Glasgow socialist blogger, Murdo Ritchie, comments further on the Independence Referendum.
As the Independence Referendum moves on the issues get clearer and clearer. The main supporters of the “Yes” vote are attempting to assume all sorts of international treaty obligations and conditions that make the resultant independent Scotland seem more and more similar to life as it is already lived in Britain. On the other, side the “No” vote’s supporters are offering more new powers to the Scottish Parliament so that it remains in the Parliamentary Union with the rest of the United Kingdom. Both versions of the modified status quo appear to be converging.
It is hardly surprising that some people see the independence on offer from the trinity of Alex Salmond, the Scottish Government and the SNP as more and more of a sham.
At present, the level of debate is still along the lines of independence: for or against? But more are asking the important question, what sort of national independence? It is the opening of sufficient political space for this question to be asked that makes the process probably more important than the eventual electoral result.
WHAT SORT OF NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE?
Membership of the European Union will set in concrete many economic policies, forcing the postponement of many desired social aims. Like now, economic competition policy will mean that many industries and concerns cannot by brought under public ownership and any privatisation of many concerns will be made obligatory. Undoubtedly, some countries place these policies on a perpetual back burner promising to carry out the required divestment at a later date, but as economic crisis occur, the wealthy capitalist class will buy even more of society’s productive assets.
The continuation of the monarchy will keep a visible symbol of eternal class rule permanently on display to discourage even the thought of change occurring. But the very real, though often invisible, Crown Powers that lurk in the darkness are always waiting to undermine any reforms that overstep the boundaries of capitalist rule through the Monarch-in-Parliament. As for NATO membership, a place close to the main carrier of the nuclear umbrella now means that imperialism’s ready-made list of international friends and enemies remains unaltered.
Independence increasingly means dependence on staying the same.
“We have soaring unemployment and widespread poverty in Scotland because we are not in charge of our own affairs” claims Campbell Martin, former SNP MSP and leading voice for the Scottish Socialist Party. Adding, “we need the powers to radically transform Scottish society and that will only come with independence.”http://www.scottishsocialistvoice.net/2012/10/workers-better-off-with-independence/4054
Real power is rarely given; it needs to be taken. How voting for the independence-on-offer in the forthcoming Referendum will begin an era of real change is never explained. Why a “Yes” vote that increasingly resembles a “No” vote will be any different remains a mystery. Surely the independence-on-offer must be a counterfeit and “real” independence that must be sought?
THE MEANING OF NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE
As I’ve already written, “It is one of the most amazing features of the independence debate in Scotland currently taking place, that so few of its supporters say what they mean by national independence…. Even more amazing, it is projected as if “independence” was almost a physical entity that either exists or doesn’t exist.”http://murdoritchie.blog.co.uk/2012/10/26/radical-independence-convention-why-15131950/
The main problem with concepts like “the nation,” “nationalism,” and “independence” is that they are non-materialist ideas. Consequently, all national independence is an illusion, especially in an imperialist structure with a global capitalist market, major international institutions, supranational laws, and treaty obligations. They are what the writer Benedict Anderson called “imagined communities.”Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, 1983. Communities-of-the-mind that are created to define legal-territorial boundaries, expected behaviours of the citizenry, and carriers of many myths to establish social cohesiveness. But one of the most important features of all nations/ nationalism “it is imagined as a community regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as deep, horizontal comradeship.”p16, ibidem.
The reality of capitalism, however, is of class-based society where different, competing, frequently incompatible interests clash and co-exist. Creating and maintaining a community-of-the-mind that promotes social cohesiveness is a tremendously difficult task. Consequently, different meaning of national identity even the nation itself means spontaneously arise. Often using the same language, saying the same things, different understandings and meanings lie dormant until disturbed. This feature became first apparent during and shortly after the French Revolution when it was clear that the bourgeoisie understood equality as civic equality where they believed their money was as good as anybody else’s and should not be frowned upon by unnecessary social distinctions. But for the proletariat it was bringing to an end all social and economic differences. Marx observed that they “take the bourgeoisie at their word; equality must not be merely apparent, must not merely apply to the sphere of the state, but must also be real, must also be extended to the economic sphere.”Cited in p274, Hal Draper, Karl Marx’ Theory of Revolution. Volume One. State and Bureaucracy, Monthly Review Press, 1977. Draper does not clearly identify the location of this citation in the text. It has been impossible for me to locate its original source because he also uses editions of the possible sources that are unavailable to me.
In this way, the community-of-the-mind held by different classes gives different meanings to national independence. There are many communities-of-the-mind that interlock to create both sides during the debate on Scottish independence. However, since 1945, the state –a different entity from the nation- has attempted to create the internal structures within new entities by means of international treaties and organisations such as the United Nations, the European Union, NATO and an alphabet soup of other bodies. These international standards become important pressures to create the right location for any new nation in the imperialist order of capitalist relations.
National independence may be an illusion but it is “real” to those who see it. What is real for one class is counterfeit for another. A fight for “real” independence may express different viewpoints of other classes, but it shares the same framework as other classes who use the same language. That slippage of perception helps create the fantasy of a common goal about Scottish independence. The bourgeoisie –always the most class conscious component in the alliance- will shape the Scotland they want while occasionally paying homage to other interpretations. A hesitancy or unwillingness to promote the aims of workers and their allies will only give the bourgeois forces a free hand in building new Scotland that is not in workers’ long-term interests.
As I observed earlier, ““Political pressures to slipstream behind the SNP are already considerable; electoral ones will massively strengthen this current. Of course, many on the left will deny any such accommodation is happening, but it is already taking place in political practice and the ideological framework in which future political activity is shaped. Undoubtedly, the SNP offer the appearance of some change against the many similar variants of the status quo of those opposing any kind of Scottish independence. Within the left, this is producing an unwillingness to promote any vision of socialist change. Instead, any form of Scottish independence has become the sole goal.”http://murdoritchie.blog.co.uk/2012/06/26/more-of-the-same-is-not-enough-13947975/
(Originally published on:-http://murdoritchie.blog.co.uk/2012/11/05/the-myth-of-real-independence-15169230/)
For earlier articles from Murdo Richie see:- The Radical Independence Conference – Which Way Forward?
|↑3||Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, 1983.|
|↑5||Cited in p274, Hal Draper, Karl Marx’ Theory of Revolution. Volume One. State and Bureaucracy, Monthly Review Press, 1977. Draper does not clearly identify the location of this citation in the text. It has been impossible for me to locate its original source because he also uses editions of the possible sources that are unavailable to me.|