Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Scots Have A Right To Say Yes, But They Should Say No - Part 1

Fortunately, unlike the regime in Kiev, David Cameron's government is unlikely to start bombing and shelling the people of Scotland, if they decide to leave the United Kingdom. However, as the prospect that they might so decide now becomes a possibility, which until recently it never was, there is every chance that the British state will try to prevaricate, and obfuscate to make any such separation as difficult as possible. Marxists have a duty to oppose any such actions. The people of Scotland have the right to secede if that is what they so choose. Nevertheless, Marxists and particularly those in Scotland, have a duty also to argue that they should not do so. As Lenin put it, we are advocates of the self-determination of the working-class not of nations.

If the EU, were a single federal state, a decision of the Scots to separate from the United Kingdom would be insignificant. It would be no different to the regular administrative re-jigging of local authority boundaries within the UK, but which leave the integrity of the whole state intact. Under such a federal EU state, each such administrative area would be little different than the US states, or the County and Metropolitan Boroughs in the UK, the Spanish regional governments, or the German Landestag. Whether such areas are larger or smaller, and where the lines of their boundaries are drawn is of little, other than administrative, significance.

But, the EU is not such a federal state. Rather, it is a badly cobbled together assemblage of nation states, and as such, those nation states continue to be the defining political entity. On the one hand, the more reactionary sections of capital, within each of these states, usually the small capitalists, whose outlook is determined by the national market, continue to seek protection from their particular nation state, whether it be in the form of exemptions from labour regulations, on the working-time directive and other social measures, or other forms of protection via lower rates of taxation, action by the state to manipulate the currency and so on. These sections of capital are backed up in this narrow nationalistic view, by backward sections of the middle class, and working-class.

It is these sections of society that the right-wing populist parties appeal to, and, in the last period, these parties, whether it be UKIP in Britain, the FN in France or the Five Star Movement in Italy, have gained, as the policies of austerity, ironically implemented by less radical conservative parties, attempting to appeal to the same layers, have created increasing economic dislocation. So, within the context of the nation state itself, the requirements of bourgeois democracy, i.e. for parties to get elected, necessitate that conservative parties appeal to these kinds of nationalistic sentiments.

But, finally, although the state, as the Executive Committee of the ruling class, necessarily reflects the interests of the dominant section of capital, the big, multinational industrial capital, like every Executive Committee, it is not homogeneous, and not free from also developing its own particular interests, as against those of the class it represents. At various moments, the state may reflect the fact that financial capital is in the ascendancy rather than industrial capital, for example. As Marx, and later Trotsky's, analysis of Bonapartism demonstrates, at various moments, the state may itself feel powerful enough to press its own interests in preference to those of civil society, or the ruling class. At all times, the state, like any other bureaucracy will seek to represent its own interests, and, in the case of the EU, that manifests itself as the continual bickering and bartering between the contending national bureaucracies. In this respect its no different than the same kind of empire building that goes on within the Civil Service or Local Authority bureaucracies, as one department seeks to press its interests as against those of others. Its just given a twist in that instead of just competing departmental bureaucracies the main division is between national bureaucracies.

That approach, of national bargaining, is then itself extended to within the labour movement. In Britain, we do not hear the Labour Party or the Trades Unions ever talking about the interests of European workers. We only ever hear talk of the interests of British workers, as though these were in some way different to the interests of French, German, Italian or any other workers. But, of course, the interests of British workers can only be seen as different to those of German or French workers etc., if you believe that there is some national interest that these British workers share in, alongside British capitalists. In that way, the interests of British workers becomes a shared national interest with British capital, rather than a shared class interest with every other worker in every other country! It doesn't matter that sometimes this may be framed in terms of, “It is in the interests of British workers to be in the EU,” because that implies that if it were not, we should argue for leaving to protect the specific interests of British workers, at the expense of, and as though they were in some way separate from, and superior to, the interests of other workers.

But, what is true in relation to British workers vis a vis the EU, is true of Scottish workers vis a vis Britain, and indeed more so. To believe that there is some interest of Scottish workers that is best served by them either being in or out of a United Kingdom, is to believe equally that there is some separate interest of Scottish workers removed from the interests of workers in the rest of Britain, the rest of the EU, the rest of the world. It is to pose the question the wrong way around. The starting point for a Marxist is not what is in the interests of this or that group of workers, but what is in the interests of workers as a whole. The moment a socialist begins to view things from the perspective of particular groups of workers they are lost. They have ceased being a Marxist, or international socialist, and adopted the perspective merely of the national socialist, or trade union sectionalist.

“In individual concrete cases, the part may contradict the whole; if so, it must be rejected...

Let us assume that between two great monarchies there is a little monarchy whose kinglet is “bound” by blood and other ties to the monarchs of both neighbouring countries. Let us further assume that the declaration of a republic in the little country and the expulsion of its monarch would in practice lead to a war between the two neighbouring big countries for the restoration of that or another monarch in the little country. There is no doubt that all international Social-Democracy, as well as the really internationalist section of Social-Democracy in the little country, would be against substituting a republic for the monarchy in this case. The substitution of a republic for a monarchy is not an absolute, but one of the democratic demands, subordinate to the interests of democracy (and still more, of course, to those of the socialist proletariat) as a whole.” 

No comments: