No 1453 17th September 2014
Scottish referendum is a huge diversionary fraud for the working class, to head attention away from the raging crisis of capitalism and the need to build a revolutionary movement against it. Separating Scotland from England would solve nothing economically in a world dominated by powerful international capital all desperately in a cutthroat battle for survival and ready to impose savage shutdowns whatever “local autonomy” is secured. But worse it would divide a working class with a 300 year history of united struggles and battling against a British ruling class, just when it needs maximum unity to develop revolutionary consciousness and fights that alone can deal with the onrushing global catastrophe and war chaos being imposed by world capitalism to try and escape it. It also fosters petty nationalist backwardness that plays into the hands of the war build-up. Slightly weakening the British ruling class cannot compensate for such drawbacks. Leninism needed
Genuine panic by the British ruling class that its Scottish independence racket may have gone too far and could threaten a real UK split with the petty bourgeois Scot nationalist SNP does not stop the “independence” referendum this week from being a giant fraud on the working class.
While this symptom of breakdown and conflict between sections of the ruling class, squabbling over the best way for them to survive the now devastating international capitalist crisis, is a minor complicating factor it changes nothing about the lying nonsense that the working class will be somehow benefit from breaking apart the British state.
A “yes” vote might be awkward for the British ruling class and it is a sign of its confusion and historic incompetence, and increasingly weak position within the growing cutthroat conditions of world catastrophic economic collapse, that it has allowed the issue to run away from it.
But every orifice of the bourgeois media has been deliberately focussed on the issue, turning attention away from the capitalist crisis and warmongering disaster unfolding in the world.
The British ruling class has played up to the reactionary posturing of the opportunist Scottish petty bourgeoisie because the entire “devolution” and “independence” racket, (an empty nonsense which the Blairite New Labourites made much of as part of their spin and empty hype method of sustaining bourgeois “democratic government”), fills the air with apparent sound and fury and the pretence of “change” and political movement, while usefully heading working class attention away from any understanding of any real solution to the international crisis.
The separatism debate remains a total diversion from the real issues in the world that matter, the international collapse of the capitalist system and the ever more urgent need to build a conscious movement for its revolutionary overturn to establish socialism.
What is more the ruling class know this very well, making the most of a completely false and limited debate to keep attention away from the real issues in the world of escalating capitalist crisis world warmongering – as seen in the horrific killings and war being deliberately and systematically whipped up by the West in Ukraine and the Middle East, and the onrush of the greatest meltdown cataclysm of social and economic disaster seen in all history.
The Depression and war disaster unravelling, will hammer into the working class on a far greater scale than anything seen so far, whether it is unified in a British State or artificially split away, whether it is “Scottish” or “English”, whether it has “access to oil reserves”, or “no more Tories”.
It is the tearing contradictions of a world profit system which has hit the buffers and can go no further historically which need to be focused on, not the irrelevance of a supposed “cultural national identity” which is a completely petty bourgeois construct in the first place, historical inaccurate anyway and simply dragging the world backwards.
The ferment of political debate around the Scottish independence referendum comes not from a suppressed and unfulfilled national desire for self-determination, (and in this, Scottish “independence” is very different to the anti-imperialist struggle of ruthlessly colonially oppressed Ireland) but from the tearing contradictions and fears of the onrushing Slump disaster which is hammering workers everywhere in the world, and it reflects a massive potential development of working class anti-capitalist struggle driven by the world economic crisis.
But the potential revolutionary debate this raises, is cynically headed onto a side issue by the bourgeoisie while its possibilities for massive political education and discussion are completely wasted by the fake-“lefts” of all kinds, Trotskyist and Stalinist revisionist.
Not one of these “left”s has put the ever-deepening world capitalist crisis and its revolutionary implications at the centre of the debate, the only way that any sense can be made of things – some do not mention it at all or only in passing or in a formalistic way, (because after all they are supposed to be Marxists).
Slump disaster is going to hit everyone with hurricane force far beyond the austerity already seen no matter what promises or concessions are granted by Westminster or Holyrood.
The forces of international capital, which are worldwide in extent and not simply “the dominance of Westminster”, are the enemy and the unity of the working class in revolutionary struggle against them is more critically needed than ever.
It can only be achieved by developing the widest possible revolutionary perspectives – not by dragging the working class back along the path of bourgeois democracy and reformist “left pressure”.
Illusions fed by the petty bourgeois nationalists and the ranks of fake-“left” poseurs now backing them, in “new possibilities for parliamentary change free finally of London” or “constitutional re-invigoration” and the “chance to make our own way” etc etc will even more greatly hamper the class struggle.
They are the most dire regression just at the point where the historic experiences of the working class with all forms of parliamentarianism and broken and betrayed reformist promises have left them – correctly – utterly mistrustful and contemptuous of bourgeois “democracy” and ready to make this conscious, with revolutionary Marxist grasp of the reality of parliament as being nothing but a fraudulent cover for the class dictatorship of the capitalists and their profit making exploitation interests.
Reformist delusions which have held the working class back for over a century of struggle in Britain have been virtually worked through to the point of total contempt and cynicism for all parliamentary elections and the corruption and self-seeking venality of all “democracy” pretences, as is clear from ever lower voting turnouts or aggressive protest voting, over recent years particularly.
Pretending, as “left” intellectuals like George Monbiot are doing, that the Scottish vote will provide new opportunities for class struggle is the most deadly nonsense, and the more so in the absence of any revolutionary lead or perspective, its effect simply to shore up precisely the old Labourite illusions, when they should be politically given an even more thorough kicking than then endless scandals and working class disgust have already given parliamentary horse-shyte.
This kind of gush is useful only for one reason, exposing what anti-revolutionary anti-communist politics the “lefts” hold to and the complete capitulation they represent to old class collaboration:
Scottish independence can galvanise progressive movements across the rest of the UK. We’ll watch as the Scots engage in the transformative process of writing a constitution. We’ll see that a nation of these islands can live and – I hope – flourish with a fully elected legislature (no House of Lords), with a fair electoral system (proportional representation), and with a parliament in which only representatives of that nation can vote (no cross-border mercenaries).
Already, the myth of political apathy has been scotched by the tumultuous movement north of the border. As soon as something is worth voting for, people will queue into the night to add their names to the register. The low voter turnouts in Westminster elections reflect not an absence of interest but an absence of hope.
If Scotland becomes independent, it will be despite the efforts of almost the entire UK establishment. It will be because social media has defeated the corporate media. It will be a victory for citizens over the Westminster machine, for shoes over helicopters. It will show that a sufficiently inspiring idea can cut through bribes and blackmail, through threats and fear-mongering. That hope, marginalised at first, can spread across a nation, defying all attempts to suppress it. That you can be hated by the Daily Mail and still have a chance of winning.
If Labour has any political nous, any remaining flicker of courage, it will understand what this moment means. Instead of suppressing the forces of hope and inspiration, it would mobilise them. It would, for instance, pledge, in its manifesto, a referendum on drafting a written constitution for the rest of the UK.
A “written constitution” no less!!!! And will that hold off the surveillance, police spying, repression, international support for open Nazism in the Ukraine (already with 2500 deaths to its credit), the lysing Goebbels war provocations against Russia moving mass NATO troops to its border, and the monstrous skulduggery and endless blitzkrieging in the Middle East, including the support for the foul and degenerate Zionist Nazi occupation of Palestine, and its non-stop and constant land-theft genocidal murder and bullying??
Will that stop the further degeneration of all capitalism into the Third World War destruction which has been imposed everywhere for the last 15 years since Serbia was blitzed by NATO (under the pretence of supporting “self-determination” for the Albanian mafia gangsters taking over Kosovo) in order to break up what was left of any revisionist remnants of the old Yugoslavian workers state????
Will that prevent the return of the credit crunch collapse of 2008 due any minute but multiplied?? (see below)
What a foul and disarming heap of garbage to mislead and confuse the working class into thinking it has achieved something when all it has done is waste two years of its time in futile and distracting argument.
Larding all this with the backwardness of renewed petty nationalisms (both Scottish and inevitably boosted Little Englander varieties), is the most dire aspect of all, just at the moment when the capitalist world is gearing up for the greatest war stampeding propaganda drive in all history, ready to entrap the working class once more in hugely escalated war fever and chauvinism, just as it was herded into the trenches and then the destruction of the Second World War.
Even if secession does not lead as such to immediate hostility across the Scottish border (and class traditions fortunately make it unlikely), the working class will be broken into historically retrogressive “national” fragments, and the capacity of workers to fight a unified battle against the oncoming Depression disaster, whose austerity savagery has only just begun, will be hamstrung.
In or out of the United Kingdom the workers in Scotland will be exposed to the same hurricane of world financial collapse that started everywhere in 2008 and which is due to return ten or a hundred times more devastatingly at any moment, as soon as the smoke and mirrors “recovery” of Quantitative Easing money printing implodes, as it must.
If anything, the relatively tiny economy of Scotland will be even more vulnerable to the devastating savagery of austerity impositions, bankruptcies, and world trade and currency war bullying already underway but due to reach depths of chaos and dog-eat-dog viciousness which are barely imaginable, even if international warmongering and destruction has not already overtaken events.
International takeovers and buyouts, with all the closures and shutdowns that follow are barely resisted by the much larger British economy as a whole, as made clear by the recent attempted “aggressive takeover” of pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca (only temporarily deferred), which would have seen its research and production capacities parasitically absorbed or shut down by an American combine, using it primarily for tax and financial advantage.
Most of British industry and finance is already foreign owned or controlled by the ever more internationally connected bourgeoisie (including the British ruling class) and subject to the crisis impositions that emerge from that worldwide profit-making system and which are imposed everywhere, irrespective of borders and boundaries.
Facing up to this internationally imposed catastrophe of the profit making system demands the greatest of working class unity, built around a deliberate fought for conscious revolutionary understanding of the need to end the entire capitalist system as the only possible way to stop the slide towards World War Three which US-led international monopoly capitalism is imposing, to try and shock and awe its way through the crisis and ride out the devastation its profit making system has led to (and can only ever lead to).
It is a complete nonsense to break the historic unity of the British working class, already built up in a long three century history of cross border cultural and class integration, in which the Scottish working class has been a mainstay of militancy and determination.
