Saturday 30 November 2013

Gwlad Beirdd - Niclas y Glais

NICHOLAS, THOMAS EVAN (‘Niclas y Glais ’), (1879-1971), poet, minister of religion and advocate for the Communist Party.

T.E. Nicholas was born 6 October 1879 at Blaenwaun Felin in the parish of Llanfyrnach, north Pembs. Before reaching his first birthday his parents, their farmworker and their five children moved to farm Llety, a 57-acre smallholding, where he spent his childhood. His parents were country folk, Nonconformists (Independents) and his father, like his father before him, was a stone mason as well as a farmer.

The boy was reared in an independent, cultured and anti-establishment community. A younger contemporary was D.J. Davies, born in the small holding to which the Nicholas family moved in 1880, and who became the minister of Capel Als, Llanelli. Another from the same area was Thomas Rees, pioneer of the Labour Party and of adult education and Principal of Bala-Bangor College. T.E. Nicholas was educated locally at Hermon school and left to work at the Swan Inn and a grocer's shop but this came to a sudden end when the lad composed a poem satirising the priest of Eglwswrw during the campaign for the disestablishment of the Anglican church in Wales.

He left the Preseli area to work in Treherbert, Glam., but a year later he decided to prepare to enter the ministry. He enrolled at Gwynfryn School, Amanford, under Watkin Hezekiah Williams, ‘Watcyn Wyn’ (1844-1905) and John Gwili Jenkins (1872-1936), an advocate of the broad and liberal theological views associated with the New Theology of R.J. Campbell. T.E. Nicholas acknowledged his immense debt to Gwili Jenkins for opening for him the world of Christian Socialism, though he had read for himself accounts of the work of Robert Owen and the poetry of Robert Jones Derfel, Manchester (1824-1905).

Nicholas left Gwynfryn School in 1901 and was ordained with the Welsh Independents, becoming minister of Horeb chapel, Llandeilo. He married Mary Alys Hopkins, the daughter of Thomas Hopkins, watchmaker, Amanford. She was consistently supportive of her husband and they had two children, a son and a daughter. In 1903 Nicholas received a call to the Welsh Chapel, Dodgeville, Wisconsin, USA, but he did not remain there long since Seion chapel in Glais in the Swansea Valley invited him to be their minster on 31 May 1904. He was at Glais for ten years becoming best known as ‘Niclas y Glais’.

In this period (1904-14) Wales came to know Niclas y Glais as one of the most fervent Welsh speakers for Socialism and a good friend and supporter of David Thomas who was doing similar propagnda work for the Labour Movement in Gwynedd. Nicholas stood shoulder to shoulder with British Socialist pioneers, sharing a platform with Bruce Glasier and Keir Hardie of the ILP.
He became a favorite of the colliers of Glais, especially at Tynyfron, Llwyndu and Sisters Pit. During the disputes of the summer of 1905, and October 1909 to March 1910, and the winter of 1911 he was an advocate for the miners with owners like Evan Lewis, Glais.

He also began to write articles to the Cenhinen magazine on political, social and literary subjects. At the request of Keir Hardie he became the Welsh editor of The Merthyr Pioneer, the ILP newspaper. He supported the socialism of R.J. Derfel with its emphasis on brotherhood, peace and justice, equality, land nationalisation, and a Parliament for Wales, and opposition to the royal family, the brewers and the militarism. Nicholas fearlessly thundered out a prophetic gospel and he became a favorite preacher at ‘Big Meetings’ and public speaker. In his own chapel he supported Welsh culture, establishing a choir and an eisteddfod. He competed at eisteddfodau, religious poems at first but by 1908 poems with a socialist message. He became known as ‘The People's Poet’ and he won 17 chairs during his time at Glais.

On 1 December 1913 the diacons of Ebenezer, Llangybi, and Bethlehem, Llanddewi Brefi invited him to be their minister. The members of Glais chapel met Christmas afternoon to consider the invitation and unanimously decided to ask him to remain but he resolved to go and he left Glais on 11 January 1914. He served the chapels of rural Ceredigion throughout World War I and made a courageous stand as a pacifist. His standpoint can be seen in the series of articles that he wrote on ‘The Unjust War’ in The Merthyr Pioneer. By now he was under suspicion by the authorities, and especially Capt. Lionel Lindsay, the Chief Constable of Glamorganshire. He attempted to prosecute him for the address that he gave at Siloa chapel, Aberdare, at the Keir Hardie Memorial Service in 1915 but the Home Office refused to sanction this as it was a service to commemorate a prominent pacifist and socialist.

In the Llangybi area Mrs Winifred Inglis-Jones of Derry Ormond House was agitated by what she was hearing about the Independents' minister and she insisted that his congregation was opposed to him. But local people benefited from his services as a dentist and they were averse to complain about him. The Home Office came to know of T.E. Nicholas's dangerous political activities and MI5 kept a keen eye on him for two reasons. The Russian Revolution gave him new life in 1917, and secondly he received an invitation from the ILP to stand as a candidate in the Aberdare constituency in the 1918 election. His opponent was Charles Butt Stanton (1873-1946), a local man who had won the seat in succession to Keir Hardie. Stanton stood for the group called the National Democratic Party (NDP) and Nicholas was badly mistreated. He won 6,229 votes to Stanton's 22,824, a majority of 16,595.

