Showing posts with label patriotism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label patriotism. Show all posts

Monday, January 23, 2017

What is Patriotism? An Analysis

 A meeting of the leaders of far right parties this weekend proclaimed “the return of nation-states” and “patriotism as the policy of the future” (BBC -Link)  In reply we republish the classic socialist analysis of patriotism that appeared in the December 1915 Socialist Standard that “The only universal bond of nationality or patriotism that exists for us to-day is, then, that of subjection to a single government. Patriotism in the worker is pride in the common yoke imposed by a politically unified ruling class.”

The Johnsonian Definition and Others

 The answer depends largely upon the point of view. From one standpoint patriotism appears as the actual religion of the modern State. From another it is the decadence and perversion of a noble and deep-rooted impulse of loyalty to the social unit, acquired by mankind during the earliest stages of social life. From yet another viewpoint, that of capitalist interests, patriotism is nothing more or less than a convenient and potent instrument of domination.

 The word itself, both etymologically and historically, has its root in paternity. In tribal days the feeling of social solidarity, which has now become debased into patriotism, was completely bound up with the religion of ancestor worship. In tribal religion, as in the tribe itself, all were united by ties of blood. The gods and their rights and ceremonies were exclusive to the tribesmen. All strangers were rigidly debarred from worship. The gods themselves were usually dead warriors.

 Every war was a holy war. Among the ancient Israelites, for instance, the holy Ark of Jehovah of Hosts accompanied the tribes to battle. It was this abode or movable tomb of the ancestral deity that went with the Jews in their march through the desert, and even to Jericho, playing an important part in the fall of that remarkable city. All the traditions of the Jewish religion, in fact, were identified with great national triumphs.

The Merits of the Early Brand

 Thus tribal religion was completely interwoven with tribal aspirations and integrity. Tribal “patriotism" and religion were identical. Indeed, without the strongest possible social bond, without a kind of “patriotism" that implied the unhesitating self-sacrifice of the individual for the communal existence, it would have been utterly impossible for tribal man to have won through to civilisation.

 Natural selection insured that only those social groups which developed this supreme instinct of mutual aid could survive; the rest were crushed out in the struggle for existence. Is it a matter for wonder if it be found that such a magnificent social impulse, so vital to the struggling groups of tribal man, received periodical consecration in the willing human sacrifices so common in primitive religious ceremonial ? Bound up with the deliberate manufacture of gods for the protection of the tribe and its works, there is indicated a social recognition of the need for, and value of, the sacrifice of the individual for the common weal.

 This noble impulse of social solidarity is the common inheritance of all mankind. But being a powerful social force it has lent itself to exploitation. Therefore, with the development of class rule this great impulse is made subordinate to the class interests of the rulers. It becomes debased and perverted to definite anti-social ends. As soon as the people become a slave class “the land of their fathers” is theirs no more. Patriotism to them becomes a fraudulent thing. The “country” is that of their masters alone. Nevertheless, the instinct of loyalty to the community is too deep-seated to be eradicated so easily, and it becomes a deadly weapon in the hands of the rulers against the people themselves.

 With the decay of society based on kinship, religion changed also, and from being tribal and exclusive it became universal and propagandist. “Patriotism” at the same time began to distinguish itself from religion. The instinctive tribal loyalty became transformed, by the aid of religion and the fiction of kinship, into political loyalty. In a number of instances in political society, as in Tudor England, the struggle for priority between religion and patriotism became so acute as to help in the introduction of a more subservient form of religion. Thus patriotism became emancipated from religion, and the latter became a mere accessory to patriotism as handmaiden of class rule.

A Most Accommodating Conception

 Though universal religion did not split up at the same time as the great empire that gave it birth, patriotism did so. The latter has, in fact, always adapted, enlarged, or contracted itself to fit the existing political unit, whether feudal estate, village, township, county, kingdom, republic or empire. No political form has been too absurd for it to fill with its loyalty. No discordance of race, colour or language has been universally effective against it.

 What, then, is patriotism in essence to-day? It is usually defined as being devotion to the land of our fathers. But which is the land of our fathers? Our fathers came from many different parts of the world. The political division of the world in which we live is an artificial entity. The land has been wrested from other races. The nation they call “ours” is the result of a conquest over original inhabitants, and over ourselves, by successive ruling classes. Unlike the free tribesmen we are hirelings; we possess no country.

 Nationality, of which patriotism is the superstition, covers no real entity other than that of a common oppression, a unified government. It does not comprise any unity of race, for in no nation is there one pure race, or anything like it. It does not cover a unity of language, for scarcely a nation exists in which several distinct languages are not indigenous. Nor is it any fixity of territory, for this changes from decade to decade, while the inhabitants of the transferred territory have to transfer their allegiance, their patriotism, to the new nation.

The Product of the Analysis

 The only universal bond of nationality or patriotism that exists for us to-day is, then, that of subjection to a single government. Patriotism in the worker is pride in the common yoke imposed by a politically unified ruling class. Yet it is this artificial entity that we are called upon to honour before life itself. This badge of political servitude is called an object worthy of supreme sacrifice. The workers are expected to abandon all vital interests and sacrifice all they hold dear for the preservation of an artificial nationality that is little more than a manufactured unit of discord: a mere focus of economic and political strife.

Ignoble Exploitation

 Thus one of the noblest fruits of man’s social evolution—the impulse of sacrifice for the social existence—is being prostituted by the capitalist class to maintain a system of exploitation, to obtain a commercial supremacy, and preserve or extend the boundaries of a superfluous political entity. The workers are duped by the ruling class into sacrificing themselves for the preservation of a politico-economic yoke of a particular form and colour. Many so-called Socialists have fallen headlong into this trap.

 Had social solidarity developed in equal measure with the broadening of men’s real interests, it would now be universal in character instead of national. The wholesale mixture of races, and the economic interdependence of the whole world, show that nationalism is now a barrier, and patriotism, as we know it, a curse. Only the whole world can now be rightly called the land of our fathers. Only in the service of the people of the whole world, and not against those of any part of it, can the instinct of social service find its highest and complete expression. The great Socialist has pointed the way. He did not call upon the workers of Germany alone to unite. He appealed to the toilers of the whole world to join hands; to a whole world of labour whose only loss could be its parti-coloured chains. And in this alone lies the consummation of that tribal instinct of social solidarity of which patriotism is the perverted descendant.

Something Better than Patriotism

 Capitalism, therefore, stands as the barrier the destruction of which will not only set free the productive forces of society for the good of all, but will also liberate human solidarity and brotherhood from the narrow confines of nationality and patriotism. Only victorious labour can make true the simple but pregnant statement: “Mankind are my brethren, the world is my country.” Patriotism and nationalism as we know them will then be remembered only as artificial restrictions of men’s sympathy and mutual help; as obstacles to the expansion of the human mind; as impediments to the needful and helpful development of human unity and co-operation; as bonds that bound men to slavery; as incentives that set brothers at each other's throats.

