Thursday, 29 October 2015

Scottish Labour

The idea that the Scottish Labour Party, should operate autonomously from Labour in the UK, or that the Labour Party should operate under some federal structure in the UK is a big mistake. It is a mistake that social-democratic parties have made in the past. The Second International itself was rendered next to useless as a result of operating under such a federal principle, whose purpose was to avoid the need for a thorough political debate over issues of contention, in favour of a diplomatic arrangement.

The issue of federalism and autonomy within a single state is different to the issue within the workers' party. Generally, even federalism within the state is to be considered as less preferable than a unified, one and indivisible state, but can be tolerated, as itself preferable to separation into different states. Within a unified state, maximum measures of regional autonomy, to allow for cultural variations, and so on, can be used as means of encouraging such unity, as well as preventing oppression of minorities.

But, the workers party is not a bourgeois instrument of pursuing such cultural-national democratic ideals. It is a combat organisation of the working-class, whose purpose is to present a united front against all of the forces of the bourgeoisie, and to do that, it must itself from the beginning being as unified as possible, allowing no division on national, regional, cultural or other such grounds. The only divisions within the workers' party should be political divisions, which should then be discussed and resolved out in the open.

The proposal to establish a Scottish Labour Party, or other such national parties, and even regional parties is inimical to that requirement of a workers' party, because from the beginning, it tries to hide real political differences, and avoid their resolution, by a separation into separate party units. If Blair got anything right, it was to follow the example of Lenin in “What Is To Be Done?”, in insisting upon the Labour Party operating as a “professional party”. The idea that the workers' party should discuss political differences, arrive at a resolution of those differences, and then from the centre, organise to pursue them, in a disciplined and professional manner, is a sound one. It was the means by which the German SPD built its strength at the start of the 20th century, and the model that Lenin based himself upon in “What Is To Be Done?”,for the building of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. There is nothing professional about a free for all, as a means of avoiding a sharp political fight over serious issues of principle.

The debacle of Labour in Scotland was not down to its lack of independence from the party in the rest of the country. It had been developing over a long time, and stemmed from the corrupt and moribund nature of the party in Scotland. In addition, the reason that Labour lost seats in Scotland was the same reason that it had lost 7 million votes in the UK as a whole, as it abandoned its working-class base, and adopted conservative rather than social-democratic ideas. The solution to that problem, is not to run away from a hard assessment of those facts, and the need to rebuild the party upon sound ideological principles, by creating separate party organisations. In fact, it was that kind of approach in the Second International, which allowed each party, in the end, to pursue separate national interests as opposed to the interests of the working-class as a whole, and thereby facilitated the collapse into national chauvinism, and World War I.

Its quite easy to see how such a federal structure, could create a dynamic, as indeed devolution and federalism itself creates, for a race to the bottom, as a Scottish parliament seeks to attract business to Scotland by offering lower taxes, less protection for workers and so on, similar to the Tories proposals for Enterprise Zones, and which a Scottish Labour Party, under pressure from the SNP would be led to advocate, just as an English Labour Party, under pressure from the Tories and UKIP would be pressured to do also. This is the opposite of the kind of centralisation, and unity of the working-class that a workers' party should be aiming to achieve.

In fact, rather than seeking to divide and fragment the labour movement further in this way, what is required is for the workers movement across Europe to be coming together, as a single movement. We need a single European Workers Party, along with a single European Trade Union Movement, and Co-operative Movement.

As ever, rather than national, regional or cultural separation, the principle of the Labour movement should be Workers of the World Unite.

No comments: