November 2014        

Scotland: a drawn battle

Mícheál Mac Aonghusa

Regardless of the outcome, the Scottish referendum has rocked the whole British establishment to its core. Queen Elizabeth Windsor may be purring, but her political high command is not. Although the initial reaction of its political hierarchs to the result was, no doubt, one of relief, they have to face up to the fact that 45 per cent of the electorate and the majority of Scots under the age of fifty-five voted for independence, led by large areas of working-class concentration: Glasgow, Dundee, west Dunbartonshire, and north Lanarkshire.
      Almost more frightening for them has been the emergence, with a huge level of spontaneity, of a radical anti-imperialist grass-roots movement. Every issue of importance in future governance was discussed in the home, pub, community hall, and even kirk, by hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom had no significant previous political involvement. This was despite the mobilisation of all the communications and propaganda mechanism of the state to smother the trend towards independence.
      Indeed the campaign was an eye-opener for those who hold the social-democratic view of the state as a kind of neutral instrument that merely monitors democracy and allows the electorate to make its own choices. The establishment deployed a well-tested strategy of creating economic and political uncertainty, with cleverly timed announcements by powerful economic forces that they would “withdraw” from Scotland.
      This is a classic implement in the modern imperial toolbox, which has been used on countless occasions to ensure the removal of non-compliant governments around the world or to restrain popular support for progressive movements. Many Scottish people have now come to realise that the state is the prime apparatus of the ruling class, and that the major media are, directly or indirectly, arms of the state.
      The imperial Labour Party was mobilised to do its duty to the state, especially when panic set in after opinion polls showed that the working class had been convinced that they had a better chance of bringing back traditional labour values in state policy in an independent Scotland than in a United Kingdom dominated by Thatcherism and Blairism.
      Scottish Labour imported the rather ridiculous Ed Milliband, the laughable John Prescott (who had the “revolutionary idea” that the Scottish football team should be subsumed into a “British” squad), and a circus of English MPs, many of whom had never been in the country before, escorted in by party outriders to add bulk to the unionist campaign. In doing so it committed self-immolation, losing voters, members and activists for ever. The warmonger Gordon Brown was taken out of retirement to issue all sorts of last-minute assurances (on behalf of the Tories and Lib-Dems as well as the Labour Party) and push the No vote over the line.
      It is clear now that Labour’s right-wing leadership has nothing to offer Scots except cuts, further financialisation of its economy, and more recruitment for foreign wars.
      Sneering, bullying and threatening were the order of the day, until the whole of the English oligarchy suddenly felt the need to reveal their love for Scotland and to promise the sun, moon and stars, promises that evaporated the morning after the referendum. Even the “celebs” were mobilised. That gallant knight of the realm Bob Geldof opined that the United Kingdom was “one of the greatest ideas invented”!
      A successful Yes vote would have created a momentum for change throughout these islands and beyond. The beginning of the dismantling of the imperialist construct, the United Kingdom, would have had a huge psychological and practical effect. Its effect on Ireland would be enormous, as it would deal a huge blow to Orangeism and would undermine unionism.
      It would mean that administrations and all political tendencies would be forced to prepare for the final collapse of the UK structure and the inevitability of an all-Ireland state. And, of course, the North is of much less strategic interest to London than Scotland is. On top of that, events in Scotland have dimmed the notion of “Britishness,” even in England.
      The imperialist powers have been quite enthusiastic about abolishing multinational states in eastern Europe in line with their interests and strategy; but in the heart of the imperial metropolis they need to maintain strong centralised states. The weakening of the British state is something they cannot afford.
      Of course Scottish independence would not of itself mean that the country would break with imperialism in the immediate term. The biggest continuing infringement on its independence would be membership of the EU—which, despite what its spokespersons were saying, would welcome a new member with open arms, in the manner of spiders and flies.
      Scotland might also be pressured into membership of NATO and involvement in imperial wars. It is possible, however, to be optimistic that they would not be able to impose that so easily, as the majority of Scots have shown opposition to all the imperial wars of the last twenty years, and there is fury at the revelation that London was considering the possibility that the nuclear base at Faslane be constituted as a crown dependency or a sovereign base area, as in Cyprus. (Indeed it was publicly hinted that a similar arrangement was intended for Shetland and its adjacent oilfields.)
      The unionist cause was also backed, sometimes shamefacedly, by many on the left opposed to independence because such a development would not automatically lead to socialism. Doing so placed them objectively on the imperialist side. One is reminded of what Lenin had to say in 1916:
To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie with all its prejudices, without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against oppression by the landowners, the church, and the monarchy, against national oppression, etc.—to imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution. So one army lines up in one place and says, “We are for socialism,” and another somewhere else and says, “We are for imperialism,” and that will be a social revolution!
      Much of the discussion on the left in Scotland is a throwback to the debate between James Connolly and William Walker more than a century ago. Walker wanted Irish socialists to join British political organisations and to amalgamate with the “larger and more advanced democracy of Great Britain.” He even opposed Home Rule; he regarded self-government for Ireland as “retrograde” and a distraction, and could not imagine that such a development might ever be of social or economic benefit. Connolly remarked that Walker’s approach was “scarcely distinguishable from imperialism, the merging of subjugated peoples in the political system of their conquerors.”
      The rulers of Britain seem to have won the battle for Scotland in 2014, but they themselves know that it has been a pyrrhic victory and that it signals the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom construct. In reality it has been a drawn battle.
      Two things are certain. Firstly, the warlords and financiers know they have to re-align their interests and create new structures to preserve their power. Secondly, sooner or later Scotland will be independent. Not even the SNP can prevent it.

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