As the EPSR has previously argued (EPSR 1159 05-11-02):
The working class in this country has been fighting a fully integrated and united battle against capitalist central government for at least 300 years or more. A positive cultural cosmopolitanism has been achieved even under the strains of capitalist exploitation, an enormous social evolutionary achievement with colossal significance for the future socialist-community development of the whole planet.
The whole of anti-capitalist reformist history in Britain (for its strictly-limited social and economic and political worth as opposed to its longer-term anti-revolutionary disarming aspect) has been the stronger for English, Scottish, and Welsh working class unity rather than the weaker because of it.
The next necessarily revolutionary stages of the struggle for socialism within this economy would undoubtedly be indescribably weaker if fought totally separately from one another by workers in Scotland, Wales, and England, - each presumably against their “own” ruling class (which would be impossible to find, of course, since it is not even just mixed British in inextricably interwoven and complex connections, but is as much international as anything into the bargain).
Fighting for state power just in Wales, say, against the international power of counter-revolutionary monopoly-imperialist intervention (especially pouring over the border from England) seems like pure idiocy, not political wisdom. Ditto for Scotland or England separately. A united workers state power in Britain, on the other hand, would be a vastly different proposition, especially in the likely circumstances of an already totally fragmented imperialist world in an already advanced condition of revolutionary international upheaval, as would be the case by the likely time of breakdown here.
But the fake-“left” continue to foster the old reformist pretences, and fail utterly to develop the only possible understanding that matters; that of the now overwhelming epochal crisis breakdown of the 700 year long capitalist world order, whose internal contradictions have reached the point of utter collapse.
Many of them opportunistically ride along with the kind of petty nationalism that has infected the entire petty bourgeois dominated “official” trade union movement since its class-collaborating emergence in the nineteenth century, and as surfaced in Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party for example, still hidebound by old bureaucratic narrowness and prejudice, despite its ostensible break with Labourism (EPSR No 998 12-05-99):
The line on Europe is as bad, pandering to Little Englander nationalism of the most brain-rotting variety, pretending to the working class that there is some ‘solution’ to the problems of living under the imperialist system and its incurable worldwide economic crisis via ‘getting out of the EU European bosses club’. It is infamous chauvinistic nonsense, and is the ‘start’, not of ‘socialism’, but of playing into the hands of fascist-imperialist jingoism for the trade-wars and the shooting wars to come under the disastrous class-collaborating fraud of “everything must now be done in the national interest”. This flag-waving against “the European bosses” is the most degenerate philistine gibberish imaginable, and it is coupled with the equally reprehensible pandering to Scots and Welsh nationalism in the SLP campaigns to participate in the ‘devolution’ rackets, - conning the working class that introducing bourgeois-capitalist parliaments into Scotland and Wales will provide the ‘freedom’ for the ‘democracy of socialism’ to eventually revive the local economies and social services in the local interest.
A more foul deception on workers for the SLP to get involved in could not be found, and it must be seen as fortunate that relatively few workers were taken in by this imbecile nonsense, -the SLP getting about 2% in Scotland and Wales of those that bothered voting where more than half the electorate expressed their contempt for the whole farce of capitalist ‘democracy’ by staying away from the polls altogether.[This in 1999! - ed]
But with their electoral propaganda going along with this grotesque delusion of “self-government at last for the people of Scotland and Wales”, the specific voter-appeals put out by the SLP will only have reinforced the reactionary shot-in-the-arm to crude nationalism which is all that this Blairite stunt has achieved (and possibly was all it was ever meant to achieve).
Rampaging reactionary nationalism has nothing to commend it to a completely integrated working-class in Britain who all have a COMMON enemy, - the monopoly-imperialist system which is English, Scots, Welsh, Australian, American, German, Japanese, Korean, etc, etc, ad infinitum. Devolution does not remotely put the Scottish working class just into confrontation with the Scottish ruling class, - it will be the same international imperialist ruling class as before, only now Scots workers will be WEAKER for that fight because of this mental-political process of atomisation away from the rest of the working class in Britain, and the delusion (thanks to the SLP and other pro-devolution propaganda) that ‘being on their own’ again, ‘at last’, - dealing with their ‘own’ economy, - is somehow better. But
a) it is totally fictional rubbish; and
b) it would be EVEN WORSE if it were true. A completely atomised, separated Scots economy would be the easy plaything of any imperialist intervention around, whenever the Scottish working class might try to unleash any mass move towards a socialist transformation of the Scottish economy.
The identical arguments apply to Wales, and also to England as far as Scargill’s social-chauvinism towards the ‘EU bosses’ is concerned. At this stage of advanced evolved class-war history in Britain and of civilised working-class integration facing a joint state/ruling class enemy for so many generations, - the reaction back into atomised ‘nationalist’ working classes when monopoly-imperialist ownership still rules everywhere, and the socialist transformation of the economy and society has not even begun, - is a potentially disastrous setback for which the philistine political ignorance of the fake-’left’ swamp, SLP included, has a lot to answer. Nothing but harm and confusion can come from this relapse back into parochial nationalism, and the only silver lining is that the majority of workers treated this ‘gift’ of ‘devolution’ from the monopoly-imperialist establishment with the suspicious contempt it deserves. The simultaneous introduction of proportional representation, a concession to ‘European bosses’ logic at last, (being a feature of European bourgeois democracy for over 100 years), as a further part of Blairism’s wish to scupper the Liberal-Democrat appeal within decaying imperialism, - should not be muddled up with this main reactionary issue of re-invigorated petty nationalism.
