Joined: 07 Jan 2007
|Posted: Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:58 pm Post subject:
|Repwblic.org is an informal group of people who agreed to close down a group of neglected bulletin boards in order to create "Conversations with Welsh Republicans" - which is at http://repwblic.informe.com
Repwblic.org has no formal relationship with Republic.org or CommonCause.org because these are purely anti-monarchist .org's and therefore lacking in any proper republican meta-ideological analyses.
Repwblic.org as a group want to raise the level of political debate above that of our previous bulletin boards and explain republicanism to a new generation of activists campaigning in Wales and the World in the future.
Repwblic.org is not an organisation based upon a paper membership, so there is nothing to join besides the bulletin board where the activity is most accurately described as all sorts of different types of writing.
Repwblic.org welcomes contributions from anyone and you do not need to share our views to join in the discussion, but we cannot guarantee you satisfying replies : this is not an academic community but a political encounter group.
Repwblic.org is primarily concerned with Wales' issues but we are interested in the rest of the World because we want to understand how republicanism is interpretted and used elsewhere e.g. in non-revolutionary contexts.
Repwblic.org is not recruiting activists for any particular campaign but if you are you may use our bulletin board to advertise your campaign and we can provide you with a webpage and an firstname.lastname@example.org email to share in our brand-name.
Repwblic.org's website describes it as ' A Welsh Republican Political Directory ' and this remains our aspiration, to make it possible for the contact details of many small republican groups to be found in one place.
Repwblic.org is not attempting to heal the divisions between Wales' republican factions, and no statements that appear on Repwblic websites can be construed as belonging to other than the persons who make them.
Repwblic.org websites are violet-purple and white by the choice of David B Lawrence ( Dai ) because of their associations with 'The Free-Thought Republicans' and 'The White Legion' ( as opposed to 'The Black Legion' ).
Repwblic.org have invited a number of people to submit webpages to explain 'The Black Legion' and 'The White Legion', Conservative, Liberal, Socialist and Nationalist Republicanisms in Wales - we are still waiting !
Please address any correspondance to email@example.com
Please note that firstname.lastname@example.org is still in use as the email contact for http://repwblic.informe.com
Some Explanations and Cautions.
I feel loath to write this because I know that most republicans of whatever sort are simply working quietly and persistantly to try to make Wales a better place, writing letters and making arguments with the objective of making not breaking laws, so they will object to the latter part of this page as giving a misleading impression or even courting popular prejudices.
Many surveys have suggested that as many as 20% of people in Wales identify themselves as republican, but if you ask them whether they want a British or Welsh republic they immediately divide into two groups. If you start to ask them questions about what kind of British or Welsh republic they want the kinds of answers multiply very fast. Although most people in Wales are very poorly informed about political theory and wouldn't necessarily like to be labelled at all, it is my guess that in terms of conventionally conceived 'democratic-republican' ideologies Wales' republicans are equally divided between 'Left' and 'Right' but not in perfectly equal portions between the six ideologies that a 'republican-democrat' like myself refers to as 'Voltaire's Bastards' i.e. those political theories that have seized upon some aspects of the Republican tradition and elaborated them by distorted reasoning into those dysfunctional ideologies that drive political parties apart.
The potentially fractious nature of 'democratic-republicanism' should therefore be immediately obvious as people congregate into ideologically driven parties that divide society in a perverse political system that claims to deliver the rule of the people but actually disaffects most of the electorate by producing a series of governments elected by a minority of votes and characterised by ideological extremes that the majority find repellent. This is a fairly typical 'white' 'republican-democrat' view, white being a position in the middle of politics that attempts to either A) combine all of the other colours by making a synthesis by virtue of the dialectical processes that characterise Modernist political theories of the period c1850-1950, or B) allow each political ideology to stand alone as a self-consistant theory that not only be can be understood in its own terms but can also be evaluated by a meta-ideology that attempts to transcend all such political ideologies and thus explain them whilst not attempting to synthesize them. B) is the Post-Modern approach that has arisen since c1950 which treats ideas as tools and views people caught up in cult-like ideological beliefs as sick - instead of being people who creatively handle the ideas devised as tools by ideologists they have become tools themselves in the hands of any unscrupulous party ideologists. We need to stop this, we need to liberate the 'democratic-republicans' from their enslavement to ideology and re-assemble the tools that were taken from the now 'empty' Republican tool box and if necessary devise some new ones. We must not be shy about using 'their' tools or understanding 'their' viewpoints as we coax them into seeing themselves as part of the whole of society with their own particular contribution to make to the Res Publica along with other groups that they feel diametrically opposed to. For the sake of Wales we desperately need to persuade our politicians to find common cause with each other for the sake of the public good, in other words we need to rediscover Wales' historical republican traditions.
