Sunday, 29 April 2007

Tesco, SNPs 100 and the unmarxism of left-unionists.


Some days ago, Alex "St Bernard's" Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, announced a list of 100 business supporters of his party's electoral campaign, further confirming the SNP's identity as the newest business ass licker. For left unionists, this was more proof that Scottish independence will be a disaster for the socialist movement and the working class in Britain, meaning that all principled socialists should oppose the break up of the British empire state, in the interests of working class unity (as if proletarian internationalism is created or sustained by bourgeois state apparatuses) . This of course, by extension means, for them, that we, are crap.

Soon after this glen shattering revelation however, the chairman of Tesco announced his support for the Union, saying that it has "served us well" until now. Who this "us" refers to, I'll leave the reader to decide.

But wait a minute! Tesco is the UK's largest and the world's fourth largest retailer, as the infinite source of knowledge that is Wikipedia tells us. What then is wrong with the heads of this burgeoning firm's bosses? Can't they see what a titanic victory against the conscious working class the break up of the UK would be?

The answer's no, they can't. And neither can the big shots of CBI. And how could they? It makes absolutely no sense for capital to break up one of the most powerful imperialist constructs in history. All the endless "we're too small", "terrorists everywhere" tirades of New Labour, as well as the "we're stronger together, please stay" Tory rhetoric are just reflections of the cold hard fact that British capital loves the British state and wants to keep it intact. That doesn't of course go to say that British capital can't survive if Scotland breaks away, but merely, that the fat cats would rather it wouldn't. If they could survive the setting up of the Republic of Ireland and the death of colonialism, they can definitely tolerate Scotland breaking away. But for reasons that should be obvious to four year-olds, they would prefer to keep unitary political control over these isles.

Why then, would a section of Scottish capital wish to dissolve the Union and forfeit the benefits of having access to such a formidable machinery of violence? A Marxist analysis actually makes the motives behind the new found patriotism of Scottish capital quite clear. By Marxist, I do not mean the kind of vulgar mechanistic determinism upheld by left unionists and their sects, but an actual concrete look at the class dynamics of a given social process. The vulgar Marxism of left unionists (and many others) consists in forcing preconceived ideas, derived from the study of older situations, on the currently unfolding events. They do not engage in a "concrete analysis of concrete circumstances" as Lenin would put it, but seek to push the concrete current situation into their familiar ideological boxes. Thus, according to their black & white mode of thinking, if the bourgeoisie wants something, there is zero chance that the working class might benefit for it. But enough with those web-covered, dusty "Marxists". Let's take a look at what's happening here.

The first thing to do is take a look at the synthesis of this infamous list of business owners that love the SNP so much. We should remember that the bourgeoisie is not a uniform class. It is heavily stratified internally - more so than the working class - and grasping this is a key to understanding why it may sometimes act in ways that don't make sense if we regard it as a monolith. Now, looking at the names on the list (you can find it by following the first link and scrolling to the bottom) we find that it is predominately composed of small to medium size businesses, with tourism being a particularly large section. There are legal firms, a bed and breakfast, a tour company, a couple of management companies and... a kilt maker.

But what about the big shot supporters like the Royal Bank big shot Sir George Mathewson. What can small tourism based businesses like Hotel Ceilidh-donia and finance capital magnates have in common?

The answer isn't that complicated. They would all benefit from a sovereign Holyrood parliament with economic powers, or even a non-sovereign parliament with fiscal independence as the trajectory of the SNP seems to suggest will soon be the case. They would also not be particularly affected by the loss of Britain's imperialist strong arm. The existence of nuclear weapons on the Clyde as well as shock & awe all around the world are of little concern to the Linlithgow Tours company or to Kilts by Lindsay.

Big finance capital like the Royal Bank of Scotland is also not dependent on old fashioned big guns imperialism for its growth. Neo-liberal institutions and just plain unfair treaties are good enough for them. Of course, you might argue that in order for the Third World to remain in line, some sort of military bullying will always be necessary. But the RBS doesn't care about who's got the guns. As long as the poor countries of the world are kept weak enough to accept their shark loans, the golf playing fat cats are content. Tesco on the other hand really does need cheap fuel, cheap raw materials and of course, good ol' child and sweat labour.

Now, apart from not being hurt by it, the RBS (and the rest of the great 100), would also benefit by the establishment of an independent Scotland. You see, they would be in a much better position with regards to the levers of power. In the UK, the Royal Bank has to compete for influence with other monsters like Barclay's, while in Scotland, where it is by far the largest and most powerful bank, it could easily pull the strings of a St. Bernard led administration. As far Scottish smaller businesses go, they have little chance of ever gaining any significant influence on an all British scale. So why not go for independence?

We see therefore that despite Brit left rants, Scottish capital does not support independence as a gain against the working class, but as a gain against its competitors. Any analysis of the effects that Scottish independence would have on the capability for socialists to organize and raise transitional demands necessarily leads to the conclusion that the break up of the UK will be a positive thing, if socialists take an active part in the campaign for independence and strengthen their hegemony over the movement.

The left-unionist tirades about how Scottish independence is an anti working class, bourgeois nationalist project simply write working class agency off history. Some Marxism there!

7 comments:

Southpawpunch said...

