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

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, June 05, 2015

Have labour power, will travel

From the August 1997 issue of theSocialist Standard

Inside a feudal, pre-industrial society it could be said of the majority of those who worked that they would live, work, marry, procreate and die within walking distance of the place in which they were born. Modern capitalism has changed all that.

The needs of the market have torn asunder all the old social ties of community. Families are spread all over the world as workers desperate for employment seek to sell their labour power wherever possible. They enter into competition with resident workers and thus the seeds of suspicion and hatred are sewn.

The driving force of capitalism is competition. Capitalist against capitalist for a bigger share of the product of labour. Worker against worker in the search for a job.It is into this desperate struggle for a job that various politicians spread the poison of nationalism and racism.

This poison is world-wide. In France at the recent election, one-in-ten voted for the openly racist, anti-immigration National Front. Every European country has its adherents of the same political poison. In the United States of America various America-first groups scream abuse at Mexican and Central American immigrants.

In Africa tens of thousands of refugees cross borders escaping the growing tribalism that mirrors the ethnic cleansing of eastern Europe. Everywhere you look modern capitalism presents the same awful tragedy of lives ruined by the obnoxious hatreds of xenophobia.

Inhuman nature
So widespread is this nationalistic nonsense that many defenders of capitalism can claim that it is an innate human trait. These people talk glibly about "human nature" when dealing with such horrors as Zaire or Serbia.

Socialists do not share that view. Far from being innately murderous and competitive human existence itself was only possible because of a history of co-operation and tolerance. In order to survive in a hostile environment human beings had to be theuniquely social animal.

We do not deny the existence of such horrors as Hiroshima or Buchenwald, but we know that these are the products of a property-based society that alienates and destroys all decency in its drive for more and more profit.

The product of a Glasgow slum does not travel to a remote island in the South Atlantic to maim the slum product of Buenos Aires because of some genetic urge. Behind all these atrocities lies the capitalist imperatives of markets and sources of raw materials.

A world to win
It is but one of the many paradoxes of capitalism that it has shrunk the world only to divide society into smaller and smaller fragments. That it has progressed at breakneck speed in the fields of travel and communication yet it has divided and alienated us from our true humanity.

Technically we can travel half-way round the world in a day, communicate instantly with almost anyone on the planet; and yet find ourselves artificially divided on the basis of differences of custom, language, diet, culture and skin colour. Capitalism is a frightening, hate-filled system that turns everyone's hand against everyone else.

Inside socialism, where the whole Earth is the common property of the whole world's population, we will all be able to travel our planet to work wherever we desire, safe in the knowledge that our brothers and sisters will welcome us on whichever shore we land.

That is the aim of the World Socialist Movement. Shouldn't it be yours?

Richard Donnelly
Glasgow Branch

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Fight for your World, Not your Country

We hear it said from many sides that the nations of the world have interests that are not in harmony with each other, and that each nation has to look to those things that it enjoys to safeguard against the aggression of other countries. This attitude is taken by a vast number of people who make these assertions which the facts of reality entirely dispute. This "Nationalism" which has been injected into the brains of the masses springs from a very reliable source, i.e., its origin in the condition of property in a given country.

To get at the ideas that flow through the institutions that exist and reflect definite interests, we must see who it is that owns property in different nations. By property we mean those things that the nation is dependent upon to make its livelihood.

Mines, forests, mills, mines, railways, waterways, are indispensable to the life of modern society. Around these means to sustain human life, we have a set of relations that correspond to the mode of production and distribution. That is a process that calls for collective effort on behalf of the members that take part in the operation.

Today it is not every person that does this work for there are a number that live at the expense of those who do the work. Those that own the means to produce the necessities of life are in a position to demand the great majority in society to rally to the call of the master if they desire to live. This system is the most profitable one that ever was, from the standpoint of the masters with the great amount of wealth that falls to their lot. With this wealth there is the necessary upkeep to maintain the many institutions for the purpose of educating the workers to accept the teachings of the master class. At the schools while an infant, the child is taught the blessings and liberties that are his through being born in a particular country; also that the child is of a superior standing than the child of another country, thus breeding national hatred in the public schools. Then comes the churches to mold the child in its acceptance of the servile conditions of this system.  The press with its powerful editorials, bold headlines of the atrocities upon some of its citizens, gotten up on most occasions by the paid servants of those that rule. The desire for "Nationalism" is created by those that are benefited by it. And this nationalism is begotten of the conflicting interests of the masters of the different nations that are competitors for the markets of the world in which they hope to get rid of the wealth extracted from the wage slaves…

