Welcome to Socialism First!
This is the first blog post for a loose grouping of Labour party members, socialists, and other left-wingers. We are entering the debate on the 2014 Scottish referendum with a fair degree of reservation. We are not against independence in principle, but feel that the arguments being put forward for it are misguided at best and dangerous at worst. As socialists, we reject both the reactionary stance of the Better Together campaign but also, and just as importantly, we reject the supposed “radicalism” of the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) in the Scottish independence debate.
We are No voters, but do so out of socialist principles, rather than Better Together’s scare-mongering threats of Scottish society imploding under the burden of independence. We also believe that a Yes vote, as championed by RIC, is nothing more than a will-o’-the-wisp: a seemingly alluring proposition that will ultimately lead us further away from where we, as the working class, want to be.
We will deal briefly with the two stances and in subsequent posts we will flesh these out further (along with other various other matters) and propose some genuine alternatives.
This will be relatively brief, because the faults with the campaign are only too plain to see. Labour sharing the platform with Tories. A campaign based on attempting to threaten the electorate rather than inform it. A warm embrace to flag-waving, militarism and patriotic tub-thumping. Renewing Trident and continuing the austerity experiment…
You don’t need to read between the lines to grasp that this is not, in any way, shape or form a “progressive” campaign, or one that inspires or provides vision. It doesn’t offer any alternatives for society that will advance the interest of working people It is nothing more than a vote for Things as They Are. With such stark structural inequalities in the United Kingdom this is clearly unacceptable for a socialist. And, as socialists, it is unacceptable to us.
Surely breaking up the oppressive state that creates, regulates and enforces this unjust system is the answer? Why on earth would anyone vote the same way as a consortium of the obstinate, bitter, old-guard?
Radical Independence Campaign
A recurring refrain from the radical Yes activists is that a vote for No is a vote for the British Establishment. The reason so many high-profile right-wingers are coming out in droves, and in such an aggressive manner, is a sign of their fear; a fear that the breaking up of Britain is a breaking up of their interests. That in itself provides grounds for a Yes vote.
If nothing else, this should set alarm bells ringing about the intellectual rigour of the RIC arguments. If my enemy doesn’t like it, then I do: the enemy’s enemy is my friend. Except, of course, that at various times in modern history the British Establishment has stridently and wholeheartedly opposed fascism and militant Islamism. If the British Establishment opposes these things then should we side with these corrupt and false ideologies?
Obviously, those examples are considerably more repressive than petite bourgeois nationalism, but be under no illusions, independence is not a step towards socialism, nor is it an “opportunity” for socialism to emerge. What independence does present is an opportunity for the people resident in Scotland to (theoretically) increase their political control. Pass laws for a welfare state from cradle to grave; legislation to ensure workers rights; make nuclear disarmament central to a new constitution. What’s wrong with that?
Well, nothing, of course. We want all that too. But much like human rights, you can have a list of aspirations and demands as long as your arm; pass as many laws as you want; draft a constitution as profound as it is insightful, but if you don’t have the means to enforce your rights and the funds to do so, then they remain nothing more than that: aspirations and demands. The RIC campaign has only developed – in the most rudimentary form – the argument that Scottish independence will extend beyond increasing political control to increasing economic control.
For example, there is no outline for how we would found a nationalised Scottish Central Bank or establish a separate currency. There are no suggestions for how we would protect a fledgling economy from currency speculators. The SNP and Yes campaign seem to have meekly accepted that we retain the Sterling. As such we would have no control over our monetary policy (the amount of money in our economy) and would only have fiscal (tax-raising) powers. No monetary control would leave us at the whim and mercy of the home of bourgeois finance capitalism: the City of London.
Do RIC accept that Scotland will be a client state of rUK if we retain the Sterling, and if so, would they abandon their demands for independence if a nationalised economy were not a founding principle of an independent Scotland? This lack of detail or explanation on the fundamentals of the economy is deeply troubling. The vast majority of the literature and rhetoric from the far-Left on independence is based on “anti-imperialism”. This, we suspect, is simply a convenient sleight-of-hand. RIC and others on the far Left, whether knowingly or not, are using these arguments to misdirect attention away from their lack of detailed economic argument (which would be necessary for creating “opportunities” for socialism, never mind actual, full-blown socialism…) towards the broader and vaguer aim of “breaking up the British state”.
While breaking up the Establishment or posturing as anti-imperialists may sound attractive, it is based on false or inadequate theory and reasoning. We have adopted a No position, and while it is the same voting intention as the Better Together campaign, it is for radically differing reasons.
The class struggle for the democratic control of the means of production is difficult enough without having signed away many of the financial mechanisms necessary for control of the economy. There is, in short, no prospect for socialism from either Better Together (due to its regressive politics) or the Radical Independence Campaign (due to its utopian politics). In subsequent posts we will expand on these ideas and lay out some genuine alternatives; of why we must relegate nationalism until we achieve Socialism First.