Showing posts with label Scottish nationalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scottish nationalism. Show all posts

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Scotch Mist

 In Scotland today it’s true that there is a struggle – as there is in England, Wales, Ireland, or rest of the world for that matter. But the struggle in Scotland is not, as the Scottish National Party would have us believe, the struggle for home rule, self-government, self-determination, or self anything. The struggle in Scotland, as in the rest of the world, is a class struggle: the struggle between the working class and the capitalist or owning class.

The SNP tell us, the workers, that independence from England and the control of our own purse strings will cure all our problems. What they do not seem to realise is that the problems they are going to try to solve are an integral part of the capitalist system, and history has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that within this system there is no satisfactory solution to these problems apart from Socialism.

The SNP talk about the Scottish culture and the Scottish way of life. But in what way is the life of a Scottish wage slave basically different from that of an English, an American, or for that matter a Russian wage slave? There is no basic difference in the way of life of the world’s working class because we all suffer from the same problems such as poverty and insecurity. Independence from England will not cure the poverty and insecurity of the Scottish workers, because they will still be the wages labour and capital relationship.

There is no truly independent country in the world, because international capitalism has made sure of this, and our own experience here in Britain, especially since 1964, should have brought it home to us. The past few years should have shown us just how independent Britain is, when foreign "bankers" tell the British government how to spend money, and how it must not spend money, in order to keep the international capitalist class happy.

Class Struggle
 Independence for Scotland therefore is a myth put about by the Scottish National Party, which further confuses the Scottish section of the working class and blinds them from the real struggle – the class struggle.

The outcome of the class struggle is the abolition of capitalism and an end to poverty, insecurity and the ever-present threat of war.

Socialism is a sane society, where the means of life will be owned in common by the whole of the world socialist community. By the means of life we mean the land, mines, factories, railways, and the like – in short, the means of production and distribution. In Socialism the rule of life will be : from each according to his or her ability, to each to according to his or her need. There will be no need for buying and selling, just a free world for a free people. It could be like that now, so why not do something about it ? The world is ours for the taking. So why not take it ?



From Socialist Standard No. 779 July 1969

Monday, July 13, 2015


From the August 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

As the war nears its climax, the capitalist political representatives—and their sidekicks—are doing a lot of jockeying for place and power in what they consider will be the political set-up. In Scotland, as in England, recent events in Parliamentary by-elections have indicated clearly that the working-class electorate are not whole-heartedly enamoured of the National-cum-Labour Government. A definite swing of the pendulum "leftwards" has been observed, and a post-war continuation of that process has been envisaged. The "Commonwealth" movement has had some measure of success in stealing the thunder of the Labour and Communist Parties. This organisation, which receives the financial backing of Sir Richard Acland and other rich men, has made attempts—with varying degrees of success—to take united Parliamentary action with the other reformist organisations, the Labour Party, Communist Party and I.L.P. "Commonwealth" spokesmen have, of course, demonstrated their confusion and invincible ignorance of what the term "commonwealth" means. To them it means anything and everything, from State ownership to public utility corporations—in a word, anything but the common ownership and democratic control of the means of life.

Enchanted, apparently, by the measure of success which has attended the efforts of Acland and Co. yet again to beguile the workers, a "Scotch broth" of various "lairds," "literary men, Communist gents and Labour politicians have arisen in Scotland in the form of a "Declaration on Scottish Affairs," in which various problems are discussed and palliatives set forth. The ancient slogan, "Scottish Home Rule," is revived from its centuries-old semi-torpor, and blazoned forth to an —as yet—incredulous working class. This specious document contends initially that "Scottish conditions are not identical with English conditions," a masterly and illuminating observation! In support of this, various evidence is adduced: "Hill farming, forestry and fishing are more important than in the South"; "depopulation of the Highlands is an entirely Scottish question"; "The Scottish housing question is different in scale." The solution to these perplexing anomalies is modestly claimed to be: "A Scottish legislature and Government should be established to deal with Scottish affairs, and that Scottish representation in the Parliament of the United Kingdom should be retained."

We have heard all this before, in varying guises. Yes, my Lords and Ladies and inspired Commoners, your "fresh" Scottish fish stinks of crumbling antiquity! It was also claimed by the Irish Nationalists over long years, that the problems of the Irish workers were uniquely different from the other workers of the world. After years of bloody struggle the Irish Nationalists—to some extent—had their way, with what results? Are not poverty and unemployment inevitable accompaniments of wealth and leisure in the "Emerald Isle"? Are slums, poorhouses, pawnshops, diseases, malnutrition and the other horrible characteristics of modern society the exclusive product of Scotland, Ireland or any other country in the world?

An amusing reflection that strikes me on examining the "Home Rule" claims is the one that arises when they claim that Home Rule for Scotland will result in more work. More work for whom?—for the Lords, Dukes, ladies, authors and Labour politicians who modestly sign the declaration? No! As is usual, for the already over-worked working class of Scotland! It could be thought that, at least, it had occurred to John S. Clarke (one of the signatories) that what is wrong with the working class is not lack of work, but their divorcement from the means of wealth-production. To talk of Scottish, as opposed to English, interests is to gloss over, to ignore the basic conflict of interests that inevitably arises from the structure of capitalism. The defenders of capitalism adopt sundry devices to hide this fundamental class-antagonism, and one of the handiest ones has been for years to play on the difference of nationality and seat of government. The defence against this stratagem is, as always. the re-statement of the Socialist case and an iron confidence in the working-class ability eventually to solve their own problems without the assistance of Lairds and Lords, or leaders.

Thomas Anthony.

('Thomas Anthony' was the pen-name of longstanding SPGB Glasgow Branch member, the late Tony Mulheron. Tony joined the SPGB in 1935 and, except for a brief disagreement over the party's attitude to the Spanish Civil War, remained a member of the end of his life. A brilliant speaker and debater, his flamboyant style and wit made him a joy to listen to. Although he had only the minimum of formal education he acquired a thorough knowledge of Marxist theory, which he applied to wipe the floor with numerous left-wing opponents.
The old Workers' Open Forum in Glasgow was Tony's favourite stamping ground. This was run by a committee of working people who for many years organised regular political talks and debates and Tony was a frequent and popular lecturer there.)

Sunday, June 07, 2015


From the August 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

The self-styled democratic champions of the British Empire are wont to ignore the violence and intrigue which have contributed to its upbuilding, not only abroad, but in these islands.

When their attention is called to these factors by foreign dictators they take refuge in the feeble excuse that it all happened a long time ago; an excuse which seems to make very little impression upon the spokesmen of movements for "national liberty."

In the case of Ireland we have had violent examples, recently, of the bitterness which still survives (in spite of a partial self-government), as a result of centuries of oppression. In Scotland a similar sentiment takes a more pacific, but none the less definite form.

The Scottish National Party is endeavouring to enlist the support of workers there, on the ground that they are worse fed and housed than their fellow-slaves in England, and that there is a larger proportion of their number out of work. It proposes a whole series of reforms for the special benefit of workers in Scotland, such as increased wages, shorter hours, better housing, and public works, holidays with pay, etc., and with this avowed end in view, calls for the restoration of the Scottish Parliament, which voted for its own extinction some two hundred and thirty-odd years ago.

Our readers will notice the extremely moderate nature of the claims and proposals of this Party. It dare not, in face of patent facts, suggest that the position of the English workers is a happy one, in spite of centuries of self-government and generations of working-class enfranchisement. It does not claim that Home Rule for Scotland will abolish unemployment, slums, underfeeding, etc; it merely hints that they can be reduced thereby to the English level. Scottish workers may well ask themselves whether it is worth their while to go through so much to get so little. Other reform parties in the past, such as the Liberal and Labour Parties, both in England and Scotland, have at least held out a more glittering bait than this. Hence, perhaps, no stampede of Scottish workers to the National Party has so far been recorded.

Moreover, the logic of the Nationalists, even with regard to their limited claims, is decidedly faulty. It is notorious that there are several districts in England, chiefly in the North, knows as depressed areas. These areas can show more intense degrees of poverty than obtain in certain other parts of the country. Is this to be explained by saying that the Government is concentrated in the hands of Southerners or is situated in the South? Would the state of affairs be appreciably altered if an independent seat of government were set up in Barnsley or West Hartlepool?

In their leaflet "Crisis!" the Scottish National Party bemoan the extent to which work has been transferred from Scotland to England soil by the railway companies, and the number of factories which have been closed in the former country as compared with the latter. It may not be out of place to remind them that English capitalists do not hesitate to close works in Lancashire and open others in India or China, when it proves profitable, and no British Government has shown either ability or willingness to interfere with this process. Capitalists are not primarily concerned with geographical boundaries or the nationality of the people whom they exploit.

On the other hand, the Scottish nation, whether independent or united with England, is divided into classes, as is society elsewhere. It is this division which accounts for the existence of the evils from which the Scottish workers suffer. English rule did not account for the fact that the depopulation of the Scottish Highlands led to the congestion in its industrial slums. The Scottish chieftains themselves turned out their own clansmen in order to make way, first for sheep and later for deer, in order to fill their own pockets. The notorious Duchess of Sutherland, for example, had 15,000 people hunted out in the six years 1814-20, and called in British soldiers to enforce the eviction. The political union merely facilitated the development of capitalist robbery with violence.

Thus the history of Scotland, while differing in detail from that of England, followed the same general course. By their divorce from the soil, a nation of peasant cultivators were converted into wage-slaves, exploited by a class ready to convert the world into one gigantic market. The forces of competition thus let loose may be held in check to some degree by national legislatures, but no final solution for the havoc they create can be found along such lines. The problem is essentially an international one, and must be internationally solved. That, however, calls not for National parties, but for parties in all countries which clearly recognise the common interest of the workers of the world, namely, to achieve their emancipation as a class.

When the workers get upon the right track of understanding their position they will cease to worry their brains over comparatively trivial differences in their conditions, whether as between nations or between districts or separate towns. They will recognise that they suffer varying degrees of poverty because at present they exist merely to produce profits for their masters, and that it is a matter of comparative indifference to them whether these masters are English or Scots, Germans or Japanese.

Their aim will be to abolish masters of every nationality and to organise the production of wealth for their common good.

Eric Boden

Friday, April 03, 2015

Tommy Sheridan - the Shameless Scottish Nationalist

Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity officially endorsed a vote for the SNP position for the May 7 General Election. A large majority of 65 or so delegates at their conference in Motherwell last Saturday voted in favour. A statement by the Solidarity executive described an SNP vote as “a progressive vote against the red, yellow and blue Tories” who “denied Scotland its independence last September.” Sheridan and Solidarity are openly supporting a pro-business party and a party that Surgeon has made clear will endeavor to put Miliband into 10 Downing St.

Shortly after the referendum vote Sheridan wrote: “in order to maximise the pro-Independence vote in next May’s General Election, all Yes supporters should vote for the SNP...” Speaking at the Solidarity conference, Sheridan insisted, “All my life I have called for a mass party of the working class. The SNP have become a mass party of the working class. They may be led by a middle class leadership, some of whom are certainly not socialists but are free marketeers in their very fibres. But the truth is that that party is almost 100,000 in Scotland and working class people are orientating towards it.”

The Socialist Party Scotland, the Scottish wing of the Socialist Party of England and Wales which grew out of the Militant Tendency faction, confirmed its decision to quit its support for Solidarity in a statement accusing Sheridan of moving away from a "principled socialist position" because they would rather that Sheridan had promoted their own pet project, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.  A bit like the pot calling the kettle black...

This, of course, vindicates the stand taken by the Socialist Party in opposition to the promotion of Scottish independence by the nationalist-left.

Tommy the Leader - Towards the Precipice 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Socialism cannot wait

The Socialist Party believes that socialism is the alternative to capitalism. Socialism requires the joint efforts of workers worldwide. Socialism is the only answer for the working class. And that we must organise as a class whose goal is that. The Socialist Party has never had as a policy that “socialism can wait.”

The Scottish National Party is the party of a certain segment of the Scottish capitalist class. Brian Souter, the owner of the Stagecoach transport network has given more than a million pounds to the SNP. Needless to say, he did so knowing full well that the party would not challenge his wealth or power. In particular, the SNP has made it clear that the bus system and the railroads will remain in the private sector. The SNP has gone out of the way to reassure the business community, including the transnational corporations, that they have nothing to fear because an independent Scotland would not threaten their interests. There can be no question that the SNP will act to protect the interests of the capitalist class, even though this means defending the interests of huge transnational corporations based outside of Scotland. The SNP has been skilful in presenting one face to the people and a very different one to the corporations. To the former the SNP claim to be social democrats who believed in greater equality and to the latter, the SNP stands for a strong economy and continued growth. The SNP leaders support a continuation of capitalist exploitation in an independent Scotland. This was summed up in their White Paper that proposed cuts to corporation tax for big business while seeking to bind the trade unions into ‘partnership’ and a ‘Team Scotland’ approach. In practice, this means accepting attacks on their wages and working conditions for the so-called “national interest”. The SNP has "tacked leftwards" in rhetoric, though not at all in policy implementation. Voting for nationalist parties simply helps to confuse and divide an already confused and divided British working class even more.

For too long, the left has accepted the orthodoxy that there exists a “right to national self-determination”, and that we should support any struggle to that end. The left is wrong, and that the damage caused by this mistaken idea is second only to that caused by the corruption to the socialist cause from the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.
At first hearing, the very sound of a “struggle for national self-determination” suggests that it is democratic and progressive. To throw off the yoke of imperial government, to fight the occupiers and the foreign-appointed governors: it all sounds just. And yet what does it amount to? Having thrown off the yoke of foreign rule, the ex-colonies of the European empires have largely established their 'own' governments. Has this seen their peoples achieve freedom and plenty? In most, undemocratic foreign rule has been replaced by undemocratic home rule. Different face in different uniforms hold the same guns, and the people still stare down the barrels.

Worse, the old colonial rulers retain all their former power through overpowering military supremacy and economic dominance. What the UK once controlled through occupation, the US now controls through their manipulation of trade backed by the implicit threat posed by their sole superpower status. The EU and China desperately compete, and the 'great game' of rival empires continues. The new 'home' governments of ex-colonies are allowed to line their own pockets and bully their populations, but are otherwise kept it in line. The question remains, when the left have supported demands for 'national self-determination' - which can only mean the right to form nation states - have they expected it to bring freedom and plenty? The answer is no. Socialists are internationalists, and do not believe that socialism can exist within a single state: the results of Stalin's 'socialism in one country' proved that forever. It can be seen that when the left limit their demands to what they see as the 'limited’ perspective of the people they claim to 'lead', this patronising nonsense does enormous harm. As a result, our most famous slogan must always be: “Workers of the world, unite!” We demand open borders, and the abolition of states altogether. We believe that states exist to oppress!

If socialists oppose the state, how much more that we oppose the nation state. It is bad enough that people should be penned by the world's rulers like cattle owned by farmers. It is worse that such states should attempt to exclude those of the wrong 'nation' or 'people' or ‘race’. In attempting to harness the power of struggles for national self-determination to the socialist cause, the left have dragged the workers’ movement into the mud and mire of nationalism. The right of self-determination is not national, but the right of every individual, and of all humanity. It includes to right to determine where to live and work, regardless of states, or borders, or 'nationality'. Humanity's freedom will not be won by building new states, but by destroying them all. The problem with countries is if you love your country or only your ethnicity, you separate from others like you. We become divided as a human race. Countries divide us; governments divide us; when we truly are one global species, one people.

