Wednesday, April 01, 2009

War of Words recalling Guernica

My snout, Edna Mopbucket's been on the phone again. "Ola Senor" she said. When I asked her the reason for this burst of Spanish she asked me, with some irritation "Don't you realise that today is the 70th anniversary of the ending of the Spanish Civil War". Edna has some Spanish blood, and for the next five minutes she lectured me about the disgraceful attack on the legitimate Republican Government of Spain in 1936 by the Franco-led rebels, and the role of Welsh volunteers who fought as part of the International Brigade alongside the Government, which was eventually defeated. She seemed very well informed, so I asked her what had brought this on. It seems that Plaid Cymru AM, Leanne Wood had fired the first shot of a little war of words that has broken out in Cardiff Bay. Leanne had dispatched an email to all AMs and their support staff asking them to reaffirm their opposition to fascism, and commit to a permanent memorial to the Welsh volunteers in the Senedd. As luck would have it, Senora Mopbucket was cleaning in the Plaid Cymru zone in the Assembly today, and couldn't resist a peep into one of the Plaid computers, and reading a fascinating exchange of emails that followed.

Leighton Andrews (Labour) - Leanne, forgive me, but 70 years ago weren't Plaid Cymru leaders supporting Franco? Regards, Leighton.

Helen Mary Jones (Plaid Cymru) - Cheap shot, Leighton. How long ago is it that you were a Lib Dem.

Leighton Andrews (Labour) - Ha Ha. I defer to Gwyn Alf Williams, a former Plaid Vice President, in 'When Was Wales' (Penguin) when he argued "During the 1930s, Plaid became even more of a right wing force. Its journal refused to resist Hitler or Mussolini, ignored or tolerated anti-Semitism and, in effect, came out in support of Franco. In 1941 Saunders Lewis' pamphlet "The Church and the World" explicitly rejected the war against Nazi Germany while in 1944 Ambrose Bebb condemned the plot to assassinate Hitler".

"Something of a 'coup de grace - one nil to Leighton" said I. Edna snapped back at me with something in Spanish ending with "Helen Mary won't take this lying down from a flip-flopping millionaire." And I hope she won't either. After all she is ex-Llanfair Caereinion High School, and we have to stick together.


Stonemason. said...

I would check your back for knives, there are more than a few in Cyberspace who would prefer not to hear about Saunders Lewis and his not so minor sins, more than a peccadillo, but less than criminal.


DCW in DC said...

Now we learn that Plaid supported Franco.

... all part of the multi-headed Plaid Cymru - say one thing, vote another way, contradict their leader, engage in student politics ...

B Griffiths said...

Same old smear, besmirch and character assassination against Saunders Lewis, overlooking the fact that he served in the army in that blood bath called the Great War, commended for bravery for his part in an attack and taking a German position near Amiens. Those horrific experiences made him a lifelong pacifist.

Churchill called Mussolini "the greatest lawgiver among men", Liberal Lloyd George called Hitler "the greatest living German". Oswald Mosley, the British Nazi leader was a member of Ramsay MacDonald's Labour Government.

This may all be interesting for the political anoraks but there are over 110,000 on the dole, 1 out of every 4 child is living in poverty in Wales, I could go on but you get the picture. Can't we all address the central issues today rather than what happened 70 or 80 years ago.

Jeff Jones said...

The problem for Plaid is that the Spanish Civil War was a little more complex than a simple fight between the left and Fascism. Fsscists,for example, were a very small component of the Nationalist grouping. Franco was old style Spanish Nationalist not a Fascist. Like Nationalist throughout the world he believed that his racial grouping was unique and he believed thta one day Sapin would regain the glories of the past. Although some Spanish people often ascribe Franco's personal attitude to the world to the fact that he was from the part of Spain associated witht he Celts! As for Saunders Lewis and Ambrose Bebb they typical right wing romantic nationalists influenced by the ideas of the far right Action Francaise. Bebb famously once said 'Wales needs a Mussolini'. What really worries me about this type of nonsense is the effect it has again on the image of politics in Wales on ordinary voters. Whether or not there is a memorial in the Bay to the tiny number of Welshmen ( and it was very tiny) who fought in the International Brigade is of little relevance to the issues now facing modern day Wales.This type of gesture politics would suggest to many that some AMs seem to have too much time on their hands. I'm afraid that student union politics should be the prerogative of those below the age of 22.

Swansea Voter said...

For once I think Edna was off the pace Glyn. This was up on several blogs before Edna got wind.

Back to the issue I think its a little sad that Leighton Andrews has used what was a cross party issue to remember the dead as a political point scoring issue.

Jeff Jones said...

