Thursday, 31 May 2007

What's the difference between a child massacre and abortion?

The Catholic Church provides the answer in yet another display of razor sharp sense of proportion and plain logic. The Holy Keepers of Divine Wisdom, or at least, some of them, seem to believe that abortion is equal to two child massacres a day. These words of Godly Insight came from a cardinal not from Latina America, not from Africa, not from the United States, not even from Poland, but from our very own Keith O'Brien.

In a sermon marking the 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act of 1967, the pious and humble minister of god said that the daily rate of the abortion "crime" is equal to two Dunblane massacres a day. The Dunblane massacre took place 11 years ago in a little town of the same name to the North of Stirling. Sixteen children of 5 and 6 years of age were shot dead by a raving lunatic. It appears that for Mr O'Brien, killing primary school children is equal to discarding a bunch of mindless cells. I cannot even begin to imagine how offending this similitude must have been to the parents of the Dunblane victims.

O'Brien went on to instruct catholic voters to reject politicians who don't struggle against abortion laws, while also telling catholic politicians that failure to act against the "unspeakable crime" of abortion could result in them being barred from receiving holy communion. Being from Greece, I am used to casual interventions in social and political matters by the clergy, from little stupid protests against removing "Religion" from ID cards to outright hilarious calls to "reconquer" Constantinople.

This however caught me completely off guard as, for as long as I have lived in Scotland, incidents of religious freaks going all doomsday on the media were to me tales from the far away mystical lands of US Jesusland and Poland. At least they haven't yet targeted Homoagitating Gay Teletubbies.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Venezuela & Freedom. What would Lenin do?

Most of you are probably familiar with the fuss kicked up on the bourgeois media when Chavez announced that the license of RCTV, an opposition station in Venezuela would not be renewed. The First World Left, including of course its vanguard, the AWL jumped on the bourgeois liberal media bandwagon, immediately concluding (or repeating their already made, age old analysis of any revolution that is not led by them) that Venezuela was heading down the road of Stalinism, state capitalism, Bonapartism and whathaveyou. Of course, neither the media, nor their "left" lackeys mentioned that the station was not being shut down, but having its license not renewed in a perfectly legal manner, as has happened a number of times in the "Free" World, without protest from either the media or our fellow revolutionary imperialist apologist brothers.

That of course is besides the point because a cursory look at RCTV's involvement in the coup of 2002 against the democratically elected Chavez government would lead anyone but the most liberal of bourgeois liberals to conclude that the station should have been immediately shut down after the failure of the putsch. You see, the media often forgets to mention that the station was not only actively supporting the overthrow of Chavez, but also practically assisting the putschists by engaging in news blackouts. Now, perhaps the mourners of democracy should take a minute and think in what way any of the "democratic" governments of the West would have responded to a failed coup. Surely most of the participants would have been arrested and the leaders would have probably spent their lives behind bars (if not executed). What happened in Venezuela? The supreme court ruled that the military officers should not stand trial as what happened wasn't really a coup but a... power vacuum. Oh, the brutality of authoritarian Venezuela! By the way, I would be amused to see how the very concerned about human rights left would respond to a similar situation in their own country. It is very easy to criticise little brown/red (you know, those who need our benevolent leadership; it is after all, the white man's burden! ) people half way around the world, but it isn't quite as simple to come up with a response to politically crucial events taking place in your own society.

Anyhow, I am ranting again. What's interesting here is not the chauvinism-bordering-racism underlying much of the politics of the first world left, but the rush of such groups to publicly defend the democratic rights of a bourgeois media station that is owned by the ruling class, thus throwing class analysis out of the window and subscribing to Jeffersonian notions of the inalienability of rights. See for example the post made by TWP on Shiraz Socialist:

How many of us have “openly called” for the overthrow of capitalism? Well apparently Tariq Ali doesn’t see the irony in his statement about Chavez’s failure to renew a TV licence for the anti-government channel RCTV. By his logic most of the newspapers of the far left could be legitimately closed down in Britain. [...]I have always argued for “no platform for fascists” and stand by that argument. However, this isn’t a “fascist” TV station - it simply opposes the government in the strongest terms. That is not a reason for shutting it down
Let's take the arguments in reverse order. First, if a supporter of Fascism is a Fascist, then it makes sense that a TV station supporting Fascism is a Fascist TV station. One could of course try to argue that a military coup in Latin America might not lead to Fascism but to... something else. I would kindly ask them to stop reading and **** off my internets.

Now, with that out of the way, it would be useful to examine the contradiction inherent in TWP's support for "No Platform For Fascists" and opposition to the "shutting down" of RCTV, a contradiction that runs deeper than the rather evident fact that RCTV is a Fascist supporter.

I do not wish to examine here whether the "No Platform" approach is correct or not. Let us assume it is. Why do socialists adopt a "No Platform" line on fascism? The evident and right, if a bit simplistic, response is that we do so because fascism is diametrically opposed to the interests of the working class and presents a formidable obstacle to the fight for socialism. So far, so good. But why is that we do not also call for "No Platform" for capitalists as well? Is it because we think that capitalist/liberal views are more legitimate than fascists'? Is it because capitalism is less of an obstacle to socialism and less of a danger to the working class? Of course not. If anything, capitalism has proven to be more resilient than fascism and has now become a threat not only to the working class but to the whole planet. Further, only the most stupendously half-witted liberaloleftie would dare argue that "kick them Pakis out of Britain" is a less legitimate view than "let's bomb those terrorist A-rabs". The reason therefore that we do not pursue a "No Platform" policy re capitalism is that we can't. The whole purpose of "No Platform" is to prevent the poison of Fascist ideology from spreading among the working class, creating vile sectarianism, racism and other niceties. This is totally inapplicable to the hegemonic struggle of socialists against bourgeois ideology; you can't call for "No Platform" to bourgeois ideology. Why? Because bourgeois ideology is the platform. Every single social structure is permeated by and functions according to bourgeois ideology. Hence the adoption of the Transitional Programme and the need for a War of Position, among other things. It should be clear by now, but it is worth restating. Socialists do not tolerate bourgeois ideology because it is more "legitimate" than Fascism but because not tolerating is a non starter. This brings us back to the first point made by TWP, that of legitimacy.

