No 1572 28th February 2020
Corona virus might be the trigger for capitalist economic meltdown but it’s not the cause
The jittery meltdowns on the world Stock Exchanges this week as the Covid-19 virus has spread might have some basis in immediate production difficulties, but their scale and jumpiness is far more a reflection of much deeper fears about oncoming economic Catastrophe.
Since the global credit collapse in 2008, the monopoly capitalist system has been propped up by insane, valueless and unsustainable money printing (Quantitative Easing) along with the imposition of draconian austerity deep into the working class and petty bourgeois layers in even the richest countries as the ruling class intensifies exploitation.
The warnings come thick and fast from such upright bourgeois institutions as the IMF that economic meltdown on a similar scale to 2008 is just around the corner once the credit works through, and every bourgeois speculator knows it – all ready to jump once the collapse starts again.
And this time, as all the bourgeois commentators point out, there is little room for more credit or interest cuts.
It is this unstoppable collapse, driven by the inescapable iron laws of monopoly capitalism and the contradictions built into its system which is driving the intensifying trade war antagonisms, led by belligerent Trumpite US imperialism, trying to bully the rest of the world with war, siege sanctions and threats to keep America living in the “manner it is accustomed to” despite total bankruptcy and trampling eco-destruction and pollution.
No reforms, regulations or restrictions will change it - only revolution to end it. DH
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Fake-“left” Trot and crypto-Trot biliousness excels itself against the latest dramatic successes for the Irish republican struggle, whose long, dogged and successful battle for national-liberation grows ever closer to formal completion, after 20+ years of steady cross-border merging. Sinn Féin weakness in Marxist science is real and a coming difficulty as capitalist crisis deepens and heads for catastrophe but it is not the point in understanding the blow to imperialism and colonist intransigence from Dublin, Stormont and the gains in the British election
The curdled-milk sourness with which the Trotskyist fake-“left” has greeted the storming success of the Sinn Féin nationalists in the recent Irish Republic elections exposes yet further the petty bourgeois defeatism and hostility to actual revolutionary advances that underlies the posturing of all these groups.
Far from seeing the first-time-ever majority Dublin vote for the SF as an historic watershed which, combined with nationalist advances in the occupied north in the British general election (taking an overall majority for the first time over the Orange bigot colonists), and the humiliating climbdown of the DUP over its corrupt and petulant four year long Stormont power-sharing boycott, brings the formal completion of the long and bitter anti-imperialist reunification struggle within sight, they continue to dismiss the republicans as “no threat to the established order”.
What an astounding dismissal of a titanic and dogged revolutionary armed struggle over 30 years of sacrifice and heroism which forced the British to the negotiating table and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement by which once impossible peaceful constitutional means could be used to put through the full reunification of the island (in the snail’s pace process tacitly agreed as part of the GFA), its purpose and aim!
And one which in practice has been increasingly realised (the artificial border essentially gone) over two decades since.
Exhibited here by the Trots is a completely misleading sniping and petty bourgeois blinkered incapacity to see the real struggles anywhere and to see the retreats and setbacks for imperialism (just as none of the “left” see the current “terrorist and jihadist” upheavals as anything but “reactionary backwardness” and line up alongside imperialism to denounce them, and thereby facilitate warmongering and butchery).
The snidey “theoretician” revisionist poseurs at the CPGB Weekly Worker (these days virtually indistinguishable from Trots) go beyond their former mere dismissals of Sinn Féin as “nothing but sellouts capitulating to imperialist pressure” - originally part of their ludicrous theory that an all powerful US imperialism was suppressing rebellious “hotspots” across the world – (no-one told the 9/11 attackers, the Taliban, the whole Middle East, Egypt, Latin America, Nepal, Indonesia, Haiti, the Sahel etc, etc) – to declare their opposition to the latest advances, actually trying to sabotage the gains by (jealously) telling local fake-”left” poseurs who won a (very) few seats that:
Rather than promoting this putative coalition, socialist should be urging the working class not to support it. They should be warning of its dangers not welcoming its formation. They should be acting as the Bolsheviks did as tribunes of the working class in the enemy parliament.
First off, the “tribune role” as understood by Lenin was above all to use parliament only as a platform to make clear to workers what a total racket it is, disguising the actual dictatorship of the bourgeoisie behind the pretence of votes and representation.
So this is extremely rich coming from a group which has done its best to prop up parliament and the reformist “left” by entering the Labour Party, campaigning for its Corbynite wing as an alleged left advance, and which supports the anti-Bolshevik Kautskyite notion of abstract “democracy” (“super-democracy”) as a route forwards, against the core Bolshevik understanding of the need to overthrow the hoodwinking fraud of parliamentary politics and establish firm workers state authority (proletarian dictatorship) as the only means to build socialism and make the long climb towards rational, classless communist society.
But more importantly it is utter treachery, trying to sabotage this huge advance and effectively re-install the disgusting Green Tory alternates, both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil flavours, just when they have suffered severe meltdown defeats after a century of bourgeois dominance, which would be significant however they had occurred.
The “justification” for this foul stiletto in the back, is the usual petty bourgeois subjective idealism and its notions of “pure revolution” moving straight to the building of socialism, usually across the whole world with no complex intermediate battles fought in one country, or clearing the way of imperialist oppression.
Such defeats for imperialism have been major blows across the world for over 100 years, and prepare the ground for the development of revolutionary socialist struggle, even when the national-liberation movements themselves go no further, as is almost certainly the case with Sinn Féin.
But in the Islington ivory tower version of the world, bitter and dogged anti-colonialist struggles against imperialism count for nothing unless they immediately become socialist overnight, (and with the unspoken proviso too that they only really count if led by these posturers themselves and their tablet-of-stone idealist pronouncements).
So they high-handedly sneer on, even quoting others of their ilk:
So is SF’s success and the strengthening of modem republicanism a step forward for the working class? That is a difficult argument to make, ..