In opposing the referendum, Marxist understanding has no interest in supporting the British state as such, and its vile contemptible ruling class exploitation, exactly the opposite.
But it makes no sense to pretend that supporting a breakaway Scottish parliament is now going to reinvigorate the “left” and give new prospects for advances. Again from the EPSR at the time of the formation of the Scottish Socialist Party (Issue 1057 18-07-00):
The SSP is claimed to have ‘formidable campaigning strengths’ behind ‘charismatic’ MSP Tommy Sheridan, but what use such traditional ‘left’ skills are put to is what matters. Preparing for an alliance with the SNP (Scottish National Party) for an ‘independent’ capitalist Scotland will create more ludicrously reactionary confusion than can possibly be imagined, and would leave the working class in Scotland more vulnerable to the perils of a warmongering imperialist world crisis than ever before. Even more routine SSP reformism such as the campaign to stop the disposal of Glasgow’s last 94,000 council flats and houses may get Sheridan much more publicity, but what is its perspective politically? Nothing more than to prop up the total illusion of ‘municipal socialism’, just as Militant solely achieved when running Liverpool council.
All that such parliamentary electoralism of this type can ever do in reality, is to run municipal parts of the capitalist system, nothing else. That means running capitalism locally on behalf of the ruling class and the imperialist state, – as Liverpool Militant graphically illustrated when forced to sack council staff because of centrally-imposed budget restrictions, etc, etc, etc, etc,etc without end. Council housing is running down precisely because it is a contradictory nightmare to try to build a culture of publicly-owned housing and other amenities which is ever-improving, – inside capitalist economic crisis conditions which are becoming ever more insecure and cut-throat, ever more brutally philistine and self-centred, and periodically ever more patchy or catastrophic from a living standards point of view.
When ‘municipal socialism’ runs into debt, drugs, and crime problems on council housing estates, within a world of ever sharpening international capitalist crisis conditions,– it is this bogus ‘reformism’ which is going to be routed as utterly useless and utterly unwanted. The noble tradition of attempted co-operatives under capitalism (whether in housing or anything else) has never been able to be more than a diversion from what the working class really need to be concentrating on, which is the taking of state power.
The ignominious collapse some years back of the SSP into bitter divisions and conflict ostensibly around alleged sex scandals and capitalist press allegations, in reality reflected the breakdown and failure of this opportunist and careerist politics, just as the implosion of the Gerry Healy Workers Revolutionary Party in the 1980s around sexual exploitation issues was in reality a reflection of its disastrous Trotskyist anti-communist political philosophy, torn apart by the unfolding of world events.
That does not stop the great part of the fake-“left” swamp from once more posturing and pretending about “an independent path opening up with better opportunities for working class advances” and particularly it is suggested because of the British state would be weakened by the break up.
It will achieve exactly the opposite, fragmenting and disrupt its class power and strength, and the potential for a huge jump forwards in consciousness and understanding.
From the scalded reactions of the formerly complacent No campaign in recent days to the separatist progress, there may be some element of fragmentation which at least temporarily disrupts British ruling class overall strength to some extent.
But it does not compensate at all for the break in long established class unity across the borders and the debilitating impact of nationalist illusions. On this last aspect Leninism has always been very clear of the damage that is done as again previously argued (EPSR 1085 17-04-01):
Directly on the national question, Lenin was even more at odds with the mentality of the petty-bourgeois fake-’left’ which, today in Britain, supports more and more ‘politically correct’ cultural-national autonomy. The Trots, Revisionists, and bogus ‘anti-Stalin communists’ have all abandoned Marxism to go tail-ending the reactionary separatist delusions of Scottish and Welsh middle-class nationalism, and other such ‘cultural-national autonomy’ throwbacks. The swamp’s capitulation to black nationalist ‘political correctness’ of various kinds has included the particularly reactionary ‘separate schools’ lobbying, denounced with special vehemence by Lenin in his opposition to bourgeois nationalism. Nothing could be more backward than these artificial retreats from the natural progress of assimilation by the politically-progressive world market, back into ‘self-determination’ narrowness (where no plainly blunt conditions of obviously nationality-determined force, repression, or privilege have demanded it).--
Marxism cannot be reconciled with nationalism, be it even of the “most just”, “purest”, most refined and civilised brand. In place of all forms of nationalism Marxism advances internationalism, the amalgamation of all nations in the higher unity, a unity that is growing before our eyes with every mile of railway line that is built, with every international trust, and every workers’ association that is formed (an association that is international in its economic activities as well as in its ideas and aims).
The principle of nationality is historically inevitable in bourgeois society and, taking this society into due account, the Marxist fully recognises the historical legitimacy of national movements. But to prevent this recognition from becoming an apologia of nationalism, it must be strictly limited to what is progressive in such movements, in order that this recognition may not lead to bourgeois ideology obscuring proletarian consciousness.
