09/08/2007

Jan Morris "Is a Fascist"

In Monday's Guardian, Jan Morris wrote an article in support of a Wales totally bi-lingual and miraculously liberated from the United Kingdom's squalid public culture of greed, gameshow, tabloid celebrity and national pretension.

A sentiment bound to upset the Brit nationalists in the Labour Party. As was to be expected, the bloke who follows the Lord Mayor's Show turned up in today's letters page in the guise of Huw Lewis AM.

How fitting that Jan Morris made mention of Abercuawg, or home of the cuckoo, in her article (Our nation may at last achieve serenity, August 6) because it is clear that she was visiting cloud cuckoo land when she wrote it. Not content at inventing for the UK "a public culture of greed, gameshow, tabloid celebrity and national pretension", she goes on to say that South Wales conjures images of "prejudice, distrust, envy, resentment and plain dislike". She then has the audacity to describe her vision of Wales as a "friendly little country"!

Yes, Labour in Wales has entered into a coalition with Plaid Cymru, but we did so in order to keep delivering on issues like jobs and tackling child poverty - not to develop a quasi-fascistic rural idyll that so enthrals Ms Morris and her cultural nationalist clique. I hear that her travel writing is excellent; I'd suggest a visit to Planet Earth as the next destination.
Huw Lewis AM
Lab, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney


Huw makes a fair point when he comments that this article isn't up to Jan's usual excellent standards. Introducing her thesis by referring to Abercuawg was an open goal for Cloud Cuckoo-land responses, which I would have expected a writer of Jan's experience to have foreseen and avoided. And like Huw I thought that Jan's comments about the urban and industrial parts of our country were unworthy, unhelpful and unnecessary.

It is however a shame that Huw had to spoil his response by referring to Jan as a Quasi-Fascist - which she clearly isn't. Jan has been writing for the best part of 60 years, all of her writing has a radical and libertarian streak that is anathema to Fascism. Jan's war record, as a member of the intelligence services during the Second World War and as a reporter in subsequent wars is proof that she has been an active and vocal opponent of Fascism in all its guises. Her personal circumstances have made Jan a target of vile abuse by the far right. To call Jan Morris a Quasi-Fascist is, therefore, below the belt.

Calling political opponents Fascists is common currency within the Labour party. A few weeks ago Betty Williams is supposed to have commented that all Plaid supporters in north West Wales are Fascists. To be fair to Labour, Welsh nationalists are not above this sort of insult - all too often supporters of the national movement refer to the policies of those with differing opinion as being supporters of ethnic cleansing or linguistic genocide.

This may be dismissed as part of the political banter between people of differing opinions, as harmless fun, as part of the rough and tumble of political life.

Personally I find it worrying.

The problem is that warning people that Nick Griffin is a Fascist is worthless if you have already called Jan Morris, Saunders Lewis, Gwynfor Evans, George Thomas or John Redwood Fascists.

Telling people that the BNP is a neo-fascist party, when Plaid, Labour, Conservative and the Lib Dem's have also been called neo fascists by their opponents just makes people react to the warnings about the BNP with a Yeh! Yeh! Heard that insult before attitude.

The real Fascists came within a couple of thousand votes of winning a seat in the last Assembly election. Proper Fascism is a real and present danger in Wales today. Diluting the anti Fascist message by using the term "fascist" for the sake of political banter isn't just insulting to people with differing legitimate political opinions, it is the political equivalent of crying wolf. With the real Fascist wolf approaching our flock, there is a danger that the warning cries will be ignored because we have all heard the false cries too many times before.

25 comments:

  1. Quite agree. It's an over used term and bandied around far too casually.

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  2. MOF - wouldn't really expect anything other than a rant by way of response from you, but if you take the time to look at Lewis's letter, he doesn't call Morris a fascist, merely remarks on the "quasi-fascistic" nature of the Wales she so clearly wants to see - a description I agree with.