To speak of "Nationalism" just means to talk of the interests of the rulers of that nation. And to accept the teachings of that "Nationalism" is to segregate the workers of the world and make out of them enemies ready and willing to fly at each other’s throats when the exploiters want them. The boundary lines of the various countries do not cover the cloak of exploitation and furthermore, are of no concern from the viewpoint of a slave. …
Seeing that the workers have masters and little caring who that master may be behooves every slave to make inquiries into the condition that is his. We are the producers of the world's wealth, yet we get simply a slave's portion, whenever we may be slaving.  The slaves of England, Germany, Austria, France, Russia, USA and other countries under the yoke of capitalism, live under the same general conditions of wage slavery. This is not altered by the fact that slaves fight the slaves of other nations. We as workers of the world that are exploited by the capitalist class have a cause that is a common one. Our cause is that of the proletariat, the dispossessed workers of every nation, that are being crushed by the load of this damnable system. We are international in kind, and our enemy is the class that live from the produce of our toil. That and that alone is responsible for the plight of workers of the various nations of capitalism.

Our efforts must be bent to the cause of our enslavement, capitalism; and in that case it precludes the workers from taking action in national wars, that does of necessity undermine the international character of the proletariat. Should the workers bend their efforts to the elimination of this system, the bonds of our common cause binds us closer together. The international aspects of our movement will be well looked after, provided we are not stamped by the ideas of the jingoes, nationalists and others of their ilk…

The only movement that has outlined the position of the workers in this war is the Socialist movement, based upon the class struggle, for it is the direct antithesis of "Nationalism" being international in its make-up. …Every nation to maintain its system of slavery had to have its guards to defend itself against the aggression of the other slave masters.

 The facts of everyday life show that the workers did not have anything to do with the calling of the war, neither were they anxious to impose the edifying conditions upon any other peoples. The real trouble was that the masters’ interests were endangered through competition with each other, and they called upon the slaves to fight it out. And that the manufacturers of armaments wax fat at the large profits derived from the sale of the engines of destruction, explains their attitude on war very ably.

It is left to the Socialists (worthy of the name) to explain the facts of wars and the reason for them. For it must be clearly understood that as long as we permit a system of robbery to be, war will be an effect of it. Realizing that must be the case, the cause of Socialism wages its unrelenting propaganda against the system that breeds them.

  "Nationalism" it denounces as anti-socialist, and those propagating such ideas antagonistic to the clear-cut Socialist movement. Let us get away from the teachings of our masters, national hatred, superiority to other nations, etc., and spread the ideas of our position as a slave class. If that is done there is no danger of the workers rushing at the throats of other workers when called upon to do so. This strife taking place in Europe will eliminate a lot of "national socialists" which have been a hindrance to the furtherance of International Class Solidarity, an essential condition for the building up of the International Socialist Movement, whose mission is to dissolve the system of capitalism.

"Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains and a world to gain," is as true today as when it was given to the proletariat in the last century by Marx and Engels, the pioneers of the Socialist movement. If the evils of today have got to be done away with, let that be our slogan.

‘Nationalism and Internationalism’ 
Western Clarion (journal of the Socialist Party of Canada

June, 1917

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 26, 2015

For the planet not parochialism

Independence then socialism is often the nationalists’ favorite bait for workers. Independence is said to be a step forward towards the workers’ own liberation, a step towards socialism. Nothing could be further from the truth. With the conditions that prevail today around the world, movements for independence would not mean a step forward towards socialism. It would be a step backwards. Despite protestations of being populists nationalists work on behalf of the capitalists but those on the Left declare they merely wish freedom from “imperialist domination”. The Left-wingers simply play with words. The point of nation states is that they compete with each other, sometimes through alliances with other nations.  In fact it is usually through alliances with other nations, but this doesn’t make such alliances examples of internationalism.

The success of socialism depends on achieving the greatest possible unity of the working class and it is utterly ridiculous to argue that the working class ought to divide itself into different countries in order to accomplish this unity. It is completely absurd to justify this with the false argument, disproved many times, that the battle for socialism would be easier if it were led by a more nationally “pure” and homogeneous working class. Working class unity is a must right now if effective resistance is to be mounted to the crisis measures imposed by the capitalists. Unity is necessary to stand up against all the attacks on our democratic rights. The working class faces a powerful class enemy which is solidly united (despite differences within its ranks). The people’s forces are not going to win by dividing themselves on the basis of their place of birth, rather than their place within the capitalist machine. Those who dress up as socialists in order to push nationalism in the working class are the objective allies of the capitalists who dominate the politics and pull the strings.

We do not fight capitalism with nationalism. We fight capitalism with socialism. The working class is an international class. McDonald workers in Britain, America or India have more in common with each other than they do with the millionaires of their own countries. The capitalists often try to turn the workers of one country against another through rousing national hatreds and promoting myths of national superiority. There is no national solution to the crises caused by global capitalism. It is not possible to build socialism in one country – socialism, like capitalism, would need to be a global system in order to survive. We face huge problems like poverty, disease and climate change that can only be eradicated by a world-wide effort mobilising people and resources across the borders that currently divide us. Let us not fight against each other. The working class have no power individually; we must fight collectively as part of trade unions, and as a political party.

In regards of claims of national sovereignty nations do not exist in some kind of abstract, mythical world of complete autonomy. States exist in relation to other states. Some are strong and some are less strong. There are big robbers and smaller robbers collude over how to divide up the booty. For anyone who calls themselves socialist, by definition the problem is the social system.  One that produces disaffection everywhere and therefore cannot arise from ‘foreign rule’.  Socialists are also, or rather they should be, well used to nationalist campaigns that put the ills of society down to the nationality of the state, and which therefore obscure real causes. Apparently a capitalist state can be reformed in the interests of the workers according to left nationalism theory.  Such a new state will not be part of the prevailing world order.  How?  Who knows – for even a workers revolution that placed political power in the hands of a completely democratic workers’ state could not escape being locked into a world economic system of capitalism.  Only in a scenario of immediate spread of the revolution could it have any hope of surviving and still be something worthy of the description socialist.  Socialism is the movement of the working class and its conquest of economic, social and political power, irrespective of nationality.  It can exist only at an international level.  This too is a simple description.  But even at this simple level is shows the incompatibility of nationalism with socialism. What independence movements do is promote nationalist solutions to the problems of capitalism

Nationalism, no matter how left it is, always confuses action by the state for socialism, so it calls upon the state to redistribute wealth and take control of resources “for the people”, whereas socialism calls upon workers to take ownership of production itself and build the power of its own organisations so that one day these can replace the state.  Internationalism is not the solidarity of one progressive state with another but is the international action of workers, from organising in parties and unions across borders, not favouring the population within certain lines on a map. Left nationalism is not internationalism but the alliance of nationalisms. The betrayal of socialism involved in the embrace of nationalism by sections of the left is revealed by this statist conception of socialism, although this is hidden from many because socialism was popularly identified with the growth of gigantic, bureaucratic state power, exemplified by the Soviet Union.  This is one reason it remains unpopular among the mass of workers.

Borders don’t protect us, they divide us—creating needless friction with the excluded while obscuring real differences among the included. We need forms of belonging that are not predicated on exclusion, and the possession of a passport or visa.

Marx said that “The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living”.  This is an apt epitaph for the nationalists, particularly those who say they are socialists. 

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, December 20, 2014

Told you so

Throughout the referendum debate, the Socialist Party and this blog, tried to explain that there was no such thing as actual independence in the economic sense. That a sovereign Scotland would still be subject to the world market and despite all the SNP promises of jam tomorrow it would be still subjugated by world capital.

