Jul 02 2020

In memory of Neil Davidson: The West – No Better Than All the Rest

 Allan Armstrong was reading  How the West Came to Rule – The geopolitical origins of capitalism, by How the West Came to Rule – The geopolitical origins of capitalism and Kerem Nisancioglum, as he learned of the tragic death of Neil Davidson. This book was influenced by Neil’s work on Uneven and Combined Development at a world scale.

Allan has engaged in several debates with Neil about how Socialists can address Scottish history. He decided to write a review of Anievas and Nisancioglum’s book, and look at  aspects of British and Scottish history, through the lens they provide.

Allan  sent this review to Conter. He thought that the second  issue of the magazine would be well served if it had a number of articles  in Neil’s memory. However, the Covid-19 crisis has delayed this issue.

 

THE WEST – NO BETTER THAN ALL THE REST

 

Challenging Eurocentric views of the world

I was reading How the West Came to Rule (HtWctR) when I learned of the death of Neil Davidson. Neil is acknowledged by the book’s authors, Alexander Anievas and Kerem Nisancioglu, as one of their inspirers.[1] HtWctR places the Uneven and Combined Development Theory (UCDT) at the centre of its analysis, referencing Neil in doing so.[2] Neil had been making a major contribution to reviving and applying this theory to global history. This led to the conference entitled ‘Uneven and Combined Development for the 21st Century’ held in Glasgow between the 5-7th September 2019. Anievas addressed this conference, albeit on another topic than HtWctR.[3] Although this conference placed historical development in Scotland under the UCDT spotlight, its contributors also examined historical developments over a far wider arena. HtWctR addresses these developments at the global level and represents the most ambitious attempt I have read to utilise UCDT both historically and geographically, whilst also drawing upon other theories.

The title How the West Came to Rule though, is misleading. It could initially be mistaken for one of those many triumphalist books written since the nineteenth century heyday of European imperialism to the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, which have celebrated ‘western civilisation’.[4] However, the book is making a very different argument – “one in which non-European agency relentlessly impinged upon and (re)directed the trajectory of European development”.[5] The authors point out that The Intersocietal Origins of Capitalism[6]   would be a better, but less ‘sexy’ title.

 

Making the case for the intersocietal origins of capitalism

In making the case for the intersocietal origins of capitalism, a key aim of HtWctR is to challenge not only liberal histories of the world, but by extension much Marxist historical writing and practice too. From both of these perspectives, capitalism, the first social system or mode of production to encompass the whole world, is seen to have its origins solely in Europe. This capitalist core was later extended to a ‘greater Europe’ in North America. HtWctR looks again at such thinking. This helps us to understand the role it has played in sustaining either liberal democratic ‘end-of-history’ thinking or much Marxist ‘capitalist-road-to-socialism’ thinking. Both schools of thought have looked to the global victory of European-led capitalism before their ideal societies could be created. This is why they are unable to escape from a Eurocentric view of the world.

HtWctR recognises the contributions of World Systems Theory (WST) (associated particularly with Immanuel Wallerstein).[7] But it argues that WST is based on the projection and intensification of European imposed market relations and division of labour throughout the world, whilst placing a negative sign where bourgeois political economy places a positive sign. WST opposes Adam Smith’s belief in the beneficial effect of the ‘invisible hand’ behind the ‘free market’, and David Ricardo’s belief that each national economy would find its optimum niche in the world market due to his theory of ‘comparative advantage’. WST though still mirrors their Eurocentric view of the word. WST has been good in identifying the exploitative ‘core/periphery’ relationship established under European initiated capitalist imperialism, but it also downplays the wide range of social relationships and labour regimes which the global capitalist system encompasses. These produce their own contradictions and forms of struggle.