There is little doubt that the main reason for the SF surge is a rejection of the austerity policies of the previous government. Varadkar’s boasts of economic recovery stood in stark contrast to the real experience of the working class. The collapse of the Celtic Tiger in 2008 ushered in a period of painful belt-tightening for the majority of the population, while the banks and property developers received bail-outs. ..The PBPA and Solidarity have consistently promoted the alternative of an SF-led administration - a “left government” which could make real changes in the lives of workers. They urged a rejection of FG and FF at all costs and made repeated calls for SF to state that it would refuse a coalition with these establishment parties. The SF leadership, of course, refused to make this commitment. In fact it regularly demanded of FG and FF that it be recognised as a legitimate government partner.
..In reality SF is no radical threat to the established order. After initial postelection reports of panic, Brian Flayes, the top lobbyist for Irish bankers and a former FG finance minister, spoke out to reassure business and financial bodies that the claim that SF posed a risk to the markets was “exaggerated”. Fie said: “With Sinn Fein, it’s all about what a programme for government says. Manifestos are one thing, but programmes for government are a different animal.”3 In other words, while SF has made radical promises, it has also pledged to protect Irish business interests. Trying to deliver on its manifesto demands, while at the same time balancing the books, will be impossible.
And SF has already shown that it is a sensible government partner. First Martin McGuinness and now Michelle O’Neill have led their party colleagues in voting through austerity budgets in the Stormont assembly. When it comes to the crunch, SF will defend the interests of capitalism...
This was not a great election for the socialist left. The PBPA/Solidarity alliance lost one of their TDs - Ruth Coppinger of Solidarity (Socialist Party). The hope that the call for a left government would provide a boost to their fortunes proved illusory. SF transfers under the PR system went as often to the Greens as to the left. The alliance has been weakened by the loss of Coppinger - both politically and in terms of rights in the Dail. Solidarity now has only one TD - Mick Barry in Cork. And Paul Murphy seems to have moved closer to the PBPA, led by Boyd-Barrett.
Socialist Worker in Britain produced a piece on SF on its website on February 8, which warned of illusions in SF. The piece, penned by Simon Basketter, argued that SF’s
"main hope is to use anti-austerity rhetoric in the south to win state positions, then ‘move forward the peace process’ to a united Ireland. Yet growing economic integration of Ireland under pro-business governments will hardly bring the working class together in the north, never mind across Ireland."
And even for an SF-led government
“the determination to put nation above class means workers, at best, will still be told to wait."
But Sinn Féin has only ever been a petty bourgeois nationalist movement, though one with a far better admixture of genuine socialist sentiment than many of the fake-“left” poseurs. And one that has won a revolutionary war to boot, such that British imperialism has been forced in practice to abandon its hollow “Northern Ireland” pretences already, and does not dare re-instate a border despite its Brexit bragging.
Of course SF is concentrating on completing the national struggle because that is what it was (and is) as the EPSR has always explained, and no less important because of it.
Ultimately its non-Marxist perspective (and reluctance to battle for one) is a weakness, and one that will face SF increasingly in trying to ameliorate crisis austerity (and which has led to wrong pronouncements before over the Madrid bombings for example - see EPSR 1224 16-03-04).
The oncoming slump-Catastrophe of the whole capitalist system demands a class war overturn, not reformist measures however radical and sincere. Defensive battles are inevitable but will only change the world combined with a revolutionary perspective.
Trotskyism is not it. Leninism is the need.
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Renewed calls for Scottish “independence” following the defeat inflicted on British imperialism by Sinn Féin’s stunning electoral success in the Irish national elections, and defeats for the DUP colonialists in the British elections and over the restoration of Stormont, are a diversion from capitalism’s crisis plunge into all out trade war - and coming inter-imperialist war – hostilities. They capitulate to the deliberately fostered atmosphere of national chauvinism needed to divert the working class from understanding the need for socialist revolution as the only way forwards.
Various cod-historical assertions of supposed English suppression of the Scots' ‘right to self-determination’ have been put to the EPSR to justify tying the Scottish working class to the petty-bourgeois demands of the SNP Tartan Tories for secession from the British union; and, as shown below, while such claims may go down well in some quarters at a whisky-fuelled Burn’s Supper, they are a million miles away from Marx’s historical-materialist approach to analysing world events.
Attempts to link the 800-year-long Irish national-liberation struggle against imperialist tyranny to first achieve and now (following British imperialism’s seizure by force of six of Ulster’s nine counties in 1921 when the rest of Ireland won its independence) complete Irish self-determination to the essentially equal position Scotland has within the British union are 100% bogus, and give a fraudulent “revolutionary”-sounding cover to the SNP’s national chauvinist backwardness.
Lenin’s discussions on the national question are selectively (mis)read and invoked to back up spurious arguments for Scotland to secede; and dubious claims are made that militant sections of the Scottish working class, inspired by the Irish national liberation struggle and itching for a fight, have turned to Scottish independence to break up the United Kingdom and thereby strike a massive blow against the confidence and international prestige of the British ruling class.
None of this holds up to any serious analysis, and assertions that the Scottish working class is the driving force behind the renewed calls for independence and is pushing the SNP to harden its stance on secession inverts reality by ignoring the deepening capitalist crisis context in which such demands are made, and the desperation of the ruling class everywhere to stir up small-minded nationalist parochialism and jingoism in the face of looming economic catastrophe and intensifying inter-imperialist war rivalries.
Far from weakening the bourgeoisie in Scotland, renewed independence campaigning is a huge diversion from the allegations of sleaze surrounding the petty-bourgeois pro-capitalist stooges in the SNP and its 12-year leadership of the Scottish parliament and the growing scandals over their incompetence and mismanagement of Scotland’s public services, as even the bourgeois press has been pointing out:
The party, which has weathered many a severe storm before now, has had a disastrous week which will take nothing short of a miracle to recover from. Along with the budget being largely ignored by the public, despite junior minister Kate Forbes’ sterling delivery and performance in the chamber, allegations that the Scottish Government tried to prohibit publication of a story about the finance minister’s inappropriate messages have done nothing to help its reputation.
It seems the party has been left in turmoil by the latest scandal which saw Mackay, the high-flying finance minister tipped as a replacement for Nicola Sturgeon, resign from his senior role in disgrace.
