Now the ink is dry on the historic ‘Edinburgh Agreement’ YCL Scottish organiser JOHNNIE HUNTER explains why we musn’t leave class out of the independence debate. Article taken from YCL newspaper 'Challenge'.

The planned 2014 referendum on Scottish independence will be a choice either for or against total autonomy.
 
The Scottish National Party’s white paper outlining their vision of an independent state includes plans to keep not only the pound but the British monarchy and to apply for both EU and Nato membership.
 
The YCL and Communist Party share an approach of supporting constitutional reform only if it tangibly enhances the capability of the working class and its allies to challenge the power of state monopoly capitalism – which operates at a British level.
As such the CP first made the demand for a Scottish Parliament in the 1930s, which the labour movement adopted in the 70s. Since the establishment of a devolved parliament in 1999 communists have called for the strengthening of its powers.
The SNP vision of independence and their framing of the debate does not enhance the position of the working class.
It would strike a serious blow to the Scottish people’s ability to fight finance capital, instead the City of London would be able to play off the separate nations against each other to find the most favourable conditions for their investment.
The EU laws the SNP wishes to prostrate themselves before enshrine the sanctity of the free market, hence the idea that independence would facilitate an expansion of public ownership is fanciful.
The only effective solution to the national question is one that expands the democratic and national rights of the Scottish people.
To properly explain this we must consider the Marxist approach to nationalism; the character of the Scottish nation in particular and its relationship to the British state; and the current crisis of monopoly capitalism in Britain and its implication for Scottish democracy.
 
MARX ON THE NATION
Marx pointed out that the nation – like all other aspects of society – is fundamentally determined by class struggle, especially at transitions to a new mode of production.
In order to defeat a now moribund ancien regime the prospective ruling class must build up as wide as possible alliance around its emancipatory potential. The identity of the resulting new or transformed nation will be that of the ruling class, helping prop up their mode of production.
In the case of Scotland nationhood was arguably achieved in the struggle against Viking incursions into the rule of the feudal aristocracy. Centuries later when the bourgeois was in ascendency it created a Scottish state which enabled the outright dominance of landowners and capital.
Lenin noted that despite the existence of class-based trends within nationality the ruling class, while it governs normally, dispenses the dominant one. The ruling class wields this power to build support for war and imperialist expansion. Thus an analysis of nations without understanding their role in class society can only server ruling-class interests.
Marx summed up this most clearly in the Communist Manifesto: “Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is, so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.”
Thus in the socialist revolution nationality must be defined progressively to aid the proletariat in its historic role. Dimitrov said to neglect this task is to deliver national identity and its potential in the class struggle to the vilest forms of reaction.
 
THE SCOTTISH NATION AND THE BRITISH STATE.
It is therefore necessary to analyse the Scottish nation and its relationship to the British state.
The Scottish ruling class opted for union in 1707 principally attracted by England’s colonial empire. It was therefore directly represented in the British parliament and utilised it to secure assets in the colonies.
This is distinct from, for instance, Ireland’s relationship with Britain. Ireland and its resources were conquered and exploited by a foreign exploiting class, Scotland was not.
The emergence of a Scottish labour movement was inextricably linked to the British one – expanding trade unionism in the coal or cotton industries required solidarity and cooperation on a “British” level.
The strength of working-class organisations lagged behind that in England and Wales. Keir Hardie had to go London to secure election and by 1918 there were only two Labour MPs in Scotland compared to more than 50 in England.
This should remind us that there is nothing innately radical about the Scottish people. Any degree of class consciousness has only ever been gained through sustained struggle.
This therefore is one of the special features of Scottish identity and a critical one.  Its radical and progressive elements have always been very closely interlinked with the development of class unity, and to some extent the forging of a new progressive working-class national identity, at British level.  The progressive elements in Scottish and British national identity rise and fall together.
This is why Britain’s Road to Socialism emphasises “the need to maintain and enhance unity between the labour and progressive movements across the three nations of Britain. The Communist Party does not advocate separation because it would fracture working class and progressive unity in face of a united ruling capitalist class.”
Instead, our programme argues for parliaments in Scotland and Wales to have “the full economic, legislative and financial powers necessary to protect and develop the economic, social and cultural interests of their peoples,” but opposes the type of separation that enables big business “to use threats and promises on jobs and investment to exert pressure on Scottish, Welsh and English governments to outbid each other in ‘business friendly’ and ‘pro-market’ policies.”
But this is precisely the type of separation the SNP proposes. It would involve subordination to the power of big business and place a massive (though not insurmountable) barrier to a new working-class consciousness.
Capitalist state power would be held elsewhere and its Edinburgh representatives would pass on popular disenchantment to the “English” bogeymen.
 
