‘Yes’, a non-nationalist argument for Scottish independence. Part 1

185coverThe May/June issue of Radical Philosophy has an interesting looking article entitled ‘Yes’ A non-nationalist argument for Scottish Independence, written by Neil Davidson who has written books on Scottish history and until recently was a member of the Socialist Workers Party.

So what is this non-nationalist argument?  Well we are well into over half of the article before this is directly addressed but it is this first part that is actually the most interesting.

But first Davidson mentions what he calls a pro-independence argument that can only be held in England.  This argument is that an independent Scotland would be social-democratic or even socialist and would inspire the English Left to seriously challenge neoliberalism.  If this were actually the case it would indeed be an argument for Scottish separation but it is not one that could only be held in England.  Why would it not be an important consideration for socialists in Scotland?  Or have the perspectives of supporters of Scottish separation unconsciously narrowed so much?

Davidson however notes that the powers already devolved have led only to “modest” although “real” reforms and that “there is nothing intrinsically progressive about Scottish statehood” although, as we shall see, the Left nationalist case is that there is something intrinsically progressive about separation.

Davidson points out contradictions within the Scottish National Party programme – opposition to nuclear weapons while supporting NATO membership and a low corporate tax (Irish-style) while promising Scandinavian-style welfare – and paints this as the starting point of the left critique of the independence movement.

While this may be true of some it is not the starting point of the Marxist critique of Scottish nationalism.  The so-called contradictions of SNP policy might be better understood as the usual double-talk of capitalist politicians.

Indeed for Davidson this double talk from the SNP, or its leadership at least, extends to the demand for independence itself.  He asserts that maximum devolution or ‘devo max’ is the constitutional option probably supported by most Scots, which begs the question of what is democratic in his support for separation, and is also what the SNP  leaders hope to achieve and what they think they can achieve.  This, he says, would also probably be acceptable to most Tories.

This is a striking admission of the manipulative nature of nationalism but what Davidson says about this aspect of the Scottish demand for independence has an even worse aspect.  The leadership of the SNP cannot come out openly for devo-max “without incurring the wrath of the fundamentalist-nationalist wing of his party, for whom anything less than independence is betraying the blood of Wallace and The Bruce, and so on.”

So what we have is nationalist fundamentalism driving the call for independence, leading the SNP party as a whole and trailing behind it the majority of the Scottish radical left, united in the call for a Yes vote.

And what this article purports to do is give us a good reason to join in.

Davidson doesn’t then give us his non-nationalist reason for following this nationalist-fundamentalist demand but instead goes on to critique arguments from the No side.

He states that the ‘No’ argument- that the demand for independence is a nationalist diversion from class issues that are essentially the same on both sides of the border – “does not deserve to be taken seriously”.  He does not however say why such a claim is mistaken and he does not say in what way the class issues that are primary and fundamental are not the same on both sides of the border.

He complains that supporters of Scottish independence are marked as nationalists but those supporting the status quo are not.  Why are those who want to maintain the current British state not British nationalists?  If they can detach their support for the British state from British nationalism why can’t supporters of Scottish independence divorce their support for an independent Scotland from Scottish nationalism?

There are two reasons.  Firstly Marxists can advocate a No vote, not by supporting the British state but simply accepting that it is a better framework to advance what they really value, which is the unity of the working class across nations.  On the other hand supporters of Scottish separation are compelled to defend the claim that Scottish independence, by itself, is progressive.

If there were some democratic content to the demand for independence on account of some lack of democracy arising from the union then there would be non-nationalist grounds for supporting formation of a new capitalist state, but there is none. Davidson is too knowledgeable about Scottish history to claim that this partner in Empire building is an oppressed nation.  So supporters of independence are reduced to calling for creation of a new border and a new capitalist state.  What is this if not nationalism?