What caused the former minister to quit was not just the fact he had contacted a 16-year-old and showered him with compliments about his looks, and invited him to dinner and a rugby game. This young man had no previous connection, it seems, to the 42-year-old father of two, was not gay and was not reciprocal to Mackay’s obvious advances. In fact, the boy repeatedly seemed to ignore many of the 260 messages he received over six months.
The comparison between Mackay’s communications and grooming patterns shown by online predators is uncomfortable, not least for his party colleagues who considered him an asset to the SNP, a friend, a reliable colleague and a safe pair of hands. Dig deeper into Mackay’s behaviour however, and it is not hard to find party members, many of whom are young male activists, willing to share a story or two about their own experiences of the shamed minister. His night-time messaging habits were widely known about predominantly by gay members of the party.
While he was enthusiastic about his role in the Scottish Government, Mackay was equally enthusiastic, it is claimed, about clubbing and partying. Nicola Sturgeon was said to have advised him not to drink at party conferences following concerns raised about his behaviour at “conference karaoke” – a social event attended by many younger party members.
The effects of the Mackay scandal are manifold, and may not be fully realised until the next elections for Holyrood in 2021. His is just the latest catastrophe to hit the SNP, though, and the cumulative effects of all these problems together may now be creating a chink in the party’s armour.
At the peak of its popularity, around the time of the independence referendum in 2014 and its immediate aftermath, the SNP was seen as a party which could do no wrong, a force for a progressive Scotland and a better future for the next generation.
Members appeared to consider themselves morally superior to those in other parties, and it is this superiority which may lead to its downfall. Now the mask appears to be slipping, and the 12-year-long honeymoon period could be coming to an end for the nationalists.
While there is no doubt the party, led by Alex Salmond and then Nicola Sturgeon, has presided over some important and welcome changes in Scotland, the evidence of problems is hard to ignore. Time and again during the general election campaign opposition politicians from both the Conservatives and Labour brought up the SNP’s track record on health and education, using it as a stick to beat their Westminster candidates during interviews and debates.
Unless there is a spectacular improvement in, for example, hospital and mental health waiting times, school attainment or drugs deaths, these problems will continue to plague the party over the next 18 months.
The scandal of the £842m Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow, combined with the problems facing Edinburgh’s new Sick Kids facility, has rocked the country and the party too. Health minister Jeane Freeman has desperately tried to turn public opinion around. After daily calls for action, she eventually agreed to a judge-led public inquiry into the problems, as well as raising NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to level four scrutiny.
Independent advisers and experts have been drafted in to oversee various elements of the health board’s operations, and a dedicated liaison has been appointed to aide communication between patients, their families and NHSGGC.
However, looking at the bigger picture, almost half of the country’s health boards are now under varying levels of external scrutiny, waiting times are through the roof and nobody will forget the punishing drugs death figures released last year showing Scotland to have the worst rate in Europe.
On top of this, the slow-moving ferries contract scandal – the latest episode of which is revealed in this newspaper today – is now gathering pace with more information emerging about its woeful mishandling every week.
Renowned businessman Jim McColl made a series of startling revelations during a committee at Holyrood where he alleges outright mismanagement of the £200m contracts. Such an expensive purchase, now years overdue and with completion nowhere in sight, adds to the growing doubt about the SNP’s ability to lead the country and manage high-profile projects.
The whole fiasco not only casts doubt on the competence of the SNP as leaders of the Scottish Government, but the competence of Holyrood as a whole. As many frustrated MSPs have suggested, the SNP’s poor record on these highly important projects risks throwing Scottish politics into disrepute.
The future for the SNP cannot be discussed without mentioning the Alex Salmond trial, which is due to start next month. While the former First Minister denies all the allegations against him, which include attempted rape and multiple counts of sexual assault, the case is certain to shine a light on a party which until recently seemed untouchable.
Finally the gender recognition act reforms, pledged in the party’s manifesto, have been delayed after concerns were raised about the impact on women’s rights and safety. While legitimate concerns must be heard and debated fully, the discussions surrounding the issue have fractured the party in ways never seen before.
Senior figures have openly slated their colleagues, blocked them on social media or threatened to sue if they dare question their motives for opposing the reforms. It is a scenario which, five years ago, would have been unimaginable for the indestructible party.
While Derek Mackay’s “foolish” behaviour may not have caused major ripples within the SNP if taken in isolation, its timing could not have been worse and the cumulative effects are yet to be seen.
What is certain, however, is that the party is in for a bumpy ride and it may take nothing short of a miracle to prevent the SNP suffering lasting damage this time.
There has been much “militant” posturing around the SNP’s supposed support for the Palestinian struggle. This is also a fraud as its fantasy call for a ‘two state solution’ would leave the best part of their homelands in the hands of the Jewish-Zionist colonialist settlers. So much for the ‘right of self-determination’ of the genuinely oppressed!
Tailing-ending the SNP’s bogus ‘self-determination for Scotland’ demand helps to cover all this up and more, and plays right into the hands of the monopoly-imperialist bourgeoisie by delaying the day that the entire capitalist edifice is overthrown by the working class.
Splitting the working class on national lines makes it easier for the bourgeoisie of both Scotland and England to impose even more savage Slump-driven public spending cuts and ‘austerity’ measures on them than experienced to date as it weakens their ability to organise a united fightback; and it allows monopoly corporations, driven by the trade war rivalry demands of the crisis, to play the English and Scottish proletariat off against each other as they strive to push the working conditions of both down to the sweat-shop slavery levels already experienced throughout the third world.
Despite the fact that demands for secession also signify splits within the British ruling class over how to respond to the capitalist crisis (whether to remain with the EU monopoly-imperialist trading block or try their luck with dominant US monopoly imperialism, for example), they will remain united on the need to suppress any revolutionary moves the working class makes to bring capitalist crisis slump and war savagery to end, whether in England or Scotland.
There are no similarities with Ireland. Ireland suffered centuries of savage racist colonial oppression from the Normans through to British imperialism until its liberation in 1921; and Orange-colonial diktat over the northern six counties was further maintained through nonstop tyranny, intimidation and victimisation of the native Irish population by the British state forces and violent ‘loyalist’ gangs until it was fought to a standstill by the IRA and forced to give way to a snail-paced process towards Irish unity via the Good Friday Agreement (still on-going). Scotland has experienced none of this.
The coming formal completion of Ireland’s ‘self-determination’ struggle will be a further blow to British imperialism on top of its GFA retreat, itself a major humiliation. British workers have long been corrupted by backward-looking petty bourgeois racist pro-Empire illusions, tying them to the ruling class’s interests, as evident by the “we were great once” attitudes that underpinned much of the support for Brexit. As Marx argued in relation to Ireland’s fight for independence, the now unstoppable eventual unity of Ireland can only have a shattering effect on how they see the world, and make it easier to win them over to arguments for a revolutionary perspective.
Because it is clear that Scotland is not oppressed in any meaningful sense of the word, specific historical grievances are cobbled together to give the impression that, apart from the venality and financial bankruptcy of the Scottish landed aristocracy and the opportunism of bourgeois merchants, the 1707 Act of Union was never really accepted by the Scottish people, and that the clearances of “primitive communist” Highland clans in the late 18th and early 19th centuries signified the final “conquest” of Scotland by England. But this sixth form reading of history does not take any serious account of the historical context and stages being passed through at any given time, and the class relationships involved.
The suggestion made that the Highland clans were still at a stage of primitive communist tribalism when the clearances took place is a capitulation to the sentimental ‘cultural nationalist’ romanticism of the Walter Scott variety that enthralled the Lowlands petty-bourgeoisie throughout that period, with their invented ‘ancient’ Highland dress codes and traditions, and was even embraced by the British royals.
As Marx pointed out in his article, The Duchess of Sutherland and Slavery in 1853, the aboriginal familial clan structure of the Highlands had been steadily absorbed into feudal relations through military ties to the Scottish, and then British, kings, throughout the Middle Ages. However, until the deposition of the Stuart King James in 1688, land was still the property of the clan, with tributes paid by the clan members to the chief. This system of land ownership was then first usurped with the creation of family regiments. This led to the transformation of relations between the aristocratic clan chiefs and their clans into something akin to that of a rent-collecting landlord and a tenant farmer.
This contradiction of a clan leader being both a patriarchal chief and an emerging capitalist landlord was unsustainable. The demands for the rapid urbanisation and expansion of industries in the Lowlands and in England, as well as the concomitant rise in population throughout Britain, including the Highlands, necessitated the overthrow of the old tribal-feudal relationships and the establishment of a bourgeois agrarian system in the Highlands (see TM Devine’s bourgeois accounts in his books Scotland’s EmpireandThe Scottish Clearances, for example). Scottish aristocratic greed meant that this process became increasingly draconian, without any concern for the peasant populations brutally uprooted from their homelands.
The Highland clearances were the latest in a number of destructive clearances in the British countryside that formed part of a series of agrarian revolutions, starting in England in the 16th to 18th centuries, and followed by the Scottish Lowlands in the mid-18th century. The clearances finally overthrew the clan system that had long been in the process of dying out since before the Act of Union. The Scottish aristocrats used British troops to clear the lands of its native population in order to conquer it for themselves, not for England. Clan property was finally transformed into their own private property.
The argument that this huge movement of historical development from pre-feudal societies to bourgeois state forms in Scotland was simply about “the conquest of Scotland by the English” is a capitulation to reactionary petty-bourgeois Scottish nationalism and an abandonment of Marxist-Leninist materialist theory on the formation of capitalist economies and human societies.
Scotland is not, and has never been, an oppressed nation. Whilst it’s true that the English bourgeoisie and landed aristocracy used their economic dominance in the 17th century to cut their then Scottish rivals off from their transatlantic colonial trading routes, Scotland was never colonised. The opposite was the case. Their ruling class joined the English in colonising Ireland by driving the native Irish out of huge areas of the north whilst also attempting to establish their own colonial settlements in north and central America to circumvent English protectionism.
British union in 1707 might not have been the most appealing of options for the Scottish ruling class, but the collapse of their colonial ambitions in Panama and subsequent financial crisis amongst other difficulties left them with few options more attractive than merging with the English.
But whilst all manner of threats, bribery and inducements, may have been used by the English ruling class to force their hand, this was not an “English conquest of Scotland”. Compare, for example, the fact that much of the huge debt incurred by the collapse of the disastrous Darian colonisation project was paid off by the English to win Scottish aristocratic support for the union, with the violent English conquest of Ireland that had taken place half a century earlier (including bloody massacres at the Drogheda garrison, Wexford and Donore Castle).
The Act of Union was a consequence of the need to preserve and extend the bourgeois revolution of the Cromwellian Civil War and its reflection in Protestantism, and the follow on 1688 ‘Glorious Revolution’ settlement. Far from being a “rebellion against England”, the Jacobite opposition was essentially an attempt by some sections of the Scottish aristocracy, supported by Catholic France, to restore the House of Stuarts and overthrow the bourgeois gains of the Civil War, and thereby turn the clock back to the days of Catholic monarchical absolutism and the ‘divine right of kings’ (though the Cromwellian revolution had ceased to be ‘bourgeois-democratic’ from the moment it started to conquer Ireland – see Marx’s Outline of a report on the Irish question – Dec 1867).
Scottish Jacobit-ism was aimed at establishing control over the British crown in London, not a reassertion of Scottish independence, as was the later minority-supported rebellion led by Charles Edward Stuart (later mythologised by the Scottish petty-bourgeoisie as “Bonnie Prince Charlie”). It was an attempted counter-revolution by a reactionary movement whose defeat by the 1707 settlement and the failure of the subsequent rebellions in 1715 and 1745, paved the way for the rapid expansion of bourgeois relations in Scotland through its integration with the British empire.
This process of revolutionary capitalist development in both nations accelerated the integration and amalgamation of the Scottish and English bourgeoisie into the British imperialist ruling class and fuelled its expansion into the colonialist plunder of the third world. The resulting rapid industrialisation and urbanisation of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, simultaneously with England’s industrial revolution, transformed Scotland into a fully formed capitalist nation.
