Know a hero by his heroes: Saunders Lewis beyond apologetics

Tim Williams kicks off the first in a series looking at the charges of fascism against Plaid Cymru.

Tim Williams who blogs at ( is director of the Publicani consultancy and is currently working on projects in Australia, where he now lives. He is a former special advisor to the Blair government and the Welsh Government. Prior to moving to Australia in December 2010 he was managing director of Navigant Consulting. This essay was written in response to the Welsh language version of Richard Wyn Jones' book 'Y Blaid Ffasgaidd Yng Nghymru'

The irony is inescapable and delicious. The IWA has started a debate about Saunders Lewis involving many people whom the founder of Plaid Cymru would not have regarded as Welsh conducted in a language he wanted to eradicate from Wales. He would not have had much time for his contemporary apologists ,either ,mind, given that their devolved Wales little resembles his original vision for the nation as founder of Plaid Cymru. The old man is spinning in his grave as we  fight over him and his legacy.

This week on Click on Wales

For decades Plaid Cymru have stood accused of sympathising with Fascism during the 1930s. The publication of Richard Wyn Jones’s book on ‘Welsh Nationalism and the Accusation of Fascism’ in English earlier this year challenged the charges against Plaid. But in this essay for the IWA Tim Williams, one of the leaders of the No campaign in the 1997 referendum, offers a robust rebuttal.

 Click on Wales ran a series of essays debating the issues, culminating in a debate on October 1st featuring former First Minister Rhodri Morgan. You can hear the first of three parts here

It’s never been easy having a reasoned debate about Lewis. This is partly about polarisation within Wales – and, let’s be honest, within Welsh-speaking Wales also – but, frankly, this is mostly Lewis’s own fault as he was the author of much un-reasonable and inflammatory writing in his lifetime. He set out to arouse strong passions in a nation he regarded with contempt as sleep-walking to perdition. He succeeded in that although given that at the time of his death most Welsh were unaware he’d ever lived, that success has to be considered in context. He regarded himself as having failed in his political mission. But then as that was the restoration of a monoglot Welsh-speaking Wales of small farmers as part of a unified Catholic Europe, we should perhaps take him at his own estimate. It’s hard to believe he would have been able to offer more than two cheers for a devolved, godless, white-collar/ welfarist Wales wending its inexorable way towards a monoglot English-speaking status, though he would have welcomed the de-industrialisation of the Valleys now nearing completion.

This latter point reminds us that whether or not Lewis was a Fascist – the latest source of passion about him: in passing, I feel the need to stress that Hitler denied being one also – he was undoubtedly a crank and an extremist, on the far right of European politics, closer in spirit and ideology to Action Francaise than to the English Conservative Party. Whether you love him as the demi-urge of modern Wales or hate him as a stubborn stain on its good name, let us try and agree that much of what he advocated was exotic, indeed strange, and some of it was actively repellent.    His views on Jews and the English-speaking Welsh come into the latter category.

Though Richard Wyn Jones does his best,‘The Fascist Party in Wales: Plaid Cymru and the accusation of Fascism’ does not amount to a convincing refutation that Lewis was an anti-semite. Given Lewis’s own words and editorial policy at the head of the Plaid newspaper between the mid ‘20s and 1937 – and as a poet and dramatist too – it would be quite difficult to exonerate him. I note that in his otherwise warm response to Jones’ book, Dafydd Glyn Jones accepts the charge against Lewis on this count.

I took the same view in a piece I wrote on Lewis for the Jewish Chronicle in the early 90s (‘Judge a hero by his heroes’) which led me to incur considerable verbal violence. Have a look at the absurd attack on me by the then editor of Planet ,entitled ‘Tim Williams, Saunders Lewis and the Jewish Chronicle’ where I was berated for pointing out Lewis’s anti-semitism and affection for Franco, Salazar and Petain , his denunciations of the French Resistance and support for Vichy . Plaid’s view of Mussolini was also benign especially after his Concordat with the Vatican. Their take on Hitler varied throughout 30s largely because of his obvious paganism though his anti-Bolshevism was clearly welcome. However, Y Ddraig Goch couldn’t hide its excitement when Hitler mentioned Plaid and the burning of the bombing school at the Nuremburg Rally in 1938  – ‘Hitler knows that Wales is a nation!’  screamed the party’s paper and nothing he did so outraged Plaid or Lewis that they felt compelled to join the European resistance to him.

