Steve Freeman (Left Unity Party and RISE) has been conducting a campaign in England and Wales, along with members of the Republican Socialist Alliance, to get socialists to understand the significance of the Scotland’s ‘democratic revolution’ and the need to break away from the British Left’s traditional unionist politics. Steve has fought consistently to try to make the LUP an anti-Unionist internationalist party.
One of the consequences of the LUP leadership’s failure to adopt this course of action during the Scottish independence referendum was the loss of nearly all their Scottish members. Now that a bigger Left unionist pole of attraction has emerged in Jeremy Corbyn, the LUP is faced with the loss of most of its remaining members to the Labour Party.This confirms that the LUP leadership’s Left unionism is a reflection of that of the Labour Party and its accommodation to the UK state.
Here are two letters Steve has written in the pages of Weekly Worker.
Letter 1. Revolutionary (http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1090/letters/)
Left Unity Facebook page has seen a debate over a resolution changing the party’s position from left Unionism to anti-Unionist internationalism. The CPGB had opposed this resolution for LU conference. Then two CPGB members (Tina and Steve) claimed, incredibly, that their party was Anti-Union, citing a Weekly Worker article back in 2001.
Now that Corbyn has reclaimed Left Unity’s clothes this question has double importance for the survival of LU as an independent party with distinct politics. Unfortunately, the two key players in Left Unity, Socialist Resistance and the CPGB, are opposing the resolution with fatal consequences.
The resolution says “1. We recognise the Acts of Union bind England with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. 2. We call for the abolition of all the Acts of Union, thus ending all jurisdictions by the British Crown over the nations of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. 3. By ending all Acts of Union, the people of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, will be able to freely choose their future relations with the people of England, whether as independent nations, or in some form of voluntary federal relationship or within the European Union or in whatever form they decide”.
The Crown and the Union are fundamental to the constitution as indicated in the title “United Kingdom”. The British ruling class defends, promotes and supports its monarchy and its unionist laws. The monarchy, House of Lords and the Acts of Union were and remain undemocratic institutions with laws which are barriers to the sovereignty of the people.
Conservatism defends the status quo. Revolutionary democracy sweeps all into the dustbin of history. Lenin explains in Two Tactics of Social Democracy that “the revolutionary path is one of rapid amputation, which is least painful to the proletariat, the path of immediate removal of all that is putrescent, the path of least compliance with and consideration for the monarchy and the abominable, vile, rotten and noxious institutions that go with it”.
The 1707 Act of Union is precisely one of the rotten putrescent laws that “go with” the British Crown. It binds Scotland to England “forever”, securing Protestantism as the state religion, abolishing the Scottish parliament and giving the Scottish aristocracy and merchants’ access to the British colonies and the slave trade. Which part is relevant today?
The European Union enables the free movement of goods, services and people across the Scottish border. The ‘Little Britain Union’ is as obsolete as the Atlantic slave trade. The capitalist market is subsumed in a much bigger European Union. It makes little economic difference if Bavaria ‘leaves’ Germany, Catalonia ‘leaves’ Spain and Scotland ‘leaves’ the UK since all remain in a Union of five hundred and three million people. The difference is in politics.
The revolutionary class approaches the national question in a revolutionary way. Scotland is part of the process of democratic revolution across the UK and Europe. Scotland’s rebellion against the Acts of Union is directly connected not only to Wales and Ireland but England and the crisis in the EU. The revolutionary class is the only class capable of taking “the path of immediate removal of all that is putrescent” such as the monarchy and the Acts of Union.
The nationalists claim the abolition of the Acts of Union is for the Scottish working class acting alone. This is fundamentally wrong. It is a joint enterprise for the English and Scottish workers aided by the Irish, Welsh and wider European working class. The central problem is that the working class in England has not stepped up to the plate. The confusion in Left Unity is no more than a reflection of this conservatism.
