Wednesday, February 20, 2019

ITMA

It's that man again!

It's That Man Again - for a classic post imperial establishment defence of imperial atrocity look no further than that man - Jacob Rees-Mogg - who justified the Brit State's use of concentration camps to detain the civil population (White and Black) - 'for their own protection' on BBC Question Time last week. The selective interpretation of history did not surprise me - that his statement actually produced some applause from the audience did. 

The war for control of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal (Dutch Republics) was more than anything about extending commercial and City interests and political control of the Rand. In many ways it was the first modern war - with the media playing a key role whipping up public hysteria and enthusiasm for the war. Lloyd George nearly got lynched at a public meeting that was stormed by a mob of jingo's ( think perhaps alt right / ubber Brexiters) in Birmingham.

At the time the principled justification for the war was that the vote was being denied to foreign nationals (including Brits) in the Transvaal. Ironically the franchise in the Boer republic's was probably larger and more inclusive than it was in the UK at the time (at least in terms of male suffrage. Lloyd George  thought the war as about ’45% dividends rather than the franchise.' The war followed the failed Jameson raid - a private commercially sponsored attempt at a coup - the Brits promised to punish the unsuccessful invaders for their illegal activities but subsequently did nothing. 

Jacob Rees-Mogg's suggestion the the use of concentration camps wax to protect the civil population turns reality on its head - they were actually used to remove the civic support from the guerrilla fighters in rural areas - collective punishment (something that was also used in Iraq, Afghanistan, North West frontier and Palestine in the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's)  was also used with 'scorched earth tactics' - the destruction of farms and the means of sustenance as 19th century war literally and figuratively changed  into 20th century war. 

The Brits may not be able to claim the credit for inventing concentration camps - the Dutch in Indonesia, the Spanish / Americans in the Philippines, and the Imperial Germans in South West Africa (Namibia) probably did that first to grim effect. What the Brits added was incompetence, inefficiency and poor organisation. Thousands and White and Black inhabits of the Boer republics died in the camps.

Emily Hobhouse
Perhaps Jacob Rees-Mogg would do well to find out about  Emily Hobhouse and also find a copy of the Fawcett Commission report confirmed almost everything that Emily had courageously reported. After the war the report concluded that 27,927 Boers had died of starvation, disease and exposure in the concentration camps. In all, about one in four of the Boer inmates, mostly children, died. No complete figure was ever recorded for the Black south Africans who died in their camps.

The post BREXIT fantasy is that some form of Brit Empire 2.0 will come to the rescue - economically at least. As a South African friend of mine said ‘Perhaps it would have been nice if they had been asked?. Perhaps what we have seen is part of the on-going campaign (by Jacob Rees-Mogg amongst others) to rehabilitate the Brit Empire and to lay the ground for Brit Empire 2.0 - the problem is that this is part of the politics of fantasy island aside from a display of a poor and questionably selective understanding of history - something that may go some way to explaining the Tory elites failure to understand Ireland (and her relationship with Europe and the Brits).

The option to develop lasting and meaningful trade links with the Commonwealth was  in the late 1960's and early 1970's before entering the then EEC. In 1973 the Brits however rapidly and effectively abandoned any economic links with the Commonwealth - dropping Australia and New Zealand to name but two right in it. They have not forgotten this having to painfully restructure their economies and trading links by dire necessity. Quite simply Brit Empire 2.0 riding to the rescue post Brexit is a pure fantasy. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

SHOW TRIAL IN SPAIN


British Government must stand up to Spain’s human rights abuses in Catalonia
Spanish Supreme Court ‘show trials’ of Catalan leaders begin

The Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia, Hywel Williams MP, has said the Westminster Government is implicitly supporting the Spanish state’s human rights abuses of Catalan political prisoners.

The Plaid Cymru MP made the comments on the day the Spanish Supreme Court trial of 12 Catalan leaders begins. The Catalan former civic leaders and politicians face charges of rebellion and sedition for their role in organising the referendum on Catalan independence in October 2017. They could face up to 25 years in prison.

Hywel Williams MP was part of a cross-party delegation of MPs that acted as observers during the referendum. Mr Williams witnessed paramilitary police raiding a school-turned-polling station and seizing ballot papers, whilst other observers and journalists saw violence being used against those attempting to cast their vote.

The British Government has consistently backed the Spanish Government, despite their use of police violence, claiming that “the situation in Catalonia is a matter for Spain to resolve, in accordance with Spanish law and democratic principles.”

The referendum, which took place on the 1 October 2017, offered the choice of independence for the Catalan part of north-eastern Spain, which includes Barcelona. The referendum was approved by the Catalan Parliament – which is autonomous and established in the Spanish constitution – but was deemed illegal by the Constitutional Court of Spain following a referral by the Spanish Government.

Catalan voters were asked "do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?". The "Yes" side won, with 2,044,038 (92.01%) voting for independence and 177,547 (7.99%) voting against, on a turnout of 43.03%. The Catalan Government estimated that up to 770,000 votes were not cast due to polling stations being closed off during the police crackdown.

In the run-up to and following the referendum, Spanish state police arrested a number of politicians, officials and civil society leaders for their part in organising the ballot. Other politicians, including the former leader of the Catalan Government, Carles Puigdemont, now live in exile. 

Twelve of those arrested will today go on trial, including the former Catalan Foreign Minister and Speaker of the Catalan Parliament.

Commenting ahead of the beginning of the trial, Hywel Williams MP, said:

“Today 12 Catalan leaders go on trial in Spain’s Supreme Court, facing the medieval-sounding charges of rebellion and sedition. Their supposed crime – organising a democratic referendum on Catalan independence in October 2017.

“Outrageously, the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carmen Forcadell, is behind bars charged with the crime of allowing a debate to take place – in a democratically elected parliament.

“It is impossible for us not to see this referendum through the lens of the UK’s current political context. But, for a moment, imagine being one of the 12 political prisoners. Today, they will head into a dock, face a hostile set of judges, knowing that they will likely grow old behind bars for simply following the wishes of those who elected them.

“These jailed men and women are not hooligans or rabble rousers. These resolutely peaceful people are political prisoners, held against their human rights, for believing in democratic self-determination.
“Political differences cannot be resolved by these show-trials. That can only further poison relations between Spain and Catalonia. Dialogue is required and that is what the British Government should be urging its Spanish counter-parts to begin. Instead through their support for the Spanish state, the British Government are complicit in the prosecution of the 12 political prisoners.

“I accept that the British Government has already burned many of its diplomatic bridges with our European neighbours. But I urge them to use whatever influence they have left to encourage a democratic and peaceful solution to this crisis in Catalonia.”

ENDS

Saturday, February 2, 2019

TAKING BACK CONTROL

An expensive crumbling gothic monstrosity...

When it comes to 'Taking Back Control' the key question that should have been and still should be asked (and answered) is with whom will the 'taken back control' now reside. From the perspective of Cymru / Wales the answer may be certainly not with us. Previously an over centralised unionist British State did not deliver for Cymru / Wales before - so why is it gong to better this time around!  

A re-badged re-centralised ubber unionist Brit State 2.0 is even more unlikely to deliver in any meaningful way for us in the future. Led by Teresa May (once described by a fellow conservative as Enoch Powell in a dress) it should be pretty clear that Cymru / Wales as far as Westminster is concerned no longer counts - economically or politically - particularly if it's left to the likes of May, Gove, Corbin, Johnston and their ilk. 

As we approach however ponderously some sort of post BREXIT political and constitutional era, we need to urgently clarify the constitutional position of our parliament in Cardiff. Devolution is here to stay, the process remains incomplete and our journey continues - the people of Cymru / Wales not Westminster politicians will decide on the length of the journey and our destination. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, you cannot be half devolved - you are either fully devolved or you are not devolved at all - there can be no halfway house. 

The latest on-going cluster ruck over delivering BREXIT had exposed the fundamental difference that lies behind, beneath or within the mind set of the politics, that emanates from and revolves around the House of Jaw (Westminster). Our National Assembly should have similar powers to those of Scotland - so it can reboot our economy and our communities, deliver social justice and rebuild our transport network after the damage done by Westminster.  

The key point here is that at a fundamental level, Plaid Cymru has long believed that sovereignty lies here in Cymru / Wales with the people of Wales. It does not lie with or within that over expensive crumbling gothic monstrosity on the Thames - the Westminster parliament or its inhabitants. This simple all encompassing principle needs to be clearly stated and articulated as often as necessary.  

Post BREXIT before the Westminster based centralisers get to work wrecking and undermining our developing democracy (and the other devolved administrations) we seriously need to consider a declaration of sovereignty for laws passed in Cymru / Wales by the National Assembly. This simply is a declaration that will give laws passed in Cymru / Wales ( ‘our own laws’ ) precedence over those that emanate from Westminster. 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

DON’T BE A BYSTANDER…


The 27th January (today) is Holocaust Memorial Day, which each year commemorates the day (in 1945) when the Red Army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. Now, perhaps more than ever, we should take time to remember the millions of people who have been murdered or whose lives have been changed beyond recognition during the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and in other subsequent horrors which have followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, BosniaDarfur and Syria.

We should also forever remember the earlier genocides that inflicted on the Armenians and the Ukrainians. It is only right and proper that we honour the survivors and continue to challenge ourselves to use the lessons of their experience to inform our lives today.