THE CRISIS OF STATE MONOPOLY CAPITALISM
There is also a clear danger that the ongoing independence debate – which will take up yards of column inches and news time until 2014 – will distract us from the vital task of defending the gains of previous generations from the current attacks brought on under the shield of the economic crisis.
The SNP campaign will argue that a separate Scotland will somehow provide shelter from that debate. The mainstream No campaign will be waged on purely negative terms against the SNP, will ignore the ruling-class assault and have no wider demands. Indeed, the nature of the cross-party alliance on which it is based makes this almost inevitable.
This is why Communists, as an integral part of the labour movement, seek to take up the issue and make it a part of the wider struggle, strengthening Scotland’s democracy against big business.
All capitalist world economies were hit by the general crisis caused by over-accumulation of capital and intensified by unsustainable speculative lending. In Britain this was particularly acute thanks to the financialisation of the British economy and its subservience to big business interests – especially the US banking interest that dominate the City of London and use it as an entry point into European markets.
A separate Scotland would not be immune from this crisis. The Scottish economy is controlled by the same hedge funds and banks and its industrial sector proportionally even smaller than Britain ads a whole.
The array of millionaire backing the SNP all ultimately operate on British level, looking for the same solutions in terms of privatisation and public-sector cuts as the Con-Dems in Westminster and are attracted by the SNP’s promise of lower corporate taxes.
EU membership would also bind an independent Scotland to the arbitrary spending restraints and prevent public-sector intervention in the economy.
 
CONSTITUTIONAL WRANGLING
Currently all but one of the constitutional “options on the table” have basically the same character and rest on the same neoliberal assumptions.
Devo Max, the SNP’s lesser substitute for complete independence, would leave monetary policy controlled by the City of London. Holyrood would gain control of taxation policy, but use it only to cut taxes on company profits and big business.
Devo Plus, put forward by a group of businessmen, would give Scotland control over some taxes (those allowing profit maximisation) and leave benefits in the hands of the British state. It supporters say it would result in less income for public spending, but this would force Scots to be more seld-sufficient.
The Scotland Act, which provides the platform for the No campaign, would slightly increase Holyrood’s borrowing and taxation powers without affecting the block grant. While this is a redeeming feature – the Barnett formula takes some account of differing levels of social need – the grant itself is being dramatically cut alongside all other public expenditure. It also fails to challenge any prohibitions on public ownership or industrial intervention.
 
THE WAY FORWARD
The one exception to this rule is the programme Power for Scotland’s People, promoted by a range of figures on the left of the trade unions and Labour Party.
The programme challenges neoliberal assumptions and engages with the fightback against the ConDems.
Its twin pillars are economic democracy through control of public utilities and the productive economy, and redistribution of income across Britain, both in terms of regions and from rich to poor.
Power for Scotland’s people consequently demands a radical reversal of current policies.  Its provisions require engagement against the austerity programmes of the ConDem government and the EU.
As in the 1970s Power for Scotland’s People calls for the creation of an alliance around the labour movement of all those committed to defend the productive nation and to ensure public, democratically controlled investment in infrastructure, services and manufacturing. As a programme, it has the potential to transform national identity in a progressive way around demands for social justice and economic democracy – and to do so, as in the past, by challenging the state power of monopoly capital in unity with working people across Britain.
This is the only way to challenge state monopoly capitalism within Britain. The current Establishment proposals for an alternative constitutional arrangement do nothing to challenge the power of capital or materially advance the position of the working class in Scotland.
The Young Communist League therefore supports the proposals of Power for Scotland’s People, in line with Britain’s Road to Socialism, and will be advancing this working-class perspective rather than losing ourselves in the sham independence debate and standing aside while the ruling-class assault tramples over the nations of Britain.