I don’t know about you, but the future doesn’t fill me with hope and I consider myself an optimist. Climate change is knocking at the door and the Covid pandemic, which has hit Wales hard, threatens a third wave.

Add to these the economic uncertainty of post-Brexit Britain and you have the makings of a perfect and enduring storm.

Yet all is not lost. We can recover. We can rebuild and we can start by looking at the ideas of Raymond Williams, born 100 years ago in the small village of Pandy on the Welsh border.

Williams grew up in the aftermath of the depression and the general strike of 1926. He went on to study at Cambridge University where he became an academic and prolific writer on culture, community and class. He insisted “culture is ordinary”, rejecting the notion that there was only one form of Welshness.

He was a bridge builder, encouraging grassroots aliances among nationalists, socialists and an emerging green movement and he believed vehemently that a better world was not only possible, but also achievable if we worked together:

“As so often in Welsh history, there is a special strength in the situation of having been driven down so far that there is at once everything and nothing to lose, and which all that can be found and affirmed is each other.”


The strength of communities that Williams wrote about has endured. Think of the mining communities that built libraries and institutes of education.

Think of our national health service which began in Wales and think of the way we supported each other in lockdown. “There is wealth only in people and in their land and seas,” Williams tells us and he is right.

He goes on to warn: “Uses of wealth which abandon people are so profoundly contradictory that they become a social disaster, on a par with the physical disasters which follow from reckless exploitation of the land and seas.”

I would argue that if we are to emerge successfully from the current crisis then it can only be through support for our communities, which have undoubtedly been weakened and yet remain resilient.

That recovery, however, requires a new economic approach which, according to Williams, “would begin from real people in real places, and which would be designed to sustain their continuing life”.

Williams never lost hope for a better Wales and a better world, despite the dark times he lived through, and neither can we. “To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing” was his refrain. We ignore his message at our peril.

If you’d like to know more about Raymond Williams, I recommend a book called Who Speaks for Wales, a 2003 collection of his writings, recently updated for the centenary of his birth edited by Professor Daniel Williams of Swansea University.