As we predicted, the impact of Scotland’s ‘democratic revolution’ has become central to the Westminster General Election (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2015/03/16/the-left-in-the-uk-the-2015-general-election-campaign-and-the-wider-impact-of-scotlands-democratic-revolution/), and hence to the longer term existence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Socialists in England, standing under the banner of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition or the Left Unity Party, have largely ignored this issue. In contrast, Steve Freeman, who is standing as a Republican Socialist and Anti-Unionist candidate in Bermonsey & Old Southwark has emphasised the importance of anti-unionism, and a break from the anti-democratic UK and its Westminster politics, as the best way of uniting the working class in England, Scotland,Wales and Ireland. Steve states his case below.
This is followed by a link to a short film made by Oz Flanagan about the Bermondsey election.
Anti-unionism and the working class in England
- The working class movement in the UK is facing a new situation which opened since the Scottish referendum in September 2014. The Scottish referendum campaign led to 97% voter registration and 85% voter participation. The campaign produced an unprecedented wave of canvassing, public meetings, street stalls and on-line discussions. Together these marked the beginning of a ‘democratic revolution’ not only for the people of Scotland, but potentially for the peoples in England, Wales and Ireland too.
- British nationalism is unionist. It is the ideology of the British ruling class for the maintenance and defence of the Union of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The right to rule these peoples is fundamental to its position as a ruling class.
- Scottish nationalism is opposed to the Union and aims for Scotland to become an independent state. The SNP leadership’s own version, ‘Independence-Lite’, still accepts the British monarchy (and hence the Crown Powers), sterling (and hence the continued rule of the City of London), the British High Command and NATO (and hence the continuation of global corporate capitalist rule)
- As republican socialists we have no illusions British or Scottish nationalism. In England, we recognise that the main problem is the British ruling class and British nationalism. If Scotland becomes an independent country its future will depend on which class wins political power in the new state.
- Republican socialists approach the national question as democrats and internationalists and thus take an independent view of the situation with regard to the interests of the working class.
- The Acts of Union were imposed on the peoples living in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There was and is no right to self determination.
- The right to self determination is a basic democratic and internationalist principle which we fully support without any regard or concessions whatsoever to the special interests of the ruling classes across the world and in this case to the Briish ruling class.
- The right to self determination means that multi-nation states must be based on a voluntary union, that is subject to the right to referendum and means to exercise that right, including the formation of a separate state. The right to referendum must be a constitutional-legal right.
- Democratic and voluntary relationships between nations are the best means of building trust, friendship, solidarity and closer relations between working people of all countries.
- Scotland must become a sovereign nation (i.e. a republic) in order to freely choose its relationship with England, Ireland and Wales and the other nations of the world.
- The Scottish referendum was not the exercise of democratic right by the Scottish people but a once in a life time concession by the British ruling class intending to block self determination and using economic blackmail to win a majority from a fearful people. The constitutional right to self determination did not exist before the concession of a referendum and does not exits today.
- The working class in England as a democratic and internationalist class must oppose the Acts of Union. The working class would be failing our responsibilities if we leave the Scottish people to fight for their rights alone. On the contrary the working class in England must take a lead in the struggle to abolish the Acts of Union. Republican socialists must campaign for this aim in the working class movement.
- The working class movement in England has been conservative and lethargic on the Acts of Union. Doing nothing is tantamount to supporting the policy of the British ruling class. The Labour Party is a Unionist party. The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and Left Unity have sat on the fence and are thus a barrier to mobilising the working class in England. TUSC in Scotland adapted itself to the prevailing climate in Scotland before the referendum and supported ‘Yes’.
- In England TUSC and Left Unity have done nothing. Their programme for the 2015 general election has ignored the issue completely. They are behaving as if the main purpose is to get votes and avoid tricky ‘vote losing’ issues. This is opportunism, sacrificing the future of the movement for short term electoral advantage.
- The unity of the Scottish and English working class is not a given, and is certainly not secured by the Acts of Union. On the contrary these relations are now being poisoned as the Tories, desperate for electoral advantage are promoting anti-Scottish chauvinism.
- The unity of the Scottish and English working class has to be made and remade in every generation and against the unfolding of the class struggle in the new conditions of the day. Today we have to fight for unity in an epoch when the old Unionist constitution is dying but not dead.
- Today we face the greatest danger that a long drawn out ‘death agony’ of the British Union will poison relations between the working class in different countries. Chauvinism soon feeds on itself. Those desperate to cling onto the old UK state power will stoke the fires of chauvinism. Those with ambitions to become rulers of a new state may exploit the situation to divide the working class.
- The 2015 general election is an important moment in the developing crisis of the Union. This is why I am standing in this election against the opposition of TUSC and Left Unity, and in favour of ‘internationalism below’ uniting the workers and republican democrats in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Parliamentary candidate for Southwark and Old Bermondsey
3 May 2015