The awakening of the masses from feudal lethargy, and their struggle against all national oppression, for the sovereignty of the people, of the nation, are progressive. Hence, it is the Marxist’s bounden duty to stand for the most resolute and consistent democratism on all aspects of the national question. This task is largely a negative one. But this is the limit the proletariat can go to in supporting nationalism, for beyond that begins the “positive” activity of the bourgeoisie striving to fortify nationalism.
To throw off the feudal yoke, all national oppression, and all privileges enjoyed by any particular nation or language, is the imperative duty of the proletariat as a democratic force, and is certainly in the interests of the proletarian class struggle, which is obscured and retarded by bickering on the national question. But to go beyond these strictly limited and definite historical limits in helping bourgeois nationalism means betraying the proletariat and siding with the bourgeoisie. There is a border-line here, which is often very slight and which the Bundists and Ukrainian nationalist-socialists completely lose sight of.
Combat all national oppression? Yes, of course! Fight for any kind of national development, for “national culture” in general? - Of course not. The economic development of capitalist society presents us with examples of immature national movements all over the world, examples of the formation of big nations out of a number of small ones, or to the detriment of some of the small ones, and also examples of the assimilation of nations. The development of nationality in general is the principle of bourgeois nationalism; hence the exclusiveness of bourgeois nationalism, hence the endless national bickering. The proletariat, however, far from undertaking to uphold the national development of every nation, on the contrary, warns the masses against such illusions, stands for the fullest freedom of capitalist intercourse and welcomes every kind of assimilation of nations, except that which is founded on force or privilege.
Consolidating nationalism within a certain “justly” delimited sphere, “constitutionalising” nationalism, and securing the separation of all nations from one another by means of a special state institution - such is the ideological foundation and content of cultural-national autonomy. This idea is thoroughly bourgeois and thoroughly false. The proletariat cannot support any consecration of nationalism; on the contrary, it supports everything that helps to obliterate national distinctions and remove national barriers; it supports everything that makes the ties between nationalities closer and closer, or tends to merge nations. To act differently means siding with reactionary nationalist philistinism.
When, at their Congress in Brünn (in 1899), the Austrian Social-Democrats discussed the plan for cultural-national autonomy, practically no attention was paid to a theoretical appraisal of that plan. It is, however, noteworthy that the following two arguments were levelled against this programme: (1) it would tend to strengthen clericalism; (2) “its result would be the perpetuation of chauvinism, its introduction into every small community, into every small group” (p92 of the official report of the Brünn Congress, in German. A Russian translation was published by the Jewish nationalist party, the J.S.L.P. “).
There can be no doubt that “national culture”, in the ordinary sense of the term, i.e. schools, etc., is at present under the predominant influence of the clergy and the bourgeois chauvinists in all countries in the world. When the Bundists, in advocating “cultural-national” autonomy, say that the constituting of nations will keep the class struggle within them clean of all extraneous considerations, then that is manifest and ridiculous sophistry. It is primarily in the economic and political sphere that a serious class struggle is waged in any capitalist society. To separate the sphere of education from this is, firstly, absurdly utopian, because schools (like “national culture” in general) cannot be separated from economics and politics; secondly, it is the economic and political life of a capitalist country that necessitates at every step the smashing of the absurd and outmoded national barriers and prejudices, whereas separation of the school system and the like, would only perpetuate, intensify and strengthen “pure” clericalism and “pure” bourgeois chauvinism.
On the boards of joint-stock companies we find capitalists of different nations sitting together in complete harmony. At the factories workers of different nations work side by side. In any really serious and profound political issue sides are taken according to classes, not nations. Withdrawing school education and the like from state control and placing it under the control of the nations is in effect an attempt to separate from economics, which unites the nations, the most highly, so to speak, ideological sphere of social life, the sphere in which “pure” national culture or the national cultivation of clericalism and chauvinism has the freest play.
In practice, the plan for “extra-territorial” or “cultural-national” autonomy could mean only one thing: the division of educational affairs according to nationality, i.e., the introduction of national curias in school affairs. Sufficient thought to the real significance of the famous Bund plan will enable one to realise how utterly reactionary it is even from the standpoint of democracy, let alone from that of the proletarian class struggle for socialism.
1913 CRITICAL REMARKS ON THE NATIONAL QUESTION
A few of the fake “left” have seemingly managed to avoid the more grotesque opportunist nationalist tail-ending of many of the mainly Trotskyist groups, such as the Socialist Workers Party and its breakaway Counterfire, the Socialist Party of England and Wales (the Militant remnant left after the split with the SSP), and the Revolutionary Communist Group.
But these others, primarily with some past origins in the revisionist Stalinist wing of fake-“left”ism such as the CPGB Weekly Worker, the CPGB-ML Lalkar/Proletarian and elements reflecting the CPB views, present the arguments in the most ponderous of ways with not a sense of any living revolutionary causes of the turmoil (which is to distract from revolutionary development) or revolutionary perspectives to understand what is really needed.
In the case of the Weekly Worker, a long academic analysis of the origins of the national identity of Britain, stretching over four pages of detailed history of the transformation of the feudal state structures of medieval Europe into the capitalist nation state of Great Britain, demonstrates well that the formation of the nation and its coherent identity as understood by Marxism was one that incorporated the bourgeoisie from both countries participating in and forging a common identity as an imperialist British ruling class, (often with leadership by major Scottish figures) culturally, economically, scientifically, politically, militarily and philosophically, at the same time forging a cross border working class which also fought for and created a common interest as described in the EPSR quote above for example.
