Wednesday, 17 September 2014

CRITIQUE OF COLONIAL POSITIONS ON SCOTLAND HELD BY ONE OF THE MORE 'RADICAL' ENGLISH COMMUNIST GROUPS: 'CPGB-ML'


Below is an excellent socialist anti-imperialist response by Jamie Sokolowski to one of the more radical anti-imperialist formations in england, the 'CPGB-ML', of which Jamie has been a member of. This organisation has a number of flaws inversely proportionate to their size and number, the flaws reflected in their terrible colonial unionist position on Scotland, on which they have allied up with the western alliance of neo-colonialists. Of course they are not alone in this colonial position on Scotland, as much if not most of the english left have taken a similar position. I wrote recently of my own experience in dealing with the neo-colonial hostility towards Global South politics even amongst the english left who on paper say they are supporting Scottish Independence. I also have been critically engaging english lefty Seumas Milne on twitter who has also taken a openly colonial position on Scotland.

I would not advocate anyone go near the CPGB-ML as they are too conceited, arrogant and dogmatic to be able to develop any constructive functional political relationship. However, their leader Harpal Brar (which I have worked closely with, and is one of my political mentors in an earlier and initial political phase of my life) has some relatively decent anti-imperialist politics and analysis over the decades, and it is a shame that he has decided on such a reactionary colonial position on Scotland when alternatively he could have boxed clever he could have respected the Scottish peoples right to engage in struggle which opens up new anti-imperialist and socialist potential and movements, he could have contributed an important anti-imperialist socialist voice to the Independence campaign in Scotland, and his involvement could have even given his organisation a new life with new members and a relevancy to politics on this island.

He and his organisation have decided to line up with the collective western neo-colonial position on Scotland is purely their own foolish decision, not the first it has to be said, just good to see that there are sharper minds who can cut through this colonial nonsense whatever red, blue, yellow, or lefty cover one gives it. - Sukant Chandan, Sons of Malcolm


Scottish people will remember who stood against them

By Jamie Sokolowski

People are baffled by the party’s stance on Scottish independence; some even suggesting it’s more to do with selfish, organisational matters than ideological. I think this article confirms (what I already knew) that it is a serious, principled ideological position reached after debate and research. That doesn’t change, however, that it’s the wrong position.

There are lots of inaccuracies in the article:

• "And then we have to ask ourselves something else: what kind of freedom fighters ever included in their list of demands that they should be ‘allowed’ to keep the key elements of their oppression intact after liberation?"

Well, the Commonwealth of Nations has 53 member states. Queen Elizabeth II is the monarch of 16 of these independent nations. In fact, many nations – both in and out of the Commonwealth - that gained independence from Britain retained the monarchy for a brief period of time – Ghana, India, Pakistan, and Ireland. They were then scrapped through public referendum, acts of parliament or new written constitutions.

There is a significant voice within the movement – including the Chair of the Advisory Board of the Yes Campaign – calling for public referendum once Scotland secedes. The SNP are astute and pragmatic; calling for a republic at this time would diminish the Yes Campaign among people and communities that value the monarchy.

• "They wish to keep the British army regiments currently based in Scotland (and soaked in the blood of the oppressed of the world) as their army."

A new Scottish Defence Force would be created instead of the UK Armed Forces. There are currently six units based in Scotland; the White Paper states there will only be three in future. Ultimately, the army’s composition would be determined by the government elected by the people of an independent Scotland. That’s not been determined. But it will be different to the status quo. How are the British ruling class reacting to this?

“Scotland’s departure would have a profoundly damaging consequence: the British armed services would have to be broken up to allow the creation of a Scottish army, navy and air force. Has that been realised? The British armed forces, already grappling with one cut after another, may soon be broken into pieces.” – Telegraph, 5 September 2014.

General Sir Richard Shirreff – former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (Deputy SACEUR) of NATO – said that the plans were ‘amateurish’, it would leave the region ‘threatened’, and it would be ‘highly unlikely’ that Scotland would be accepted into NATO at this time.

• "They keep their membership not only of the imperialist EU but even of the nuclear warmongering Nato alliance."

