Radical political analysis, commentary and discussion in Wales
Dadansoddiad a thrafodaeth radicalaidd o wleidyddiaeth yng Nghymru
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Anarchist Welsh translation and language attitudes

When I moved to Cardiff, I went to all sorts of meetings by various different leftist groups. From Socialist Appeal to Socialist Party, from The Communist Party to the Socialist Workers Party; I tried to be open minded. Every group I came across felt as if it had no place for the Welsh language in it. The Communist Party was an exception; I guessed this was because prominent members are current or ex-Welsh language activists like Gareth Miles; therefore it is due to influential members in the upper hierarchy of the party that meant that they work bilingually.

I think that fundamentally, as the Socialist discourse lacks the libertarian aspect essential for democracy, and manifestations such as the use of Welsh are being used only if ‘leaders’ advocate it, is an inevitable symptom of this. Anarchism is partly about building new worlds in the shell of the old and not waiting for ‘after the revolution’ before taking matters into our own hands. We cannot wait for legislation or even a spontaneous revolution to undo the damage capitalism and globalization has done to the environment, people and minority languages and cultures, as well as everything else! In the case of Welsh, after campaigning for years with Cymdeithas yr Iatith Gymraeg, a group that was quite focused on linguistic legislation, I concluded that Welsh speakers need to create the linguistic landscape around them themselves, rather than wait for the government and multinational companies to do it for us.

Having said that, legislation regarding welsh medium education has meant more people have the ability to speak Welsh, but this is superfluous if the new Welsh speakers don't choose to use it. The language might as well be dead if everyone learns it at school but nobody uses it in their communities and at grassroots levels. We hope that Anarchist Welsh Translation will be a recourse enabling people to create a more bilingual atmosphere in Welsh activism. I always felt that sometimes many justice and human rights groups seemed a little hypocritical especially in predominantly Welsh speaking areas like Bangor. They preach equality but don't practice it when it comes to language and respecting local people’s right to live their lives through the medium of Welsh.

As I got more involved in South Wales Anarchists, I found that although there were some that disregarded the validity of language politics, this would not deter the use of Welsh as I’d observed in socialist leftist groups. The beauty of the anarchist way of organising is that it aims to be horizontal, and advocates self organisation. If you want something done, you do it yourself and with others that opt into it, and feel empowered to do so. One feature of other pressure groups (that are built around bureaucratic structures) that I have observed over the years is that usually one set of people would come up with ideas, but the work to carry out these ideas would be passed onto another more marginal group of people within the organisation (usually younger or conventionally less ‘academic’ or ‘articulate’).

There are a high number of Welsh speakers involved with South Wales Anarchists so an opportunity arose to start a network of Welsh speakers that would do voluntary translations for horizontally organised anti-capitalist campaigns. Many non anarchists soon volunteered too. The new anarchist Welsh translation service is another example of people organising themselves as a co-operative without the use of capital. This service not only does a service for anarchist and activist groups in Wales but also is an example of people self-organising using the model of anarchist economics of mutual aid in mind.

Even in the activist community, deeply held language attitudes sometimes surface from intelligent, open minded people. Over the years I have heard statements from several people within several activist, socialist and anarchist groups such as: ‘It’s divisive to speak welsh!’, 'Why won’t you speak English?’, ‘We’re in Cardiff, speak English’ and 'Welsh speakers are all middle class'. The last statement is a paraphrase from a Socialist Worker’s Party pamphlet on Wales, which is absolute rubbish and demonstrates pure ignorance about the poverty in Welsh speaking parts of Wales.

Sociolinguists consider statements like these as part of an everyday discourse they call the ‘Language Subordination Process’ (2007, Lippi-Green). It can happen within a language or between languages in multilingual communities. These are some examples that are a part of this process, see if any sound familiar: ‘Non-mainstream language is trivialised: Your language is cute or funny.’ and also; ‘Non conformists vilified: See how wilfully stupid, deviant or unrepresentative people who talk like you are!’

Us Welsh and Welsh speakers are simultaneously colonialists and colonized, quoting Jones et al; ‘... where colonisers and the colonized became ‘entangled’, we arrive at an even more complicated place.’ (2003, t. 66). It is very difficult to talk about language politics sensitively since they are very personal issues for many people. One argument that crops up is trivialising Welsh language politics compared to other struggles; people have spent years in prison for language rights in recent decades as well as Gwynfor Evans being ready to die for the language by hunger strike. I don't think we should be critiquing each other’s battles but stand in solidarity against the real enemies; capitalism, globalism and imperialism.

This is the start of the email list. If you are a Welsh speaker and would like to join the email list send us a message. If you would like any material translated, send it our way. We hope to put on a translation workshop using computer assisted translation in the near future, more details to follow.


Jones, A. a Jones, B. 2003.The Welsh world and the British empire, c.1851–1939: An exploration. The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Volume 31, Issue 2, tt. 57-81. [Seen: 2 May 2013]
Lippi-Green, 1997. English with an accent: Language, ideology and discrimination in the United States. Routledge: Oxford