The Scottish independence debate

Allan Armstrong of the Radical Independence Campaign debates Alan Mackinnon of the Red Paper Collective.

The case for Left Unity to actively support a ‘yes’ campaign in Scotland

Allan Armstrong, Radical Independence Campaign, Edinburgh branch

In the lead-up to the September 18 independence referendum, Scotland is currently awash with political debate. There is a direct correlation between class and voting intentions. The more wealthy and privileged you are, the more likely you are to support the unionist status quo; the more exploited and oppressed, the more you support independence.

Following the Scottish left’s setback after the Tommy Sheridan fiasco*, the SNP has been able to take the clear lead in the campaign for Scottish self-determination. A majority SNP government was elected to Holyrood in 2011. They initiated the independence referendum and set up the official ‘Yes’ campaign. In the process, the demand for genuine Scottish self-determination has been considerably diluted to win the backing of particular Scottish business leaders. They only want a local junior managerial buy-out of UK Ltd’s assets in Scotland, before resuming business both with their old British bosses and US Megacorp. By rebranding Scotland, they hope to get a bigger slice of the action.

Although the SNP’s ‘Independence-Lite’ proposals would remove Westminster’s particularly anti-democratic control over Scottish affairs, they still want to keep the monarchy and hence the long arm of the UK’s Crown Powers. They want to keep sterling and subordination to the City of London. They accept the continued role of the British High Command and participation in NATO, which they naively think can be combined with a ‘nimbyist’ opposition to Trident. There will still need to be a massive campaign in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote to ensure that the SNP leadership does not buckle in the face of NATO pressure.

The non-official ‘Yes’ campaign, which places little trust in the SNP’s ‘Independence-Lite’, is vibrant and open. There are many independent campaigning organisations, including Women for Independence, Asians for Independence and Africans for an Independent Scotland. There is also the Scottish left’s influential Radical Independence Campaign (RIC). RIC’s founding conference had 800 present, whilst its second conference had 1,100. To make a comparison with England, you would have to multiply these figures by ten, given the population difference.

In contrast, the ‘No’ campaign extends from the official Tory/Lib-Dem/Labour ‘Better Together’ coalition through the non-official UKIP, Ulster Unionists, Orange Order and other Loyalists, BNP and EDL/SDL. A ‘No’ vote has the firm backing of the City of London, as well as the US State Department and key EU bureaucrats.

The ‘No’ side dominates the official media. Never a day passes without the mainstream press and the BBC warning of the dire consequences we face if there is a ‘Yes’ vote. The worst examples come from Labour unionists. Scottish party leader, Johann Lamont, has said that, “The Scottish people are not genetically programmed to take political decisions”! Baron George Robertson, former New Labour defence minister and ex-NATO general secretary, claims that, “It would be cataclysmic for Scotland to become independent, it would aid the forces of darkness”!

Opinion polls show the gap narrowing between ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ supporters. In response, ‘Better Together’ has stepped up its self-styled ‘Project Fear’ to their even more desperate ‘Dambuster’ strategy. Westminster politicians, City of London and other business leaders, military spokesmen and well-paid hacks have launched a barrage of threats, including refusal to recognise the referendum outcome, economic sabotage and the erection of border posts.

The ‘Yes’ campaign has countered this with public meetings (scores throughout Scotland every week), street campaigning, mass voter registration and canvassing. This campaign has placed much emphasis on the social media and blogs such as bella caledonia. New books and pamphlets appear almost every week, reflecting the real thirst for politics, which the referendum campaign has opened up. There is a political buzz in the air.

So, what is the relevance of all this to socialists living in England and Wales? First, if there is a ‘Yes’ vote this will destabilise the Cameron government. It will seriously challenge the UK constitution. It will reduce the power of the UK state and make democratic reform difficult to resist. This can only encourage those who want real change. The potential unravelling of the UK’s constitutional set-up, combined with the current level of political mobilisation in Scotland beyond the control of the SNP government, ensures that we would be entering uncharted political territory. We live in interesting times.

Whilst the vast majority of the Left in Scotland support a ‘Yes’ vote, there is still opposition to supporting the exercise of Scottish self-determination amongst sections of the British unionist Left. The more benign tell us, “OK, good on you, we wish you the best”, but we have our own struggles to conduct. Essentially, they are saying that what is happening in Scotland is of little relevance to them and argue for non-participation in any campaign of solidarity.

Beyond this group lies a more dogmatic British unionist Left. They like to invoke Britain’s ‘progressive’ legacy. They represent a continuation of the old Whig notion, which sees Britain as a progressive ‘nation’. This stance morphed, under the old Social Democratic Federation/British Socialist Party, into the notion of a ‘British road to socialism’.

This was opposed, first by James Connolly after 1896, and by John Maclean after 1919. These two republican socialists pursued a ‘break-up of the UK and British Empire’ strategy. This reached its highpoint in the International Revolutionary Wave from 1916-21.

However, when this wave ebbed, an updated form of a ‘British road to socialism’, focussing on campaigning within the parameters of the UK state, emerged in the infant CPGB. This legacy was passed on to the wider British left. It was only when the UK state showed itself to be in irreversible decline from the 1960s that an ‘internationalism from below’ strategy once more became possible.

To counter this, the British unionist Left claims that ‘Britain’ has united the workers in these islands. The British trade union movement, the British Labour Party, or members of their own particular British socialist sect, all constitute responses to the existence of the UK state. They hope to carry forward a ‘great united’ British working class tradition.

There are considerable problems with this. There is now little evidence of such organisational unity in practice. The TUC and British trade union leaders, sometimes grudgingly, accept the UK state framework. They refuse to encourage defiance of the anti-trade union laws. These were left intact after 13 years of New Labour rule. Any all-Britain, or all-UK actions are confined to token protests. The one-day UK-wide public sector pensions strike on November 30 2011 was a classic example, followed immediately by an ignominious climb down.

British trade union leaders can play the hybrid British nationalist card – e.g. Scottish-British versus English-British workers – to divide workers. Labour-supporting trade union officials invoked defence of Scottish steel to stop Ravenscraig being picketed during the Miners’ Strike. Labour leaders in England have blamed political pressure in Scotland for the threat to jobs at the Portsmouth naval shipyard. Meanwhile, Glasgow’s Labour council have created Arms Length Management Organisations (Almos) to counter the threat of council workers’ united action. Here, far from assisting the unity of all British workers, Labour is involved in disuniting workers working from the same office building!