    NM - expected more. Huw Lewis has said a number of intemperate and inappropriate (if often accurate) things about people in the past. He did not 'say' that Jan Morris was a fascist, so to chastise him seems a little unfair.

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  3. Maxx - you have it exactly right. It is a wilful misreading of the sentence from the Fart to say that Morris is being called a fascist here. Nothing of the sort. Through her weird and wonderful prose she has invented an "ideal Wales" that is based on exclusion and a mistrust of urbanites - Huw's letter is right on the money.

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  4. the letter is a good example of why people react the way they do to Huw Lewis.

    He makes some sensibe points and then can't resist a bit of Plaid Cymru bashing, maybe he should stick to the sensible stuff and he could get better hearing from those outside his core base in the Valleys.

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  5. Thefirstanonagain09/08/2007, 10:40

    Where is the Plaid Cymru bashing in this letter? Again, its another wilful misreading of the content. I'd imagine that any sane Plaid member would find that article crazy in the extreme.

    The only provocation being undertaken here is Alwyn's "Jan Morris is a fascist" post, which responds to a point that hasn't been made by anyone. If he is seriously concerned about loose language, then he should delete - or at least change - his post to reflect the reality of what was said, rather than posting on what he wishes was said.

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  6. "It's an over used term and bandied around far too casually."

    As is 'Trotskyist', which is basically anyone on the Left which NuLab doesn't agree with.

    Good post Alwyn. Jan Morris' piece in the Guardian made me squirm and you are quite right to point out its failings - as indeed is Huw Lewis. However, I'm with Alwyn when he says Huw Lewis weakens his argument with his unneccessary swipe.

    For those of you who can't see any Nat bashing (not Plaid), what part of "and her cultural nationalist elite" don't you understand?

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  7. Fair enough, but Huw doesn't call jan a fascist, he just mentions that she is enthralled by "a quasi-fascistic rural idyll." He pointedly did not say that she agrees with all parts of fascist ideology.

    Just because there are paralells between someones argument and part of another ideology, it does not mean they agree with all the parts of that ideology.

    For example, by accusing someone of agreeing with a Stalinist policy on housing, you are not insinuating that they agree with the Gulags et al.

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  8. What really worries me about Jan Morris' article is that she fails to point out the 'British' aspects of modern Welsh culture. Although Wales has a separate culture as a Nation, it still includes traditions that are distinctly 'British' or 'English'. By insulting the "UK's squalid culture of greed and pretension", she is also insulting many Welsh people who could arguable be more steeped in Welsh culture that she is.

    And to think that an independent Wales will not be influenced by England of further afield after independence is childish and misconceived.

    Idealistic nonsense.

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  9. Hang-on a minute who exactly are these folk on the left who Gwe says NULab accuses of being Trotskyists? Thing is most of these parties on the left really are Trotskyists - apart from the Stalinists, Maoists, Leninists, Kim-Il-Sungists ... some of us are even old enough when some on the far-left were not too embarassed to call themselves Pol Potists.

    Of course the Trotskyite SWP have sunk to new depths being in Oliver Kamm's words "the most influential antisemitic organisation active in Britain today."

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  10. Fascism ... the arrogance, the bully mentality, the contempt for culture, the attempt to whip-up hatred in the majority group against a minority ... yeh sounds like the Kinnock wing of the Labour party don't it.

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  11. Is this what Huw Lewis has to resort to. Now he has no position or voice in government he has to spout this crap.

    Oh well a leopard will never change its spots.

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  12. view from mcarthur glen10/08/2007, 10:02

    View from the Glen - thought you'd done us all a favour and left the blogging for a job. What have we done to deserve your return?

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  13. not to develop a quasi-fascistic rural idyll that so enthrals Ms Morris and her cultural nationalist clique

    No, Huw Lewis doesn't call Jan Morris a fascist. He says she and her cultural nationalist clique want to create a quasi-fascist idyll.
    Spot the difference.
    But then Huw is writing in the Guardian to try to impress his Kinnockite metropolitan friends in his Cnut-like attempt to roll back the pro-Welsh tide.

