The British Left and the UK State, written by Allan Armstrong

(This book is an update of the article Allan wrote for E&L in 2016 THE UK STATE AND BRITISHNESS)

Below is an outline of the Contents and the concluding chapter addressing the need for a socialist republican ‘internationalism from below’ strategy to address the current challenges the Left faces
_____________

From the British Left’s ‘national exceptionalism’ during the ‘IndyRef1’campaign to acting as Left outriders for the UK state during the Brexit campaign

Contents

  1. Introduction – the relationship between the UK state and the British Left
  2. The challenge to British Left unionism represented by IndyRef1
  3. From IndyRef1 in 2014 to the Euro-referendum in 2016 – the British Left begins to dig a hole for itself.
  4. The Left Brexiteers, the 2015 Westminster general election, the 2016 Euro-referendum and on to the 2017 Westminster general election – giving succour to the Right Populist and Hard Right Brexit offensive
  5. The CPB, SP(E&W) and SWP provide cover for McCluskey’s anti-democratic, ‘British jobs for British workers’, racist and Right accommodating Brexit
  6. Two forces for possible future Socialist advances –Ian Allinson’s Grassroots Left election campaign for the UNITE general secretary and the appearance of Left Remain forces in the new Labour intake.
  7. The growing ascendancy of the Hard Right and the final demise of Left Brexit in the December 12th general election
  8. The Left Brexiteers export their Brexit illusions to Ireland
  9. Conclusion – challenge the UK and partitioned Irish states, their ‘internationalism from above’ allies and the disunited Left’s ‘national ‘exceptionalism’ with a socialist republican ‘internationalism from below’ strategy

______________

CHALLENGE THE UK AND PARTITIONED IRISH STATES, THEIR ‘INTERNATIONALISM FROM ABOVE’ ALLIES AND THE DISUNITED LEFT’S ‘NATIONAL EXCEPTIONALISM’ WITH A SOCIALIST REPUBLICAN ‘INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW’ STRATEGY

The first thing needed to develop a Socialist strategy to counter the continued slide to the Right in these islands is an appreciation of the political forces that are leading this attack, and how they are preparing to meet the challenges they still face. One of the most significant of these challenges comes from the national democratic movements in Scotland, Northern Ireland/Ireland and potentially in Wales too.

Since the 2016 Brexit vote, with the rise of Right Populism, its victory in the UK reaffirmed by the December 12th Westminster general election results, the constitutional nationalists of the SNP and Plaid Cymru no longer face a liberal UK state. When 800 lawyers sign a petition accusing Boris Johnson and Priti Patel of endangering them (1) it is clear that the old liberal UK political order is being hollowed out, as in several other, particularly East European states (e.g. Poland and Hungary). The Right Populists are putting a new British authoritarian order in place.

In Scotland, the SNP leadership has no effective strategy to defy Boris Johnson and Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack’s continued denial of the right to hold ‘IndyRef2’. Neither the SNP’s December 12th, 2019 Westminster electoral surge (vote up 8.1%, MPs up 13), nor any further electoral advance at Holyrood in 2021, is likely to make any difference in shifting the Tory government. The SNP leadership is concerned that any popular mobilisation around a new independence campaign could fall out of its hands. Above all else, its strategy is to keep Scottish business on board. Scottish independence supporting Business for Scotland has two fronts. One, “the Saltire Club offers a powerful networking opportunity for leading pro-independence business people. Saltire members meet approximately ten times a year over intimate and informal lunches in some of Scotland’s most exclusive hotels and restaurants”.(2) Nicola Sturgeon has attended. Another word for networking is lobbying.

However, Business for Scotland has another front, ‘Believe in Scotland’, to try and control the political agenda of existing ‘Yes’ groups. A key part of this is keeping independence supporters on board with the First Minister’s cautious strategy (but even Business for Scotland thinks that Andrew Wilson’s Sustainable Growth Commission proposals are too blatantly right wing to convince most independence supporters!)(3) This constant emphasis on the need to work within the limits of the UK’s anti-democratic constitution is continuing to block even the SNP’s ‘Indy-Lite’, under the Crown, British High Command and NATO.

Divisions have opened up in the SNP. This has led to the emergence of a possible alternative leadership around Joanna Cherry and maybe Alex Salmond. However, they also accept the need to work within the limits of the UK constitution. It was under Salmond that the SNP’s ‘Indy-Lite’ proposals were first adopted. However, Joanna Cherry wants to mount a stronger legal challenge through the Supreme Court, following her ‘success’ in getting Johnson’s attempt to prorogue Westminster ruled as illegal. However, this did not stop Johnson going ahead with his Brexit plans anyhow. Salmond, a natural populist, might be prepared to go further, and call for some legal extra parliamentary action to increase the pressure on the UK government. But as someone just as committed to serving the needs of Scottish business, with his close links to the Royal Bank of Scotland, his record of trying to out neo-Liberal, Gordon Brown before the 2008 Crash, any public derring-do will be linked to behind-the-scenes reassurances to Scottish business. And if it proves necessary to rein in any civil disobedience, Salmond will throw his weight behind such moves.

Nicola Sturgeon is a competent, centre social democrat and social liberal, but one whose independence strategy has stalled in the face of Tory reactionary unionism. Alex Salmond may be a more maverick character, prepared to take chances, but his underlying politics are right social democrat, with a socially illiberal streak, shown by his 2008 attempt as MP to rein in abortion rights.(4) and his personal attitude towards some women He is also a strong supporter of the queen. Salmond will certainly not be wanting to put any immediate economic and social demands at the centre of any Scottish ‘Indy-Lite’ campaign. He may well make all sorts of ‘promises’ for after independence.

By that time, the SNP leadership’s carefully nurtured Scottish ruling class-in-the-making, formed round Business for Scotland (5) will be in control. And is in Ireland from 1921, with the emergence of the ‘Free Staters’, former unionists will rush to join them. Together they will demand that workers tighten their belts. Under the SNP’s constitutional monarchy within the British Commonwealth, the UK’s Crown Powers will still be available to them. These have a long reach as Gough Whitlam’s mildly reforming Australian government found, when it was toppled in 1974. But an SNP run, ’Scottish Free State’ is unlikely to make such challenges.

And furthermore, with Salmond’s “sex pest” record, acknowledged by his court defender, Gordon Jackson,(6) and his earlier attempts to curtail abortion rights; and along with Cherry’s attempts to undermine transgender rights (even accepted by an earlier Cameron government and by the Irish government), their rightwards slide opens the door to those anti-gay, anti-women and anti-English, Scottish nationalists. They were marginalised during IndyRef1 by its rainbow alliance nature and civic national approach to Scottish independence. But some of these Right nationalist political forces have become more vocal, whether online, e.g. ‘Wings Over Scotland’, or hovering around potential ‘Indy only’ slates for the 2021 Holyrood elections.

But some on the Left in Scotland, sometimes unwittingly, can also provide a conduit to socially conservative and ethnic nationalism. The journalist, Kevin McKenna has attacked the SNP government’s promise to honour its commitment to legally entrench transgender rights.(7) Using the language of the Right Populists he has dismissed this as ‘woke’ politics.(8) Many of McKenna’s articles make trenchant criticisms of the SNP leadership, over civil liberties, support for neoliberalism and its attitude towards the Scottish working class. Mckenna is a Catholic who has not been not afraid to criticise the church hierarchy. A former Labour supporter, he has become a passionate supporter of Scottish independence.

After ‘IndyRed1’, Scottish workers from an Irish Catholic background have been seen to be very much part of the emerging Scottish political nation and no longer outsiders. They were key to Dundee, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire voting to secede from the Union. However, this dramatic swich in allegiance from Labour unionism to Scottish independence could only come about because of the multi-ethnic, non-sectarian, civic national nature of the ‘IndyRef’ campaign. And in addition, ‘IndyRef1’ was a rainbow alliance, attracting those from an LBGT background. McKenna’s attacks on the transgendered people, invoking the sort of prejudices once raised against gays (over toilets) and represent an attempt to exclude some from the Scottish nation. Others would go much further in their exclusions as the influential Wings over Scotland shows.