Therefore disunity is an existing problem, not one that will be created by independence. Within the UK’s boundaries there are already Scottish and Northern Irish unions (e.g. EIS and NIPSA), all-Ireland unions (e.g. INTO), British unions (e.g. PCS), UK unions (e.g. FBU) and all islands unions (e.g. Unite). Unity can be achieved across political boundaries, and is best maintained through democratic federal structures. We now need EU-wide organisation. State unity is not the same as trade union unity.

The pernicious effects of a British unionist approach go deeper than ‘One Nation’ Labour, or trade union leaderships providing little more than a free personnel management service for the bosses under ‘social partnerships’. Much of the wider British left also goes along with a passive acceptance of the UK’s constitutional framework. Within this, they hope to oppose austerity through escalating strike action, leading only to a change of government, not to a real challenge to the UK state.

Hence, their ‘Down with the Con-Dem coalition: In with Labour!’ Yet Miliband and Balls both support Osborne’s public spending limits and welfare cap. Labour are already in coalition with the Tories in seven of Scotland’s local councils.

Len McCluskey, after getting Unite to vote for Ed Miliband as Labour leader, pursued a strategy of trying to reclaim Labour for the left (or more accurately for leftist careerists). However, this strategy became totally unstuck in the Falkirk constituency. Grangemouth oil refinery workers paid heavily, in terms of jobs and conditions, when Unite abjectly capitulated in the face of Ineos boss Ratcliffe’s threats. In April, Miliband was able to organise a special Labour Party conference to further marginalise any trade union input into the party.

Left populist ‘Nat-basher’, and one-man ‘No’ campaigner George Galloway claims to oppose all that Blair and New Labour stood for, yet he sees some positive features in Miliband (it’s probably that ‘One Nation’ tag!). When asked what his alternative to Scottish independence is, he says he wants to reclaim Labour. Yet, the Labour leadership won’t even allow him back in the party, no matter how much he scrapes and begs!

The Scottish referendum has also created problems for some ‘revolutionary’ left unionists. UK politics is not following the course prescribed in their theories and programmes. They see no potential in the break-up of the UK, since this state provides their chosen framework to unite the ‘British working class’.

But the UK unites the British ruling class. The unionist state form allows those components of this class – English-British, Scottish-British, Welsh-British and ‘Ulster’-British – to protect their particular sectional interests on their home patch, whilst using this state to disunite the working class throughout these islands.

Despite having no mandate in Scotland, the Tories under Thatcher used this unionist state to test-run the poll tax on Scotland, one year earlier than England and Wales. New Labour corralled its Scottish MPs to vote for foundation hospitals in England only, in the face of an English Labour rebellion. The UK state’s retention of such reactionary features as a Protestant monarchy, and 26 Anglican bishops in the House of Lords, gives succour to Loyalist reaction in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

In a situation of continued imperial decline and economic crisis, the UK and Labour, far from encouraging some form of higher international working class unity, are retreating further and further into British chauvinism. A British ruling class, with its backs to the wall, is resorting to harsher and harsher measures. They look to Nigel Farage and UKIP to push British politics further to the right with their anti-migrant, anti-‘benefit scrounger’ offensive. ‘One Nation’ Labour meekly follows.

It would be the right who would benefit from any ‘No’ vote in September. The British unionist left, their heads in the sand, fall back on a propagandist approach and an abstract internationalism. Unity of the working class is confused with the unity of the state. Yet Labour is actively dismantling the social monarchist welfare state it assiduously built-up after 1945. Since Tony Blair came to office, Labour has hollowed out any remnant progressive notions of ‘Britishness’ in these islands. What remains is little more than sentimental nostalgia.

Some dream of a final federal British ‘solution’. They are unaware that this has long been the British ruling class’s last-ditch option, whenever their state is faced with potential break-up. Such federalism is brought out of the Liberal Party’s ‘deep-freeze’, where it has been kept for more than a century!

Another consequence of the British left’s tacit acceptance of ‘Britain’ is that some unsavoury aspects of UK state politics have become hardwired into many left organisations. Collective Cabinet responsibility and secrecy are mirrored in their bureaucratic centralism and domination by London, with a focus on Westminster politics. Rebuildling an effective socialist opposition involves mounting a challenge to this legacy.

Internationalism does not come about through the left reacting to ruling class initiatives within a UK state framework. The break-up of some states and the merger of others is part and parcel of capitalist globalisation within which popular struggles and democratic movements are reshaping the world. Genuine internationalism is about uniting working people regardless of borders. It is not making a fetish of defending existing borders.

The British ruling class knows its state is in decline and under mounting threat. Their most recent attempt to hold the line – the Irish ‘Peace Process’ and ‘Devolution-all-round’ for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – was designed to create the conditions for maximum corporate profitability in these islands. The Great Crash of 2007 has undermined this project.

This opens up exciting prospects for socialists. The Scottish independence referendum allows the left to take the political initiative on a socialist republican ‘internationalism from below’ basis, uniting workers in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Our immediate aim should be to promote active solidarity and create democratic, secular and social republics. In the process, we can develop those independent and democratic organisations, which enable our class to increase its political influence and to go on and take power.

This is the Scottish internationalist spirit, which RIC hopes will encourage socialists in England, Wales, Ireland and indeed, elsewhere in the EU. We look forward to winning support from members of Left Unity in working together.

* Footnote: By 2004 the Scottish Socialist Party had made enough of an impact on Scottish politics to have 6 MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. The SNP fell back in both votes and seats. The SSP initiated the republican Declaration of Calton Hill and organised the well-publicised and supported protest against the royal opening of the new parliament building at Holyrood. Had these successes been built on, the left could have taken the lead of the movement for Scottish self-determination. However, the SSP’s best-known MSP, Tommy Sheridan, became caught up in a scandal that went to court and divided the Scottish left. This left it open for the SNP to regain the political initiative.


Look before you leap – independence would be on the SNP’s terms, not ours

Alan Mackinnon, Red Paper Collective

Many socialists in Scotland, frustrated by four years of savage austerity under a Con-Dem government that Scots did not vote for, now argue that Scotland would be better off as an independent state – freed to take its own decisions about its own future. The prospect of a growing, socialist-oriented Scottish economy with an independent nuclear-free foreign policy sounds attractive, doesn’t it? So what’s not to like?

Let us start with a reality check. For socialists, any constitutional change in Scotland must be measured against its potential to challenge the power of big business, bring the economy under democratic control, redistribute wealth and promote public ownership. When Scots vote in September this year they will not be voting for independence in the abstract. The terms of that independence may not be on the ballot paper, but they are spelled out clearly in the Scottish government’s White Paper. It will be a Scotland with the Queen as head of state, the pound as its currency, membership of the EU and membership of NATO.