TWP argues that if we support Chavez's action on the basis that RCTV supported the coup, then, it would be legitimate for, say, the British government to close down the newspapers of the far left, since they (we) have often supported the violent overthrow of capitalism. TWP here falls to the usual trap of forcing a fictitious universality onto concepts of a divided -ie partial not universal - society. Talking about legitimacy, TWP forgets to ask the crucial question: "for whom?" In a class society, questions of legitimacy, legal or moral, cannot be extracted from the context of class struggle and made into abstract, timeless dicta derived from the sky above. Therefore, if the British state decides to close down socialist newspapers, it will be a perfectly legitimate move for the class interest it represents. For socialists of course, it would be a terrible crime, not because it would take away our "freedom" but because it would severely reduce our efficiency and capability to promote our ideas. The illegitimacy of the act would not consist in a violation of our perceived human rights but in the fact that it would be an attack on socialism. In that manner, the very existence of the bourgeois state and its ideological supports is illegitiate. No action it takes can ever be considered morally acceptable by socialists, apart from that which is forced upon it by the struggle of the working class.

The same goes for human rights. The reason the left usually defends human rights is because attacks on them are made by the bourgeois state with the aim to undermine the fighting power of the working class. Indeed, "universal" human rights were won by workers after decades of painful struggle; there was no right to free speech for socialists for a large part of the 20th century (and one may very well say there won't be a right to it again, if socialism becomes a powerful political force again), there was no right to shelter and food, no right to education. Socialists support human rights for the working class, but we have no obligation to fight for the right of RCTV owners to back fascist coups. Expecting from socialists to rise in support of freedom of speech for RCTV, is like expecting the Tories to organize demonstrations for the right to strike.

The concerned leftie will reply: "But isn't the point of socialism to create a society where people are free? How can you increase freedom by curtailing freedom?". To a limited extent, this is not wrong. I do not subscribe to the tanky notion that freedom in itself, is a bourgeois ideal. The fallacy of the liberalosocialist approach lies, again, in the abstractly universalistic manner it uses the concept of freedom. Like legitimacy, freedom cannot be extracted from its class context. As Lenin points out in The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, one cannot discuss freedom and democracy without asking "for what class?". The freedom of workers to go on strike restricts the freedom of capitalists to extract profit. The freedom of capitalists to own media curtails the freedom of workers to establish independent media outlets.

Freedom then, within the context of a class society is a question of which side you are on, as the amount of freedom a class has is inversely related to the amount of freedom of its antagonistic classes. Marxists are on the side of the working class and this is why we do not see anything wrong with the Chavez government shutting RCTV down. Had RCTV been a workers' co-operative or had Chavez moved to silence an oppositional workers' political group, he would have been on the receiving end of the harshest of criticisms from the Squirrel Vanguard. The only criticism one could level against Chavez is that instead of turning RCTV into a cooperative news outlet, he made it a state owned one. Other than that however, his democratic record with respect to the working class has been brilliant, to put it mildly. Not only has community power greatly expanded under his administration, but in what is probably a world first, the right of recall has been enshrined in the constitution and has already been used by Chavez's opponents against him.

Perhaps the freedom-loving left (as in opposed to freedom-hating commies like me) should remember that true, universal freedom, can only be the product of a positive transcendence of alienation and therefore, achievable only in a true classless society. And since liberalosocialists don't quite like "authoritarian" Lenin, I'll finish this post with a quote by "libertarian" Rosa Luxemburg:

Yes, dictatorship! But this dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination, but in energetic, resolute attacks upon the well-entrenched rights and economic relationships of bourgeois society, without which a socialist transformation cannot be accomplished

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Brownite opportunism

With the Tories making great gains down south and with the increasingly antagonistic mood of the SNP here, Brown is obviously getting worried. In a bid to regain support from pissed off Labour voters, as well as those supporting the SNP, the soon to be Prime Minister has started working on a withdrawal plan aiming to remove troops from Iraq before the Westminster general election.Scotland on Sunday reports:

One senior Cabinet minister, expected to play a central role in Brown's first government, said an accelerated withdrawal from Iraq was one of the "foremost options" under consideration.

He added: "We are already committed to a withdrawal of sorts. The schedule can be altered so it is comfortably done within two years."

Under the blueprint for withdrawal announced by Blair in February, the 7,100 British troops currently in Iraq would be reduced to 5,000 by late summer, with an aspiration to reduce gradually over the following two years.

But the military plans sparked by the looming change at the top involve cutting the British presence more rapidly: to 4,000 by late summer and perhaps 2,000 to 3,000 by the year end.

The ultimate hope is to draw down to a "nominal" force within 18 months, and a virtually complete exit within two years of Brown coming to power.

Michael Codner, director of military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, said declining public support and demands had raised expectations of changes in the British presence.

He said: "There is a growing view that British forces in Iraq will be reduced substantially in the next 12 months, perhaps to as low as 1,500. The change of leadership is an obvious catalyst."
Let's see how this turns out.

Saturday, 19 May 2007


Why law?

In order to stop my fellow vanugardist from constantly heckling me about my laziness and lack of a work-ethic I have decided to make a post. Frankly, I reserve the Right to be Lazy and fear that my comrade is infected with a hideous managerial work ethic. Anyway, this will not be the normal type of post here, as I am not Scottish. I am also far too much of a student for my own good, hence the content of this post.

So basically I am interested in Marxist approaches to the law. More specifically I am not a ‘Marxist looking at the law’ or a ‘lawyer who likes Marxism’ but I make some attempt to do both (although this shouldn’t be mistaken for an attachment to the law – because I’m really not). So in this post here I basically attempt to justify my odd position (although there are certainly a few contemporary Marxist legal theorists), and say why it is we might focus on law.

So the first thing I want to say is that a there hasn’t really been a lot of Marxist work done about law as a specific phenomenon. There have been quite a few works which (of necessity) include law as an element of the social totality, but many of these haven’t really been able to grapple with the specificity of law. So a lot of the time you’ll just hear that law is an ‘expression of the will of the dominant class’ or something, which – although it might have some useful content – tells you nothing about law as a specific phenomenon.

In this respect there is really only one ‘classic’ work of Marxist legal theory – E.B. Pashukanis’ General Theory of Law and Marxism – this is a work which has influenced me quite a lot. So I suppose later on in some posts I will expand upon the some theoretical points (or rather I’ll link or re-post some old stuff) and show how taking an in-depth position on legal theory (bearing in mind there is no revolutionary movement without revolutionary theory) actually does serve at least some practical purpose.

So, here I’m just going to outline some reasons why I think it’s interesting and important to have a Marxist account of the law. Basically, I want to move from more abstract questions to concrete questions, although obviously these two factors are intimately related.

Law and Liberalism

Anyone who wants to make any sense of liberalism has to engage with the law. On one level this is obvious. Most of the classical liberals from Hobbes to Locke to Montesquieu to Rousseau all had to explicitly deal with law. In fact in many of these account the law assumes an absolutely central role (Hobbes is someone who really springs to mind in this instance).

