On the making and making up of Welsh history: A response to David Melding, Robert Stradling and Tim Williams

Richard Wyn Jones responds to recent discussions over his book ‘the Fascist Party in Wales?’.

Introduction: On interpretation

Historical writing is always permeated by questions of interpretation.

A common place of every ‘Introduction to Historiography’ course the whole University-world over is that ‘facts’ do not simply speak for themselves. Historians must rather adjudge what evidence is to be regarded as relevant to the historical issue or problem that they are addressing – an inevitably interpretive process. How and in what ways these pieces of evidence relate to each other is also to a significant degree a matter of interpretation.

Which is not to say, of course, that anything goes. Modern historiography has sought ways to eradicate or at least tame the more purely subjective elements that characterised historical writing in earlier periods.[1] The scholarly apparatus of footnotes and bibliographies help to ensure that evidence is not simply conjured into existence. Nor is it any longer acceptable to simply ignore pieces of evidence that do not ‘fit’ with an author’s desired interpretations. Indeed convention now dictates that scholars address interpretations other than their own, partly in order to ‘test’ alternative interpretations against each other. Historical ‘sins’ like anachronism and teleology are also frowned upon. All of which serves to reduce the range of acceptable interpretations.

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.

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

This week we’re featuring responses to the earlier essays. Yesterday Jasmine Donahaye considered the implications of using the ‘antisemitism’ charge. Today, the author of ‘The Fascist Party in Wales?’,  Professor Richard Wyn Jones issues his response to this series of essays.

Nonetheless, interpretation remains central to the process of historical writing. It follows that no historian can legitimately expect to have ‘the final word’ on any given topic. Debate must rather be embraced as a prerequisite for the development of better interpretations of the past. Which is why I so warmly welcome the erudite and stimulating responses of Rob Stradling and David Melding to my recent book The Fascist Party in Wales? Plaid Cymru, Welsh Nationalism and Accusation of Fascism (University of Wales Press, 2014) on ‘Click on Wales’, as well as previous reviews and reactions to the Welsh-medium original version of the text, such as those of Jasmine Donahaye, Simon Brooks and Robert Evans.[2]

Naturally, there are various points on which my interpretations will differ from those of my interlocutors. So, for example, and focusing only on the most recent contributions on ‘Click on Wales’, I would argue that the anguished response to D. Tecwyn Lloyd’s extensive discussion of Saunders Lewis’s anti-Semitism in his 1988 biography belies David Melding’s claim that this is an issue on which nationalists have been silent. In responding to Rob Stradling, I would want to elaborate on his suggestion that Ireland is a fascinating parallel case to Wales in terms of the reception of Fascism, by claiming that Ireland was actually the centrally important intellectual influence on Saunders Lewis’ political and social thought. Ireland rather than France – even if Lewis’s undoubted Francophilia remains the overwhelming focus for those interested in Lewis’s work.[3]

Such disagreements and/or elaborations are the meat and drink of scholarly debate and any author would consider himself fortunate indeed to find his work subjected to such generous and thoughtful interrogation.

Beyond the smears: Taking Tim Williams seriously

Tim Williams’s sneering diatribe – also published on Click on Wales – is another case entirely. This is not meant to provoke discussion or improve understanding. It is rather a crude attempt by Dr Williams to close down debate by rendering those who hold a view different from his own as beyond the pale. According to this Manichean worldview, to argue that, whatever its faults, Plaid Cymru was not a Fascist party – the central war-time charge against the party – or that Saunders Lewis was not a Fascist or a Fascist sympathiser, is to become oneself an apologist for this ideology. The notion that one might disagree with Lewis’s views on a whole range of issues but still regard the attempts to smear him as a fascist as intellectually vacuous and unsustainable is clearly beyond Williams’s ken.[4] He seems to prefer his history rendered as if it were a screenplay for a 1950s ‘B’ movie western: goodies vs. baddies, white hats vs. black.

Curiously, however, despite Tim Williams’s efforts to close down discussion through smear and innuendo, there are occasional moments where the outlines of what might constitute a worthwhile intellectual debate flicker into view. Despite his ‘attack dog’ behaviour, some part of Williams would like to be taken seriously. So showing him rather more respect that he accords others, let us try to reconstruct a debate around three key themes, namely Fascism, Anti-Semitism and Anti-Catholicism. Not least because doing so will serve to underline yet again why the attempts to label Saunders Lewis and his party as ‘fascist’ are not only unsustainable but rely on mutilating the historical record.