At the SNP Spring Conference this year Alex Salmond stated that the Scottish government would start negotiations with the British government immediately after a Yes vote. Sadly the socialist left in Scotland lacks mass support, has no electoral base and no MSPs. The negotiations on the terms of independence, therefore, will be dominated (on the Scottish side) by the SNP leadership with, at best, token representation for the left. The same will apply to the constitutional convention which will determine the terms of Scotland’s new constitution.

The White Paper argues that we should keep the pound sterling as Scotland’s currency. This may be reassuring to Scots voters who have watched the horror-show implosion of the Eurozone with growing concern. But all three Westminster parties have now stated that they are opposed to sharing the pound with an independent Scotland. Of course this could simply be pre-referendum bluster. It is entirely possible that an agreement will ultimately be reached but it will be another point of leverage for the UK government and it will come at a price. The minimum price will be Bank of England control over Scotland’s budget. As the price for acting as lender of last resort the Bank of England will insist on some kind of ‘stability pact’ which will give it oversight of Scotland’s taxation, spending and borrowing plans. Austerity will be imposed on a future Scots economy just as surely as it is today, but we will have given up any representation at Westminster where the powers still exist to bring the Bank back under democratic control. By agreeing to this the Scottish government will have given away control of the key levers over the Scottish economy – interest rates and the supply of money.

The second issue is membership of the European Union. The enduring myth is that this is a benign trading bloc but the reality is rather different. It is an expanding European superstate shaped to serve the interests of Europe’s biggest companies and by-pass the democracy of member states. Neoliberalism is written into the very DNA of the EU and is imposed mercilessly. Witness the treatment of Greece, Portugal and Ireland. The EU is driving a programme of austerity and privatisation across Europe (including Britain), creating mass unemployment, part time working and cutting services everywhere. The Lisbon Treaty established the primacy of EU law over the laws of member states and the articles of the treaty would have to be written into any future Scottish constitution, enshrining neoliberal economics as the only game in town.

If Scotland’s national debt were negotiated on a per capita basis it would be around 80-90% of GDP. The new ‘stability pact’ (now called the Treaty for Stability, Coordination and Governance) tightens EU budgetary control so that members states’ spending deficits are limited to 0.5% of GDP and national debt no greater than 60%. This would immediately place Scotland within the Excess Deficit Programme, requiring further measures of austerity – cuts in public spending, downward pressure on wages and more privatisation. Moreover, new EU regulations give the European Commission prior oversight of the draft budget of every signatory member state. In other words, the EU and the Bank of England would have a double lock on austerity in an independent Scotland. EU membership would also preclude intervention in the economy such as state aid or public ownership of strategic industries – according to the argument that such state aid distorts the market and is anti-competitive. And these are surely essential powers for any aspiring socialist government.

Third is the issue of NATO membership. The SNP leadership wants an independent Scotland to join NATO. This, of course, is a Cold War military alliance which was never about countering any threat to Europe or America but was always about binding member states into support for US foreign policy and overseas intervention. Scotland in NATO would find it very hard to avoid its troops being drawn into conflict on NATO missions around the world. Virtually every NATO member state (and there are now 28) has had troops fighting in Afghanistan over the past decade. In fact, the SNP supports the war in Afghanistan and supported the intervention in Libya – so NATO would be pushing at an open door. Just as important, NATO membership would make it much harder, if not impossible, to get rid of Britain’s Trident fleet. Trident is assigned to NATO. It would be asking to join a military alliance which has nuclear weapons as the cornerstone of its strategic concept while at the same time wanting to get rid of the alliance’s main nuclear strike force. It is hardly likely that NATO member states – least of all the United States – would sit back and allow that to happen.

And remember, this is the Scotland we will be voting for, not independence in the abstract, but an ‘independent’ Scotland with an unelected head of state, without control over its own currency, whose economic policies are controlled by the Bank of England and the European Union and whose foreign policy is dictated by NATO. All of this would be very hard to change.

This, therefore, would be independence in name only. It is independence on the terms set by big business. That’s why the SNP’s millionaire backers are happy to support it. Cutting corporation tax to 3% below the level of the rest of the UK (already historically low) will not only be a race to the bottom for Scots workers, but would also undercut their colleagues south of the border, undermining wages and conditions and promoting disunity across Britain. It will divide and weaken the trade union movement, the foundation for any social advance. Within a few years, Scotland and rest of the UK would have separate trade unions as their economies begin to diverge. Real social change will be more difficult to achieve. A Scottish government, even if supported by a mass movement, would find it very hard to influence decisions taken in London, Brussels or New York. And overwhelmingly Scotland’s main export earning industries – oil and gas, electronics, food and drink (including whisky), warship building, banking and services, and public utilities – are owned and controlled externally, most of them at the level of the City of London or further afield. The British ruling class is organised at UK level. It makes sense for the working class to unite and act at that level also. Yes, you could still have international solidarity across national boundaries, but it is never the same as the same unions negotiating the same wages and conditions across the same multinational state. That unity would be lost.

There is, of course, an alternative – and one that is supported overwhelmingly by Scots in opinion polls and is spelled out in much greater detail in the book Class, Nation and Scotland, published by the Red Paper collective in September 2013. More powers for the Scottish Parliament would allow it to borrow and take land, property and enterprises into public ownership. Scotland’s industrial base could be rebuilt on green technology, renewables and high value manufacturing. Wealth could be redistributed across Britain from London and the south-east to Scotland and the poorer regions of England and Wales. The existing Barnett formula only partially does that. But above all, a labour movement united at British level is better able to challenge the concentration of wealth and power at UK level and bring the economy under democratic control.

Don’t let the politics of despair cloud your judgement. The independence that is on offer will weaken, not strengthen, the ability of working people in Scotland and the rest of the UK to challenge the grip of big business, redistribute wealth and take control of their own lives. It must be rejected.

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49 responses to “The Scottish independence debate”

  1. John McArdle says:

    Don’t let the politics of ideological debate cloud your judgment. Disabled people are literally dropping dead under the status quo. The very idea that a No vote can strengthen anybody is a pure fiction and a dangerous one at that for our people who are being annihilated by this toxic union.

    Independence may not be a panacea for all our ills but it will save lives. After independence I believe that the Scottish Left will achieve things that others will not be able to hold a candle up to. As for the Red Tories: You can just forget it!


  2. sandy says:

    Greg Philo puts a socialist anti-independence case here;

    • John Tummon says:

      Yes, Sandy, he does, but it mostly consists of is a detailed critique of the SNP’s politics and of the strength of globalised capitalism, which he argues causes small states such as what Scotland might become to compete to attract capital via lower corporation tax.