The question of invoking Scotland’s ‘right to self-determination’ to “weaken British imperialism and its prestige” is very dubious anyway. In fully developed capitalist states such as Britain’s, the proletariat’s struggle is for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and building of the socialist proletarian dictatorship, as Lenin argued over 100 years ago.
Arguments, after a century of further imperialist expansion, for the workers of Scotland is to secede from the British union in order to “weaken” (not overthrow) imperialism, display a deep complacency as to the catastrophic nature of capitalism’s warmongering crisis, a crisis that can only by ended by socialist revolution.
‘Secession’ is a political demand; it is impossible to declare economic independence from monopoly imperialism and capitalist crisis, regardless of which national ruling class is playing the dominant role at any one time. Demands for Scottish independence can only spread disarming confusion amongst the working class by encouraging reformist notions of an ‘independent’ Scotland as a solution to the crisis, thereby strengthening imperialism in its class conflict against the proletariat.
It is insane to suggest now, when illusions in parliament and bourgeois ‘democracy’ have hit an all-time low (rightly - ed) after sliding away for decades, that what militant Scottish workers need is a new, tartan-patterned, bourgeois parliamentary racket to overcome. This is disastrous reformist confusion-mongering of the worst kind as many previous EPSRs have examined (eg No 866, 998, 1085, 1159)
The only way to overcome monopoly imperialist crisis is revolution to build socialist workers’ states under firm proletarian dictatorship leaderships. This understanding needs to be argued for constantly, whilst continuing to expose all attempts to revive fraudulent bourgeois ‘democracy’ illusions.
As Lenin argued, it is only valid to argue for the right to political secession in specific historical circumstances where the transformation of less developed nations into fully bourgeois ones is being suppressed by dominant nations, such as in the nations of the Russian empire after 1905, and in oppressed colonised nations:
The categorical requirement of Marxist theory in investigating any social question is that it be examined within definite historical limits, and, if it refers to a particular country (e.g., the national programme for a given country), that account be taken of the specific features distinguishing that country from others in the same historical epoch.
What does this categorical requirement of Marxism imply in its application to the question under discussion?
First of all, it implies that a clear distinction must be drawn between the two periods of capitalism, which differ radically from each other as far as the national movement is concerned. On the one hand, there is the period of the collapse of feudalism and absolutism, the period of the formation of the bourgeois-democratic society and state, when the national movements for the first time become mass movements and in one way or another draw all classes of the population into politics through the press, participation in representative institutions, etc. On the other hand, there is the period of fully formed capitalist states with a long-established constitutional regime and a highly developed antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie—a period that may be called the eve of capitalism’s downfall.
The typical features of the first period are: the awakening of national movements and the drawing of the peasants, the most numerous and the most sluggish section of the population, into these movements, in connection with the struggle for political liberty in general, and for the rights of the nation in particular. Typical features of the second period are: the absence of mass bourgeois-democratic movements and the fact that developed capitalism, in bringing closer together nations that have already been fully drawn into commercial intercourse, and causing them to intermingle to an increasing degree, brings the antagonism between internationally united capital and the international working-class movement into the forefront.
The same applies to the national question. In most Western countries it was settled long ago. It is ridiculous to seek an answer to non-existent questions in the programmes of Western Europe. In this respect Rosa Luxemburg has lost sight of the most important thing—the difference between countries where bourgeois-democratic reforms have long been completed, and those where they have not.
The crux of the matter lies in this difference. Rosa Luxemburg’s complete disregard of it transforms her verbose article into a collection of empty and meaningless platitudes.
The epoch of bourgeois-democratic revolutions in Western, continental Europe embraces a fairly definite period, approximately between 1789 and 1871. This was precisely the period of national movements and the creation of national states. When this period drew to a close, Western Europe had been transformed into a settled system of bourgeois states, which, as a general rule, were nationally uniform states. Therefore, to seek the right to self-determination in the programmes of West-European socialists at this time of day is to betray one’s ignorance of the ABC of Marxism.
In Eastern Europe and Asia the period of bourgeois-democratic revolutions did not begin until 1905. The revolutions in Russia, Persia, Turkey and China, the Balkan wars—such is the chain of world events of our period in our “Orient”. And only a blind man could fail to see in this chain of events the awakening of a whole series of bourgeois-democratic national movements which strive to create nationally independent and nationally uniform states. It is precisely and solely because Russia and the neighbouring countries are passing through this period that we must have a clause in our programme on the right of nations to self-determination.
(May 1914) The right of nations to self-determination
Even then, ‘political secession’ is not an end in itself. The only reason for demanding ‘freedom of secession’ for oppressed and colonised nations (from a working class perspective) is so that they are able to amalgamate and merge with the more developed nations on an equal, voluntary basis. Scotland was never oppressed by England, and the two nations, alongside the Welsh nation, are already fully amalgamated. Separation would be a reactionary leap backwards in this case.
This process of voluntary integration and amalgamation of nations speeds up the development of weaker nations, and thereby make revolutionary transformation to socialism easier and more secure in both the formerly oppressed and oppressor nations. For this reason, Lenin argued for the continued merger of the proletariat in the oppressed and oppressor nations, even when simultaneously acknowledging the right of the oppressed nation to secede:
Every sensible worker will “think” here we have P. Kievsky telling us workers to shout “get out of the colonies”. In other words, we Great-Russian workers must demand from our government that it get out of Mongolia, Turkestan, Persia; English workers must demand that the English Government get out of Egypt, India, Persia, etc. But does this mean that we proletarians wish to separate ourselves from the Egyptian workers and fellahs, from the Mongolian, Turkestan or Indian workers and peasants? Does it mean that we advise the labouring masses of the colonies to “separate” from the class-conscious European proletariat? Nothing of the kind. Now, as always, we stand and shall continue to stand for the closest association and merging of the class-conscious workers of the advanced countries with the workers, peasants and slaves of all the oppressed countries. We have always advised and shall continue to advise all the oppressed classes in all the oppressed countries, the colonies included, not to separate from us, but to form the closest possible ties and merge with us.