The importance of law to liberalism isn’t just a happy accident, it’s a result of the structure of liberal thought and its presuppositions about ‘human nature’. Whilst it’s always difficult to define a political position as amorphous of liberalism one can find certain commonalities of liberalism. Firstly, liberals have a certain theory of human nature – basically this holds that (at the very least) human being have a propensity towards selfishness and individualism. Closely linked to this is the fact that liberalism starts from the‘naturally independent, autonomous’ individual.

From this perspective you come to the central problematic of liberalism (and what I think is the best way to frame this). If you have a group of individual, selfish agents who need to interact in some way how can you fit this together. Since these individuals are meant to be independent, each with their own ‘plan of life’, they can’t be unified by any broad ‘purpose’, or good, or status.

It is at this point that the law becomes useful. Law is therefore seen in a double sense. Firstly, as people like Grotius thought it served as a way of demarcated the autonomous sphere of each individual. It creates a kind of shield of interlocking rights and duties. Secondly, and this is in a more Hobbesian vein, law serves as a non-moral ‘trump’ to individual disputes. This ‘trumping’ function is also how you can ‘coordinate’ the diverse lives of these ‘autonomous individuals’, because it provides a conclusive guide to what happens when individuals come into dispute.

But in a way this begins to seem a little contradictory, law is a device which both coordinates (in its trumping sense) and dissociates (in its ‘demarcating sense’), Pashukanis notes this contradiction, saying (General Theory of Law and Marxism, p.70):

Law is simultaneously a form of external authoritative regulation and a form of subjective private autonomy. The basic and essential characteristic of the former is unconditional obligation and external coercion, while freedom is ensured and recognized within definite boundaries. Law appears both as the basis of social organization and as the means for individuals "to be disassociated, yet integrated in society". On the one hand, law completely merges with external authority, and on the other it completely opposes every external authority not recognized by it.

Without the law liberalism (ideologically) completely falls apart. It is forced either to revise its central presuppositions about human nature, or reject the autonomy of the individual, or support a Hobbesian ‘state of nature’.

It is not accidental therefore that the radical anti-liberal critiques concentrated to a large extent on the role of law and rights within liberalism. The main example of this is Carl Schmitt, German fascist and utter bastard – yet someone who focused particularly on the intersection of law and liberalism. But there is also Marx’s famous On the Jewish Question, and numerous bits of Lenin.

Now of course, this all remains rather abstract, but I think it does address real concrete problems. Firstly, the intimate connection of law and liberalism might tell us to be slightly wary of raises slogans about the ‘rule of law’, and making paeans to it. Furthermore, we of course live in a broadly ‘liberal’ society, and as such one in which law assumes (at least at first sight) a particularly important role.

Law and Capitalism

Of course, this all seems rather airy fairy (and believe me it will remain so), stuck in the ‘idea’ of liberalism. Yet, as I have argued before, liberalism is a product of capitalism. I’ll briefly go through this connection, and then I’ll explain some other reasons why capitalism and law are deeply interconnected.

The presuppositions of liberal theory begin to make sense when you analyse the historical transition from feudalism to capitalism (bearing in mind this was a long transition). So basically (and this is very sketchy) feudalism involved individuals being placed into static, customary rules. Their ‘rights and duties’, such as they were, arose by reference to their position in the political order.

The basic point is that in the transition to capitalism this status was demolished by the commodity form. Guilds and hereditary castes were broken up; the old system of land tenure (the connection of the peasantry to the land) was destroyed. So what we have here is a situation where individuals increasingly resemble the liberal vision of them. They no longer have any status based connection with their employer/employee, instead it is a relationship based solely on a cash nexus.

But simultaneously with this you have a great drawing together of people. Increasingly, owing to capitalist manufacture people are brought together, disputes inevitably arise, demarcation needs to take place. And here is the relationship between liberalism and capitalism, the problems of liberalism are the problems of capitalism – how do increasingly disconnected individuals, who are nonetheless brought into contact find a way to be ‘dissociated yet integrated’. So, in capitalism, as with liberalism, law plays a central role.

However, and as I will make clear later, the connection between law and capitalism runs deeper than the one described above. The above description shows that law is connected to capitalism because of the ‘solution’ to some of the problems it throws up. However, I (and in fact anyone who follows Pashukanis) think that there is a more structural connection between law and capitalism. This is a topic that is beyond the confines of this (already overlong) introduction. It is something I have written about before and will write about later. However, there are some opening things I would point out.

The most important thing to first note is that central to capitalism is the commodity. The commodity is the ‘unit’ of capitalism, and through the unfolding of its internal structure, and through many mediations you will eventually reach the state of the world today. However, as Marx notes:

It is plain that commodities cannot go to market and make exchanges of their own account. We must, therefore, have recourse to their guardians, who are also their owners Commodities are things, and therefore without power of resistance against man. If they are wanting in docility he can use force; in other words, he can take possession of them. In order that these objects may enter into relation with each other as commodities, their guardians must place themselves in relation to one another, as persons whose will resides in those object, and must behave in such a way that each does not appropriate the commodity of the other, and part with his own, except by means of an act done by mutual consent. They must therefore, mutually recognise in each other the rights of private proprietors. This juridical relation, which thus expresses itself in a contract, whether such contract be part of a developed legal system or not, is a relation between two wills, and is but the reflex of the real economic relation between the two. It is this economic relation that determines the subject-matter comprised in each such juridical act.

In other words, the commodity relationship posits and presupposes the legal one, since in order to exchange a commodity (and a commodity is only characterised by exchange) one must recognise someone else as your equal. This connection is vastly important since it shows the primal connection between law and capitalism. On the level of commodity exchange (and this incidentally is why law pre-dates capitalism) the two are irrevocably and structurally linked.

This is of course central to the arguments of Lenin and Engels on the link between bourgeois ‘equality’ and the commodity form.

With this established one can go on to consider how the law is important to more concrete, everyday situations, which I’ll talk about next time I post. Also, I'll talk about why I think my philosophical orientation is best.

Friday, 18 May 2007

SNP. Business as usual?

As promised; squirrel thoughts on Salmond's election.

So, Alex Salmond did manage to grab the First Ministership despite his supporters being in a minority. He has also now appointed the Cabinet and significantly, not a single member of the opposition chose to vote against the appointments, opting to abstain instead. Now that the MSPs have been sworn in and the Queen has signed the relevant documents, the probability of a challenge to the election results seems nil. Personally, I don't think there ever was any chance that a challenge would be mounted, as it was in none of the big parties interests. The Tories wouldn't possibly manage to make any gains, the Lib Dems would not like to see themselves associated with Labour given their ever hastening downfall and Labour themselves would be seen as childish sore losers if they challenged the SNPs victory. So the whole thing was pretty much an exchange of fiery rhetoric, just to keep things interesting and make the politicos feel important.

