. But he might have used used stronger language that what was really needed to make his point.

sibrydionmawr
Guest

Unfortunately we are somewhat stuck with the need to constantly reference to nazism as much of what is being dealt with is neo-nazism, which sees itself as directly descendent of the original nazism of Hitler. Sure, the accusation is overused at times, for example, UKIP isn’t a nazi organisation, but is often regarded as such, and is anyway, a different issue. Organisations such as National Action and other far-right groups certainly see themselves as politically and philosophically related to the nazism of the 1930s and 1940. Most of us dearly wish that the nazism of 75 years ago could be… Read more »

Welshguy
Guest
Welshguy

I don’t understand how changing the makeup of local government in the West is supposed to help. Gwynedd, as it exists, has a higher proportion of Welsh speakers than the proposed “Arfor” would. How would a larger area with proportionately fewer Welsh speakers be more likely to protect Cymraeg?

Petroc
Guest

Yr Eisteddfod – yr unig fro Gymraeg – “Welsh speakers in other parts of the country were encouraged to move there and live their lives in Welsh.” if only for the week. The existance of a 3D welsh Wales for 9 days is a fantastic experience, somewhat wearing in the choices available – feast after famine. And all this for 150,000 visitors. So would Arfor replicated this? Imagine a land of 300,000 welsh speakers, where all shop workers can speak “tipyn bach” and don’t get shirty if welshed at. Where every conversation starts in Welsh first. On the current trends… Read more »

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

I posted something earlier but pleased that it disappeared because this is something i have never heard about any of this and very interesting.

I wouldn’t imagine many people these days would be able to relate to the people or the philosophies mentioned and can’t see how it influences views very much, but happy to be educated otherwise.

Tame Frontiersman
Guest
Tame Frontiersman

A thoughtful piece and my comments here are not intended to be a criticism of it Emyr Llew and JR Jones were men of their time. In today’s Western mail (Wm2) there’s a sympathetic piece about the Welsh language. Prof Diarmait Mac Giolla Chríost of Cardiff University is reported as saying “Government is hugely important….community based and voluntary action has a critical role to play…..statutory education does not produce competent speakers of Welsh to the extent it should”. It seems that after decades of philosophising about the “language problem”, there is still an absence of effective action plans to turn… Read more »

Royston Jones
Guest

There’s no question that immigration into what remains of the Fro Gymraeg must be curbed, that should be a given. Fundamental to achieving this is building up an economy that is far less reliant on tourism, the engine of so much of the immigration. That said, I have grave reservations about Arfor. For a start, there are too many Welsh-speaking communities excluded, and too many English-speaking communities included in a crude grouping of local government areas. Beyond that, I oppose any internal division of Wales with the potential to divide us along language lines. The problem of English colonisation affects… Read more »

Cymru Rydd
Guest

An interesting article. I’m old enough to remember the impassioned discussions between members of Adfer and Cymdeithas yr Iaith about the idea of a heartland for the Welsh language. The author is right to flag up some of the unpleasant fall-out people amongst individuals about this issue, and how the sensitivities of Welsh speakers living in the more anglicized areas were not given due consideration in the discussion, and often disregarded completely. However, it must be pointed out that much of this agonized debate was conducted amongst university students in Bangor and Aberystwyth, and the effects on people in Wales,… Read more »

Meg Elis
Guest

Adfer was poisonous and reactionary and it died, diolch i Dduw. But migration into communities is still a problem: the difficulty is, some people see it as an either/or. You resent immigration or you want Welsh people to stay in the Fro Gymraeg and not move to Cardiff, etc. You can do both. Fight English immigration (and call it that) and not mind young people moving to the capital – the jobs are there, it’s buzzing, why not? And actually, Englishmigration into Cardiff and Newport, etc, is a problem. Anyone addressing that? No, thought not.

