Saturday, June 01, 2019

No Future in Separatism

5000 Scottish independence supporters, organised by the pro-independence group All Under One Banner, marched through Galashiels in the latest in a series of similar rallies

Socialists defend the rights of the human being not just in the legal and political dimensions but in the most fundamental economic dimension which was once called industrial democracy. Nationalism, presents itself as a version of the ideals of justice and equality, yet look what message nationalists have. The whole essence of nationalism is support for one’s own ruling class – in its exploitation, in its war, in its spreading of superstitions. Nationalism is setting for the in- fighting of the various sections of this class over the share of each in the process of capital accumulation. Nationalist present themselves as anti-imperialism. The fact that the nationalism of the bourgeoisie in the less-developed country or among oppressed nationalities has, during a short period in history, found itself in confrontation with certain features of imperialism, has led the left, to embrace and whitewash nationalism. But the Socialist Party see in nationalism the image of the capitalist class and nothing else. In its opinion, nationalism is among the superstitions from which humans should free themselves. Nationalism separates human beings from their common human and universal character. Workers who, instead of describing themselves as a part of the human family, view themselves as British, Scottish or Irish have already bowed to nationalist prejudice incompatible with socialism but also contradictory to the social evolution and advancement of humanity. The era of workers’ strength on the political stage is once again arriving. The power of the working class does not lie only in its size. This power essentially rests on this class’s position in capitalist production. The working class will triumph by virtue of being the backbone of production in the existing society, the leader of the new society and the social class having a real solution to human suffering as a whole. 

Just as capitalism is a world system of society, so too must socialism be. There never has been, and never can be, socialism in just one country because its material basis is the world-wide and interdependent means of production that capitalism has built up. The bulk of the wealth produced in the world today is produced by the co-operative labour of the millions employed to operate these means of production. What is needed now, to establish socialism, is a conscious political decision on the part of these billions across the world to run society in their own interests. This will be done by taking the means of production throughout the world into common ownership, with their democratic control by the whole community, and with production solely for use. 

No longer will there be classes, governments and their state machinery, or national frontiers.

Democratic control will involve the whole community in making decisions about the use of the means of production. Instead of government over people there would be various levels of democratic administration, from the local up to regional and world levels, with responsibility being delegated if necessary to groups and individuals.

The ‘national interest’ is an all time favourite for jingoists, indeed a much bandied about term in any crisis. But what is it supposed to mean?

Well, for one thing, the term is so designed, and used, as to distort our perception of reality. From the cradle to the grave we are discouraged from asking significant and searching questions - the type that might embarrass our betters and superiors. We are nurtured to mistrust our own ideas, to respect the views of our “betters.” Little wonder, then, that so many injustices prevail and that so many can speak in defence of the government line, unwittingly acquiescing in their own exploitation - albeit in the national interest. But this is how it is - so many are prepared to accept that the government embodies the people's “interests”.

The national interest conjures up an image that we are all one big happy family, all pulling and working together for the good of all; that we all have something to be proud of, to defend and to benefit from. It suggests an absence of strife and antagonism and that the real enemy is 'out there'. We're meant to feel good about the national interest, secure in the knowledge that the well-informed are thinking on our behalf. It harks back to the 'bulldog spirit' of the blitz years, when even the king and queen seemed half decent because they had been bombed ('Gawd bless 'em all, Guv.') – even though most Londoners didn’t realise the royal family were shooting off to Windsor Castle, 50 miles away, every night and feasting on swan. In reality, the national interest is anything the master class and their executive deem it to be at any given time, or rather anything that helps perpetuate their ideology and keeps them in power; anything that can undermine the potential for political action geared towards real change.

The national interest is the paternalistic jargon of a profit-hungry elite, trying to rationalise in our eyes the lengths they will go to accrue more profits at our expense. It is used by politicians largely to secure support for a course of action they are finding difficult to promote. It is designed to block serious discussion of an issue - who'll argue against the national interest and risk being denounced as unpatriotic? – and to marginalise opponents, thus stifling deeper understanding of issues.

Thus, the national interest is a government contemplating the selling of arms to Saudi Arabia or where ever. It is police wading into a picket line, truncheons swinging. The national interest is the Russia army intervening in the Ukraine, Israeli troops occupying the West Bank and Gaza and UK war-planes involved in bombing runs over Syria.

One thing is clear. While all the above can be pushed as national interests, none are in the interests of the working class. The interests of the majority - or the working class - are diametrically opposed to the interests of the master, or capitalist, class. True, we all have basic needs and desires, whichever class we belong to, but talk about shared interests in a two class society is nonsense. The capitalist class have one real interest - and let them deny it - to maximise their investment and to accrue more profit at our expense. How many people get trampled over or slaughtered in the process is of no consequence. Anything is legitimate in the pursuit of profit. Neither is much consideration given to environmental concerns. We, the working class on the other hand, own little more than our ability to labour by brain or by hand - an ability we sell to the master class. Our interest under capitalism becomes getting the best price for our labour. Indeed such is the onus on us to sell our labour power at as a high a price as possible that its consequences dominates every aspect of our lives. It has to be remembered that the master class depend on our complacency for their continued survival. Our silence, our willingness to accept everything they say without question, is the victory they celebrate every day.

Our job should therefore be to doubt and question everything they say - if we stand for nothing we fall for anything. For we do have interests. As a globally exploited class, denied so many of the benefits of civilisation in a world of abundance, it is in our interests, our real class interests, to help put a stop to their insane system, not just for the future of humanity, but for the future of our planet. Our real class interests lie in establishing a worldwide system of society, devoid of borders or frontiers, social classes or leaders, states governments, force or coercion, money, wages or salaries, a world in which production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used to its fullest potential and for the benefit of all. These interests are far removed from the national interest we are supposed to identify and moreover, they benefit all of today's classes.

Our fellow-workers continue to butcher one another in a senseless round of tit-for-tat atrocities. Many on the political ‘left’ will argue that nationalism is somehow progressive and different to imperialism and should therefore be supported. As socialists, we say that this is a dangerous poison that is being spread by the left and that no side engaged in such conflict can either speak for the working class as a whole or be an example to it.

History is replete with minorities in existing states using terrorist methods so that a new state may be formed or territory transferred from the “ownership” of one state to another. The working class of wage and salary earners is never in a position to benefit from this process; it is only in a position to suffer. The working class – by definition the class that does not possess any significant titles to land or private property, including capital – has quite literally nothing to gain from a situation where one group of rulers and owners is replaced by another group.

In the 19th century, when the modern capitalist system was expanding across the globe, “national liberation” struggles, typically led by a local growing capitalist class against the old autocratic empires, were part of the process which swept away the old political arrangements and opened the way forward for liberal democracy and the development of capitalist methods of production. It was often argued that it was in the interests of the working class during this time to take the side of the capitalists against the old autocracies like the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire, etc. It was said that this process would open the way up for working class organisation and for the development of an advanced industrial system which is a prerequisite for a socialist society of abundance and free access to available wealth.

Since then, the capitalist system has become a world system. The alleged justification for the working class taking sides in 'national liberation' struggles has now gone if ever it existed and today all such struggles are just deadly battles between sections of the capitalist class, even though it is the workers – imbued with nationalist poison – that naturally enough end up doing the fighting and dying.

The goal of the socialist movement is not to assist in the creation of even more states and more nationalities, but to establish a real world community without frontiers where all states as they currently exist will be destroyed. In a socialist society, communities, towns and cities will have the opportunity to thrive – and people will no doubt feel an attachment to places that are real and tangible – but the 'imagined communities' that are nation states will be consigned to the history books where they belong.

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