The referendum is only the beginning of a new political and economic era. It’s not an endorsement of a politician, political party, alliance or ideology. It isn’t static. As soon as independence is delivered, the battle grounds to shape a new Scotland will open.

Do you seriously expect a broad independence movement to immediately and simultaneously withdraw from the UK, EU, NATO? Ireland is a member of the EU – are we questioning the legitimacy of their independence because of this membership?

In terms of NATO, this is hugely complex issue. I suspect it is, again, a pragmatic/temporary retreat for the SNP. This view seems to be endorsed by imperialism:

Lord George Robertson called the SNP’s desire for an independent Scotland to join NATO an ‘election fix’. General Shirreff, former Deputy SACEUR, said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that NATO would accept Scotland at this time.

In fact, both men – and the entire imperialist camp – believe that an independent Scotland would be harmful to NATO and the ‘west’.

This is the critical question that the party should be asking: would Scottish independence benefit or harm imperialism.

The evidence shows that it would damage imperialism. Hear it from the horse's mouth:

• “The loudest cheers for the break-up of Britain would be from our adversaries and from our enemies. For the second military power in the West to shatter this year would be cataclysmic in geopolitical terms… Nobody should underestimate the effect all of that would have on existing global balances, and the forces of darkness would simply love it… Mr Salmond's determination to join Nato is an election fix” – Lord George Robertson, Former NATO General Secretary

• “As a friend of Britain, as an observer from afar, it's hard to see how the world would be helped by an independent Scotland… I think that the people who would like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice, the friends of freedom, and the countries that would cheer at the prospect... are not the countries whose company one would like to keep." – Tony Abbot, Australian PM.

• “We have a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner.” – Barack Obama

• "You will not find anyone involved in American foreign policy – from the president on down – who does not think that this division will weaken the alliance that we have." – Bradley Sherman, US Congressman.

• “Our ‘special relationship’ with the United Kingdom is unparalleled. It is crucial for both our nations to continue our close cooperation on key diplomatic, security, economic, and human rights concerns. A strong, unified United Kingdom has been a leader in the world”. – Ed Royce, US Congressman.

• “Between 1969 and 2007, Scottish soldiers fought and died to keep Northern Ireland within the overall United Kingdom — over a hundred of them. What was that all about? The IRA fought a bloody 38-year campaign to take Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom and join the six northern counties of the island of Ireland to the republic in the south of Ireland as one sovereign state.

As English, Welsh, North Irish and Scottish peoples we fought against this diminution of our country — the country of the Union flag embodying the Cross of St George, the Cross of St Patrick and the Cross of St Andrew…. Those red, white and blue colours describe our flag and define our identity. And now, the five million Scots, resident in Scotland — or about 50 per cent of them — seem to want to redefine the identity for over 60million of the rest of us, and that of another couple of million Scots living outside Scotland who, like the rest of us, have no vote in this history-changing decision. Do they really have the moral right to do so?... The United Kingdom is what it is today because of the common commitment of the English, the Welsh, the Scots and the northern Irish – is it really right that a few thousand Scots should change the destiny of us all?” -- Lord Dannat, Former Head of British Army.

I understand that on rare occasions the interests of imperialism and anti-imperialism converge, but I cannot see how this is an example. Imperialism is consistently and over-whelming opposed to separation. The quotes above are just several from thousands. They are fearful of economic, political, and military instability. They are concerned that one of NATO’s largest contributing nations will be weakened; nuclear weapons removed and their re-location uncertain; and it will give momentum to other movements such as the reunification of Ireland.

Further evidence that independence would weaken imperialism is offered by anti-imperialists:
• “If Scotland gains independence, the UK will descend from a first-class country to a second-rate one, which will once again break the balance within Europe. And its consequence may even wield influence upon international geopolitics… The UK will become the biggest loser if such a scenario transpires. The elite of London have begun to feel panicked due to these potential risks and no longer wear an expression of pride for delivering the fate of Scotland to more than 5 million people through the vote on independence… The Scottish independence campaign also tells us that established developed countries like the UK are far from stable as we previously imagined.” Editorial, China Times

• “I believe that every person has the right to be a member of an independent nation, to have sovereignty, to live in peace and to enjoy equality. And I believe that a majority of Scots feel the same and will vote for independence… The result will be very important and if the Scots do vote to become independent, then Korea will be prepared to respond to that… I believe independence will be positive as it will encourage personal exchanges and provide both countries with business chances… Korea is rich in natural resources… we can be beneficial to each other" – Editor, Choson Sinbo, pro-Korean newspaper.