Plaid’s neutralism throughout the Second World War, meaning their acceptance of a Nazi-dominated Europe as a consequence, has always been difficult to explain away and offended many of their own supporters (and leaders: Ambrose Bebb amongst them). It was no accident and didn’t stem from Christian pacifism but from their own nationalist opposition to Britain, which they saw as a greater threat to Wales than Hitler, and their anti-Communism. The Party paper as the thirties closed cited Jewish influence over the British media as a source of the drive to war as Jones must know but to which he does not refer.

I add that, never having been a communist-sympathiser, I take no offence at the anti-communism of Lewis and the Party, the Communists of course being allied with Hitler for the first two years of the War, a confusion for most of their members and for Welsh historians keener on the CP’s part in the earlier anti-Fascist struggle than on their complicity with Fascism in those dark years. I just point out the facts:  Plaid under Lewis was not part of the anti-Fascist struggle and indeed saw itself as part of the anti-Communist struggle and Lewis saw the roots of Bolshevism in exactly the same way a Barres, a Maurras, a Rothermere or indeed a Hitler saw them.  Strangely neither the Planet essay, nor my piece in the Jewish Chronicle, is referred to by Jones who by the way takes far too restrictive a view on what constituted a Fascist in this period – and too wide a view of what constituted an anti-semite – and indeed overall is much better at stressing what he thinks Lewis wasn’t than what he thinks Lewis was.

I regard Mr Jones’s latest work as being unconvincing in this context in comparison with his own less polemical treatise on Plaid’s ideology ‘Rhoi Cymru’n Gyntaf (2007). That quotes senior Plaid member Prosser Rhys’s concern as to what he called the ‘Daily Mail /Lord Rothermere viewpoint’ increasingly being taken by the Party under Lewis’s leadership ‘on many questions apart from Wales’s domestic problems’. Rothermere, publisher of the Mail, was a supporter of the British Union of Fascists, a great ally of Hitler and a sponsor of Fascism internationally as an antidote to Bolshevism ‘and its campaign against civilization and religion’ the leadership of which , of course, was ‘almost entirely’ Jewish. It’s hard not to see the point Prosser Rhys was making and which Mr Jones seems to have understood in his earlier scholarly text. Jones was once clear that it was precisely because of Lewis’s extremism and the gap between his views and the majority of the Welsh people that they couldn’t accept his political leadership.

But then his aim in this latest work is less to pin Lewis down than to attempt to defumigate him for the purposes of current political consumption, all ‘history-writing’ being contemporary. Indeed, Jones’s last chapter, in a surprisingly party-political text for the University of Wales Press to be publishing, is expressly about how alleged ‘misrepresentation’ of Lewis by the political left in Wales is deemed to have had the purpose of marginalising him and Plaid. (Surely he and they did a good job at that without any help from Labour.) It is also intended to re-present Lewis as merely a ‘romantic conservative’ deserving of rehabilitation in a political context where a post devolution Welsh Labour Party needs potential coalition allies to form a government – so should stop cynically distorting  Plaid’s history and embrace their ‘natural’ partners. To which my considered reply is: I’ve just seen a pig fly past the window.

Another animal can help us specify Lewis’s actual affiliations and identity. The duck. I like what Howard Jacobson says about spotting clever anti-semites. If they look like a duck, waddle like a duck and sound like a duck, probably what you have on your hands here is a duck. Jacobson would have little trouble nabbing Lewis as an anti-semite.