This materialist analysis is based on the Marxist understanding that only with the arrival of the capitalist market, overthrowing the old feudal order, does a nation in the modern sense come into being at all as opposed to the network of fealties and aristocratic hierarchies which dominate peasant production in feudalism and which have essentially no core consciousness of nation (even if early signs of the capitalist future emerge in literature such as Henry V).
In other words there was no colonialist domination of Scotland as there was over Ireland which was forcibly suppressed, exploited and suppressed from early on, and especially with advent of British capitalism; notably the colonist settlers of Ulster were primarily Scottish immigrants. No common identity existed there.
The difference is that there is a material basis for the anti-imperialist struggle in Ireland, and its victories against the British have been telling and necessary blows, all the way through to the triumph of the Sinn Féin struggle and the snails pace withdrawal of British imperialism, around the Good Friday Agreement, after the IRA had proved it could never be defeated.
The unity of Ireland, now steadily being achieved, clears the way for the Irish working class to take up the revolutionary socialist struggle, as it, like the working class everywhere faces the Depression hammerings of the crisis.
The Scottish independence issue and devolution before it, however, are a complete petty bourgeois racket.
But having ponderously and academically established this background concrete history of the formation of the bourgeois imperialist British nation, and of the unified class struggle against it which developed at the same time, the Weekly Worker astonishingly then swings right around 180 degrees, abandons this historical materialist analysis and supports the Scottish independence call.!!!
This incredible swing is based on the completely unMarxist notion that subjective feelings of the masses are the overriding factor (though the WW does not explain how it has any idea what these are anyway, nor how it separates working class grasp from petty bourgeois opinion – it does not):
The coming into being of the British nation cannot be put before the palpable feelings of the masses of people in Scotland and Wales. Millions sincerely believe they are nationally disadvantaged, held back or even oppressed. A subjective factor that only a hopeless dogmatist would discount and therefore fail to harness by offering positive solutions.
This complete abandonment of Marxist materialism couched in the WW’s usual staccato non-sentence grammar is justified with a long confusing rigmarole about “self-determination” which elevates this highly relative and secondary principle (its merit always to be considered in each concrete case on how it ties into and affects the world class struggle against imperialism - or how like Kosovo for example it is being used by imperialism against the working class) to absolute status.
Among other bizarre conclusions this leads the CPGB on to repeating the extraordinary position that the reactionary Irish colonists, now soundly beaten by the republican struggle, deserve a new version of the original violently imposed Partition in a smaller four county enclave, which would thus protect these colonialist monsters and ensure the continuation of the original 1922 Partition which itself dragged out and extended the colonialist rule over Ireland in the first place after the great struggles of the nineteenth and early twentieth century had finally shaken off direct British rule over much of Ireland.
As the EPSR said before (Issue 1100 31-07-01):
Far from any such Leninist understanding, these anti-communist CPGB wretches actually encourage this ‘loyalist’ colonial-fascist intransigence for all they are worth, thus increasing the amount of mindless semi-official violence and mayhem, by encouraging the orange backwoodsmen to agitate for a new Partition hell-hole, but this time bayoneted in place over only three of Ulster’s nine counties, instead of over the greedy six counties that the genocidally-vicious land-grabbing British colonist mentality had seized control of at bayonet point at the first barbaric Partition of Ireland in 1921. With fewer Irish to persecute or boot out, the CP of ‘Great Britain’ fervently hope that a truncated monstrous sectarian police state run by the RUC killers and Mad-Dog Adair will quietly cease to violently trouble anyone too much any more. This garbage even makes the anti-revolutionary class-collaborating Revisionist gibberish of Stalinism in its worst mistaken moments look sound by comparison. Under its ‘new’ management, the CPGB title has gone from the frying pan of Gorbachevian imbecility into the fire of raving Weekly Worker lunacy and finking.
Self-righteous posturing is becoming a mass epidemic throughout the petty-bourgeoisie on all subjects as the relentlessly approaching imperialist crisis drives up frustrations everywhere and a thirst for ‘solutions’. The advice to ‘forget solutions this side of the world socialist revolution that will sweep away this corrupt and dying capitalist system’ is not something the middle class can grasp or tolerate.
This lunacy (also tackled in past EPSR analysis of Ireland such as issues 1010, 1019 and 1056) is now compounded by suggesting that the Zionist land-theft colonisers of Palestine, an even more out of time and reactionary imposition tyranny, on the peoples of the Middle East, also deserve their own “self-determination” rights!!
Complete petty bourgeois detachment from any class understanding in the world could not go any further.
On this basis (opposed apparently to “Third World-ist anti-imperialism” i.e. Marxist recognition of the actual developing world hostility to imperialism) the entire history of world imperialism would be declared to be nothing but a “principled struggle for self-determination”, justifying the American genocidal slaughter of the Native Americans, the occupation of Australia....it is pointless continuing such barminess.
The “analysis” descends from there into a justification of Scottish devolution as an extension of “democracy” - a petty bourgeois mish-mash of illusions in abstract democracy, completely devoid of any Marxist understanding of class war or the crisis now overriding everything.
