Scottish Left On The Eve of the Centenary of Bolshevik Revolution

November 18, 2017 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

One hundred years ago, the Russian working class rose in revolt against the Tsar and established the first workers’ state in the history of mankind. The Soviet Union, formed as a volunteer union of the disparate territories of the Russian Empire, transformed the lives of millions. Lenin, and later Stalin, made heroic attempts at establishing Socialist productive relations against a tumultuous and hostile international imperialist camp led by the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

Today, as we celebrate the centenary of the great workers’ Bolshevik Revolution, one finds Scottish politics infested with nationalism and dominated by the question of the Scottish independence referendum. On one hand, this is a manifestation of the fact that the class question in Scottish politics has been relegated to the back burner by the Scottish bourgeoisie and on the other hand, it is an indicator of the impact of revisionism and reformism that has seeped into the so-called left or traditional Marxist parties in Scotl

The Scottish National Party (SNP), the piped piper of Scottish nationalism, has transformed the colour of Scottish politics from Clyde red to Saltire blue. Almost all major left-wing political organisations and parties extended their unequivocal support to the SNP during Scottish Parliamentary elections held in May 2016, claiming that an independent Scottish republic would be able to detach itself from the dictates of the Westminster parliament in London and free itself from the ‘austerity’ (for which term, read, the entirely unnecessary application of neoliberal fundamentalism to effect redistribution of wealth in the wrong direction) that has been imposed upon the global population due to the super-exploitation of the finance capital controlled by the banks. However these same bodies have a burning desire for Scotland to remain an integral part of European imperialism and enthusiastically campaigned to remain in the EU during the ‘Brexit’ referendum held in June 2016.

The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), led by Colin Fox, is a Trotskyite party which was born out of the crisis that was precipitated by the expulsion of former senior members of the Militant Tendency from the ranks of the pro-imperialist British Labour Party. The Militant Tendency was established as an entryist Trotskyite group in the Labour Party in 1964. The Militant Tendency acted as a group of Trotskyites posing as Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries who actually followed the opportunist Trotskyite line of ‘Enteryism’ and who joined the Labour Party claiming that it was the traditional party of the British working class!

Fox was Scottish Militant Labour’s East of Scotland organiser. In 1996, Scottish Trotskyites formed the Scottish Socialist Alliance (SSA). The SSA was the precursor to the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), which was established in 1998. Key polices of the Scottish Socialist Party are the establishment of a democratic Scottish republic led by a hotchpotch of Scottish bourgeoisie, the middle class, the trade unions and workers. It campaigned for the establishment of an independent Scottish republic, to be anti-austerity and for the democratic ownership of the economy.

During the 2003 Scottish parliamentary elections, the SSP made impressive gains and got five of its candidates elected from across Scotland.

However, in November 2004, SSP leader, Tommy Sheridan was accused of visiting a swinger’s club in Manchester. Mr Sheridan resigned from the party, citing his wife’s pregnancy as the main reason. He established the Solidarity party in 2006. SSP members were compelled to give evidence against Sheridan in a damaging set of civil and then criminal trials, which led eventually to Sheridan’s conviction of perjury and gaoling. The effect of this acrimonious split was devastating. The SSP subsequently lost all its parliamentary seats.

The SSP portrays the campaign for an independent Scotland as a means to counter austerity and to free Scotland from the dictates of the Westminster government. At best, this seems a very simplistic way of thinking since the global economy is under the iron control of around 500 big monopolies that are closely linked with the bourgeoisie state in all advanced capitalist countries as well as with the newly emerging imperialist states. No one will be free unless the domination of the super-monopolies that control the workings of finance capital is abolished. And no other social or economic group other than the working class has the ability to conquer this mighty obstacle to human progress – the Tsar of our times.

The SSP rallies behind the SNP and seeks access to the corridors of power by allying itself with the Scottish bourgeois parliament. No wonder Mr Fox sat on the ‘Yes Scotland’ advisory board, along with Scottish nationalists like SNP then-Deputy Leader, Nicola Sturgeon and hedge fund owner and former CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland, George Mathewson!

Solidarity is also a Trotskyite nationalist political party that demands that the SNP government use its mandate to announce a second Scottish independence referendum. Addressing a rally in George Square in Glasgow on the 16thSeptember 2017, Mr Sheridan appealed to the different currents of Scottish nationalism to ‘tie your ropes together’ to seek independence.

Mr Sheridan was a Trotskyite Militant Tendency entryist in the Labour Party.

He was expelled from the Labour Party in 1989. During the Scottish referendum campaign, Sheridan toured the country campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote under the slogan ‘Hope Over Fear’.

The year 2015 saw the birth of RISE in Scotland. RISE emerged from another political organisation called the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), which was established at the RIC conference held in Glasgow in March 2012. The main aim of RIC was described as ‘people’s democracy, equality, welfare state, good neighbourhood and a just economy’ whatever that means. RISE was an attempt to rescue the Scottish left after the Scottish nationalists suffered a defeat during the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.

