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Welsh nationalism, Plaid Cymru and more about Wales.
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The desire by a group of people who share the same race, culture, language etc. to form an independent country is called nationalism.
George Orwell says and I quote “Nationalism is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”(Ref. Notes on nationalism. May, 1945)
In the above written quotation George Orwell’s point of view is quite clear, he wants to say that nationalism is not always negative. It can be positive and can be build on the bases of admiration for one’s own nation or country. This admiration can be seen through great love and respect for the nation, its culture and language etc. one belongs to.
The history of Wales is primarily a story of struggle. It is a tribute to the people of Wales' determination to survive against several dominants e.g. Roman times, Saxon times, the revolts Llwelyn the great and Owain Glynder - A struggle reflected in its castle-dominated landscape and its surviving Celtic language; Created in a time when the flood of Germanic pagan invaders from the continent threatened to destroy Christian Celtic civilization in Britain, its history continued through the acts that caused harm by the Vikings, the invasions of the Normans, the oppression of the powerful Marcher Lords, and the ever-constant, ever threatening power of the English people and the English language.
Wales was drawn into political union with England in the 1500s. Within a 150 years the English domination of Wales was formalised. English laws and administrative systems phased out all the Welsh things. The Welsh language also faced serious inroads from English. Welsh nationalism was affected by these changes.
Wales is precisely something different, I quote, “ Something hard to understand, something strange. Wales is so different that it announces itself, and does not need to a sign to announce it.” (Ref. Cysgod y Cryman  by Islwyn Ffowc Elis)
This quotation shows that it is difficult to understand Welsh people, their ways of thinking and the culture they are living in. But still it is something that makes a certain position and makes others to accept it the way it is.
Welsh nationalism has developed significantly over the last two centuries. However, the cultural and religious traits left by the Celtic kingdoms has had a lasting effect and created a regional distinctiveness. Up until the late 19th century, most of the Welsh population spoke Celtic language. This was however eroded through the education of the English language.
The promotion of the Welsh language began around 1885 with the establishment of first Welsh Language Society. As the Twentieth century progressed, schools began to teach in Welsh, especially in the Northwest of the country. By the turn of the Twentieth century, a special Welsh language TV station had been set up and Welsh had been firmly integrated into the school curriculum upto the GCSE level.
Life for ordinary Welsh people following unification remained hard until the start of industrialisation in the 18th century. The Welsh nationalist movements came into being during the late nineteenth century renaissance. Cumru Fredd (Young Wales) was set up in 1886, the main objective being self government for wales. This wasn’t a particularly successful movement. Its successor was the National Party to become known as Plaid Cymru.
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- To promote the constitutional advancement of Wales with a view to attaining Full National Status for Wales within the European Union.
- To ensure economic prosperity, social justice and the health of the natural environment, based on decentralist socialism.
- To build a national community based on equal citizenship, respect for different traditions and cultures and the equal worth of all individuals, whatever their race, nationality, gender, colour, creed. Sexuality, age, ability or social background.
- To promote Wales’s contribution to the global community and to attain membership of the United Nations.
- To create a bilingual society by promoting the revival of the Welsh language.
Plaid Cymru’s History
Welsh nationalism had been kept alive up to the present by Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party which was founded on the 5th of August 1925 by Saunders Lewis.
One can clearly understand that Plaid Cymru is a nationalist party, promoting language in the first place by reading the party’s name. It’s a combination of Two Welsh words that mean The party of Welsh people.
Some elements in Plaid Cymru looked to Mussolini and were denounced as new-fascists. An influential member, the poet Saunders Lewis, President from 1926 until 1939 was a neo-fascist. He was imprisoned in 1937 for an arson attack on an RAF base in Caernarvonshire. He along with two other members of the party took part in the celebrated burning of the Penyberth bombing school. This symbolic gesture sought to highlight the evils of militarism and to draw attention to the threat posed by military developments to the cultural and Linguistic integrity. That is why three of them were imprisoned for nine months.
The trail proved watershed for many reasons. In response to the condescending attitude of the judge and the court, a petition with over 350,000 signatures protested strongly against such arrogant ignorance of the culture and language of Wales.
After that incident there were many people who committed to articulate, seeking to give Wales the voice it deserved. Under the guidance of the party’s General Secretary, J.E Jones, Plaid Cymru involved into a professional political party.
Indeed Welsh nationalism led Plaid Cymru, or at least its leaders, to oppose Britain’s role in the Second World War (1939-45), which was seen as a clash of rival imperialism.
Wales remained a Labour stronghold until the 1960s, but only by varying its appeal region by region. The nature of Plaid Cymru’s appeal was illustrated by the adoption speech made by Gwynfor Evans in Launching his parliamentary campaign in Merioneth in 1959. I quote, “ There is a great awakening in Meironeth and throughout Wales- the sound of chains and fetters breaking. Wales is experiencing an awareness of its nationhood, becoming proud of its ancestry, and gaining mental and spiritual freedom which will inevitably lead to national freedom… If we make a breach in this wall, we shall soon see the people following.” (Ref. The History of Wales. Page # 207)
Evans in the above written quotation is trying to convince the listeners to give votes to him and his party most probably. He has used different metaphors to give a living picture to his thinking. He has used the word “wall” to describe kind of a hurdle in the freedom of Welsh people. What he wants to say is that if the Welsh population will support PC then they can make a way through the hard times together and get into a world full of expectations and success, where their role as Welsh people will be prominent. They can help PC to build a nation where they can decide their fate and lives on their own.
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