However, McKenna’s view on the transgendered feeds into a wider Left view which counterposes class to identity politics. But such economistic thinking has not been able to get beyond its own identity politics. Whenever its proponents have tried to imagine their ‘pure class’ their ideal worker was often a male, white, straight, manual, trade unionist Sometimes, they might or might not have tolerated, women, gays, ethnic or religious minority workers. But it was only through struggle that these other workers have gained recognition by those workers who were once more dismissive. The working class that Socialists should be supporting is a working class united in its diversity.

Another indicator of the growth of exclusionary politics on the Left is Tommy Sheridan, Left (but for how much longer?) Populist Brexit/Scoxit supporter and misogynist. He is trying to make another bid to become an MSP and has joined the Action for Independence.(9) This has been formed by the 2021 Holyrood election by ex-SNP MSP, Dave Thompson, opponent of same sex marriage.(10) The working class Socialists should be supporting is a working class united in its diversity.

However, the mounting anger over Johnson’s refusal to concede ‘IndyRef2’ could well be overshadowed by his reactionary unionist attempts to roll-back the post-1998, liberal unionist, ‘Devolution all-round’ settlement’ in Scotland. Growing numbers of unionists in Scotland have been more impressed by Sturgeon’s public handling and use of the limited powers the Scottish government has to deal with Covid-19, than by Johnson’s shambolic handling of the problem. However, the Tories’ post-Brexit, Internal Market Bill (IMB) is designed to considerably rein in the powers already devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is, of course, entirely consistent with Brexit’s ‘bring back power’ to the British ruling class.

It’s not only the constitutional nationalist SNP and Plaid Cymru that can see the nature of the IMB attack, but the liberal unionist, Labour-led Welsh Cardiff Bay government. It has described the IMB as “an attack on democracy and an affront to the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland”.(11) And the broadly Labour supporting, STUC, WTUC and NIC-ICTU have issued a joint statement condemning the IMB.(12) Thus, far from trying to cement wider political support behind the Tory government, Johnson is pushing liberal unionists towards the constitutional nationalists. At the same time, he is infuriating rank and file independence supporters even more. This further highlights the SNP government’s lack of any effective strategy to deal with the Tory government.

This could well will precipitate civil disobedience and possibly mass popular action, way beyond the limits which might be suggested by the Plan B advocates within the SNP or by Salmond. Should this occur, the British ruling class may have to reassess its ‘No IndyRef2’ stance. It could turn to the Labour Party or to the Lib-Dems for an alternative strategy to derail Scottish independence. This could involve imposing a higher voting threshold in any ‘IndyRef2’ or resorting to the UK state’s last ditch option – the ‘promise’ of federalism. However, this can never amount to more than ‘Devo-Max’ under the UK’s Crown-in Westminster constitution and can always be rolled back later.

Despite Johnson’s hard line approach towards ’Devolution-all-round’, the even Harder Right want to go further. Johnson’s strategy would marginalise the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly by weakening their devolved powers. However, the institutions would still be kept in place. Increasingly reduced to ‘talking shops’, they can still offer second or third incomes to Tory politicians. MSPs and MWAs can attend Holyrood or Cardiff Bay when their other interests don’t interfere. Scottish Tory leader, Douglas Ross has set the pattern with his rugby refereeing job.(13)

However, the former leaders of UKIP and the Brexit Party in the Welsh Assembly have reconstituted themselves as the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party, ready for the 2021 Cardiff Bay elections. They have also attracted the Tories’ former Welsh depute chair.(14) With Johnson’s lackadaisical approach to Covid-19 leading to a surge of new cases, and forcing him into an England-wide lockdown, he is no longer able to highlight his support for less restrictive measures compared to the more cautious Holyrood and Cardiff Bay administrations. This leaves the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party open to an alliance with Farage’s latest political reincarnation, the anti-lockdown, Reform the UK Party. And its revealing that Farage has returned to the use of ‘UK’ found in his first political incarnation – UKIP. The Hard Right have a more ‘international’ strategy than the `British Left.

Farage has just returned from the USA, and campaigning for Trump’s re-election.(15) Trump has used Covid-19 to try to broaden support for his ‘America First’ politics with a ‘Me First’ appeal beyond his reactionary base. This has been countered with a social liberal approach to Covid-19. In the UK, this sometimes invokes the wartime spirit of ‘We are all in this together’. Of course, socialists point to the very evident class divide in Covid-19 regulations and want to take the social approach further by invoking active working class solidarity. But judged from either a socialist or liberal, social responsibility stance, Farage and his ‘Me First’ backers look like an updated version of the Second World War spivs, defying authority for their own very selfish ends. But this mentality extends deeply into a British ruling class, with its constitutionally underwritten, offshore tax havens, tax avoidance lawyers and accountants, and their own private health and care services. And when it comes to maintaining their profits, the social aspect of some neo-liberals soon becomes less social, with calls to return to ‘business as usual’. So, as with Brexit, the British ruling class is hedging its bets over how far Right ‘Me First’ politics can be pushed.

Johnson’s plans for the Brexit North and Midlands are designed to bypass local authorities, a point he has made against Andrew Burnham, Labour’s right wing, mayor of Manchester, in their conflict over Covid-19 regulations in the city. The Tories are also preparing to end the already pretty limited local planning regulations.(16) They are promoting ‘free ports’ to cut business rates, undermine workers’ rights and environmental regulations. (It should come as little surprise that SNP controlled Dundee City Council is looking at the prospect favourably)(17) The common feature of all these Tory policies is to remove any remaining official democratic accountability, whether in the form of Devolution, Local Councils or planning appeals procedures. Control of future economic and social developments will be in the hands of businesses which have given large enough donations, i.e. bribes, to the Tory Party. They will be able to proceed with their chosen projects without taking any account of people’s needs, health or environmental concerns. When their projects go pear-shaped, they will expect public bailouts.

Northern Ireland/Ireland is an area where Johnson’s Tory government faces a one of its biggest challenges. Johnson courted the Right Populist and reactionary unionist DUP in his bid for the leadership of the Tory Party. However, as soon as he had achieved this, the DUP was unceremoniously dumped. Its delusions of grandeur were pricked in the December 12th election. Now Johnson is every bit as concerned as the DUP for the UK to hold on to ‘Ulster’/Northern Ireland. A British ruling class, which cannot hold on its own state’s territory, cannot hope to maintain its position in the global corporate order as the US’s ‘Britain Second’. It would be very publicly exposed as the third rate imperial power it is. But the Tories know that the DUP has nowhere else to turn. It has no international allies, other than US Protestant fundamentalists, who even under Trump have not been able to undermine US state commitment to the Good Friday Agreement. This was unanimously backed by the US House of Representatives on December 3rd , 2019.(18) In January, following the DUP’s poor Westminster election results, Johnson’s new Tory government was able to push the DUP into rejoining the Northern Ireland Executive and Stormont, on the UK government’s terms.

Furthermore, British capitalists have considerably greater economic interests in the Republic of the UK than in Northern Ireland. Therefore, the Tory government will not be moved by any unnecessary Loyalist promoted, Orange-flagged, lambeg-drummed provocations, supported by the DUP. It is exerting its own pressures on the Republic of Ireland. Compared to the UK’s bargaining position with the EU as a whole over Brexit (the EU is the destination of 43% of UK exports, whilst the UK is the destination of only 18% of EU exports(19), the UK is in a much stronger position in relation to the Republic of Ireland (which is the destination of 5.9% of UK exports,(20) whilst the UK is the destination of 10.3% of exports from the Republic) (21). Last October, Irish, Fine Gael, Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, buckled in the face of such economic logic and signed up to Johnson’s calculatedly vague UK/EU ‘border in the Irish Sea’ provisions in his Brexit deal.(22)

With Johnson’s position reinforced by the December 12th general election, he is proceeding with his hard Brexit course, which has major implications for the Border and all the destabilising consequences that brings. The Tories have now openly reneged on their October Brexit deal and the Good Friday Agreement with their Internal Market Bill. This reopens the prospect of a land border between the UK and EU within Ireland.

There have been a lot of reassuring media comments in the UK, dismissing the prospect of any hard land border. But the threat of a hard border in Ireland is real. The Border could quite quickly become a violent place again with smugglers and people traffickers, dissident Republicans wanting to bomb border posts, armed Loyalists trying to mark UK state territory, and two sets of armed state forces policing the situation. Even when both the Republic of Ireland and the UK were still within the EEC/EC/EEU, successive British governments were quite prepared to enforce a very hard border and have a military occupation and repressive policing. Then the ‘border in the Irish Sea’ meant something rather different – the quarantining of the situation in Northern Ireland/Ireland and the attempt to keep its consequences out of Great Britain. And as long as that remains the situation, few Tories are going to show much concern.

On February 8th, 2020, the Dail general election took place in the Republic of Ireland. Unlike the UK, the Republic of Ireland did not pass over to Right Populist control. There is little doubt that sections of the Irish ruling class were unhappy with the loss of the longstanding Fine Gael and Fianna Fail monopoly over Irish governments; just as the British ruling class were shaken by the size of the ‘Yes’ vote in IndyRef1. Nevertheless, the Irish ruling class was able to exert the pressure to create a new, but still essentially neo-Liberal, Fianna Fail/Fine Gael/Green coalition government. This coalition is also of a decidedly conservative constitutional nationalist hue. It does not want to rock any boats. With Johnson ditching his deal with Varadkar (who is still Tanaiste in the coalition), the new Irish government has been left high and dry. It is looking to the EU and a hoped for Joe Biden-led Democratic government, to deal with Johnson’s reneging on the Irish border deal.

Despite Sinn Fein’s remarkable election result (up 10.7% in the vote and an increase of 14 TDs, equalling Fianna Fail’s 37), it is in no position to dictate politics in the Dail. It only holds 23% of the seats. Even if the short-lived fantasy, Sinn Fein ‘Left’ coalition government had come about, Sinn Fein faced major problems in trying to push its manifesto commitment to Irish reunification. And these weren’t confined to the lack of Dail allies committed to Sinn Fein’s Irish reunification proposals. The Irish ruling class does not want to take responsibility for running Northern Ireland anytime soon. Even economically powerful West Germany took about ten years to absorb economically run-down East Germany, and this was with the overwhelming support of those in the East. The ruling class of the economically crippled, post EU ‘bailout’, Republic of Ireland has no wish to absorb the economically run-down Northern Ireland, nor is it wanting to deal with Loyalist intransigence. There is little prospect of getting a vote for an Irish reunification referendum in the South through the Dail. And this feat has to be pulled off with a Stormont vote for a simultaneous Irish reunification referendum in the North.

Sinn Fein’s own election manifesto made no attempt to win over Northern Irish unionists or others from a non-unionist Protestant, other religious or non-religious backgrounds, but looked to “demographic trends {which} suggest a nationalist voting majority in the north is close.”(23). This head count view mirrors the longstanding Loyalist sectarian view to ensure Northern Ireland remains part of the UK (which is why Partition was first introduced). Sinn Fein’s claim is based on the changing relationship between the percentage of Protestants (down 4% to 41.6% from 2001 to 2011) and percentage of Catholics (up 0.6% to 40.2% over the same period) in Northern Ireland.