 Despite its shameless perversion by a robber class the great impulse to human solidarity is by no means dead. Economic factors give it an ever firmer basis, and in the Socialist movement it develops apace. Even the hellish system of individualism, with its doctrine of every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost, has been unable to kill it. And in the great class struggle of the workers against the drones, of the socially useful against the socially pernicious, in this last great struggle for the liberation of humanity from; wage-slavery, the great principle of human solidarity, based upon the necessities of to-day and impelled by the deep-seated instincts of the race, will come to full fruition and win its supreme historical battle.

A Vile Use of a Noble Sentiment

 That is our hope and aspiration. For the present, however, we are surrounded by the horrors of war added to the horrors of exploitation, and subjected to the operation of open repression as well as to the arts of hypocrisy and fraud. With the weakening power of religion to keep the workers obedient, the false cult of nationality and patriotism is being exploited to the full. Like religion, patriotism has its vestments, its ceremonies, its sacred emblems, its sacred hymns and inspired music; all of which are called in aid of the class interests of our masters, and utilised desperately to lure millions to the shambles for their benefit. Thus is an heroic and glorious social impulse perverted and debased to the support of a régime of wage-slavery, and to the furtherance of the damnable policy of the slave-holding class: to divide and rule.

F. C. Watts

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..."

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


The text of the Socialist Party's identity leaflet.

Somebody once remarked that the most important word in the  political vocabulary is “we”. It was a shrewd observation, since to get someone to use “we” in relation to some group of people is to  get them to identify their interest as the interest of that group.

In the battle for “we”, socialists are trying to get all those excluded from ownership and control of means of production to recognise the fact of their common interest as one  class within capitalist society, to regard themselves as “we” and to use “our” and “us”  only in relation to that class and its interests.

Those who control one or other of the two hundred or so armed states into which the  world is divided have to try to prevent this practice emerging, and deliberately seek to  undermine it, in the interest of the other main class in capitalist society – those who do  own and control means of production and who derive a privileged income from this. They seek to convince the people they rule over that the “we” they should identify with is  “the nation” as the nation part of what they call the “nation-state” they rule.

Immigration causes a problem for them since immigrants, having been brought up  under some other state, have not gone through the same process of brainwashing and  conditioning as have the “native” population. Those born and brought up in Britain have  been taught, through what’s been drummed into them in school and through what they  continuously read in the papers or hear on the radio or television, to regard themselves  as British. In school they are taught the history of the kings and queens of England, and  of the wars in which the British ruling class has been involved in over the centuries, and  of the evolution of the British state. The media reinforce this by reporting news from  an almost exclusively British angle and encourage identifi cation with “the nation” via  identification with “our” sports teams and performers.

It therefore comes almost as a reflexaction for people born and brought up in Britain to use “we” in relation to the British state and to regard themselves as part of a British  “nation”. So people spontaneously say such things as “we beat the French at Waterloo”  or “we won the Second World War” or “we got fi ve gold medals at the Olympics”. Even  opponents of particular policies pursued by the British state, yesterday as well as today, fall into the same trap and say such things as “we should never have conquered India”  or “we shouldn’t join the euro”. Such usage is music to the ears of the ruling class as they know it means they are on  top in the battle for “we”. They have succeeded in getting their subjects to identify with  them and their interests. Wage and salary workers, instead of seeing “we” as their class,  have come to see it as “the nation”.


It wasn’t always so easy. Historians have demonstrated that a nation is not a natural existed first and then proceeded to impose on those it ruled over the idea that they  formed a “nation”. The longest-standing states of Western Europe – England, France  and Spain – emerged at the end of the feudal era and then had to create a national  feeling amongst the population living within their frontiers. These frontiers were accidental and had been determined by a number of key battles amongst dynastic rulers  in feudal times. Had the outcome of these battles been different, then southern Britain  might have been part of the same state as northern France, while northern Britain might have been part of a state with Scandinavia, and southern France part of a state with Catalonia and northern Italy. That’s not how things turned out, but the point is that they  could have done. States pre-existed and in a very real sense created nations. Nations  are groups of people ruled by a state or a would-be state.

States that have been formed more recently – and most of the world’s states today  were only formed in the last 80 or so years, i. e., have only been going for two or three  generations – have had, and some still have, a serious problem in convincing all those  they rule over that they form part of a single nation with a common interest. It is why  their nationalism tends to be more shrill and authoritarian. It has to be, to overcome  the tendency of some of their subjects, especially those speaking a minority language  within their state, to identify themselves with some other nationalism particularly that of a  neighbouring state.

Even a long-established state such as Britain has not solved this problem entirely, as  witness Northern Ireland, where a considerable proportion of the population use “we”  not in relation to Britain but in relation to the Irish State and the “nation” it fosters. On the mainland the British state’s problem in this respect has been amongst the immigrants  from its former Empire, many of whom, notoriously to Norman Tebbitt’s annoyance, refuse to support the English cricket team and continue to support that of their country  of origin or that of their parents. More seriously, the ruling class were shocked by the  number of immigrants from Pakistan and their descendants who supported the Taliban  in the most recent of the Afghan Wars.

Until recently the dominant opinion amongst those in charge of the British state about how to deal with this was to make a virtue of necessity and pursue a policy of  “multiculturalism”. It didn’t work. In fact, it has encouraged division, by getting people  to identify with their “culture” rather than with the British “nation”. (Socialists, too, see “multiculturalism” as divisive but for the different reason that it gets workers to identify  with some other group over and above their class.) Now a change of policy is under  way, a swing towards “assimilationism”.

The fi rst to experience this change of policy are new applicants for British nationality.  They have to be able to show some knowledge of the British state, its institutions and  the history of its rulers, before being accepted into the British “nation”. The expectation  is that they will say “we beat the French at Waterloo” and “we should/should not join the  euro” as readily as any true-born Briton. Perhaps too they will support England in test  matches.

Feudal relic

They are also now required to publicly pledge allegiance to the queen in ceremonies akin  to the patriotic flag-worshipping that applicants for US citizenship have to go through.  This is a farcical revival of feudal times, but it brings out the importance of the royal family  to the British ruling class. The royal family’s role is to act as a focus for loyalty to the  British state. The 19th century Tory Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, is credited with first  having thought this up.

The royal family may be a relic from feudalism but it is easier to  get people to identify with it than with some abstraction like the constitution. Nor is any superannuated politician dubbed “the president” ever going to be able to act as such a  focus. It is also less hypocritical, because members of the British “nation” are called what they  really are – “subjects”, people subjected to the rule of a ruling class. Tony Benn finds this abhorrent. He wants us to be called “citizens” not “subjects”, as people are in France. But  the people of France are no less subjects of the French ruling class and its state for being called citizens. Let a spade continue to be called a spade.

 What we should object to is  not to being called subjects, but to being subjects Republicanism and “citizenship” could become a useful alternative way of ensuring loyalty  to the British capitalist state if ever the royal family becomes too unpopular, but even  though royalty is much less popular than it was even 25 years ago, it is still an asset that  the British ruling class want to hold on to and use to the full. It serves to get wage and salary workers to be loyal to the British state and to use “we” in relation to the interests of  its ruling class.

The “we” that socialists say that all those, wherever they were born, wherever they live  or wherever they come from, who are not members of the privileged ruling class should  identify with is people in a similar position throughout the world. “We” are all members of  a world-wide excluded class of wage-working wealth producers – the world working class  – who have a common interest in coming together to abolish so-called “nation-states” and  establish a frontierless world community in which all the natural and industrial resources  of the Earth will have become the common heritage of all Humanity, to be used for the  benefit of all instead of, as to today, to make profits for the few. Then we would all really be members of the Human Race, citizens of the World - Earth-people.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Independence?