• Scottish independence has also been favourably reported in Russian, Iranian, Irish and Latin American news agencies.

It is increasingly clear to many that secession will be to the detriment of imperialism. It is a rare opportunity for ‘first-world’ workers to actually harm imperialism; benefiting themselves and workers of the world.

The following decades will deliver a multi-polar world in which socialist and anti-imperialist nations increasingly co-operate to defeat imperialist hegemony. The fracturing and weakening of the 'United Kingdom' - first by Scotland, and then by the re-unification of Ireland (two completely separate movements) - will aid this process.

There are many other inaccurate statements in the article:

• "It seems to suggest that Scotland has - because of devolution - somehow avoided British government cuts. We have therefore not participated in political activities against austerity. See “It has broken the unity of the fight to save services (since Welsh and Scottish voters think they are not affected) and given a massive boost to nationalist sentiments (thus keeping workers away from revolutionary ideology at a time of crisis, just when they need it most)”.

This looks like it's been written by someone who has not participated in or followed grass-roots Scottish politics. Scotland has experienced immense hardship because of the coalition’s cuts. Welfare is not a devolved matter, and we have seen benefit sanctions and cuts devastate working class communities. The bedroom tax was particularly punitive.

Scottish workers militantly opposed this – organising demonstrations and occupations in Scotland and also travelling to England. They were able to effectively reverse the bedroom tax, but recognise that this is not enough.

The call for independence is not merely a nationalist one – to portray it as one is either mistaken or disingenuous. The Yes movement is a progressive one. If the CPGB-ML had participated in it they would have seen thousands of working class Scots talking about the banking system, the complicity of politicians, and the lying media. They would have seen people questioning the existing power structures, using terms such as capitalism and socialism for the first time in a generation.

• “This explains why there is such a generational divide amongst working-class voters in Scotland today – older people are far, far less likely to vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum, because they belong to a generation amongst whom it was generally understood that class allegiances were paramount.”

This is fantasy, and the reverse is true. Older people are more likely to vote No because they have grown up in an environment in which the Union and Empire was seen as positive. Their parents participated in WW2, the monarchy enjoyed popularity, and colonialism was promoted in their institutions. In contrast, young people are growing up in a society in which the union is negative, negligent and increasingly irrelevant. They see that it is not in their class interests to remain under Westminster rule; that parliament and the three main parties cannot represent them. They are passionate about building a new political and economic environment. It would be far more useful to them to have ‘advanced workers’, i.e. communists, assisting this movement.

• "Moreover, BBC propaganda has been extremely sympathetic to Scottish nationalism."

This is a ridiculous statement. It is entirely false. The person that wrote it either hasn’t been following the situation, or making it up as they go along. The BBC has been exceptionally biased towards the unionist argument. Scottish workers – with no official Yes organisation – have organised numerous demonstrations at the BBC’s HQ in Glasgow. There was one only a few days ago in which several hundred marched there – working class men and women, young and old.

• "Identifying ‘unionists’ as the enemy based on an allegiance to and sympathy with Irish republicans means…"

This is over-simplifying the role of unionists in Scotland. Progressive people of all religions and ethnicities oppose radical unionism because of their class role in Scotland. They have terrorised the Irish communities in Scotland. They spread imperialist, colonial, and monarchist propaganda in working class communities. And they have acted as the physical enforcer of British imperialism in Scotland.

Take, for example, Billy Fullarton and The Brigton Boys (infamously praised in Glasgow Rangers’ Billy Boys song). He was the leader of a sectarian razor gang, employed by the British state as a strike breaker during the 1926 General Strike. He is still celebrated by the Orange Order today.
The Orange Order have been prevalent in all aspects Scottish society – judiciary, politics, law, media, banking, employment, and also working class areas.

