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 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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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:

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:

Together we can make a difference.

Unemployment In Wales Jumps 72%

Alarming figures (and these are the registered claimants, so true numbers will be larger)

THE number of people claiming job seeker’s allowance in Wales soared by 72% in the last 12 months. The largest rise came in the over 50 age group, which increased by 79%.

There was also an 78% rise in those aged between 25-49 seeking to work, and 62% for those who are between 18 and 24 years old. The job seekers benefit count, which had been around 40,000 during every August since 2005, jumped from 45,975 in 2008 to 79,155 in August 2009.

But in contrast, the number of unfilled vacancies across Wales in the same month stood at less than 11,000. The largest proportion of jobcentre vacancies in Wales were in Swansea West constituency at 10% of live unfilled vacancies.

In North Wales, Alyn and Deeside had the highest proportion of unfilled vacancies at 3.8%, followed by Wrexham at 3.6%. Clwyd South has the lowest proportion of similar unfilled vacancies at just 0.6%, compared to 1% in Cynon Valley and 1.1% in Rhondda, Ogmore and Merthyr & Rhymney, and 1.2% in Ynys Môn.

On Anglesey, 1,695 claimants were looking at 131 vacancies, compared to 1,845 claimants and 394 vacancies in Wrexham, and 1,945 claimants and 412 vacancies on Deeside.

The figures were obtained by Plaid Cymru AMs Leanne Wood and Chris Franks, who argued that it would be wrong to expect unemployed people to chase jobs that did not exist. Leanne Wood said: “Any attempt to reduce the overall benefit budget will be disastrous for Wales. These figures show that you cannot force people into jobs that don’t exist.

nb. the use of accepted newspeak jobseekers, seeking work etc. these are government created linguistic scams, the only thing we can objectively say is people are unemployed and that should be the language the media use. There is an ongoing pressure to make unemployment -which neoliberalism relies upon to maintain a ‘flexible’ labour market, ie without protections or a living wage- an unacceptable state of being in order to facilitate cutting welfare, introducing workfare & further terrorising workers into a submissive pliable ‘human resource’. You either work or are desperately trying to work, the fact the jobs do not exist does not mitigate this stigmatising of an ‘undeserving poor’ for our political and media class.

Lord Knows We Have Enough Wind

So this is good-

One of the largest offshore wind farms in the world has been approved to be built off the coast of north Wales. The 250 turbines of Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm will be built eight miles off the coast, 10 miles away from Llandudno, Conwy. Gwynt y Môr, combined with three other nearby wind farms, will provide enough green electricity to power the equivalent of 680,000 homes. It has been approved by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The wind farm will start to produce power from 2012, subject to consent for onshore electricity works.

But John Lawson-Reay, chairman of Save our Scenery, who campaigned against the wind farm, said he was “shattered” by the scheme’s go-ahead. “Tourism is the only major industry in Wales basically,” he said. “Llandudno is the queen of Welsh resorts, as has been often said, and we think and we believe and the views we get from visitors we speak to is that the scenery is the primary number one reason for people coming here. They want to get away from industrial areas.”

Gwynt y Môr is the latest wind farm to be approved off the north Wales coast. North Hoyle, which has 30 turbines and Burbo, which has 25 turbines, are already up and running, while Rhyl Flats, with its 25 turbines, is into the latter half of its construction phase.

I diagree with those against offshore wind farms, I think they look nice, ok maybe a difference of aesthetics but …an industrial ruination of Llandudno…calm down. Money for boat tours of the wind farm alone will be a plus, dammit I’d book (get the sunset one, take a camera, sweet). (Although I think there is a point about areas ouside of wealthy enclaves being picked as softer targets in regards of well connected nimbyism.)

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