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The Scottish Independence Referendum: The Great Diversion
17 set 2014
Karl Liebknecht: “The basic law of capitalism is you or I, not you and I.”

One of the ruling class’s weapons in its armoury is its ability to mask the reality of the exploiter/exploited class relation. Its web of cultural constructs is aimed at obscuring that reality - and the weave of that web is religion, race, gender and above all, nationalism.
Nationalism isn’t “natural”. It is manufactured. It is the particularly manufactured ideology of the capitalist class. For them it is the perfect expression of their rule. They can pretend that in the nation we are all “free” even if some of us are freer than others because they have more money (as Bernie Ecclestone so dramatically proved recently in a German court[1]). And when the capitalists tell us we are “all in it together” their frame of reference is the nation. When they exhort us once again to salute those who fought for “King and Country” they are dragging us into defence of their material interests. After all it is their country. They own it (and this goes for the ruling class everywhere). Wars are actually for defending and extending their property and to get us to support war they appeal to our supposed common “nationality”. And nationalism in Scotland is as manufactured as anywhere else.
We don’t want to look at the kitsch aspects of Scottish nationalism – the reinvention of medieval robber barons and thugs like Bruce and Wallace as Scottish heroes, the disneyfied romanticism of appropriating supposedly ‘highland’ dress, pipes, or clans as national symbols (carefully ignoring how Gaeldom was once regarded with much the same affection in lowland Scotland as the Roma are in the home counties today). Rather, with the approaching referendum, we want to look at why Scottish Independence is just a diversion from the real issue based on a reactionary fantasy.
If a ‘yes’ vote created a Scottish state, it would begin life already crippled with its share of UK National Debt – a sum estimated by the National Institute of Social Research to be £143 billion. That debt will have to be serviced, as will the debt incurred in the functioning of any capitalist state – borrowing for investment, infrastructure, defence, the social wage (pensions, health, welfare etc). For example, Edinburgh, Scotland's capital, is currently paying £5.8 million a year interest on its new 8 mile tram line even before any repayment of the £776 million capital costs.. Naturally, services such as libraries, social care, teachers and nurses etc ( all part of the social wage) are discretionary spending, while interest repayments are written in stone. The UK state, despite its vicious hacking back of the social wage, its use of cheap migrant labour to help drive wages down, its attack on working conditions and wages, has so far been unable to cut its deficit – in other words far from being able to address its debt, it is daily increasing it. Again, that debt incurs interest – and that interest is set by global money markets that take a very close interest in state spending. The Scandinavian states, for long hailed as examples of successful welfare states, are seeing their social spending slashed because the money markets demand it. National governments are expected to be ‘responsible’ (i.e. shaft the working class) or pay the price when they come to sell bonds, gilts or raise loans. This is an inescapable fact of crisis ridden global capitalism – no country is immune.
Some peddle the claim that a Scottish State would protect the social wage unlike those Eton-educated toffs down in London (as if the functioning of a capitalist state had any intrinsic interest in the sociological origins of its functionaries – not too many ex-public school boys in Stalin’s Russia for example). Any effective difference in social spending between Scotland and rump UK would see investment drift southwards as tax and interest rates rose.
And as for the claim that ‘It’s Scotland’s Oil’ – well we saw how strong the argument that it’s Scotland’s oil refinery was recently – Ineos, whose ‘Scottish’ owners (based in Switzerland) after the Unite union had hamstrung the workers’ recent strike, demanded and got £150 million from the Scottish Executive. America wants a European base for its fracked gas sales to boost its profits and undermine Russia’s – and the Scottish Government, needing that investment, had to roll over. In a similar but minor vein, Donald Trump wanting a golf course[2] in the face of massive local opposition made the Scottish Executive lift its kilt and take one in the ‘National Interest’. Foreign capital investment, crucial to any Scottish state will expect, and get feather-bedded treatment in terms of grants and tax-breaks. What the workers will get can be seen in the brutal working conditions of the staff in the huge Amazon depot at Dunfermline. Any serious attempt by a Scottish government to improve working conditions there would see Amazon pack up and move elsewhere. No surprise in this – it’s how capitalism operates. The surprise lies only in the fact that so many are prepared to believe ‘We’re different up here’; that Scotland, a geographic abstraction, the consequence of distant historic struggles between rivals for power, now supposedly imbues its inhabitants with something meaningful, something that transcends the reality of a working class that alone produces all wealth and is international, and a capitalist class that expropriates most of that wealth. Workers in Britain, Brazil or Bangladesh have their exploitation and real interests in common, and nothing in common with the capitalist interests and functionaries and land owners that exploit them.
There has been a massive campaign around the referendum for more than a year now by the capitalist media in Scotland, trying to whip up interest. Leftists have joined in – mainly pushing ‘yes’ (‘we’ll be able to get rid of the Tories’ or ‘We’ll be able to pressurise a Scottish Government better than a London one’ or ‘we’re more left-wing up here - we don’t vote Tory’ or ‘splitting the British State will make it weaker’) though some like George Galloway push a ‘no’ vote claiming ‘it’ll split the British Labour movement and hand power to the Tories’. Underpinning both approaches is the notion that capitalist democracy has some value to the working class. It only underlines the Left’s value to the ruling class.
Others in Scotland have argued that at least a ‘yes’ vote will get rid of Trident, but even if Nato agreed, and could afford a relocation (which is unlikely), arguing for another geographic sector of our class to be lumbered with this genocidal weaponry is a victory for nationalism, not internationalism. Similarly, those who (naively) believe Scottish squaddies won’t be sent to fight foreign wars again fail to recognise that our class is an international class. Seeing anything positive about working class kids from Newcastle or Manchester or London fighting for imperialism instead of Glasgow’s or Dundee’s is again accepting the reactionary logic of nationalism.
There is only one internationalist response to this referendum – fuck it! The real issue for the world’s workers is that they face an increasingly dire future under whichever capitalist regime rules us. The world capitalist crisis has seen living standards falling across the planet. This has been going on gradually for decades but since 2008 it has increased dramatically. In this situation it is not surprising that there has been a rise of nationalist and populist movements. They all claim the “old parties” are to blame and they have the solution in their pocket. They all want us to believe that they can manage capitalism fairly, that they can magically escape the imperative of a global capitalist crisis. They all pretend that the accelerating attacks on wages, conditions and social wage are ideological (Nasty neo-cons, or Tories, or NuLabour, or greedy banks, or tax-dodging rich) rather than intrinsic to a rotten and rotting global system. Our only hope lies in getting rid of the system that produces such misery and such abominations. In the long run only autonomous working class struggle on our OWN terrain can hold out any hope for our future. In the short term, refusing to be dragged in to ruling class power plays is a crucial first step – seeing our class brothers and sisters sucked into nationalist traps in the likes of Ukraine, Libya, Gaza and Kurdistan only underlines the importance of this.
[1] Bernie Ecclestone, head of motor racing’s Formula 1, to avoid being tried for bribery (the man who paid him has already been gaoled) paid a £100 million sum (bribe?) into a Munich courthouse to avoid prosecution. Not an option open to everyone.
[2] Donald Trump was given permission by the Scottish Executive to build a golf course near Aberdeen over an area which included a protected area for wildlife, despite the opposition of local people.
Monday, August 18, 2014

This work is in the public domain
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