Wales- Built By Migrants

This is re-posted from No Borders South Wales written by Tom Fowler, it’s a great read, a great tonic to notions of exclusive nationalism & xenophobia-

The following article written by one of our group first appeared on Waleshome.org last week, where it has already the 2nd highest number of comments. We reproduce it here in it’s unedited original form.

Welsh history has often failed to integrate an international perspective, and as such the role of Welsh people in the British Empire is too often ignored. People like Henry Bruce (1st Baron Aberdare) whose statue overlooks Cardiff University. He was the first governor of the Royal Niger Company which institutionalised the systematic plundering of wealth from the region that was to become Nigeria. Many of the current problems faced by people in Nigeria are a direct result of domination by Britain. Despite having abundant natural resources and being a major oil producer, poverty is a fact of life for the majority of people in the most populous country in Africa.

MIGRATION is one of the most contentious issues of modern times. Add the “im-” prefix and it’s practically a swear word in some circles. If public debate around the issue is ever given any lip service, it generally has a whiff of racism, or more increasingly the stench of fascism about it. The right-wing gutter press have managed to file ‘bogus asylum seekers’ and ‘illegal immigrants’ into the same category as child killers and sex offenders. There is so much that can be said to counter tabloid lies on immigration, it would be easy to fill a whole article with facts refuting them. But these can be easily found elsewhere, here I will sketch a rarely-articulated history of Wales which undercuts the dominant right-wing discourse on migration.

Opponents of immigration often fix upon the notion of an indigenous culture that requires defending from outside influence, a ‘way of life’ that is under attack from foreigners. The ’shared identity’ of the nation-state is appealed to, promoting the idea that the interests of all indigenous people are separate to those of ‘foreigners’. This imagined community of a country is a construct, even in a small nation like Wales most people never know, meet, or even hear of most of their fellow countrymen. Any concept of national identity is not innate and unchanging, but fragile, contested, and constructed over time. The hegemonic concept of national identity serves as a means of social control to dissuade the working people of one country from making natural alliances with the global multitude.

British imperialism led to the colonisation of over 57 countries (mostly in the 16th and 17th centuries), and the economic opportunities offered by the sprawl of empire meant that many ambitious Welshmen were able to make fortunes as slavers  and plantation owners. By the late 18th century this wealth began to be brought back to Wales, and financed the foundations of the industrial growth that was to follow. From the ironworks at Cyfarthfa in Merthyr Tydfil to the harbour of Port Penrhyn at Bangor, industrial infrastructure was built on the profits of imperial conquest and slavery.

The industrial revolution affected the culture of Wales to such a point that we can almost consider anything before it as mere preamble. For the vast majority of its history the population of Wales never rose above half a million. It was only with the onset of industrialisation and the mass migration of workers to fuel the new industries that our population rose. The size and scale of this population explosion cannot be underestimated. The figures tell their own story: by the time of the economic crisis of 1921 the population had grown by over 2 million. This movement into Wales was out of step with the rest of Europe, between 1846 and 1914, 43 million people left for the United States, every European nation was seeing an outward flow of workers to the new world; every nation except Wales. In the decade before World War I the rate of immigration into Wales was second only to that of the USA.

Though much of this inward migration was from other parts of the Britain and Ireland many came from much further afield. It was not until 1905, under the weight of xenophobic agitation against Eastern-European Jews, that the UK passed the first “Aliens Act”, which enshrined the ability of the state to reject the pleas of people fleeing persecution or seeking a better life. The entire current migration-management system, with its web of detention centres, checkpoints and army of agents, can be traced back to this one piece of anti-semitic legislation.

Without the mass migration that resulted from industrialisation, and fuelled by the wealth of imperialism, Wales as we currently understand and experience it simply would not exist. Any recognisably separate identity to that of England would have disappeared into the footnotes of history. Over a period of four generations, from the late 18th to the early 20th century, these immigrants were thoroughly absorbed creating a melting pot that gave birth to a unique culture. A culture which defines “Welshness” far more keenly than any bardic ceremony.

The movement of people generally follows the movement of wealth. It is no surprise that whilst the British ruling class conquered and exploited much of the world, people living in these impoverished and plundered areas followed the wealth to the UK. In the same way that the straight lines that divide so much of the world were drawn by Western statesmen as arbitrary divisions of colonial “possessions”, the infrastructure of border control acts as a clumsy attempt to avoid the payback of imperialist conquest.

The failure to give any realistic form of reparation to former colonies has created vast numbers of dispossessed people. Modern travel now means that these people are able to move to the former imperial states and work to send money home. This migrant work has become the bedrock of many economies where the “brightest and best” are encouraged to work overseas to simulate the domestic situation. People  dispossessed by imperialist domination during the age of empire, and more recent neo-colonialism, fully deserve the opportunity to enjoy a share of the wealth that was taken from them.

We in the Welsh working class need to recognise migrant workers for what they are: fellow exploited people, shaped and buffeted by the same forces that created our own unequal economic position. Migrants are not a separate social group, they are labour on the move. As such they are fellow-competitors for the crumbs from the rich man’s table, and also potential allies in the struggle for an equal society.

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Confederacy of Bigots

Max Blumenthal via Mondoweiss, excerpt-

In the days leading up to Israeli Apartheid Week’s opening event at Columbia University, leading anti-Muslim blogger Pam Geller posted an image of an SS officer with the name of one of the event’s speakers, Ben White, emblazoned on his uniform. (The image recalled placards held by far-right settlers depicting Yitzhak Rabin in an SS uniform just days before he was assassinated.) Geller was among the crowd at the Columbia event, making sure to catch White’s eye as he walked to the podium to speak. He told me that she mouthed to him, “You’re a Nazi.” The day after the event, Geller posted another characteristically juvenile screed describing White as “Nazi boy.”

On the same day Geller posted her smear of White, she promoted a rally in defense of the Dutch anti-Muslim extremist Geert Wilders by the English Defense League (EDL) (Wilders has called for a “head rag tax” on Muslim women who wear hijab).

MORE

I’m not sure how Randroid Geller makes Ben White a Nazi while the EDL are her heroes being as he supports the human rights of all those in Palestine & Israel (as opposed to say an ethno-religious apartheid state that is ethnically cleansing Palestine) and the EDL are… erm your standard common or garden fascist thugs. Once again we see they have no actual arguments they just have violence and hysterical propaganda, or as it’s more commonly known The-War-On-Terror™.

Your Friday day of protest is a full one-

Read the rest of this entry »

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US Army Backs Down & Discharges Alexis Hutchinson

A single-mom soldier who says she refused to deploy to Afghanistan because she had no family able to care for her young son will be discharged from the military instead of facing a court-martial, the Army said Thursday. Spc. Alexis Hutchinson, an Army cook stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, was arrested in November after skipping her unit’s deployment flight. Hutchinson, 21, said she couldn’t leave her son because her mother had backed out of plans to keep the child a few days before the soldier’s scheduled departure.

The Army filed criminal charges last month against Hutchinson of Oakland, Calif., but a general at neighboring Fort Stewart chose to settle the case by granting her an administrative discharge rather than try her in a military court.

“She’s excited that she’s no longer facing jail and can still be with her son, which is the most important thing,” said Rai Sue Sussman, Hutchinson’s civilian attorney. “We’re very happy about it right now.” The decision still carries consequences for Hutchinson. She is being demoted in rank to private and will lose benefits afforded to military service members and veterans, Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said.

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EDL’s Epic Fail In Wrexham

After the on the spot reportage now the Daily Post weighs in-

FOUR people were arrested at an anti-Muslim demonstration amid a strong police presence in Wrexham. Around 40 members of a group calling themselves the Welsh Defence League (WDL) shouted racial abuse and gestured towards locals, saying they were protesting against plans for a new mosque. Four people were arrested for public order offences, and North Wales’s Temporary Deputy Chief Constable, Ian Shannon said the day passed without “significant incident”. Meanwhile Unite Against Fascism held a counter-protest, near where the WDL gathered on Saturday.

And a Wrexham Communities Against Racism festival attracted around 200 people. Residents were joined by faith groups, the Wales TUC, Searchlight, Unison and members of Wrexham Council. Searchlight Cymru secretary Ian Titherington said none of the WDL protestors were Welsh, and they appeared to be members of the English Defence League (EDL). He said: “This was the final humiliation for the EDL’s disastrous visits to Wales. The only way they could hold an event was to bus in 30 from Bolton, who on arrival went to the nearest pub, got drunk and bawled out racist chants.

The EDL gathering did not exactly sell any local links, by displaying a Bolton Wanderers FC English flag and singing God Save the Queen.” The WDL was formed in June 2009 as an off-shoot of the EDL, which claims to campaign against Islamic extremism. The group insists it is not fascist. But at a march in Swansea in October, onlookers were confronted by jeering men giving Nazi salutes, and one was arrested for a racially aggravated public order offence.