Your argument appears to be (‘by extension’) that if parasites like the CE of Tesco’s are unionists, them Marxists should be opposed to unionism. That’s no argument, I can think of many issues on which Marxists and millionaires are agreed - e.g. the world is round.

You are simply reversing that which you mock - ‘if the bourgeoisie wants something, there is zero chance that the working class might benefit for it.’

It’s just wrong to argue that the RBS would benefit from an independent Scotland. It is the biggest bank in Scotland but it’s also the 2nd biggest bank in the UK. It might benefit from better access to the ‘levers of power’ in an Edinburgh based state but the vast majority of its UK customers are in England. It would lose some weight if lobbying Whitehall as a foreign bank.

You make only a (flawed) case for why an independent Scotland would be better for some Scottish capitalists but none about why it would be better for Scottish (and indeed British) workers.

Nationalism, for those other than oppressed nationalities, is poison. Socialists don’t want people wrapping themselves in the Saltire anymore than the want them to drape the Union Flag.

Scots aren’t oppressed nationally; they’re not denied democratic rights anymore than someone English, and unlike how the Irish were. They don’t yet (although may yet do) have a majority support for independence that is being denied.

In these circumstances, I’m as oppressed identically in London by the rate on my RBS Credit Card, or by my Hull headquartered employer, as is a worker in Lossiemouth or Lockerbie.

It makes absolutely no sense for workers to break up a cross-national united fightback against Capital. Let’s expropriate RBS together. Indeed I also look forward to British workers unity being subsumed into European, if not World Workers Unity.

Renegade Eye said...

Southpawpunch makes sense to me. Why support a nationalist formation in a country that doesn't face national oppression?

AN said...

Southpaw is a good exemplar here of the knee jerk "brit left".

It is wrong at so many levels.

Firtsly, if we look at the actually existing economy of Scotland over the last ten years or so we see a decline in manufacturing employment, due to westminster economic priorities of an overvalued pound, which is done to support finance capital in London, and the private debt driven economic boom. An independent scotland could set different economic priorities that led to more jobs, and in so doing would actualy open a debate in england about the english regions outside the South east that are suffering in exactly the same way as Scotland.

A majority in Scotland never voted for Margeret thatcher, but ended up with 18 years of Tory rule anyway. this is not classic national oppression but is certainly a democratic defecit. similarly, New labour relies upon Scottish MPs in Westminster to vote through right wing legislation for England over issues that have been devolved to Hollyrood and their votes don't affect their own constituents.

So Scottish independence would be more democtratic.

And Scotland does have a distinct national identity and culture. (Indeed so does England) but the British national identity is a fictitious one created for the Empire. Now the Brit left doesn't like to participate in discussions of identity becasue they think that workers should be discussing theories of surplus value instead. Which is conventinet for the right wing who can therefore have a clean run at establishing cultural hegemony.

But on planet earth, the British national identity is unravelling (as recently as 1990 English fans abroad waved the union jack, not the flag of St George) and there is room for a debate about what sort of england or Scotland we want.

Incidently a trajectory towards independence is built into the devolution settlement, because if there is Tory government in Westminster it wil have no demoratic mandate in Scotland - under thatcher there was no Scottish parliament to be lightening conducter for that discontent.

I look forward to hearing how Southpaw would argue with Svotish worlkers that it is in their class interests to endure a tory government that they didn't vote for.

Korakious said...

Your argument appears to be (‘by extension’) that if parasites like the CE of Tesco’s are unionists, them Marxists should be opposed to unionism.

That would be the case if the argument made in this post was one for Scottish independence. It was not. Although I am a supporter of Scottish independence, the point here was to show that it is not an inherently anti working class project as the brit left seems to imply.


It makes absolutely no sense for workers to break up a cross-national united fightback against Capital. Let’s expropriate RBS together. Indeed I also look forward to British workers unity being subsumed into European, if not World Workers Unity.


You seem to think that working class unity is determined by bourgeois borders. I see no reason why post independence, workers in England and Scotland can maintain a degree of coordination. If you argument was solid, it would mean that we should support European integration because it erodes national borders. Unfortunately, in the material world, things aren't as black and white as "nationalism vs internationalism". Internationalism is built by the working class on years of struggle. It is not established by bourgeois states from above, as was the case with the British empire.

I will make a separate post later outlining the arguments for independence.

As a last point however, people here seem to think that the project of Scottish independence has a nationalist content. That's false to a large extent. Nationalist tartanry groups are only a fringe in the larger independence movement, which is mostly concerned with concrete socio-economic issues, rather than sticking it to the English. If you go back to my first post, you'll see that I am attacking left nationalism as much as I am attacking left unionism.

Renegade Eye said...

Belated Happy May Day.

Korakious said...

I just noticed that:

but the vast majority of its UK customers are in England.

There's only a handful of RBS branches south of the border. The parent company of RBS, RBS group can conduct its business in England equally well through NatWest (one of the big four) which it also owns, along with other child companies. RBS group owns even 50% of Tesco Personal Finance.

Be sure mate, Sir Mathewson is not driven by Scottish patriotism.

Southpawpunch said...

I mean the RBS GRoup, as the shareholders - who, as you say, own NatWest, which will have a lot more customers than RBS.