Lewis may or may not have been what some have called a ‘salon anti-semite’ that is one who has personal racial prejudice against Jews expressed privately. Jones’s attempts to exonerate him amount to saying ‘lots of people were prejudiced against Jews in the 30s, even some on the left: they were all at it’. This is both untrue – his attempt to smear Orwell in this regard so as to defuse the charge against Lewis is particularly cheap – and misses the point about the varieties of anti-semitism to be found and the centrality of one of those variants to Lewis’s take on modern life.

Possibly influenced by his embrace of Catholicism – in whose pre Vatican 2 reading of the Christ story it’s fair to say the Jews did not emerge with any great credit – and certainly influenced by Maurice Barres, the market-leader in what has been called ‘the first wave of French Fascism’ and a high priest of French anti-semitism (of whom Lewis once wrote, acknowledging his debt, that ‘it was through him that I discovered Wales’), Lewis was certainly a political and literary anti-semite.

That is to say, his comments on Jews in his editorial column and his literature embody a consistent world-view of their conspiratorial role in the creation of the world he despised: that materialist ,godless, rootless world in which the destroyer of men’s freedom and national independence (the Jewish revolutionist in which category he once lumped Lenin) and the destroyer of small business and national economic self-sufficiency (the Jewish financier he caricatured in the figure of Mond who turned up in both Y Ddraig Goch and his poetry: as he did in the more fetid efforts of both TS Eliot and Ezra Pound ) were found to be one and the same – and bent on using their economic, political and media power to drive the world to war again .

Jones dismisses this element in Lewis’s own work as editor of Y Ddraig Goch and contributor to Y Faner. He   does not reproduce or cite some rather relevant anti-semitic cartoons in Y Ddraig Goch in the late 20s . He does not consider at all the evidence from Lewis’s literary work or the influence over it of Barres. He says little about the universe of values Lewis shares with TS Eliot, that other revolutionary of the right whose aesthetic was riven with anti-semitism similarly reinforced by the writings of the anti-Dreyfusard French Right and the Catholic revival of which they were such an integral part.

The omission of Lewis’s literature from Jones’s defence is striking since when WJ Gruffydd, the former vice-president of Plaid who defeated Lewis in the infamous University by-election of 1943 – arousing decades of opprobrium from Plaid supporters of which echoes can still be found in Mr Jones’s work – was asked what in particular in Saunders Lewis’s oeuvre provoked him to accuse him of ‘Fascism’ he said simply :’ Y Dyliw’.

Interestingly Jones mentions neither Y Dyliw(The Deluge) nor WJ Gruffydd’s judgement on it though he does find time to quote Gruffydd’s own tacky anti-semitism in his outburst attacking the Jews of Llandudno and Abergele  in Y Llenor . That was salon anti-semitism said out-loud. This, by Lewis, is philosophically coherent political anti-semitism : look at his analysis of the Great Crash, which repays extensive quoting :

‘Then , on Olympus in Wall Street, ninety-twenty-nine,

At their infinitely scientific task of guiding the profits of fate.

The gods decreed, with their feet in the Aubusson carpets,

And their Hebrew snouts in the quarter’s statistics,

The day had come to restrict credit in the universe of gold’.

Having done this , the Hebrew snouted gods of Wall Street (also taking the form of their near relatives ,the ‘foul usurers of Basle’ ,those ‘masters of the planet’ with their ‘splendid religion’ which had displaced god with ‘man without fetters’) ‘breached the last floodgates of the world’ thereby pretty much causing ,in the order in which they come in the poem, mass protests by the unemployed in Vienna , mass hunger, ‘the wrangling in Munich’, the fall of Bruening (and thus the rise of Hitler),newspapers filled with ‘pictures of sluts’ and football pools to distract the ‘frail rabble’, the Spanish Civil War and the second world war itself: ’and from over the sea comes the noise of tanks gathering’.

That is, Lewis agreed with Eliot in ‘Burbank With a Baedeker: Bleistein With a Cigar’ that ‘The rats are underneath the piles. / The jew is underneath the lot.’

Interestingly, by the time Lewis came to write the play Brad/Treason for the Ebbw Vale Eisteddfod of 1958 – his extraordinary whitewashing of the Wehrmacht , a key ally of Hitler until some elements wanted to forge a separate peace with the ‘west’ as the Soviets pushed towards Berlin and itself up to its neck in the mass murder of the Jews on the Eastern Front though  absurdly depicted by Lewis as epigones of ‘civilisation’ in the struggle against ‘Communist Asia’ :  an amazing provocation in the home of Aneurin Bevan –  he has his seedy proletarian Nazi Albrecht give an alternative analysis of the history of the Deluge. The great inflation in Weimar Germany is there, so is the Crash, the Great Depression, and the rise of Fascism. But Albrecht’s historical overview and self-justification manage to avoid mentioning the Jews at all, somewhat implausibly given he is meant to be the personification of the National Socialist critique and the Jews kind of dominated their world view. This is more than Hamlet without the prince.

Of course, the Lewis of 1958 knew but omitted to mention what Albrecht seems not to have known, though his counterpart in the Gestapo of June 1944 would both have known and been proud of: that Fascism had resulted in the deaths of millions of Jews. The Lewis of 1940 knew the Jews had caused ‘the Deluge’. By 1958 he had nothing to say on the subject. The Jews are not mentioned in a play about evil, the economic crisis of the 20s and 30s, war, civilisation and Hitler.  Lewis’s   silence surely speaks more eloquently of his anti-semitic discourse and bad faith than a library of attempted exculpatory essays by academics.

Jones’s silence on this discourse and his dismissal of its influence is linked to his silence on Barres and  the way in which Lewis melded Barres’s attack on deracinated Jews in France with his critique of the ‘anti-national elements’ in Wales: viz, those of us whose mother tongue was English.

To put Barres in context and to not muck around, as Robert Soucy, an expert on Barres and French Fascism puts it, ‘while one must not completely identify Barres with Fascism, one must not whitewash their relationship either’. Of the Jews, Barres himself wrote: ’Jews do not have a country in the sense that we understand it. For us the country is our soil and our ancestors; it is the land of our dead. For them it is the place where they find their greatest profit’. Or as a French Jewish website committed to researching anti-semitism in France describes Barres: ‘Violement anti-Semite, Maurice Barrès est l’un des antidreyfusards les plus actifs. Il écrit : ‘que Dreyfus est capable de trahir, je le conclus de sa race ‘‘.

Of this Barres, Lewis wrote: ‘Discovering his work had the effect of changing the course of my life…I cannot hear of his death without openly acknowledging my debt to him. My play Noble Blood is an attempt at turning (Barres’s) Colette Baudoche into Welsh and a Welsh setting’.

The debt was fundamental. Barres gave Lewis his life-mission .Barres created much of the framework of modern right wing nationalism with its emphasis on those who are of the nation – the ‘rooted individuals’ and those who are not, indeed those who threaten it either from the inside – the ‘deracines’ or from the outside, the foreigners. What made Barres interesting was his notion that because the French were not a race something else had to bind them together. He opted for ‘tradition’ which in his work ‘performs exactly the same function as race in racist theories’, says David Carroll author of ‘French Literary Fascism:Nationalism, Anti-semitism and the ideology of Culture’. ‘Tradition’ Carroll continues, provides cultural rather than racial typologies of what it is to be French: it enables modern French people to ‘have roots in a past origin, an origin that all the French supposedly carry within themselves as their cultural endowment: it provides the French with the myth of homogeneous culture, a spiritual homogeneity, to supplement the absence or racial homogeneity’. Indeed, not being a race meant that the French had to be:-

‘more attentive to their indigenous traditions than a people preformed as a race. …Without the ultimate determination of race, the French could not afford to stray too long or too far from the land and its traditions, or to remain deracinated and thus victim to foreign ideas, traditions and tastes, for they had nothing else on which to found themselves, nothing ‘biological’ to make them what they were and to serve as the determining principle under which they could remake themselves. This also mean that the ‘pollution’ or ‘corruption’ of French tradition, culture and taste constituted as radical a threat to the being of the French as the intermixing of races was for racists. Without a homogenous culture and purified tradition to carry on as an instinctual endowment and with which to identify, the French people would no longer exist as such and would not be able to remake themselves in the future. Only a closed, integral cultural tradition could guarantee the (re)making of an integral people’.

