07/04/2012

Is Labour's Wet Dream also Plaid's Wet Dream?

One of the things that makes me hate left wing politics in general, and the Labour Party in particular, is the feeling that the left needs poverty and deprivation in order to justify its existence. If the Labour heartland was lifted out of hardship and became prosperous would it still vote Labour?

The answer is a resounding NO!

Because of that the areas that have voted Labour for the past 100 years are still the poorest and most deprived parts of the United Kingdom; places like the South Wales Valleys and Glasgow have been made poorer under every single Labour Government, voting Labour has worked against them, because if Labour had helped to lift those loyal communities out of poverty and hardship they might not vote for the poor man's party any more.

My feeling about Labour was confirmed this week by a, now erased, YouTube in which a Senior Labour Politician described rising unemployment and inflation as an orgasmic wet dream for the left; claiming, more or less, that the poorer people are the more likely they are to vote Labour – so poverty is good news for Labour.

There is a Nationalist argument, which is largely true, that Wales; since time immemorial, has been the poorest part of England and Wales / Great Britain / The United kingdom because it has been exploited and ignored – an independent Wales couldn't be worse off than an exploited Wales has been for the past 500 years!

Doesn't this make the ability to complain about exploitation and poverty and deprivation a wet dream for Plaid's left wing too?

Or can those of us who want Wales to succeed work together in order to create a vibrant Welsh capitalist / co-operative economy that serves Wales well and leads the people of Wales to believe that we are able to beat poverty and stand on our own two feet - rather than being chained to the left wing poverty trap!

21 comments:

  1. Interesting post; agree with a lot of it. You must be disappointed that an extreme left winger is now the leader of Plaid Cymru. A lot of people are.

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  2. Leanne Wood has succeeded in attracting a broad base of Plaid Cymru supporters behind her including Welsh speaking traditionalists like myself. Leanne's vision is not to follow the Labour Party policy of keeping Welsh communities in a state of dependency but to lift people out of poverty through work and not through welfare; but to do that we need access to economic levers so we can create the wealth that is required to prosper and that the state and regulation has a role to play. Does anyone still argue that Adam Smith's invisible hand still has a role to play and that markets are perfect and self regulatory for the common good...no of course not!
    The labels of left and right are misleading...I am left on social issues and centre right on economic and cultural issues so where does that put me on the scale?

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  3. Anonymous 9:46pm - it is ridiculous to call Leanne Wood an 'extreme left winger'. Some people, like yourself, enjoy spouting such terms, but, looking through the policy papers she published during her leadership campaign, which ideas in particular do you consider too left wing or extreme left wing? I have asked this question many times over the last few months on various blogs, and nobody has even attempted an answer, let alone come up with a decent answer.

    Forget the stereotyping, and look at the actual policies and ideas.

    Plaid Gwersyllt's second sentence hits the nail.

    Iwan Rhys

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  4. As the old (SDP?) saying goes, "Keep 'em down, keep 'em poor, keep 'em voting labour"

    I think the situation is a bit more complex for PC than it is for Labour, if their aim is simply to win seats and keep themselves in the Assembly, or even to win a majority under the current constitutional set-up then yes keeping Welsh communities poor could be a tactic. However if they are really serious about Independence, then I think there a growing realisation that they need to counter the "Wales is too poor" argument for staying in the UK.

    As always, I guess it all comes down to whether the politicians simply in it for themselves.

    It's also worth thinking about whether a change from FPTP (which most AM's are still elected by) to a proportional system whereby there are no safe seats, would force politicians to change their strategy.

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  5. Spot on about Labour. I've been saying this for years. This is why it was always stupid for Plaid to try to out-Labour Labour. Even without trying to out-Labour Labour Plaid's problem remains that it is a socialist party and will, inevitably, glory in Wales' relative poverty.

    The advantage Plaid has over Labour is that it is a nationalist party, and can focus on ways of making Wales more prosperous that Labour would be afraid to touch. Such as, control over, and using profits from, water resources.

    If Plaid under Leanne Wood fails to be imaginative in offering our people a more prosperous future rather than harping on about 'Poor Wales' then Plaid will be finished.

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  6. There is no doubt that Wales has both a stagnant economy and generally stagnant leadership but when you say "places like the South Wales Valleys and Glasgow have been made poorer under every single Labour Government" it's also true to say they've been made even poorer under the Tories. Certainly the current economic crisis suggests that when the stats for the current period come out there has been even more economic decline in Wales than there was during the Blair and Brown periods. The crude idea that "the Valleys (or other Labour strongholds) are poor because they vote Labour" just isn't materially true- it would obviously benefit my politics if it was and it would be convenient, but there has to be a bit of honesty. They are poor because no party- both Labour and Tories- that has held power at the UK-level has implemented policies that would revive them. Superficially, Labour reduced poverty in the Labour-voting areas more than the Tories did, because they flooded them with cheap credit. It's difficult to say that that's due to "socialism". Well, not difficult, it's plain wrong.