HtWctR also recognises important points made by the Political Marxists (associated particularly with Robert Brenner).[8] The Brenner Thesis attaches much significance to the capital/wage labour relationship, seeing it as the distinguishing characteristic of capitalism. However, HtWctR shows that neither the earlier nor contemporary ‘real subsumption of labour’[9], with its domination by waged labour, can account for the nature of the global capitalist system. It also persuasively argues this system  cannot be adequately understood as flowing from purely internal developments in England; nor as the product of other developments in Europe or their projection into North America, e.g. in the Italian and Flemish city-states, in the Dutch Netherlands, or through the extension of wage labour due to the classic bourgeois revolutions in the USA and France.

 

Providing the history to back the case

To help us understand the intersocietal impact of socio-economic developments and their consequent struggles HtWctRbegins its historical study with Europe’s engagement with the Mongol Empire. This led to “an increased exposure to the technical developments in the more scientifically advanced Asia”. This was followed not only by new social relationships and labour regimes but by the transmission of the Black Death “and the subsequent demographic reordering which brought feudalism in Europe into crisis.”[10] (At this point, Covid19 could not yet be on the authors’ minds!)

After this, there is an analysis of the “‘superpower’ rivalry between the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires…. {which} undermined existing centres of feudal ruling class power – the papacy, Hapsburg Empire and Italian city-states – and supported or encouraged new counter-hegemonic forces – the Protestants, French and Dutch.” When the Hapsburgs concentrated their military efforts on the Mediterranean and Central East Europe, this afforded the Northwestern European states “the geopolitical space that proved crucial to their development along capitalist lines… {whilst} the Ottomans unintentionally created for the English a condition of geopolitical ‘isolation’, which directly contributed to the homogeneity of the English ruling class… At the same time, Ottoman territorial dominance of the Mediterranean and land routes to Asia serve to push Northwestern European states onto an altogether novel global sphere of activity – the Atlantic”[11]

Once HtWctR brings this Atlantic sphere into the wider picture, it examines “the manifold impact of the ‘New World discoveries’… and the intersocietal  interactions, conflicts and struggles critical to the emergence of the modern conceptions of territorial sovereignty, and the development of Eurocentrism, scientific racism and the modern institution of patriarchy.”[12] This section of HtWctR addresses many more issues.[13] However, it also shows how “the development of capitalism in England was itself dependent on the widened sphere of activity offered by the Atlantic and that it was through the combination of American land, African slave labour and English capital {that} the limits of English agrarian capitalism were overcome.”[14]

Although not stated explicitly, there is an implication that without the Native American genocides and African slavery, the agrarian-based English capitalism would have come up against its own developmental limits, just as the Italian city-states had. Such an approach undermines not only British imperial apologists but also the thinking of those on the Left seeing an almost inevitable self-generated capitalism with its origins in England and by extension to Europe and North America.

HtWctR looks at the ‘proto’-development’ of capitalism in the Low Countries, where further economic development would also have been curtailed without the Dutch East India Company’s (VOC) ability to create “a commercial network that combined uneven labour processes spanning the spice-producing islands of Indonesia, precious metal production in Japan and India, and textile workers in India into a single integrated network of ‘global’ production…The development of Dutch capitalism – the Bourse, Amsterdam entrepot and VOC  – were all based on this subjugated and exploited mass of unfree Asian labour-power.”[15] And the relatively limited  extension of waged labour in Dutch manufacturing at this time was tied to control over overseas unfree labour; just as the much greater extension of waged labour in England in the eighteenth century, came about through a more extensive command over American land and African slave labour.

 

Capitalism depends on a variety of forms of oppression and labour regimes 

However, HtWctR also highlights the particularly capitalist nature of various institutions developed overseas by the Dutch, despite these using unfree labour. The plantation is a key example. This also formed the basis “from which ‘super profits’ based on cheap production costs could readily be exploited.”[16] And HtWctR also notes what the black Marxist C.L.R. James had already pointed to in the British West Indian slave plantations. They had “gangs of hundreds in the huge sugar factories {which} were closer to a modern proletariat than any other group of workers at the time”.[17]

So, as well as showing that unfree and ‘free’ waged labour grew alongside and not necessarily in conflict with each other, within the different territories ruled by single states, e.g. the Dutch Netherlands and the UK, this chapter reinforces HtWctR’s argument that capitalism is a broader social system, quite capable of resorting to a wide range of labour regimes to extract profits. Non-European historians have long pointed this out this link.[18] Socialist feminists have shown that the reproduction of capitalism requires massive amounts of unpaid domestic labour, overwhelmingly provided by women,[19] with the additional effect of lowering wages in the non-domestic care sector.

