Introduction: The Writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans
As I have not worried to be born, I do not worry to die.
Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936)
Ceri Evans (1965-2002) died in the same month, in August, as the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was murdered by the Fascist regime in 1936. In one of the tributes to Ceri Evans after his death, Terry Conway tells of a gift of a book of Lorca’s poetry which she had received from Dr Evans. Terry Conway makes this comparison of Lorca and Evans:
Here too was someone who had a passionate relationship with the place he was from, but was also a confirmed internationalist. Here too was someone for whom political ideas were not just found in theory, but in song, in dream, in all the small things of everyday life. (Whispers of a Forgotten Nation, p. 7)
In her elegant brevity, Conway captures both the spirit of Ceri Evans and his dialectical method in relation to the national and international movements for social justice and freedom. Evans lived the slogan ‘Think globally, Act locally.’ He fought simultaneously for historical justice in his native Wales, and, in the context of his perspective as an international socialist, for the eventual realisation of a global democratic socialist community, in which nations would enjoy equality, mutual aid and peaceful cooperation. Indeed, for Evans, the national question was inseparable from the struggle for international socialism.
Ceri Evans was a unique and creative thinker, at once a philosopher and activist (and with the mind of an engineer). He was a revolutionary socialist who wished to learn from the revolutionaries of the past, such as Lenin and Trotsky, but never merely to turn these ‘Great Men’ into dogmatic idols. He repeats this mantra over and over again in his theoretical and practical writings – that there is much to learn from these revolutionaries of the past and present, who have more experience and knowledge with respect to the building and enactment of revolutionary transformation. Yet, Ceri Evans had a mind of his own and assertively set forth his criticisms of these ‘Great Men’. In this way, he has enduring relevance as an original thinker and practical example for the understanding and practise of Welsh politics, and revolutionary politics as such.
This collection contains nearly thirty essays, discussion documents, presentations and other pieces from between 1990-2002, arguably one of the most important periods in the history of Welsh politics. These writings range from purely philosophical pieces, such as ‘Dialectics’, explorations of political philosophy, as in ‘Ten Draft Points on the National Question,’ to extremely concrete analyses and discussion documents of current political struggles in which he was continuously immersed, as with his writings on the Welsh language, the Welsh Assembly, Europe, Ireland, Israel, and the national struggles in Eastern Europe. In an uncanny manner, reading these essays resembles the experience of opening up a ‘time capsule’, one left as a legacy for those of us who would continue the struggle in the future. The ‘time capsule’ is open, and the documents it contains are a gift from the past.
Not only is the experience of reading these essays a re-awakening of a past obscured by the inexorable movements of history, but it also gives the reader a real sense of suspense as he or she moves from one essay to the next. Of course, we all know now, in 2014, that the struggle for a Welsh Assembly has been partially successful and that the success of the Welsh Language movement is irreversible. Yet, in many of the essays, these questions were still unsettled, still on the way, and in this sense, the documents in this collection give us an important insider’s perspective upon this monumental period of Welsh history.
These documents, furthermore, highlight the many tasks that are still left undone, of the myriad struggles which are still necessary. Such struggles include the enhancement of the powers of the Welsh National Assembly, which is still not as strong as the configuration advocated by Evans. There is also the life and death struggles to preserve indispensable aspects of the Welfare State, such as the NHS and funding for regional sustainable development, which are again threatened by the Tories. The latter serve as the ever-present antagonists in his documentation of the terrible truth of the British state and its persistent suppression of the nations of Wales, Scotland and Ireland. To a large extent, Ceri Evans was way ahead of his time, and many of his writings still have current relevance to Welsh, British and European politics – and, more generally, to global politics as such.
In addition to their status as significant documents of political history, and their prevailing relevance to contemporary political and intellectual struggles, the writings of Ceri Evans also provide an invaluable example of the intellectual and political practise of an advanced revolutionary. As he himself sought out the insights of the revolutionaries of the past, we too can learn much from Ceri Evans, especially in his strict embodiment of the modus operandi of the unification of revolutionary theory and practise. In his short philosophical piece ‘Dialectics,’ which he gave as a presentation, he outlines the Marxian notion of the intimate relation of thought and action, and of the necessity of testing thought in the arena of praxis. In this way, not only does Ceri Evans demonstrate his independence and originality with respect to the revolutionaries of the past, but he also exhibits, in his writings, his own personal development as a political thinker and practitioner. Between the time-span of 1990-2002, we can witness, up close, the dialectical evolution of his thought and politics as he remained focused upon the concrete conditions and needs of the people – and as he accumulated experience from his own engagement in concrete struggles for social justice.
One thread of this personal evolution is shown in his decision to leave the Labour Party and to join Plaid Cymru. This was a difficult decision for a life-long socialist who worked to make his party more attuned to its allegedly socialist mission. However, with the betrayal of the working class and the goal of socialism by Tony Blair and his acolytes, Ceri Evans could see that not only was the Labour Party no longer a party of the working class, but that Plaid Cymru represented the best hope not only for working people in Wales, but also that the struggle for independence, which he for a long time did not support, was essential to the struggle for the overthrow of the Imperial British state. We can only speculate what Ceri Evans would have done in response to the illegal Gulf War and all the events that have followed, but it is clear that his manner of thinking and acting will continue to provide an excellent example, for the rest of us, of the meaning of a revolutionary socialist. Such a revolutionary remains attuned to concrete conditions and concrete praxis, and has the audacity to think for him or herself in the struggle for the liberation of the people.