    If the suggestion is seriously that a Labour government deliberately made their own backyards poorer when in power then that's just a ridiculous analysis and it doesn't really strengthen the case against Labour. It lets Labour off the hook because it is simply incorrect. New Labour in particular followed the centre-right "aspirational" strategy and a big part of Chris Bryant's message in particular was that he could see signs of material wealth emerging in the Valleys and people having new cars etc. Of course it was all unsustainable and based on a reckless lending boom in the banking and property sectors. Now we no longer have the superficial prosperity but we're also seeing the Tories continuing Labour's failure to generate employment. So it's getting even worse.

    The choice is between getting poorer with Labour, or getting even poorer with the Tories. It is a systemic problem to do with the British state rather than to do with the left or the right specifically.

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  7. maen_tramgwydd07/04/2012 13:47

    You hit the nail on the head, WR.

    Wales is poor because it's part of the UK. Unfortunately for Wales and for the unionists, there's no happy medium. It's also a problem for the nationalists, they can't have the economic levers and remain in the Union - if there is a Union after 2014. They can't come piecemeal.

    Serious tax varying powers aren't really compatible with the current funding system - Barnett - which makes Silk pointless. Wales has to be in charge of its economy, and the unionists can't and won't allow that because a federal UK would involve the destruction of the Westminster system, requiring a written consitution and the end of parliamentary sovereignty - the end of the comfy gravy train for London's elites.

    The three Westminster stooges, Cameron, Miliband and Clegg won't countenance Devo Max or Home Rule for Scotland for that very reason. It's worse for them than Scottish independence, which would leave Westminster and the current system more or less intact. Wales - Labour - Lib Dem - Plaid - would have to decide what to do - stay or go.

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  8. Welsh Ramblings joins the ranks of those eager to airbrush out all references to the One Wales Government. If Wales is stagnant then it was that way from 2007-2011 and Plaid Cymru has to answer for it.

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  9. In simple terms Plaid must stop being a shadow Labour Party and strike out. This will not be done with worthy but impenetrable papers by Eurfyl ap Gwilym but with more easily understood policies promoted with simple slogans like 'Scotland's oil!'.

    To do this the first obstacle for Plaid Cymru is to dump the public / third sector obsession with distributing wealth and come up with practicable and easily understood methods for creating wealth. My worry is that being such a socialist party Plaid is intellectually and ideologically incapable of embracing wealth creation. (And don't anybody mention co-operatives.)

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  10. Shambo- far from airbrushing that period I stand by it- it was the best government Wales has had so far. The One Wales Government "ruled" (insofar as Wales has self-government) during a period of economic recession, without any economic levers. I don't see who is eager to airbush the One Wales period; the current stagnation of the Labour Welsh Government perfectls emphasises how Wales was better served by the previous coalition.

    Wales at the Assembly level was not stagnant during the One Wales period. We know Rhodri Morgan wasn't the best and it was still a Labour-led administration but we secured legislative powers, had the first ever economic policy that looks to empower Welsh businesses ahead of prioritising foreign companies, had more spent on transport links than ever before and ensured a socialist health system without the Anglo-American madness taking place over the border. They maxed out the limited powers they had. If you compare it to the Welsh Government we have now it was obviously more progressive and more active.

    The problem is we had a Labour Westminster government during the One Wales period and Westminster holds all of the real decision-making powers over Wales including the economy.

    To assume that the Assembly and Welsh Government has full self-government over Wales is to live in fantasy land. They only so far have power over some aspects of public services and about £250m of economic grant support (Wales' GDP is £40bn+). There is still a long way to go before we have a real democracy in Wales, proper self-government and then an internationally recognised Welsh state.

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  11. Jac, why can't we mention co-operatives? They most certainly can be wealth creators (look at Mondragon in the Basque country), where both the salaries and the profit stay locally, as opposed to large companies having a branch(es) in Wales where the (low) salaries are paid in Wales but the profits are siphoned off over the border or overseas. Also, locally based co-ops would pay their taxes in Wales, so if at some future point we can get a real picture of the amount of tax collected in Wales, locally based co-ops could be a huge boost for this, helping to close the gap between tax collected and public money spent in Wales, thus strengthening the case for independence.

    Socialism and profit/wealth creation aren't mutually exclusive - the more profit/wealth created, the more tax that can be collected to spend on better services etc.

    Iwan Rhys

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  12. Mondragon is sustained as much by Basque nationalism as by socialist principles. I doubt if we have enough people - working people - with that level of national consciousness.

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  13. Mondragon is first and foremost a business, it makes money and then the spin off benefits like money staying the local area and decent salaries come later. As Jac says its economic nationalism and entrepreneurship (dirty words for many on the left) rather than socialism that makes Mondragon successful in the Basque country.

    The much praised Scandinavian models of social democracy often touted as ones Wales should follow are all sustained by high taxes from profit making business, many multinationals, there are very co-ops. If Plaid Cymru can't understand those most basic of economic facts then they will only be seen as another branch of the Labour Party in Wales rather than a welsh nationalist party.

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  14. Anonymous 1:28pm: "As Jac says its economic nationalism and entrepreneurship (dirty words for many on the left) rather than socialism that makes Mondragon successful in the Basque country."