And today, it should be clear that some of the most up-to-date and voracious capitalist businesses are prepared to resort to non-waged labour to maximise their profits. ‘Uberisation’ is the modern use of a version of the pre-Industrial Revolution ‘putting out’ system. Uber’s computing platforms enable it to extract big profits from self-employed taxi drivers, just as merchants providing cloth and markets did from self-employed weavers.

 

History 1, History 2 and old and new identity politics

Flowing from its recognition of a wider system of exploitative labour regimes, various forms of oppression, leading to different types of alienation, HtWctR uses Dipesh Chakrabarty’s distinction between History 1 and History 2. History 1, which supports the rule of capital, tries to make “all places (histories) exchangeable (comparable) with one another”.[20]This is a reflection of the “individual concrete labour of each worker {as} the precondition for their exchangeability on the market.[21] By contrast, History 2 refers to those histories that are encountered by capital ‘not as antecedents’ established by itself, nor as ‘forms of its own life process.’” [22] “While capital may indeed seek to rewrite social life to further the cause of ‘endless accumulation’, it does not do so – to twist a famous maxim – in conditions of its own choosing.”[23]

In looking to other sources of resistance to capitalism HtWctR argues for “an understanding of the historical constitution of racism and patriarchy as tied to, but not reducible to, the emergence of capitalism… It would avoid treating struggles that seek to destroy racism as somehow external from or mere supplements to – the cardinal aim of destroying capitalism”[24] (however that is envisaged – the abolition of the ‘free’ market, private property or the wages system).

For many Socialists such an approach conjures up the dangers of ‘identity politics’, underpinned by the theory of ‘intersectionality’.  They argue that the pursuit of individual or sectional aims undermines working class unity. In the UK, they often look back to a 1945-75 ‘golden age’ when there was apparent working-class unity. However, this ‘unity’ was often based around the notion and perceived immediate interests of the white, male, trade unionist. At best, black, women or gay workers were tolerated, provided they ‘knew their place’. Furthermore, trade unions were often active agents in these workers’ discrimination (as well as some unions promoting sectionalism which divided workers on their recognised skill levels).

There is indeed a problem with much of today’s identity politics. However, in many ways its approach to capitalism as an update of that of the ‘old identitarians’ found amongst many trade unionists and Social Democrats, seeking their place within the existing capitalist order. Social Democracy accepts wage slavery. But it wants ‘house slave’ status (better pay and conditions) for labour. It fears workers being reduced to the ‘field slave’ status of precarious super-exploited labour, often seeing those in this situation as a threat. These ‘old identitarians’ have long turned against those who seem to challenge any gains they have made. ‘British jobs for British workers’ has strong roots going back to the TUC’s support for the 1905 Aliens Act, Gordon Brown’s specific use of this slogan in 2009, and to UNITE leader, Len McCluskey’s support for Brexit.

And as Satnam Virdee has shown, even at the highpoint of Red Clydeside in 1919, celebrated by many Left Social Democrats and official and dissident Communists (Trotskyist and Maoist), Manny Shinwell of the ILP and Willie Gallacher (later of the CPGB) were trying to “import into the broad strike campaign the ‘old demand’ that black and Chinese crews should be expelled from British ships.”[25] It was as if Shinwell from his Jewish background and Gallacher from his Irish background wanted to be seen as British working class ‘old identarians’ or ‘insiders’ by turning on ‘racialised outsiders’.

Today, ‘new identitarians’, whether organised on an ethnic, gender or other basis, counter the ‘old identitarians’, who have already made it, preventing the newcomers from getting their own place under the capitalist ‘sun’. There are those who have made more recent gains within the existing capitalist order, including some feminists. They in their turn have become defensive ‘identitarians’ opposing such newcomers as the transgendered. They use the same sort of arguments once used against reforms to benefit women and gays.

