We Must Not Surrender to Child Poverty

This was published by Plaid Cymru Aberystwyth, 14 April 2017.

child poverty 2

Campaigning on an estate in Penparcau, I hear families talking, clearing dishes, watching television and putting children to bed.  There are shrieks and laughter from children seeking to squeeze a little more life from the day. I suddenly remember the damning fact that more than a third of children in Penparcau live in poverty.  I feel anger that so many children have been failed by our political and economic leaderships – their lives diminished, stolen, plunged onto a – more than likely – trajectory of life-long deprivation.

Incumbent politicians prefer that failure remains invisible, and for the most part, child poverty is shuffled out of view.  We are only made to face the terrible truth when the yearly headlines reappear: “A quarter of UK children in poverty,” “200,000 Welsh children in poverty.” Each time, the headlines are met with the same excuses and obfuscations.

Since 1999, the successive governments under Welsh Labour have publicized their flagship policy to end child poverty by 2020.

Yet, by the end of 2016 – and after campaigning on “eradicating” child poverty in the May elections to the National Assembly – Labour announced it will fail to meet its target.

First and foremost, the Labour government blamed its failure squarely on the austerity policies and welfare reforms of the Liberal Democrat-Tory coalition and the current Conservative governments.  Labour, taking a page from Plaid Cymru, also blamed the limited powers available for the National Assembly.  Communities Secretary Carl Sargeant said:

“The Welsh Government does not hold the primary policy and fiscal levers, especially in terms of the welfare system, needed to enable us to deliver the significant changes needed.” (“No end to child poverty by 2020, Welsh Government says,” BBC, 13 December 2016)

With its belated complaint about a lack of powers, it may at first sight seem Labour had finally begun to recognise what Plaid Cymru has known all along: the urgency for an adequate constitutional settlement.  But, that is certainly not the case.  Indeed, Labour has surrendered to child poverty and to the “business as usual” which is its cause.  Sargeant said:

“The issues we face can therefore only be tackled through new ways of working. Within a context of stretched resources and reducing budgets, we need to focus our efforts where we can have most impact with the levers we have available.” (BBC, 13 December 2016)

It is clear we must acknowledge the reality of what is and what is not “available”.  Yet, Plaid Cymru contends we can do much more with what is available (like banning Zero Hours contracts, for example), and that we can, and must, continuously fight to increase what is “available” – in terms of funding and powers.

Instead of declaring a state of emergency, for instance, over palpable threats to the human rights of Welsh children, and demanding more powers for Wales, Labour acquiesced to pre-ordained failure by accepting a toxic status quo where one in three children will continue to live in poverty.  Or, in their own words, Labour could have demanded the “primary policy and fiscal levers” for Wales in order to confront the unnecessary stain of child poverty.

Yet, it has long been clear that Labour is not inclined to demand more powers for Wales. Indeed, it was only Plaid Cymru, during its One Wales coalition with Labour in 2007, which prompted the 2011 Referendum which gave the National Assembly primary legislative competence.  From this perspective, Labour’s original promise to eradicate child poverty was either an opportunistic lie or a terrible naivety.

The consequence of Labour’s reluctance to demand more powers – reflective of the ambivalence about devolution that has haunted it for decades – is that, on their own criteria, they will always fail to meet their objectives.  They do not have the powers, but they do not want them either – and thus, Labour will always make promises it cannot keep.

In response to this blatant self-contradiction, those of us unwilling to surrender to child poverty must clearly lay out our desire to achieve the “primary policy and fiscal levers” which will allow us to realistically confront the endemic challenge we face.

Such an augmentation of a Welsh centre of gravity becomes even more important in the wake of Brexit.  Indeed, one could very easily ask: if the UK does not wish to be ruled from Brussels, then why on earth would Wales wish to be ruled from London?  Should we not take back control?  Brexit necessitates a re-balancing of not only the UK single market, but also of the centres of constitutional power and responsibility within the UK.

Assuming for the moment that the UK will remain intact – a prospect that with each day seems to recede from view – it will be necessary to fulfil the ambitions of devolution through the establishment of home rule across the “family of nations”.  London-rule, on its own, will never solve the problem of child poverty in Wales (or Northern Ireland).  Yet, a robust Welsh government could solve this problem, and many others, if it had the “primary policy and fiscal levers”.  Yet, given its past performance, it is highly unlikely that the Labour party will ever lead such a government.

Nevertheless, I will argue that home rule would be good for all the parties in Wales – if prosperity and self-governance is in fact our common goal.  With home rule, Wales would have the powers to enact its own unique solutions to the challenges of child poverty, criminal justice, and socio-economic development, to name a few.