The Left Nationalist Fantasy
“Words and illusions vanish; facts remain.”

The capitalists are good mystifiers: they want to have us believe that their interests as an oppressing class are the interests of all classes. Since the time of Marx, class conscious workers have combated the capitalists’ chauvinist appeals with appeals for the international solidarity of the working class. They have fought the attempts of the bourgeoisie to enlist the workers in their nationalist strivings with appeals for the joint class struggle of the workers of all countries against world capitalism. In The Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels insisted that ‘the working men have no country’. They argued that the nation state was alien to the interests of the proletariat and that in order to advance their interests workers must ‘settle matters’ with the bourgeoisie of each state, that workers must challenge the power of their ‘own’ capitalist class directly.  It implied uncompromising opposition to the local state and its dealings with the rulers of other capitalisms – other members of the ‘band of warring brothers’ that constituted the capitalists at a world level. It also implied workers should organise in mutual solidarity across national borders. This was not a mere abstraction. Marx maintained that workers must free themselves of patriotism and national superiority in their own interests, for without discarding these aspects of bourgeois ideology they would never themselves be free. Marx and Engels maintained this approach throughout their political activities.  It was also the position taken by Luxemburg.

Those of us in the Socialist Party of Great Britain are told that our critique of nationalism is resented by many supposed revolutionaries because they think that our criticism casts aspersions upon their sincerity as revolutionaries. Our duty as socialists does not permit us to spare the feelings of any particular group which directly or indirectly acts contrary to the interests of the working class. At the end of  socialist meetings it was customary  to sing “The Internationale”. It was not Flower of Scotland, Scotland the Brave or Scots Wha Hae. Have those “socialists” forgotten the workers of the world anthem? The patriotic fever of the Scottish referendum is so prevailing that the convener of the Scottish “Socialist" Party shares the table with a capitalist hedge fund manager to determine independence referendum strategy.  Cooperation of the classes implies an abandonment of the class struggle.

The Socialist Party are told that we should accept that nations “exist” (even though we have seen that a common race, implying the same origin and purity of blood is but a fiction) Diseases exist as well. Is it that reason not to try and eliminate them? The real fight is the struggle of the dispossessed against the possessors and it is the only fight that matters. The national prejudices deliberately fostered by the governing class has to be fought by English and Scottish workers united against their common foe. For us, the workers, our weapon is solidarity, it is the awareness that we all form, whatever the language we speak or the colour of our skin, or the land of our birth, one single class exploited by a minority of capitalist parasites who are very much in agreement, despite their national rivalries, to crush us.

Independence and “socialism” is the Scottish nationalists favorite bait for workers. At this moment in time Trotskyists are engaged in a patriotic effort to persuade the working class that Scottish independence would mark a step forward towards its own liberation, a step towards socialism. Nothing could be further from the truth. With the conditions that prevail today in this country, the independence of Scotland  would not mean a step forward towards socialism. In all likelihoods it would be a step backwards.  The people who parade the banner of “independence and socialism” around, to catch the attention of  workers, are perpetuating a number of falsehoods.  The “Left” nationalists would have us believe  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 Independence referendum is not about independence. lf the nationalists wins, Scotland will not be independent. The SNP is a capitalist party. It works on behalf of the capitalists. That means the union of Capital, Edinburgh to Brussels to London to Wall St. The nationalist is merely trying to keep more of it “within the family”.

Are we to believe that home-grown national businesses are somehow less exploitative than foreign companies 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. Capitalism created nations, but, in its development, created at the same time the conditions for their disappearance by multiplying all kinds of relationships between nations, within one country or on a world-wide scale. But at the same time as capitalism  creates the objective basis for the fusion of nations, it tries desperately to erect artificial barriers between them, so as to maintain itself as a system of control. Thus, by setting nations one against the other, by inflaming national animosity, the bourgeoisie aims at consolidating national barriers in order to protect its part of the spoils of capitalist exploitation, to attack the class consciousness of workers and to sow strife in their camp. Independence means the creation of national barriers by restrictions so as to consolidate the capitalists class privileges.

 Whatever twists and turns lie down the road in the fight for socialism in Scotland, 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 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 and aggressive enemy which is solidly united despite certain contradictions within its ranks. The people’s army  are not going to win the class war by dividing themselves according to borders. Those who dress up as “socialists” in order to push nationalism on the working class are the objective allies of the capitalists. Supporting Scottish independence in the name of socialism is a hoax. It is up to the working class to show we will not be duped by political nonsense and deceitful rhetoric. Instead fight for your own cause, for your interests – for socialism.

Karl Marx wrote:
“What then does the German philistine want? He wants to be a bourgeois, an exploiter, inside the country, but he wants also not to be exploited outside the country. He puffs himself up into being the “nation” in relation to foreign countries and says: I do not submit to the laws of competition; that is contrary to my national dignity; as the nation I am a being superior to huckstering.
The nationality of the worker is neither French, nor English, nor German, it is labour, free slavery, self-huckstering. His government is neither French, nor English, nor German, it is capital. His native air is neither French, nor German, nor English, it is factory air. The land belonging to him is neither French, nor English, nor German, it lies a few feet below the ground. Within the country, money is the fatherland of the industrialist. Thus, the German philistine wants the laws of competition, of exchange value, of huckstering, to lose their power. at the frontier barriers of his country! He is willing to recognise the power of bourgeois society only in so far as it is in accord with his interests, the interests of his class! He does not want to fall victim to a power to which he wants to sacrifice others, and to which he sacrifices himself inside his own country! Outside the country he wants to show himself and be treated as a different being from what he is within the country and how he himself behaves within the country! He wants to leave the cause in existence and to abolish one of its effects! We shall prove to him that selling oneself out inside the country has as its necessary consequence selling out outside, that competition, which gives him his power inside the country, cannot prevent him from becoming powerless outside the country; that the state, which he subordinates to bourgeois society inside the country, cannot protect him from the action of bourgeois society outside the country.
However much the individual bourgeois fights against the others, as a class the bourgeois have a common interest, and this community of interest, which is directed against the proletariat inside the country, is directed against the bourgeois of other nations outside the country. This the bourgeois calls his nationality.” -  Draft of an Article on Friedrich List’s book

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The nationalist follows the capitalist flag

The Socialist Party fights nationalism by rejecting it and exposing it's racism and xenophobia. Nationalism is a fraud whereby would-be rulers “self-determine" to impose their vision of nationhood on an entire community. Nationalism is an ideology of separation, of hatred for the “other” and the “outsider” It has been a creed of violence and war and oppression. And it has absolutely nothing to offer the world’s oppressed. What is necessary is to develop human solidarity, the instincts of mutual aid that enable us to survive and which have fueled all human progress.  Patriotism, in its essence, is a readiness to die and to kill for an abstraction, for what is largely a figment of the imagination. Nations are in no sense natural communities; they stand in stark opposition to  the principles of mutual aid and solidarity upon which our very survival depends. This community of interests and of relationship or neighbourly feeling, does not necessarily or exclusively apply to nationality. As a matter of fact, in ancient times it was the city-state rather than the nation-state which was its boundary.