      The essence of my argument is, as I have made clear in my response to your 30 points on the other thread about this, is that the future is there to be made after the fresh start that independence would deliver by a socialist movement energised by the RIC campaign taking place in the unusual context of mass politicisation and seeking, with great success so far, to break the political disillusionment of the poorest communities by a voter registration campaign that is building class consciousness in readiness for struggles ahead. The SNP may well lose their mojo as well as their momentum, when independence is achieved, to new parties of left and right that represent different versions of what they want a new Scotland to be. With a Labour Party that is identified with a lost unionist project and its New Labour accomodations, the space is there for a new mass party of the left.

      We know what to expect from the right wing in Scotland after independence; our job us to make sure they don’t get it without one hell of a fight.

    • Ray G says:

      Highly recommend the piece the link that Sandy supplies. Interesting thoughtful, and sadly rather depressing.

      One danger is that if there is a narrow “no” vote, then the English residents in Scotland may well be victimised as Traitors etc. This is already being expressed in the blogosphere, and it is a very sad development, which is probably irreversible now.

      • Iain Simpson says:

        All residents of Scotland, regardless of their countries of origin, are participating in the referendum on both sides.

        If anti-English writings were in the blogosphere we would know about it as it would be all over the Unionist media. There is nothing that the Better Together NO campaign enjoy more than helping the Daily Mail to demonise and other YES activists.

        It is always interesting that people who complain of anti-Englishness never provide links to it. It does make me wonder about the motive.

  3. WGreendale says:

    “But all three Westminster parties have now stated that they are opposed to sharing the pound with an independent Scotland.”

    I believe an independent state may freely choose which currency it uses, without asking permisson from anyone. It’s just that if it chooses to use a currency that is not issued by its own central bank or government, it doesn’t have control over (the total amount of) that currency and needs to be perhaps even more careful with the real economics than a country which issues its own currency.

  4. Iain Robertson says:

    Alan Mackinon’s fundamental argument is that, under the SNP, an independent Scotland would be pretty much the same. Not quite. Already the SNP attempts to ameliorate aspects of the austerity measures and can be expected to continue this post independence, so, for that reason alone why not go for it? Much more important, though, is the opportunity for a significant political shift post independence. Although the SSP was a brief flame it demonstrated two things. First, that the Scottish left could unite and second, that the Scottish electorate were prepared to support it. Many on the left in Scotland (though not all) have learned valuable lessons from the decline of the SSP and it is not reSonable to suppose that, post independence, the SNP will have a free hand to do as it wants.
    Finally, the choice is not just between a Scottish working class alone against the power of international capital,etc OR stay with the uk in order to be, notionally, united with the working classes of England, Wales and a bit of Ireland. Once the uk is broken (and this is exactly the situation in the event of a Yes vote) new, bottom up alliances will form

  5. Iain Simpson says:

    The idea that Scotland should vote NO or we’ll end up in the EU and NATO is a fatuous argument unworthy of bringing to the debate.

    Even the title of Alan Mackinnin’s case against independence, “independence would be on the SNP’s terms, not ours”, begs the question, would the dependency of a NO be on the Tories terms?

    Let us look at the issue of NATO and Trident: currently Scotland is a part of a member state and the UK’s stockpile of WMDs are located 25 miles from our largest city.

    Trident accounts for 1% of the world’s atomic arsenal. It is an expensive irrelevance and even US officials have suggested that it needs to go, “They [UK] can’t afford Trident, and they need to confront the choice: either they can be a nuclear power and nothing else or a real military partner.”

    A vote for independence is a vote for nuclear disarmament. As the 2012 report, ‘Trident: Nowhere to Go’, clearly explains, there is nowhere in rUK where the facilities at Faslane and Coulport can be replicated.

    The majority of MSPs and Scottish MPs have voted against Trident renewal, and if we are being asked to believe that nuclear disarmament will somehow happen through the actions of Westminster we are being taken for fools.

    Again, membership of NATO is something that is more likely to be addressed by Holyrood than Westminster and it’s tranche of Labour ‘Lords’.

    As RIC has shown, there is an important class dimension to the independence debate, it is just a shame that the Red Paper Collective has chosen its allies so recklessly.

  6. Mary McIlroy Hipwell says:

    There is a bigger question hanging over this debate. If Scotland votes for independence on the basis of a narrow majority, with some regions voting strongly for one side and other regions for the other side, constitutional chaos could ensue. Just because the SNP see Scotland continuing as one country does not mean that it would. The referendum is a Pandora’s box – once the norm of major constitutional change is established who can say that other groups will not seize the opportunity to join in? Perhaps Edinburgh and Fife could in a further vote become part of Northumberland. The UK government has already raised the issue that the necessary legislation to enable negotiations to start post vote would have to be passed by the UK parliament, giving anti EU groups the chance to amend the legislation to deal with EU matters. Money is already leaving Scotland, and many people I have spoken to say they will leave Scotland in the event of yes vote (Scottish and English). This will destabilise Scotland economically. The combination of political, constitutional and economic destabilisation can lead to extreme events.

    • John Tummon says:

      I hadn’y thought of that aspect, Mary, but it there actually much evidence for big regional disparities within Scotland on this issue – none of the polls I have seen are broken down in this way? Edinburgh stands to get so much out of getting the full range of capital city institutions, services and other projects that come with this that its bourgoeisie would be cutting off its nose to spite its face, wouldn’t it?

      In the longerr term, if independence is secured, and if the London-centric economic policy continues for a 4th or 5th decade, might not parts of northern England and Wales think about joining Scotland?

      Such speculation can be endless and meaningless, but its interesting, too. Once a polity that has been so settled for so long starts to disintegrate, it creates new horizons, new dreams and opens peoples’ political imagination up – that’s what I like about it.

    • sandy says:

      It is shetland’s oil!

      Already some are calling for Shetland to become independent


  7. Robboh says:

    Are any LU candidates standing in the EU elections?

  8. M. Jones says:


    We are witnessing the political collapse of a large section of the left in Scotland into outright nationalism – the abandonment of confidence in the working class the agent for changing the nature of society. instead this “left” is rushing round sowing illusions in what is essentially a blind bet on the SNP to deliver some kind of alternative to austerity. This is what the call for a YES vote in the independence referendum by the likes of the SWP and the forces around RIC amounts to. This was underlined today by the horrible sight of the Glasgow Mayday rally in which the largest number of flags being carried were saltires – surely no serious socialist would want to be seen dead carrying the flag of their “own” country on Mayday particularly when it is part of the core of imperialism like Scotland. Just to underline this level of this political collapse the Trades Council played clips of old Mayday marches in Glasgow at the final rally – not a single saltire was in evidence among the trade union and political banners and red flags.
    One thing is absolutely certain – the blind bet on the SNP will fail – Scotland cannot avoid austerity by separating form the rest of the UK. The capitalist class internationally has made it quite clear that it expects austerity meaning systematic attacks on workers living standards everywhere its writ runs. The point of Alex Salmond’s recent speeches in the US and in Bruges was to underline the SNP’s obedience to the requirements of the US and the EU whether that is carrying out austerity or participating in the military aggression of NATO. In a capitalist Scotland there is no alternative whether “independent” or not.
    Finally the major impact of independence would be to divide the British working class and leave it weakened in the face of the attacks to come. While this may not matter to the left that has collapsed into nationalism and abandoned the working class – it does to those of us who still see it as the only possible agent for liberating humanity.

    • John Tummon says:

      You clearly have not bothered to read or think about Allan Armstrong’s piece at the start of this thread, so why are you on it? Every LU thread on this board is about responding to the thinking in the first post – that is what discussion and debate means, not just spamming your own views on the same topic!

      • sandy says:

        Glasgow may Day 2014

        Matt is right. It is bad sign when Mayday in Glasgow is dominated by the flag of the Scottish establishment- the Saltire. I note the royal standard of scotland- the lion rampant- was also being flown in the left nationalist contingent. In Glasgow there is no sign of a mass upsurge in working class self activity for socialism. The referendum campaign has certainly not produced that. There is however a sign of growth of organized nationalism within the working class. This growth is thankfully limited but it is real. I dont see RIC fighting to increase socialist consciousness within the working class but rather I believe they are pushing the politics of radical nationalism. Their main slogan is “Britain is for the rich- Scotland can be Ours”. They are attempting to replace working class politics with the politics of national resentment.It is not a positive sign for the future. We need to unite workers in the struggle against austerity. Not to divide them on the basis of nationality. Our flag is red


    • Joe Barr says:

      I guess its just a matter of how we see things; this link to another video shows a complete dearth of scottish flags (except for a small(ish) cluster near the back).

      but its enough for you & Sandy to pronounce “the political collapse of a large section of the left in Scotland into outright nationalism – the abandonment of confidence in the working class.”

      Or this from Sandy “It is bad sign when Mayday in Glasgow is dominated by the flag of the Scottish establishment- the Saltire.”

      I was there, although I cheated as usual, I waved them off at the square, got a lift to the gate of Glasgow Green and waved them home. For those who don’t know me I have osteoarthritis in my spine, knees & hands. I did not see a mass of Scottish flags, there were more than usual I agree, but dominated? Sometimes I despair.

      Joe Barr.

      • sandy says:

        Well whatever way you look at it Joe- the radical independence campaign (RIC) section of the March was dominated by the flag of the Scottish establishment -the saltire. Presumably if RIC were bigger there would be even more saltires on the May day march. Possibly a clue as to the real nature of the politics of RIC- Scottish nationalist.

        Why are the saltire and the lion rampant being flown in large numbers at the May day demonstration? A sign of progress or decay?


    • John Pennery says:

      I agree with every word of your post, M. Jones.

      This is of course not the first time that in a period of political defeat and retreat by the working class and socialist organisations and ideology, that the Left has latched on to supposedly “progressive” non-socialist, and non working class campaigns and movements , in the forlorn hope that somehow the “historical process of socialist transformation” can be carried and implemented for a while by these entirely non sociaist movements. The Left’s ideological and organisational capitulation to Stalinism is of course the worst historical example. But also the uncritical “fan-club ” type approval by the Left of ambiguous and often in reality viciously anti working class national liberation/anti imperialist movements like Nasserism , Baathism, the stalinist ANC/SACP , and the stalinist regime in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, are examples of this gross “substitutionism” so often engaged in by the Left. In the context of serious national liberation struggles as in Vietnam and South Africa there is at least some excuse for the Left forgetting that its support should be conditional and critical. In the context of the historic fantasy-based petty nationalism promoted by the SNP in Scotland – by a bunch of declassee middle class opportunist PR men/women,consultants, lawyers/media lovvies – in a supposed distinct “nation” ,today entirely lacking a distinct national Big Bourgeoisie, the willingness of so many on the socialist Left to “tail” all the bogus “it’ll all be GREAT in a new “independent Scotland” nonsense promoted by the nationalists, is truly gobsmacking.

      There is no “progressive” aspect to the fantasy of an “independent” Scotland . Its a complete diversion from the fight to unite the working class, not only within Britain, but across Europe , and beyond. The age of “progressive” nationalism withiin the core capitalist states ended hundreds of years ago during the rise of bourgeois capitalism. Today all the petty nationalist movements – even those cloaking themselves in lots of “Left” policies and rhetoric, are simply distracting the working classes from the realities of globalised capitalism , and the need to combat it in bigger and bigger united working class battalions.

      • Ray G says:


        Hm – well, rather robustly expressed as always, but in its essentials I agree with you completely. I fear we have lost the battle, though, and I think it is extremely likely that the vote will be “yes”. The important thing is to prepare now to build a left party in Scotland, regardless of the result, either to fight austerity in a united Britain or to pick up the pieces when/if the nationalist dreams start to crumble.

        The main issue, as you say, is the historical weakness of the left and globally this has understandably led to all sorts of alternative developments, such as radical Islam, identity politics, single-issue obsessions and, of course, nationalism.

        In the case of Scotland the capitulation of the most popular Scottish party – Labour – to outright neo-liberalism allowed the SNP to garner protest votes, and now the shockingly poor, flag-waving, collaborationist, Labour performance as part of the Tory “better together” campaign seems to be driving people into the arms of the nationalists, including their ‘born-again’ left supporters. Just something else on my list of reasons never to forgive the Labour Party

      • John Tummon says:

        I take it you are not John Penney, but someone entirely different trying to confuse us! Please clarify!

  9. Peter Barlow says:

    Sadly, the referendum is a distraction from the crucial issue of how to reverse the redistribution of wealth and power from the poor to the rich.

    Certainly that redistribution will continue if the vote is No.
    But will the multinationals (sucked-up-to, perhaps, by Alex Salmond) allow anything better in an independent nation? Possibly, but it is not a foregone conclusion and not the most likely outcome.

    One undoubted benefit of independence would be that we would never need to vote SNP again!

    My feared outcome of a No vote would be retribution from Westminster for daring to challenge our “betters”. And conveniently aimed at changing the economic and political structures so that the question could never be asked again without needing to destroy Scotland’s prosperity. It took two referendums to achieve devolution. They won’t allow us a second chance again, on the independence issue.