The only way to challenge such divisions is from an overall international Socialist perspective. This sees the linked nature of various forms of exploitation, oppression and alienation[26] under the global capitalist order we live under. These three ‘plagues’ need to be challenged with a vision and practice based on emancipation, liberation and self-determination in its widest sense. HtWctR goes some way to providing the theories which could assist Socialists in this. It can also help us to avoid other pitfalls.

 

English exceptionalism and Scottish conceits

For those of us brought up in the UK, HtWctR highlights a particular political danger in locating the origins of capitalism exclusively in the agrarian conditions of post-Black Death England. This can lead to a Left version of English exceptionalism (a frequently unrecognised feature of British Left unionist thinking). This sets up England as the ideal capitalist model against which all later capitalist developments, in the rest of Europe and beyond, should be judged. But this can also be extended to establish a wider Eurocentric view of the world, where English economic developments replace the initial inspiring role given to Greek philosophy in more Right-wing versions of European supremacy. Both promote tunnel-vision views, either exaggerating England’s contribution to ‘progressive’ capitalist development or of classical Greece’s contribution to ‘western civilisation’.

However, HtWctR should also make us more aware of a particular Scottish conceit, which has been associated with both classical political economy and much Left Social Democracy, official and dissident Communism. The experience of initial capitalist development in Scotland took place later and much more rapidly than in England. This made the process much more visible. Several major Scottish thinkers took the lead in Europe in outlining the development of commercial society. They included Adam Smith in his The Wealth of Nations with its ‘free markets’; and Lord Kames in his Historical Law Tracts, with its identification of four stages of social development, – hunter gatherer, herder, agricultural and commercial.

Marx’s work on classical political economy and his refinement of the stages of human development to include primitive communist, slave, feudal, capitalist and communist modes of production (sometimes with addition of the ‘dead end’ Asiatic mode), placed many Scottish-born thinkers at the centre of his critiques.  Both the Right’s celebration and the Left’s critique of ‘free trade’ and ‘free’ labour, along with their placing capitalist society at the pinnacle of so-far achieved social development, have therefore contributed to another Eurocentric approach, in which Scotland is seen to have played a leading role.

Nearly all those earlier Scottish thinkers saw the 1707 Union as a key step on the road to a commercial/capitalist society. Scotland’s central place amongst the philosophers and theorists, as well as within the British imperial economy, contributed to the Victorian notion of the primacy of a ‘British road to progress’ in the world. From such thinking, various ‘British roads to socialism’ were to develop, beginning with Henry Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation – later to be renamed the British Socialist Party.

We are still living with their descendants today, whether schooled in the old official Communist Party of Great Britain, its Communist Party (of the no longer so Great) Britain, or by some dissident Communists. Precisely because of Scotland’s leading role in capitalist development, Scottish unionists, whether from the Right or Left, could place themselves in the vanguard of progress. They have celebrated their own distinctive Scottish-British part in all this – whether symbolised by the kilt recognised as court dress or by Red Clydeside’s leading role in a British Labour and Socialist movement.  These British unionists have seen any concerns with a distinctive post-1707 Scottish history as being motivated by petty nationalism. Their own ‘internationalism’ stems from either their British unionist or Comintern links.  It was only with decline of the British Empire, that Britishness, in its hybrid unionist forms, could be more clearly seen as another form of nationalism, albeit one with continued linked imperial or unionist pretensions.

But the truly global nature of today’s capitalist society outlined in HtWctR, should warn us of the dangers of another Scottish conceit. Growing numbers of Socialists in Scotland are breaking with their Left British unionist past. But in the process, many are mainly confining their practice to Scotland. Although most Left British unionists have not recognised their dependence on the wider ‘intersocietal origins of capitalism’, Socialists who downplay Scotland’s own links with past and current global capitalist developments, tend to become Left Scottish nationalists. To counter this, HtWct suggests the need for a Scottish internationalism based on the idea of ‘unity in diversity’.

