Scottish nationalism is a dangerous diversion. Fight for the unity of the British working class!

The following resolution was passed at the recent CPGB-ML party congress.

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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This congress notes with concern the frenzy of nationalist sentiment that has been whipped up amongst British workers in Scotland in the run-up to the recent independence referendum.

Congress further notes that the conduct of this referendum had all the hallmarks of a classic piece of bourgeois misdirection: the huge amount of media coverage given to fake ‘choices’ and bourgeois electoral ‘promises’, for example, and the massive corporate media endorsement given to the ‘Yes’ campaigners, while at the same time presenting them as an ‘alternative’. This reflects a similar level of hysteria around the European elections in May this year, when, while officially rejecting the racism and scaremongering of UKIP, the other main parties and the entire media machine all implicitly endorsed the party and its leader by jumping to their agenda and giving them endless amounts of coverage.

Congress believes that in the cases of both the Scottish nationalists and UKIP, the votes they received would not have been nearly so high without the constant media circus surrounding them, which acted as an extremely persuasive endorsement, even as the other main British parties were pretending to stand in ‘opposition’ to them. In fact, UKIP and the SNP, just like the other capitalist parties in Britain, all serve the imperialist ruling class and work to preserve that class’s rule.

Congress further believes that votes for the SNP and for Scottish ‘independence’, like votes for UKIP, are an expression of the fact that workers are dissatisfied and disillusioned with bourgeois politics and have given up their hopes of Labour delivering for working people. They are angry at declining living standards, shrinking job opportunities and disappearing services; they are aware that something is wrong with the status quo and that something needs to be done about it. By presenting us with various carefully-presented ‘alternatives’ to the main capitalist parties, our rulers seek to provide us with harmless (to them) outlet for our anger, while keeping intact the very system that causes that anger in the first place.

Congress notes that, with the worst effects of the overproduction crisis still to hit British workers, and with World War 3 looming on the horizon, the British ruling class is very much in need of any and all diversions that can help to keep the working class divided, and stop us from understanding the real cause of our problems.

Congress further notes that, for all the left-leaning sentiment of many of the supporters of Scottish ‘independence’, the ruling class has no intention of allowing its own unity and strength to be diminished by any apparent separation. Nor is there the slightest reason to suppose that those members of the British ruling class who call Scotland home have any intention of giving up their status as some of the world’s richest and most ruthless imperialist exploiters. Therefore, congress believes that an ‘independent’ Scotland would divide and weaken the British working class without dividing or weakening the capitalist ruling class and without changing that ruling class’s imperialist character.

This congress believes that, in the context of Britain, the promotion of nationalism in all its forms – English, Scottish, Welsh, black, etc – is ultimately aimed at dividing workers from one another and at diverting as many of them as possible away from the revolutionary struggle for socialism. Such a struggle, while not noticeably on the agenda for many in Britain today, is bound to become more obviously necessary in the coming period, as unemployment spirals, essential services are cut or scrapped altogether, and poverty and war take their toll on workers who once imagined that the temporary gains and apparent ‘peace’ of the post-WW2 period were here to stay.

Congress further believes that the various ‘left’ forces that support the call for an ‘independent’ Scotland are doing so for the usual unscientific and opportunistic reasons – because they have (as usual) unquestioningly accepted bourgeois propaganda that claims that Scotland is a separate nation to the rest of Britain; because (as usual) they have accepted the fake debate and ‘choices’ presented in the imperialist media referendum circus; and because (as usual) they have no interest in standing up for the long-term revolutionary interests of the British working class. Our party has no problem standing on the opposite side of these charlatans on a whole host of issues, from support for the anti-imperialist resistance to British imperialist wars to support for the former and presently-existing socialist states. There is no reason for us to suddenly seek the shelter of such dubious endorsement on the question Scottish nationalism.

As far as devolution is concerned, this congress takes the view that the maximum possible local powers with really representative officials, elected and recallable by those they serve, should be the right of all workers in Britain. But these, like all the other just demands of British workers, will be fought for and won on the basis of a real class struggle, not granted in fake form by way of a bribe for taking the nationalist bait. In a class society, it is not so much a question of where a parliament is based as to whom the MPs inside it give their loyalty. An imperialist-aligned parliament in Holyrood is no more likely to be representative of the interests of Glasgow welders and Highland crofters than the Westminster parliament has ever been of East End dockers and small Cornish sheep farmers.

This congress endorses the view taken at the last congress that Scotland is not a nation separate from the rest of Britain, and that Scottish nationalism is a reactionary ideology, aimed at tying workers more tightly to an imperialist ruling class.

Congress further endorses the arguments made in Proletarian recently that the ‘independence’ on offer is of such a character as to be merely a mirage, not capable of weakening the unity or strength of the British ruling class, but very much aimed at breaking the unity and strength of the British working class. By dangling the chimera of an ‘independent’ Scotland in front of workers in Scotland, the ruling class aims to offer an outlet for workers’ anger against the capitalist system, and to lessen the resistance of all British workers to its neverending drive for austerity and war.

This congress believes that the ultimate source of nationalist sentiment in Britain is pessimism amongst workers. This pessimism follows the collapse of the Soviet Union and the east European socialist bloc, as well as 60 years of revisionism running rampant in our movement. Workers have for too long been bereft of clear ideological guidance, and too many of our self-appointed leaders have endorsed the propaganda lies of the capitalists rather than standing up for the interests of the working class.

Congress notes that, as a result of this, our class as a whole has temporarily lost faith in the possibility of revolution. Today, all too many of us are looking for smaller and smaller ‘gains’ with which to satisfy ourselves: not the guarantee of a secure, equal and totally free health service, for example, but one where the profiteers aren’t too obviously dominant; not opposition to all cuts and privatisation, but a plea that cuts should come a little more slowly … and so on. In the case of Scotland, workers are trading their fight for a socialist Britain in return for the electoral promise of fewer cuts to health and education services north of the border – with no reason to believe that such promises will ultimately be kept, and an implicit agreement to raise no objection to whatever cuts are implemented in the rest of Britain.

This congress believes that, in light of all the above, the job of communists is to show workers that it is not immigrants (in the case of those who have fallen for racist propaganda), white people (in the case of those who have fallen for black nationalist propaganda) or ‘the English’ (in the case of those who have fallen for Scottish nationalist propaganda) who are to blame for their problems, but the capitalist-imperialist system itself.

This congress therefore resolves:

To uphold and propagate the position reached at our last congress that Scotland is not a separate nation, but that the workers in Scotland are as much a part of the British working class as workers in Yorkshire, Merseyside or Bristol.

To make every possible effort to overcome the pessimism that leads people to be drawn into nationalist diversions, and to explain to workers on both sides of the border that we need to build the maximum possible unity in order to develop a revolutionary movement to overthrow imperialism and build socialism throughout Britain.

To resuscitate the memory of such legendary working-class leaders from Scotland as Willie Gallacher and others who were instrumental in developing revolutionary class consciousness and forging a strong communist party in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s. The legacy of this movement is still to be felt in the antipathy that many older working-class people in Scotland still feel for nationalism, despite the widespread disillusionment with Labour in particular and with social democracy generally.

To produce two pamphlets, as agreed at the last congress – one that collects all our party’s articles and analysis on this question in one place, and another that aims to answer in a simple way questions such as ‘Does standing against independence make me a unionist?’, and ‘Are you saying I shouldn’t feel proud of my Scottish heritage and traditions?’

No to bourgeois nationalism, which ties workers to imperialism and turns us into tools of our own oppression.

Yes to working-class unity, yes to revolution, and yes to a socialist future for all British workers!