Assuming that the centrally located 'republican-democrats' might account for 10% of Wales' republican cake, and thus deducting a tenth from all of the other slices to account for this, I roughly estimate that the remaining 'democratic-republican' ideologies carve out the following sizes of slice from that cake : Conservative 18% ; Fascist 9% ; Liberal 18% ; Anarchist 9% ; Socialist 27% ; Communist 9%. I'll talk more of this cake and its layers on other pages.
These labels are not to be confused with actual parties or explicit ideologies but are types of political theory that have emerged since c1450, and they are all present in Wales but often go unrecognised for what they are : 'Fascist' for example has become so associated with Mussolini's criminality, Franco's atrocities and Hitler's murderousness that people are shocked when as an ideologist I point out that Chuchill employed the same political methods and could also be labelled 'Fascist' because he used 'technocratic' methods. From a 'republican-democrat' point of view there is nothing in Fascism's political theory that leads inevitably to genocide, however uncomfortable the associations of Fascism are e.g. make a comparison between Zionist Israel and Nazi Germany - the methods are the same, only the Zionists have not yet devised a final solution. Closer to home, the 'nationalisation' of the post war years was an extension of Churchill's policies to win the war and it was in fact a device that gave public money to wealthy people who had ruined important industries in the inter-war years, and he then also often gave them jobs at bigger salaries than they drew from their private companies (!) employing them on the basis of their industrial expertise (!!). Later Thatcher privatised the same industries all over again handing over billions of the public's capital investment for sometimes literally pennies to these carpet baggers who then profitted by selling the public back shares in what had been their own property (!!!). The basis of Fascism is the rule of the experts or the 'technocrats' and whilst this needn't be tyrannous it is potentially dangerous even in its mild form if there is no check against it and so in the model that I will present later the check is rather obvious - 'democracy', which is the basis of Socialism - another ideology which if not counter-balanced by a measure of 'technocracy' can have some very bad results.
The worst sort of result however is to depart from the sphere of politics into warfare where the basis of political exchanges is entirely absent. In my model the very centre ground is pure white and the more distant from the centre of society the more coloured a person's politics become until tint has become hue has become shade and finally becomes black when it reaches the edge of the field of political action. In Wales we have the historical incident of a French republican army being smuggled ashore to supposedly liberate us in 1797 - dubbed 'La Legion Noire' by Wolfe Tone who thought that the republicans of West Wales would welcome them, only he didn't understand that their politics were essentially 'white' republican and they were peaceful chapel-goers. Black clothing is the uniform of committed republicans on parade in Wales, and of course it is rich in other Welsh cultural associations besides. When I talk of 'The Black Legion' and 'The White Legion' I am referring to two seperate and possibly conflicting methods of law-breaking directed towards the republican concept of sovereignty being vested in the law as opposed to the democratic idea of sovereignty being vested in the people. The objective held in common is to discredit a law so that the public withdraw their consent to it which then confronts the government with a loss of its authority in the state which is derived from the sovereignty of the laws. Thus both groups exploit the relationship between the people and the law, trying to drive a wedge in between them so that the government has to change the law in order to restore its sovereignty or the state will lose its authority. The alternative is to enforce a discredited law and thus lose popularity, in which case a government may fall. If the government cannot change that particular law without setting off a chain of a cataclysmic discrediting of other connected laws it may be facing the possibility of an unavoidable revolution.
'The Black Legion' are often marginal to society and want to get their cause espoused by the centre ground so they look for popular issues that they can make demonstrations about ; if they were conventional 'democratic-republicans' this might involve marches, speeches, radio and t.v. appearances to urge people to agree with them and support a call for mainstream politicians to act - but if they belong to the shadowy groups, 'The Black Legion' at the very margin of Wales' politics, they might secretly commit some act of destruction and leave the public to figure out the reasons why it was done. This is a very dangerous strategy because not only can the public react with hostility if they decide upon another meaning of the act, especially if somebody is injured, but it encourages non-legionaires to either copy those acts without understanding the political judgement involved or even to try to out-do them by injuring or killing somebody. From what we know of these groups, 'The Black Legion' is well aware of the problems involved and groups such as Mudiad Amddiffin Cymru emphasised that violence is absolutely banned. Their destruction was directed towards stopping actions that they regarded as crimes against the Welsh.