What was entirely missing from the manifesto was any mention of the most significant cross-border, cross community social movements, which could contribute to ‘Irish ‘reunification from below’. These movements have been around gay and abortion rights, and in opposition to reaction North and South. But in the Dail election, it was more important for Sinn Fein to hold on to its socially conservative voters in the South. Nor does the Sinn Fein manifesto mention EU migrants or asylum seekers living in Ireland. They are also likely to be key supporters of Irish reunification. (More worrying, “Sinn Fein does not want open borders”,(24) not making it clear which borders it is talking about – Ireland’s or the EU’s. This seems to be a calculated evasiveness, after the racist Peter Casey’s ability to win socially conservative Sinn Fein votes in the 2018 Irish presidential election).

Furthermore, Sinn Fein’s own poor election results in Northern Ireland in the December 12th Westminster elections (down 6.7% in the vote), and the rise of the Northern Ireland Alliance Party (up 8.8%) and the return of the SDLP (up 3.1% and now with 2 MPs), place renewed attempts to reform Stormont in a stronger position amongst constitutional nationalists and liberal unionists in Northern Ireland. However, Alliance/SDLP hopes of significant Stormont reforms are unlikely to meet much success either, in the face of continued DUP intransigence, and the Tory government’s dependence on ‘Ulster’ unionists of all hues to maintain the defence of the Union (along with a ‘blind eye’ turned, whenever unsavoury Loyalist methods are used).

The dire economic and social implications for the working class, of Sinn Fein’s continued attempts to keep the Stormont Executive on the road through its acceptance of ‘Fresh Start’, may lead to some rhetorical stepping up of a call for Irish reunification in Northern Ireland. But with the Unionist constitutional veto over any Irish reunification referendum, the prospects for this happening in Northern Ireland by adopting a constitutional nationalist approach are very unlikely. And support for Irish reunification has to be won in two simultaneous referenda, North and South.

But in Northern Ireland, and in the Republic of Ireland, unlike Scotland and Wales, there are other political forces beyond constitutional nationalism. Republican dissidents hold local council seats in Derry City and Strabane, Fermanagh and Omagh, Mid-Ulster, and Newry, Mourne and Down in Northern Ireland, and a councillor in Connemara South and TD for Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. Although Republican dissidents they don’t all necessarily hold the same attitudes to armed struggle or Brexit/Irexit. Those looking to an early return to armed struggle support Irexit on Irish nationalist grounds, and it is the likely return of a hard border (precipitated by a hard Brexit), which for them justifies armed attacks on border posts and personnel. But the ability of British intelligence to penetrate armed Republican groups, was highlighted by its role at the time of the Omagh bombing and the death of 29 people in 1998.(25) And the priority given to the use of arms led to the tragic killing of the journalist Lyra McKee on March 31st, 2019.(25)

The dissident Republican, 1916 Societies take an alternative political path and do not support Sinn Fein’s constitutional road or advocate the dissident Republican military organisations in their plans to bring about Irish reunification.(26) They have called for a 32 Counties Citizens Initiative referendum. However, the 1916 Societies’ publicity and activities is still framed in a very Irish nationalist way. Their self-description as being a “separatist movement”(27) seems to apply not only to Ireland being free of British control but also separate from the sort of cross-community and international campaigning which could bring about Irish reunification. The issues of cross-community opposition to social reaction, of migrants and asylum seekers in Ireland, and of ‘internationalism from below’ with those opposing unionism and the UK state in Scotland, Wales and England (other than appeals to traditional Irish-Scots, London-, Liverpool- and Manchester- Irish Republicans) does not appear on their online media.

Although both the pro-EU Sinn Fein and the anti-EU Republican dissidents oppose a hard border, they draw different conclusions. Where there is a political overlap is that whilst both support the free movement of Irish people, they are also much more ambiguous about those who will be even more harshly affected – migrant workers and asylum seekers. This despite the long history of the Irish as migrants and of Irish Republicans as asylum seekers. This narrow Irish nationalist approach also goes for those in or close to the CPI. The CPI still carries some weight in the Irish trade union bureaucracy. In a similar manner to their CPB counterparts, they support ‘Irish jobs for Irish workers’ and argue for the chimera of ‘non-racist’ migration controls.

People before Proft (PbP) is the Socialist group most likely to tail Sinn Fein’s constitutional nationalist, twin-track, Dublin Dail plus Northern Ireland Stormont, road to Irish reunification. Having given support to the SDLP/Alliance attempts to get Stormont back on the road in 2017, PbP has now declared its support for Sinn Fein’s Irish reunification campaign. This also enables them to put their earlier, unpopular Brexit/Irexit support behind them in Northern Ireland. They can join a wider shared, anti-hard border campaign, which has much more resonance.

However, there is still a common political factor underlying PbP’s 2017 support for a restored Stormont and its 2020 support for Stormont and Dail organised, Irish reunification. Rather than put forward their own immediate constitutional aims, they fall back on the argument that they could only support a Socialist Republic. This sometimes leads to an abstentionist attitude on constitutional issues, at other times to tail-ending the constitutional demands of others, e.g. SDLP/Alliance in 2017 and Sinn Fein in 2020. Where they differentiate themselves is not over the immediate aims of these constitutional campaigns (as was also shown by their British SWP counterparts in Scotland over ‘IndyRef1’) but in their call for more extra-parliamentary action, e.g. demonstrations. This is usually accompanied by a rhetorical call for trade union action, which, given the ICTU-NIC and affiliated union bureaucracies’ support for ‘power-sharing’ and social partnership, is unlikely to happen. Nevertheless, no matter how much extra-parliamentary action is mounted, this still amounts to external pressure to implement others’ constitutional ‘solutions.’

In contrast to Sinn Fein, most dissident Republican, and Left social democrat approaches to Irish reunification, a socialist republican reunification campaign would be based on ‘internationalism from below’ principles. As well as supporting cross border community defiance, this could also assist in the cross-border movement of migrants – perhaps a new version of the American Civil War, ‘Underground Railway’. And cross-border mobilisations against reactionary social legislation have already shown their ability to mobilise young people both from former Catholic and Protestant backgrounds. Such political practice would internationalise the campaign for a united Ireland, rather than nationalising it. And it would be good to see Scottish Socialists and others joining these campaigns, and not just leave it to the Orange Order to march in each other countries’ streets.

Sadly, both the British and Irish Left have taken a ‘national exceptionalist’ stance to the emergence of the issue of national democratic self-determination. This has been especially the case in Northern Ireland/Ireland and reappeared in their response to ‘IndyRef1’. This in turn has also led to a Left nationalist response, longstanding in Ireland, but more recent in Scotland. e.g. the Scottish Socialist Party. The shared characteristic of British. Irish, Scottish and Welsh ‘national exceptionalism’ is their inability to conceive of an overall strategy to counter the UK and partitioned Irish states or their ‘internationalism from above’ allies.

Central to any socialist republican. ‘internationalism from below’ would be a strategy try to match and surpass the ‘internationalism from above’ opposition. This opposition includes the reactionary unionists – both the Right populists, who extend their campaigns across the whole of the UK. and the Tory Hard Right, which uses its control of the UK state to stymie any democratic challenges. It included British Labour Party and its conservative unionist defence of the UK state (sometimes disguised by liberal unionist’ promises’). A socialist republican ‘internationalism from below’ strategy would also challenge those British Left unionists and the Left nationalists with their, disconnected and ‘national exceptionalist’ approaches to the crisis of the UK state.

A socialist republican-led, ‘internationalism from below’ campaign to break-up the UK and reunify Ireland, would extend beyond Great Britain, and the wider UK, to cover the whole of these islands. But with migrant workers from the EU, and asylum seekers fleeing the barbarism inflicted by corporate capital, its imperialist state military backers and their local allies, there is also a need to offer the possibility of an immediate new constitutional order to defend the rights that still exist. These cannot exist in a Right Populist dominated global order. Nor can they be defended adequately in a neo-Liberal order, which far from promoting the free movement of labour, has erected more draconian migration controls and walls in this world than have ever existed before.

