Monday, 8 September 2014


The struggle for Scottish Independence is based on the struggle agianst the british colonial and then neo-colonial state of many before, including Ghana, India, Egypt, Libya and many others

Scottish Independence Conference in london: When getting booed by the neo-colonial left is not a bad thing, but a good thing

Neo-colonial contradictions amongst the Scottish Independence socialists, neo-colonial contradictions of the british and western white left

Sukant Chandan
Sons of Malcolm
08 Sept 2014

A good brother from the west midlands (who happens to be a white comrade) is part of an english left formation called 'Left Unity', the particular tendency within it that he supports and organises around is called 'Republican Left Unity', who support the break up of the colonial and neo-colonial 'united kingdom', including supporting the Yes campaign for Scottish Independence.

Knowing that I've supported Scottish Independence for many years he invited me to make a contribution at the event yesterday. I went along, I was the only representation of Global South politics there, the rest were english white left groups such as Red Pepper, SWP, Socialist Resistance, Green Party, with also statements of support from Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, socialist film maker Ken Loach and Bernadette MacAliskey who is a socialist and an anti-imperialist from Derry, Ireland (british occupied 6 counties). A video recording of Bernadette's speech is here.

I hadn't gone to an english white left meeting for many years, having worked with the most radical sections of the english left in Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party at the end of the 1990s and beginning of the 2000s, for whom I was the national student organiser. 

My general work with the english white left including the SLP left me with the clear understanding that the english left by and large are hostile to the struggle of the people of the world especially outside the 'west' in their struggle to overthrow neo-colonialism. No doubt I made lots of ideological and tactical errors in my time, as I sure must be doing now, but this is clearly the lesson I learnt from that experience. I do still greatly respect Arthur Scargill for some of his politics, some of which have some good internationalist anti-imperialism in it and also for his leadership against the british state of the Miners from the 1970s until the 1990s, as I do also respect perhaps the last and greatest english trade union leader Bob Crow.

I still work with english white and other european white comrades, and am still interested in developing alliances and common work with people from that milieu on the strict basis that they have to at least respect the global struggle of Global South peoples against neo-colonialism. I was told to perhaps not to borhter going by one of my political mentors the Scottish Socialist Republican and anti-imperialist James Stuart, however I thought it was important to contribute a relatively robust radical anti-imperialist voice in an event which was the only event of its kind in london supporting Scottish Independence.

I was asked to be the last to make a contribution at the event. Allan Armstrong who spoke on behalf of the Radical Independence Campaign (video of his speech is here), stated that China is supporting the union as is Russia. The quote by Chinese Première that he is referring does not state that the Chinese support the union, rather what was said was  "We certainly respect the choice you make." 

Of course it's well known that the SNP have been attacked for developing strategic relations with China as they need to develop economic and political and diplomatic capacity if Scotland is independent, and having a constructive and mutually friendly relationship with China, as is what is developing, is positive for Scottish independence, not negative. 

Armstrong also mentioned that Russia was going to support the union "but then they invaded Ukraine". Aside from echoing nato on 'Russia invading Ukraine', I have been unable to find anything supporting the claim that Putin supports the union, rather Putin said the following:

"Any people has a right to self-determination and now in Europe the process of diluting national sovereignty in the framework of a united Europe is more accepted. It's a choice for each and every people, according to their own circumstance [...] I believe one should not forget that being part of a single, strong state has some advantages and one should not overlook this. But it's a choice for each and every people, according to their own circumstances."

Which is a fair enough and good position to take. 

Over and beyond the diplomatic protocols on this issue, it's obvious to anyone that the break up of the british state is a great victory for the peoples of the world who are victims of this state, including Russia and China. This is why the Scottish Independence movement and its possible victory is a very important and relevant issue for vast swathes of Humanity across the globe. The fact that China and Russia were referenced, encouraged me to say something on these issues in my short contribution. 

There was a fair amount of criticising Alex Salmond and the SNP at this event, which I found bemusing seeing that despite all the excellent work socialist republicans outside the SNP have done and are continuing to do, the plain fact remains the Scottish left was dwindling to nothing before the SNP lifted the Scottish Independence Movement to great heights and popularity and in so doing indirectly handed the Scottish left a new life. With a view of a united front movement for Independence, I am not sure what the point of openly attacking Alex Salmon and the SNP is, I have heard nothing from Salmond and the SNP that has attacked the Scottish socialists. 

The contributions at the event while touching upon some of the global nature and ramifications of Scottish Independence and the break up of the colonial union, focused mostly on internal Scottish economic and political issues for the Scottish working classes. On these issues I agree with them, and it is a good thing that in a national movement against british imperialism that the trajectory of that collective movement opens up a lot of space for the radicalisation of the working class of Scotland towards more socialist demands and strategic power. However, limiting the conversation to just these issues does not involve the other victims of british neo-colonial oppression endangers the project being confined by the neo-colonial boundaries, rather it's important to understand that people across the world are diorectly impacted by the odus operandi of the british state, including Libyans who have seen their country utterly destroyed thanks to the leading part played by britain in that war of aggression and britain and nato's proxy death squads in Libya as well as in many other parts of the world including Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

The following was my 3-5 minute contribution to the conference. There was no formal questions and answers session after the speeches. It was clear from the first few lines that most people in the room did not agree with what I was saying and did not like it. However, Bernadette seemed to be interested and agreeable to a lot of what I was saying:

"Thank you to the organisers for organising what I think is the only public event supporting Scottish Independence in london. I wanted to broaden the conversation to encompass the majority of the people of the world who are outside the eurocentric and neo-colonial framework, and who are resistant victims of this system."