There are those of course who fear that home rule is merely a Trojan Horse for independence.  If we look closely at this suggestion, however, they seem to be openly admitting that they would rather have Wales powerless and poor than to prosper through self-government.

We could however imagine the exact opposite of their fear.  Indeed, it is possible that if Wales enjoyed home rule within an authentic “family of nations,” it may have little incentive to leave such an arrangement.

In reality, independence is always a possibility – regardless of home rule – and the proponents of Welsh independence are currently enjoying a significant surge in support in the wake of Brexit.  In this way, the conflation of home rule and independence is a red herring.

At the end of the day, the question of Welsh independence will be decided by the Welsh people.  Home rule however is a different question – it concerns more immediate issues of practical self-governance and social well-being, of the fulfilment of the rights and aspirations of the Welsh people within the UK.  Home rule speaks to the urgency to build a better life for a people who have learned from centuries of experience that Wales does best when it controls its own affairs.

We must approach our situation simultaneously from two perspectives – firstly, we must work to get the maximum from the current system to best advantage at all levels of government, and secondly, we must work for the fulfilment of the devolutionary potential in the promotion of Welsh social, political, economic and cultural democracy.

We cannot surrender to child poverty – nor can we surrender to a political and economic order which makes us hop on one leg to gain our supper.

In this dangerous moment of history, it is more important than ever to have trustworthy hands at every level of government, hands that will support not only local communities but also the national interests of Wales – of her vulnerable pensioners, hard-pressed families, disabled, youth and children.

Under the guiding idea of home rule, we can build a Wales in which the fundamental rights of Welsh citizens are respected.  We must work to build the alternative, one that will allow us to truly eradicate child poverty and many other social challenges.

 

Dr James Luchte professor of philosophy, author and writer.  He is a Plaid Cymru candidate for Aberystwyth Council from the Ward of Penparcau.

 

Leanne Wood’s Long Campaign

The Herald, April 22, 2016, Ceredigion, Wales

Leanne Wood was not at all satisfied with a fourth place finish in the 2015 General Election.

Her immediate response to the loss – and the mere hold of her three MPs – was to declare that the campaign for the National Assembly elections of May 2016 would commence without pause.

Leanne_720

This most recent campaign has been the culmination of decades of political action: miner’s strike, CND, devolution, various assembly elections, and the 2011 referendum.

Already in campaign mode, and convinced that there would have been a breakthrough in the General Elections with a few more weeks to campaign, Wood began a series of major engagements: visiting local constituencies, attending cultural events, making visits to schools and giving major addresses on politics and policy at Aberystwyth University.  Linking up her network on the ground, Wood engaged local organisations in the campaign, giving speeches at party events and demonstrations, outlining her message for the May elections.

To read the rest of the article, please visit Leanne Wood’s Long Campaign.

The Three Graces of Politics – The UK General Elections 2015

The Three Graces of Politics

Faith, Hope and Charity

By James Luchte

the hug

Jonathan Jones reminded us recently through “probably a wildly inappropriate pre-feminist art historical reference”, in his article, “Something new is happening in British politics. This image captures it.” (Guardian, 17 April 2015), of the resemblance of the embrace between the party leaders of Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales and Green Party, Leanne Wood, Natalie Bennett and Nicola Sturgeon, respectively and the Three Graces.

The Three Graces are commonly known as faith, hope and charity, but have the tangible meanings of trust, confidence, and love or solidarity,.a symbolism common to many religions and tendencies of thinking.

Indeed, Jonathan’s suggestion is quite apt, and can demonstrate the importance of humanities (crassly cut out of the Coalition’s Tory budget) in the context of political reality. We already know what Burns, Mary and Percy Shelley, Dickens has taught us, and Camus, Joyce, Ginsberg and Dylan Thomas, as contributors to the ethos of a culture which engages in political economic and social questioning from differing perspectives.

This embrace of three progressive leaders, amidst an era of constant crisis, allows us, by coincidence, it would seem, to remember the Three Graces and their significance to the meaning of the New Politics – one of trust, well-being, and social solidarity.

These Graces, or Virtues, in this light, are politically speaking, the characteristics of a healthy society, with some resemblance to Plato’s own tripartite schema in his Republic, and I will consider each of them in turn.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit The Three Graces of Politics: The UK General Electiions

Introduction: Whispers of a Forgotten Nation – The Writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans

Welsh Dragon

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.

To read the rest of this Introduction and to go to the writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans themselves, please visit Introduction – Whispers of a Forgotten Nation: The Writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans.