If Leanne Wood was born and brought up in England the odds are that she would probably be in either the SWP or Respect before it imploded. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the Spanish Civil war or those who went to fight in the International Brigade. It is all part of a game by a faction in Plaid who want to prove that they are more socialist then the Labour Party and therefore the true heirs to the radical and socialist tradition of parts of Wales. To most people in Wales this stuff is as relevant to the problems they face each day as a group of monks in the Middle Ages arguing over how many angels could you get on a pin head!

Greg Lewis said...

The 'Wise and Foolish Dreamers' project which works with relatives of International Brigaders has been looking into the possibility of a new memorial to complement the one already in place in Cathays Park.
As a group, we hope to not only remember people who gave their lives but also to encourage modern-day discussions about tolerance, war and peace.
Leanne Wood is trying to do something which we would support. She was looking for AMs support for a memorial in Cardiff which would record the names of the dead brigaders.
This is usually the kind of subject explored intelligently and sensitively...
...and then Leighton Andrews got involved.

Anonymous said...

JJ - Your too smart to believe what your saying, surely.

Astonished in DC said...

It does seem Jeff that Plaid are a party that has some growing up to do – they act like they are a party in the Students Union.

Well Greg I am disturbed to hear that Plaid had anti-Semitic sympathies. My grandfather’s mother was a Russian Jewess, and there are other Jewish roots in my Welsh family. So frightened were my Welsh grandparents that they hid their Jewish roots, they took on Christian names. No one in Bedwas was aware my grandfather was a Jew, nor that my mother had Jewish roots.

Now I read that Plaid “refused to resist Hitler or Mussolini, ignored or tolerated anti-Semitism and, in effect, came out in support of Franco”. What’s more, I don’t here Plaid denying the accusations. Absent a denial one has to conclude that the accusations are likely true.

Plaid Cymru should give a full accounting.

Great atrocities were committed against Jews, the fear among British and Welsh Jews was severe – got to only look at what happened on the Channel Islands where families with even the remotest Jewish heritage were fingered and carted off to concentration camps never to be heard of again.

What if Plaid got the chance to finger my grandfather, and other relatives with Jewish heritage? The Russian Jewess who fled oppression and settled in Bedwas with her Jewish family. To think that had Plaid got its way she and her children could have been carted off to a concentration camp never to be heard of again.

The mind boggles at this revelation.

A voter said...

DC, the reason that Plaid doesn't want to engage in this pointless mudslinging, is because wisely they want to keep out of sewer politics that you and JJ seem to enjoy.

Welsh Jew in DC said...

Voter> you mean you want to hide the hypocrisy of Plaid taking the high road asking AMs and support staff to affirm their opposition to fascism all the while Plaid were sympathetic to Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco; and what's more tolerated anti-Semitism.

I think the public should know Plaid's own history on this score.

And as a Welshman with Jewish roots I am appalled to hear that Plaid tolerated anti-Semitism.

What takes the biscuit is that Plaid doesn’t deny that they tolerated anti-Semitism and were sympathetic to Hitler and Mussolini.

This is something that should be out in the open. That Plaid engaged in such sewer tactics and arguably would have, given the chance, fingered Welsh Jews.

Welsh Jews were frightened during Hitler's time - and there was Plaid showing sympathies for Hitler and Mussolini and tolerating anti-Semitism.

Plaid lent support to fascists of the worst possible kind, and yet Plaid has the cheek to request that all AMs and their support staff affirm their opposition to fascism.

This from a party that was nationalist to the point of being fascist.

Frankly, I am appalled that Plaid will not address this part of their history and make a full unequivocal apology to Welsh Jews.

I am a Welsh Jew – my family going back to the second WW was deeply affected by fear of being fingered and sent to concentration camps to the point they took on Christian names and from what I understand some emigrated to Canada to avoid the possibility of such dreadful outcomes. Everyone should remember what happened to human beings in the Channel Islands – how families were fingered and packed off to concentration camps never to be heard of again. Some human beings packed off even with the remotest amount of Jewish heritage. I have been told several times that no one in the Bedwas area knew my grandfather was a Welsh Jew, even in the family it was not talked about for fear of being fingered by folks like those in Plaid.

As a Welshman with Jewish blood in me I am not happy that Plaid Cymru won’t face up to it’s disgraceful past and come clean.

It will be unforgivable if Plaid does not offer a full and unequivocal apology to Welsh Jews.

Anonymous said...

A Voter> that's rich when Plaid supported fascists and tolerated anti-Semitism. Plaid opened the door on their sewer history themselves. Now having opened that door on their sewer past Plaid are fighting to shut it.

Anonymous said...

What if Plaid got the chance to finger my grandfather, and other relatives with Jewish heritage? The Russian Jewess who fled oppression and settled in Bedwas with her Jewish family. To think that had Plaid got its way she and her children could have been carted off to a concentration camp never to be heard of again.