We know that the future belongs to us, the workers. We know socialism is possible. We know that only the working class can bring socialism about. We need to build a society where we own the factories, the land, the transport—a society where we are guaranteed housing, education, healthcare and jobs. A society where there will be no borders for people. Rosa Luxemburg’s once wrote “socialism or barbarism” but these days we may very well qualify it by adding “Barbarism… if we are lucky”. Our choice in these days of environmental cataclysm is one world or none.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Neither the Saltire or Union Jack but the Red Flag (video)

We may take issue with Maxton and Hardie being included in the ranks of Marxists but the anti-nationalist sentiments of the song, can be shared by many in the Socialist Party .

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What is nationalism?

The SNP have now released a draft constitution for a possible independent Scotland. As a left wing group also critical of nationalism explained, Scotland is to be offered a choice between two ‘Yes’options in the independence referendum: “ ‘Yes’ to an ‘independent’ Scotland under the British crown, NATO and  austerity policies; or ‘Yes’ to the current UK state under the British crown, NATO and economic austerity.” In this referendum you can choose capitalism...or ...ermmm...capitalism.

The Socialist Party lends no support to the ‘Yes’ fantasies about ‘national independence’. Nor do we endorse the “No” campaigners for the continuance of the status quo. We advocate a socialist change. We stand for a united working class not a class divided by nationalities or borders. Unlike some on the Left, the Socialist Party follows the advice given in the Communist Manifesto and disdains from “concealing their views and aims”, particularly by hiding behind the cloak of nationalist patriotism.

Nationalism first appeared during the rise of capitalism, in the struggle of the emerging capitalist class to establish the nation state as a framework for the expansion of private property, freedom of enterprise and trade. The bourgeoisie was then the revolutionary class, and capitalist ideology, including nationalism, was progressive.

Identifying with the country and nation-state you live in creates the ideology of nationalism. This entails loyalty to its state; its economic and military interests, its flag, respect for its institutions (and the perceived obligation to support its national sporting teams, whether they be good, bad or indifferent!) The nation-state defines itself geographically and politically and if you define yourself primarily as its supporter, whether qualified or unqualified, you subscribe to a nationalist ideology. Socialists see things completely differently. For us, the human race is divided primarily on the basis of social class, and as we have seen, the division is between the employing class and the working class.

A nationalist outlook preaches to the people of a nation or national group that regardless of class they have more in common with one another than they do with the people of other nations. Nationalism helps bind the working class to the ruling class of its nation. It says: “We’re all Scots.” The Socialist Party say that working people’s destiny around the world must not be tied to the capitalists. If the working class holds nationalist ideas, it is allowing its destiny to be determined by the capitalist class. Marxists no longer differentiate between the nationalism of the reactionary or progressive. Socialists do not fan the flames of nationalism that divides the working class and instead we promote working class internationalism to unite the workers of the world. Therefore, we reject the ideology of nationalism, as it unites the worker with the capitalist, the oppressed with the oppressor and makes it harder for the exploited to throw off their oppression. Our reply to nationalism is to support working class internationalism. For us, the class war is central. The working class has no country.

Every nation is an integral part of the world capitalist system. Capitalism can neither be fought nor weakened through the creation of new nations but only by opposing capitalist nationalism with working class internationalism. Socialists should not hitch their wagon to nationalism for the former invariably lose.

“If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs. England would still rule you to your ruin, even while your lips offered hypocritical homage at the shrine of that Freedom whose cause you had betrayed. Nationalism without Socialism – without a reorganisation of society on the basis of a broader and more developed form of that common property which underlay the social structure of Ancient Erin – is only national recreancy.[a disloyality to a belief]” – James Connolly, “Socialism and Nationalism,”

The columnist Torcuil Crighton in the Daily Record writes:
"There have been 29 general elections to the Dàil, Ireland’s parliament, since independence. Ireland’s Labour Party have won precisely none. When socialism goes up against nationalism in a country where all civic politics is about the nation, then Labour doesn’t stand a chance....Eamon de Valera’s specific strategy – was to smother the Labour movement in the embrace of Fianna Fáil. His nationalist party talked the language of social democracy with enough rhetoric to rob Labour of a distinctive voice, while never delivering the goods.”

And do we not detect the same electoral tactics within Salmond’s SNP? Dividing the workers’ movement on national lines is allowing us to be played off against each other which can only serve the interests of employers on both sides of the border.

It is a terrible pity that the memory of a great labour agitator – who was motivated by internationalism, a hatred of injustice, poverty, the class system, and inequality – has been hijacked by both the Irish State and Sinn Fein, thanks to Connolly’s ill-judged and ill-fated participation in the 1916 Rising. As a student of Esperanto, he hoped the synthetic language would transcend linguistic differences and help unite the world’s workers. He co-founded the Irish Citizen Army – an organisation formed to protect Dublin workers from the brutality of the police during the 1912 Strike/Lockout - when they were engaged in bitter struggle with the bosses’ class. This class was personified by bourgeois Irish nationalist and leading advocate of independence, William Martin Murphy; owner of the Irish Independent newspaper, Clerys, and the Dublin United Tramway Company.

The reasons for Connolly’s participation in the nationalist 1916 Rising are contested. One school of thought goes that he was demoralised by the defeat of the Dublin workers in the 1912 Strike/Lockout and the capitulation of the 2nd International to war jingoism, and thus threw his lot in with the Irish nationalists; envisaging a common front that would first tackle the existing British State in Ireland, leading on to a socialist revolution. Sadly, Connolly did not live to explain his motives, as he was executed. Whatever the reasons, his legacy has been claimed by socialists, internationalists, anarchists, nationalists, Irish Republicans, and – even more ironically – the capitalist State he despised so much. Connolly’s portrayal as an Irish independence hero has led many potential socialists up the blind alley of nationalism - so making the dawning of a socialist world, united by class, all the more unlikely.

Rosa Luxemburg understood that the problem of nationalism could not be solved as long as capitalism existed. Only socialism can resolve national antagonisms. Workers everywhere are beginning to rise from their knees to their feet again. They have unprecedented latent power. But the gap between their objective power and their subjective consciousness has never been wider. At no time in their history have they been so silent politically. Their struggles are diffuse and uncoordinated. There is no world party, no mass movement  to change society. Socialists have always understood that without international unity The creation of a worldwide party of the working class is not at all an abstract or unrealistic idea, as the World Socialist Movement demonstrates but it i still merely a work in progress. The internet and social media have made the present generation incomparably connected and informed. The world has drawn together and a new global consciousness has arisen. Unity and democracy depend upon each other. Each is impossible without the other.

“Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for” sang John Lennon. He was singing about a socialist world. Such a world becomes possible once capitalism has been defeated, when social classes have finally been abolished along with the competing nation states and inequality that have accompanied them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Break-up of Scotland?

Lerwick, the capital of Shetland is 18 hours by road and boat from Edinburgh – more than double the journey time from the Scottish capital to Westminster. Now Shetland, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides demand independence referendums of their own if Scotland votes 'Yes'.

 A petition currently before the Scottish Parliament is seeking referendums to be held on all three islands exactly a week after the rest of the nation votes on the future of the union with Westminster. In the event it should get the go-ahead, the 70,000 inhabitants will be given the choice of either staying in Scotland or seeking independence of their own. A third question following a successful yes vote will offer the possibility of staying within the UK while seceding from control of Holyrood.

It is estimated that up to 67 per cent of Scotland’s oil and gas reserves lie within the waters off Shetland and Orkney. All the islands have lucrative off shore renewable energy potential.

Steve Heddle, Convenor of the Orkney Islands Council, and part of the non-partisan umbrella group "Our Islands, Our Future" said there was an urgent case for the communities to be given greater control over their destinies.

Shetland’s Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott said demands for referendums within the islands were “entirely understandable”.

“The SNP is holding a gun to the islanders’ heads and saying 'I will not do anything for you unless you vote yes'. It is like the proverbial English colonial governor telling the natives what to do. People in the islands are very independent minded and they do not like being treated like this,” he said.