According to Dr Williams I am guilty of adopting ‘far too restrictive a view of what constituted a Fascist’. It is clear, by contrast, that he believes that a properly expansive view of Fascism will lead to the inclusion of Saunders Lewis in the ranks.

Those readers who are reliant on his version of my argument rather than reading the book themselves may be surprised to learn that much the largest part of The Fascist Party in Wales? is devoted to the thorny question of what might constitute a serviceable understanding of Fascism. This precisely because the intellectual basis of the wartime attacks on the Welsh Nationalist Party’s alleged Fascist proclivities was so laughably inadequate.

According to the author of the main anti-Plaid broadside, the Reverend Gwilym Davies, Plaid wanted to create an ‘independent, totalitarian, fascist and papist’ Wales. His central piece of evidence for the party’s alleged fascist ambitions was the party’s support for the idea of a Welsh second chamber containing elements of so-called ‘functional representation’ – as found in different forms in the Irish Seanad and, of course, in the UK’s House of Lords. That such obviously insubstantial arguments appear to have been orchestrated by Thomas Jones (T.J.), a scion of the Welsh and British establishments who, both alongside Lloyd George and in a solo role, had played footsie with the Führer in a foolhardy attempt at private diplomacy, does nothing to bolster their credibility.

Rather than leave the matter there, however, the book seeks to reconstruct an alternative basis for adjudicating Davies’s central claim that Plaid was indeed ‘the Fascist party in Wales’. I will not seek to reprise the argument in full here. Naturally, my hope is that readers will seek out the book themselves. Suffice it to say that, even though condensed, my discussion of Fascism is based on an engagement with the work of the leading international scholars in the field. The result – despite Williams’s claim to the contrary – is a multi-faceted understanding (not definition) of Fascism that focuses on attitudes to the state, to violence, the Führerprinzip, as well as anti-Semitism. Despite Dr Williams’s fulminations, none of this seems to have struck other readers – including those far more expert in these matters than either he or I – as unreasonable, let alone as an exercise in apologetics.

Tim Williams’s own understanding of Fascism, by contrast, appears to be almost exclusively derived from the French context. He regards Robert Soucy as a particularly sage commentator largely because he (at least on Tim Williams’s account) views the differences between avowed fascists, authoritarian right wingers and indeed – a breathtakingly large group here – all ‘right-wing Catholicism’ as mere differences of degree.[5] It should be noted that this is a view firmly rejected by leading scholars such as Stanley Payne and – again contra Williams – Robert O. Paxton, both of whom insist on the importance of distinguishing between Fascism and other forms of right wing and even authoritarian politics.[6] If we were to apply the logic of Williams’s position more generally, we would quickly end up in that infantile leftist position of condemning all on the right as ‘fascist’. And certainly, if we are to condemn Saunders Lewis as a fascist despite his virulent hostility to the overweening state, his refusal to glorify violence for its own sake, and his hostility towards anything remotely redolent of the Führerprinzip, it is far from clear who on the right of the political spectrum in 1930s Europe could not be considered a fascist.


On the issue of anti-Semitism Tim Williams makes a number of different and contradictory points. Most absurdly I am charged with attempting to refute the charge that Saunders Lewis was an anti-Semite.[7] This is emphatically not the case. The book rather reproduces those examples of anti-Semitism found in Lewis political writings – as well as some of Lewis’s own reflections on anti-Semitism. For what it is worth, the book also makes clear my own feelings about the ‘odiousness of the sentiments to which he … gave voice.’ But, of course, Tim Williams isn’t going to let mere facts get in the way of his attempts to smear.