In Ceredigion T.E. Nicholas organised farmworkers into a Union and in 1918 he established the Labour Party in the county. He resigned from the ministry in 1918 and established himself as a dentist in Pontardawe. His wife, and later he himself, had been trained as dentists by a good friend, David Ernest Evans (1870-1956) of Mountain Ash who also trained their son, Islwyn ap Nicholas. The family moved to Aberystwyth in 1921 and he, his wife and son set up a dental practice in the town.

He joined the Communist Party when it was formed in 1920 and he was tireless in his efforts. He became a populat lecturer on Russia, especially after 1935 when he visited the country. His lecture, ‘An old man in a new world’ was well known and he delivered it to hundreds on at least 200 occasions. He was in the forefront of lecturers and people travelled miles to hear him, ‘the Red Prophet’. He had scores of lectures, e.g. on Williams Pantycelyn and the views of Samuel Roberts, Llanbrynmair. The same themes appeared in his weekly column, ‘O fyd y werin’ (‘The world of the common folk’) in Y Cymro newspaper in the 1930s, though the dangers of fascism was to become one of his main messages.

He never wavered in his support for the policies of the Soviet Union. He supported the Nazi-Soviet pact in 1939 and he was punished for his views. He was arrested in Llanbrynmair 11 July 1940 on the feeble charge of being a facsist. Together with his son Islwyn ap Nicholas he was taken to Swansea prison and then transferred to Brixton, a more secure prison. There, behind bars, he wrote 150 sonnets expressing his Christian and Communist convictions. Ministers of religion of all denominations, union leaders, especially the miners, and Members of Parliament protested and their case was taken up by two able barristers, P. N. Pritt and Ithel Davies. The Government agreed to set up a tribunal under the chairmanship of Judge John Morris (later Lord Justice Morris of Porth-y-gest) which met in Ascot. The two were released after four months of prison. The sonnets written in prison were published in 1942 under the title Canu'r Carchar, and translated into English by Daniel Hughes, Dewi Emrys and Wil Ifan as The Prison Sonnets of T. E. Nicholas (London, 1948)

Nicholas achieved a great deal, especially as ‘the people's poet’. His was a lonely, prophetic voice, inspired by the Bible and the writings of Communist philosophers from Karl Marx to R. Palme Dutt. His volumes of poetry await their literary critic. They include Salmau'r Werin (Ystalyfera, 1909), first edition, and a second edition (Wrecsam, 1913); Cerddi Gwerin (Caernarfon, 1912), Cyflog Byw (Pontardawe, 1913); Cerddi Rhyddid (Abertawe, 1914), Nadolig Arall (Llangybi, 1915); Dros Eich Gwlad (Llangybi, 1915, with a second, a third (Pontardawe, 1920) and a fourth edition in 1930; Y Gân Ni Chanwyd (Aberystwyth, 1929); Weithwyr Cymru, Cenwch eich hunain i ryddid (Aberystwyth, 1938); Sonedau'r Carchar (Aberystwyth, 1940); Canu'r Carchar (Llandysul, 1942); Y Dyn a'r Gaib (Dinbych, 1944); Meirionnydd (Llandysul, 1949 second edition, 1950; Dryllio'r Delwau (Tywyn, 1949); and his last book of poetry, Rwy'n Gweld o Bell (Abertawe, 1963). These books and pamphlets sold well during the poet's many visits to various localities, especially his long poem Weithwyr Cymru, Cenwch eich hunain i ryddid (‘Workers of Wales, sing yourselves to freedom’) which sold more than any booklet of poetry in the 20th century, over 6000 copies in the days of the Left Book Club.

His attitude as a Welshman was expressed in a verse that he composed in 1903 which spoke of his love for Wales as part of a wider world. He was an internationalist, called by the Communist activist Harry Pollit in 1949 the 'greatest of Welshmen’. W. T. Pennar Davies said ‘truly that it was strange that the prophet of the social revolution spoke through the Welsh language and that the English-speaking industrial valleys of Wales had not produced a similar poetic propaganist in English. ‘The only name that comes to mind is Idris Davies, the object of a small cult, and who places Nicholas in a special posion.’

T.E. Nicholas died at his home, Glasynys, Elmtree Avenue, Aberystwyth, 19 April 1971 aged 91. The funeral services were held at the Independent Chapel, Aberystwyth and Narberth Crematorium. His ashes were scattered on the Preselli Hills, Pembrokeshire. He left a widow and a son.

Some of T. E. Nicholas' papers are in Bangor University Manuscript and Archives collection, and T. E. Nicholas' archives (NLW MSS 13693A, 13694C, 13695A, 13695D) and Islwyn Nicholas' papers are in the National Library of Wales. NLW MS 13692A, the poems that he composed on toilet paper in Brixton prison can be seen on the National Library of Wales' Digital Mirror.


  • D. Jacob Davies, ‘Niclas - Y Marcsydd Mwyn’, Cyffro , 2, part 1;
  • Deian Hopkin, ‘Patriots and Pacifists in Wales 1913-18: the case of Capt. Lindsay and the Rev. T. E. Nicholas’, Llafur journal of Welsh Labour history , 1 (1974);
  • David W. Howell, Nicholas of Glais the people's champion , Clydach, 1991;
  • Bobi Jones, ‘Comiwnydd glew neu eciwmenydd glân’, Barn , 243 (1983), 105-7;
  • D. Tecwyn Lloyd, ‘T E Nicholas’ [in] Gwyr Llên ysgrifau beirniadol ar weithiau deuddeg gŵr llên cyfoes , London, 1948 (ed. Aneirin Talfan Davies, 144-63;
  • Robert Pope, ‘Y Ddraig Goch ynte'r Faner Goch? Yr ymryson rhwng G. W. F. Phillips a T. E. Nicholas’ in Codi Muriau Dinas Duw Anghydffurfiaeth ac Anghydffurfwyr yr Ugeinfed Ganrif , Bangor, 2005, 90-111;
  • Robert Pope, Building Jerusalem - Nonconformity, Labour and the Social Question in Wales 1906-1939 , Cardiff, 1997, 42-4;
  • D. Ben Rees, ‘Sosialaeth Farcsaidd Gymreig T. E. Nicholas’, The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1996), 164-74;
  • D. Ben Rees, Pymtheg o Wŷr Llên yr Ugeinfed Ganrif , Pontypridd and Liverpool, 1972, 55-59;
  • Ivor Rees, ‘Thomas Evan Nicholas, 1879-1971’, N.L.W. Jnl., 35 (2010), with a number of photographs;
  • J. Roose Williams (ed.), T. E. Nicholas proffwyd Sosialaeth a bardd gwrthryfel , Cardiff, 1971;
  • J. Roose Williams, ‘T. E. Nicholas, Bardd Gwrthryfel’, Cyffro , 1, part 2;
  • Morning Star , 21 April 1971;
  • Blwyddiadur yr Annibynwyr Cymraeg , 1972;
  • Personal knowledge.


D. Ben Rees, Liverpool

Thursday 28 November 2013

The Scottish Independence White Paper : views of Scottish Socialist Party and Scottish Socialist Republic

Scottish Socialist Party’s response to ‘Scotland’s Future – Your Guide
to an Independent Scotland’

1 The Scottish Socialist Party welcomes the publication of the Scottish Governments Independence White Paper ‘Scotland’s Future – Your Guide to an Independent Scotland’. We believe it is a comprehensive and timely addition to the most important debate the people of Scotland have faced in decades.
2 As partners in the ‘Yes Scotland’ coalition the Scottish Socialist Party shares the Government’s commitment to Independence and belief in the immense benefits it can bring the people of Scotland.
3 We commend the White Paper’s commitment to social and political democracy, prosperity and fairness. We believe it reflects the social democratic aspirations of the people of Scotland and we particularly welcome those sections; providing universal free childcare for pre-school children, scrapping the hated ‘bedroom tax’, removing Trident nuclear weapons, growing Scotland’s economy and population by welcoming those who wish to come and live here, returning Royal Mail to public ownership, introducing a written constitution, providing seats for worker directors on company boards, supporting greater environmental protection, promoting greater energy efficiency and extending much needed social protection to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

The White Paper sets out a clear vision of Independence that unquestionably represents very significant advance for the people of Scotland.  We also welcome the commitment to reduce gas and electricity bills by 10% per annum after Independence but would like to have seen the Scottish Government go further given the publics very real concern over these bills and re-iterate the pledge it made in its 2007 manifesto to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland completely.
We would also liked to have seen a commitment to take the renewable energy industry into public ownership – just as the Scottish Government did recently with Prestwick Airport - and to return our gas and electricity supply industry into public hands as we believe both measures are concomitant with pledges to achieve greater economic prosperity, social democracy and fairness. The SSP also prefers the approach Norway took to its oil and gas resources in taking them into public ownership rather than privatising them.

4 The Scottish Socialist Party advocates an Independent socialist Scotland. And like many Scots we favour a modern democratic republic. There are inevitably therefore some proposals in the White Paper we do not support such as reducing Corporation Tax, entering a ‘Sterling Zone’ for our own currency, NATO membership and retaining an un-elected, unrepresentative monarch as our Head of State in our new, modern, democratic Scotland.
Nonetheless, we wholeheartedly agree with the view expressed in the White Paper that ‘Decisions about Scotland will be taken by the people who care most about Scotland – those who live and work here’. And in that spirit we fully acknowledge that all the issues in the White Paper should and indeed will be decided by the people of Scotland themselves in the first elections to our newly Independent Parliament in 2016.

5 For our part the Scottish Socialist Party will continue to highlight the significant advantages Independence brings to Scotland; no more Tory Governments, no more Trident missiles, no more ‘bedroom tax’, returning the Royal Mail to public ownership, a fairer tax system, and above all self-determination for the people of Scotland at last – all in all a much more attractive prospect than the one we currently face.

6 The Scottish Socialist Party remains focused above all on winning a resounding ‘Yes’ vote in the 2014 Referendum and we continue to work alongside all our partners in the ‘Yes Scotland’ coalition to secure that pre-eminent objective.

Colin Fox, on behalf of the Scottish Socialist Party
Scottish Socialist Republic Comment
I also welcome the positive response from Colin and the SSP the White Paper is detailed and much to read but the SNP through FM Alex and Deputy Nicola have provided us with the bones by public announcement. Above all it is child friendly and family included while rejecting the madness of Trident nuclear weapons
A Republican Socialists we are not in agreement with all that is in offer. The EU, Sterling or keeping the Pound, NATO, and god dammit the Monarchy.
However the document from the Scottish Government is well thought out and despite the Unionist media propaganda it ready to be put to the test after a Yes vote for independence.
What we should do as Republican Socialists is welcome the SSP response and expect more from a somewhat fragmented Scottish Left.
Mind you the emergence of the Radical Independence Campaign from the SWP breakaway International Socialist Group (ISG) and other assorted groups on the left in Scotland there is hope and anything is possible here, that we concentrate on Scottish Freedom, and only then can we argue, campaign, fight whatever you like for an independent Scottish Socialist Republic as outlined by John MacLean after we get an Independent Scotland, albeit initially social democratic and a tad reformist. Anything better than the British imperialist status quo.
Anyway what I recognise is that things are different here and we have a real opportunity in 2014 to vote for independence and circumstances are very different here to the issues of England or Wales or even Cornwall. I cringe at reading the comments on the Socialist Unity website on the Scottish question
Let us walk before we can run first we must get independence then build on it and hell socialists like us will be there for the Republic.
Scottish Socialist Republic

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Bob Bright of Newport Council says sorry at last over destruction of Chartist Mural

Yr Aflonyddwch Mawr salutes the Save the Mural Campaign in Newport for its persistence in pursuing Bob Bright for an apology - it has taken over a month of vigorous campaigning by the people of Newport to get the apology but it was a necessary step to bring the council to democratic accountability for its wrongful action.
The lesson to be learned is not to give up and fight back, Newport Council avoided meetings to discuss the Mural destruction, and even did not officially receive the petition to save the Chartist Mural, it did its best to ignore the protests, but in the end they had to publically acknowledge their mistake and treat the protests and protestors with respect that they have earned by apologising to the people of Newport.
Report in South Wales Argus
"THE leader of Newport council led the authority in apologising for how the Chartist Mural was demolished saying sorry for any hurt it caused.
Almost all members present for tonight’s meeting, including the Tories, backed the apology tabled by Labour’s Bob Bright, which came more than a month after the artwork was demolished.
Councillors were greeted by protestors from the Save Our Chartist Mural campaign as they entered the chamber.
The full city council meeting was originally called by Tory opposition councillors to discuss a motion calling for an apology over how the demolition was handled.
But Labour’s amendment to the motion tabled by leader Bob Bright went further, expressing the council’s “sincere regret to residents of the city of Newport regarding the handling" of the Mural's removal.
The amendment said the matter should have been handled more sensitively and that the authority was “sorry for any hurt this caused”.
Councillors backed the amendment with a show of hands, with only Cllr Noel Trigg voting against and no abstentions. The original motion was also passed

White Paper on Scottish Independence from Scottish National Party

Here is a link to the Scottish White Paper from Scottish National Party:

We will publish our views on the document in the next 24 hours after we have fully studied it.

Yr Aflonyddwch Mawr

Monday 25 November 2013

Red Salute to John MacLean memorial held by Scottish Republican Socialist Party - Yr Aflonddwch Mawr also remembers John Maclean's visit to Rhondda in 1911

Yr Aflonyddwch Mawr  offers a  Red Salute to John Maclean memorial organised by the  comrades of Scottish Republican Socialist Party, we in Wales at the Aflonyddwch Mawr are also inspired by John Maclean and remember his visit to the South Wales Coalfield in 1911.

We are reminded of his personal solidarity with Welsh Miners and the class bonds that unite us with our brothers and sisters in Scotland.

Forward to National and Social Liberation for our brothers and sisters and comrades in Scotland - long live proletarian internationalism and the mutual respect  and support for each others national struggles and the struggle for socialism has exemplified by John Maclean..

Here is what John Maclean wrote about his visit to the Rhondda in Justice in 1911.

                                                                  John Maclean

Dear Comrade, – In the course of propaganda it has been my luck to reach the Rhondda Valley where the miners’ strike is still proceeding as sternly as ever. The lock-out of 800 men by the Cambrian Combine as a consequence of 80 men refusing to accept its terms for working in abnormally bad places led to the adoption of the down-tools policy by the 12,000 slaves of the Combine.

The “leaders” (?) of the South Wales miners wished from the start to limit the strike to the smallest number possible so as to reduce to a minimum strike-pay. The rank and file defeated them, and hence all the men have remained out and have got the ten shillings a week strike pay.

The funds of the South Wales Miners’ Federation are now depleted, but the settling of the men’s grievances is as far off as ever. Had the leaders asked all the Welsh miners to come out, perhaps by this time the dispute would have been settled. But just as the miners have received meagre assistance from their comrades, so the shareholders of the Combine have obtained huge sums from fellow-members of the Masters’ Federation. It is quite plain that the masters might have been paralysed had all the men struck work. Such solidarity, supported by good trade, has enabled seamen, dockers and carters to get some slight concessions from the plunderers.

It is now too late to waste time pondering over what might have happened had the South Wales men been perfectly solid. The men now are anxious to know what the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain intend to do at the Special Conference at the end of this month. The Executive intend to discuss what agreement can be come to with the employers on the question of abnormal places, whereas the men on strike are determined to get the M.F.G.B. to make a bold, bid for a minimum wage for all men employed in mines as the only just and satisfactory solution of the difficulty.

The men here, however, know that the minimum will not be discussed unless the miners all over Britain are determined that those attending this most important conference shall discuss it, and not only that, but also that they shall resolve to stop the mines of the country until the minimum is granted. In the disgust of the strikers, they have learned that the Scottish delegates to the last conference of the M.F.G.B. have been their worst enemies, and this after the Welsh men offering to strike about two years ago to help their Scottish comrades.

Now, as a Scot, I have felt the disgrace here in Wales as keenly as if were a miner, and therefore I willingly take it as a duty to appeal to my comrades in the mining districts of Scotland to get at Smillie, and the rest of their representatives, and see that they stand by the Welshmen. It is not a question of the technicalities of mining, it is purely one of class combination and solidarity for a specific purpose. Do not be bluffed. If these delegates do not take up the side of the men here, clear them out after they come home again. The clear out of obstacles to class solidarity is the only policy that the rank and file can now pursue in these days of Labour “statesmen.” Comrades, I say, it is you who can mould the policy that will have to be adopted at the forthcoming Conference. Waste no time. Act through your unions, and act directly on the delegates. Use all legitimate means to impress on these men the need for strong action – the resort to a general strike for the minimum of 8s. per day.
It is my fervent wish that at least Scotland will not distinguish itself as a blackleg country in mining affairs. To the work, then, boys!

J. Maclean.


Thursday 21 November 2013

Northern Ireland : Military Reaction Force (MRF): Time for Truth

The BBC's Panorama programme has uncovered evidence that soldiers from a secret unit used by the British Army during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, shot unarmed civilians.

This was 40 strong unit operating a terror unit killing unarmed civilians, its operational records have been destroyed. They operated in West Belfast in unmarked cars.

The soldiers operated outside of the so called yellow card of only firing when lives in danger - this rule did not apply to MRF.

The MRF ran a number of front companies in Belfast during the early 1970s.

They included Four Square Laundry (a mobile laundry service operating in nationalist West Belfast) and Gemini Health Studios (a massage parlour on Antrim Road).

The MRF also had an office at College Square. All were set up to gather intelligence on the Provisional  (IRA) and Irish nationalist movement.

The MRF was an application by the British Military of Sir Frank Kitson's ideas on counter insurgency warfare in Northern Ireland and it is thought that he established the unit when in Northern Ireland under the auspices of 39th Infantry Brigade..

For more essential information read here :

You cannot study the activities of the MRF without clearly seeing that Catholic/Protestant sectarian strife was aim of the unit and Britain, as well as inter Republican fighting, - the direct opposite of the British narrative of these events as "peace keeping"

Mr Seamus Mallon is quoted at the BBC has saying :

 "You had killings for which there was no logic. This type of incident where people were shot from a passing car, almost as if for fun.

"But was very clear that there was a strategy behind it and I think the huge question to be asked here is who ultimately authorised it, because it had to be authorised both in operational terms by a senior army figure and in political terms by a senior politician."

The right question are being asked but will we get answers.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Robert Owen and William Thompson - Two Line Struggle - Two Views on Socialism by Nickglais

November 17th is the birth date of Robert Owen the 19th Century Welsh Social Thinker, so it is appropriate to look at his legacy.

Robert Owen was born in Newton a small market town in Montgomeryshire, Wales in 1771. 

He was the sixth of seven children. His father, also named Robert Owen, had a small business as a saddler and ironmonger. 

Owen's mother was a Miss Williams, and came from one of the prosperous farming families. 

Here young Owen received almost all his school education, which ended at the age of ten. 

In 1787, after serving in a drapers shop for some years, he settled in London.

He travelled to Manchester, and obtained employment at Satterfield's Drapery in St. Ann's Square. 

By the time he was 21 he was a mill manager in Manchester at the Chorlton Twist Mills. 

His entrepreneurial spirit, management skill and progressive moral views were emerging by the early 1790s.

Picture : William Thompson

William Thompson was born in 1775 in  Cork, William was the son and heir of one of the most prosperous merchants of that city, Alderman John Thompson, who held, amongst other offices, that of Mayor in 1794. 

William inherited the small trading fleet and landed estate near Glandore, West Cork after his father's death in 1814. 

Rejecting the role of absentee landlord  commonly led by those of a similar situation, William based his living quarters on the estate and despite many travels, invested much time with the tenants on the estate introducing agricultural innovations, services and education for children aimed at improving the welfare and prosperity of the families present.

Robert Owen's Ideas

His first departure in social reformism took place in 1817, and was embodied in a report communicated to the committee of the British House of Commons on the Poor Law
The general misery and stagnation of trade consequent on the termination of the NapoleonicWars was engrossing the attention of the country. 

After tracing the special causes connected with the wars which had led to such a deplorable state of things, Owen pointed out that the permanent cause of distress was to be found in the competition of human labor with machinery, and that the only effective remedy was the united action of men and the subordination of machinery.
His proposals for the treatment of poverty were based on these principles. Communities of about twelve hundred persons each should be settled on quantities of land from 1,000 to 1,500 acres (4 to 6 km2), all living in one large building in the form of a square, with public kitchen and mess-rooms.
Its fully developed form (as it did not change much during Owen's lifetime) was as follows. He considered an association of from 500 to 3000 as the fit number for a good working community. While mainly agricultural, it should possess all the best machinery, should offer every variety of employment, and should, as far as possible, be self-contained. "As these townships" (as he also called them) "should increase in number, unions of them federatively united shall be formed in circles of tens, hundreds and thousands", till they should embrace the whole world in a common interest.
In Revolution in the Mind and Practice of the Human Race, Owen asserts and reasserts that character is formed by a combination of Nature or God and the circumstances of the individual's experience. 

William Thompson's Ideas

Thompson and others of the Co-operative Movement have tended to be somewhat neglected or unfairly subsumed under the political label of Owenism. 
In fact, although his writings and social experiments at New Lanark had helped to bring the cooperative movement together, many, Thompson included, were critical of Owen's authoritarian and anti-democratic tendencies in fact watchtowers were always a feature of Robert Owen's ideal settlements.
Thompson further distrusted Owen's courtship of rich and powerful patrons, believing that the rich as a class could be never be expected to be in favour of any project of emancipation for the labouring poor as this would threaten their privilege. 
He also believed in the necessity of the workers in any co-operative community having eventual security of ownership of the community's land and capital property.
He gained a considerable following within the cooperative movement for these positions and it was to distinguish themselves from Owen's positions that this wing of the movement began to adopt the label of "socialist or communionist" (Letter to "The Cooperative Magazine", London, November 1827, cited has first documented use of socialist) rather than "Owenist".
These differences led to open confrontation between Thompson and Owen at the Third Cooperative Congress held in 1832 in London. 
Owen, perhaps discouraged by the failure of his attempted community at New Harmony, maintained that it was necessary to wait for Government and Stock Exchange support and investment into large scale communities

Thompson and his supporters contended that they must move towards establishing independent small scale communities based on the movement's own resources. 
The argument was not resolved at that congress and by the following one Thompson was unable to attend probably as a result of the illness that was to lead to his death in another five months aged 57 years.

William Thompson has a very famous debate with Thomas Hodgkin's over the role of the competition and the market that resonates even to this day in the socialist and communist movements.

In Labour Defended in 1825 Hodgkin asked how the products of labour should be distributed after the priviliged capitalist class was overthrown. And he answered :

"If all kinds of labour were perfectly free, if no unfound predjudice invested some parts, perhaps the least useful, of the social task with great honour while other parts are improperly branded with disgrace, there would be no difficulty on this point and the wages of individual labour would be justly settled by what Dr Smith calls the "higgling" of the market (1922 Edition page 86)

William Thompson the County Cork Socialist replied to this arguement in his book Labour Rewarded (1827). 

The substance of Hodgkins view was that, freed from the priviliged class of capitalists , the market would serve socialism. Thompson replied :

"But a might obstacle here presents itself. Is not the competitive system itself an insourmountable bar to this perfect freedom of labour and to this equal diffusion of knowledge" (page 5)

"A sorry exchange the productive classes would make - an exchange of masters only - pampering a new host of swaggerers, with their varied coloured merits in their bonnets, instead of in the herd of capitalists. The game of the ins and outs has been to often played by unprincipled politicians on the productive classes. They will not be fooled with the same game between wit and genius, and capital: capital , the outs , wit and genius in, the ins.

By means of the spirit of competition, and by means of the reward of competition, , all the superior talents that may spring up amongst the industrious classes, are to be allowed into the mingled aristocracy of force and chicane, the feudal, the moneyed or the capitalist. Of what avail to the industrious classes though the capitalist aristocracies were put down, supposing for a moment that such an operation were possible under the system of labour by individual competition: what would be the gain to the industrious classes if mental labourers, under the name of men of merit, supplied these places and reaped the benefits which thev capitalists now enjoy, or rather possess? ... but this competition cannot last, though an occasional mental labourer may raise the cry of war against capital. No the old feudal aristocracy, the genuine sons of force become cunning if not wise, will not only continue to buy off, by sharing their prizes with the capitalists, but will also enlist into their coalition against the industrious classes, all the commanding talent amongst them who they can imbue with the spirit of competition...(page9-10)

" It is not the differences of production of different labourers, but the complicated system of exchange of those productions when made, that gives rise to that frightful inequality of wealth with all of its train of physical and social evils. How strange then that the "labourer"...should be sent off to the mere "higgling" of the market, the regulation of exchanges " (page 12)

... the springs of this higgling will always be kept of the adepts, and they will be so regulated, that prizes there will still be, and those prizes will fall into the hands of the most skillful in the higgling exchanges of competition and therefore in nine cases out of ten, into the hands of the least benevolent. Page 36

"The pleasures of competition founded on the inferiority of comforts , of intelligence, or of moral qualities of others, are fenced round with envies, jealousies, ill will, suspicions and dread of ill offices from all around: and could never be approved as useful motives to human exertion.. (page 63)

"Labourers must acquire knowledge to regulate their labour on a large united scale, before they will be able to do anything than dream of enjoying the whole of their products of their labour. Added to knowledge, the industrious classes must also acquire power, the whole power of the social machine in their own hands, in order to render their knowledge available on a national scale, and with immediate effect, for promoting the impartial and equal happiness of all" (page 73)

"The Competitive Political Economist feels that the strongest motive is the desire to acquire more than others" (page 99)

These ideas of William Thompson were to impress Karl Marx amongst others and was part of the intellectual currents that created Marxism in the 19th century. Let us Listen to James Connolly on the merits of William Thompson and Karl Marx.

"If we were to attempt to estimate the relative achievements of Thompson and Marx we should not hope to do justice to either by putting them in contrast, or by eulogising Thompson in order to belittle Marx, as some Continental critics of the latter seek to do.

Rather we should say that the relative position of this Irish genius and of Marx are best comparable to the historical relations of the pre-Darwinian evolutionists to Darwin; as Darwin systematised all the theories of his predecessors and gave a lifetime to the accumulation of the facts required to establish his and their position, so Marx found the true line of economic thought already indicated, and brought his genius and encyclopaedic knowledge and research to place it upon an unshakable foundation"

Therefore we can see the roots of a two line struggle in the Co-operative Movement/Socialist Movement over the ideas of Robert Owen and William Thompson right from the start of the industrial age in the1830's

The ideas of Robert Owen of social reformism and regulated capitalism were to find later embodiment in the growth of the Co-operative Movement and the  British Labour Party.

Those who favoured social reform like Robert Owen and those like William Thompson who were called socialists or communionists the vernacular of the time.

James Connolly in Labour in Irish History pays tribute to William Thompson has the forerunner of revolutionary Socialism and while we appreciate the good heart and good intent of Robert Owen, Owenism ideologically lead to a reformist poltical party like the Labour Party.

The Ideas of William Thompson went on to inspire James Connolly to form the Irish Socialist Republican Party in 1896 and the ideas underpinning revolutionary socialism all over the world has Thompson's ideas were incorporated in Marxism and inspire us today.

Aflyonddwch Mawr is in the tradition of our Celtic brother from County Cork - William Thompson, while we respect the honest heart and good intent of Robert Owen and his contribution to the co-operative ideal and his interest in land..

Owenism is not the road to national and social liberation has almost two hundred years of reformism has shown - something that was interestingly  anticipated by William Morris at the end of the 19th century here in 1888.

See Also::

Manic Street Preachers - Anthem for a Lost Cause

Yr Aflonyyddwch Mawr says an Anthem for a  Lost Cause by Manic Street Preachers will be available from 25th November illustrating that music speaks for Wales in a way that  gives expression to our deepest feelings about our country and the class struggle.

Remember to buy it.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Brittany: Editorial from Breizhistance: Breton crisis , Red Caps and problem of Opportunism


The uprising of the Red Caps is more than anti-tax revolt.

The protest movement claims diffuse actors, affecting Brittany for several weeks and has a growing sympathy of many economic and political actors.
This movement is widely presented and relayed has a Breton uprising oppressed by a centralizing state tax installing Brittany in a deep economic crisis .

While the institutional dominance of the French State impedes economic and political emancipation of Brittany, we must not be blinded by opportunistic economic interests claimed by some players in the dispute, in the foreground is the FDSEA and many pundits dismissing their employees on the altar of profit.

Under the guise of defense of the economy of Brittany, some economic actors in the fight , advocates of liberalism , seeking to rally the Breton population to their capitalist productivist cause.

This process results in rallying political support centre  right and the extreme right , Breton or French , made ​​the Red Caps , through different social networks also . But behind this so-called solidarity , we must keep in mind the opportunistic setting in the alleged struggle for the survival of the Breton economy.

It is now accepted and recognized through numerous polls , the Bretons show a very strong attachment to their language, culture, history and any other element of our identity. We certainly see a strong link in the approval of the Breton people to the protest movement.

We do not have an institutional tool in Brittany, with real legislative and regulatory powers , in order to express legitimate grievances of the people and see some of its elected compelled to do so in the street demonstrations. We will return at the conclusion of this analysis.

However, this challenge also highlights the exploitation of the Bretons aimed specifically, spreading diverse ideologies that have no connection with any economic and political emancipation of Brittany.

Thus, we see here and there, a shameful recovery and often erroneous symbols that make history of Brittany ( Gwenn -ha - Du, Red Hats , Anne of Brittany, etc ... ) to attract the sympathy of the Breton people . Let us not be fooled by this abuse !

This manipulation is partly orchestrated by bands and circles of neoliberal thoughts , anti-tax , or worse , by far-right groups .

The French extreme right through the FN or its  minions Renewal French and the far right by the small groups Breton Adsav and Young Brittany are just as racist and neo-fascist has their provider base of FN  and have managed to establish themselves permanently in Brittany on a populist pitch surfing the economic crisis.

Despite opportunism, every protest movement challenges the liberal system of which it is the most pernicious actor. The current protest movement in Brittany is no exception to the rule.

This shameful recovery was displayed by Marine Le Pen, who has raised the symbol of the red cap on her Twitter profile as it is , remember, and opposing any form of regionalism fiercely and it has many royalists in its ranks!

Her father meanwhile appeared wearing the same red cap under the cameras .

Extreme right-wing members also used the symbol of the Red Hats on November 11 

We strongly condemn these acts and must exercise the utmost vigilance against the real danger of the extreme right vote in the municipal elections of March 2014 and European May 2014.This is why the popular protest in Brittany should be recovered to serve the demands for political or economic interests and social emancipation of Breton workers as people.

Only the Breton people could have legitimacy to decide their future if Brittany was actually set up democratic institutions in order to deliberate.

What democratic institutions? Existing institutions, the French National Assembly, the regional and departmental councils , products of centralist model of the French government does not respond to the issues raised by the Breton crisis.

For maximum sovereignty in all policy areas and a direct representation of Brittany in the European and international bodies , only the creation of a parliament with legislative and regulatory powers , like Scotland, Wales, the Basque Country or Catalonia , will lead a real neighborhood policy to respond to the remoteness of our territory.

This will  be accompanied by a tax and budget accordingly to operate in  the economic , social and environmental in response to the crisis currently in Brittany.

Edtorial from Breizhhistance

Any mistakes in the English Translation are ours and not Breizhistance - here is the French original.

Crise bretonne, Bonnets Rouges et dangers de l’opportunisme

Le soulèvement des Bonnets Rouges en plus qu'une révolte antifiscale.

Le mouvement de contestation, aux revendications diffuses, qui touche la Bretagne depuis plusieurs semaines bénéficie d’une sympathie croissante de multiples acteurs économiques et politiques. Ce mouvement est largement présenté et relayé comme un soulèvement populaire breton opprimé fiscalement par un Etat centralisateur installant encore plus la Bretagne dans une crise économique profonde.

S’il est vrai que la domination institutionnelle exercée par l’Etat jacobin nuit à l’émancipation économique et politique de la Bretagne, il ne faut pas se laisser aveugler par les intérêts économiques opportunistes revendiqués par certains acteurs de la contestation, au premier plan la FDSEA et nombre de grands patrons licenciant leurs employés sur l’autel des profits.  Sous couvert de défense de l’économie de la Bretagne, certains acteurs économiques de la lutte, chantres du libéralisme, cherchent à rallier la population bretonne à leur cause capitaliste et productiviste. Ce processus de ralliement se traduit par les multiples soutiens politiques de droite et d’extrême-droite, bretonne ou française,  apportés aux Bonnets Rouges, au travers des différents réseaux sociaux aussi . Or derrière cette dite solidarité, il faut bien avoir à l’esprit le paramètre opportuniste dans la prétendue lutte pour la pérennité de l’économie bretonne.

Il est désormais acquis et reconnu par le biais de nombreuses enquêtes d’opinion, que les Bretons montrent un très fort attachement à leur langue, leur culture, leur histoire et tout autre élément constitutif de notre identité. Il faut certainement y voir un lien dans  la forte approbation du peuple breton envers le mouvement de contestation.
Le fait de ne pas posséder d’outil institutionnel en Bretagne, doté de réelles compétences législatives et réglementaires,  afin d’exprimer de légitimes revendications voit la population et une partie de ses élus contrainte de le faire dans la rue par les manifestations. Nous y reviendrons en conclusion de cette analyse.

Pour autant, cette contestation met aussi en avant l’instrumentalisation de la spécificité bretonne dont le but est la propagation d’idéologies diverses n’ayant aucun lien avec une éventuelle émancipation économique et politique de la Bretagne. Ainsi, nous assistons ici et là, à une récupération honteuse et souvent erronée, des symboles qui font l’Histoire de la Bretagne (Gwenn-Ha-Du, Bonnets Rouges, Anne de Bretagne, etc…) afin d’attirer la sympathie du peuple breton. Ne soyons pas être dupes de cette abusive  utilisation!

Cette manipulation est en partie orchestrée par des groupes proches des cercles de pensées néolibérales, antifiscales ou pires encore, par des groupes d’extrême droite . Ni l’extrême droite française par le biais du FN ou de ses sbires du  Renouveau Français, ni l’extrême droite  bretonne par celui des groupuscules Adsav et Jeune Bretagne, tout aussi racistes et néo-fascistes que leur pourvoyeur de fond du FN,  ne sont parvenus à s’implanter durablement en Bretagne malgré un argumentaire populiste surfant sur la crise économique. Malgré un opportunisme à tout crin à chaque mouvement de contestation remettant en cause un système libéral dont il est l’acteur le plus pernicieux. Le mouvement de contestation actuel en Bretagne n’échappe pas à la règle. Cette récupération honteuse a été affichée par Marine Le Pen qui a arborée le symbole du bonnet rouge sur son profil Twitter alors qu’elle est, rappelons-le, une farouche opposante à toute forme de régionalisme et qu’elle compte de nombreux royalistes dans ses rangs ! Son père quant à lui est apparu coiffé du même bonnet rouge sous l’œil des caméras.

Des membres d’extrême droite ont aussi utilisé le symbole des Bonnets Rouges le 11 novembre dernier alors qu’ils conspuaient le président français François Hollande sur les Champs-Elysées à Paris.  Nous dénonçons fermement  ces agissements et devons faire preuve d’une extrême vigilance face au réel danger que représente le vote d’extrême droite lors des élections municipales de mars 2014 et européennes de mai 2014.

C’est pourquoi la contestation populaire en Bretagne ne doit être récupérée pour servir les revendications d’intérêts politiques ou économiques contraire à une émancipation sociale des travailleurs bretons en tant que peuple. Seul le peuple breton pourrait avoir une légitimité à décider de son avenir si la Bretagne était réellement dotée d’institutions démocratiques afin d’en délibérer.
Quelles institutions démocratiques ? Les institutions actuelles, l’Assemblée Nationale française, les Conseils régionaux ou départementaux,  produits du modèle centraliste de l’Etat Français, ne répondent pas aux enjeux soulevés par la crise bretonne. Pour obtenir le maximum de souveraineté dans toutes les champs politiques et une représentation directe de la Bretagne dans les instances européennes et internationales ,seule la création d’un parlement doté de compétences législatives et réglementaires, à l’instar de l’Ecosse, du Pays de Galles, du Pays Basque ou de la Catalogne, permettra de mener une réelle politique de proximité à même de répondre à la périphéricité de notre territoire.

Ces compétences nouvelles devront s’accompagner d’une fiscalité et d’un budget en conséquence afin d’opérer en profondeur les réorientations  économiques, sociales et environnementales  indispensables pour répondre à la crise traversée actuellement par la Bretagne.

 La rédaction de Bretagne-Info.