Socialist Courier has, of course, previously drawn attention to this possibility of regions within an independent Scotland seeking their own independence  a number of occasions.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nationalists - No Grouse with Capitalism

The independence debate is a dispute between sections of the capitalist class over what constitutional arrangement produces the better commercial benefits. Deluded left nationalists hang on to the shirt-tails of Alex Salmond, as desperately as the witch in Tam O’ Shanter clutches to the tail of the horse, in a belief that somehow the arrival of ‘socialism’ is brought closer by a sovereign parliament being installed in Edinburgh. However the reality is as we have always said - Scottish independence is of no concern to the working class, for an independent Scotland would continue to represent the interests of the corporations and employers.

This is confirmed when Blackrock, the world's biggest investment fund manager, said that fears an independent Scotland would become a "bastion of anti-business sentiment are unfounded, in our view".

It said: "The Scottish government would likely go out of its way to accommodate the oil industry in particular. Why risk killing the Scottish grouse that lays the golden egg?”

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A socialist lesson from Kiev

The events of Ukraine may be far away from Glasgow and Edinburgh but the driving force of the conflict is very familiar.

 What is making people take one side or another and feel so passionately about it that they take to the streets in violent confrontations, is nationalism, that sense of identity based on “ethnicity” (and in Ukraine, language). Nationalism has made allies of people who we might have called "liberals" and people who we definitely call "fascists."

Nationalism is the idea that the most important thing about a person is his or her nationality When nationalism is strong, then people judge their politicians  by asking "Are they of the right nationality?" What this means is that leaders are not judged by asking, "What are their values?" or "Are they for equality or inequality" or even "Are they honest or corrupt?"

Evaluating politicians this way is a recipe for enabling leaders who are personally corrupt or who want society to be very unequal and undemocratic to gain power on the grounds that they are of the right nationality. Such leaders know that in order to make the correctness of their nationality trump all other concerns they need to keep "their" people in fear of another "enemy" nationality.  This is why some politicians relish and foment national or  ethnic or religious strife.  One way of doing this is to use the rhetoric of "freedom"

For those of us who want a socialist  society, the important question is not what nationality you are but whether you support or oppose the values of socialism - equality and mutual aid among people regardless of nationality. Ukrainians will continue to be oppressed by inequality, by the rule of the few haves over the many have-nots. No matter what nationality the haves are, their goal is to make sure that the have-nots remain dominated, exploited and oppressed by the haves.

And can the Scottish nationalists say an independent Scotland will be any different? The Socialist Party is confident that  ordinary Scots want a socialist society, meaning that if they were presented with that goal clearly spelled out they would say it would be wonderful to live in such a world. The Socialist Party is also sure that most Scots follow their political leaders because they hope it will result in an improvement in their lives by reducing the domination and oppression by the haves. This domination is all they know and experienced, and any big change such as the prospect of independence and the promise of having their nationality in power instead of the “enemy” nationality offers the hope that maybe it will make things better. But most Scots have never heard the case for genuine socialism and  think anybody who uses the word "socialism" wants another Soviet Union and Stalin.  All that is left is for them to choose which nationality to identify with and vote for.  People are in an ideological trap, in which only the haves win and the have-nots are doomed to lose. the Scottish working-class need to break out of this trap.

Instead of trying to figure out if it is separatism or the union to support it makes far more sense to build a socialist movement where we live. When it comes to keeping the have-nots out of power, the haves of all nationalities cooperate with each other far more than they fight each other to strengthen the power of the haves generally, everywhere in the world. . The best thing we can do to help the have-nots (in Ukraine) is to fight against the haves where we live and try to remove them from power.

Freely adapted from a Countercurrents post by John Spritzler

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Connolly the Anti-Nationalist

Billy Connolly has said he will not vote in the referendum on Scottish independence.

I have never been a nationalist and I have never been a patriot. I have always remembered that I have a lot more in common with a welder from Liverpool than I do with someone from agriculture in the Highlands..."

Monday, February 10, 2014

For A Socialist One World


Socialists are indifferent to the national interests of any particular country, our own included. The thing to which we are not indifferent to are the principles of socialism. Socialism involves internationalism*. The internationalism of socialism is other than the mere internationalism we hear so much of in the present day, the internationalism of particular interests, scientific, literary, or what not. This internationalism though undoubtedly itself a sign of the times, is an internationalism of expediency. The internationalism of socialism is an internationalism of principle. Socialist internationalism joins hands with that of anti-patriotism, with that of anti-nationalism. Our regret that all this heroism and devotion at the service of the modern nation-State is not always forthcoming when it is a question of fighting, not for the  independence of one nation, but for a new society for all peoples – for the socialist commonwealth. Would the time might come when the socialist ideal shall inspire men as much as nationality can do now.

We need the conviction that socialism is of more value than an independent national State. But let us not forget that the international workers’ solidarity can sap the importance of the nation-state, and thereby weaken the call of nationalism. The cause of the working class is lost if we allow ourselves to be caught in the net of patriotism, with all the vicious and false sentiment clinging to it, and liable to be evoked in a virulent form on the slightest occasion at the will of the dominant classes. Socialism adopts a policy of unrelenting antagonism toward nationalism. The hoax of “my country right or wrong” must be seen for the abomination that it is. Even if the country is committing a crime the blind patriot  wishes to see that crime succeed, or at least will not rejoice at the frustration of this crime by the defeat of his or her country. Patriotism is an objectionable belief since it means the placing of one’s own country, its interests and well-being, above those of the rest of humanity. The Scot who wants to see his or her country great and strong invariably wants to see it so, if need be, at the expense of the welfare and interests of other countries.

Nationalism claims certain virtues as the peculiar, exclusive possession of certain nations. If individuals make such claims, they would be scorned and laughed at. Nationalism claims that the culture belonging to one nation is distinct from that belonging to any other. This may have been so in the past , but increased means of communication, the internet,  satellite tv, and air travel  have caused nations to exchange ideas and traditions until today there is no essential difference between any one of the countries of the world. Even the English language is tending to become universal. More people understand each other today than ever before. Governments are coming to resemble each other. Codes of ethics are becoming international. It is only by the most artificial kind of propaganda that nationalism is kept alive.

National struggles are a form of expression of the class struggle. The nation is the expression of a particular social and economic system and the class representing that system, today - capitalism and the capitalist class. In the coming decisive struggles against capitalism, socialism recognises and emphasises that the class struggle determines all our action – that the national ideology is a fetter upon the emancipation of the proletariat – and that the Social Revolution is international in scope and purpose. Divide and conquer has ever been a capitalist weapon against the working class.  Nothing could have been more dangerous for the ruling classes than that Scots and English workers should make common cause and instead of fighting each other join forces and fight our mutual employers. Working class internationalism, must replace the narrow isolationist nationalism.

A country’s flag is a commercial asset, its trademark, but this commercial asset only represents the economic and political interests of the capitalist classes.  The concept of the nation-state is based upon narrow class interests. It is common knowledge that the class interests of the employers are built on the foundation of capitalist exploitation. They seek profits and still more profits.  In their pursuit of profits, the capitalists not only unscrupulously exploit the workers; even within their own class the capitalists do not scruple to swallow up their rivals in competition - the big fish swallows the little fish, Big Business swallows the smaller businesses, one group squeezes out and swallows another group. The capitalist strives to possess the means of production and the market of his own country. And since his greed for profits knows no limits, the capitalist strives to expand beyond its own country, to seize foreign markets, sources of raw materials and areas for capital investment, thus subjugating other nations and exploiting them. At the same time it squeezes out the rival capitalists of other countries.

The exploitation of wage labour, competition, the s suppression of competitors among the capitalists themselves, the resorting to war and even world war, the utilisation of all means to secure a monopoly position in its own country and throughout the world - such is the inherent character of the profit-seeking employing class. This is the class basis of nationalism. At home, the capitalist subordinates the interests of the nation as a whole to its own class interests. It places its class interests or the interests of a certain top stratum of society above the interests of the whole people. Moreover, the bosses pose as the spokespersons of the nation and the defender of national interests in order to deceive the people. Abroad, at the same time, it counterposes the interests of its own nation (in essence, of its bourgeois top stratum) to the interests of other nations. The bourgeoisie strives to place its own nation above other nations and, whenever possible, to oppress and exploit other nations, completely disregarding their interests. Oppressor nations may become oppressed nations and vice versa.

