Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Defend Scots Democratic Rights - Part 3 of 6

Labour seems intent on self-destruction, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Having won the leadership, and grown the party to half a million strong, Corbyn, McDonnell and Momentum have refused to organise to replace the old Blair-right/soft-left MP's (as witnessed clearly in the Stoke Central by-election, for instance), and party apparatus, and have allowed themselves to become captives of it. Not only have they lined up with the Tories to push through the reactionary policy of Brexit, but they are now lining up with the Tories attempt to deny the democratic right of self-determination for the Scots. The Blair-rights have no need to rush now to remove Corbyn and McDonell, as they are getting them to do their bidding with the minimum of pressure applied to them, and can simply wait for the steady drift away, and demoralisation of the newly acquired party members, and the collapse in failure of the existing leadership.

Corbyn was quite right, a week ago, to say that another Scottish independence referendum would be quite alright. In fact, Gordon Brown, at the weekend made an almost identical comment that if the Scottish parliament voted to hold such a vote, it would be quite wrong for Westminster to try to deny it that right. To say so does not in any way commit Labour itself to calling for such a referendum. In fact, there are very good reasons for socialists not calling for a referendum now, just as there were before 2014, and for socialists arguing against a vote for independence in any such referendum.

But, it is quite different to say that socialists will not call for such a referendum than to say that if Scots themselves demand such a referendum, socialists will oppose them being granted that democratic right. Yet, within hours of Corbyn making his perfectly reasonable comment, Blair-right and soft-left MP's and MSP's were decrying it, and as has all too often been the case, Corbyn retracted, leaving Labour now once more wedded to the position of May's reactionary government, and its authoritarian stance of denying democratic rights to the people of Scotland, as it tried to do in relation to Parliament, in pursuance of its policy of hard Brexit.

Lenin wrote,

“The Social-Democrats will always combat every attempt to influence national self-determination from without by violence or by any injustice. However, our unreserved recognition of the struggle for freedom of self-determination does not in any way commit us to supporting every demand for national self-determination. As the party of the proletariat, the Social-Democratic Party considers it to be its positive and principal task to further the self-determination of the proletariat in each nationality rather than that of peoples or nations. We must always and unreservedly work for the very closest unity of the proletariat of all nationalities, and it is only in isolated and exceptional cases that we can advance and actively support demands conducive to the establishment of a new class state or to the substitution of a looser federal unity, etc., for the complete political unity of a state.”

That is why I opposed the demands of liberals for the creation of a new class state in Kosovo, for Tibet and so on, and why I opposed Scottish independence in 2014.

But, Lenin also distinguishes the priority for socialists in the “oppressor” nation to those in the “oppressed” nation.

“People who have not gone into the question thoroughly think that it is “contradictory” for the Social-Democrats of oppressor nations to insist on the “freedom to secede”, while Social-Democrats of oppressed nations insist on the “freedom to integrate”. However, a little reflection will show that there is not, and cannot be, any other road to internationalism and the amalgamation of nations, any other road from the given situation to this goal.” 

Now, of course, as I described back in 2014, Scotland is not an oppressed nation, vis a vis England. For the last 300 years, Scotland has been an integral part of the British state, and acted as an imperial power, in that vein, during all that period. Yet, the general principle, described by Lenin, still applies.

English socialists emphasise the right of Scotland to secede, even if they argue against it doing so, whilst Scottish socialists should emphasise the importance of integration and class unity. Moreover, as Lenin describes in relation to the situation in regard to Sweden and Norway, the existence of oppression is not decisive in this regard.

“Until 1905 autonomous Norway, as a part of Sweden, enjoyed the widest autonomy, but she was not Sweden’s equal. Only by her free secession was her equality manifested in practice and proved (and let us add in parenthesis that: it was this free secession that created the basis for a more intimate and more democratic association, founded on equality of rights). As long as Norway was merely autonomous, the Swedish aristocracy had one additional privilege; and secession did not “mitigate” this privilege (the essence of reformism lies in mitigating an evil and not in destroying it), but eliminated it altogether (the principal criterion of the revolutionary character of a programme). 


Devolution, and the further autonomy that Gordon Brown has proposed, mitigates, the privilege that England possesses over Scotland, but it does not eliminate it. And, there is no doubt that England does possess privileges compared to Scotland, and nor is there any doubt that, under Theresa May, aided and abetted now by Labour, the guiding principle of the Westminster parliament, is English Nationalism designed to defend and extend those privileges, in pursuance of Brexit, and English particularism.

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