Essentially, Lewis applied the Barres framework to Wales. His play Noble Blood enunciates what this means through the sacrifice of the main character Luned, who will not marry the anglicised landlord’s son after all. Though Lewis later rejected the play as juvenilia he never renounced Luned’s words : they more or less sum up his political career: ’My life shall be an altar for the memories of my race. I shall be a nun for my country. And my family shall die with me, but without betraying their ideals or their traditions’.

By ‘tradition’ Lewis, in his literary work and his political texts, meant the agrarian Catholic , monoglot Wales before the arrival of  ‘the rootless’ – the foreign English and Jews and those Welsh who had lost their language and religion or had fallen prey to foreign ideas (Protestantism, socialism or humanism for example) – who were   the greatest threat to the survival of the nation.  This was why Lewis could never accept a bilingual Wales as the goal of Plaid policy.

As he said and unapologetically repeated, ’It is bad, wholly bad, that English is a spoken language in Wales. It must be deleted from the land we call Wales. Carthage must be destroyed’. Only deep immersion in the ‘tradition/civilisation/language’ of Wales and rejection of that other ‘rootless Wales’ of the Valleys could restore national health. Again, in Lewis’s famous words setting out official party policy: ’For the sake of the moral health of Wales and for the sake of the moral and physical welfare of her population, South Wales must be de-industrialised’.  The Wales of Y Dyliw is that rootless Wales. The poem’s spirit and verbal violence are truly Barresian in their rejection of the Wales of the deracine, the ‘dregs’ and ‘flotsam of the wreckage of men’ which had ‘neither language nor dialect’ – that ‘proletarian flood’ which when it wasn’t ‘grovelling’ or ‘raising its caps’ to its betters and that man Mond (again) ‘crept greasily civil to the chip shops’ and then ‘drowned under the slime of the dole’.

It’s at this point you understand why it took 40 years for Plaid to win any seat at all and why almost 90 years after the founding of the party it has still come nowhere winning a parliamentary seat in the Valleys. Turkeys not voting for Christmas come to mind.

Richard Wyn Jones thinks that anti-Catholicism played some part in the poor receptiveness of the Welsh to Lewis’s ideology and that that the charge of Fascism comes from people without clean hands or from Labour people playing partisan politics. In terms of ‘clean hands’ I say two things. One is to remind Mr Jones of what Orwell said about certain kinds of debate: ‘The Catholic and the Communist are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest and intelligent.’  The second is this: if Lewis’s only detractors in Wales had been Communists or fellow travelling intellectuals themselves complicit in the other murderous ideology of the century, I’d be convinced. But his detractors went way beyond that narrow constituency – they included most of the Welsh political spectrum in so far as any had ever been aware of him, and Welsh-speakers more than English (of course). I will return to the slur on Labour in Mr Jones’s work but suffice to say that he should know that for any political force to be able to marginalise an opponent usually requires a plausible basis in empiricism. The Welsh electorate knew enough about Lewis’s affiliations to find him repugnant without much help from Transport House. The graffito on some rocks above Caernarfon after the Bombing School affair sums up Jones’s difficulty with his analysis :’Saunders Lewis should be hanged’. That wasn’t written by James Griffith or Ness Edwards.

 As to anti-Catholicism, apart from the fact that Lewis was as bigoted towards Welsh protestant culture as his detractors were towards him, Jones seems not to understand how reactionary the Catholicism of 30s Europe was – and how complicit with Fascism. Jones takes delight in reporting Orwell’s own outburst of anti-semitism as a way of mitigating Lewis’s somewhat more systematic version, whilst ignoring Orwell’s consistent strictures against Catholicism for its association with political reaction both in Europe and in the UK and indeed Fascism. As Orwell said, in his no-nonsense style, ’Outside its own ranks, the Catholic Church is almost universally regarded as pro-Fascist, both objectively and subjectively’. In a Tribune column of 1945 he wrote: ’The Catholics who said ‘Don’t offend Franco because it helps Hitler’ had more or less consciously been helping Hitler for years beforehand’. And talking of Catholic converts and intellectuals lionised in the press of the 30s, Orwell adds: ’One reason for the extravagant boosting that these people get in the press is that their political affiliations are invariably reactionary. Some of them were frank admirers of Fascism as long as it was safe to be so’.

So called ‘Anti-Catholicism’ is a reaction to this and frankly Welsh radicalism, whether nonconformist or secular, from the beginning, consistently opposed the Papacy not because of bigotry but because historically it was not on the side of human freedom and progress. We have always mistrusted its ideologues. I remind Mr Jones that it was not a Welsh Labour or Liberal leader who summed up Lewis as ‘bad politician/good Catholic’ but Dafydd Elis Thomas, former leader of Plaid Cymru.

Orwell knew what Jones seems not to know: almost all Catholic writers, artists and intellectuals in the UK –apart from Eric Gill – supported Franco in the Spanish Civil War, just as they supported Salazar in Portugal and particularly after the Concordat between the Italian Government and the Papacy in 1929, they supported Mussolini. Jones’s attempt to exonerate Lewis from supporting Franco is totally unconvincing. Plaid opposed any intervention by the UK Government on the side of the Republic which Jones suggests was the same policy as that of the Labour Party. But Jones misunderstands the Labour Party position.

At the start of the Civil War Attlee gave strong support to the Republic. The majority of Labour members were Republican in this conflict. A dilatory Labour leadership under the influence of a TUC still re-building the union movement after the debacle of the General Strike and the depression, and wary of foreign adventures, had the ‘block votes ‘to secure Non- Intervention in 1936 against the majority of Party members but, under significant internal opposition, rethought their position and voted to actively support the Republic in the October ’37 Party conference. They repudiated Non-Intervention and started campaigning for ‘Arms for Spain’ which wasn’t, I assure you, the Plaid position at the time. By then it was obvious that Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany were pouring arms into Spain in support of Franco, while Stalin would also send Soviet arms and advisers to the Republic.

The leading historian of Labour and the Spanish Civil War, Tom Buchanan , points out that Labour’s campaign failed not because it wasn’t sincere about intervention but simply because  ‘the Labour party was too weak in parliament to secure a reversal of policy’.  He adds: ‘However, during the Civil War the TUC was also closely involved in raising money from affiliated unions for its “Spanish Workers Fund”. This fund was channelled through the International Federation of Trade Unions and used to send medical aid and food to Spain. The archives also give an excellent account of the TUC’s prominent role in the Basque Children’s Committee, the humanitarian committee set up to care for the 4000 Basque refugee children who arrived in Britain in May 1937, soon after the bombing of Guernica’.

 Whatever Labour’s position, and however one attempts to interpret Plaid’s position, Lewis in all conscience sided with what Orwell was quite comfortable in describing as the Fascists against the Republic. And if Jones wants to know why Lewis seemed strangely unenthusiastic about supporting the Basque and Catalan Nationalists it’s precisely because they were in an alliance with the greater enemy, the godless ‘marxists’  of the Republic (and their UK allies). In the European civil war of which Lewis and his cohort in Plaid felt themselves to be part, the Basques and the Catalans were on one side and Plaid on the other. Plaid was fighting for ‘civilisation’ not for the rights of small nations who had happened to side with the barbarians.