If the remaining EU internal freedom of movement for migrants is rolled back, there is far less possibility of moving forward to the free movement of people throughout the world, which is central to any international socialist vision. During the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike, some Right wingers argued that support shouldn’t be given to ‘well-off’ miners when there were many less well-paid workers. When the miners were defeated, their wages certainly didn’t end up in the pockets of the less well-paid. Instead, the miners’ defeat immensely strengthened the hand of all employers. The new Immigration Bill may allow more migrant workers from outside, but only if they accept far worse pay, conditions and far fewer rights (including no right to vote) than British subjects and their enforced return when the employers decide they are no longer needed for their current job, or they have found even cheaper labour.

However, the EU bureaucracy’s ‘internationalism from above’ imposed by member states has led to an ‘internationalism form below ’response. Migrant workers , their families and students have moved from one member country to another, formed nationally-mixed personal relationships, made friends from other nationalities, joined trade unions and community organisations, participated in political organisations and created elements of a new multinational culture. Therefore, the material base already exists for a federal, democratic, secular, social and environmentally sustainable, social European Republic. The socialist republican call for the break-up of the UK state and for Irish reunification is also a call for a higher level of internationalism initially at a European level, which the EU bureaucracy no longer even pretends to uphold.

6th November 2020

I’d like to thank Suzanne Wright for alerting me to Business for Scotland’s ‘Believe in Scotland’ campaign.

References

1. More than 800 signatories to letter condemning Johnson and Patel’s attacks on lawyers

2. The Saltire Club

3. Nicola Sturgeon’s Referendum Announcement Tactics Explained

4. Goodbye Alex Salmond

5. Business for Scotland and The Saltire Club

6. Alex Salmond’s QC Gordon Jackson described him as a ‘sex pest’

7. Opinion: Kevin McKenna: Has push for independence been sidelined by Hate Crime and Gender Recognition fanatics?

8. Kevin McKenna: How ‘woke’ has been weaponised by those who fear it

9. Tommy Sheridan confirms ties to new Scottish independence party

10. Dave Thompson (Scottish politician)

11. UK Internal Market Act (Wales)

12. Joint statement on the Internal Market Bill

13. Douglas Ross will quit referee job – ‘if elected’ First Minister of Scotland

14. Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party (History)

15. Nigel Farage heaps praise on Donald Trump at Arizona rally

16. Boris Johnson cries ‘nimbyism’, but his planning changes will be disastrous

17. Claims freeport could turn Dundee into hive of criminal activity

18. US Congress reaffirms support for Belfast Agreement

19. UK trade with Ireland

20. United Kingdom’s Top Trading Partners

21. Ireland’s Top Trading Partners

22. BREXIT MARK 2 – BORIS DISPELS THE FOG TO REVEAL CLASS WAR – an Irish perspective

23. SF GE 2020 Manifesto. p.12

24. SF GE 2020 Manifesto, p.70

25. Intelligence on Omagh bomb ‘withheld from police’

26. THE IMPACT OF THE SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM ON IRELAND AND CATALUNYA

27. 1916 Societies

______________________________
Also see:-

FROM PRE-BRIT TO EX-BRIT: The forging and the break-up of the UK and Britishness – parts three to six

FROM GREY TO RED GRANITE

THE SCOTTISH LEFT PROJECT

‘BRITAIN MUST BREAK’ TO DEFEND ‘REAL LABOUR’ or ‘THE BREAK-UP OF THE UK’ TO ADVANCE REPUBLICAN SOCIALISM?

RIDING TWO HORSES AT ONCE – The SWP and Scottish independence

LABOUR AND SOCIALIST LEFT UNIONISM IN THE SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE DEBATE

SCOTTISH SELF-DETERMINATION AND THE ‘ACTUALLY EXISTING’ LABOUR MOVEMENT

THE COMMUNIST CASE FOR INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW