Scotland: Should Separate? (Güneş Gümüş)
In September 18th, Scotland hold a referendum on whether to separate or not from Great Britain. Currently, this issue is not on the agenda in Turkey. If this referendum results with separation, as happening worldwide, it will influence Turkey, too. In Scotland, in straw polls, the ones who say “no” seem stronger but the gap is closing. In the last survey, 57% says “no”, 47% says “yes”. On the other hand, in the beginning of the year, the ones who say “yes to separation” were only 38%. It is possible that in the last days the gap can close. The socialist left of Britain clashes about the separation of Scotland. So, what do the Revolutionary Marxists say?
Probably, the first answer coming to mind is to act upon national self determination. And in Scotland there are lots of socialist group which based on their positions to act as a supporter of independence on this argument. But the equivalent of Leninist formulation is to support the separation of Scotland? Lenin doesn’t mention about every nation’s self determination. Lenin’s politics is for the oppressed nations. For instance, the rightist North Union in Italy which supports the demand of separation of north is clearly reactionist because the motivation of this argument is not to share the richness of north with poor south Italy. Then, first thing to discuss whether to accept Scottish as oppressed or not.
The Unity of England and Scotland
In 1707, England and Scotland accepted the “Act of Union” and they constituted a unity in which both kingdom was run by one parliament. This unity was voluntarily constituted and Scottish dominant class took advantages of the imperialist exploitation of United Kingdom together with their English brothers. Scottish capital is definitely a partner of English imperialism; for instance, in Caribbean they were a part of slave plantations. Shortly, Scottish is not oppressed nation which always has a independent nation. Today, the leftist or rightist groups which support the independence of Scotland mostly don’t consider Scotland as oppressed. It is clear that the situation defined by the rightist government SNP (Scotland National Party) by saying if Scotland separates from United Kingdom, Scotland will be richer doesn’t refer to be an oppressed nation.
There are two main arguments supported by socialists all around Scotland and United Kingdom on the question of independence of Scotland. The more leftist ones supporting this separation (like SWP) argue that this separation will weaken British imperialism, the more reformist ones (like socialist party- CWI), with clearly reformist arguments, claim that in independent Scotland, social state will improve. The motto of Radical Independence Campaign which contains Scottish socialist and green is “Britain is for rich; Scotland can be ours”. SNP, a voice of some part of Scottish capital classes, to convict working class and the people who fed up with austerity politics, argues that if we become independent, thanks to the income of petroleum and gas the social state will be more powerful.
The discourse of Scottish dominants of which SNP is a representative, is that in case of independence, they will stick to the Queen; they will keep a part of NATO and EU. This is a trick, nothing else. Don’t in “the social states” like Greece, Spain, Germany, France and even Scandinavian countries implement the same attacks against labor rights? Isn’t that economical politics of EU? They instantly give consent to labor attack which is part of not only EU but also global capital’s neoliberal agenda. The illusion shouldn’t lead us to error.
When we come to the argument of weakening the British imperialism, what a pity that these groups which support this argument don’t show the same sensibility for Syria and Libya! It is a big incoherence that these groups don’t consider harmful to be in the same side with their dominant classes in these examples while they argue to help the deepening the United Kingdom’s crisis on the issue of Scotland. So, will this kind of separation weaken the British imperialism or is it proper to analyze this issue from such a position? The indication of SNP (the heading of independence campaign) that Scotland will always be a member of NATO and the European Union, is weakening the claim of the weakening of imperialism. Moreover, if a separated Scotland state will occur, nobody can assure that new bourgeois Scotland government won’t run after the offerings of imperialism.
What about the weakening of the British imperialism? If Scotland leaves United Kingdom, this will lead the path for North Ireland. This situation will bother England. That is clear. But weakening ourselves awfully to weaken our enemies lightly won’t be so smart. (This is another fact that the labor class that is targeting the separation will become more dependent to their own dominant class.) The damage that you perform to your enemy will be for nothing if your army is dissolved. Rising of nationalism would weaken working class and strengthen not class relation but national relation. However, the workers and students of both nations have a common struggle history from Chartist movement to 1926 general strike movement, from 1968 movement to 1970 general strikes, 1984-85 great miner strikes, from uprising against Thatcher’s poll tax to university movements in 2010.
The socialist groups who says “no” to independence defend the idea that it is a betrayal for the class struggle to separate the unity of British and Scottish workers and to trail behind Scottish bosses with nationalist feelings. Independence; but whose independence from who? Is revolutionary’s duty to defend the dominant class who say “I will be the only one who has the control on richness in the country”? Will we defend the separation idea of North Italian capitalists who think south is a burden? Do revolutionaries defend the unity of workers on the largest scale or the fragmentization of workers to more and more small nation-states? Do revolutionaries defend the internationalist unity of working class or follow the nationalist bourgeoisie?
Shortly, revolutionary Marxists should rise a voice of “no” in Scotland’s independency referendum. Because Scottish are not oppressed, so the principle of nation’s self determination is not valid.
Revolutionaries are not pro-separatist even for an oppressed nation, they are supporter of the right of divorcement. That means they don’t agitate for separation but if there is a will for this separation, they support. As in the example of Kurdish issue, revolutionaries agitates for using separation right which are necessities of voluntarily association if wanted by Kurdish people, and they struggle for this right.
Turkish revolutionaries serve to deal with the obstacles of the unity of workers (such as the capture of working class by the nationalism of dominant nation or the coming of class conflicts to forefront by solving the national problem for laborers of oppressed nation) with the agitations which are done to defend Kurdish nation’s self determination, not for their own dominant class’ privileges. Otherwise, the conditions of unity of Turkish and Kurdish worker’s doesn’t exist for Turkish workers who consider their fortune is common with their dominant class in the base of nationalism. Except for the agenda of oppressed nation, revolutionaries defend the broad unity not fragmentizing of working class. Against capitalism which turns into a global system, Marxism, a guide of working class’ internationalist struggle, doesn’t have a discourse of weakening the influence and scale of working class struggle by fragmentizing it. Other comments serve to dominant classes.
Translation: Tilbe Akan