Whispers of a Forgotten Nation – The Writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans

Whispers of a Forgotten Nation – The Writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans is a collection of the writings of Welsh political thinker and activist who took his own life in 2002 at the age of 36.  The book contains 29 essays, pieces and presentations from between 1990 and 2002.  It serves as a time capsule for one of the most important periods of Welsh political, social and cultural history.

Dr D. Ceri Evans

Whispers of a Forgotten Nation – The Writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans was edited with an Introduction by Dr James Luchte, author, writer and Visiting Professor at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, School of Humanities.

To read the entire book, please visit Whispers of a Forgotten Nation – The Writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans

Dylan Thomas in Exile

This poem concerns, among other things, such as the ebb and flow of popular resistance, Dylan Thomas as a Welsh poet who lived a life devoted to the truth of the unique Welsh experience and its people. 

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Dylan Thomas

 

Dylan,

the second wave

The wave floods

The flood recedes

The tide returns

seethe in anger
darkest season
the poet is silenced

they will run him from his home

To read the rest of the poem, please visit Dylan Thomas in Exile

Divided We Fall – Plaid Cymru and the Green Agenda

Divided We Fall

Plaid Cymru and the Green Agenda

Why Greens should Vote for Plaid Cymru in the General Elections of 2015

Green Dragon - Plaid Cymru

Divided We Fall – Plaid Cymru and the Green Agenda

From ‘Agoriad’ (‘Opening’)

Mewn glesni, tesni’n lasgu,
cwmysg â’r glas sy’n llathru,
Croeso rhwng dwy ynys- hen gynghanedd
ger y moroedd garw- llaw tangnefedd.

In the blue calm, sunburst of radiance
– the green light that shines with charity
the welcome of two isles – old harmony
by the rough seas – a hand of tranquility.

Menna Elfyn – Professor of Poetry, UWTSD

Opening

There is a considerable array of serious decisions that will have to be made by the people in the upcoming UK General Elections of 2015.

By people, I mean the vast multitude of individual working citizens for whose interests and representation the Parliament in Westminster was originally established.

By decision, I do not mean some arbitrary choice, or some choosing of a product in a shop, but one that involves thought and deliberation – and only then a choice.

In the context of decision-making, it is never sufficient to simply remain within a boxed mentality or echo chamber, captivated by the habit of custom which merely accepts the status quo and its erratic, though familiar, surface narrative.

One must look beyond the surface of the headlines and investigate the root causes and truths which stand behind the powers that be. It is toward the facilitation of such an investigation that the following essay is written.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit Divided We Fall – Plaid Cymru and the Green Agenda

Discovering Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales

Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales

Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales

The following essay, the fourth in a series of pieces engaged in Welsh and British politics, takes the position that the manifold deficits upon the Welsh political and economic landscape cannot be resolved by the current constitutional arrangement of the United Kingdom.  Moreover, against the background of the obsolescence of the constitutional order, Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales will be introduced as an experienced and progressive voice in the Welsh experience, and as an option for an increasingly broad array of citizens in the General Elections of 2015.  Despite the fact that it has been around since 1925, still  too few in Wales itself know about a political party which is New Left, Green, Socially Liberal, Internationalist and Pro-Europe.  What makes Plaid Cymru different from the Westminster parties, including the Greens, is that the Party of Wales no longer believes that Westminster will or can fulfill the aspirations of the people of Wales for a better life.   Wales, in this light, needs a voice and direction of its own.

To read the essay, please visit Discovering Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales

UKIP and the Politics of Disruption

European Elections 2014
UKIP and the Politics of Disruption
On the Cynicism of UKIP Candidacies for the European Elections and why the People must reject them

Nigel-Farage

As we dust ourselves off from the recent debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg, it appears that the odd man out has now obtained legitimacy, stature, plausibility. Nick Clegg was dreadful and failed to convey the very absurdity of UKIP policy on obvious grounds. The very fact that Nick Clegg stood on the same stage as Nigel Farage was a mistake and revealed his lack of political judgment.  Why were not the other two parties represented, as an all UK debate?  Or, perhaps, it was in fact a job interview for the junior partner in the next Coalition?

Clegg’s follow up criticism of Farage over Ukraine was a pathetic sideshow to the illegal Western involvement in a coup d’etat, in which fascists have now formally entered into the cabinet of a soon-to-be European government for the first time since WWII. Farage was ironically correct on this issue that the Coalition government has ‘blood on its hands’ over Ukraine, and UKIP has never been as strong as it is today. It is now conceivable to imagine a Coalition Government in which they would be a part, such as a Conservative-UKIP alliance.

This article has been updated to The British Wasteland: The History of the Present, Chapter 1: The Toxic Coalition and the Vultures of the Right.  Click here to read UKIP and the Politics of Disruption