The victorious working class will have neither to keep its ancient nationalities nor to constitute new ones, because by becoming free it will abolish classes: the world will be its father/mother/homeland. The peoples of the globe will fraternise and they will stretch out their hands to one another. Mankind will continue to set itself new tasks and their accomplishment will lead to a stage of cultural development which will not know national hatred, wars, religions strife and similar remnants of the past. It is the duty of the socialist party of every country to combat patriotism and nationalism at home, i.e., from within, at every turn.  In these times when the poisonous fumes of nationalism are corroding society, we have ought to do all in our power to keep alive the spirit of internationalism.

Rather than  the slogan “Workers of the World Unite!” Left nationalist separatists seek to  replaced it by: “Nations divide!” Nationalism is a curse. It leads to chauvinism and to national aggression. It leads to a patriotism for the soil, for the particular bit of the Earth’s surface on which a particular person has been born. It leads to bigotry, to national jealousy and petty pride. nationalism is the best of cloaks for the intrigues and
machinations of politicians and capitalists.

*Although the term internationalism has been used we should understand that we mean the worldwide (rather than international) character of socialism. Socialism can only be a united world community without frontiers and not the federation of countries suggested by the word ‘inter-national’.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Class Struggle and the Nation

In the Communist Manifesto we read the following:
"Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie."

 This passage only means that the  British workers, for instance,  cannot wage the class struggle against the French capitalists, nor can the French workers wage the class struggle against the British  employers, but that the British  bourgeoisie and the power of the UK State can be attacked and defeated only by the British working class.

The nation naturally arises as a community of interests of the bourgeois classes. But it is the State which is the real solid organisation of the capitalist class for protecting its interests. The State protects property, it takes care of administration, puts the rmed forces in order, collects the taxes and keeps the masses under control. The "nations", or, more precisely: the active organisations which use the nation's name, that is, the pro-capitalist parties, have no other purpose than to fight for the conquest of a fitting share of influence over the State, for participation in State power. For  Big Business, whose economic interests embrace the whole State and even other countries, and which needs direct privileges, customs duties, State purchases and protection overseas, it is its natural community of interests, rather than the nation, which defines the State and its limitations.  State power is an instrument at the service of big capital.

Nations are not just groups of people who have the same cultural interests and who, for that reason, want to live in peace with other nations; they are combat organisations of the bourgeoisie which are used to gain power within the State. Every national bourgeoisie hopes to extend the territory where it exercises its rule at the expense of its adversaries; it is therefore totally erroneous to think that the bourgeoisie could through its own initiative put an end to these exhausting struggles, just as it is utterly out of the question that the capitalist world powers will usher in an epoch of eternal world peace, through a sensible settlement of their differences. Does the bourgeoisie really have an interest in putting an end to national struggles? Not at all, it has the greatest interest in not putting an end to them, especially since the class struggle has reached a high point. Just like religious antagonisms, national antagonisms constitute excellent means to divide the proletariat, to divert its attention from the class struggle with the aid of ideological slogans and to prevent its class unity.

 The struggle for socialism is a struggle for State power against the capitalist parties. State power is the fiefdom of the owning classes.  The workers  cannot free themselves, they cannot defeat capitalism unless it first defeats this powerful organisation. The conquest of political hegemony is not a struggle for State power; it is a struggle against State power. The social revolution which shall issue into socialism consists essentially of defeating State power with the power of the working class  organisation. This is why it must be carried out by the workers of the entire State. This common liberation struggle against a common enemy is the most important experience in the entire history of the life of the proletariat from its first awakening until its victory. The international character of the proletariat develops rapidly.

 The workers of different countries exchange theory and practice, methods of struggle and ideas, and they consider these topics to be matters common to all. The struggles, the victories and the defeats in one country have profound impacts on the class struggle in other countries. The struggles waged by our class comrades in other countries against their bourgeoisie are our affairs not only on the terrain of ideas, but also on the practical plane; they form part of our own fight and we feel them as such. The workers of the whole world perceives itself as a single army, as a great association which is only obliged for practical reasons to split into numerous battalions which must fight the enemy separately, since the bourgeoisie is organized into States and there are as a result numerous fortresses to reduce. This is also the way the press informs us of struggles in foreign countries: Occupy Movement, the Indignados, and the demonstrations on the streets of Rio or Phnom Penh are all of interest to our class organisation. In this manner the international class struggle becomes the common experience of the workers of all countries.

Through the overthrow of the State by the power of the working class majority, the State disappears as a coercive power. It takes on a new function: "The government of persons gives way to the administration of things." as Engels describes it in Anti-Dühring.

For the purpose of production, we need organisation and administration; but the extremely strict centralization such as that practiced by today's State is neither necessary nor can it possibly be employed in pursuit of that goal. Such centralisation will give way to full decentralisation and self-administration inside socialism.  According to the size of each sector of production, the organisations will cover larger or smaller areas; while bread, for example, will be produced on a local scale, steel production and the operation of railroad networks require regional-sized economic entities. There will be production units of the most various sizes, from the workshop and the local municipality to the district and the regions, and even, for certain industries, global . Those naturally-occurring human groups will they not then take the place of the vanished nation-states as organisational units? This may be the case in the beginning, for the simple practical reason, that they are communities of the same language and all of man's relations are mediated through language. Some regions will merge, others will dissolve.  All partially manage their own affairs and all depend upon the whole, as parts of that whole. National differences will totally lose the economic roots which today give them such an extraordinary vigour. The whole notion of autonomy comes from the capitalist era, when the conditions of domination led to their opposite, that is, freedom in respect to a particular form of domination.

The socialist mode of production does not develop oppositions of interest between nations, as is the case with capitalist competition and rivalry. The economic unit is neither the State nor the nation, but the world. This mode of production is much more than a network of national productive units connected to one another by an intelligent policy of communications and by international conventions; it is an organisation of world production in one unit and the common affair of all humanity. This material basis of the collectivity, organised world production, transforms the future of humanity into a single community.

 Linguistic diversity will be no obstacle, since every human community which maintains real communication with another human community will create a common language. Without attempting here to examine the question of a universal language, we shall only point out that today it is easy to learn various languages once one has advanced beyond the level of primary instruction. This is why it is useless to examine the question of to what degree the current linguistic boundaries and differences are of a permanent nature. Already we see English growing to be the lingua franca of the world. There cannot be independent communities of culture because every community, without exception, will find itself, under the influence of the culture of all of humanity, in cultural communication, in an exchange of ideas, with humanity in its entirety.

Powerful economic forces generate national isolation, antagonism and the whole nationalist ideology of the capitalist class. These features are absent among the working class. They are replaced by the class struggle, which gives the lives of the worker their essential character, and creates an international community in which nations as linguistic groups have no practical significance. Socialist tactics are based on the science of social development. The way a working class assumes responsibility for pursuing its own interests is determined by its conception of the future evolution of its conditions. Its tactics must not yield to the influence of every desire and every goal which arise among the oppressed workers, or by every idea that dominates the latter's mentality; if these are in contradiction with the effective development they are unrealisable, so all the energy and all the work devoted to them are in vain and can even be harmful. The priority of our tactics is to favour that which will inevitably realise our socialist goal. Nationalism is nothing but capitalist ideology which does not have material roots in the working class movement and which will therefore disappear as the class struggle develops. It constitutes, like all ruling class ideology, an obstacle for the class struggle whose harmful influence must be eliminated as much as possible.

 Nationalist slogans distract the workers from their own specifically class aspirations. They divide the workers of different nations; they provoke the mutual hostility of the workers and thus destroy the necessary unity of the proletariat. They line up the workers and the ruling clas shoulder to shoulder in one front, thus obscuring the workers' class consciousness and transforming the workers into the executors of plutocrat’s policy. National struggles prevent the assertion of social questions and proletarian interests in politics and condemn this important means of struggle of the proletariat to sterility. All of this is encouraged by ‘socialist’ propaganda when the left nationalists presents nationalist slogans to the workers as valid, regardless of the very goal of their struggle, and when it utilises the language of nationalism in the description of our socialist goals. It is indispensable that class feeling and class struggle should be deeply rooted in the minds of the workers; then they will progressively become aware of the unreality and futility of nationalist slogans for their class.