'The White Legion' is not at all marginal to society and typically relies on the solid repectability of its 'troops' who act openly as a matter of principle, since they espouse 'The Open Society' and practice 'Open Conspiracy', and fully well intend to get arrested in a blaze of publicity for breaking the law in what are usually symbolic acts of destruction. But they often do unpopular things and have to face great hostility as they try to change public opinion instead of following it - this is the classic philosophically driven protest of 'republican-democrats' and has to be carefully planned as a theatrical production, with the actors well rehearsed, property managers in attendance, critics ready to write the review, advertising managers, an audience to issue tickets to and embargoed press releases. Above all this form of tragi-comedy must have actors willing to be out of work for a long time whilst in jail and friends to support them afterwards. Again, 'The White Legion' has a problem with copy-cats who do not understand the basis of disciplined law-breaking and perform random acts hoping for fame. The 'republican-democrats' realise that this sort of action has to be within the context of a conventional mass campaign.
There are of course people who dream of starting a revolution by insurrectionary violence, and we think that they clearly do not understand the lessons of history if not just plain common sense : if violence is the method of founding a new society then only the most violent can succeed in it, in which case you can say goodbye to democracy and to republicanism.
Repwblic.org is explicitly an 'Open Conspiracy' organisation, i.e. we are subscribers to the 'New Republican' ideals that emerged about a hundred years ago in response to the coronation of Edward VII. The government of the day was shocked to find people waving various tricolours from the U.K. and its empire all along the processional route, when advocating Republicanism had been made a criminal offence over fifty years before. Commenting on these events, H.G.Wells first used the term 'New Republic' in a book called 'Anticipations' and this was adopted as the title of their political journal by Herbert Croly, Dorothy and Willard Straight in 1914. H.G.Wells contributed many articles to this in his tireless campaigns for what we would identify as 'socialist republicanism', and his disaffection with party politics led him later to formulate the idea of the 'Open Conspiracy' able to effect political change as a non-sectarian group acting "... not by canvassing and committees, by tricks and violence, but by the sheer power of naked reasonableness, by propaganda and open intention, by feats and devotions of the intelligence, that the great state of the future, the world state, will come into being." ( Anticipations, 1914 ed.). This idea in turn was an influence on the thinking of Karl Popper when he formulated the idea of the 'Open Society'.
I now want the reader to grasp the significance of the terms that I use : 'democratic-republican' is derived from an historical term associated with Thomas Jefferson; 'republican-democrat' has no strong historical meaning but I am using it to denote the type of democracy that is closely associated with Jean-Jacques Rousseau that is usually thought of as being the opposite of Jefferson's. It doesn't really help to call these 'American' and 'French' because these two ideas about what democracy is were prevailent in Enlightenment culture everywhere and are really complimentary and intimately connected. The difference between them is merely that in the 18c shotgun marriage that welded these two antagonistic political philosophies together nobody really figured out who was to lead the political dance : sometimes it is the people and you get 'democratic-republicanism' and sometimes it is the philosophers and you get 'republican-democracy'. Pure democrats try to drag society in the direction that they want it to go and groups pulling in opposite directions can tear a society apart as has happened in Northern Ireland which has two political hillocks divided by a barren valley where no party has succeeded in making anything grow. Pure republicans try to pull society together which can sound noble but can set stifling limits upon a society, as The Guardians do in Plato's 'The Politeia.' The hybridisation of the populism of democracy with the righteousness of republicanism has been relatively successful but how it has worked out in practice varies from situation to situation, from country to country. In the United States of America to be a Republican is to be a patriot and upholder of the establishment ; whereas in Wales we are against the establishment and the antagonism towards the nationalists leads many republicans to sneer at patriotism and espouse internationalism.
Finally on this front page, and without wishing to worry anybody unduly, I want to warn people that whilst the activity of Repwblic.org is confined to conversation there are still some laws on the statute book that we may be offenders of because we are committed to freedom of thought and expression. From time to time in our discussion people post images of Wales' republican symbols, flags and pictures of people dressed in black clothing with berets decorated with ivy leaves or the 'Eagle' symbol associated with republicanism in Wales, which we regard as freedom of speech but which may be construed as a breach of the Public Order Act 1936 since in a sense our websites are public meetings. The theoretical discussion on this page could also, at a pinch, be construed as "organising, training or equipping ... an association of persons ... for the purpose of usurping the functions of the police or of the armed forces ... for the use of or display of pysical force in promoting any political object " but we deny this. Our whole political theory is about law and order in society and if as observers of Wales' political scene we predict that conflict may occur in society it is not the same thing as advocating it. It is pointless having a discussion unless people can say what they think and tell their truths, but we temper freedom of expression on repwblic.informe.com by removing anything that offends republican values to 'Quarantine' - 'Diheinbraw' - so that it can still be said but it is understood that the republican community in Wales do not own such opinions as theirs. It is better from a republican point of view to invite those who fantasise about armed insurrection to discuss it with us so that they learn how republicans think about such things and be dissuaded - and so we can consider how to limit the damage done to the republican cause if we have some willful person in our midst who may be encouraged by government provocateurs.