We demand from our governments that they quit the colonies, or, to put it in precise political terms rather than in agitational outcries—that they grant the colonies full freedom of secession, the genuine right to self-determination, and we ourselves are sure to implement this right, and grant this freedom, as soon as we capture power. We demand this from existing governments, and will do this when we are the government, not in order to “recommend” secession, but, on the contrary, in order to facilitate and accelerate the democratic association and merging of nations. We shall exert every effort to foster association and merger with the Mongolians, Persians, Indians, Egyptians. We believe it is our duty and in our interest to do this, for otherwise socialism in Europe will not be secure. We shall endeavour to render these nations, more backward and oppressed than we are, “disinterested cultural assistance”, to borrow the happy expression of the Polish Social-Democrats. In other words, we will help them pass to the use of machinery, to the lightening of labour, to democracy, to socialism.
If we demand freedom of secession for the Mongolians. Persians, Egyptians and all other oppressed and unequal nations without exception, we do so not because we favour secession, but only because we stand for free, voluntary association and merging as distinct from forcible association. That is the only reason!
And in this respect the only difference between the Mongolian or Egyptian peasants and workers and their Polish or Finnish counterparts is, in our view, that the latter are more developed, more experienced politically than the Great Russians, more economically prepared, etc., and for that reason will in all likelihood very soon convince their peoples that it is unwise to extend their present legitimate hatred of the Great Russians, for their role of hangman, to the socialist workers and to a socialist Russia. They will convince them that economic expediency and internationalist and democratic instinct and consciousness demand the earliest association of all nations and their merging in a socialist society. And since the Poles and Finns are highly cultured people, they will, in all probability, very soon come to see the correctness; of this attitude, and the possible secession of Poland and Finland after the triumph of socialism will therefore be only of short duration. The incomparably less cultured fellahs, Mongolians and Persians might secede- for a longer period, but we shall try to shorten it by disinterested cultural assistance as indicated above. There is no other difference in our attitude to the Poles and Mongolians, nor can there be. There is no “contradiction”, nor can there be, between our propaganda of freedom of secession and our firm resolve to implement that freedom when we are the government, and our propaganda of association and merging of nations. That is what, we feel sure, every sensible worker, every genuine socialist and internationalist will “think” of our controversy with P. Kievsky.*
(August 1916) A caricature of Marxism
Tragically, even the best of Scotland’s Bolsheviks, John Maclean, the heroic leader of Red Clydeside, following a dispute over the leadership of the newly formed Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920, succumbed to the influences of petty-bourgeois Scottish ‘cultural nationalist’ romantic exceptionalism when he began to claim that Scottish and Irish workers had natural instincts for communism because of their near descent from the Celtic clans.
Lenin’s repeated declarations of praise for Maclean’s heroism, self-sacrifice and leadership, and his appointment as the Bolsheviks’ consul in Scotland, are cited today to imply that Lenin would have approved of his turn to Scottish independence as a means to achieve communism following his split with the British communists.
Far from it. In August 1920, as part of a discussion on communist tactics in relation to membership of the bourgeois Labour party, Lenin called for Scottish workers to join the newly formed British CPGB and affiliate to the British Labour Party:
But the general tenor and content of all the resolutions we have adopted here show with absolute clarity that we demand a change, in this spirit, in the tactics of the British Socialist Party; the only correct tactics of Gallacher’s friends will consist in their joining the Communist Party without delay, so as to modify its tactics in the spirit of the resolutions adopted here. If you have so many supporters that you are able to organise mass meetings in Glasgow, it will not be difficult for you to bring more than ten thousand new members into the Party. The latest Conference of the British Socialist Party, held in London three or four days ago, decided to assume the name of the Communist Party and introduced into its programme a clause providing for participation in parliamentary elections and affiliation to the Labour Party. Ten thousand organised members were represented at the Conference. It will therefore not be at all difficult for the Scottish comrades to bring into this “Communist Party of Great Britain” more than ten thousand revolutionary workers who are better versed in the art of working among the masses, and thus to modify the old tactics of the British Socialist Party in the sense of better agitation and more revolutionary action.
(August 1920) Speech on affiliation to the British Labour Party
Four months later, Maclean called for a new ‘Scottish Communist Party’ to fight for a policy of complete separation from England and, in opposition to Lenin’s approval of Gallacher’s tactics, declared:
A real revolutionary party can only be established here on Marx, not on Bakunin, by fully avowed Marxists of long years standing. If Lenin tells us to unite with elements who are anarchists, we must reply by asking the Bolsheviks to unite with the Mensheviks or the Social Revolutionaries. We stand for the Marxian method applied to British conditions. The less Russians interfere in the internal affairs of other countries at this juncture the better for the cause of revolution in those countries. (Maclean, Dec 1920) A Scottish Communist Party
The validity or otherwise of his arguments against the composition of the leadership of the new CPGB requires a much deeper analysis. However, his split from the advice given by Lenin to join the CPGB and his growing sympathies (correctly) with Ireland’s national-liberation struggle as it broken out into the revolutionary war for independence of 1916-1921 led him to conflate the different historical stages Ireland and Scotland were going through. His breakaway separatist movement failed to gain any meaningful support.
As well as being a giant distraction, Scottish “independence” campaigning is a means of smuggling in national chauvinist attitudes that blame the English and other “foreigners” for the growing impoverishment and antagonisms in society rather than global monopoly imperialism’s breakdown into slump and war.
The assertion that Scottish workers are more instinctively internationalist than English workers and so less likely to be taken in by chauvinism fails to appreciate how divisive the capitalist crisis has become already, and will become as the it intensifies, and the disastrous effect nationalist separatism has on the working class’s perspective on the world:
Police have stepped up patrols in Dundee city centre after a Chinese business was targeted twice in a matter of days in a suspected racist attack. A vandal was filmed on CCTV smashing windows with rocks at Wing Fung on Trades Lane in two separate incidents last week. Wing Fung owner Brian Chen has spoken out about his fears that his business, which has never been targeted before, is now under attack due to prejudice about coronavirus.
The first incident happened on Tuesday evening at 9.48pm when a man walked up to the store and threw a stone or similar object at the shop’s side window three times, smashing it. The second incident, on Thursday at 5.35pm, saw the man arrive at the store and again throw an object towards it while filming with his mobile phone. Mr Chen said he was “staying strong” and would continue to trade in spite of the attacks.
Two shopkeepers last night told how they were beaten by a racist gang of 20 thugs armed with crowbars and a kitchen knife. Cornershop managers Nadeem and Mudassar Akbar were walking from their store to the adjoining car park when the pack of youths pounced. Police confirmed last night they are treating the attack as a race hate crime.
CCTV footage shows the attackers swarm into the car park moments before the sustained assault, which the brothers believe was premeditated. The thugs shouted “P*** b*******” and “Why did you come to this country?” as they surrounded the pair. Nadeem was struck over the head with a crowbar, leaving a bloody wound, while Mudassar was repeatedly punched in the face.
Only the intervention of a passer-by, who was going into the store, halted the violence. The security camera video shows the cowardly youths scatter after being interrupted. The siblings, who have lived in Scotland for about 20 years after leaving Pakistan, believe they could have been fatally injured in the shocking incident. They said the gang had been gathering outside their shop for the last two months, mouthing racist abuse, vandalising their cars and terrorising customers.
The pair were working at the Hay Convenience Store in Edinburgh’s Niddrie when the attack took place at about 6.55pm on Thursday. Mudassar, 38, said: “I was going out for something to eat. My brother came with me as I went to my car to make sure I was OK. We’re scared to go alone. This gang were already waiting for us, like it was planned, and started shouting racist language. Two or three had crowbars and one had a really big kitchen knife.”
Nadeem, 49, said: “I was hit on the head with a crowbar. The attack went on for a couple of minutes. Luckily a big local guy who comes to the shop passed by and he shouted at them to stop and they ran away. My head was bleeding very heavily. I had to be taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and spent three hours in hospital. They glued my head wound. I feel we were lucky. With the knife, we easily could’ve been stabbed.”
The brothers, who have run other shops in Edinburgh, have operated the Niddrie business for five months. Mudassar added: “This group have been hanging around the shop, making trouble. It’s mostly local boys, but some girls, aged 14 to 16. We’ve phoned the police nearly every day about them. We have a post office here and some of the pensioners who use it are scared to come in. It’s been two months of racist abuse, shoplifting, intimidating customers, coming into the shop and throwing things around. The racist language is ‘P*** b******’, ‘Go back to your own country’, ‘We’re going to kill you and burn down your shop’. We’ve had some great support from our customers, though, and we won’t let these people drive us out.”
The ruling class needs to stir up racism and nationalist jingoism everywhere to line the working class behind them in the coming all-out inter-imperialist war for survival. Feeding nationalist illusions around Scottish independence weakens the working class in its revolutionary struggle for socialism. It needs to be exposed and rejected.
Opposing Scottish independence with demands to “defend the union” because “we are stronger together” (Gordon Brown, Galloway’s WPB, CPB, etc) equally lines up behind the ruling class’s drive to stir up racist scapegoating and nationalist divisiveness.
Socialist revolution is the only way out. A revolutionary party of theory and leadership is urgently needed to bring this about.
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America’s scapegoating death sentence revenge on Wikileaks for its US warcrime exposés is the tip of the iceberg of censorship and repression as the imperialism slides into the great Catastrophic slump, trade war and war. Assange, Khashoggi, Galizia and more are symptoms of the dirty degenerate Nazi reality of “democracy” and the “free West” in crisis. Reformist protest is a misleading evasion of the only way forwards, revolution. Build Leninist science
Public protest over the grotesquely brutalised and incarcerated Wikileaks head Julian Assange, now facing extradition to either a capital sentence or a living death in a US “high security” isolation cell, is a useful initial response to this vile victimisation.
But it falls far short of what is needed to stop it, and more importantly the disintegration of world capitalism into international chaos and bloody mayhem of which this disgusting fascist scapegoating outrage is a symptom.
The real issue to be focussing on is revolutionary struggle to end capitalism altogether.
Firstly, mere protest will not stop such inhumane, not to say Nazi, punishment vengeance being visited on one individual’s head for presuming to expose the mass war crime killings, torture and “collateral” massacres of hundreds of thousands of civilians by America and its stooges over the last 20 years (Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Ukraine, North Africa etc) as it warms the world up for the inter-imperialist Slump warmongering to come (WWIII) trying to escape responsibility for the Catastrophic collapse of its bankrupt profit system.
Secondly, such narrow perspectives, around a single victim, unnecessarily hamstring the gigantic fight that is needed against what is a now universal phenomenon of censorship, intimidation, murder and repression of whistleblowers, reporters and correspondents, throughout the capitalist world.
Assange, and the excellent and dogged Wikileaks, is one particularly viciously targeted example, but there are many more in the middle of a wave of repression and suppression by an ever more degenerate and monopoly capitalist order.
Just to name a few, there is Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi dismembered in Istanbul (possibly while still alive) by the feudal reactionary gangster regime from leading US ally Saudi Arabia; Maltese investigative reporter Daphne Galizia, car-bombed for exposing government corruption (and high-level European Union collusion); Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald and his colleagues under violent and death threat intimidation openly encouraged and sustained by the unashamedly fascist Jair Bolsonaro regime in Brazil; several reporters from al-jazeera imprisoned without charge by the (US-funded) General Sisi military coup “presidency” in Egypt, imprisoned along with hundreds of other “dissidents” facing mass-trial death sentences after torture (this being the same Western supported regime which prevents investigation of the brutal torture and murder of an Italian trade union researcher in 2015 – and now another Italian researcher).
Or how about the monstrous and vile “anti-semitism” nonsense turned on all who query the nazi-Zionist landtheft occupation of Palestine, and the endless violent terror persecution of its 8 million or more rightful inhabitants with exile, torture, military repression, and siege-warfare sanctions slowly starving and economically and culturally, strangling its dispossessed, interspersed with continual genocidal hi-tech blitzing raids, all to shut down even the tamest of opposition and “holding to account”??? And alongside that the occasional “accidental” shooting of journalists and reporters in Gaza especially, deliberately targeted despite their high-visibility “Press” jackets and helmets?
And that is only a small sample from a list that goes on and on - and most certainly while capitalism lasts and particularly in its now most degenerate disintegration period in all history, will keep going on.
That is further shown by an ever wider extent of repression such as fingering of “whistle-blowers” or the “Prevent” programme, which is nothing but state censorship preparing to monitor and shut down all the “left” under cover of “anti-terrorism” and the lying pretence of “even handedly” watching the “right wing extremists”, whilst studiously avoiding mentioning left groups.
It now emerges that means the Extinction Rebellion eco-warriors, and assorted liberal and environmental groupings.
The movements that are really being tracked are any that are even tinged with pinkness, let alone all out redness.
This is the real 1984, based in capitalist reality (even in 1948) not the poisonous anti-communist fantasy the police fink George Orwell produced (used as brainwash ever since).
Of course, the details around Assange are particularly egregious, as an equally good, but non-communist journalist John Pilger, is worth quoting on:
As a reporter in places of upheaval all over the world, I have learned to compare the evidence I have witnessed with the words and actions of those with power. In this way, it is possible to get a sense of how our world is controlled and divided and manipulated, how language and debate are distorted to produce the propaganda of false consciousness.
When we speak about dictatorships, we call this brainwashing: the conquest of minds. It is a truth we rarely apply to our own societies, regardless of the trail of blood that leads back to us and which never dries.
WikiLeaks has exposed this. That is why Assange is in a maximum security prison in London facing concocted political charges in America, and why he has shamed so many of those paid to keep the record straight. Watch these journalists now look for cover as it dawns on them that the American fascists who have come for Assange may come for them, not least those on the Guardian who collaborated with WikiLeaks and won prizes and secured lucrative book and Hollywood deals based on his work, before turning on him.
In 2011 David Leigh, the Guardian‘s “investigations editor”, told journalism students at City University in London that Assange was “quite deranged”. When a puzzled student asked why, Leigh replied: “Because he doesn’t understand the parameters of conventional journalism”.
But it’s precisely because he did understand that the “parameters” of the media often shielded vested and political interests and had nothing to do with transparency that the idea of WikiLeaks was so appealing to many people, especially the young, rightly cynical about the so-called “mainstream”.
Leigh mocked the very idea that, once extradited, Assange would end up “wearing an orange jumpsuit”. These were things, he said, “that he and his lawyer are saying in order to feed his paranoia”.
The current US charges against Assange centre on the Afghan Logs and Iraq Logs, which the Guardian published and Leigh worked on, and on the Collateral Murder video showing an American helicopter crew gunning down civilians and celebrating the crime. For this journalism, Assange faces 17 charges of “espionage” which carry prison sentences totalling 175 years.
Whether or not his prison uniform will be an “orange jumpsuit”, US court files seen by Assange’s lawyers reveal that, once extradited, Assange will be subject to Special Administrative Measures, known as SAMS. A 2017 report by Yale University Law School and the Center for Constitutional Rights described SAMS as “the darkest corner of the US federal prison system” combining “the brutality and isolation of maximum security units with additional restrictions that deny individuals almost any connection to the human world… The net effect is to shield this form of torture from any real public scrutiny.”
That Assange has been right all along, and getting him to Sweden was a fraud to cover an American plan to “render” him, is finally becoming clear to many who swallowed the incessant scuttlebutt of character assassination. “I speak fluent Swedish and was able to read all the original documents,” Nils Melzer, the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, said recently. “I could hardly believe my eyes. According to the testimony of the woman in question, a rape had never taken place at all. And not only that: the woman’s testimony was later changed by the Stockholm Police without her involvement in order to somehow make it sound like a possible rape. I have all the documents in my possession, the emails, the text messages.”
Keir Starmer is currently running for election as leader of the Labour Party in Britain. Between 2008 and 2013, he was Director of Public Prosecutions and responsible for the Crown Prosecution Service. According to Freedom of Information searches by the Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, Sweden tried to drop the Assange case in 2011, but a CPS official in London told the Swedish prosecutor not to treat it as “just another extradition”.
In 2012, she received an email from the CPS: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!” Other CPS emails were either deleted or redacted. Why? Keir Starmer needs to say why.
All good points but still floundering with the anti-Leninist-theory notion that simply exposing iniquities, “defending press freedom” or “fighting for democracy” are capable of improving the world.
But reformism can only ever put makeup on a pig, fooling everyone that it can be “made better” and leaving the system intact, sliding into fascist depravity once it hits the unsolvable crisis inevitably emerging from the contradictions of private profit production.
Following which, exactly as now, the ruling class is ready to use the dirtiest and most ruthless methods to stay on top.
That is the real lessons that needs hammering home from Assange, and which alone can transform righteous indignation into a real path out of the greatest and most deadly crisis in history.
The illusions in bourgeois democracy promulgated by the fake-“left” simply disarm and lull the working class and all society into continued subjugation to the actual rule of capital, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie where big money and ruthless power makes all the real decisions.
Only the class war to overturn that domination and replace it with the firmest working class rule – (ie dictatorship of the proletariat - ie workers states, like the USSR but done better) – to hold it down, will allow the development of socialism under which real freedom and debate can take place.
That includes exposing the all the social-pacifist “No to War” fraudulence of the fake-“left” holding back such perspectives.
Particularly important in Assange’s case is exposing the entire fraud of single-issue reformism (black pride, LGBT rights, environmentalism) which the fake-“left” still wallows in, in order to evade the revolutionary issues.
Their support for feminist class collaboration helped create the atmosphere in which Assange was completely stitched up on nonsensical “rape charges” founded in the subjective and narrow obsessions of self-righteousness, which cannot see the wood for the trees, and ends up completely anti-communist, thereby weakening the only route to real equality, of all types, in society, namely communism.
The EPSR has long argued that single-issue reformism would be a last ditch defence for capitalism, (see eg Perspectives 2001 Part 4) and the monstrous fate of Assange can only bring total opprobrium on its head from any genuine revolutionary.
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