Today we see how the world market and the fall in oil prices would have directly impacted upon Salmond’s budget and any reforms he would have proposed. An independent Scotland in its first year would have faced a £6.4bn "gaping chasm" in its finances, the Treasury has calculated based on the slump in the oil price and would have forced the Scottish Government in 2016 to implement unprecedented levels of cuts in public services, according to the Whitehall department. The pay freeze announced by one of the biggest employers in the oil business in the North-east is just the first symptom of the chilling effect the low price could have on one of Scotland’s key industries. The number of insolvencies of UK oil and gas services companies has trebled in the last year amid the huge fall in oil prices, according to a new report by the accountancy firm Moore Stephens. The drop in oil prices is triggering cost cutting across much of the sector and the reduction in capital investment means less work for oil and gas services companies.

And for those left nationalists who sought to claim a “free” Scotland would tax the rich, the oil industry is already lobbying for relief from taxes.

Friday, December 12, 2014

No Longer the North Sea bonanza

North Sea oil was central to the dream of Scottish independence in this year’s referendum. The wealth stored under the waves would buttress public spending, said the SNP, and it would also enable Scots to set up their sovereign fund as Norway has to hold some of its fruits for future generations.

The SNP predicted that oil would be selling now for $110 a barrel. Unusually, however, it forecasted that the price would stay constant over the next five years. Yesterday, North Sea Brent crude traded at one point at $64.24 (and could drop further). The world is now facing an era of cheap oil so the SNP is joining a long queue of people who got their predictions about oil wrong.

 Between 1991 and 2008, tax receipts from the North Sea grew strongly, reaching £12.4 billion, on the back of prices reaching an all-time high in 2008. From 2009, however, revenues have fallen, from £6.1 billion in 2012-13 to £4.7 billion in the last financial year and to £2.8 billion in the one ending next April. The drop equals roughly half of what Scotland spends each year on education.

The price drop may not be temporary. Global demand is “very subdued” and “buoyant” supplies are available from the US where shale is becoming increasingly significant. Some producers may increase, not cut, production.  Banks are rationing lending for energy giants. Projects must show that they can survive at less than $75 a barrel. North Sea investments are competing for cash that has other places to go. The North Sea fields are ageing. New discoveries are being made, but they are smaller than before. Existing fields are also becoming more expensive to run, and more prone to breakdowns. In the North Sea last year only 15 wells were drilled as production costs soared more than 15 per cent. The sharp rise in costs has led oil and gas companies to focus their investments in Norway and North America rather than the North Sea.

The Office of Budget Responsibility believed that oil and gas tax receipts would fall by £100 million between 2014-15 and 2019. Production would stay flat. However, the figures from the independent budget watchdog are already significantly out of date for now, since it was based on a $100-a-barrel price this year. North Sea crude, they estimated, would fetch $85-a-barrel for the rest of the decade.

Falling production and exploration will see employment numbers in the North Sea drop by around a tenth, a report has found. North Sea oil and gas could lose up to 35,000 jobs in the next five years, industry experts have warned. Although some of the job losses will come with the retirement of older workers, the report reveals that more than half of the workforce is under the age of 45. For every offshore job that is lost, three more industry jobs are lost onshore, according to union officials. North Sea oil represented 30% of Scotland's GDP (last year on $113 oil)

Jake Molloy, regional organiser of the RMT union in Aberdeen, said: “The offshore industry is facing what amounts to a perfect storm of a falling oil prices on global markets, the shale revolution, rising costs to extract oil and gas from the North Sea, and smaller and harder-to-access fields.”

An independent Scotland with a budget surplus and an oil investment boom? A fairy tale. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Oppose Nationalism

Socialists are internationalists. Whereas nationalists believe that the world is divided primarily into different nationalities, socialists consider social class to be the primary divide. For socialists, class struggle--not national identity--is the motor of history. And capitalism creates an international working class that must fight back against an international capitalist class. Capitalism is a world system and socialism can’t survive in one country, it has to be worldwide. For that reason the Socialist Party is implacably opposed to nationalism, which ties working people to our rulers and divides us from working people in other countries. The “national interest” propaganda binds workers hand and foot to their employers, blinding them to their true interest in working-class solidarity. Socialists argue that workers have no interest in the nationality of the factory owners or the land owners. We are working towards the working-class majority taking power and implementing common ownership. Once freed from market forces, the world’s resources will be used to meet human need.

