THE NIGHT THE REBECAS RODE OUT: LESSONS FROM WELSH RURAL RADICALS

rebeca riots nat archive 1
by Jonathan Lee

On the edge of my hometown stands a boulder about shoulder high, hewn from the mountainside, with the word “Rebeca” inscribed on its surface. It commemorates the night of the 6th September 1843, when over a hundred working-class men on horseback rode out, in full drag, and destroyed the most grievous symbol of class oppression in rural Wales – the toll gate.

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WANT TO KNOW THE SOUL OF WALES? LISTEN TO HER MUSIC

by Jonathan Lee

The oldest known song in the British Isles dates back 1,400 years and it’s written in Welsh.

Pais Dinogad was sung in Rheged, a kingdom of Yr Hen Ogledd (the old North), in what is now modern day Cumbria and the Scottish Lowlands. The song is a simple lullaby, telling a baby of his father, Lord Dinogad, who is out hunting in a time long before Anglo-Saxons or even Gaels had arrived in this part of Britain.

It probably wouldn’t be described as an absolute banger if we’re completely honest (although this lyre-wielding, tattooed, metal-head gives it a real good go). It’s nonetheless incredible that it’s still being sung at all today, and that its lyrics are broadly comprehensible to modern Welsh speakers.Continue Reading

THE GREEN PARTY CAN BECOME THE PARTY OF THE RADICAL LEFT IN WALES

By Chris Jarvis

Earlier this week, the race to crown the next leader of the Wales Green Party kicked off. Mirka Virtanen, Deputy Leader since 2017 was the first to declare her candidacy. Two other candidates were announced in an email to party members but, at the time of writing, neither have announced their candidacy publicly.

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DECOLONISE WALES: II

by Jonathan Lee

Decolonise Wales: Part 1 can be found here.

The Welsh National anthem was the first anthem to ever be sung at a sporting event. In 1905, when Wales played the New Zealand rugby team for the first time. Declining to sing the official “God Bless the Prince of Wales”, the crowd gave a spontaneous rendition of “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” in response to the All Blacks’ Haka. The song became a staple of Welsh sporting events from then on. Although until 1975 organisers refused to let the anthem be sung unless accompanied by “God Save the Queen”.Continue Reading

DECOLONISE WALES: I

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by Jonathan Lee 

Content warning: this article mentions racism, discrimination, oppression, and racial / cultural slurs. 

If the Welsh are striking over hunger, we must fill their bellies with lead” are the famous words Winston Churchill never spoke, about sending in the Lancashire Fusiliers to put a swift end to the 1910 Tonypandy miners’ strike.

Though he never advocated firing on the miners, he did send the soldiers to the picket line, and was definitely still an imperialist, eugenically-minded war criminal. The only reason the quote is mistakenly attributed to him so commonly is because it is so utterly believable. It typifies the contemptuous colonial attitudes held by the man himself, and the English parliament, for the Welsh and the working class.

Wales was England’s first colony – the template for later British imperialism. Many of its basic strategies were forged here in England’s closest and very first colonial asset, before being exported all over the world.Continue Reading

VOTES AT 16: IT’S TIME FOR TORIES TO CHANGE THEIR MINDS

by James Anthony

In January 2018, it was announced that sixteen and seventeen year-olds in Wales will be given the right to vote in their local elections, under proposals set out by the Welsh Labour government. Along with Scotland, where votes at sixteen is already reality, Welsh policy will now be at odds with England and Northern Ireland where the voting age for any sort of election is eighteen. The idea that someone who is exactly the same age and has just as many years in education as another can be denied the right to vote based on location is extremely unfair. Perhaps it’s time the Conservative government reconsider their position on the voting age.

If the national government are seemingly ok with this being a regional disparity, why not allow it to take place in areas where there is clearly a desire for it? Just under two years ago, Norwich City Council voted unanimously for a proposal which asked for Norwich to be used as a possible ‘pilot area’ for allowing 16 and 17 year-olds to participate in local government elections. Disappointingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, I couldn’t find any official response to this request from the government although if it exists, I suspect it would be in essence – ‘piss off’. Continue Reading

IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN? – STUDENTS AND THE ELECTION #6

from a member of UEA Labour Students

In the midst of multiple crises faced by students, universities and schools, the outcome of the snap general election will be a major indicator of the future of the UK education sector. Each week until the vote we are featuring perspectives from our regular contributors and guests on what the election could mean for students.

Having resolved to sit down today and write this article, I’m struck by the appropriateness of my day. I caught the bus to UEA from outside one of the few remaining Sure Start centres, a public service provided by the last Labour government which has been decimated by the Conservatives (and Liberal Democrats) since 2010. My bus was 40 minutes late, the consequence of a privatised, under-funded service – and even the previously UEA-hosted launderette I went to had been privatised since I last used it. It served as a strong reminder of the power of Labour government to change lives for the better, which contrasts with the crumbling services and privatisation festival that has characterised the last 7 years of Conservative and ConDem government.