By the end of the Holocaust, six million Jewish men, women and children had perished in ghettos, mass-shootings, in concentration camps and extermination camps. As Allied troops made progress across Nazi-occupied Europe, they began to uncover concentration and extermination camps. The camp of Majdanek in Poland was the first to be liberated, in summer 1944.

Faced with defeat and advancing Allied armies Nazi forces burnt the crematoria and the mass graves in attempts to hide the crimes that they had committed. The  Operation Reinhardt camps of Sobibor, Belzec, and Treblinka were dismantled by the Nazis from 1943, and Auschwitz itself was evacuated in late 1944. The surviving prisoners, weak from starvation and ill-treatment, and poorly clothed against elements were forced to walk into the interior of Germany, away from the Allied armies, many thousands died on the enforced ‘death marches’. 

When Soviet soldiers liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau on 27th January 1945,  they found several thousand emaciated survivors, and the smouldering remains of the gas chambers and crematoria. In the following months, the Soviets liberated Stutthof, Sachsenhausen and Ravensbruck.

In the west, US troops liberated Buchenwald in April 1945, followed by Flossenburg, Dachau and Mauthausen. British Troops liberated Bergen-Belsen on 15th April 1945. It is estimated there were over 60,000 prisoners in Belsen by April 1945. Approximately 35,000 prisoners died of typhus, malnutrition and starvation in the first few months of 1945.

Jewish leaders, were once asked by Tony Blair (the then UK prime minister) do we need Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain? Jonathan Sacks (former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth for 22 years, until 2013) noted that this was the question from Tony Blair in 1999, when it was proposed that the UK have a Holocaust Memorial Day, and Blair wanted the opinion of British Jewish leaders. They explained that they did not need a specific day to remember as Jews.

When it comes to remembrance Jewish people already had Yom ha-Shoa, their own memorial day, which falls soon after Passover in the Jewish calendar. Every Jew literally (or figuratively) lost family in the Holocaust. For Jews, Yom ha-Shoa is a grief observed. 

Jewish leaders said that the Holocaust was not just a crime against Jews and other victims – Roma, Sinti, homosexuals, the handicapped, Jehovah’s Witnesses and political opponents of the Nazi’s among them; it was an assault on all of humanity.  As has been said by a survivor previously perhaps we really need additional eleventh commandment along the lines of – Don’t be bystander! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

AN UNEQUAL UNION


Research shows worst inequality in Europe is between London and Wales 

Leaving the EU will devastate regional development, Jill Evans MEP

The worst regional inequality in Europe is between London and Wales, new research has found.

The research from the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) also found that the UK would be entitled to €13 billion (in excess of £11 billion) of regional development funding for the 2021-2027 cycle. This funding is given to poorer regions in an attempt to boost their economic performance and development. The current funding cycle runs from 2014-2020, during which time Wales is expected to have received £2.06 billion in support from the EU. Based on the CPMR’s research Wales would miss out on around £2.5 billion over the next cycle which runs from 2021-2027.

Plaid Cymru’s MEP, Jill Evans, has said that the research shows that “Brexit and increased inequality are inextricably linked”.

The shocking new figures show that the richest region in the UK, Inner London, has a GDP of 614% of the EU average, compared to the UK’s poorest region, West Wales and the Valleys, with a GDP of 68% of the EU average. This means there is a 546% difference in comparative average GDP between the two regions.

The research shows levels of regional disparities in the UK are worsening, with Wales at the bottom of the table. East Wales, which was considered a 'more developed region', would now be downgraded to a 'transition region'.

Plaid Cymru MEP, Jill Evans said:

"These figures should be a source of shame for the Westminster Government.

“Brexit and increased inequality are inextricably linked. The facts are irrefutable.   

“These figures confirm that like the past decade of austerity, it will not be those that created this chaos that will shoulder its burden, but the communities least equipped to cope.  

“If we want to end this shocking inequality, leaving the EU is the last thing Wales should do. Losing crucial European funding would be devastating for Wales and I have no confidence that Westminster will give us any such support.

"Inequality in the UK is the highest of any member state in the EU. London is overheating, whilst Wales’s economy is weakening.

"Day after day, the terrible effects of Brexit on Wales become ever clearer and the lies of the Brexiteers more exposed. A People's Vote, with the option of remaining in the EU is now necessary for the sake of our democracy, society and economy.”

Questioning the Welsh Government minister for rural affairs during a session in the chamber today Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for the Economy Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said:

Wales faces losing out on huge sums of money from regional EU funding. The research estimates that if the UK were to stay in the EU it would receive £11.3 bn of regional funding between 2021-27 – a 22% increase compared to 2014-20. Does the minister agree that this strengthens the argument in favour of holding a People’s Vote to plead the case of our rural industries?”