Patriotism, as generally understood, is an objectionable sentiment since it means the placing of one’s own country, its interests and well-being, above those of the rest of humanity. The man who “wants to see his country great and strong” invariably wants to see it so, if need be, at the expense of the welfare and interests of other countries. The principle of nationalism as a positive political platform involves always (in practice if not in theory) the doctrine of “my country right or wrong.”

Nationalism groups men and women according to their land of origin, as decided by the chance events of history; within every country, thanks to the patriotic propaganda, rich and poor unite against the foreigner. Socialism groups men and women, 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.

 No socialist party can serve the “Nation” so long as the nation is divided into two warring classes—one which owns the wealth and one which produces the wealth and does not own it. No socialist party can serve the robbers and the robbed at the same time. To speak of the “Nation” when it is thus divided is camouflage to hide their support of the robbers because the great majority of the nation belongs to the class which is robbed.

Socialists are intent upon building something better than a nation. Socialism will be attained, by a working class movement fighting a class struggle for the ending of the capitalist system, which cannot be done by an alliance with the very enemy we are fighting. That is the impossible task being before the Scottish working class by those urging independence. Why should workers let themselves be diverted from the class struggle by the national question? How can a supposed socialist  demand that worker  support the party of one capitalist against another in a competition between capitalists which ultimately every national struggle is? Why cannot those “oppressed” nationalities wait with their emancipation until the hour of freedom arrives for the proletariat too? The Socialist Party strives to make the workers of the “oppressed” nation recognize 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.

The nationalist Left argue that socialism is not yet possible and so present a programme of  reforms where business enterprises controlled by the working class is to be preferred to everything else. Where would the State get the funds necessary under this programme? The funds must in some way come from production; either from the profit on State industries, or from taxes paid by small enterprise. Of course, capitalists would not be content to pay to increase workers’ living standards; they would try to lower them, in order to restore the pressure of unemployment on the wages to keep that at a minimum. Here arises the natural and fundamental enmity of the classes, the chief opposition of their interests, the impossibility of peacefully combining their efforts. As long as capitalism exists, it must try to hold itself against competition by lowering the cost of production, or else be ruined. It cannot be content to secure a fixed living to the workers.

Thus the so-called Common Weal  programme from the Jimmy Reid Foundation is not the programme of socialists desirous to show to the workers the way to freedom; it is the programme of politicians desirous to win the great mass of adherents from various poor classes, by a programme of reforms that means coalition of workers, small farmers and petty bourgeois. And we have witnessed such coalitions before which uses the force of the working class  to promote the formation of a numerous class of small land owners and businessmen, extremely hostile to any socialism, thus it throws obstacles in the way to socialism. It fills the minds of the workers with illusions, diverting them from the only way to freedom; the way of class struggle, clear class-consciousness and confidence in their own power.

It is our duty as socialists to warn our fellow-workers in Scotland of the futility of the nationalist independence policy as far as they are concerned. There can be no relief for the oppressed Scot in changing an English robber for an Scottish one. The person of the robber does not matter—it is the fact of the robbery that spells misery. National divisions are a hindrance to working-class unity and action, and national jealousies and differences are fostered by the capitalists for their own ends. Our purpose is to show both the "nationalist" and "unionist" worker, that the struggle "for" or "against" independence does not materially affect the lot as a worker; that the "freedom" much-talked of on both sides, is but the right of a minority class (the capitalists) to exploit the mass of the people.

Those "intellectuals" and “professionals" clamouring for jobs within a Scottish Parliament do not represent the interests of the working class in Scotland. They do not, indeed, profess to favour other than capitalist interests, provided that the landlord or capitalist be a Scot, but the Scottish employer is in no more wise, no more merciful than the English one. The national sentiment and perennial enthusiasm of the Scottish people are being exploited by the so-called leaders in the interests of Scottish capitalism, and the workers are being used to fight the battles of their oppressors. The Scottish capitalist rebels against the English capitalist only because the latter stands in the way of a more thorough exploitation of the Scottish  workers by Scottish capital. Let the thieves fight their own battles! For the worker in Scotland there is but one hope. It is to join the international socialist working class and to make common cause with the socialist workers of all countries for the end of all forms of exploitation; saying to both English and Scottish capitalists: "A plague on both your houses". For the true battle-cry of the working class in broader, more significant and more inspiring than mere nationalism, and that rally cry is: THE WORLD FOR THE WORKERS!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Same Poison, Different Bottle

We have a regrettable tendency to see what we want to see and rationalise what we already want to do. Scottish nationalists attribute Scotland’s ills to the constitutional link to England. Both Left and Right see independence as a panacea. Those on the Scottish Left who have added their voices to the campaign for independence have succumbed to ideas incompatible with the socialist transformation of society.

The Left has long subscribed to the principle of “self-determination” that small nations ought by right – assuming the support of its people – be given the right to cede from larger states and claim autonomy over their affairs but over the decades socialists have seen the divisive character of such nationalist campaigns. No serious socialist can be a committed to nationalism.

 “Nationalism requires too much belief in what is patently not so." the historian Eric Hobsbawm has said.

Nationalism is the ideology of always putting one's nation first, often at the expense of other nations. It is not necessary to be a wealthy and powerful nation to carry out nationalistic policies and practices. Governments and corporations of every stripe engage in nationalistic practices in the name of patriotism.

The Left who support independence believe that once it has been achieved, the real fight for the future of Scotland will commence. To-day’s Left take Scotland’s radicalism for granted but go back just fifty years and a majority of Scots voted Conservative and sectarian prejudice still divided many working class communities. Go back a further fifty years or so, we find that left-wingers like Keir Hardie had to move to England to get elected.
Pre-union Scotland had its own feudal monarchy and its own pro-capitalist Protestant revolution and after 1707 its capitalist landlords, merchants and mill-owners continued to use the separate Scottish systems of law, religion and education to exploit their own people. The union with England made the Scottish ruling class a junior partner in securing the profits of colonial empire.

And today the Scottish capitalist class continue to parasitically feed off workers blood sweat and tears through the hedge funds and financial institutions of the City of London’s Square Mile and its satellite Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square. Scottish employers as a class draws on the support of the British State and does so jointly with employers in England and Wales. The economic power does not lie in Scotland. It still lies at a UK level, in Europe and around the rest of the world. Its top 20 companies are dominated by energy, particularly oil and gas multinationals and financial services corporations. With the exception of the drinks giant William Grant & Sons which is family owned, and Scottish Water which is state-owned, all the rest are public limited companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.

The most recent figures show that amongst larger enterprises (defined as those employing 250 people or more) 64% of employment and 78% of turnover is in enterprises where ultimate ownership and control is outside Scotland. Amongst larger firms in the manufacturing sector alone the results are even starker with 72% of employment and as much as 87% of turnover in companies owned outside of Scotland. These figures are based on Scottish registered companies only. They do not include big supermarket chains like Tesco and Asda, or military industrial companies like Rolls Royce and BAE Systems which have a huge turnover, and are major employers in Scotland but do not separately register here. The once familiar old South of Scotland Electricity Board (the SSEB) is now owned by the Spanish corporation Iberdrola and the French corporation EDF. A separate Scotland does not weaken finance capital.