Consistent international socialism as represented, for instance, by Rosa Luxemburg, opposed Bolshevik “national self-determination.” For her, the existence of independent national governments did not alter the fact of their control by the super-powers through the latter’s control of world economy. Capitalism could neither be fought nor weakened through the creation of new nations but only by opposing capitalist nationalism with proletarian internationalism. It is not the function of socialism to support nationalism. Contrary to earlier expectations, nationalism could not be utilized to further socialist aims, nor was it a successful strategy to hasten the demise of capitalism. On the contrary, nationalism emasculates socialism by using it for nationalist ends. It is not possible to support nationalism without also supporting national rivalries and war. No matter how utopian the quest for international solidarity may appear no other road seems open to escape fratricidal struggles and to attain a rational world society.

Although socialists’ sympathies are with the oppressed, they relate not to emerging nationalism but to the particular plight of twice-oppressed people who face both a native and foreign ruling class. Their national aspirations are in part “socialist” aspirations, as they include the illusory hope of impoverished populations that they can improve their conditions through national independence. Yet national self-determination has not emancipated the laboring classes.

Socialism will rise again as an international movement - or not at all. Those interested in the rebirth of socialism must stress its internationalism most of all. While it is impossible for a socialist to become a nationalist, the fight against colonialism does not imply adherence to the principle of national self-determination, but expresses the desire for a non-exploitative, world socialist society. While socialists cannot identify themselves with national struggles, they can as socialists oppose nationalism, colonialism and imperialism. It is not the function of socialists to fight for a nation’s independence but to strive for a socialist society. A struggle to this end would undoubtedly aid the liberation movements yet it would be a by-product of and not the reason for the socialist fight against neo-colonialism. 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 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 nationally “pure” and homogeneous working class.

Working class unity is a must right now if effective resistance is to be mounted to the crisis measures imposed by the capitalists. Unity is necessary to stand up against all the attacks on our democratic rights. Unity is the key in putting an end to the discrimination suffered by the oppressed. The working class faces a powerful and aggressive enemy which is solidly united despite the real contradictions within its ranks. The people are not going to win by dividing themselves. Those who dress up as socialists in order to push nationalism in the working class are the objective allies of the capitalists. The “left” nationalists would have us believe that the national demands of the 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. The difference between nationalists and the other capitalist parties is not that they call for a different social system. What’s different is that they are looking for a new sharing of powers. The sharing will just be between groups of capitalists. Supporting nationalism in the name of the light for socialism is a monumental hoax. It flows from the same kind of logic that leads others to preach the nationalization as the cure for all our ills. It is up to the working class to show that it will not be duped by their political nonsense and deceitful rhetoric. Socialists have a responsibility to the working class to warn the workers as tactfully as possible of their mistaken course. At the present time, the capitalist class is launching a furious ideological counter-offensive against the ideas of socialism, it is our duty to stand firm in defence of the fundamental ideas and principles. We must reject the false road of shortcuts and panaceas, which leads to the quagmire of opportunism.

The Socialist Party cedes no concessions to the ideas nationalism and we continue to fight for the ideas of class unity and internationalism as the only way forward for the workers everywhere.

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.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Socialism is the enemy of Nationalism

Book Review from the December 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nation et lutte de classe by Otto Strasser and Anton Pannekoek (Union generale d'editions, Paris.)

Before the first world war, Austria was a multi-national empire in which the Emperor and his bureaucracy ruled not only over Germans and Hungarians but also over Czechs, Poles, Ukrainians, Croats, Slovenes and others. As a result theoretical discussion of "the national question" became a speciality of Austrian Social Democracy. The problem was particularly acute in Bohemia where Germans and Czechs lived side by side and where a language quarrel raged over schools, jobs in civil service, signs in railway stations, and so on. Even the Social Democratic Party was not immune, the Czech party splitting in 1905 into those who wanted a separate Czechoslovakia and those prepared to work with the German-speaking party within the Austrian Empire.

Orthodox Social Democracy found difficulty in arguing against the Czech separatists since they were too nationalists, regarding the nation not only as a legitimate political form but even as the suitable framework for "socialism". However, within the Social Democratic movement, there were people who insisted on the world-wide nature of socialism and on the incompatibility between nationalism and socialism. They called themselves "intransigent internationalists". Among these were the authors of two pamphlets, first published in 1912, recently translated into French and published together as a single book: Otto Strasser, editor of a local German-language Social Democratic paper in Reichenberg (then in Austrian Bohemia, now in Czechoslovakia and called Liberec) and Anton Pannekoek, a native of the Netherlands then active in the Social Democratic Party in North Germany.

