Wednesday, 7 August 2019

John McDonnell Was Right

John McDonnell has come under attack for saying that it will be up to the Scottish parliament that will decide whether to call another independence referendum.  But, he is, of course, absolutely right.  As an English socialist, it is his duty to emphasise the right of other nations to secede from Britain should they wish to do so, just as it is the job of Scottish socialists to emphasise the importance of not seceding, and of maintaining the unity of the working-class across Britain.

For McDonnell to emphasise the right of Scots to secede should they choose, is not at all the same as advocating that they do so.  In Scotland, if the Scottish parliament currently with an SNP majority, that argues for independence, calls for another referendum, they have every right to do so, and English socialists, as McDonnell has done, have a duty ind defending that right.  If the Scots in any such referendum, vote for independence, then it will be for the Scottish government, under the control of the SNP to implement that decision, and English socialists should defend their right to do that unimpeded by Britain.  None of that, of course, means that Scottish socialists would have to stop arguing that such independence was a bad idea, even as the SNP were bringing about such a split.

The difference, indeed, between Scottish independence and Brexit, is precisely that in Scotland, the SNP represents a nationalist party whose main raison d'etre has been to bring about such secession.  As the governing party it is in a position to implement any decision to secede.  In Britain, however, there has never been any nationalist party arguing for separation from the EU that has ever achieved anything other than derisory support in the Westminster parliament.  The nationalist parties arguing for such separation - the National Front, British National Party, UKIP, Brexit Party - have never been able to obtain parliamentary seats, let alone be in a position to form a government that would push through such independence.  The only time they have succeeded in any kind of election is where it has been a low poll, in which their fanatical supporters have, thereby been over represented.

The main parties in Britain, Labour, Tory and Liberal have all been pro-EU, parties, which is one reason that holding a referendum on Europe was a stupid idea to begin with, because if as it did, it came back with a decision to Leave, there was no parliamentary majority, let alone a governing party committed to implementing such a policy.  The Tories are giving the impression that they want to be such a party, currently, but the reality is that they know that if they actually were to implement it, the result would be catastrophic for Britain. 

Independence for Scotland, might also be catastrophic, but, at least, the Scots might hope that if they thereby remained in the EU, they would continue to be part of the world's largest market, and economy.  There could, for them, be significant benefits, in that, as English businesses moved their operations North, across the border, to remain in the EU, just as many have already moved to Ireland.  Indeed, if Northern Ireland reunites with the Republic, there is the possibility of Scotland and Ireland forming a union, to further their common aims.

As socialists, we argue against division, and for workers unity, but we have to couple that, with emphasising the right of other nations to secede, should they choose to do so.  John McDonnell was quite right to emphasise that point, as against those who wish to promote British nationalism, on the basis of an English parliament in Westminster holding others in chains.

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