Speaking as someone from a Polish family AND a member of Plaid this is frankly a steaming pile of horsesh*t.

The mind boggles at this revelation.

Revelation? Doh!

Now if memory serves Churchill led a wartime government in coalition with the Labour Party. That coalition not only sold Poland out to Stalin, it also turned it's back on thousands of Spanish Republicans who had been waging a guerrilla war against Franco in the Pyrenees since Franco's Civil War victory.

The British government (including Labour) had no quarrel with the Fascists in Spain, so once the Allied Forces reached the Pyrenees they elected to leave the Spanish Maquis (who along with the French Maquis had helped liberate Vichy France) who weren't lucky enough to be caught and shot by the Guardia Civil to die of hunger, cold and scabies in the mountains.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Welsh Jew in DC said...

Wee correction, I just checked with my mother - turns out her great grandmother was the Russian Jewess who married my great great grandfather in Scotland (he was the bridge engineer from Edinburgh who settled in Bedwas with his Jewish wife, apparently he worked on building and maintaining many of the bridges that brought the black-gold down from the valleys to the docks for export), which explains why my Bedwas family could keep their Jewish heritage a secret and not be fingered by the locals absent a check on family history records stretching back to Scotland.

Jeff Jones said...

I'm sorry if anon feels that my contribution is mud slinging. Unfortunately the facts often hurt. Lewis and Bebb were influenced by a French political movement which many historians would describe as proto fascist. No one who inderstand the history of 20th century Spain would describe Franco as a Fascist or reduce the Civil War to a simple struggle against Fascism. Franco used the small Fascist party in Spain for his own ends. As for Plaid particularly in the valleys many of its members were and are motivated by the belief of basically 'socialism in one country'. They don't believe that socialism is ever possible in the UK. Even before Blair came along they did not see the Labour Party as a socialist party. In fact many of the Plaid councillors that I knew on Mid Glamorgan CC often joined Plaid as a reaction against their local Labour Party. If they lived in Newcastle,for example, they would not be members of the Labour Party but instead would have joined one of the Heinz 57 variety of Marxist/Trotskyist parties that exist. If we ever did see independence in Wales one of the first political events would be the split in Plaid between its left wing and the the traditional right wing motivated more by what could be described as cultural nationalism. In terms of ideolgy except for a belief in independence Ieuan Wyn Jones and Leanne Wood have nothing in common. The fact that a series of emails about an event 70 years ago with very little relevance to modern Wales can even make the newspapers says in my opinion a great deal about the lack of real ideas and debate in politics at the moment. No wonder a recent Hansard report found that the Welsh were amongst the least interest in politics in the UK.

Anonymous said...

Who once described Saunders Lewis has having 'Francoist leanings'?. Unfortunately for 'a voter' it wasn't Leighton Andrews. In fact it was Adam Price on his blog on 2 July 2007. Leighton Andrews makes afactual comment regarding the founder of Plaid Cymru and all hell breaks loose. On thing is for sure Saunders Lewis would have not have been a member of any party which had socialist leanings. &0 years ago he definitely would not have been upset by the death of the democracy in Spain

Dolores de Cabeza. said...

Ah, the taint of fascism, the spectre of the holocaust.
Angry voices from the indignant and the injured.

As usual, it has to be said... never mind the speeches...follow the money....
Who supplied Franco with arms and finance?
Who supplied fuel to the third Reich?
Who built the troop carriers?
Who financed Hitler`s rise to power?
Who wanted Hitler to invade Russia?

The influx of weapons and mechanized war came to Europe, not by chance, but by design.
The trail seems to lead to and fro, across the Atlantic, to a small group of industrialists and their bankers, not all German!

However, monuments for the dead of war and political exchanges are curiously intwined, but surely better to take steps to prevent such atrocities, such as dialogue and diplomacy, instead of bombs and more bombs.
As for the proposed monument? Rather than a few names inscribed in stone or bronze, why not a chair of learning, university scholarships perhaps, so that our youth, and perhaps even their Spanish counterparts, may study and learn from the foolishness of their elders.

One Wales said...

Leanne, Helen Mary and others promoting this commeration are socialists who have every right to feel pride in the selfless actions of Welsh Socialists who 70 years ago put their lives on the line for what they believed.

I don't that somebody who was President of the Liberal Party in University and a Parliamentary Candidate for the Liberal Party in the 1980s, can really have much to say about taking a principled position or identifying with socialist heroes. 2 nil to Leanne I reckon.

Astonished in DC said...

Simon/Sam> except that it isn't a pile of biological matter.