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WE STAND ON A PRECIPICE – THE SNAP GENERAL ELECTION

world votes radical

by Chris Jarvis

With Theresa May having all but called an early General Election, on June 8th, the UK will go to the polls for yet another vote that will have long-reaching consequences for the future of the nation, the third in as many years. For the people of Scotland and Wales it will be the fourth – and those living in Northern Ireland will face their fifth. Right now, our political leaders can’t seem to get enough of sending people trudging out to schools, churches and community centres to scribble little pencil crosses in printed boxes.Continue Reading

CHRISTIANITY, QUEERNESS & ME

by Tara Gulwell

I was nine years old when I first learnt what lesbian meant. It was a word thrown at me as a measurement of depravity to which I should never want to sink. Little sweetheart notes I was trying to send to another girl were found and I was not-so-kindly made aware that that wasn’t natural. Up until that point, I had assumed, like every child does, that my way of experiencing the world was like everyone else’s. Lesbian, that dirty word tossed about on my playground, brought me out of the naivety that blinded me from realising I was different from my peers, and overshadowed my childhood at my Anglican, Church of Wales, primary school.

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SAVING LIVES: NEW ORGAN DONOR LEGISLATION IN FRANCE

By Eve Lacroix

As of the 1st of January 2017, every French citizen is automatically on the organ and skin graft donor list, following a government vote to change donor legislation in August. The EU estimates 86,000 people are waiting for suitable organ donations, and that 16 of these people die each day. When celebrating the European Day for Organ Donation on September 9th, the Council of Europe highlighted the issue of a lack of organ donors. One person agreeing to become an organ donor can save up to seven lives. As it is easier to automatically sign people up as organ donors rather than running low-response information and appeal campaigns, this fantastic initiative expects to save a record number of lives in France. Under the new legislation, if a French citizen does not wish to become a donor for personal or religious reasons, they can opt out through a simple online application.

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HOW THE LEFT CREATED DONALD TRUMP

by Matilda Carter

There’s something darkly comical about Michael Sheen’s intention to abandon acting in favour of defeating the far right. An esteemed actor, deeply immersed in the world of theatre and art, jetting off to Port Talbot to tell working class Welsh people, caught up in a wave of revolt against the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’, what to do. It couldn’t be any more counter-productive if the embodiment of this elitism, Tony Blair himself, had made the journey — although I suppose someone who has played him is good enough.Continue Reading

WHY THE LEFT SHOULD CARE ABOUT CELTIC INDEPENDENCE

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by Tara Debra G

Flags don’t build houses”, said Jeremy Corbyn last year, criticizing Scottish nationalism and the SNP. Well, no, they don’t, but neither does an unelectable party, so swings and roundabouts really. But he does have a point: nationalism as a political framework doesn’t inherently support leftist values, or the working class, or is particularly anti-capitalist.

In fact, the strongest argument I hear against Celtic nationalism from the English left is that it doesn’t solve the foundational economic equality at the heart of class oppression in the UK. I’m a Welsh nationalist and I agree. But the left shouldn’t care about Celtic independence because it’s intrinsically anti-capitalist, because it’s not that – the left should care because leftist ideals should encapsulate anti-imperialism.

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THE DEFINITION OF DEMOCRACY FLUCTUATES AS WILDLY AS THE POUND

illustration adna fruitos democracy

by Natasha Senior

It was apparently a victory for Remainers when the High Court ruled that invoking Article 50 will require a full parliamentary process. The judges issuing the verdict were branded as tyrants by the tabloids — as if they were doing anything other than interpreting law. David Lammy — the MP for Tottenham, where 75% of the constituency came out in favour of the EU — declared he would block Brexit. He is the political Schrödinger’s cat, he behaves both democratically and undemocratically at the same time: vowing to uphold the wishes of his constituents against the wishes of the country. A majority of politicians don’t have the luxury of having voted the way their constituents did. Perhaps they would argue it differently, that they were democratically elected to represent their constituents, not vote with their constituents. It seems like a tenuous technicality but one that appears to stand up to scrutiny.

I guess it depends on what democracy really means. I’ve said the word so many times, I don’t even know anymore.Continue Reading

PAINTING PICTURES OF THE FUTURE – ADRIAN RAMSAY ON ZERO CARBON BRITAIN

by Olivia Hanks

The green movement is a tough place to be right now. With the Conservative government announcing another environmentally disastrous policy just about every week, from Hinkley to Heathrow via fracking in Lancashire, cuts to renewables and planning deregulation, activists could be forgiven for feeling a bit despondent. But Adrian Ramsay, CEO of the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), is philosophical when I ask if morale has been hit by this wave of irresponsible policy-making.