The working class in England must play its revolutionary part. Unfortunately, in England the working class is weighed down by middle class conservatism, trade union economism, social reformism and the dead weight of the Labour Party and the trade union bureaucracy. This is why the fight in Left Unity is important in starting to break the working class in England away from conservative attitudes. Only then will it be possible to unite the English and Scottish workers in a joint expedition to eradicate these laws.
The British ruling class defends the British Union because their rule depends on it, both domestically and internationally. They depend on conservative ideas among the middle classes corrupting the working class. Fear of change is the main weapon in building a conservative majority. With a stake in the system, the middle classes are not going to gamble, not least given the dire warnings of economic disaster. The Tory press deployed this fear in the Scottish referendum and now against Corbyn.
Scotland’s ‘forced marriage’ to England includes no right to divorce. What will replace it? The resolution says that the people of Ireland, Scotland and Wales “will be able to freely choose their future relations with the people of England, whether as independent nations, or in some form of voluntary federal relationship or within the European Union or in whatever form they decide”.
Working class action to end the Acts of Union with immediate effect is self determination considered in a revolutionary way. No clinging to the past or nostalgia for the great days of the British Empire. Revolutionary self determination is about democratic revolution and international action by the working class in England and Scotland. The middle classes may pretend to support self determination but always in a conservative way, hedged by ifs, buts, maybes and probably nots. So Tina is probably right to claim that conservative self determination is in the CPGB programme.
Letter 2, Programme first (http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1088/letters/)
It was good to read Tony Greenstein (Weekly Worker 17 December 2015) promoting my campaign for anti-unionist republicanism in the 2015 Bermondsey election “as a considerable rebellion against the conservative monarchical forces of Left Unity” and comparing it with James Connolly’s Easter uprising against the British state.
With such high but, may I say with all due modesty, undeserved praise I have decided to offer Tony the job as my spin doctor to continue his good work. But I think he should reference Captain America and Iron Man to fully capture the scale of my heroic deeds. Alistair Campbell eat your heart out!
Even so, it doesn’t seem right to compare Connolly’s Irish Socialist Republican Party and Citizens Army in their rebellion against the United Kingdom with an election campaign which identified Left Unity as hardly republican and certainly not anti-unionist. The argument with Left Unity is not about the tactics of standing in elections versus armed uprisings. It is all about programme.
In 1916 the Labour Party programme was neither republican nor anti-unionist and supported imperialist wars. Connolly stood for the opposite. A river of blood divided these two positions. In 2016 the Labour Party remains committed to the UK constitution based on the monarchy and the union and has continued to back imperialist wars, despite the election of Corbyn and the over-excitement of the Trotskyist left.
My point about Left Unity and the CPGB’s communist platform is not that they should organise an armed uprising anytime soon, but rather that LU has no future unless it changes its programme and becomes an anti-unionist republican socialist party. Then, and only then, will LU be in a position to relate to Rise (Scottish Left Alliance). Then and only then will it place its relations with the Corbyn movement in England and Wales on a solid basis. LU will become a party with its own distinct democratic political objectives and not seem like some Corbyn groupee hanging around the stage door hoping for a sprinkle of star dust.
Tony makes one revealing gaff. He says that “when the political debate in this country (Peter please put “country” in italics) is focused on the battle between left and right within the Labour Party” Left Unity is finished. (“their day has long gone”). But what is meant by “this country”? Does he mean the UK, Britain or England (and Wales)? Scotland has different politics which I highlighted in Bermondsey. (As he missed the key point in my election campaign, he just lost the job as my spin doctor!)
However Tony does make a telling point that the CPGB is in a contradictory position over Labour and Left Unity by trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Programme must come before tactics. Which side of the river of blood should socialists stand, on the right bank with Kier Hardie and Ramsey McDonald’s Labourism or the left bank with James Connolly’s anti-unionist republican programme. No contest.
This article is a response to a letter from Tony Greenstein in issue 1087 (see http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1087/letters/)
Also see http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2015/09/13/open-letter-to-rise-launch-form-republican-socialists-and-anti-unionists-in-england/ which has further links to Steve Freeman’s articles.