Revolutionary self-determination

Revolutionary self-determination

Left Unity Facebook page has seen a debate over a resolution changing the party’s position from left Unionism to Anti-Unionist internationalism. The CPGB had opposed this resolution for LU conference. Then two CPGB members (Tina and Steve) claimed, incredibly, that their party was Anti-Union, citing a Weekly Worker article back in 2001.

Now that Corbyn has reclaimed Left Unity’s clothes this question has double importance for the survival of LU as an independent party with distinct politics. Unfortunately, the two key players in Left Unity, Socialist Resistance and the CPGB, are opposing the resolution with fatal consequences.

The resolution says “1. We recognise the Acts of Union bind England with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. 2. We call for the abolition of all the Acts of Union, thus ending all jurisdictions by the British Crown over the nations of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. 3. By ending all Acts of Union, the people of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, will be able to freely choose their future relations with the people of England, whether as independent nations, or in some form of voluntary federal relationship or within the European Union or in whatever form they decide”.

The Crown and the Union are fundamental to the constitution as indicated in the title “United Kingdom”. The British ruling class defends, promotes and supports its monarchy and its unionist laws. The monarchy, House of Lords and the Acts of Union were and remain undemocratic institutions and laws which are barriers to the sovereignty of the people.

Conservatism defends the status quo. Revolutionary democracy sweeps all into the dustbin of history. Lenin explains in Two Tactics of Social Democracy that “the revolutionary path is one of rapid amputation, which is least painful to the proletariat, the path of immediate removal of all that is putrescent, the path of least compliance with and consideration for the monarchy and the abominable, vile, rotten and noxious institutions that go with it”.

The 1707 Act of Union is precisely one of the rotten putrescent laws that “go with” the British Crown. It binds Scotland to England “forever”, securing Protestantism as the state religion, abolishing the Scottish parliament and giving the Scottish aristocracy and merchants’ access to the British colonies and the slave trade. Which part is relevant today?

The European Union enables the free movement of goods, services and people across the Scottish border. The ‘Little Britain Union’ is as obsolete as the Atlantic slave trade. The capitalist market is subsumed in a much bigger European Union. It makes little economic difference if Bavaria ‘leaves’ Germany, Catalonia ‘leaves’ Spain and Scotland ‘leaves’ the UK since all remain in a Union of five hundred and three million people. The difference is in politics.

The revolutionary class approaches the national question is a revolutionary way. Scotland is part of the process of democratic revolution across the UK and Europe. Scotland’s rebellion against the Acts of Union is directly connected not only to Wales and Ireland but England and the crisis in the EU. The revolutionary class is the only class capable of taking “the path of immediate removal of all that is putrescent” such as the monarchy and the Acts of Union.

The nationalists claim the abolition of the Acts of Union is for the Scottish working class acting alone. This is fundamentally wrong. It is a joint enterprise for the English and Scottish workers aided by the Irish, Welsh and wider European working class. The central problem is that the working class in England has not stepped up to the plate. The confusion in Left Unity is no more than a reflection of this conservatism.

The working class in England must play its revolutionary part. Unfortunately, in England the working class is weighed down by middle class conservatism, trade union economism, social reformism and the dead weight of the Labour Party and the trade union bureaucracy. This is why the fight in Left Unity is important in starting to break the working class in England away from conservative attitudes. Only then will it be possible to unite the English and Scottish workers in a joint expedition to eradicate these laws.

The British ruling class defends the British Union because their rule depends on it, both domestically and internationally. They depend on conservative ideas among the middle classes corrupting the working class. Fear of change is the main weapon in building a conservative majority. With a stake in the system, the middle classes are not going to gamble, not least given the dire warnings of economic disaster. The Tory press deployed this fear in the Scottish referendum and now against Corbyn.

Scotland’s ‘forced marriage’ to England includes no right to divorce. What will replace it? The resolution says that the people of Ireland, Scotland and Wales “will be able to freely choose their future relations with the people of England, whether as independent nations, or in some form of voluntary federal relationship or within the European Union or in whatever form they decide”.

Working class action to end the Acts of Union with immediate effect is self determination considered in a revolutionary way. No clinging to the past or nostalgia for the great days of the British Empire. Revolutionary self determination is about democratic revolution and international action by the working class in England and Scotland. The middle classes may pretend to support self determination but always in a conservative way, hedged by ifs, buts, maybes and probably nots. So Tina is probably right to claim that conservative self determination is in the CPGB programme.

Steve Freeman

Left Unity and Rise

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