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Contemporary Wales
Contemporary Wales

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6.4 Conclusion

  • Language and identity are closely associated. We use language to express individual personal identity and establish collective identities and solidarities.
  • A distinctive national language can contribute to a nationalist movement as the main inspiration for activists – even those who choose to concentrate their activities in a more conventional political arena rather than in language campaigns.
  • Nationalist movements vary widely from liberal democratic to intolerant autocratic. Most Welsh nationalist organisations (Plaid Cymru, Cymdeithas yr Iaith) advocate an inclusive ‘civic’ nationalism.
  • A few organisations (e.g. Cymuned) reject civic nationalism, while still maintaining an anti-racist position.
  • Plaid Cymru’s political philosophy has incorporated internationalism; socialism; and green nationalism.
  • Post-devolution, Plaid Cymru became a mainstream political party and eventually a party of government. Other Welsh political parties moved closer to a ‘nationalist’ perspective. National identity was strengthened and legitimised, and the Welsh Government made a strong commitment to the Welsh language, but doubts remained about practical provisions for implementation.

Language is intimately connected with the processes by which we establish and maintain our personal identities, as well as collective identities. National identity is one such collective identity for which language and language differences are important.

The Welsh language has been important for Welsh national identity and for the Welsh nationalist movement in many ways. It has provided an inspiration for activists in the movement. Welsh has also been used to win official recognition for the Welsh nation by means of its public display (e.g. on signs) and use (e.g. by public services). And the language has been a basis for the establishment of specifically Welsh institutions (e.g. Welsh-medium schools).

However, the Welsh language is under pressure from a range of social and economic processes, and disagreements about the appropriate way to respond to these pressures have led to conflict within the nationalist movement and to attacks from outside.

Although there are many varieties of nationalism, and some of them are autocratic and intolerant, Welsh nationalism derives from a radical democratic socialist tradition within Wales and displays the concern with liberal democracy and egalitarianism characteristic of this tradition. The Welsh nationalist movement can be characterised as a democratic and inclusive form of ‘civic’ nationalism with a political stance that encompasses internationalism, socialism, and environmentalism.