ENDS

Notes

The full research can be found here 


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A SHAPELESS TRANSFER OF POWER


A shapeless transfer of power from nominated successor to nominated successor within the folds of Cymru / Wales's equivalent of the old unreconstructed barely awake local branch of CPSU (Labour in Wales) is unlikely to encourage any optimism on the part of observers of our fledgling democracy post BREXIT. A former Plaid candidate once to me that to perform the same action time and time again is one thing, but, to do it and to expect a different result is simply foolish.  

To expect Labour in Wales to shake of its self indulgent lethargy (especially having spent years redefining inertia) is similarly foolish. Simply waiting for a Labour government with a majority in Westminster to deliver for Wales (let alone stand up for Cymru / Wales) is just not going to happen. Labour in Westminster (the vast majority of Labour in Wales MP's included) are simply not interested in our national interests and concerns. 

As has been noted elsewhere Kier Hardie and others may (once) have believed in home rule (for Wales and Scotland) as a means of avoiding the bureaucratic centralism that characterised much of the European socialist parties of that time. That, however, that's not what we have ended up with, once Labour fell in lust with the trappings and trimmings of power at Westminster  (in 1824) the dead hand of centralism (and party interest) settled in as the party ethos running through the Labour Party at all levels in our nation and across the various component parts of the UK state.

Labour with a vast majority in 1945 offered, five modest promises: 

  • A Secretary of State 
  • A separate Welsh broadcasting corporation 
  • An end to the forced transfer of labour to England
  • A north - South Welsh trunk road
  • A central body to plan and develop the Welsh economy 

None of them were delivered between 1945 and 1951 even when Labour in Westminster had a vast majority of seats. We have been here more than once - Labour in Wales promises to deliver much for Cymru / Wales in Westminster - with a massive majorities (in 1997 and 2001) they did not deliver for Cymru / Wales. Post BREXIT (if we ever get that far) if the Labour Party in Westminster wins a majority, our national interests will be the least of their concerns. 

Labour in Wales's unnecessary hasty and craven sycophantic repeal of the Continuity Bill (carefully drafted and presented by the late and greatly missed Steffan Lewis) which would have provided a degree of protection in the face of what almost certainly appears to be a post BREXIT attempt to re-centralise power at Westminster should not have been a surprise. This action (not repeated in Scotland) should open people's eyes to the reality of the current Labour administration's (and leaders) bland ambitions or lack of them and is a clear indicator that Labour in Wales remains deeply Brit centralist in nature.

I have little doubt that the re-centralising of Britain will be attempted via combination of undermining / ignoring the existing devolved institutions and seeking to repatriate as many (read all in the case of Cymru / Wales if they can get away with it) of those functions that had drifted to an EU over the previous 50 years.

Now thanks to the newly installed Labour in Wales First Minister we now have no Continuity Bill to even begin to provide a measure of protection from a House of Jaw that appears to be increasingly focused Post BREXIT on re-centralising a Post BREXIT Britain focused on Westminster (and the South Easts needs and interests) at our (Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and relatively distant (at least from Westminster) Northern and South Western England). 

Post BREXIT here in Wales we must find a way to create an open future rather than seek to live in closed nostalgia dominated imitation of the past cynically recast as our future by Labour and Conservative. Those unionist politicians in Wales are too timid, too ambitious to get their noses into the Westminster trough, genuinely limited in outlook or simply utterly bereft of any vision to try to do anything else but repeat the mistakes of our past.  We will never fix our society and re-boot our economy by simply reverting to being Poor humble and obedient West Britons. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

MAKE LIKE LUXEMBOURG!


When it comes to integrated public transport we would do well to make like Luxembourg which is about to become the first country in the world to make all its public transport free. The re-elected coalition government led by Xavier Bettel, who was sworn in for a second term as prime minister, will see fares on trains, trams and buses will be lifted next summer. Bettel’s Democratic party will form a government with the left wing Socialist Workers’ party and the Greens, had vowed to prioritise the environment during the recent election campaign. 

Luxembourg City, the capital of the small Grand Duchy, suffers from some of the worst traffic congestion in the world and is home to about 110,000 people, but a further 400,000 commute into the city to work. Drivers in the capital spent an average of 33 hours in traffic jams in 2016. While the country as a whole has 600,000 inhabitants, nearly 200,000 people living in France, Belgium and Germany cross the border every day to work in Luxembourg. 

The Grand Duchy, has shown a progressive attitude to public transport. This summer, the government brought in free transport for every child and young person under the age of 20. Additionally secondary school students can use free shuttles between their institution and their home. Commuters need only pay €2 for up to two hours of travel, which in a country of just 2,590 square km (999 square miles) covers almost all journeys. From the start of 2020 all tickets will be abolished, saving on the collection of fares and the policing of ticket purchases. As yet no decision has been taken on what to do about first- and second-class compartments on trains.