YesCymru Returns to The Streets

Geoff Ryan enjoyed himself at the YesCymru march last Saturday, 22nd June, along with thousands of others

 

Although my Cymraeg is extremely limited and most of the participants and speakers were fluent speakers I was able to get the gist of what people were saying based on other people’s reactions and the tone and delivery from the platform. It was an inspiring day, not least because I was able to meet up with comrades I haven’t seen for a very long. It was the first demo I had been on since my car accident 8 years ago and fortunately the route was flat and short.

The YesCymru march in Caerfyrddin/Carmarthen on Saturday 22 June was a joyous affair, probably because it was a march FOR something (Annibyniaeth/Independence) rather than opposition to policies decided elsewhere. A large (mechanical) red dragon/Ddraig Goch led about 8,000 people through the streets of central Caerfyrddin, while the Ddraig Goch was displayed everywhere on the white and green flags of Cymru carried by a large number of the marchers.

While the draig Goch and YesCymru were easily the most noticeable other flags were on display, notably a dozen or so flags of Palestine as well as the Scottish Saltire, the flags of Catalunya and Cornwall as well as an Australian aboriginal flag. There was also a large banner reading Rhyddid I Balesteina/Freedom for Palestine which attracted support from people from a broad spectrum of politics. Only 2 people appear to have objected to the banner.

A red dragon model on the the YesCymru march in Caerfyrddin/Carmarthen

There were several bands along the march who provided inspirational music to inspire the marchers, particularly Sospan Bach, Men of Harlech and particularly Yma o Hyd which has become the theme song of the Independence movement very much, as well as the supporters of the Wales football team.

Caerfyrddin has a special place in the struggle for freedom in Cymru (as well as being the oldest town in Cymru and supposedly being the birthplace of Merlin, of King Arthur fame). It was on 14 July 1966 that Gwynfor Evans won the Carmarthen constituency by-election, becoming the first ever Plaid Cymru MP. But Caerfyrddin and Sir Gaerfyrddin/Carmarthenshire has an older history of resistance. It was the main area of the Rebecca Riots.

In June 1843 thousands of protesters against toll gates (which had a serious effect on working class and small-scale farmers’ living standards) rallied in Caerfyrddin under the banner of Cyfiawnder a Charwyr Cyfiawnder Ydym Ni Oll (Justice and Lovers of Justice Are We All). This protest, part of what has been called the Rebecca Riots, was promoted by Yes Cymru on social media to help build the march and a large banner with the above quotation draped the stage at the start of the rally. Author Hefin Wyn related some of the history of Rebecca, along with a number of men dressed in 19th century women’s clothing in imitation of the original Merched Beca (Rebecca Women).

Speakers on stage at the YesCymru march in Caerfyrddin/Carmarthen

Among the speakers were Plaid Cymru MS (Member of the Senate) for Sir Gaerfyrddin Cefin Campbell, former Labour MP for Carmarthen Gwynoro Jones and former Labour MP Beth Winter who was one of the first victims of Keir Starmer’s purge of left-wing MPs. Gwynoro Jones was scathing about the new leader of Welsh Labour Vaughan Gething contrasting him very unfavourably with former Prif Weinidog /First Minister) Mark Drakeford.

But it was Beth Winter who gave the most inspiring speech. Alternating between Cymraeg and English she challenged the prevailing neoliberal economic orthodoxy that puts profits before people and has resulted in an unprecedented re-centralization of wealth and power in Westminster and London.

Beth went on to demand a fairer, needs based funding settlement for Cymru from the UK government, the £500 million needed to make coal tips safe and £1.1 billion owed to Cymru since the UK left the EU. She continued by demanding the £4 million owed from the now largely abandoned HS2 project, which was classed as an England and Wales project despite not an inch of the track going anywhere near Cymru and continued with calls for devolution of the Crown Estate and the introduction of a wealth tax.

“it was Beth Winter who gave the most inspiring speech. Alternating between Cymraeg and English she challenged the prevailing neoliberal economic orthodoxy that puts profits before people and has resulted in an unprecedented re-centralization of wealth and power in Westminster and London.”

Beth continued by calling for a redistribution of political power as well as wealth and insisted that all 3 of the options in the report of the Constitutional Future for Wales (entrenched devolution, a federal state or independence) must be on the table which requires the involvement and confidence of the people of Cymru.

Finally Beth drew attention to the rise of the far right across much of the west and stressed the need for progressive forces in Cymru to come together to develop socialist policies and actions that give people hope and a vision for a kinder, greener, more equal and tolerant society, not just in Cymru but also worldwide. She ended with the words Gobaith ac Undod (Hope and Unity).

Fittingly Beth was followed by singer and songwriter Dafydd Iwan who spoke only in Cymraeg, but I understand said he hoped to share more stages in the future with Beth before leading everyone in a rousing rendition of his iconic Yma o Hyd.

Although the numbers were perhaps slightly smaller than recent marches this didn’t discourage any of the participants. There were Palestine protests at the same time in Abertawe/Swansea and Caerdydd/ Cardiff where protesters were, for the second time in a few weeks, attacked by the South Wales Police. The Cymru Pride march, which was also taking place in Caerdydd/Cardiff was delayed because of the Police attack on the Gaza protest. And no doubt some who would have supported the YesCymru march went to London for the Restore Nature demonstration.

I spent a lot of the march giving out a leaflet produced by supporters of the Cymru Radical Left Dialogue which brings together people from various organizations (and none) in Cymru via a WhatsApp group. However, we are now hoping to transform this WhatsApp into an organization bringing together activists from Red/Green and Independence campaigns which can hopefully intervene into the Senedd and Council elections in 2026. A conference is planned for the autumn to take these first steps in uniting the left in Cymru in an ecosocialist organization. It was very easy to get people to take the leaflets and by the time I got back home someone had already posted on the WhatsApp group expressing interest in getting involved.

Anyone interested in participating in the Autumn conference should contact: cymrurld@gmail.com


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Geoff Ryan is a member of Anti*Capitalist Resistance, Undod and YesCymru  and participates in the Cymru Radical Left Dialogue,


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