The second reason is to do with the consequences of separation.  The argument presented on this blog before is that these would be wholly negative.  A new capitalist state would increase division where uncoerced union existed before.  It would strengthen the forces of nationalism by giving them a stunning victory that they would be stupid not to exploit.  A new state would engender competition, for example on reducing corporate taxes, and give nationalists many opportunities to demand support for ‘our’ new Scottish state and ‘our’ Scottish government.  A Yes vote would strengthen nationalism.  That’s why supporters of Scottish independence are accused of nationalism.

Davidson addresses other reasons why left objections to Scottish independence should be rejected, the most important of which is weakening of the British working class.

One aspect of this is the argument that the Labour Party would lose its Scottish MPs and would forever doom English workers to Tory rule.  Davidson correctly rejects this argument, describing it as a “type of political-emotional blackmail” although it is in fact a popular argument on the pro-independence Scottish Left who claim that the union dooms Scotland to Tory rule, although they seem less dismayed by Tartan Tory rule from the SNP.  Davidson correctly argues that the future electoral prospects of the Labour Party depend on the Labour Party.  But if this is the problem then this Party is the site of struggle, not a separate capitalist state.

A second argument refuted is that an independent Scotland would still be dominated by capital, much of it external in origin.  To this he responds “but who, apart from the most hopelessly naive ever imagined otherwise?”

This is ok as far as it goes, although reading some of the wilder left supporters of separation would give one the impression that a left wing Scotland will automatically take giant strides towards socialism free from union with England.  And most people who aren’t on the left are quite ignorant of the essential socialist argument about the internationalisation of capitalism.

The argument here however, which Davidson avoids, is whether there is any effect on working class power from the economy being dominated by foreign capital: in terms of capital’s ability to shift if it doesn’t get it way or ability to put downward pressure on union rights and corporate taxes for example.  In other words the question arises whether separation improves the framework and circumstances in which Scottish workers find themselves.  More developed analysis of this question instead of pat answers might indicate that it would not.

Davidson then addresses what he calls “by far the most serious left argument against Scottish independence” – “that it will undermine the British trade-union movement, by preventing cross-border unity”.

This however is only one aspect of the division of the British working class that would arise from separation, for by definition there would no longer be a British working class, but an English working class and a Scottish working class.  In itself this is an indication of just how important states are in defining the nature of the classes within their borders and one reason Marxists have opposed national division.

But for Davidson the disruption of unity is not an inevitable consequence of Scottish secession:

“Unity is not secured by the constitutional form of the state or by the bureaucratic structures of union organisation, but rather by the willingness to show solidarity and take joint collective action, across borders if necessary.”

Very true.  But can Davidson credibly deny that it is more difficult to create and maintain working class organisation across states than within them?  Is the whole history of the working class movement not that it is extremely difficult to create international workers unity because of the divisiveness of state organisation and nationalism?

Davidson notes that British unions organise in the Irish State but this rather disproves his argument since even in this case real unity, of objectives, of purpose and of action, is largely absent and much, much weaker than the unity within the purely British movement.  Irish workers face a different state with different policies, different economic and political conditions arising from different state organisation, and all this makes unity across Britain and Ireland much more problematic and difficult.

Can Davidson not see that the unity of English and Scottish workers is much greater than any unity of British and Irish workers?  As I have argued before, even within the one working class, within the Irish working class, the creation of two separate states North and South has deepened the division among Irish workers and is an enormous barrier to their unity.

Davidson gives the example of the Grangemouth dispute, the lessons of which I have looked at before, in order to argue that the existence of a UK-wide union did not prevent a debacle.  Quite true, but the issue is whether a Scotland-only union would have helped or whether, had the Grangemouth workforce belonged to a population which had decided it was better off without England and Wales, this would have stimulated solidarity action from English and Welsh workers.

Davidson also gives the example of coordinated strikes against austerity across European countries on November 12 2012.  The first point to make is that international strikes are rare.  The second is that the development of the European Union and particularly the creation of the Euro have played a large role in creating the grounds for international action by the working class.  National separation undermines these grounds.

