In the light of the SNP’s referendum initiative, Bob Goupillot and Allan Armstrong of the Republican Communist Network continue our debate on Scottish independence.
To better understand our approach to this issue it is useful, by way of a preamble, to provide a thumbnail sketch of our understanding of the international context.
The modern form of capitalism is a developed imperialism dominated by the United States. US imperialism relies on a series of local allies at strategic locations around the world. In western Europe the USA’s main ally is the UK state, which thereby provides a linchpin for the whole system.
In this context we see our role as communists to work towards the transformation of the existing states on these islands into becoming part of a federation of European socialist republics in a transition to a stateless world – a global commune.
At present we perceive a series of fault lines that run through the multinational, but unionist, UK state, especially the issue of a united Ireland and self-determination for Scotland. We have developed a strategy of ‘internationalism from below’ to link the situation we face in Scotland, the UK and Ireland with the global struggle for emancipation and liberation. We promote the ‘break-up of the UK state’ as a key tactic in pursuing this. It is from this perspective, as communists, republicans and internationalists that we support the struggle for an independent Scotland. We are not Scottish nationalists, but Scottish internationalists seeking new forms of unity, which are not a mere reflection of how the ruling class or the British left organises itself. We need to be able to take our own initiatives, not just react to those of others.
Independence-Lite or Devo-Max?
So how does the Republican Communist Network view the SNP and the forthcoming referendum? Well, we summarise their relationship to the struggle for independence as analogous to that between the old Labour party and Socialism, i.e. opportunist. The SNP reflects a small business, petty bourgeoisie outlook that seeks greater influence for its class backers within the existing corporate imperial order, i.e. ‘Independence-Lite’. Such a state, very unlikely to come about in the current political climate, would be a ‘Scottish Free State’, with a similar character to the Irish Free State, formed after the defeat of Irish Republicans in the British-promoted Irish Civil War of 1922-3. At present, however, many of the SNP’s business backers, naturally cautious about any radical political change and understanding of their lowly position in the current imperial pecking order, would settle for a restructured UK state, i.e. Devo-Max.
The SNP’s left wing consists of advanced nationalists, republicans and some who would call themselves socialists, although the majority of their left wing decamped into the Scottish Socialist Party in its early days (though many have since returned). The SNP’s electoral base is politically broad ranging from social democrats seeking a home to the left of Labour to far right nationalists advocating some kind of Celtic purity.
Given this character the SNP leadership is keen to placate and charm corporate business leaders, the Scottish Establishment, and British and US ruling class – hence the retention of the UK monarchy (and more importantly the Crown Powers), the pound sterling and cooperation with the UK state over defence, foreign policy etc. They are particularly proud of the role played by Scottish regiments in serving British imperial needs for centuries.
In contrast the SNP leadership is fearful of rousing the people of Scotland and in particular the working class, in which they have shallow roots, in any active independence campaign. With the Labour Party having moved so far to the right, they have found an electoral niche. To appeal to Scottish workers, they make election ‘promises’ of traditional social democratic-type reforms. But these promises quickly evaporate whenever the capitalist class, including its Scottish SNP supporters, e.g. Sir Tom Farmer, call for greater austerity. The SNP’s role in Scottish government, and in many local councils, shows that they are quite prepared to administer Westminster cuts. They are also willing to privatise services and enforce major pay cuts, as the case of the Edinburgh street cleaners has shown.
The role of communists, socialists and republicans
Our role, then, is to initiate or participate in campaigns that raise the issue of the social and political character of such an independent Scotland, specifically raising the issues listed in the Declaration of Calton Hill and developing these as part of a specifically republican socialist campaign to reshape Scotland and hence the UK, along with partitioned Ireland.
In order to do this we will need allies beyond the borders of Scotland, in the rest of the UK and Ireland in particular, but also in the EU and across the world. We have already started this process by initiating the Republican Socialist Convention, drawing together socialist republicans, and communists from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland (North and South). We hope to organise another later this year.
Should an independent Scottish republic be torn out of the UK state we believe that this will weaken it, and the current US dominated imperial order, inspiring others to join us in delivering the fatal blow. Such an event would be celebrated by all those consciously active in the cause of suffering humanity across the world.