  10. Miguel Martinez says:

    I think nationalism is clearly an area of concern for many on the left. We are internationalists in some form or another but whilst the comments here show caution and concern Left Unity should rethink the nature of the British state and contribute to debates about its form. It is important to acknowledge that many in Scotland are sick to death of an English dominated state that fails to reimagine a post imperial Britain. Being dominated by a right to the south that imposes neo-liberal policies and a left that in large measure is unable to break the DNA of the imperial state (House of Lords, Monarchy, militarised culture, and class ridden education) has led to a social view of independence. Yes Scotland may not become a series of Soviets after any independence but it will seek to remind us that the UK needs fundamental reform and we can’t wait until good people like us hold a majority is some future millennium. This is a historic moment and something is being done somewhere on these islands that is – yes – contradictory but imaginative. I think some of the concerns here are legitimate but it’s for us to realise that beyond Scottish independence there is no similar event rethinking the British state at present.

  11. ajohnstone says:

    i stand to be corrected but i struggle to find any historical precedent where nationalism led to an advance towards socialism.

    It seems to me where there existed an alliance between nationalists and socialists in the past, the nationalist sector always prevailed and the socialist influences withered.

    Like i said, i would be curious to know examples from the past which showed that the nationalism strengthened the movement for socialism, so fire away with your lists.

    • John Tummon says:

      Stand corrected, then, ajohnstone: Castro started off as a nationalist but socialists like Guevara won through when the US Bay of Pigs invasion and subsequent embargo persuaded the nationalist wing of the Cuban rebellion to go more radical. There are several other examples from 1970s African liberation struggles, but the socialist regimes set up got inevitably entangled in the Cold War, which distorted their development.

      In short, it tends to be the power of imperialism rather than the domestic BOP between nationalists and socialists within movements for self-determination that is decisive.

      However, this list is longer than the occasions in which a socialist revolution has been carried out without any dimension of self-determination involved in it, for the same reason, so I don’t think your argument holds.

      • ajohnstone says:

        What is revealing about your answer is that you consider Cuba , which was already independent albeit a client state of the US which it then substituted to become a client state of the USSR as somehow closer towards socialism under Castro. You may claim Castro the nationalist switched to being a socialist but it can equally be claimed he never stopped being a nationalist and tailored his conception of “socialism” to fit his nationalism.

        Perhaps an anarchist analysis reflects the real nature of Cuba

        Perhaps it might be more helpful to me if you detail the list of the socialist revolutions that had an absence of nationalism to them.

  12. sandy says:

    Yes- a non nationalist argument for Scottish independence by Neil Davidson

    A more accurate title would be “leftist excuses for supporting the Scottish nationalist project”

    as is normal with RIC supporters the socialist case for a no vote is not really engaged with. Given that Neil spent most of his political life arguing against the call for scottish independence the failure to deal with the marxist case against Scottish independence cant be based on simple ignorance- it can only be based on a desire not to explain his own political history and the history of the marxist movement in Britain on the question of scottish independence.

    Those Marxists calling for a no vote are presented as defenders of the integrity of the british state and thus a variant of british nationalism. However the marxist case is not to defend the british state but the opposite- to defnd the unity of the working class in its fight against that state. As all leninists know the highest form of workers unity is expressed in a united socialist party. Neils opposition to a british wide socialist party ( not explicitly stated but implied in this article) is the clearest expression of his break from marxism towards nationalism.

    Lastly his claim that non nationalists can support the movement for scottish independence is true but only in the sense that you can go on an orange walk and think of yourself as an open minded friend of the catholic church. The truth is that if you are on an orange walk you are supporting the bigots even if you are quietly humming the internationale while the drums beat out the sash


    • sandy says:

      The most ridiculous part of the argument for scottish independence put forward by Neil Davidson is the claim that the process of Scottish separation will not weaken the unity of the working class in Britain. But it is surely obvious that the rise of scottish nationalism is itself an example of the weakening of the unity of the working class in Britain. Class consciousness has declined as the support for nationalism has grown. But that is as nothing compared to the dangers of the growth of national antagonism during the period following a yes vote. How are the assets and liabilities of the British state to be divided? The arguments around this will provide much fuel to the fire of national distrust and provide a platform for nationalist populists on both sides of the border. How could that not effect working class unity and the feeling of solidarity between workers on either side of the border? What good will come to the working class from such nationalist disputes? Anyway the refusal of left separatists like RIC to support the building of a british wide socialist party is itself an obvious sign that they are not serious about preserving working class unity. Do they deny that the highest form of working class unity is the political unity expressed by a united socialist party and a common program promoting working class power. If they were serious about defending working class unity against the forces of nationalism, and not just engaging in sophistry, they would understand that the promotion of a united socialist party of the working class is even more important in this period given the nationalist pressures that the rise of separatism has and will produce. Not to mention the rise of the even more malignant form of nationalism in the form of UKIP. How can the working class move forward by fragmenting on a nationalist basis? It cant

    • John Tummon says:

      So, Sandy, it turns out that you are an unreconstructed Leninist, full of abstract international rhetoric from the early 20th century, who relegates all movements for self-determination as diversions from the class struggle. How on earth do you find time from your duties as a solicitor to spam quite so much onto this and the other thread on this topic?

      • sandy says:

        John T

        You misunderstand my position – I dont view the movement for Scottish “self determination”, led by the SNP, as a “diversion” from the class struggle- the scottish independence movement is part of the class struggle being waged against the working class by a section of the scottish establishment which aims to split Scottish workers from the british labour movement and its historic traditions of workers unity.


  13. sandy says:

    Neil Davidson gives two positive reasons for socialists to support a yes vote

    1) It would lead to the break up of the british imperialist state

    2) It would stop the SNP government using “Westminster control” as an excuse to implement austerity

    as to the first point where national oppression is not an issue, and Neil accepts that it is not, I would contend that the nationalist break up of large states, even if they are imperialist states, is not a step forward for the working class. Rather than an example of social advance the nationalist break up of britain would be sign of social disintegration and of the political weakness of the working class. The move to the right that the nationalist breakup would entail would tend to increase the aggressive potential of the successor states since the main opposition to imperialist aggression and war, the working class, would have been significantly weakened. We know that the SNP are committed to Nato and have supported the Afgan war and the attack on Libya and who can really doubt Salmond’s committment to the hegemonic role of the USA in world politics. The truth is that the SNP are pro imperialist and not anti imperialist. Also RUK may actually be a more aggressive imperialist war monger after a break up than before for the reason i have stated. Certainly the growth of militarism in britain is there for all to see and the SNP dont oppose it other than on the location of Trident

    As to Neil Davidsons second argument for socialists to vote yes

    2) It would stop the SNP government using “Westminster control” as an excuse to implement austerity

    The SNP proposed currency union would give the bank of England control of interests rates and an effective veto on fiscal policy so there would still be room for national antagonism and scapegoating of the English by a SNP government. Also the independence negotiations following a yes vote ( lasting at least 18 months) would provide a lot of potential ammunition for those who wish wish to blame deteriorating social conditions on the foreigners across the border.

