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Celtic League's general secretary asks : Can culture sometimes become a substitute for politics ?
An interesting letter from the Celtic League's General Secretary. I am often asked by people from the other Celtic countries why there isn't just one nationalist political party in Breizh that everyone who aims for greater autonomy can gather around so that their nationalist voice can be heard more clearly, but to this question I have never been able to give a simple answer.
Jacques-Yves Le Touze pour ABP le 15/08/11 13:15

An interesting letter from the Celtic League's General Secretary.

As many Celticists will be aware of, the Inter Celtic An Oriant/Lorient festival in Breizh/Brittany is drawing to a close this weekend and hundreds of thousands of festival goers will return to their homes. The General Secretary (GS) of the League writes below about some of his own experiences of the Festival and questions what the festival actually means within the context of a severe lack of Breton political and linguistic rights.

"In recent years, the An Oriant/Lorient festival has regularly attracted upwards of a million people, but what does the festival actually mean to these hoards when they return home with a CD in their pocket and wearing a t-shirt with a Celtic flag design on the front?"

"I once heard the Welsh film director Kenneth Griffiths address a crowd of people at the Rali Cilmeri in Wales where he spoke enthusiastically about 100.000 Celts on the streets in An Oriant/Lorient celebrating their common culture. Mr Griffiths then asked why these people did not come together more often and work for the greater autonomy of the Celtic lands. This is an especially poignant question for Breizh where political autonomy and linguistic and cultural rights are weaker than in any of the other Celtic countries. The growth of Breton music and dance, it seems, is at the expense and in contrast to the lack of political and linguistic freedoms that most of the other Celtic countries now enjoy."

"The situation in Breizh has not been helped by the continued existence of a number of different nationalist political parties – with broadly similar aims - who clamber and compete against each other for the vote of a relatively small minority. Unvaniezh Demokratel Breizh (Union Démocratique Bretonne - UDB), Parti Breton, Breizhistance and L'Alliance Fédéraliste Bretonne are just some of the political parties in Breizh that are openly hostile towards each other and pinch each other's votes. These nationalist parties are in addition to the myriad of nationalist political pressure groups who do not stand for election, but whose members seem to tacitly agree to vote for one or other of the parties or none at all."

"I am often asked by people from the other Celtic countries why there isn't just one nationalist political party in Breizh that everyone who aims for greater autonomy can gather around so that their nationalist voice can be heard more clearly, but to this question I have never been able to give a simple answer. Breton nationalists, it seems, are content to work against each other in their frustrating attempt to gain greater recognition for their nation, language and culture. Consequently today the democratic rights of the people of Breizh are still being smothered by an unsympathetic centralised government in Paris that acts as one of the EU's biggest hypocrites in terms of what it demands of other states in contrast to its own."

"About ten years ago I stopped over at the An Oriant/Lorient festival on my way back from a demonstration in Nanoed/Nantes to protest about the continued incarceration of Breton activists who had been detained by the authorities without charge for several years. There were a couple of thousand people at the demonstration, but our numbers paled in comparison to the tens of thousands that were soaking up the sun in An Oriant/Lorient where Celtic music blasted from street corners through loud speakers. The group of Breton political activists I was with - most of whom were utterly disillusioned with the political process (with the exception of the Emgann members who were there because it was some of their activists who had been arrested - were not so keen on stopping off at the festival, but I wanted me to see the event for myself after I told them I had never been."

"After a couple of hours at the festival I had seen and heard enough and proceeded to make my way to Rosko/Roskoff to catch the ferry. On my way back I started chatting to a man who had also been to the festival. When he found out I was Welsh he presumed that I had come to Breizh to attend the festival, but when I said that I had come to take part in a demonstration, he frowned and said that I should have gone to the festival instead, because it was `French culture' at its best."

"I then began thinking that perhaps Breton culture, rather than it complementing Breton political activity, was actually acting as a substitute to it for many. Depressingly I began wondering on my way home if nationalist politics was not the main driving force for Breton nationalists, but rather the country's music and dance scene was and this is a thought that I have returned to a number of times since. This `political' position may be quite acceptable for some Breton nationalists, but the obvious difficulty with this situation - and this is one of the biggest challenges for Breton nationalism today – is convincing people that just because they are able to attend a fest-noz once a week and listen to a bagad on the radio, that Breton autonomy will one day come about."

"The fact of the matter is that without a strong representation of Breton nationalist politicians from one political party working together to secure political and linguistic autonomy for their nation, then no amount of bombard-binou playing will give Breizh the freedoms that it so desperately needs to develop into a strong nation of its own in the future."

Link: (voir le site)

This article prepared for Celtic News by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot General Secretary

Celtic League. For follow-up comment or clarification contact:

Tel: 0044 (0)1209315884

M: 0044(0)7787318666

rhisiart.talebot [at] ...

gensec [at] ...

The views of the General Secretary (above) should be 'food for thought' in some of the other Celtic countries as the situation he outlines is not unique to Brittany. Remember whilst this is not an interactive forum. Contributors who wish to comment can forward letters to the Editor of Carn on this (or any subject pertaining to the aims of the Celtic League). Such letters are published at the

Editors discretion.

J B Moffatt (Mr)

Director of Information

Celtic League


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.

TEL (UK)01624 877918 MOBILE (UK)07624 491609

Internet site at:

(voir le site)

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