Vote 'YES' in Scottish independence referendum
A World to Win calls for a Yes vote in Thursday’s referendum on Scottish independence because we support the right of nations and people to self-determination, a principle established over centuries of struggle throughout the world.
A Yes vote would represent a major break in the UK’s political log jam and would thus benefit not only the Scots but people beyond Scotland, who are already involved in mass movements of their own. It would inspire working people in England, Wales and the north of Ireland to take up their own struggle for democratic, political change.
Already, the desperate concessions on devolution offered to Scotland by the Westminster parties have led to demands for similar moves in England.
A vote for independence would mark the end of a union that came together to develop British capitalism and later British colonial imperialism. It would strike a blow at an undemocratic state system that was built to advance the interests of capitalism. Big protests outside the BBC show the extent to which a sizeable minority, whatever the outcome, have totally lost confidence in this crucial part of the state. The BBC has shown that when the chips are down it is truly the state broadcasting company.
The desperate, frenetic attempts by David Cameron and Ed Miliband to perpetuate the present arrangements, together with the unashamed support of big business and high finance, show how important these arrangements are to the status quo. While they prattle on about a shared patriotism and being “better together”, in essence in reality it is about halting the disruption to trade and profits that independence for Scotland is certain to bring.
The UK state was put together without the consent of the people either side of the border. Of course, it can’t be brought down by a referendum, but the struggle to advance democracy is now firmly on the agenda.
The theatrical show of representative democracy has masked the nature of class rule through the state. For a period after World War 2, this form of politics delivered some concessions. But now its content is revealed for all to see, whoever is in government at Westminster.
It rules for and on behalf of the corporations and the financial markets. It doesn’t even pretend to be neutral or fair. To give just one example of this, the drive to impose fracking across the UK is a state/corporate joint venture, not just an ordinary business opportunity.
People are inspired by the whole notion of possible change and actually having a real say in the referendum campaign. Mass interest in the referendum has rejuvenated the political landscape in a way that endless processions for anti-austerity have entirely failed to do.
It gives people a chance to look to a different future – not to achieve it a single step, but to make a crack in the wall that stands between the people and real economic and political power.
For independence will not give the Scottish people sovereign power or put them in charge of their own affairs and of decisions over employment, conditions, wages, climate change, energy supply, defence and land ownership.
A Yes vote won’t and can’t be the end quest for self-determination in Scotland. It is not in and of itself a solution to inequality, low wages, job insecurity, austerity, privatisation, zero hours contracts, attacks on welfare and education that characterise globalised capitalist economies like the UK’s.
In that sense, major struggles will emerge after September 18 in order to achieve real democracy and the break from neo-liberal style economics that a majority clearly favour.
A Yes vote it will, however, express the desire of the majority to find solutions to these issues and a vote for self-determination will give momentum to the struggles that will inevitably lie ahead.
It is unlikely that the Scottish people will be content, having voted for independence, with carrying on with the political system they will be living under or the constitution that the SNP is proposing.
As Gordon Asher and Leigh French said of the referendum in their contribution to our webinar on independence:
“Actual independence is not what is on offer – if indeed that is at all possible for any territory – within the post-sovereign global system of nation states.
“Rather, ’independence’ is a matter of degrees – and of variable power relations both internally and externally. Certainly the nation-state that the SNP now envisages – with intentions to keep the monarchy (and hence Crown powers), - and to maintain a currency union and thus austerity pact with the Bank of England is – in these regards – no less independent of the rest of the UK than at present.
“Neither is it independent of the network of inter, -trans - and supra-national bodies – such as NATO, the EU, the G7, the IMF and the World Bank – that serve to underpin, extend and evolve neo-liberalism and through membership of which nations have ceded sovereignty - or indeed - had it taken from them.”
The SNP’s notion of independence-lite will ally itself with the same reactionary forces that currently dominate the UK. It has the same commitment to endless growth with low corporate taxes and fossil fuels as the main economic drivers as those of the main UK parties.
There is no plan to challenge the power of the banks, though the failure of one of the big ones could destroy the Scottish economy. In effect what is on offer is a Scottish version of the market state presently centred on Westminster.