Nia
Guest
Nia

dw i ddim yn gweld sut mae codi crachen cas a checrus fel hyn o’r gorffennol yn mynd i’n helpu i symud ymlaen. Ni’n son am y 70au ac mae pethau wedi newid llawer o fewn ein cymdeithas ers hyn

Rhys Llwyd (@rhysllwyd)
Guest

Wnes i baratoi y darn mewn ymateb i’r ffaith fod pobl ar y cyfryngau cymdeithasol wedi bod yn trafod Adfer mewn ymateb i sylwadau Adam Price ac roedd lot o’r sylwadau yn cael eu gwneud gan bobl oedd yn amlwg heb ddarllen y llyfr dan sylw na’r adolygiad felly fel fod y trafodaethau yn “informed” wnes i baratoi y geiriau yma. Wnes i ddim mynd ati ‘out of the blue’ ys dywed y Said i baratoi hwn. Ond dwi’n cytuno, roedd y cyfan yn gas a checrus a difyr yw fod Tudur Jones, yn y diwedd, yn edifar sgwennu yn… Read more »

sibrydionmawr
Guest

The difficulty for most of us is actually being able to get our hands on these documents to read and make out own minds up. I don’t doubt that Adfer had a pretty negative reputation, as it’s not a movement that has been talked about much, as if it has to a large extent been whitewashed from recent Welsh history. Indeed, it’s not as if recent Welsh history has been given anything like adequate coverage, even when considering it in the context of a generally inadequate approach to the teaching of Welsh history in Welsh schools and it’s presentation in… Read more »

Nic
Guest
Nic

The issue of young people moving to towns/cities “to look for work” is, in my experience, overstated. That’s not to say it’s not true at all, but for me and my friends and the young people I speak to it is more the overwhelming sense of adventure that is responsible. I think this happens in most countries. When you’re 18 and full of mischief, you tend to think it best to be far from home! Young people, full of dreams, ambition, adventure and yearning to taste ‘what’s out there’ will leave even if there’s work for them at home. Of… Read more »

Communist & WelshNash
Guest
Communist & WelshNash

Interesting that a picture of Aberaeron was chosen to accompany the article. Even in the 1930s ‘Aberayron’ was a mostly English speaking town surrounded by a rural Welsh speaking countryside. Cysgod y Swastika was hovering over Aberaeron from 1939-1945 when a military camp was set up on the cliffs above the town. Evacuees came from Liverpool and most learnt Welsh. Welsh speakers fought alongside English Speakers to defeat the Swastika in the shape of Hitler but now English Speaking Culture threatens the culture it fought alongside. When does a Welsh Speaking Community stop becoming one, when the numbers fall below… Read more »

Rhys Llwyd (@rhysllwyd)
Guest

I think the reason Tudur Jones felt remorse for the tone of his review (if not the substance) was the fact that Emyr Llywelyn at the time was a school teacher and accusing a school teacher of holding facist ideology was a serious accusation with implications. Perhaps Tudur Jones didn’t realise that from the desk of his study.

Jonesy
Guest
Jonesy

There is only one way of reviving the language, and it comes down to this, the only way to change the demographic in Y Fro Gymraeg is for Welsh speakers to have more children – outrageous statement but fact. Education is not going to save Welsh – our education system is rubbish at teaching languages as it is Welsh history and culture. See Northern Ireland , we all know which way the scales are tipping there don’t we? Immigrants have more kids than British people, see last lot of stats re increase in UK birthrate, maybe we should welcome immigrants… Read more »

Mrs. Tom Lew, Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Guest
Mrs. Tom Lew, Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Doedd ADFER a Ieuan Wyn byth yn hiliol….Gwladgarwyr, Diwylliantgarwyr a’r Iaith Gymraeg-garwyr ydyn ni.