Business is global. Capital flows are global. The capitalist’s first loyalty is to acquiring and expanding wealth. By the nature of their business and their lives today capitalists are inevitably pulled into a globalized world. They have much less connection and fewer ties to their national community. And their rewards are in the global world. As we witness in the recent exposures of Amazon and Starbucks and a host of other multi-nationals, Big Business has slipped the leash of national government and are no longer captive of a nation state.

In a world of globalisation, where countries are so interdependent it is near impossible to see how Scotland could be genuinely independent. Profits would most definitely continue to be being exported to London, Paris, Madrid or wherever and commercial decision will be made in these cities. Businessmen “sell out” their nation to other businessmen from abroad simply because they have more in common, in every practical sense, with other members of their class rather than the workers of their particular nationality.

The Socialist Party support neither an independent Scotland nor the status quo. Instead of wanting to separate Scottish workers from the English working class and elsewhere, recognising our shared class interests, we seek to join with working people across the world in creating a socialist alternative. Socialism, like capitalism, should know no boundaries and should look to the day when workers of all countries would become one great organisation. The answer to all the problems facing working men and women is not a flag, or a border or if powers lies in Edinburgh or London; it is the weight of the labour and trade union movement, united behind a commitment to make the politics of class, not nationality, its driving force. The priority for socialists should be common class interests not an exclusive nationalism. Independence will be the same poison but drunk from a different bottle.

The Socialist Party can certainly ascribe to James Connolly’s words when he said “For our demands most moderate are. We only want the earth.”

Thursday, March 21, 2013

the Independence Referendum

Nationalism and the referendum increasingly dominates Scottish politics and its newspapers. We now have the date of the referendum which will be the 18th September 2014when Scot voters will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

By re-drawing the map the nationalists promise economic prosperity. The unionists prophesise economic catastrophe. Socialists say experience shows that either way, the working class will lose out.

Independence is nothing but a dead-end. It doesn’t bring us closer to socialism, only farther away from it. Separation is no stepping stone to socialism, despite what phony “Marxist” theoreticians may say. It maintains and reinforces the divisions within the working class – a real boon for the capitalist class which do their best to keep us divided. The people on the Left who are pushing this option fall right into class collaboration. Under capitalism there is necessarily a division between rich and poor, a ruling class and the ruled, the class of capital and the class of wage-workers, and any attempt at uniting them must involve the acceptance of exploitation and oppression. It is glossed over with much talk of the shared culture. The experience of the poor living in a slum council estate is very different from that of the rich living in their country estates. Anyone on the Scottish Left who, therefore, combines the working class with the ruling class, calling on capitalist and worker to unite and fight for independence is not a Marxist or a socialist. Nationalism places the working class under the control of its ruling class and this means that socialism is abandoned. This process has been observed many times resulting in the the conclusion that national feeling is somehow stronger than socialism. The repeated triumph of national consciousness does not however prove that class consciousness is incapable of transcending national consciousness.

Some Scots claim that the Scottish nation has been a victim of English rule but the working class throughout Britain has been the subject of capitalist oppression. Nationalism divides our forces before our common enemy. The fight against the bosses has been a united struggle with workers joining together across all the regions of the UK. Nationalism is about organising and mobilising people on the basis of their national identity. Socialism is about organising and mobilising people on the basis of their class identity. It is class war between employers and employees not Scottish versus English.

Those who say that the main enemy is the English ruling class mislead workers in Scotland into thinking we have less to fear from the Scottish capitalist class. But the truth of the matter is that Scotland’s capitalists have been an integral part of the British bourgeoisie ever since the Union, a union to advance the interests of the aristocratic land-owners and the developing merchant and capitalist class. The Scottish ruling class sold out the rights of the people in Scotland for a hare in the spoils of the Empire. Scottish capitalists, be they big or small, are not any less a part of the British bourgeoisie than English capitalists. Now they simply want a re-division of the pie by re-writing the constitution. Those who would subordinate the class struggle to the struggle for independence, those who counter-pose national unity to class unity, help keep capitalism alive. Independence divides the working class against the international bourgeoisie and it chains workers to the interests of “their” bourgeoisie. No-one seriously considers that the SSP or Sheridan’s Solidarity constitute in any sense an independent political force. They are, in effect, merely propagandists for the Scottish bourgeoisie and its chosen party, the SNP.

An independent parliament has no answers for the working class and would continue to be used by the millionaires and multi-nationals to control and rule.There are no common interests between workers and their exploiters, whatever flag is waved. Nationalism and class struggle are irreconcilably opposed. A nation is simply capitalism with all its exploitation and alienation, parcelled out in a single geographical unit. It doesn't matter whether the nation is 'small, 'colonial', 'semi-colonial' or 'non-imperialist'. In Scotland some businesses has found new roots, hoping to be effective in getting workers to sacrifice themselves for the false goal of “building the national economy” through independence from Whitehall. Multinational interests can just as much thrive on smaller centralised interdependent states, rather than through the old concept of the powerful nation. Separatism only reproduce the same problems on a smaller but no less savage scale.

All nationalisms are reactionary because they inevitably clash with class consciousness and poison it with chauvinism. Working class co-operation, especially in this global age of capital movement across all borders, is necessary for a real defence of our co-workers, neighbours and communities. Socialists have long maintained that people have the right to live, work and travel wherever they choose. As internationalists, socialists oppose national borders, which serve to divide and segregate people. It is important to remember that this view has always been central to the international labour movement from its very beginnings long ago. It is time for labour to remember this vital part of its history.

In the Scottish independence referendum there will be two different forms of nationalism on offer. The British nationalism of a “No” vote. The Scottish nationalism of a “Yes” vote. We will be advocating a third choice - a spoiled ballot with the words “world socialism” written on it. The Socialist Party is committed to destroying the capitalist system, the root cause of all oppression. It aims to unmask the irrationality of nationalism and work to show up the void that is national self-determination. Only by ending capitalism and building a democratic socialist future can we end the nightmare of war, environmental chaos, national and ethnic division, poverty and inequality that capitalism thrives on. The Socialist Party aspires to liberate all humanity, across the boundaries of national identity.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Only the Red Flag

A country’s flag is a commercial asset, said the proponent of the British Empire, Cecil Rhodes. It represents the economic and political interests of the capitalist class. The ruling class praise love of country in order to beguile the proletariat, so that it should sacrifice itself in defence of the wealth hich the ruling-class has stolen from them. Capitalists are always nationalist, since they must exploit the proletariat of its own nation, but at a certain times of the economic development it must assume a certain international character, in order that the surplus of goods which it has captured from the wage-earners may be sold.

The rising capitalist class of the eighteenth century was only able to overthrow the aristocracy and seize power by proclaiming the brotherhood of nations and by calling on them to make common cause against tyrants; to be a patriot meant for bourgeois revolutionists not to love France, Germany or Italy, but to love the revolution. When the revolution was over they became once again nationalist in order to organise nationally its class oppression and exploitation.