Finally the left No argument which Davidson addresses is that “if Scottish independence is so unthreatening to capital, so divisive of the working class, why are most sections of the British – and, indeed, the European and US – ruling classes so opposed to it?”

Well, there is no indication that they are opposed to it because it will spur the development of a social-democratic or socialist Scotland that will inspire England as well.  That Davidson points out that the neoliberal ‘Economist’ magazine used to support Scottish independence demonstrates that it is quite possible to present an argument for an independent capitalist Scotland.  Indeed so much is this the case that this is the overwhelming argument being put forward by the Yes campaign.

That socialists should make up their minds by looking at what their enemies are saying is always stupid.  It is attractive only to those who don’t care to think for themselves and prevents any sort of critical thought.  Its exact stupidity is demonstrated here by the fact that the ‘Economist’ magazine changed its mind.  When the ‘Economist’ supported ‘Yes’ were socialists therefore to say ‘No’?  And after the ‘Economist’ changed its mind and decided ‘No’ was the answer were socialists to then say Yes?  Davidson is far too intelligent to go along with this but it is difficult to see what other point he is making here.

He says that he suspects the reason for the change of mind is “fear of the consequences for the British state, and consequences for capital invested in Britain” and this turns out to be his reason for supporting separation, as we shall see.

It is also fairly clear that opposition by most of big business, the EU bureaucracy and USA is because capitalism is increasingly international and needs international political mechanisms to assist its operation.  The international development of capitalism has been a feature almost from its beginning and was praised for its progressive potential by Marx and Engels in the ‘Communist Manifesto’, most remarkably because it gives rise to the class that will put in place an alternative – the working class.

To now seek national forms of economic and political organisation is backward, not only to the capitalist class but also to the working class.  The capitalist class in the referendum have made it clear that certain steps backward will not be taken such as leaving the European Union, setting up a new Scottish currency.  So Scotland will continue membership of NATO and financial regulation from London as well as an all-British energy market.

The working class is not obliged to support or go along with any of this but it is not in its interests to seek arrangements that will make it harder to organise internationally, while the capitalist class minimises the steps backward it has to take.

Socialism will be built on the international development of the forces of production, communication and society generally.  It will not be constructed on national roads to anywhere or anything.

In the next post I will look at what Davidson thinks the non-nationalist argument for Scottish Independence actually is.


8 thoughts on “‘Yes’, a non-nationalist argument for Scottish independence. Part 1


  2. You have asked me to clarify a few points. I will to it without much explanation. The first thing is that I am not in agreement with Davidson, Callinicos and the many other leftists who argue that a yes vote is sound because it is tactical. If it was tactical it would be at the very least a means to a socialist end and maybe even a bridge over to socialism. I am certain that this perspective is false. I raised the issue of tactic versus principle because I was interested to know how you intended your argument. I have a nagging feeling that you oversize discursive points of argument into something more inflexible, as if they were something like points of ‘Marxist principle’. This I consider to be a bad intellectual habit that has become almost the norm with clever marxists. We are told that all sorts of things can serve as a Marxist principle; for the purpose of example, that the exposition of a falling rate of profit is a ‘principle’ by some Marxists and by others that it is a mere generalization to be tested. We are told that the national right of self determination is a principle of Marxism by some and by others who say it only works if at all as a generalization about oppressed nations. In the recent past we were told that the idea that the Soviet Union was a kind of degenerated workers state was a formal marxist principle and by others that you could still be a Marxists without adhering to the formal principle.. What struck me in re-reading the German Ideology just how dismissive Marx and Engels were of all the talk that went on at that time concerning the principles of politics, the principles of law, the principle of ethics.
    The Germany Ideology is in fact an elaborate satire on all of the intellectual talk of principle and the personalities of the principled ones. Marx and Engles became very distrustful of this kind of talk, they ended up calling it the German ideology. I therefore decided to proceed as if Marxism has no principles of its own. The principle I am especially down on that the moment is the one we like to call Internationalism. I am not opposed to real workers international cooperation just the internationalism that is principled and idealist. This is the Internationalism of the working class as if it were acting on some humanitarian principle in place of a specific class struggle objective.

    The second point of clarification is on the matter of Scotland. I don’t think the vote for Scottish Independence is a certain step across to socialism. I think it is a certain step in making Britain a better capitalist democracy than the declining one that we currently have. By better I simply mean making the bourgeois parliaments more accountable to the people. Yesterday on the news a man was asked how he was going to vote, he said he was undecided but he would probably vote yes. Why lean for yes he was asked. His answer was because the London parliament does not care a fig about our opinions on anything important. Well he was right. And this is Salmond’s best point the London parliament has more important things to get on with like waging imperialist wars and fighting the EU Commission over the ‘rights’ of the City of London to care a fig about the opinions of the Scots about the most important matters. The obvious rely to this of course is that Scotland has its own city of London and regiments in the army of imperialism. This is true but there is one difference, the Scots can now decide whether they want to have a society dominated by the said interests or otherwise. Maybe they will decide to follow the same path. But at least they are the people who will decide it, it is not being decided by others who don’t care a fig about what they think. They don’t care a fig because they don’t have to make themselves accountable to the voters of Scotland. This is Salmond’s best point, the Scots can only beg to be will be taken seriously by London, they are mere supplicants. Of course the No party maintain that they are in reality equal national partners, you too seem to think that they are equal bourgeois partners, though equal partners in exploitation and crime. When I think about this exploitation and crime point I think about the voters of Ireland in the late nineteenth century. By the time Ireland opted for its own version of Independence, the Irish had the same voting rights as the English, they had more reserved seats in the Mother of all Parliament, than their numbers merited, on some occasions their numbers even influenced State decisions, they had a political party of their own under the bourgeois leader Redmond, and they could even vote for the Liberals or the Conservatives as the Ulster Protestants did., they had local government,they shared the same liberal legal system. The Irish workers could easily join the by now formidable British unions and the British Labour Party was on the cusp of making political power. About forty years earlier Marx had argued that the Irish were an oppressed people chiefly on the ground that land ownership was almost totally in the hands of the British landlord class. Yet by 1920 almost the entire stock of land had been transferred to the oppressed peasants who were now hiring Irish Labour. So just how oppressed were the Irish when they came out to fight for independence? I think that that the Irish were right to come out for political independence because in truth the London parliament did not care a fig about what they thought about the most important matters and they did not have to care. The Tories and Liberals did not need the votes of the Irish to make their great decisions. Democracy means government that is obliged to listen to the people, it means accountable government, it is sometimes grubby, a lot less elevated than the brilliance of socialism but I hope the Scots can finally develop a taste for it. I hope you don’t make me out to be an idealist of democracy!

    • If you start off with the view that ‘the principle of workers internationalism (is) moot and maybe even idealistic’ it can come as no surprise that you favour a yes vote for separation. Having taken this view you are stranded when, in the context of Britain today, it then comes to answering my question whether unity among Scottish workers after ‘independence’ will also be ‘moot’.

      Having rejected unity with English and Welsh workers and supported the nationalist argument of the primary necessity of unity of Scots you can surely not be so naïve as to believe that a Yes vote will not further strengthen division among workers across the island, between north and south of the border and within the Scottish working class itself.

      In your reply you tell us what your statement that ‘the vote over independence can only be decided on the less noble of merits’ actually means and you are correct in so far as this applies to your own decision. I believe your argument is weak and is, inevitably, based on purely nationalist grounds. It can only be this because having rejected any socialist grounds for an intervention, and not providing any democratic grounds based on a Scots rejection of national oppression, we are left with the goal of a ‘better capitalist democracy.’

