Freedom Not Nationhood


( August 8, 2014, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Nationalism has swept onwards with increasing force, threatening to engulf workers. And the more the movement for emancipation of labour wallows in the doldrums, the more nationalism blossoms, despite the fact that national differences between the peoples are vanishing more and more. Socialists, however, will never allow their heads to be turned by nationalist slogans and must resist the siren call of patriotism and national chauvinism by proclaiming the unity and indivisibility of the class struggle. Separatism weakens the workers' sense of solidarity and frequently drives them to strike-break on a national level. The principle of international solidarity of the workers is an essential element for the triumph of the working class. It is critical for working class people to organise themselves independently of all capitalist interests. Capitalism can’t afford to have everyone live well.

You have the right to choose between separatism or unionism, but you can only choose one thing - capitalism. The choice is clear. If capitalism is to be maintained, business must be allowed to squeeze out its profits and the banks their interest. When times are tough it is the working people who must be squeezed. Fewer workers will have to do the work once done by more, and they will receive less pay. Social services needed by working people will have to be drastically cut. And capitalists invariably demand harsher terms from reformist politicians than from others: the risks are greater, and therefore the returns must be greater or the sources of investment will dry up and go elsewhere. During these crisis-ridden times the small gains that were possible in the 1960’s are out of the question in the present state of capitalism. How many times have workers been told “don’t rock the boat; we’ll wheel and deal in the corridors of power” to permit governments to carry out their austerity programmes. With full control of a separate Scotland state, the SNP will have additional powers to force Scots to “tighten their belts in the interests of the nation.”

Rosa Luxemburg presented the Marxist case in regards to nationalism:

"A "right of nations" which is valid for all countries and all times is nothing more than a metaphysical cliché of the type of "rights of man" and "rights of the citizen...When we speak of the "right of nations to self-determination", we are using the concept of the "nation", as a homogeneous social and political entity… In a class society, "the nation" as a homogeneous socio-political entity does not exist. Rather, there exist within each nation, classes with antagonistic interests and "rights"."

The fact that nationalism is a blind alley does not stop people going down it. The idea of the division of humanity into nations is etched into people’s consciousness under capitalism. If one national state fails them, the easiest thing is to turn to the idea of creating a different national state. Independence seems to offer a quick way for people to break from the hold of a Tory government and the effects of Britain’s recessions and so support for nationalism has grown. Nationalist influence is greatest where demoralisation among workers is strongest. The political field is left to those who preach nationalism when the economic battle-ground is deserted. Nevertheless, the parties that established new capitalist states means inevitably them turning against their own workers. When the nationalist frenzy fades, the economic problems – and with them the class struggle – suddenly move back to the centre of the stage.

The independence then socialism tactic is nothing but a dead-end. It doesn’t bring us closer to socialism, only farther away from it. We’re not going to get any closer to socialism by building up the SNP, a party that represents the interests of Scottish business. Whether they like it or not, the people who advocate independence first fall right into class collaboration. The left nationalists have been giving the SNP conditional and tactical support and in fact end up supporting them as the” lesser evil”. The left-wingers attacks against the SNP are only for show. By refusing to subordinate the national struggle to the class struggle for socialism, their option helps keep capitalism alive. The class struggle here as elsewhere is between employers and employees. The nationalists say that the main enemy of Scottish workers inside the country is the English ruling class. According to this, Scottish workers have less to fear from Scotland’s own capitalists. But the truth of the matter is that Scottish capitalists have been an integral part of the British bourgeoisie ever since the 1707 Union. The ruling classes of Scotland and Wales have long been merged with that of England and the working-class of Scotland, Wales and England has long been one homogenous working class. Capitalists who are Scots, be they big or small, are not any less a part of the British elite than their English counterparts. Separation is no stepping stone to socialism. It can only chain workers to the national capitalist class and hold back the struggle for socialism. Socialism and nationalism in Scotland are mutually exclusive. One can only be propagated at the direct expense of the other.

In a statement from 1916 by some members of the SDKPL, the political party of Luxemburg, they show a remarkable degree of understanding on this issue:

"The so-called right of self-determination is also used with the proviso that it will become a reality for the first time under socialism and is thus an expression of our striving for socialism. This proposition is open to the following objections. We know that socialism will do away with all national oppression, because it removes the class interests that furnish the driving force of such oppression. We also have no reason to assume that the nation, in socialist society, will form a politico-economic unit. By all indications it will have the character of a cultural and linguistic unit; for the territorial division of the socialist cultural unit, insofar as this will survive at all, can only follow the needs of production, and this division would have to be determined, not by individual nations separately, from their own power (as the "right of self-determination" demands), but through the joint action of all interested citizens. The carrying over of the formula of "right of self-determination" into socialism arises from a complete misunderstanding of the nature of socialist society."

We say spoil your voting paper. Does this mean standing on the sidelines in this referendum? Not at all – we should expose the referendum as a nationalist nonsense and calls for developing socialist awareness even more! The slogan of independence does not raise the socialist understanding of the workers in the slightest.

“YES” or “NO” to independence is boxing workers into the proposition of “Heads (YES) the bosses win, Tails (NO) the workers lose.”