In not understanding this Jones is then surprised to hear a piece of damning oral history from a pretty interesting source: Rhodri Morgan remembering his Dad coming back from a private meeting with Saunders Lewis saying that Lewis welcomed Franco’s victory over the Republicans. Of course he did. Is Jones suggesting that Lewis took a different line to every other Catholic convert of the 30s in this one respect: and where is his evidence?

I repeat : I think Richard Wyn Jones in trying to say what Jones wasn’t – with a view to cleansing a Nationalist reputation currently ‘on the nose’ (aka: a bit smelly) – doesn’t really understand what Lewis was.  He also employs too narrow a view of ‘Fascist’. I prefer Soucy again. Some historians have dismissed those who describe French far right parties of the 20s and 30s as Fascist as merely employing the partisan rhetoric of the period. Soucy demolishes this view. He describes the characteristics that the leading such party, Croix de Feu/PSF (which Lewis supported in the CF-led demonstrations which toppled the government in the 1934 crisis) shared with other European Fascisms of the era .  Soucy, contrasted with Jones, has a multi-faceted definition of Fascism. He views the differences between non-Fascist authoritarian conservatives and Fascist authoritarian conservatives as more a matter of degree (which increased when threatened by Leftists) than of fixed, irreconcilable essences.

Soucy , rather, emphasizes the ‘fluidity’ of Fascist ideology , rejecting static taxonomies or a simplistic essentialism for what he terms ‘Fascism in motion’. He criticises notions of Fascism that require Fascists—in order to be deemed such —to behave in as ‘totalitarian’ a fashion before they came to power as they did afterwards. He rejects attempts to exonerate the CF/PSF by defining Fascism in an unhistorical way. Jones is prone to this error with Lewis.

Soucy questions the view that the CF/PSF was not Fascist but a form of ‘patriotic social Christianity’  thus too nationalistic and too Catholic to be Fascist. He tellingly points out  the same could have been said of the dominant faction in Mussolini‘s Partito Nazionale Fascista (PNF). The 1929 Vatican Concordat enabled an influx of Catholics into the PNF leaving their mark on Fascist ideology. Pope Pius Xl thanked Mussolini for implementing ‘Social Catholicism’.

Fundamentally, Soucy validates a key proposition: that those who stress differences between Fascism and right-wing Catholicism distract us from the reality that there were many fusions of the two, with significant Catholic Fascist movements in Spain, Portugal, Austria, Hungary and Croatia with Vichy France itself being the piece de la reaction, as it were. Without much leg-work, you can find Lewis being warm in print about most of these.

Soucy is supported by another key historian of French Fascism, Robert Paxton: ‘ Soucy is right to ignore the disclaimers of those concerned’, he writes. ’ Most of the muscular New Right in France denied it was Fascist (Hitler himself rejected the label). Soucy demolishes this claim and rightly looks for a French form of Fascism whether it accepted the label or not’. We should do the same in Wales with Lewis, whether or not intellectuals sympathetic to Plaid like it.

Finally, the last chapter of Mr Jones’s treatise on Lewis and Plaid is really a manifesto for a return of Plaid to government in a coalition with, as it were, ‘national Labour’. (I am not sure why the University of Wales Press published this as it’s more something you would expect to see in Barn or Planet). It points out how unhelpful to such a desired result, as Jones sees it, is it to carry on with this fixation with and bias against Lewis. Cleaning up Lewis is thus part of a program for contemporary Welsh politics. And I guess it must be pretty embarrassing to have as a founder of your party a man with Lewis’s views, properly understood.

 As to the political meaning of Lewis today ? Nationalists need not worry overly. There is no historical memory in Wales and Lewis’s sins have had little political use for quite a while but then that’s partly because he was so extreme and exotic as to bounce off the reality of our culture and politics. He did not create modern Wales or indeed Devolved Wales which he would have despised. But then that is because our Wales was a creation of the people he despised and the political tool of the majority: industrial Wales and the Labour Party. Real politics starts with a respect for that. I wonder if the University of Wales Press understands that?

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