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  14. Nonnie - this is the usual slur thrown at anyone to the left of Labour, including socialists in Plaid who are invariably branded as 'if they were in England they'd be Trotksyist'.

    Of course Respect and the SWP are Trotkyist. I never said they weren't. My point was that the 'T' word is bandied about with the same gay abandon as the 'F' word.

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  15. Actually, I wasn't having a go at Huw. I was observing that the "F" word is used far too casually.

    Alwyn is right that it needs reserving for the sorts of monsters the left has always been most trenchant in its opposition to.

    Jan Morris is a rather silly, ephemeral character who has contributed very little to the culture of Wales and even less to its political discourse.

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  16. gwe - I notice you are having some trouble spelling Trotsky - come on sort it out.

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  17. How did the left manage to convince people that they were the most trenchant opponents of fascism?

    If you actually look at the leadership of the pre-war British fascist and Nazi parties they were packed with ex-Labour and ILP people.

    Mussolini was editor of the Italian Socialist's newspaper Avanti, Hitler's party was after all the National Socialist party - oh and of course there was the Nazi-Soviet pact.

    The most trenchant opponents of fascism are not the left but those boring people who believe in elections/free speech/the rule of law - you know the stuff that the parties to the left of Labour despise.

    I don't see very much difference between the BNP and the SWP for example. They both use popular and legitimate concerns to forward their own hate agendas. It's faintly amusing to see the present-day BNP using real concerns about Islamic terrorism when for 70 years British fascism has been a 100% supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood's attacks on the Jews.

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  18. "Jan Morris is a rather silly, ephemeral character who has contributed very little to the culture of Wales."
    When the likes of Normal Mouth use words and phrases of this ilk (see above) then they reveal their true colours. Agreed that the article had very little merit but for him to denounce JM's achievement as a writer by describing her as "silly and ephemeral" does him little credit.

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  19. I am disappointed that what I said about abusing the term "Fascist" and Normal's agreement, has been abused as an excuse for further abusing the word in relation to the Labour Party!

    I disagree vehemently with Lord Kinnock and his supporters' attitudes towards Wales and the Welsh language, but I respect both their right to hold their opinion and to express that opinion through democratic means.

    Neil Kinnock is NOT a Fascist in any way, means or form. He is a democrat with a legitimate opinion with which I happen to disagree.

    Nick Griffin is, however, a Dangerous Fascist. Those who can't tell the difference between abhorring Griffin's views and strongly disagreeing with Kinnock's aren't welcome in the comments section of this Blog!

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  20. Silly and ephemeral? Stupid, shallow comment.

    Jan Morris wrote the definitive work on Venice and is one of the greatest travel writers of the twentieth century. In political terms Morris may be of little significance, but in literary terms is a giant, to be awarded due respect.

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  21. Normal Mouth: Quite agree. It's an over used term and bandied around far too casually.

    Someone should point that out to your namesake on wikipedia then, as someone named normalmouth keeps inserting the words 'neo-fascist' and then 'fascist' into the article about Plaid Cymru (see the talk page). Bit of a shame really.

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  22. "the Trotskyite SWP have sunk to new depths being in Oliver Kamm's words "the most influential antisemitic organisation active in Britain today."

    Translation: The SWP criticise Israel and support Palestinian human rights.

    Oliver Kamm

    Translation: Pro-war, Blairite who also smears Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Michael Moore and anyone who is anti-war as "anti-semitic"

    The trouble is this actually undermines the fight against genuine anti-semitism.

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  23. No I think the SWP support movements who call for the destruction of Israel, who propagate the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and who boast that all the Jews should come to Israel to save the trouble of hunting them down throughout the world.

    Chomsky, Pilger, Moore - you'd have to go a long way to find three bigger charlatans than these three.

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  24. Mr Miserable are you on holiday? How about a postcard.

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  25. ON HOLIDAY - No!

    I tried a bit of rehab in Betty Ford's to get over blogging addiction! It didn't work though, so now I'm back with a vengeance!!!!!

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