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SOCIALISM IN THE SENEDD? – THE WALES THAT COULD HAVE BEEN

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by Tara Debra G

Like many other young, lefty Welsh voters in the recent assembly elections I became completely fed up with Welsh Labour and Carwyn Jones. With rising austerity in Wales, I longed for a much more aggressively socialist program for my nation. In that desire was born my support for Plaid Cymru. I became smitten with their commitment to socialism and environmentalism. I also support Welsh independence as a long-term goal, and of course who can deny Leanne Wood’s enthusiasm and charisma? On the flip-side of Wood’s charm was Jones’ arrogance in thinking he was undefeatable and his implicit support of UK state hegemony.Continue Reading

RECLAIM THE POWER: WHY I JOINED HUNDREDS TO SHUT DOWN THE UK’S LARGEST OPENCAST COAL MINE

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by Benjamin Brown

On Tuesday  May 3rd, there was an aberration from my normal routine. Rather than dragging myself reluctantly out of bed, I was up at dawn, tense and excited. Rather than preparing for a day of work, I was zipping myself up in a bright red jumpsuit and scrawling a contact number for legal support onto my arm with permanent marker. Today was the day I would join with over three hundred other protesters and take part in an act of mass civil disobedience against Ffos-y-Fran, the UK’s largest opencast coal mine.

Our convergence on this site, near the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil, was at the invitation of local campaigners from the United Valleys Action Group. We came to stand in solidarity with their fight against the mine whilst amplifying our call for green jobs and a future free from fossil fuels. An end to coal, and an end to the political intransigence that has delayed action on climate change for far too long.Continue Reading

THE WEEK THE BAY WENT A LITTLE BIT BORGEN

by Alexander Phillips

After seventeen years of ground-breaking government/managed decline [delete as your political persuasion demands] the National Assembly for Wales entered its fifth phase this week. Last week’s election was one which saw the governing Welsh Labour party lose just one seat; Plaid Cymru make minor inroads (+1) ; the Welsh Conservatives fall back (-3) ; and the Welsh Liberal Democrats reduced to a single member (-4). It also saw the new force of UKIP join the establishment with a total of seven seats.

All this left the Assembly finely balanced, with Welsh Labour precariously holding 29 of the 60 available seats. This means that in order to form a government, agree budgets and pass legislation, a minority Labour government will need the support of two or more opposition members on every occasion until May 2021, unless a coalition is formed.

UKIP came to the Assembly with the promise of shaking things up.Continue Reading

IT’S GRIM UP NORTH: HOW THE NORTH OF BRITAIN HAS BEEN LEFT BEHIND

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by Pierce Robinson

The North – South divide in the British Isles is still one of the most controversial topics in contemporary UK politics and society. The economic and political differences between the two ends of the country have been a common characteristic of these islands for decades. If you live anywhere north of Birmingham, the signs that you have entered a different part of the country are clear, even just the fact that you would choose gravy chips over a kebab – but most importantly, the level of poverty increases dramatically. The United Kingdom has the highest level of inequality in Western Europe, yet with a capital city that continues to flourish every day, why are we not seeing the similar signs of fortune increase in the North?Continue Reading

THE BLIND SPOTS OF THE GERMAN ENERGY TRANSITION — 2ND ROUND FOR ENDE GELÄNDE

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by Dorothee Häussermann

Last August, more than 1000 people rushed into one of Germany’s biggest open-cast lignite mines and stopped mining operations for a day. This action of civil disobedience went under the slogan ‘Ende Gelände — stop the diggers — protect the climate’; ‘Ende Gelände’ translates as ‘here and no further’. The campaign called for an immediate coal phase-out, emphasizing the urgency for DIY solutions to the climate crisis in the face of governmental inaction.

What is the problem? Isn’t Germany the paragon of energy transition? Aren’t ecologists and economists alike inspired by progressive policies such as the feed-in tariff that supported the rapid expansion of renewable energy sources? Even Naomi Klein’s film This Changes Everything depicts the German ‘Energiewende’ as a way to go forward. So what are these activists complaining about?Continue Reading

HE AND I GO, IN AN AYGO

In November 2015, we ran an article entitled ‘Meet the Women Reviving Nature Writing‘, which explored and ran with the idea that women are slowly becoming the writers championing the idea of nature as the site of solace, interrupting the male-dominated narrative of conquering and dissecting.

When we step outside and look up, we’re not little cogs in the capitalist machine. It’s the simplest act of resistance and renewal” – Kathleen Jamie.

Here’s an original piece from someone who stepped outside and looked up.

by Leigh Louise Horan

Recently I enjoyed my first extended foray into North Wales. I had been to Wales many times prior to being with my boyfriend, Dewi, who hails from Bangor, but the extent of my journeys across the border had included daytrips or school outings. I had experienced my fair share of tramping across the beach at Llandudno when I was younger, or complaining my way up the back of Snowdon. I had spent many a time hiking various routes around and across Moel Famau, and explored both Chirk and Powis castle. However, my lack of car and driving ability meant I had never been able to dictate my own experience of North Wales, and get to explore in the way I’d like.

Fortunately my boyfriend was prepared. Fully equipped with his driving license and a little rental Toyota Aygo, we excitedly set off with plans of seeing everything and somewhat ambitious ideas of swimming in the sea. It soon became clear though that an Aygo in the Welsh mountains, in poor winter weather, was not the most suitable vehicle.Continue Reading