Scottish Independence or Unite and Fight

workers of the world unite

workers of the world unite

I hope it doesn’t sound hypocritical for someone who has nothing but the utmost contempt for the system of bourgeois Parliamentary ‘democracy’ but it was good to hear that the idea of Scottish Independence had been kicked out by the Scottish people in the referendum of 18th September 2014.

Nationalism without Socialism is on the road to fascism. The argument that people are as one merely because they happen to inhabit a small piece of land takes us back to the thinking of hunter gatherers, desperate to protect their source of food. At its core nationalism asks, and expects, people of a particular country to ignore the fundamental contradiction that exists everywhere, and that’s the question of who is in really in control of the country, that is, which class actually rules.

It comes as no surprise that the matter of class never came up in the debates and discussions that preceded the vote. On either side. Scottish nationalism had its roots in petty bourgeois aspirations of being big fish in a little pond and certainly didn’t arise as a groundswell of working class opposition to ‘rule from Westminster’.

Those arguing for independence ignored any differences between those living in millionaire mansions and the people living in the schemes that surround cities like Glasgow, council housing estates with some of the worse conditions in Europe. As far as the nationalists are concerned their ‘Scottishness’ unites all, the laird in his palace and the homeless on the freezing streets of many Scottish towns.

Those opposing independence made a similar argument only on a slightly bigger scale. For them the rich and the poor of ALL the United Kingdom should be as one. This is no surprise when the British people have allowed to be elected a government which has more millionaires in positions of power than at any time since the 19th century.

An aspect of parliamentary ‘democracy’ which is always there in the background was highlighted during the run up to the referendum of the 18th. That is, the system basically depends upon bribes. If those supporting independence did so because they believed in some sort of Scottishness – whatever that might be – or an identity that comes from having been born, or living, in a particular place, at least they’re attempting to base their ideas on a principle. However, what the argument came down to, on both sides, was which one could offer the most cash in hand.

The nationalists put forward the idea, which they have tried to use as their best card for decades, that revenue from North Sea oil could all be kept for the 6 million or so people in the island of Britain which was closest to the oil fields. Now that argument in itself just displays the petty mindedness and selfish attitude of nationalism. An extension of this would mean that the only people who have the right to the riches from the world’s resources are those who live over them and we would then head back to a situation of city states.

An extension of this could mean that the Welsh would control the water resources in their hills and hold the rest of Britain to ransom – after all if recent wars have been fought over oil the wars in the future are more than likely to be fought over water. This is merely a return to a situation that existed during the early days of agriculture and clashes between tribes, a situation which still exists in some parts of the world (it should be remembered that one of the roots of sharia law is related to control of water resources). If the people in the Lake District took umbrage at the Mancunians they could cut off the water supply at Thirlmere. These sort of attitudes are tribal in the worst sense of the word and deny, and challenge, any developments that have been made in the past of our social being.

And where in the world, at any time in the past, has the working population really gained from the exploitation of such valuable resources? The lion’s share goes in profits to the mineral companies, a little bit gets into the coffers of the treasury by way of minimal tax, but never has it been a windfall for the people. In some of the Arab countries with tiny indigenous populations there are many people with millions but that’s at the expense of almost slave conditions for immigrant labour which do the work so that these parasites live in luxury. Even in Venezuela, with the much hyped policy of Chavez, only a trickle really came down to the poor of the country. Are we really supposed to accept that the situation would be any different in Scotland in the event of independence?

Added to that, if the referendum had gone the other way, what sort of ‘independence’ would it have been anyway. The nationalists wanted: to keep the pound sterling – even though no one in the Westminster Parliament said they could; keep the Queen – there would have been a conflict here on the National Anthem. The current national song of Scotland is bordering on a xenophobic rant, with lines that refer to the defeat of an English army in 1314. As, in theory (but only in theory as the royal line in Britain has been broken many times and some substitute found in another country) the present Queen is descended from the feudal upstart of the 14th century that would have made for awkward moments on State visits; stay in the European Union – although even the EU seemed reluctant to take them in, without the country first going through a long drawn out procedure for new members, and Spain (even though it said otherwise) would have done their utmost to prevent such a precedent with Catalonia and the Basque Country wanting similar.

Now the vote has been lost the nationalists are already saying that it really wasn’t important for the people ‘to have their say’ as they will try to establish independence through other means, thereby ignoring the wishes of the majority of the country in a referendum that was pushed for by these very nationalists. If they had won they would have argued that the decision had been made and should stand forever, as they have lost they look for ways to circumvent the ‘democratic choice’. I have no problem them rejecting such a choice but at least bring with it some consistency.

Another aspect of recent bourgeois elections was also demonstrated a few days after the defeat for the nationalists – the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) resigned. This personalisation of politics has been going on for sometime now, not just in the UK. I believe there are two reasons for such ‘self-sacrifice’. First it perpetuates the ‘cult of the personality’ (of nonentities) in the political environment where individuals are more important than the collective. And, secondly, it attempts to deflect criticism away from the ideas and policies by giving the impression that it was the individual who failed, not that the group which was peddling failed policies.

Unfortunately the decision of the 18th hasn’t confined the issue to the dustbin of history. Because the minority of one of the small constituent parts of the United Kingdom had a hissy fit over independence now the majority of that population who had, and still have, little wish for such moves are having unforeseen changes forced upon them.

During the whole of this process, that seems to have gone on forever, the one part of the UK that has a valid claim for independence has been completely forgotten. Since the time of the Norman invasion the Irish have been fighting against the British (the Scots spent much of that period fighting FOR the British in its colonial and expansionist wars). That struggle was, and still is, deep-rooted in the Irish identity.

But on top of all the tragedies that Ireland has had to suffer under the British yoke for centuries they now have to deal with betrayal of the present day Sinn Fein and Irish Republican Army (IRA) who have turned their back on the leadership of the past, of the likes of Robert Emmet and James Connolly, and are now seen kowtowing to the British monarch.

Such diversions deflect people from looking at the picture as a whole and in that respect Scottish Nationalism has played a pivotal role in perpetuating and maintaining the divisions between the working class of Britain (already having to deal with racism, membership of the European Union, a seemingly endless stream of wars in the Middle East, and a lack of long-term perspective). It would be good to think that now Scottish Independence has been decidedly thrown out in a ‘democratic’ vote the workers of Britain would unite and fight together for a common goal. Unfortunately, at the moment, we are still some way from seeing that reach fruition.

Independence for Catalonia!?

Nationalists in Tarragona bull ring

Catalan Nationalists banner in Tarragona

As a referendum about Scottish Independence approaches I thought it would be useful to hear about another region of Europe that wants the same thing, Catalonia wanting to separate from Spain. Here are the ideas of a Catalan from Barcelona.

Michael, here you have my opinion about this issue you asked for after the recent elections of November 25th.

In Madrid the official centralist mass media says that independence is now not possible as CiU (Convergència i Unió, the party of Artur Mas) doesn’t have an absolute majority, but they forget that ¾ of the new Catalan Parliament belong to political parties who support the call for a referendum on self-determination.

ECONOMIC REASONS

The reason why CiU saw its support fall on November 25th is simply because the Catalan people didn’t like the Messiah-like campaign which Artur Mas implemented. And also, of course, because of the very important economic reasons working people have for being angry with the ruling class.

A CERTAIN ‘END-TIMES’ FEELING

The monthly magazine Catalonia Today, in its latest issue of December, says:

“… an end-times feeling has become a common one for many families in Catalonia. Thousands have lost jobs and homes, and what is worse, the hope of replacing their losses in the near future. During the year, the media have been full of financial horror stories about high risk premiums and devaluation by rating agencies, while the financial problems of banks and administrations have become the daily bread of a society increasingly concerned about its future. The great demonstration and general strike on November 14 is just the latest proof of a growing discontent…” (1)

Nowadays, the savage, neo-liberal measures, put in place by the Spanish government of President Mariano Rajoy (PP, Popular Party) have been even reinforced and deeply worsened by the Catalan government of Artur Mas, with the consent of the so-called Catalan socialists (PSC, Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya).

FIRST CUTS MADE BY ZAPATERO

This PSC, which is federated with the PSOE, is being more discredited now than ever, because everybody knows it has also been responsible for the aggressive cuts initiated by Zapatero years ago. These cuts, being now even greater with the policies of the PP government, allow us to say that the high degree of desperation afflicting the Catalan and Spanish working class is not only due to the global crisis but also – and above all – to the savage and oppressive measures used by the ruling class to confront this crisis.

CiU IS BLATANTLY RULING CLASS

And the CiU is a political party of the ruling class. A very conservative one, using the nationalist feelings of Catalan people in favour of the economic interests of the Catalan capitalists. We must also take into account that the heirs of that Catalan capitalism, which very much helped General Franco during the Civil War of 1936-39, are not all inside the Spanish nationalist right-wing of the PP; they are also inside the Catalan nationalist right-wing of the CiU.

THE POWER OF THE CATALAN MASS MEDIA

Today the power of the media depending in one way or another from the Generalitat (Catalan government) is bigger than ever before… and they are completely biassed and manipulated. The only image of Spain they are selling now in Catalonia is centralism, aggressiveness against Catalonia and not at all sympathetic. Any other Spain, different from this, doesn’t exist in the eyes of the CiU.

For example, the fact that, some weeks ago, the 3rd Spanish political party in terms of numbers of votes, IU (Izquierda Unida – United Left) voted in the Spanish Parliament in favour of self-determination for Catalonia, has been totally ignored by the Catalan media dominated by the CiU. This media are simply clubbish and this Catalan nationalist right-wing is deeply anti-left; they don’t want to even talk about changing proportions in the laws regulating polls, which now are clearly in favour of giving much more advantage to the right-wing parties. So the Catalan left is scarcely represented in the Catalan Parliament and, in any case, less represented than the Spanish left in the Spanish Parliament.

… MAYBE BACK TO SPAIN

In the face of that nightmare very few intellectuals dare to push in the right direction. Professor Vicenç Navarro of the University of Barcelona is one of them. Some of the ideas expressed in this article are also his.

However there are moments of hope, like during the big demonstration on November 14th or some days ago, when the Financial Times considered – on an economic level – an independent Catalonia is possible.

As long as Spaniards don’t treat us, the Catalan people, like brothers and sisters independentist feelings will grow even more and they won’t be able to stop them.

I would propose that, in a near future, if Spain again becomes a People’s Republic of the Workers, established on a basis of freedom and justice for all, then we must call for another referendum, in order to go back again to this new Spain. I feel I’ve more in common with a single jornalero from Andalucia, or an industrial worker from Bilbao, or a fisherman from Galicia than with all the Catalan bankers and bosses together!

Francesc Arnau i Arias, Barcelona, 13/12/2012

To read more about Francesc’s ideas click on the link below (in Catalan)

Des de la finestra

(1) Catalonia Today, No. 0359, December 2012, Annus horribilis, by the editor Marcela Topor.

Although slightly dated (it was written in the 1970s when the issue wasn’t independence but devolution) here is a pamphlet written in opposition to dividing the working class on issues of nationality.

Unity not Devolution