 

Scotland, the UK and Europe no longer at the capitalist epicentre

Today Europe, and particularly the Northwestern European archipelago we live in, may appear increasingly peripheral to the centres of world socio-economic developments. And for those of us in Scotland, either increased provincialisation under Brexit or the break-up of the UK could both accentuate this. Therefore, Socialist thinkers in Scotland would appear to be more in the position of some seventeenth and eighteenth-century Italian city-state philosophers championing Venice’s fading glorious commercial and Renaissance past. These thinkers were still able to challenge the reactionary Papal States and Kingdom of the Two Sicilies; but they lived in a Mediterranean world, which was no longer at the centre of a wider socio-economic system. Their city-states were to give way to ‘nation’-states. They had been marginalised by developments in North Western Europe and the Atlantic.

Today Scotland may seem to be as peripheral in the world scheme of things as the eighteenth-century Italian city-states, but there is an important difference. As with most other states within the current global corporate order, many migrants or their immediate descendants live and work here. These include people from Asia, East Africa and Oceania, who hail from those areas in the rising capitalist heartlands of the Pacific and Indian Ocean seaboards. Here the Chinese promoted ‘Belt and Road Initiative’[27] competes with Indian, Japanese and US based economic initiatives. Scotland also has migrants from that cockpit of global conflict – the Middle East.

Thinkers from the Italian city-states, inspired by the European Enlightenment, would have to travel to Paris, London or Edinburgh to be heard or have much influence. Today there is a global flow of scientists, economists, social scientists and cultural figures to universities and colleges throughout the global corporate world, including Scotland. It’s not so much that Scotland is marginal in today’s world system. It forms just one of many areas, located throughout the world, where corporate capital has promoted particular activities. These include the most up-to-date finance, IT and higher educational in the quaternary sector but also the oil industry – the latest in Scotland’s ‘boom and bust’ primary sector, following timber, kelp, coal and iron ore.

 

Migrants and the making of a new ‘internationalism from below’

Migrants and their immediate descendants include a growing number of Left scholars. The two authors of HtWctR, and many of those they draw their theories upon, are amongst their number. They are able to provide a wider perspective, drawing on their own intersocietal experiences. Corporate capital’s drive to maintain global hegemony is producing its own ‘internationalism from below’ opposition. And this extends far further than Academia. This has been highlighted in these islands by significant struggles, e.g. of Turkish GAMA workers in Ireland[28] and the Latin American Workers Association led London cleaners’ strikes.[29]  Such  developments enable those of us with longer-standing domestic Scottish connections to develop a shared political practice, which can overcome Brexit provincialisation or national subordination within a corporate capital dominated global order. We are potentially far more connected than those who confronted the rise of seventeenth and eighteenth-century mercantile capitalism.

Neil Davidson is a very good example of the potential for such links. He came from the opposite social direction to those in Academia with a recent migrant background.  He had longstanding Scottish roots in Buchan and Aberdeen. But Neil went out from his job in Glasgow University to address academic and political meetings across the world. Although a major figure in global Left Academia, Neil always saw the need to push beyond this to ensure that any conferences he was involved in organising were open to political, trade union, community and social campaign activists.

It is a tragedy that Neil took ill on the first evening of the September 2019 conference. Since his fatal illness overtook him over the next few months, Neil was unable to contribute more fully to the further development and application of the thinking aired at this conference, nor to respond to the thinking of HtWctR. Neil was non-sectarian in his political approach.[30] I have always found reading and engaging with Neil’s books an enjoyable experience, because even where there is disagreement, I have learned so much from his scholarly work. I would very much have appreciated the sort of discussions I had with Neil in various watering holes after political and other events,[31] had he lived to address the arguments put forward in HtWctR. Socialists currently living in in Scotland have a responsibility to ensure that Neil’s legacy in this regard is carried on.