We don’t oppose unionism out of sympathy for Irish republicanism; we oppose it because it is a vicious strand of British imperialism employed in the streets of Scotland.

• "Into the gap left by the communists has crept nationalism. In England, this takes the form of anti-immigrant sentiment. That immigration is a ‘problem’ is a ‘truth’ so universally acknowledged that it is very hard to persuade workers that they have been duped on this issue… In Scotland and Wales, a more progressive-seeming brand of nationalism has been offered up as the ‘answer’ to the problems of capitalism. But its effect is the same – it gives workers a scapegoat for the ills of capitalist society.

“Don’t blame capitalism, blame the immigrants!” say the BNP and EDL to angry and disillusioned workers in England. And the media agrees. “Don’t blame capitalism, blame the English!” say the SNP and Plaid Cymru to the angry and disillusioned workers in Scotland and Wales. And the media agrees."

Conflating the Yes movement with English nationalism – BNP/EDL – is particularly low. Scottish ‘nationalism’ is calling for free public healthcare, free education including university, social housing (end of Right To Buy), denuclearisation (a real problem for UK, Europe, and NATO), nationalisation of industries, maintenance of a comprehensive welfare system, and a progressive, inclusive immigration policy.

The call for independence is not merely a nationalist one. It is progressive. Neither is it a new call. Socialists and communists have been campaigning for Scotland’s secession from the imperialist United Kingdom for a hundred years.

The Marxist revolutionary John Maclean – a man who would organise thousands of Scots, encouraged an ant-militarist stance during the Great War, and was appointed Bolshevik Consul for Scotland in in 1918 – famously said ‘Scottish separation is part of the process of England’s imperial disintegration and is a help towards the ultimate triumph of workers of the world’.

Whether you agree with this sentiment or not, to portray the call for Scottish independence as a new phenomenon and – worse still – as poisonous as BNP/EDL is wrong.

The only real nationalist voice in the Scottish independence debate is British nationalism.
• "Say yes to working-class unity, yes to revolution, and yes to a socialist future for all British workers."

The CPGB-ML was founded on the premise that there is no effective unified workers’ movement in Britain. The party is fully aware that it doesn’t exist. So to claim that Scottish workers breaking free from Westminster would somehow disrupt workers’ unity is a fable.

Likewise, the potential of socialist revolution in Britain is non-existent under present conditions.
In fact, one of the few progressive things to occur in this generation is the Scottish independence movement. It has galvanised working class people in Scotland.

What exactly would be the impediments to solidarity between workers in an independent Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland?

An independent Scotland free from Westminster with a decent programme of health, housing, education, strong public sector, progressive immigration policy, and a nuclear free nation would be an example to the English working class. Contrary to media lies, there is no anti-Englishness to the independence cause.

The CPGB-ML is right to say that the case of Scottish independence should be a class issue, not a nationalist one. However, by standing with every single representative of imperialism – UK, US, EU, NATO, Australia, the entire ‘western’ bloc; along with UKIP, BNP, Orange Order and loyalist organisations; not to mention the Labour Party, who have taken a battering in Scotland – they are standing on the wrong side.

Can you offer an explanation as to why this 'contradiction' exists? The ruling class are not trying to 'divide and conquer' us - they are unanimously in support of the union. Why, then, is it in the interests of both the ruling class and proletariat to remain in the union? It simply is not.

The working class people of Scotland have taken a significant role in the Yes campaign. Go to most housing schemes and you will see people actually interested and engaged in politics. The extraordinary voter registration – almost 98% - is down to the inclusion of previously disenfranchised working class people.

The disintegration of the imperialist ‘United Kingdom’ is inevitable – if not on Thursday then in the coming decades. It is over. Communists should recognise the class forces trying to prolong its existence, and work towards building the most progressive alternative possible.

If there’s a No vote on Thursday – the working class of Scotland will face a buoyant, vengeful Tory/UKIP coalition and another generation of austerity and cuts that we didn’t vote for. And they won’t forget who stood against them.

It’s looking increasingly likely, though, that a Yes vote will be returned. And the party will have to consider what role it will take in an independent Scotland.

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