      This appears to arise because you endorse the view that the ‘London parliament’ doesn’t give a fig about the views of Scots, because it doesn’t have to make itself ‘accountable’ to them and that ‘the Scots can only beg to be taken seriously by London and . . . are mere supplicants.’

      I think all this is nationalist nonsense. Does the British parliament (a much more accurate term than ‘London parliament’) give a fig about workers in Southwark, opposite the City of London, any more than those of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee or Aberdeen? Does it care less or more about the interests and views of the Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh compared to Liverpool Dockers or London Underground workers?

      Is Westminster more accountable to Cardiff clerical workers or Edinburgh bankers? Are SSE, Scottish Power, Caledonian Trust PLC, Alliance Trust, the Whiskey distillers and Standard Life mere supplicants who must beg to be taken seriously like unemployed workers in Manchester, zero-hour contract workers in Birmingham, seasonal tourist workers in Cornwall or pensioners in Battersea?

      You think independence will allow the Scots to decide if they want their society to be an imperialist one? Really? What makes Scotland so unique that having its own capitalist state, no matter how perfected its democracy becomes, will allow its people to decide what sort of class society they live within?

      You compare Scotland to Ireland, not as sometimes among Scottish nationalists, to claim national oppression for the Scots but rather, it would appear, to claim its non-existence for the Irish. I’m not going to go into the dimensions of Irish national oppression here but the referendum itself is proof, if such were needed, of the night and day difference between Ireland and Scotland. The Irish fought for decades for Home Rule and their country was turned into an armed camp of occupation. The Scots have a referendum and if they vote yes they will get the independence they have claimed. There is no possibility of a very large Yes majority but equally no possibility of the rest of Britain deciding to partition the country to keep the ‘No’ voting bits and biggest part of the ‘Yes’ voting bits it thinks it can get away with.

      You deny the vote in Scotland is a tactical one but also proceed as if ‘Marxism has no principles of its own’. The only way I can come to understand this position is that really, socialism has no purchase on the debate or reality of Scottish politics today. Workers unity only exists if there is the potential for revolution and while there is the elevated brilliance of socialism there is the grubby ‘democracy (that) means government that is obliged to listen to the people, it means accountable government.’ Like many Marxists today your identification of the relevance of Marxism with the proximity of revolutionary action prevents you from determining its real relevance.

      You think that the socialist position is abstract and moot, that it has brilliance but is too elevated from reality. But you find yourself claiming that a new fragment of an imperialist state will allow its population to decide if it wants its society to continue being imperialist! Abstract, moot and elevated from reality are some of the descriptors that might be applied to such a position but they hardly do it justice.

      You finish by saying that ‘I hope you don’t make me out to be an idealist of democracy.’ I’ll resit the smart remark that this invites but simply say that you need to consider that it is the self-determination of the working class, and its democracy, that you need to factor into your approach. When you do this there are really no grounds for accepting the claims of Scottish nationalists which, as Davidson says, many of them don’t even buy themselves.

      • In 1996 a tiny bunch of Irish socialists published a little manifesto called Ireland:The promise of socialism. There is a few useful pointers contained within the tract. Chapter four : The National Question states ‘self-determination does not pose the question of workers power and a workers state. It is a democratic demand pointing to the fullest democracy, creating the optimum conditions for the working class struggle for power.This does not mean that the struggle for socialism must be relegated to after the success of the democratic struggle. It means that both must be combined in a recognition that the one will never be realized without the other.’

        The author goes on to quote Lenin by way of historical vindication; Lenin said that self determination could not have ‘any other meaning than political self-determination, state independence, and the formation of a national state.’