    Is there any useful socialist material on how the assets and liabilities of the uk state could be divided between Scotland and RUK in a fair and equitable manner? Anyone know of anything worth reading on this topic


  14. sandy says:

    worthing taking a look at the debate on the living wage between labour and the SNP on last nights Newsnight Scotland

    even with the ref vote a few months away the SNP are not willing to take this step in case it causes fright among their establishment supporters


    Living wage proposal rejected by Scottish Parliament

    The Scottish Parliament has rejected a proposal from Scottish Labour for the creation of a “living wage” of £7.65 an hour that companies who win public sector contracts would have to pay.

    The living wage has become an important issue as 550,000 adults in Scotland earn less than £7.65. Anti-poverty campaigners have said that low wages prevent people from getting out of poverty.

    Labour said the Scottish Government must introduce the living wage into all public sector contracts but the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, told MSPs during a debate on the final stage of the Procurement Bill that the proposal was against EU law.

    Procurement involves contracting private companies to complete public projects such as new roads. The trade unions want to see these companies pay the living wage by law if they win Government contracts.

  15. sandy says:

    even with the referendum vote only a few months away the SNP are not willing to take this step in case it causes fright among their establishment supporters


    Living wage proposal rejected by Scottish Parliament

    The Scottish Parliament has rejected a proposal from Scottish Labour for the creation of a “living wage” of £7.65 an hour that companies who win public sector contracts would have to pay.

    The living wage has become an important issue as 550,000 adults in Scotland earn less than £7.65. Anti-poverty campaigners have said that low wages prevent people from getting out of poverty.

    Labour said the Scottish Government must introduce the living wage into all public sector contracts but the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, told MSPs during a debate on the final stage of the Procurement Bill that the proposal was against EU law.

    Procurement involves contracting private companies to complete public projects such as new roads. The trade unions want to see these companies pay the living wage by law if they win Government contracts.

    • John Tummon says:

      Bad news, indeed Sandy, but as a Solicitor, don’t you think Sturgeon is wrong in law? What was the vote on this? Probabaly a lot closer than if Labour took it up in Westminster! And, probably something in which a Scottish Left Party after independence could campaign on until such a time as it built an extra-parliamentary consensus in favour of the LW. SUch a campaign would not be fronted by the UK Labour Party – it is purely electoral nowadays and ireversibly so, so you tell me why the prospects for winning this are greater within a UK political context than within a Scottish one! I think it is something of a litmus test of your central contention – that working class strugle will be weakened by independence,

      • sandy says:

        don’t you think Sturgeon is wrong in law?
        John T

        Yes and even if she was not it should be fought. below is a extract from a guardian article re the topic of the living wage and the Tory/ liberal coalition. just another example of the SNP being to the right of the labour party


        Miliband said: “I think it is completely ridiculous for the government to be hiding behind EU law to try and explain their total failure to promote the living wage in two-and-a-half years in office. They promised before the election that it is something that they took seriously – the prime minister made that promise – and nothing has happened.

        “What local councils are showing is that there are definitely ways of promoting the living wage and getting contractors to pay the living wage, which are absolutely within EU law.”

        Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, described the government’s view of EU law as “completely wrong”.

        She said: “In response to my question on the inclusion of living wage conditions in procurement processes, the [European] commission clearly states that living wage conditions can be included in public sector contracts, provided they are not discriminatory. Now that the government is aware that there is no problem under EU law, they can make progress on ensuring payment of the living wage for low-paid workers on the government estate, helping to ensure that work pays.”

  16. Craig lewis says:

    Just been through all my photos of the RIC contingent on Glasgow May Day march and found one saltire – amongst a whole array of banners and placards condemning austerity, opposing the bedroom tax, demanding a nuclear free Scotland etc. Don’t know Sandy but I guess we were on different Glasgow May Day marches!

    The notion that preserving the British state with all its residual trappings of imperialism and militarism is somehow integral to working class unity seems bizarre to say the least. Is this about preserving a British Labour Party that fully accepts neoliberalism and austerity? A Labour Party whose Scottish leader wants an end to “the something for nothing society” or is it about preserving the unity of a British trade union leadership that constantly uses sectional divisions to undermine united strike action against the impact of austerity?

    Working class solidarity and willingness to fight back would only be strengthened by the fall out from a break up of the United Kingdom. The dangers of nationalism are of course a reality and Allan Armstrong addresses this in his initial contribution. But holding the UK together is no antedote to nationalism as the rise of UKIP in England and other far right parties throughout Europe attests.

    I was planning to join LU before I recently moved back to Scotland. Indeed I signed Ken Loach’s petition. We desperately need Unity on the Left in these Islands and throughout Europe if we are ever to role back the austerity offensive . I think Allan is right when he says the current political vibrancy in Scotland provides massive potential for the left to grow around the Independence campaign. It is a shame that LU has decided not to support and work with RIC.

    • John Tummon says:


      The Republican Socialist Tendency within LU, of which I am a member, has planned 5 public meetings in northern and midlands cities at the end of May to take the independence debate beyond the inconclusive vote at the 29 March conference and, perhaps, to push for a vote by the Left Unity National Council following this. This means that there is a chance that from June 8th LU will indeed be supporting the RIC. Why don’t you join LU and work with those of us in this Tendency to try to bring this about?

    • sandy says:


      You should join and be active in left unity in scotland. Those of us who are for an No vote and in left Unity in scotland are happy to have those leftists who are for a yes vote as active members of Left Unity. There is nothing to stop members of Left unity campaigning with RIC and others for a yes vote. Just like there is nothing to stop Left unity members who support a No vote campaigning with others for a no vote- please see

      It should all be decided in September anyway

      I suppose the crucial important point of difference is if you think left unity should organize on a british wide basis or as a totally separate party in scotland. Some on the left in scotland are for a separate scottish left party even if the vote in the referendum is No e.g. the ISG people who run RIC
      A new party for a new Scotland


  17. sandy says:

    Just been through all my photos of the RIC contingent on Glasgow May Day march and found one saltire – amongst a whole array of banners and placards condemning austerity, opposing the bedroom tax, demanding a nuclear free Scotland etc. Don’t know Sandy but I guess we were on different Glasgow May Day marches!

