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Nationalism in an imperialist country can never be a progressive force

17 September 2014
Chinese poster: Unite for greater victory, 1974

Yan Yongsheng, Unite for Greater Victory! (1974)

I’m not going to repeat all the work done by my party in proving that Scotland is not actually a separate nation, but part of the British one. The work is detailed and scientifically based.

I’m not going to repeat the work done by my party in pointing out that the illusions propagated by left-wing supporters of Scottish nationalism are mere wishes, based on nothing but the electoral promises of the SNP (not worth the paper they’re written on, like all bourgeois election promises) and on the hopes and desires of the many progressive people who have become demoralised at the scale of the task that faces revolutionaries in Britain.

Although socialism is in the interests of all British workers, those of us who openly advocate for it are few in number, disunited, disorganised and very often lacking in any real understanding of what socialism really is and how we might get from here to there.

In the face of these difficulties, all too many of us have simply given up on the revolution altogether. Instead of working harder to overcome our theoretical and organisational weakness, some of us have decided that maybe we could get somewhere at least a bit better by pursuing just a part of our goal in a smaller part of Britain, against what we fondly imagine will be a weaker and easier-to-defeat enemy.

But let us consider this: when the Nottinghamshire miners and the pit deputies settled with the government in 1984, they must have followed similar reasoning. They couldn’t bring themselves to believe in the possibility of winning if they joined or maintained the strike, and they thought that they could at least preserve their own jobs and communities if they stayed at or went back to work.

Thirty years on, how has history judged this decision?

It is clear to all of us now that the pit deputies’ and Notts miners’ actions played a significant part in defeating the strike, thus selling out the rest of the miners nationwide. Moreover, this defeat ultimately led to the closure of all their pits too, and the loss of all their jobs.

They tried to go for a solution that would protect a smaller group and ended up losing everything for everyone.

Scotland is a part of Britain. Scottish workers are a part of the British working class. If we allow our exploiters to divide us, all we succeed in doing is making it easier for them to pick us off bit by bit and defeat us.

We have a single struggle against a single ruling class, and we need the maximum possible unity if we are to have any hope of winning. Our rulers know this. That is why they constantly tell the people living in Scotland that they are a separate nation, and why they give so much help to the nationalists in spreading the illusion that the ills of capitalism can be solved by voting SNP.

But Scottish workers are not going to get a socialist paradise if they vote for the fake ‘independence’ that is being offered. They will get a smaller, weaker force against the same united, strong and very cunning ruling class of British exploiters.

Meanwhile, encouraging workers in an imperialist country (which Britain undoubtedly is) to identify with their ‘own’ national bourgeoisie (which is what nationalism does) means asking them to take the side of and identify their interests with imperialism. No-one has offered any meaningful proof that the Scotland-based section of the British ruling class is going to give up looting the world the day after ‘independence’. It will continue to be what it is now — a ruthless group of imperialist billionaire exploiters. Yet Scottish nationalism tells British workers living in Scotland to identify with these exploiters and to blame ‘the English’ for all their problems.

What on earth is progressive about that?

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