In his pamphlet L'Ouvrier et la nation (The Worker and the Nation), Strasser takes the various arguments of the nationalists as to why workers should regard themselves as part of a nation with a common interest (such as language, land of birth, national character) and demolishes them one by one. He also attacks those Social Democrats who argued that the best way to beat the nationalists was to meet them on their own ground by showing how the Social Democratic programme was in the "national interest". This (which was in practice the policy of the Social Democratic Party) was, said Strasser, self-defeating and should be opposed.

Pannekoek's pamphlet Lutte de Classe et Nation (Class Struggle and Nation) is more theoretical. He accepts the definition of nation given by Otto Bauer, the Austrian party's leading theoretician, viz. "a human grouping linked by a common destiny and a common character". He sees, however, nations as the product of the era of the rising bourgeoisie; at that time capitalists and workers did indeed have a "common destiny" against the forces of feudalism. But, with the development of capitalism, the class struggle more and more breaks out between capitalists and workers shattering their "common destiny".

For the workers the nation then comes to be replaced by the class as the "common destiny". Becoming class conscious, therefore, involves rejecting nationalism. He describes the "national conflict' in multi-national States such as Austria as merely an aspect of the competition between the capitalists within such states, with the different sections using language and nationalism to try to win mass support for their vested interests. He advocates that workers speaking the same language finding themselves divided between two different states (he gives as an example Ukrainian-speakers who were then to be found in both Austro-Hungary and Russia) should not form a single cross-frontier party, but should join the Social Democratic party of the state in which they happened to live, in order to help the struggle to win political power in that state.

Pannekoek emphasises the world, rather than inter-national, character of socialism:
The socialist mode of production does not develop opposing interests between nations as is the case with the capitalist mode of production. 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 production units linked with each other by an intelligent communications policy and by international conventions as described by Bauer on page 519. It is an organisation of world production as a unit and the common affair of the whole of humanity (Pannekoek's emphasis).
For him, "nations" will only survive in world socialism as groups speaking the same language and even then a single world language may evolve.

For all their criticism of the national policy of the Social Democratic parties, Strasser and Pannekoek were themselves Social Democrats and (at this time) shared many of their illusions, particularly that a socialist party should have a maximum (socialism) and a minimum (social and democratic reforms within capitalism) programme. This mistaken belief that socialists should try to combine the struggle for socialism with a struggle for reforms comes out occasionally in the text of both pamphlets. But this does not detract from the fact that both pamphlets put essentially the socialist case against nationalism.
Adam Buick

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?”

Monday, March 10, 2014

Engels Against The Nationalists

A word of caution against those Left Nationalists that evoke the authority of Marx and Engels and cite their sympathy for Irish and Polish independence. All is not so simple.

Engels concluded an article, "The Magyar Struggle,"  (1849),  with these harsh words:
“But at the first victorious uprising of the French proletariat,... the Austrian Germans and the Magyars will gain their freedom and take a bloody revenge on the Slav barbarians. The general war which will then break out will scatter this Slav Sonderbund, and annihilate all these small pig-headed nations even to their very names. The next world war will not only cause reactionary classes and dynasties to disappear from the face of the earth, but also entire reactionary peoples.And that too is an advance”

Was Engels advocating nothing less here than the physical extermination of the Slavic peoples? Not really. What Engels really wished to make "disappear from the face of the earth" were the Slavic national movements, the political parties of the Czechs, Croats, etc., and their leadership.  The peoples themselves would be subjected by the victorious "revolutionary nations" to a (not altogether peaceful) Germanisation, Magyarisation and Polonisation.

Even so,  that attitude of Engels is bad enough to dismiss Left Nationalists hoping that Marxism offers credibility for their independence campaign.

That "no nation can be free if it oppresses other nations" held true, as far as Engels and Marx were concerned, only with respect to the large, viable, historic nations, and not with respect to the "small relics of peoples which, after having figured for a longer or shorter period on the stage of history, were finally absorbed as integral portions into one or the other of those more powerful nations whose greater vitality enabled them to overcome greater obstacles." Engels wrote in "What Have the Working Classes to Do with Poland?" (1866)

Engels' statements of 1849 and 1866 mean the denial of self-determination to the small, "non-historic" peoples. Engels was even more specific.