    Craig L

    judge for yourself


    • John tummon says:

      Yes,quite a few,but lots of other banners & red flags, too, which reflects the variation within the ‘Yes’campaign.

  18. Alan Bird says:

    I have not yet decided to join Left Unity.

    I am waiting to see if it capitulates to Scottish Nationalism.

    As Socialists it is to the working class we look to for political change. It is only the working class that can bring about that change.

    Promoting Nationalist identity over class consciousness is something all socialists have to oppose. Personally, I would go so far as to say that you cannot be a socialist unless Class consciousness comes first!

    • sandy says:


      You should join Left unity and get active in the debate. In a period of set back for the working class it is inevitable that nationalist sentiment will grow, even on the left, given that we are not isolated from society. Many leftist activists are a bit demoralized and looking around for some way forward. In scotland some good leftists now believe that Scottish independence is a way forward to something better. But there is a debate and people can change their mind if a rational and sensible case is made for preserving and increasing working class unity in Britain and for a british wide socialist party that is democratic and encourages working class solidarity in our common struggle against the forces of Capital. The intellectual case for leftists to support scottish independence is pretty weak in my view. A lot of wishful thinking involved. We need to encourage as much debate on the question as possible. However the best argument against Scottish separation and left nationalism would be growing and successful british wide socialist party and a mass fightback against austerity and growing social inequality. Surely we will see that in the next few years.


      • Alan Bird says:

        Hi Sandy, I mostly agree with your post. However, the Independence issue is the biggest crisis facing the left in Britain.

        I am happy to play my part promoting socialism over nationalism, and reminding socialists that it is only the working class organised that can be the gravediggers. Popular fronts rarely move workers to the left.

        Having a correct position on this issue is a defining one for any new socialist party.

        So I am watching with interest to see what Left Unity does.

  19. sandy says:

    I predict that were Scotland to vote for independence, then the 2015 general election would be a competition between UKIP and the Tories to prove which of them is “tougher” on Scots
    Andy N

    I think that is very possible. I also think it is very unlikely that scotland will vote for independence.However if there is a yes vote it is difficult to judge just how acrimonious the divorce will be. The establishments on both sides of the border may be able to keep a lid on the populists. Certainly Salmond will do everything he can to make the split a relatively friendly affair. He has the most to lose from any big bust up. But as the European election has shown the political establishment are loosing control of the voters and the forces of disintegration are on the rise. UKIP policies are not rational from the point of view of big Capital but they won the election. One of the selling points put forward by the left nats in scotland for a yes vote in the referendum is that a yes vote would be a big blow to Cameron and the coalition. However they dont seem to care that any such blow is likely to provoke a move to the right in rUK. However I think the leaderships of the left nationalist groups in scotland know that a Yes vote is not going to happen. They are intent on building a scottish only left party which the believe can use the PR system in scotland to win a few seats in Holyrood at the next scottish election.The left nationalist groups are jockeying for position in respect of the launch of this SSP mark 2. Without being too cynical it is obvious there are well paid parliamentary seats and advisor positions in sight. An obstacle to this left nationalist project is any left party organized at a british wide level and fighting to increase the solidarity, strength and socialist consciousness of the british working class. Any such party would be a deadly enemy to the left nationalist project so it must be sidelined or split and if possible, destroyed. They wont say that openly of course but that has been there approach. The left nationalist case in Scotland is above all based on mendacity and attempted deception and manipulation. It aim is the same as the SNP – to attempt to remove independent working class socialist politics from scotland

    Of course there are good socialists in scotland who support Scottish independence. We must win them over in debate and joint activity where possible. But there are also those, particularly in leading positions in left nationalist groups, who have given up on the working class in britain and ridicule the idea of working class unity against the bosses and who see their future as a left nationalist party with some “real influence” in Scottish society.They are determined on their course and cant be dissuaded by rational argument since they have the scent of Holyrood seats in their nostrils


    • John Penney says:

      Spot on with both of your latest posts, Sandy. I too very much doubt that the Referendum will result in a “Yes ” vote. But, as you say, the longer term problem arising from all the “left nationalist” nonsense that has been aired both during and before the referendum campaign is the longer term ideological entrapment of large sections of the left in the completely diversionary illusion of some sort of left nationalist socialist path. Building a successful activist, mass radical Left socialist party across Britain is an important antidote to this dead end political strategy.

      • John Tummon says:

        John, you should have attended one of the debates on the tour and come to realise that Sandy’s idea that we need to be in the same capitalist state in order to build socilaist and working class organisation is nonsense. There have been key moments in history when cross-border solidarity and coordinated poltical campaigns have taken the Left forward – 1848, 1917 and, in the Eastern bloc, 1956, starting in Warsaw +, of course, the Arab Spring. SInn Fein are a big party both sides of a political border and. for 150 years, there have been various Workers’ Internationals. Southern Europe is currently seeing something similar, with active solidarity between the Iberian, Italian and Greek Left; there is even an Italin party named after Syriza’s leader.

        We are no longer operating in the autarky of the early 20th century, with rival empires, currency unions, no commercial arlines or other mass transport, no internet and hardly any migration after the USA shut its doors. Unfortunately, a lot of the socialist concepts that came out of that era have now passed into the realm of received truth as far as many on the current left are concerned, so Sandy’s notion gets picked up by the formulaic among us.

  20. John Tummon says:

    The old idea that national self-determination is a diversion from the class struggle is for the birds. Once the people of a country are seized with the excitement of being their own masters, then they are passing over from being the quiescent, de-politicised mass of dissilusioned non-voters to becoming citizens engaging with politics and wanting to take responsibility for running things themselves. This is the essence of democratic socialism at the workplace and community level. Self-determination isn’t just or even mainly about national identity but about the idea of taking over responsibility. If a socialist cannot get excited about that and instead trots out (sic) formulaic received wisdom from early 20th century socialist thinkers who never got to grips in the first place with self-determination for colonised peoples, then we really are in a broad church.

  21. sandy says:

    A Scottish road to nationalism

    good article which makes the pertinent points


  22. Trevor Allman says:

    “The Philosophers of the World have interpreted the World in many ways. The point, however, is to change it”

    – Karl Marx “Thesis on Feurbach” (1845)

    Some great navel-gazing, as usual from the “Left”.

    The fact that our masters put so much effort into trying to save their united kingdom told me all I needed to know on what to support, for all its limitations.

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