In the age of globalization,  the nation state has retreated as the locus of world power. Free trade agreements, supra-national financial institutions, and multinational corporations ensure that capital can float between nations with ease . Labour, on the other hand, remains under the restrictions of border-obsessed states.

The proletariat of a nation, in order to throw off the yoke of the governing class, must be organised nationally and rise nationally, yet it will be unable to attain its final emancipation until they too join together with the proletariats of other capitalist nations. The revolutionary proletariat will neither need to keep its ancient nationalities nor to constitute new ones, because by becoming free it will abolish classes: the world will be its fatherland/motherland.

Abdullah Ocalan, an imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has explained  why he no longer supports the creation of an independent Kurdistan:
"When you said nation there absolutely had to be a state! If Kurds were a nation they certainly needed a state! However as social conditions intensified, as I understood that nations themselves were the most meaningless reality, shaped under the influence of capitalism, and as I understood that the nation-state model was an iron cage for societies, I realized that freedom and community were more important concepts. Realizing that to fight for nation states was to fight for capitalism, a big transformation in my political philosophy took place. I realized I had been a victim of capitalist modernity."

The Left state-capitalists and the Right libertarian propertarians  both propose in their own ways to re-nationalize capital, (which is a complete impossibility). It is for socialists to argue for the globalizing labor; that is, eliminating borders.

Our goal is a society without classes. In a classless society where man's exploitation of man is abolished, there will not be some kind of oppression of the smaller ethnic groups, but each people group’s free development is prerequisite for all people’s free development. Our political object is universalist: It is for all human beings.

“In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” - Communist Manifesto

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Real Freedom

Some of our critics never miss an opportunity to sneer at the Socialist Party with the accusation of how we can claim to be socialist when we do not support the cause of "freedom" for the Scots. Our credentials for being a Marxist party are questioned as they point out that Marx himself supported nationalist causes.

 Marxism is a method of assessing what, at any particular time, is in the best interest of the working class and should be done to hasten the establishment of socialism. The  victory of capitalist production was a progressive aspiration in Marx's day. With the triumph of capitalism came political democracy, the numerical growth of the working class and its concentration in large enterprises, trade unions, workers' parties. In other words, the triumph of capitalism opened the way for the struggle for socialism. National movements were to be supported as a means to an end, NOT as an end in themselves. The fact that Marx supported campaigns (but also opposed them in respect of the Czechs and Slav nationalism )such as to establish independence for Ireland in order to weaken the power of the English landed aristocracy, who were an obstacle to the development of political democracy in Britain, and Polish independence in order to set up a buffer state between Tsarist Russia and the rest of Europe so as to give political democracy a chance to develop there does not mean that in the changed circumstance of the 21st Century it is still necessary to assist the development of capitalism with support for nationalism to prepare the way for socialism. Once capitalism had performed its historically progressive function, nationalism became reactionary. By 1871, Marx argued this point had been reached in western Europe: "Class rule is no longer able to disguise itself in a national uniform; the national governments are one as against the proletariat!"

 It is futile to think that creation of new states will solve the crises of our society which is essentially based on our economic structure. Nevertheless, some of the Scottish nationalists even go as far as to say when independence comes all our problems would get resolved. Nationalism needs to be challenged everywhere. Nationalism is in fact an obstacle to the human progress towards socialism.The reality is that the nationalists have become prisoner of an imaginary past. We need to erase political boundaries of the mind and  geographic boundaries to enjoy our great shared history and culture so that the conflict created by economic interests are buried forever and we all feel proud of our togetherness. With nationalism real world problems do not vanish but become confused with muddled national solutions. The answer to cqpitalist crises is not nationalism, it is social revolution. Unlike those on the Left we have learnt from our history !

Nationalists argue that people long to have their very own nation state and that their struggle to get it should be supported. This leaves little space for those without a territory. The Roma (gypsies) suffer increased persecution in Romania, Hungary and the Czech and Slovak Republics, with very little complaint from advocates of national liberation. As nationality is the criterion for belonging, a non-national is untrustworthy by definition. Socialists embrace diversity and acknowledge the right of all to choose their own culture, language and beliefs but this can only be achieved by ending the fundamental division of our society, the class division. Nationalism can never deliver freedom to the working class.

The anarchist Rudolf Rocker put it this way "We speak of national interests, national capital, national spheres of interest, national honour, and national spirit; but we forget that behind all this there are hidden merely the selfish interests of power-loving politicians and money-loving business men for whom the nation is a convenient cover to hide their personal greed and their schemes for political power from the eyes of the world...The national flag covers every injustice, every unhumanity, every lie, every outrage, every crime. The collective responsibility of the nation kills the sense of justice of the individual and brings man to the point where he overlooks injustice done; where, indeed, it may appear to him a meritorious act if committed in the interests of the nation."

The Socialist Party of Great Britain strives to turn the principle that the workers have no country into a living reality and to create a genuine human community. The working class come from many countries and speaks many languages but it is one universal class with the historic responsibility to confront the system of capitalist exploitation and oppression.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Independence - A bosses buy-out

Of the top 100 economies on the planet, 40 are corporations, the wealth of certain corporations dwarf the economies of some nations. Another little known fact is that less than 1% of corporations, mainly banks, control the shares of more than 40% of all global businesses. When it comes to who is big in this corporate world it is oil and gas, 7 out of the top 10 companies in the world are oil and gas.

The Scottish economy is controlled by the same hedge funds the same banks and the same multinational giants as the rest of Britain. Edinburgh is the UK's second financial centre after London and Europe's fourth by equity assets. Glasgow also has the third highest GDP Per capita of any city in the UK (after London and Edinburgh) Glasgow is now one of Europe's sixteen largest financial centres. The Financial Services Sector provides employment for 1 in 10 of the population and the Scottish economy is hugely dependant on it.  Scotland' GDP is £124 billion (excluding revenues from North Sea oil). Prior to the 2008 financial crisis Scotland ranked second only to London in the European league of headquarters locations of the 30 largest banks in Europe as measured by market value. Scotland is one of the world's biggest fund management centres with over £300bn worth of assets directly serviced or managed in the country.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


In a mock independence referendum students at Glasgow university voted "No" by a margin of nearly two to one. Just 967 votes (37 per cent) were cast in favour of independence, with 1,614 (62 per cent) against. There were eight spoiled ballots. In the actual debate, according to an Al-jazeera report, nationalists chanted “in-de-pendence”, while some at the back of the hall responded with cries of “the workers have no country.”

 The Socialist Party of Great Britain seeks to abolish all nation states and we stand firmly against the proponents of nationalism in Scotland and in other parts of the world. We make a call for workers of the world to unite. We do not think this demand is some utopian hope. Capitalism itself is leading the world in that direction of  breaking down national barriers with globalisation driving workers towards a potential of integrate and fuse.  Will socialism be achieved as the product of a big bang, a simultaneous, worldwide revolt of the working class and the oppressed? Or, because of differing national conditions and traditions, will social change be more fragmented and disjointed? The Socialist Party suggests the former. The global development of capitalism and the subsequent increasingly common conditions encountered by the international working class would support such a proposition. Do the pro-nationalist "socialists" believe an independent Scottish state will be socialist? If yes why do they not believe that England, Wales and countries beyond will move to socialism simultaneously. For if all those other countries do become socialist at the same time why would an independent Scotland differ from its neighbours? The working class in Scotland (and in England and Wales and elewhere) will remain on its knees and will remain so until workers around the world are effectively united effectively as a class and not by nationality. We are arguing that the only way forward for workers in Scotland, across Britain and the world is through their struggle and unity in the fight for socialism.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Patriotism? No thanks!