William Dolben
Guest

sorry, this failed to load after Nia’s comment for technical reasons Indeed Nia the world has moved on, or has it? “Civilised” debate amongst the intellectual elite and the media certainly has been transformed. During the BREXIT debate some voices and opinions were heard that shocked the elites. The question is do we suppress such opinions? One year ago, 52% of English voters and almost as many Welsh voted to stop or reduce immigration (Brexiteers will say it was about other issues but I feel that’s a smokescreen). In areas like Lincolnshire and East Anglia as many as 70% voted… Read more »

Tellyesin
Guest
Tellyesin

Well. what a non-article. I’ve never heard of Adfer and don’t see why that would make it hard to talk about Welsh speaking communities. The problem facing our communities is an existential crisis and needs to be addressed as such. We need Cymraeg moved to the centre of our public and private life and we need to do it strategically to create a critical mass that ensures that there are Welsh speaking communities. Some of that will be addressed by the 2050 project but not all of it. It may mean we have to point out some uncomfortable truths to… Read more »

Communist & WelshNash
Guest
Communist & WelshNash

Who are you calling a racist bell-end butt? I think that last comment just shows that everyone should have a clear avatar on here that can be traced back to see whether they are a humanoid. Too many nasty pasties by ere now look you indeed to goodness innit!

Tellyesin
Guest
Tellyesin

“For instance, in one section he attempts to explain that it is easier for the Welshman to become an Englishman than it is for ‘the black man’ because ‘how ever much he scrubs his colour stays with him’!

In another section, he discusses, sincerely enough, the need for a people to claim ownership of their own homeland.

But then he suggests that it was a lack of homeland that made the Jews ‘such a spineless creature that was willing to be led like a sheep to the gas chamber’!” racist bell-end? No?

sibrydionmawr
Guest

I don’t think that pointing out that it is easier for a Welsh person to become English that a black person is racist at all, merely reflects a truth, however unpleasant. Certainly that was a perceived truth at the time it was written. At the time, it was certain that a black person would be accepted as British, but not as English, a perception that is different for many in Wales, who see both terms as a conflation wheras in England they are perceived quite differently. At least that was my experience as a young person living in south east… Read more »

Communist & WelshNash
Guest
Communist & WelshNash

Racist bell-end? NO If you had been talking about some bloke in a pub in Bassaleg or Brymbo both UKIP territory then I would have left your epithet unchallenged. The reason I jumped out of my chair was that you had not heard of Adfer and described a man who went to prison for his commitment to the Welsh Language and Welsh Language Communities in such 2017 terms. I cannot and will not defend the words that you have quoted but as the defenders of those who ‘blacked up’ at the Aberaeron Carnival would say ‘Context is Everything’. He was… Read more »

William Dolben
Guest

ylwch ylwch, Sibrydion Mawr. Closing down a debate just lets it fester. The recent positive article on Welsh in the Western Mail had no comments (when I looked). Normally any article about Welsh positive or negative elicits a tirade of abuse. But I for one prefer to see it to see what some people think and how much hatred, alienation and inferiority complex there is to be overcome.
CAN SOMEONE PASTE A LINK TO CYSGOD Y SWASTIKA. LOTS OF DEBATE BUT WHO’S READ IT? I HAVEN’T BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE A COPY

sibrydionmawr
Guest

Yes, I saw that article on WoL, but there were no comments as WoL hadn’t enabled comments on that piece, possibly because it would most certainly have attracted all the anti-Welsh nutters like moths to a candle. But like you, I much prefer to see what detractors are saying, and also having some idea about what we are up against. Fortunately most of those commenting on WoL articles about the Welsh language seem to be semi-literate in English, and often appear to be none too bright, and would only have any credibility amongst the very few others who are of… Read more »

Rhys Llwyd (@rhysllwyd)
Guest

I’ll scan in a copy for you. what’s your email?

William Dolben
Guest

nothing like Welsh for learning English properly LOL

Rhys Llwyd (@rhysllwyd)
Guest

Dyma ddolen i ddarllen Cysgod y Swastica (sydd mewn dau ran) yn ogystal a’r ymateb yn y Tafod (rhwng dau ran yr adolygiad): https://www.dropbox.com/s/r7uagyz6c1x7wxt/Cysgod%20y%20Swastica.pdf?dl=0

William Dolben
Guest

diolch o galon Rhys!!!!!