Class conscious and militant politics are the answer for the youth and working people of Scotland

Challenge - Magazine of the Young Communist League
Challenge - Magazine of the Young Communist League

Taken from Challenge Magazine:

Sturgeon’s announcement of plans for second referendum on Scottish independence last month came off the back of the Britain-wide RMT rail strikes which captured the public imagination and inspired trade unionists across the country to be bold again.

In the face of an intense so-called cost of living crisis, organised labour is standing up and fighting back with a determination not seen for some time, from the Glasgow cleansing workers to the railworkers and university staff across Britain to the recent CWU national ballot.

For the left and labour movement in Scotland these developments offer an electrifying change to disabling polarisation between right wing unionism and nationalism. Recent industrial action has shaken the enforced inertia of the ‘opposition’ from both the SNP at Holyrood and the Parliamentary Labour Party at Westminster.

A new generation is being introduced to fighting trade unionism in Scotland and across Britain. So, what effect might the SNP’s announcement mean for this recent upswing in industrial militancy and class consciousness and the national question in Scotland?

For Scotland’s Communists, as ever, our fundamental starting point is our clear and unequivocal commitment to the right to self-determination for the Scottish people.

We have never adopted the negative and pessimistic attitude that Scotland is “too small” or “too poor” to thrive as an independent country.

We haven’t adopted a tribal or divisive attitude to this question either.

We consider that the 2014 referendum produced a democratic result which should be respected but the question of any future referendum and independence generally is one for the Scottish people alone.

At the same time, the Communist Party maintains its other principle of judging the exercise of that right in terms of the class interests of the Scottish people and working people in Britain and internationally.

The Scottish nation isn’t one unified, progressive, happy family. There is a working class — and elements of the British ruling class.

As Lenin identified, every nation has the basic elements of a democratic and socialist culture, but every nation also possesses a ruling class culture which under capitalism is the dominant culture.

It is for communists, socialists and trade unionists to identify, develop and build in Scotland’s national culture only its democratic and socialist elements.

It is a dangerous myth that Scottish workers share any values or common interests with Scottish elements of Britain’s ruling class just because we were born in the same country.

In the current context, Scotland’s Communists recognise that the Scottish Parliament should have the power to decide if we should hold another referendum. But for those who advocate support for independence now as a means to delivering a better life for working people or as the first step on the road to achieving socialism in Scotland, there are fundamental questions to answer.

The SNP have now been the party of government in Scotland for over 15 years. The Scottish Greens have proven fairly consistently to be faithful enablers, exacting very little by way of progressive concessions in exchange supporting right wing programmes of government.

Their recent decision to vote down a rent freeze following an impassioned defence of the ‘human rights of landlords’ by Green MSP Ross Greer tells you all you need to know about the priorities of this government and the class interests it protects. 

Despite unsupported protestations to the contrary, the reality is, under present conditions, the SNP would have the controlling role in writing any future Scottish constitution and in dictating terms on which it was agreed. Such a settlement, would have decisive implications for the terms and trajectory of the class struggle in Scotland. 

The SNP model of independence and their call for a new vote is now more firmly than ever before predicated on Scotland re-entering the European Union as an independent country. 

This is despite the fact that this would involve Scotland surrendering more powers than ever before to the EU. This is despite the fact the membership of the EU would mean austerity harsher than that imposed on Greece in the years following independence, a fact which the SNP only admitted after the last referendum and seem to have conveniently forgotten again in time for the next.

Even previous potentially progressive promises in the SNP model, such as withdrawal from NATO and the removal of nuclear weapons from Scottish soil seem to have evaporated. In the wake of the Ukraine conflict, the SNP have resolutely confirmed their support for NATO. 

It’s far from outlandish to imagine a future scenario where Sturgeon would agree to keep nukes in Scotland or allow their transit, even on a ‘temporary basis’, in exchange for NATO membership.

The Tory Party are the principal party and representative of Britain’s ruling class. This is a correctly accepted fact for the left and labour movement. But it would be folly to delude ourselves into wishful thinking that, despite containing some progressive trends, the SNP is not also a party of the ruling class, representing particular big business interests in Scotland. 

The risk for working people in Scotland now is that the rising class struggle is put on hold, while the country succumbs to another dust up between right wing unionists and nationalists. 

There are no shortcuts to building working class consciousness and power. History and the experience of other nations show us that attempting piggyback on the plans of bourgeois nationalists is a dangerous false path for working people. 

At this time of rising industrial militancy, a return to politically disabling polarisation should not be our priority. If it is the case that there is to be another referendum, it must be the position of the left and the labour movement that there should be a third option on the ballot paper rather than just the status quo Tory-SNP austerity or the SNP’s model of so-called independence.

Scotland’s Communists continue to fight for Progressive Federalism as offering the opportunity to break through the right wing binary choice and build a wide alliance of working people and their struggles across Scotland and Britain. 

Progressive Federalism is about securing the powers required to win the immediate practical needs of working people – powers denied by both the EU and the Tories in Westminster. It is also, and no less importantly, about re-winning an understanding of the need for working class unity against a big business dominated state across Britain –– unity with trade unionists fighting for similar objectives in Wales and across the regions of England.

Class politics are central. Progressive Federalism is not about ‘constitutions’ but building class power. We need a federalism that is progressive in the sense that it enables the trade union and labour movement to progressively exert power over the economy and mobilise mass movements to do so. It is progressive because it is about redistributing wealth and power –– geographically on the basis of social need and politically in favour of working people and their allies. The challenge for left and labour movement in Scotland is to win this understanding.

The road to Socialism for the Scottish people won’t be won by adopting right wing political projects of either stripe.

It requires working people in Scotland to be bold and to cut our own path –– grounded in the politics of class and working class unity. 

Johnnie Hunter, is the YCL’s General Secretary

Source: Challenge Magazine