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.