I have made a number of posts regarding the bourgeois nature of the Scottish National Party and nothing much has changed since then or happened since Salmond's rise to power, quite understandably too, as it was yesterday. However, there have been a few signs indicating the trajectory Salmond's minority government will follow.

For starters, Salmond's rhetoric of ruling by consensus and in the "national interest" confirms our predictions that he will lead a government that is completely servile to the bourgeois. Scottish Labour leader Jack MacConnell also said that his party is willing to work with the SNP on an issue by issue basis and that they "will not oppose for its own sake. Translation: "We will be happy to promote the agendas of our common masters even if we might find our selves disagreeing on an issue or two". Therefore, we should not expect to see any particular clashes over issues affecting capital; business as usual.

Things of course aren't that simple. Battle lines are already starting to form between Holyrood and Westminster. According to the Scotsman, Gordon Brown, the ultra British soon to be New Blabour leader and Prime Minister (aye, the guy who thinks Thatcher didn't go far enough in promoting private home ownership) has not yet called Salmond for congratulations. In fact, answering questions after a speech delivered in the London City HQ, Brown commented that Salmond does not hold an absolute majority, a subtle threat rather than a kind reminder:

"I think it's a huge responsibility that he has taken on," Mr Brown said of Mr Salmond, serving notice that Labour will quickly condemn as "irresponsible" any SNP move to alter the devolution settlement.

"He is the lead party in terms of numbers of parliamentary seats," Mr Brown said, his voice drained of earlier enthusiasm. "But he doesn't have a majority."

He continued: "While I congratulate him and respect the decision that has been made, I remain firmly committed to the union."

"I do not believe the vote was a vote for separation and independence."

What makes this particularly interesting is that the ultra bigot filthy loyalist fascist that is Ian Paisley did congratulate Salmond and also stated that he would be soon meeting him in Belfast in order to discuss the possibility of reestablishing the devolved authorities' Whitehall committee. It seems that Northern Irish loyalists are happier to work with the SNP than Gordon Brown is.

On his part, Salmond has not been slow to pick a fight with Westminster either. Yesterday, the St. Bernard's look-alike politician attacked Westminster's plans to shut down 2,500 post offices all over the UK come summer, vowing to use all powers at the Scottish Executive's disposal to "soften the blow". Given the opposition of trade unions and community group to said plan, this could very well be a maneuvre aiming to further erode Labour's working class support and attract it to the SNP.

Overall, it might be too early to make conclusive judgments on the nature of the SNP led administration and the possibilities it will open for working class mobilization, but it seems rather evident that they are adopting a bourgeois agenda while maintaining semi-confrontational politics with unionism. While it maybe true that since, unlike Labour, the SNP doesn't have deep roots in the working class, its right wing trajectory will definitely lead to its support plummeting, thus opening up space for the left, it might well be the case that SNP will use its minority position as an excuse for not pushing through with its progressive policies (students grants etc.). Meanwhile, it will also gain further credibility with big business, leading perhaps to even more support from capital in 2011. This, coupled with a possible victory for the Tories in the Westminster election of 2009, can possibly propel the SNP to a position of power in the next parliament. Should they manage to deliver independence then, their support will become great and more solid. I don't like to repeat myself, but this is exactly why socialists in Scotland must act now to build hegemony for republican socialist ideas in the independence movement.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Salmond becomes First Minister

SNP leader Alex Salmond has been elected First Minister. He was supported by the Lib Dems while the Tories abstained.

BBC story here. Squirrel commentary will soon follow.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Sheridan to be charged.

Today's Sunday Mail carried an exclusive piece according to witch Tommy Sheridan will face perjury charges regarding his high profile libel case against the News of the World. You know, the one that dragged the SSP through the mad and led to excellent comrades being slandered and called scabs by the Orange One; aye that one. The Mail reports:

POLICE believe they have uncovered enough evidence to charge Tommy Sheridan with perjury after quizzing staff and customers at a notorious sex club.

Detectives say they have built up a case which could see the socialist politician face serious criminal charges. The case would be heard in the High Court and Sheridan could face a jail sentence if convicted.

This comes only a few days after Edinburgh Sucks claimed to have received information indicating that Sheridan would be charged within two weeks. While this estimate seems to be false, it is quite obvious I think that the strong arm of the law is up to something. The investigation was silently moving in the background in the run up to the elections, but it appears that now that the Tangerine Man is no longer an MSP, detectives are moving in for the kill.

But I don't really want to discuss the perjury case. I don't really care all that much about it. He'll certainly get no sympathy for me if gets convicted; he deserves every thing that comes to him. What concerns me most is that good comrades will possibly have to endure another torrent of lies, filth and sycophancy from Squalidarity.

At any rate, the salient issue here is that the decision of the SSP not to cave in to "the greatest asset"'s demands is again shown to be right. If the Executive Committee had decided to lie for Sheridan (in order to cover up his inability to keep his zipper up), apart from signaling the death of the culture of honesty, integrity and truth (all bourgeois morals, I know) of the SSP, would also have meant that our comrades too, would possibly be facing charges now. This would have fatally damaged the party's - and consequently socialism's - image in the eyes of the working class - we'd just be yet another bunch of politrickos.

Regardless of the possibility of a perjury case and its outcome, the case remains that the SSP is the only viable vehicle for the socialist cause in Scotland. Over the next months and years, we will have to rebuild, rethink, reorganize, restructure, and many more re's. But we most definitely won't retreat.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

A new beginning!

After the global bombshell that was the foundation of the Squirrel Vanguard, it appears that new revolutionary groups of similarly minded non human species have been founded around the world, ready to provide leadership for the incompetent bunch that is mankind.

Today, we have discovered the Red Wombat Hole an association of communist wombats from Australia. I don't know who they are and where they came from, but in a time of growing human incompetence (they don't even know which party they should vote for) they are most definitely welcome!

The Squirrel Vanguard proposes the foundation of the Revolutionary Species International.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007


The Lair brings you the SSP statement on the election results before anyone else! Don't you just love us?

The day Scotlands rainbow parliament turned grey

by Alan McCombes

By any standards this was a massacre for the left.

The red-green presence in Holyrood, represented by the Scottish
Socialist Party, the Greens and Solidarity was slashed from 15 to

Of the six-strong group of independents, only Margo MacDonald was
left standing.

May 3rd 2007 was the day that Scotlands rainbow parliament was
turned a drab prison grey.

The wipe out of the socialist left was made all the more bitter by
the final electoral arithmetic of the new parliament.

Last Thursday marked the end of Labours monolithic stranglehold over
Scottish politics at national and local level. The emergence of the
SNP as the biggest party in Scotland by the narrowest possible margin
will not lead to instant independence, the removal of nuclear weapons
from the Clyde, or even the demise of the Council Tax.

But it is likely to open up a new, turbulent phase in Scottish
politics, a time of strife, which could accelerate the ultimate
break-up of the United Kingdom and pave the way for the resurgence of

After the horrendous internal strife within the left over the past
year, and with the socialist movement bitterly divided, the SSP went
into this election in a brutally realistic frame of mind. This was a
damage limitation exercise. At best, the party hoped to maintain a
fragile toehold in Holyrood in preparation for better days to come.

Yet no-one expected the sheer scale of the collapse of the socialist
vote, down by 100,000 votes from 2003. The final tally of votes
appeared completely out of synch with the attitude of voters on the
streets and at polling stations, which was open and receptive to the
politics of the SSP.

The Greens too were stunned by the scale of their losses. On the
morning after the election, shell-shocked Green MSPs admitted that
they had been expecting to win nine seats.

Although Solidarity polled more votes than the SSP, the failure of
Tommy Sheridan in Glasgow was the biggest shock result of the night,
leaving Solidarity activists visibly traumatised.

At the start of the campaign, the bookmakers William Hill had offered
odds of 100-1 on Sheridan being re-elected  the kind of odds that
might be offered on rain falling in Glasgow sometime in the next six

Every media and academic commentator predicted that Tommy Sheridan
would retain his seat in Glasgow, while the SSP would be wiped out.

As the political pundit, Professor Bill Miller, admitted on Scottish
Television the day after the election, We all expected the SSP to
lose all its seats, but none of us expected Tommy Sheridan to lose.

Sheridan, the most famous celebrity politician in Scotland, even
enjoyed the open sympathy of the mass circulation local newspaper in
Glasgow, the Evening Times.

As well as forecasting his certain victory - and the defeat of the
SSP - the paper even carried a sycophantic double page spread in the
final week, headlined the House of Sheridan  festooned with
photographs of the Sheridan family.

This election has been a serious setback for socialism; it would be
futile to pretend otherwise. It is also a tragedy for the thousands
of people who had come to rely on Scottish Socialist MSPs to deal
with their problems.

In Glasgow, for example, Rosie Kane and her caseworker met with
queues of asylum seekers facing deportation. These cases are often a
matter, literally, of life and death.

Other MSPs have tended to hide behind the coat-tails of Westminster,
refusing to deal with asylum because it is a reserved issue. Sadly
one of these MSPs was Tommy Sheridan, who refused to dirty his hands
with asylum casework after leaving the SSP to form Solidarity.

Within the parliament too, the SSP has provided a voice for workers
in struggle, and for others who were too poor or marginalised to be
of any interest to the big mainstream parties. Holyrood will be a
poorer place without the Scottish Socialist group of MSPs.

There is no single explanation for the debacle of May 3rd. The
incineration of the left was the product of a combination of
inflammable ingredients.

In the first place, all of the smaller parties and independents were
mangled in a classic political squeeze, in which two parties were
running neck and neck. In this election, the drama was heightened by
the fact that one of the two parties stands for dissolution of the
United Kingdom, thus polarising Scotland into two camps: pro and

These two juggernauts had vast propaganda resources at their
disposal. While the SSP was forced to fight this election on a
shoestring budget of just £30,000, the SNP had a war chest of
£1.5million - ploughed in by big business, including a £500,000
donation from the reactionary Stagecoach tycoon, Brian Souter.

Labour, meanwhile, was gifted literally millions of pounds of free
advertising from Scotlands mass circulation tabloid press, notably
the Sun and the Daily Record.

Despite the partys cosy rapprochement with elements of Scottish big
business, many left wing voters - including it appears most of those
who voted SSP in 2003 - swung behind the SNP in this election.

Alf Young of the Herald - one of Scotlands most incisive and
experienced pro-Labour analysts - pointed out the irony behind that

The far-left took out its anger over New Labour, Blair and Iraq by
backing a party which, while sharing their goal of Scottish
independence, has even less interest than Gordon Brown in bringing
the pillars of modern capitalism crashing down.

The small print of Alex Salmonds economic policies were drowned out
by the headline promises of an independence referendum, the removal
of nuclear weapons, Scottish troops out of Iraq and more immediately,
the scrapping of the Council Tax.

Labour, the LibDems and the Tories have all been tested in government
in recent times, either at Westminster or Holyrood level, while the
SNP is as yet untarnished by power.

As we go to press, the LibDems have spurned Alex Salmonds advances
to form a coalition. That means that the SNP are likely to form a
minority government, possibly with the involvement of the two Green

However, with the SNP up against the much larger bloc of unionist
MSPs, it is unlikely that an independence referendum can be achieved
before 2008.

The other key flagship policy of the SNP  replacing the Council Tax
with a three pence rise in income tax  may also have to be shelved.

The economics of the policy do not add up. It would leave a black
hole in council budgets of half a billion pounds, forcing cuts
elsewhere. Moreover, although a deal could possibly be reached with
the Liberal Democrats over the scrapping of the Council Tax, the
Greens have in the past voted against an income-based tax  which
means that the policy could be scuppered by the narrowest of margins,
even with LibDem support.

Paradoxically, a minority SNP government could potentially create a
more favourable climate for a future surge towards independence. A
stable SNP-led coalition would involve backdoor deals, horse-trading
and shoddy compromises with the LibDems, allowing Labour the
opportunity to recapture some ground.

In contrast, a minority SNP government could allow Salmond to portray
the SNP as a party which is trying to introduce radical changes, but
is being blocked and obstructed at every turn by the three unionist

Either way, the sands of Scottish politics are shifting. The
socialist left may have been marginalised for the time being, but
that can change rapidly and dramatically in the future.

It is not much more than year ago that the political obituaries were
being written for the SNP after the Dunfermline West by-election 
the SNPs worst by-election performance since 1982.

A procession of political pundits pronounced the terminal decline of
the SNP and the unstoppable march of the Liberal Democrats

As one commentator, Chris Deerin, expressed it in Scotland on Sunday:
Nichol Stephen is youngish, moderate and attractive. Salmond, in
contrast, wears a sullen air& the perception that they have failed to
develop as an alternative government, makes him, and them, an
unattractive prospect. The LibDems are succeeding where the SNP have
repeatedly failed& The SNP cannot turn second place into first.

Even within the SSP at the time, some members (who later left to join
Solidarity) drew the conclusion that the SNP was finished, the LibDems
were now the main opposition force in Scotland, and the idea of
independence was all but dead and buried.

Fifteen months later, and the SNP are now Scotlands biggest party
and about to form a government.

As sure as the sun rises in the morning, the socialist left will be
back with vengeance in the future. And whatever the arithmetical
breakdown last Thursday, the only socialist party with the capacity
of coming back from this defeat is the Scottish Socialist Party.

The SSP fought this election with dignity and restraint. We also
fought a highly political campaign, with a 450-point manifesto,
including the boldest and most radical policy of any party in this
election  free public transport.

In contrast, Solidarity exposed itself as an embittered personality
cult around Tommy Sheridan.

The 16-point manifesto of the breakaway party, along with its other
election material, prominently featured photographs of Sheridan, his
wife and his two year old daughter. His name appeared on every ballot
paper, including even for the local council elections.

A large part of the Solidarity vote was an expression of sympathy for
Tommy Sheridan based on confusion and misunderstanding of the facts
that led to the split in the socialist movement, rather than a
conscious socialist vote.

Tommy Sheridan himself, in his manifesto, on TV, and at public
meetings repeatedly accused the SSP of lies, dishonesty and

That is the prospectus upon which Solidarity was created: that Tommy
Sheridan was the victim of a plot to remove him as party convenor;
that the SSP leadership manufactured allegations about Sheridans
personal life to justify his removal; that the party leadership
forged documents to back up these allegations; that members of the
SSP conspired to pervert the course of justice and in order to
destroy Sheridan.

The entire Solidarity edifice has been built upon this fairy tale,
and will come crashing to the ground as the lies unravel and the
truth emerges.

In the meantime, for wide sections of the public, including for many
ex-SSP supporters, there is no smoke without fire. The allegations
against the SSP have not yet been disproved. At the very least,
people are inclined to lay the blame equally on both sides.

The events of the last two years have been complex and labyrinthine.
But the stark facts are these.

Like Jeffrey Archer and Jonathan Aitken, two top Tory politicians who
served lengthy jail sentences for their actions, Tommy Sheridan took
out a libel action based on a fraud: at least some of the material
published in the trashy tabloid News of the World was substantially

The SSP did everything it could to dissuade Sheridan from this
insanely reckless legal case. We predicted that this grotesquely
selfish and deceitful course of action could lead to the destruction
of everything that had been built over decades by hundreds and
thousands of socialist activists.

But Sheridan carried on regardless. He dragged scores of people into
a legal toxic waste dump against their will. These included innocent
people who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and have
since had their lives destroyed to protect Sheridans right to

The SSP was also dragged into the Court of Session. Our response was
to defy the courts and face down a jail sentence.

In the weeks that the SSP was under siege, dragged through the
courts, having its offices raided, Sheridan effectively went into
hiding, failing to turn up to any of the meetings to decide tactics.

The rest of the SSP stood valiantly against the courts.

Finally, Sheridan emerged to argue that the SSP should now buckle
under and surrender the partys internal documents to the News of the
World and the courts. His capitulation was backed by those who went on
to found Solidarity. So far, so dishonourable.

But worse was to come. In an abysmal display of cowardice, Sheridan
told the courts and the media that the documents had been forged by
the SSP as part of a plot to fit him up.

To salvage his fake reputation, he denounced the SSP leadership as
liars, perjurers, forgers and conspirators, before walking out to
split the left and wreck the socialist unity project, built up over a
decade and more.

The mainstream press, cowed by the courts and the threat of libel
action  and perhaps also by the fear of jeopardising an ongoing
police investigation into perjury and conspiracy to pervert the
course of justice  have never been prepared to bring out these

As a result, the SSP was fighting this election under a cloud of
suspicion. To pretend otherwise would be to run away from reality.

However, two or three years down the road, the events of the past
year will have begun to fade into the mists of history. With the
removal of Tommy Sheridan from Holyrood, the Solidarity bubble will

That will be a massive step forward for the left, allowing Scottish
socialism to be rebuilt under the clean banner of the SSP.

Spoiling tactics turned confusion to fiasco

Its not who votes that counts, its who counts the votes said
Josef Stalin.

The New Labour establishment could have taught the commissars of the
old Soviet Union a thing or two about manipulating elections.

If 100,000 votes had been disqualified in Venezuela, politicians and
newspaper editors would be calling for the tanks to be sent in to
restore democracy.

In Scotland, it looks like the response to this mass
disenfranchisement of a vast swathe of the electorate will be a
whitewash, with the Electoral Commission asked to investigate the
Electoral Commission.

Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, has called for a full judicial inquiry
 a call that has been rejected by the man responsible for the
debacle, the Scottish Secretary, Douglas Alexander.

In Glasgow, lawyer Mike Dailly has begun legal proceedings.

The SSP should support both of these moves. This democratic
abomination was not the result of incompetence by the Scotland

It was a product of a deliberate, cynical manoeuvre by New Labour
politicians to confuse the public and marginalise the smaller

Since 1999, Labour has consciously undermined local democracy by
refusing to separate the council elections from the Holyrood
elections. In this election, when council elections were conducted
for the first time under PR, the case for a change was overwhelming.

But it was never put before the Scottish Parliament. A Tory MSP had
begun to initiate a private members bill, but, after what appeared to
be backdoor wheeling and dealing, dropped the proposal.

Even worse was the decision to swap the order of the Holyrood ballot
papers and to include the constituency and regional votes on a single
form for the first time.

This was a deliberate subversion of democracy, designed to protect
the big parties and undermine the diversity of Holyrood.

The SNP went along with this ploy, hoping that they too would benefit
from the confusion. They opportunistically attempted to manipulate the
new arrangements by renaming their party Alex Salmond for First
Minister  SNP, reinforcing the confusion that already existed.

The SSP can report numerous examples of voters  including even party
members - marking their X against Alex Salmond then scrolling down the
regional list to vote SSP. All of these votes would have been

Ironically, the SNPs tactic has almost certainly backfired on the
party. Their cunning plan was that voters would back Alex Salmond on
the left side of the paper, then be forced to vote again for the SNP
on the right side of the ballot paper when they realised that the
smaller parties were not listed on that side.

What the SNP failed to anticipate was that a large proportion of
voters would mark both their crosses on the left side of the ballot

Because the regional and constituency ballot papers were not
physically separate, tens of thousands of people appear to have
believed that it didnt matter which side they marked their two

This would not only distort downwards the vote for the smaller
parties; it would also negate many thousands of constituency votes,
particularly for the SNP.

Without a full analysis of every paper, it is impossible to say how
the results were affected by confusion.

However it is wishful thinking for Tommy Sheridan to claim he was
robbed of a seat in Glasgow. The claim that with just a few hundred
more votes, Solidarity would have won a seat in Glasgow is pure
fiction. Out of around 10,000 disqualified regional votes in Glasgow,
Sheridan would have required 2,200 to beat the Greens and 2,600 extra
votes to beat the SNP  and even that would be based on the
far-fetched assumption that neither of these parties had any
disqualified votes!

In Glasgow as elsewhere, it is likely that the vote for the SSP, the
Greens, Solidarity and a range of other small parties would have been
significantly higher, but nowhere near enough to affect the outcome.

Nonetheless, this distortion of democracy blatantly discriminates
against the most deprived voters in the poorest constituencies who
are already disproportionately excluded from electoral politics.

The constituency with the highest number of disqualified papers,
Glasgow Shettleston, was also the constituency with the lowest
turnout in Scotland  just 33 per cent.

And by the way, just in case you didnt know - Shettleston also tops
the UK league table for poverty and deprivation.
This will be also appearing in this week's Scottish Socialist Voice. I am not particularly happy that we had to mention the split again and go down the "who's the best party line", but given the ludicrous statement of Solidarity, I guess it couldn't have been avoided.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

The case for Scottish Republicanism.

In a desperate attempt to take my mind off the catastrophe that were Thursday’s elections (on which I may, or may not, comment later) and in place of a May 1st post (May 1st, apart from international labour day, was also the 300 anniversary of the formation of the British Union) I will honour my promise to Southpawpunch and present a brief argument in favour of Scottish independence from a socialist point of view. You see, said fellow mistook my last post for such an argument. It appears that he understood that my rationale was that if large capital is in favour of the union, then we should be against it. I can't possibly fathom where he drew such a conclusion from, considering that the only point made therein was that Scottish capital could extract a variety of gains from independence that do not necessarily have to do anything with attacking the working class, which seems to be one of the key postulates of left unionists.

It seems that such sophisms form the intellectual foundations of many ultra left numpties. For example, the Squirrel Vanguard's favourite puritan ortho-Trot sectlet, the Socialist Equality Party published an article about how Scottish independence (or fiscal autonomy) would be an economic disaster from the working class. Apart from being largely based on false premises the article registered at new levels of idiocy for the following paragraph:

So what could possibly be wrong with the Irish model? At a time when most European economies are stagnating and unemployment is high, the Irish model, with only four percent unemployment, might indeed seem to offer an alternative perspective for other small economies. That is certainly what the Scottish and Welsh nationalists claim and, by extension, what their supporters among the radical left must agree with.

One would have thought that the countless demonstrations, paper articles, press statements and whathaveyou as well as the successive resolutions of a number of SSP conferences explicitly stating that we will never enter a bourgeois coalition, would have made it a bit clear by now that the Scottish Socialist Party is utterly, completely, fully, most assuredly and irreconcilably opposed to the SNP's vision of Tartan business haven Scotland. You would expect from self proclaimed Trotskyist dialecticians not to employ the "humans have legs, pigs have legs, ergo humans=pigs" kind of formal logic which Trotsky used to denounce in a huge number of his works. But that's probably just me. Now, enough with the puritan bashing, let's move on to the actual politics.

I only wish to point to the political/ideological/tactical potential benefits for the socialist movement that can be made by fighting for and eventually achieving Scottish independence. There is a compelling (for the working class) economic case to be made as well, but this is not what concerns me here. Andy from the Socialist Unity Blog made a short and to the point post outlining the economic benefits that Scottish independence could bring for the whole of the British working class. You can read it here.

Now, with the lengthy and ranty intro out of the way, let's look at what the key issues surrounding the question of independence are. The most common points Brit lefties usually raise are that independence will break the unity of the British working class, that the break up of a nation state into smaller ones is inherently regressive, that advocating independence necessarily involves whipping up nationalist feelings (therefore weakening proletarian internationalism) and that, after all, there is no reason for socialists to get involved in a choice between a capitalist Britain and a capitalist Scotland. All capitalisms are the same, the task of socialists is to raise class consciousness and fight for socialism!

These arguments may on first look seem to be entirely inline with a Marxist outlook, but if we examine them more carefully and refrain from puritanistic black and white juxtapositions of class struggle vs anything else we'll see that they don't hold much water.

Starting with the issue of the unity of the working class in Britain, let us consider what the idea that the working class should not be split along national lines is founded on. Most Marxists and socialists take this as an axiom. Left unionists extend this axiom to the case of Scottish separatism and thus, they a priori reject the latter without having really considered its internal dynamics and how these relate to the unity of the working class.

They idea is that since capital is largely integrated, and operates in a largely centralist manner, transcending national boundaries, then the working class should aim to unite as much as possible and fight capital on an international level as well. An isolated working class is far weaker than a united, militant working class fighting on the principle of solidarity. Therefore, the erosion of national boundaries is inherently a positive development, since it builds bridges between formerly divided national working classes. Conversely, the fragmentation of existing states is necessarily against the interests of the working class as it becomes divided and therefore, weaker.

So far, so good. There's nothing wrong with the above in the abstract. Internationalism is always good, both tactically and ideologically. Nobody is disputing that. The problem however is that if we look at the concrete potentialities of Scottish independence, the above is completely and utterly irrelevant. The main weapon of the workers in the class struggle is their organization in trade unions. The unions in Britain and the rest of the world evolved from initially local organizations to the largely centralized formations that they are now, reflecting trends in the capitalist economy. British capital will remain integrated even if Britain is broken. Its internal antagonisms may become more acute, but it will remain a single class. Well so will the trade unions! The separation of Scotland from Britain does not have to, nor will it entail the division of British trade unions into their national components. The National Union of Journalists already organizes workers in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Unions in North America operate on both sides of the US/Canadian border.

None of the circumstances that necessitated the establishment of all British trade unions will vanish if the British state disintegrates. To think that Scottish independence will somehow undermine the capacity of the British working class to operate as a single entity is to mechanically connect the trade unions and the bourgeois state. Such thinking is extremely undesirable from a socialist point of view. We must consciously seek to develop workers' unions beyond the existing nation states, not wait until those states merge to achieve this.

But what of the ideological problems that support for independence entails? Surely, the setting up of a new nation state will promote nationalism and weaken support for socialist ideas amongst the workers.

Well not quite. Nationalist groups are a small minority in the independence movement which is more concerned with actual socioeconomic issues rather than the evil English. Within the movement, we should fight to isolate and eventually destroy all expressions of nationalism, but in the present, the most right wing of the major political forces in favour of independence is the SNP, which only some days ago got the first Asian MSP into parliament and is not using any anti-English rhetoric.

Moreover, there is no language/cultural barrier between Scottish and English workers to create division and hostility. The poison of nationalism and xenophobia is the result of inability to relate to and communicate with other people. In the southern US, Spanish and English speaking workers have trouble organizing together and are often hostile to each other despite living in the same state.

Surprisingly (not really) the political group that represents the despicable ideology ultra nationalism and racism, the British National Party, is hardline unionist.

None of these dangers are present in the dynamics of Scottish separatism. The only xenophobic group I know of that is supportive of separatism is Siol Na Gaidheal and it is little more than a kitsch tartanry culture club. In fact, the break up of the UK could once and for all defuse whatever hostility could arise on the part of the Scots towards the perceived "English exploiter".

What left unionists fail to understand is that proletarian internationalism is not the product of bourgeois states. The failed British identity that was artificially constructed by the ruling classes of these islands as an ideological support for the Empire is ample evidence of this. Internationalism is forged by the working class(es) during common struggles. The British state was never built on such foundations. It wasn't even built on bourgeois radicalism, unlike Italy. It was established by a conservative ruling class that was threatened by both the radical elements of the bourgeoisie, like the Cameronians, and the even more reactionary feudalist Jacobites.

The links that English, Scottish and Welsh workers have built in decades of struggle are not subject to the existence of the British repressive apparatus. It is rather ironic, that prominent "dialecticians" would think in such a mechanistic manner as "break-up of the uk=break up of the UK's working class". Such arguments are little more than leftist manifestations of Blair's "border guards on the Tweed" doomsday scenarios.

Having seen how most of the objections to independence put forward by left unionists have little substance, we should take a look at why independence is a goal worth fighting for.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to fight for the Scottish independence is the constitutional crisis that it would cause throughout Britain. I said earlier that the key weapon of the working class in its fight against capital are the trade unions. For the bourgeoisie, it is the state.

Britain has one of the most powerful state apparatuses found in the developed world today. It is, even after devolution, highly centralized, with a rather unrepresentative House of Commons and an unelected House of Lords. More importantly, the government has royal prerogative powers that are not subject to parliamentary review.

Setting up an independent Scottish state would give us the chance here (provided of course that we are actively involved) to establish an apparatus that is far more representative and with considerably less authoritarian powers, thus providing considerably more fertile ground for socialists to organize and agitate.

A similar debate would be probably started south of the border as well, giving the English and Welsh left the chance to fight for more representative forms of government, like the adoption of PR at Westminster and devolution for North England among others.

Further, one cannot underestimate the power of the blow that will be dealt to global imperialism by the break up of Britain. It is no secret that the UK is the chief guard dog of US interests in the world, an imperialist junior partner. However, with 1/3 of British troops being Scottish, Britain's capacity to support her American masters would be severely compromised should Scotland become a separate state with an independent foreign policy. Of course, you may reasonably object that there's nothing to guarantee that Scotland would not follow a similar foreign policy to what will remain of the UK, meaning that there'll be little change on the global level, apart from an extra line on the map. While this objection has some merit, in that no one can predict with certainty what the foreign policy orientation of an independent Scotland would be, it is not unreasonable, given the facts, to assume that Scotland would abandon yee-haw imperialism for a foreign policy similar to that of the Republic of Ireland.

First and foremost, the Scottish economy is largely based on small to medium sized businesses. Such capital is of necessity introverted preferring to spend state money on subsidies and internal investment rather than weapons of varying destruction scales. Second, the SNP, which, should Scotland go independent, will definitely form the first two governments, has a history of anti-war populist politics (like its commitment to scrap Trident - its not like small-mid businesses need nukes) and is largely pro-European. That and the cold hard fact that Scotland is a rather small country would almost surely push a newly formed Scottish state towards the EU, away from the Anglo-Saxon axis. That of course is not to say that the EU is a "better" imperialist entity than the US. The point is that the loss of Scotland would be significantly more damaging to American-British imperialism than its gain would be to the EU. We should also consider that, as said earlier, left wing forces in an independent Scotland will be in a significantly better position to influence the political agenda, making it possible to completely pull Scotland away from US interests while also pushing the EU approach into a Scandinavian channel of relative independence.

Finally, it is important to note that the independence movement is fertile ground for the spreading of socialist ideas and the building of hegemony. The reason is that, as I wrote earlier, support for independence is bound up with a series of inherently progressive concerns (anti-war demands, concerns over the democratic deficit etc.). Thus, there is an ever present opportunity to pose questions (and give answers) over what kind of Scotland we want. Now, this does not imply that socialism will immediately spring up as the first answer. However, given that amongst workers, support for independence is mostly found with those that are more class conscious and militant, it is certain that any campaign for Scottish independence can be infused with (quasi)socialist demands relatively easily. As Gregor Gall argues:

Support for independence amongst the social groups that comprise the working class has grown between 1979-2002: routine non-manual: 8% to 25%, skilled manual 5% to 34%, semi-skilled manual 8% to 34%, and unskilled manual 8% to 40% . This then also intersects with the growth in support for independence from the left and those that identify themselves as 'Scottish' rather than 'British'. In 1992, 30% of left-wing opinion supported independence with 46% doing so in 2002 . In 1979, 11% of those identifying themselves as 'Scottish' supported independence with 36% of those doing so in 2002. With a population of 5m in Scotland and extrapolating from these figures, around 1m people can be identified who are of key importance for the SSP; those who are working class and on the left, identify themselves as 'Scottish' and who are pro-independence. The crucial point here is that amongst the key constituency for the SSP, namely the working class, the most radicalised section of opinion is pro-independence.

Whether the potentialities identified above will be realised or not is entirely, or almost entirely, up to socialist and working class agency in the political processes that will deliver and follow independence. In the abstract, the establishment of a separate Scottish state cannot be defined as either positive or negative a development for the socialist movement. This black and white, mechanistic approach is where the fallacy of both left unionist and left nationalist narratives lies. Passive support for the British state is no way forward for the working class and neither is cheerleading for the SNP. The movement for Scottish independence must have a specifically defined goal of setting up a republic that is not servile to imperialist interests, a republic that adopts radical solutions to poverty and other social ills; a social republic if you will. Within that movement, we must agitate for the socialist transformation of society, in order to build a truly powerful, deeply rooted working class vanguard that can fight the harsh political struggles that we shall inevitably face in an age of ever growing capitalist decline and increasing imperialist competition. MacLean wasn't speaking out of his arse.