    I'm on the left, and I've no problem whatsoever with economic nationalism and entrepreneurship.

    And I'm perfectly happy with the idea of economic nationalism and entrepreneurship being behind all kinds of co-ops in Wales (I don't think anybody is proposing co-ops on the basis of socialism - what would that even mean?!). Were we to have succesful co-ops, this would create wealth and jobs, keep profits local, increase the tax collected in Wales, and reduce expenditure on jobless-related benefits.

    Jac: "Mondragon is sustained as much by Basque nationalism as by socialist principles". I don't think co-ops need neither socialist principles nor nationalism to sustain them. All that's needed would be that they are seen to create jobs, wealth and profit. If they do, then that would be enough to sustain them. When 12 people got together to set-up Cwrw Enlli brewery, my guess is that they didn't do so based on any theoretical/political principles - they did so to make money!

    There are benefits for individuals / business people / entrepreneurs to set up co-ops, and there are huge resulting benefits to the local and national economy.

    Iwan Rhys

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  15. This has developed into an interesting conversation. With regards to socialism and co-ops (Iwan Rhys' question), we can look quite easily to Marx. Socialism for Marx was workers' control of the means of production. But when different societies attempted to realise Marxism it usually turned out appallingly, by concentrating power and economic influence in the hands of elites. How can Marxism therefore be interpreted in a modern and relevant way? Workers can control the means of production through co-operative ownership which includes a role for profit and the necessity of creating wealth.

    Anon Apr 7 01:28 is wide of the mark to downplay socialism with regards to the Mondragon corporation. Socialism is one of the several ingredients of the Mondragon system. The official Mondragon website notes that "the Consumer Co-operatives, which arose very early on in the Gran Bilbao region, and the Industrial Production Co-operatives such as Eibarresa Alfa, which were inspired by socialist ideals." Historically the socialist-inspired industrial co-ops were the most productive part of Mondragon. They needed the other ingredients too (Catholicism and Basque nationalism, primarily), but much of the influence came from Robert Owen-style socialism. At the moment Mondragon's business model is entitled "People and the Sovereignty of Labour" (see official website). They emphasise labour and the worker much more than the "entrepreneur" as an individual. An entrepreneur would be more likely to start their own company than they would a co-operative. It's not so much that entrepreneurship is a dirty word for the left but that the left prefers enterprise that can refer to a wider range of activities and isn't reliant on one-off individuals stepping forward (as welcome as that might be).

    This is a form of socialism that actually works unlike the previous nationalised state industries that were attempted in the Western social democracies or the state capitalism of the USSR. Plaid Cymru's socialism tended or tends to look more to guild socialism and syndicalism and so on, so is compatible with this.

    Can this all be developed in a way that is relevant to modern Wales? Almost certainly. It doesn't need to be dogmatic and would probably take some time, and there would still be a normal capitalist economy going on as well. But some nationalists will need to get over their problem with the 's' word and with collectivism if they want to support such ideas. I don't mean people inside Plaid Cymru, but bloggers and commentators outside of Plaid like MoF etc.

    Read more here- http://www.mondragon-corporation.com/ENG/Co-operativism/Co-operative-Experience/Historic-Background.aspx

    This conversation is obviously divorced from the reality of the Welsh economy, but discussions like this inside politics are still necessary.

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  16. Anon 1, I am not at all disappointed by Ms Woods' election, although she and I don't see eye to eye on much, I think that she was the best choice for the party and I wish her well in her new job.

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  17. You make a fair point Jac. I recall a Plaid conference where a Plaid councillor made an impassioned plea for Plaid to call on the Welsh Office to support an ailing factory in Merioneth. Brian Morgan Edwards went to the councillor in the dinner brake and told him that government cash wasn't needed because he was willing to make the investment needed but was rejected because they wanted government money not private money!

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  18. Ramblings I don't understand your first comment. I didn't make up the "wet dream" quote to have a go at the left it was a statement made by the Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office – if this is dishonest it is Jon Trickett who is lying, not me. Are you saying that Labour can be absolved for letting down places like the Rhondda and Glasgow because the Conservatives have let them down too? That is what your comment sounds like!

    And in you last comment what do you mean by the patently silly statement But some nationalists will need to get over their problem with the 's' word and with collectivism if they want to support such ideas. I don't mean people inside Plaid Cymru, but bloggers and commentators outside of Plaid like MoF etc.
    I have no problem with co-ops that are run on strict community business lines, I would be happy to support them and invest my mite in them, as long as they are businesses and not grant guzzling third sector fallacies, like too many co-ops in Wales appear to be.

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  19. Ask yourself this, would Wales be such a poor country if it were almost entirely inhabited by English people? I very much doubt it.

    And so it would seem that the problem of persistent poverty is very much linked to the idea of 'Welshness'.

    Perhaps we should ask the Chinese to take over in Cardiff Bay.

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  20. If your proposition was even close to correct "Red Mist", all England would be much like the South East.

    Poor Logic.

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  21. RedMist is one serial Welsh hater of KP's alternative trolling names, why do they continue to live in Wales if you hate the Welsh and our culture so much?

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