More potentially interesting is Dr Williams’s response to my central argument about those anti-Semitic remarks that are undoubtedly to be found in Lewis’s work. Rather than viewing them – as Williams so clearly does – as evidence for Saunders Lewis’s alleged Fascist proclivities, I argue as follows:

The reality, however, is more prosaic – and in many ways less reassuring. The few anti-Semitic references to be found in Lewis’s writings are a reflection of the way in which crude ethnic prejudices, and anti-Semitism in particular, were part of the cultural currency of the era[8]

I go on to illustrate this argument by outlining some examples of the anti-Semitic remarks that emanated from distinguished political and cultural figures, from Lloyd George to W.J. Gruffydd, and from Winston Churchill to George Orwell. The latter’s inclusion being a very obvious source of discomfort to Tim Williams.

I further argue that Lewis’s anti-Semitic prejudices were ‘neither a fundamental or substantial part of his worldview – no more than was the anti-Semitism of Orwell or Churchill fundamental or substantial to theirs. Indeed, the category of race plays no part in Saunders Lewis’s political thought.’ This is an argument with which Tim Williams vehemently disagrees. He wants to draw a distinction between what he terms the ‘salon’ anti-Semitic prejudices of W.J. Gruffydd – and presumably Churchill and Orwell – on the one hand, and Lewis’s ‘philosophically coherent anti-Semitism’ on the other. Like Tecwyn Lloyd before him, it seems that Dr Williams sees only a difference of degree between Julius Streicher and Saunders Lewis. The problem is that in both cases, Lloyd and Williams merely assert their case rather than argue it: neither demonstrates how anti-Semitism was central to Lewis political thought or indeed worldview. Williams apparently considers a single stanza of poetry enough to establish guilt. In their admittedly different ways, both Lloyd and Williams also appear to be in denial about the extent to which the portrayal of Jews as rootless, mendacious, rapacious and, of course, as enjoying a controlling interest in the press, were standard tropes in the dismal litany of ‘salon’ anti-Semitic prejudice.

A final point is in order here. It needs to be underlined that there was nothing furtive or understated about political anti-Semitism in the interwar period. It will be recalled that even in the post-war period, members of Moseley’s Union Movement used to greet each other with a hearty ‘PJ’ – the initials standing for ‘Perish Judah’.[9] It is only as the full horror of the Shoah has entered popular consciousness – itself, as David Melding has correctly noted, a protracted and much more recent process than is often recognised – that anti-Semitism has tended to take on more subtle forms. If Saunders Lewis had embraced a full blown, philosophically-coherent anti-Semitism in the interwar years, it is hardly likely that it would have been a surreptitious embrace: quite the opposite, in fact. That is doubly the case given that Lewis seems to have enjoyed tweaking the tail of polite Welsh left-liberal opinion, for example by so publicly embracing and espousing Catholic social teaching. Were Lewis some Streicher manqué, it would have been known about and discussed at the time. Similarly, if Y Ddraig Goch had featured ‘anti-Semitic cartoons…in the late 1920s’, as Dr Williams alleges, then that too would have been noticed at the time.[10] It is striking that Lewis’ anti-Semitism featured not at all in the wartime onslaught on Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru. This precisely because – however depressing it may be to have to admit it – his views on this subject were regarded at the time as being unremarkable.


That anti-Catholicism was central to the charge of Fascism laid against Plaid Cymru and Saunders Lewis can hardly be gainsaid. Indeed, Tim Williams does not seek to gainsay. He rather embraces anti-Catholicism with a gusto that has not been seen in Welsh public life for at least two generations. With obvious approval he quotes Orwell to the effect that interwar Catholics were ‘pro-fascist, both objectively and subjectively.’ For Williams, Welsh anti-Catholicism was not really bigotry, but rather reflected the fact that the institution of the Papacy opposed human freedom and progress. W.J. Gruffydd’s virulent anti-Catholicism was therefore, apparently, entirely justified.

Apart from drawing attention to David Melding powerful riposte I would merely underline again a point I make in the book, namely that ‘the accusation of Fascism may well be the last distant echo of that ancient [anti-Catholic] prejudice to have lingered into the present day.’ In the case of Dr Williams, however, anti-Catholicism is not merely lingering but exultant.

‘Hitler knows that Wales is a nation’: On historical method

With one exception, the quotes that Tim Williams reproduces in this essay will be familiar to those interested in the interwar history of Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru. Indeed, a large proportion appear in my book. The exception is the following:

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 nation!’ screamed the party’s paper.