        Of course it could be argued that Lenin was arguing his case about the importance of democracy and national independence in a historical setting were potential free nations were obviously oppressed by colonialism. But what becomes of the fullest democracy and popular sovereignty when colonialism is no longer operative? Was Ireland still an oppressed nation in 1996? What of the Basques, the Bosnians, the Kosovars, just to speak about recent European events? Does it have any importance in an age of global capital? In fact there is no means of stating that a people are oppressed without invoking the idea of democratic norms. The economic exploitation of workers labour power by capital does not supersede and annul the quest for political democracy. And national self-determination means the unfurling of the fullest democracy within the limitations set by capitalism. Therefore I see no reason to question Scotland’s right to self-determination, to try to renew its decaying democratic norms, I don’t see supporting it as a reactionary concession to nationalism, I think it will more than likely diminish the British State, one that was forged in the heat of colonialism, I think at the very least Britain would loose its privileged place as a VETO State at the United Nations. I well remember the fact that BRITAIN used its power of veto to block every inquiry into its dirty war in Ireland and will do so again if it becomes necessary. I don’t believe that the Irish question should be settled at the UN but I don’t dismiss Britain’s abuse of its UN privilege it as being incidental, I am in favor of what remains of the workers movement pressing for the fullest accountable democracy within the existing capitalist framework. I don’t think the content of the democratic programme is even remotely exhausted yet, not in Ireland nor Scotland or right across the globe. I think socialist should talk more about renewing the meaning and content of democracy at a time of very serious political decay. Finally you are right I don’t think Marxism has any unique principles of its own, I thought that is what Marx said in the Communist Manifesto! And when he was wise enough to declare he was not a Marxist. This is probably the real source of all our disagreement.

      • You say that “national self-determination means the unfurling of the fullest democracy within the limitations set by capitalism. Therefore I see no reason to question Scotland’s right to self-determination, to try to renew its decaying democratic norms, I don’t see supporting it as a reactionary concession to nationalism.”

        No one is questioning Scotland’s right to self-determination and I have published a post with the title ‘Yes to self-determination for Scotland’. The referendum is precisely Scotland exercising that right. The question is whether that should be exercised by voting yes or no. Voting No is equally exercising the right to self-determination. This being the case and national self-determination being “the unfurling of the fullest democracy within the limitations set by capitalism” shouldn’t you rethink your support for a Yes vote?

        You fail to argue that Scotland is an oppressed nation so what denial of democracy would ‘independence’ put right? The political rights of Scotland and within Scotland are equivalent to England so if Scotland should demand independence why should not England as well?

        You present the argument that Scottish secession will weaken the British State. Since this is the subject of the second post on Davidson’s article I will address that question there.

        You deny any independent political role for the British working class and deny Marxists have anything principled to say that others don’t also say. You back this up with some references to Marx that are inaccurate for the purposes for which you quote.

        It is ironic that you say that Marx “was wise enough to declare he was not a Marxist”. In fact this quote is recounted by the socialist writer Hal Draper as a typical example of how not to quote Marx. When Marx said he was no Marxist, he was making a pointed quip directed at some of his French followers that if this was Marxism then he was no Marxist!

        As for saying that Marx said in ‘The Communist Manifesto’ that Marxism had no principles of its own, did it not strike you as odd that a Manifesto did not contain any principles? Did you not consider that these could have been written by no one other than Marx?

        Perhaps you are referring to the statement in the manifesto that communists “do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.” Note here however the word “sectarian”, for in the very next sentence Marx says that:

        “The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.”

        ‘The Communist Manifesto’ was written in 1848 but in the preface to the 1872 German edition Marx and Engels write that “however much the state of things may have altered during the last twenty-five years, the general principles laid down in this Manifesto are, on the whole, as correct today as ever.” The last words of the Manifesto contain one such principle – working men of all countries unite! Shorn of sexist limitation this principle still stands and is applicable today in the context we have been discussing.

        Of course if you don’t bring any Marxist principles to the table it can be no surprise you end up eating the principles served up by others. In this case the principles of nationalism.