 

30.5.20

 

 

References and Footnotes

[1]           Alexander Anievas and Kerem Nisancioglu, How the West Came to Rule – The Geopolitical Origins of Capitalism (HtWctR), (Pluto Books, 2015, London) p. xii.

[2]           HtWctR, op. cit., pp. 24, 49, 77, 197 and 300.

[3]           Alexander Anievas, Reassessing the Cold War and the Far-Right: Fascist Legacies and the Making of the Liberal International Order after 1945.

[4]           A recent example would be Rodney Stark’s How the West Won.

[5]           HtWctR, op. cit., p. 4.

[6]           HtWctR, op. cit., p. 12.

[7]           HtWctR, op. cit., pp. 14-22.

[8]           HtWctR, op. cit., pp. 14-22.

[9]           The theory of ‘subsumption of labour’ is briefly but well explained on p. 17. This is a particular Marxist theory, and hence one that may not be familiar to many in today’s proclaimed ‘post-marxist’ world. However, the distinction between the ‘formal’ and ‘real subsumption of labour’ reflects important differences in the labour regimes workers and others are subjected to, with immediate and practical political consequences.

[10]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 274 and for the full argument, Chapter 3, The Long Thirteenth Century, Structural Crisis, Conjunctural Catastrophe, pp. 64-90.

[11]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 274 and for the full argument, Chapter 3, The Long Thirteenth Century, Structural Crisis, Conjunctural Catastrophe, pp. 64-90.

[12]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 275 and for the full argument, Chapter 5, The Atlantic Sources of European Capitalism, Territorial Sovereignty and the Modern Self, pp. 121-73.

[13]         Chapter 6 addresses The ‘Classical’ Bourgeois Revolutions in the History of Combined and Uneven Development. It has clearly taken some of its inspiration from Neil Davidson’s How Revolutionary were the Bourgeois Revolutions? (Haymarket Books, 2012, Chicago)

[14]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 275.

[15]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 276 and for the full argument, Chapter 7, Combined Encounter; Dutch Colonisation in Southeast Asia and the Contradictions of ‘Free Labour’, pp. 215-44.

[16]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 276 and for the full argument, Chapter 7, Combined Encounter; Dutch Colonisation in Southeast Asia and the Contradictions of ‘Free Labour’, pp. 215-44.

[17]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 333, footnote 249.

[18]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 333, footnote 249.

[19]         HtWctR, op. cit., pp. 324-6, reference 101, Silvia Federci, Caliban and the Witch.

[20]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 37.

[21]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 37.

[22]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 37.

[23]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 38, Marcus Taylor, footnote 191.

[24]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 282.

[25]         Satnam Virdee, Racism, Class and the Racialised Outsider (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, Basingstoke) p. 82. Satnam was also at the conference in Glasgow in September 2019.

[26]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/05/07/exploitation-oppression-and-alienation-emancipation-liberation-and-self-determination/

[27]         https://www.theguardian.com/cities/ng-interactive/2018/jul/30/what-china-belt-road-initiative-silk-road-explainer

[28]         https://www.theguardian.com/cities/ng-interactive/2018/jul/30/what-china-belt-road-initiative-silk-road-explainer

[29]         http://www.indymedia.ie/article/77562?userlanguage=ga&save_ prefs=true

[30]         Despite our different views on aspects of global and Scottish history, Neil asked me to contribute to No Problem Here – Understanding Racism in Scotland (Luath Press, 2018, Edinburgh) another title, like HtWctR designed to provoke questioning) and to speak at the conference of scholars and activists invited to its launch in Glasgow in 2018. My contribution is entitled ‘Britishness’, the UK State, Unionism, Scotland and the ‘National Outsider’. A fuller  version of this can be seen at: http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2016/03/02/britishness-the-uk-state-unionism-scotland-and- the-national-outsider/

[31]         These included the meeting organised by the SSP in 2003, which debated Neil’s Discovering the Scottish Revolution 1692-1746 (Pluto Books, 2003, London) and my Beyond Broadswords and Bayonets(http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2003/08/03/beyond-broadswords-and-bayonets-2/) and  the meeting organised by the Radical Independence Campaign where we debated ‘For and Against Brexit’. (https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2016/03/01/a-socialist-case-for-leaving-the-eu/ and http://republicancommunist.org/blog/ 2016/04/12/a-political-comparison-between-the-2012-14-scottish-independence-referendum-and-the-2016-eu-referendum-campaign/)

______________

NEIL DAVIDSON MEMORIAL MEETING, 11.7.20

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Dec 03 2016

WHICH WAY NOW – ‘BREXIT’ OR ‘EX-BRIT’?