“Yet some can be patriotic who have no self-respect, and sacrifice the greater to the less. They love the soil which makes their graves, but have no sympathy with the spirit which may still animate their clay. Patriotism is a maggot in their heads.” - Henry David Thoreau

Nation-states have a logic of their own. So insidiously is the logic purveyed through the state’s institutions that it becomes common-sense. Like religion, it encourages devotion to a vague and ill-defined abstraction. Even in its most innocuous forms, patriotism is irrational. The World Cup and the Olympics are known for their unabashed displays of nationalism. Flags, patriotic chants, and cross-national rivalries are the order of the day. Football is the quintessential illustration of sociologist Benedict Anderson’s argument that nationhood itself represents an “imagined community”  –  an affinity between strangers who will never meet or hear of one another, but are bound by a mental image of shared history, often mythologized, and of common destiny. Nowhere is that community imagined more fiercely than in the football stadium, and among the hundreds of thousands gathered in pubs and living rooms across the country communing with those in the stadium urging their national team forward against those of other countries. Do hundreds of thousands of Scots gather in front of their TV sets on St Andrews Day to celebrate their nation by singing “Flower of Scotland”? No chance. But that’s exactly what happens when Scotland takes the field in a World Cup or Euro match. However, so eroded are national boundaries in the modern game that it mocks the very idea of a flag, anthem and passport that distinguishes between “us” and “them.” FIFA, recognizing the reality of massive and constant migration accelerated by economic globalization, allows a player to effectively “choose” a country to represent at senior level, even if they’d played for a different one all the way up to Under-21 level. The  cosmopolitan make-up of today’s football teams also negates the idea of a shared history lionized in national flags and anthems.*

The world moves on and nationalism is becoming less and less relevant in face of increasing globalisation. National differences and antagonisms between peoples are daily more and more vanishing owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life.

 Many a good Scot do not consider themselves as nationalist, instead they much  prefer the more noble label ‘Scottish patriot’. A patriot, so the idea goes, does not look down on other nations, but ‘instead only’ loves his own. The "Scottish nation" is meaningless: all "nations" are mongrel, a mixture of so many immigrations and mixings of peoples over time that the idea of a Scot is largely comical. Nation-hood is not the same as culture. There are many varied cultures within Scotland which is not some homogenised whole but like most countries, is a diverse and complex tapestry. If you take a person from Berwickshire and someone from Northumberland, separated by only a few miles and introduce them to a German, he's not going to be able to tell the difference, by looks, by dress, by accent, by mannerisms. Take somebody from Glasgow and Thurso and i am sure the German will recognise a difference in at least the accents.

Nationalism is the egg that hatches fascism it has been said. And patriotism is but the begetter of nationalism. Patriotism is highly toxic. When ingested, it corrodes the rational faculties. It gulls people into believing their leaders. It’s  wheeled out whenever a leader needs to improve his ratings. It masks those who benefit most from state policy. And it destroys the ability of people to come together across boundaries, to take on those with the most power: the multinationals.

All borders are fabricated myths, and with them the false concepts of immigration, emigration, nationality, national pride and patriotism. It is not the rich who ascribe topatriotism. They are perfectly at home in every land. Russian and Indian oligarchs living the high life in London. Celebrated Scots like Sean Connery and Jackie Stewart take up residence in foreign climes. Patriotism is not for the likes of wealthy.

The lottery of place of birth should not be used to cloud judgement. One cannot feel pride for being born Scottish, that was just the luck of the draw, you might well have been born Welsh. Patriotism is a fraud whereby would-be rulers "self-determine" to impose their vision of nationhood on an entire community. Nationalism is an ideology of separation, of hatred for the ‘other.’ It is a creed of oppression. What is necessary is to develop human solidarity, the instincts of mutual aid that enable us to survive and which have fueled all human progres. Throughout history, governments incessantly brainwash the minds of men, women and children with the evils of past foreign masters. The struggle against alienation is inherently a struggle against patriotism.

The Socialist Party doesn’t believe in patriotism. Our critics can call us unpatriotic but we will take pride in being unpatriotic. We never identify ourselves as Scots (or British) first and foremost, instead we define ourselves in terms of our socialist politics. Patriotism was born with the one and sole purpose: to control the masses; and so far it had done a very fine job.The process of creating the "Scotland" was awash in the blood of Scot slaughtering Scot. Nation-states can only be authoritarian and geared to the interests of a tiny elite. The working class is manipulated into identifying their well-being with the aims and ambitions of the ruling class. As classes within the nation disappear, the hostility of one nation to another will also come to an end.  Socialists work for the day "patriotism" will simply means being proud to be part of humanity. Or to perhaps adopt Eloise Bell's word, socialists are "matriots" those who loves Mother Earth.

"Conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot." -  Emma Goldman. 

* List of Scotland international players not born in Scotland
2009 data-list of foreign born players in the SPL
2011-12 season data list of 603 foreign SPL players

Saturday, February 09, 2013

class loyalty

The media and the political mouthpieces of capitalist ideology have done their job well. Scottish workers are being caught up by the "patriotism" of the referendum debate - either for independence or for the union. Capitalism has reached a point at which it threatens all humanity and not just the divided national, religious, racial (or other falsely labeled) identity groups.

The patriotism of the capitalist class is better called national chauvinism. This "patriotism" equates loyalty to the nation with loyalty to the capitalist-controlled government and its policies. It seeks the acquiescence of workers in the crimes, aggressions, depredations and depravities of the ruling class and its agents.  It is intended to trick workers into sanctioning whatever is deemed in the interests of the business class. It's nationalistic baloney asserts that our interests as a “nation” are totally bound up with, if not identical , to those of our exploiters. But as we know, in class societies the state does not serve everyone equally. Instead, its main efforts are directed to helping the class that rules over the economy. In capitalism, that means essentially helping the capitalist class accumulate capital, repress opposition to their exploitative rule, and legitimise all the forms in which this goes on.  But to do this job well, the state has to appear legitimate in the eyes of most of its citizens, which requires above all else that its consistent bias on behalf of the capitalist ruling class be hidden from view. The flag and other patriotic symbolism are crucial to the success of this effort. Throughout, emotions play a much larger role than reason or thinking generally, and the strongest emotion evoked by patriotism is the pleasure of belonging to a cooperative social community where everyone is concerned with the fate of others. Unfortunately, the social community only exists in the shadow of an illusory community dominated by the ruling economic class and its state, where none of this applies.

Then there is a form of patriotism to which workers should adhere; it is loyalty, not to the institutions of the nation, but to the people; more precisely, to the majority of the people -- the working class -- with whom they share a common material interest. For workers today, class consciousness -- loyalty to one's class -- is patriotism. International working-class interests are the paramount interests to be served -- not those of any capitalist nation state. Without solidarity to one's class and to one's comrades. workers are helpless in the face of the ruling class's monopoly of the means of production. If workers can stick together, they can respond to employers' control of work. Solidarity between workers is therefore an essential prerequisite for success in class struggle. Class consciousness is the key to working-class victory in ending the class struggle.

