Could the Welsh Assembly be the most important thing that has ever happened to Wales? Brian Walters, writing in the South Wales Evening Post (4 March) suggested it will have a profound effect on our lives since it will have the power to decide what happens to education, health, transport and others.
There seems to be an implication here that decisions on such matters are not already being taken or at least that the decisions will be radically different under the Assembly.
But in the same article, Walters pointed out all the Assembly will be doing is taking over the powers that the Secretary of State for Wales now has. And is there any evidence these powers will be exercised in a fundamentally different way? Or will the Assembly authorities continue to suffer the financial and market constraints any administration anywhere faces? And what about the example of the Republic of Ireland, where all the problems present elsewhere in the British Isles—and sometimes in exacerbated form—have continued after more than 70 years not just of devolution but of independence?
What kind of problems are these? They are the usual ones facing all wage earners in Wales as elsewhere—to do with jobs and job security, housing, health, schooling, violence and general worry about the future. They arise not from particular political or constitutional arrangements but from the way society is organised—on the basis of production for profit and minority ownership of the vast majority of the wealth.
The fact is that even if the new Assembly were to bring decisions closer to home, these decisions would still have to be taken in the overall interests of the profit system. This will happen whichever party happens to win power.
Even if dissatisfaction with this eventually led to a fully independent Wales, such decisions would still be taken on the same basis—only by rulers from Cardiff, not London. The position of wage earners would be the same—it makes no difference where the government which administers the profit system has its headquarters.
So despite all the fuss the Assembly is an irrelevance. It will not give the people of Wales more control over their own affairs. The only change that will do that is a change in the whole social system, replacing competitive production for profit and minority ownership by co-operative production. Neither devolution nor an independent Wales or United Britain can achieve this. It is only feasible in a moneyless, frontierless society which, for those with vision, is the next stage in human social evolution.