The museum-Stalinist Lalkar/Proletarian group does not flip in quite such an acrobatic manner after an equally long and academic account of the origins of the British state, and of Lenin’s hostility to petty bourgeois nationalism, robustly enough declaring that it aims to expose the “unscientific, divisive and poisonous nonsense” of the Scottish nationalists.
But for all that the material history is sound, much derived from details in the book The Origins of Scottish Nationalism by Neil Davidson, the Lalkar/Proletarian account is completely disconnected from the raging crisis and collapse of capitalism.
A long section of its article, tellingly published some 18 months ago, is devoted as always to eulogising Joseph Stalin, whose 1913 analysis of nationality was praised by Lenin.
But while that is correct enough in challenging weaknesses in the Davidson book, it is a million miles from relating the referendum issue to the urgent questions of the need for a world revolutionary struggle now (or even of dealing with the numerous weaknesses in theory and analysis from Stalin which followed later and led eventually to the liquidation of the Soviet Union, rotten with the philosophical retreats from revolution begun by Stalin).
For a start the issue is not mentioned in the last two papers from the group - the Proletarian of August/September, nor in the subsquent and current Lalkar.
Now, the limited capacities of the EPSR do not boast either that it is keeping pace adequately with all class developments, and it is late in dealing with the Scotland referendum.
But it does at least recognise that the Scottish nationalist question, and the reason for the froth and frenzy around it, neither make sense, nor can be properly explained except within the context of the most gigantic crisis turmoil to have hit capitalism.
Not one jot of the overall world crisis is mentioned in the Brarite “discussion” article which apart from being laden down with yet more misplaced hero-worshipping for Stalin, was published nearly two years ago!
And this reflects the reality of all the petty bourgeois fake-“left” groups who for all their posturing and academic pretences, do not have the remotest grasp of the enormous scale and savagery of the capitalist crisis and its connections to everything unfolding at present, most of all the Nazi warmongering in the Middle East and Ukraine, both being used to drag the world back towards universal war (as Obama’s new “troops on the ground” in Iraq policy, directly contradicting his “no more US occupations” line, underlines yet again).
Capitalism needs war and is relentlessly pushing for it.
The referendum is being hyped up precisely to keep the working class away from the revolutionary politics that can understand this and prepare class struggle for the only possible way out of crisis, the ending of capitalist rule – the only Marxist Leninist approach must be to use its political ferment to build and fight for such understanding.
One confusion left is that the long post-war boom conditions still prevail or can “be restored” and that a capitalist Scotland would have a future if only allowed to do things “its way”.
That is about to be shattered as the funny money effects of QE disintegrate, the only prop which has so far held off the full impact of the 2008 global meltdown. As the bourgeois press accounts constantly make clear, much of the crisis is already hammering major powers and total disaster is not far off:
Nothing has been learnt from the madness of the 1929 stock market crash as once again traders reach for record amounts of debt to pile into rising share prices.
The level of margin debt that traders are using to buy shares in the stock market reached the highest levels on record, according the latest data from the New York stock exchange.
US traders borrowed $460bn from banks and financial institutions to back shares, and once cash and credit balances held in margin accounts of $278bn is subtracted this left net margin debt of $182bn in July.
Traders are now more exposed to a fall in share prices greater than at the height of the dot-com bubble at the turn of the century, and just before the financial crisis during the 2007 peak.
Buying shares on margin is often used by hedge fund traders to increase the returns on their investments. As the stock markets have steadily risen during the past five years and the level of risk has fallen, banks have become more willing to lend money for this activity.
The practice of buying shares on margin can trace its roots back to the heady days of the roaring 20’s stock market boom. Retail investors intoxicated by the offer of limitless gains only had to put down a small portion of their own money to buy shares.
In the 1920’s investors put down between 10pc to 20pc of their own money and therefore borrowed up to 80pc to 90pc of the cost of the investment.
The impact on returns in a rising market is startling. If for example an investor only has to put down 10pc, then with £10 he can buy £100 worth of shares. If by the end of the next day the investment has risen by 10pc to £110, when they sell the shares the returns in absolute amounts would be the original £10 plus a £10 profit, thus generating 100pc return within a day rather than 10pc if they had to put up the whole £100 to buy the shares in the first place.
The problem comes when markets start falling and investors get the dreaded margin call. Using the same example if the shares fall to £80 on the first day the investors entire £10 has been wiped out, plus another £10 of debt he now owes. However, at the end of the day the broker will only call for an additional £2 to be put into the account. If at the end of the following day the shares fall further and the investor cuts their losses, they have to find money to repay their debts.
In the 1920’s many in the stock markets bought on margin, confident that they would gain from the rising market and get out before everyone else started selling.
In today’s stock market the only modification to buying on margin is that the US Federal Reserve currently has an initial margin requirement set at 50pc. The margin debt must remain below specified amounts on each account and not all shares can be bought on margin.
The market participants using debt to invest has also changed, gone are the days of retail investors using margin to boost returns, it is now largely the preserve of professional investors such as hedge funds.
More and more shares have become available to buy on margin as the perceived level of risk within markets has steadily decilined.
A key indicator of risk the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, or VIX often known as the investor fear gauge, closed last week at 12.05 points, only three points from a record low.