Scots law, as much as English law, enshrines the supremacy of the rights of private property and of landowners, and the corporate legal framework where companies have an obligation to maximise shareholder value. There are no plans to change this.
For ordinary Scottish people, the logic of an independent Scotland tied to business and banks is that they would face even greater exploitation as a Scottish-based capitalist class tries to establish itself amidst fierce global competition for markets. This is unlikely to be mediated by substantial revenue from oil because the reserves are dwindling and world prices falling.
So the challenge is how to move forward? It has been said by some supporters of the Radical Independence Campaign that after September 18 Scots will have the opportunity to vote in a more progressive, democratic government.
But that is simply not true. The capitalist state model and popular democracy are irreconcilable opposites which elections by themselves cannot overcome. The transformation of Labour into New Labour – a party of corporate-driven globalisation – is a symptom of this fact.
A Yes vote puts everything up for debate and provides an opportunity to fight for something more revolutionary, for a real transfer of power to match the transfer of political sovereignty.
Some people say that a vote for independence will break up "the great British Labour Movement". On the contrary, it will give workers a chance to rethink that movement, take it back from the bureaucrats, and remake it in their interests.
Already a great and historic shift has taken place. Scotland had a crucial role in the formation of the Labour Party. It is the home of conservative parliamentary reformism. Yet if there is a Yes vote, it can only have taken place with the support of vast numbers of traditionally Labour voters.
They would have rejected the patriotic, unionist pleas of Miliband, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. They would have declined Miliband’s offer of a future Labour government at Westminster as an alternative to independence. Even if there’s a narrow No vote, it is clear that Labour’s claim to represent working people in Scotland is over and done with.
The Labour bureaucracy has always been a block on democracy. It has been a willing accomplice of the state in peace and war. Thus, its collapse in Scotland is already an unprecedented shift as well as an opportunity.
One of the most exciting things about the Scotland debate has been the desire on the part of some to explore new forms of democracy – some of them quite limited like the idea of consultation bodies in the Common Weal – some of them more revolutionary, such as the ideas put forward in the Glasgow Peoples Assemblies.
They envision People's Assemblies as a combined forum for struggle, for self-defense and for making a transition to popular democratic rule – dual power bodies in effect. To have a fresh validity for today, the concept of self-determination must transcend the limits placed on it by capitalism and its forms of political-state rule.
We live in states but are in effect excluded from any control of what happens in these states even though we form the majority. So the struggle for self-determination today is about overcoming de facto statelessness of the majority by transferring the power from the minority.
As Asher and Leigh state:
“We have to evolve, build and connect social movements that not only resist and create alternatives to the kinds of arrangements and pressures just outlined – but that over time – move beyond the nation-state system itself.”
Many global collaborations are going beyond the limits of protest or voting in elections, to put forward a genuine alternative to capitalism. Such rights-based declarations include the Cochabamba Declaration of Mother Earth Rights, the Declarations of La Via Campesina, the Charter of the Assembly of First Nations to name but a few.
Another excellent example of this rights-based approach is the Community Charter developed by Falkirk Against Unconventional Gas where people came together to identify “the sum total of the local tangible and intangible assets we have collectively agreed to be fundamental to the health and well-being of our present and future generations”.
Glasgow Peoples Assemblies developed the idea of Assemblies for Change that would start “making the transition from No-Say to Democra-Say”.
They identified five key themes for popular assemblies to focus on:
1. Challenging the current economic system
2. Re-evaluating society’s values
3. Creating the People’s Assembly
4. Challenging lies, corruption and dishonesty
5. Establishing a political alternative.
Ordinary people deserve the opportunity denied by the narrow limits of the in-out referendum, to say what a real democracy should be. Independent people’s assemblies in every country, region, city, town and village could come together to set out the principles of a democratic constitution.
They should demand democratic self-government and the transfer of power away from the ruling élite to the people through:
- democratic ownership and control of resources
- community and local democracy
- democracy in the workplace, education and public services
- end of nuclear weapons and membership of NATO
- withdrawal from corporate club known as European Union
- a democratic media
- a network of People’s Assemblies.
That is the essence of self-determination for the 21st century which will be given a tremendous boost by a Yes vote in Scotland.
16 September 2014