Can Scottish separatism be part of a strategy for socialism? Can a sovereign Scotland be a step forward in this struggle?
Left nationalists, those radical patriots demanding Scottish sovereignty, believe that it is necessary to achieve independence from England first, and then socialism. This kind of argument channels the efforts of progressives into support for the SNP, an openly pro-capitalist party. Socialism is put off until “later”. We have learned by bitter experience that the struggle for socialism is never to be started right away. Later...later...those nationalists on the left keep telling us. These reformists hide behind a socialist mask. The “radical” image of the independence and socialism line is nothing but a charade, putting the interests of the nation ahead of the interests of the working class. They end up supporting the SNP's independence schemes, allying directly with the Scottish elite, faithfully serving its interests.
The reality is that Scottish independence will not change conditions for the better the struggle for socialism. Such a change would in fact be nothing but a re-division of power between various groups of capitalists. The two states that would result would be just as capitalist as today’s United Kingdom. All that would be put in question is the division of power between sections of the ruling elite. But the power structure of the capitalists over the workers would be unchanged. Perhaps separatism might harm a section of Scottish business, but the capitalist system itself would not be hurt by it.
Once the capitalist class in Scotland achieved an independent state, it would be no more welcoming to a working class revolution than was the ruling class of Britain as a whole. It would be ready to suppress any workers' struggle. Today, despite a very vocal nationalist left-wing, few people still believe that separatism is a step forward in the struggle for socialism but rather as an opportunity for extracting perhaps a few more beneficial reforms. An independent Scotland would be dominated by an emboldened national bourgeoisie that would demand social harmony in the name of national interest. All opposition to exploitation will be branded as betraying the nation. In an independent Scotland the SNP would try to integrate the unions into the state apparatus. If that strategy failed, the SNP would show its true face by repressing workers’ struggles.
Independence is not in the objective interests of our fellow-workers. The Scottish working-class movement cannot stand alone in its confrontation with the employing owning class that dominate the country from Lands End to Lerwick. Who will benefit from the introduction of less unity among English, Welsh and Scottish workers? The very class we are trying to fight. The separation of Scottish workers would weaken the entire British working class. Its forces would be divided and diminished, and in facing the class enemy, its ranks disorganised. It will not be able to react to the employers' attacks with a unified fightback, and it’s exactly that class unity, rising above national barriers, which strikes the capitalists with fear.
The task of workers is to attack the root of the problem not tinker with the constitutional status. Workers must reject all compromises, all proposals of alliances with their masters for the sake of the unity of the nation. It is not the task of the Scotland's working class to unite the nation around any kind of battle for independence whatsoever. The struggle must be waged against the entire British and global bourgeoisie. It must be waged against those who have suppressed us for decade after decade. The Scottish workers will continue to carry out this task by rooting out the basic cause of national oppression – capitalism. To do so, workers must unite with the only class whose interests lie unreservedly in eliminating capitalism – the workers of all lands. It is capitalism that gives birth to national divisions and the oppression of one nation by another. By eliminating capitalism, workers create the conditions for the unity of nations. If the working class divides its forces, this can seriously retard its progress. But if it remains unified, it can triumph. This unity can only be forged in the struggle against national chauvinism and nationalism which only serve the interests of the ruling class. The separation of Scotland from the UK will not weaken the ruling class as some of the Left Nationalists claim. On the contrary, Scottish sovereignty would weaken the working class by dividing it and by binding Scots even closer to their bosses.