The hope is that professional investors will not behave as irrationally, and sell shares wildly at the first sign of trouble, as happened in 1929. However, this looks to be wishful thinking on the part of the regulator. If anything the problem of the markets being exposed to sharp falls has only been amplified by the growth in the level of debt used by hedge funds.
The logic of the professional investors also appears deeply flawed as they all believe they can steadily unwind trading positions in an orderly process to realise their gains. However, because borrowing on margin requires positions to be exited quickly to prevent losses; a steady unwinding is impossible. This would be much the same as every spectator at a football game believing they can all make it through the exit at exactly the same time.
As we move into autumn the traders will be returning to the markets and reviewing their positions.
This tends to be a volatile period for stock markets. The stock market crashes of 1929, 1987, 2001 and 2008 all happened in September and October.
Former chancellor Kenneth Clarke has cast serious doubt on the underlying strength of the British economy, saying there is a “long, long way” to go before it is competitive enough to deliver sustainable growth and compete with emerging powers such as China and Brazil.
In an interview with the Observer to mark the end of an illustrious career that has spanned more than 40 years in government, Clarke says Britain has to break out of the “ludicrous cycle” of house price booms followed by crashes, and must focus on creating a productive manufacturing base in tandem with vibrant financial and other service industries.
Admitting to tensions with David Cameron since the 2010 election – and voicing frustration at attempts by the Tory press office to keep him off TV and radio – Clarke insists that on economic policy he is completely “on message” with the government.
However, in stark contrast to recent bullish messages about growth and job creation from the prime minister and chancellor, Clarke stresses that the economy is “fragile”, vulnerable to shocks, and still lacks the strong productive base necessary to compete long-term in global markets.
“It’s not firmly enough rooted on a proper balance between manufacturing and a wide range of services and financial services,” he says. “I mean, we have this mystery of why we can’t get productivity to start rising again.”
Clarke says the coalition has saved the country from economic calamity by reining in spending, and declares himself a “great fan” of George Osborne.
But he fights shy of triumphalism, making it clear that “a bit of cyclical upswing” in recent months should delude no one into believing the job anywhere near done.
[French president] François Hollande ...called for an emergency eurozone summit to shift the troubled currency zone’s policies in a more expansionary direction...
“Europe is threatened by long, perhaps endless, stagnation if we do nothing,” he warned. “Because the recovery is too low, inflation is too low, the euro is too expensive.”
Hollande may be beleaguered, but he is far from isolated in that judgment. A week earlier the president had found a form of support in the unlikeliest of places, the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Ordinarily a bastion of Teutonic monetary rigour and fiscal rectitude, the ECB is sounding the alarm at Europe’s maddening failure to dig itself out of its post-crisis hole.
In a speech in the US, Mario Draghi, the Italian head of the ECB, intimated a major policy shift towards fiscal stimulus, quantitative easing and asset purchases. It was time for Europe’s governments to stop cutting and start spending, he suggested, coupling his words with the usual nostrums about the imperative for structural reforms, particularly in France and Italy.
“Everyone’s concerned about France and Italy,” said a senior EU official. “The debate in the autumn will be difficult. We’re not back at the existential threat of the euro crisis that ended in 2012. But we risk slumping into low-to-minimal growth. The economic figures look a lot less promising than they did.”
More than two years into the Hollande presidency, the French economy stubbornly refuses to grow while joblessness rates continue to rise. Italy, with youth unemployment at a staggering 43%, is in its third recession in six years.
According to figures from the European commission last week, eurozone inflation was at 0.3%, well below the official ECB target of 2%, while business and consumer confidence fell by 1.6 points in the eurozone.
The Japanese economy shrank at an annual pace of 6.8% in the second quarter after spending was hit by a sales tax rise in April, government figures show.
Japan’s GDP also contracted 1.7% during the April-June period from the previous quarter.
The decline was the worst since the March 2011 tsunami and earthquake in north-eastern Japan. In the first quarter of 2011, Japan’s economy shrank at an annual rate of 6.9%.
The weak figures were expected as consumers and businesses had front-loaded spending in the first quarter to beat the 1 April increase in sales tax. Economists expect spending to pick up again in coming months.
The results were a stark contrast to the annual 6.1% growth in the first quarter of the year, which reflected the rush to beat the tax rise.
The government, under prime minister Shinzo Abe and his “Abenomics” strategy, has been trying to pull the world’s third-biggest economy out of two decades of stagnation by expanding the money supply, freeing up regulations and encouraging the yen to fall, a move that helps exporters such as Toyota and Canon.
But the government is also concerned about ballooning public debt and raised the consumption tax to 8% from 5% to shore up its coffers.
Yasunari Ueno, chief market economist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo, said “The impact from the tax is going to be short term,” Ueno said. “But the economy is ailing, and that’s not good.”
Pay is dropping and poverty increasing everywhere with even rickets back in Britain (once notorious in Glasgow), even as the obscenities of grotesque inequality and privilege are ever more blatantly flaunted.
Yet the real collapse impact has still not been felt.
Daily the real fascist face of capitalist rule is more clearly revealed and its war drive intensifies.
The profit making system is historically bankrupt and capable only of imposing chaos and war. It has to be ended by conscious revolutionary overturn.
That means building Leninism.
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