"The british system is a global system, and has been for centuries. The imperialist, neo-colonial western capitalist system's genesis was the war against the peasants of this island and this region of europe, the genocide against women which is taught in a dismissive manner in schools as the 'witch hunts', and then to quote Marx, As Bernadette says, and perhaps she was paraphrasing Karl Marx, 'Africa was turned into a warren for the hunting of Black skins and the entombment of native peoples of the Americas, such was Marx's scathing denunciation of the colonial genocidal nature of capitalism."

"The challenge for the left in england is wether they are willing to break out of the neo-colonial framework and take on board the examples of the Irish Revolution and Scottish Revolution, to which much of the english left remain hostile. Marx analysed that the english revolution would free the Irish peoples from english/british colonialism, he revised this and made a self criticism in observing the reality that there was no english revolution but that the Irish Revolution would free the english working classes. And this has remained the dynamic since, ie., that those who are most oppressed by the british system have fought it for centuries, and the Scottish Independence movement is part of this struggle of the peoples of the world who have been struggling against nato and british imperialism."

"Just as we have differences with the Scottish Independence movement, just as we would have differences with the contradictions in that movement, and the contradictions are many, just as we may have differences with sections of the spectrum of forces who are united for Scottish Independence, we must also support people around the world who are also fighting nato and british imperialism. Nato is strategically oriented to smashing China and Russia, that is the endgame, and Russia and China's struggle against nato should be supported similarly to the support we give Scottish Independence despite whatever differences and criticisms we may have of them."

At this point around a dozen people in the audience were loudly heckling me and booing. The rest of my speech was:

"Russia is our Global armed wing, and China is the Global economic wing of the struggle against nato. The struggle against nato and british imperialism is also in east Ukraine in Libya, Syria, Zimbabwe and elsewhere, as is the struggle against britain's proxy terrorists in the form of so-called Isis. Make no mistake, wherever there is war and division in the world you will find the hands of the british directing it. Just as we support Scottish Independence movements despite our differences, we must connect the dots to the Global struggle against the british state and nato."

I sat back down and Bernadette reached over to me and said "well said". I replied "and I'm the one who gets booed", she replied "I know". In further conversations, Bernadette argued with a few people that they should have let me speak, that I was not saying that China and Russia are all great and perfect but just that they are part of the global struggle against british imperialism and nato and that is a good thing. Bernadette in brief conversation with me said "the british, american and french left just don't seem to get it".

I suspect that if I had said similar things to Alex Salmond and the SNP I would have received a less hostile response than I did from the english left who support Scottish Independence, as Salmond becomes quite combative when attacked for his relations with Russia and China, and often responds that he cares more what people of the non-western world think than the mainstream press in london.

What this conference told me is that the english and further than that the british and much of the western left are very hostile to the actually existing Global struggle against neo-colonialism and nato. That they don't mind this global system of oppression, but just want more economic reforms from it and would like it not to be so nasty in dropping so many covert bombs on people. They would rather that the west roll out nato supported 'colour revolutions' and proxy death squads promoted as 'rebels' against our Global South people and countries.

The conference reminded me that the semblance of respect that they are offering the Scottish Independence movement is not something they are willing to give over to other people who are fighting successful struggles for independence and socialism against the same system and the collection of neo-colonialists in nato. Moreover, this is not just a problem of the white left, this neo-colonial prejudice and hostility has crept into many Black and Brown organisations and supposed 'radicals' who seem to posture on everything and anything but the actual real struggle across the planet against the 'greatest purveyors of violence in the world today'.

The london government is using many of the same arguments against the Scottish people that it has used against the peoples of Africa and Asia in their fight for independence against the british. The london government will continue to use to some degree the dirty tactics of neo-colonialism against Scotland if Scotland continues on its path to independence. It is really a shame that sometimes those on the receiving end of this neo-colonial oppression in Scotland and those supporting it come out with neo-colonial arguments themselves in response to this oppression.  

However, whatever the many contradictions and unethical positions that were taken at this conference and by sections of the pro-Independence Scottish left, the fact remains that objectively the break up of the union is a great prospective victory for the global and inter-generational struggle against neo-colonialism, and that it is an opening for more robust and consistently anti-imperialist voices to advocate the unity of all forces against the same common enemy.

That the english and british left are still so imbued with colonial prejudices is hardly new, actually its centuries old. Therefore, getting booed by the english and british left is not a bad thing, it is a good thing, as the brother who invited me to speak at the event replied to me when I said I got booed "You must be doing something right! The english left is crap!":

 “...The English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat alongside the bourgeoisie. For a nation which exploits the whole world this is of course to a certain extent justifiable.
(Engels in a letter to Marx, Oct 7 1858, quoted in Lenin's Imperialism and the Split in Socialism)

 “You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy. Well, exactly the same as they think about politics in general. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, and the workers gaily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the world market and the colonies.
(letter to Kautsky, Sept 12 1882, quoted in Lenin's Imperialism and the Split in Socialism)

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