"There is no country in Europe," Engels wrote, “that does not possess, in some remote corner, one or more ruins of peoples, left over from an earlier population, forced back and subjugated by the nation which later became the repository of historical development. These remnants of a nation, mercilessly crushed, as Hegel said, by the course of history, this national refuse, is always the fanatical representative of the counter revolution and remains so until it is completely exterminated or de-nationalized, as its whole existence is in itself a protest against a great historical revolution.
In Scotland, for example, the Gaels, supporters of the Stuarts from 1640
to 1745.
In France the Bretons, supporters of the Bourbons from 1792 to 1800.
In Spain the Basques, supporters of Don Carlos..
In Austria the pan-Slav South Slavs [in the wider sense], who are nothing more than the national refuse of a thousand years of immensely confused development. It is the most natural thing in the world that this national refuse, itself as entangled as the development which brought it into existence, sees its salvation solely in a reversal of the entire development of Europe, which according to it must proceed not from west to east but from east to west, and that its weapon of liberation, its unifying bond, is the Russian knout.”

He writes “Thus the counter-revolutionary uprisings of the Highland Scots have to be explained in terms of a people still living within the clan organization and therefore opposing capitalist development, which would indeed use them ill in the end.' The counter-revolution in Brittany, just as in neighbouring Vendee, has to be understood above all as a result of the peculiar agrarian structure of this region and of the local peasantry's dissatisfaction (for the most part justified) with the early agrarian legislation of the French revolution. And finally, as for the Basques, they supported Don Carlos because in Spanish absolutism they saw a threat to their "fueros" and to their "altogether democratic"(to quote Mane) organisations of self-government."

Amongst all the nations and nationalities of Austria there are only three bearers of progress,
which have actively intervened in history and are still capable of independent life: Germans, Poles and Magyars. They are therefore revolutionary now. The next mission of all the other great and small peoples is to perish in the universal revolutionary storm. They are therefore now

In November 1847, Engels wrote: "Through its industry, its commerce and its political institutions, the bourgeoisie is already working everywhere to drag the small, self-contained localities which only live for themselves out of their isolation, to bring them into contact with one another, to merge their interests,... and to build up a great nation with common interests, customs and ideas out of the many hitherto independent localities and provinces.  The bourgeoisie is already carrying out considerable centralization The democratic proletariat not only needs the kind of centralisation begun by the bourgeoisie but will have to extend it very much further. During the short time when the proletariat was at the helm of state in the French revolution, during the rule of the Mountain party, it used all means—including grapeshot and the guillotine—to effect centralisation. When the democratic proletariat again comes to power, it will not only have to centralise every country separately but will have to centralize all civilized
countries together as soon as possible." said Engels in "The Civil War in Switzerland,"

Engels is so thoroughly convinced of the finality and irrevocability of this verdict that he even risks offering this statement:
“We repeat: apart from the Poles, the Russians and at most the Slavs of Turkey [not of Austria and Hungary!], no Slav people has a future, for the simple reason that all the other Slavs lack the primary historical, geographical, political and industrial conditions for a viable independence.
And he continues:
“Peoples which have never had a history of their own, which come under foreign domination the moment they have achieved the first, crudest level of civilisation, or are forced onto the first level of civilization by the yoke of a foreigner, have no capacity for survival and will never be able to attain any kind of independence. And that has been the fate of the Austrian Slavs.
There is no country in Europe where there are not different nationalities under the same government. The Highland Gaels and the Welsh are undoubtedly of different nationalities to what the English are, although nobody will give to these remnants of peoples long gone by the title of
nations, any more than to the Celtic inhabitants of Brittany in France Here, then, we perceive the difference between the "principle of nationalities" and of the old democratic and working-class tenet as to the right of the great European nations" to separate and independent existence.
The "principle of nationalities" leaves entirely untouched the great question of the right of national existence for the historic peoples of Europe; nay, if it touches it, it is merely to disturb it. The principle of nationalities raises two sorts of questions: first of all, questions of boundary between these great historic peoples; and secondly, questions as to the right to independent national existence of those numerous small relics of peoples which, after having figured for a longer or shorter period on the stage of history, were finally absorbed as integral portions into one or the other of those more powerful nations whose greater vitality enabled them to overcome greater obstacles. The European importance, the vitality of a people is as nothing in the eyes of the principle of nationalities; before it, the Roumans of Wallachia, who never had a history nor the energy required to have one, are of equal importance to the Italians who have a history of 2,000 years, and an unimpaired national vitality; the Welsh and Manxmen, if they desired it, would have an equal right to independent political existence, absurd though it would be, with the English. What is pan-Slavism, but the application, by Russia and Russian interest, of the principle of nationalities to the Serbians, Croats, Ruthenes, Slovaks, Czechs and other remnants of bygone Slavonian peoples in Turkey, Hungary and Germany! ... If people say that to demand the restoration of Poland is to appeal to the principle of nationalities, they merely prove that they do not know what they are talking about, for the restoration of Poland means the re-establishment of a state composed of at least four" different nationalities."

