Friday, June 29, 2007


Adam Price is quoting Gramsci in a thoughtful and intelligent article on his blog. Gramsci is great, but I'm always a little worried about quoting him. The left have a habit of believing politics in teleological terms, that things develop and grow in a structured way which can be understood and foreseen. Trouble is, people aren't like that.

'Gramsci the communist' is cool, but then if he's so clever why didn't the Communists ever win power in Italy? Either he got it wrong or the electorate got it wrong i.e. didn't agree with Communism. So, wouldn’t Adam be better off reading and quoting those who did attain power and understand people - Thatcher, Freedman - only joking Adam!

Gramsci is great, quoting Gramsci's even better, but people are human and not theories. But, in true dialectical fashion here's my 'short history of Wales in the last twenty five years as seen through the eyes of a cultural nationalist':

The Welsh nationalist movement redefined Welsh-language cultural and political aspirations, partly through Saunders Lewis mostly through others and created a modern secular language. They gained status for the language - both hard status (Welsh Language Acts, education etc) and soft status (S4C, Welsh pop scene, papurau bro etc). This created a culture (OK, counter culture if you Gramscians wish) which was, is, dynamic, attractive and beyond the control of the Labour Party. It made 'traditional Welsh culture' (Labourist Wales) seem old fashioned and in Welsh, irrelevant. It created a new cultural space and cultural norms that extends to a new political space and political norms.

Welsh language culture was part of the driving force in redefining a new Welsh sensibility which was deeper and outlived C19th/early C20th Welsh Labourism which was rooted in heavy industries and dependant on Anglo-Americanism. Once those industries went, a central tenant of Labourism lost its confidence.

Welsh political culture is also symbiotic, and even invisible, almost illiterate. Welsh-speakers and non-Welsh-speakers are friends, part of the same family, are siblings or husbands and wives. And so, some of the new, modern secular Welsh-language political sensibilities were, are, transmitted orally more than written to non-Welsh speakers (and vice versa). This is one of the reasons why Welsh politics can be difficult to understand and prophesise. This happened throughout the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s.

Welsh Labourism has no modern Welsh culture. It's English, or American or 'World' (hence Glenys Kinnock's 'interest' in Africa, Wales is so boring see). Welsh Labour culture, seems to stop with Max Boyce, it hasn't progressed. It's as if the Welsh language pop scene started and then finished with Dafydd Iwan in 1969. There was the brief, exciting Cwl Cymru period in 1997ish - which could just about have won the Referendum but nothing has really rooted since.

Welsh Laboursim has to be propped up by Britishness because it can't put Welshness in its centre-place - to do so would be to engage thoughtfully and honestly with Welsh identity. Welsh Laboursim can't do that because a central tenant of Welsh identity is that Wales has been through a period of colonisation; a colonisation that Welsh Labourism dismisses ever happened, because Welsh Labourism supported that colonisation processes. To discuss Welsh identity honestly would mean undermining Britishness, and that would mean contemplating never being ruled by London.

Many on the Left in Plaid and in Labour frown upon cultural politics. But nationality is a cultural concept and so all politics is cultural. Welsh politics is cultural politics; economy, health, education are proxy for cultural identities. The Welsh cultural nationalists created a new national sensibility. Because Labourism doesn't believe in Welsh nationality or 'cultural politics' (although everything it did was British cultural politics) it has been overtaken by Welsh nationalism. Labourism is now trying to redefine British nationality, admitting that they go this wrong, but too late. Welsh nationalism have taken a march by some 40 years, and whilst Labour belittled cultural nationalist, cultural nationalists were creating their own cultural and political sensibility... a political sensibility that is now biting Labourism back.

Labourism took their eye off the ball. They believed their own propaganda that people are only interested in 'schools and hospitals' that we're all into 'materialism'. Some left wingers in Plaid believed this lie too. More fool them. We've created a modern Welsh culture that is exciting, international and growing in confidence, Labourism has nothing to offer us.

So, Adam, Gramsci, yes you're right and wrong - 'It's the (counter) Culture Stupid!


Charlie Marks said...

Why didn't Italy go red?

William Blum goes into some detail in his book Killing Hope about the campaign by the US govt in Italy to prevent a Communist victory in the elections after WW2.

Then there's the "strategy of tension" in the 70s and 80s, Operation Gladio, in which the left was smeared as violent by left-wing groups being blamed for terrorist attacks carried out by right wingers and the security services.

All strange. All true.

Charlie Marks said...

P.s.: would you mind if I used the "we support..." picture on my blog?

Nicholas Michael Morgan said...

Not at all "Charlie Marks".

Charlie Marks said...

Thank you kindly. Great blog, by the way.

Respectable Citizen said...

You mention democracy. Gramsci got put in prison by a dictator called Mussolini who said, "We need to stop this brain working for 30 years".

Gramsci died of poor health in prison.