The age of the public meeting must be almost over, but that does not mean that politics should stop taking to the streets.   One friend of mine sees Facebook as the prime means of dissent and solidarity, while another is from the old school of fly-posting and demo's.
   I believe that both are equally valid, as shown by our recent republican protests in Merthyr Tudful, which seemed to be one of the most effective in the country.
   We plastered the town in 'Gweriniaeth Gymreig' posters prior to the events, managing to evade the cops, who were actually more vigilant just before the Olympic torch was due to hit town.
   We also handed out leaflets in the precinct and managed to get insulted by a few passing monarchists, who nevertheless refused to stay and argue their cause.
   The combination of official protest with speeches outside the Library and a more spontaneous demonstration at Cyfarthfa Park proved successful, though it would have been good to see more of those who promised to attend on our Facebook page turning up on the day.
   Therein lies both the power and danger of the internet : some are quite content to exist in a virtual reality of activism, but not to physically engage in it. Yet it is highly effective in drawing together like-minded people.
   It can be an easy option to sign online petitions, but these still have their place in rallying support and making politicians and others take notice.
   During my brief stint in Plaid Cymru recently I'm proud to say I did have some effect , as I urged them to take to the streets regularly and focus on local issues of current concern.
   As people rarely attend public meetings, this an important way of connecting with them, as the Trots have found over the years. Though selling papers shouldn't be the point, rather to show that politics isn't a matter for others to determine, but a means of involvement for everyone.
   Not every person can be an activist, but in making that step from apathy to trying to change the world, it can empower and liberate. I have witnessed this in both anti-opencast and anti-poll tax campaigns in the past, where people changed from believing nothing could be done to wholeheartedly committing themselves to action.
   During the Plaid Cymru Day of Action about the impending closures of Remploy factories, one woman I spoke to was incandescent. She explained how her life had been destroyed by the recession and , that very day, her small business (which I knew well) at the bottom of town had closed down due to financial pressures. Business rates, she told me, were beyond. She made the link between her own plight and that of these factories : to her, it all part of one demise ,an economic system which showed no concern for people's livelihood.
   Sadly, for most mainstream parties the only time they take to the streets is with a forthcoming election.
   Is it any wonder that the majority are highly suspicious of their motives? It's like they are buying votes with promises.
   The notion of a much longer term altering of consciousness is more associated with the Far Left, though cynics would simply say that's because they stand no chance in elections. The success of Melanchon's party in France and Syriza in Greece would suggest that the tide is turning in this respect.
   In this country, elections have been masks of changes rather than matters of principle and I certainly hope that alternatives can arise to change this.
   Returning to our republican protests, it was noticeable that with local elections coming up, some sympathetic Plaid activists avoided taking part. They clearly saw it as an unpopular cause and were afraid to argue the case.
   Thisis how the abandonment of ideals begin and the case of Lord Elis-Thomas - who once served the writ in the Commons so Provisional IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands could stand for election - should be a warning to all how easily politicians can be assimilated into the system. Here is someone who became a Lord against his own party's wishes, supported nuclear power in defiance of their policy , grovelled constantly to the monarchy and mocked their aspirations of full independence. Perhaps he is better off in the Labour Party, though there are too  many others in the Blaid with similar sympathies.
   So , political actions need to operate on as many levels as possible : through the culture of songs and poems, the fly-posted sloganeering, internet groups and tweeting, street campaigning and even, sometimes - when a local issue is sufficiently burning - those public meetings.
   The Occupy movement may have disappeared for now, but something else will replace it in these times of struggle and hardship. Each country must develop their own form of protest , though they must not operate in isolation. In Cymru, our history of strong civil disobedience must surely play a part in determining this, still alive in the activism of Cymdeithas Yr Iaith.
   Lets hope we stand as a human wall against the battering blows of ConDem cuts from London, yet a wall that is the beginning of a much larger building, one that is no longer like a prison, but always open to to the light of visions. 

                                   FLYING  DOWN  TOWN

When you're out flying down town
wear black for camouflage ;
don't run to draw suspicion.

Carry buckets of paste in bags,
walk quickly if they spot you,
take off down an alleyway.

When you're out flying down town
before the visit of torch or crown,
with your wings made from posters ;

become the crow, rook or jackdaw,
flap your jacket arms
and imagine the rooftops.

This is a town where darkness
is breathing out of drains,
where chimneys and sills grow trees.

When you're out flying down town
leave your name behind in the pub,
watch out for those flashing talons.


10/04/2012 07:20

Thank you for such a fantastic blog about MEANS OF DISSENT nice topic. Where else could anyone get that kind of info written in such a perfect way? I have a presentation that I am presently working on, and I have been on the look out for such information.

01/02/2013 08:25

Your article has a lot of great information and it has really helped me with my paper for a class I am taking. Do you have any other posts about this topic?


Leave a Reply.