Before Dr Williams turned his forensic gaze onto the Welsh Nationalist Party’s past, this alleged quote seems to have gone completely unnoticed. Not by Tim Williams, though. This is in fact the second time that he has drawn attention to it on Click on Wales. In an article from November 2012 whose ostensible purpose was to welcome the establishment of the centre-right think tank ‘Gorwel’, but which devoted nine of its sixteen paragraphs to decrying Saunders Lewis’s alleged fascist sympathies, Williams drew shocked attention to the same passage:

“Hitler knows that Wales is a nation,” screamed an editorial written by Lewis in the Plaid paper, Y Ddraig Goch just after the Fuhrer had mentioned positively the burning of the bombing school in Lleyn at a Nuremburg Rally in the late 1930s (I kid you not).[11]

I kid you not, indeed.

One of the issues I discuss in my book is the relevance of individual comments or remarks from the interwar period about Fascism and Fascists that appear, in retrospect, at best hopelessly naïve or wrongheaded. To what extent can these be counted as evidence of Fascist sympathies? To cite an infamous example that is almost contemporaneous with Hitler’s alleged positive remarks about the burning at Penyberth, what are we to make of the Nazi salute offered up the England football team before a match with Germany in May 1938? Should we conclude that the players involved were sympathetic to Nazism? Or likewise the officials who instructed the players to do this as a show of ‘respect’ for their hosts? We might also wish to consider Lloyd George’s glowing testimonials to the Führer in the same year. Not forgetting either Hitler’s very positive public comments about the Welshman. Do these comments provide evidence of Fascist sympathies or proclivities? My conclusion is that, of themselves, individual actions or comments of this nature tell us very little about the ideological sympathies of the persons or organisations involved. Rather they need to be contextualised within the historical events of which they were a part as well as the broader political ideologies and attitudes of the various actors involved. This is a position that the vast majority of respectable historians would find utterly unobjectionable and my book conducts just such an exercise in the context of Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru.

However, my professional interest was piqued by the ‘Hitler knows that Wales is a nation’ quote. Did Hitler really speak positively of the actions of ‘the three’ at Penyberth? And did Plaid really celebrate this? If so, how could we all have missed this? The answer to the latter question, at least, is straightforward. We missed it because, despite the quotation marks, the words in question never appeared in Y Ddraig Goch.

Proving a negative is difficult. Given that Tim Williams chooses to ignore the usual academic conventions of footnotes, anyone seeking to verify his quotes and claims is left searching through a great deal of material. In the case of the ‘Hitler knows Wales is a nation’ ‘quote’, the most reasonable interpretation of the two passages cited above is that the words appeared as a headline or part of a headline (‘screamed’) for one of Saunders Lewis’s editorial pieces in a 1938 edition of Y Ddraig Goch. Furthermore we may surmise that the ‘quote’ was a response to a positive mention by the German dictator of the events that had taken place on the Lleyn Peninsula two years previously. The fact of the matter, however, is that this ‘quote’ is neither a headline nor included within the text of any of the editorials written by Lewis for Y Ddraig Goch in 1938 or any of the surrounding years. Nor, indeed, were the words in question part of a headline or included in any of the editorials published during Lewis’ period in prison following his eventual conviction for his part in the burning.

Neither am I aware of any direct evidence that Hitler made mention, positive or otherwise, of Penyberth. At this point I must confess that my own German is limited, but the most comprehensive English-language source on Hitler’s Nuremberg speeches reveals no mention of Penyberth or anything related to the events that took place there.[12] It is possible, of course, that a more thorough search of the German sources will reveal some reference.[13] If this is the case, however, it appears highly unlikely any remarks about Penyberth would have been positive.  The Sudetenland crisis dominated 1938 and one of the tropes adopted by Hitler in his major speech on the subject on the 12th of September was that, in the same way that Germany understood England and France’s actions in protecting their own interests in the world, those countries should not intervene when Germany protected its own interests in Sudetenland. Given this context, if any mention was made of Penyberth, it seems highly unlikely that it would have been to support the actions of three nationalist arsonists. Unless he has any evidence to the contrary then I believe that it is safe to assume that Tim Williams’s claim that ‘the Fuhrer had mentioned positively the burning of the bombing school’ is simply a figment of his imagination.

It would appear that the (very brief) story that forms the basis for Dr Williams’s ‘Hitler knows that Wales is a nation’ claim appears in the November 1938 edition of Y Ddraig Goch. No author is named.[14] The article title gives a good indication of its content. ‘Hitler a Chymru: Gwasg Lloegr yn dileu cyfeiriad at Cymru’ (Hitler and Wales: English Press removes mention of Wales’).

This rather curious piece has all the hallmarks of ‘filler’. Its rather convoluted premise is a story that appeared in the 20th October edition of the Welsh language paper, Y Brython, published in Liverpool.[15] One of the paper’s columnists claimed that a friend who spoke fluent German had heard one of Hitler’s Nuremberg speeches on the radio and that Hitler had mentioned Wales. Specifically, he had advised England not to be so eager to intervene in the problems of Sudetenland when it had its own minority issues in Palestine and Wales.[16] According to the author of the Ddraig piece, this was not the first time that Hitler had referred to Wales. In one of his 1937 speeches at Nuremberg, Hitler had claimed that if he had not come to power then the condition of Germany would be as bad as that of south Wales. For the author of the Ddraig Goch article, this previous reference served to confirm that the claim made in Y Brython about the reference in the 1938 speech was correct, because it was clear that Hitler knew that Wales existed (‘Gŵyr Hitler yn burion fod Cymru’n bod.’) This is as close as it gets to the paper ‘screaming’ ‘Hitler knows that Wales is a nation’.

Hitler’s speech was not even the point of the story. It was rather the author’s dismay (also voiced in Y Brython) that none of the English papers mentioned the alleged reference to Wales in their subsequent reports of its content. This suggested, it was claimed, that efforts had been made to suppress the Führer’s mention of Wales. Which, in turn, proved to the author’s own satisfaction, at least, that despite the English press’s trumpeting of its own freedom and independence (in contradistinction to the position of the press in Fascist countries) it was in reality a ‘freedom from truth and an independence from facts.’ This general line of argument reflected the tendency of Plaid supporters in the 1930s and 40s (discussed in my book) to posit a moral equivalence between English and German imperialism. This is an argument that will doubtless strike many contemporary readers as inappropriate, but based as it was on a deep antipathy to imperialism of all kinds, it can hardly be equated with sympathy for Fascism.

As will be clear from the preceding discussion, even if in 1938 Y Ddraig Goch had ‘screamed’ (in an article written by Saunders Lewis or anybody else) ‘Hitler knows that Wales is a nation’, and this in response to a mention (positive or otherwise) of Penyberth by the Nazi leader, I would not regard this as representing even a prima facie case that Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru or its leadership were fascist sympathisers. Much more contextualization and analysis is required before such a conclusion could be drawn. But the ‘quote’ and its attribution are fictional. Moreover, contextualising the only possible candidate for the ‘quote’ in question suggests that the interpretation placed upon it in Williams’s Click on Wales articles represents nothing less that a travesty. From the Reverend Gwilym Davies to Dr Tim Williams: the attempt to smear Welsh Nationalism with the accusation of Fascism has led some otherwise impressive people into some very deep waters.

Das Waleisisches Butterfieldproblem: The ‘bending’ of Welsh History and its implications

The distinguished historian J.G.A. Pocock once drew attention to what he termed das Herbert Butterfieldproblem.[17] The phrase is an adaptation of one used by German scholars of Adam Smith. The ‘problem’ being that of reconciling the arguments of the Scotsman’s greatest works, namely The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations. In the case of Herbert Butterfield, the challenge arises from attempting to reconcile the messages of The Whig Interpretation of History (1931) and The Englishman and his history (1944).

The first of these works highlights the problems of anachronism and teleology that, on Butterfield’s view, blighted the writing of English history. English history tended to be written as a celebration of institutional continuity, political tolerance and wise and sagacious leadership. Against this Butterfield argued – at least implicitly – that neutrality and objectivity are not only possible but also lead to better historical understanding.