This is why the nation-State as a goal in itself, such as the re-establishment of an independent national State in Scotland, has no place in socialist propaganda. Socialism is based upon the recognition of the real class interests of the workers. It cannot be led astray by ideologies, even when the latter seem to be rooted in men's minds. Our tactic consists in making the workers more aware of their real class interests, showing them the reality of this society and its life in order to orient their minds more towards the real world of today. Socialists only speak of capitalism, exploitation, class interests, and the need for the workers to collectively wage the class struggle. In this way the mind is steered away from secondary ideas of the past in order to focus on present-day reality; these ideas of the past are thus deprived of their power to lead the workers astray from the class struggle and the defense of their class interests. Our emphasis is upon the class struggle, to awaken class feeling in order to turn attention away from national problems.

Our propaganda could appear to be useless against the power of nationalist ideology and it could seem that nationalism is making the most progress among the workers. But insofar as nationalist movements are in practice capable only of following in the wake of the ruling class and thus of arousing the feeling of the working class against them, they will progressively lose their power.

 We would, however,  have gone completely off the rails if we wanted to win the working class over to socialism by being more nationalist than the capitalist class as some on the Left appear intent upon doing. Such nationalist opportunism would allow the appearance of workers being   won over, but this does not win them over to our cause, to socialist ideas. Capitalist conceptions will continue to dominate their minds as before. And when the decisive moment arrives when they must choose between national and class interests, the internal weakness of this workers movement will become apparent, as is currently taking place in the separatist crisis. How can we rally the masses under our banner if we allow them to flock to the banner of nationalism? Our principle of class struggle can only prevail when the other principles that manipulate and divide men are rendered ineffective; but if our propaganda enhances the reputation of those other principles, we subvert our own cause.

Even though we do not get involved in the slogans and watchwords of nationalism and continue to use the slogans of socialism, this does not mean that we are pursuing a kind of ostrich policy in regard to national questions. These are, after all, real questions which are of concern to men and which they want to solve. We are trying to get the workers to become conscious of the fact that, for them, it is not these questions, but exploitation and the class struggle, which are the most vital and important questions which cast their shadows over everything. But this does not make the other questions disappear and we have to show that we are capable of resolving them.

To all the nationalist slogans and arguments, the response will be: exploitation, surplus value, bourgeoisie, class rule, class struggle.  If they speak of free higher education, we shall call attention to the insufficiency of all teaching dispensed to the children of the workers, who learn no more than what is necessary for their subsequent life of back-breaking toil at the service of capital. If they speak of  local job creation, we will speak of the misery which compels Scots to emigrate. If they speak of the unity of the nation, we will speak of exploitation and class oppression. If they speak of the greatness of the nation, we will speak of the solidarity of the workers of the whole world.

Only when the great reality of today's world—capitalist development, exploitation, the class struggle and its final goal, socialism—has entirely impregnated the minds of the workers, will the  ideals of nationalism fade away. The class struggle and propaganda for socialism comprise the sole effective means of breaking the power of nationalism.

Adapted from Anton Pannekoek’s Class Struggle and Nation,
available in full and unabridged here

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Bosses Game

In all capitalist societies, a tiny class of people owns the means of production and profits by exploiting the workers’ labour. United, the overwhelming tendency of the working class would be to fight for a decent life for all, which is incompatible with capitalism. Powerful united struggles of the working class would inevitably demonstrate the need to overthrow capitalism altogether. If a party does not want to abolish capitalist exploitation, it can only serve capitalism. Since the working class is the only class with the power to overturn capitalism, the capitalists use every possible divide-and-conquer tactic to prevent this development. Racism and nationalism has been major tools of the ruling class. Capitalism is the source of national oppression and only socialist revolution can put an end to this oppression and to all forms of oppression.  The Scottish  ‘nation’ is by no means homogeneous. It is made up of classes. The present referendum rivalry between the sections of the ruling class does nothing but divide working people and turn them away from their objective, the socialist revolution. As masters of production and of the economy, the bosses control the state and the mass media. All the big newspapers, radio and television defend the outlook of those who invest in them, and they try to turn the people away from the true problems. For there is more to be done than merely reducing the gas or electric bill of Scottish homes.

Left nationalists pretend to be revolutionaries. There are no shortcuts to the socialist revolution, and those who enter the nationalist paths divert the coming of a socialist movement by chasing illusions. They want to rally the working class behind the nationalist cause. But nationalism disarms the workers. Shall we fight only to have a Scots-born bosses instead of English one? Shall we unite with these small Scottish homeland  exploiters in order to defend “their” nation against the bad, bad English? That is pure folly.  Nationalism is a vain attempt to rally the working class behind the cause of our home-grown capitalists seeking a better place in the sun. Nationalism does not oppose capitalism. The social revolution is an immense task and Left nationalists are intent upon making it more difficult. Independence (now) and socialism (oh, we’ll see, perhaps sometime later...). The socialist revolution is clearly not a task on the Left nationalists’ agenda. No one is going to hand workers socialism on a silver platter...least of all nationalists.

All of us to get rid of capitalism we need to unite in a single organisation. What’s the result of the referendum? Give the bosses the chance they never miss;  turn us against each other, all the better to rake in the PROFITS. We need unity and nationalism leads us into isolation.

 Nationalism is used to divide the workers among themselves so they can ignore their real enemy. The working men and women of the world have but on common enemy — the capitalist class of the world. It is better to be a traitor to your country than a traitor to your class! The history of Scotland is full of heinous acts whose only purpose was to increase the power of a handful of capitalists. In contrast to the Scots Nats and Left Nationalists, the Socialist Party says that workers all across Scotland can be united against their common enemy; that a real party of the working class can be built to  build a new system for workers – socialism.

Socialism is not a complicated doctrine.

The capitalists are using the present economic crisis to increase their power of exploitation and oppression. At this crucial moment we must struggle for the abolition of capitalism. With the present crisis, a growing number of workers are realizing that the capitalist system has nothing to offer them. While their living and working conditions get worse, a handful of rich men are raking in billions in profits. Workers are looking for a solution, and the Socialist Party offers an alternative: socialism, a system where exploitation  is abolished.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain differs from other political parties in  that it wants to completely change society’s economical organisation for the social emancipation of the working class. The main reason for the imperfections of to-day’s society, is the capitalistic way of production.  The Socialist Party seeks  the political organisation of the working class so that it may take possession of the public power and  transform to common property all the means of production — the means of transportation, the forests, the mines, the mills, the machines, the factories, the earth. The interests of the working class are the same in every country with capitalist way of production. The working class stands alone in the struggle for its emancipation.

We live in a world dominated by capitalism. The only viable way forward is to achieve a classless and stateless society on a world scale where people do not oppress and exploit each other.

We  make it quite clear as to our exact aim and object. We are socialists, and by socialism we mean, the common ownership of all the agencies of wealth production, and this involves the complete supercession of the capitalist system.  Socialism proclaims that no change beneficial to the workers of the shop floor, the fields or the offices can be carried out as long as the political and administrative leadership  are monopolised by the capitalist class, and as long as the producers, organized in a class party, have not taken control of public powers. Socialism maintains that there is only one solution: it’s that all the centralized labor instruments, such as the railroads, factories, textile works, mines, large farming properties, be given over to the associated workers, who will operate them not for the profit of a few capitalists. Capitalism has only known how to cause humanity war and misery; socialism will establish peace and happiness for mankind.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Class Solidarity

Socialist Courier can do little better than the views on the independence referendum propounded by John Wight, writer and political commentator. Socialist Courier may not endorse all his other political opinions but on his views on Scottish nationalism we can only concur. They reflect the ideas presented by many posts on this blog.

 “ I will be voting ‘No’ in this year's referendum on Scottish independence. I will do so as a statement of solidarity with working people the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.

There is undoubtedly much that is regressive – make that despicable – about the British state. The monarchy, the House of Lords, the country’s history of empire, colonialism, and its recent history of sowing carnage and chaos in the Middle East – all of those things add up to a damning indictment of a state formed in 1707 in the interests of a rising mercantile class, committed to colonial expansion and the super exploitation of the planet’s resources.

However, the notion that Scotland and the Scots were not party to this history – or played only a marginal role – is an insult to truth. The ill-fated Darien Scheme of 1698-1700, an attempt by the then independent Scotland to establish a colony in what is now Panama, succeeded in bankrupting the country, which led inexorably to the bulk of the Scottish aristocracy and merchant class – who made up the Scottish Parliament of the day - voting to enter the current union with England in 1707. Thereafter Scots played a disproportionate role in building the British Empire as generals, officers, and soldiers in the army, colonial administrators, slavers, and merchants - in the process creating great personal fortunes, and establishing Glasgow as the second city of the empire.

The unintended effect of the 1707 union was the homogenization of the working class throughout the newly formed British state. This homogenization was based on the common misery they were suffering at the hands of the factory and mill owners who controlled their lives under an economic system of unfettered capitalism. The need to organize collectively in order to resist the brutal conditions of the lives of workers across Britain transcended every other difference – whether on grounds of nationality, race, religion, or gender. This gave rise to the emergence of the trade union movement followed by the Labour Party at the beginning of the 20th century, reflecting the growth in size and consciousness of a British working class. This class identity remains relevant today at a time when the nation is being ruled by the most extreme and callous Tory government in generations. Simply put, it dictates that a bus driver in Glasgow has more in common with a bus driver in Newcastle, Liverpool, or Cardiff than he does with a wealthy fellow Scot.

With this in mind, I have increasingly found some of the arguments being made in support of independence by progressives and socialists within the Yes campaign disappointing. The central of those - namely that voting ‘Yes’ will rid Scotland of the Tories - is not only weak, it is cowardly. Firstly, you may get rid of the Tories but that doesn't mean you will get rid of Tory ideas, a few of which are front and center in the SNP's recently produced independence manifesto (or white paper), titled ‘Scotland’s Future’. The Scottish Nationalist Party’s positions on corporation tax, the monarchy, and NATO membership would sit more than comfortably in the pages of a Tory manifesto.

More importantly, the idea that abandoning millions of people who've stood with us - and us with them - in trade union struggles, political campaigns, progressive movements, etc, for generations - the idea that this can be considered progress is anathema to me. The analogy of the Titanic applies, wherein rather than woman and children, it is Scots to the lifeboats and to hell with everybody else.

Nationalism, unless rooted in national oppression, is a regressive ideology. It obscures the real dividing line in society - namely class - offering instead an abstracted analysis of the world through a national prism that takes zero account of social and economic factors, thus offering nothing but more of the same under a different flag. It is no wonder that Albert Einstein described nationalism as an ‘infantile disease’.

Our nationality is an accident of birth. It means nothing. You can't eat a flag. A flag doesn't heat a home or put food on the table. Nationalism offers a largely mythologized history in the process of inviting us to embrace a national interest, one that can only relate to the world behind false divisions of national, ethnic, or racial differences. Even when it comes to culture, the terms national culture obscures more than it illuminates. The traditional culture of the Highlands in Scotland, for example, means little to me as a Lowland Scot. I can appreciate it, of course, but not anymore or with any more feeling than I do any culture anywhere in the world.

The concept of the modern nation state is a relatively recent one. It traces its roots to the Treaty of Westphalia in the mid-17th century, which brought to an end the Thirty Years War in Europe. Out of it emerged the concept of national sovereignty, a political concept reflective of the early stages of capitalist economic development, with the resultant growth in international trade and the need to expand and protect both markets and sources of natural resources required to feed burgeoning manufacturing industries in the interests of competing capitalists.

However, much has changed in 350 years. In 2013 economic sovereignty does not lie with national governments as it did at one time. Today economic sovereignty in the West lies with global capital under that extreme variant of capitalism known as neoliberalism - or the free market. The notion that separation from a larger state would allow said smaller state to forge a social democratic utopia without challenging neoliberal nostrums is simply not credible. A patchwork of smaller states plays into the hands of global capital, as it means more competition for inward investment, which means global corporations are able to negotiate more favorable terms in return for that investment. The result is a race to the bottom as workers in one state compete for jobs with workers in neighboring states. In this regard it is surely no accident that Rupert Murdoch is a vocal supporter of Scottish independence.

Support for Scottish independence among progressives in Scotland is rooted in despair over a status quo of Tory barbarity. This is understandable. For the past three decades working class communities throughout the UK have suffered a relentless assault under both Conservative and Labour administrations. The Labour Party, under the baneful influence and leadership of Tony Blair and his New Labour clique, came to be unrecognizable from the party that created the welfare state, including the NHS, the party that once held full employment as a guiding principle of its economic and social policy. The embrace of free market nostrums under New Labour meant that the structural inequality that obtained after 18 years of Tory rule remained more or less intact. The market was now the undisputed master of all it surveyed. The consequence of Labour’s shift to the right has been to give rise to cynicism, disappointment, and lack of faith in politics among large swathes of voters, evinced in ever lower turnouts at elections. Issues such as the lies and subterfuge surrounding Britain going to war in Iraq in 2003, the MPs’ expenses scandal of 2011, followed by the phone hacking scandal - during which the unhealthy relationship between the owners and editors of tabloid newspapers and politicians was revealed - has only deepened this cynical disregard for politics and politicians in Britain, giving rise to anti-politics as the default position of many voters.

In Scotland – for decades a Labour Party stronghold – devolution has allowed a protest vote to make the electorate’s feelings towards this Labour Party betrayal of its founding principles known at the ballot box. Regardless, the most significant protest has been a non-vote, with turnouts at elections in Scotland following the pattern of the rest of the country in remaining low. For example, there was only a 50 percent turnout at the last Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2011, out of which the Scottish National Party (SNP) emerged with an overall majority, the first time any party has managed to do so since the Scottish Parliament came into existence in 1999.

However the argument that Scotland is more left leaning than the rest of the UK is one that seeks to conflate conservatism with England in its entirety, rather than a specific region of the country, which in conjunction with the antiquated first past the post electoral system of Westminster elections has thrown up Tory governments that are unrepresentative of where the majority of England and the rest of the UK sits politically. Scotland is no more left leaning than the deindustrialized North East, North West, and Midlands of England. Nor is it any more left leaning than Wales. The working class in Scotland is not any more progressive than its English or Welsh counterpart.

As a consequence, my ‘No’ vote in September will be both a rejection of nationalism as a progressive alternative to the status quo and a statement of solidarity with all who are suffering under this Tory government – not only in Scotland but throughout the United Kingdom.”

Rather than vote No which will be taken as support for the present status quo and support for the current UK state, the Socialist Party unlike Wight recommends spoiling ones vote by writing World Socialism and if that is not possible - abstention. 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Everything will change but stay the same.


“I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of 100,000 miles their outlook could be fundamentally changed. That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument silenced. The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivisions” - Michael Collins, Gemini 10 & Apollo 11 

“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’ ”- Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 

 “Clearly, the highest loyalty we should have is not to our own country or our own religion or our hometown or even to ourselves. It should be to, number two, the family of man, and number one, the planet at large. This is our home, and this is all we've got."Scott Carpenter, Mecury 7

The Socialist Party’s Scottish branches admit its limitations in the independence referendum debate. All we can do is educate ourselves and as many people as we can, giving them the means and the methods to educate others so they too can change other people's minds. This is the continuous educational process that the Socialist Party of Great Britain engages in. Our immediate task is to counter all this nationalist propaganda, either for separatism or maintaining the union. It is painful to watch otherwise intelligent people lend support to something that’s such an obviously bad idea. Too many live in denial and it is time for the rest of us to proceed towards a rational discussion about the real solution. The only real option is a sane social system.