Engels denied the national future of these peoples and counted on their absorption and their assimilation by the great "historic" nations.

For those who call themselves socialists, "the right of peoples to self-determination" has become so self-evident a principle but it is not a principle of Marxism.

Engels and Marx acted and fought in a world very different from that of today and to understand them we must understand the special range of problems posed by that world. Above all, they very obviously misjudged the speed of historical development, from which, for obvious reasons,  they were never able to free themselves completely They were reluctant  to concede to capitalism, which had scarcely reached maturity, a longer lifespan, and they therefore regarded the socialist revolution as the direct, practical task of their generation. On this premise their nationalities' policy is understandable.

It is simply not true (as some would have us believe) that Marx and Engels' negative
attitude towards the non-historic Slavic peoples was only a short-lived passing phase limited to the revolutionary years of 1848 and 1849. And it is also not true that this attitude can be explained completely by the counter revolutionary role of these peoples and by the danger of pan-Slavism. A national-German undertone is sometimes clearly audible in the national policy of Marx and Engels, although for them a united, republican Germany never meant anything else but the most suitable base of operation and the most competent agent of the socialist revolution.

So  the Marx and Engels position is wherever several nationalities are forced together in a single state, the internationalist policy of  Marxists not only strives to make the workers of the oppressed nation recognise the workers in the ruling nation as their comrades-in-arms and subordinate their particular national goals to the interest of the common struggle for socialism, but also above all encourages the workers of the oppressing nations, notwithstanding their national "pride" and  privileges that may benefit some strata of the working class,  to dissociate themselves entirely from all the policies of national oppression pursued by their ruling

 Should workers let themselves be "diverted" from the class struggle by the national question? How can one demand that they support the party of one capitalist against another
in a competition between sections of the ruling classes which given the present social order, every national struggle can be reduced to?

The question arises why oppressed nationalities cannot wait with their emancipation until
the hour of freedom arrives for the working class? And why should the English, German,  and Russian workers have been concerned with the establishment of independent (or even only autonomous) Irish, Polish, South Slavic and Ukrainian states, whereby large political and economic regions would be broken up, whose integrity would facilitate socialist development These are the issues that the theorist Roman Rosdolsky raises in his work on the national problem in regards to the position of Marx and Engels.

Today, we find the debate has not gone away but has in fact heightened in the past decades. What has most definitely changed,  is that many of todays “Marxists” possess little comprehension of where Marx and Engels stood regards the various manifestations of European nationalism.

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

Friday, February 21, 2014

Quote of the Day

It is not often that the Socialist Courier blog will quote a member of the old Communist Party polit-buro but when he talks as a trade-unionist then his views are worth repeating

In 1968, the late Mick McGahey, president of the National Union of Mineworkers in Scotland, attacked nationalism, an increasingly prominent force in Scottish politics, as a bourgeois deviation from the class struggle:-
 “[The Scots are] entitled to decide the form and power of their own institutions,” he said at a specially convened trade union conference on devolution. “But Scottish workers have more in common with London dockers, Durham miners and Sheffield engineers than they have ever had with Scottish barons and landlord traitors.”

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’.