Allan Armstrong, of the Campaign for a European Republican Socialist Party, draws some political conclusions from the online discussion (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2016/11/20/from-farages-brexit-to-trumps-brexit-plus-plus-plus-and-on-to-madame-frexit/)  of the political situation in the UK in the aftermath of the Trump vote. 

 _________

 

WHICH WAY NOW – ‘BREXIT’ OR ‘EX-BRIT’? 

a) Brexit and the change in British ruling class thinking

Since the Brexit vote, the Tories, under Theresa May’s leadership, have been moving away from the recently shared politics of the majority of the British ruling class and mainstream British political parties. A central feature of these politics was based upon the globalised neo-liberal economics pushed by Margaret Thatcher, in the interests of a turbo-charged City of London. The City had really taken off after Nigel Lawson’s ‘Big Bang’ deregulation in 1983. Following New Labour’s 1996 election victory, they adopted the same unquestioning pro-City path. This was shown when Chancellor Gordon Brown abolished the few remaining government controls over the City’s operations. Under Tony Blair, Butskellism gave way to Blatcherism.
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Mar 15 2014

ON HOW THE VESTIGIAL LEFT IS FAILING TO UNDERSTAND THE POLITICAL LIFE OF SCOTLAND TODAY

Murdo Ritchie (RCN) provides his response to the Red Paper Collective’s critique of the Scottish SNP government’s White Paper.

 

THE RED PAPER ON THE WHITE PAPER

or

HOW NOT TO UNDERSTAND CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Red Paper on Scotland, 2014

Red Paper on Scotland, 2014

 

As moves toward Scottish national independence happen, the “mainstream” camps have presented their visions, but on the fringes lots of different illusions reveal themselves.  Over the years, there have been some who have painted a picture that national independence would inevitably turn into the dictatorship of the proletariat or, at least, the very first steps towards it.  On the other side, some see only tartan Toryism and the destruction of all the labour movement has historically achieved across the United Kingdom.

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Jan 17 2014

REPUBLICAN SOCIALISM AND LEFT UNITY

Steve Freeman of the Republican Socialist Alliance in England spoke, along with Bernadette McAliskey and Mary MacGregor (RCN) at the ‘break-up of the UK’ session at the Radical Independence Conference on 23rd November in Glasgow. The following week on November 30th in London Steve spoke at the Left Unity Party founding conference putting the case for a socialist republican strategy which recognised the significance of the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum. In this article Steve analyses the various political forces to be found at this conference.

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Oct 08 2012

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

A response to the Red Paper Collective’s

Power for Scotland’s People – A labour movement view

The ‘Independent Scotland Debate’ was organised by the Edinburgh Peoples Festival on September 9th. 86 people attended this well-conducted event in the Out of the Blue Centre in Leith. The speaker supporting independence was Kevin Williamson of bella caledonia, who argued from a Left nationalist perspective. The speaker opposing independence was West Lothian Labour MSP, Neil Findlay. Neil is also a member of the Red Paper Collective [1] (RPC), which includes British Left unionists in the Scottish Labour Party and the Communist Party of Britain [2]. Supporters of the RPC handed out their pamphlet, Power for Scotland’s People – A labour movement view [3], to elaborate on the points Neil made in the debate.

This website has already posted critiques of Left nationalist approaches to the SNP government’s 2014 referendum [4]. This posting is a critique of the British Left unionist approach outlined in the RPC’s pamphlet [5].

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