YesCymru needs to learn the lessons of Cymru Fydd and put unity over division
Ifan Morgan Jones
The resignation of YesCymru Chair, Siôn Jobbins, won’t have come as a complete surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the increasingly hostile debate at the heart of the movement over the past few months.
Much of this debate is nothing unique to YesCymru – the tug o’ war at the heart of the movement is the same one ongoing pretty much everywhere in western politics, from Yes Scotland to the Labour Party to the Democratic Party in the US.
It’s not even the first time internal wrangling within YesCymru has lead to the resignation of a Chair – the same thing happened back in 2018.
The circumstances in Siôn Jobbins’ case were slightly different, however. Behind the mention of organisational challenges and personal health in his statement, one could detect the familiar refrain of someone stuck in the middle who was simply completely fed up with the unremitting hostility of online discourse.
As someone who founded Nation.Cymru four years ago and has worked on it since then on top of a full-time job, I know the feeling full well. After yet another pile-on, subtweet and hostile DM, it’s very tempting to throw your hands in the air and ask ‘I don’t have to do this – so why am I doing this to myself?’
This isn’t always the fault of those on both sides of the argument. Social media thrives on division and misunderstanding. The battlefield is strewn with straw men. Twitter in particular simply does not allow for reasoned debate within 280 characters.
And someone posting what they think is pointed but constructive criticism may not realise that their message is the straw that breaks the camel’s back that sends the person seeing that message over the edge.
This has all been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has forced YesCymru off the streets – where everyone was marching quite literally All Under One Banner – and into online echo chambers.
I’ve followed many a long thread about YesCymru on Twitter and asked myself, ‘What exactly are they arguing about? And what exactly do they want done about it?’ And had honestly no real idea.
The number of messages I’ve received from confused members suggests that I’m not the only one who hasn’t quite grasped why everyone suddenly seems to hate each other, either. There’s a fundamental lack of communication going on, and what is doesn’t seem geared towards reaching any sort of mutual understanding.
As ephemeral as social media is, however, the stakes for YesCymru are very high. It is no exaggeration to say that of the movement doesn’t seek some kind of unity soon then it could flare out as quickly as it had begun.
Welsh history is littered with examples of how proto-independence movements came off the rail very quickly. Perhaps the most prescient in the case of YesCymru is that of the Cymru Fydd movement in the 19th century.
The organization was founded in 1886, led by MP Tom Ellis, who had declared his support for self-rule for Wales during his successful election campaign in Meirionnydd in the same year.
There was also a great deal of support for the movement among some of the most influential Welsh political actors and thinkers of the age – future Prime Minister Lloyd George, national newspaper publisher Thomas Gee, and academic John Morris Jones all attended a conference to officially establish the movement in 1894.
As well as devolving power from London for Wales, Cymru Fydd wanted to set up branches in all parts of the country in order to put pressure on parliamentary candidates to support their objectives.
As Dewi Rowland Hughes said: “… the strategy was to form the nation itself into one major pressure group – a national pressure group.” Sounds familiar?
But within a few short years, the movement fell apart, in that case mostly because of geographic divides. The northerners distrusted the southerners and vice versa, and this hindered any attempt to unite them.
The death knell was a meeting in Newport in 1896 which was packed with opponents of a united Cymru Fydd movement to skew the vote. But the real dividing line was ideological – those in the south east whose concerns were primarily economic were reluctant to work with the rural ‘cultural’ leaders of the north west.
With the failure of Cymru Fydd, any secure hope of Welsh autonomy died out until the 70s of the following century.
And in hindsight, many of the arguments seem altogether of their time, without an ability to think long term. Personal dislike of the central actors such as Lloyd George himself coloured many peoples’ objections. There was a focus on what divided them, rather than what they could all gain by setting their differences aside.
And Cymru Fydd didn’t even have to worry about social media!
Imagine if Cymru Fydd’s plan had come to fruition back in the 1890s – over a hundred years before the people of Wales voted for autonomy again. Think of the opportunity that was lost there, that would not be offered again for a generation.
Will YesCymru become another Cymru Fydd? That’s not guaranteed at the moment. Perhaps the movement will pull itself back together, as it did in 2018.
But for the moment it is standing very close to that same ledge, with differents factions busily burning the bridges that would it allow it to retreat from that precarious position.
If they don’t want to tumble over that cliff, those in YesCymru need to seek proper dialogue on the issues that divide them.
There are no doubt wider political forces that will divide people. But as the experience Cymru Fydd shows, there are always wider, divisive political forces at play at any time.
But they come and go, and the key to the survival of any national movement is to be able to bridge them.
I would make three suggestions for YesCymru, based on the experience of Cymru Fydd:
- On a personal level, people need to start showing each other a level of respect, grace, and – even where they fundamentally disagree – stop thinking the worst of each other.
- Accept that people in leadership positions may not always get it right, and they can be criticised for that. But they are often doing this for free, and because no one else stepped forward to do the same job. There should be a fundamental acceptance that they are, at least, trying their best. Criticism, particularly personal criticism, hurts and good people, like Siôn Jobbins, lost. The Welsh national movement doesn’t have that big a subs bench – YesCymru can’t afford to lose its Siôn Jobbinses.
- The movement’s leaders should make sure that the movement is as transparent as possible and as democratic as possible. This isn’t just because as much participation from members as possible is good in and of itself, but it also rids us of the kind of conspiracising, finger-pointing and shenanigans that collapsed Cymry Fydd.
Everyone in YesCymru should remember that they are there because they all ultimately have the same central goal.
That central idea has been strong enough to make YesCymru the fastest growing political movement in Wales, with more than 18,000 members.
It has grown so quickly because those members come from all different backgrounds, parties, identities, age groups and ideologies, not despite it.
If YesCymru can get through this difficult patch, it can emerge out of the online echo chamber, and get back to marching All Under One Banner again.
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“Everyone in YesCymru should remember that they are there because they all ultimately have the same central goal” …that central goal being independence for Wales!
Is that true?
There seems to be a small but influential element amongst the membership who are using YC as a vehicle for agendas that have nothing to do with independence.
If there are people in YC whose paramount objective isnt welsh independence then those people are in the wrong organisation Glen
I read exactly the same thing.. The central committee was voted in with around 2% of the eligible votes cast apparently. I myself did not vote because I knew nothing about the election. I also read that members of said committee are indeed pushing BLM and Pride agendas. Whilst you may or may not agree with that agenda it was never what YESCYMRU was founded for. Its first and only function was the push for independence and anything else is irrelevant.
Other than Indy another reason for supporting YesCymru was to get away from Identity Politics.If people want to support BLM and Pride they should do it through their own organisations and not try and infiltrate others organisations through the back door.
Yes our personal little moans and groans are totally irrelevant…… we are strong because we are both diverse and united in our main aim. Stay that way!!!!! Division has brought us to the sad state that Wales is in today.
Very thoughtful piece. I am very grateful that there are people willing to put the hard work into organising and working for an organisation that is trying to get the country to travel in the general direction I want.
Those opposing change are only too delighted to sow division and have us focussing on fighting each other.
to be honest, since having my twitter account suspended for swearing at a tommy robinson fanboy and not being on facebook, I haven’t got a clue what YC is up to. I dare say they’ll let me know when my subs are due.
Read Jac o’the North blog.
I have, and I must say the goings-on are right out of the old communist playbook. The answer to this is:
All Yes Cymru members get a vote, whether postal or not.
I have been saying for years/ no decades that radical movements need to provide TRAINING in courteous debate. There are some who are malicious and there are some working for enemy agencies to stir up strife. But there are a great many who simply do not know how to argue with courtesy. It’s not taught in schools.//// …………………………………….. 1) No blame words – words which smear, attack another person. (Even Tories, because it makes you look bad) ……………………………………. 2) Instead speak in first person – I think – I believe – My experience is OR refer to research – preferably… Read more »
Ceredigion Council (and the world) needs you Shan 🙂
Diolch yn fawr
“Perhaps the movement will pull itself back together, as it did in 2018.” This shows a complete misunderstanding of what happened in 2018. The officers at the time had a clear strategy and had dealt with trouble makers. However, others thought they knew better and either didn’t understand the strategy or chose not to. The officers were exhausted and could fight no longer. The new regime let the trouble makers back in, could not see the dangers as the previous officers had seen and that was the start of this present mess. YC did not pull itself together – it… Read more »
In 2018 your son Gweirydd Gwyndaf made the wrong move of adding his gobby interfering mother as Secretary, and your little gang collectively resigned.
‘By YesCymru: Following YesCymru’s recent Annual General Meeting, the four officers of the Central Committee have resigned their posts – Iestyn ap Rhobert (Chair), Rhydian Hughes (Vice-Chair), Moelwen Gwyndaf (Secretary) and Gweirydd ap Gwyndaf (Treasurer).’
Statement – YesCymru
This kind of language will drive many people away from YC. The Yes campaign in Scotland does not tolerate this kind of abuse. And that is why the independence movement in Scotland is way ahead of ours in Wales.
Exactly – see my comments above about what happened in 2018. Not only Iestyn but Rhidian and Gweirydd. Nobody appreciates the work they did and the vision they had and how they’d worked to get rid of the infiltrators who were already there. Those people were allowed back in and so we have the tragic situation today.
This is so fundamental. The independence movement will not succeed unless there is a culture that is committed to focussing on what unites us. It should not be a platform for arid bickering over issues that we have very little power to determine without independence.
‘incompetent and widely despised”…that certainly doesnt sound anything like leanne
This is why we’ll never succeed – cos we’re just a bunch of limp wristed nicey nice idiots who can’t recognise idiots when we see them. Unbelievable that Wood has any credibility left at all. Awful woman.
Dont project your own failures to succeed on to the people of Wales. PS. we most certainly do recognise an idiot when we see one Foster 😉
A moment ago, I posted a link to a discussion on the schism between the two Judean liberation factions in Life of Brian. It was rejected, but I guess that’s because I was too lazy to provide any context (I just posted a bare link). I don’t believe for a moment that Nation.Cymru would really object to me using satire to express my disappointment at political infighting! Anyway, if anyone wants to read a disconcertingly apt satirical take on all of this, I’m sure you’ll be able to find it through google as I did — it was an April… Read more »
Cymru am byth 🏴
I think a lot of the infighting in the Labour party in England could have been created by the right wing / Conservative supporters. Putting arguments out there on social media etc. And whatever caused their infighting, it’s made them so weak against the Cons govt. As we can see there is concern in England of the break up of the UK, it wouldn’t take much from them to build up anger and infighting on social media to weaken the independence cause.
I joined YC because it felt like joining a movement of people who all had one goal, however different those people were. Over the last 2 months it feels like a group of people want to take over the CC and run it their way, if you’re not one of their gang you’re out. Yet they still want us all to follow them and do it their way. This week they have suspended a young lady from the committee due to a comment she made which was a reasonable and caring comment (as are all her words) they’ve done this… Read more »
These Marxists always have the same effect, draining away enthusiasm……and money!!
If Plaid had kept them out, the party would have been very strong today. My heart used to be in my boots, but thankfully people have spread out more, so this virus can’t control them like the old Commie “central committee” -system used to. Social media can be enabled to relocate to, say “Independence Cymru”? Pity they have their mitts on the 300,000+ pounds, though! I hope a Grassroots revolt will prevent this? Good luck.
Sorry to hear you feel you have to leave yc linda. But yes there are other ways people can support welsh indy and if you havent already done so then do think about joining plaid cymru.
Sadly, one of the reasons why YesCymru was so very necessary was that it filled the void that Plaid Cymru had left when it went from being a broad-based, centrist party under Dafydd Wigley to a much narrower party of the Left by the time the Leannistas had seized control. As a direct result of this it had shed about a third of its support (down from 30% to 20% in Senedd elections), and it was clear that a new broad-based movement was needed to reach out to those whom Plaid had alienated. What we’ve actually seen happen is that… Read more »
Josh. Could you please spin that comment out a bit? I don’t know enough about Ifan to understand your crticism. Diolch.
I joined YC in order to work together with people I disagree with on many issues in the cause of independence. I did not simply want to get together with clones of me. Sadly, I have now let my membership lapse.
Douglas Adams (quoting Socrates or possibly Plato) famously wrote “ it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.”
This is why I rarely join movements. They all eventually degrade into authoritarian Kakistocracy.
Pathetic power games and power grabs will disillusion the Yes Cymru membership, cost us independence and ultimately our entire cultural identity.
Unless the egos are ousted and a non-authoritarian constitution instigated, Yes Cymru will be a burden to freedom, not a boon.
Yes Cymru must be appeal to a broadchurch & not take a left wing or right wing stance. There are plenty of centre right voters in Wales who are pro-independence or pro-devolution but are reluctantly voting Conservative because they feel alienated by the pro-devo parties. We need to have them on board especially when the Tories are chipping powers away from the Senedd. Left/right party politics is another matter altogether. The purpose of an independent Wales is that we get a government that the people of Wales vote for, and is aaccountable only to the electorate of Wales. But that… Read more »
Absolutely. And the single purpose of Yes Cymru should be to support and unite support for independence for Cymru. Reading other posts here it seems “the executive” are trying to bundle in issues like LGBT+ and BLM. Now I wholeheartedly support those movements, but it is categorically wrong to bundle them in with Yes Cymru. It is a movement not a party and not everyone who wants independence for Cymru supports those movements too. If “the executive” try and bundle things Yes Cymros must believe in, we will lose at least a third of our support. To try and enforce… Read more »
The people forcing their will upon YC would never set differences aside, as they are International marxists, like Lenin and Trotsky (who coined the various national groupings in Russia after the revolution “Racists”. All that is needed is a vote for all Yes Cymru members.
I joined YesCymru because I want Welsh independence. However, my main experience of the movement has been people forcing their sexuality down my throat. Sexuality has nothing to do with Welsh independence and should be a totally private matter. As an ordinary “pleb” member I am sick to the teeth at the lack of transparency, the allusions by members of the Central Committee (what an incredibly Stalinist name) to “investigations” and “police procedures”. If you do not wish to inform me of what is going on, then do not expect me to continue paying my subscription fees.
If the author wanted to find out what the problems in Yes Cymru are he should have done his research and investigated matters. It does not say much about his skills as a reporter if he cannot find the root cause. If a cleaner, like myself can find out, by , looking at the evidence and informing myself, why could’t he?
The comments reveal considerable disquiet with the way Yes Cymru is being run. The only way to change the situation is to get in touch with your local branch and to work with fellow members. I have been as guilty as many others of paying my subscription and hoping that the movement would be run as I expected. I want Yes Cymru to be broad based movement with its eye steadfastly on winning independence for our country. I will be contacting my local branch in Preseli which thanks to our local chair still exists. As I remember the anarchists cry… Read more »
“We are one, and I am the one”. No thanks, Ifan.