Patriotism works to disguise the real differences which exist amongst people—which are differences of class and which involve irreconcilable differences of interests—and to encourage workers to identify with the institution—the state—which is the primary defender of class society. The slogan “workers of the world unite” is in part a call on proletarians to acknowledge that their home is in the company of other members of their class wherever they are to be found.

Scotland is divided into two classes -- the working class and the class of employers/investors that lives off its labour.  We can wonder how a capitalist party which of course the SNP is can keep on winning all the elections. The answer often lies far less in their programs than in the flag and other patriotic symbols with which these programs come wrapped. Most workers vote against their class interests because they "love" their "country".

There are a various definitions of what class is. Many of them assign people to class groups on the basis of cultural and behavioural attributes such as dress, speech, education levels, shopping habits, and employment sector. Such concepts are fallacious in that they reduce class to a matter of choice, taste, when it is nothing of the sort. Whether you read the Sun or the Times, or whether you shop at Asda or at Sainsbury's, is entirely irrelevant. The middle class are, in reality, workers. They too have to sell their labour to a master in order to survive, and the fact that the wages of that labour may be more, or that the job may be “white collar” rather than “blue collar” is of no significance.

In essence, there are two classes: the working class and the capitalist or ruling class. What matters is your relation to capital. The working class are the vast majority of people on the planet, those who must sell their labour in order to earn a living and survive. The ruling class are, to use a rough figure, the top one-percent of society. They do not have to sell their labour or work, but instead are maintained by expropriating rent, interest, and profit from the working class who produce it. They are, in short, parasites. The bourgeoisie are united across the national divide and therefore so should we. The working class must unite to fight against attacks and refuse to be divided or distracted. This is the only way to defend the gains of the past and fight for a future society worth living in.

Working people have only one country—the planet earth. There is only one foreigner—the boss.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Fainthearts Not Bravehearts

“Let's not be English, French or German anymore. Let's be European. No not European, let's be men. Let's be Humanity. All we have to do is get rid of one last piece of egocentricity - patriotism." Victor Hugo

The curse of nationalism is not new. There is always a load of myth and romanticism surrounding nationalism. Nationalism is an idea that varies in time and places which has as it central core the belief that a national population group is the most important political category, and political rights are primarily given to individuals as members of nations. Many of the areas within the UK have arguably been "nations" at some time in the past. Nationalism, for the Left is garbed in “national liberation” clothes to make it sound even more revolutionary. Nations, borders and flags indeed give people identity but that national identity is made up for reasons of power and controlling of the population that the nation state has inside its borders. For nationalists, freedom is achieved when an independent local government is established. Nationalist politics, however, cannot deliver freedom for the majority of people. The capitalist state is a structure of coercion which concentrates power in the hands of a small ruling class and despite constitutions and “rights” the state makes it impossible for the mass of the people to actively participate in the decisions which affect their conditions of life.

 Why love a country more than any another simply on the basis of the bit of soil you happen to have been born on? The only thing that matters is class, not nationality or any of the other diversions that stop the "have nots" from challenging the "haves". Whilst the "have nots" are busy feuding with each other on behalf of the "haves" they are missing the real battle.  It is the working classes who are sent to war to kill and be killed on behalf of the "haves". They are the true enemy, not the working classes of other nations. Nationalism is a politics of a frustrated local elite who seek to build support for their own class programme by arguing that class alliances and independence are the way to resolve the genuine grievances of the people. Yet the local ruling class is dependent for its economic and political survival on the maintenance on close ties with other capitalists. They accumulate wealth by relying on the multi-national corporations, who it joins in joint business ventures. We reject the idea that there is a common "national interest" between the different classes within a "nation". Their interests are in direct contradiction. The phrase "national interests" hides the interests of the ruling classes, which are against the interests of the people themselves. Nationalism is not a vehicle for the expression of the will of the majority of the people - the workers - but is instead a tool of the ruling class. It serves to distract the people from their daily misery with a romantic invention, appealing to their emotion over their intellect in order to create a myth of "national interest", in which all classes of a country have more in common than their respective foreign brethren. The realisation of an independent Scotland means the realisation of the right of the local Scottish capitalists to take power and exploit the proletariat. It is capital that will continue to dominate our political institutions in whatever form they take and capital has no country. Separatism offers precisely nothing to the working class.

The Indian poet and Asia’s first Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore wrote:

"The last sun of the century sets amidst the blood-red clouds of the West and the whirlwind of hatred.
The naked passion of the self-love of Nations, in its drunken delirium of greed, is dancing to the clash of steel and howling verses of vengeance.
The hungry self of the Nation shall burst in a violence of fury from its shameless feeding.
For it has made the world its food.
And licking it, crunching it and swallowing it in big morsels,
It swells and swells
Till in the midst of its unholy feast descends the sudden shaft of heaven piercing its heart of grossness.

Nationalism as a source of war and carnage; death, destruction and divisiveness, rather than international solidarity remains at the heart of Tagore’s poem. He said that if nationalism is something imaginary, humanity has to readjust their imagination  by extending the horizon of their mind’s eye, so that the fellowship of the species does not stop at a geographical border. The mythical image of nationalism as as a movement of pioneering, progressive, pious, peace-loving nation-building has been more than exposed. Every form of nationalism is no less aggressive or bigoted than is ever the case under a system of society where the laws of the jungle are presented as being the rules of civilised conduct. Every nation's flag is dripping with the blood of its enemies; every ruling class pays for its power in other people's lives.

The Socialist Party case against nationalism is straightforward. We do not advocate re-drawing the border. No socialist will ever fight to defend any border — we want to do away with the divisiveness of countries and states. Nationalism can never be a solution to the problems of oppression. The problem is class, not national, racial, or religious origins. As a class, workers have no country. The Scots do not own Scotland. There are two classes in society: those who possess without producing and those who produce without possessing.  Some Scottish workers identify with the aims of their rulers — they see their national identity as more important than their class identity with other workers. In this they are dangerously mistaken. Workers across the globe share a common exploitation at the hands of an increasingly global capitalist class. Nationalism means lining up with the same people who exploit them. Rather than submitting to the divide-and-rule  policy of the nation state, they should fight alongside other workers who, like them, exist to enrich the people at the top. Socialists say that a Scottish worker has more in common with an English, French or German worker than they do with their own boss. Nationalism has served as a convenient weapon of ruling elites to keep “the people” on-side. All sorts of unpleasant dictatorships have stirred up nationalist fervour to prop themselves up. We seek to do away with artificial boundaries and borders. The world will not be divided into countries by lines drawn on a map by capitalists to mark out their property. Our vision for a free society is that of a working class revolution which can finally uproot and defeat capitalism which brings not only exploitation but alienation too. Our goal is the humanisation of the economic system. We condemn the capitalist system where it must always be "You or I" and rarely "You and I".

We advocate class war and declare that the capitalist can never have interests in harmony with the worker. We hold up socialism as the only hope of the workers.
“Its coming yet for a’ that"