The absolutely final note on this page must be about the Treason Felony Act 1848 which a number of people have tried to get removed from the statute book and is widely believed to have now been made a dead law by the Human Rights Act 1998 which surely guarantees to us the right of free political discussion and demands that Treason Felony should solely be a crime defined by conspiracy to effect political change by acts of, and threats of, violence to people in the political system. The act as it stands makes the U.K. unique amongst liberal 'western' democracies in that Republicanism - the World's major political discourse upon its mainstream politics, which is widely regarded as conservative rather than radical - is technically illegal here, even though it's ideas are widely discussed and the U.K. government funds universities to teach about it, discuss it, develop it and research its history. In 2003 'The Guardian' newspaper unsuccessfully tried to get a ruling in the House Of Lords about the provisions of the Treason Felony Act 1848 and, after their considerable expense in various courts on behalf of the public, the Lords eventually refused to give a ruling or ammend the law, but Lord Stein commented - "the part of section 3 of the 1848 Act which appears to criminalise the advocacy of republicanism is a relic of a bygone age and does not fit into the fabric of our modern legal system. The idea that section 3 could survive scrutiny under the Human Rights Act is unreal."
That kind of political farce is just one of the reasons why Wales' republicans want constitutional reform so badly.
David B Lawrence ( Dai ) - 30th January 2009
POST SCRIPT - within hours of adding those two paragraphs about legal matters http://repwblic.informe.com/ started returning a "502 BAD GATEWAY" message which was discovered because I was receiving criticism about broaching the legal matters and we were going to discuss modifying the wording using the draught copy of the page there. By the end of the day normal service from informe.com was restored but it was a unsettling coincidence which drew to my attention that the page as written resulted in exactly the kind of distorted impression of Wales' republicans that I feared is common. If you think that something should be altered on this page offer criticism on the topic thread
Let me then make some estimates of republican activity in Wales in order to put this page in perspective. Perhaps 500,000 people will answer to the name 'republican' in Wales, about 20% of the adult population, but only 5,000 or so of them have an informed opinion as to what the word might mean. There are about 50 activists at present amongst whom probably only 5 can make an educated argument. In the past 200 years or so Wales' republicans have, to my knowledge, killed nobody but various agencies of the British Imperium have directly killed about 100 people or so and if you accept left wing arguments about 'class war' then it has killed over 10,000,000 or more indirectly in various ways. Throughout that period Wales had periodic outbreaks of civil unrest in which republican ideas played a part but were not explicitly quoted until after World War Two when a small number of people were sporadically convicted of various offences connected with acts of destruction. I'll hazard a guess that of people identifying themselves as republicans less than 200 were convicted of 'white' acts like tearing down road signs or obstructing t.v. transmissions and certainly less than 20 of 'black' acts such as the arson campain or planting bombs. There were no deliberate acts of violence that I know of and this reflects a strong taboo in Wales' political traditions - opposition to violence is something that we as a nation hold in common - but from this I exclude the occasions in the 19c when there was no effective professional police force and civil law and public order were often enforced by the military which prompted people to start going to demonstrations carrying weapons to defend themselves. It is of course the occasions of conflict in society that make it into the popular history books and distort the image of what political activists are actually up to, which is mostly reading, writing and arithmetic - by my calculation the political relevance to Wales' republicans of 'The White Legion' is 0.04% and 'The Black Legion' is 0.004%, but unfortunately they excite people's imaginations and they are the first thing that people want to read about.
About the legal arguments above, I am of the opinion that we need to make it obvious to people that we are aware of the issues and do not want to repeat past mistakes, and although I have now modified the wording to 'may be offenders' which is not going satisfy my critics but I am not presently going to modify it further or remove those paragraphs. The criticism I received is that I appear to be throwing out a challenge to the police to have a go at charging me with an offence and am seeking an opportunity for a needless and egotistic confrontation. Actually what I am concerned about is that I know that I cannot operate constant vigilance over the bulletin board to control what goes on there. The problems in the past have actually been mostly about X-rated images of sex and violence being posted, advertising bots plastering the board and a loner claiming to be the Welsh Republican Army. This is one reason why we set up Repwblic - to deal with the problem of ignorant fantasists misrepresenting Wales' republican politics.