RISE is an abbreviation of the first letters of the following words: Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism. It is a left electoral alliance comprising the SSP and the RIC. RISE was formed on 29 August 2015 in Glasgow to contest the Scottish parliamentary general elections of 2016. RISE is the Scottish SYRIZA. The Greek SYRIZA President, Alexis Tsipras, recently visited the USA and claimed that Greece and America are ‘Strategic Partners’!

The left in Scotland, in the whole of the UK and in the other parts of Europe, has succumbed to the pressures of neo-liberalism and now seeks a role in politics that is subordinate to the capitalist democratic system of governance.

The political parties that have a UK-wide base and which conform to national politics on the left of the UK political spectrum are mainly the Labour Party, the Socialist Workers Party and the Communist Party of Britain.

In 1997, the Labour Party came to power in the UK and unleashed a brutal neo-liberal economic programme that was to make Britain a partner of global super-monopolies in their quest for plundering the world for raw materials and new markets. Tony Blair, the then Labour Prime Minister of Britain, together with his international counterpart, US president George W Bush, bypassed the United Nations Security Council and waged war on Afghanistan and Iraq and their successors attacked and/or destroyed Libya and Syria. During this period, a grassroots anti-war mass movement took off under the banner of the Stop The War Coalition.

In February 2003, the Stop The War Coalition held country-wide anti-war protests that saw more than 2 million people join the anti-war march in London making it one of the biggest protest rallies in the history of the country. The organisation that was a leading component of the Stop The War Coalition was the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party (SWP).

The main aim of the coalition was to bring the imperialist war to a halt. A workers’ revolution in order to abolish capitalism and imperialism was not part of its agenda. No wonder it degenerated due to petty organisational differences among the coalition partners, some of whom accused the SWP of bullying everyone into accepting their discipline.

The mood of the European working class began to change during the past decade and this has led to the rise of parties such as Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, the 12 March Movement in Portugal and others. The Labour Party, which faced serious damage in the general elections of 2015 when it lost all but one parliamentary seat in Scotland, gave a new prominence to left reformists and social democrats in the party. The rise of Jeremy Corbyn to the office of the Leader of the Party was the direct result of this change in the mood in the masses.

The Communist Party of Britain leaped at the opportunistic opening that presented itself disguised as a struggle between the right and the left and extended its unequivocal support to Corbyn who is also a regular contributor to the CPB daily newspaper, the Morning Star. The Morning Star is campaigning for a Labour Party victory in the next general election.

During the 21stcentury, Scotland has witnessed mass mobilisation of working people on three separate occasions. In February 2003, tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Glasgow against the war in Iraq. October 2014 saw the biggest pro-independence gathering in George Square in Glasgow that was attended by thousands of people and was dominated by the SNP with large numbers of SSP, Solidarity and RISE members in attendance. Finally, in June 2015, nearly 10,000 angry protesters rallied against austerity in Glasgow at the peak of the anti-austerity campaign.

In the absence of a class-based political programme and the lack of a genuine Marxist-Leninist organisation with roots among the working class, no wonder the aforementioned three big mass movements degenerated and failed to transform the anger of the workers and the lower middle class into revolutionary fervour.

The position of Friends of ICOR in Scotland regarding Scottish Independence is that the national question seriously undermines the question of class struggle and the huge burden that the working class has to shoulder due to the insoluble contradictions of capitalism.

To promote Scottish independence as a ‘cure for all social, economic and political ills’ is a crime against the working class. An independent Scotland ruled by a bourgeoisie parliament will primarily serve the interests of profit-mongering monopolies. The Scottish left which jealously promotes Scottish independence is in fact fighting for the interests of the Scottish bourgeoisie and the upper middle class who look to reap financial gains from an independent Scotland as a tax haven within the European Union. And in doing so, the Scottish left has reduced itself to a mere tool in the hands of the Scottish bourgeoisie to help them divide the British working class. Hence it is the revolutionary duty of all European sections of the ICOR to help Friends of ICOR in Scotland to build a new Marxist-Leninist party.

There are many activists among the revisionist and reformist left organisations in Scotland who are honest, hard-working comrades and have a real desire to bring about change in our society. These comrades are genuinely seeking a way out of the deterioration of social and economic conditions and strive to fight for the achievement of a better society. They must join with workers in whatever is left of the manufacturing sector in Scotland and workers employed in low-paid services who patiently can be persuaded to join a new organisation. The new organisation must show them the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel which history has forced us down. It is for them and for the future generations that we have to challenge bourgeoisie Scottish nationalism from a working-class Marxist and Leninist perspective.

Amjad Ayub Mirza was nominated as the ICOR coordinator for Scotland at the second international seminar of ICOR held in Germany from 26thto 29thNovember 2017. ICOR is an acronym for International Coordination of Revolutionary Organisations and Political Parties.

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This post was written by Amjad Ayub Mirza

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