An EDL supporter posted a short video (subtitled ‘Outnumbered and we still stand our ground‘ thus admitting their low numbers and it’s not so much ‘stand our ground’ as milling around where the cops said to stand so your small group doesn’t disrupt the traffic or any passing badgers) in which you can hear no Welsh accents, they chant EDL not WDL, plus the worst/funniest murdering of God Save The Queen I have yet to hear (a piece of music that is so droning, joyless & plodding it is almost impossible to wreck it, yet somehow…they do!). You almost feel sorry for them, I don’t think this is endangering any kind of no platform policy, propaganda’s meant to improve your image, not demolish it. Comedy gold-

EDL/WDL Routed In Wrexham

Thanks to Proper Tidy for this report from comments:-

Fantastic day. Several hundred attended the communities festival throughout the day – atmosphere was positive, peaceful and fun all day long! Andy H, the young drummers from Flintshire, and Chris from Sinnermen/The Mayors did us proud, along with all the speakers from Socialist Party, SWP, Plaid Cymru, Labour, Youth Fight for Jobs and various faith & community groups. Thanks to Peter, who MC’d throughout the day, and Pol Wong for his excellent martial arts exhibition. Kids enjoyed the carousel, but it was a very wet day!

Around 40 EDL (mostly Bolton hooligans) stayed in Wetherspoons for most of the day – and when they came out on to the street they were opposed by 150+ working people (not anti-fascist campaigners but ordinary Wrexham folk) who made it clear that they did not welcome the EDL – in the words of one lady: “These are my streets”. The EDL responded by unfurling a St George’s Cross and chanting racist slogans but were heavily outnumbered by Wrexham people outraged at the EDL.

The community festival in Queens Square was entirely peaceful and was such a positive place to be, with people from all walks of life, some excellent music, some rousing speeches, and people dancing in the streets! A 100% success today – the only thing that went wrong today was the weather! We demonstrated the true face of Wrexham; a peaceful, proud, tolerant and diverse working-class town; and we did it the right way – by having a good time together. Proud of everybody involved and proud of Wrexham.

Stop Fascists in Wrexham

EDL/WDL are saying they will hold a march in Wrexham on November 21st, this is what went on in October in Swansea

Oct 18 2009 by Catherine Mary Evans, Wales On Sunday:- THEY denied being fascists ahead of their first Welsh march – but at yesterday’s Welsh Defence League protest against Islamic extremism onlookers were confronted with scenes of jeering men giving Nazi salutes.

There was then a stand-off between the two sides for over an hour, with the increasingly agitated EDL surrounded by hundreds of chanting anti-fascists. Any pretence of respectibility soon disappeared, as they engaged in football chants and Nazi salutes. At 5pm, they were marched away by the police much to the delight of the masses of anti-fascist activists and after a swift celabration away from the area of conflict, everyone dispersed without any violence and with the EDL humiliated. It was a great day for Swansea as many of the protesters were young and on their very first protest. South Wales Police also deserve praise for their sensitive handling of the event but above all, it was a statement by the people of Swansea that their Muslim Welsh community was not going to be intimidated by a bunch of pumped up football hooligans.

Wrexham Communities Against Racism are organising a counter movement. From Proper Tidy in commentsPublic Meeting Wednesday, Wrexham Lager Club 7.30pm 1 Union Road Wrexham (right by the train station) – all welcome!

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Stop Welsh Fascists

Hope Not Hate- The Welsh Defence League – a violent group of anti-Islamic football hooligans – plan on holding an event in Swansea this Saturday and in Newport a week later.  A few weeks ago racists attacked worshippers at a mosque in Swansea, culminating in a pitched battle involving sixty people. Now the WDL want to have another go.

Such actions shame us all – and we must do all that we can to stop this violence occurring again.

Our Welsh organisation, Searchlight Cymru, have just written a letter to the Western Mail stating that we all reject the fear and intimidation of the Welsh Defence League.

And I’d like you to co-sign the letter as well – the WDL may be focusing their attacks on the Welsh Muslim community but by doing so they attack us all:

http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/standupforwales

In truth, this isn’t about religion. It’s about figures on the far right trying to create fear and tension within and between communities – and then capitalise on this division.

But as we understand what they are trying to do, you, I and the thousands of people who view each of us as equals can organise against their hatred and send a clear message: we reject your hate, we reject your fear, we are stronger together than apart.

If you agree with this sentiment please co-sign my letter – and then pass it to all of your friends to co-sign as well:

http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/standupforwales

Together we can make a difference.