The SNP has been promised that Scotland will keep the same queen, the same single market and same regulatory regime of the Bank of England , the same currency and EU membership. Separatists pledge the same TV programming and continued membership of Nato. Yet, in Scotland,  as in all other parts of the globe, capitalism and the quest for larger profits control every single part of our lives – from the day we’re born, until we take our last breath. Throughout our lives, we are forced into wage slavery. Capitalism has a stranglehold on our entire existence, and it has turned our entire lives into a profit-making venture. It has  commercialised everything that we do and turned ourselves into actual marketable commodities. An independent Scotland won’t change that, although it may change the person who holds the chains. The SNP is a capitalist party. It works on behalf of the capitalists. Nothing could be further from the truth when Left-Nationalists claim the independence of Scotland would not mean a step forward towards socialism. It would be a step backwards.  Whatever twists and turns lie down the road in the fight for socialism, one thing is certain: the success of that struggle depends on achieving the greatest possible unity of the working class, it is utterly ridiculous to argue that the working class ought to divide itself into two different countries in order to accomplish this unity. It is completely absurd to justify this with the false argument, disproven many times, that the battle for socialism would be easier if it were led by a more militant, nationally pure and homogeneous working class. People are not going to win by dividing themselves. The Left- Nationalists would have us believe that the national demands of the Scottish people can only be met through independence. Thus, they claim, the task is to transform bourgeois independence into a socialist independence. In reality, they find themselves in the camp of those promoting division of the working class. Supporting independence for Scotland  in the name of socialism is a hoax.

Nationalists promote a romantic picture of the future. In their ideal scenario, in a ‘free’ Scotland the economy would bounce back into a robust recovery, jobs would be plentiful, and all those paycheques would bolster a lively and politically stable economic scene with the Edinburgh government aiding entrepreneurial ventures with tax incentives. They would like us to believe and have others accept that home-grown national monopolies are somehow less exploitative than foreign monopolies and less subject to the impact of the general capitalist crisis. Capitalist enterprises, inevitably move towards becoming monopolies, regardless of the nationality of their owners.

The real referendum question is this - “Do you want to take your chances with fake promises of a better Scotland through independence or work towards a positive socialist future through revolution?"

At the onset of 2014, many people are now anticipating the prospect of a ‘global revolution'. There is no way of predicting where a mass protest movement will kick off next or what form it will take, but expect it to be an even larger-scale version of an Occupy movement. There is a  growing understanding among everyday people that we cannot rely on governments to affect the necessary transformation. In the now-famous words of Russell Brand there will be a “total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic systems”. In short, a revolution in our sense of self as global citizens , in which we equate our own interests with those of people anywhere in the world and we no longer conform to the capitalist vision of society in which we are forced to compete with everyone else as ‘others'. The Socialist Party is for a revolution in every sense of the word – in our values, our imaginations, our lifestyles and our social relations, as well as in our political and economic structures. The growing call for revolutionary change is shared beyond national borders and is for the common good of all people in all countries.

 Realistic proposals for planetary change do exist, as individuals and groups everywhere are discussing the necessary objectives for how the economy should be run democratically at all levels, from the local to global. An abundance of  thinking outlines the need for changes in every aspect of our economic and political systems which altogether articulate a basic but an effective blueprint for a new and better world. The Socialist Party calls for global revolution, not devolution. It is up to the working class to show that it will not be duped by nationalist nonsense and deceitful rhetoric.

 “The view of the earth from the moon fascinated me—a small disk, 240,000 miles away. It was hard to think that that little thing held so many problems, so many frustrations. Raging nationalistic interests, famines, wars, pestilence don’t show from that distance. I’m convinced that some wayward stranger would certainly know instinctively that if the earth were inhabited, then the destinies of all who lived on it must be inevitably interwoven and joined. We are one hunk of ground, water, air, clouds, floating around in space. From out there it really is one world.” 
“When you're finally up at the moon looking back on earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you're going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can't we learn to live together like decent people."Frank Borman, Apollo 8

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

No way, nae chance

Alex Salmond today announces the SNP policy statement on independence. Socialist Courier makes our own announcement on nationalism and Scottish independence.

Modern capitalism is a highly integrated international system. Production is organised across national boundaries, trade and finance operates on a world scale. No single country can be outside of this system. Contrary to the romantic  dreams of some nationalists, there is no way that Scotland can simply pursue its own economic destiny within its own frontiers. Indeed, many national states are now too small to function adequately in terms of the needs and pressures of modern capitalism. Thus the capitalist ruling class are compelled to think in terms of international cooperation and even planning, hence the importance of the EU to the corporations. There are not many who can deny that we live in conditions of a world economy. Capitalists all strive for world power. Self-determination of any nation can therefore never be a reality of any nation within capitalism.

A socialist economy in one country, say Scotland as many Tartan Trots advocate, would be compelled to act as a single “firm” competing on the world market with others, and, to that extent would be subject to the laws of capitalist economics. That is why “national socialism” or “socialism in one country” are contradictions in terms: they are economic impossibilities. The Socialist Party, however, views the revolution in our part of the globe as one link in the chain of revolutions which will emancipate the world from capitalism and establish world socialism. This conception stands in the center of the system of ideas which binds us together and animates all our propaganda work

We recognise that the peoples of the world have the same interest which is to end the barbaric capitalist system. We offer our support to the class struggles of workers from other countries who are confronting the same enemy. The Socialist Party of Great Britain are not advocates for Scotland’s independence. We are not Scottish patriots. There exists a fundamental difference of interests between the employing class and the workers. The Socialist Party must denounce the capitalist class and struggle against their henchmen in parliaments relentlessly, without exception, including in this independence referendum. We are anti-patriots but we understand a love of the village or town where we were born or brought up in is a natural sentiment. We who hate the existing nations have retained our little soft spots to the localities and neighbours we personally know.

Too often and from too many we have heard the denouncation of the foreign worker. They are the "scum of the earth" we are told.  Perhaps, a few may well be, just as are a few who have been born and bred in our own cities most definitely are. But we do know most migrant workers have never had a fair chance. They have been starved in body and mind, denied, exploited, driven like slaves from job to job. They have endured countless wrongs, injuries and injustices. They have learned the hard way that the law is for the strong, that it protects the class that owns everything and that the employers do not respect the law, but shamelessly break them. So should we cast blame on those who bend the law not to exploit others,  but simply for personal survival, to provide for their needs, to end their miseries and sufferings.

The fundamental struggle in the world is not a nationalist struggle but a class struggle. The class struggle is a political struggle and it is the class struggle that politically moves one social system to the next. Socialists do not support one nation state against another. We do not support foreign nationalist struggles any more than we support the Welsh and Scottish nationalists who want to cede from Britain. Workers must avoid conflating their own interests from nationalist organisations struggling for power and should oppose all other political parties to keep alive the case for Socialism as a separate political proposition in its own right. A SNP government in an independent Scotland as they do in a devolved parliament will try to straddle the class struggle and to represent one at the same time the interests of the owning class and we the people. Nationalist supporters expectantly and hopefully await the outcome. Socialists do not need to wait to prophesy failure. Try as they might no nationalist party can combat the laws of the capitalist system. Nor we do hold that if they are led by other men and women of more radical left leanings the outcome will be significantly different.

We have no enemies among the workers of other countries; and no friends among the capitalists of any country.  The workers of all countries are our friends and the capitalists of all countries are our enemies. The time has come for the workers to cease struggling for the interests of their masters and to fight for their own. Socialism groups men, poor against rich, class against class, without taking into account the differences of race and language, and over and above the frontiers traced by history. Nationalism has indeed proved to be a more potent political force this sad century than class consciousness. But, in face of its results, we re-assert the original socialist position that workers ought to act as a world-wide class with a common interest in working to establish a single world community without frontiers based on the world's resources being the common heritage of all humanity.