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Proletarian issue 51 (December 2012)
Scotland: a part of the British nation
The following resolution was passed overwhelmingly by delegates at the sixth congress of the CPGB-ML in October.
Affirming that “A nation is a historically-evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture” (JV Stalin), this congress is of the view that at the time of the 1707 union of England and Scotland, Scotland was not a nation since it lacked more than one of the essential characteristics of nationhood.

This congress notes that during the half century following the Jacobite rising and the 1746 battle of Culloden, which resulted in the suppression of the Jacobites, the destruction of the feudal system was followed by a phenomenal development of capitalism in Scotland, during which Scotland acquired all the characteristics of nationhood. However, precisely at that time, such were the dialectics of history that the Scottish people threw in their lot, along with the English people, into building a common British nation. The development of capitalism in Scotland not only bridged the gap between the highlands and the lowlands of Scotland, but it also made the Scottish economy indistinguishable from that of England. By 1815, there were no separate English and Scottish economies but only a common British economy.

Congress further notes that the Scottish people – from all classes, not just the bourgeois sections of it – played a vital role in building the British nation, of which they have been an integral part ever since. The British nation is neither an English racket nor an elitist project of the ruling circles of England and Scotland. The British nation is well and truly a historically-evolved stable community with a common language and a common territory, with a common economic life that welds the various parts of England and Scotland into an economic whole, and with a common psychological make-up.

This congress affirms that, contrary to Scottish nationalist myths, Scotland was neither an oppressed nation nor subject to English colonialism. Nor was she a junior partner of England. Far from it: the Scots played an equal, and on many occasions a leading, role in the economic, cultural and social life of Britain, as well as in the establishment of the British empire, which at one time ruled over one third of humanity.

Congress further affirms that, contrary to the myths propagated by the ‘left’ Scottish nationalists, at no time was the working-class movement in Scotland driven by separatist and nationalist sentiments. If, from time to time, the militant movement of the Scottish working class dug into Scottish history and used the names of such figures from the past as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, it was for no other reason than to invoke figures from the past who had fought against established authority. The names of these figures, and the songs associated with them, were just as much invoked by the workers in the Lancashire mills, while, conversely, no matter how misguidedly, the Magna Carta was invoked in the struggle against the bourgeoisie not only by the workers in Lancashire and many other places in England but also by those in Scotland. Indeed, it was not uncommon for the Scottish workers at their militant demonstrations to sing ‘God Save the King’.

This congress is of the view that, historically, the workers in Scotland, just as in England, faced the British state and endeavoured either to reform it or to overthrow it. At no time did the Scottish working class hold the view that its misery could be ended through the separation of Scotland from England. Scottish workers overwhelmingly regarded themselves as British, just as did the workers in England. They were firmly of the view that they sank or swam as British proletarians.

In view of the foregoing, this congress believes that the Scottish nationalist movement is a retrogressive and reactionary enterprise, whose success can only bring in its wake a catastrophic split in the unity of the historically-constituted British proletariat. This congress is further of the view that, notwithstanding any outward appearances of ‘independence’ that may follow a ‘Yes’ vote in the 2014 referendum, the only real separation achieved in practice would be from fellow workers in the rest of Britain. In times of crisis, nationalism, like racism, is a useful tool for our rulers in dividing our movement and stopping us from effectively fighting the system of capitalist exploitation.

This congress believes that the historically-constituted British ruling class has no intention of allowing its own unity or strength to be in any way diluted. Most especially, it has no intention of allowing its financial or military apparatus, and thus its ability to project imperial power into the world, to be broken up. The fact that the bourgeois-nationalist SNP is gradually ditching all its apparently ‘progressive’ policies as it edges closer to the possibility of taking power in a nominally independent Scotland is a clear sign of this fact. Alex Salmond and his cronies have agreed that ‘independent’ Scotland would keep the same head of state (ie, the British queen), the same currency (the British pound) and the same army regiments. SNP leaders are in the process of ditching their manifesto promise to take Scotland out of Nato, which would then clear the way to ditch the commitment to drop Trident.

This congress further believes that the apparent willingness of the SNP to maintain funding for education and health services is nothing more than a short-term bribe to Scottish workers, aimed at persuading them to pin their hopes for a way out of the crisis onto capitalist politicians, while removing them from a joint fight against privatisation with their counterparts in England. In reality, they are simply allowing the ruling class to attack workers one section at a time – thus helping it achieve its aim of saving its rotten system by making the poorest pay for the crisis.

This congress therefore resolves:

1. To work for a NO vote in the Scottish referendum.

2. To hold at least one further party school on the subject of Scottish nationalism, with the aim of helping comrades to become confident in arguing the party’s case amongst workers who have become infected with nationalist sentiments.

3. To produce two pamphlets: one based on the discussion article in Lalkar, which lays out the scientific case against Scottish nationalism, and another that uses simple language to address common questions and concerns, such as (for example) ‘Are you asking me to be proud to be British?’, ‘Aren’t you in favour of more local powers for Scottish people?’ and ‘Won’t Scottish independence lead to the weakening of British imperialism?’
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