  3. The Davidson article silently indicates that the independence vote is a tactical one. The latest online article by Alex Callinicos International socialist journal 143 makes this more explicit. You seem committed to it being closer to a point of ‘marxist’ principle ie the pre existing unity of British workers should not be tainted by nationalist division. The problem with internationalism taken up as a Marxist principle is that it smarts with philosophical idealism rather than realism. Philosophical idealism is always absolutist in its statement of principles whereas realism is relativist; it sets every principle in a historical context. There is no pre existing unity between workers without the presence of potential revolutionary struggles. There is no pre existing unity of Irish workers for the simple reason that the historic context is of no recent common struggle. The same argument can be made within Britain. English and Scots workers have not fought a common enemy since the miners strike of 1984. This distance in time makes the principle of workers internationalism moot and maybe even idealistic. It should be said that idealism as a philosophical tendency sooner or later returns to myth to sustain its absolutism of principle. Since there are no current or even recent workers struggles uniting the British working class the vote over INDEPENDENCE can only be decided on the less noble of merits.

    • I must presume that you agree with Davidson that the issue of workers unity in Britain is tactical but you don’t say in what tactical sense this is advanced by Scottish ‘independence’. I do not view the question of workers’ unity as a simple tactic for which there are therefore more or less adequate substitutes – what would these be?

      You are correct when you imply that the decline of struggle among the British working class is the cause of the growth of Scottish nationalism but this just makes it fairly obvious that its growth is a result of demoralisation – as a recent comment affirms.

      It is equally obvious that it is the ‘quick fix’ presented by the left face of Scottish nationalism that really is idealist.

      I recently attended the first home game of Celtic at Celtic Park, at which the Radical Independence Campaign gave out leaflets proclaiming that Scotland with independence could ‘start a major programme of high paid jobs’, ‘build great public housing’, ‘end tax evasion’ so the rich pay etc. How? Well we aren’t told, except that ‘we’, whoever that is, can do all this ‘with independence’.

      How about this for idealism and myth making! Just how could a fragment of the British imperialist state become the essential condition for all these wonderful things? In what context could this make any sense?

      Is it not obvious that it is the nationalist view that is precisely the sort of absolutist principle that is impervious not only to context but also rational justification?

      If workers unity is only a tactical question within Britain and doesn’t exist because of the decline of struggle is this not also true of the unity of the Scottish working class? The absence of demands for Scottish workers’ unity against Scottish bosses in the left nationalist campaign would seem to indicates that they think the answer to this is yes – we will have ‘our’ own state which will give us ‘the governments we vote for’. The Scottish capitalist state will give us what we want because of . . . well, because of what? Will the Scottish capitalist state do these things which no other capitalist state has done because it’s Scottish?

      We are asked to believe that a new Scottish state will be social-democratic, will protect those on benefits, the disabled and poor, while the whole justification for it is that we (the Scots) are rich and the damned English are taking our oil off us.

      Which brings us to English workers – is workers unity among English and Welsh workers also tactical and should they seek salvation in the demand for an independent England & Wales, on the off chance Scottish workers don’t vote for ‘independence’?

      The unity of the British working class is not idealist, it is a reality. The trade union movement is all-British, with only some exceptions such as teachers – the EIS in Scotland for example. The Labour party is an all-British party and while socialists may complain about the lack of socialism within this party this is where workers are at and complaints from a Scottish nationalist on this score deserve derision.

      Struggles have declined but they have not disappeared see the media reports of united action by public sector workers in November 2012 across the UK from London teachers to DVLA workers in Swansea and pickets outside the Scottish parliament and action by the Clyde coastguard. Or the UK-wide PCS strike last month, including Scotland.

      You state that ‘the vote over independence can only be decided on the less noble of merits’. So tell us what you think these are! For my part I have tried to expose the less noble arguments of left nationalism and present the much more noble arguments of workers unity. This last phrase of yours may turn out to be correct but that is an invitation to struggle not to capitulation.

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