People less anti-Semitic than then members of the Plaid party fingered people on the Channel Islands. Whole families with the remotest Jewish connection were taken from the islands never to be seen again.

It is a shock to learn that Plaid harbored anti-Jew feelings; that Plaid was in all but name anti-Jew. That Plaid would not have stood behind Welsh families with Jewish roots, but would likely have fingered them had the Nazis extended their occupation from the Channel Islands to the mainland and Wales.

It's no wonder my Welsh folks felt under threat from the likes of Plaid to the extent they worked hard to hide their Jewish heritage. No one in Bedwas knew my great grandfather was a Jew - that his mother was a Jew. From what I have been told, I have Jewish roots from different sections of my family – two other parts of my family were openly Jew, some of whom headed off for N. America. To this day I do not know who they are, even my mother is not clear about whom exactly in my extended family left Wales for N. America, but I understand they were a well known Jewish family in Cardiff. It is absolutely disgusting that I do not know who they are.

On a visit a couple of weeks ago I took time out to take my mother to see two of her Jewish aunts. I booked several days to see people that a member of the Welsh Assembly team based in Manhattan promised to help me see, but he didn’t turn up, as promised, at the BioWales 2009 event – for a perfectly good reason, I had an email from him a few days ago, his mother had died and he was blown over. I could fully understand that, but anyway I had time to fill and so I took my mum to see her Jewish aunts in Trethomas. I feel awful to write this, but when I grew up, I did not know they were Jewish – I had no inkling whatsoever, I didn’t even know what the word “Jewish” meant.

I have since wondered why with my Jewish heritage that I was given a first name with "Christ" in it), that my Jewish grandfather who ran the White Hart Inn (with my grandmother) in Bedwas never ever mentioned to me that he was a Jew, that his mother was a Jew. But I was given that name to further hide my Jewish roots, even though the Second World War was long over.

When I finally learnt that my grandfather was a Jew, I was frightened to ask him about it. I was worried that he would deny it, so ingrained was the intra-family conditioning. It is dreadful to think how they must have feared exposure. Once exposed they would know that if the Germans occupied Wales they would be carted off.

I wonder how many other Welsh boys and girls with Jewish roots who grew up without ever being told of their Jewish roots because their family was so deeply conditioned to hide it.

What I learned this week about Plaid is a shock.

I have learned that Plaid were a serious concern to Welsh Jews and their families.

That Plaid was the worst kind of racist party.

Plaid must offer a full unequivocal apology and work hard to show that today they stand behind Welsh Jews.

Anonymous said...

Of course Plaid feels that that Plaid's past can be swept under the carpet, that Welsh Jews don't deserve an explanation and apology. But in not denying their former sympathy for Hitler and Mussolini, not acknowledging their anti-Semitic past will not help Plaid. Given these revelations about Plaid's past, Plaid needs to take this issue seriously and not boo-hoo it. That will not do.

Anonymous said...

It is a shock to learn that Plaid harbored anti-Jew feelings;

Only for the imaginary people who share your imaginary world.

Anonymous said...

Welsh Jews lived in fear, yet a Plaid member sees fit to offer a pathetic flippant response to a serious issue. If this is the overall view of Plaid – that a tom foolery response is all that is called for, then this is a party not fit to govern in Wales.

Anonymous said...

Welsh Jews lived in fear, yet a Plaid member sees fit to offer a pathetic flippant response to a serious issue.

Take a tablet, mate; you're frothing at the mouth.

Things that you make up do not qualify as being 'serious issues' for anyone other than yourself and your psychiatrist.

Anonymous said...

Me and Leighton Andrews (Labour) are co-frothers then, as Mr. Andrews points out in his own words:

I defer to Gwyn Alf Williams, a former Plaid Vice President, in 'When Was Wales' (Penguin) when he argued "During the 1930s, Plaid became even more of a right wing force. Its journal refused to resist Hitler or Mussolini, ignored or tolerated anti-Semitism and, in effect, came out in support of Franco. In 1941 Saunders Lewis' pamphlet "The Church and the World" explicitly rejected the war against Nazi Germany while in 1944 Ambrose Bebb condemned the plot to assassinate Hitler".

Glyn Davies said...

All - Sorry - have not been able to engage with this fierce debate (too much otherwise occupied) which is a pity because I wrote a dissertation on the Spanish Civil War a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

History tends to be written by the winner we are told. All parties change and should not be tarred with the past ..without some thought.

I still support the Labour Party even though they have long since cast aside socialism, a pro - europe attitude and an hatred over taking part in overseas wars...let alone a concern for the money grabbers of the City of London.

Plaid of the 1920s and early 30s was a collection of small factions representing methodism, the language and a hope for home rule ....100% for students etc...

how times change.