In the second book, however, Butterfield turns to the practical application of Whiggish English history by Whiggish English politicians. Written and published during the years of the Second World War, The Englishman and his history is a peon to the great practical benefits that the English had derived from the ‘bending’ of their history. Even if Whiggish history was bad or unhistorical history, by building a bridge between past and present it had helped underpin political stability and solidarity in the most challenging of circumstances. Or in other words, Whiggish history might be poor history, but it facilitated good politics. Obviously enough, das Herbert Butterfieldproblem arises from the apparent difficulty of reconciling the earlier arguments of Butterfield 1931 with these later arguments in Butterfield 1944.

In Wales, I would contend, the ‘problem’ – the Welsh Butterfieldproblem, so to speak – is of a rather different nature. Our dominant historical understandings of the recent past may not only amount to poor history but also lead to the creation and survival of myths that are actually politically destructive to the extent that they act as a barrier to the development of a truly pluralistic political culture.

If I may be forgiven for adopting a very broad brush approach, much of Welsh historiographical writing – at least that focused on the more recent past – is of a distinctly Whiggish (or Welsh Whiggish) cast. Left of centre and patriotic in inclination, it celebrates the much-vaunted radical tradition and – to coin a phrase – the institutional ‘rebirth of a nation’. There is much that this author, at least, finds attractive about this dominant narrative. But we should be clear about its more negative effects.

The tendency to ‘bend’ Welsh history has stunted historical understanding. Witness the almost complete lack of scholarly engagement with Rob Stradling’s magnificent revisionist reading of Welsh attitudes to the Spanish Civil War, Wales and the Spanish Civil War: The Dragon’s Dearest Cause? Also apparent are some rather skewed priorities. So, for example, I believe that it is literally true to say that the historiographical literature on the Tonypandy Riots and the Miners’ Next Step is more extensive than the entire scholarly literature on the impact of the Great Depression in Wales. Whilst I yield to no one in my interest in the Welsh manifestation of revolutionary syndicalism, that this could have received rather more attention than the single most economically, socially, culturally and politically significant event in 20th century Welsh history is – to put it mildly – bizarre.

The defining characteristic of Welsh electoral politics in the democratic era is ‘one-partyism’, yet this too remains a remarkably understudied phenomenon and has certainly not been properly problematized in Welsh historiography. This despite the fact that, comparatively speaking, one-partyism is both unusual and almost invariably regarded as inimical to a vibrant and creative democratic political culture.

One of the ways that ‘Welsh Whiggish’ history helps underpin one-partyism is through delegitimating alternatives. The very explicit normative thrust of my book is to challenge one example of such a delegitimating move, namely the accusation of Fascism against Plaid Cymru and some of its leading figures. The point is made as follows in the final paragraph of The Fascist Party in Wales?

The greatest imperative in Welsh politics is to nurture a pluralistic political culture in which different views and voices are heard and engaged with in a serious and mature ways. Within such a culture, the ideas of Plaid Cymru – and every other democratic political party – would quite rightly be subject to criticism and challenge. Much of the electorate, perhaps the majority, would likely reject them. They would do so, however, not on the basis of some grotesque and fundamentally untruthful accusation that those ideas are somehow tainted by Fascism, but rather because they fail to convince in their own right.[18]

That this commitment to pluralism should be interpreted as ‘partisan’ simply serves to underline why more pluralism is exactly what this country’s intellectual and political life most urgently requires.

[1] Huw Pryce’s magnificent recent study of the father of modern Welsh historiography, J.E. Lloyd, shows how the understanding of Welsh history was transformed on this basis. See J.E. Lloyd and the Creation of Welsh History: Renewing a Nation’s Past (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2011)

[2] Jasmine Donahaye, ‘When Welsh nationalism was smeared with fascism,’ Click on Wales 11.10.2013 (http://www.clickonwales.org/2013/10/when-welsh-nationalism-was-smeared-with-fascism/); Simon Brooks, ‘Planet: The Welsh Internationalist No. 212 (Winter 2013), pp 147-48; Robert Evans, ‘Claddu celwydd am y Blaid,’ Barn (Hydref 2013), p. 46.

