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Correspondence: Unembarrassed by my No on Scotland

28 September 2014

Socialist Democracy has came in for quite a lot of criticism for adopting a ‘No’ position on the Scottish referendum with one comrade expressing his embarrassment at SD’s position. While recognising that advocating a No vote places me in a minority among the Nationalist and Republican milieu I feel no embarrassment in promoting this position as I feel that left republicanism understands the Leninist argument that the nationalism of the oppressed and the nationalism of the oppressor are two different things. Some republicans do indeed see Scotland as an oppressed victim of imperialism, they are mistaken and it would be the worst kind of opportunism to accommodate this political mistake. 

Outside of an acceptance of Scotland as an oppressed nation the reason most frequently given for supporting the ‘Yes’ campaign is that it is a blow against imperialism. This could only be the case if a superficial view of imperialism is taken. Irrespective of the chagrin of the Windsor parasites who, in any case, will remain as heads of state, Scotland will be tied to NATO, the Bank of England or alternately EU imperialism, implementing whatever austerity they command them to implement, just like the puppet Dublin administration at present. The British army will continue to exist and the Scottish Nationalists have a record in supporting every imperialist adventure they have embarked upon, including the Scottish regiments ‘patriotic’ duties carried out here in the northern colony.

More importantly the idea created that Scottish independence could solve the problems of the working class is dangerous, it creates illusions in a national solution to the problems of the working class when none exist, so no sooner would independence have been achieved, complete with a belief that Scottish workers should come before English ones, than the socialists who have supported this regressive campaign have to convince those same workers that their problems can only be solved by international class struggle based on class interests, not national interests. Scottish workers would be weakened when divorced from English workers and campaigns that originate in England could be settled in Scotland through social partnership style deals breaking workers unity. 

The position is reactionary and the effects of that can now be seen by Cameron’s delighted attempts to fragment the British working class further by plans to devolve powers to local level, promoting a dogfight between regional groups of workers over resources. The end result is a fragmented working class. The same is happening in Europe where the Catalans and the Northern League in Italy are greatly enthused by Scottish nationalism’s near miss.

It is not ironic in the slightest that the SP and SWP have taken this position, it is a logical extension of the former’s parliamentarism and the latter’s penchant for populist spontaneity. The real irony is that some republicans find themselves on the same side as people with an atrocious record on the national question in this country. In the longer term the perspectives of the reformist and centrist left is found wanting. The ‘parliamentary cretinism’ of a parliamentary road to socialism long touted by the SP has led them to this position where they lead Scottish workers up the garden path with illusions of a more ready possibility of a majority in Holyrood and an enabling act to see them through to socialism.

While evidence of the hairline fractures running through the British bourgeoisie is to be welcomed, the fragmentation of the British working class is not. The largest possible body of the working class stands the best chance of defeating British imperialism and attempts by a section of the Scottish bourgeoisie to grab their share of the oil is being supported by sections of the left with the deluded belief attached that this will benefit the Scottish workers, but the sub text reads … at the expense of the impoverished English working class. 

The argument has been made that the poorest working class areas voted for this - yes no doubt, but they are angry at the betrayals of the Labour liars and the lack of leadership in the face of endless cuts and shrinking living standards. Working class people want to lash out at the political establishment but victory in any struggles against the capitalist class will not be achieved by a majority in Holyrood but by unity in action on the streets and in the work places across the widest possible area against the class enemy. 

Workers’ gut reaction after decades of betrayal by the labour movement, including old labour, is understandable. It is hardly surprising that workers should look for another way to settle accounts with the political class in Westminster. The left political leadership should be judged more severely. Had the vote been Yes the spirit of the angry Scottish workers would have been redirected into ‘our’ Scottish parliament, their struggle would not have gone away but the political leadership that led them out to fight for Salmond’s petty capitalist daydream would have had to lead them out, under conditions of Irish style austerity, divorced from their English working class allies, to fight against it, perhaps with the battle cry “we were fooled”!

Now, if the undoubted optimism and energy of the alienated Scottish workers is turned against the real reason for their frustrations, the complete betrayal by reformist labour, if it confronts the union bureaucracy that presides over years of betrayal, it can reinvigorate the entire British labour movement, reignite the class struggle with a new vigour and strike real blows against British imperialism.

E. McLaughlin

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