[3] Thus according to Lewis’s own account of the influences upon him: ‘I think it was Barrès, after Yeats and the Irish – that it was Barrès that made me a committed Welsh nationalist of me.’ See ‘Dylanwadau: Saunders Lewis mewn ymgom ag Aneirin Talfan Davies, Taliesin, Cyf. 2 (Nadolig 1961), p. 11 [My translation.] For reasons beyond the scope of the present discussion, the implications of the five word clause ‘after Yeats and the Irish’ (‘ar ôl Yeats a’r Gwyddyl’), are almost invariably glossed over in the various scholarly treatments of Saunders Lewis.

[4] Tim Williams appears to be concerned that I have changed my mind about Saunders Lewis since I published an extended discussion on his ideas in my Rhoi Cymru’n Gyntaf: Syniadaeth Plaid Cymru, Cyfrol 1 (Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru, 2007), pp. 55-107. How could I have been so critical of his ideas then yet now have the temerity to defend him from accusations of Fascism? There is, of course, no shame in changing one’s mind. But Tim Williams seems to have been engaged in a selective reading of Rhoi Cymru’n Gyntaf. Either that, or he has overlooked that volume’s condemnation of the ‘one-sided and misleading’ treatment of Lewis by so many commentators, and in particular the ‘crude’ and ‘intellectually dishonest’ treatment meted out to him in an execrable HTV production, Tin Gods, in 2001 (p. 86f.)

[5] ‘On Tim Williams’s account’ being the operative phrase here. I do not claim to be an expert on Soucy’s work, but a reading of his French Fascism: The Second Wave, 1933-1939 (Yale University Press, 1995) suggests that Williams’s rendering of his ideas is misleading. While Soucy is clearly interested in the ‘grey areas’ and ‘cross overs’ between Conservatives and Fascism, he does not seek to collapse these categories together. See Robert Soucy, French Fascism: The Second Wave, 1933-1939 (Yale University Press, 1995), pp. 1-25. Indeed, Soucy’s rather orthodox attempt to trace the ‘common denominators of European Fascism’ (see pp. 24-25) is clearly compatible with the understanding of Fascism developed deployed in my own book.

[6] Stanley G. Payne, A History of Fascism 1914-45 (UCL Press, 1997), pp. 3-19; Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism (Penguin, 2004), pp. 215-18.

[7] So according to Tim Williams, ‘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.’

[8] The Fascist Party in Wales? p. 43

[9] See the extraordinary account in Trevor Grundy, Memoirs of a Fascist Childhood – A Boy in Moseley’s Britain (Heinemann, 1998), passim but p. 21.

[10] On which see Jasmine Donahaye, ‘Using the ‘antisemitism’ charge,’ Click on Wales, 28.10.2014

[12] Max Domarus, The Complete Hitler: A Digital Desktop Reference to his Speeches and Proclamations, 1932-45 (translated by Mary Fran Golbert) Available at: https://ia700405.us.archive.org/23/items/TheCompleteHitler-SpeechesAndProclamations-MaxDomarus/TheCompleteHitler-1932-1945-Vol1-4.pdf. The key pages are 1140-1161.

[13] Although it would appear that even the German sources for the Nuremberg speeches are incomplete and so it is not clear that any search will be definitive.

[14] Y Ddraig Goch, November 1938, p. 4. Based on my knowledge of the party’s publications, my best guess is that it was actually written by party secretary J.E. Jones, who seems to have produced copy for the party’s papers on a regular basis.

[15] Owain Tudur, ‘Cyfeiriad Hitler at Gymru,’ Y Brython, 20.10.1938, p. 1

[16] While it is true that Hitler did mention Palestine in the 12 September speech, the Domarus collection (op. cit.) suggests a rather different context to the one claimed in Y Brython: ‘I am not willing to allow foreign statesmen to create a second Palestine right here in the heart of Germany. The poor Arabs are defenceless and have been abandoned by all. The Germans in Czechoslovakia are neither defenceless nor have they been abandoned’ (p. 1159).

[17] For Pocock’s original usage of the term see his Virtue, Commerce and History (Cambridge Universty Press, 1985). My own usage derives from John M. Regan, ‘Irish Historians and ‘das Butterfieldproblem’,’ Myth and the Irish State (Irish Academic Press, 2013), pp. 224-52.

[18] The Fascist Party in Wales? p. 75.

Richard Wyn Jones is Director of the Wales Governance Centre. He is also Chair of the UK's Changing Union Project.

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